Sessions focus on teaching AVID students

Maya Lowe, left, a sophomore at Kubasaki High School reads during her AVID class Thursday, while Briana Adam, also a sophomore, reviews her notes. Maya, who has been in AVID since 8th grade, said the class has helped hone her time management skills. “I feel like my priorities are set straight,” she said.


Instructors work to develop demanding classes that boost kids’ self-motivation

By NATASHA LEE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 30, 2008

TORII STATION, Okinawa — AVID teachers from around the Pacific met last week to swap strategies and learn new methods for grooming their students for success.

The Advancement Via Individual Determination program is an elective, college-preparatory class that helps middle and high school students sharpen study habits and boost academic achievement.

Keeping students motivated is often a hurdle for teachers, said Shirley Cottle, who teaches AVID at Matthew C. Perry High School in Iwakuni, Japan.

AVID targets underachieving students who have the potential to score higher academically.

AVID class work focuses on organization, time management, analytical and critical thinking, and a note-taking system that helps students memorize and analyze their work.

"They can be overwhelmed at first, because they’ve never been put on the spot to produce as far as organization, how they take notes and how that transfers over to real work," Cottle said.

About 45 teachers from schools in Guam and the Pacific attended the annual conference at the headquarters of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific on Okinawa.

Teachers focused on ways to improve AVID students’ ability to formulate and ask questions regarding class- and homework and problem-solving collaboration amongst their peers, said Brandi Johansen, Instructional Systems Specialist for AVID in the Pacific.

The methods tie into AVID’s emphasis on writing, inquiry, collaboration and reading, or WICR, Johansen said.

"We train students to ask higher-level questions to find meaning. It’s really to zero in on the why, to get students to think beyond just the facts," Johansen said.

There are 760 students enrolled in AVID across the Pacific, with nearly one-third of those students in Okinawa, Johansen said.

Students are recruited or recommended for AVID and admitted after an interview process, he added.

Students also have to be enrolled in an honors level or advanced placement class. They participate in field trips, college tours and fairs, and have guest speakers.

Johansen said AVID gives students an edge over their peers, because they’re exposed early on to the expectations of college studies.

"The advantage is they have an understanding of learning: they’re in demanding classes … and they must be self-motivated," she said.

For Kubasaki High School sophomore Jimmy Towney, adjusting to the demands of his AVID class initially were difficult.

The special note-taking requirements were a drag, and the weekly binder inspections by his teacher were stressful, he recounted.

By Jimmy’s third-year in AVID, however, things started to click.

"I used to think that you just make it into college just on scholarships. But AVID showed me that if you do your work, you can set yourself up for success," said Jimmy, who wants to attend film school at the University of Southern California.

The affects of the class have even spilled into his personal life.

Said Jimmy: "I’m really a messy person; my binder used to look like crap. Now, I’ve noticed my room is really clean. It becomes a habit."

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