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Bush Works To Create An Environment Of Learning

Bush Elementary School second graders in Jill Smith’s class take a “gallery walk” through Laurel Schwartz’s classroom to view their peer’s work during their “Tall Tales” learning and listening unit.

“What did you notice as you went through the Gallery Walk today and looked at your friend’s work?” asked Bush Elementary School teacher Jill Smith.

“I saw one that had good writing and a lot of details and really good pictures,” said a student.

“That’s wonderful, so having a lot of details makes it more interesting, right?”

All Bush Elementary School second graders were participating in a “gallery walk” where students visit each other’s classrooms to look at their peer’s work. The gallery walks are an opportunity to share work, help give students ideas and raise their expectations. The second graders are working on a “Tall Tales” English Language Arts listening and learning unit and chose their favorite tall tale to write about and draw a picture.

“I picked Pecos Bill to do my writing and drawing on because I liked the part in the book where Pecos Bill rode a tornado!” said Sa’mari Spencer. “I like seeing which tall tale my friends chose and how they wrote their stories and pictures.”

The gallery walks are just one of many ways Bush second grade teachers, Mrs. Smith, Laurel Schwartz and Katie Darling, are helping to create an environment of learning.

“Activities like the gallery walks teach our students to analyze and self-critique,” said Mrs. Darling. “Our goal is for students to determine what they can do to improve their work. Students get new ideas such as adding more sentences, incorporating vocabulary words, adding voice to their writing, and/or adding details to an illustration. We also hope that activities like this make students feel valued, motivated and supported because as teachers we know if they feel that way, they are much more interested in learning.”

In addition to the gallery walks, Bush second grade teachers use an activity called “Trunk Reveal” as an introduction to their next literacy listening and learning units. The teachers will pull out objects to give the students clues on the unit’s theme. For example, teachers pulled out a pumpkin and mask first and everyone thought it was about Halloween. But then, they took out a rose and students had to guess that they would be studying fairytales. The Trunk Reveals help to increase anticipation for the upcoming unit and work on critical thinking skills.

The teachers also have morning meeting each day to share the schedule and any questions or concerns they might have. The morning meetings give teachers an idea of who is ready to learn and, who is having a tough start to their day and be able to help them out. The teachers also encourage and promote students to learn from each other using structures like: Turn and talk (where they turn and talk to a friend next to them about the lesson), Back to Back and Face to Face (students think about what they will say when they are back to back and then turn and talk face to face giving them time to collect their thoughts) and Inside, Outside Circle (students are placed in a big circle and a smaller inside circle – they rotate to different people to talk about a topic). All of these techniques help enhance comprehension of the lesson and encourage discussion and engagement with their peers. Often, hearing an answer in a different way may deepen another student’s understanding and allows everyone to share his or her thoughts.

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