Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Poetry Out Loud on the Navajo Nation

Students from St. Michael Indian School in St. Michaels, Arizona vied for the chance to represent their school and advance to the Northern Arizona regional competition of Poetry Out Loud (POL).

The students worked under the leadership of Reader to Reader's Navajo Outreach  Coordinator, Ophelia Hu.

POL is a national poetry recitation contest that aims to keep this age-old art form alive. Students performed poetry from a pre-selected anthology of the best works of all time, but their performances were only the tip of the iceberg.

"For months, I've had the honor of working with students during Writers' Workshops and in one-on-one tutelage to understand and love poetry," Ophelia Hu said. "Students have intensely researched their poems, know the definition of every word, and can now tell you how their poet used language to convey a message. They prepared a range of nuanced messages from Emily Dickinson's darker works to the stark brilliance of Karin Gottshall and the grotesque, kaleidoscopic verses of Mina Loy.

I'm especially proud that the students have increased their ability to both give and receive constructive critiques. Even our shyest participants have grown, learned to project their voices, and taken on challenging pieces. Except for one student who received his poem the day before the competition, all competitors had their poems memorized by the night of the contest."

Last night's school contest was truly a celebration of the students' hard work. About forty people were in attendance, and two English teachers also shared prepared poetry.

"The students dazzled us with their impeccable performances and a deep understanding of poetry beyond their years."

Judging was painfully difficult. Each judge was moved by the students' sincerity of delivery and impressed by their abilities. In the end, the judges selected Meucci '17 and Janae '16 to advance to regionals, which will be held in Flagstaff, Arizona on February 8th.

"I'm so incredibly proud of these students," Ophelia Hu said. "It was nearly impossible to choose winners because I was so wowed by all the performances!"

(Reader to Reader’s Navajo Outreach Coordinator is funded through the generous support of the Fordham Street Foundation, the Hiatt Family Foundation, and Jean and Lynn Miller.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

‘We Are Inspired’: Learning about Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Encamínate’s Multi Level Classroom

 Reader to Reader’s literacy program, Encamínate, is back in full swing at Kelly and EN White Schools in Holyoke, MA! Parents from the fall have welcomed in nine new parents in the first week alone and both groups are excited about moving forward. These parents bring a special brand of optimism and enthusiasm for learning to the program each day, which is what enables quality learning to take place in our multi-level language environment. 

Let’s take a close look at how multi-level classes function at Encamínate.  For example one lesson last week was focused on a theme, the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr Day.   After the morning routine of basic conversation and weather, we started with the whole group together calling out words to describe MLK and forming a word cloud on the board. Those who didn’t have enough English to express their ideas were encouraged not to hold back but to go ahead and use Spanish. This way everyone benefited from the debriefing of MLK’s persona and life’s work. New English vocabulary words were explained and noted down by all. Next everyone listened to the last 5 minutes of the I Have a Dream speech, while reading along with a transcript to enhance comprehension. Afterwards the group made another word cloud all together about the emotional content in the speech and how they felt while listening to the recording, even if they couldn’t understand all of the language. More advanced students verbally translated the main ideas of the speech into Spanish, explaining more vocabulary words like “freedom” and “prodigious.”  Next the group analyzed a hand out with graphics comparing racial discrimination today with that of the 1960’s, which led to a quite vigorous bilingual discussion amongst all.

 Finally, after a brief break, the group split into levels. Those who were more advanced read a short biography of MLK Jr, and while reading worked on identifying irregular past tense verbs and regular past tense verbs in the text. After the first silent read through, they took turns reading sentence by sentence out loud, snapping when an irregular verb in past tense was read and clapping when a regular verb in past tense was read. After this they formed teams of three and used the biographies and a short timeline of important events in the life of MLK Jr to make a poster using images that were provided and put together a 2 minute oral presentation for the rest of the class.

Meanwhile, the less advanced students worked on practicing sentences in simple present with the verb “to be” in negative and then question forms. First they completed fill in the blank worksheets to warm up. Then they put away their notes and started the speaking activity: taking turns making sentences by drawing a card with a pronoun written on it, conjugating the verb “to be” accordingly and then pairing it with one of the emotion words that we had written on the board to describe the I Have a Dream speech earlier in order to form a full sentence. For example someone might draw the pronoun card “we” and select the word  “inspired” from the board to then form the sentences “We are inspired,” “We are not inspired,” or “Are we inspired?”  For the last ten minutes, the three teams of more advanced students gave their presentations on the life of MLK Jr for the rest of the group.

Parents come to Encamínate to learn English and to benefit from the family literacy and school engagement opportunities that the program offers. Learning or reviewing about MLK Jr, just as their children are doing at school at this time of the year, will help parents support their children’s learning and will naturally boost conversations and sharing of information at home amongst the family. Every parent can be an asset to their children’s educational experience and Encamínate strives to empower and inspire parents in their role. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Congratulations, Kat!

We are very proud to announce that Kat Libby, our Director of Special Programs, has completed a Master's degree in Nonprofit Management with a concentration in social media and online communities from Northeastern University. She says she is looking forward not only to the extra time she has now, but to using her degree to further expand and improve Reader to Reader programs.

All of us at Reader to Reader congratulate her on a job very well done, and are excited to see what she develops with us in the coming years.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thank you for believing in us and empowering our voice

Team 225 at Farragut Elementary School in St. Louis, MO sent a gorgeous, heartfelt thank you note this week for our donation of a number of boxes of books. Their teacher wrote on behalf of the students:

"Thank you for sending us books for our classroom. We love the opportunity to read them! Your kindness is greatly appreciated and inspires us to be the change we hope to see in our world. Thank you for believing in us and empowering our voice. We couldn't aspire to be community advocates, critical problem solvers or collaborative leaders without you!"

We love to hear from students dreaming of changing the world. In the great words of Minor Meyers, our wish for Team 225 is for them to "Go into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good."