I receive quite a few questions about scheduling, particularly how we make time for 90-minute “blended” blocks and what a typical school day looks like. I hope this snapshot of a day in the life of two of our second-graders at Holy Angels provides some insight!
Identical twins Jaidyn and Jordyn arrive at school around 7:30 am, earlier than they need to but just in time for their mom to make it to work. They join a few of their fellow second-graders in their classroom and get to work on the worksheets that their teacher, Ms. Veselik, laid out for them.
The school day officially begins at 7:45 with morning assembly, but most Holy Angels students arrive well before that time, some as early as 6 am. By 7:30, any students in the school building are in their classrooms with their teachers. Ms. Veselik uses these precious minutes as extra instructional time.
“I usually have them correct any mistakes they made on their independent work from the day before. It’s also a great time for me to work with individual students to correct misconceptions I noticed from the work they turned in,” Ms. Veselik explained. “I can do some of that during our rotations, but I take any extra opportunity I get to work with them one-on-one.”
After a quick morning assembly, which includes prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, announcements, and traditional African drumming led by students, Jaidyn and Jordyn dig into breakfast. Because more than 80 percent of the students qualify for federally-funded free or reduced-price meals, every student in the school receives free breakfast and lunch. These meal times also serve as an important opportunity for community fellowship.
Jaidyn and Jordyn line up with their classmates and head back to the classroom shortly after 8:00. After a quick morning meeting, the second-graders start their English language arts (ELA) rotations promptly at 8:15. Despite being at similar levels, Jaidyn and Jordyn are in different groups because they have different work styles. Jaidyn sits down with her independent reading activity while Jordyn signs into her Chromebook.
“Ms. Elizabeth, come look! I got a hundred!” Jordyn whispers after a few minutes of hard work. She gives me a high-five before writing her name, the name of the lesson, and a big “100%” on a sticky note and proudly posting it on the “Hundred Wall.” Jordyn is working beyond a second-grade level, and her focus and determination allow her to continue to soar ahead.
Jaidyn, Jordyn, and their classmates rotate through three stations–a mini guided reading lesson with their teacher, an independent work station, and an adaptive online learning station–before their ELA block ends at 9:45. Despite the common structure, though, Jaidyn and Jordyn have different experiences because each of their groups has a different learning objective for the day, which determines the content of their lesson, offline work, and (to some extent) online learning.
The class takes a quick bathroom break and has some time to wiggle (actually, usually to dance) before they begin another 90-minute block of rotations, this time focused on math (which is both girls’ favorite subject). By the time the class lines up for lunch at 11:30, Jaidyn and Jordyn–as well as almost every other Holy Angels student–have spent three hours engaged in rigorous, personalized math and ELA learning. It’s no wonder they are ready for a break!
The nearly three hours of instructional time that remains after lunch and recess is jam-packed with a variety of activities for Jaidyn and Jordyn: writing time, social studies and/or science, religion, and a special! None of these subjects are “blended,” and Ms. Veselik likes to incorporate projects, art, and games to keep the students engaged.
Jaidyn and Jordyn each spend about 50 minutes on a Chromebook each day–less than 15 percent of the school day. “I thought I would struggle with keeping the students engaged on the Chromebooks,” Ms. Veselik told me, “but turns out that’s the least of my worries.” Both Jaidyn and Jordyn told me that their favorite thing to do in school is use the Chromebooks.
The school day concludes with prayer at 3:15, but the learning is far from over. Almost every student in the school stays for a free afterschool program that incorporates fitness, nutrition (including dinner), and extended learning opportunities. Jaidyn and Jordyn, along with most other Holy Angels students, participate in coding club during this time–an initiative started by Sean Wolohan where students use online programs to learn how to code and connect with developers and engineers for some of the largest tech companies in the nation (for example, Snapchat) to learn about how coding can be part of a successful career.
By the time the twins get picked up by their mom at 5:30, they have had quite the day! Though they are exhausted, we know this long day is leading them on the path to physical therapist and fashion designer (their career goals) as well as college and heaven. We are so proud of the hard work Jaidyn, Jordyn, and all of our Holy Angels students are doing every single day.