A Strategy For Success

Photo: Third grader Zenzele Pelligree says the short "a" sound and pantomimes eating an apple.
How do teachers ensure that at least 75% of third grade students pass the Ohio Achievement Test in the spring?

Roxboro Elementary School Principal Tara Grove and third grade teachers answer that question by focusing on teaching, learning and extras. Their strategy includes collecting data during the teaching and learning cycle, careful planning of instruction, and an emphasis on richness that ensures every child experiences significant growth — even those who can pass the exam when they enter third grade. Their strategy worked last year and is being used again this year. 

Early in the school year, students take a benchmark exam that reveals what skills they need to master. At weekly Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings, principal and teachers review the skills students need, set goals and plan teaching strategies. Based on constant review of her students’ reading skills, third grade teacher Christina Lambert creates four reading groups — two reading below grade level, one on grade level and one above grade level. 

On a January afternoon, Christina Lambert sits with a small group of students at a semi-circular table. These students need to work on letter recognition. Lambert begins by showing flash cards with vowels and letter blends. The children respond by saying a sound and making a gesture. They respond to the letter “a” by saying the short “a” sound and pantomiming picking up an apple and eating it. When they say the short “u” sound they put the knuckles of both hands together, move one hand up against the other and say “up umbrella.” Incorporating movement into the lesson is a learning technique that is grounded in cognitive neuroscience research. 

Later in the lesson, Lambert asks students to write a word on their dry erase board and use it in a super sentence. With help from Lambert, the students create complex sentences. Again, science tells us that difficulty hearing sounds, spelling words, or reading isn’t connected with the ability to think or to understand complex ideas. The students are developing higher level critical thinking skills that ensure success at school and in life.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:35 PM, 04.16.2010