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Buffalo State Literacy Center tutors children

Pam Lange (left) and Laura Mullane (seated) prepare the daily lesson plan for their students at the literacy center.

blog by The Buffalo State Record  • 

As elementary-school students file into their weekly tutoring sessions at the Buffalo State Literacy Center, they are greeted with all kinds of tools to help teach reading. Metal surfaces are covered with brightly-colored alphabet magnets, word games like Boggle are close at hand and shelves are packed with hundreds of children’s books.

The college has had a literacy program since the 1970s. More recently it became a program for graduate students who have already received their teaching certificates and want further training to become literary specialists, said Keli Garas, the center’s director.

These graduate students learn a variety of tips and tricks to help struggling readers learn the fundamentals.

“It’s more of a specialized way of thinking, a specialized way of teaching,” lecturer Sean Grohman said.

The student-teachers then apply their new skills by tutoring young children in weekly one-on-one sessions under the supervision of Garas and Grohman.

“I think it’s great that we get to work with actual students. It makes it all more meaningful I think,” said Jillian Randall, a graduate student in the program who also teaches first grade in Buffalo.

The challenge is tailoring teaching strategies on the fly, Grohman said, and to meet the needs of an individual student with unique challenges and learning styles. Many of the children in the program have reading skills several steps below their grade level. The tutors learn to test their students’ skills as they are teaching, adapting as they go.

“It’s kind of like a puzzle, you have to find the right strategy for your student,” said Laura Mullane, a graduate student participating in the program.

The goal of the center is to allow teachers to become more proficient in their own classrooms, and eventually giving them the skills they need to become literacy specialists themselves.

“For the graduate students, it is a great experience because they’re actually doing what they would do in a school situation here,” Garas said. “They are working, providing strategy instruction, doing tutoring.”

Randall said the skills she has learned from the Literacy Center are directly applicable in her first-grade classroom, and vice-versa.

“It’s interesting to see how the same lesson can be applied to both,” she said.

Parents are regularly updated on their children’s progress.

“Last year we did a survey of the parents and they were all very pleased with the program,” Garas said. “They wish there was more of it.”

Reading and writing are fundamental skills that will be with students for the rest of their lives, and the best ways to teach these skills are constantly being refined, Mullane said.

“It’s a constantly-changing field in the education world,” she said.

There are currently 36 tutors working with 36 children, the maximum number allowed in the program, Garas said. The ten-week tutoring sessions are held every spring. Some parents have already signed up on a waiting list to try to get their children in the program.

The tutoring sessions are free for the children of faculty, staff and students. Other participants pay $100.

Jacob Tierney
Buffalo State Record Executive Editor

This story includes reporting by Maria Yankova.
Jacob Tierney can be reached by email at tierney.record @live.com.

TAGGED: buffalo state college, buffalo state record, jacob tierney, keli garas, sean grohman

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