Principal’s Corner: Blending what’s best for students in award-winning Truckee Elementary program | SierraSun.com

Principal’s Corner: Blending what’s best for students in award-winning Truckee Elementary program

Sara Colborn
Principal’s Corner
Teachers from each grade level collaborate and group students based on their current reading, speaking, and listening levels. Each team of teachers agrees on which skills they’re working on and what content they’ll use to have students practice these skills.
Photo submitted by Kelli Twomey

At Truckee Elementary, we are extremely proud to represent the Truckee neighborhood!

We are the most diverse elementary school in our district, and we do things a little bit differently through an amazing program called Blended English Language Development.

Blended ELD maximizes our diversity and celebrates it. In this program, we honor that every child is acquiring English and that every child must be extremely skilled in listening and speaking to be successful in the 21st century.

Blended ELD prioritizes the celebration of student strengths in listening and speaking and creates a supportive environment to meet each child where they’re at regardless of home language, socioeconomic status or ethnicity. Each day, all of our students at Truckee Elementary, kindergarten through fifth grade, participate in our Blended ELD program. The Blended ELD program is so innovative that our school was one of only three in California to receive the California Department of Education’s 2018 Global Education Model Program Award for our vision.

The Blended ELD program is so innovative that our school was one of only three in California to receive the California Department of Education’s 2018 Global Education Model Program Award …

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said recipients of this award “model, improve, and sustain Global Education programs that prepare students to live, work, and thrive in a multicultural, multilingual, and highly connected world.”

Our expectation for learning is that every child meets or exceeds grade level listening and speaking standards in a blended environment that embraces the diversity of our school and community. Blended ELD focuses on the whole child, ensuring that each of our students has access to global learning and is a well-rounded student by the time they leave us.

How do we do this? Let us take you on a tour of a typical Truckee Elementary day:

Teachers from each grade level collaborate and group students based on their current reading, speaking and listening levels. Each team of teachers agrees on which skills they’re working on and what content they’ll use to have students practice these skills. For example, a lot of our Blended ELD uses highly engaging science content such as STEMScopes to get our Wolverine Cubs engaged in conversation. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math; STEMScopes use leveled reading and hands-on science experiences to help students think, speak and listen like scientists!

Many of our Blended ELD lessons use our social/emotional-character education materials such as Second Step to engage students in conversation. Second Step uses videos, scripts and student discussion to empower children to problem solve, generate possibilities, explore options and choose best solutions. Each month we focus on a character trait at Truckee Elementary to help our students be well rounded. Each week we pose a question to students to encourage highly engaging conversations with their classmates on the character trait. What wonderful collaborative and global skills for the 21st century!

As you continue to travel through other Blended ELD classrooms at Truckee Elementary, you’ll see children using rigorous math vocabulary as they’re engaging in fun and challenging math games, students reading and discussing relevant current events in our world or some real focused language lessons for our newcomers to English. You might even see students read into the “QBall” and throw it to the next student to read aloud. (Don’t worry — it’s a microphone inside an actual dodgeball!)

We continue to develop and enhance our Blended ELD program so we can utilize it to its fullest extent. We’re always working to align what we’re teaching the students, improve our teaching strategies and be creative with how students are demonstrating their learning. As part of the Global Education Award, we received a grant for collaboration time together and with leaders from the California Department of Education. You’ll see our science specialist, our school’s ELD teacher, grade level teachers, special education teachers and GATE teacher all working together in our Blended ELD Collaboration. We are modeling what we’re aiming to have our students do — collaborate for maximum success in real life situations!

Our commitment to maximizing and celebrating our diversity enables our Truckee El Cubs to have powerful lasting friendships with people who are different from them and continue to embrace diversity as they move on from Truckee El.

In our somewhat isolated mountain community, our students are able to appreciate that everyone brings different talents, skills, languages and experiences to our community. We are Truckee!

Sara Colborn is principal at Truckee Elementary School.