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Great things happening at Van Buren
Great things happening at Van Buren
Sabrina Kapp
Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Earlier today I spent about an hour just wandering the halls and classrooms at Van Buren, and no matter where I turned, I found students and teachers engaged in normal learning activities, but in every nook and cranny there were loads of smiles, laughter, and very engaged children. While outside was gray and rainy, it was all sunshine and positive energy on the inside!

In the Kindergarten classrooms, one group was helping their teacher punctuate a sentence based on statements and observations they were making about a blue whale. Next door, students were actually in the gym, running off a little energy. Other kindergarten students were learning the difference between A.M. and P.M., while their friends were engaged in pair review!

When I visited the first grade classrooms, many were working on STEM-related projects, including Mrs. Williams' class who is about to wrap up a several-day lesson on penguins. They met Green Bean the penguin last Friday, have read a book and done some of their own research about penguins, and today they cut, colored and glued their own penguins. All of this will result in a final book report about all that they've learned!

I found lots of great readers when I snuck into the second grade classrooms. In Mrs. Stephens' class, she introduced flexible seating this year, so her reading corner was filled with students using her rocker, rocker bases, bean bag chairs, and even floor pillows to cozy up with a good book. Others were perfectly comfortable reading at their desks.

Mrs. Craney kicks off most of her days with what she calls her Daily 5. Students have five tasks to complete, on their own, each morning. Today's list included spelling word review, reading quizzes, writing prompts, vocabulary words and language skills! The second graders were hard at work, moving throughout the room to complete these items before the buzzer signaled "time's up!"

Today was the day that third and fifth grade classes visited The Imagination Lab, so I didn't have the chance to see as much activity in those rooms, but I know that they did a lot of great things at the lab. One of their teachers told me that she was helping with a coding project, but most of her students knew as much about coding as she did! #TheFutureIsBright!

In fourth grade, students were working on math when I visited, and many were doing online work with mobile devices. Others were working in small groups, and some in groups with an instructional assistant. While you see and hear about it at all grade levels, I saw it in action in these math groups: Growth Mindset is a powerful approach to learning! Using language like "I didn't quite get it right this time," and "I bet you'll figure it out now," students are excited to work through challenges and no longer fear mistakes. It's a totally different approach to learning from (long ago) when I was their age!

Days like today are some of the best days. We have amazing programs and special events in all of our schools, but sometimes, just a normal day is good for the soul. And today was one of those days!