Learning to Read

"Teacher Tammy" Makes It an Adventure for Bilingual Students

By: Camlynne Waring

Professor Tammy Randoph is leading a team of elementary school students who are entering Walla Walla University’s North Pacific Regional Robotics competition on April 14, 2013.

What do frogs, China, jungle animals, and Tiny Town have in common? They are all themes Professor Tamara Randolph has used to create fun, interactive literacy programs for bilingual elementary school students. Randolph helps plan and facilitate these program at Davis Elementary School in the College Place School District and at the Farm Labor Homes in after-school clubs and a summer camp. Walla Walla University education students help out as well.

“Choosing an invigorating theme motivates my students and me tremendously,” says Randolph, or “Teacher Tammy,” as she is known by her elementary students. In the Davis classroom, themes help to connect the worship talks, children’s books, learning activities, and the food and decorations for the final Professional Academic Reading Themed Yotting, or PARTY.

The theme this winter is “Frogology”— coined from “frogs” and “technology.” Randolph and her students have created a green author’s chair complete with frogs, rods, wires, and a massive red tongue. “Past experience has taught us that students will be clamoring to read in it,” says Randolph.

University students began administering literacy assessments to Davis School students in 2007. The assessments evolved into an instructional lab, and, in 2010, Randolph and her students began, and have continued, working with Elissa Aguilar’s third grade bilingual class. “During these lessons, university students would make my English Language Learners feel confident,” says Aguilar. “My students were constantly engaged and taken to higher levels of learning with the great support of WWU students. I watched struggling students write wonderful stories with assistance. I watched my students laugh with delight as they learned new facts,” says Aguilar. “Together we build confidence in at-risk students and give them hope that they too may someday attend a university such as WWU!”

Randolph also uses themes for her work at the Farm Labor Homes’ Academic Summer Camp. The theme helps her and Mariela Rosas, parent educator for Children’s Home Society of Walla Walla, plan the crafts, games, food, books, songs, writing, and camp store. This coming summer, the theme will build on the “Literacy Around the World” continuing theme by focusing on the island of Borneo, where Randolph is going for sabbatical research this quarter. Randolph will bring back books, costumes, musical instruments, and other artifacts from Borneo to use at the summer camp. The summer camp is also an opportunity for her summer-school university students to learn how to instruct children in reading comprehension, vocabulary building, and fluency. 

This year, Randolph and Rosas plan to take an ambitious summer camping trip to the coast for children who attend the summer camp. The educators plan on reserving space in August at Rosario Beach, the marine laboratory for WWU, and bringing a bus full of Farm Labor Homes’ children who have had perfect attendance in the academic summer camp. The trip will have educational value, as well as providing the opportunity for the children to see a part of Washington state that they have not seen before.

In addition to improving their reading skills, children also get to try their hand at engineering. Earlier, with the help of two university students, children learned to assemble and program robots with Lego Robotics concepts. Now, for a second year, a team of students ages 9 to 14 from the Farm Labor Homes are entered in the Lego Robotics competition sponsored by WWU.

The students also benefit from the guidance of Sydney Foster, a WWU engineering graduate who works for the Walla Walla Corps of Engineers. Foster meets the students once a week to work on the project. 

Published March 27, 2013 


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