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Saint Andrew’s Day School Teachers present on their Revolutionary Classrooms at AIMS Innovation Conference

| February 08, 2018, 11:22 AM

Saint Andrew’s Day School third grade teachers were invited to present at the AIMS Innovation Conference at Loyola University Maryland on December 1, 2017.   Mrs. Becky Fuerst and Ms. Olivia Marzano provided a snapshot of their classrooms entitled “Revolutionary Third Grade:  Experience a Day in the Life.”

As both teachers utilize alternative teaching styles, the goal of this presentation was to give insight into a day in their classrooms.  Mrs. Fuerst explains that her research began as a personal venture. “I started research to help my daughter, who has ADHD, and I found that so much of the information I was gathering to implement for her at home was making sense to apply in the classroom.”  “And these were things that weren’t exclusive to kids with ADHD, but helpful to all students,” adds Ms. Marzano.  The reason for seeking alternative teaching styles is to better engage the students by breaking up the mundane repetition of classic-lecture style of typical classrooms.

One way Mrs. Fuerst and Ms. Marzano accomplish this is by providing flexible seating for all of the subjects they teach.  Flexible seating allows students to choose how they are going to approach their work – physically – for the day. Ms. Marzano explains how “a student may sit at one table with a yoga ball for math, but then when we go into spelling they’re on a stool sitting somewhere else.”  Along with giving the students a new perspective of the physical classroom, allowing children to manipulate their seating also encourages new intellectual approaches on class material.  When a student moves to a different spot they “reset,” cultivating a fresh approach toward their work.

For this method to be effective though, as Fuerst and Marzano continually stress, the teacher has to know their students.  Not every child is going to be able to handle the freedom of sitting anywhere but, instead of stripping the student of all decision-making, Mrs. Fuerst and Ms. Marzano provide specific, select choices.  And rather than restricting such choices as a punishment, discussing the situation and leading the student to offer their own solutions is more effective.  Mrs. Fuerst uses phrases like, “Are you doing your best learning right now?” and “Do you think maybe another choice might be better?”  Communication is crucial, continues Fuerst, as a teacher guides a student towards self-improvement.  When a student makes a decision for his or herself, there is a higher sense of responsibility; the child is more invested in that choice rather than just following an instruction.  And, coupled with the short-term benefit of a student who is now more engaged, there is the invaluable long-term benefit – the student is making personal progress in regards to their learning potential.  This type of emotional gain extends well beyond the confines of a third grade classroom, and will continue to serve them in every aspect of life.

The presentation also detailed the teachers’ approaches to Interactive Learning.  This alternative instructional style employed by Mrs. Fuerst and Ms. Marzano, goes hand in hand with Flexible Seating as it functions to provide “brain breaks” to keep the students engaged.  The combination of both lecture and a subject-related game, done either individually or in a group, allow for practicing the skill being introduced.  And after the switch from lecture to game occurs, the students again have the option to re-position themselves physically in the classroom.  This “reset” helps the students move forward with the next task with a restored sense of perspective.

Alternative learning styles provide many opportunities for teachers who wish to adapt their classrooms to the ever-changing educational landscape.  Mrs. Fuerst and Marzano were pleased to find their passion for improvement shared among those who attended their presentation.  Fuerst recalls, “we had a few questions throughout the presentation and a bunch right after.  Out of the group of twenty or so, we even had four or five hang back afterwards to continue the discussion, and I think that really shows a growing interest in alternative teaching styles, as well as a growing need for it in the classrooms.”

Saint Andrew’s Day School is a private school, located in Edgwater, Maryland, for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade.

–Jacob Greene

Severn Bank

Category: Local News, NEWS

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