In Elaine’s English classroom, many of her 13 and 14-year-old students are unable to pronounce basic sounds correctly or understand simple words. It’s not uncommon for Elaine to receive student tests left blank or see the confused stares of her students’ faces staring back at her when she speaks English to them. This is not a challenge limited only to girls in her classroom, but her female students are among her weakest in literacy.
Elaine’s project is intended to meet two objectives: to improve literacy rates and to develop leadership skills among her students. She adopted a literacy toolkit developed by MyReaders, a local NGO founded by Teach For Malaysia alumni, that is used in several other schools in her district. The toolkit includes modules on phonics, fluency, and comprehension used by Student Leaders (mentors) to teach Student Readers (mentees). Elaine recruited and selected 20 mentors and 20 mentees, most of whom are girls, to participate together twice a week. She provided initial training that not only prepared students to facilitate the reading program with their peers but also prompted them to reflect on the traits of effective leaders. Elaine plans to evaluate her project through pre-to-post literacy assessments of Student Readers and survey Student Leaders on how much they have learned and grown their own leadership. At the conclusion of the project, she will host an event for students to express appreciation to each other and showcase their learning.