Creativity and compassion are two key ingredients to being a great teacher. Even as a 12-year veteran fourth grade teacher, Julie still has both in spades. She affectionately refers to her students as her "kiddos" and intuitively picks up on their individual needs and abilities.
While she's no rookie in the classroom, her fourth grade class this past year posed a unique challenge.
"We identified the needs of this particular class early on," Julie shares. "Over the summer my principal and I looked at their TerraNova 3 scores from the previous year, and the majority of the students scored lower in third grade math than we typically see."
"When you look at classes, a few students will always perform fine, and a few will always struggle," she relates. "But this class was different. As a group they were clearly struggling."
The PDP TerraNova 3 training Julie's school received was key to helping her understand the meaning of the scores. She developed a color-coded chart for her incoming students' ranges of scores so she could easily determine in which areas they needed the most work. This also helped her identify three students who scored below the 50th percentile—students she knew would need some extra attention and care. And before they walked into class on their first day of fourth grade, Julie already had a plan in place to help her students improve their math skills that year.
Julie began by implementing several strategies to strengthen the class as a whole. She gave each student an interactive math notebook and used hands-on lessons to help them grasp concepts, like a foldable "metric staircase" to learn the metric system. She also conducted daily speed drills to improve addition, subtraction, and multiplication skills. These strategies helped her class so much that Julie now plans to implement them in all her classes.
As her class showed steady improvement, she honed in on the three students whose scores showed the need for extra intervention.
"My principal and I felt like we really needed to watch them more carefully and figure out what was going on," Julie says. "They were clearly missing something."
She began offering optional "office hours" for these students to stay after school and get additional help. One student in particular voluntarily stayed after school with Julie almost every day.
"He's very smart, but he's the baby in the class," Julie says. "He's the kind of student who could have an advantage if he'd been held back instead of joining the older kids, but he was really struggling to keep up."
"It was a challenge for him to take homework home because initially, he wasn't very motivated," she continues. "But when he stayed with me he got his work done, and I could check on him along the way."
The more Julie worked with her class, the more clearly she recognized the root of their math struggles. She knew most of them had performed poorly on the TerraNova 3 word problems. She discovered their poor performance was linked to their reading level.
"Many of them weren't strong readers, so they couldn't understand word problems well enough to do the math," she relates. This creative problem solving—identifying a reading rather than a math issue—led her to bring reading-specific skills to the forefront of her instruction.
Julie takes her responsibility to equip her students seriously. "Sometimes I have to step back and regain perspective, realizing it's not my job to prepare them for college—but fifth grade is going to be hard. So I'm always trying to help them develop skills that will help them do their best next year."
By working closely with the fifth grade teacher, Julie is able to better prepare her fourth graders for the concepts and practices they'll encounter when they change grades. This sets up her students to transition smoothly and jump in with confidence.
When it came time for her students to take the fourth grade TerraNova 3 test at the end of the year, Julie confesses she was nervous. "It's so nerve wracking as a teacher to wait while your students take the test," she says. "You're always worried—Were they ready? Did I blow it? You never know if it will be a good or bad surprise at the end."
But for this class, the surprise was good, and her students' hard work throughout the year paid off. Only one experienced a slight drop in one section of the test, and everyone else's scores came up from the previous year—including those of the weaker students Julie identified at the beginning of the year and the one in whom she invested extra time after school.
"You don't teach to the test, but it does feel like you're living between TerraNova 3 scores," Julie shares. "You're given one set of scores when your students come in, and at the end of the year the next set of scores shows if you did the right things for your group. When the results are good, it really validates you as a teacher."
Great education will always come down to the strategies and interaction that take place within the classroom on a daily basis, but TerraNova 3 provides a framework to set up students for success. For Julie, looking at scores allowed her to dig deeper and find the root of the problem her students were facing, and then implement creative solutions.
Even after more than a decade of teaching, Julie is far from losing her spark. "I really love my job," she says. "There are such great rewards. Plus, I get to hang out all day with fourth graders—how fun is that?"
Don't miss out on the value TerraNova 3 can bring to your school—order now!