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Students teach to learn

Suffolk students on Monday shared the gift of reading with young children using holiday-themed stories, interactive lessons and creative presentations.

Twenty-one John F. Kennedy Middle School eighth-graders traveled to Booker T. Washington Elementary School to teach kindergarten, third- and fourth-grade students. The middle schoolers are part of the school’s Literacy Strategy courses for students that have reading difficulties.

Literacy Strategy courses were organized last year, and hundreds of students between John Yeates, King’s Fork, Forest Glen and John F. Kennedy middle schools are active in the courses this semester, Forest Glen Middle School literacy teacher Caren Bueshi said.

“We try to make the classes more exciting with these field trips that teach reading in a non-traditional way,” Bueshi said, adding that the best way to learn is to teach.

Literacy Strategy students read “The Legend of the Christmas Tree,” “When Santa was a Kid,” and other stories to the elementary schoolers, who then identified the main ideas, supporting details and vocabulary words.

Mikaya Artis, 14, taught vocabulary words from “An Unlikely Parasite: The Mistletoe.”

“It’s close to Christmas time, and I thought they would want to read something like this,” Mikaya said about her choice of reading.

Some of the younger students were surprised when they learned mistletoe is actually a parasite.

“I just knew that you could hang them up on doors,” said third-grader Madison Darden, 8.

Flash cards and bags of mistletoe reinforced lessons as younger students recited passages back to their older counterparts.

Mikaya said the younger students were attentive, respectful and very smart.

“When we were reading, they knew the vocabulary words and had no problem pronouncing them, and they did a good job on the main ideas,” she said.

Some students went beyond reading to the younger ones and taught with creativity.

John F. Kennedy literacy teacher Ariane Williams said her students spent months creating their own PowerPoint shows and other presentations to go with their own poems and short stories. One group even made a puppet show with characters that represented different synonyms and antonyms.

These presentations were based on Standards of Learning topics for each of the grade levels, she said.

“They went out of their way to create different activities for the particular lessons that they were doing,” she said.

Booker T. Washington teacher Christy Whitener said this partnership between the schools is mutually beneficial.

“I think the little ones like seeing and interacting with the older students, and I think it’s a great confidence boost for the older ones that struggle a bit with reading,” Whitener said.