Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Having Trouble Reading? Write!

There are a few schools in Sierra Leone that have shelves full of reading books (as opposed to textbooks). However, in nearly every case where SELI has found such shelves to exist in schools, the books are not being read. Not only does the school not lend them out, but the students do not ask to read them. The sad fact is, many students would not understand the books if they did borrow them.

Much has been said about the lack of reading instruction in Sierra Leone's schools. Many of our secondary students have very poor reading comprehension skills and lack successful, positive reading experiences. Programs are being carried out to remedy this situation by improving reading/literacy instruction at the early primary level, and some of these programs also provide reading materials. What SELI does not see being implemented is process writing instruction at any level at all of the educational system.

After decades of teaching process writing in Sierra Leone, we are convinced that developing academic writing skills through process writing also improves reading comprehension. The literature supports our view:

 "Writing practices complement reading practices and should always be used in conjunction, with each type of practice supporting and strengthening the other. . . .Our evidence shows that . . . writing activities improved students’ comprehension of text over and above the improvements gained from traditional reading activities such as reading text, reading and discussing text, and receiving explicit reading instruction. . . . Students who do not develop strong writing skills may not be able to take full advantage of the power of writing as a tool to strengthen reading." (p. 29) 

Graham, S., and Hebert, M. A. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Buttons at Sussex Junior Secondary School

The junior secondary SELI Young Writers club at Sussex village is functioning as a true process-writing writing workshop should.

As you can see from her button, Ramatu has just completed her final draft of a multi-draft personal experience and along with Kadiatu, is working on her next topic. Behind them, two boys are completing their journal entries.

Sussex JSS serves a wide area along the peninsula, and many of its students and teachers have long walks home, so we appreciate their willingness to stay afterschool twice a week to work on their writing skills.

Buttons are the newest motivators. You also see here a pen SELI has given students who complete their first final drafts. This student belongs to the senior secondary Young Writers club at Ahmadiyya Muslim Agricultural Secondary School in Yogomaia, Kabala.
Both the pins and the pens carry the same printed message: I am an author!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

World Storytelling Day

Thursday, March 20th, is World Storytelling Day. Are you ready?

The theme for 2014 is Monsters and Dragons . Get started writing now, so you can tell your story aloud to someone tomorrow! Just in case you need help, click here for some good names for your creatures.

Happy writing, and let us know how your storytelling went! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Where Are the People of Color?

"Then I read a story by James Baldwin: “Sonny’s Blues.” I didn’t love the story, but I was lifted by it, for it took place in Harlem, and it was a story concerned with black people like those I knew. By humanizing the people who were like me, Baldwin’s story also humanized me. The story gave me a permission that I didn’t know I needed, the permission to write about my own landscape, my own map."
In this quote from his New York Times opinion piece, "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?" children's book author Walter Dean Myers is asking an important question.  The publishers of this catalogue of children's books written in Sierra Leone and Liberia, also wanted the children who read them to recognize themselves and their own "landscapes" as they read.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kabala Secondary School Senior Club

The senior Young Writers club at Kabala Secondary School has been meeting in this well-lighted space adjacent to the school library.

This club, too, was overwhelmed by new intake last week because the SSI students, who have been waiting for their JSS exit-exam results since school opened in September, have now begun attending senior secondary school. Here you see one of the club facilitators, Abdul Karim Koroma, giving an orientation. The principal, Mr. H.B. Conteh, assured us that new accommodation would be arranged so everyone would have a place to sit and write.

One of the students is holding the Young Voices newsletter issue 4.1. The poem on the back page was written by a member of the group.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Senior Secondary Club

The Seli River Writing Project now has writing clubs in two senior secondary schools in the Koinadugu district in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Here you see the club members at work in their airy, spacious classroom at Ahmadiyya Muslim Agricultural Secondary School.

The two facilitators, Sheku Bilo Conteh and Mohamed Ato Koroma, in their soft-spoken way, run a well-organized club. Two events happened today.

One event was that the first-year students (SSI) have just begun attending the school: all this time they have been out of school waiting for their BECE results! Eighteen of them arrived to join the club today.

The second event was that heats for their interhouse competitions began today, so a number of regulars are absent. Many of those that went to the heats are boys so the club membership appears today to have a higher percentage of girls than is actually the case.

You see here one of several conferencing groups that was going on in the room. The students are listening to someone read her work aloud, and jotting down content questions they plan to ask during the discussion of her piece.

Kabala JSS Young Writers Club

This is what content conferencing looked like at Kabala Junior Secondary School last week. It's all about explaining and negotiating meaning in English, which is not easy for these students who have only recently left primary school. Still, they do it with spirit because they are writing about their own personal experiences, which they know very well.

Facilitators Alieu S. Kanu and Fatmata Kamara conduct well-organized Young Writers club meetings. This club meets at 4:30 in the afternoon, after students have had a chance to go home and eat lunch, wash their uniforms, and do some of their chores. This is why you don't see the students wearing uniforms here.

The photo below is a peer editing group in the same meeting.
Students knew how to help each other edit in this club. The authors read their work aloud for their peers, and they reached for dictionaries when they needed them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Young Voices 4.1

Young Voices 4.1 is out! Click here to join these students sauntering home from Kabala Junior Secondary School reading their newsletters! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Course in Workplace English, Feb.–May, 2014

SELI's next intensive Course in Workplace English will be offered at the Sentinel English Language Institute in Tengbeh Town from 10th February to 23rd May 2014.

This intensive English-for-Special-Purposes course meets the needs of beginning-proficiency English language learners who have pursued tertiary education in another language than English but need the communication skills expected in a professional English-speaking workplace. Students about to enter university who embrace this goal can also be accommodated.

CWE applicants are assumed to be non-English speakers. The course develops basic-user level competencies in speaking, listening, reading, writing and presenting in English. Classes meet mornings only, fifteen hours a week for fourteen-week terms. There are still 15 places available in the coming term. Sessions are participatory and interactive, requiring prompt and regular attendance.

SELI's Course in Workplace English helps to make SELI's charitable work possible. Please contact us for enrolment information.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yay! Certificates!

SELI's first intensive ESOL Course in Workplace English came to a close today with a certificate ceremony.

This beginning proficiency class was very rewarding to teach. All the participants were university students or working professionals from francophone West Africa who feel that English will give them an advantage in the workplace in their own countries. The class met three hours a day, five days a week for fourteen weeks at the SELI facility in Tengbeh Town. Nearly all the participants were in Sierra Leone specifically to take the course, so attended promply, regularly and actively; as such, significant progress took place.

SELI developed the curriculum for the Course in Workplace English in real time throughout the fourteen weeks. The director used *
interactions with the class and formative assessments to pace activities and adjust the scope and sequence of lessons. Although this is an English for Special Purposes course, it could also be said to cover competencies described in CEF's Basic User level (A1 and A2). We would be pleased to hear in the future of some of the participants taking advanced degrees in English; opportunities to do this are rapidly increasing in continental European universities.

Registration is now taking place at SELI for the next session of the Course in Workplace English scheduled to begin 10 February 2013.

* The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages