|Chetwood Memorial Primary School|
I offered to help Grade 2, because those children who enter grade 2 below the reading level for their grade, are unable to follow the text-books on which Grade 2 work is based. The Principal, Mrs. Campbell was most appreciative of my offer, saying, “We need all the help we can get.” Seven children were referred to me and I met them in three groups for half an hour each, one day a week. I wanted to recruit other volunteers to come on other days, but as it turned out, there was only one, a young man from Montego Bay Community College, who chose this avenue for his voluntary service. He had a positive influence on the children and I noticed a real improvement after a week when he came every day.
|New block housing the library and computer room|
In teaching phonics, I find out what letter sounds they know and start where they are. Most of them know the consonant sounds, but need revision. The vowels are more challenging, as they have so many variants. I start with the short vowel sounds using flash cards, rhyming words and words starting with the same consonant, followed by long vowel sounds, then sounds as in er-ir-ur (the rooster’s call) ‘aw’, ‘ar’, ‘ow’, or, ‘oo’ and ‘ew’.
For ‘look and say’ words, I use home-made flash cards, which I also use for revising consonant sounds and for games. I found that Pelmanism, a game recommended for such children, was too challenging for them. Also, games, such as sound Bingo, have to allow for all of them to win. They take losing very hard.
I take ‘look and say’ sentences from their reading books, Literacy 1-2-3 books, sentences I write myself and some the children speak or write. I start with sentences such as “What is your name?” and “My name is ….” Then we write the sentences on strips of card and cut them up into words. Their challenge is then to identify the words separate from the sentence. After a while they can use these words to make new sentences.
Was I successful in assisting these children in learning to read? Yes and no. Of the seven, three progressed at a faster pace. One girl reached the point where I thought it would be more beneficial for her to remain in her class. To her that was a punishment - she passively resisted by downing her tools, so I took her back. Two other boys gave me the most trouble, with mischievous behavior, especially when they were together. I’m still trying to persuade one of them that, yes, he can learn to read – he had demonstrated that he could, but his progress was slow. He told me that his father beat him because he couldn’t read. No wonder he has negative attitudes towards reading! One girl had such poor attendance that she made little headway; while another needed special help, which I’m not qualified to give. However, Ms. Brown, the grade 2 coordinator, was appreciative of my efforts which she thought had made a difference.
|A mural on the stairway|
Why did I choose to volunteer to help children with reading? For some time, I’ve been pondering the causes of high illiteracy rate in Jamaica, and its social effects. Can we as citizens do anything to improve literacy? Since retiring, I’ve had a number of pupils wanting help with reading, and I wanted to see children in the school setting. My observations confirmed my view that children learning to read
1. need individual attention every day (although I wasn’t able to commit to that, and their teachers aren't able to give that either), and
2. need encouragement, praise and affirmation.
Together, we can fill these needs. I started with a new group of grade 2 students today. If any of you reading this would like to help, please let me know.
Children also need access to plenty of books at their reading level. This presents a logistical challenge but is not impossible to achieve.
|from Book Community Board by Lucia Luz|