Yesterday primary colleagues, district media specialists and I had the pleasure of conducting a google hangout about innovation in the primary grades, kindergarten through 2nd grade, through a conversation with Mr. Ted Knight, Assistant Superintendent of the Douglas County School District. His open and no nonsense approach confirmed and pushed our thinking as we tried to define changes and look fors that primary teachers might consider nurturing or striving for. As I have had the pleasure of hosting many teachers in my classroom over the past two weeks, the question continues to arise, “What does this look like in the primary grades?” Throughout the Google Hangout, Mr. Knight listened, supported and interjected ideas from his experience and emphasized futuristic predictions of what our younger students need in order to succeed in this new 21st Century educational world. The video is one hour long and below are some of the initial comments.
LInda Conway: Director of Library Media Programming
Lillain Escobedo: Assistant to Linda Conway and technology support
Ed Goulart: First Grade Teacher, Mammoth Heights Elementary
Kristin Kinner: First Grade Teacher, Pioneer Elementary
Ted: Primary teachers need to start looking more at innovation because the vocabulary and comprehension are so easily integrated. How can we do a good job at assessing students’ reading ability and get them reading fluently at grade level, and then quickly moving toward a more interdisciplinary, integrated and innovative experience without forsaking a student from actually being able to learn to read?
LInda: Reading is shifting, now they are reading more online, more snippets of info, traveling around, not sitting and engaging for long periods of time. They are still reading—just because they are not reading a book or story, they are still reading.
Ed: I see more nonfiction skills being more required. We must facilitate the making of connections and how they will apply that.
Kristin: Primary students have to learn how to learn. What does this look like? They have to know how to read and write before they can move forward.
Mary Lisa: We talk about the teacher lecture issue; however, in primary there has to be explicit instruction but in smaller amounts—maybe snippets of time as Linda said?
Ted: All of the digital media that kids see, visual stimulation changes every 10 seconds, even a 5 minute lecture is hard for a kid. It is a balance, there are times that we need direct instruction, just like adults. If you can chunk that, pull quickly, release, let go, repeat, might be the best way to figure out the best balance.
Mr. Knight agrees that we need to have more conversations with primary teachers, developing an understanding of what all of this holds for our youngest students; moreover, I was moved by his hesitation to dictate certain norms in a classroom as a “one size fits all” sort of formula.