Nicole Denier & Joey Hoffman
Frederick County Service Learning Advisory Board (SLAB), Joeymom@aol.com
The English as a Second Language (ESL) homework club is an after-school program devoted to helping elementary school children with their homework. The elementary students, who do not speak English as their first language, meet with teachers, high school student mentors, and fellow students to discuss problems they are having with their classes or homework.
Best Practice 1: What recognized community need was met by your project? This project met the community need of education. This need, the need to promote fluency in English beyond the classroom, was determined by the local elementary school teachers as well as the county ESL coordinator. By instituting this program, the elementary school children who don’t speak English as a first language were helped to learn English and in turn succeed in school.
Best Practice 2: How was the project connected to the school curriculum and curricular objectives? This project enhanced student academic learning in many different subject areas such as Spanish, Child Development, and English. Most students being tutored spoke Spanish and were limited to this language in communicating with mentors. This allowed student mentors to utilize the communication skills they had learned in Spanish classes in a real life situation. While this helped student mentors with Spanish skills, it also connected to the English curriculum. Many tutored students are at an age where they are learning how to read and write, and need help with grammar, punctuation, and pronunciation. This type of work allowed the mentors to reinforce the rules they had learned in English class to help others learn the language. This project also connected to the Child Development course by allowing students to observe the different ways children learn, and how to help each learning style.
Best Practice 3: How did participants reflect on their experiences throughout the project? Throughout the project, the mentors met with the Service Learning Advisory Board to discuss the success of the program and what they had learned while doing it. This allowed for the mentors to reflect on their achievements, while sharing their experience with others who were not involved.
Best Practice 4: How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project? Each student involved took great responsibility and demonstrated leadership for the success of the project. There was a large commitment of time. Each student came at least one hour every week to make sure the students at the homework club had help and support. The commitment of time, however, was the smallest that had to be made by the student mentors. The children depended on and looked forward to seeing the mentors each week. This commitment to the children was the largest responsibility taken on by the mentors. Had the mentors not been dependable, the program would have failed. This responsibility and dependability ensured success for the program.
Best Practice 5: What community partners were worked with on this project? Partnerships were the key to starting this project. They were formed between the Service Learning Advisory Board, local elementary schools, and the county ESL coordinator. The programs were run out of local elementary schools that the children attended. The ESL coordinator gave a training session for all of the high school mentors involved on how to be a good tutor.
Best Practice 6: How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project? To prepare for this program, a meeting was held with the ESL coordinator. In this meeting effective tutoring skills, times, and locations were discussed. This meeting connected students with local schools and provided an overall description of duties and expectations. Students were also given handbooks, which are distributed by the county, to prepare them to be mentors.
Best Practice 7: What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project? Students developed an understanding of communication barriers and how difficult it is to go to a school where your native language is not spoken. Through this understanding, students developed effective communication skills. In addition to communication skills, students learned how to work with and teach children. This forced student mentors to be patient and explain concepts logically and reasonably - two skills that are useful at school, home or a job.