Saturday, March 5, 2011

Student Reflection

by Val Kaskovich

Hello again!  The S.O.A.R program at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Champaign is off to another great start this semester. I have spent a few afternoons a week for the past few weeks as a tutor working in the bilingual Kindergarten and 1st grade classroom. Having already met most of these children when I tutored through SOAR last semester, it is truly amazing to see much they have progressed in just a few short months. I am paired up with a first grader who is an incredibly smart and hard-working kid - not to mention he keeps me laughing! Getting to know each student's personality and seeing them all each week is a blast.

Over the past few weeks we've been working a lot with math skills related to money and counting coins. Fortunately, the classroom is filled with tons of learning tools to help the students grasp the concepts easier. There are money posters on the wall in both Spanish and English, real coins for the students to see and count, and even giant cut-outs of coins that are magnetized to the chalkboard. Sometimes we practice in Spanish and sometimes in English - I am realizing how important it is for the students to know in both languages, since these are skills that the students will use for the rest of their lives. It seems to be going very well - I'm so impressed with how much the students learn in a short period of time.

Furthermore, one of the main focuses of SOAR is improving literacy skills and reading comprehension. The students in my classroom are driven to practice their reading skills by what is, in my opinion, a very effective teaching tool. The students earn a "gotcha" sticker for every 20 minutes they spend reading during SOAR. Once six "gotchas" are accumulated, the student wins a small prize - stickers, candy, small toys, etc. From my experience, the students LOVE earning gotchas! At first, it seemed like my individual student was motivated mostly by the prizes, but now I can see him really enjoying the stories that we read. I ask basic comprehension questions and ask for his opinion throughout the story, and before we know it the 20 minutes is up! He is not only acquiring reading comprehension skills, but at the same time is learning tons of new vocabulary in both Spanish and English. SOAR is a fabulous resource and a real motivator for the students to complete assignments, improve critical thinking, and - most of all - foster a love for learning from an early age. Stay tuned for more updates about my semester with SOAR!

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