President’s Report

An outline of the OSSFF English language and reading programs

I am very excited to announce to our Foundation friends and readers that we will be designing and implementing a number of English after-school intervention program pilots for this coming school year. This has long been one of my cherished dreams and now that iSipnayan math is far along the development road and proving itself in its roll-outs, this is perhaps thetime to focus some of the attention to English.

First, let me share the overall vision for the English program. That vision begins with analyzing what’s deficient. When we looked at your typical public elementary school student, we noted several deficiencies.

First, the average public school student has a very limited vocabulary. The average first-tier college graduate has a vocabulary of 10,000 to 12,000 English words (and word families). The average first-tier private high school graduate has a vocabulary of 6,000 to 10,000 words. And the first-tier private school elementary school graduate would have a vocabulary in the range of 2,000 to 4,000 words. But the public elementary school graduate would have a vocabulary on average of only 700 to 1,500 words. That’s because they don’t read as much, both in school and at home, as their typically richer private school counterparts. They also read much later. And when stumped by a strange word, there is less inclination to reach for a dictionary, nor are parents motivated to assist the child.

The small vocabulary limits reading comprehension. Public school children get discouraged as they try to read and stumble over so many unknown words so they read less and it becomes a vicious cycle. This isn’t helped by the overly short and trivial reading exercises in their reading textbooks. Children need to read regularly and then demonstrate their comprehension of what they’ve just read, e.g., “what is the main idea?”, as well as make inferences and engage in “what could happen next”. This point about reading comprehension is well illustrated by how the Libis Elementary School Kumon students do so well with mathematical operations but sometimes stumble when long word problems become too complicated for them to decipher. Which is why they win over other public school competitors in MTAP competitions but often fall short against their private school counterparts.

The public school children also don’t do too well in grammar. They tend to make more mistakes with number agreement (plural vs. singular), tense (past vs. present vs. future), gender, verb conjugation, as well as correct use of prepositions, pronouns, and adverbs. The lack of English grammar workbooks for daily drills is a major contributor to the problem.

I’ve also noticed that public school children significantly lack confidence in English speaking. They are much more self-conscious when they attempt to converse or answer questions in English; it’s not helped when their friends or classmates giggle or smirk when they do. They mispronounce more English words, which is understandable if their teachers also mispronounced the same words. The lack of self-confidence extends to oral reading; they are typically scared of being called on to read English passages aloud.

Given the above, the One Small Step Forward Foundation has identified a four-module English intervention program to begin this school year (2010-2011). Most of the initial pilots are planned tentatively for Libis Elementary School.

1. Oral Reading and Conversational English. The objective is to provide practice that builds confidence in the students to correctly read aloud, pronounce words correctly, and hold their own in English- only conversations. Of all the modules, this is the one that is the most teacher-dependent. The plan is to pilot this for Grade 3 for school year 2010-2011 and then in 2011- 2012, to offer this to a new Grade 3 class plus a new Grade 4 module to be taken by the Grade 3 group from the previous year. For this school year, the pilot program will be held once a week for 10 weeks and to be limited to 15-20 students from Grades 4 and 5. The program will begin in August. During the 2-3 hours of the class, use of Pilipino will be strictly forbidden. Bing del Rosario will be conducting this program himself.

2. Vocabulary Building & Correct Word Usage. The objective is to enrich the vocabulary of the students. The vocabulary building will be based on the first 1,000 and 2,000 must-know words in the English language, followed by the next 2,000 words – for the fast learners. Students are drilled on word meanings and appropriate – vs. inappropriate – word usage. At the heart of the program are the vocabulary building worksheets that students work on every day for three months. Like the iSipnayan program, only when they score consistently high on a worksheet do they get to advance to the next worksheet, which will include a new set of slightly more difficult words. The module’s pilot consists of a hundred worksheets. The pilot program is scheduled for three months, to start from October to December 2010, and will be offered for Grades 4 and 5.

3. Reading Comprehension. The objective is to increase the English reading comprehension of children through regular reading and comprehending drills. In every session, the child reads a slightly more difficult passage compared to the previous days’ reading, then answers a worksheet of questions on what had been read. Like iSipnayan, students move ahead when they demonstrate a high comprehension score on the worksheet at hand. Since much of the difficulty is due to a narrow vocabulary, this module is taken best in conjunction with the Vocabulary Building module. The pilot program will be geared for Grade 4 and will run daily for an initial three months, from October to December 2010, like the Vocabulary module. 100 worksheets will be available for the Grade 4 enrollees. Availability of Grades 5 and 6 worksheets will follow.

4. Basics of English Grammar. The objective is to improve the grammatical component of their English language use. Emphasis will be on correct number agreement (plural vs. singular), tense (past vs. present vs. future), gender, verb forms and voices, as well as correct use of pronouns, adverbs and prepositions. The module attempts to address the lack of English grammar workbooks for daily drills. Like the Vocabulary and Reading modules, the program is worksheet-dependent and will be conducted daily. The pilot will take in Grade 4 students and is planned to start in January 2011 with an initial 150 worksheets.