In the last couple of weeks before we left school in March, our students worked together to write wonderfully supportive letters and created uplifting artwork for deployed Military members. They also filled 20 boxes with "goodies from home" to ship with the letters. The boxes have arrived around the world and are now being enjoyed and we would love for students to see the Thank You letters that PHS has received in return. Click on the title above to read the letters.
This year our school and district are focusing on four main initiatives: Digital Learning, Differentiation, Growth Mindset and Responsive Classrooms. I want to use this platform to tell you a little about each one and share how Perry Harrison is incorporating these initiatives into our classroom instruction.
Digital Learning is a district initiative called Ignite Chatham. This initiative focuses on the
“coherence between multiple district programs, priorities, and previous initiatives. These efforts will ignite innovative instruction, empower student learning, and launch CCS to new heights. Ignite Chatham is sponsored by the NC Digital Learning Initiative, a joint venture by DPI and the Friday Institute.”
A large part of this learning involves teachers throughout the district using the Triple E framework. This student-centered framework helps teachers plan for and administrators evaluate effective technology integration to meet student learning goals. The 3 E's of the framework stand for: ENGAGE, ENHANCE & EXTEND. The Triple E asks educators to consider how the use of technology engages, enhances, or extends the learning goals for students.
Great, so what does this look like in the classroom? Teachers in Kindergarten through 2nd grade have been trained on SeeSaw, a digital student portfolio tool that provides alternative ways to do formative assessments and track student growth. For example, students in Ms. Langdon’s class post their journals on SeeSaw, which allows Ms. Langdon to quickly check for student understanding in real time. This form of quick assessment provides Ms. Langdon with the ability to reteach topics, extend instruction, and provide students with immediate feedback. Students are also provided the opportunity to edit their work and resubmit. Parents are able to see student progress and make comments on their student's work. In grades 3-5 teachers have been trained on Google Classroom. Students in Ms. Runion’s class use Google Classroom to easily locate and complete digital assignments and to collaborate with peers by having digital conversations about books they are reading.
Differentiation is another district initiative. Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual student needs. Teachers differentiate instruction to meet the needs of struggling students, called support, and to meet the needs of high achieving students, called challenge. There are many different ways teachers can do this-through content, process, products, or the learning environment. Simply put this means teachers can adjust what they teach (content), how they instruct (process) and how they assess (product) depending on the needs of the students in their class. Differentiation is anything but simple, however, and takes lots of practice and training. Fortunately we have many teachers at Perry Harrison who are experts at this. In Ms. Bitting’s K/1 class, for example, students work together to learn sight words. The kindergarteners read the words to the first graders who spell the words back to the kindergartners. Students in this room can also choose flexible seating while working on diverse literacy skills in self-rotating centers during Language Arts.
Growth Mindset is something that Perry Harrison decided to focus on this school year as a way to help both students and teachers see the value of effort, risk-taking and failure as all part of the learning process. Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton professor of psychology at Stanford University and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Ballantine Books), focuses her work on the distinction between “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. Basically a fixed mindset says that intelligence is a fixed trait and looking smart is the most important characteristic of a person. Students with a fixed mindset tend to avoid challenges, give up easily, ignore useful feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. On the flip side, a growth mindset says that intelligence can be developed and learning is the most important thing. Students who have a growth mindset tend to enjoy challenges, persist despite failure, learn through feedback and are inspired by the success of others.
Growth Mindset strategies are a little more difficult to see outright in the classroom. Sometimes it’s more about what you hear teachers say to students in the form of verbal feedback. For example, you might hear our Kindergarten teachers say, “Of course it’s tough –school is here to make our brains stronger!” And, “When you think you can’t do it, remind yourself that you can’t do it yet.” Students all over Perry Harrison are setting goals for themselves. In Ms. Hawkins’ 5th grade class, students set quarterly math goals. Ms. Hawkins’ sits down with students individually to discuss their progress. A conversation I overheard sounded like this, “Look at how much progress you made on this. Do you remember how much more challenging this was last month?” These types of conversations let students know that effort, struggle and persistence are valued in this school and will help them grow and become better students.
Responsive Classrooms in another school initiative that Perry Harrison adopted to focus on improving the overall classroom environment.
“Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to education that focuses on the strong relationship between academic success and social-emotional learning (SEL). The Responsive Classroom approach empowers educators to create safe, joyful, and engaging learning communities where all students have a sense of belonging and feel significant.”
Thus far, our teachers have been trained on Morning Meeting and Quiet Time, two important components of Responsive Classroom that build classroom community and help students refocus their energy. Later this year, we will get trained in Closing Time, a way in which teachers can end the day with time for reflection. I’m proud to say that all of our teachers have embraced Responsive Classroom is one way or another. In Ms. Pruckno’s 1st grade class, students begin every morning with an opportunity to greet one another, a chance to share and listen to their peers, as well as engage in a cooperative game or activity. These components have played a foundational role in establishing routines, community, and social and emotional skills. In Ms. Womble’s 3rd grade class students use quiet time to refocus and transition back into the classroom in a purposeful manner after returning from specials. She's noticed that students are more focused on learning and are mentally prepared to engage in their learning once she began implementing this strategy.
Our goal is to continue working on these initiatives and to build on them next year. As you can see, we have made a lot of progress but there is always more work to do. I am confident that with the support of our families and the district, and a continued focus on growth, we will see the fruits of our labor.
To keep parents in the loop on all the great things going on at PHS, they can: