JIS News

Writing letters, reading and understanding comprehension passages are just a few of the rewards Grade 4 students of Drapers All-Age School in the eastern parish of Portland are reaping from the Ministry of Education’s literacy programme.
With the Grade 4 Literacy Test on Tuesday (June 29) in primary schools islandwide, students of Drapers All-Age are confidently ready for the Exam.
“It helps me to form letters well, and I know where to put my punctuation marks and it also helps me to read and comprehend what I read,” Nine-year-old Abbigail Hall says of the school’s literacy programme.
Young Abbigail also explains that she is ready for the Grade Four Literacy Test, because she has been working hard.
“I am working harder and I am doing well in class, and when I am at home I sit and write letters and when my teacher doesn’t come to school I [practise to write letters],” she notes.
Another Grade 4 student, Rohan Birch, says he has also learnt to write letters and stories and, like his classmate Abbigail, is all set for the upcoming test.
“I have been working hard and I think I can pass. I am listening to my teacher and writing my work properly and trying to spell my words,” he informs.
Meanwhile, Dorian Plummer explains that he is now writing letters better and punctuating his sentences properly, as a result of his school’s literacy programme which has made him ready for the Grade 4 Literacy Test.
“It helped me to write letters better and helps me to punctuate, when I am doing my work…yes I am ready, because I have been studying a lot,” he explains.
Region 2 Literacy Coordinator, Marcia Dallas-McKenzie, who oversees three schools in Portland as well as literacy activities for the Region, tells JIS that, since 2008, marked improvements have been recorded in the students’ performance.
“We have seen some schools moving from 50 per cent mastery to 80 per cent mastery. All the schools have actually improved.we have seen where vocabulary has increased, phonological awareness, the whole writing skills as well as the ability to comprehend and oral language has improved,” Mrs. Dallas-McKenzie informs.
With specific reference to the three schools she directly supervises, the Literacy Coordinator notes that the Grade 4 Literacy Test results improved last year, when compared to 2008.
“Drapers All Age received 80 per cent mastery last year (2009) and that was up from 40 per cent. Fellowship Primary and Junior High received 62 per cent mastery, up from 58 per cent and Nonsuch Primary received 70 per cent mastery, up from 67 per cent”, she discloses, while pointing out that a number of strategies were implemented to make those increases possible.
“I looked at the data and realized that there is inefficiency in writing and comprehension, so those two areas were the key,” she explains.
“To facilitate writing development, I have been looking at guided writing strategies such as interactive writing and shared writing. For comprehension we have been looking at question and answer relationship, because we want students to understand that, when they are given questions, not all the answers will come directly from the text, so we get them to understand that they will have to think on their own”, Mrs. Dallas-McKenzie highlights.
According to the Region 2 Literacy Coordinator a number of initiatives, targeting parents, have been set in motion at schools in the region.
“We have put on several parental involvement initiatives, where we get parents to come in and we teach them simple strategies that they can go home and assist their children with their literacy development. This is done at least once per term”, she explains, while noting that contact with parents is maintained throughout the school year.
“We have [assignments] that we send home and the students get them completed with the parents, and the parents sign a document and they return it to us so we know that the parents are involved in what the students are doing,” informs Mrs. Dallas-McKenzie, who has been an educator for the past 10 years.
With reference to the upcoming Grade Four Literacy Test, Mrs. Dallas-McKenzie is insisting that her students in the region, who have been attending school regularly, are ready for the exam.
“I would say that the majority of students are ready for the Grade 4 Literacy Test.those who have been attending school on a regular basis are ready,” she emphasizes.
According to the Literacy Coordinator a number of strategies are being implemented as a boost for the exam preparations.
“What we have sometimes is an early morning programme, where they [grade four students] get about 15 to 20 minutes of writing activity. We also have what we call ‘the bite of the day,’ where the students are given a specific task to complete, and we have been doing mock exams to pinpoint the areas of weakness”, she further explains, while pointing out that the schools employ continuous tracking of the students’ performance.
In the meantime, Grade 4 teacher at Drapers All-Age, Karen McDonald, explains that while some students are nervous, her technique of making reading fun should pay off for all 21 students sitting the exam.
“I am just letting them have an easy ride into what they are doing because .naturally they will be nervous, but I am trying to get that out of them by letting them enjoy what they are doing”, she explains, while adding, “I think most of them are ready.we got 80 per cent mastery [last year] and I want to go at about 92 per cent mastery this year”.
The Government is aiming to achieve 100 per cent literacy in all primary schools by 2015.
The Grade Four Literacy Test which is administered twice yearly, in June and December, will take place in primary schools islandwide on June 29.

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