A Classroom Hums With Active Learning

First grader Stephen Tyler Simerka-Goczo writes an essay, while other students work independently at learning centers or have small group lessons with Mrs. Hoang or a tutor.

One size does not fit all in Angela Hoang’s first grade class at Gearity Professional Development School. She frequently assesses students’ knowledge and differentiates the lessons they receive. Hers is a classroom full of active learners, experiencing many targeted levels of instruction, each with its own richness and rigor.

At the beginning of a recent double block period, students find their names on a chart directing them to one of six work centers containing a range of math, reading and writing assignments. Some students work at the computer, others read independently or help a classmate.

The classroom hums with activity as the teacher and an adult volunteer work with students in small groups. Hoang gathers five students at a table to work on distinguishing long and short vowel sounds. Before the morning ends, she works on comprehension tasks, like how to compare and contrast, with two other reading groups.

Meanwhile, a skillful volunteer works with another small group, reading aloud the book “Save Paper Save Trees,” pausing to discuss word meanings and to engage in rich conversation about the book and their knowledge of the world. When they finish, the volunteer calls another small group to gather around her rocking chair. These students bring a more difficult book, “Planets of the Solar System,” and engage in a more sophisticated conversation. Long gone are tracked reading and math groups. Frequent progress assessments give teachers the data they need to group students based on individual progress. “My groups are often made up of different students from week to week. Learning can happen in spurts or may be influenced by how a child is feeling physically and emotionally. Each child has his or her own learning trajectory and we can adjust the classroom and teaching style to accommodate each student.”

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:16 PM, 04.19.2010