* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

Amazing Free Digital Resources for Teaching Phonics

Amazing Free Resource for Teaching Phonics | Best Youtube Phonics Videos

As a Youth Literacy Advisor tutoring struggling readers in rural Jamaica, I started out with no curriculum, limited resources, and no formal teaching experience to lean on. Fortunately, thanks to the opportunity to shadow another Peace Corps Volunteer, I learned about an invaluable resource at my disposal.

Over my two years of service in the school, this one tool saved me much-needed energy and increased the effectiveness of my teaching. It kept my students’ attention better than any game I could conjure, and it clearly helped concepts stick better in their memory.

I’m talking about youtube videos.

My Own Jamaican Letter Sound Video!

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I’ve been using all the videos below for two years now, but not one of them was made specifically for Jamaican students. The accents in the shows are either American or British, and they refer to things like yachts and violins (which have little meaning to the kids).

Because phonics is such an important skill that is often missing from Jamaican students’ repertoire, I used the videos I had, and it was effective. But all along, I was looking for something truly Jamaican. I didn’t find anything, so I finally ended up making my own video.

I drew the pictures based on phonics materials I found in Jamaican schools. Then I trained a bunch of my students to do the chant and featured their voices in the audio. Resources were limited, and I wish the quality was better. I hope that some day, someone else will take it to the next level. Regardless, my dream is that this video can be used as a resource across the island- by Peace Corps Volunteers and Jamaican teachers alike.

Please help me share it!

How to Use Videos Offline

kids watching show

In Peace Corps, internet access is not always guaranteed. Fortunately, you don’t actually need the internet at school to use youtube videos in your lessons!

Using sites like SaveVid, you can actually download them in formats like .wmv, mp4, .mov, etc. When I was starting out, I basically went to the internet cafe and searched youtube for the concepts I needed to reinforce with my students (i.e. letter sound song, short vowel sounds). I then copy and pasted the youtube URL into SaveVid, saved the files to a thumb drive, and transferred them onto an iPad or laptop for later use.

Best Free Videos for Teaching Phonics

Continue reading “Amazing Free Digital Resources for Teaching Phonics”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

“These children will never forget you.”

Ladies in the education sector, April 2012 (Sue is behind me in blue)
Ladies in the education sector, April 2012 (Sue is behind me in blue)

Introducing: Sue W.
A gifted child, Sue grew up in a community where she and her mother were taught by- and interacted with- a number of Peace Corps Volunteers over the years. If I remember correctly, she later befriended a Volunteer who, now returned to the States, is her best friend. Sue is a trained Jamaican teacher but she also started working part-time with Peace Corps as a community liaison or a Language & Culture Facilitator when volunteer training groups came to her town. Eventually she was promoted and is now in charge of PCJ’s Education sector, which makes her my supervisor.

Sue’s Story (transcribed from a video)
Where I come from, we’ve always had Peace Corps Volunteers. So, my mother was taught to sew by a volunteer in the 60’s when volunteers were focusing on vocational work. And as a result of that, my mother was able to make uniforms for us to go to school, and she didn’t have to spend the money that she didn’t have on uniforms because she had that skill. And so today, I learned

Continue reading ““These children will never forget you.””

* Life Updates, * Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

Boys Camp

I’ve spent the last month and a half assessing a long list of low-achieving students provided by each teacher. One at a time, I pulled them out of class and sat down with them to find out about their home life, their interests, and also their reading level. Using the Jamaican Ministry of Education’s reading diagnostic tool, I determined that most of the kids I saw were still confusing some letter names, were not familiar with saying the sounds that letters make, had no concept of how to sound out an unfamiliar word, and didn’t know the sight words for their grade level. From first through fifth grade, about 1/3 of the students at the school were below their reading level with a vast majority reading below the first grade level (including many fifth graders).

Jedd teaches life skills with a game for the boys

But this week was the start of summer, and the guidance counselor and I had put together a two-day program for some of the low-achieving boys. Continue reading “Boys Camp”

* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps, Videos

PCJ Education Sector Volunteers

Today is our last day of “Hub training” where the eleven of us education volunteers have been meeting for the past five weeks. We have successfully completed our practicum assignments, which involved tutoring two primary school students in literacy over a period of two weeks, as well as other education and patois language-related assignments. We’ve heard from a number of presenters, including several from various branches of Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, and we’ve even toured some important sites to the country’s education system on our field trips. As the Jamaicans say, we’re “ready fi touch di road” (sort of like: “ready to hit the road running”). They often tell us that although five weeks is not enough to prepare us for everything, we are prepared enough to begin our work and go until our next training in September (Early Service Conference). We’ve also learned a lot outside the classroom, namely with our wonderful host families who feed, house, and watch out for us while we’ve been here. We will be leaving our host families on Sunday afternoon and heading back to Kingston where we’ll (finally!!) find out our site placements for the next two years.

A 5th grade class on break tells me all about what they’re learning in school

I’ve been working on several videos lately but in an effort to get something posted quickly and have it not be too lengthy, the first video (posted above) is simply some interviews of the education trainees who have spent the last five weeks with me. Hopefully you’ll get a taste for the diversity of volunteers who are in my group as well as some idea of what it’s like to be an education trainee. The next video will include more of the sites and activities we’ve experienced in our time at Hub training. Until then…


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Nicaragua Service-Learning Trip: Recap Video

The following video is a recap of my (Michelle’s) Nicaragua Immersion in May, in which I had the opportunity to accompany a group of 18 university students and one other staff member on a 3-week service-learning program. The video shows just a glimpse of all that is involved in the process of our Center’s service-learning programs, which are coordinated by student leaders, and require a sizable commitment of preparation and fundraising from students for the entire academic year. Once in Nicaragua, you can see what a range of issues we encountered and how students were changed from the experience. This is one of the most powerful, educational experiences I’ve ever participated in; I hope you can tell from the students’ testimonies in this video how much it impacted them as well.