Here’s more about this week’s featured classroom:
Name: Mrs. Leslie Wampler
School: Lake Hills Elementary School
What makes your classroom special? I have amazing students. In the classroom, they encourage each other and allow room for taking risks and making mistakes. Like siblings, there are always issues, but for the most part they are amazingly patient and give each other room to be themselves without judgment.
In addition to the curriculum, what are some things you teach your students? Some students come with little hope for their future. I’m looking for ways to help them build hope. Each week there’s a different positive statement on the classroom doors. When we greet each other in the morning, the students say the positive words about themselves. Some students really love it and give me the positive statement every time they enter the room. I’m trying to build a habit of thinking and talking positively about themselves.
Another way I try to build hope is by grading their math assessments by learning target. The students always have at least a few learning targets they do really well, which is encouraging. The other benefit is that it helps them focus on the math skills that need support and practice.
We also integrate technology into our work. At the beginning of the year, using new websites on the Chromebooks is a struggle. By the end of the year, it’s a piece of cake. They get their Chromebooks at the beginning of the day and stack them in the middle of the table so they’re easy to access. In the morning, they practice their fast facts or typing. When they prove they know their fast facts well, they get an Hour of Code account and begin learning to write computer programs. They keep track of their math fast fact scores and reading on their Chromebooks. Most of the time, Chromebooks are a choice during Writer’s Workshop. When they finish their math work, Khan Academy and ALEKS, online math websites, are choices. We’re trying out new science curriculum which usually has an online component. We’re very grateful for the community’s investment in our technology and for a terrific district tech department.
What special project is your classroom working on now? We are in the middle of the 21 Days of Gratitude, building the habit of being grateful. Each day they record three things they’re grateful for and why. The research on this indicates forming the habit of being grateful makes people happier and reduces stress.
How is your classroom involved with the community? Some of my students, along with other third- and fourth-graders, did Elementary Science Olympiad, which I coach at Lake Hills.
In January, we’ll start inviting members of our community to share about their jobs. The other experiment I’m trying to build hope in all my students is helping them find a vision of who they might become. People need heroes. Last year we invited people from many cultural backgrounds in to talk about their jobs – what they love about their job, what they find frustrating, and what life skills they use in their job. We’ll be starting that up again in the new year.
How do you hope what your students are learning now will affect their future? I hope that what they are learning builds a solid foundation for them academically as well as emotionally. We have spent a lot of time talking about the value of making mistakes and learning from them. I hope they internalize that and become people who are willing to take risks to learn new things the rest of their lives.
In fourth grade, we’re learning the basics. In reading we move from learning to read to reading to learn. In math we tackle math fast facts, multiplication of bigger numbers, long division, and, especially word problems and strategies to solve them. Our current curriculum is very science-y. We do a lot of observing and asking questions.
I hope they have a solid foundation to build on as they move forward. I hope they’ve learned to be observant about the world around them, ask questions, and problem solve.