It has been a while since I posted, but summer break didn’t have a lot of fun updates. I essentially just made school resources, got my house and order, and met up with fellow volunteers a couple of times. Now that school is in session once more, I hope that I have more to talk about.
The first week was a whirlwind – education month planning, learning the ropes and attempting to do literacy assessments on the entire school (each one could take up to an hour per student!). Although my school is small, with just over 60 students that adds up. The students who are unable to read or even recognize their basic letters are with me for 15 minutes at most. Then there are others who do really well on the assessments and I have to keep bumping up the grade and continuing the test. Those may take 30-45 minutes. Surprisingly, the longest time is used by the middle students. The ones who don’t excel and quickly take the tests, but slowly work their way up and pass.. I had one student with me for 75 minutes! I’m happy to do the assessments because I really want to know what level each student is at (and learn their names).
The assessment is pretty simple. The student just reads the alphabet to me (upper and lower), gives me the letter sounds, reads some sight words, and finally ends with a short story and comprehension questions. I tried to make it a little more fun by writing out the words on coloured Popsicle sticks, that way I can say “Read all of the blue words to me” or “let’s try pink” and they would read the pre-primer or grade three words respectively.
I actually had one grade four student who aced my sight words up to grade six so I had to come up with grades seven through nine words! I was so impressed. He’s also one of the students I taught last term when I visited for a week (and yes he was very enthusiastic whenever I gave them a chance to read to the class). I have a video of him reading Holes out loud.
Today is the time this month that is dedicated to literacy, or at least 10 minutes of the day. For ten minutes today, students are supposed to “Drop Everything and Read”. They certainly tried, but only made it about five minutes in before all I heard was the dull roar of student chatter.
Each student was supposed to bring in a book to read and then trade it with a fellow pupil so they could go home with a new book. This should help with the reading competition that I started for education month. Each student was tasked with reading at least one book per week so that the school as a whole could reach their goal of 250 books. Once they read a book, they did a little project to show their knowledge of the story. Some options were poems, drawings, crafts (ex a story about a princess could find the student making a magic wand with a stick they find in the yard), a diary entry as the character, etc. So far, I’ve only received drawings but that’s okay – I’m hanging them up in my space so parents can see them when they look around and it brightens up the place!
My last few months have been very book obsessed. I wrote a numbers of emails to companies that donate and ship books to school oversees *fingers crossed* we’ll get a good number of books that are actually relevant to these students and their reading levels. Some of the things we have right now are so silly. My favourite was the unauthorized Hanson biography that I found in the grade 5 classroom. The only thing I remember about Hanson is that they had a track on the jukebox at Papa Gino’s in elementary school… When Papa Gino’s actually had a jukebox. What that song was? I have no idea. There are plenty of old, destroyed copies of books… Ones way beyond their reading levels like Shakespeare… And irrelevant texts like a Teacher’s Manual for the Tennessee Common Core.
My next goal is a library, which sounds grand but unfortunately there is no space in my school. It’s quite small, so there is nowhere that I could establish a library within the building. My only option is to fund-raise money or get a grant to build the structure in the back (and hope there’s a lot of community involvement). I would really love to see that happen so that they students have a nice place to quietly read, lots of relevant books that they enjoy reading (and are labelled by reading level of course), and maybe have it be a place I can take the students who are unable to read to give them individualized attention. When the school building is just one large room divided by chalkboards, it is understandable that the students get distracted and don’t focus as well as they should on learning to read.
My dad is also trying to petition his work to hold a book drive and pay the shipping cost to send some books to me – so that would be amazing if it worked. Shipping is much more expensive than I expected it to be. The only reasonable method of transportation I’ve found is purchasing a “barrel” from Laparkan and shipping it here. That method is less than $100 and you can fit a lot of stuff in those barrels. Plus I’ve heard that you don’t have to deal with customs and it is delivered directly to your door – which it would have to be because I cannot carry a four foot tall barrel back from Georgetown. Unfortunately, Laparkan is only in certain major cities like New York and Miami, so my family can’t use it. I honestly don’t think you can have too many good books. Too many ones that they kids can’t read? Okay maybe. But you need books to build a library and you need them to expose children to the wonders of reading.
Well I think that’s all I have for now, enjoy the photos!