Teachers at McSpedden Elementary are transforming rooms and creating student engagement opportunities in ways that keep students hungry to learn more. Students at McSpedden can never be sure what kind of classroom they are walking into on any given day. They might walk into a classroom transformed into a pizzeria, board game or even a surgery room.
“The Wild Card” by Hope and Wade King has taken McSpedden by storm. The book focuses on changing the educational experience of students. It is not only changing lessons, but changing the general learning experience and making memorable moments for students in the classroom every day.
Principal Kranti Singh originally read the book over summer break after a teacher brought the book to her attention and it immediately resonated with her and any staff that started reading it.
“A quote from the book that spoke to me is, ’Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others,’” said Singh. “The fire was lit and teachers have been re-energized across the campus - we are all unlocking our creativity.”
“As teachers, we are a naturally creative bunch,” said Kelsey Shaw, a fourth grade teacher. “The book is bringing teachers together and allowing us to collaborate, prepare and meet the needs of our students in new ways.”
While some classrooms are transformed into alternative learning environments for a day, other teachers are integrating music, art and physical education into daily activities and assignments.
While from the outside, it looks like the teachers are having a ton of fun decorating and dressing up, McSpedden teachers across all disciplines and grades are carefully planning the highest levels of engagement for concepts that are typically the most difficult for students.
Second grade teacher Elizabeth Kopil created a town of Mathville with thematic centers such as a police station, library or post office. At each station, students were highly engaged in pairs talking collaboratively and engaging in content vocabulary while using manipulatives to find the answers to real-world questions.
Throughout the class period, students struggled and persevered through high-level concepts while encouraging each other. The hum of the room was palpable as students eagerly squealed with joy when they solved difficult math problems and hurried to their next station.
It is not unusual to see a student run to and from the bathroom in a hurry to get back to class. They do not want to miss one minute.
“Attendance and engagement are up while problematic behaviors are down,” said Nicole Figueroa, a third grade teacher. “They’re racing into the room in the morning and they don’t want to leave.”
“The Wild Card” encourages teachers to find their own personal strengths and creativity and run with it. It is not about occasionally changing a lesson, it is about enriching all of the lessons that have been taught before and focusing on how students can be authentically and actively engaged on a daily basis.
“The students are engaged and hungry to learn more in a creative environment,” Figueroa said. “Once you see that spark in a child’s eyes, you can’t let it go and you want to see it again.”
Teachers also love the feedback they are getting from students. Kids are thanking their teachers for creating fun lessons and even writing thank you cards.
“I had one student tell me that this was the most fun that he had ever had in school,” said Figueroa. “It just means a lot. I’ve been teaching for 11 years and now I’m feeling like a brand new teacher again.”
While all teachers in Frisco ISD strive to know the name and need of each student, McSpedden teachers are going the extra mile thanks to a book, proving to the students that we are all learners.