Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Learning From Each Other

Last week 15 of our teachers attended our Vertical Day of Professional Development around the topic of Skills Block. We watched Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard's Kindergarten lesson, Randi Timmons' 2nd Grade Skills Block and Jenny Nash's 4th Graders. Each of the 15 teachers watched the demonstration lessons from the lens of their own grade and classroom.

One of the many skills that we watched was Randi Timmons' second graders practice their spelling words by doing jumping jacks for each letter as they said each letter aloud. You can actually watch Randi's entire 2nd grade lesson. One of the teachers watching the lesson last week was kindergarten teacher, Haley Alvarado. As Haley watched the activity, she was drawn to the idea of pairing physical activity with memory. While her kindergartners don't have spelling words each week, she has been working on their memory of some of the high-frequency words that appear often in early text. She liked the physical activity but knew that her kindergatners couldn't really do jumping jacks without falling all over themselves! So... she thought about a skill her youngsters do need which is to recognize that the letters of the alphabet come in three different sizes - tall letters that touch the top line, medium letters that only touch the middle line, and letters with tails. She decided to pair the memory of the high frequency words with physical activity that would also help the children pay attention to the height of the letters. Watch the lesson.

The exciting part is that one teacher was able to demonstrate an activity and another teacher was able to take the idea of the activity and then redesign it to fit her own needs. Isn't that what we do as teachers in the best of situations? We take an activity that has componets of best practice and remake the activity to fit the needs of our students. That is one of the most exciting things about these days of professional development when teachers have an opportunity to peek into classes at different levels and think about how they can take the ideas and adapt them to their own students. Now how great is that?!

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