Primary teacher: Melissa Walsh
Students in the Primary Class at Hutch School are engaged in a variety of activities that provide opportunities to grow emotionally, socially, cognitively and physically. The goals are to foster independence, confidence and a love of learning; to encourage unity, cooperation, compassion and kindness; to develop respect for diversity; to teach essential skills in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, science and the arts; to use Seattle and the Pacific Northwest as our extended learning environment; and to build on and support each students’ unique gifts and challenges.
We use the Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) as a framework for determining what skills to teach. The EALRs are similar to and compatible with essential learning requirements established by other states, as well as national standards. The EALRs are also broken down into Grade Level Expectations (GLEs) for greater specificity.
Examples of some of the EALRs we focus on in the Primary Class include:
When a new Primary student arrives at Hutch School, he or she is administered the CORE Phonics Survey within the first two days. If a student is ready, he or she may also be assessed via a fluency reading passage and running record, and/or a list of common words. Kindergartners are also administered a math baseline assessment. The Primary School teacher frequently contacts the student’s teacher at home and the parents to gain more information. Assessments conducted while the student is enrolled include anecdotal observations, quizzes, informal assessment of daily assignments, conferencing with the teacher, rubrics, self-assessment and writing samples. Students are incorporated into the topics that are being taught as well as long-term projects, and ongoing instruction is also adapted to meet their needs. The progress of students and strategies for supporting them are discussed by the Hutch School team every week during our staff meeting, and whenever needed during the rest of the week. When a Primary student withdraws from Hutch School, the teacher writes a narrative report detailing topics studied, activities, strengths, areas for improvement and recommendations for support for the future as needed.
Students in the Primary Class are taught from all major content areas: Writing, Reading, Math, Social Studies, Science and Arts. Examples of curricula used include the Storypath social studies curriculum “Problems in the Park” and “Soup Company,” and GEMS science kits with topics such as “Honeybees,” “Liquids and Solids,” and “On Sandy Shores.” We also study salmon in the fall to prepare for a field trip to a salmon hatchery. We use a variety of math curricula including TERC Investigations and Everyday Math. Language arts curricula includes Time for Kids, Reading A to Z, First Steps, Scholastic Phonics Readers, CORE, Words Their Way and many other materials created by the teacher.
Many lessons are taught to the whole group, with students completing assignments at their own present skill level. Examples of whole group lessons or activities are Writers’ Workshop, Science, Social Studies, Music, Arts, Physical Education, Wake-Up Work, Drama and Journal Writing. Math and Language Arts lessons and activities are typically done in small groups based on students’ grade level and/or abilities. The Assistant Primary Teacher and the Primary School Teacher work with small groups and individuals throughout the day. Volunteers work one-on-one with students during Silent Reading and other times of the day. Students who are ready may also pursue independent projects with the help of volunteers. If students have work from their school at home that they need to complete, we can support that. However, it is more typical and advantageous for Primary students to do Hutch School work rather than trying to bring work with them.
A typical day in the Primary classroom begins with independent seatwork (Wake-Up Work). Students then participate in calendar activities, discuss the schedule, sing songs and warm up with brain dance movements. We do language arts in small groups for about an hour, and then students have snack, Choice Time and read-aloud. The final hour of the morning is usually spent on math. Then students have recess and lunch, followed by Silent Reading. The last hour of the day is focused on science, social studies, Writers’ Workshop, arts, thematic studies, or special projects. We wrap up the day with Journal Writing.
Every week students participate in Group with our social worker. This is an opportunity to talk about the patient in their family, focus on feelings, learn and practice social skills, and give and receive support.
A typical week may also include a field trip to a local museum, theatre, or attraction based on the theme being studied; working with guest artists, actors, poets or musicians; celebrating holidays from around the world; engaging in community service projects; enjoying special events like art shows and luncheons; welcoming new students and celebrating students who are returning to their homes.