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Knowles ES Offers Students a "Second Step"
Wranglers Mind their Manners with Prep Club
PLCs Foster Collaboration Among Teachers


Knowles ES Offers Students a "Second Step"

KNO-Spotlight
Kindergarten students at Knowles Elementary School participate in a Second Steps lesson.

Elementary school is a time to pave the foundation for future learning. At Knowles Elementary School, students take part in "Second Step," a curriculum that expands learning to include social and emotional awareness.

The Second Step Program is designed to teach children how to understand and manage their emotions, control their reactions, be aware of others' feelings, and have the skills to problem-solve and make responsible decisions. The program's curriculum differs for each grade level and includes weekly lessons that utilize games, videos, songs and other activities. Each week, students learn a new skill. Lara Labbe-Maginel, principal at Knowles Elementary School, said the school has seen an improvement in communication and behavior since starting the program.

"We've seen a fewer number of students coming to the office," Labbe-Maginel said. "When kids to come to the office, they're better able to articulate how they're feeling, so we're better able to help coach them and get them back to a place where they're capable of learning."

Labbe-Maginel said although there are other programs similar to Second Step available, the ease of use for teachers, the grade-level specific curriculum and the online resources make it the best choice for everyone involved.

"I think what this is doing is just our explicit teaching of those skills that help us in life," Labbe-Maginel said, "like how to read ourselves and manage ourselves, but also how to support others who are facing challenge, and to help solve challenges when we don't agree."

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Wranglers Mind their Manners with Prep Club

KNO-Spotlight
Prep Club members prepare to practice their posture.

On Thursday mornings at Knowles Elementary School, it is not uncommon to see a 4th-or 5th-grade student walk into school wearing business professional dress. On Thursday afternoons, Prep Club is held in the school gym, and dressing up is only one of the skills the club teaches its members.

KNO-SpotlightAustin Prum, P.E. teacher at Knowles Elementary
School, teaches a student to tie a tie.

The Knowles ES Prep Club was established in September by Austin Prum, the school P.E. teacher. Prum said the idea stemmed from the desire to give students firsthand knowledge of certain "respect traits" that are often lost in today's society.

So far this year, the Prep Club curriculum has included conversational skills including how to shake hands, greet and introduce oneself. The students have learned simple ways to show respect, such as addressing others as "Mr." and "Miss," saying please and thank you, and opening doors for others. Furthermore, the students have learned rules of physical presentation, such as using correct posture, how to properly tie a tie, and what it means to dress professionally.

Prum said he has seen examples of Prep Club members exhibiting the skills they have learned throughout the school day and that he hopes the skills they learn in the club will prepare the students to continue to be leaders in real-life situations.

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PLCs Foster Collaboration Among Teachers

KNO-Spotlight
Kindergarten teachers meet in their Professional Learning Community.

The teachers in the Kindergarten Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Knowles Elementary School agree that the time they spend as a group is an empowering way to ensure their students are receiving the best instruction possible.

The teachers begin the year by identifying "essential outcomes" for their students based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), including lifelong learner and academic skills. Then, they analyze data from the previous year.

"They want to guarantee that 100 percent of our kids are going to be able to leave the school year being able to do those essential outcomes," said Sandy Handrick, instructional coach at Knowles ES. "In this case, in Kindergarten, identifying all letters and sounds by the end of December."

Once the essential outcomes are set, the group breaks down the process and identifies useful resources.

"Being able to come together and get ideas and share things is really helpful," said Erin Gaines, Kindergarten teacher at Knowles ES. "I think it's also validating, not only when we struggle, but when we're succeeding. It's validating to know that what's working in my room is also working in this room."

This particular PLC group is unique in that it includes Supplement Reading Program teachers. Handrick said that collaboration is an example of working with one another to find the experts on campus who can help when needed, and ultimately, to work together as a unit to better the learning environment for students.

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