Math & Literacy Tutoring: The Pioneers, Participants, and Purpose

Four short years ago, two phenomenal women, Bev Macke and Susan Chrysler, along with a team of eager volunteers, launched our Literacy Tutoring program for individuals with Down syndrome. During two of those years, the pandemic caused volunteers and participants to navigate uncharted territories with virtual programming. Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit knew tutoring was important to our families, so we stared uncertainty down and launched an additional Math Tutoring program in January 2021.

We heard cheers from the families in our community as participants logged 748.59 hours in Literacy and 425.98 hours in Math! That equals 1,175 hours of FREE educational support we have been able to provide thanks to Bev, Susan, and all our incredible volunteers!

The concept of tutoring at GiGi’s Playhouse is simple. Literacy learners strengthen their love for reading through practicing phonograms – the sounds letters make, comprehension, and fluency. The Raising Robust Readers program has really enhanced our literacy program through the use of catchy jingles, as seen below, and other methods of multi-sensory learning.

Math learners develop a strong foundation for critical thinking and problem solving through skills like 1:1 correspondence, place value, and applying calculations and measuring in real-world situations.

Trained tutors provide motivating and purposeful lessons designed to keep students engaged, while promoting independence and autonomy. Participants involve all their senses in the learning experience to really lock in this new information, and our strength-based approach helps builds confidence and self-esteem. Our research-based curriculum encompasses a variety of strategies and techniques to ensure every student can be successful. 

The program Sue and Bev began in 2019 is still thriving, thanks to the person who now manages it all…

Erin Whaley, mother of Ryan (5) and Lincoln (2), graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Elementary Education and received her ZS in Early Childhood Special Education. Erin taught kindergarten, first grade, and pre-K, before becoming the director of a preschool for 2 years. Lucky for us, back in December she agreed to volunteer as our Math & Literacy Tutoring Coordinator! Since then, Erin has done a phenomenal job training and supporting tutors at the beginning of each session. It is a lot to juggle all the schedules of tutors and families, on top of everything else happening at the Playhouse!

We are deeply grateful to Erin, as our Playhouse would not be nearly as successful without her help!  

Speaking of success, we’d like to give a shoutout to Aric Sims, for his “Best Of All” moment during a recent literacy tutoring session. Aric learned the jingle, “P says /p/. P says /p/. Paint a picture. P says /p/.”, as part of a phonics lesson. He and his tutor went on a phonogram hunt throughout the Playhouse and every time Aric saw the letter “P”, he’d do the motion with his arm like he was painting, while saying, “Paint a picture, paint a picture”. His tutor, Kathleen, loved seeing him catch on to the song so quickly!  

Both speech and math tutoring are recommended for people with Down syndrome ages 3 and up, with no cut off as we are all lifelong learners!

Learn more about Literacy Tutoring

Learn more about Math Tutoring

If you are interested in becoming a tutor, or would like to receive tutoring, the application will go live on August 2nd for our fall session, which begins in September. Feel free to email Erin Whaley with any questions!

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