September is recognized as Literacy Month, and in the spirit of literacy, RESTORE Belize would like to congratulate the 55+ primary school teachers who tested and sharpened their skills in August through the 5 day Balanced Literacy workshop. The teachers hail from 5 Belize City primary schools currently testing the RESTORE Belize Early Warning System for At-risk Primary School Children project. This project focuses on early identification of students at-risk of dropping out at the elementary school level.

The 5-day workshop challenged teachers to recognize learners’ uniqueness, and strengths and weaknesses using the Multiple Intelligence Grid while modeling cooperative approaches to learning. Attendees were taught basic concepts about how the brain works, as well as provided with an overview of key concepts in language acquisition such as reading readiness, language immersion, code switching and “social” language.

 

After listening to trainers, those in attendance grouped up to discuss and create based on what they had just learned. Finally, the groups presented their insights, effectively learning about and practicing the Balanced Literacy Framework and Kagan Structures.

 

Put simply, the Balanced Literacy Framework combines teacher models, teacher support, and learners’ autonomy in learning - basically an “I do” “We do” “You do” approach. Kagan structures, which were also utilized in the workshop, are techniques to increase cooperation and engagement so that students spend more time “on task”.

Lessons from the 5 day workshop are intended to be practical as teachers are encouraged to use their school curriculum and texts as the backdrop for developing engaging, effective lessons that are adaptable to any classroom setting and to any range of students. Additionally, with many different learning styles and multiple intelligences, utilizing only one method in the classroom prevents students from reaching their full potential.

The variety of strategies and activities catered to learners’ needs and strengths that comes with cooperative learning engage all students, improving the effectiveness of lessons to all. Despite the myriad benefits in cooperative learning approaches, the shift from traditional learning to cooperative learning has been challenging as activities require more preparation, patience, and creativity than simple chalk-board instruction.

The hope is that through workshops like these, teachers can learn to implement the varying strategies in their classrooms to improve the quality of education for all students.