Teaching The Promise at Parkview Elementary

Educators in Action

Kate Mills, fifth-grade teacher at Parkview Elementary School, began teaching her students what The Bellingham Promise is and why it is important to the teachers, families and students in the community. Last year, students examined the outcomes of The Bellingham Promise and then reflected on which one they would like to make growth in throughout the year.

Mills grouped her class into cohorts according to which outcome they chose. The cohorts were assigned to complete a chart that included their goals and how they wanted to reach them. The students then presented their ideas to the class each week to see how they were progressing.

The cohorts were combined into four main groups: artists, performers and trades people, skilled users of technology and information, confident individuals who continuously challenge themselves, and well-rounded community members engaged with the broader world. All of these groups worked towards different goals.

The “community member” cohort held a school-wide penny drive in order to raise money for the Whatcom Humane Society. In the end, they fundraised more than $300 and were featured in The Bellingham Herald. The students also made and sent out hundreds of cards to kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital throughout the year.

The “artists and performers” cohort made art lesson plans to teach kindergarteners. They performed by leading the class and creating the lessons.

The “confident individual” cohort’s goal was to be more eager about learning by teaching others. They worked with small groups of first graders on math facts once per week.

The “skilled users of technology” cohort worked on a plan to create a website in which students could access resources and play games to help them with learning, specifically math. They began to create it, but were unable to finish.

Throughout the year, Mills gave the students several self-evaluations in order to check their progress and help keep them focused on their goals. By the end of the year, each student completed an individual self-reflection on whether they felt they grew from their goal and how.

“Their responses were genuine and meaningful and really have helped me guide my thinking for this year. I then decided that I would try this unit each year,” said Mills.

This year she is planning to make a few alterations.

“I will present The Bellingham Promise using “GLAD” strategies to help the initial learning be more appealing and interesting to the students,” said Mills. “I want the language to be more visible and I want students to have a better understanding of not only what the Bellingham Promise is, but why goal setting in these areas is beneficial to them.”

Mills learned about Project GLAD , “Guided Language Acquisition Design.” during a week-long training session last summer led by district staff. The strategies she uses are designed to integrate English language into instruction around content. These strategies allow for differentiation to meet students’ needs.

For her next unit she will present The Promise in the form of a pictorial.

“The way this works is I use a large piece of butcher paper and have a picture in the center. I worked to create a picture that features main parts of our Promise,” said Mills. “From there, I present the Promise to them by writing all around the picture while talking about the Promise, highlighting each part. On day two we will revisit our pictorial, but this time I will hand out pictures and important vocabulary words that I feel the students should know. As we review the Promise again, students will add the pictures and vocabulary words to the poster, adding highlighted language and pictures that show the Promise in action.”

From there Mills will have students reflect in a learning log to help narrow down an area in which they want to personally grow on. She noted that she’s most interested in seeing how students will divide themselves this year and if they will be inclined to grow in the same years as in the past.

“What I am most looking forward to, is seeing how these students will truly be living and growing in our core beliefs of the Promise.”

Mills is just one of the many examples of how Bellingham Public Schools is committed to empowering every child to discover and develop a passion and continue to live the Promise within their own life.

Comment (1)

  1. Linda Pierce

    2 years ago

    Way to go, Kate and the students who are working and learning with you! Kate you bring amazing enthusiasm, knowledge, and love to every child you encounter. My son was blessed to have you as his teacher. Thanks for your dedication to children and the Bellingham Promise!

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