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The schedules below provide a glimpse into our early childhood, elementary, and middle school programs for SY 2012-13. 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.
Once I arrive on campus, I spend time doing early morning prep with my co-teacher, Ms. Ragland (all Early Childhood classes at DC Prep are co-taught). I make sure that our breakfast is ready, set out morning activities for my students and prepare the morning message for our Morning Meeting. I also use this time to connect with my co-teacher about our plans for the day and review our school’s daily email bulletin from the principal and send and respond to emails from my colleagues.
Families bring their children to our classroom each morning so Ms. Ragland and I use this time to meet with them as needed, or just to chat and/or answer any questions they may have. Most of our parents/families stick around for about five minutes or so, before they depart. Preppies eat breakfast and participate in a morning activity as they arrive.
After breakfast, we kick our day off with our Morning Meeting. We always do a fun and interactive activity to get students “pumped up” for the day, sing our Good Morning song, and read our Morning Message. Following the Morning Message, we talk about a specific social skill that we will concentrate on for the day using the “introduce, model, practice” structure. Ms. Ragland and I alternate leading morning meeting each quarter, but keep the general structure of the meetings the same regardless of who is the lead. Good Morning song and students greet each other.
Our Preppies love storytime and read aloud! Ms. Ragland and I draw upon Literacy standards as we discuss the title, author, main character, and setting with the children. Typically, we do more than one reading of the same story and give students experience in retelling the plot, and using the illustrations to tell their classmates what’s happening in the story at a given point. We try to keep this interactive, structured, and engaging.
At DC Prep, because quiet hallways are vital to ensure that instruction inside classrooms is held sacred and undisturbed, we walk silently in transitions to and from class. To achieve this, we use imagination and play to engage our youngest Preppies in ways to walk in straight, silent lines as we pass through the hallways. We pretend to “catch a bubble” in our cheeks! It’s pretty amazing to see a long line of 3-year olds, walking silently to the bathroom or to special subject classes like music and PE.
At least one of us stays with the students during their special subject classes. We both support the special subject teacher in the last 10-15 minutes of these classes to help transition students to a bathroom break. One of us always uses this time to prepare snack and straighten up the classroom.
After forming a line, our Preppies make the transition to the playground. Recess is a time when Preppies are able to work off some of their boundless energy exploring outside and playing with their classmates. I usually go outside with my students so we can all get some fresh air – the Benning Elementary Campus has a spacious and beautiful playspace area, perfect for just that!
As part of the behavior system used in Early Childhood at DC Prep, our students have opportunities to earn “SHINES” throughout the day. Ms. Ragland and I allow students to earn SHINES during the larger components of the day, like recess, whole group math, specials, etc. If the majority of students are meeting expectations for that component then they will earn a SHINE. SHINES are acknowledged on the carpet so students can feel a sense of accomplishment as a class. A student helper will be chosen from the group to present the SHINE sticker to a peer. If students do not earn a SHINE, they are reminded why, and we talk about how they can earn it during another part of our day. Additionally, our Preppies are continuously reminded that we are working towards a specific goal (i.e., Friday Dance Party, or Special Treat) so it is extremely important to earn SHINES. They take it very seriously and celebrate their peers’ success in earning SHINES.
After students wind down from recess, we meet on the carpet, to discuss who will be working in small groups with either Ms. Ragland or me, while others are rotating through the theme-related Centers – including our art studio/easels, the “construction zone,” the listening center, the investigation station, and the library corner. Students typically cycle through two of these Centers, alternating each day so that students are exposed to each Center’s unique focus and activities across the week. Ms. Ragland and I use this time to do literacy interventions, supporting individual students in the targeted areas they most need to grow.
Students practice writing their names using writing boards and dry erase markers or practice tracing and writing letters in their name. They also have the opportunity to form letters using various manipulatives in the classroom, typically practicing forming the Letter of the Week.
We eat lunch together every day in our classroom and our class helpers set out lunches, make sure their friends have “magic soap” to clean their hands, and silently signal when it’s time for everyone to eat. This is a wonderful time to expand our students’ vocabularies as we chat about interesting topics as they eat.
We pack in many things while students are napping – lunch, lesson planning, connecting with each other, attending Grade Level Lead meetings, prepping materials for the afternoon and the next day. We also use the time to reach out and share information with families about student academic and behavioral performance.
We spend time doing activities that build phonemic awareness – ranging from poems, finger plays, and matching upper/lower case letters, to rhyming word identification and word/letter hunts. Sometimes we even break out the instruments to sharpen these phonemic skills in new ways!
In the afternoon, the entire class has Math time and the Centers change to more math-related activities. As a class, we gather on the carpet and have our Centers meeting to explore the exciting things happening in our newest Centers, and discuss how to work together in these small groups, before students begin rotating through their workstations.
We gather as a class community at the end of each day, and discuss homework and upcoming projects. (Homework varies, but typically consists of having parents read to their child nightly for 10-15 minutes, as well as interactive activities tied to lesson units like having children build a habitat for winter animals, color a worksheet, work on their letters, etc.).
Many of our parents come into the room to watch our Closing Meeting. This is another time to speak with families – reminding them about homework and expectations – and sharing a positive anecdote about their child from the action-packed day!
We join our colleagues in early childhood for afterschool professional development twice per week – for our Grade Level Team meeting one day and for schoolwide PD every Friday. I work on the Math team so we sometimes plan meetings during this time in order to plan assessments, lessons, and Gradebook information for each unit. (My co-teacher, Ms. Ragland, does Literacy.)
I usually get to school by 7:15AM. I use the time to prep for the day ahead by setting up materials, making any necessary copies, and sharing information with my co-teacher. Sometimes, I use this time to have parent meetings, too.
I make it a point to greet each of my students (Preppies as we call them at DC Prep) at the door as they enter my classroom from breakfast in the Prepeteria.
The start of our official school day in my class begins with a Prep Check/Morning Meeting. This is a time for me to make sure my students are prepared for the academic day ahead, so I like to make sure they have their supplies, backpacks, homework, etc., ready to go!
DC Prep is unique in that it’s departmentalized from 1st-8th grade. As a 2nd grade teacher, I focus on Reading/Literacy instruction for Preppies across my grade level. This departmentalized approach allows me to focus my curriculum planning and lesson planning delivery on a targeted curricular area. In this block of time, I deliver lesson plans I write (sometimes in collaboration with my colleagues) that include Read Aloud time, a focus on teaching and developing foundational skills – grammar, writing, etc. – and also use the time to do some guided reading with Preppies. It’s also a time for differentiated instruction during which students are grouped based on their skill level – with groups re-forming every six weeks or so based on student data, which my colleagues and I review constantly to ensure that every student is being taught at the appropriate level.
DC Prep builds time for planning and professional development into the school day. During this window of time, I break for lunch, do lesson planning, and/or meet with my Grade Level Team depending on the day each week.
After picking a different set of 2nd grade Preppies up from lunch, I delve into another Literacy block in the afternoon. Sometimes, during my mid-day break, I modify lesson plans on the fly, depending on how a class went in my morning Literacy block.
This is another time I use for a variety of things, depending on the day. Sometimes I use this time for additional planning purposes while Preppies are at specials classes (PE, art, Spanish, or music.). Other times, I use this window to run Grade Level Team meetings with colleagues in my capacity as a Grade Level Lead. I also frequently use the time to catch up on grading, enter student data into PowerSchool, and enter student behavioral and academic data into what we call Lumos – DC Prep’s customized data system that gives teachers like me a 360-degree view on student performance. Finally, I use this time to reach out to families, or to check in on students with difficulties in other classes.
I spend this time closing out the day, working with students to total up their Prep Notes, make sure they have their homework, etc.
Dismissal (some of my students attend Prep EX!, DC Prep’s Extended Learning Program available after school from 4-6PM for students ranging in age from preschool through 6th grade).
After the formal school day is over, I often have meetings with colleagues – on Wednesdays, I typically have a Literacy meeting; on Thursdays, I have a Grade Level Lead meeting, and on Fridays, I have dedicated time for professional development (PD). School dismisses an hour early each Friday for faculty PD each week – which is a great time to collaborate with colleagues and refine my craft throughout the year.
The time I leave campus varies day-to-day, but I’m on call until 8PM every school night to answer student homework questions and/or answer any questions from parents. I also spend some time each night grading papers, reviewing and tweaking lesson plans, and preparing materials for the next day.
In order to get a jump on the day I start off at the gym and then grab a large cup of coffee – both fuel me for what lies ahead. Once I arrive at DC Prep, I catch up with my colleagues, and check my email.
Every day, I have breakfast duty. After our Preppies arrive and are greeted by the principal, I welcome them into the cafeteria for breakfast. I use that time to chat with them about what’s going on in the news and in their lives.
After breakfast, I head down to the Senior Academy to my 7th grade Princeton classroom and help kids with their lockers and make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be. At DC Prep, we say “if it’s 8, you’re late” so my students and I are ready to start class at 8:00AM sharp. I spend the first five minutes collecting homework, taking attendance, and gathering Prep Notes that students had their parents sign the night before.
An important part of each day is the morning discussion I lead surrounding current events. I am committed to the notion that part of good citizenship is staying informed about one's world. In addition, during this time I conference with small groups of students to help get them organized and ready for the day’s lessons. As a class, we also use advisory time to do interactive activities or fun learning games designed to increase their Math and social skills.
At this point in the morning, I teach my first Math block of the day. DC Prep is departmentalized from 1st-8th grade, so my focus in the 2012-13 school year has been teaching Math at the 7th grade level. I also took on a new leadership role this year, as the 7th Grade Level Lead.
I start out my Math blocks with a half hour of direct teaching, going over new concepts that map to curriculum I develop in concert with my colleagues at DC Prep. We then spend about 15 minutes going through a guided practice. In the last 45 minutes, students practice new learning independently and I address misconceptions, work with a small group, or extend the learning. Because DC Prep has an inclusion model, there are times when a Special Education teacher will push into my class to give targeted intensive academic support, at times re-teaching concepts if necessary, with specific students based on their mastery of subjects.
DC Prep is committed to supporting its teachers. One way this is done is by giving us protected time during the day to plan and collaborate with colleagues. There are days that I am able to spend an hour and a half (sometimes three solid hours) in the Faculty Workroom – a quiet, professional space – sharing ideas and resources with my talented co-workers, making last minute adjustments to upcoming lesson plans, and contacting the parents of students who need extra attention. It’s also the perfect time to make adjustments to the afternoon Prep Sessions, where I work with small, homogeneous groups. As a Grade Level Lead, I also use this time to meet with co-teachers and grade level team members.
In the afternoon, I teach two, 45 minute Prep Sessions. These are times designed to provide differentiated instruction and give increased hands-on support to every student. Both of my Prep Sessions are focused on Math, and I use this time to re-teach subject matter in a new way to a small group of students. This has helped me develop deeper content knowledge and a more varied tool box that caters to unique learning styles.
Depending on the day, I might have a Math department meeting, a Grade Level Lead meeting, or a PD session with my grade level colleagues.
Before I leave campus for the day, I spend some time planning and organizing my classroom for the following day – just to make sure everything’s ready so I can hit the ground running. On my way home, I typically call parents/family members if needed and I’m around in the evening to take calls from Preppies with homework questions, too.