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Education Students Tutor at Wheelock School

Moranda Lanigan & Casey Sault
Moranda Lanigan & Casey Sault

What’s a penguin’s favorite food?


That’s one of the punny jokes that Keene State College education students used to connect with the elementary school kids they tutored in literacy skills during the fall semester.

The jokes serve another purpose, too, says Moranda Lanigan, who worked with a second grader. “The jokes promoted fluency with reading,” she notes, helping the youngsters recognize words and read them without choppiness. They also provided an opportunity to talk with the elementary schoolers about the sounds of words and sentences.

The tutoring was part of Literacy 205, an elementary education course taught by Assistant Professor Erin Greeter. “This course aims to strengthen students’ knowledge of literacy and instructional abilities through a field experience in which they participate as tutors at Wheelock Elementary in Keene,” says Greeter. “Over the course of the semester, Keene State students plan and teach individualized lessons to young readers, build and value relationships with the children, and draw on those relationships to enhance the children’s literacy development.”

The partnership with Wheelock, just a block from the College campus, harkens back to earlier days; the elementary school was once the practice teaching school for the College. Today, say Lanigan and fellow senior Casey Sault, who served as teaching assistant for the Literacy 205 course, the Wheelock teachers were eager to encourage and support the future teachers from Keene State.

After learning about literacy with Greeter, the Keene State students had weekly 50-minute one-on-one tutoring sessions with first and second graders identified by Wheelock staff as being likely to benefit from them. They used a curriculum that focuses on developmental spelling with an emphasis on word patterns and comprehension rather than memorizing and taking spelling tests. The idea, Sault says, is to figure out what the youngster is struggling with and then address the problem.

Many of the students who took the Literacy class were sophomores, and the tutoring provided them with their first opportunity to experience classroom teaching. It was eye-opening for a couple of them, who realized they did not want to become teachers, and it reinforced and strengthened the career goals of others.

“The students who had a great experience are now ready to go, ready to engage with more students, ready to go into their first practicum,” says Sault, who hails from Marlborough, New Hampshire, and will be student teaching in the spring at Franklin School in Keene. “This is a good way to start, interacting with just one student.”

So while the Wheelock students learned about reading, writing, spelling, and reading comprehension, the Keene State students learned about techniques for teaching literacy, ways to connect to youngsters and to motivate sometimes unwilling learners, and tailoring lessons to meet individual needs.

“It was a great class,” says Lanigan, a resident of Worcester, Massachusetts, who will student teach this spring at Wells Memorial School in Harrisville, New Hampshire. “Honestly, it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. I’m so glad I got to take it before student teaching and going into the primary grades.”

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