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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Teachers collaborate, students learn art | The San Diego Union-Tribune

Photo: Christine Huard
"Enrichment program allows instructors to step away and spend time assessing their classrooms" summarizes Christine Huard, Reporter, South County | East & South County.

Enrichment teacher Diana Rios instructs sixth-graders about measures and time signatures at Lincoln Acres School in National City.
Photo: The San Diego Union-Tribune 

Every other Wednesday, Cynthia Valle-Lone leaves her sixth-graders in the hands of another instructor so she can spend the morning huddled with a small group of teachers and work on ways to help students do better in school.

The time together gives the teachers a chance to look at which child needs a gentle boost and which needs to be pushed harder. Then they develop learning strategies to take back to their classrooms at Lincoln Acres Elementary.

Valle-Lone said she values the time to collaborate with her colleagues, and her students love it, too. She said they ask excitedly on Wednesdays if it’s the day Diana Rios, one of 19 full-time enrichment teachers hired by the National School District to teach arts, will be there.

The children now are learning to read and play music, but they also study dance, theater and visual arts in five-week sessions throughout the school year. The program also has a physical education component.

Launched in 2014, the new approach has been a success for students and teachers alike. When Valle-Lone bows out of the classroom, Rios steps in with a lesson plan ready to go. That’s the way it works throughout the district’s 10 schools. It means classroom teachers get real free time to collaborate because they don’t have to prepare materials for the enrichment teacher.

“It’s an added bonus to have someone coming in with a lesson plan for the kids,” Valle-Lone said. “They do a lot of activities that we don’t have a lot of time to plan for.”

Teaming up with other teachers in the same grade level allows Valle-Lone and her colleagues to take a good look at the positive things going on in the classroom and see the areas where they need to focus more attention, she said.

The teacher said one example of a benefit students are getting is that they are finding out there are different ways to learn a subject. They’re also making improvements to their math skills without knowing it.

Valle-Lone likes that what the children are learning in arts directly relates to the work she does with them in the classroom.

Last week, the students spent the morning going over notes, measures and time signatures that are the basics of music theory. They counted out the beats of 1/8 notes, 1/4 notes, 1/2 notes and whole notes, and easily connected the concept to fractions.

To teach rhythmic values, Rios used an interactive white board to move notes onto the screen as she asked which ones could be used to make up two, three or four beats. As the students answered, she guided them to work with each other.