At the beginning of February 2016, the GVI Education team conducted Reading Record testing with students from Class 3-‐8, across both Navunisea District School and Dawasamu District School. The purpose of these assessments was to identify the specific level at which each individual student can read and comprehend a text. The testing enables GVI to create individual reading profiles for students, providing class teachers and GVI volunteers with extensive information to use for tailored needs support, as well as a benchmark for tracking both student and class progress.
The testing showed a widespread imbalance between students’ mechanical reading ability, their ability to phonetically read words correctly, and their understanding of texts. Concerns surrounding literacy aptitude had been regularly highlighted and observed by the Education team, however the extent to which this issue impacts on the students became clear after the results were collaborated. The reading behavior and patterns observed in the results are a common occurrence when students are learning in their second language, especially if they have little experience speaking English outside of their formal education. The Fijian Ministry of Education have also expressed similar concern surrounding literacy levels, leading to frequent coverage in the media, as well as the introduction of the ‘Read to Lead’ program.
A major long-‐term objective of GVI’s Education project is to improve students’ understanding of English language, through targeting reading comprehension in the literacy program and written language in composition lessons. These records allow for literacy lessons to be tailored to small groups who have a similar reading ability, giving GVI the opportunity to focus lessons on specific trouble areas; as well as giving students the opportunity to participate in lessons at their level.
The Reading Record testing also highlighted a small number of students in higher grades who were unable to mechanically read independently. These students then completed activities to test their phonetic knowledge, many had little to no understanding of the sounds letters make. This is something that class teachers have been concerned with but regrettably unable to completely evaluate or address due to large, composite classes and lack of non-‐teaching time. In order to provide additional support to these student GVI have created an intensive phonics program. Starting with basic sounds, students will
follow a complete scheme to gain an understanding of the sounds letters make and how they are blended to form words, as well as building an understanding of the meaning of the new vocabulary they are learning.
Sadly the damage caused by Cyclone Winston has resulted in the loss of three years’ worth of education resources and has also disrupted GVI’s presence in both NDS and DDS. Fortunately, the Reading Record results have been retained electronically and GVI has been able to start delivering tailored reading sessions to students two days a week. Furthermore this information can be given to the school and class teachers as a small step in rebuilding the school’s student records, many of which were in paper form and lost in the cyclone. In the short term, the intensive phonics program can begin on a less regular basis, as well as some of the literacy program, giving students some stability in their education until GVI can resume full time support at both primary schools later in the term. Once the initial period of disaster ends and the schools resume normal operations, GVI will use the in-‐depth student information compiled to set up the project in a timely manner and continue offering consistent, intensive education support to the teachers and students.
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