Redding schools demonstrate personalized learning

Personalized learning has been described as a hallmark of Redding’s education system. Dr. Bernard Josefsberg, superintendent for Easton, Redding and Region 9 school districts, gave a presentation at a recent Redding Board of Education meeting showing examples of how both Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle School personalize learning for their students.

For the presentation, Dr. Josefsberg categorized different types of students. The categories were atypical, artistic, cerebral, interpersonal, kinesthetic, naturalistic, and typical.

At Redding Elementary School, interpersonally-skilled children have personalized curricular experiences through the school’s positive behavior and intervention support (PBIS) program. Principal Carrie Wessman Huber said students who show positive behaviors and actions are rewarded.

Co-curricular opportunities include character council, which coincides with PBIS, yearbook committee and Tuesday Zone, a program in which Redding students meet with Danbury students and participate in activities and learn together.

Curricular and co-curricular experiences and opportunities are designed for students to develop their leadership skills, said Dr. Josefsberg.

At the middle school, interpersonally-skilled students can take part in more team work and group activities across the four areas, intervention extension, co-curricular, fine and practical arts and TEAM/SRBI.

For intervention and extension, students can participate in peer partner and tutoring. In co-curricular, students can join student council, spirit club, or the morning show. For the fine and practical arts curriculum, students can  participate in Project Adventure, Project Dream or be a physical education leader, said Principal Diane Martin.

In a memo to Dr. Josefsberg, Ms. Martin explained how intervention extension works.

“…Intervention Extension is held three times a week. This 28 minute period at the beginning of the day allows teams of teachers to place students in small need-centered groups that variously provide additional learning support, provide re-teaching opportunities and provide extension challenges… All staff are involved, with paraprofessionals and fine and practical arts teachers assigned to teams…” said Ms. Martin.

Artistically-inclined students who show an interest in art and music have a variety of opportunities at both Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle School.

For fourth graders there are mini courses students can take, said Ms. Wessman Huber. Instead of attending recess, students may spend 25 minutes in art class, or 40 extra minutes a week in music.

Co-curricular opportunities include orchestra, band, chorus, Orff musical group, and Artfest.

Artfest is organized by the Parent Teacher Association. It is a day of hands-on celebration of the arts.

“For musically-inclined fourth grade students, their week may include a 40-minute general music class, a 30-minute extra music class, a 30-minute viola lesson, a 60-minute fourth grade orchestra rehearsal, a 30-minute flute lesson, a 60-minute band rehearsal, and a 25-minutes Orff rehearsal that takes place during recess,” Ms. Wessman Huber said in a memo to Dr. Josefsberg.

The Orff Ensemble is named after Carl Orff, a German composer and visionary in the field of music education, said Kathy Weiss, music teacher.

“He firmly believed that children learn music by ‘doing’ music,” she said. “Musical concepts are learned through singing, chanting, dance, movement, drama, and the playing of percussion instruments.”

Both third and fourth graders have the opportunity to join these ensembles that rehearse at recess once a week, she said.

Kinesthetically-inclined students, or students who learn through activities, experience personalized learning through physical education, integrated wellness, structured play, developmental play, and recess.

Ms. Wessman Huber said structured play teaches students how to play appropriately, which also decreases behavioral referrals.

“Structured play is unique to RES and new this year to first and second graders,” she said.

At the middle school, students can also join art club, yearbook and various music ensembles. Students can participate in the spring musical, the fifth grade play and the morning show.

As part of the fine and practical arts curriculum, students can take Classical Music in Film and Classical Music in Animation, said Ms. Martin.

Academically-advanced students may participate in enrichment and challenge programs in math and integrated language arts. There are 142 students who participate in the Challenge Program and 266 in Enrichment Programs at the elementary school.

These students may also participate in math workshop and Odyssey of the Mind. Through Odyssey of the Mind, students solve novel problems, said Ms. Wessman Huber.

Academically-advanced students at the middle school can be a peer tutor as part of intervention and extension, said Ms. Martin. They can also participate in the school newspaper, debate club and student council.

For the fine and practical arts curriculum, students can take Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes. For TEAM/SRBI students can do writing workshop and learn how to write a novel.

Intellectually-creative students also experience personalized learning through the challenge programs as well as programs like peer tutoring, debate club, STEM and writing workshop novel.

Atypically-developing students receive Scientific Researched Based Interventions (SRBI) and Individual Education Plans developed by the Special Services Department.

Students may join clubs such as reading club and math club. They may also be part of Lunch Bunch, when regular classroom teachers, social workers, and special education teachers all meet.

Co-teaching and small group re-teaching is also a method of personalized learning for atypical students. Co-teaching is where special education teachers also teach in regular classrooms, said Brian Farrell, director of special services for Redding schools.

At the middle school, atypical students can be placed in co-taught classes, participate in morning gym, lunch group and chess club. They may also participate in STEM and Project Adventure, said Mr. Farrell.

PBIS Check-in Check-out is available for atypical students. Check-in Check-out is for students who when they arrive at school check in with a teacher or staff member, make sure they have everything for the day and know where they are going, Mr. Farrell said. Check out is at the end of the day when a teacher or staff member talks with the student to make sure they have the right books and homework to bring home and what to do when they arrive home.

Typically-developing students may participate in specialist mini-courses. Specials include art, music, orchestra, media/library, and physical education.

The budding naturalist is able to participate in Experiment Exhibition in the third grade and may also participate in the Garden Club program and Big Science.

Experiment Exhibition is when a student explores a topic or a question and goes through with the experimental process, she said. It used to be called the Invention Convention.

Garden Club is for third and fourth grade students who plant flowers and herbs in the school’s garden. Last year they even had a recycling garden, said Ms. Wessman Huber. Big Science is sponsored by the PTA. Students and their parents create a science experiment and learn about the scientific method.

Budding naturalists at the middle school can join the student council conservation committee or do rock climbing. Also in the fifth grade, science classes take advantage of the Saugatuck Trail across the street and do outdoor learning.

Dr. Josefsberg told the board that these examples are just some of the clubs and activities at Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle School.

“Everyone is involved with personalized learning,” he said.

A survey will be distributed to parents in the coming weeks, said Sara Sobel, board member.

Parents will be asked to complete the survey about personalized learning in schools. There will then be a community forum in December for an open discussion.

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