BTC Moves toward Partnership with Highest Scoring School on International PIRLS Reading Exam

April 25, 2018
 
On a recent visit to the Nadeen School by four Bahrain Teachers College (BTC) faculty members, as well as the dean, discussions about reading strategies, teacher professional development, and literacy curricula took place in a cozy corner of the school's faculty resources library. Hosted by Headteacher Elaine Brennan and Deputy Headteacher and English Leader Abigail White, the visit lasted most of the school day and involved a tour, a discussion of Nadeen School curriculum and instructional practices, and a planning meeting for a comprehensive partnership between the school at the BTC.
 
Having initiated the visit and the partnership, Dean Ted Purinton believes that having close connections to schools is valuable for faculties of education. "This visit commences a long-term relationship that allows the successful literacy strategies at the Nadeen School to permeate the curriculum and teaching at the BTC," he said. "While we as faculty members look toward theory and evidence to guide our teaching, as a professional college, it is important for us to also see our work in practice." Purinton explained that the partnership is seen as valuable to the Nadeen School, as well: "This is a school that has been operating in Bahrain for many decades, and the staff members feel very grateful to the country and the Ministry of Education for the constant support they receive. They not only want to give back to Bahrain, but they also want to learn about the successful strategies used across the country to teach Arabic."
 
Dr. Amal Al Zayed, Head of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the BTC, joined on the trip. Al Zayed expressed that her attraction to the school is based on the complementary attention they provide to vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension; she indicated that “teaching our students in the Arabic department these various strategies of literacy and assessment will help them become excellent teachers.”
 
Dr. Zainab Allaith, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, also joined in the visit: “Literacy instruction is not a set of boxed tools that are to be brought out during ‘Arabic’ or ‘English’ class; instead, literacy represents the quality of our thought in all areas of life, and hence, a good teacher, regardless of specialization, is a literacy teacher throughout the day. Her interest in this emerging partnership is to allow BTC students to observe high quality literacy instruction so that they understand how to match theory and practice.
 
Many ideas for collaboration came from the school visit. One that will likely be pursued soon, according to Purinton, is training and education for writers of children's literature and adolescent literature in Arabic. Purinton states, "While we can certainly raise reading performance through classroom instructional strategies, it is especially important that we build a culture that enjoys reading at all ages. Many books written for children and adolescents in Arabic are not very interesting to all readers of these ages. With a rich storytelling culture, the Arabic speaking world can, with BTC's leadership, encourage the development of age-appropriate literature that attracts children and youth to become immersed in reading."
 
One of the most important aspects that the faculty saw from this emerging partnership was the recognition of the gaps regarding the culture of reading that contributes to literacy achievement. Dr. Parween Ebrahim, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, who also attended the visit, said, “Selecting quality books for children is of utmost importance to develop in them a life-long attachment to books and reading. In this regard, the word ‘to magpie’ came up during our tour of the Nadeen School. In European folklore, a magpie is a bird that collects shiny objects. I thought that using the word as a verb was a curious riff on the noun. The teachers insisted that they used the word to reflect their practice in introducing the best of books and encouraging their students to ‘magpie’ the language patterns and ideas in those books.
Now imagine if we were to encourage more and more of our children to become book magpies.” Ebrahim insisted that to instill a love of reading among children in the country is easily attainable, especially with so many good examples all around us.
 
The visit will be followed with many future partnership activities, including collaborative visits to public schools, development of new teacher education curricula, and joint professional development. Mr. Sami Rahmouni, Instructor in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, who also attended the visit, suggested that the school is a “living testimony that building sustainable literacy experiences does not require huge resources.” Rather, it involves what he noted as a school culture predicated on the “rhythm of learners.”
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