After three internships in Nicaragua, I thought it was time to share my experiences and feelings about Los Quinchos with both the founder and director of the organization. I struggled to come up with a project that would help Los Quinchos hold their workers accountable for reading and working academically with the Yahoskas. Unfortunately, the girls are limited to a three hour school day. With ample amounts of free time, they need structured literacy instruction in order to gain the lost yards in their educations. With the library resources Nour and I have provided over the years, and the reading-workshop trainings we have modeled, they have the resources to increase academic rigor for these kids. The Quinchos have the main library, and a wonderful librarian, that is often unused.
I was frustrated to see that the books were not used on a daily basis. I shared this with Zelinda and Carlos Vidal in our hour and a half reflection/planning meeting. I proposed the development of a documentation system for the main Los Quinchos library, as well as the Yahoska library. This system requires the educators to log their daily reading sessions with the children. Zelinda and Carlos really liked this idea, so I developed the spread sheets and had them bound into accountability books. The educators (the employees who work at the Yahoska complex and the main Los Quinchos library) will need to document who is supervising reading time, the date, what time the library is opened, and what children are present at the time of reading workshop. This system will allow the director to know to what degree the academic resources are being utilized.
We also developed a concrete reading schedule for the girls - with an hour and a half of reading built into each day! Lets get reading!
Friday, July 29, 2011
Letter writing is an essential fourth grade writing standard. Knowing this, I wanted my fourth grade students in Richmond, California to feel a sense of purpose when writing a letter to another person. With this notion, our class decided that we would write letters to the children I work with in Nicaragua. After much investment in our philanthropy unit, reading Three Cups of Tea, and gathering donations for Los Quinchos, my students were ecstatic when I allowed them to paint pictures of their lives via letters. Knowing that another child, in another part of the world, might enjoy what you have to say is an exciting idea! Half of the letters were in Spanish (as half of my students came out of the bilingual program and have the ability to write in Spanish) and half of my students wrote in English.
Each Yahoska received one or two letters, depending on their writing ability and age, to read and then respond to. The girls were stoked to receive letters from my students! For the letters in English, Nour, Gloria, and I spent large amounts of time translating the letters to each individual girl. With the youngest Yahoskas, we sat with each individual and aided them in their composition. The girls enjoyed being allotted time to think through their life experiences and develop letters that describe their 7-year-old lives in Nicaragua.
I can't wait to throw my previous 4th grade students in Richmond, who are now big fifth graders, a Nicaragua party so that they can see the pictures of the girls receiving the donations they collected, as well as receive their pen pal letters!
As mentioned below, my fourth grade students got really into our 4th grade philanthropy unit (see several posts below). After lugging the suitcase of donations to Nicaragua, my homestay sister, Leonela, and I spent a few hours equally dividing the donations into 30 zip-lock bags. Without any convincing, she decided to come with me to the Yahoskas for the day. She seemed to be as excited as I was! We spent the first part of the day doing reading workshop. I was happy to see Leonela so excited to read to the girls. She has a talent working with children. After working with the Yahoskas that day, she is interested in volunteering with the Quinchos once a week. This is exactly what the girls need, a consistent, Nicaraguan volunteer who will be there year-round.
We followed up reading workshop with the donation give-away. Before I handed out the bags, Leonela and I explained that the donations were from low-income, inner city students (the majority of whom are Latino) in the United States, who are each trying to make their world a better place. The Yahoskas found this particularly exciting, because they knew the donations were coming from their pen pals, whom they had already received letters from. Each girl received a bag of donations from my 4th graders. There were stoked to see that their bags contained new, colorful pencils, tooth brushes, pencil sharpeners, erasers, hair accessories, rulers, and pencil cases.
Several were teary, several smiled and carefully stored their new supplies in their rooms, and a few didn't know what emotion to display. Others merely carried their bags around with them for the remainder of the day, displaying that the new supplies were very special to them.