With schools around the nation closed due to COVID-19, the Department of Teacher Education at BYU-Idaho came up with a resourceful alternative to provide students with a practicum experience while also benefiting young children who are no longer in the classroom. The result has led to 145 elementary school students receiving online literacy tutoring services this spring.
In a normal semester, literacy practicum students go to elementary schools throughout Rexburg. The future educators are paired with a mentor teacher and spend approximately 10 hours in the classroom working with the children each week.
Although the Department of Teacher Education looks forward to when they can return to the schools for this practicum, the current alternative with online literacy tutoring services is yielding amazing results.
When the department announced on Facebook that BYU-Idaho literacy practicum students would be hosting reading groups for children in the first through fifth grade, the result was overwhelmingly positive. Parents from Hawaii to Maryland signed their children up.
BYU-Idaho students began their practicum by collaborating with parents to administer an assessment to their children. The education majors then took these results and organized students into small groups depending on their reading abilities and needs.
On a typical day, the children join a Zoom meeting with approximately 20 other children. They begin with a group readaloud where a student teacher reads from a book called The Wishing Tree and embeds vocabulary and comprehension into the group instruction time. After the read-aloud, children are sent into break-out rooms in groups of three to five with their instructor.
The student teacher then has 30 minutes of instruction time with their students and reviews basic phonic, spelling, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills depending on the individual needs of the children. Faculty members periodically join break-out rooms to observe the student teachers and provide guidance. Amy Clark, a faculty member in the Department of Teacher Education, says that the children are engaged participants and are enjoying the program.
“The children are so engaged, and it’s been fun to watch them during this read-aloud,” Clark said. “They want to hear what’s going on. They participate in the story, they answer questions, and they share their own thinking during the story. And then I see siblings come wander over and listen to the story and participate.”
This experience has also been beneficial for the BYU-Idaho practicum students. They are granted autonomy with their lesson plans and can determine how to work with their students according to their needs. However, it is still a safe environment where they can receive guidance from faculty members.
Parents feel the program has been beneficial for their child, and many have asked if the service will be continued in the fall. Due to its success, the Department of Teacher Education plans to continue a similar program in the fall as an after-school experience.
“I wanted to tell you, you guys are doing a great job with the Zoom reading groups,” one parent said. “My child is enjoying it— which is really saying something because he hates anything school related! Thanks for all you are doing.”