The Literacy Education and Math Lab (LEMA) is a playful space for the exploration of reading, writing and math. The methodology is based on board games that make learning fun, effective and easy to replicate. These labs develop children’s ability to work effectively in small groups, to think critically, to communicate verbally and through writing, and to read and comprehend.
LEMA seeks to develop, support, remediate and/or accelerate the acquisition of reading, writing and math as fundamental tools for lifelong learning. The labs can be established in or out of the school, and are the responsibility of "Learning Coaches," who are trained to use a coherent pedagogical strategy and sequencing. Learning Coaches can be community members, mothers, young people or teachers, depending on the needs of the community and available resources. For example, in El Salado, Colombia, the organization worked with members of the community, as teachers were scarce. In Barranquilla the organization worked with young people who were part of a youth development and civic engagement initiative.
These learning coaches are trained and coached for the duration of the program. They are trained on pedagogical principles, creation of facilitative learning environments and facilitation skills, and for using LEMA educational games and play-based learning methodology. Each Learning Coach divides the class into groups of four children. Each group then works independently to complete a set of tasks on a board game.
The games used are like puzzles that offer an organized sequence of activities to develop literacy and mathematical thinking skills. They emphasize communication and peer to peer learning, collaboration, problem solving and teamwork. The organization says its games are especially useful in multi-grade classrooms as it provides teachers with a tool to organize groups based on skill, so children can learn at their own pace.
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CEI approaches in action
LEMA pilots started in three schools in Bogotá, Colombia in 2012. The program was replicated in Dominican Republic and Panamá in 2013 -2014, reaching over 6,000 children. LEMA is now being implemented in English in 6 schools in India.
The organization is currently training 200 more learning coaches, who are are expected to be trained in early 2016, and will enable LEMA to expand to two more Indian states. LEMA is also currently looking for funding to further expand its programs.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Partners in the field collect data based on funding requirements. Information is collected on the number of Learning Coaches trained, number of participants, literacy level at the beginning and completion of the program, and user satisfaction surveys.
In 2013, LEMA created 80 jobs for Learning Coaches, 87% of who were women with families. The program trained 180 Learning Coaches, school principals and teachers to attend to 6,000 children in grades 1 to 4. In January 2015, LEMA created 35 jobs for Learning Coaches, 98% of who are women. LEMA expects to create 200 new job opportunities in India by June 2016.
In May 2014, at the end of the school year, school principals saw improvement in discipline, team work and the desire of children to learn, especially in math. They also showed interest in hosting the program again. The biggest gains of the program are observed in the 1st graders who improved their skills by 48%, surpassing the scores of 2nd graders. Programs in the state of Cundinamarca, Colombia observed important gains in participant retention rates in comparison with other literacy programs. Programs in Cali, Colombia observe high motivation to attend the program regularly, despite local violence and life challenges. Programs in India observe high levels of motivation and participation among children and higher rates of verbal communication and interaction among children.