Aya Academy of Excellence


Tutoring for Children Who HATE Tutoring

Tutoring for Children Who HATE Tutoring

Aya Academy of Excellence’s Saturday Academy is a year-round programming for students who need to CATCH UP, KEEP UP and GET AHEAD. What makes Saturday Academy different? Unlike traditional skill and drill tutoring programs, Saturday Academy invests in having learners fall in love with learning. Skill development is achieved through the engagement of hands-on, highly interactive experiences. Saturday Academy deftly weaves together the use of science investigations, literature and digital explorations to foster each student’s academic development.

Are you ready for your kids to fall in love with reading, science and math? If so, join in a future session at Aya Academy of Excellence’s Saturday Academy small group tutoring program.

Advertisements

Teaching About Social Justice: The Holocaust Through the Literary Novel Night

20140309-223247.jpg

20140309-223255.jpg

20140309-223302.jpg

20140309-223312.jpg

20140309-223318.jpg

Night by Elie Wiesel is a gripping autobiography about a young Mann’s tortuous experience during the Holocaust. Although the book has a low page count, it is not a quick read. To fully absorb Wiesel’s journey, the account can and should be juxtaposed with other literature and documents. The images above are of a novel study handout I created for my student to accompany their reading. Questions posed were the basis of longer discussions we had in class about the Nazi’s treatment of Jews and others deemed dispensable. During these discussions other instances of social injustice, including the treatment of African Americans prior ti the passage of the Civil Rights Act, were discussed. The universal themes of power and resistance injustice were the topics of dialogue as we challenge how people have acted in the past to other ethnic and racial groups. This enabled students to challenge contemporary instances of social injustice.

Students also created thematic poetry using examples we read from those composed by children residing in ghetto Terazin. Analysis of quotes and images, including a mountain of collected shoes from souls lost to the gas chambers of a concentration camp, provided students an opportunity to think through the points of view of opposing voices during this conflict.

The students also created their own illustrations to depict events occurring within Wiesel’s account. The image above was from a highly artistic student and i realize in hindsight that she could have contributed an even more illustrative contribution had I provided more time and resources to this component of the novel study. In the future, I would have the students create their depictions on larger paper to create a museum exhibit akin the Washington, DC Holocaust Museum.

Night is an amazing book to use as a springboard for understanding the importance of social justice. Mr. Wiesel’s experience captures a place and time that is unique in history and highlights the societal issues of prejudice and power mongering which are timeless and universal.


When Angela Speaks…

When Angela Speaks...

Someone needs to do a study on why there are so many males, often jocks, who comprise the social studies departments in this country. And within that study, it would be intriguing to read how their world view impresses upon the learner the historical record of our nation and world. While I was growing up, all of my social studies teachers were male. I loved to hear their accounts of the movers and shakers of the past…all interspersed with recollections of last Sunday’s big game. But to the ‘victors go the spoils.’ Those who hold the position of telling the history of society have the ability to shape that history based on their personal perspective.

While at the craft store Michael’s after church this afternoon, my daughter showed me a magazine and asked, “Who are they?’ The front cover was an image of the Beatles from the 1960s. Quite a bit of pop culture and history dissipates from one generation to the next. If we are not careful, significant people and events will fade from memory as well.

None of my social studies teachers taught lessons or provided activities based on the contributions of black Americans…or Latino Americans…or Asian Americans. That learning came later, independently. For families who want to instill a sense of legacy within their children, relying solely on the school’s curriculum may not be the most effective recourse. So how can families impart culturally relevant teaching at home and within their community? Here are a few ideas:

1. There are some cultures which invest in half day academic and cultural studies learning. Muslim families, Asian families and those following the Catholic and Jewish faiths, send their children to classes to learn the language and practices of their culture. Find or form classes with like-minded families.

2. Living literature. Some home-school families approach the learning of history and culture through reading novels and biographies. Create a reading list with the help of your local librarian that is thematic or chronological.

3. Multimedia. This approach is similar to living literature, except that it uses music, theatrical films and documentaries in lieu of books.

4. Dialogue. Engage people in conversation who have accounts of historical experiences.

Building historical memory aids in bridging understanding between generations and cultures, sexes. It assists with helping society in getting a pulse check to ascertain how we got were we are today based on the circumstances and people of the past. There are times when I get dismayed that the younger generation carries themselves in a fashion that does not honor the struggle of the past. However, it is difficult to hold them accountable to a history they are unaware of and therefore cannot appreciate.


Send Me Back Saturday: Launching Community Programming

20140208-125234.jpg

Redefine Start. These sage words were spoken to me a few years ago in response to how I was approaching serving youth and families. To me, I could not, prior to that conversation, see how to provide academic services without a brick and mortar location. Thereafter, my thinking changed and Aya began to takeoff because we began offering workshops in partnership with local libraries and afterschool programs.

The image above was taken two years ago during our first community-based literacy workshop series. Here are a few insights regarding working with and behalf of communities.

1. Focus. Have a clear and cogent objective. Initially, our organization took a Pinky and the Brain approach – we wanted to take over the world…in a good way. But it is impossible to serve every need. Therefore, go deep and not wide in regard to what you would like to focus on with your services.

2. Teamwork. Get a great team. Create a matrix which defines your strengths and identifies your gaps. Band together with others who can provide support in areas where you have gaps. I’ve been blessed with great collaborators who provide our organization with assets I have yet to develop. There is no shame in not excelling in everything. Just take note of what Tom Collins’ Good to Great proffers: Get the Right People on the Bus.

3. Midgetize. Start small. Work out the kinks. Expand. Last year, we launched our first camp….it was nearly 3 years in the planning…and it was worth the wait. This year we are expanding to serve three times the number of learners. By starting small, we had less constraints, including budget and recruitment of learners and personnel. This provided opportunities to reflect on instructional practices and operational strategies.

4. Dream. Feel free to delve into your creativity. Mentally walk through best case scenarios. When working with marginalized communities it is easy to listen to the apathy and entertain others’ frustrations. Let the ‘its never been done before’ roll off your back and open up to possibilities. This aids in becoming a problem solver and a change agent.

5. Serve. Help others. I sometimes volunteer more during the week then I do ‘work.’ That’s always been my heart. The universe does give back what you put in. Those I’ve assisted have looked out for our organization by including us in their other activities. Through a willingness to serve, others will provide support in unexpected wonderful ways. This process aids in building relationships which assists in the forward movement of your community initiatives.


Tools of the Trade: Story Chips

20140207-182407.jpg

A few years ago, I stumbled across a lovely resource to spark discussion during literacy workshops.Story Chips and Discussion chips are an affordable teaching tool to encourage learners to share their thoughts in small and large group settings. Since learners can select their questions, they feel a degree of ownership during the discussion process.

The chips, which retail for less than $5 at teacher resource stores, can be made at home. The questions are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and therefore, they have several levels of thinking ranging from recall to analytical inquiry. In class, I would allow learners a chance to swap questions out from the chips bucket to ensure they selected questions they were comfortable responding to in front of a group. While reading Julia Alvarez’ Before We Were Free, each student was paired with a partner and answered the questions together. The partners were allowed to first discuss with their buddy their individual responses to create a consensus before sharing out to the larger group. As always, getting to the ‘right’ answer took a back seat to developing students’ ability to think critically and dialogue with peers.

To make your own, create questions in Microsoft word to fit into a text box the size of a 20 ounce bottle cap (Vitamin Water). Glue the questions onto the bottle cap and Voila, you’ve saved $5!

What I love most is that these chips can be used with any age learner and within any setting. Families can have these on hand
at their bedside table to use during bedtime reading.


Falling in Love with Paris: An Exodus Story

Image

When I was a pre-teen, I had aspirations of attending college in Canada because I figured it would be a stepping stone to living in Paris. My eldest is taking French now and it feels like déjà by.  Although she’s pretty studious, she has a deep longing for attending school abroad. – either in Japan or in France, and thus devoted countless hours studying second languages.  While preparing our curriculum I saw the emergence of numerous patterns, one of which was the seeking of refuge abroard so that the artist, aviator or doctor would have an opportunity to learn their craft and live their purpose in a less racially charged society.  This was true for Dr. James McCune Smith who traveled to Glasglow, Scotland to attain his medical degree, as well as, Bessie Coleman and Josepbine Baker who both traveled to France to get closer to their dreams.

Josephine Baker’s escapades are vibrantly captured in Jonah Winter’s Jazz Age Josephine by illustrator Marjorie Priceman.  The sing-song passages evoke a musical tone as the story is read aloud, especially during the portionso devoted to tackling the racial discrimination which spurred Ms. Baker’s exodus from the United States. 

 

This is title is part of our Reading List for the 20/20 curriculum for the lesson on the Celebrity, which illuminates how some African American stars have utilized their fame and influence to further philanthropic endeavors.


Can Communities Be Fixed?

Strong communities are comprised of strong families.  Whether measured by empirical data or the personal narratives of individual families, there is something that is true no matter how we look at it: Families need support.  There is more than a scintilla of evidence which suggests that there is at least a correlating relationship between parental involvement, student academic performance.  And there is evidence that schools with high achieving students are positioned within stable, thriving communities.  What if these factors were all tied together: student achievement, stable communities and parental involvement?  

At Aya Academy of Excellence, we are in the midst of creating a new model of learning, which will support students’ academic learning in school – or at home, by providing a maker space in neighborhoods which lack out-of-school academic opportunities.  Through our Community Classroom we will provide an open share space to provide families opportunities to participate in interactive workshops related to STEM, literacy and art.  On weekends or after school, families can visit the Community Classroom art studio, robotics lab and literacy lounge.  Together, parents and children can build robots together, learn how to code programming and create art.

To support schools, the Community Classroom will partner with local schools to provide staff training on students engagement, parental involvement and content learning.  There are some awesome maker-spaces developing around the nation in schools and libraries for a variety of reasons. We envision that the Community Classroom will be informed by the existing success stories, and will establish an enriching model communities can emulate to rebuild families and communities.

Image


Teaching with Picture Books: Part 1

When I began teaching in the 1990’s I had the great fortune of experiencing baptism by fire. Although my alma mater, the illustrious Hoftsra University boasts one of the most laudable teaching preparation programs in the nation, very little can prepare you for becoming a middle school teacher in a community grappling with severe issues of poverty, drug use and crime. Every issue a community faces is reflected in the lives of its children and as a classroom teacher, these issues become ones that must be recognized and faced.

Understandably, while students are juggling immense socio-economic family and community issues, academic advancement becomes challenged. Author Eric Jensen’s Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, discusses how parental academic achievement, and specifically the areas of vocabulary acquisition and executive function, impact the learning of students. In a nutshell, parents are the springboard to their children’s learning. What parents know and the academic norms they possess, can affect how well a child will learn.

So in 1996, when three eleven year old boys ‘would not’ pay attention or participate in our guided reading activities, I had to learn through experience that their inability was attributed to the text being inaccessible. Although they were in the sixth grade, they were each reading several grade levels behind. One student could not sound out the word ‘great’ in a social studies passage on Alexander the Great. At that moment, I realized that the text was a hindrance and headed to the local library where I scoured the shelves for picture books on the ancient civilizations we were studying. By using fiction and non-fiction picture books, the content was accessible and my students were able to cull historical information about ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome.

Picture books, as mentor texts, are bridges parents at home and teachers at school, can use to provide context for science or history content. When I home-schooled my daughters, we read a few picture books each week on historic figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Mandela and Wilma Rudolph. The vivid imagery helped build engagement and the shorter passages meant that we could dive into another person’s life at least every other day.

20/20 Tapestry Curriculum Reading Selection for The Trailblazers' Lesson Plan

20/20 Tapestry Curriculum Reading Selection for The Trailblazers’ Lesson Plan

For our 20/20 Tapestry Curriculum, we have a list of picture books suited for the study of African American history. Our curriculum is divided into twenty lessons, each uncovering a specific archetype – moguls, inventors, champions, etc. During our journey of discovery of The Trailblazer, we investigate the American cowboy through the adventures of Bass Reeves, Stage Coach Mary Fields and Nate Love. Check out our video to learn how Jerdine Nolen’s Thunder Rose can be used to teach language development and history, all while engaging young listeners through an interactive approach.



%d bloggers like this: