Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Online Assignment #3 -- Kate Kristian

What is a student-focused learning environment?

When I think about a student-focused learning environment, the first thing that comes to mind is choice.
With teacher and adult guidance, students are able to choose writing topics and select books and other text that they are interested in reading. Students are involved in the learning process and feel connected to the day to day lesson content. Students are also involved in how the classroom runs as a whole. These expectations are established at the start of the school year as students begin to build a community of learners and are revisited (and possibly revised) frequently. Students have control over classroom decisions and take on roles or jobs to ensure that things run smoothly.

How do you create it?

As a second grade teacher, I have found that the workshop model in both reading and writing supports a student-focused learning environment. The workshop model is made up of the following components:

· Mini-lesson (teaching point, guided practice)

· Independent work time

o Students are reading/writing independently

o Teacher(s) are conferencing with individual students and small groups of students

· Whole group share

o Typically led by the teacher

o Highlights 2-3 students who began using or tried out the skill taught in the mini-lesson

o Gives students time to share their work and ideas with fellow classmates

In addition, a student-focused learning environment is created through:

· Frequent and systematic assessment

· Assessment-based instruction

· Individualized and small group instruction through conferences and strategy sessions to ensure students are working at their maximum instructional level

· Differentiated instruction

· Regular time for student goal setting and reflection

· Clear student expectations

· Frequent teacher feedback in response to student work and accomplishments

How do you sustain it?

A student-focused learning environment is sustained when teachers make a commitment to its principals. Students need to be engaged in the workshop format at least 4 days a week and teachers need to stay true to a consistent format of instruction. Time also needs to be set aside for assessment where teachers review and analyze student work in order to plan for instruction. Without administrative and grade-level team support this can be difficult for teachers to accomplish.

Online Assignment #3 - Natalie Bowers

A student centered classroom is one in which each decision, from how the class is arranged, to where the stapler is located to the day's lesson, is made intentionally and with the needs of individual students in mind. Student centered classrooms are rooms where the students are not just recipients and regurgitators of information, but investigators, researchers, teachers, readers, inquisitors- in short students are engaged both mentally and physically in the act of learning. Student centered classrooms are rich with level appropriate materials; the walls are plastered with anchor charts or public records of strategies; students have access to all the resources and materials they need, and there are systems and routines in place to make transitions, discipline, partner work, etc smooth and efficient.

Student centered classrooms are easy to identify- they usually feel calm and unchaotic, they are free of distracting clutter, they involve limited teacher talk and lots of collaboration- however, they are much more difficult to create. As stated before, in order to create a student centered classroom, the teacher must be very intentional. The creation of this type of classroom starts with environment. Before the start of the year, the teacher must create a classroom set-up that supports the systems and structures she intends to implement. He must make deliberate choices about desks or tables, where resources centers will be, where anchor charts will be located to best support use and learning, etc. The teacher must also be deliberate and intentional about the classroom systems and structures she intends to implement; she must know what they will be, how they will operate, and what role she expects students to play in them before the first child walks into the room. In a student centered classroom there is no ambiguity or confusion about these things. Once students arrive, a student centered class begins the work of community building through the development of class norms/rules in a democratic way. These classrooms value student input, and this is just the first of many opportunities for students to have a voice.

Next the teacher must make intentional decisions about what and how to teach. He must study student work, test scores, formative assessments, and conference notes to gather information about what students need; she must develop lessons that cater to multiple intelligences; he must provide time and structure for student collaboration, and most importantly she should not act as the purveyor of knowledge but as the facilitator of inquiry. In a student centered classroom, the teacher understands, respects and makes space for diversity, learning differences, inquiry, democracy and collaboration.

Maintaining a student centered classroom takes effort. It requires much of both the teacher and the students. In order to maintain this type of learning environment, all involved must engage in regular and frequent reflection and they must respond to this reflection with goals and action plans. This environment also requires a great deal of trust to operate in a functional manner, so it also requires consistency in discipline, lots of compliments, and continual community building. It requires a time commitment from the teacher to not only grade student work, but to look at it closely for trends and teaching points. It requires the maintenance of daily systems and routines and the adjustment of those when needed. Finally, it requires an end to “file cabinet” teaching as units will need modification based on student need and interest.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Online Assignment #3-Darren Hunter

A student-centered classroom is focused upon the individual needs of students, addresses multiple learning styles, and prepares students for the diverse world. In a student-centered classroom teachers act as class facilitators and must consider the needs of the students, as a group and as individuals while encouraging them to participate in the learning process. This type of learning environment resonates with the primary goals of Universal Design. The purpose of Universal design, like those of student-centered environments, is to create inclusive, flexible, customizable products, courses, programs, activities, and environments for all students.
Instruction should provide experiences and information from which the students can build new knowledge. This will not happen overnight and takes a huge amount of patience, time, continued practice, and the ability to withstand colleague criticism in order to become a truly student-centered classroom.
Every student is unique, so the challenge becomes drawing out the best strategies for learning in each child. In a student-centered classroom each child will actively engage their own learning through reflection, individual and cooperative learning, and apply these new skills across various curriculums. In this setting, students will understand the grading criteria and review their work according to the criteria and make adjustments to their own learning.
In a student-centered environment, evaluations measure each child’s progress in comparison to their own previous performance and are used to improve and individualize instruction to meet each learner’s needs. This is shared with their families and continually monitored by teacher and student. When the student is given the grading rubric, the expectation is clear and concise.
Each student will have a say in the classroom management system. In a student-centered classroom the rules are developed and practiced by the students. The norms and learning environments promote healthy positive relationships and the students accept the responsibility of their own behaviors.
Today’s classrooms and the curriculum need to be challenging and engaging. The students are aware of their own limitations and strengths, yet seek to learn new strategies in order to acquire new knowledge. Students can reflect on their learning and actively build upon their knowledge base.
In a student-centered classroom the diversity of cultures, identity, and learning styles is embraced and respected. Different cultures need to be addressed as unique yet essential to maintaining a student-centered classroom.
Through the appropriate use of various technologies, students are able to connect their learning to the global village that is our world. Students regularly email their progress to their families. Families are crucial to maintaining a student-centered classroom and must be seen as partners in their children’s learning. Students and teachers must regularly communicate progress, areas of growth, and positive achievements to their families.
The teacher must accept feedback from the students and families in order to adjust teaching strategies accordingly. Most importantly, the teacher must spend time seriously reflecting upon his or her practices and use multiple assessment tools from the school, district, and state levels. Likewise, the teacher must remain current to trends, research, and set up professional growth goals to maintain effectiveness. The teacher must strive to become a master teacher in all areas of teaching.
The teacher must be an advocate not only for students in his or her classroom, but for all students in the school. This means participation in educational reforms at the school, district, and state levels. In order to effectively push for a student centered school learning environment, the teacher must participate on school committees and pushes for collaboration throughout the school. In this type of classroom, students themselves are actively engaged in creating, understanding, and connecting to knowledge and learning. The Universal Design of a student-centered classroom can provide the following: the ability create a respectful learning environment, determine essential course components, establish clear expectations and feedback, and develop natural learning supports and technologies that already exist. The use of multiple teaching strategies will provide several types of opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge, and encourage students, families, and teachers to connect. It is important to remember that this will take time as well as a great deal of effort, planning, and preparing for each day.

Online Assignment #3 - Rachel Bergere

What is a student-focused learning environment?

Having a student-focused learning environment is what every educator should strive towards achieving in their classrooms. It is an environment where every learner is considered unique and the teacher responds to this by creating lessons that support this uniqueness. It is an environment where curriculum and instruction are driven by what the students are learning. It flows with them and not with whatever the date is on the lesson-plan calendar. Assessment determines what the teacher will teach and when it will be taught. A student-focused learning environment puts the students at the center of the educational experience.

How do you create it?

An educator can create a student-focused learning environment by forming a habit of effective professional practices. For example, effective educators should use a variety of instructional strategies that create meaning for students by using different instructional approaches, multiple perspectives, and real-world experiences. This could include allowing students to make choices in what they learn, or it could include having students engage in cooperative group projects. I have created this by understanding and using instructional strategies that target students’ neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses that I have learned through the All Kinds of Minds program. The All Kinds of Minds program has taught me how to recognize the different way in which students learn and think. I have also learned strategies and techniques that I can integrate into my lessons. An effective teacher uses a variety of assessment tools to gather data on students and record their growth. This educator would also ensure that the students are aware of how and why they are assessed. The students in this student-focused environment understand the steps needed to achieve their learning targets and goals. I have started having students do more self-reflection and goal setting during writing workshop. They use a writing continuum to see how they have grown as writers and set goals for future learning targets. A student-centered classroom is also a place where teachers use appropriate classroom management techniques that make certain students know what to do, feel safe and respected, and respect others. An effective educator creates a setting that is student-focused by forming and modifying curriculum that challenges students. This teacher utilizes technology as a tool for students boost what they learn in the classroom. A setting that is student-focused also has a teacher who sensitive to the cultural needs of all students and their families. This teacher regularly communicates with families and community members and views them as partners in the educational process. For students to remain at the heart of this learning environment, an effective teacher must develop and maintain these successful professional practices.

How do you sustain it?

A professional educator can sustain a student-focused learning environment by committing to continual growth in his or her field. I will accomplish this by completing a master’s degree and participating and advocating for professional development opportunities within the school or district. It can also be maintained through self-reflection and renewal by the individual teacher. By constantly reexamining my own teaching practices and professional growth goals, I can feel confident that I am upholding a classroom environment where students are the center. As a professional educator, I will continue to take steps towards becoming an expert and distinguished educator in my own educational life-cycle. By having an attitude that yearns for growth and that never settles for complacency, an effective educator will easily continue to experience the joy and excitement of having a student-focused learning environment.

Online Assignment #3 - Christina Spencer

What is a student-focused learning environment? How do you create it? How do you sustain it?

A student-focused learning environment is a set of multi-layered experiences that work together to support the learning and emotional needs of students. As teachers work with students on a daily basis they delicately balance learning targets, classroom rules, student goals, and school agendas so that students have experiences that foster personal growth and help to imprint new information onto their memories. In my opinion, a classroom that is designed to foster student-centered learning is one that:
1. seeks out and honors student voice.
2. allows students to set personal goals and helps them to reach them at their own pace.
3. honors diversity in student learning and culture.
4. emphasizes the idea that fair doesn't mean equal.
5. acknowledges academic as well as personal successes and set-backs
6. recognizes that students lives are multi-dimensional and supports students as they balance the
challenges/rewards of school and of life.
7. allows students to create, re-create, make mistakes, and learn from mistakes.
8. provides students with the opportunity to teach and the teacher the opportunity to coach.
When teachers can provide opportunities that guide their students to create authentic experiences (academic or personal) they provide a student-focused learning environment.
My classroom is a crazy place! I have students spread-out all over the place working on all sorts of things all at the same time. I am extremely lucky to teach a two-hour block class and a one hour class that only has eight students. This provides me with the flexibility to do almost anything that students need and provide each group with opportunities that they may not receive in their other classes. I frequently allow students the opportunity to use computers for research and rewards, I give them frequent and almost instant feedback on their work, I allow them to take group assessments and learn from each other, I try to emphasize the learning process with my students and not always the product, I use humor and fun to take the edge off of complicated tasks, I create different learning experiences for different groups of students depending on their needs, I frequently give students the opportunity to learn information at their own pace, and I provide educational and emotional coaching. Many of these events happen simultaneously. It is demanding to sustain such a delicate student-focused environment. I am always trying to manage a balance of all of these activities that works best for the moment but can be reused in the future.
I have learned through trial and error that high school students are a fickle group. What worked on Monday may not work well on Tuesday. My classroom is in a constant state of motion and change. I always seek to maintain the optimum environment for my students by being in-tuned to their behaviors and emotions. Being open to their needs beyond the classroom, helps me to build relationships with them. The bond that we build helps me to sustain a positive student-centered learning environment. I have found that the magic ingredient that sustains a student-centered learning environment is the depth of student-teacher interaction. When I have been committed to building relationships and setting up circumstances where students have the opportunity to challenge themselves I have seen the most student investment in my classroom.
Being a student-focused teacher is exhausting but it is worth it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Juliana Kirmeyer

Student-centered learning environments are classrooms in which the students’ needs come before the needs, or wants, of the teacher; teacher and students share equal responsibility for the learning that takes place in the classroom.  The beginning of such environments is when a teacher recognizes that a student’s success is her own.  As a beginning teacher, it is very rare to come to the profession with this attitude – especially trusting that students are responsible for their learning.  It is also quite difficult to give up what one wants to teach and, instead, blend together what engages students with what they need to learn.  However, once this realization occurs for a teacher, it is a struggle to know how to begin making changes.  

            It is helpful for a teacher who is creating a student-centered learning environment to reflect on past instructional and assessment strategies.  Teachers must discern which assessments yielded a high rate of student success, how those assessments were formed, and whether the instruction aligned with the assessment. The data gathered from assessments, in particular pre-assessments, can also aid in the designing of curriculum that meets the needs of students.  Students need to take responsibility in their learning by engaging in communication that helps teachers guide instruction, assessment, and curriculum.  Students also need to feel safe in their classrooms and take an active role in the learning community.  Routines, clear expectations, and open and clear methods of communication with teachers, students and parents help foster a safe and student-centered environment.

            Sustaining a student-centered environment requires a teacher to reflect continually on her work towards her students’ success.  One way I have found to reflect is to write notes to my future self on how successful (or not so successful) a lesson, test, or project was for students.  Sometimes when I ask for student reflection on their work (tests, projects, etc.), I find great ideas for how to improve my instruction.  I ask my students to reflect twice per trimester on their progress overall.  They are quite honest in their reflections and point out issues or successes, some that I have noticed and some that I have not noticed.  Their reflections enable me to clearly communicate with them where they are strong and where they have room to grow.  These actions are helping me create a more student-centered classroom.

            Student-centered learning environments spring from the consciousness of the teacher.  Through monitoring of learning, open and clear communication, and reflection teachers are able to build and sustain student-centered learning environments.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Katy Lungren

Why do we teach? Is it for the accolade? The public praise? To get summers off? For the hefty paycheck? Or is the reason we do what we do each day for the students? A teacher that creates and sustains a student-focused learning environment is one who answers every “why?” with: “because that is what’s best for my kids.”

A student-focused learning environment begins before the children even walk in the classroom on the first day of school. Prior to the students arrival, the room must be arranged for and be conducive to active movement, open dialogue, shared spaces, and private, quiet areas. When the students begin the school year, the focus is put on them and their learning from the get-go. The students work together to create community standards and expectations. They determine what the class rewards and individual consequences will be. Routines and procedures are set and practiced so that every student feels safe and aware of expectations. When working on academics, students discuss strategy ideas, talk about different ways to solve problems, read and laugh together, and support one another when questions arise. The students share their opinions, hearing one another and compromising rather than just waiting for their turn to talk. The children set goals, individually and as a group, and then reflect on the progress they are making. Classroom resources are readily available for students needing additional enrichment as well as for students needing more help or support. Students are given time to work, process, and reflect individually and time to share, communicate, and review in groups and as a whole class. Students work together to become a classroom community, preparing them for a role in the global community. Access to and regular use of technology exposes the students to more of the world, allowing them to hone skills vital for success in the future. Students see and experience the wider global community through learning materials, classmates’ traditions, and multicultural literature and activities, thus developing culturally diverse knowledge and attitudes. The students’ families play an integral role in each student’s success, being an active member of the essential triad – student, teacher, family.

Sustaining a student-focused learning environment can be a bit of a challenge for me. At the beginning of each school year, I feel refreshed after a summer of rest. Reflecting over the past year and making plans for how I will do “it” better over the summer inspires and invigorates me. This optimism and belief that the ideal (as Vanessa so articulately described it) is possible sustains a strong student focus in my classroom from September through January or February. As the weight of added responsibilities, high-stakes testing, fifth-graders’ hormones, and other stressors build up mid-year, I have noticed that I fall back into poor teaching habits at times. To combat this, it takes deliberate, specific actions, built-in reflection time, and careful planning to ensure my classroom remains student-focused. I have also found like-minded colleagues to be life-savers. We share ideas, plan together when possible, commiserate if necessary, and (I believe, most importantly) hold one another accountable. We ask each other, “Why are you doing this or that?” If we are doing our jobs and doing them well, the answer will be, “because that is what’s best for my kids.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Online Assignment # 3 - Megan Ackerman

A student-focused learning environment should place the focus on the individual student. Throughout the school year, I constantly tweak lesson plans and the school-wide curriculum to help my students be successful in their learning. For those who need extra help, I set aside time to do one-on-one instruction or make other necessary accommodations. I feel it is important to have a solid and consistent management plan, so all students know classroom expectations. A student-focused learning environment is about using time wisely, so students can get the most out of their learning. It’s about getting to know all my students and creating fun and innovative lessons to pique their interests. It’s also about letting them have a voice in the classroom and being a part of making decisions or solving problems. Lastly, I feel the most important aspect of a student-focused learning environment is encouraging my students to use their imagination in everything they do, because “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” (Quote by Carl Sagan)

How I create a student-focused learning environment is by getting to know my students. At the beginning of every school year, I have their families fill out a survey about their child. In the classroom, the first week of school is dedicated to getting to know my students. They do a variety of art projects and writing prompts that help me get to know what their interests are. My students also fill out an evaluation form telling me what their learning goals are for the trimester and how they will achieve them. I set aside time and have a conference with them on their learning goals. It would be a challenge to create a student-focused learning environment without a consistent management plan. A teacher needs to have strong discipline skills, so her students may learn in a calm and respectful manner. I create this by having a color-coded chart. A green card means good behavior, yellow is a warning, orange is a consequence, and lastly, red is when a student fills out a red card explaining how she/he could have made better choices. The card goes home for a family member to sign and is returned to me the next day. My students also create a classroom mission statement in which they come up with the classroom rules to follow. Next year, my students will be signing a contract stating they will be responsible for their behavior. From time to time, we have classroom meetings to allow students to express their concerns or come up with ways to solve problems. Over the summer, I will be working hard implementing new ideas into my curriculum and classroom. One idea I am planning to invoke in my classroom is having my students write monthly letters to other students out of state. As for creating imagination, I enjoy putting on a play/skit for my school. At my school, each grade is responsible for hosting mass that takes place every Friday. My students will doing mass on Ascension Thursday in a couple of weeks. The gospel focuses on Jesus going back into Heaven. I have created a skit based on the gospel for all my students to act out. “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” (Albert Einstein) I feel mass should not have to be boring, it should be creative. When appropriate, I sometimes let my students come up with their own lines. They really enjoy being a part of creating a play. They will get to dress up and imagine themselves as Jesus’ apostles. We will also decorate a big bulletin board and use it as a background for our skit. After Holy Communion, my students will also put on a meditation song and present it in sign language. I feel that acting out the gospel is a great way for my students to truly understand the message of Jesus’ love for them and to love one another as Jesus loves them. It is a lot of work, however it is also very fun. The reward comes when I see my students come together as a classroom community and amaze the school with their talents and imagination.

I sustain a student-focused learning environment by constantly seeking ways to improve my teaching methods and curriculum in order to meet the needs of all my students. I take the time to get to know my students on a regular basis, such as having a conference or having lunch with a student and learning about her/his interests. Most importantly, I sustain a student-focused learning environment by putting them in the spotlight showing off all that they have accomplished.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Online Assignment #3 -- Vanessa Marfin

A student-centered environment is one in which every decision is made intentionally with the goal of promoting student learning. In a student-centered envioronment, students actively set learning goals, select methods for achieving them, and evaluate whether they have met them. In a student-centered learning environment, students understand and help define what "quality" is, and are able to use assessments to identify goals for future learning and to more fully understand themselves as learners. In this environment, all students are welcome and celebrated. Different learning styles and cultural heritages are seen as contributing to the richness of the whole, and institutional and perceptual barriers to any student's full participation in our society due to bias is confronted and corrected. Students are active participants in establishing rules and consequences. In this environment, everyone knows where everything is and takes responsibility for putting it back. When an instructional problem is presented, students can draw upon a wide variety of resources and tools, including technology, to solve the problem because everything in the classroom is owned by the students in the fullest meaning of the word "owned." In a student-centered environment, time is not wasted because students are eager to learn, know how to learn, and are invested in their learning. A student-centered environment invites parents and community members into the classroom to contribute to and celebrate students' learning.

The student-centered environment is an ideal. There are a multitude of barriers to achieving this ideal, including scarcity of planning time, inadequate resources, and suboptimal school cultures. However, the role of the teacher is to continue to pursue this ideal despite obstacles. One way the teacher gains strength for achieving the goal of the student-centered classroom is through collaboration with other professionals. By sharing knowledge and working together to solve issues in the broader society that make teaching and learning in schools difficult, the teacher can maintain passion for and belief in education.

In a student-centered environment, the teacher also becomes a student, maintaining enthusiasm for learning and commitment to reflection upon and improvement of instructional practices throughout her career.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Juli Rangel

In my 2nd grade class, our current topic of study in science is “Forces and Motion.” We’ve learned that motion is the act of moving. When I think of a student-focused learning environment, I imagine a classroom full of children in motion.


• Actively participating when processing information:

o Recording responses (writing, drawing on white boards)
o Signaling (hand signals, response cards)
o Responding verbally (“tell your neighbor,” choral responses)
o Acting out (role play, movement, facial expressions)
o Responding mentally to prompts (“imagine, pretend, recall, remember, picture, think about”)

• Having opportunities to participate in partner work and cooperative learning projects
• Exploring numerous manipulatives and hands-on activities to aid in conceptual learning
• Demonstrating their skills and knowledge with higher-level thinking, questioning and learning tasks (Bloom’s Taxonomy)
• Using the learning environment respectfully and with ease and purpose (resource location, following rules and procedures)

A student-focused learning environment can be created when a teacher demonstrates competency with the following criteria:

1. Instructional Strategies – Students need to be aware of different learning approaches, and their learning tasks need to be varied, meaningful and related to curriculum standards.

2. Assessment Strategies – Students need to understand a variety of assessment tools and criteria, have opportunities to share their progress with parents and be involved in the decision-making of their progress.

3. Classroom Management Principles – Students need to feel ownership in the creation of classroom standards and rules. These standards and procedures need to be taught, modeled and practiced and continually reviewed, so all children can learn in a positive, safe, organized and inclusive learning environment.

4. Designing and/or Adapting Challenging Curriculum – Students need to understand the learning tasks and the steps required to reach them. They need to be engaged in a variety of high-level thinking skills and know and use resources to aid in their individual learning. Teachers need to address the diverse learning needs in their classroom by differentiating learning tasks whenever appropriate.

5. Demonstrate Cultural Sensitivity- Students need to be exposed to cultural diversity through learning materials and activities. They need to learn how to respect cultural diversity and have opportunities to share cultural traditions and customs that reflect varied backgrounds and experiences.

6. Technology Integration – Students need to use a variety of technologies and technology skills in a responsible and ethical way in order to enhance learning, productivity and self-expression.

7. Communication with Families and Community – Teachers need to form partnerships with families and communities in the educational process by engaging in two-way communication. Teachers need to share information about assessments, behavior, learning and community building opportunities and provide accessible ways for parent and community input.

Sustaining a student-focused learning environment requires a great deal of effort and experience! Teachers need to know the required learning targets and enduring understandings so they can create and/or gather lesson plans that contain sound instructional strategies that make learning meaningful. Teachers need to “know” their students by using baseline assessments, pre and post assessments, surveys and conferencing so they can know where to move ahead with each child. Teachers need to be prepared on a daily basis, prepared with lessons supplies and materials so valuable instructional minutes are not lost. Teachers need to continually take time to collaborate with others and for reflection and renewal regarding the effects of their teaching, as well as remain current in teaching practices, theories and research.

Wow! Teachers work hard!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Rachel Bland

When I think of a student-focused learning environment I directly think about the individual students' themselves. I think about who they are, what their academic levels are, what academic goals they have, where they live, what languages they speak at school and or home, their gender and their personalities. A student-focused learning environment means differentiating the district's adopted curriculum and using a variety of teaching strategies to meet the students where they are. This could entail changing the numbers in a math problem for a student or sub-group of students to make it either more or less challenging. It could also mean preparing for a homework assignment during school, such as providing example of different scales (when learning about measurement) if students do not have access to them outside of school.

I create a student-focused classroom by knowing my students and about their lives. I get to know my students by doing three important things: first I send out a survey to families. The survey asks families for information about their child. It asks about any allegeris, medications, diet restrictions, siblings, bed time, favorite subject, sports played, favorite activity etc. Secondly, I give students a simple survey. It asks them about their favorite food, favorite book, what they want to learn about, what they want to be when they grow up, how they like to help others etc. I carefully read both survey's and make notes about important information. All of these documents are stored in the classroom student files. Thirdly, I constantly talk with studnets both individually and within daily classroom meetings. We discuss learning strategies, problem solving skills and what they enjoy learning about. All of this information helps me to lesson plan and then modify the lessons to meet students where they are academically. I am also able to set the classroom up for students to use to their advantage. That is, if students problem solve by using math manipulatives I make sure they are out in an area where student's can easily access them.

I sustain a student-focused learning environment by continually learning about the studnet's I teach. I talk with students about their learning experiences, ask questions about problem solving techniques and evaluate daily data about whether objectives were met. All of this information helps me to tailor the district adopted curriculum and my teaching strategies to fit the needs of the students. As students' learning abilities grow and change throughout the school year, I make the choice to learn from them in order to teach to the students and not teach to the curriculum.