Just last week, I had the opportunity to travel to California once again. This time, my visit to the Golden State had me in San Diego, and while there, I couldn’t resist making a site visit or two! My first was to the fifth grade classroom of Kelly Dudley, a teacher at Doyle Elementary! Mrs. Dudley has been teaching at the school for 22 years. When she began, she taught second grade, but has taught fifth grade for most of the past decade.
Some Data about Doyle Elementary
Doyle Elementary is one of 120 elementary schools (110 serving grades TK-5 and 10 serving Grades K-8) in the San Diego Unified School District. The school is named after Zeta O’Connell Doyle, a former teacher in the San Diego Schools who served as the Director of Elementary Instruction from 1952 until 1958.
Located in the University City neighborhood near UC San Diego, Doyle Elementary is host to an international student body. In fact, there are over 30 languages spoken by students at the school!
Doyle Elementary received its Walking Classroom materials—the [NEW] Combined Program—just this year, through a grant to Mrs. Dudley in August of 2018. Led by Principal Kimberly N. Moore, the school serves more than 880 students in grades TK through 5.
Descending upon Doyle Elementary
I reached Doyle Elementary around 8:45 a.m., which allowed ample time for me to park my car, stop by the office to sign in, and make my way across the courtyard to Mrs. Dudley’s classroom. The class was just wrapping up a math lesson as I entered the room. One of the students was at the front of the class, sharing his written explanation for how he had solved the problem of the day.
After Mrs. Dudley introduced me to her class, we had time for me to answer several student questions about The Walking Classroom. Then, it was time for The Walking Classroom lesson!
Preparing for the Podcast
Since the school year started, Mrs. Dudley’s class has listened to about 10 podcasts—mostly language arts topic focusing on writing skills. She shared that the podcasts had been a helpful supplement to her instruction.
As the class had recently begun a social studies unit on explorers, the day’s podcast would be on Marco Polo (Program 5-#78, Combined-#53). Mrs. Dudley began the lesson as she typically does, with a pre-test to determine her students’ prior knowledge. She distributed a two-sided copy of the comprehension quiz, labelled pre-test on one side and post-test on the other. The students completed the pre-test side using a colored marker.
Mrs. Dudley followed up by asking students if there was anything they already knew about the explorer, and several students shared things they knew or had heard. Mrs. Dudley suggested that the podcast might validate or invalidate some of these pieces of information and encouraged them to practice god active listening when it came time to walk, listen, and learn.
She then introduced the key vocabulary from the podcast, and reminded the students write the words and definitions on the pre-test side of the paper. As the class had already had an introductory lesson on explorers the previous week, the students quickly offered a definition for explorer. Mrs. Dudley followed up with a definition of trade, asking the class for a real-life example. One of the students shared that they could trade their earned “dolphin dollars” for classroom rewards.
Time to . . . Walk, Listen, and Learn!
Mrs. Dudley asked the students to put their markers away and then she called them by table to get their WalkKits. As each group retrieved their devices and earbuds, they headed to the back hallway. By the time Mrs. Dudley and I joined them, the students were in two orderly lines behind the pace cars. Mrs. Dudley and I would be serving as cabooses!
We headed out the door to a large field behind the school, cued up the correct podcast, and led by some rather fast pace cars, began our very brisk walk. In fact, it was so brisk that by the conclusion of the 17 minute podcast, we had walked just over 1.4 miles .. a rate of nearly 5 miles per hour according to my pedometer!
In what seemed like no time at all, the podcast was over! As students finished listening, they continued walking, but simply removed their earbuds as a signal to others that they were ready to chat a bit about what they’d heard. Once it was clear to Mrs. Dudley that all the students had finished, we made our way back into the building.
Back at their desks in the classroom, the students revisited the “big ideas” of the podcast before completing the post-test side of their paper in pencil. They then went over the answers showing with their fingers (1 = a, 2 = b, 3 = c) what answer they had chosen. Their active listening skills were in evidence as a quick scan of the room revealed that nearly everyone’s answers were correct.
Mrs. Dudley welcomed any additional insights from the students. Then, while the students went outside again for a brief recess and snack break, she and I chatted for about 15 minutes about how The Walking Classroom was working for her class.
. . . and It’s Time to Hit the Road!
Upon the students’ return to the classroom, there was time for me to address some additional questions they had. And, what good questions they were!
After this second round of Q and A, I quickly shared The Walking Classroom swag I had brought along for Mrs. Dudley and her students. Then, sadly, it was time for me to go!