Reading Program FAQs
What is the basic program concept?
- Community volunteers spend an hour or two per week in one-on-one, ten to fifteen minute coaching sessions with elementary school students in the primary level who need some extra help with their reading skills. Over a few months, the volunteer builds a relationship with a group of students helping them to build self confidence.
How do volunteers and teachers work together?
- The key to program success is teamwork between the teacher and the several volunteers that work with each teacher. The teacher is responsible for identifying the students that are likely to benefit from the volunteer’s efforts and for suggesting the reading material that is appropriate for each student. Since volunteers will be “outsiders” in the classroom, they need to minimize the disruption their presence will cause and always support the teacher’s directions to the students. Privately, teachers and volunteers need to communicate frankly about how the program is working overall and for individual students.
How will teacher-volunteer teams be formed?
- After new volunteers submit their applications, they will be contacted to determine their scheduling preferences or constraints, the school they desire to volunteer at and any special interests that might influence teaming. This information will be given to the principal of the desired school, who will match those preferences to the needs of individual teachers. The principal will make the best selection and arrange for the teacher to contact the volunteer to schedule an initial visit. During this visit, the volunteer will see where coaching sessions can take place, sign-in procedures and start the process of building a team relationship with the teacher.
How do typical coaching sessions work?
- Volunteers arriving for a scheduled session should enter the classroom with as little interruption as possible. The teacher will hand the volunteer a student coaching sheet for each student that the volunteer will work with during that visit. Either the coaching sheet or oral direction from the teacher will identify the type of book to be used. The volunteer will greet the student in a friendly manner and they will proceed to a quiet but public location where the two can sit side-by-side so that each can see the book. The student will read a section from the book with the volunteer helping as needed. Most students are learning to sound out words so the volunteer should help them break up words and provide hints on how syllables sound. Some students must focus on words; others will be good with individual words but need to learn to read sentences.
- Initially it is important to build confidence, so praise and positive feedback is essential. As confidence grows, it may be helpful to push for more student effort and to add new challenges. For more advanced students, it may be important to question them about the meaning of the sentences, paragraphs and stories they read. After the volunteer has spent 10 or 15 minutes with a student, escort him/her back to the classroom and repeat the process with the next student.
How will schedules be determined and managed?
- Managing the program will be easier for all concerned if the teacher and volunteer can agree on and maintain a regular weekly visit schedule. However, at times, either the volunteer’s other commitments or schedule conflicts in the school will make that impossible. The solution is direct teacher-volunteer communication. The best idea is to settle next week’s schedule at the end of each coaching visit but even then last minute changes will sometimes be necessary. Teacher and volunteer should exchange contact info and call or e-mail when a change in plans is necessary. Volunteers will sometimes need to miss one or more weeks—just make sure the teacher knows about the planned absence and when a return is expected.
How can problems be resolved?
- Every effort will be made to make this program successful for the student and the volunteer. There is a chance that working relationships between volunteer and teacher will not always be smooth. The best cure is direct discussion. If there are still problems, please contact either the principal or the volunteer coordinator. Also, please use the same method to make suggestions about ways the program can be improved. They will be taken seriously and you will get feedback.
How will the program be evaluated?
- It is important that teachers are aware of individual student progress and issues. The key to both is the individual student coaching sheet. After each session, the volunteer should enter the date and length of the session. Also, from time to time, the volunteer should enter helpful comments about student progress or issues for the teacher’s information. Remember, this information is private and should not leave the school. This data, together with assessments done over the course of the year will allow the district to track a student’s reading growth and performance over the course of the year. This information will help determine the value of the Program for that student.
The district plans to track the results for all students in the Volunteer Reading Program which will provide valuable information on the program’s overall success and the impact it is having on our children.
How can volunteers help to grow the program?
- If we can recruit more volunteers, we can help more kids. If you like the experience, tell your friends and associates about it.