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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Brian Crosby has looped for years with his students, actually having the same students for three years at a time, he would be a great resource for you! All teachers I have worked with love looping with students, I look forward to listening to your thoughts as you go through this new adventure!
Both of my daughters looped with their first grade teachers and it was a wonderful experience. I feel their 2nd grade year progressed them more academically because they already had the classromm dynamics in place. I would recommend the process to any parent.
Patti, I’ve heard only great things about this process. How cool to watch and learn with your kids a second year in a row. No getting on board in September and trying to determine best approaches–you already know! Have a great summer and year.
Thanks, Robin! Just found him on Twitter and his Learning is Messy blog. 🙂 Will definitely tap into his expertise!
I’ve looped my English class twice over the past 6 years with 7th and 8th graders. I have to tell you, it’s AMAZING. Yes, you have to create new curriculum and shake things up, but the time you save getting to know each child’s quirks and needs and to establish classroom climate and procedure is well worth it. In my eyes, it gives me two months of extra quality teaching time.
This year we’re trying something new at our school: multiage. I’ll be teaching 6-8th grade English and history, and I’ll have the 6th graders all three years they’re with us. It’s like looping on steroids, and I’m happy two other teachers are teaching with the same configuration. We’re going to plan together and share what we’re doing. There are some grade-specific quirky things (Extended field trips, exit portfolios, etc.) so we’re also going to shuffle the kids into grade level projects from time to time.
Enjoy the journey~I would never go back to a traditional configuration!
Thanks so much for posting! This is exactly what I was hoping to hear. I’d love to hear more about the multi-age configuration. How many kids will you have? It sounds like it comes with its challenges, but what a great collaborative effort! I can’t wait to come back to “my kids” in the fall – I feel like we can just pick up where we left off!
I’ll have 25-26 per class, two classes total. We’re a small school with 2 classes at each grade level. Our 1/2nd has been multiage for four years now, and we’re adding 3/4 and the 6/7/8 humanities this year. Fifth is going to integrate with 3/4 the first half, and 6/7 the second half. Eighth will pull away during the last quarter with some of the grade specific tasks we have for them.
Next year we’re also doing school-wide themes, and that’s super exciting. On project nights it will be cool for parents to see how a concept looks across K-8.
The main challenge with multiage is differentiation, but even in a grade level class there’s a wide range to plan for. I’m looking forward to the wider range in writing~the wider the better!
WOW. Sounds complex, but really interesting!! I love the idea of the school-wide themes. We did that when we did our Science Expo, and it was cool to watch the progression of the projects.
Do you do a lot of peer editing with the wide range of writers? Writer’s workshop?
Hi Patti – Yes I’ve taught multi-grade 4,5 6’s for years and now I loop 4, 5, 6th – I like it a lot. There are many pluses and very few minuses. You get to know your students and parents well and because you have them over time you can’t just wait until the end of the year so that problem student or 2 go away, you can’t give up on them and that changes your outlook … a lot! Also you gain students that know how to do things that help bring new students along. I’m here if you need suggestions.
Brian – Thanks so much for posting! I am super-excited. Working on ideas for a fresh start with some that were just starting to make strides at the end of the year. Glad to have the opportunity to keep working with them! My biggest concern is that they will come back, see me, and expect more of the same. Will need to make sure they understand that the expectations/responsibilities need to change as they move up a year, even if the teacher didn’t! Will definitely call upon your expertise…