Kids helping kids
New tutoring program pairs middle schoolers with elementary students
By Jennifer Ginn
VERONA - Seventh-grader Nicole Correia sits hunched over a small table in the front of Ruth Foster's first-grade classroom. Seven-year-old Kayla Blythe sits beside her. A picture book rests between them.
"I just like to help kids," Nicole said.
And help she does. Every other day, Nicole gives up 90 minutes of her time to work with first-grade students.
Nicole and 21 other students serve as tutors as part of the new Verona School Tutoring Program. It is a program that gives middle schoolers a sense of self-esteem and elementary students a firm foundation in reading.
Needing extra help
The Verona School Tutoring Program began during the middle of last semester as the brain child of counselor Marianne Christian.
"Actually, we've just been thinking about how we could do more for our lower elementary children as far as their reading," Christian said. "We're trying to work really hard with that.
"We've got some students that had some things to offer as far as helping young people. It just dawned on me. Why don't we put them together?"
Christian said kindergarten and first-grade teachers come to her with the names of students they think need some extra help. They are paired with seventh- and eight-grade students who volunteer their study hall or other free period to work with the youngsters.
"I like for them (the tutors) to be passing everything," she said. "I don't say they have to be on the honor roll. They have to keep their grades up and (have) no discipline infractions. This is a good incentive for some of them.
"The teacher is responsible to oversee (the tutoring). If the child is having difficulty learning their letters, there will be some manipulatives or some games the students can do one-on-one with the little ones."
The extra reinforcement the middle schoolers provide for the younger students is beginning to pay off.
"Where I have seen the most improvement is on our Accelerated Reader program," said Christy Carroll, a first-grade teacher. "They read a library book and then they take a test on it. I didn't have a very high success rate on that.
"We just didn't have the time to sit down every day and read with every child, in addition to our other reading program. That's where they help a lot. They read and they ask them questions about the book, make sure they're comprehending."
Foster said the tutoring program has helped the older students as well as the younger ones.
"It has really helped their self-esteem," she said. "We're going to the buses and they see one of their tutors ... they run to hug them."
Easy and effective
Tommy Hewitt, 13, is a seventh-grader at Verona who helps out in the tutoring program. Although he quickly settled into the routine, he said he didn't quite know what to expect the first time he went to tutor.
"I was the first time I came in," he said. "I was nervous. I have a little cousin that needed help on stuff. I thought about that when they were thinking of doing this. I just kind of helped out."
Nicole said the tutoring has been a help for her career plans. She is thinking about becoming a teacher.
"I used to play school with my little brother and sister," she said. "I used to help them read. I helped my cousins ..."
Christian said she has been pleased with how well the tutoring program is going this year.
"I'm real excited," Christian said. "The main thing about it, it doesn't cost anything and it's helping everybody. It's not one of those expensive programs.
"Sometimes, these little children, they don't have a lot of help at home. They just need somebody there to help them one-on-one. If nothing else, (they) just talk to them, make them feel like they can do it."