Submitted. The Students with an Aptitude for Teaching (S.W.A.T.) program at Albert McMahon Elementary in Mission trains Grade 5/6 students to teach valuable reading skills to younger students and gain leadership experience at the same time.
Photo at right: Carrena Filleul
Speaking this year’s program Terry Johnston, the S.W.A.T. program coordinator, says, “This year I implemented many of the Davis Learning Strategies into our school SWAT program. Using modeling clay to learn letter names, sounds, rhyming and sight words eliminated any need for extrinsic rewards.
“I can’t remember the last time I gave any student a sticker! The students have enjoyed using these strategies to increase their reading skills and I believe they have made good gains in their level of literacy mastery with this program.”
Every day for 15 minutes after lunch, the older students meet with their 29 mentees to listen, aid and provide encouragement in literacy learning and development.
“I always have a waiting list of older student mentors for our SWAT program. Even though it is a long-haul responsibility (SWAT leaders have to participate every day throughout the entire school year) it seems to have evolved into something the students hold in high esteem,“ says Johnston.
In Their Own Words
Some testimonials from studnets in the S.W.A.T program:
Tanner Geringer (Grade 6 SWAT mentor): “I like the fact that it helps kids boost their level in reading. I think SWAT helps kids learn to be leaders.”
Carrena Filleul (Grade 6 SWAT mentor): “I like how SWAT helps kids improve their reading skills. I would recommend SWAT for other students because it’s really fun!”Maria Betker: (Grade 3 mentee): “SWAT has helped me read and helped me with my letters. I like how every Friday we have “Games Day”!!!
Liam Phillips: (Grade 2 mentee): “SWAT has helped me read and figure out the tools that help us to read. My favorite thing about SWAT is playing Koosh ball (Davis Learning strategies)!”
What is S.W.A.T. ?
The program has been running for 10 years and is the only program of its kind in Mission Public Schools and – as far as research shows – in the Lower Mainland.
“The SWAT leaders are always recognized and appreciated at our year-end assembly and they seem to take pride in shouldering the responsibility that results in that kind of recognition,” says Johnston.
One of the great advantages of the program is that it increases literacy of younger students and provides mentorship during a crucial period of their learning.
Geared towards students with learning disabilities, S.W.A.T. is currently one of the few schools in Western Canada implementing the Davis Learning Strategies method of teaching, which focuses on word recognition and comprehension through nontraditional learning styles
The program has helped create a culture of learning in school, so that students look forward to reaching Grades 5/6 in hopes of being selected as a S.W.A.T. leader
On a final note, Johnston adds, “I am retiring after 34 years of teaching and I am delighted I had the opportunity to improve our school SWAT program with the addition of the Davis Learning Strategies before my career comes to an end!”
About Davis Learning Strategies
The Davis Learning Strategies (DLS) method of teaching was developed to equip students with skills to help them learn by providing a method of instruction in word recognition and comprehension. Through work with clay, the students create their “own” alphabet and once they have mastered that move on to the traditional paper-and-pencil style of writing and reading. The strategies have been found to be beneficial for all students, regardless of learning style or reading level.