Guest blogger Patti Grayson is an elementary teacher at Virginia’s Hampton Roads Academy and a member of her school’s digital learning leadership team. She blogs at Patti’s Ponderings.

The last day of school was very different for me this year. Instead of saying, “Goodbye,” I yelled a cheery, “See you in August!” For the first time, I will be looping with my students and following them into 4th grade.

At first, the thought of spending my summer working through an entirely new curriculum did not appeal to me. I am already teaching two weeks of summer camp and taking two classes toward my master’s degree. I’ll need to change bulletin board ideas, crafts, the books I read aloud and book report projects and come up with some fresh Web 2.0 experiences. So much work!

My boss felt strongly about it, so I did some research on looping and began to see the numerous benefits. It’s not a new practice, and I started to wonder: Why haven’t we done this before?

At the beginning of each year, I spend a great deal of time getting to know my students, discussing classroom rules, and establishing expectations. They are nervous, quiet, and there’s a lag before their wonderful personalities begin to emerge. In addition, I spend the first few weeks working to determine reading levels, learning styles, strengths and weaknesses. I believe we’ll have a much easier start this fall and leap right into the heart of learning.

I spoke to the parents at our final conference in May. They were ecstatic! They are comfortable with my teaching style and expectations. They look forward to a smooth start with no anxiety on the part of their students or themselves about getting used to a completely new learning environment.

Here are the big benefits to looping:
Those children who need stability will start the year stronger.
Shy students who finally came out of their shell in March will be more confident.
I know exactly who they are, what they learned last year, where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
I can immediately work to individualize the curriculum for my students!

To keep in touch over the summer, my students’ summer reading assignment is simply to write to me and tell me about what they have read. They can mail a letter or email me, letting me know what they thought of each book. I’ve also encouraged them to email photos of vacations or other summer activities. I’m truly excited to maintain these relationships and get right to our most important work when we return to school.

I’m anticipating a great year of learning in my classroom. Although testing is not my primary focus, I think the time we’ll gain and the ability to tailor instruction will yield stronger scores. More to come on that.

Please let me know in the comments if you have looped with a class. Pros and cons? Should this be a regular practice for elementary or middle school students where consistency and stability are paramount? What do I need to know that I might not have yet anticipated?

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.
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