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Kyrene Aprende 6th Grade Students Learn in Teams in New Educational Model

Posted October 2023

When 6th grade students at Kyrene Aprende Middle School picked up their class schedules at the beginning of the year, they not only got a class list but a note that they were either Team A or Team B. The teams are part of an innovative educational model this school year. Each team has a specific group of teachers that works with them in the same few classrooms. Rather than students walking to different classrooms, they remain in the same part of campus with the same team of teachers throughout the day. The goal is to surround students with a team of teachers all working together to advance learning across all subjects.

“I’m really excited to see this transform the way education works,” said 6th grade humanities teacher Lindsey Strength. “This is so new and different from anything we’ve done before.”

The new model allows teachers the opportunity to pivot based on what students need and teach in ways that allow for more interactive work compared to traditional lectures. Students participate in more learning through discovery activities which has increased their engagement and excitement in class. For example, rather than a one-hour lecture about Ancient Egypt, students are making flipbooks about Egyptian gods or creating a map of the ancient civilization.  Already, teachers are noticing grades have improved and the amount of missing work has decreased significantly.

“When you’re alone in a classroom, it’s difficult and often scary to try new things and adjust to what students need on the fly,” Strength said. “My partner teacher and I have constant discussions about what worked and what didn’t work in each of our lessons and how to adjust to meet student needs.”

Strength and the other teachers at Aprende have been intentional about including things that students need more help with, such as time management, collaboration with peers, and breaking larger projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. At Aprende, an AVID National Demonstration School, these habits are taught in AVID classes, but the team model provides an opportunity to implement the strategies in all classrooms. With the flexibility to decide student schedules, teachers can expand the amount of time spent on each activity, allowing the incorporation of more collaborative strategies.

“I am so proud of the collaboration and dexterity that our 6th grade teacher team has already shown,” Kyrene Aprende Principal Renee Kory said. “This new model has allowed them the time and flexibility to pivot their lessons when needed to better serve students and ensure that they have what they need to be successful.”

In late September, at the end of first quarter, students presented multimedia projects that detailed what they believe are the 7 Highly Effective Habits of a middle school student; loosely based on the 7 Highly Effective Habits from Stephen Covey, a program that helps build leadership and life skills in students and staff. Some habits highlighted by students included: getting good sleep, practicing good hygiene and studying.

“We tried the project with team B this quarter and loved it! We’d like to move toward completing a portfolio that includes projects from all classes,” Strength said.

Following this first implementation year, Principal Kory shared that the school will evaluate the model, receive feedback from students, parents and teachers, and roll the program into 7th and 8th grade in the future.