Published on 07/07/09

4-H helps students improve writing test scores

By Sharon Dowdy
For more than 100 years, Georgia students have learned leadership, character and public speaking skills through the 4-H program. Now, Georgia 4-H agents are working with teachers to use 4-H to improve students’ writing skills and test scores.

“One component of 4-H that fits well into the classroom is Project Achievement,” said University of Georgia Cooperative Extension 4-H Specialist Mandy Marable.

4-H Project Achievement is a self-directed, individual program in which students develop presentations and documented records of their project work. For project achievement, 4-H’ers research a topic, write about the topic and orally present their information before an audience.

“Professionals from all walks of life credit 4-H for their first exposure to public speaking, organizational skills and goal setting,” Marable said. “Project achievement teaches skills that stay with the individual for life.”

In Putnam County, Georgia 4-H agent Al Parker works closely with area English teachers.

“Collaboration is a buzz word in education but we know it to be real in Putnam County,” Parker said. “We are using project achievement in language arts classrooms to help fulfill the requirements of the Georgia Performance Standards.”

The program is targeted to fourth through eighth grade students.

“When a student participates in project achievement, he uses writing and speaking skills,” he said. “And his classmates use listening and viewing skills when he presents his project to them.”

Parker and the Putnam County teachers have found that students are much more attentive when their “teacher” is a fellow student.

Since implementing the program, Putnam County has seen an increase in the number of students who meet and exceed the requirements for the state writing assessment test. Teachers have also witnessed “a noted improvement” in the students’ interpersonal skills, Parker said.

Wanda Barr, chair of the Georgia Board of Education, calls Project Achievement a “simple yet relevant teaching tool.” Teachers across the state who have used Project Achievement in their classrooms agree.

“Overall, the project-achievement process has been a success for us here in Putnam County,” Tonja Reid, a sixth grade teacher at Putnam County Middle School. “I would recommend it to any school system in the state.”

Georgia 4-H is the youth development outreach program of University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. More than 160,000 youths, ages 9 to 19, participate in Georgia 4-H annually.

For complete information on Georgia 4-H programs, see the Web site

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.