If you were to enter a classroom in Blue Hill Elementary School today, it may not be the classroom you remembered being part of as you were growing up. I know for me - it’s been a transitional shift from the way I was taught, to the way that I taught when I first became a teacher, to the strategies and methods used by teachers in classrooms today. Times have changed and teaching methods have changed.
I believe the biggest transformation has been the focus on active learning. Our teachers are providing students with opportunities to learn and show what they know in many different ways. No longer are students simply listening to a lecture or a lesson, doing homework, and then testing on their knowledge.
If you take a glimpse inside one of our classrooms today, you may see students creating a group presentation on civil discourse and sharing it with the rest of the class. This is what they are graded on. This is how they learn and take pride and ownership in what they learn.
You might notice that students are involved in a “Pair and Share” where they are interacting and sharing with each other about what was learned.
You may see a student teaching the rest of the class a math lesson. Not only does this give them an opportunity to interact with new knowledge, it gives them a chance to work on public speaking and communication. We go back to “ownership of learning” - that’s what is happening in our school! Students are up and moving around while actively learning. Instead of sitting at their desks, raising their hands and answering questions, you may see them standing, answering a question, and tossing a ball to a person who will answer the next question. We had fifth-grade students plan and prepare a presentation and brochures for new students and then they put their work on this project into action as they welcomed new students to the building by delivering their presentation that included “everything you may want to know about being a student at Blue Elementary School”. We had “Pablo Picasso” (AKA Mrs. Atwater) present to kids on art structure and history from “his” perspective. These are just a few examples of all the great things that are going on in our school on a daily basis. These are authentic learning opportunities for our kids! At the end of the day, our teachers leave exhausted, but come back with the same vigor and vitality that they had the day before because they care about our kids!
Research shows that interacting, collaborating, communicating, sharing and exploring makes for optimal learning. These authentic learning opportunities that teachers are providing for our kids is the backbone of the educational experiences that our students are partaking in on a daily basis.
I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of our teachers and students at Blue Hill. We have a culture of teaching and learning that we can truly be proud of as a community. We recently received our finalized Nebraska State Assessment (NeSA) results and it was no surprise to me that the results were fantastic! Every class in every subject area (ELA, Math, Science) was at or above the state average. This provides us with a snapshot and confirmation that we are going in the right direction. When students enjoy and take ownership of their own learning, they shine!