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Jamestown Public Schools
“I am going to hand out some word cards and model this for you first,” said Fletcher Elementary School Instructional Coach Stephanie David. “We are going to decode the words I give you on the cards and then, connect our words together to make a big board – a little like Scrabble. But not word to word but word, an arrow, and then a word so we can show how the words connect.”
Mrs. David was conducting a “Learning Lab” with Jennifer Ochocki’s students. In this lab, Mrs. Ochocki was trying out, with Mrs. David’s help, how to use an interactive word wall with some of her students.
The Fletcher Learning Lab is new this year. The idea came from Principal Maria DeJoy, who read an article in Educational Leadership titled “Good Teaching in Action: Demonstrating Teaching in a Lab Classroom.” Research shows the most effective professional development has three components: it is specific to teacher concerns, is job-embedded, and is presented in a non-threatening way. The Learning Lab is a classroom where teachers work together to sustain professional growth within a collaborative learning community. It is a classroom within the building where teachers can visit and try out different teaching practices with their students in a risk-free environment.
Mrs. David is the “Lab Host.” District Instructional Coach, Christina Spontaneo, has also visited as a “Guest Host.” As host, Mrs. David schedules days and times with the teachers and facilitates the strategy being learned. At the beginning of each month, she communicates what teaching strategies are being spotlighted in the Lab. These strategies are best practices that have been learned in recent Professional Development Workshops and/or professional readings.
The Lab process includes three steps:
- Before the observation: Communication between the teacher and the Lab Host about what the strategy entails. This is important so that teachers come to the lab with a specific learning focus.
- During the observation: Teachers observe, take notes, and ask questions to the Lab Host and/or their students.
- Debrief: The teacher and the Lab Host have a discussion of the observation (questions, ideas, reflections) and then develop a plan for follow-up.
“I have gone to the Learning Lab several times with my first grade class,” said Fletcher Elementary School teacher Ashley Calla. “In the learning lab, the students have participated in various cooperative protocols and strategies such as quiz, quiz trade, numbered heads together, talking chips and many more. The Learning Lab is a very positive and comfortable place for the children to learn and thrive. The students are always actively engaged and excited to be there. As a teacher, I find the learning lab extremely helpful and beneficial. Mrs. David is always easy to contact and fits classrooms into her schedule quickly. The Learning Lab allows me to see firsthand how to teach, incorporate and implement these structures into my classroom. Mrs. David answers questions and discusses how to differentiate each protocol to best fit each child’s needs. She will even help to create ‘make and take’ items such as posters, flash cards and other tools that we need to successfully use the cooperative structures in our math and ELA classes.”