Literacy Classes at San Francisco International High School Teach Reading and a Sense of Community
By Guest Blogger Vlada Teper, Literacy Teacher, San Francisco International High School
San Francisco International High School (SFIHS) Literacy Classes include five sections, four sections of 9/10th graders and one section of 11th graders. Literacy Class empowers students not only to improve their literacy skills – reading and writing in English – and develop a student identity, but also to become advocates for their learning while developing a sense of community inside SFIHS and out.
The growth students have made in all the areas above is tangible. Students take turns leading classes, calling on peers to read class objectives, share opening answers and facilitate fluency practice. After a fieldtrip to the local public library, they now read books at home and know how to renew their books online. Two of the classes have seniors as TAs, themselves former Literacy Class students. Reyna and Hongwan don’t just give answers, either; they guide underclassmen to look for their own answers to questions.
There is a palpable sense of community in the classes. When a student has been absent, others take responsibility for catching the student up, like helping with binder organization and identifying what work they are missing. When a brand new student starts the class peers jump in to translate, introduce the class and integrate the student into the community.
Literacy students have completed two projects and are now completing a third: letters to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proposing solutions to the housing crisis in the city. Recent immigrants to the US, the teenagers are becoming civically engaged members of the San Francisco Bay Area community.
By Kyle Halle-Erby, Span Program Coordinator, San Francisco International High School
Literacy classes fit in to SFIHS’s commitment to continuing education as our solution to remediation. Many of our students come to us with interrupted formal education. Many of these students are not literate in their first language and face increasing barriers to academic success in English. Literacy class provides a space for students to develop fundamental literacy skills, while still engaging in cognitively demanding, pre-college coursework.