Sunday, January 17, 2016

Young Voices Issue no. 5.1

A new issue of the Young Voices newsletter is out! You can read yours here: be sure not to miss out!

Students publish their club writing by reading their typed final drafts to friends and relatives, or by displaying them in the school, but some students' final drafts are published in this newsletter. Individual print copies are given to all the members of all the clubs, and the students eagerly look forward to each new issue! We hope you do, too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Brief Visit in Kabala

I was so glad to again visit Kabala over the past few days. I have missed the hospitality I always enjoy there, and the open, fresh air. This time of year, there are also very chilly nights! Here you see my view of the Yogomaia field.

It was luck for me to be able to meet as many of the Koinadugu area Young Writers club facilitators as I did, knowing that many of them were undergoing training for various positions in the 2015 census project. I also appreciated that many of them made special effort to come and hand over their club work. We all agreed to what we know: that it is difficult to keep clubs functioning normally while the school schedule is so focused on getting through public examinations at a faster pace. We also agree that it's important to try.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A New School

This term we began working with a new school, Abundant Grace, in Sussex. The club of junior secondary school students meets in the early childhood classroom because it has round tables where writers can easily spread out their multiple drafts, and meet in groups.

During our visit today, one of the facilitators, Balla Kamara, was conferencing with a student while another student was working on revision.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Back to School

This year schools in Sierra Leone are on the post-Ebola fast track timetable, so when we visited the Lady Patricia Kabba Memorial junior secondary school Young Writers club today they were beginning the second term of the 2014-2015 school year, instead of starting a new school year.

It isn't easy for either the students or the teachers to adjust to the pace. We see the effect of this in the clubs, too. Still, before long everyone was settled down working at their own stage on their own topics. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Developing Student Voices

We had a great time today. Ten teachers from five rural schools on the Freetown Peninsula and in the Koinadugu District participated in a full-day workshop on Developing Student Voices, offered through the Seli River Writing Project of the Sentinel English Language Institute in Sierra Leone. The workshop was partly needed because circumstances have changed staffing in the schools where SELI operates, and we all needed a reconnoitering after the extended "ebola break" this year.

All the teachers are facilitators of SELI Young Writers clubs in their schools, and basically, we spent the day with our students. Nothing could have been more exciting. At every step along the way, our ELL junior secondary students' writing formed a central focus.
We spent the morning analyzing and gaining an appreciation for their voices using SELI's analytic writing rubric; practicing getting good instructional conversation going during conferencing to enhance English language acquisition; examining how to model revision and what happens when we don't model it; and discussing which changes make teacher editing effective.

Our afternoon was spent learning about and practicing teaching research writing, contemporary poetry writing, and short story writing. We took a preference poll at the end, and found about an even balance in the number of teachers who were interested in introducing one of these three in their clubs. We can't wait to see the results! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What the ESL teaching field stands for

The TESOL International Association has notified its members of the death of Dr. James E. Alatis, one of its founding members. I have been a member of this organization since the 1970s, and his writings meant a lot to me over the years.

As the notice says, "Jim Alatis, as he was known to many, will be remembered for his energy and his commitment to TESOL International Association and to the field of English language teaching. 'Our kind of teaching,' he once said, 'which accepts other peoples’ languages and cultures as equally valid to ours, is essential to cross-cultural communication, mutual educational exchange, social justice, and, ultimately, it is devoutly to be wished, world peace.' As the association works to support and encourage the work of English language teaching, he would urge us, as he told one interviewer, 'to continue to insist upon quality above all.'”

Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Mother Tongue Day!

It's International Mother Language Day again! Why not spend Saturday enjoying your mother tongue—reading, singing, writing, and talking only in your mother tongue?

For several years SELI held a celebration of this important UNESCO celebration on February 1st, commemorating the diversity of mother languages that exist in Sierra Leone and helping to do what it takes to keep them and the culture and identities they carry with them, alive.

We praise the efforts of The Institute for Sierra Leone Languages in encouraging pride and literacy in our mother tongues, and the goals of PEN Sierra Leone's Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee.

Here's how an area much bigger than ours (and with substantial financial support) celebrates this important day. We all need to put our heads together to come up with a meaningful celebration of our own. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Writing Back

Happy New Year, everyone! SELI would like to thank each and every individual person who has contributed to its efforts in the past year. We are so indebted to you!

Ebola has hampered our activities in the past six months—and this is only an understatement of what being out of school for an entire school year has done to a whole nation of students. We live every minute of every day hoping that the Ebola infection rate will subside soon and desist from taking its terrible toll in Sierra Leone. 

SELI has begun a new Seli River Writing Project called Writing Back. Its purpose is to restart the writing activity of as many junior and senior secondary members of SELI’s Young Writers clubs as we can during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Because schools are closed, the conditions under which these clubs normally operate—the school settings, the workshop-style meetings, the box of supplies, and each person’s files of ongoing work—are currently unavailable.  Yet we’ll be writing to each other, and writing back. Watch the blog, and we’ll be giving you more information as it evolves!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Modeling the Ebola Outbreak

This video is a great explanation of what is happening in the Sierra Leone Ebola outbreak, and what some of our alternatives are.

The author, Sibyl Harleston, presents the mechanics of how EVD is spread, ways to interpret the results that models present, and suggestions for slowing the transmission rates.

Monday, September 8, 2014

International Literacy Day

It's International Literacy Day today! First conceived by UNESCO, it has been recognized since the 1960s, so today, nearly fifty years later, we should all jump up and celebrate!

Well, not really, because literacy is about development. The first image on the UNESCO infographic (pictured here) illustrates how vital literacy is to all aspects of development. And reading further down, and looking at the information in this link, tells us in Sierra Leone we should worry, instead.

Literacy happens in schools. Few could have predicted all the specific, immediate events in the past that have brought about temporary (but usually prolonged) school closings in Sierra Leone—Ebola being only the most recent.

Nonetheless, we all know that reacting to sudden events is neither an educational nor a development strategy. Education only happens where it is valued. We reveal what we value by what we spend money on. Instead of being buffeted out of school by every passing wind, children in Sierra Leone should be well buffered by an unshakable, well-funded educational system that offers alternatives when things get tough.