While the circuit breaker period caused a trip to their plans for community service, seven groups of RGS Year 4 students, comprising 33 students in total, decided to make the switch to volunteering for a virtual reading initiative instead to continue giving back to the community. The initiative, ‘Make Hay Every Day in May’, held from 18-28 May 2020 over the course of six 30-minute sessions on video conferencing platform Zoom, was part of the Reading Remediation Programme by MOE’s UPLIFT Programme Office. It aimed to provide additional support for primary 3 and 4 students who were unable to have face-to-face reading sessions in school due to the circuit breaker.
We speak to three of the groups who participated in the initiative to find out more about their experience.
Project Booktique members (clockwise from top left): Jillian Ashleigh Loh Li Ann, Lao En Xing, Ujjayini Mukhopadhyay, Tham Yun Xin, Tan Yu Xing Chloe and Zhang Yifei.
Project Booktique: "Typically, at the start of each session, we would recap some vocabulary with our student to ensure knowledge retention. Thereafter, together with our main reader, En Xing, they would take turns reading each paragraph of a new book, pausing occasionally for us to explain the story or to correct our student’s pronunciation. To help her visualise the syllables of each word and concepts such as tenses, we made used of graphics. After explaining a word or concept, we would also get her to form her own sentence just to make sure she understood. Once we finished reading a book, we would ask her questions related to the story, so she could relate what happened in the story to her everyday life.
We didn’t have an established relationship with the student prior to this initiative, so there may have been some hesitation on her part to voice out what she didn’t understand in the beginning. However, over time as trust was built, she was more willing to clarify her concerns, which made the reading sessions even more meaningful and effective. We also needed to find ways to sustain her interest during the sessions. Prior to this, we didn’t know of her likes or dislikes, nor did we know about her learning style. As the sessions went by, we learnt to be flexible and to constantly adapt to her needs, which was why we made used of graphics extensively and chose adventure-themed books once we got to know that she liked those.
This experience has been very meaningful for us because it provided an opportunity for us to serve the community despite the physical restrictions imposed by circuit breaker. We were also able to explore various digital platforms to execute the sessions, which proved invaluable in expanding our horizons on the available resources out there. It was indeed satisfying to see the student being engaged by the stories, and to see her willingness to learn more.
While the pandemic has impeded the progress of some of our other planned community projects, we remain optimistic and hope that it will be possible for us to carry out some, if not the full scope of our initiatives.”
Project Casa members (clockwise from top left): Lee Tze Tong, Jamielyn Low Ching Hui, Kriti Raja, Krysten Wong Rui Min and Nithila Ravindran.
Project Casa: "One week before every session, we would meet up virtually to create lesson plans according to our student’s reading capabilities. This also ensures that every team member is on the same page as to what will be taking place during each session. 15 minutes prior to the start, we would also do a run-through of our lesson plan to make sure that all materials required are set up so that we don’t waste any time during the session. Once the student joins us, we would start off with some ice breakers such as sharing some jokes with him. Thereafter, we would guide him through reading the storybook and then end off with another round of joke exchanges.
One of the challenges that we faced was sometimes not being able to completely carry out our lesson plan due to the lack of proper time management. As a result, during the very last session, we were unable to close it off properly. To overcome that, we decided to send his parents a video containing our well wishes as a means of rounding off the initiative.
This has been a very fulfilling experience for the team as we were able to see our student grow to become more confident of his reading skills. As he got more comfortable with us, he also became more outspoken and was more forthcoming in sharing his views during the sessions. We have definitely learnt to be more patient as we understand that he might not have been very comfortable with us guiding him initially, and have also learnt to be adaptable in order to deal with unexpected situations.
Due to COVID-19 measures, we are unable to execute some of the plans we had for other values-in-action projects, but learning from this experience to be adaptable, we are constantly searching for other ways that we can continue to contribute back to the community!”
Project Faye members (from left): Divyasree Sekhar, Lee Wen Xin, Yeo Xiu Hui, Jamie and Vera Lee Jia Qi.
Project Faye: "Two to three days prior, we would come together to discuss the lesson plan and the desired outcomes of the session. We would select a book, and an overarching theme for reflection. During the session itself, we would start off with a conversation about the theme to help our student warm up to us. Then, we would start reading the book together, and clarify words that he did not understand or pronounce correctly. Subsequently, we would also go through some basic grammar to help him better understand the story. Sometimes, if the student required extra help, we would also have to be adaptable and slow down so that we can communicate more effectively with him. We found this to be extremely helpful in helping him retain the information that we taught. After each session, we would then discuss the student’s progress and where necessary, adjust subsequent lesson plans.
Initially, it was difficult to get the student to warm up to us as he was nervous. The team then spent some time getting to know him by asking questions in relation to the book that we were reading that day, and at the same time, enabling him to practise communicating effectively in the language. While this took some time, our efforts did pay off because by the end of the programme, he was noticeably more at ease with us.
This was a refreshing experience for us as it was the first time we used technology to conduct a virtual reading session. It was also fun and fulfilling because we got to see our plans come into fruition and have the student thoroughly enjoying the sessions and interacting more with us as he got more comfortable. Growing and learning through our interactions with him, we can be more confident when planning future initiatives with children as well.
We are currently planning a book drive for the donation of textbooks and storybooks to children from lower-income families, and are also volunteering at Happy Children Happy Future, where we are each paired with a tutee. We hope to be able to help them with any queries they may have and at the same time, form stronger bonds and make a positive impact in their lives, no matter how big or small.”
Another group of students was interviewed by the media on their participation in the initiative as well. Click here to read more.