Founded as the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, HANAC works to "develop, implement, and administer the operation of service programs for the betterment of the community." -HANAC Mission Statement
The Literacy Club at Saint Demetrios Middle School
HANAC's after-school literacy program, The Literacy Club, is located in Saint Demetrios Middle School. The program serves 6th, 7th and 8th grade students, is staffed by certified teachers from the school, and led by two of the top school administrators. The schools Chief School Administrator has an extensive history in the education field and is the onsite program director. Our Education Coordinator/Assistant Director has a Masters in Literacy and Doctorate In Education. Together, they form a solid foundation for program leadership along with HANAC staff. HANAC has a proud history of operating the literacy program since its inception in 2011 and works side by side with Saint Demetrios staff. Because the program is run and staffed by staff from the school, HANAC has a very strong school partnership, which results in access to school resources. The program had resided at Oliver Wendell Holmes IS 204 until June 2017.
Examining Social Problems: During the 2017 school year, students in The Literacy Club at St. Demetrios examined social problems that confront the world today, and the underlying shared values, ethics, and diverse perspectives that contribute to those problems. The course presented a broad range of social problems. Students presented the current research data that explained both the causes and possible resolutions to important social issues. iMovie was used to create the short movies. --Steve Tsividakis, Technology teacher.
Twisted Fairy Tales: During the Spring 2016, The HANAC adolescent literacy program at IS204, the Literacy Club, took on the “Twisted Fairy Tale" project, in which each student chose a classic fairytale, analyzed it for plot, theme, character, and conflict, and then “twisted” the fairy tale, by updating it to contemporary times, placing it in a particular historical setting, or writing an alternate ending. One student, for instance, reworked “Hansel and Gretel” to take place in 1930’s Germany, with Hansel and Gretel as Jewish children fleeing the "evil witch": Adolf Hitler. Originally conceived as a short-term project of a few sessions for a one-page story, the project was expanded when students showed great engagement with the process and expressed the desire to write longer works. Because of the flexibility of the program, teachers followed their students' lead and extended the project, resulting in students' creating and publishing books, many of which were 15 pages or longer. Taking a slight step away from high technology, students wrote and illustrated their stories in blank books that teachers purchased through Amazon.
Preparing for the State Common Core English Language Arts Exams As early as February 2017, IS 204 began preparing its students to achieve on upcoming State ELA Exams by staging Mock Tests in which actual testing conditions were simulated, complete with proctors, room assignments, accommodations, timing, and scannable answer sheets. Teachers created mock exams using questions they selected from previous exams found on EngageNY, a New York State Education Department web that has valuable resources pertaining to Common Core learning standards, professional development for teachers, and information for parents and families about the standards. All students sat the Mock ELA State Exams twice, in February before the actual test administration in late March 2017.
There were multiple benefits to such a school-wide test simulation:
Teachers and administrators were able to address logistical issues of preparing the actual exams, proctoring scheduling, practice grading, and work out the kinks around the days of untimed testing (such as: where to place students who finished early, programming of classes, etc);
Students became more familiar with the test itself, reducing both cognitive and psychological stress that usually occurs during the testing period;
Teachers and administrators were able to use the data collected from the tests to pinpoint the content, skills, aspects of the exam, test-taking strategies on which students needed additional practice.
Literacy Club teachers, having direct access to this data, then designed afetr-school workshops through which students would rotate in stations. Students were clustered in small learning groups and rotated through the stations based upon the challenge areas that showed up on their mock test results. Teachers could use the data to drive instruction, placing increased focus upon topics such as figurative language, text-to-text connections, and author's purpose. Students were also able to received more individualized attention around practicing test-taking skills, such as process of elimination, reading questions before reading passages, and drafting for longer response answers.
Tips for Test Preparation Educators at IS 204 believe that more can be gained from practice tests in the after-school setting than practice testing for the sake of testing. By using the data that can be culled from practice tests, cognitive and skills "fault lines" can be addressed and targeted, thus creating opportunity for planning that is intentionally geared around what students actually need to work on.
In addition, after-school educators can:
familiarize themselves with the Common Core test and standards through EngageNY, since all of the standards, grade-by-grade rubrics, and archived exams are there
know the rubrics for writing (also found on EngageNY)
use practice tests to develop fun and engaging literacy-based activities
group students in learning clusters based upon common needs to be addressed
In February 2016, The Literacy Club at IS204 continued to integrate technology with literacy with a Neighborhood Culture project. In this project, students selected and did independent internet-based research on a neighborhood of their choosing — defined in this context as a locale not their own. Using information obtained from their research and guided by structured prompts, students discussed various aspects of their chosen neighborhood’s culture, such as native food, geography, and demographics.
Thematic Units: During Fall 2015, the Literacy Club students at I.S. 204Q engaged in exploration of Identity with a thematic unit entitled "Who am I? What's important to me?" Technology Integration and Projects: I.S. 204Q has a magnet grant and was able to purchase MacBook Air laptops for students. The entire school is on Google Drive. With these resources and systems in place, students created Google Slide presentations as the final stage of the thematic unit on Identity.