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October 07, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike

What difference collaboration makes! This year our program was able to offer two sections of our School Readiness class. Not only are we serving twice as many students and families, but I finally have another well trained educator to collaborate with! It is amazing some of the great ideas that come together during our planning meetings. We collaborate with one another on the individual needs of our students, lesson planning and skills building opportunities, as well as how best to support our families.

School Readiness is a partially state funded program that targets children with little to no school experience. In our two classes you will find that although most students are new to school, some have had other early learning experiences. Through our conversations and sharing of tactics, we help one another identify the individual needs of our most struggling students. For example, we both have a lot of English language learners in our classes. I helped her develop storyboards and books that prompt students visually. It is a skill I used when working with autistic children, but it applies for every learner, in particular English Language Learners. In both of our classes we use story boards to help us explain “sit down,” “please keep your mouth quiet,” and “please use a tissue,” just to name a few.

This year we have committed to trying a new style of lesson planning. Since we only have our students for two hours each day, our small group activities focus on a different academic topic each day: Monday is Social Studies, Tuesday is Math and Science, Wednesday is Literacy, and Thursday is Large Muscle. This allows us to be very intentional in our plans. We reference the state standards and try to link our material to meaningful and relevant topics for our students. In addition, we have a daily large group time and free choice time where students can experience a multitude of hands on learning opportunities.

It is great to collaborate with my colleague as we try to determine how best to support our families. There are many needs within our program. Several of our families are recent immigrants to the U.S., some work the second or third shift, and others live below the federal poverty level. Living conditions such as these put great strain on even the closest of families. As we get to know each family and their needs better, my colleague and I are able to suggest specific resources that can help ease some of the stress. Just today I helped a family understand why special education testing could be a real benefit to their child. Their child will be able to learn in a smaller class size with more one on one support. They will have an opportunity to practice social interaction on a smaller scale and work with speech therapist. The family was thrilled to know that this will help their child eventually assimilate back into the mainstream classroom setting. Because of our great working relationships, all of our teachers talk to each other and support one another as difficult, yet necessary decisions are made.

I am thankful everyday for the opportunity to grow with other teachers who are so passionate and thoughtful in their work.


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