What 1st and 2nd graders teach us: Books and Basketball
What can a first or second-grader teach a high school junior? A lot, it turns out. And each Wednesday afternoon in the third floor gym at Thomson Public Elementary School, we learn more.
For just over an hour, dozens of 1st and 2nd graders look up at–and to–our SEGL students. It’s another week of our “Books and Basketball” program: a meaningful change of pace, a mixture of hard work and good fun, and an opportunity to learn.
Thomson is a Title I DC public school; 99% of its students receive free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly 2/3rds of its students are Latino/a, 20% are Chinese, and the remainder are African American. Most of the Latino and Chinese students are English language learners and come from immigrant families. (Changes to immigration policy will directly affect many of these students; in fact, one recent Wednesday parents and students heard a presentation about what to do if they are stopped by police, immigration officials, or the FBI.)
For the first half hour, we coach basketball in a positive, disciplined, SEGL student-led environment. The Thomson youngsters learn teamwork, camaraderie, and fine motor skills. They learn to yell “cookie jar!” after our students shout “follow through” and to wait to run until a “big person” says “go!” (not “go-rilla!”) to put their toes on the line.
For the second half hour, we read with the students one-on-one or in small groups. This level of attention is exceedingly rare in their day-to-day lives. Along the way, our SEGL students learn tutoring skills: how do you keep a student engaged when she isn’t interested in reading? When do you help a student pronounce a word, and when do you let her figure it out? What do you say if one of your students is more advanced than the other?
Books and Basketball, which we began in the spring of 2012, is a small program with an big impact on both Thomson and SEGL students. It is easy to see each student’s reading and basketball progress over the course of the semester. And it is easy to see our SEGL students growing in confidence as they try different strategies to mentor and inspire such terrific kids.