Your main concerns about English learning programs that would have prevented you from adopting GrapeSEED?
I was asked, along with the other kindergarten teachers in my building, last spring if I would be interested in implementing GrapeSEED in my classroom with the whole class this year. I enthusiastically said yes. I was a little familiar with GrapeSEED in general since our building was one of two in Elkhart that piloted GrapeSEED last year. The students loved going to GrapeSEED and came back repeating the poems and songs. I could see it was making a difference in their comfort level with the language as well as their knowledge.
That length of time was cause for concern, especially in the beginning of the school year when kindergarteners have difficulty sitting and focusing for that length of time. I wondered what I would take out of our daily schedule requirements to allow that much time for GrapeSEED.
After adopting GrapeSEED, what have you found in your experience with regards to those concerns?
Last summer we used GrapeSEED as a daily part of the summer school curriculum for incoming kindergarten students. I participated with my class in the daily lessons and saw firsthand how the program works. I was impressed with the quality and variety of materials and their ease of use. I watched the students from the first day to the last day grow in confidence and knowledge. They, too, loved going to GrapeSEED and participated enthusiastically, especially in the activities in which there is movement.
The quantity of materials in each unit allows for a variety of ways to fill the 40 minutes of instruction while providing the needed repetitions. The materials are a very high quality. The books, vocabulary picture cards, story and poem cards, and books are brightly colored and well-illustrated. The illustrations are large enough for whole-group use and are detailed enough to be interesting. They have enough reality in them to be recognizable and enough whimsy to be entertaining. The materials are durable so that they will last.
What have been the top 3 benefits and the features (in your view) of using GrapeSEED for you and for your students?
One of the biggest benefits of GrapeSEED is the level of student engagement during the GrapeSEED lessons. I have never seen a program in which the students were so consistently engaged at such a high level over time. The students know all the materials very well long before we end the unit, but they are still highly engaged and actively participating in the lessons to the very last one. They will make connections between the GrapeSEED materials and themselves, other stories we read, the world around us, and activities we do.
Parents have told me their children sing the songs at home. I hear students sing the songs at dismissal when we are waiting for parents to come pick them up.
Another part of the GrapeSEED program that I appreciate is the professional development and on-going support that we receive. The summer training was some of the best professional development that I have attended. It was practical and provided opportunities for us to see trainers demonstrate the materials in person or by video. It also provided opportunities for us to use the materials and “teach” our colleagues. The on-going support provided by our main trainer has been frequent and helpful as we move through this first GrapeSEED year. Our trainer has jumped right in and participated in lessons or modeled parts of them and was willing to do whatever we needed so that we and the students are successful.
How would you compare the language development of kindergarten students using GrapeSEED with those who are NOT using GrapeSEED?
I would think that students in other schools like ours who are not being exposed to GrapeSEED may be slower to accumulate oral language and other literacy skills. I would think that they may also be less confident learners.
The school in which I teach is a Title 1 building with a very high percentage of students who receive free or reduced price lunches and breakfasts. In addition, we have nearly 75% of our population for whom English is not their first language and a high percentage of those students hear no English at home. In addition “school language” and “literacy language” is very different from the English spoken at home for all of our students. GrapeSEED is helping to build bridges to ease the way for these students to develop language and reading skills. They are more confident speaking and are more active participants in their learning.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I am extremely pleased that we are using GrapeSEED with all our kindergarten students. I have been teaching school for 45 years and teaching kindergarten for 35 of those years. I have been through many curriculum adoptions and watched educational trends come and go. GrapeSEED is the best program I have used with my students!
GrapeSEED will never be out of date. It is not a stagnant program. Teachers can instruct with the program with fidelity day after day and the materials are still interesting and exciting for the students.
I look forward to using GrapeSEED with my students for years to come. I have recommended and will continue to recommend GrapeSEED to other kindergarten colleagues who are not fortunate enough and whose students are not fortunate enough to be able to learn with it now.