Saturday, August 11, 2012

My 2nd Graders go to College!

Yep, you read the title correctly. My 2nd graders go to COLLEGE!!!
Some pretty prestigious colleges at that: Texas A&M (Gig'Em Aggies), Texas Tech (Guns up!)
University of Texas (Hook 'Em Horns!) and TCU (Fear the Frog!)---and our first year even Baylor (Go bears!).

That's how smart they are..
All because of their 2nd grade teachers!

Okay, let me explain. They don't really GO to college. That's what we call our focused groups
What? Need me to explain further? Okay.....

A few years ago, I was sittng in a workshop with other 2nd grade teachers and we were discussing HOW ON EARTH we were going to fit in all the things we were required to do with our new Language Arts adoption....Mc-Graw Hill Texas Treasures.

There simply WASN'T enough time in the day......everything was specialized......3 different spelling lists, 3 leveled books, 3 different stories a week. It was all TOO much! My class was all over the spectrum......low babies who barely knew the letters in their names to PACE kiddos who could read anything I stuck in front of them and everything in between! There was only ONE me and I had no idea how I was going to give them ALL my best when I am only one person!

Luckily I wasn't the only one in the district stressing about that. It lead to a very in-depth discussion and one lady told us what they did at their school and how it had served ALL the kids and improved their reading (and their scores)....but more importantly their learning!

So, I took the idea she gave me back to my (at the time different) principal and she basically told me if I believed it was going to work and help the kids to GO FOR IT! So, We came up with 'colleges'.
We each named our group after our Alma Mater.....luckily none of us went to the same college, and used testing data to divide the kids into 4(or 5 our first year) groups. That first year we had 2 'high' groups- they are the kids that can read fluently, they worked on expanding vocabulary, improving their writing and higher order thinking skills. We had an 'average' group- they worked on comprehension and some fluency as well as vocabulary. We had a "below average" group- they could decode, but needed extensive work on fluency and comprehenshion. And then we had my low baby group- we worked on decoding, accuracy and fluency.

Splitting the kids this way allowed us to tailor everything for them.....spelling lists, the pace we taught the stories and concepts, station work, EVERYTHING was targeted for just them. The kids loved it. The parents loved it. We loved it.

Last year, we got a new principal. I wasn't sure she'd love it....but she did. Our groups are very fluid...if a kid does alot of improving, he/she may 'transfer' to a different college. If they are struggling, they may do the same! We saw some really positive things come out of it. Noteably:

*The high kids were no longer the 'shining stars' in the classroom. There was an entire class of them, which prodded them to work harder, smarter and have higher quality work so they could stand out of the crowd.Many of them weren't used to this, and it greatly improved their effort ,they stretched themselves in learning. and some of them learned the hard lesson of "you can't win all the time."

\*The low babies began to participate in class. It was a safe environment. There was no Einstein to compete one to outshine them....they were all in the same boat. They began to get comfortable and take chances. They supported each other. No one was 'stupid' for not knowing an answer. Their confidence increased greatly and they grew leaps and bounds.

*The average babies grew HUGELY. They were no longer falling between the cracks....low babies were not getting all the attention and the geniuses were out of their loop so they had no one to 'carry them' on their portion of the work.

It was a win/win situation for all of us.

The downsides were:
* The low baby teacher (me) had a LOT of documentation to do. However, it was easier to do the documentation because I found an easier system and could do it for everyone!
*You're letting go some of your babies......which means you have to have total trust, confidence and participation from all of your team members for this to work. It's hard letting go. It's hard not knowing what your babies are doing. But this lead us to in-depth discussions as a team about where each kiddo was. It also gave us the benefit of having more than one teacher able to give input about where we saw a kid being and what they were struggling (or excelling) in!

Thankfully, it went over so well, our principal is COUNTING on us doing it again! I'm excited because now in year 3 I think we are 'tweaking' what we can do with these kids and I expect the huge growth to continue!

So, our 2nd graders will be college bound again this year!!!

1 comment:

  1. Wow that sounds awesome I wish more schools would do things simliar to this. I really believe that by placing children according to ability for math and reading that our public school systems will begin to flourish.