Making the Most of Opportunities:
Close-Up Views of a SAGE Program
A Report of the Collaborative Action Research Project of the SAGE Program
at Webster Stanley Elementary School, Oshkosh, WI, 1999-2000
The research question that I studied this year was the following: How can I create a caring community environment so that
every child can learn? I was lead to this question for two reasons. The first is because I believe I can always improve in this
area and the second reason is because I believe is it beneficial to the student emotionally and academically.
Lisa Weiss led a team building activity called Group Juggle with the entire class. Lisa threw a ball to someone while she said their name, then that person threw it to another while saying their name, and so on to keep the ball moving.
On the first day of school I knew I would have my work cut out for me. There were many atrocious behaviors that, if not stopped, would certainly ruin any community building efforts, My class was composed of six girls and nine boys. Three children were Hmong, one Indian, and eleven European-American. Four students were on free lunch while eleven paid full price. One child was served for speech and language services, two served for L.E.P. needs, five served by Title I, and four served by R.E.A.C.H.
To study my research question I used my field notes, written and verbal observations from Dr. McCall, and student interviews.
During the year I found that it takes time in order for children to learn how to treat everybody like friends and that is was worth my time to teach these children how to care about one another. I also saw how powerful it was for me to model appropriate actions and reactions to people and situations.
I believe two factors were critical in developing the caring learners I now have in my classroom. The first factor was having each child become accountable for her/his own behavior. Each child did this through writing goals, reflecting on his/her goal, and conferencing with me about the goal. When writing the goal the children needed to be thinking about how he/she was going to make our classroom a friendly, comfortable place to be. The second factor that contributed to the friendly atmosphere in my room today was the weekly community building activity. The children participated in an activity. After the activity the class held a discussion where we could link the main idea from the activity to an everyday situation.
The most important thing I learned was that children really do need to be taught how to care. I saw huge changes in
behaviors and attitudes in many of my children. I am extremely proud of my children. The best part of doing this study was
seeing the growth in my children and I know that I can do this again with another class!
Morning sharing time is one of the community building activities Lisa Weiss used in her classroom.