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Chapter 3: Teaching Is Adapting to Student Diversity - page 10 / 16

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Ms. Comrey’s Third-Grade Classroom

It is the first week of class, and Ms. Comrey has arranged an informal evening get together of the parents of her new students.  She decided that this meeting was important because of some fairly dramatic changes that have occurred in the school population this year.  The school is in a largely White middle-class neighborhood and has historically served only neighborhood children.  However, concerns about segregation and racial inequities have led the school board to create a plan for achieving a better racial balance within the schools.  In the case of Ms. Comrey’s school, this has meant busing children from predominantly low-income neighborhoods into the school.  Most of the children being bused are African American.  Ms. Comrey has decided that a parent meeting would be useful to ensure that all students and families feel welcome, understand the expectations that she has for their sons and daughters, and are able to become involved in the activities of the classroom.  During the meeting, Ms. Comrey and the parents accomplish several important goals:

1.  Ms. Comrey explains that she has high expectations for the children as regards reading.  She expects the children to read every night at home and asks parents to assist by tracking the children’s reading at home.  She suggests that parents arrange a system of rewards for reading.  She also provides each parent with a list of books and authors that the children might find interesting.  She also explains to parents that it is important that they read to their children.  By doing say, she explains, the children will gain new skills and learn that reading is a valued activity in their homes.

2.  Ms. Comrey also explains that the children will have math homework every Tuesday and spelling homework every weekend.  She encourages the parents to check over the children’s work and they remind their sons and daughters of the need to complete the homework in a timely fashion.

3.  Ms. Comrey tells parents about her peer tutor system.  She explains that not all children will achieve at the same rate in any given academic subject.  Rather than assigning children to different ability groups, she prefers to pair the children into tutoring teams.  The aim, she explains, is to form pairs in which the children can learn from each other and get to know each other.  She stresses that not only the tutee, but also the tutor benefits from the relationship.  For example, the tutor practices already mastered skills, enhances his or her ability to communicate, and may come across new challenges in the subject area as a result of the tutee’s questions.  She explains that whenever possible she tries to form pairs in which one child is the tutor for one subject and the other child is a tutor for another subject.  She also encourages parents to talk to their children about the tutoring pair and to invite the other child in the pair to their homes if possible.  She notes that this fosters friendships and increases the effectiveness of the tutoring arrangement.

4.  Ms. Comrey explains how she will communicate with parents throughout the school year.  She tells them that each child will bring home on Friday a preview of the following week’s activities.  Included will be any special topics or themes, any field trips, and any changes in the regular schedule.  She also encourages parents to communicate with her whenever they have questions or concerns.  Parents are given the option of writing her a note that their child brings in or of contacting her at home in the evening.  She also asks all parents to jot down their phone numbers and best times to call so that she can reach them too.  (In fact, Ms. Comrey makes a point of calling every parent at least once mid-way through each semester.  She does this to answer questions that parents might have but have been reluctant or unable to ask.)

5.  Parent volunteers are identified for several class activities, including writers’ workshop, art, science, and computer programming.  Ms. Comrey solicits pairs of parent volunteers for each activity.  She also arranges for parents who do not have an automobile to have a “buddy” parent who can drive them to and from school.

6.  Ms. Comrey encourages parents to visit the class and observe at least once during the school year.  She also encourages the parents to talk to her after their observation day if they have suggestions or questions.  She stresses that it is important to her that all children’s needs are met.  She also stresses that she wants their input because they know their children best and may see adaptations that she could

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