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Poestenkill Elementary School“Teaching Struggling Learners” Conference Presenter: Principal, Peter De Witt, M.S. Ed., S.D.A. Averill Park Central School District
What You Will Learn Today • Personal Stories • A better understanding of a struggling learner • Proactive approaches • Classroom Interventions • Building approaches • Approaches and interventions that will work with all students, regardless of if they are classified or not. • Graduation/Report Card Data
Background Information • Educational Experience • Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education (College of Saint Rose) • Masters Degree in Educational Psychology (Marist College) • Advanced Study Degree in Educational Administration (College of Saint Rose) • Administration • Principal of Poestenkill Elementary School. Averill Park Central School District • Board of Directors, Albany Damien Center • Children’s Author • Toaster Pond (DNA Press) • Catcher’s Mitt (Centering Corporation, summer 2007) • Isabella and the Room of Lost Brooms (DNA Press, fall 2007)
Teaching Experience • Eleven years • One & ½ years in a private school system • Nine years in city school districts – • 35% free/reduced lunch • 75% free/reduced lunch • Inclusion: Over 20% of the population was Special Education • Team teaching – Push-in/ Pull-out inclusion programs • Reading First School • Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Education
How Struggling Learners are Described • Bored • Lazy • Not trying hard enough • He/she could do better if they wanted to • Not interested in school • Need to be classified – some do need to be classified, but not all. • Detached
What if… • What if we dig down deeper to find out why they’re detached? • What if we concentrate on the subject but focus more on the student? • What if we find multiple interventions to use with them (differentiated instruction, etc.)? • What if we concentrated on being proactive, not reactive? • Wouldn’t that help us understand why they’re struggling and help them become successful?
Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much, are the three pillars of learning. Benjamin Disraeli
Life Experience • Father was diagnosed with cancer when I was in fourth grade • Grandparents • Retained in Fourth • Father passed away when I was in fifth grade • Mother received her GED • Sub-sophomore • Involved in a car accident at the age of seventeen • Graduated 262 out of 266 • Youngest of five, first to go to college
Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.Aldous Huxley
The Enlightenment! • GPA - 1.7 – Third community college • Hit the frustration level • Learning Assistance Center • Asking for help is difficult • GPA - 3.86 • First sign of success was wonderful and uncomfortable all at the same time
A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions. Anonymous
What Turned Life Around? • Positive peer relationships • Role models (teachers, coaches) • As the positives start rolling, you see the light at the end of the tunnel • Stepped out of my normal environment
What Did I Learn? • Different learners need different types of instruction – no matter what grade level the students are in. • Walking into the LAC I found someone who knew how to teach to my strengths (strengths-based instruction)
A student by definition doesn't know what he or she doesn't know. Michael Gorman
What does PES do to Help Struggling Learners? • Proactive Approach • Tour of the building to new arrivals • Summer • During the school year • Kindergarten visitation • Kids Club/Advisory • A positive adult influence • Reciprocal benefit for teachers & staff • Professional Development • For instructional and educational support staff • Workshops
Professional Development • In-services – approved by building principal and then approved by the assistant superintendent • They are taught by teachers within the district • No need for “one shot deals” • Wilson Reading • Fundations • Book Clubs • Homework Issues • Using the environment in our teaching • Writing workshops • Four-Square • Six-Traits of Writing • All in-services are open to faculty & staff because they all have direct contact with students
Professional Development for Educational Support Staff & Transportation • Interactions outside of the classroom have a direct impact on instruction in the classroom • How to build positive interactions/relationships • Between kids and other adults • De-escalation strategies • How & when to intervene • Teasing/Harassment • Observable Behaviors & "I" statements • Self-Esteem (staff & student) • Confidentiality • One teacher, high school assistant principal, and elementary principal teach thirty minute workshops in each building, once a week during each school day.
Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. Gail Godwin
Classroom Approaches • Collaboration • Book Clubs • Differentiated instruction • Center-based, activity-based instruction • Incorporating music into instruction • Banjos, guitars & singing • Musical poetry • Songs about the seven continents…to helping out the world • Change the look of our environment • Exercise balls • Theatre lighting • Chewing gum?
Center-based Instruction • 90 minute reading blocks • Small group, large group • Homogeneous, heterogeneous • Hands-on math lessons (using manipulatives as much as possible) • Incorporating our 27 acres of land into science lessons • Gardening projects • Courtyard instruction
Initiatives to Enhance Classroom Instruction • Child study team (CST) • Strict twenty minute timeframe • Everyone has a job • Scribe • Brainstorming • timer • Principal’s Advisory Committee (PAC) • Study skills • Wonderlab- Used for children in need of a sensory diet. These children do not have to be classified with an I.E.P. but they do have to have parental permission
Initiatives to Address Non-academic Strengths • Counseling • Friends groups • Service-learning • Magic Moments • Reading Buddies • Student spotlight • Trailblazers • Heifer Project • Project adventure • Arts-in-education • After-school Enrichment (ASE) • Junior Achievement
A strong home/school communication/partnership • Magic Moments • Volunteering • Come Play with Me Days • Reader’s Theatre • Parent-teacher Association (PTA) • Educational Improvement Team (EIT) • Learning about learning workshops • Family Events – • Grandparents’ Day • Harvest Festival • Open Houses (throughout the year) • Family Events • Music Concerts – seasonal, Erie Canal, Albany Symphony Orchestra • Kindergarten Visits – proactive approach
In the Following Graphs… • Percentages are for students graduating from high school over a five year span • Does not separate between GED, IEP, Regents, or Local Diplomas • Does not take into account the many students not classified because of our proactive approach (ex. AIS, study groups)
Thank You!!! • If you have any questions/comments, please e-mail me at: • Toasterpond@hotmail.com • www.toasterpond.com