Despite a short week, because of National Women’s Day on Monday and a teacher’s strike on Tuesday, we had quite a busy few days.
On Wednesday, the large GLP group held an assembly at Randfontein Primary School. RPS students read their original poems from the anthology that was created last year in a partnership with the Bragg School, and we recognized the student winners of the first writing contest. Meryl, a veteran teacher from the Bragg school, also presented Randfontein Primary with a banner created by students from her classes. There was also a slideshow of the students at Randfontein Primary, and the assembly closed with students singing a variety of songs.
We were quite fortunate to meet with Meryl, who shared a number of lessons with us before she returned to the states. After discussing our interest in poetry and getting the students to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming writing contest, Meryl gave us the idea of using heart mapping to have students focus in on specific memories and experiences that could easily be turned into poetry. We began working with 6th and 7th grade classes on heart mapping, and later in the week, students started to create their own poetry from experiences and details they wrote about in their heart maps. Next week, we’re going to introduce a poetry contest for 4th-7th grade students, and we’re hoping that our students will be more prepared to enter the contest after our heart mapping lessons.
At Carroll Shaw Memorial School, things have become more regular in terms of how we spend our time. We split the group into threes: Shamayne works with the high school students on drama, Bianca helps middle school readers on improving comprehension and reading-level, and Shivani works with the new readers on developing vocabulary and reading fluency. It’s great to see the progress that the students have made throughout the time we’ve spent at Carroll Shaw.
How quickly our time here in South Africa is passing!
Despite a minor bout of illness early on in the week, this week has been really positive overall. While we had our first experiences with a doctor’s office in South Africa on Monday, we still made it back to Randfontein Primary School in time to continue working with the debate team on affirmative and negative speeches, with the students drafting their own speeches and working in sub-groups for the first time. On Tuesday, things were back in full swing—we returned to Randfontein Primary School and assessed students in preparation for the end of the week’s spelling bee. After school, we went to Carroll Shaw Memorial School, where the Global Literacy Program’s shipment of 60,000 books were delivered. We sorted through books, and found age-appropriate novels along with backpacks, notebooks, drawing paper, markers, and even soccer jerseys (for our all star debate team). After loading up the car, we went home and met with Shamayne, the much awaited third Princeton intern, who had just arrived from the States earlier in the day.
This week, we also received and judged entries for the first writing contest. It was open to all 5th, 6th, and 7th graders, and the students could choose from three prompts:
- Give advice to a figure, real or imaginary.
- If you could change a school rule, what would it be and why?
- Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Write about a time when you did something you thought you could not do.
We had some really great submissions, including first place winner Kefilwe Sediketso, who advised President Jacob Zuma that having multiple wives sets a bad example for young South African children, despite potential cultural importance. We’re looking forward to awarding the students with their prizes next week! Later in the week, we drafted prompts for the upcoming writing contest.
Probably most excitingly, we administered the first spelling bee qualification test on Friday to all 6th and 7th grade classes. We even found a few students preparing for the spelling test in between classes, nervous about the scores they would need to qualify for the final bee. We have lots of spelling tests to grade before next week, when we’ll announce who qualifies.
We also finished profiling the farm children at Carroll Shaw Memorial School, with our last visit to a student’s home on Wednesday. We then began to work on reading with students of all ages in the library, especially as the students just received new books from the Global Literacy Program shipment.
Now that we’re settled into our internship work at Randfontein Primary School, things are going really smoothly. The teacher we were filling in for returned, and we were surprised to learn that our students’ behavior improved dramatically when she entered the room. Since her return, we’ve been focusing on literacy-specific programming. We spent about a week working with English classes from grades one through seven. We would split the classes into two, with one of us teaching them to use the computer lab (particularly working on word processing and research) and the other reading with the students in the library.
Now, we’re working on the specifics of a 6th and 7th grade spelling bee that we’ve organized. We compiled a list of about 300 level-appropriate words, reviewed them with the students and teachers, and spoke to all of the participants about how to prepare for the competition. We even found a computer program which helped the students practice their spelling after hearing words dictated to them. The first round of the spelling bee will be next Friday, and we’re really excited to begin! The teachers have been really supportive, and have included some of our words in their English classes as well.
Our extracurriculars are going quite well, too! We’re working with the debate team on formulating proposing and opposing sides of an argument, and they’re learning about the formal order of a debate. We even found some enthused students arguing intensely outside well after debate team practice ended! This week, we began what we hope will be a series of creative writing contests for 5th, 6th,and 7th grade students. We created a list of prompts from which the students can choose to write on, and each week winners will be selected from all the entries. This week’s prompts include creating a narrative about a time when you did something you thought you couldn’t, giving advice to a person either real or imaginary, and persuading the principal to change a school rule. We’re looking forward to reading the entries, and awarding the winners with books and other prizes.
We’ve also started our work at Carroll Shaw Memorial School. In addition to mentoring some of the older students and talking about higher education, we’re in the process of profiling 32 students who attend the school and live on nearby farms. It’s been trying at times visiting the students’ homes, though we’ve found the experience of meeting with their families one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. Along with creating the profiles, we have been working with many students in the library after classes end. We created a book club and reading incentive program this past week. We distributed book logs, completed book forms, and story maps to the students, with each of the above having a correlated point value that students can redeem for books and stationery. We hope this will give students an additional reason to come to the library during their free time. For those students who are still struggling with reading on their own (which includes many of the farm children, including some older students), we’ve been reading to them aloud.
We can’t believe how quickly our time here is passing, but we’re definitely enjoying every minute!