Sunday, October 14, 2012

Teaching Reading in 3rd Grade

I know it's been forever since I updated this blog, and I'm sorry. It's not forgotten, it's remembered.

My main project here in the Peace Corps has been children's literacy, and this school year I've been extra busy, joining the 3rd grade class whenever it's in session. I've worked in 3rd grade the past two school years, but the first year I was only around for a month, and last year I had other projects and only went in once a week. I didn't see many results last year, so this year I'm focusing in and going every day.
    I'm also actually organized this year. I made a list of all the students and their reading levels, which helps me chart progress and know what to practice with each student (it also helped the teacher prepare her roster and do her own literacy reporting).
    There are over forty students enlisted in the 3rd grade class, and about 36 of them come regularly. They're at all difference reading levels, but at most two or three of them can truly read fluently. The Dominican educational system has a lot of problems, one of which is a law that doesn't allow anyone to be held back in first or second grade...this means 3rd grade can include students who aren't even ready to be in second. Also, there are a lot of students and not enough funding or teachers, so each student only goes to school for half a day, either the morning session (8-noon) or the afternoon session (2-5:30). This year, for the first time, there's only one 3rd grade session, which is in the afternoon. The same teacher gives 1st grade in the mornings.
    My main struggle is trying to teach 30+ students to read in only 3.5 hours a day (significantly less time in practice, with recess every day, PE three days a week, and inefficiency constantly).

    This is my view as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I sit in the back and call kids over one by one. I have a few different activities, but mostly I work from simple reading textbooks that can be bought in any supermarket. I try to focus on the kids who need the most help, but everyone wants their turn. A lot of time is spent shooing other kids away so my current reader isn't distracted.

I set up a camera on the shelf next to my table, so I can have a record of some of the kids' progress. The quality isn't great, but you can get an idea what class is like.

Being a Catholic country, our days start with a prayer. Here, a student is leading the class in the Lord's Prayer/Our Father.

 These are a couple clips of students reading from the first few pages of the books. The girl is reading 'Papá ama a Pepe' (Dad loves Pepe), and the boy is reading a few simple 'P' words.

The kids are almost always eager to take a turn reading and generally focus really well while they're with me. But I don't want to give the idea that they're a bunch of model students...chaos and noise are a defining part of my experience. There's no way my little camera can capture the level of noise echoing around those cement walls, but it did capture a couple things in the background:

Off to the left you can see a minor fight. It's been a while since I was in elementary school, but I don't remember these being common in my classes. Here, there are several of these every day, and this one wasn't big enough for anyone to bother getting involved.


Then there was this guy, near the center of the video. I didn't notice him at the time, and it's too blurry for me to tell who it is, but I have a few guesses!

My camera wasn't hidden. For the most part, the kids ignored it, but this girl called me out. She's kind of a troublemaker, but I like her. I spent extra time reading at her friend's house this summer, and she was often around for that. When I tell her I'm recording, she says, "Ay, no!" and then wants to see the clip. Later that day, I was mobbed by kids who watched themselves on fast-forward and laughed hysterically. I have a fun job.

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