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Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Carroll County teachers and administrators are actively engaged in getting students more involved in their own learning by applying reading comprehension strategies to all learning.
Funded in large part by a $50,000 School Improvement Grant awarded to Carroll County Middle School, eight Carroll County educators are attending a four-day training institute in Denver, Colo., facilitated by the Public Education and Business Coalition. The Carroll County educators will learn research-based best practices for implementing what is referred to as the research-based “Denver Thinking Strategies.”
“The original research looked at the comprehension strategies that proficient readers use,” said Pam Williams, elementary instructional supervisor for Carroll County Schools. “The strategies help readers think deeply and meaningfully to make sense of what they are reading.” She pointed out that some of the strategies involve checking for meaning, asking questions while reading, applying “schema” or background information, creating sensory images, making connections, drawing conclusions, and problem solving, among others.
School districts participating in the PEBC Spring Institute must bring teachers and administrators to ensure that the strategies are used effectively in their districts. Administrators and support personnel include Superintendent Lisa James, Assistant Superintendent Bill Hogan, Winn Primary Reading Specialist Robin Smith, and Winn and Cartmell Elementary School Assistant Principal Megan Morris. Teachers include Carl Roberts from Carroll County High School and Kristen Arbinger, Linda Ogburn, and Beth Sapp from Carroll County Middle School.
“The goal is to set up two PEBC-approved model classrooms at each of our schools,” Hogan said. He serves as chief academic officer for Carroll County Schools and manages the School Improvement Grant. “Our teachers and administrators will be able to see first-hand the original model schools and be trained directly by the people who have been conducting research on effective thinking strategies for several years.”
Several teachers at Winn and Cartmell are familiar with the book Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann who are founding members of the Public Education and Business Coalition. Third grade teacher Jeanne Rohrer said that she and other third grade teachers had done a book study a few years ago to apply the work to their reading classrooms. She and fellow Cartmell teacher Mary Louden, along with Winn teachers Carol Miller and Joseph McNeese, have also visited PEBC model classrooms at LaGrange Elementary in Oldham County and are now in the process of setting up model classrooms at their respective schools.
Rohrer said she was particularly impressed with how students at LaGrange Elementary School conducted discussions by intentionally connecting their ideas to the previous speaker.
“Behaviors that we take for granted, such as looking at the person who is speaking in a classroom discussion, have to be taught,” said Rohrer. “It was very enlightening to see that environment and that it was so structured that the kids in the classroom themselves didn’t tolerate other students not participating or not carrying on conversations correctly.”
Louden said that, after her visits to the PEBC model classrooms, she learned some ways to gradually release more responsibility to her students and give them more time to figure out answers on their own. She also got some ideas on how to rearrange her classroom to apply the Denver Thinking Strategies by creating open floor space for students to gather up close for demonstrations. Students’ desks will mainly be used as work places where students practice the concepts they’ve learned together, said Louden.
At Winn Primary, Miller and McNeese, who are setting up PEBC model classrooms, demonstrated for other Winn teachers how to apply some of the Denver Thinking Strategies, such as using background information and note-taking skills, on Tuesday, April 26.
Once the Carroll County model classrooms are set up, representatives from the Public Education and Business Coalition will visit, make suggestions for improvement and certify that the model classrooms are faithfully applying the Denver Thinking Strategies.
“It’s important to sustain the training we are receiving so that future teachers can benefit from the investment we are making today,” James said. “The model classrooms will allow our teachers not only to learn about the Denver Thinking Strategies, but also to see them at work in our district.”
Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.