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Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned Vol. II

Here's Looking at You and Whole Language


by Susan Nugent
Fairbanks North Star Borough School District


In the fall of the next school year, I intend to teach the Here's Looking at You 2000 (HLAY) curriculum with a whole language approach to first graders, using reading, listening, speaking and writing to enhance the materials. The goal is to reach all areas of the curriculum, including social studies, language arts, science/health, and math. 

Whole language is another term to emphasize process thinking. When learning naturally we do not separate our thinking into subject categories, but learn by new experiences, drawing upon the past and integrating new knowledge. Whole language stresses oral communication, but not lecturing. The teacher serves as a facilitator, providing learning opportunities for the child, using all modalities and many expressive chances to show learning. Learning becomes the students' responsibility as well as the teacher's.

HLAY is a drug and alcohol prevention curriculum for grades one through twelve. The curriculum deals with information on the three gateway drugs (nicotine, alcohol and marijuana), poisons, self-esteem, social skills, refusal skills, bonding and success in school. A major point of the program is teaching kids how to stay out of trouble yet keep friends. The lessons in the upper grades also focus on enabling, the ways we keep drug abuse from friends, by our reactions and often the help we offer so crises do not arise. Intervention skills are also taught to the student and the teacher.

The kits consist of a guide, resources, materials and step by step lesson plans. Training is mandated by the distributor before the kit is used in the classroom. The teacher is a facilitator, demonstrating positive relationships and providing needed materials, guidance and organization.

Five steps are involved in teaching general skills. These steps are:

1. motivation - getting the students' interest

2. modeling - viewing a positive interaction of new skills

3. practice - role playing situations

4. feedback - reflecting period 

5. transfer - using the skill in everyday situations that occur in the student's life. 

In these five steps, teachers are encouraged to make use of cross-age teaching, where older students teach younger students (the recommended age differential is three years), and cooperative team learning. Additional extension activities in the personal experiences of the student as well as the family group are included in the curriculum.

For effective teaching of the curriculum the program suggests teachers must do the following:

1. walk your talk - practice and use the skills discussed, do not abuse alcohol or use drugs. Past users who are reformed offer insights.

2. use a variety of strategies

3. be knowledgeable of the topic

4. be trusted by students

5. come alive with humor, stories, etc.

6. want to teach the curriculum

7. be flexible to address various audiences, be aware of culture, home, family situations and history of students.

HLAY will fit into many areas of the curriculum. In health/science it recognizes poisons, identifies differences between medicine and candy, and focuses on mental health. Also, the program addresses the use of observation skills. Language arts emphasized are effective communication, creative dramatics, thought processing and the enjoyment of reading. Social studies curriculum features inherent in the program are the role of friends, community and helping careers.

Math is not covered but can be incorporated easily. In the first week of school, review is important. HLAY stresses what we can do, so why not show classroom math skills the students are competent in. Also measuring could easily be done with HLAY. Most students can jump, so use strings to measure jumps and use comparative math terms for the math skill.

Frog, a puppet in the HLAY kit, would be the element to draw all subjects together. His role is that of a friend to give direction and disseminate necessary information. Frog could be used to motivate and model appropriate skills. (Frog is only in the first grade kit.) A typical daily schedule could be:

  • Journal writing - writing or drawing
  • Singing, poetry on theme, and/or "I can do..." time
  • HLAY - this includes role playing, writing, drawing and talking
  • Recess/snack - frog cookies
  • Story on Friendship - Frog and Toad, oral activity or writing activity based on story
  • Lunch
  • Recess
  • SSR or Rest
  • Math - Frog jumps, measure with string, use comparatives to verbalize math (long, longer,longest, short, etc.), create own math story problems
  • Music/P.E./Library
  • Recess
  • Science - make frogs out of green Jello and toads from Rice Krispie treats, compare and contrast frogs and toads by observation skills
  • Verbalize and eat
  • Journals - writing or drawing trying to include material learned during the day.

All of the skills being taught are included in the curriculum for the district. It may not be in the prescribed order of the textbook, but the curriculum is covered in a meaningful manner.

Evaluation will take place by observation of the student participating in the skills taught during the instructional periods. Journals may be used to record learning. The students may reflect upon what they have learned in picture or written form which reinforces language skills, as well as other skills they have been learning. At this time, evaluation of writing is not important, but the thoughts that are expressed should be concentrated upon.

In the first grade, experiences are very important. This is difficult to evaluate due to the many ability differences of the students. The experiences last a lifetime and will be reflected upon for life. The goal is not necessarily evaluation, but creating an environment where children have the need to learn what they need to know.


Basis of Teaching Style

The basis for teaching the HLAY/whole language unit is a compilation of ideas taken from the recommended readings in Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned, Alaska State Writing Consortium Basic Institute, Whole Language Symposium, and the sectional on Here's Looking at You 2000 at the Rural and Interior Alaska Instructional Improvement Academy. All of these stressed the need for process thinking, interrelation of learning to speaking and language, life experiences, and the need to develop a desire for learning. 

All of the workshops and readings stressed cooperative learning -students learning from each other in a non-threatening environment, working together to an end. This teaches cooperation and gives a sense of achievement. This also teaches the child to seek out those more competent in an area without a sense of defeat, or giving help to less competent without superiority. Sharing in large groups or working in small groups increases communication skills.

Communication is another aspect which increases learning. When new material is talked out to others, thoughts are internalized, revised and merged with other learning. This gives students a chance to bring in their experiential background so a basis for learning can exist.

Building upon the experiences, culture, and historical background gives a way for all students to relate to the material. This allows the teacher and student to recognize the uniqueness of each individual and the cultural diversity each student can bring to the group as an asset. This also allows students to recognize their place in society and to recognize the interdependence of the larger society in relation to the smaller society. This eventually allows the process of learning to be linked to self. 

Project-centered approaches, or as often called in elementary teaching, thematic units, are a way of building needed learning into an interrelated base. This provides experiences for a deeper understanding of the interrelated ness of disciplines and keeps the students' thought processes going - not stopping or starting with each new subject.

The ideas are good because children are learning to think as well as learning a basic core of knowledge necessary for the future. Children then have a better understanding of the need to learn. The HLAY/whole language unit hopefully incorporates all of these areas in a relevant way to the child.



Ray Barnhardt

Part I * Rural School Ideals

"My Goodness, People Come and Go So Quickly Around Here"
Lance C. Blackwood

Parental Involvement in a Cross-Cultural Environment
Monte Boston

Teachers and Administrators for Rural Alaska
Claudia Caffee

The Mentor Teacher Program
Judy Charles

Building Networks
Helen Eckelman

Ideal Curriculum and Teaching Approaches for a School in Rural Alaska
Teresa McConnell

Some Observations Concerning Excellent Rural Alaskan Schools
Bob Moore

The Ideal Rural Alaska Village School
Samuel Moses

From Then To Now: The Value of Experiential Learning
Clara Carol Potterville

The Ideal School
Jane Seaton

Toward an Integrated, Nonlinear, Community-Oriented Curriculum Unit
Mary Short

A Letter from Idealogak, Alaska
Timothy Stathis

Preparing Rural Students for the Future
Michael Stockburger

The Ideal Rural School
Dawn Weyiouanna

Alternative Approaches to the High School Curriculum
Mark J. Zintek

Part II * Rural Curriculum Ideas

"Masking" the Curriculum
Irene Bowie

On Punks and Culture
Louise J. Britton

Literature to Meet the Needs of Rural Students
Debra Buchanan

Reaching the Gifted Student Via the Regular Classroom
Patricia S. Caldwell

Early Childhood Special Education in Rural Alaska
Colleen Chinn

Technically Speaking
Wayne Day

Process Learning Through the School Newspaper 
Marilyn Harmon

Glacier Bay History: A Unit in Cultural Education
David Jaynes

Principals of Technology
Brian Marsh

Here's Looking at You and Whole Language
Susan Nugent

Inside, Outside and all-Around: Learning to Read and Write
Mary L. Olsen

Science Across the Curriculum
Alice Porter

Here's Looking at You 2000 Workshop
Cheryl Severns

School-Based Enterprises
Gerald Sheehan

King Island Christmas: A Language Arts Unit
Christine Pearsall Villano

Using Student-Produced Dialogues
Michael A. Wilson

We-Search and Curriculum Integration in the Community
Sally Young

Artist's Credits



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Last modified August 18, 2006