Stories From Guatemala

Video: Training Teachers for Success in the Classroom

For a child who is learning how to read, having a skilled and effective teacher is critical to her success. An effective teacher can make reading engaging and fun, uses questions to stimulate conversation and critical thinking and adapts their techniques to the needs of their students.

But today, schools in Guatemala face a chronic shortage of skilled and effective teachers. Many Guatemalan teachers have little training in literacy instruction and often struggle to move beyond traditional techniques of rote learning and memorization.

Through its intensive, four-year teacher training program, Child Aid’s is transforming how reading and literacy are taught in Guatemalan classrooms and helping teachers become more confident and effective educators.

In this video, visit a teacher training workshop in Guatemala to see how Child Aid is helping teachers learn practical techniques for developing the comprehension and critical thinking skills that are critical to literacy and learning. After the workshop, Child Aid trainer Marilena Ixen visits a classroom for a one-on-one coaching session, helping the teacher integrate and adapt what she has learned into her classroom instruction.

This process of modeling and practicing helps teachers put theory into practice quickly and effectively and gives them the skills and experience they need to achieve better outcomes for their students.

Categories: Stories From Guatemala
09/17/2015 9:03 AM
Stories From Guatemala

Video: Building Literacy Skills Through Reading Aloud

In Guatemalan classrooms, the traditional methods of reading instruction focus on memorization and decoding. Students learn to read simple sentences but often do not understand what they are reading. In this video, see how Child Aid’s teacher training program is transforming how reading and literacy are taught in Guatemala. In our training workshops, teachers learn practical techniques to help students become better readers, writers and learners.

Visit a classroom, where teacher Demetria Estacuy de Leon is using read-aloud techniques she learned from Child Aid to help her first grade students understand and remember details of a story. Students mimic her actions while she reads, responding to questions and practicing the habits of good readers.

When teachers in Guatemala join Child Aid’s literacy training program, one of the first techniques they learn is how to read aloud to their students. Story time is a natural place to engage kids in reading and introduce them to the joys and habits of good readers. When a teacher reads with expression and enthusiasm, they are helping students feel the emotions of the characters, the changes in action, and the most exciting, saddest, or happiest events. A read aloud session is also an opportunity for students to begin to develop the reading comprehension and critical thinking skills that will help them become active and engaged readers and learners.

  • How to retain information and remember details about what you’ve read.
  • How to interpret a story and connect it to your own experience.
  • How to analyze information, comparing, contrasting and evaluating what you’ve read.
  • How to create your own story out of your own knowledge and experience.

These skills are vital components of literacy and learning. Without them, students struggle to make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. “I live for reading with the kids,” says Demetria. “When I am doing a reading, I have to use my imagination and creativity with them.  It has helped me a lot because I see their achievements and how much they enjoy the reading.”

Categories: Stories From Guatemala
02/18/2015 11:46 AM | 1 Comments

The Child Aid Literacy Team in Action

The Child Aid staff does a tremendous variety of activities in their work promoting literacy in Guatemala. They run training workshops, distribute books, provide one-on-one support for teachers and librarians, work with students and even pitch in to help label and organize books from time to time. Watch this slide show to see the Child Aid staff in action and learn about the many ways they are making a difference in Guatemalan communities.


View the slideshow ›

Categories: Slideshow, Staff Profile, Stories From Guatemala
03/7/2014 8:00 AM | 0 Comments

Teaching Students Bring ‘Adventures in Reading’ Back to Their Communities

Socorro de Belen Graduation

Instructor Jorge Sanum (far right) with teaching students from the Socorro de Belen school.

After two years of studying to become teachers, the students at the Socorro de Belen school took on their last and most challenging assignment. Last month they returned to their hometowns to set up and run Adventures in Reading, Child Aid’s school break literacy program, in their communities.

At the end of the school year, the students gathered to collect their certificates of completion and receive packets of storybooks that they used for read-aloud sessions and writing activities, sharing what they’ve learned with a new generation of readers.

They also got some last minute instructions and encouragement from Teaching Training Coordinator and Instructor Jorge Sanum.

“It is a challenge for such young students to start a literacy program in their communities, especially finding a space and recruiting students,” said Sanum. “They are all a bit nervous but also determined.”

Socorro de Belen Teacher Training

Instructor Jorge Sanum demonstrates techniques for conducting a read-aloud session.

The students are part of a unique Child Aid program at Socorro de Belen, a private Catholic school in Antigua that provides scholarships for indigenous women to become teachers. For the past two years, in addition to their regular studies, the students met weekly with instructor Jorge Sanum to develop their their own reading and writing skills and learn techniques for teaching reading comprehension and critical thinking in the classroom.

In Guatemala, most teacher training programs are taught at the high school level, where students get a basic certification to teach.

“We’ve found that most of the teaching students have poor primary education backgrounds themselves and lack basic reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, says Country Director John van Keppel. “That was especially true for the the Socorro students, who come from very rural and impoverished communities.”

“So we designed a two year program for them. The first year focuses on helping them develop reading and writing skills, using many of the activities and techniques we teach in our Reading for Life program. In the second year we reinforce those skills and help them develop the ability to include them in their teaching when they go back to their communities.”

Through the generosity of the Paiz Foundation, Child Aid is able to offer this program to a total of three schools and 227 students.

Student Flor de María Escobar Coc says the class has given her a new understanding of her role as a teacher as well as practical skills she can use in the classroom.

“My favorite part was learning the techniques” she says, “because it showed me that learning is not only about listening but can also be about participating. I feel that after this experience I can be a better teacher, at least I hope to be. I know now how to treat each child because each child is different in how they learn.”

Socorro students select books to use in their Adventures in Reading programs.

Socorro students select books to use in their Adventures in Reading programs.

For their final assignment, students began preparing for their Adventures in Reading programs in September. They reviewed books and made a book plan, practiced read-aloud techniques, planned and found materials for additional activities and decided how they were going to promote the program and recruit kids to participate.

“The assignment is voluntary,” said Sanum, “but we had 35 of the 37 students at Socorro de Belen participate. Each of the students will do the program differently depending on their time and resources. Many are running their programs in their parents’ homes because there isn’t a library or school space available.”

“The Adventures in Reading piece is an important part of their training,” added Sanum, “because it will give these students opportunities to apply the skills they’ve learned and develop some community leadership experience.”

Categories: News
12/3/2013 6:49 AM
Staff Profile

Jeremias Morales: Followups Deliver Training Techniques That Work

Jeremias Morales Teacher Followup

Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales works with a teacher during a followup session.

When Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales walks into a classroom, kids pay attention.

Whether he’s reading a story, running an activity or working with a small group of students, Jeremias brings an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm to his work. He is adept at engaging kids, getting them involved in learning and making the experience of reading fun and interesting.

“This work is challenging and there can be problems,” he says. “but I’ve learned if you have enthusiasm it makes everything easier to handle.”

As one of Child Aid’s seven Literacy Trainers, Jeremias’ work is at the heart of Child Aid’s Reading for Life program and part of what distinguishes it from other teacher training programs.

Much of his time during the school year is spent on follow-up visits with teachers, one-on-one sessions where the trainers help teachers apply the techniques and activities they learned in Reading for Life workshops in their classrooms.

“In the workshops, the teachers are introduced to the concepts and techniques, but after a few days or weeks it might fade,” says Jeremias. “In the followups we talk about their experiences and can discover what’s working and what’s not. We talk about what they are observing, what problems they are having and what they can do differently.”

Jeremias Morales Teacher Followup

Literacy Trainer Jeremias Morales works with a teacher during a followup session.

On a typical day, Jeremias gets up early at his home in San Lucas Toliman near Lake Atitlan and hits the road to visit one of the five schools he manages in the region. After each workshop, Jeremias will do two follow-up visits with every teacher. In the first session, he works directly with the students, modeling the activity and techniques for the teacher. In the second visit, he observes the teacher using the techniques themselves, offering suggestions and advice to help them improve.

It is time-consuming work. Meeting with 45 teachers over two workshops, Jeremias did nearly 200 teacher follow-up sessions this school year.

“I usually spend an hour or more with each teacher,” he says, “Since school gets out at 12:30, I can do at most three followups in a day – two before the recess and one after.”

But, he adds, the personal support and regular contact is important in helping teachers continue to progress and it’s rewarding to see the changes in teacher’s skills and student’s learning over time.

“I like it when I can see that they understand a concept and I know I’ve helped them get better,” he says.

Jeremias grew up in the town of Las Canoas, near Lake Atitlan, and speaks Kaqchikel, K’iche and Tzutujil in addition to Spanish. Although he was a good student, he says reading was taught by repetition and decoding and was very boring. His parents encouraged him to read, but he had little access to books, especially storybooks and novels. It wasn’t until after he reached university and developed a love of learning that he discovered the value of books in his life.

“I remember when I was a kid, I never had the opportunity to talk about a book. Reading was just for homework,” he says. “Now when I hear about a book on a topic I’m interested in, I want to read it because I want to get the new knowledge.”

In his work with Child Aid, Jeremias says he hopes he can pass on his enthusiasm for reading and help students understand that learning can be fun and important to their lives.

“I want the kids to get as excited about a new book as they are about playing football at recess. I try to show how school can be fun and not so boring. Because when reading is fun, they learn.”

VIDEO: Watch Jeremias at work during a teacher follow up session.

Categories: Staff Profile
11/12/2013 6:41 AM