January 2011 No. 41
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Teachers Awarded for Reading Classes
Provincial Conference Emphasizes Primary School Reading
The Ingredients of our Third Grade Reading Discussions
Recognition of Recent Donors
Teachers Awarded for Reading Classes
Above: Ms. Ren introduces the book to students.
In November, two teachers in our program were given “Excellent Teacher” Awards by the Yuncheng Education Bureau which oversees our partner schools. Members of the Evaluation Group for Reading Campuses made a surprise visit to our program site, Xiaochao School. They observed the third and fourth grade reading classes which are taught by our program teachers Ms. Ren Xiaolei and Ms. Li Xiaochun.
In Ms. Ren’s third grade class, the students listened attentively as Ms. Ren read aloud Little Pig Xilihulu by Chinese children’s book author Sun Youjun. They discussed what happened in the story for a few minutes and then began the students’ favorite part of reading class: acting out the story. In small groups, the students acted out different parts of the story for their classmates to identify. Amidst laughter, applause and excitement, the education inspectors got a feel for the open and lively atmosphere that marks our program’s Reading classes.
Above: Students act out part of the story.
The inspectors then moved to the school library where fourth graders usually have their Reading class. Ms. Li XIaochun read a novel aloud to the students pausing at the most climactic moments to give students time to think and offer their guesses for what would happen next. Some of the students have great imaginations but Ms. Li told them to base their guesses on what had already happened in the story and to provide evidence for their ideas. After some students shared their predictions, the class broke up into small groups. Each group received a copy of the novel to read together and discussed whether the content of the next section matched with each of their predictions. Finally, all the students regrouped into a big circle and the teacher facilitated a summary of each group’s ideas. The inspectors expressed pleasant surprise at the way the students read together in small groups and at their ability to communicate their thoughts fluently. They were also impressed by the richness of the book collection in the Xiaochao School library.
Above: A teaching demonstration lesson during the conference.
In November, program staff attended the “Language Arts and Reading Teacher Training” organized by the Shanxi Province Education Association. The conference included a mixture of talks by experts on children’s literature and demonstration lessons and sharing by teachers and principals from schools around the country which have started to incorporate extracurricular reading into their primary school language arts classes. The conference underscored the attention being paid nationally in China to enriching students’ extracurricular reading interest and literacy skills. Next semester, our program will continue to work with teachers on-site in Reading Class to develop innovative teaching methods that can help more rural schools nurture a richer foundation in reading skills and habits for rural children.
The Ingredients of our Third Grade Reading Discussions
By Zheng Kai, Program Manager
Above: Ms. Wang helps a student to read a story aloud to the class.
This semester, our third grade students in the Dong Wu Xing Village Primary School had many opportunities to discuss books that they read. Before starting a discussion, the teacher would choose a suitable book based on students’ reading level and background. The students would then read the book using different formats. Sometimes the teacher would read aloud to the students and sometimes the students would read in small groups, pairs, or independently. The teacher prepared discussion questions and encouraged students to bring up question they wanted to discuss. This helped them to cultivate their thinking skills and empathy with characters and situations in the books.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein tells the story of a tree that gives all it has to a boy but receives nothing in return. After reading it, the students asked: “Why did the boy ask the tree for help?” “Why did the boy cut down the tree branches to build a house?” It’s clear from these kinds of question that students need the teacher’s guidance to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the story. Their questions help the teacher to evaluate the students’ current levels of understanding and how to guide them to a higher level. For example, in order to direct students’ thinking towards the topics of “Giving” and “Altruism”, the teacher raised these two questions for the students’ responses:
When we read Frederick by Leo Lionni, students enjoyed reading aloud the poems written by Frederick, the field mouse who is the main character in the story. We asked the students:
Good questions can lead students to think more deeply. This is how some of our students responded:
“I like (the poems) because they make me feel what Frederick said about the four seasons.” –He Xiaodan
“Frederick is a poet. I like his poem because it makes me feel warm.”-Xu Peng
To prepare students for better quality reading discussions, we need to help them understand what a reading discussion is like and what role they each need to play. We showed our third graders a video of a reading discussion in action at our previous program school, Guan Ai School. We asked the children to compare what they saw in the video with our reading classes so far. “What do the children in the video do well? Do you think our class can do as well as them?” The students then participated in setting discussion rules. After comparing themselves to the students in the video, they discovered some areas they needed to improve in. “They tell stories better than we do. I just speak casually,” said He Putian. “They speak in a loud voice when responding. A lot of people answer the questions,” noted Zhang Fengge. “They only stand up when they’re answering a question,” observed Liu Xiaoqing.
Above: Students discuss a question in their small group
We asked the students whether they like reading discussion classes. Ji Yuchao said, “I like this kind of class because the reading teacher makes us happy.” Another student, Liu Xiaoqing, wrote, ““I like it because I like to discuss question with everybody.” Zhang Fengge said, “I like this kind of class because it makes me brave enough to speak up.”
We are grateful to all the supporters who donated to RCEF in December 2010! (A complete list of donors through the years is available here.)
Platinum Sponsors ($5,000-$9,999)
Bronze Sponsors ($100-$999)
Andrew Feng (New York, NY)
Supporting Sponsors (under $99)
The RCEF Newsletter is a publication about the educational initiatives supported by RCEF in rural China. The activities described in this edition are from the program of the Starfish Rural Youth Cultural Research Center, RCEF’s main field partner, located in Yongji, Shanxi Province.
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From Our Website
Partner School Profile: Dong Wu Xing Primary School
Learn about one of our rural school partners in Shanxi Province.
Reading Original Works by Chinese Authors
Read an example of the book discussion model that rural teachers are developing in Shanxi.
Diary Entry: Weekend Excursion with Village Children
An informal outing sheds light on rural children’s relationship to the environment around them.
Our Village's Revolutionary Roots
Students investigate what life was like in their villages during a critical period in history.
See videos of RCEF's activities on our Youtube Channel!
Helping Schools in Gansu
Project teacher Ms. Zhang Li worked with fourth graders to plan a fundraising campaign for impoverished schools in Gansu Province.
Green Campus Project
Project teacher Ws. Wang Min describes the process of helping students carry out a campus landscaping project.
Water Investigation Project
This video shows how students went into the community to research water issues.
Sweet Potato Investigation
All the steps of this yearlong project on a local crops can be seen in this video.
Part 1: Egg Selling Experience
Students brought their eggs to market for the first time. See their salesmanship in action!
Part 2: Egg Selling Experience
A customer gives valuable advice to students on how to promote their eggs' advantages over other eggs.
Singing, Dancing Little Librarians
Students celebrate their roles as managers of the school library by creating their own song and dance.
Teacher Profile: Mr. Pei
Curriculum Teacher Mr. Pei Weifeng leads students through a science class.
Students carried out a campaign to educate their neighbors in three villages about the harms of smoking
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(C) Rural China Education Foundation 2011