Name: Sarah Wieckert
School:Gresham School of Excellence
District: Chicago Public Schools
What grade do you teach? First Grade
How long have you been teaching CKLA? 3 years
Q: What is your favorite part of CKLA?
A: I love having a curriculum that spans K-2 so that there is consistency between the grade levels (when things are taught, how things are taught, activities that are used, etc.). When students start first grade in the fall they are really excited to realize that they already "know" a lot of the things we do in first grade because they did them in kindergarten. Of course, there will be new content, but a lot of the routines and materials are similar - there are tricky words and readers and workbooks, for example. I also like the two separate strands of CKLA (Listening and Learning and Skills). There's often a tendency to want to push one content area over the other in the primary grades (reading/listening comprehension or foundational skills), and having both strands ensures that there will be a balance of the two.
Q: Do you have a favorite CKLA domain or unit to teach?
A: I love teaching Unit 2 in the first grade Skills Strand because of the pop-out chaining activity with "magic e". It's so much fun for the kids, and of course then it's fun for me too! I also really like Skills Unit 4 because "The Green Fern Zoo" is the first nonfiction reader we use in first grade, and the kids always love it. I've never met a first-grader who doesn't love learning about animals! Also, starting to read two-syllable words is really exciting (also in Unit 4). In Listening and Learning, I really enjoy Domain 4, "Early World Civilizations", where we learn about Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I lived in Morocco for a number of years (a long time ago now!), so I always bring pictures of me in the Sahara Desert to show the kids as we learn about the desert in both Egypt and Mesopotamia. I also get to share pictures of Ramadan and Moroccan mosques when we learn about Islam as one of the three major world religions at the end of the Domain. It makes it really fun!
Q: Since using CKLA, what are some results or changes you’ve seen in your classroom?
A: One thing I definitely notice is that kids are better at using blending and segmenting as a strategy for reading unknown words because the curriculum relies so heavily on that, and teaches/practices it in so many different ways.
Q: What is a way you make CKLA domains come alive for your students?
A: One way is bringing in pictures / artifacts from my time in Morocco when I teach Listening and Learning Domain 4 (Early World Civilizations). In Domain 5 (Early American Civilizations), I'm planning to do the same this year because I just took a trip over the summer to Mexico City and got to visit pyramids and Aztec ruins! In Domain 2 (The Human Body), we've prepared a balanced meal together, and this year I started trying to dress up like Dr. Welbody (the narrator of the read alouds) when I read the texts to students. Sometimes I'll also try to find Youtube videos relevant to what we're learning to make things more engaging (like showing the flooding of the Nile, or hieroglyphs). We've also taken a field trip to the Field Museum in Chicago, where they have an Ancient Egypt exhibit and 3D movie that is pretty cool.
Q: Any creative ideas you have planned for upcoming domains that you'd like to share with other teachers?
A: Sharing pictures / artifacts from travels to the places we learn about - but even if you don't travel there, I know teachers who have used Google Earth to show certain places, along with other images from a basic Google Image search. Also, field trips are great as culminating activities - the only one I've ever done is to the Field Museum to go along with Domain 4, but I've also thought about the zoo - that could go along with Skills Unit 4 (and "The Green Fern Zoo" reader). Or, if you could find a play of any of the fables / folktales / fairy tales in Domains 1 or 3, that would be fun.
Q: CKLA kids say the darndest things! What is your all-time favorite CKLA kid quote?
A: I can't think of anything that amazing here, sorry. The best I can come up with is that we learned the letter team "i_e" one morning recently. Later in the day, in the middle of math, I had a girl blurt out, "We need to take the "tricky sticker" off the word "five" on the word wall! It's not tricky anymore!"
Q: If you had one piece of advice for a teacher just getting started with CKLA, what would it be?
A: If you're going to do it, really do it. I would do it for a full year as written (as much as possible), and then make decisions about if/what you might need to tweak. It's really hard to know what to change if you haven't done it all the way through as written first. The first year I used it, I made things a lot harder on myself than I needed to by trying to adjust it too much.
Q: What is your favorite book from your childhood?
All the Nancy Drew books!
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