by Deanna Zarichansky

Deanna Zarichansky is the Assistant Principal at Trousdale County Elementary School in Hartsville, TN

Our district adopted Core Knowledge [Language Arts] at the beginning of this school year. This has been the single most powerful curriculum implementation I have seen in my 16 years of education. We are a small district with a high rate of poverty, with many students who enter school with little to no experiences with literacy. Our school is charged with the difficult task of educating students who come to us with little vocabulary and limited knowledge of the world around them.At first glance, many teachers were rather skeptical that their students could be successful with themes such as The War of 1812 and Astronomy. These same teachers soon became strong supporters of the program. The students began to use vocabulary and content knowledge they were being exposed to by Core Knowledge in conversations and in writing. Walking down the hallways of our school, you can hear chatter about the Earth’s atmosphere, Rosa Parks, Machu Picchu, and paleontologists. Many second grade students wanted to dress as gods and goddesses for Halloween. They collect rocks on the playground and discuss how they were formed. Parents often tell stories of their children combing through the cabinets and discussing what is healthy and what they shouldn’t be eating, catching their children peeking out of the window looking for the North Star, and rousing dinner conversations about the Civil War. Our librarian shared that students are choosing to check out more nonfiction than ever before.

We really need to purchase more books on ecosystems. I’ve read everything we have.

A first grader at TCES

The walls of our school used to be decorated with holiday items and have now been replaced with diagrams of constellations and descriptive paragraphs about Human Body Systems. This curriculum has changed the culture of our school. It has allowed equalization for students who are now exposed to deep knowledge building about the world around them.

5 comments on “Early CKLA Success in Hartsville, TN”

  1. 1
    Jessica Vasan on April 13, 2017

    I had the privilege of visiting Deanna’s school a couple months ago. They are doing amazing work with literacy, as she describes. I love the idea of these materials being a great equalizer in classrooms — but my favorite part of this post is the quote from the first grader: “We really need to purchase more books on ecosystems. I’ve read everything we have.”

  2. 2
    Caylah Dargan on August 15, 2017

    Deanna I am very passionate about Common Core and the benefits to students. I spent my first ten years teaching in Minneapolis Public Schools and my first year in 2004 they were rolling out the ELA portion of common core. As you describe there were many skeptical teachers and felt this was way above the students . The student population was an average of 90 percent free and reduce lunch. Couple with a high student ration of English Language Learners with over seventeen cultures. However, as the role out continued the neagative teachers started to see student engagement incease and the thrill of learning was contatious! When schools develop cultures that promote and celebrate continuous learning for students only when teachers join the community of lifelong learners (Akerman, R. & Mackenzie, 2007 p. 13).
    With the 2017-2018 school year coming up or perhaps starting for your district I will be curious to visit and see what more exciting things happen in the second year. One question for you is did you buy more books per the first grader’s request?
    Respectfully, Caylah Dargan – Special Education Teacher with Tacoma WA Public Schools.
    Ackerman, R., & Mackenize, S. (2007). Uncovering teacher leadership: Essays and voices from the field. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

  3. 3
    Elizabeth Hoare on November 18, 2017

    Deanna, Thank You for your discussion on integrating real-life knowledge and skills into the classroom through CKLA. Like your school, our teachers are charged with the teaching of English to English Language Learners (ELLs), I teach in an American International School (in Vietnam) Our school is at the moment 92% and ELL community of learners. When we were first told to teach an American Social Studies program that teaches pilgrims and of symbols of America, our staff were very skeptical too. At first we couldn’t perceive getting past the language barriers, then the teaching of the American history and culture, to a class of 6 year olds, who barely live in their first country to know about their first language and culture. But with some creativity and technology in the classroom, our very ELL students are over-enthusiastically immersed in learning about Thanksgiving, loving their turkey feather headbands and pilgrim dinner placemats made themselves. In the Library lesson, my First Grade students excitedly noted nearly every book on the shelf that had leaves, turkeys, early colonial ships.
    We should not be afraid to push the envelope, for amazing things can follow .

    Thank You for giving us teachers the support to move forward in the teaching-learning process

  4. 4
    Amelia Cepeda on November 19, 2017

    Your school district and your students sound identical to mine. After, reading your information on CKLA I am very interested in learning more about it, especially with all the positive benefits that it is providing the students with. As a fourth grade teacher I have always wanted to teach my students about such things as the Holocaust however, I have always been told that the students are too young to learn about that. I strongly disagree and after reading that the CKLA curriculum appears to contain important world material I am highly motivated to do some research on this curriculum. My students live in an area that is not diverse at all and I believe this type of curriculum would enable them to become aware of the world they live in.

  5. 5
    Ericka Hull on December 14, 2017

    I’m too intrigued with how you got your skeptical teachers to buy-in and what your teachers did to bring the lessons to life.

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