Lincoln Middle School
Lincoln Consolidation School District
Social Studies Tops the List of Favorite Subjects When
Michigan Middle Schoolers Learn With TCI
When a new crop of sixth graders arrives in Jeanne VanWashenova's classroom at Lincoln Middle School in Ypsilanti, Mich., she asks them to complete an inventory of their academic interests. Social studies doesn't even make the list. However, after they spend a year in Jeanne's classroom learning with TCI, students put social studies at the top of the list as their favorite subject. Jeanne sees increased interest and comprehension in her students that has led to classroom results.
Lincoln Consolidated School District began the process of reviewing social studies materials in 2010. The district included TCI in its process because several successful districts nearby Dexter Community Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools, and Saline Area Schools were already using TCI programs successfully. Teachers in Lincoln Consolidated with children in those nearby districts recognized the power of the program and wanted to bring it to their own classrooms.
Lincoln Consolidated is a relatively small district with just under 5,000 students and four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The student population tends to be transient and comes from a wide range of socioeconomic levels.
Jeanne was asked to pilot TCI for half the year and a more traditional program—similar to that they were already using for the other half of the year. Although unfamiliar with TCI and slightly intimated by learning new technology, she was game to try.
She piloted the more traditional program for the first half of the year. Her students averaged Cs. When she switched to TCI for the second half of the year, her students' average grade rose to a B and their engagement skyrocketed. She also saw that they were engaged and enjoying social studies. "When the other pilot teacher switched from TCI to the traditional program, the kids begged for TCI back!" she said.
The first lesson Jeanne did in her classroom was "Investigating the Past" from History Alive! The Ancient World. In this lesson, students explore "caves" in order to discover how social scientists study prehistoric man. She gave her students flashlights to make the experience more authentic and then observed as students worked together and problem solved. "Seeing students huddled together, reading their texts with their flashlights to find the answers was great," she said. "They are able to connect and participate. They work together and problem solve before they read the material so they're reading with purpose."
Jeanne went from being a TCI newbie to self-described "poster child of how awesome TCI is."
Jeanne notes a decided increase in students participating in class discussions. Students who previously hadn't participated now actively engage. Their interest level has risen along with their comprehension of the subject matter.
When she did the lesson "Exploring Four Empires of Mesopotamia" her students "blew her mind." This Problem Solving Groupwork activity challenges students to create "mechanical dioramas" that illustrate major achievements of the Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Neo-Babylonian empires.
"All the groups had different ideas that were pertinent to the content," she said. "They were putting their heads together and role playing. They went to town."
Jeanne observes that her students are working and engaged with TCI. Previously half or three-fourth of students didn't get the concepts or weren't paying attention. She appreciates that TCI lessons are set up so that students learn background information then dive in to an activity. "They have to use their brains," she said.
In addition to using print TCI texts in the classroom, students also access an online Student Subscription from home. The end-of-lesson Reading Challenges are a particular favorite with the students, who enjoy the game-like feel of the challenges.
Jeanne said that because she's so excited to teach TCI lessons, her students catch the enthusiasm. Students love working together and are building skills collaboratively. Jeanne said, "As a teacher, it's so much more enjoyable teaching with TCI, even after 23 years in the classroom. I'm having a great time teaching and my students are loving learning."
Jeanne's students are performing better on in-class tests. Jeanne feels that because they're involved in their learning, they can't help but understand and learn more. Initially, she was concerned that her sixth-graders might not be able to comprehend some of the content required for state standards. Her concern was quickly alleviated as she observed her students' engagement and saw their test results. "Because my students are engaged in class, they gain a deeper understanding of the content. They are able to apply what they learned on tests." She continued, "They're making connections with TCI because it's like they were there. TCI lessons give them a tangible experience, like a family vacation they'll never forget."
TCI lessons are designed to spiral in difficulty so that all students get important concepts and eventually apply them on a critical-thinking level. Jeanne says that critical thinking is one thing her students complain about. "Kids say it makes them tired. They have to think too much."
"If I had to give any advice to other teachers going through an adoption, I'd say absolutely go with TCI. Hands down. I'm having fun and my students are having fun. In all my years of teaching, this is the most student friendly, teacher friendly program I have ever had the privilege of using."
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