Disciplinary Pathways to SL

Disciplinary Pathways to Service Learning

Service-Learning and Reading Instruction

Mavis Hara, Reading and Writing Instructor
Linka Corbin-Mullikin, Ph.D. , Associate Professor, Reading
Kapi'olani Community College
Honolulu, Hawai'i

This essay demonstrates the links between two "levels" of instruction in the same discipline. In the first part Mavis Hara described the early steps of integrating service-learning into basic and developmental reading classes. In the second part of the essay Linka Corbin-Mullikin describes how the success of Mavis Hara's work led to changes in a college-level reading course.

Mavis Hara

In my first year of college teaching I was the working mother of a toddler. Every morning I suffered attacks of "mother guilt" when I left my little one at in the care of pre-school teachers while I hurried off to plan my reading curriculum. Each day, I would face my students, many of whom were also mothers of young children. When I handed out my assignments, I listened patiently as these women told me of not having enough time to do all the reading I required, not having the time to do research for the papers I piled upon them. "After I cook, pick up after the kids and give them baths, put them to bed, and clean up the kitchen I don't have time for studying until well after eleven." It was a story I listened to time and time again. I could attest to the truth of the refrain, because I lived the same life.

Many of my students were newly arrived foreign immigrants, for them, the college level reading I required was doubly difficult, for many texts assumed an understanding of European and American culture that they did not possess. They would ask questions like, "What is 'the golden rule'? What is Valentine's day? What is New England?" Many came from tropical climates which did not have four seasons. Their questions reflected their lack of experience in this area. "What is Fall? Are Autumn and Fall the same? What comes after Fall? Does Spring come after Fall? The college schedule says the Spring semester comes after the Fall semester." There were so many things to explain I felt it was impossible in a sixteen week course.

I often suggested that my students read children's books and encyclopedias to gain a quick cultural understanding of America. My suggestion was often greeted with skeptical looks. These students were struggling so hard to catch up to the American mainstream, my suggestions that they go to the libraries and sit in the little chairs reserved for children must have seemed demeaning to them.

I needed a way to make learning fit better into my students' lives. They needed to gather basic information about American culture in a way that would not damage their self-respect. It was then I discovered Service-Learning. It provided an opportunity to meet my needs and theirs, and provided schools and community organizations in our area with unexpected benefits as well.

Our college allows first and second year faculty to be paired with experienced faculty members in a mentoring relationship. In conversations with my mentor, Dr. Linka Corbin-Mullikin, I often talked about my difficulties with students. One day, the idea of using students as volunteer teachers emerged in our conversation. Our campus service-learning coordinator was looking for projects which would fit within the service-learning guidelines for a literacy improvement project. We came up with a plan to train community college students from remedial through developmental through college level to become literacy volunteers. We would give our college students the opportunity to become tutors by first giving them as much knowledge as we could about reading as a process, then requiring them to become familiar with a wide range of children's literature and finally, giving them an opportunity to volunteer to read to children in a variety of settings.

As many teachers know, tutoring is a difficult assignment and requires a lot of preparation. We were fortunate that our service-learning coordinator had made many connections with community agencies. One of these contacts put us in touch with a Literacy Specialist with the Hawai'i Governor's Council for Literacy, State Librarian's Office, and the Kaimuki Public Library. Together, we set up a Saturday Morning Reading Program to which we invited community college reading students interested in becoming tutors, and any interested faculty.

We were surprised that we had 18 interested participants. The Literacy Specialist arrived at the first meeting with approximately 100 children's books and a State of Hawai'i produced "Read to Me" inspirational video. She shared results of current reading research and some recommenda-tions about reading to children. Many of our community college students are also parents, and when the lecture presentation was over they eagerly looked through her large display of children's books.

We were fortunate in that our participants at the first Saturday Morning Reading Program included a retired civil servant from American Samoa who was now a volunteer minister in his church. This gentleman became very interested in our program, and his presence and participation encouraged others in his social circle to take part in our program. Another woman student who came to our Saturday presentation was already a volunteer at a shelter for pregnant teenagers. She was excited to find that current educational research supported the work that she was already doing and was able to make personal connections with the Hawai'i State Librarian's office. The literacy specialist passed out free books to many interested parents in the audience. All of the students seemed inspired and eager to begin work as literacy volunteers. Many expressed the desire to bring their children to our presentations and were happy to find that we had scheduled the next monthly meeting of the Saturday Morning Reading program in the nearby Kaimuki Public Library.

Our students were inspired and eager to begin tutoring, but they had no prior experience teaching in a classroom. To provide them with some information about reading to children, we prepared an informational handout with tips taken from two service-learning workshops that were presented at about this time. The first workshop gave tips for successful story reading. It included a three part checklist which student tutors could use in getting ready for the reading, actually reading the story to the children and creating follow-up activities to extend children's understanding of the story once the reading was finished. The second workshop, presented by the Language Arts resource instructor at our Learning Assistance Center gave twelve concrete suggestions for a tutor to use in communicating most efficiently. Suggestions included these hints: One of the great lessons of psychology is that positive responses motivate further activity while negative responses motivate cessation of activity. Be encouraging without being phony. Give good explanations and have patience.

Our classroom preparation of students consisted of teaching them about the reading process. The students were taught that reading is a process that is the same from pre-school through college. They were taught that efficient comprehension first requires asking the right questions and making the right predictions about what the author is going to say. The next step is reading the text purposefully to answer the questions you have asked or to prove your predictions. The students were also taught that good readers use all of the information in the text to make guesses about the meanings of unknown words that they encounter while reading and that this skill, called "using the context", is what separates highly efficient readers from poor readers. When students had demonstrated an understanding of the reading process, they were asked to create lessons in which they would read to pre-readers and beginning readers and, at the same time, teach the young children to use prediction, questioning, and context clues to better understand the stories being read to them.

With a service-learning grant from the Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges we were able to buy books and create a multi-cultural library of children's books. This collection contains about 100 titles and is housed in our campus library. Our reading students were encouraged to use books from this multi-cultural library in their volunteer tutoring activities. My remedial reading students were required to write summaries of any five of the multi-cultural children's library books, while my developmental reading students were required to write ten summaries as part of their class assignment. This allowed students to read through children's books without having to go to public libraries and sit in the little chairs in the children's reading corner. It was encouraging that some students became interested in children's books as a result of this assignment, and many reported taking their own children to their neighborhood libraries to check out other children's titles.

After students had read a variety of children's books, they created their own lessons and practiced their storytelling skills on their classmates. I had my students read to each other in small groups and rate each others' performances on critique sheets. The reader was required to write down a series of questions he or she would ask to help guide audience members toward making accurate predictions about the eventual outcome of the story. The reader was also required to pick out one difficult word in the story and select the context clues he or she would point out to help listeners make a guess about the correct meaning of that word. Students smiled and laughed a great deal that day as they read each other stories that covered an infinite variety of topics. There were stories about Hawai'i's history and culture, American history, imaginary tales about the tooth fairy, and myths and fables from China, Cambodia, Korea and Japan. Members of groups that finished early often joined other groups still in session and continued to listen in fascination, proving that children's literature is hypnotic and that a really good story has great power. In the end, all the students commented that their group members were very intelligent and guessed the outcomes of the stories with 100% accuracy. They were also surprised that they were able to find many rather difficult words within the texts of children's books, and many students learned new words to add to their own vocabularies.

All my students were required to do the story telling part of the assignment. In addition, students could earn extra credit if they volunteered as literacy tutors, kept journals of their tutoring experiences, and wrote an extra credit paper evaluating their service. Volunteer tutors were given opportunities to teach at three different sites. One site was the Alani Child Care Center located on our campus. Many of our students use this facility for day care for their children while they attend classes. Many of the families using the center receive federal assistance to cover the cost of child care. Another site was Palolo Elementary School about a mile and a half from our campus. The school draws many of its students from the neighboring Palolo Housing project, which provides housing for families on public assistance. The final site was the Kaimuki Public Library where some of our students read to children from the Kaimuki neighborhood on Saturday morning while others talked to parents about the benefits of reading to children on a regular basis. In all, twenty-one students from four of my classes chose to become volunteer tutors at one or another or in some cases all of the sites.

Students kept journals recording the details of their volunteer activities and wrote a paper evaluating their experiences. Students generally reported favorable experiences in storytelling.

The mother of a toddler wrote, "I never knew teaching the kids in their early age will help them in their future. Now I know the steps in reading. I'm reading to my son, so he can learn the steps in his early age." A foreign bride with an infant son wrote, "Reading a book for the children was very important. If we read the book for the kids, they probably remember what their parents do for them. I remember my father always read a book before bedtime so I want to do the same for my child. I think my child will do the same to his child... This is very important for my family." Another said, "I learn how to teach the kids words they never heard of before by giving examples of the word, how it's used in the pictures and sentence. I really learn a lot. This experience... helps me to read more to everybody, especially to my own kids. Reading is very important." A mother who was able to read to a class that included her own daughter at the child care center wrote, "Now I understand that reading is a skill. To master it, you need to stick with it on a daily basis. The volunteer experience made me more aware of how you need to spend some time in reading even if it s just ten minutes a day."

The awareness of the importance of reading and the enthusiasm for reading also reached students who were not parents. The retired civil servant from American Samoa wrote, "I really praised the idea of someone, or a group of people ,who are worrying about the children of tomorrow." Another of my students, a young man who is an uncle wrote, "Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters and even friends should get together with the public libraries in their neighborhood and arrange some kind of family day at the library."

My students volunteered and helped others, but they also felt they gained some benefits for themselves. A Vietnamese woman wrote, "After I finished my reading, these kids put their hands together (applauded). They made me feel very happy." Another young man wrote, "Reading can and has strengthened my knowledge, vocabulary and communicating with others." A young Tongan woman who does not have children of her own wrote, "Yet people believe that it's only the teachers and parents that need to worry about children's education. Despite what some people believe, I believe it's not necessary to be their parents to read to the children. Likewise, the reader can be a relative, friend, neighbor, or a volunteer like myself."

It was not only my students who benefited from these volunteer sessions. I noticed some changes too. When I dropped my own daughter off at Alani Child Care center, her classmates would come running up to me with books in their hands. "Are you coming to read to us today?" they would ask.

In contrast, the kindergarten teachers at Palolo elementary school apologized for their students when we came into class to read to them. "These children come from homes where parents don't think reading is important." Yet, the kindergartners listened in fascination as my volunteers read them stories. They snuggled close to volunteers who were often of the same ethnic and cultural groups as their families. One young Samoan man found himself unable to leave the classroom after the storytelling session was over because so many children wanted to point out something else in the story book to him or to ask him questions. Twenty one of my students now think learning about the reading process and reading to children daily are important. If we can continue this program, maybe we can convince many more people to feel the same way.

Twice and Thrice Told Tales--Linka Corbin-Mullikin

Because our Service-Learning experiences with basic and developmental reading students met with such resounding success, when I began teaching English 102, College Reading, I wanted to incorporate Service-Learning opportunities for students. I am now in the third semester of teaching this class, and Service-Learning has become an integral part of the course. Based on students' own accounts, Service-learning also has been an energizing and meaningful part of their learning experiences.

College Reading is a course designed to help students improve their ability to read and assess college-level material, including professional journals. The course focuses on reading for comprehension and reading critically. Students are asked to think about, summarize, and synthesize what they read in order to put their reading skills to practical and academic use. In addition, the course is structured to treat reading as an active experience and is taught with a "learn-by-doing" approach. As an ongoing and culminating activity, students are required to participate in a self-selected semester-long project designed as both an individual and collaborative endeavor.

On the first day of class, I tell students that everything they are asked to do in preparation for and in class will focus on "Language and Learning," the theme of the class. In order to get them thinking about and involved in their final projects, on the very first day they are invited to participate in a Service-Learning Project, a Library Research Project, or an Oral History Project. Although the students have three choices, most select Service-Learning. To get them to think about service-learning in the context of the class, we discuss the following statement from the syllabus:

Choosing to participate in the service-learning option of this course gives you a chance to observe and apply to the real world many of the strategies and principles you are learning in class. Your service-learning experiences and observations become an integral and 'living' part of your final project.

If you choose this option, you will participate in service that is relevant to the development of language and reading skills for pre-school, elementary, intermediate school age children or adult ESL speakers. For example, you may become a reader and teaching assistant at the Alani Child Care Center, a volunteer for the Jarrett Intermediate After-school Program, or a language tutor at the Waikiki Lifelong Learning Center.

Once your service-learning begins, you need to keep a reflective journal describing your activities. In it, report on what you do, when you do it, for how long, and what it was like. (A more detailed handout on reflective journal writing will be furnished.) Occasionally, I will ask you to share your service-learning experiences briefly and informally in class. Your final journal, analysis of the community service experience, summary of three informative articles, and group presentation notes are due the last day of class.

To achieve the goals of the class, I require students to read from two texts. Selection from Royce Adams' Making the Grade and Peter Farb's Word Play provide the focal readings for class activities and discussions. Using these two texts as the springboards into a focused service-learning project, I explain that their projects should explore and finally develop a thesis relevant to one of the topics we study-read, discuss, and write about from Word Play. To get students started, I list suggested topics such as: pidgin languages, language acquisition of either native or non-native adult speakers of English, non-verbal communication, linguistic chauvinism, language and learning communities, or humor in language. Most students select their topics from this listing; however, some students come up with their own project goals, based on discussions which occur in class.

Once students decide upon a project, they are encouraged to read relevant chapters from Word Play. Over the course of the semester these readings are discussed in class. Although these common reading/discussion experiences do provide students with linguistic theories relevant to their various service-learning projects, after the first semester I realized that students also needed to expand their community experiences by reading articles specific to their selected projects. For example, students who elected to read to children and work as teacher's helpers needed and wanted more information than was provided in the tutor training workshops and in the "language acquisition" chapter of Farb's book.

Enter the library lesson. To assist students in finding appropriate outside resources, early in each semester one of our school librarians designs a special library orientation tailored to students' stated project interests. Following this orientation the librarian and I work with students to find articles in professional journals and popular magazines germane to the work they are doing in the community. Students are required to read three articles throughout the semester, after they have begun their service-learning. By the time the end-of-semester project sharing occurs, I have had freshman college students explaining to their group members such things as the benefits and drawbacks of the "holistic" approach to reading instruction, the nuances of learning English as a second language by native Japanese speakers, or the variations of pidgin/creole languages and how they play a role in the lives of the people living in Hawai'i.

This outside reading requirement that is tied to the service-learning project provides integrally related and motivated application of the study-reading skills which students learn from their other required text, Making the Grade, which guides students through general and specific strategies for study-reading in the social sciences, sciences, and humanities. When students read professional journals, they are introduced to the special languages, writing patterns, and research sources of the field in which they are working. Most importantly, students are applying these study-reading skills to meaningful and relevant materials, rather than "practice exercises" provided by the teacher.

As Mavis Hara described earlier, initial contacts for those students who were interested in serving as teacher's helpers and reading to children were made through her at the Alani Child Care Center and KCC's Service-Learning Coordinator who gave us contact names for the Literacy Specialist working with the Hawai'i Governor's Council for Literacy, the State Librarian's Office, Palolo Elementary School and the Jarrett Intermediate After-school Program. These sites continue to be attractive to the College Reading students because of their proximity to our campus. However, because of students' various interests, other contacts have developed due to the students' own initiatives. For example, two students who had children enrolled in local schools set up their own service-learning arrangements by contacting the principals of the schools, who in turn contacted interested faculty. Although the parent-students were not placed in their own children's classrooms, they reported excellent experiences. Another young student who plans to become an elementary school teacher contacted the principal of the elementary school she attended as a child. Again, this experience was rewarding.

Because many of the students who enroll in College Reading are English as Second Language (ESL) speakers themselves, they often become intrigued with second language learning. Through KCC's Office of Continuing Education, these students are often matched up as conversation partners or reading tutors through the Waikiki Lifelong Learning Center (WLLC). This center focuses on offering various services to clients who work in downtown Waikiki, many of whom are hotel workers wanting to improve their English speaking, reading and writing skills. Other students have been placed with an elementary ESL teacher who welcomes, with much enthusiasm and open arms, ESL college students who can not only work with children in the classroom but also model the successes of ESL speakers.

The benefits to College Reading students who participate in Service-Learning are echoed in various ways around a central theme. As one young lady wrote in her analysis of her experiences at Waikiki Lifelong Learning Center (WLLC):

"I practiced applying the concepts of critical thinking that we learned in our class discussions. I also was able to rehearse my conversation skills. Tutoring has helped me to better express myself and to speak clearly and in a more organized manner. I learned that I don't know many things about the English language even though I have been speaking English for most of my entire life. My career goal is to become a court reporter; but from this experience, I have learned that teaching could be an option if I decide to change my career goal."

Although the particular situations may vary for each individual involved in service-learning, in all cases students remark on how surprised they were that they had something to offer others, whether they work in a school or other community situations. Many who begin the experience with relatively low self-esteem blossom into reflective and confident young men and women through their service-learning responsibilities. One young woman was offered a job after her service-learning commitment was finished. Another was admitted into KCC's Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program, based in part on her performance in the community. One young man, also a parent, learned the importance of reading to children and vowed to bring attractive children's books home to Samoa when he finished his studies at KCC. For those students who want to become teachers, service-learning has provided a meaningful first experience in real classrooms. Only one ended her service-learning commitment declaring, "What was I thinking when I thought I wanted to be a teacher?" (But what an important early lesson!) Importantly for me, these students experience and apply the lessons of language and learning in ways that I, as their college reading teacher, could never plan or even anticipate.



Developmental Reading

M. Hara

Eng 21V is designed to improve your reading, vocabulary and study skills so that you will be better able to handle your college reading assignments and increase your chances of success in your academic work.


Reading Skills:

  • Adapt your reading rate and method of reading to your purpose for reading.
  • Read at rates appropriate for sustained interest and effective comprehension.
  • Identify main ideas and supporting details in paragraphs and articles.
  • Recognize the structure and organization of paragraphs.
  • Think more critically about what you read.
  • Make valid inferences based on suggestions or evidence presented.
  • Draw accurate conclusions and predict outcomes by logically putting together facts and details.
  • Differentiate between fact and opinion.
  • Identify the author's purpose.

Vocabulary Development:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of college level vocabulary
  • Apply contextual clues and knowledge of word parts in determining the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Study Skills:

  • Apply the SQ3R method of textbook study to readings from various content areas.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of test-taking techniques.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of effective note taking techniques
  • Mark and outline main ideas and supporting details in selected reading passages.


Diagnostic testing to identify specific strengths/weaknesses and determine starting levels

Individualized work in reading

Lectures on vocabulary building, reading techniques, and study skills

Lab work

In and out of class readings and writing assignments based on readings


Continued evaluation of progress and reassessment of prescribed work.


You will earn variable credit (1-3) depending on the grade level increases made in reading and vocabulary as measured by the following:

1. standardized post-tests and periodic reading tests

2. Word Cues L vocabulary tests

3. Reading for Results tests and assignments

4. quality of lab work completed


Students in this class may choose to participate in service-learning as part of their activities.

* What is service-learning?

Service-learning means providing assistance to people in your community without getting paid, and the service you perform is related to what you are learning in your class.

* Why should I do service-learning?

Service-learning gives you an opportunity to make connections with people. In this class, many of the service-learning opportunities will involve people from a variety of cultures, you will have a chance to get to know people from different cultures. Your services will help others since you will be doing things that would otherwise not get done at all (you will not be taking over anyone's job). You may benefit, too. You may find talents and strengths you didn't know you had. You may choose an activity that is related to your planned career and get some experience in it, or you may end up performing a service that so interests you that you make it your career choice.

Service-learning also gives you the opportunity for hands-on-learning. If you like to learn by doing, rather than by reading or listening, service-learning is for you.

* What kinds of activities can I do as part of service-learning?

You may tutor elementary or intermediate school students, work with teachers in classes for newly-arrived immigrant children (especially if you speak a language other than English), read stories to preschool kids, set up and plan a Saturday morning reading program at Kaimuki Public Library.

I will go with you at least once when you perform your service-learning activity.

* How much time do I have to spend doing service-learning?

You are expected to spend about 25 hours performing your chosen service activity. There may be occasional meetings and workshops during the semester where you will share your experiences with other students doing service-learning. These meetings do not count as part of your 25 hour commitment.

* How does the service-learning fit in with what we do in class?

English 9V is a reading class. The activities you do in service-learning will help you understand the reading process better as you teach children the skill they need to read faster and with better understanding.

You will apply the SQ3R method of textbook study to readings.

In this class, you will learn to survey a book before you read it. You will learn to ask questions about what you will be reading to focus your mind on what the book says. You will learn to read more quickly while you look through the book for the answers to your questions. You will learn to organize and write down the answers you have found for your questions. This is the way good readers read. You will teach these same skills to children to help them learn to read well.

You will demonstrate knowledge of structural clues in determining the meaning of unfamiliar words. What do you do when you come to a word you don't understand when you are reading? Do you stop reading and look up the meaning of the word? This class will teach you to look for clues in the sentences around the word you don't understand. These clues may be synonyms, or words that have the same meaning as the word you don't understand, or antonyms, words that have the opposite meaning from the word you don't understand. There may be even be examples of the meaning of the difficult word in the sentences around it. Once you learn these clues, you will be able to teach yourself the meanings of new words every time you read. In service-learning, you will teach children to look for these clues in the books that they read so that they will increase their vocabularies.

Finally, you will draw accurate conclusions and predict outcomes by logically putting together facts and details. When you practice the reading skills that you will learn in this class, you will find that you can guess what the author of a book or article will say before he says it. This is because you will become an active reader. When you read to answer the questions that you have been asking yourself about the book, you will use your logic to put the facts and details the author uses in his writing into a pattern. At first you may be wrong about the pattern the author is drawing with his facts, but with more and more practice, you will be able to guess what pattern the author is using even before you finish reading the book or article. You will find that you can predict what the author will say at the end of the book or article before you finish reading. In the same way, you will teach children to ask questions as they read books, or listen to books being read to them so that they become active readers. You will ask them to guess what the author will say.

* How will I be graded for my service-learning?

You will read a number of children's books at your neighborhood library, or use the special reserve collection at the Lama Library. You will select ONE of those books and write a half page summary or synopsis of the story the author tells in the book. The summary must be written in your own words. You may NOT use the words the author uses in the book. The summary will be checked for spelling, grammar and clear expression of ideas. You will then practice reading a children's story book to other students in class. You will use the book to teach good reading skills. The other students in your group will rate you on your reading and teaching. If your ratings are good, you may have the opportunity to participate in an extra credit service-learning project in which you have the opportunity to read stories to children in child care centers, elementary schools and the Kaimuki Public Library.

You will keep a journal and write down the details of your volunteer reading experiences. Date all of your journal entries. Write down something as soon as you finish your activity. Write for ten minutes straight without stopping after each volunteer activity. Note the name of the teacher of the class in which you read and the number of children who heard your story. You can write the positive and negative things that happened when you read your story and taught about readings kills.

Finally, write a paper of approximately 3 to 4 pages. The paper should be a polished, formal record of your thoughts about your service larding project. You should use the notes you write in your journal in order to write this paper. The paper should include the following parts:

I. Description:

What were your duties and responsibilities? (include the host teacher's name and the number of students you read to)

Describe your work situation and environment.

Describe the audience reaction to your reading.

II. Evaluation:

How did you change each time you did your volunteer activity?

What did you learn from your volunteer experience?

Did this experience affect your own personal goals and career objectives? How?

III. Integration:

Is there anything you would change about your experience to make it more valuable to you?

You will receive a grade based upon whether your book summary, journal entries, and evaluation papers were completed. The journal will be graded pass/fail. The evaluation paper will be graded for content, that is, were all sections completed and all questions answered? The paper will also be graded for structure, clarity, grammar and spelling. This grade will be substituted for one of the assigned book reports.

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