Observing a New approach to Composition Writing Lessons

GVI Volunteers have these students up until Standard 6. After that, our volunteer presence is lifted and shifted back into Kenyan teacher’s hands.  Once they reach Standard 8 they have to take a national exam, their KCPE,  to see if they can move on to Secondary School. Without passing this exam, the students cannot move on in their education or have a certified & documented education. The attainment of certification means more open doors from documented jobs to bank loans. This certificate means a lot in guaranteeing a bright future for our students.

Not all of our students will pass this exam, attain certification and move on. But we’re hoping that by devoting one double lesson a week to Composition Writing, we can improve that rate of acceptance. Because their exam has a Composition component worth 40% of their overall English mark, it is important for us to focus at least one lesson on the process of writing. A piece of writing that is worth 40% of the student’s mark could make or break their chance at an educated future.

The composition component of the exam gives you a topic to write about or a sentence you must finish or end your story with. For example: write about “An Accident.” Most students, if not all, begin by defining the word and then repeating the definition or giving examples to fill the page rather than a fully thought out story with an intro-body- conclusion. If we teach our students how to develop their ideas and plan out their story with a consistent approach through all standards, our students have a better chance of getting those much needed marks for that 40%.

I’m in the process of developing a standardized, organized approach to composition writing that has students developing the skills of writing in creative, kinaesthetic and engaging ways. If we have a framework for the children to follow that is consistent from volunteer to volunteer, standard to standard, we can begin to really teach the material and not just the activity.

This is why I’ve begun changing our programs to better suit our student’s needs and the expectations the exams have of them. Just yesterday I lead a workshop introducing what One to One’s, Group Reading, and Composition writing are meant for with lesson ideas and activities to support those programs. Today, I observed the new volunteers put this in action; I was astounded.

Leading a workshop on the Literacy Programs on our Projects with new volunteers

Leading a workshop on the Literacy Programs we have on our Projects with new volunteers

Lee, Chloe and Emma took on the composition class as a way to introduce the process of creating a story and developing an idea. They started off reminding the class of their previous topic: ‘to remember.’ Then, shifted into brainstorming about ‘memory,’ The students were asked to think of the Who’s, What’s, Where’s and When’s with the memories we might have.

After this, they broke the class into three groups to create a collaborative story using the activity, ‘Pass the Paper.’ With this activity the students are numbered 1-4 and each student is responsible for answering the question given by the teacher about the story. For example student number one is asked ‘Who is in your story?’ Then student number two is asked ‘Where does the story take place?’ And it goes on. Each student gets to contribute to the story until its end! Those students struggling for ideas were supported by the previous brainstorm about a ‘memory’ that was on the board and in their books; while those who feel courageous and confident could put their own creative spin to it without help. The children were so excited to see where the story was going every time the paper was passed to them. When Mister Lee read out his group’s story with character voices and big, dramatic gestures – the kids couldn’t keep their eyes off of him and were so proud of their story.

Mister Lee assisting in his Standard 4 Class at Olives

Mister Lee assisting in his Standard 4 Class at Olives

After this, Mister Lee was able to link their story to the brainstorm framework about ‘memory.’ They were asked to fill out the mind map based on the story they created. After that, he explained to the students how this process will help them in their future writing. My jaw dropped. Here we have a volunteer, day two on the project, already encouraging the thought process I introduced not 24 hours before. I am so incredibly excited to see how much of a difference this approach to Composition and Literacy will make with volunteers like this really trying to reach those goals too. (and this is on day two!)

I am excited about our new programs and the work our new volunteers are putting in to help make them better and reach as many of our students as possible. Thank you!

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