May 12, 2015, by Sunita Tailor

Literacy Support Project – Insight

This blog post was written by first year English student, Victoria Lorriman from the School of English.

During the first few weeks of university, us first years are all told the same thing: get involved and you will be noticed. It’s easy enough to join a society, but actively seeking out work experience in the wider community will impress future employers a lot more. Initially, I was concerned that a weekly volunteering placement would be a burden on my social life (and studies) at Nottingham, but I could not have been more wrong.

As an English student without a career goal, I wanted to meet new people, brush-up on my transferrable skills and gain valuable work experience. Having heard about the Literacy Support Project on an open day in 2014, I decided to sample the education sector. I attended the project’s first meeting during fresher’s week and followed a short application process. Application successful, I became a Literacy Support Volunteer for one year of my degree course.

School children jumping

What does a Literacy Support Volunteer do?

I volunteered once a week for half a day (from 08:30 until 12:00) at a local primary school, teaching literacy to Year 1 and 2 children. Whilst this involved waking up early to catch the bus, the hands-on experience in teaching and personal improvement that the placement provided certainly made up for it!

Here is what my half-day timetable looked like:

08:15 – Arrive in school and greet the children.

08:30 – Guide the children as they produce written answers to an extension question on their work, or practise handwriting.

08:45 – Assembly.

09:15 – Helping the children, both individually and in groups, to respond to a creative task. This included all sorts of enjoyable topics, such as writing a newspaper article about Funny Bones or a story based on George and the Dragon.

10:15 – Assisting in group phonics activities.

10:30 – Break and casual reading with the children.

10:45 – Completing one-to-one reading with individual children.

12:00 – Catch the bus back to campus.

Why would employers value a Literacy Support Volunteer?

Although English is a subject that seems to automatically lead into teaching, the Literacy Support Project allows you to develop the skills that will get you a graduate job in a wide range of sectors. The project develops the following five skills that graduate employers look for:

1) Communication: a volunteer can adapt their communication style according to audience (e.g. children, colleagues).

2) Self-motivation: setting up a non-compulsory goal, such as assisting in a local school, and achieving it catches an employer’s attention.

3) Problem-solving: a volunteer learns how to help a child work out an answer to a question, but without giving them the answer!

4) Adaptability: fitting into a professional environment with teachers is significantly different to mixing with your uni friends.

5) Teamwork: properly carrying out what the teacher has asked you to do ensures the children learn the syllabus properly.

Advice from the Literacy Support volunteers

Engaging in work experience whilst studying towards your degree is not easy as it requires some planning, but once your year of volunteering is complete, benefits will begin to show. As well as having enhanced your employability, you will have watched the development of a group of children that you, personally, have assisted. Even if the bus fare is a little pricey, the School of English will reimburse every penny and sacrificing one morning each week to actively engage in the local community is hardly a time burden.

Just as self-directed learning is important for your degree course, self-motivation to find work placements makes employers take notice. Becoming a Literacy Support Volunteer provides the opportunity for you to have fun, meet people and write a killer CV.

Posted in Student Words