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New Strategy Has Teachers Thinking Out of the Box

students use fly swatters for Slap It game

Subscription boxes aren’t just for food and clothes any more.

Instructional coaches at two elementary schools in RPS 205 have applied the subscription box concept to teaching strategies. Starting in February, teachers who signed up at Ellis and Cherry Valley have received materials to try new things in their classrooms.

Recent boxes included: 

Roll the Die

Students reflect on their learning in groups. Each group is given a die; they take turns rolling and answering prompts assigned to each number. The play continues until each student has answered all the prompts.

Slap It

Students use fly swatters to “slap” flies around the room – words, letters and numbers that represent answers to a teacher’s prompt. 

The strategies offer quick assessment tools, but they can also spark engagement. They can also engage teachers, too, when a change of pace is needed. 

Mandi Kunz, instructional coach at Cherry Valley, said the strategies are not difficult, but that’s what appeals to the teachers she’s heard from. “They like that it was something they could just take and implement, and they didn’t have to go print everything, make something or look for something.”

That’s also what appealed to Emily Daub, who teaches kindergarten at Ellis. “It’s a quick and easy way to get learning in. This was just one more thing I could put into my tool box for teaching and then pull out as needed. It’s fun to do something different and the kids enjoy it.”

The games are also good for scaffolding: Breaking up learning into manageable parts and adjusting based on a student’s needs and skills.

Jessica Berg, an instructional coach at Ellis, was glad to see a teacher using one of the subscription strategies for Reading Horizons, the district’s foundational literacy curriculum. “I was so happy to see that crossover,” she said. It was Berg who brought the idea to the instructional coaching team after hearing about it from educators elsewhere.

Susan Fumo, the district’s Executive Director of School Improvement, said Berg’s willingness to share effective and creative strategies speaks to her own strategy: building a great team and empowering them to make decisions.

“This is what we are trying to build throughout the district in terms of teacher leaders,” Fumo said. “Teachers in many different roles who are excited about teaching kids, who try new things, who are looking at the data to see what works and not being afraid to think outside of the box.”

At Cherry Valley, Kunz said the boxes speak to a craving shared by most people, not just teachers. “They just like to get stuff. And then to get stuff and be able to use it, even better.”

Headshot of Mary Kaull

Mary Kaull

Mary Kaull has worked in communications for the Rockford Public Schools since 2012. She has lived in near northwest Rockford for 30 years and has two adult children. In her spare time, she exercises, reads, cooks and contemplates her growing pile of craft materials. She is fostering her son's hunting dog, Seamus.

  • Cherry Valley Elementary School
  • Ellis Elementary School
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