As Westside School continues to grow and expand, the diversity of our learners continues to broaden. Where some things may come naturally to one student, they may be challenging to another. Perhaps one subject is a favorite for some, but then frustrating for others. The wonderful thing about teaching is we have the opportunity to build relationships with each individual. Our challenge as educators is to figure out the best success plan for each of those learners.
For example, in any given classroom there will be a range of reading abilities. It is our job as members of the Westside School faculty to ask how we help each learner at their individual level. In our current first grade classrooms we have students working on a variety of reading skills from decoding and word study to fluency and comprehension. One way we approach these skills is through reading groups. After assessing each of our readers we find where the individual needs are and group the students accordingly. Each small group works with an educator and every week we rotate the groups so all the adults are able to observe the growth of each student. These reading groups are fluid, and the first grade team meets frequently to discuss and reconfigure the reading groups based on the needs and successes of the students. Having this fluidity allows us to move students between groups as their abilities and needs develop. Similarly, having the students work with a number of adults allows us to collaborate on finding the best instructional approach for each student.
Math is another area where there is a range of abilities, and this can change depending on the specific math subject. Students who may struggle with number sense could find great success with spatial math and geometry. Frequent assessment and observation helps us to stay on track with student need, and small group instruction helps us to address those needs. For example, in third grade the two classes often combine to form small groups so they can practice trickier concepts and build confidence in their abilities. Some instructional groups are aimed to provide extra support whereas others give further challenge on concepts students are comfortable with.
At Westside School we are continuing to find ways to diversify and differentiate our assessment and instruction so we can best serve our students and families. This begins with accepting everyone has a different learning style which comes with strengths and challenges.
– Westside School Lower School Dean of Students, Richard Gawne