Hopscotch diphthongs, books of Mad Libs and exploding homemade volcanoes may not seem like normal ways to teach elementary school students how to improve their literacy skills. And that’s the point.
These examples and other non-traditional methods of learning have been actively occurring at College of Coastal Georgia in Brunswick the past six weeks.
Part of the college’s school of education teacher preparation curriculum, the summer course set out to explore new, creative ways to help rising third to fifth grade students dig a bit deeper into their academic development prior to the start of the new school year. Professor Ronald Reigner is leading the Early Childhood Reading and Language Arts program.
Aside from helping young minds enter the world of reading and language arts, the course, nicknamed The Rock, played a dual role. It’s a critical step for rising seniors in the education department at the college to put into practice all they have learned in their three years of instruction at the college.
“We see this course and these free tutoring sessions as great opportunities for our students and for students within the community to prepare for the next semester and beyond, be that in elementary school or in college,” Reigner said.
Twice a week for four of the course’s six-week period, 20 students were brought to the Brunswick campus from Akeba, a privately owned preschool and after-school on Altama Avenue.
The children were set up in small peer groups with a future educator for a one-hour literacy tutoring session two times a week. The final session was Wednesday.
But rather than stay on track with normal textbook agendas, the course pushed college students to tap into different ways to teach. It likewise afforded the younger students new avenues to enjoy education.
“When teaching education to college students, it can be easy to stick to the go-to models of learning, like dioramas and study guides,” Reigner said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted these students to have a memorable learning experience, both the college students and the students being tutored.”
While young pupils were offered a range of new academic endeavors to enrich their time in the classroom, the course’s college students were being challenged with similar tactics.
On one particular day, for example, education students were assigned to give a report presentation based on a certain topic but without any Powerpoint presentation or written script.
“In this course, I want our students to get creative and draw on new inspirations they can take with them into their classroom once they graduate,” Reigner said. “When the teachers are more excited about their lesson plans, that excitement translates to the students.”
His attempt at off-the-beaten-path education had an impact on students in the course.
Monica Stubbs, a rising college senior in early and special education, said her eyes were opened to a world of learning and teaching she wasn’t even aware was an option. Now, Stubbs feels she has a complete and solid set of innovative tools to get her students excited about writing, reading and learning in general.
The age at which the course is aimed is a prime time for developing literacy and comprehension skills, so anything that can help hold a student’s attention and create a desire to learn on a daily basis is a method she is more than excited to master, Stubbs said.
“The activities we have used while tutoring and the sort of off-the-wall methods of teaching we’re learning have been amazing,” Stubbs said. “It’s not considered as traditional as some learning methods, but if students need Mad Libs to help them develop a richer vocabulary, to help them understand adverbs and adjectives and nouns, I’m all for it.”
The Brunswick News
July 24, 2015