An Epiphany of Sorts


Last year, based on the grade level equivalents of the majority of my students, I attended first grade professional developments and meetings. This despite the fact that only four of my 12 students were first graders. The rest were all in second.

This decision was made for a variety of reasons. Chief among them was that, if we were discussing literacy practices for students reading on a second grade level, and all of mine were, at most, approaching first grade, then it only made sense that I learn strategies for meeting those needs.

I was happy to attend first grade meetings because the discussions were so much more appropriate for what I needed to do. What didn’t occur to me then, though, was that it probably wasn’t best practice to teach first grade curriculum to second graders.

This year, teaching third grade, administration and I agreed that the same arrangement would hold, and I would attend the meetings of the grade below me, in which case, I would go to second grade.

So, for the first two months, I taught the second grade reading and writing units. This time, though, I had a gnawing feeling that this wasn’t a good way to meet my students’ needs.

It was serendipity then, when my AP informed me that the administration had erred and that I should attend third grade meetings. I was relieved, actually. At the time, I said, “It only makes sense. What would we do if the kids were reading on a first grade level in middle school, still teach them first grade material?”

Since I started attending third grade meetings this year, I definitely feel like the expectations for my students – from me and others in the school – have ratcheted up. Now they are expected to do third grade work – and they should be! For me, it is a challenge to scaffold instruction to meet their needs, but I am enjoying it.

This is something I didn’t realize I missed last year and the first two months of this year. There is far greater satisfaction in figuring out how to teach grade level concepts in a meaningful way than simply dropping back a grade because it is easier. I know this is the right way to do things.

I think it is a positive step forward that administration and I agreed that it is in students’ best interests to learn third grade material; Indeed, that it is their right. Yes, there are times when I might dip down into the lower grades for a strategy or skill that passed the kids by, but they are in third grade. Third graders should be doing third grade work.

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One response to “An Epiphany of Sorts

  1. This is such an honest post representing the kind of decision making elementary school teachers make each and every day. I always try to teach with 1-2-3 in mind. 1-review, 2-grade level concept, 3-enrichment. What I like about this is that it can be applied to every concept and content area. Also there’s an entry level for everyone. Better yet, sometimes students that you expect to max at 1 reach for 3 and gleam when they reach it. 1-2-3 doesn’t prejudge where students will reach and creates a class climate of same learning, with differentiated levels of attainment.

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