Our multi-grade classrooms create a cycle of leadership. When students move to a new classroom, they make new friends and renew friendships with former classmates. Students remain in the same classroom for two years.
How do you establish a learning community with children who are six, seven, and eight years old?
NGFS students create their classroom rules through a well thought out process at the beginning of the school year. Even children at this age have an innate knowledge of what they need to feel safe, valued, and ready to learn. Through discussions, shared books, and activities, our students begin to be able to articulate what they already “know” about themselves. This is an important developmental building block, for now they can begin to appreciate that others may have similar needs. The investment of time in building this awareness is critical, children become invested in how the rules are worded and what each rule actually means to how they live and work together. The culminating rule-signing ceremony is a celebration of their hard work and of their personal investment in the success of their classroom community.
Ask a first or second grade “Rainbow” student their favorite time of day (other than outside time) and the response will surely be “choice time.” At NGFS, thematic units integrate subjects and content areas. Our hands-on, experiential course of study provides the opportunity for students to apply their knowledge in meaningful ways: an art project teaches a scientific concept, an outside writing activity encourages students to describe the world around them, an apple tasting invites students to graph their favorites and analyze the graph. Thematic units not only encourage collaboration, they address the diverse ways students engage in their work and their world.
First and second graders attend each resource class (Art, Music, Spanish and PE) twice a week. The content of resource classes may mesh with what is being taught in the regular classroom; making a pinch pot out of clay was an activity during a Native American unit of study. End of unit celebrations showcase student work and often integrate the Arts, Spanish and PE resources.
Service Learning Students in first through third grades team up in multi-grade groupings and perform service projects both on and off campus. Some share their singing talents with residents at Friends Homes and at our preschool, others decorate tote bags and fill them with books and goodies for new mothers at Women’s Hospital. Other students are part of the Odd Job Squad which does tasks to help teachers and other staff members at NGFS.
Beginning in third grade students have the opportunity to participate in the drama production. For one semester each year, some of the rehearsals occur during service learning time. These students will serve their community by sharing their talents and entertaining both the school and greater community.
How do you teach first and second graders about deadlines and managing their time?
Choice time is one of the most popular times of the day; the work done at this time is important to students. There’s required work and optional work. A “top priority” system provides specific due dates for some of the centers, creating a situation in which students have to organize their time and make choices that allow them to meet deadlines. When things are not finished on time, the appropriate consequence of having a teacher make your choices for you, is a motivating factor to improve your time management the following week.