A Big Thank You from the Class of Champions by Samina Hadi-Tabassum, Ed.D.
Yesterday, I received an email from Sapna Shah and her students at the People’s Education Society. I was quite teary-eyed from reading it. However, what was most ironic is that Mike Feinberg, the CEO of KIPP Charter Schools here in the United States, came to visit Sapna last week along with Shaheen Mistri, the CEO of Teach for India. They were all impressed with Sapna’s literacy centers and have asked her to present this method at the next professional development day. Wow! The same centers which I had taught her were now being recognized. The irony is that in 1993 Mike Feinberg was my Teach for America mentor teacher in Houston, Texas when I began my first-year as a bilingual middle school teacher. He is the one who taught me about tough love: you show love to your students best when you are strict enough to set up high expectations. Mike Feinberg also hails from Oak Park, Illinois which is where I now live with my family. A complete full circle. It felt like a Jedi story. The Master Jedi came to see the work of his own Young Jedi, almost 20 years later in a faraway galaxy called Mumbai.
Dearest Samina Didi and Najda,
It’s such a pleasant surprise to hear from you!!!
I haven’t forgotten you either. For the last 2 weeks I have been thinking of writing to you … but I’ve just been procrastinating!!!
How are both of you? I hope you had a safe flight back, knowing how sick you were the day you left and I hope you’re feeling well now.
How’s Najda doing? The kids miss her…they were impressed at how she spoke such good English even though she was younger than them
I’m doing better myself. Been extremely busy with work……
Thank you so much for sending us books. You and the rest of the teachers have been extremely generous and kind. The books that Amy and Adriana left are also amazing.. .the kids love them…it makes them want to read. And of course after all the long talks about literacy centers or Daily Five and the lack of a classroom library…I have decided to have a library set up in my class. I had emailed Amy a few days ago regarding how to select books, if there was a generic booklist and what kind of books to have, etc. She was very helpful … I’ve been going through the ALA website, selecting books and making my own list.
But none of this would make sense without your extremely valuable suggestions and inputs. I continue to use all of them. (I have to admit before you demonstrated the literacy centers to me I used to do centers, but they kids did completely different things at different centers and there was no consistency ever)
Now it’s different. I’ve started doing literacy centers every week exactly the way you demonstrated. I teach them the comprehension strategy on Monday, we read the text together on Tuesday and then from Wednesday through Friday they work on their centers. I have not done writing and sorting center since they cannot be completely independent. I’m planning to do the writing center as a HW assignment at least for the stronger kids. The vocabulary and drawing center have done wonders to their abilities to learn and recollect new words. I think all kids have now started to associate every word with a picture and it really helps them remember the word better! The kids come early to school because they want to play the games!! In fact I’ve asked parents of some of the struggling kids to make similar flash cards at home and let the child play the matching game, etc!!! The kids performed very well on the vocabulary quiz you gave them before leaving. I’ve added that in my weekly assessment.
I also started playing the Sparkle game with them every morning… read about it on the internet.. (I think it’s a pretty common spelling game in the US). It’s doing wonders for their vocab!
I’m also using Message Time before I introduce a new topic, so they have a little back ground knowledge and I can also focus on some grammar and vocabulary words.
I have also continued using Reader’s Theater…at least for all my social studies objectives. The weekend after you left, the kids wrote their own ending to the hijacker story and performed. But from their performance I realized they had still not understood who is a hijacker, what would a hijacker’s motives be … so I spent some time explaining it and they re-wrote their ending and performed again!!
I can absolutely send you the videos . I just need to figure out how to send it since they are extremely large in size. Will do it by the weekend. Is that ok?
Besides that my new addition has been Math centers… your structure of centers…where the skill at the center always remains the same… the content may change really, really pushed me to think ……..I tried doing as much research over the Internet as I could and finally came up with a structure.
- Center One – Work with teacher
- Center Two – Paper Practice (where they practice the current skill being taught in class)
- Center Three- Fact Practice – they play WAR .. .addition war, subtraction war, multiplication war and division war with a deck of playing cards
- Center Four – Strategy Practice . I have started with one game right now …each pair gets a set of flash cards with numbers from 1 to 9. Their goal is to win … in order to win they need 3 different number cards which add up to 15. The first person to get it wins. I found it on the NRICH math website (This also to me is like chess versus snakes and ladder .. chess needs strategy to win versus snakes and ladder just needs luck).
- Center Five – Problem Solving – again I had to spend time researching over the internet what problem solving means … just words problems or something more … finally I liked the explanation on the NRICH website … where they explain how the problem should be open ended, with more than one possible solution and let the children use their math concepts to come up with the best solution(s). I take a lot of problems from the NRICH math website (you know how the state board text books don’t lend themselves to any help.
Another success I wanted to share with you was that last week, while Mike Fienberg ( founder of the KIPP charter schools) was in India, he visited my classroom along with Shaheen, Kate, Maureen and a few others. The kids and I were working on literacy centers. I think they were very impressed so Kate has asked me to present this literacy structure idea at the next city conference to other fellows!!!
Just the 2 weeks you spent in my classroom have been so beneficial for me and the kids …I wish I could have you in my class as well as with Teach for India longer!!!
Really miss you and Najda.
Thank you isn’t enough to express my gratitude but that’s all I have.
And like I had mentioned, I would be more than excited to help out if you are going to be visiting during the summer institute.
P.S.-PFA the receipt of Sahil’s payment. I haven’t recd Rohan’s receipt yet.