by Claire Miller
The College of Education’s Urban Literacy Clinic, housed in Georgia State University’s Dahlberg Hall, is a modest office with a noble goal: To address the literacy needs of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the metro-Atlanta area while providing practical experience to Georgia State students training to be literacy leaders in their schools.
The clinic, which opened in 2006, brings in College of Education students to tutor kindergarten through 12th graders from the After-School All-Stars Atlanta program, The Study Hall after-school program and local schools in the metro-Atlanta area on their vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing skills. Parents can also call to set up tutoring sessions for their children on an individual basis. During the fall and spring semesters, kindergarten through 12th grade students come once a week for 10 weeks. In the summer, they come twice a week for five weeks.
“It’s a really valuable program because our Georgia State students are getting hands-on experience with students under the direction of professors, and the kindergarten through 12th grade students are getting supplemental education at no cost,” said Jamie Fergerson, the clinic’s program coordinator.
Most students who tutor in the clinic come from English education and reading programs in the Department of Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology, but students from other College of Education disciplines can also tutor. To prepare for the sessions, all student tutors take classes that guide them through assessing a student’s reading level and tailoring lesson plans around his or her needs. This instruction teaches them how address the needs of children struggling with reading or writing as well as those whose skills sets meet or exceed the grade level standards in literacy.
Jennifer Ray, a student in the College of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, has found her experiences working with the students in the clinic is one of the best ways to prepare for a career in the classroom.
“This immersion in the instruction gives us a sense of how teaching strategies operate and how we can adapt them in our own lesson planning,” she said. “This hands-on experience is invaluable because it facilitates the transition from being students ourselves to becoming teachers.”
While the College of Education students are simultaneously earning course credit and learning how to be effective teachers, the kindergarten through 12th grade students gain valuable reading and writing skills during one-on-one and group sessions. Ray and her peers incorporate videos, graphics and songs into their lessons on poems, fiction and nonfiction texts, all in hopes of providing a new context for kindergarten through 12th grade students to understand the importance of literacy.
“We are doing things with literature and reading that they have never encountered, and by doing this we are opening up an avenue for these students to reconsider the benefits of reading and writing,” she explained. “This is like summer camp to these students, which removes many obstacles for participation and getting them to be invested in conversations about the readings.”
Moving forward, Fergerson said the clinic hopes to expand its literacy research over the next couple of years, and will continue to look for new and engaging ways to teach reading and writing skills to kindergarten through 12th grade students.
“We’re not just trying to provide another hour of what students are getting while they’re in school. We’re trying to give them something that’s different and innovative,” Fergerson said.
This story was originally published in the Fall 2012 issue of the College of Education's Milestones magazine.