Arlington School & Family Magazine June/July 2015 - Page 20

Campus News Pearcy Elementary In Joan Swann’s kindergarten classroom, using the whole brain to learn has led to 100 percent of students completing kindergarten above the grade-level expectation in reading. Last summer, Swann attended a conference in Louisiana on whole brain teaching. She increased her knowledge base on whole brain instruction, which she has since used with her entire team. Pearcy Elementary earned all three distinctions from TEA in 2013 and five out of six TEA distinctions in 2014. Under the current state standards however, maintaining schoolwide academic success over multiple years is not easy to attain. The teachers and leadership at Pearcy Elementary realize that it can require nontraditional approaches to succeed in this educational climate. As academic expectations become increasingly more challenging, and college and career readiness becomes a major focus for students across the state of Texas, it is no secret that the key to success begins with a strong foundation. Research shows that setting this strong foundation in early childhood is a key component to overall academic success. The challenge is to increase the number of students who are performing on or above grade level, starting in kindergarten. One way Pearcy is helping every child succeed over the last few years has been focusing on brain research and how students learn best. Whole brain teaching produces orderly fun in the classrooms; if a student’s whole brain is involved in learning, there is no mental area left for zoning out or misbehavior. By using the entire body including hand gestures and reading secrets, students are developing an in-depth understanding of language and reading that is enjoyable and engaging. Not only are students learning at amazing rates and retention levels, they are having fun. 18 Arlington School & Family - June/July 2015 Shellie Williams, counselor at Pearcy, attended a conference last summer at Harvard University on executive functioning to gain a greater understanding of students with learning differences. Now, Williams more deeply understands how to use these differences as an advantage rather than a disadvantage, as they are often portrayed in a traditional educational setting. Among many other things, she learned that students who struggle in school can be taught how their brain works and use this knowledge to overcome their personal academic struggles. She has used this information to motivate all of the students to want to figure out their brain patterns in order to be more academically successful. This approach is especially helpful as the AISD moves toward an inclusive education model. Also last summer, Pearcy’s math and science teachers in grades 4 through 6 attended a nationally-renowned STEM conference in Houston, Texas. The week-long conference highlighted how to implement STEM-based lessons into classrooms to increase student engagement and success in math and science. Pearcy boasts some of the highest scores in math and science in the district. Much of the reason for this is the exponential increase in the level of student engagement since the fifthand sixth-grade teachers have begun integrating STEMbased lessons into everyday instruction. Using hands-on learning also contributes to high levels of success with students with learning differences. On a daily basis, students are exploring and determining how to solve problems using engineering and technology, followed by creating presentations and sharing their problem-solving processes with one another. The focus at Pearcy Elementary is to continuously look for ways to increase every student’s love for learning. Ultimately, this is the only way to make academic gains and prepare students for success at college and in their careers. †