Spotlight on Learning
Fri, Apr 28 2:54pm
Redwood Heights Elementary

Spotlight on Learning

As our 3rd-5th grade students work hard on their state SBAC testing, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate all the hard work that they have done this year. At RHS, teachers infuse many types of instruction into the classroom day in order to meet the learning needs of each student, including work in a whole-class setting, a small-group setting with the teacher, individual work time, and collaborative project-based group work.


One of the most important and effective modes of teaching and learning happen during small group instruction: In order to personalize learning, teachers often work with small groups of students (usually 3-4 students but as low as 2 and as high as 8-10) based on their needs. Teachers will use data from student work, assessments, or data from our online programs, to pull small groups of children who all need support on the same standard, or who are all reading at the same level. Teachers are always present in this mode of learning and working directly, and only, with the students in the group.


These small groups are fluid and can change daily, weekly, monthly, or trimesterly depending on student need. For example, if a student moves up one or two reading levels, they will no longer work with the group that was at their previous level. Or, if they become proficient in a certain standard they were practicing in a small group, they will no longer join that group.


Beware: “Small group instruction” can be confused with collaborative project-based groups of students working together to complete a project, activity, or game. This is very different. At RHS, when we say “work in small groups” or “small group instruction” we are almost always referring to the above-described mode of instruction in which a teacher works directly with a small group of children with similar needs. The collaborative group work, which might simply be called “group work,” when students work together without the direct instruction or supervision of a teacher, is a different type of learning that takes place when students work in groups to complete an activity or project. For example, RHS students may work together during the hands-on portion of a science lesson, or a maker project, or to play a math learning game. One main difference between these two types of work lies in where the students’ attention is directed: are they facing the teacher and learning from the teacher, or are they facing each other, working together, and learning from each other?


Below are a few pictures of teachers and students in action in “teacher-facing” small group instruction.

In Ms. Kendricks’ 3rd grade classroom, the students are working at the small group table with the student teacher. They were all pulled for a specific learning need. If you look carefully you’ll notice another, larger, group of students working with Ms. Kendricks on the rug. Look also at the desks, where students are working individually.

In Ms. Sanders’ 3rd grade classroom, the teacher conducts a math lesson with a group of just two students who needed a little extra instruction and practice on a recent math standard.

Ms. Gravelle is working with a group of 1st graders on a math lesson.

Ms. Boston can also commonly be found at her kidney-shaped table working with 2-4 students. Just this week, she pulled a group of students who needed extra support to learn their “r-controlled” vowel sounds/spellings.


Spotlight on Cambodian Dance


Last week at RHS, Ms. Neou and her troupe of Cambodian dancers performed for the school assembly. The dancers wore beautiful, traditional Cambodian clothing, made by Ms. Neou and the dancers’ hardworking parents. The opener featured the eldest dancers, performing an angelic group routine that ended with scattered flower petals and graceful bows.

The next routine celebrated the coconut, and the dancers partnered up to use coconut shells as musical instruments. The youngest dancers closed out the performance with a lively number capturing the spirit of play.

“I love sharing my culture with the school,” says Ms. Neou, who has been teaching Cambodian Dance to children for over 16 years. “The best part was hanging out with everyone and being on stage,” said Mai-An, a 5th grade performer. “I loved being on stage and wearing those costumes because it’s kind of a one time thing,” adds Marissa, another 5th grade dancer.

If you are interested in learning more about Cambodian dance and culture, email Ms. Neou at for information about her Friday evening classes. Thank you Ms. Neou, students, and parents for sharing this amazing performance with us!