As we began our second term of service with the Denver Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Urban Education Service Corps, we looked forward to endless opportunities for improvement for both ourselves and the students and families we serve. Power Lunch is a successful literacy program that we facilitate on a weekly basis in over ten classrooms in Denver Public Schools. Each teacher and classroom brings their own flair and expertise to the program. Power Lunch students benefit greatly from their weekly reading sessions because they interact with a positive adult role model on a regular basis as they read and work on literacy skills for 45 minutes together. It is so rewarding to see the excitement of the students and teachers before their first Power Lunch session of the year.
Power Lunch buddies at Columbine Elementary meet for the first time and complete a “Getting to Know You” worksheet together. Getting to know one another and building a positive relationship is the most important part of the first Power Lunch session.
As soon as we completed our first term of service last summer, we began analyzing how we could make Power Lunch even more fun and impactful for our students. Using current research methods, we tweaked our Power Lunch materials to include more content-driven activities and questions. We wanted our volunteers and students to be more engaged while reading and we wanted to ensure that the students understand what they are reading and writing. This year, we have seen our Power Lunch buddies take a time out in the middle of their books to talk about what has happened so far in the book and ask questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why do you think the character reacted in that way?”
A Power Lunch volunteer from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reads with her student buddy from Columbian Elementary. This is the first year that NREL has participated in the Power Lunch Reading Program.
Despite all of the fun we had last year, we knew that this year’s Power Lunch could, and would, be even more fun. This year for a service project, we are holding a friendly competition among our Power Lunch classrooms. The classroom that reads the most books by the end of the year will win a “Super Secret Awesome Surprise Party (SSASP)”. Each month, our students receive a reading log where they track the books and number of pages they have read with their Power Lunch volunteer. Using these reading logs, we keep track of the classroom reading total and we are able to show our students and teachers where they stand in the race. With the incentive of winning a “SSASP”, we have seen more students utilizing the reading log, and more students are motivated to pick up and start a new book in the last 10 minutes.
A Power Lunch volunteer from Windsor Gardens reads with his student buddy at Place Bridge Academy. While reading together, they focus on identifying new vocabulary words, understanding the content of the story, and building confidence reading aloud.
Whether students are now interested in reading because their volunteer likes to read or because they want to reach their goal of reading a million books, we have had a blast facilitating their newfound passion for reading. Power Lunch has been a large and impactful aspect of both our terms of service and has allowed us an opportunity to help improve and enrich student’s literacy skills, which can make a huge difference in the lives of our students and families.
– Jessica Brandhorst and Trevon Brandhorst, AmeriCorps members