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Literacy Development in Afterschool program at Yeronga State High School Essay

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Yeronga State High School was established in 1959 by Queensland Government on 60 acres of land. This school comprises of student from more than 60 cultural and linguistic back grounds, many students come from Africa, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. More than 90% of this population is refugees coming from war-torn countries suffering from war trauma. This study is carried out during a Volunteering for ESL (English as Second Language) program for grade 8 to12 student. As a volunteer, there was an opportunity to participate in various afterschool program run by school such as Homework club.

This project report attempts to comprehend field of literacy in afterschool program with a focus on researches made in past relates to literacy practise and outcome. The core objective is to investigate how the literacy is developed among student during this process through informal oral interview and observations.

This paper also investigate what problem student face in after school program and what steps needs to be taken to over come that problem as an educator.

This project report endorsed the fact that after school programs with experience and activities enhance child’s literacy development which is a consistent argument as per academic literature authored by Garbarino and others (Garbarino et al., 1992; Werner, 1990).In order to have a crystal clear understanding of development of literacy occurred in afterschool program, an extensive literature review has been done. It would be really important to note that this project report covers a small body of research so as a reader one should emphasize on relevance and significance of the literature review in context of the body of this project report. This project report briefly discuss of pertinent research related to specific literacy application. These applications are selected on the base of their existence at after school program at school, their endorsement in research in the filed of afterschool program and literacy and their appropriateness.

The nucleus hypothesis of this project report is a main goal of Afterschool program is to construct aptitude for rich academic content through engage student in challenging learning activities for their own academic enrichment. Afterschool program should not act as an extension of school day but should be able to provide high-interest generating activities that complement school-day learning in variety of ways. Researcher has been also suggested that afterschool program indirectly supports academic achievement in various ways such as it provides platform to enhance non academic literacy and competencies which help students to enhance their academic learning; it also ensure that students develop critical development inputs which helps them to prosper in their academic success and keep them fully prepare and engaged; creation of alternate rich learning environment; and help students to overcome the hurdle (Sheley,1984).

According to Miller (2003), for a positive results and successful development of literacy, after school program should be equipped with some critical characteristics, first and foremost foundation of any successful After-school program is It has to be carried out in Physical and psychologically safe environment. In order to develop literacy they should be placed under supportive relationships, it’s also important to create the feeling of belongingness among student so they can feel important and recognized. Main goal of after school program should be opportunity for skill building through integration of school, society and family.

Rationale of Project

For building academic successful literacy in academic success (Broh, 2002; Cairns, 1995; Campbell, Storo & Acerbo, 1995; Childress, 1998; Cooper, Valentine,Nye, & Lindsay, 1999; Eccles & Barber, 1999; Gerber, 1996). After school programs can play a key role in engaging youth in the learning process by providing opportunities to explore interests, gain competency in real world skills, solve problems, assume leadership roles, develop a group identity with similarly engaged peers, connect to adult role models and mentors, and become involved in improving their communities. Early adolescence is a time of dramatic change in every area of a young person’s life. During this period, young people forge personal identities in a context of physical and emotional changes, the increasing importance and influence of a peer group, and growing independence. It is the confluence of change on many levels-biological and physiological growth, peer and social expectations, and the school environment-that can make early adolescence a particularly risky period (Lerner, 1993a; Solodow, 1999; Weissberg & Greenberg, 2000).

The research sample of this project report is a grade 8 to 12 student of Yeronga state high school where ninety percent of total population comes from war torn country. These students can experience social changes that may distract them from academic pursuits; they also enter an academic environment less in tune with their developmental needs. Studies by Eccles and her colleagues (Eccles & Midgley, 1989; Eccles & Midgley, 1990; Gutman & Midgley, 2000) paint a convincing portrait of the conflict between the developmental stage of early adolescence and the environment of most middle and junior high schools. Apart from that Poverty, violence and family distress are three lethal risk factors for children grown up in war traumatized country (Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny, & Pardo, 1992).

Poverty has a direct fatal affect on growing child as it limits the resources available for their disposal for learning and in an indirect manner negative parental behavior which is an outcome of psychological distress faced by parents due to poverty (McLoyd, 1990). Children from war-torn countries have a posttraumatic stress syndrome which generates from sleep disturbance and aggressive behavior (Bell, 1991; Osofsky, Wewers, Hann, & Fick, 1991). After school programs can also create a bridge or “border zone” between the culture of peers, families and communities on the one hand, and the school environment on the other (Heath, 1994; Jackson & Davis, 2000; Scharf & Woodlief, 2000).This report argues that after school programs can make a difference in building the “prerequisites” to learning, supporting not only school achievement, but long-term competence and success as well. Students are usually viewed as important contributors rather than passive recipients.

They choose their roles, help others who are less skilled, and are critical to the success of the project. They are honored for their accomplishments as well as expected to have strong feelings and relationships. In many high quality afterschool activities, young people experience a group setting where every individual’s effort makes a difference, where they spend significant time (rather than a class period) focused on a specific skill, and where they receive a lot of individual attention from adults. Will these practices increase students’ engagement in learning? To answer this question, we must explore education literature to identify factors that motivate students to become committed to learning.

Due to limited body of research available in the field of after school program, the focus of this report is mainly narrowed down to literacy practise and outcome. In the next section, an extensive literature review of specific literacy practice which helps in developing literacy in after school program has been analysed. It would be really important to note that the following literature review should be considered as summary of most relevant research done in the field of development of literacy in afterschool program.

Literature Review

The following literature review is a focusing specifically on three specific literacy practices: Reading aloud, dramatisation and book discussion. The selection of these three literacy practices is based on the relevant application at Yeronga state high school afterschool program. This literature review is a comprehensive summary of most relevant research and key reports carried in United States to crystallise our understanding of the three selected literacy practice.

Reading Aloud

“The single most important activity for … reading success appears to be reading aloud to children” (Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp, 2000)

Reading aloud is a foundation stone for any literacy development. It’s really important to get children interested on daily basis throughout the primary grades. This literacy practice helps student with fluent reading and injects a passion so that they can be a good reader (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985; Calkins, 1997). This literacy practice transform less able reader to better reader by motivating students to read rich and content full book. According Armbruster et al. (2001), in primary grades children learn meaning of words via listening to their teacher when they read the text. In this scenario “Reading aloud” can really help as while reading a book or a text when student pauses at a particular word, its an opportunity for teacher to identify that he/she is facing a problem with unfamiliarity of word and to overcome this problem teacher can engage student in a conversation.

This conversation can help student to understand new words, meaning, concepts as well as their correlation to their prior knowledge and experience. In terms of Vocabulary growth this “Reading Aloud” can play a major role. The base of this argument is in primary grades student learns vocabulary from two different sources first is the word it self woven in text of book and second is words spoken by teacher (Dickinson & tabors, 2001). In certain cases it also depends on a source of text i.e. choice of book which can have a positive or negative impact of vocabulary development. In other words, if a book has limited vocabulary than it would be difficult to develop vocabulary growth in student (Dickinson & Smith, 1994).

Other important aspects which have to be taken into consideration while reviewing concept of “Reading Aloud” are methods, environmental influences, attitudes and interactive behaviours (Morrow, 1990). These factors can play a crucial role in literacy development. In an experiment conducted by Morrow (1990) at kindergarten students, his initial idea behind this experiment was to investigate the effect of small group story readings in different class room environment. Children were distributed among six classroom in a school based in urban area which had a children from middle to lower socioeconomic level, with over 60 percent belonging to minority group . This group of children were divided into experimental and control group on random bases.

Each group has assigned one research assistant and time frame for the study was decided for 11 weeks. Research assistant in experimental group were asked to use maximum level of interactive behaviour techniques such as managing, prompting, supporting and informing. In a control group research assistant were instructed to follow teacher’s manual. As a result children under experimental group were asking more questions, making more comments and involving in discussion with fellow classmate. Interactive environment helped them to develop their literacy in terms of dealing with meaning in context of area of detail, interpretation, reflection from own experience as well as narration. Children from this group scored a high grades in reading comprehension. The conclusion of the study was, reading aloud practice increase literacy by involving student in verbal participation, comprehension and complexity of verbal interchange.

Story and Literature Dramatizations

It’s a well known fact that from early age children have enjoyed and used story and drama play as a connecting bridge to their literacy. According to Rowe (1998) this kind of practice is a crucial part of enhancing literacy-learning process as during process student may apply dramatization as a means of exploring content of books. Primary age students who are engaged in this kind of practice can facilitate literacy activity and can motivate cooperative learning behaviour (Stone and Christie, 1996). This literacy practice provides a plat form to student for bringing a piece of literature to life. While they are in this process, acting out character’s part helps engaged student to build memorization, fluency, and comprehension skill. According to (Berk & Winsler, 1995), develops literacy in younger children by:

* Encouraging them to use language in creative way

* Providing them an open platform to sort out problem and concern

* Help students to understand how the transition from oral to written language can happen

* Enhancing their ability to recall, imagination and story reading.

In an area of text literacy development “fluency” plays a vital role, during this kind of literacy practice, students are comply to read passage repeatedly aloud with guidance so that they can improve their fluency because it’s really necessary to derive comprehension from their reading.

Rose, Parks, and Androes (2000) studied an approach that used drama as a vehicle to instruct reading. The participants for the study were drawn from four Chicago-area public elementary schools that previously worked with Whirlwind, a non profit arts education organization that developed the reading program under study-Reading Comprehension Through Drama (RCD). The schools were large and served populations that were primarily African American or Hispanic, in low-income neighbourhoods. Four fourth-grade classrooms were randomly chosen and randomly assigned to either the experimental or control group. For 10 weeks, the experimental group was taught reading using the RCD program, while the control group used traditional text-based methods.

Comparisons were based on pre- and post-tests using the reading comprehension score from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). The treatment consisted of two, one-hour sessions each week of in-class work with a performing artist. The students’ primary work was to dramatize a piece of narrative text in short skits. The RCD program was divided into four stages: story, sequence, perception, and evaluation. Breaking stories into their various elements allowed students to better understand the different pieces, or propositional elements, of the story. The first stage of the program required the students to read a text, create symbols to illustrate the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory 24 various story elements (e.g., what, who, where) and then retell the story to another student using the symbols. In the second stage, students were asked to identify the beginning, middle, and end of the story, and then represent that in a three-panel illustration.

In the third stage, students had to act out a scene using their five senses to illustrate possible sensations experienced by the story characters. Finally, students explored ideas of interpretation, critique, and opinion, and were interviewed as if they were characters from the story. After controlling for differences in pre-test ITBS scores, reading grade equivalent scores for the experimental group increased significantly more than for the control group. On the factual comprehension subscale of the ITBS, the experimental group improved significantly more than the control group. On the inferential comprehension subscale, no significant differences were found between the two groups. The researchers concluded that drama-based reading instruction can improve reading skills more than traditional.

Book Discussion and literature Circle

Book discussions and literature circles were among the practices found in Spielberger and Halpern’s (2002) case studies of 16 afterschool programs identified as having exemplary or innovative approaches. In afterschool programs, literature circles provide a chance for students to engage in extended discussion about the books they read. Students can also reflect on and respond to the connections between those books and others they have read, their own personal experiences, and the world around them. However, the authors comment that book discussion groups and literature circles may be difficult for afterschool staff to implement without experience and skills in leading discussions.

This kind of literacy practice helps students to extend their reading skills, learn to analyze different kind of literature as well as how to develop opinion on the same and find evidence from text. According to Gambrell (1996), this kind of literacy practice promotes deeper understanding of text, higher level thinking and improved communication skill among students. Indicating the effectiveness of discussion in promoting readers’ deeper understanding of text, Palinscar (1987) and Palinscar and Brown (1984) have found that students in reciprocal teaching groups outperform comparison groups on reading comprehension. Morrow and Smith (1990) also found that kindergartners who engaged in small- group discussions of stories that were read aloud had superior story recall compared to students who discussed the story one-to-one with the teacher or who worked in larger groups.

In study done by Hudgins and Edelman (1986), found that 60 fourth- and fifth-graders in 10 classrooms who participated in small-group discussions in which they were encouraged to take responsibility for thinking and talking provided more supporting evidence for conclusions than did a control group. Studies by Almasi (1995), Villaume and Hopkins (1995), and Green and Wallet (1981) (all cited in Gambrell, 1996) show further evidence that student led discussions encourage higher level thinking and problem solving. Research by Almasi (1995, cited in Gambrell, 1996) indicates that students’ communication skills improve as they become more experienced in small-group discussions. In addition, Eeds and Wells’s (1989) findings support the belief that through book study groups, students can participate in enriching conversations that foster their understanding of literature, even when discussion groups only meet twice a week for 30 minutes and where the teacher-leader is a novice with no teaching experience.

In their non-experimental study, Eeds and Wells investigated four literature study groups of fifth- and sixth-grade students. Of particular interest is that the study groups were led by undergraduate education students who had no prior experience working with children. The study group leaders were encouraged to participate “as group members working with the children to construct meaning rather than acting as all-knowing interpreters of the text.” Teacher-leaders were discouraged from preparing a set of explicit comprehension questions, letting the meaning emerge from group discussion; however, they were encouraged to capitalize on a teachable moment if they noticed one. Dickinson and Smith (1994) suggest that book discussions can affect vocabulary development.

They followed 25 children who met the income requirements of Head Start and who were either enrolled in Head Start or a similar subsidized program for low income children. The children were four years old at the beginning of the study and took a battery of language/literacy development tests at the age of five. Based on classroom observations, the researchers found that teachers’ oral book reading styles could be grouped into three approaches: co-constructive, didactic-interactional, and performance-oriented.

Each approach is characterized by different types and amounts of talk before, during, and after the book reading session.Several of these studies comment on the influence of text type. Dickinson and Smith (1994) found that a book with limited vocabulary and plot, which was observed in use with the didactic-interactional approach, did not show the same strong correlation to vocabulary development as the other two approaches. They note that “a steady diet of books with predictable text may not be optimal.” Eeds and Wells (1989) also wonder if the exceptional quality of a text may lead students to higher levels of dialogue and richer insights and generalizations. A study by Leal (1992, cited in Gambrell, 1996) found that informational storybooks enhanced discussion more than narrative or expository texts.


> First and foremost step in direction of this project report was to conduct a search of literature and research studies that concentrated on afterschool program. It has been found that very little research has been done on Afterschool Program, though this is an area that is beginning to receive more attention.

> The primary goal of the search process was to secure a nonbiased, representative sample of studies obtained through a systematic search for published and unpublished reports sources as web article, journal article, books and electronic database such as Proquest, Emerald and Jstor for search using the keywords “read aloud’ and “afterschool,” “dramatization” and “afterschool,” and “bookdiscussion” and “afterschool,” and associated terms as well as Manual searches of the contents of several journals that published afterschool outcome studies.

> Reports based on some methodological and content grounds were excluded. Such as After School Programs that focused on academic performance or school attendance and only reported such outcomes, adventure education and Outward Bound programs, extracurricular school activities and summer camps. This also includes extracurricular school activities, academic and recreational programs conducted during the summer, and educational and social events offered by local libraries, museums, parks and faith-based institutions. These types of activities were not included in our review.

> Study sample of this project was a student of Yeronga state high school selected in random order for an informal oral interview during their afterschool program activities.

> No standard format was followed informal interview however, question asked during the interview process and times for each interview were kept same in order to maintain uniformity in process.

> The research on these literacy practices-reading aloud, dramatization, and book discussion-provides strong support for their inclusion in afterschool programs. Although the available research on literacy practices in the afterschool context does not provide obvious results regarding their benefit in that context, their general benefits are well established


According to D’Amico (2001) and Soto (1990), Race, class and ethnicity remain powerful predictors of school achievement. Despite 40 years of education reform (Alexander, Entwisle & Bedinger, 1994), the achievement gap-the differences in school performance between rich and poor children, between children in affluent communities and those living in poor communities, and between white children and Asian on one hand, and African American and Latino children on the other-persists. Students who are engaged in learning take interest in their schoolwork, make an effort to earn good grades, and attempt to master the subject matter on their own before requesting assistance (Connell, Halpern-Felsher et al., 1995).

Students who are alienated from school, on the other hand, score lower on psychological assessments of adjustment, are more likely to act out aggressively, are far more likely than their peers to use alcohol and drugs, become sexually active at an early age, and commit acts of juvenile delinquency and crime (Hawkins & Weis, 1985; Resnick et al., 1997). Poor children, especially those from non-dominant cultures, do not enter school with the same “soft skills” (understanding of the behaviour, social, communication, and work styles expected in school) due to their different cultural backgrounds. They have developed different interaction styles, expectations, social norms, and assumptions than those they face in the mainstream school culture (Allison & Takei, 1993; Comer, 1988; Delpit, 1988; Heath, 1982, 1994).

Time span after school hours adds its own challenges in literacy development. Several studies, all somewhat outdated, suggest that about 60 percent of adolescents’ time is invested in school and other productive activities, while about 40 percent is discretionary (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984;Timmer et al., 1985). Of this “leisure” time, 40 percent is spent socializing; 20 percent is spent watching television; and very little time is spent readingor in other constructive activities like the arts and sports (Medrich et al., 1982;Timmer et al.,1985; Zill et al., 1995). An estimated eight million children between the ages of 6 and 14 regularly spend their discretionary time without adult supervision (National Institute on Out-of-School Time,2001). National data suggests that middle school-age children are much more likely to be in self-care and less likely to be in supervised arrangements than younger school-age children.

While only 10 percent of 10 to 12 year-olds attend afterschool programs as a “primary” arrangement (the one in which they spend most of their after school time), 24 percent spend more of their time home alone than in any other setting (Capizzano, Tout & Adams, 2000). More than one third of children in this age group spend some time caring for themselves each week as either a primary or secondary arrangement. This proportion increases with age: 23 percent of 10-year-olds spend some time caring for themselves compared to 44 percent of 12-year-olds (Capizzano et al., 2000). Research admits that there is a great risk involved in spending lots of time with peers without adult supervision or monitoring. Students who “hang out” without supervision or engagement in constructive activities are likely to develop negative attitudes towards school and other anti-social or risky attitudes and behaviors (Dryfoos,1990).

While Jordan and Nettles’ research was conducted with a sample of high school age students, research on younger children suggests the findings would probably also apply to middle school students (e.g., Pierce, Hamm & Vandell, 1999). Cooper’s (1999) investigation of the relationship between five afterschool activities and academic achievement included nearly 500 students in grades 6-12 from urban,suburban and rural school districts. Controlling for the effects of student background characteristics like ethnicity, income, gender, and grade level, the researchers found that time spent in structured groups, doing homework and extracurricular activities was positively associated with higher grades and test scores.

Time spent working after school was negatively associated with academic achievement. Research indicates that most young people who are home alone or on the streets for long periods of time don’t do well. Formal afterschool programs provide adult supervision for more hours in addition to offering a wider range of activities. literature analysis of this report shows that Afterschool program has a positive effects on overall literacy development for student in following manner :

Increases in Attitudes and Behaviors Linked to School Success:

? Increased sense of efficacy, competence and leadership (Campbell et al., 1995;Fleming-McCormick & Tushnet, 1996; Heath & Soep, 1998)

? Better behavior in school (Baker & Gribbons,1998;Johnson et al.,1999;Posner & Vandell, 1994)

? Better emotional adjustment (Baker & Gribbons, 1998; Kahne, Nagaoka,O’Brien, Quinn, & Thandiede, 1999; Marshall et al., 1997)

? Better use of time (e.g., less time watching television,more time in enrichment and academic activities) (Johnson et al., 1999; Posner & Vandell, 1994)

? Better work habits (Schinke et al., 1992;Vandell & Pierce, 1999)

? Better conflict resolution skills ( Posner & Vandell, 1994)

Improved Academic Performance:

? Improved skills in data analysis and writing (Schlegel, 2003)

? Improved homework completion or quality (Johnson et al., 1999)

? Improved grades (Baker & Witt, 1996; Brooks, 1995; Cardenas, 1992; Hamilton & Klein, 1998)

? Higher scores on achievement tests (Hamilton & Klein, 1998; Hamilton et al.,1999; Huang, 2001; Huang et al., 2000; Johnson et al., 1999)

? Reductions in grade retention (Hamilton et al., 1999)

? Decreased dropping out of school (Jones & Offord, 1989)


To support literacy teaching and learning in the after school programs following steps should be taken in consideration: firs of all focus should be set on encouraging student to have high expectations. Secondly, motivate staff involved in afterschool program in order to cultivate a shared commitment to help every student develop strong literacy skills; afterschool program should provide regular opportunities for teachers who teach the same students to discuss and collaboratively plan literacy programs for their students (e.g., the special education teacher and the classroom teacher, the librarian and the classroom teacher); analyse how the school’s timetable supports effective literacy learning, allocate reasonable blocks of instructional time for literacy; support inquiry-based learning, where students explore issues, big ideas, and questions, including those of particular interest to them, and where they understand what and why they are learning (Routman, 2000); after school program should promote models of classroom management and instructional approaches that facilitate literacy learning, such as small-group instruction designed to meet a variety of needs and flexible student groupings; it should demonstrate a commitment to critical literacy and higher-order thinking by asking students questions about the texts they are using;

After school program should also value the cultural literacy that exists in the school community and across the province by displaying family stories written in languages other than English, multilingual signs, and books (including dual-language books) that inspire pride in the community and its languages; afterschool program should work in collaboration with parents, community members, students, and teachers to create school-wide literacy celebrations and traditions (e.g., e-mail exchanges with “e-pals” from across the province, letter-writing campaigns, poetry festivals, literature “graffiti” boards) (Harwayne, 2000; Booth, 2002); last but not the least it should provide a framework outlining the responsibilities of volunteers and educational assistants to ensure that reading and writing instruction and remediation remain the central responsibility of classroom teachers, and ensure that struggling readers and writers have opportunities to learn through sustained interaction with teachers (Allington & Cunningham, 2002);

In addition to helping students to acquire literacy skills, these practices are also transferable to the afterschool context. As discussed in the introduction of this document, when designing academic enrichment programs in afterschool, other factors must be considered in addition to the academic element. For example, activities in afterschool programs must be engaging for students and not duplicate what is happening during the school day. After school activities must also address the needs of youth and expand on their learning in ways that are relevant to them. These literacy practices offer the opportunity to accomplish all these tasks, while simultaneously strengthening students’ literacy skills.

As research continues in the field of academic enrichment in afterschool, it is necessary to continue to consider the nature of the afterschool context. Literacy instruction and skill development in afterschool programs can not truly be understood without considering other critical factors such as engagement, relevancy, and not duplicating the experience of the school day for participating students. The quality of program implementation and staff are also critical factors to consider. Given the understanding of the afterschool context, research and practice suggest there is great potential for afterschool programs to provide a supportive role in the development of students’ literacy skills.

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