Wednesday, August 17, 2011

After school literacy, Reflections

In selling any product, a key rule is know your market. And for our after school literacy program we have a consumer group whose main characteristic is a need for social interaction.
Any literature about teaching teens always mentions this, and the advice for teaching boys is even more explicit. Students at this age benefit if their learning incorporates the opportunity to work together and socialize without too much teacher intervention. Not to mention in a rural setting like ours, it is great to offer the kids the chance to be with their friends after school.
Our own experiences back this up. In year 3, I had several students who I had never even taught come to visit me in my room to tell me that they wished the program could have continued in person instead of online. They enjoyed meeting the high school students who were our tutors, they liked the food and gym time, and they wanted more. When they were asked to follow through at home without the personal contact with the tutors, many of those registered did not participate in a meaningful way.
In years 1 and 2, we had the flip side of the coin. The social aspect was our downfall. Without being too negative, in groups that were supervised by only high school students, the classroom management issues sometimes overshadowed any learning.
So I think that the challenge in running the program again will be to:
A) take advantage of the role model and mentoring capabilities of the tutors which are embraced by our students, an unexpected phenomenon and a valuable resource to which we haven't really given any thought in the past
B) try to get enough money to run the program at school, in person, even if this is once a week instead of twice, building in the social benefits of food and gym time
C) build on the role of technology, and not lose sight of the value of Google Docs to reveal the progress made by the tutors and students working together
D) limit the number of participants to the number of computers, using the tech to modify behaviour in a positive sense and focus learning
E) structure the program pedagogically to build in shared writing opportunities, conversations about the writing process, and more personal and expanded explanations about Google Docs exchanges, feedback and corrections
F) limit the number of participants so that I can truly have a sense of the students' commitment, progress, and behavior during the tutorial sessions - without going crazy!

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