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Taylor Street Elementary: Revolutionizing Math Instruction through Collaborative Lesson Studies

At Taylor Street Elementary, an innovative approach to teaching math is transforming the way educators engage with their students and each other. This pioneering method, known as Lesson Studies, has created a dynamic environment where teachers learn from one another to improve math instruction across the board.

The Genesis of Lesson Studies

Taylor Street Elementary is the only school in the Robla School District implementing Lesson Studies. The initiative emerged from brainstorming sessions led by the school's Professional Learning Coach, sparked by a recognized need to address students' struggles with math. "Math has been a challenge for our students," says Principal Michelle Crisp. "We knew we needed a fresh approach, and that's how our Lesson Studies began."


The school has already completed two rounds of these collaborative sessions, which form a core part of their professional development. Teachers observe each other’s methods, engage in cycles of inquiry, and learn to incorporate the four components of effective math lessons: review, main instruction, checking for understanding, and independent practice.


A Teacher’s Perspective: Laura Schellentrager

Laura Schellentrager, a 3rd/4th grade GATE teacher, reflects on her experience with Lesson Studies. "Observing my colleagues has been incredibly enriching. I've incorporated interactive math journals this year, which help students refer back to previous lessons and support their learning."

Laura has adopted strategies like daily math talks, where students solve open-ended problems individually and then discuss them in groups. This method fosters mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills, encouraging students to explore multiple solutions and learn from their peers. "These discussions also enhance students' conversational skills, such as negotiation and paraphrasing," she notes.


Supporting Student Engagement

One of the critical aspects of Lesson Studies is the role of the Robla School District's Professional Learning Support Teachers (PLSTs) like Jonathan Byram and Lyndsay Hall. PLSTs provide model lessons and ongoing support, ensuring that teachers can observe and learn effective strategies in real-time. "Lyndsay, our PLST, has been a tremendous support," Laura emphasizes. "She helps write guided interactive math notes and offers ideas on differentiating instruction."


Breanna Kinlock, a 2nd grade teacher, echoes these sentiments. "Even experienced teachers benefit from observing others. Modeling everything and using manipulatives are crucial at this grade level. I've also learned to conduct quick checks to see who needs more support."


Differentiation and Adaptation

Differentiating instruction to meet the varying proficiency levels in a classroom is a challenging task. Jonathan Byram emphasizes the importance of continuous informal assessment during lessons. "I tailor my lessons to catch misconceptions early and provide differentiated support through small group work," he explains.


Jonathan also highlights the significance of reflecting on teaching practices. "After a lesson, we discuss what worked and what could be improved. This process of honest conversation and feedback is vital for professional growth."


Building a Collaborative Culture

The collaborative nature of Lesson Studies fosters a supportive culture where teachers can see each other’s teaching styles and discuss best practices. This openness leads to a richer, more effective teaching environment. "We don’t get better by swooning over each other," Jonathan states. "We get better by looking for areas of weakness or missed opportunities."


Through this innovative approach, Taylor Street Elementary is setting a new standard for math instruction in the Robla School District. The success of Lesson Studies not only improves teaching practices but also enhances student outcomes, creating a win-win scenario for the entire educational community.


Looking Ahead

The positive impact of Lesson Studies at Taylor Street Elementary is clear. Teachers like Laura Schellentrager and Breanna Kinlock are gaining valuable insights and incorporating new techniques into their classrooms. The continued support from PLSTs like Jonathan Byram and Lyndsay Hall ensures that this collaborative approach remains effective and evolves to meet the needs of both teachers and students.


As Taylor Street Elementary continues to refine and expand its Lesson Studies program, it stands as a model for other schools looking to enhance their math instruction. The journey of continuous learning and improvement underscores the school’s commitment to excellence in education.