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The schedules below provide a glimpse into our Early Childhood, elementary, and middle school programs for SY2016-17. Each year as part of our regular process of reflection and refinement, school leaders assess all aspects of the daily schedule to ensure the strongest academic program and the best structure for faculty growth and development, and make modifications as necessary.
I generally leave my house and arrive around the time doors open at the Anacostia Elementary Campus (shortly after 6:30AM). I’m a bonafide caffeine junkie, so I have my two cups of coffee before Preppies arrive at 7:30AM!
I spend this time prepping my American University preschool classroom (all DC Prep classes are college-themed at every grade level) for the day – gathering materials, reviewing lesson plans, checking data from the previous day to make any needed adjustments, setting up my room, etc. I’m really someone whose mind needs to feel organized to BE organized so I like to have time to put everything in its place ahead of student arrival. I also sneak in a quick breakfast to fuel myself for the fun day ahead!
This is the time when Preppies are being dropped off in our classroom by families. I think it’s a really important part of the day because it sets the tone for everything that follows. I have upbeat, happy music playing in our classroom, Preppies sign in when they arrive and hang their name up and then retrieve books from our book bins. They can also talk to their classmates.
I’m usually posted up near our door so that I can spend time greeting each student and parent. I co-teach, so my colleague circulates in the room making sure Preppies have breakfast, etc.
Morning Meeting is one of my favorite parts of the day, I love it! It’s all about the social skills we are working with Preppies on throughout the year, so we use this time to work together as a team and sing fun songs, and we work on a social skill lesson as a group. For example, in the beginning of the year we focus on how to be in school (following rules and routines, etc.), but as the year progresses the lesson is more about how Preppies can take ownership (how to advocate for oneself, how to persevere when things are difficult, etc.). This is a really fun time to connect as a class.
This is a unique part of our day – other than Morning Meeting, it’s the only academic block where we’re all together for the entire year. We work on team-building exercises as a class, centered more on reading comprehension for this block of time. We analyze and discuss a story’s characters and plot, and, together, we make predictions. My Preppies get really into our stories, it's fun to see them make connections to the plot!
My co-teacher and I review the Centers available for a given day and what class expectations are. If we’re starting a new unit, we typically take some extra time to explain each station and materials and how to engage with them. Once weeks in a unit progress, students familiar with Centers stations develop their own “play plans” – determining which station they’ll go to, what they’ll do there, and whether or not they want to work independently or with friends.
In the early portion of the year, Centers stations tied to Unit 1’s “I’m a DC Preppie” consisted of dramatic play in a school, writing/art about how to identify needs, etc. Mid-year during our “Fairy Tale” unit, dramatic play will change to the setting of our class read-aloud story (an enchanted forest).
Centers offer an array of fun manipulatives for students to reinforce lessons in the unit and to really let their imaginations soar!
So, at DC Prep we talk about how “learning is sacred” and that every minute counts. I really take this to heart and use just about every minute of our day in a purposeful and/or fun way. Snack time is no exception!
Although an informal, non-instructional time, I typically circulate around the room and engage with Preppies in fun letter and letter sound exercises, or on vocabulary while they enjoy their snacks. For example, sometimes I’ll play a song during snack time that goes through letter sounds, or I’ll recite a poem about letter sounds or a chant while Preppies eat. We have a lot of fun and I occasionally eat a snack with them to re-fuel, mid-morning!
This is my favorite academic block – we work on phonics instruction, which I’ve often teed up in snack time. Preppies have a great time and I keep things very game-based to build and maintain enthusiasm around what is essentially our team-taught phonics block. We work on everything from letters, letter sounds, concept of same/different, syllables and beginning sounds, rhyme schemes, you name it!
I use this as a time to continue building relationships with my students, and to just let loose and have fun!
This is another team-taught block with the whole class. Where our Read Aloud is all about comprehension, Shared Reading is about reading behavior. We review things like front cover, back cover, title, author, illustrator, identifying the first and last letter of a word, tracking words. Basically, the “mechanics” of reading. Most of the books we read together are pattern-text that Preppies can easily pick up on as they build a strong foundation as lifelong readers.
Similar to snack time, I always try to circulate and work on vocabulary games and whatnot with Preppies.
I use this time to check student homework, to fill out Prep Notes, and to plan. I also eat my lunch, which is very necessary at this point in the day!
Once a week I might have a Grade Level Team meeting, or I might also use this time to help cover for another class. I also use this as a time to connect with parents – sometimes, I’ll make calls but I tend to do more family engagement in-person during arrival or at dismissal.
Preppies wake up from their nap with a very peppy, loud, and cheerful song.
Our specials rotate on a semester schedule – in Q1 and Q2, students have physical education. In Q3 and Q4, they have music. I use this time to prep or work on assessments.
This is another team-taught block of instructional time. We start with Math Meeting where we review rote memorization skills in a fast-paced setting and then we work on concepts around number identification, number writing, making a set, etc., before we move on to the heart of the day’s lesson.
Since we already did a Centers Meeting in the morning, my co-teacher and I generally move through the afternoon’s Centers Meeting quickly. The Centers are the same but the difference is that in the afternoon session, we pull similar groups of students for small-group Math instruction.
At the beginning of the year in preschool, we really focus on developing strong fine motor skills that will help Preppies hold a pencil to form letters. As the year progresses, my co-teacher and I work on things like developmental spelling, beginning sounds (e.g., if a student draws a cow, they should have a C or a K on their paper).
At the end of every day, Preppies pack their things up and we close out the day similar to how we started it – with a Closing Meeting together as a class. We discuss what we did that day, what we learned, how we did on social skills for the day, and we reflect on what we need to focus on as a class the following day. We also do a HUGE celebration together of the positive things that happened during the school day.
Families come into the classroom for dismissal and, my favorite part, we end the day with our American University college cheer (which parents, Preppies, and teachers equally love!):
I’m going to college
You’re going to college
We’re all going to college in 2031!
Preppies get picked up by families or attend our aftercare program, Prep EX!
I spend this time entering data for the day and prepping whatever I can before I head home. I typically leave no later than 4:30PM since I arrive so early. I’m the type of morning person who’d rather come in early if it means I can leave early!
I usually get to school around 7:00AM, coffee in tow. I like to spend this time organizing my Gonzaga* classroom for Advisory (our version of “homeroom” first thing in the morning) and for the day ahead. This usually consists of straightening desks, writing out the class goal for the morning, and posting the message for the day which is designed to get Preppies engaged in a meaningful dialog (e.g.: “Dear Gonzaga, Good Morning! Today is Whimsical Wednesday and together we will move quickly and quietly. Why is it important that we move quickly and quietly during transitions?”). I also set out Prep Notes and pencils and put materials where they need to be in each classroom – at DC Prep, we’re departmentalized** in 1st grade so I like to organize my Math materials in each classroom that I will push into throughout the day.
*Throughout the entire DC Prep network, from preschool through 8th grade, each classroom is named after a college or university as part of our college-prep focus. Preppies of all ages spend the academic year learning about their assigned school – its history, location, focus, and any fun chants.
**It’s somewhat unusual to be departmentalized in an elementary school setting – none of the schools I previously taught in took this approach – but I’ve found that I’m a stronger Math teacher for it. It does mean that I have to work much harder to build relationships with my Preppies since many only see me in one Math Focus Lesson each day. But that departmentalization was part of what drew me to DC Prep – I’d heard a lot of great things about the network and the student achievement structures in place that aligned with what I think ultimately make a school successful. At DC Prep, we give all students a voice and so many opportunities to engage with material in different ways - it’s ultimately really rewarding to see them grasp complex concepts and to really develop relationships with their peers and teachers.
At the beginning of the year, I spend part of my morning working 1:1 and/or with a small group of Preppies to offer extra support for homework and in-class focus lesson objectives. The group rotates and consists of about eight Preppies.
I attend Morning Meeting led by the Principal during the end of arrival. (We have a saying at DC Prep, If it’s 8, you’re late! All students are expected to be punctual.) It’s a time when the school comes together as a community and sets a positive tone for the day ahead. During Morning Meeting, I help make sure that all Preppies are engaged and participating.
I walk my Gonzaga Advisory class up to our room when Morning Meeting has finished. Students take their folders out and enter our classroom. Then, I do routine Prep Check (consisting of reviewing homework from the prior evening and collecting Prep Notes* signed by parents). I also use this time to connect with Preppies, making sure they have what they need for the day.
*Across DC Prep’s network, students keep track of their own behavior and progress in a daily Prep Note. Prep Notes track students’ positive (and sometimes negative) demonstrations of “Prep Skills” – a set of developmentally-appropriate social skills. Teachers write notes for students throughout the day on their Prep Notes, and parents review them each evening. Preppies bring back the signed Prep Note from the day prior and are given a new one for the school day ahead during Advisory.
I like to start each day as a class community with Morning Meeting. I read the day’s message, we do some fun call-and-response activities together, and I have Preppies do turn-and-talks with their peers. Relationship-building is important, and I sometimes use Morning Meeting as an informal time to allow my students to interact and share their thoughts with classmates and as a whole group. I also do some general housekeeping things during this time – making announcements, letting students know if there is a schedule change, setting the tone for the day, etc.
Similar in format to Morning Meeting, I begin our Math Focus Meeting as a whole class. Together, we review things like the calendar, sequential counting, fluency, and other refresher objectives in a fast-paced, call-and-response format. I try to keep it fun, and Preppies get really into it and excited! Then, we dive into the daily objective lesson before some independent and/or group activity.
During this time, I push into the University of Oregon classroom and run a lesson similar to what I taught to my Gonzaga Preppies.
By this point in the morning, I’ve taught two Math Focus Lessons back-to-back, so I use this time to refine my lesson as needed. If the lessons went well, I might make minor adjustments to my lesson plan and prep materials. Sometimes, however, I re-adjust the entire lesson based on my morning observations so that students can better absorb the material.
I also use this time to check in on 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms with students I taught in prior years to see how they’re doing and to reconnect.
This lesson runs the same as prior classes, unless I adjust the lesson plan based on early morning observations. One difference here, though, is that at 10:40AM, my special education colleague pushes into the classroom, pulling small groups of students for a targeted lesson.
This time can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the day. Sometimes, I check in with my Math coach to debrief about how my lessons went – as part of my own professional development, I have a coach that offers in-class observations, helping me to be best teacher I can be for my Preppies.
Sometimes I might also use this time to connect with colleagues about small-group reflections, or other Math teachers about how particular students are doing – both in my grade and beyond.
Or, I might grab lunch, input grades, and prep materials for the next day. On occasion I use this time to call families. It really just depends on the day!
I push into Oregon to support Preppies with literacy. Some Preppies are on computers, some are independently reading, and some are reading for comprehension. Regardless, I like to float around and make sure that students are engaged with their content while a colleague is working with a small group of Preppies.
During this planning block in the afternoon, I typically have meetings. On Tuesdays, I have a Grade Level Team meeting during which we check in on how Preppies are doing generally, before we dive into things like student supports, grade level norming, planning for field trips and family events, etc.
My colleagues and I are constantly analyzing student data – from exit tickets, homework, interims, you name it – to make adjustments to lessons and to offer small-group interventions and supports that Preppies need for subject mastery. During this time, I work with a small group of students along with my special education colleague. We place Preppies into three groups based on interim scores and work with them to target specific deficits and skills based on how they performed in testing. Typically, two groups of students are with each teacher, and the third group works on Math exercises on Chromebooks. Because we’re always analyzing the data, these groups shift throughout the year. Similarly, my teaching of the groups fluctuates throughout the week: On Mondays and Tuesdays, I teach the high-performing group, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I teach the medium-performing group.
This small group session runs the same as the one prior to it, except I co-teach with my Math coach.
Some additional reflections on these small intervention groups:
• My colleagues and I split the planning for each group. One of us plans for the low-performing group, another for the medium-performing group (that’s me this year), and another for the high-performing group. We spend a lot of time connecting and collaborating to make sure our lessons are tight and that they boost student learning.
• I enjoy this intervention time very much because the skills we target in our lessons are specific to student needs. Within each group, the learning is purposeful and meaningful and I’m able to give my full attention to each and every single student in a very concentrated way. I find that my Preppies are incredibly engaged – it’s a really positive series of groups we (re)form throughout the year and a great way to connect with students!
This is the time for me to come full-circle with my Gonzaga Preppies – at the end of the day, we gather for Afternoon Meeting prior to dismissal. We assemble on the rug to debrief about our day, to reflect on glows and grows, etc. I try to infuse these reflections with feedback I’ve heard throughout the day from colleagues. We also do a read-aloud of a book that I often let the class pick. Sometimes, to mix things up, we do a quick whole-group reflection and then I let Preppies have “choice time” where they can do art studio, free draw, build things, or spend extra time on the computer. Or, sometimes we do incentives like a dance party. Regardless, it’s a really fun way to close out our day together – Preppies don’t want to miss it and neither do I!
We dismiss at 4:00PM in the classroom, so I use that as a time to connect with families and have 1:1 conversations with them. I also make a few phone calls each week, with an emphasis on giving positive feedback.
Depending on the day of the week, I might have a Math Meeting with my 1st grade colleagues and our counterparts at the Benning Elementary Campus. Cross-campus collaboration within DC Prep’s network is a huge focus and one that I appreciate.
If I don’t have any meetings, I try to prep whatever I reasonably can to give myself a head start the next morning. I generally leave around 5:00PM. DC Prep teachers are available until 8:00PM on school nights for student/family support. Sometimes, families will call or text me in the evening, typically with homework questions. When this happens, I usually end up talking to the parent and the Preppie!
I find that my Preppies and I are so much more comfortable and ready for the day’s learning when everything is in its proper place in our classroom environment. I try to arrive on campus early to give myself time to prep my ELA* materials and supplies for the day. Preparation is key!
*DC Prep is departmentalized in 1st-8th grade.
DC Prep places a huge focus on small-group instruction, meeting kids where they’re at and pushing them to grow intellectually. At this point in the morning, I am joined by two colleagues (our Special Education ELA teacher as well as the other 5th grade ELA teacher), and we break into three groups of no more than six to eight Preppies each. Each of us works with a group of students at similar levels on shared reading texts and on grade level texts. Although my colleagues and I are in charge of specific groups based on demonstrated skill levels, we closely collaborate and monitor student interim assessment scores on Fountas & Pinnell testing. In that monitoring and student data analysis, these groups are fluid, changing about three to four times each year depending on student progress.
*Daily Prep Sessions provide small group, skill-based instruction cementing mastery of grade level standards, and offering enrichment to students performing at accelerated levels. This system provides a plan for each student, ensuring that every child is being taught at the appropriate level. Each student has two Prep Sessions built into their daily schedule – one focused on Math, and one focused on ELA.
After all students have transitioned into the classroom, we do a chant to release some energy and Preppies begin working on a “Do Now” activity. We then typically read the day’s objective aloud as a class – sometimes, I have them read in different voices (for Halloween, we read in our spookiest voices, which was hilarious!). At this point, we move into our main lesson based on whatever skill we’re cultivating (e.g., character sketches, being able to describe a character in a text, etc.) and start with a guided practice session. Depending on the level of familiarity with the text, I’ll sometimes dismiss students into independent practice after about 20 minutes of whole-class time.
Each lesson closes out with an “Exit Ticket” so that students can model the skill we’ve focused on. I spend this time circulating and tracking how students are doing, writing brief reflections in their Prep Notes. Because we have students with a vast array of mastery, at this time my Special Education colleague pushes into the room to work with a small group on their Exit Tickets, consistent with DC Prep’s inclusion model. Exit Tickets vary depending on the day and unit, but typically consist of a prompt asking students to describe a problem in a passage and provide textual evidence in their written answer while cross-referencing the source material.
With the same group of students, we transition to Writing with a five minute movement break. Or, sometimes, we’ll play our “Pepper” game if Preppies aren’t super antsy at this point. (This is an extremely popular and competitive game: We divide into two teams and I ask rapid-fire questions to random students based on our unit. Students can “call on a lifeline” if need be from their team members to answer a question but the other team can “steal” the answer. The game goes on like this for a few rounds and is a great way to transition into the next lesson.)
Our Writing block is mostly independent work time for students. At the outset, I model the skill(s) that we’re working on and then gives students time to work independently while I circulate to track student progress. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, my colleagues and I committed to using tech in our Writing classes. I typically start a given week with students drafting their assignments by hand, then as the week progresses, have them type their work out on a “wiki”-style page on laptops. All students have a Gmail account and access to our shared class Google drive. I post materials and prompts and can also access their work in real-time through the Hapara dashboard system we use.
At this point, I collect all materials and tidy up for the next teacher pushing into the classroom. I also use this time to enter homework data into Lumos. I’ve had a lot of parents tell me they prefer I make any necessary calls after school/work hours, so I typically don’t use this time to reach out to them. Instead, I use this time to prep materials and lesson plans for upcoming classes.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have lunch and recess duty with a group of students. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have ELA Collaborative meetings with colleagues and Grade Level Team meetings, respectively.
This is my time to finish my lunch, decompress a bit, and work on materials planning for my classes and 5th grade team (this includes materials I prep for colleagues at DC Prep’s Edgewood Middle Campus*). I try to stay disciplined about using this time mindfully to get ahead on planning and materials-prep. If I’m really productive, I can sometimes use this time to make a few personal calls like setting up a doctor appointment, etc. I really appreciate the planning time that DC Prep weaves into each teacher’s daily schedule.
*DC Prep places a huge focus on cross-campus collaboration; grade level teams will often rotate a set of responsibilities and work together on providing a set of materials. Quarterly, DC Prep hosts “Data Days” where all campuses come together to share and analyze student progress and interim assessment results – this is also a time when cross-campus teams co-plan and develop re-teaching methods.
This afternoon Prep Session has the exact same format as my morning group, except with a different set of Preppies.
Students dismiss at 4:00PM, except those staying on campus for Prep 45 or DC Prep’s Prep EX! aftercare program.
At this time, I transition to teaching Prep 45 – a required class for three groups of students: (1) all new-to-DC Prep students in 4th, 5th and 6th grades; (2) students who demonstrate specific academic needs; and (3) students who require help developing healthy homework habits based on academic data. Prep 45 is a really important part of our academic program and I focus on reading intervention and homework support. For new-to-DC Prep students, Prep 45 assists them with the transition into DC Prep and supports them in developing effective homework and organization habits. For students with specific academic needs, Prep 45 is an essential part of their coursework and specific academic interventions will take place to support students in making progress towards grade level goals.
At this point, all Prep 45 students dismiss for the day.
I generally head home no later than 5:30PM every day. All DC Prep teachers are on-call until 8:00PM every school night, so about three times a week I spend time reaching out to families or fielding calls from them, and about twice a week I tend to receive questions from students on their homework. And, I email with colleagues about planning materials and student support strategies in the evenings.
When interacting with families I give updates on their child’s performance, especially when a Preppie mastered a tough concept or had a great day. Generally, these updates are via text message, depending on the family’s preference.
We try to streamline homework for students, usually consisting of 25-30 minutes logging reading time. Typically, in instances where they have a grammar worksheet or something along those lines for homework, Preppies might reach out for help to break down concepts. They’re super savvy – often, texting me a photo of the passage/prompt in question before giving me a call. In these conversations, I like to encourage parent participation, too, so we often have a discussion on speakerphone so that the family is also familiar with the strategies to reinforce at home to set their child up for academic success.