We had the pleasure of doing a walk-through at Short Elementary School in San Rafael, CA with a team of dedicated educators from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The community, culture, and learning environment that the teachers have worked so hard to develop was absolutely a mind-blowing experience.
The teachers truly believed in 100% student success, which was very evident as we listened to the rigorous academic language being used in the classroom. There was incredible scaffolding built into the lessons as instruction continued in all classrooms.
As we observed Lisa Johnson's 2nd grade classroom, she was actually removing scaffolds initially built-in. Her students had experienced guided research groups (Expert Group Strategy). At his point in the year, her 2nd grade students were scanning through academic content based text and highlighting keys facts to support the research schema that was presented with phenomenal comprehension. This is a skill that successful college students are meant to have, finding facts in text and organizing them to support the writing process later. We couldn’t help but keep going back to the college and career readiness standards as I went into each classroom because the students were truly gaining life-long learning skills.
Something that really stood out to me was in Danelle French’s 3rd grade classroom. Mrs. French was teaching cause and effect using our Pictorial Input Chart that had facts about animal adaptations. It was truly amazing to see how the students were using comparative language (consequently, in effect, as a result, etc) when they were note-taking in their learning logs.
The routines and habits that were developed with the strategies really made teaching and all the transitions seamless. It was evident to me walking into the classrooms; the students understood the expectations and target. The students became the instructors and lead the class.
After visiting many of the classrooms, the cultural sensitivity and respect piece was quite evident and apparent at this site. Regardless of the grade level or teacher, at any given moment, each teacher spoke so positively and respectfully to his/her students. Even more amazing was to see the power of modeling. The students (Kinder-5th) were highly respectful towards the teacher and other classmates. This credit is given to the teachers at Short school. Their consistent use of strategies such as the T-Graph and Scouts with positive reinforcement has shown and modeled for the students the highly respectful and academic ways to communicate with one another.
-Amina Khan & Anisa Arain
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