Written by: Whitney Miller
Whitney Miller is in Grade 12 and her role at Leap Camp this past summer was as a volunteer, helping out in one of the classes. She discovered Leap through her involvement with the Leacock Foundation and her previous volunteering at Rose Avenue’s Reading Buddies program and Saturday Club.
“Children Around the World” written by Donata Montanari, is the title of the storybook that my class, Class A, read every morning before lunch. I volunteered in Class A for the Leacock Foundation’s Leap into Literacy summer camp at the Branksome Hall location. My role as a volunteer involved leading work stations, working one-on-one with students and in groups, being active during recess, and supporting students in and outside of the classroom. “Children Around the World” resonates with my experience at Leap, as this book taught us about the cultures and stories of children from across the globe. Through my volunteering, I was able to get to know each student in my class and discover their learning styles, while also realizing my own leadership abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. While the relationships and the experiences that I formed at Leap allowed me to teach others, I also learned about myself. “Children Around the World” resonates with my experience as a Leap volunteer and the values of exploration and discovery that Leap encourages in young students.
“Children Around the World” provided an overarching theme for my experience at Leap because of how both myself and the students in my class learned from one another. For example, one of the activities in which I was able to individually work with students was during journal-writing time. I noticed that coming up with ideas for journal writing and spelling words independently were two challenges for many students in Class A. At first, it was difficult for me to not just give students ideas and dictate words for them to write. I struggled to patiently think of how I could best help young learners in my class think creatively and critically when writing. However, I discovered that asking questions about students’ favourite past-times, family traditions, or culture, was an effective strategy to spark inspiration for writing. By taking on the role of the students in Class A and learning to ask more questions, I overcame my challenge as a volunteer and learned how I could best teach students in Class A.
As a volunteer I also felt a great sense of pride in watching students improve their literacy skills over time. For example, the Class A teacher, Cassandra, created a “word wall” on the blackboard in our classroom where students were able to spell unfamiliar words with the help of a volunteer or teacher. In just two weeks, the blackboard was filled! When it came time to for independent reading or writing, I recognized that our spelling activities helped students recognize words and consequently, prompted them to remember how to spell and pronounce them.