One of the challenges in the OECS is a lack of culturally relevant books for students and the Bloom software makes it easy to create simple relatable books. The software is so user-friendly that primary school students are also being encouraged to create their own books to engender more reading throughout the OECS.
Thus far a total of approximately 130 teachers have been trained across the OECS, with training still ongoing in Saint Lucia. These learning sessions are enabling teachers to create books with content that would facilitate learning in a more culturally relevant way. Teachers know their students and curriculum, and therefore have the opportunity to create tailor-made books that can address specific topics and meet the needs of their students. Teachers with basic computer skills who participated in the sessions felt well equipped and confident to go back to the schools and teach the students how to create and publish their own books.
The creation of books by students facilitates and enhances reading and writing skills. Further, when the students create content that they are interested in, they are keen to read and share their publications. This fuels creativity, critical thinking and stimulates interest in reading and writing.
Dominica held one of the most recent Bloom Software training sessions with 48 primary school teachers. According to the facilitator and ELP Coordinator Carine Burnette:
“The programme is quite important as it gives teachers or anyone who wants to write, the opportunity to generate and express ideas. The software further enables the teachers to publish their books for utilization within the classroom setting. The teachers had the opportunity to create content that was relevant to the students in their classrooms and the specific lessons that they are working on to make the subject more interesting and relevant. Language, characters and activities within the books can be specifically related to the Caribbean lifestyle which enhances the reading and learning process. The teachers were very enthusiastic about going back to the classroom to use the software and share it with their students.”
About OECS/USAID ELP:
OECS/USAID Early Learners Programme is a Programme within the Education Development Management Unit of the OECS Commission and was established in March 2015 to improve the reading skills of children in the early primary grades with the goal of providing a foundation for improved learning outcomes and enhanced opportunities for students in the six (6) independent Member States of the OECS (Antigua and Barbuda, The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
To date the ELP has achieved a number of tangible outputs with over 17,000 learners reached at the Primary level, over 1500 Grades K to 3 teachers supported through job embedded professional development, 1426 lessons observed and 1031 coaching sessions with teachers have been completed by ELP Coordinators. Further, 60 schools across the Member States have received development grants to support reading enhancement projects and 173,114 teaching and learning materials have been provided to 750 classrooms across the OECS. The OECS/USAID ELP will run through to September 2020 continuing to develop and implement impactful initiatives that advance early grade reading throughout the OECS.