Literacy Tools

by Felicia Truman, corps member serving at Gossler Park Elementary School

Every student is a reader. This is not to say that every student has walked into the classrooms I serve in with a love of reading, but I believe that every student has the potential to become a reader. Everyday City Year corps members, including myself, work to help improve students’ comprehension and fluency. But while these strategies we teach are essential, I believe the most important thing we encourage is a love of reading.  This isn’t something that comes easy to everyone, especially to those who struggle with reading or just haven’t found the right book, but I think it’s possible. I truly believe every student is a reader, but many just need someone to believe in them to gain the confidence to call themselves a reader.

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This week my reading group is reading “The Magic Tree House: Tonight on the Titanic” by Mary Pope Osborne. My students love the Titanic. One of them has read at least three books, independently, on the subject and this has sparked interest in my other students as well. My partner teacher had introduced the subject and my students were hooked. They wanted to learn more about this unsinkable ship so they began to study on their own. I introduced the Magic Tree House book as a way to learn more in a fun way, with characters that were relatable, and a difficulty level they could manage. It has been a treat to revisit a series that I had loved as a child with my own students. And it has been exciting to me to watch them want to read.

The Magic Tree House session was successful because it was something that had value to them. They weren’t just reading a book I had assigned because it was something I wanted them to do; it was a book that was selected because it was interesting to them. I had given them three options to choose from and they had voted on this book. I wanted them to take ownership over what they were reading. I thought that if they had chosen the book themselves it would have more value and they would be more likely to want to read it.  As simple as it seems, I think children will be more likely to read and be successful at reading if they want to read the material presented.

And it’s worked. One of my students finished the book before group because he enjoyed it so much. I had wanted us to read the story together so I told him we were still going to finish the book as a group because that was what had been agreed upon when we selected the text. He said he liked the book so much that he told me he didn’t mind reading it twice. His only problem is now he is so excited about the book that I have to remind him to not give away important plot points to the other children.

I still believe that it is good for teachers to select texts for their students to read. When I was a student my teachers introduced me to texts I fell in love with but probably wouldn’t have picked up off the shelf myself. I would have missed out on important pieces of literature that have helped shaped the person I am now. This being said, I also believe students should have more freedom to choose books that they might be interested in. With the student I mentioned earlier, his teacher had been the one to introduce the Titanic but it was he who took the initiative to read more outside the classroom because he was interested in the subject. That is why in my reading group I try to give them options based on what they have told me they are interested in.

I think the most important task I have as someone who runs a reading group is to help my students reach their potential as readers. As with anything, practice makes perfect. To become stronger readers students need to read. And many need someone to believe in them because then they can believe in themselves. I want them to want to read without me. I hope that after my service year they will pick books off the shelf not because of its designated “difficulty” level or because it’s something they have to read, but because they want to learn and because they consider themselves a reader. I believe that the most important thing City Year does for its students is teach them that we are all readers.

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MEET INCOMING CORPS: Seamus McGuire

Seamus McGuireName:  Seamus McGuire
Hometown: Concord, NH
School/Major/Focus: The University of New Hampshire/ Psychology 

Q: How did you hear about City Year?

I heard about City Year along time ago when I saw some commercials on television advertising it. More recently my college career advisor was able to provide me with more information on the program. From there I was able to determine that City Year looks like a wonderful opportunity to make a positive impact in the Manchester community.

Q: How do you think this year will connect with your long-term goals or career path?

After graduating from UNH I’m thinking about attending grad school for either public health or maybe even for counseling/psychology. Perhaps even pursuing a career in law enforcement. Whatever path I choose I know that by participating as a corps member that I will be able to enhance my people skills and my ability to work with children.

Q: What are you most excited about for your corps year?

I’m most excited about getting to know a bunch of new people and for the opportunity to work as a team to help make better happen in the Manchester area.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten that you’re going to keep with you for next year?

A cool piece of advice that I’ve heard recently is one that people hear a lot on airplanes:

“Make sure you have your own mask on, before helping others with theirs.”

Q: Complete this prompt: I can #makebetterhappen by…. Giving my all to the people that I serve and work with. I hope that we all can make better happen together!

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Preparing Our Students for the Next Grade

By Cady Hickman, corps member serving at Parker-Varney Elementary School

In order to be successful in middle school, there are two sets of skills that a student needs. The first set is academic; proficiency in math, reading, and writing are critical for a successful middle schooler. The other is non-academic; these are behavior based life skills that are imperative for not just a middle school student, but a notable person. City Year works hard to support both requirements of success in order to ensure our students are entering the next grade, the next level of schooling, and ultimately life, well prepared.

Being on track in Math and ELA (English Language Arts) are extremely important for students in our district. City Year recognizes this, but we also know that having skills to support students when classwork gets challenging will help them move further than this year.

One skill I have focused on with my ELA students is comprehension. Though I help by defining tricky words and clarifying confusing parts of a story, I also have taught my students QAR-or Question-Answer Relationship. This strategy gives students a way to recognize where answers may be to their questions. When they transition to middle school, they will be able to help answer their own questions by determining where the answer may be.

What’s equally important are strong life skills-something I learned both in City Year and in my own schooling. In elementary school, it is easier to be disorganized, or other traits that may be less favorable.These important life lessons can be learned early in life. By showing the importance of imperative life skills, students will be prepared sooner for the next grade.

One example of a non-academic success one of my students had occurred last week. This student’s name was brought up repeatedly in gossip-related situations. During my behavior lunch group, I explained that gossip sabotages my ability to work because it makes me uncomfortable and it makes those around me angry. One student echoed that it makes it challenging for them to focus on school and that it makes others feel badly. Today, as they were about to engage in gossip, I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I wanted to remind you how you said you wanted to participate in less gossip.” The student paused. They stood in silence for a few moments. Then, they turned to the group of students gossiping and said, “I have to go to class.”

This same student has improved their math scores since the beginning of the year, which makes me confident they will move on to the next grade-middle school-prepared in their academics. And, because they are striving to become a stronger leader and learner, I am confident they will find middle school a little less daunting with the strong life skills City Year has provided for them.

 

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Successful Starry Starry Night

On Saturday, April 29th, City Year New Hampshire welcomed more than 250 business and civic leaders and citizens from across the state, and raised more than $200,000 at Starry Starry Night at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel! It was a delightful event with guests able to meet and interact with the 50 young, inspiring corps members who serve in 6 elementary schools across the city of Manchester.

This gala is our largest fundraiser each year, and this year has marked our 14th successful gala! The program at this year’s event included a live band, black tie dinner, silent auction , and live auction emceed by KISS 108 FM’s Billy Costa.

Congratulations go to Tom and Lisa Raffio, our honoree’s of the Lifetime of Service Award at this year’s event.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make this event a great success, in particular Bain Capital, our presenting sponsor.

 

 

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MEET INCOMING CORPS: ABBY PAPINCHAK

Abby Name: Abby Papinchak
Hometown: Doylestown, Pennsylvania
College/Major: University of Vermont/Elementary Education with a concentration in Spanish, Religion and Sociology

Q: How did you hear about City Year?  

During my sophomore year, I was required to take a class called “Social, Historical, and Philosophical Foundations of Education” with a professor that I had never heard of before. This class and this professor changed my entire outlook on education. I met with her one day that same year, seeking out her guidance and support to help me plan out my life after graduation. She told me that City Year would be a good fit for me, and since then I have made getting into City Year my main priority.

Q: How do you think this year will connect with your long-term goals or career path? 

I watched my mom get ready in the mornings to teach, and it was obvious to me that I would one day follow her path when I was “grown up”. In my opinion, I’m not grown up yet, mainly because I remember thinking that grown-ups had it all figured out when I was a little girl. I contemplated teaching directly after college, but I knew that I was not ready to choose a specific area to teach in for potentially the rest of my life. I want to be an elementary school teacher in a low-income community, so this upcoming year will undoubtedly build up my confidence level to fulfill this goal.

Q: What are you most excited about for your corps year?

I’m excited to be a part of a diverse, supportive team of corps members. I know I’ll never be alone despite the fact that I’ll be far away from friends and family.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten that you’re going to keep with you for next year?

Before I went to Spain, my best friend that I’ve had since sixth grade told me the following:

“Be confident in yourself and your abilities because you are capable of more than you know.”

I think I’ll keep that with me as I continue on to this next chapter of my life.

Q: Complete this prompt: I can #makebetterhappen by… showing my students how much I genuinely care about them and their abilities

 

 

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Upcoming: Starry Starry Night 2014!

If you haven’t already heard, City Year New Hampshire is gearing up for our biggest annual event – our Starry Starry Night gala! The event is taking place this Saturday, March 29th at the Wentworth By The Sea in Portsmouth, NH. This year’s theme is What’s Your Name? and we couldn’t be more excited!

We hope you are getting excited too, and if you want to stay in the loop about all the great things happening at this event be sure to check out our tweets and Facebook posts for all the latest updates!

To join in on the conversation, be sure to use #CYStarryNight – the official hashtag of CYNH’s 14th Annual Starry Starry Night, and tag us by using @CityYearNH! You can also check out the City Year New Hampshire Facebook page and group for the inside scoop!

CYNH will be livetweeting the event and sharing candid moments throughout the night, so even if you aren’t able to attend, please join in the fun via our social media channels!

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Appreciating Dartmouth-Hitchcock and TJX Companies

By Cady Hickman, corps member serving at Parker-Varney Elementary School

“It’s really inspiring what you do. And you have so much energy!” That was spoken to me yesterday, as I discussed what I do with City Year New Hampshire. It was spoken by a special education teacher who had never heard of City Year previously, and it resonated with me. Not because she found my story inspiring, but that she was a teacher-someone who I find inspiring-who was listening to my story and finding herself impacted.

cady-hickman1My story is that of an idealistic young woman who was close to not having the opportunity to serve in her school. She would not have been able to work with the students of Parker-Varney elementary. Even the idea is upsetting. A year served by a team of seven corps members may not have happened at all. The students are not the only ones to have been impacted; corps members, the school, the community we serve, families, educators-even people who have never seen our service directly!CYNYPS48tutorKevinJenkins

Who can I thank, and how can I express in words the joy they have brought us, and the difference in the lives of our students that they have helped ensure? Dartmouth-Hitchcock, one of the nation’s leading health care programs, and TJX Companies, a high-ranked company on Fortune 500 known for providing quality affordable apparel and home fashions to their customers, have undoubtedly earned my sincerest gratitude. Out of the kindness of their hearts, they decided to be team supporters of a team at City Year New Hampshire. A team that was in danger of not existing this year. They helped seven idealistic individuals give a year in order to better secure a promising future for the future of our country and our world.

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Thank you for supporting the team serving at Parker-Varney elementary school. Thank you for promising that our students will be more likely to graduate high school. Thank you for ensuring more future leaders will be moving on after high school with the knowledge they need to be successful. Thank you for helping me make sure my ELA (English Language Arts) focus list students went up a reading level during the first trimester. Thank you for allowing me to serve ten hours a day and still leave work with a grin, to be able to work with my students, and to have parents say “I don’t know how, but you got her to read!”

My story, and the stories of others impacted by the team at Parker-Varney, exist because of you. Thank you!                                                                                                                 Sincerely,                                                                                                                                        The Parker-Varney team supported by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and TJX Companies

Parker Varney

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Bring It!

By Blake Benton, corps member serving at Beech Street Elementary School

City Year New Hampshire provides a multitude of opportunities for its Corps Members to serve beyond the classroom. One of these incredible opportunities is Bring It!, an afterschool program for middle and high school students from the city of Manchester. The mission statement of Bring It! is “To provide safe, healthy, and educational out of school opportunities for students and families in Manchester, while helping them become more invested in the schools, systems, and community around them.” This year, Corps Members serve with Bring It! on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and help students there with homework, play soccer, dance, participate in drum circles, and assist students on a computer program called Reading Plus.

During my most recent evening serving with Bring It, I was fortunate enough to experience many of the activities that are offered through this exciting program. My fellow Corps Members and I started our night by joining the students who were participating in the Hip-Hop and R&B dance class. Needless to say, we quickly learned that the talent of these students and their dance instructors was far superior to our own. Rather than subjecting ourselves to further humiliation, and as not to take up space that the students could be using, we decided that we could be of better assistance by standing and cheering from the sidelines. We ventured on to catch the tail end of the African drum circle. Thankfully, there were just enough drums left for us to participate in the final exercise. During this portion of the night, the instructor of the circle played a very moving yet up-beat song that involved several dozen words for peace from across the globe. To close the drum circle, all in attendance were asked to say one of the words for peace that had been featured in the closing song.

For the remainder of the evening, my fellow Corps Members and I participated in homework help and Reading Plus. Felicia Truman and I helped a high school student who was working through a challenging Biology packet relating to cellular reproduction and mitosis. The content was rather difficult, even for someone who has taken college Biology courses. However, Felicia masterfully worked with the student, to help guide her through the remainder of the assignment. Felicia did so by incorporating many of the comprehension strategies that the staff and senior corps of City Year New Hampshire have trained first year corps members in. I could tell that Felicia had been paying diligent attention to all of the literacy trainings, as she was able to masterfully use the skills and techniques to help out this particular high school student.

I next had the pleasure of watching another fellow Corps Member, Erika Swiger, instruct a high school student on how to best utilize Reading Plus, an online program that assists readers as they develop their fluency, vocabulary, and overall comprehension. This program required additional preparation out-side of our regular hours, and it was evident that Erika had put in a great deal of time and effort with this training, as she was able to patiently and excellently guide the student through the program. All in all, the experience serving with Bring It! is always inspiring and enjoyable. It is a pleasure and a joy to interact with high school students as they participate and experience music and dance, and it is a thrill to witness first hand as fellow Corps Members work one-on-one with students.

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Red Jackets, Purple Eagles, and Realizing One’s Life Ambition

By Savannah Siders, corps member serving at McDonough Elementary School

I smile at the camera and snap, this moment has been captured in time. It’s June 15th, 2013 and I’m officially a high school graduate. My phone vibrates in my pocket; an email from City Year New Hampshire. I hold my breath as it loads, my anxiety overwhelming my thoughts. What if I don’t get accepted? This is my future on the line. What if? I close my eyes and suck in a breath. I open one eye.

“So, Savannah! I’m very excited to meet you next Saturday and we’ve decided yes, we’re going to match your City Year award. We’re considering creating a personalized scholarship based around it for you as well.” I stammer a thank you and say goodbye to the Dean of Admissions of my future college. I look over at Ian and Harvey in the kitchen of Wilson and crack up. It’s February 27th, 2014 and the last day of Camp City Year Winter Camps. my campers are running around in the gym while I receive some of the best news I’ve heard all week. I sit down and take a breath. I literally don’t even know how to react.

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Savannah with her answer to McDonough’s Whiteboard Campaign question, highlighted in an earlier blog post by Savannah. (Savannah Siders, 2014).

It’s now March 6th, 2014 and I’m writing this during my prep period at school. My desk is covered in session plans and homework papers that I need to correct. I glance to my left at an illustration of President Taft that one of my students drew to attach to a report. I smile. My partner teacher walks into the classroom and I have her sign the papers I use to track how much time I am working with students. I sigh, think for a second, and realize that there is nothing I’d rather be doing than this.

When you hear that someone wants to take a gap year, what do you guess they’ll be doing? Working, doing nothing, being lazy? Who knows. City Year is the complete opposite. I’ve spent my gap year watching 27 kids grow into 27 preteens and I couldn’t be happier with the progress they’ve made. Watching my students grow is, vicariously, a unique way to watch myself grow. Looking back at where I was six months ago, I see a different person. City Year has changed my outlook on life and education and success, without a doubt. City Year has changed how I see myself. I now see someone with not only strong will, but strong work habits. I see someone with goals to reach and tools to reach them. I see a strong young professional instead of an unsure teenager. I never thought that a gap year could have such an effect on a person, but every time I look in the mirror, I see what a difference it has made.

As of right now, I am on track to be attending Niagara University in the fall with nearly a full ride. I will be majoring in Secondary Education with a focus in English. Without my City Year experience, I would have absolutely no clue that I have such a passion education and mentoring. Being a coach, a mentor, and a champion for my students is why I get up in the morning. Watching their eyes light up when they understand a concept is why I come to school every day. Hearing the passion in their voices is when they talk about what they want to be when they grow up reminds me why I commit to them for 50 hours a week. And there is no doubt in my mind that I honestly want to be witness to every little one of those little things for the rest of my career-based life.

 

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Surviving on a Stipend – NH Edition!

As you may or may not know, corps members receive a living stipend to cover the cost of living expenses during their year of service. It can be challenging at times to make ends meet on a quite limited budget but our corps members can be counted upon to make the best out of any situation. We surveyed corps members here in Manchester, NH about ways they’ve found to make their stipends stretch the farthest, and below are some of the best tips and tricks we heard:

From Harvey Vincent, Bakersville Team Leader:

  • Keep minimum funds in checking account
  • Eat leftover
  • Bring lunch on Friday
  • Have coffee at home
  • Utilize Manchester’s parks and libraries
  • Carpool
  • Turn off appliances and lights
  • Utilize loan forbearance or deference

Grace Slobodzian, Parker-Varney Team Leader:

  • Attend shows at the Palace Theater
  • See movies at Regal Cinema 8–Only $3.50!
  • Visit the SEE science Center
  • Visit the Audubon Center
  • Go hiking, biking, or fishing at local mountains and state parks
  • Visit the Seacoast Science Center in Portsmouth
  • Check out “America’s Stonehenge” in North Salem
  • Watch bears on Segways at Clark’s Trading Post
  • Visit the Currier Art Museum FREE on Saturdays from 10-12

Keith Medlock, Beech Street Team Member:

  • Say spend every time you swipe your card or open your wallet-the verbal reminder will help to stop spending

Lily Taylor, Wilson Team Member:

  • Take advantage of weekly meal deals–like 2$ taco Tuesday

Mollie Greenwood, Beech Street Team Member:

  • Use bugdeting sites (mint.com) so you can see where you are spending your money. It guilted me into being more lunchtime money responsible…
  • Get emails from mint.com to remind you how much you meant to save vs. how much you are actually spending.

Erika Swiger, Bakersville Team Member:

  • Groupons. Use them.
  • Use cash over cards

Will Ross, Bakersville Team Member:

  • Apply for food stamps
  • Check out local events in Manchester like open mics, trivia, karaoke
  • Take advantage of the all you can eat buffets in Manchester

Ally Lynch, Parker-Varney Team Member:

  • Prepare your meals for the week ahead of time so you spend less money out

Cady Hickman, Parker-Varney Team Member:

  • Never go shopping for food on an empty stomach-you are more likely to buy more than you intended
  • Check out the discount items at Market Basket (and other grocery stores) for bakery items, meat, vegetables, and dairy. When a product needs to be sold that day, grocery stores will mark down the prices-sometimes up to 75% off! Markdowns on essential food items happen at specific times depending on the store. Find out when your local grocery store puts out the discounted meat and dairy.
  • Utilize websites like supercook.com–they can help you plan recipes based on what you already have. ALSO, bring your shopping list to the store and stick to what you need!
  • Participate in CY “Go Gettahs”–these are events all around Manchester and New Hampshire that need volunteers. They are fun, they give you something to do in your spare time for free, and they are also great networking opportunities. Plus, some events can get you extra hours!
  • Have potlucks and group meals with your fellow corps members–buying in bulk is always cheaper, and when everyone chips in for a meal you can have more food for less money!

A special thanks goes to Cady Hickman for interviewing corps members for their tips and tricks–Great Job Cady!

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