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No Greater Calling
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Susan Armenta Nick Faber Steven  V. Griend Evelyn J. Gunn Donna Hilton Carol Midgett
Teaching Strategies

  Impact on Students


Steven Vande Griend with students

Steven Vande Griend
Steven Vande Griend, a fifth grade teacher at Lynnwood Elementary School in Seattle, Washington is the third teacher profiled in “No Greater Calling.” This section shows two different lessons he uses to reach his students. The first is an activity in which his students go to a home improvement superstore to work out geometric equations. The second is a social studies activity involving the debate process. Steven talks about how he realized that when he attempted to have students debate issues relevant to social studies content, they struggled with applying an unfamiliar process to unfamiliar content. As a result, he has his students debate topics like cats vs. dogs to gain greater familiarity with the debate process. Steven discloses how teachers should know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.

“I believe in creating broad themes throughout the year which pull together a timeline of events that show where we have come from, mistakes we have learned, problems we solve and what the future may hold. By weaving activities from the arts into our theme studies, we read, write, act, speak, solve, create, organize, and share our learning with each other.”

Connecting Geometry to Real Life Experiences
Steven, along with parent volunteers, took his fifth grade class to Eagle Hardware and Garden to provide a hands-on, real life experience in the use of geometry. Prior to the field trip, Steven provided the foundation in geometry for the assigned activities. Students were placed in small groups and given a list of activities that must be accomplished. Each word problem gave specific directions for every individual project. Given the dimensions, Steven had his groups discover:
  • How many tiles to cover a room
  • How many sections of gutter would be needed
  • How many boards and nails for wooden deck
  • Total cost of materials for each project
  • When asked how he felt about the project, Steven said, “They’re going to say, ‘I remember when we did this at Eagle.’ That’s what important to me.”

    Connecting the Unknown to the Known to Increase Understanding
    In order for his students to gain a better understanding of the fifth grade social studies curriculum, Steven wanted his students to be able to debate relevant topics. He discovered, however, that his students had no understanding of the debate process. This caused Steven to rethink his lessons. In order for his students to meet his goals in social studies, he had to lay the groundwork first. Steven felt that students would be more comfortable working with topics with which they were already familiar—such as cats versus dogs as pets. Steven demonstrated the quality of flexibility so important to the teaching process.

    Recently Steven taught a lesson on time management. To make the lesson real for his students, he arranged for them to interview city workers. Each group of four students created a news team, fully equipped with cameras and microphones. One team interviewed the mayor, another the director of parks and recreation. The children analyzed their experiences in a report afterwards.