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This is Laura Geggel’s article in the SnoValley Star:
Lauren Maland, a fourth-grader at Cascade View Elementary School, started tutoring first-graders in January.
“I’ve learned to be businesslike and try not to do everything for them, but still help them,” Maland said. “I have a little brother. I help him at home with his letters, which is really great practice for tutoring.”
Last Thursday, Maland helped her first-grade student with word families like -ill (bill, thrill and twill) and -ame (came, frame and game). The repetition of word families helps students recognize letter and sound combinations.
With a 2006 grant from the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation, Cascade View counselor Sandy Smelser began the Reading Rotations tutoring program. This year, she trained 30 fourth- and fifth-grade tutors – seven boys and 23 girls – in the art of tutoring.
Every Monday and Thursday, Smelser’s tutors give up their third recess to set up tutoring stations in the first-grade hallway. Each station has activity materials – from white boards to word family flipbooks – complete with a lesson plan addressing phonics or reading fluency.
“Learning phonics is more of a first-grade issue,” Smelser said. “If we have kids who are still struggling with phonics in second grade, they are a little bit more likely to be referred to special service assistance. This is a lesser intensive intervention than special services.”
Tutors rotate both activity tables and students on a weekly basis. Every tutoring session, they greet the first-graders and walk with them to the tutoring station.
Fourth-grader Sophia Caputo recently tutored a first-grade student in reading fluency.
“They read pages and you work on making their reading better. You make sure that they know how to sound out the words and get them right,” Caputo said. “Usually, I don’t help them unless they ask for help.
I help them if I notice that they’re struggling and they’re taking long pauses.”
After each 15-minute session, the tutors walk their students back to class and write progress reports for the first-grade teachers. Smelser discusses the students’ progress with their teachers, so she can specifically assign each first-grader to a constructive workshop.
“They really enjoy the one-on-one connection that they feel with the tutors,” said first-grade teacher Heather Anderson.
Four of her 24 students are enrolled in the Reading Rotations tutoring program.
“It’s tricky, because tutoring doesn’t always bring a positive connotation, but Sandy makes the kids feel special,” Anderson said.
On May 15, Caputo helped her first-grader decipher word sounds. The student had to fill in the missing letters by guessing the word from an illustrated photo. A drawing of a path with the letters “pa” filled in at first stumped her.
“Is it an ‘f’?” the first-grader asked.
“What do you think?” Caputo asked her. “We’re working with these two sounds,” she said, gesturing to the “sh” and “th” at the top of the page.
“Path,” the first-grader said, writing in the ‘th’ at the end of the word. Caputo congratulated her and they moved on to the next picture.
Smelser recruits her tutors in spring, requiring they fill out a sheet explaining why they want the position. Students are allowed to apply at any time, but she only offers training twice a year, in fall and spring.
Tutors work year-round, but Smelser allows them to take vacations in three-week segments.
While the tutors track the first-grade students’ progress, Smelser has trained student managers to observe the tutors’ techniques, including fourth-grader Meredith Troy, who transitioned from tutor to manager.
“As a manager, you walk around and take notes,” Troy said.
“You help people if they have any questions. You also take notes about the students – if they need something they want to be easier or if they need a bit more challenging work.”
The managers show their notes to Smelser before discussing improvements with the tutors.
If anything, the tutors welcome advice on their handiwork.
“They write notes just to make your tutoring better,” Caputo said.
Cascade View’s short bursts of tutoring help not only the first-grade students but also the tutors themselves.
“Elementary school can be real limited sometimes, for the avenues kids can get involved with,” said Tim Nootenboom, principal of Cascade View. “I think it leads to great leadership opportunities for our older students.”
Fourth-grade tutor Nicole Laufenburger said tutoring is providing her with the groundwork to pursue a career in instruction.
“I feel good because I know I’m doing something that helps students,” Laufenburger said. “I really like little kids. I have always wanted to be a teacher when I grow up, so it’s helped me get started.”
source: this is reporter Laura Geggel’s article in the SnoValley Star on 5/21/08. www.snovalleystar.com.
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