By Shreya Srinivas, FCSN Voices Youth Reporter
On July 5th, 2021, three volunteers took the initiative to create a Language Arts Program for FCSN.
Dedicated to recruiting his classmates into FCSN, volunteer Daniel Wang aspired to create an FCSN club at his school. Despite his good intentions, school administrators did not approve of the idea. Instead of being discouraged by the rejection, Daniel modified his plans and began looking for experience that would garner him success when he tried again next school year. Thus, he recruited experienced music class youth instructors, Alicia and Lauren, to create a summer program at FCSN. They brought this idea to FCSN, who suggested forming a class for persuasive speech and spelling. This was how the Language Arts Summer Program was born.
Over the span of ten days, the three volunteers tackled the challenge of teaching children all aspects of language. Lauren started off the class with grammar: she mentioned that “I’ll usually go over the grammar first, the general concepts, and then I’ll just have a couple sentences that would have errors or no errors in them, and I just ask […] each and every one of them and go through the questions together, and ask what they think.”
Alicia described her section, focused on vocabulary, by detailing how “we teach six vocab words at a time, and then- we first introduce the definitions, and then afterwards we have a matching game where they have to match the definition with the word, and we’ll have to ask each student individually, just so everyone gets a chance to answer- and then we read it one more time at the end.”
“And after that, it’s usually speech,” Daniel explained. “And for speech, sometimes I just think of what might be fun for the kids to do with words, and also other times I kind of draw inspiration from some of the activities we do in our club, but very simplified versions- for example, one activity we did a lot was giving them a silly debate topic and having them form opinions and arguments about it. Like, is water wet? That type of stuff.”
An example of these games is an instance in which the group debated on the topic “Is cereal soup?” Some of the students claimed that since cereal is had in the morning and soup is not conventionally had during that time, it is not soup. On the other hand, other students asserted that cereal is eaten with milk, giving it a liquidy texture that meets the qualifications of what soup is. This sort of back and forth dialogue helps the students strengthen their speaking skills in a fun and engaging way.
One of the main difficulties throughout this program was the fact that the students came into class with unspecified, varying skill levels. For example, some students could grasp concepts quickly while others struggled. The instructors worked through this issue by making the kids take a quiz on the first class in order to determine how proficient each student was already, and formed a curriculum, using SAT test questions and appropriately difficult vocabulary, around the quiz results.
Due to the children’s varying levels of understanding, students often struggled with concepts. The instructors handled this with encouragement and patience. Instead of telling the student that they were wrong, the instructors repeated and simplified the question, and presented the student with guiding questions in order to help them come to the right conclusions. They also set up students for success by taking their time with concepts and not cramming information into each session; if they ran out of time, there was always next class.
Normally, a summer course such as this would have a short life, but the Language Arts program seems to reach newer heights as plans to make it a permanent part of FCSN begin to arise. Instructors prepare for a trial class to determine whether it would be achievable, but with the promise of a revamped curriculum, worksheets, and activities such as storytime and singing, the Language Arts Program has a promising future ahead.