Computers and innovations enhance reading and behavior at Grout
Grout Elementary School seems to be flourishing under the leadership of Annie Tabshy, who has been Principal for five years. During her tenure, several programs are enhancing reading and behavior.
Grout, a K-5 school, serving several Inner Southeast neighborhoods, including Brooklyn, at 3119 S.E. Holgate Boulevard, has a population of 391 students who represent families from twenty different language backgrounds.
Because of its diversity, and because reading is such an important life skill, four years ago Principal Tabshy secured a TechSmart K-3 Grade Reading Grant. The grant has funded some 160 mini-laptops for students, with a ratio of one computer for every two students in K-3 classrooms. These laptops can be interacted with via a touch screen.
The mini-laptops are used to access the "My Own Reading Library", designed to support literacy skills and reading comprehension. The program gives students computer access to more than 6,000 digital books in a "digital library" that can match each student's interests and reading level.
A second online resource being used is "Lexia Core 5". This personalized digital literacy program can adapt to the student's reading skills. Students use the program for 10 to 15 minutes each day in the classroom.
Ashley Osborne, the TechSmart coach and E.S.L. staff member, says having the TechSmart Grant has allowed teachers to provide additional targeted learning at the students' individual levels.
Students at Grout are also privileged to have a school library with over 10,000 books and a cozy "reading nook" that Tabshy says kindergarteners and first graders especially appreciate.
A second program that Grout started this year, which is being implemented in a number of PPS schools, is the "MindUp" curriculum, developed by the Goldie Hawn Foundation. Its goal is to create a positive school culture and climate.
The curriculum is research-based, and includes fifteen lessons that begin by teaching students about how their brains work, and understanding how to "self-regulate". The goal is to help students with self-management, and to improve behavior and learning for all students.
The result is to create a positive school "climate", where students can learn in a positive and safe environment. The school "Climate Coach," Karey Kirk – a staff person extensively trained in supporting students – helps to mediate small or larger conflicts.
In addition to the MindUp curriculum, the school Climate Coach is using a restorative justice model that helps students learn about the impact of their behavior on themselves and on others, and the need to repair any relationship(s) that they've impacted.
"Restorative justice circles" provide students and staff with a way to look at each other and understand stresses, and where each other is coming from," explains Tabshy.
"When kids are taught how their brains function, and how to think about 'fight or flight', taking a breath, and 'finding the safe space in the classroom', they can help themselves. It is another 'tool in a student's tool belt' to support positive behavior throughout the school.
"We don't have a behavioral specialist. We want children to learn to manage their own behavior. For example, how do you talk with someone with whom you've had a conflict?"
In addition to there having been a full-day staff development session for teachers to learn this Mind Up curriculum, Karey Kirk the "Climate Coach" receives additional monthly training in restorative justice and conflict resolution.
Tabshy says that "students learn what the problem is, who caused it, how to make it right. We do this one-on-one and in circle groups."
Grout is also fortunate to have a full-time art teacher, Kendra Yao, who is funded by the Portland City Arts Tax. Her background includes working in museums and teaching all K-5 grade levels.
Last school year, Grout lost their Title 1 School funding, but will regain that status next year, based on school demographics. To learn more, go online – www.pps.net/grout – or call 503/916-6209.