Kasey MacKinnon, First Grade Teacher

Your main concerns that would have prevented you from adopting GrapeSEED?

When I was first introduced to the idea of using an English learning program in my classroom to help my students’ speaking, listening, and reading skills, I was admittedly skeptical. My students all already speak English! Furthermore, there is so much that needs to be taught in first grade to meet the Common Core standards that I could not imagine fitting in a lesson every day to teach English when my students already knew it!

Another concern I had at first was that the content (topics/themes) addressed in the early GrapeSEED units would be too far below my six and seven-year-old students. I was worried they would not be into it because they might think it was babyish to be singing about their colors and practicing counting to five.

After adopting GrapeSEED, what have you found with regards to those concerns?

My skepticism and concerns were quickly put to rest. I was very fortunate to be able to visit another school and see GrapeSEED in action before I was even trained in the program. It helped so much to see it being used, feel the students’ excitement, and hear the teachers’ success with the program after just a few short months of using it. Watching a GrapeSEED Unit 2 lesson in a classroom very much like my own assured me that my students would not only be into it, but would LOVE it! It made me that much more excited to be trained and to start singing the songs myself!

As my students and I began using the program every day, I soon realized just how much this was going to help my students understand and use “school language." I had never really thought much about how different my students’ everyday language was from the language I was using and from the language our books used. I was so used to just “interpreting” what they said and rewording their sentences for them, that it hadn’t occurred to me how much of a struggle it must be for them to try to process what I was saying or what I was trying to make them read! It really sunk in that this program was going to help bridge the distance between their everyday language and our school language. The faster I could help build that bridge for them, the faster they would be strong, successful readers and writers.

Top 3 benefits and the features (in your view) of using GrapeSEED?

  1. GrapeSEED is FUN!! It is easily the best part of our day. Singing, chanting, reading, air-writing, and moving about is what early childhood students love to do! They have no idea how much learning they’re actually doing; they just think it’s a fun time to sing and dance and talk about silly things.
  2. GrapeSEED teaches pretty much everything!! We use the materials to work on reading, writing, sight words, spelling, vocabulary, text-to-text connections, text-to-self connections, one-to-one correspondence, rhyming, grammar, sentence structure, question-response conversation skills, phrasing, fluency, punctuation, capitalization, letter-sound association, word-ending teams, digraphs, blends… the list goes on and on!
  3. GrapeSEED support is crucial. The training and support I have received has helped me feel very confident and prepared to use the GrapeSEED program. The training I received before I implemented the program was incredibly thorough, well-thought-out, and honest. I knew that Katie, having used the program for years herself, knew exactly what I needed to understand in order to implement the program effectively. She answered questions I didn’t even know that I had and modeled how to use the materials flawlessly. I’ve been using GrapeSEED for three years now, and training I’ve received at additional professional development days has provided me with even more ways to use GrapeSEED. The feedback I’ve received from observations has helped me grow as a teacher.

How would you compare the language development of students using GrapeSEED with those who are NOT?

Our students come to us with a school language deficit. It’s unfortunate, but it is reality. Basal reading programs don’t address this. It is not effective enough to just teach what the Common Core standards and the basal programs tell us we need to teach, because they assume that the students already have a solid English language foundation. We need to target the specific language gaps that these students have, model the language we expect them to be using, and then give them ample time and opportunities to practice it. GrapeSEED does exactly this. It helps to close those gaps, and close them quickly.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Initially, when we first decided to implement the GrapeSEED program, we tried it out in one first grade classroom for a whole school year. I loved it, my principal loved it, and the students loved it. It was fun, and it really helped boost their reading and writing skills! So the following school year, all of our Pre-school and Kindergarten classes implemented GrapeSEED. Again, we had great success that we credited to the language and listening skills that GrapeSEED provided. It was an easy decision to further implement the program in all of our first grade classrooms this school year. Now all of our Pre-school, Kindergarten, and first grade students are using the GrapeSEED program. When a program is this engaging and this successful, we can’t NOT give our early childhood students the opportunity to benefit from it.