Despite last week's dropping temperatures outside, the graduate students were keeping warm indoors and continuing to make progress towards their degrees. They are currently enrolled in four graduate courses, and last week they began practicum teaching at Longfellow Elementary School in Sheboygan. They also are exploring several new projects that may aid their efforts to improve early grade reading in Malawi. It was informative to sit in on a recent bi-weekly roundtable meeting to get a picture of what they are thinking about as they get closer to the end of the school year. Professor Elzinga meets with the students every other Friday morning to discuss their experiences and progress in the program.
The students were happy to report that they had received a warm welcome from the children and staff at Longfellow Elementary School during a recent Valentine's Day party. There were refreshments, music, and dancing at the party. Many of the children remembered the Malawi students from Cohort 1 who worked with them last spring and were excited to make new friends with the members of Cohort 2. Each graduate student was assigned to work with two or three young readers over the next six weeks.
During the roundtable meeting, the graduate students also learned about a new program being introduced at Northview Elementary School in Howards Grove. It is called Academic-Parent-Teacher-Teams (aptt) and is designed to help parents become more involved in their child's reading progress and other learning activities. More information will be known about the program in the coming days to see if it might be a useful strategy to try in a Malawian context. If so, the Malawians will be invited to attend actual aptt sessions with parents and teachers at Northview School to learn how these sessions are conducted.
There was also a great deal of discussion at the roundtable meeting about the recent visit to Lakeland and visit with Cohort 2 by fellow-Malawian Keni Banda. Banda is the former men’s head soccer coach at UW-Madison but lives in New York now. His father is the former Malawian ambassador to Germany. The family is from the Nkata Bay area on the shore of Lake Malawi, and Keni has a great passion to help the children of his country improve their literacy skills. Banda’s non-profit foundation Banda Bola Sports has begun a project near Nkata Bay that engages children by using soccer as an incentive to keep kids in school and keep them on track with their reading skills. His project addresses the physical as well as the educational fitness of Malawi's children. The Lakeland graduate students could see a lot of value in what Banda is doing, and they are exploring ways to see if his methods could be applied at the demonstration schools at Teacher Training Colleges in Malawi. The students plan to continue looking into those possibilities and to investigate funding sources for such an endeavor.
In the coming weeks, we will report more on the work the graduate students are doing at Longfellow Elementary School, as they put into practice the new teaching techniques they are learning in their Instructional Strategies course.
This post is written by Lisa Vihos on behalf of Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government.