Author: Sandy Kerr
She believes… All children are innately unique and have their own individual talents, gifts and challenges. It is our charge as educators to develop these talents and gifts and prepare our children for lives of intellectual discovery, integrity, and purpose. She believes in providing safe learning environments that support risk-taking, discovery, and the opportunity to study topics that are meaningful and relevant to a child’s life and interests. Learning should be fun. Curriculum that is child-centered and teacher guided fosters intrinsic motivation and stimulates the passion to learn.
You can contact Sandy at email@example.com
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsico, said in Fortune magazine when asked about her success in leadership, “Never stop learning. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or a CEO, you don’t know it all. Admitting this is not a sign of weakness. The strongest leaders are those who are lifelong students.”
In this same article, another CEO, Jen-Hsun Wang, of visual computing technology company, NVIDIA, said, “See the world without bias, like a child. Be curious. Keep learning.”
Many leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators preach openness – being open to ideas, challenges, perspectives of others, personal discovery outside the workplace, and learning.
As head of a private school in Savannah, Georgia, I often think of my job as Head of a Life Preparatory Independent Day School. I am always thinking about Best Practices in teaching and learning and how to help students achieve a lifelong love of learning.
At Hancock Day School, which serves children in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 8, we believe the journey to becoming a lifelong learner begins early. We establish the academic foundation that will give students the ability, access and desire to meet future academic, career and life challenges.
Research supports that our teaching methods at Hancock incorporate 21st Century best practices in education. Lifelong learning starts with reading, and we strive for our students to become both passionate and skilled readers.
For us, the reading journey begins in Pre-Kindergarten where students begin by working on rhyming, phonemic awareness and letter/sound manipulation skills and then migrate to formal instruction in phonics.
“A fast initial start at reading acquisition helps develop the lifetime habit of reading, irrespective of the ultimate level of reading comprehension,” Drs. A.E. Cunningham and K. Stanovich reported in Developmental Psychology on early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later.
We continue phonics instruction in the elementary years, but also begin a literature program that serves as the base for the integration of language arts, social studies, science, art and music.
Children need to develop knowledge through text. At Hancock, we use informational (non-fiction) texts, as well as (fiction) narrative and storybooks for instruction at age appropriate levels. Prominent educational researchers Kathleen Roskos and Susan B. Neuman reported in Best Practices in Reading: A 21st Century Skill Update, “Consider multiple genres and how these different genres contribute to children’s knowledge and desire to learn.”
We teach students about the structure of the English language – its sounds and symbols, how words are formed and sentences constructed – give them time to hear and read fine literature, as well as time to fall in love with a certain genre or a certain author.
Grammar has always been an important focus of Hancock’s curriculum.
Again, bolstered by the research, as well as our 60 years of experience in education. Better readers “possess more grammar knowledge that supports comprehension than their less skilled peers,” according to D.E. Waltzman and H.S. Cairns study of grammatical knowledge of third grade good and poor readers.
Rereading helps children to reinforce, deepen, and consolidate learning from reading. Roskos and Neuman also found that “students reread to develop an aggressive, probing, analytical approach to what the text says and how it says it – the function of the details, for example, or logical order and relationships in text organization.”
And the recent body of research shows that children’s motivation to read is enhanced through digital texts. “Using digital textbooks in reading instruction is no longer an if-no-maybe proposition. It is best practice that can personalize student learning, increase relevant instructional time, and support differentiation to meet students’ specific needs,” according to Roskos and Neuman. We are using digital technology with even our youngest learners at Hancock; iPads are in many classroom literacy centers.
In addition, across the curriculum – in all subjects – our program emphasizes writing skills every day. By second grade our students are writing summaries of novels read and are commenting on the qualities of the characters. They write original stories and poems and also research topics in social studies and science summarizing their findings in writing. Even in math, students are often asked to explain their approach to a problem in written form.
We write every day because we believe that every time students write, they take a step closer to the command of the English language they need to become successful students and adults.
On this cool, crisp, autumn Sunday afternoon, I sit outside on my porch in Savannah, Georgia reading and observe deer feeding. I am thrilled to find the time to sit, read, observe and learn. So excited I might add, that I have two books and four different magazines spread out on the table beside me.
However even as I relax and enjoy reading and observation, I am compelled to pick up a pen as I continue my journey as a lifelong learner.
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