OECS/USAID Early Learners Program (ELP) Media Release
Thursday, April 30, 2020 — As early grade teachers across the OECS find ways to connect and support their students – one teacher in Nevis has actively decided to ensure that her students can hear her voice on evenings.
Ms. Kimoy Sweeney – Grade 2 teacher at Charlestown Primary in Nevis made a daily commitment to send voice notes and photos to her students of bedtime stories that she is reading to encourage them to read along with her. Ms. Sweeney set-up a WhatsApp group with the parents of her students at the beginning of the school year. Over the last few weeks of movement restrictions in response to COVID-19, she uses this group to communicate with the parents and students.
Ms. Sweeney wants to continue to give her students the opportunity to continue the learning process and has added components to the bedtime stories to encourage interaction with the students. With each book she reads, she introduces one new vocabulary word that relates to the text. In order to “hear” their voices, she asks a question or solicits their opinion on something related to the story, where they must respond in the group chat. For one full week she ran a theme surrounding pets – with stories, poems and then a prompt – “If a dog could write a book entitled, ‘All About People’ what would it write about?” which generated extensive discussion.
Ms. Sweeney supplemented the readings with additional activities including tongue twisters and videos. She sent tongue twisters to the students who in turn recorded and sent the tongue twister back in a voice note to the teacher. Ms. Sweeney also shared two videos from the Dr. Binocs show on Peekaboo Kidz from Youtube showcasing age-appropriate discussion about the Coronavirus to raise children’s awareness of the virus and the response efforts. One video poses questions such as “How do you feel about not being able to move about as normal?” and “Do you think it helps slow the spread of the virus?” While some students send feedback directly through the chat, others are sending feedback privately.
Ms. Sweeney says
“I am just so happy to hear the student’s voices. The interaction has been great, and the parents have been very cooperative in facilitating story time and the interaction. I am also planning to do some storytelling where I dress up as a character and tell the story with a video; that way they can now hear and see me at the same time. I might challenge them to do the same with some nursery rhymes. I intend to continue to make the best use of the resources that I have, to engage my students weekly.”
With 15 out of 17 students actively participating and interacting on a weekly basis, the learning process is continuing while students are at home. The OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme is very enthused by Ms. Sweeney’s utilization of the many principles of effective early grade reading in her engagement with the students. Reading at the appropriate grade level, reinforcing sight words and providing interactive reading instruction is foundational to learning and growth. The ELP looks forward to seeing how other administrators and educators throughout the OECS are engaging and supporting their students.
About OECS/USAID ELP:
OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme is a Programme within the Education Development Management Unit of the OECS Commission and was established in March 2015 to improve the reading skills of children in the early primary grades with the goal of providing a foundation for improved learning outcomes and enhanced opportunities for students in the six (6) independent Member States of the OECS (Antigua and Barbuda, The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
To date the ELP has achieved a number of tangible outputs with over 17,000 learners reached at the Primary level, over 1500 Grades K to 3 teachers supported through job embedded professional development, 1426 lessons observed and 1031 coaching sessions with teachers have been completed by ELP Coordinators. Further, 60 schools across the Member States have received development grants to support reading enhancement projects and 173,114 teaching and learning materials have been provided to 750 classrooms across the OECS. The OECS/USAID ELP will run through to September 2020 continuing to develop and implement impactful initiatives that advance early grade reading throughout the OECS.