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Getting into ‘Character’ | Highlights From Our Summer Literacy Institute

Natalie Colón

Natalie Colón is a Senior Program Manager at ExpandED Schools.


Returning tutors 'mapped' out fantasy and reality, inspired by the book Bridge to Terabithia, an MS ExTRA book club favorite.

Last week, more than 70 new and returning MS ExTRA tutors gathered for a two-day literacy institute led by our own Program and Literacy Managers. The engaging conversations and workshops ranged from how to foster good reading habits and attitudes to assessing a budding bookworm’s reading comprehension. Built on best practices and using feedback from previous years’ attendees, this year’s sessions were designed with special attention to helping new tutors prepare for reading groups using a tried-and-true method: role playing!

Splitting up the attendees into small groups just like our MS ExTRA book clubs, returning tutors played their roles as Literacy Tutors and ran through entire lesson plans, with the new tutors performing as students. This kind of role play allowed for the newer tutors to gain perspective as the middle schoolers they were about to teach, while also gleaning insight from watching the seasoned tutors at work. Monica Ingkavet, our Vice President of Expanded Learning Schools, observed that this role play “worked amazingly. Having an immersive experience, rather than simply being lectured at, is so important to helping our new tutors practice for real-life scenarios. It also helps the new and returning tutors feel more connected and engaged with the work.”

Dr. Roger Harris,
Keynote Speaker

Stepping into character wasn’t a technique limited to the workshops on classroom management – tutors also learned how to incorporate these lessons into reading books, using social emotional learning as a lens. By asking students how a story’s character might be feeling during a certain scene or how the other characters might act in order to support the protagonist, young readers can practice their soft skills in a low-stakes environment: a story.

The two-day institute provided resources, training and inspiration, including a keynote speech by Dr. Roger Harris, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran who has served as mentor principal to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and as Faculty Director and Assistant Professor of Practice at the Boston University School of Education’s Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies (ELPS) department. 

Zana, a New MS ExTRA Tutor at EFCRS

Zana, a new tutor at East Flatbush Community Research School (EFCRS) where she has previously been a group leader and activity specialist, said she is excited to begin literacy tutoring. “My favorite thing about working in schools is seeing that light that sparks when a student gets it. I used to teach art at EFCRS, and I loved seeing one girl go from frowning to ‘Oh SNAP!’ when she connected with the lesson. That’s why I’m here – I want to do the same thing for students with reading.”


 ♦ Click here to learn more about becoming a Literacy Tutor at one of our schools.







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