Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ELL SUMMER OF POWER! Week 3: Reading Session Steals the Show!!

We knew the coaches would be good, they showed us their potential within the first few days of training and it was extremely exciting to see. During our gym sessions the coaches have shown their excitement and enjoyment of working with kids in their community.  There has never been any doubt that these sessions would run smoothly and with tons of energy. But just at the end of their third week (this past week) the coaches were set for the second reading session and the challenge of keeping 3rd and 4th graders excited about a sports based children's book that helps the transfer of the Supercognitives we teach our youths, a heavy task for these coaches in training to take on.

We talked to this group of coaches in the first week about being taken out of their comfort zone if they joined PC. The reading sessions are prime examples of this factor being put into action. Not only do our coaches have to read aloud and present the stories using different engaging strategies, but many of these ELL students have to do this in their second language. We thought for sure the coaches would shy away, at least for the first few weeks, from stepping into the spotlight.

Luckily, we were wrong. These motivated teens had seen their co-coaches enjoying themselves and having success the first time around, now it was their turn and they did anything but shy away from the opportunity. Entering the gym to a group of surprisingly quiet, visibly excited elementary students, the coaches proceeded to their designated areas to begin their literacy lessons. On this particular reading day we were set to cover the story titled Teammates, highlighted by the courageous relationship between Jackie Robinson and his teammate Pee-Wee Reese.

Right away I knew it was going to be a good session. The coaches jumped right into the books, making sure all coaches had a role in the reading and each elementary student was engaged in the presentation. Using multiple books and printouts, coaches displayed the pictures as they read aloud and asked open ended questions to test the students involvement. Some of our English Language Learning coaches who had shown signs of shyness and reluctance in the first few weeks were confidently reading aloud to their groups, stopping and reflecting on each page as they did, allowing their co-coaches to ask engaging questions and provide visuals for their narrative.  This was one of the rare times our staff felt proud to have a quiet gym.

A moment that stuck out in my mind, along with the groups actively talking about heavy topics of racism and inequality, had to do with a young student who was having trouble staying engaged during the literacy lesson. The coaches had tried everything to get the student to stay focused, but none of their tactics seemed to work. They provided excitement with their voices, asked interactive questions, used the pictures to steal his attention, But the student remained distracted. Until finally one of the coaches came up with a great idea. Maybe the young student could be the one to read aloud to the group? Before they knew it the student had become the narrator, reading aloud to his group of peers and young community leaders. His fellow students followed along as the coaches displayed the illustrations of Jackie Robinson and Pee-Wee Reese, while questions about slavery, equal rights, and Martin Luther king Jr. were posed by the young leaders.

This was a truly great moment to witness; young teens stepping out of their comfort zone, using the pull they have in their own community to get kids excited about learning and reading. Having one of these young students step up and take on the reading himself is exactly why our program exists. The more young adults we get to take on positive leadership roles and become serious about changing their community, the more children will follow their lead and will know what it's like to have that positive non parental adult  influence during their developmental years.

With only two weeks remaining in this intensive, five-week program, our focus will be to continually improve each day. The coaches are working extremely hard during training and prep days in order to be ready for the elementary students during both gym and reading sessions. This week the Project Coach staff has prepped these young ELL leaders to run their own literacy lessons and mini basketball practices while addressing issues of emotional regulation and conflict resolution. We are so proud of these coaches as they have taken huge steps each week, focusing and dedicating themselves more and more every day.

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