Esther Blake walked around her classroom at Chukker Creek Elementary School recently, checking her second-graders’ work.
She knows them especially well, having served as their first-grade teacher last year.
In the next hallway, Dee Sanborn is enjoying the same experience with third-graders she taught in second grade previously.
The K-12 education field has a fascinating language all its own, including the teaching strategy called “looping” that the teachers are participating in.
Both Blake and Sanborn got the go-ahead from principal Amy Gregory. Blake, a 27-year veteran, has taught first grade at Chukker Creek since the school opened in 1995.
“There was an opening in second grade, and I thought it might be fun,” she said. “I’ve read a lot of research on looping. The consistency is good for kids, and there’s no loss of instruction time.”
Actually, only 15 of her 23 students joined her in second grade, but the newcomers have benefited from the holdovers’ comfort level.
Blake enjoyed first grade, which has changed dramatically over the years in terms of the students’ capabilities and the expectations they’re expected to fulfill. Kindergarten is more like what first grade used to be in terms of knowing letters and basic sight words.
“It’s a sweet group, and they have worked together really well since day one this year,” said Blake. “They’re more mature and independent as second-graders.”
Sanborn began a second career five years ago as an early childhood education intern at Chukker Creek in a second-grade classroom. She was delighted to return to that grade-level as a new teacher.
“It’s a year of wonder,” Sanborn said. “They learn quite a bit in first grade. Then in second grade, they take in new concepts, moving beyond that play-sense of learning. It becomes, ‘Wow, I can use this in real life.’”
She enjoyed her students so much last year that she wanted to see how far they could go. But looping also provided Sanborn the experience of not having to do as much student assessment as she would with a new group.
Earlier this month, her students completed the Measure of Academic Program which, in part, provides information on areas of strengths and weaknesses.
“I have been really impressed with the results, and the students have shown a lot of maturity over the summer, “Sanborn said. “I’m a young teacher, as far as my career is concerned, and we’re learning from each other. I would be totally open to doing this again with second-graders.”
The new and more rigorous Common Core academic standards are being fully implemented this year in all grades, but Blake introduced them to her first-graders last year. The standards remain more challenging.
“They’re not bubbling in answers,” Black said. “The children are expected to tell me why they got that answer and if there is another way they could solve the problem. This is fun, and I’m enjoying it. The kids are growing up and becoming more responsible.”