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Bring Trainee Teachers Closer to Schools and Create a Literacy Program

Bring Trainee Teachers Closer to Schools and Create a Literacy Program
Lectures at UINSA now more often use an active learning approach. Students also spend more time in the madrasah from the beginning of their courses.

SURABAYA, EAST JAVA –  In 2016, the Islamic Primary School Teacher Education (PGMI) program at UIN (State Islamic University) Sunan Ampel Surabaya (UINSA) started a program to bring trainee teachers closer to schools starting in their early semesters. Some courses require students to conduct activities in schools. Activities range from simply observing lessons, discussions or interviews with teachers in schools, to the observation of differences between individual students and how to deal with them, and practicums using team teaching supported by teacher tutors in the schools.

Changes have also occurred in the PPL (teaching practice) course. Previously, studies were confined to the campus. Starting in 2016, trainee teachers have been involved in schools.

"They are assigned to observe lessons and find things that need to be improved. Then, back on their campus they draw up lesson plans based on the results of their observations," said Dr. Evi Fatimatur Rusydiyah, a lecturer at UINSA, who is also a USAID PRIORITAS training facilitator and who participated in a short study on the preparation of prospective teachers at Michigan State University (MSU).

Meanwhile Rizka Safriyani MPd, a lecturer in English language, also often involves teachers in the partner schools of UINSA in reviewing the work of her students. "My undergraduates asked to visit the school to observe the teaching of English there, and they also discussed their own work from their English course with the teachers and received their inputs," she said.

Creating a Literacy Program

UINSA, in cooperation with the National Archive and Library in Surabaya, is currently developing 56 leveled reading books for early grade students in primary schools. Leveled reading books are adapted to the levels of student reading ability. The contents of the books start with just one word and a picture for students who are starting to learn how to read, to higher levels which consist of several paragraphs and pictures for students who are already reading fluently.

"The creation of these leveled reading books support an 'accelerated literacy' program to develop the skills of students in Surabaya. The leveled reading books donated by USAID have become the inspiration for and a reference in making our own leveled reading books," added Evi.

UINSA is one of 17 partner TTIs (Teacher Training Institutes) and 13,000 schools that have received a grant of a total of 8 million leveled books from USAID. The lecturers have also been trained in the use of these reading books to increase the reading abilities and interests of students in the early grades in the primary school.

The team began by researching relevant local content in the Surabaya area to be used as topics in the leveled reading books. The local content in question is related to tourist attractions, historic sites, traditional food, and much more. They also considered the design of leveled books relevant to madrasah students in Surabaya, with attention paid to the selection of vocabulary, the appropriateness of illustrations, the print layout, content and concepts.

After developing the written material, the team began to think about pictures to illustrate the books. The concept was that on each page of each book there would be writing and pictures that make children interested in reading the book. The pictures in the books are photos or drawings. For example, in the yellow book entitled Surabaya Zoo, the cover image is a photograph of two children posing happily with Surabaya zoo in the background. The content of the book consists of one paragraph on each page, with each paragraph consisting of two sentences. Beside the text are photographs showing the children's activities at Surabaya zoo.

"Dicky and Amel saw a deer in the zoo," is one of the sentences in the book. "This book will familiarize the students with a variety of interesting things in Surabaya, and build awareness of the need to maintain and preserve them," said Evi.

The book covers were given different colors to indicate their levels. Seven colors were used, namely purple, red, yellow, green, blue, brown, and orange.

One set of books consisting of seven titles has been successfully completed. In total, there will be eight sets of books with 56 titles. A limited edition of the seven titles has been printed and in early 2017 a team of librarians in Surabaya used them to assess the reading ability of students in early grades in primary schools in Surabaya. The other books are still being validated by experts.

Creating KKN About Literacy

In an effort to encourage students to enjoy reading books, since the beginning of 2016 UINSA has implemented a student community service program on promoting literacy. The community literacy program is an option (alongside regular community service programs) where students do internships in the libraries of madrasah or pesantren for 6 months. In this program UINSA works in cooperation with the National Archive and Library in Surabaya, especially in selecting prospective students to take part in the program.

UINSA rector, Prof Dr Abd A'la, said that cooperation with the USAID PRIORITAS program had resulted in teaching and learning methods that were more enjoyable for students who have become much more active and involved, rather than just listening and memorizing as in the past. (Dkd/Anw)?

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