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Young readers benefit from Wingate education students’ in-class learning

By Luanne Williams
An elementary-aged child gets help with reading from a college student.

Wingate’s glass-walled demonstration classroom in the heart of the Crowder Welcome Center is typically filled with college students focused on their professor. But on Thursday evenings the scene changes, and passersby can watch a group of budding educators working one-on-one with area youngsters to boost their reading skills.

The future teachers – 10 in the first hour-long session and eight in the next – are all students of Dr. Melanie Keel, associate professor of education, but the youngsters, ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school, have less in common. Some are children of University employees; others live nearby; and some were already on campus for swimming lessons when their parents decided to sign them up for the personalized instruction.

Their variety of reading levels is no problem. In fact, it’s integral to the field experience required by Keel’s course, Education 411: Reading Assessment and Intervention. The wide spectrum of proficiency gives her students plenty of opportunities to employ the strategies they learn in class for diagnosing reading strengths and weaknesses.

After the second session of the weekly clinic, senior Ashley Miller was thrilled with how much she was learning from the assessment process and the challenge of precisely tailoring her instruction.

“You have to adapt to the situation you are given,” says Miller, who had to rethink her lesson plans when she realized the kindergartener she was working with had already mastered alphabet recognition and was further along than anticipated.

Keel says that her students write a lesson plan each week. Most begin their sessions with an animated read-aloud to capture their pupil’s attention, but the next steps vary. 

“After the read-aloud, you plan an engagement exercise to work on whatever weakness you have found to focus on, and then you have a brain-break activity before starting another engagement,” says Miller, an elementary education major from Lexington, North Carolina.

Pupil-tutor pairs are spread throughout the classroom, which buzzes with activity. One student watches a video during his brain-break. Another plays a game.

“We have an outline, but it’s up to us how to incorporate the different pieces into the hour of instruction,” explains Madison Hart, a senior educational studies major from Wingate, who has been working with her second-grader on word recognition.

At the end of the eight-week clinic, Wingate students will send a letter home to parents updating them on their child’s progress and suggesting literacy activities they can do at home.

A female college student and her female professor smile.

“After all the education struggles brought on by the pandemic, this reading clinic is very much appreciated,” says Keel, who will have students offer another series of sessions in the spring. “Parents want to do whatever they can to keep their children on track or get them back on track.”

Parents aren’t the only ones grateful for the opportunity.

“Because of Covid, I haven’t really had the chance to work in a classroom setting since my sophomore year,” Hart says. “Getting this chance to work one-on-one with a student makes me feel much more comfortable.”

Miller says working in the clinic has been her first opportunity to make her own lesson plans and then carry them out.

“This has really boosted my confidence,” she says. “It’s been a really good experience overall.”

As for the clinic’s location, inside the Crowder Welcome Center and in full view of those passing by, Keel says it’s perfect: convenient for parents to drive to and with comfortable areas to lounge in while they wait. The glass walls also mean they can peek in on their young ones without interrupting the session.

Hart says the students aren’t distracted by passersby, and she sees other advantages to the glass walls.

“I think it’s cool for people at our university to see what we’re doing in education,” she says.

Learn more about studying education at Wingate.

Oct. 25, 2021