Classroom of the Week | Allendale 3rd grade levels the learning field through collaborative habits

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PITTSFIELD — "Is it the end of the world if you make a mistake?" teacher Erin Hart asked her third-grade students at Allendale Elementary School.

"No," the group called back to her.

"That's right. You just keep working till you find the answer," she said.

On Thursday morning, Hart's students were learning about the symbols, processes and vocabulary of doing division in mathematics.

First, Hart wrote the vocabulary word, an example and a definition on the classroom white board.

Then, she says the definition aloud so the students can repeat it back to her. They do that for a second round, adding in some movement to help them remember, like holding one forearm above and parallel to the other to make and "equals" sign, or drawing a bar with a dot above and below it to create an air symbol for the division sign.

Next, the students sign and repeat the definition to one another for reinforcement, followed by more note-taking and group math games.

When it came to playing a matching game on the floor as a class, sometimes students were stumped.

When it was Juanita Ariza-Higuera's turn to figure out how to match a vocabulary word, "dividend," to a definition, she looked a bit hesitant.

"It's OK, Juanita," said one of the girl's classmates.

"You can look up at the board for help," said another, pointing out some examples.

When the girl chose the correct response, her classmates cheered.

"They work nicely together. They're a really caring and friendly group," Hart said of her students. "I just love teaching them."

Hart said she tries to create a "warm, inviting, collaborative classroom" atmosphere, by using small group seating arrangements, putting up colorful pastel posters with positive messages and clear instructions, and encouraging kids to work together.

"Our teacher's really nice and caring. She never wants you to fail," said student Melina King.

Allendale reading specialist, Vanna Maffuccio, nominated Hart and her students as a Classroom of the Week.

Maffuccio writes of the teacher, "Her compassion and heart fills her students with the feeling of safety, warmth, and motivation. ... In addition, she is giving and thoughtful to her coworkers; she's modeled lessons in other colleagues' classrooms this year and is always willing to give a hand to anyone in need."

Hart's students tend to reflect those same characteristics of thoughtfulness, helpfulness and attention to detail.

"We're really good at doing crafts and creative activities," said third-grader Ashleigh Timoney, noting the classroom bulletin board of "Snowglobe Adventures." The display is designed to capture students' pictures inside a snowglobe alongside a handwritten tale.

As this week's "Student of the Week" in Hart's class, Brendan Salzarulo said he enjoyed sharing with his classmates pictures of his family and pets. Each week, the nominee also gets to take home a plush hedgehog toy and enters into a class journal selfies and short stories about how they integrated the class "pet" into their daily life.

Kaydence Starbird-Westbrooks said she likes the classroom technology and games. One called Pear Deck is particularly popular. The interactive digital slideshow deck is personalized with questions for the students by the teacher, and is a way Hart can both review lessons and pose fun questions based on students' interests.

"It's a great way to check in and get to know each other," the teacher said.


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