A recent personal trip to California provided me with an opportunity I couldn’t resist — a site visit! This time out west, I stopped by Kathleen Butler’s 4/5 combo class at Spring Valley Elementary in Millbrae. With the temperature due to climb into the high 80’s as the day went on, I was most happy to take an early morning stroll with this class!
Making My Way
My journey was brief, and I arrived at Spring Valley before many of the students! I checked in at the office, and headed to Mrs. Butler’s classroom. She appeared soon after, so we had time to chat before the day began. Mrs. Butler is in her second year implementing The Walking Classroom, having received her class set in August of 2016. As she has taught the 4/5 combo for several years, she opted for Program 4 since it covered the social studies topics in which she was most interested.
While we waited for the start of the school day, we talked a bit about how Mrs. Butler incorporates the program into her combo class. She shared that she starts the year by doing the podcasts in order, with the whole class listening to the same one. Then, as the year goes on, she chooses the podcast based on curricular content.
At times, it is possible that her fourth graders may be listening to a topic that aligns with the science curriculum, while her fifth graders are listening to a biography. She generally follows up with the comprehension quiz or a writing activity. Both groups may do that simultaneously, or she may discuss with one group while the other does the activity. That way, both grade levels are equally engaged!
Time to Start the Day
A bell signaled the time to open the door to greet the students. The class entered, quickly putting their things away. After Mrs. Butler introduced me, the students retrieved their earbuds, received their WalkKits, learned the podcast number (4-#10: Adverbs of Manner), and formed a line. They had this routine down!
We stepped into the sunshine and began walking. The space behind the classroom included a blacktop and field area, with play structures to one side and picnic tables to the other. The students followed a painted path around the blacktop (doing the loop three times is a mile!) as we listened.
To fulfill state-mandated physical education minutes, Mrs. Butler’s students, like the other upper elementary students at Millbrae, start three days a week with a jog around this path. The other two days are Walking Classroom days for her class! This physical activity in the morning has proven to be a great way to start their day!
As students finished listening, they gathered in the vicinity of their classroom door for some follow-up discussion. By the time I walked over to join them, they were rattling off an array of adverbs of manner!
Once the students returned to the classroom (placing their WalkKits in one of two Stanley SortMasters), it was time to continue the lesson. They were charged with the task of writing a paragraph about their activities the previous day (which had been a day off for them!) and incorporating adverbs of manner.
As I was eager to hear what they had written, I requested some sharing. Although hesitant to volunteer, a number of the students graciously (adverb of manner!) read their paragraphs aloud. We had fun identifying the adverbs they’d so carefully (adverb of manner!) included. They even encouraged their teacher to give it a try and craft a paragraph of her own, and were impressed at how spontaneously (yes, another!) she managed to do that.
Their next challenge? Do the same. Turning to a peer, the students attempted the same task. All of them managed to execute it effortlessly and enthusiastically (more adverbs of manner!)! Thanks to my lack of self-control, I’m sure all of you have mastered adverbs of manner by now too!
The School’s Story
Part of the Millbrae School District, Spring Valley Elementary was named a 2014 California Distinguished School. Schools selected for this award have demonstrated significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap. Located in a suburban neighborhood, Spring Valley serves over 431 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
. . . Back to the Road!
I wrapped up my visit by answering some student questions. Then I took some group photos and (as always!) recorded a brief video message for The Walking Classroom’s creator, Laura Fenn. After distributing some treats for Mrs. Butler and her students, I stopped by the office, then it was back to the road for me!