Literacy Corps Helps SCSD Students Improve Reading, Writing Skills
Published on 1/5/17
District News Academics Franklin Elementary School HW Smith K-8 School Salem Hyde Elementary School
“Don’t be shy… just sound it out!”
Elizabeth Salter is a freshman English major at Syracuse University. Three days a week, she works at Franklin Elementary to help third and fourth grade students develop their reading and writing skills.
At Franklin, Elizabeth and three other tutors rotate through first through fifth grade classrooms, depending on their availability and where the school has the highest need.
“They start to depend on you,” she explained of the students she works with. “They’ll ask why I’m not here on certain days, because they really feel like they’re getting special treatment and they enjoy it! Sometimes they say they aren’t interested in reading, but when I work with them one on one, they focus. I love to read, so it feel good to help students learn to love it, too.”
An initiative facilitated by the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, the Syracuse University Literacy Corps offers a paid work-study learning experience for college students while providing an enhanced learning opportunity for elementary students who may be in need of some one-on-one attention. An average of 115 college tutors make a one-year commitment to the program and then take part in trainings that help them learn how to facilitate age-appropriate literacy activities, such as read-to, close reading, letter recognition and other activities as advised by SCSD coaching staff.
The program is currently at work in 16 SCSD elementary and Pre-K-8 schools, as well as in 4 Pre-K programs and two SCSD partner programs. Teachers say the tutors help add a level of excitement to the classroom that helps students learn.
“I love having the SU literacy tutor in my classroom,” Franklin teacher Stefanie Dair said. “She is a great asset. She is extremely helpful and the students love doing work with her, and she follows the interventions I give to her for each child, which is helping them to improve.”
HW Smith third grade teacher Amanda Lalone said the individualized approach of the literacy tutor allows her to pinpoint where certain students may be in need of extra help.
“I see gains from the students working with the literacy tutor in both their reading level and writing,” HW Smith teacher Ms. Lalone said. “She is able to pinpoint where their misconceptions are and what areas they need to target and provide more support for that student to be more successful.”
For students, tutor visits help them see things differently than they may in a standard class setting.
“She makes me like to read more because she makes it fun,” HW Smith third grader Lucy Chambers said of her class’ literacy tutor. “We get to write stories about what we read, too!”
“I can read chapter books now,” classmate Kaymani Harris added of her progress. “I can read an entire chapter without stopping!”
SU junior Samantha Howard has been a Literacy Tutor at HW Smith since her freshman year and currently visits Ms. Lalone’s third grade classroom twice a week for about four hours each day. She works with students, primarily one-on-one, on reading comprehension exercises, writing, revising and anything else the teacher may request.
“I think ultimately, it’s good for them to have someone older for them to talk to and look up to,” Samantha said. “I always ask them how their weekend was or how their week is going… it makes them more engaged. Plus, they’re always asking me about college and what it’s like at SU!”
Shauna Anderson, a literacy tutor at Salem Hyde, works with first and second grade students twice a week, working with them on reading and math. Currently a graduate student studying to become a professor to college-age English as a New Language students, Shauna said that in some ways, she gets just as much out of the experience as the students do.
“This isn’t the age group I’m hoping to work with, but it’s still helping me learn how to be a better teacher,” she explained. “I learn a lot just through seeing techniques that are effective. And this experience has changed my perspective. The more that I’m here, the more I think… maybe I want to teach in a school! A lot of the students don’t believe in themselves, and I’m passionate about helping them gain the mindset that they can do it, and that they should have confidence in themselves.”
Colleen Cicotta, Associate Director for Literacy Initiatives at the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, said this mutual learning experience was one of the goals of the Syracuse University Literacy Corps program.
“It’s a reciprocal learning experience,” she explained. “Every school that we’re in, every placement for our students, our SU students are learning as much, if not more, than the students they are tutoring.”
Thank you to the Syracuse University School of Education, the Shaw Center and the many Syracuse University literacy tutors for helping our SCSD students become stronger readers, writers and learners!