For Crooked Lake students, learning is not a spectator sport

This year’s theme for students at Crooked Lake Elementary School is “Learning is not a Spectator Sport, Get in the Game!”

Julie Bowman, a fifth-grade teacher at Crooked Lake Elementary School, gets students fired up because learning is not a spectator sport. Courtesy of Anoka-Hennepin School District
Julie Bowman, a fifth-grade teacher at Crooked Lake Elementary School, gets students fired up because learning is not a spectator sport. Courtesy of Anoka-Hennepin School District

Crooked Lake staff said the theme was selected because students learn better and retain more when they are directly involved in their learning, not just sitting back and being told what to do.

Leading the effort is the Professional Learning Community (PLC) Coalition Team. Staff members are Corrine Reilly, kindergarten; Angela Quick, first grade; Holly Fenwick, second grade; Maureen Ledin, third grade; Sarah Brezinka, fourth grade; Andrew Radermacher, fifth grade; Kelley Stowell, special education; Kim Nelson, instructional coach; and Cheryl Kortuem, principal.

“Student learning is optimized when students are actively involved in their own learning,” according to staff. “Students must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experience and apply it in their own lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves. We want all students to know that they have to be engaged in their learning and practice their skills to be successful.”

With the sport theme, staff is compared to coaches, and skills for reading and math to soccer, swimming, dance and other activities. They tell students that the more they practice, the better they become at a skill.

“We promote the team effort as it is important to work together as a team to achieve our goal,” staff said. “We are not in the process alone, but have many teammates to help us and celebrate our goals along the way.”

Each teacher has students doing different activities around the theme. Activities include in-class writing of their goals and how they attained them and self-assessment activities or learning logs to track their progress on their own individual goals. Classrooms have an area displaying their goals and teachers and students review them periodically. There are classroom celebrations when students reach goals.

The school has all-school assemblies to celebrate the progress the school is making on these goals. Staff and students wear school colors/school wear on all school assembly days and sing the school song, which uses the melody from the “University of Minnesota Rouser,” in class as well as at the assemblies.

“The all school assemblies are a great way to remind the students of different kinds of goals they can be working on,” according to staff. “It’s a great way to show that everyone is excited about learning and improving in different areas at school. It’s been really nice to see/hear students also get excited when their peers meet their goals.”

At the latest all-school assembly March 23, fifth-grade teacher Michael Johnson shared an education goal he is working to reach and second-grade teacher Pam Manko shared with students her goal of being an expert in finding the good in others. A student from Maureen Ledin’s third-grade class shared his personal goals and fourth and fifth-grade students from the Destination ImagiNation (DI) team shared their DI team goals.

The DI team, the “Awesome Flaming Purple Pickle Eaters,” gave a short presentation of its project. The team was successful at the North Regional DI tournament the following day and advanced to state competition in April. Through the theme, staff said they hope students learn they are all in this learning game together.

“A team approach makes more success for our school and learning across the board,” staff said. “Setting individual goals and sharing those goals hold students individually accountable and gives them something to strive for in the team.”

Because it is building community, students love working together and enjoy celebrating their success; Crooked Lake will continue the theme next year.

“It is a wonderful way for students in grades K-5 to connect and it also shows them the power of teamwork,” staff said. “When we work collaboratively we achieve more.”