Reading, It’s Life!

ALTA Online: Your Questions Answered

i Jun 24th No Comments by

ALTA has asked the question: How can we deliver literacy instruction in an efficient, interactive way to members of the public who have not previously been able to participate in our community classes for one reason or another? The answer is ALTA Online.

Now we answer some of your frequently asked questions on this new offering.

What is ALTA Online?

An independent web-based literacy learning programme for ages 10+.

Who can sign up for ALTA Online?

Anyone aged 10 and over who finds reading difficult and has access to a computer or laptop.

How do I get into my ALTA Online lessons?

ALTA will WhatsApp the “How to Use Alta Online” video to show you step by step how to get to the site and how to enter your user name and password.

When can I do the ALTA Online lessons?

As it is on the internet, ALTA Online is available 24/7. You can login anytime to do some minutes or some hours of literacy learning.

Does ALTA Online have a teacher?

No. ALTA Online uses video, audio and pictures to teach followed by interactive activities and games to practise what was taught.

Do I need internet access?

Yes, internet or wifi access is required.

What is the cost of ALTA Online?

It’s $600 a book. When you do three books, you complete a literacy level.

I heard that ALTA is free, so why do I have to pay for ALTA Online?

While ALTA community classes taught by volunteer tutors are free, ALTA Online replaces the paid instruction offered at workplaces and through sponsored projects.

Now we ask you: Would you or someone you know benefit from improved literacy skills on your own schedule and at your own pace? If yes, ALTA Online is the answer.

Individual subscription packages are now available for purchase.

Contact us at 341-8668 or altaarima@alta-tt.org to get started.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

A Godsend

i Jun 17th No Comments by

ALTA Online, Level 1 is here and ready for the young and not-so-young to sign up! Individual subscription packages of ALTA Online for users aged 10 and over are now available for purchase. Contact us at 341-8668 or altaarima@alta-tt.org to get started.

For the school
population, this is just in time for the two-month vacation. Even in non-Covid
times, literacy skills are known to deteriorate during the long break from
school.

ALTA Online presents parents with a new opportunity to get their children ready for the school year, especially for children whose schooling has been inconsistent due to Covid and who have difficulty with reading and spelling.

ALTA Online teaches and practises reading and spelling skills, which are the foundation for all schooling. At a cost of $600 for each online book, ALTA Online Book 1 & 2 (total $1,200) can help teens and pre-teens meet their reading and spelling goals. Our pilot has shown that two online books can be completed comfortably within two months.

The Assessment for Placement in ALTA Online is free. Student assessments begin on 1 July, but registration is already open.

This article features feedback on ALTA Online from Faaida James, a trained ALTA tutor and Senior Special Education Instructor with Student Support Services. Below she shares her sentiments on the learning platform and its application for the students she serves.

Student Support Services Division of the Ministry of Education provides psycho-social support services to students which include specialised services for children with moderate and severe Special Educational needs, behavioural issues, clinical issues and career guidance. A number of ALTA Online’s pilot students were referred via SSSD.

Faaida James

Senior Special Education Instructor,
Student Support Services

As a senior Special Education
Instructor, working with students in the Laventille-Movant school project, I
have encountered over 65% of students needing literacy intervention. These
students were in both in the primary and secondary school system.

Being one individual with a large population of students to service, the ALTA Online programme was ideal, especially for the secondary school students.

The ALTA Online programme gave children the confidence, motivation, and encouragement to keep on trying. What is also great about this programme, is that it is a self-paced one wherein the student can sign on anytime of the day or night that he or she chooses.

What is very valuable is that this programme allows students to do their online classes with their teachers to complete the physical packages sent to them, and in their downtime they can login to ALTA Online – all in the comfort of their home.

In addition to the wonderful work that ALTA is doing with this online programme as it reaches many more students than one individual can reach, I admire their support desk. That is one integral part of ALTA programme, wherein they have a support desk that eliminates all the potential problems students might experience while engaging with the technology. So that is one other aspect of this programme that makes it work so well. Once glitches are identified they are rectified in quick time.

The ALTA Online programme is one of the best programmes out there, and I would recommend it to schools across Trinidad and Tobago for students who are struggling with literacy.

Keep up the good job ALTA. You are a Godsend!

If you or someone you know is interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Online: Here we Grow Again

i Jun 10th No Comments by

Our June articles continue to explore ALTA’s new offering – ALTA Online. This web-based programme of literacy instruction is built around Caribbean life skills content and designed for independent use by persons aged 10 and over who have low level reading and spelling skills.

In the first phase of the ALTA Online pilot, support from the UWI Campus Office of Planning and Institutional Research allowed for the creation of a Survey Monkey survey through which students were able to provide pointed feedback. This showed ALTA Online was well received by users.

Some key findings included 100% felt improved reading and spelling skills and are interested in continuing once more content becomes available. Over 90% would recommend ALTA Online to others to improve their reading. Specific pluses found were the ability to work from home, at their own pace and the ability to re-do activities.

This positive feedback shows that ALTA is on the right track, and we expect even more happy students as we continue to enhance the features of ALTA Online. In addition to adding Book 2 of Level 1, ALTA has added a game at the end of each lesson. These are modelled on the modified card games we have used successfully for years in our community classes.

Terry Ann Dickinson, one of our teen users, says that ALTA Online sparked her interest in learning. “ALTA helped me. I never really liked to read and the whole learning to read process used to make me kind of upset, but ALTA Online made reading fun to learn and the little games it had in between the videos made me interested in wanting to learn more, so I’m actually way better than I was before in my reading. I would really like to continue to improve even more!”

ALTA Online is expanding its support to students, continuing to make learning fun for them just as it has been for Terry Ann. ALTA has used the lessons learnt during the pilot to shape on-site implementation when schools and public spaces reopen, as well as continued individual home-based use.

ALTA now has a trained user support specialist to guide on-site mentors and directly assist students with sign up and log in, as well as act as a first point of contact for troubleshooting and linking to the development team.

But ALTA Online is intended for independent use, so ALTA has produced “How to Use ALTA Online” videos. These are sent by WhatsApp to users and have proved effective.

The ALTA Online Assessment Book, a tool developed to be used by prospective students to determine their starting level in ALTA Online, was successfully piloted with 128 users. This pilot confirmed:

  • Prospective students were able to use the Assessment Book independently with the aid of the ‘How to Use’ ALTA Online video
  • The Assessment Book efficiently places prospective students in the three ALTA literacy levels – Beginner (not offered by ALTA Online), Level 1 or Level 2 (2022).

ALTA Online is ready for school students to get their literacy skills up to par for the new academic year. As students continue to grapple with screen fatigue from the last year of remote learning, and in the continued absence of in-person schooling, ALTA Online would be best received during the July-August vacation.

Our next article will give details of the vacation plan for ALTA Online to reach school students.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Online – tried and tested

i Jun 3rd No Comments by

From May 2020 to April 2021, ALTA piloted its new signature initiative, ALTA Online. This web-based programme of literacy instruction is built around Caribbean life skills content and designed for independent use by persons aged 10 and over who have low level reading and spelling skills.

Sponsored by NGC as part of ALTA’s Above and Beyond Award, ALTA Online’s pilots 1 and 2 allowed real end users to test the robustness of the programme and to provide feedback for further development of the application and its public roll-out. Once the ALTA Online Readiness survey determined the project’s feasibility in terms of users’ access to a web-enabled PC, pilot 1 was underway.

A diverse group of users, both adults and children, representing a wide geographic spread, put ALTA Online to the test. Pilot 1 (May-August 2020) paired users with ALTA-trained mentor tutors who helped transition users into the online world and to garner their feedback. Pilot 2 (October 2020-March 2021) formalised ALTA Online User Support processes and brought new resources into ALTA Online to liaise directly with users, as well as offering Book 2 of Level 1.

ALTA intentionally split the ALTA Online pilot users fairly evenly between adults and teens/pre-teens. The majority of students in ALTA free community classes, including ALTA-V, are mature persons. It has always been difficult to persuade younger people in their 20s and 30s to face exposure of their ‘secret’ by joining a class. ALTA Online is designed to appeal to the younger age group so they can enter the workforce equipped with literacy.

One of our young pilot participants, Shakem Jack, was certainly pleased with the application, as he said: “The ALTA Online programme did help me. It’s kind of like a game – it was fun! I thank you for that.”

142 students improving their literacy through ALTA Online

The pandemic and its related physical distancing restrictions meant that schools and community centres have been closed throughout the project, so ALTA had to rely on students having access to their own laptops/PCs as these are required to access ALTA Online.

ALTA had to double or triple efforts to find persons with literacy needs who also had web-enabled home computers, and seek new partners, such as children’s homes with in-house computers and internet access where children were resident.

That said, 142 pilot participants is a major achievement given that this project was to be delivered onsite in schools and community centres using the computers and internet freely available there.

In next week’s article, look out for the results of our survey of pilot users with details of pilot user feedback. With the two phases of the pilot successfully completed, ALTA is ready to roll out to a range of subscribers starting in July.

If you or someone you know is interested in joining an ALTA-V class, enhancing their literacy through ALTA Online Level 1 or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Online imprints Chrissie Trace with innovative community model

i May 27th No Comments by

For the past 6 years, ALTA has been engrossed in the development of ALTA Online, our web-based programme of literacy instruction built around Caribbean life skills content and designed for independent use by persons aged 10 and over who have low-level reading and spelling skills.

In 2020, our readiness to place this tool in the hands of real-life users was put to the ultimate test – a pandemic which necessitated school closures and stringent adherence to physical distancing.

A unique approach overcame these challenges to bring ALTA Online free of charge to residents of Enterprise Chaguanas. Through a series of virtual meetings starting in November 2020, ALTA established a partnership with the community police and Unicomer (Trinidad) Ltd to offer ALTA Online at Chrissie Trace Recreational Facility, Enterprise as part of the NGC-funded Alta Online pilot.

This four-way partnership involving the T&T Citizens Alliance mobilized by Unicomer, Enterprise Community Police, NGC and ALTA has established a successful community implementation model, ready for replication and expansion once community spaces re-open.

Working with the TT Citizens Alliance, Unicomer sourced and installed at Chrissie Trace Recreational Facility 25 desktop computers with full internet connection. Unicomer also plays a coordinating role, acting as godfather to the project and making the critical initial link between ALTA and the community police.

With their finger on the pulse of the community of Enterprise, the outreach efforts of Sergeant Jacey Small, Officer Arnold Richards and the entire Central Division Police team raised awareness and interest in ALTA Online in January 2021. Officer Richards stressed that it is crucial for officers to know their area, with the key being building trust between officers and community leaders – and of course doing the footwork!

Coming out of this effort, some 33 students were assessed using ALTA’s online assessment tool, 29 of whom were placed into ALTA Online Book 1. Two opted to access ALTA Online from their web-enabled computer at home.

ALTA planned and managed the delivery of ALTA Online, trained eight community police officers as mentors and provided ongoing support and weekly check-ins.

On Tuesdays or Thursdays, Officer Arnold Richards opens the facility and provides support to the 17 students, children and adults, who regularly login to their ALTA Online account at Chrissie Trace. Officer Richards has shown an exceptional level of commitment and engagement, even providing a Wi-Fi hotspot with his mobile phone when the Wi-Fi was down at Chrissie Trace.

Officer Richards describes the ALTA Online experience like this: “When you interface with ALTA Online you realise how simple it is to use. People come with two phobias – reading and using the computer. When they start the assessment they might want to go after five minutes, but once you encourage then they see that they can do it. Everyone is very comfortable with the programme now.”

He points out that while support was needed in Week 1, especially with login (usernames and passwords) and navigation, by week 4 users knew what they had to do from the time they entered the centre to when they completed their lesson for the day. Younger users, who are the primary target group for ALTA Online, understood ALTA Online quickly. The biggest challenge for older users was learning how to use the mouse.

While the NGC pilot ended on 30 April, users continued to access ALTA Online at the Chrissie Trace facility. Covid-19 spike forced the temporary closure of the recreational facility. However, ALTA Online allows students who have access to their own web-enabled personal computers to continue using the programme at home.

The success of ALTA Online at Chrissie Trace assures us that ALTA Online is on track, as an effective mode of delivery for the ALTA programme. ALTA thanks the community police, Unicomer and NGC for bringing ALTA Online to Enterprise, and Republic Bank for supporting the long process of software development to produce ALTA Online.

With sponsorship, this promises to be a game-changer for ALTA’s expansion into communities never before served by our community class model and students whose schedules never permitted them to attend scheduled classes.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Spelling Myths vs Facts

i May 20th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories. For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling.

Over the past two weeks we have debunked some common spelling myths- from the idea that reading more will make one a better speller and that some people are weak spellers because they do not speak Standard English. Many people are literate – they’re able to read and write but still struggle with spelling.

Today we will look at some spelling facts which ALTA tutors are exposed to during training. These can be useful to teachers who work with poor spellers or even anyone who struggles with spelling.

FACT: Review is essential after learning to spell a word, to move it from short term to long term memory.

Memory is aided by frequency, recency and value. That is, we remember things best that we use or practise frequently that we have learned recently, and that are important or meaningful to us.

How we organise information can affect how we retrieve it from the long-term memory. The way we structure, associate and link information gives us ‘hooks’ for retrieving it. Meaning, pattern, rhythm, images and reciting all help. After a period of learning, recall rises for a short while (about ten minutes) and then falls steeply. 80 per cent of detail is forgotten after 24 hours. However, with proper review after ten minutes, then within 24 hours, again within a week, and so on, recall can be maintained long-term.

MYTH: There is one correct way to learn spelling.
Many ALTA students are embarrassed about the methods they use to learn spellings. They commonly believe that unless you can spell in your head you do not have the ‘right’ spelling approach. Oral spelling is not only an incredibly demanding and difficult way to spell, but also awkward and unrelated to the circumstances when we ordinarily use spelling – in writing.

Some people are able to learn to spell accurately without any (or very little) practice. Most times this is because they have excellent visual memories and can draw on this to remember how to spell. But only a small proportion of the people who write are like this.

Through experimenting with different spelling strategies ALTA students become successful spellers. It’s important to know that there are many effective ways of learning to spell and you just need to identify the ones that work for you.

MYTH: If you want to learn to spell, you should read more.
It is true that spelling is a sub-skill of writing and that writing is a language skill related to reading. However, as skills, the two activities differ enormously. The reading process is both more complex and less demanding than spelling. In reading, we do not want to concentrate on the ordering of each letter in a word in order to get meaning from the text.

We want to read as efficiently and quickly as possible in order to understand the content of what we read. Reading is dependent on recognition skills. Spelling, on the other hand, is dependent on skills of recall. To spell accurately, we must remember all the letters, in sequence. We must pay attention to detail.

ALTA looks forward to the launch of the ALTA Spelling Chart in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

Spelling Myths vs Facts

i May 13th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories. For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling.

Nevertheless many associate one’s ability to spell with their intelligence. In the same way that some people need to work harder than others to develop their reading and writing skills, spelling skills also take practice. This week we continue sharing some common spelling myths which many believe to be fact. If you’d like to see what you missed be sure to check our Facebook page: ALTA TT

MYTH: You make spelling mistakes because you don’t speak properly.

Both Creole English and Standard English pronunciation cause spelling mistakes. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. Since the English spelling system is irregular and compels us to learn words visually (how they look) as well as how they sound, all English language learners are in the same position when learning to spell. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. For example, people who pronounce ‘b a t h’ as ‘barth’ will have to visualise the word to eliminate the ‘r’ sound. People who pronounce ‘t h r e e’ as ‘tree’ will have to visualise the ‘h’.

FACT: Guessing at how to spell a word helps learning.

It’s important to understand that if we make a guess at how a word is spelled, even if it is wrong, we are attempting to apply to print what we know about the English language; that is, we are forming a hypothesis, or theory, about a spelling. This ‘having a theory’ about something makes us more likely to remember an amendment or correction to our guess than to remember a spelling we have never attempted. Thus guessing helps learning.

Less emphasis should be placed on correctness in spelling than on better guesses. Students who have significant spelling problems or who are beginner writers should be encouraged to invent spellings and then be given a correct version if the piece needs to be rewritten.

MYTH: When you are writing, you should stop at every word you cannot spell and look it up in the dictionary.

Dictionary skills are useful is some contexts, but of limited applicability with beginning spellers or students with spelling difficulties. Many students have had only frustrating experiences with dictionaries. If the student’s guess at a spelling puts him or her in the wrong section (for example, ‘inuff’ for ‘enough’), then a week spent in the ‘i’ section of the dictionary will only leave the student furious at words, writing and language in general. Dictionaries are useful, however, for students who are making minor spelling errors such as ‘independant’ for ‘independent’; ‘compleately’ for ‘completely’; ‘seperate’ for ‘separate’, etc.

Look out for the third segment of Spelling myths and facts in next week’s column. Look out for the ALTA Spelling Chart coming in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

SPELLING – MYTHS VS FACTS

i May 6th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories, that is, they can remember the letters and their exact order in a word just by looking at the word once or twice.

For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling. Written English is phonetic, that is, it uses letters to represent the sounds within words. Therefore to spell a word you must identify the sounds in it and write the letter that corresponds to each sound.

However because English has taken words from many other languages, many of the sounds may be spelt in more than one way. It’s important to use rules and strategies when learning to spell or practising spelling but even then, it is quite a difficult skill for some to master. Unfortunately many associate ability to spell with intelligence. In the same way that some people need to work harder than others to develop their reading and writing skills, spelling skills also take practice.

There are many myths surrounding spelling, which many believe to be facts. Today we happily kick off a new “myths vs facts” series with the loyal readers of our column.

MYTH: There is no logic or pattern to English spelling. That’s why it’s so hard.
The fact that the English spelling system is not 100% phonetically regular (it is, in fact, 85% regular) does not mean there are no conventions or regularities which can make sense of the spelling system. Learning these patterns or rules makes spelling much easier. It is easier to learn the exceptions than all the words in the language. Dyslexics need to be taught these rules and patterns since their brain does not pick these up as they don’t think sequentially.

FACT: The sound of a word is a guide to how you spell it.
Knowledge of the letter–sound relationship is essential to spelling. While English is not completely phonetic, the sound of a word does enable you to write a readable version of the word or give you options to choose from. Knowing spelling rules and choices as well as phonics guides you to the right spelling.

However sounds cannot be relied on as your only spelling strategy. Once a word is not phonetically regular, teachers should help students and praise efforts that represent the sound, even if the spelling is not correct, e.g. becus for because.

In next week’s instalment of this series we will continue to look at more spelling myths and facts.
Look out for the brand new ALTA Spelling Chart coming in June.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.
Keep up to date with ALTA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

A word for our sponsors

i Apr 29th No Comments by

Many hands make light work. For
28 years ALTA has trained and managed scores of volunteers to ensure a high
standard of delivery of the only national programme of literacy instruction for
adults. The course content and materials design have all been created in-house
by dedicated educators led by ALTA’s CEO and Founder Paula-Lucie-Smith, with
the goal of bringing reading and writing within reach. People are at ALTA’s
core. Through their tangible investment, our dedicated sponsors lend a helping
hand and become part of this core support.

Committed sponsors have always
been integral to ALTA’s work to bring literacy into every home. They share our
passion and support our work to develop, expand, and improve upon our offerings
to the public. Today we highlight them for their generosity and thank them for
placing their trust in us. One such sponsor is long-standing partner, Republic
Bank Limited, through their Power to Make a Difference initiative.

Republic Bank has provided
support to a number of our free community classes, the development of ALTA’s
web-based literacy instruction tool ALTA Online and to ALTA’s Reading Circles.
What a difference we will make as ALTA Online continues to shatter barriers to
literacy by bringing the classroom to the student!

As ALTA’s Youth Lit sponsor,
the Bermudez Biscuit Company ensures that students aged 9 to 15 are able to
acquire the reading skill they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Precipitated by the pandemic, ALTA has developed ALTA-V, which allows for the
teaching of literacy via Zoom. Youth Lit students who are currently in the
formal school system have also benefitted from this shift to ALTA’s virtual
classroom and from ALTA Online.

Youth Lit Coordinator, Judith
Affoo explained she sees “an even greater need for the Youth Lit programme as
many would have been left even further behind unable to cope with the virtual
schoolwork.” The youngsters in this highly subscribed programme are grateful
for Bermudez Biscuit Company’s continued pledge of support.

In 2020, ALTA was given the nod
as The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago’s Above and Beyond Stand
Tall awardee. With this award came the means to execute our I am ALTA student
registration campaign, the pilot of the ALTA Online programme and the
production of the soon to be launched ALTA Spelling Chart.

The Fernandes Foundation has
also been a welcome partner, with recent support of operational costs not
traditionally covered by donors.

Phoenix Park Gas Processors
Limited has championed the cause of literacy and ALTA’s work in the field for a
number of years. ALTA was recently recognized as the beneficiary of PPGPL’s
Gift to the Nation. The award was an investment in our resource capacity as it
facilitated ALTA’s Tutor Training Course in 2020 – giving us the funding to
develop and deliver the first virtual tutor training. PPGPL’s corporate social
responsibility is also extended to sponsorship of students in their fence line
communities in Central Trinidad.

We acknowledge Price
Philanthropies for their quiet support of ALTA’s work through multi-year Deeds
of Covenant, which ensure continuity of our free community classes in East
Trinidad. So too has the Massy Foundation been a significant supporter of our
community classes in and around Port of Spain.

ALTA is also honoured to thank
our many student sponsors and private donors both cash and in-kind, some of
whom choose to remain anonymous. Their contributions go a long way in helping
us in our mission to empower lives through literacy.

Together we lighten the shared
work of helping our fellow citizens.

If you or someone you know is
interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call
624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT

ALTA Youth Lit in Virtual Motion

i Apr 22nd No Comments by

ALTA Youth Lit Coordinator and
tutor Judith Affoo continues her account of teaching the ALTA literacy
programme to teens and pre-teens. This week Judith describes the impact of
Covid-19 on Youth Lit.

The last intake of Youth Lit students started in October 2019. On the 13th March 2020 classes were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially, we thought this would be for a limited time and at some point, classes would resume. Plans for this were made, but they could not be implemented as schools remained shut.

Towards the end of 2020 we
realized this was not going to be possible. To complete the programme, a
decision was made to offer the Level 2 children virtual classes using Zoom and
to offer the Level 1 students ALTA Online. Nine Level 1 students had personal
computers with internet access and have been working through ALTA Online Book
1, now largely independently. We continue to work to find a way for the other
Level 1 students to gain access to web-enabled computers to improve their
literacy via ALTA Online.

As the start day for the
virtual classes approached, I was excited about seeing the children again. On
the first day, however, it was apparent that these were not the same children.
They were lethargic and apathetic and a shadow of their former selves. Many
were home alone all day unsupervised as their parents were working.

Despite the fact that they said
they had been doing online school, they had regressed with their reading
ability. I realized that this was going to be a challenge and that I had to
find some way to engage them. The first task was to get them to keep their cameras
on as they were accustomed to doing school classes with their cameras off.

The next step was to get them
involved in doing something. We started with reviewing spelling words by using
the chat feature. I would call a word and they would type the word in the chat
to the whole group. This proved a success and something they enjoyed while
learning the spelling at the same time.

Reading was done in pairs using
the breakout room feature. The students enjoyed working with a partner to
decode words and later on I introduced challenges and puzzles for them to
solve. I also gave them the opportunity to share their screen with the class to
show something they had written. It was heartening to see some of the children
become excited about the classes with many saying they were sorry for the
classes to end.

Looking forward, I hope for the
children’s sake that we get them back to in-person school soon. I see an even
greater need for the Youth Lit Programme as many would have been left even
further behind unable to cope with the virtual schoolwork.

On behalf of ALTA and the
students of Youth Lit, I would like to thank NALIS and the Bermudez Biscuit
Company for making this programme possible. Together we can ensure that many
more children will receive the help they need for many years to come.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email altapos.tt@gmail.com.

Keep up to date with ALTA on
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: ALTA TT