Learn how different teaching models can help your child get ahead in school.

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Looping, Flipping and Globalizing Classrooms


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Decades ago, going “back to school” entailed fairly homogenous experiences. With few exceptions, kids boarded school buses in autumn to return to standard schools with standard classrooms that followed standard formats.

How things have changed.

Now parents can choose from home schools, magnet schools, charter schools, year-round schools, modified-traditional schools and more. The education scene has broadened and, today, many Triangle schools are experimenting with new teaching techniques to inspire and encourage students. Here are some of the new classroom models possibly coming to a school near you.

Flipping for Homework Help

It’s the word that sinks the hearts of students everywhere, killing Friday night plans and creating battles between parents and children over “just getting it done.” Homework. It isn’t always busy work, either. Students must extend learning outside the classroom to fully understand topics briefly touched on during their fast-paced school day. Homework can frustrate everyone, especially when kids have questions parents can’t answer.

Flipping is one solution to this tangle. A concept created in the early 2000s, flipped (sometimes called “inverted”) classrooms turn the equation around.

Students use materials prepared by the teacher or a third-party source (like free instructional videos from Kahn Academy at kahnacademy.org) to learn basic concepts on their own at home. Then, during class, they work out problems — previously considered homework — or have discussions with the teacher. Teachers act as tutors or guides in the classroom to ensure students have a solid understanding of the material.

“When students learn the basic facts on their own through a reading assignment or by watching a video, that frees up classroom time for you to really apply those concepts together,” explains Ken Nagel, a teacher at Apex High School who uses the flipped model to teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science. “If they come to class already familiar with basic facts that they’ve learned the night before, you can get much deeper into those concepts and students can get a much stronger comprehension of the material.”

Nagel says he doesn’t expect his students to spend any more time working at home than they otherwise would. “It’s just different work they’re doing,” he says.

Instead of sending students home with a worksheet based on concepts he covered in class, Nagel has them learn those basics at home and then fill out the worksheet while he — instead of a parent who may not know the subject well — is available to help.

Sarah Echols, a sixth-grade teacher at Davis Drive Middle School in Cary, says flipped classrooms give students ownership of their education.

“By creating instructional video lessons of my own and allowing students to preview them before they come to class, I’m allowing students to take ownership in their own education. Students can retain the information easily by taking their own notes, rewinding and rewatching the videos at their leisure,” she says. “Once students in my classroom watch the videos, we can begin to have more meaningful conversations about the current math topics in the classroom setting.”

Unfortunately, not every student can participate in flipped classrooms. For the format to work, students need access to a home computer at a minimum and, most often, Internet access. Students must also be motivated and responsible enough to do the “home” portion of the class before coming to school so they can fully participate, or else class time is wasted while the instructor attends to students who didn’t do their “flipped” homework.

But when everything works as it should, flipped classrooms can produce exciting results. Clintondale High School in Detroit flipped its classrooms and reported that while more than 50 percent of freshman failed English class prior to flipping, that number plummeted to 19 percent after. The school also reported that the freshman math class failure rate decreased from 44 percent to 13 percent under the flipped classroom model. Dare we say it? That’s something educators can really flip over!

Looping Comfort and Productivity

Every school year, teachers face a new group of students they don’t know and must figure out the best way to reach each child. That’s why when the new school year starts, many teachers spend the first couple of days conducting “getting to know you” exercises.

What if a teacher already knew that Jared only recently mastered his multiplication tables at the end of fourth grade, or that Kaitlin struggles when writing essays?

Looping makes it happen. Using the looping model, teachers simply pick up where the class left off the previous year because he or she stays with the same group of students for several years before “looping back” to start with a new class. This makes for a seamless start to the new school year.

“You really hit the ground running,” says Lisa Spalding, principal at Turner Creek Elementary School in Cary, which follows a year-round calendar. “You know what the kids’ interests are, what works best for them, and you don’t have that transition period of relationship-building each year. Teachers love doing it because of how close they get with those kids.”

It can be a comforting situation for everyone involved. When students walk through the door for second grade, they’ll see the same teacher who taught them first grade. That can give the classroom a family-like atmosphere, because kids are familiar with their peers and teacher. And the teacher, being familiar with each child’s strengths and weaknesses, doesn’t experience a long learning curve to determine how best to reach each child.

Looping may not be right for every child (or teacher). If a class has bad chemistry, several years of being together can create unpleasant experiences. Also, looping teachers need to be sure they’re up for teaching material for different ages and grades, and sometimes very young students have trouble transitioning to a new teacher after they leave their looped classroom.

But when looping works, it’s hard to find an unhappy customer. Each new school year, Spalding gives parents the opportunity to decline looping their child. “I’ve never had anyone opt out, though,” she says.

Globalizing Communities

Thirty years ago, kids hid under the covers past bedtime with a flashlight and book. Today’s kids hide smartphones when chatting or gaming with pals in different time zones. That might not be bad (if they aren’t breaking house rules) since today’s kids, more than ever before, are part of a shrinking world where tolerance and understanding of other cultures can be the difference between success and stagnation.

That’s where globalized classrooms come in. Generally, globalization refers to the growing interdependence and interconnection of the world’s communities. Global teachers use technology and international connections to bring the outside world into their classroom.

An elementary school class might explore Chinese food or connect with a classroom overseas via email. An American high school class might regularly interact with a German high school class via Skype to discuss current or historical events from different viewpoints. The goal of the global classroom is to widen students’ perspectives as they work their way through class materials, helping them understand information as it relates to a larger community.

“Teachers look to the standards to decide how to incorporate aspects of different cultures into their classes,” says Amy Rickard, principal at Morris Grove Elementary in Chapel Hill, which offers globalized classrooms and has international teachers on staff. One of those teachers, Amanda Woodroffe of England, has been teaching in the U.S. for several years.

“What’s really interesting is not only introducing the kids to different cultures, but also helping them understand they also have a culture,” she says. “By learning about other people, they’re also getting a better understanding of their own heritage and traditions, and why they do what they do here in America.”

Globalization helps increase students’ sensitivity to differences in values and cultures and offers an opportunity to think about their position in and view of the world. That can translate into expanded options as they head out into the brave, global world.

“One of the things we’ve seen as part of the program is the growing confidence the kids have about other cultures,” says

Morris Grove Elementary teacher Alison Livingston. “They can travel and interact with members of the international

community in a positive and respectful way. That’s something they’ll always be able to use in today’s world.”


Kathleen M. Reilly is a freelance writer and mom in the Triangle.

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Take part in fun, hands-on science experiments, which include chemistry, physics, materials and an engineering experiment. See website for ages and times. Register online. 

Cost: $55/child

Where:
SMILE Camp
6301 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: SMILE Camp
Telephone: 919-538-5278
Contact Name: Sheila Marsh
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Letterland brings letters to life by turning them into colorful characters, each with their own personality and stories that go along with their sounds. Wake County elementary schools in grades K-2...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pullen Park
408 Ashe Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Parent and child learn simple poses and breathing exercises that will help to strengthen coordination and build body awareness. Ages 5 and older. Reserve tickets online. 

Cost: Free

Where:
The Studio School of Durham
1201 W. Woodcroft Pkwy.
Durham, NC  27713
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Sponsor: The Studio School of Durham
Telephone: 19199672700 x3
Contact Name: Danielle Clark
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Enjoy inflatables, food trucks, a photo booth, waterslide, face painting, Touch-a-Truck, tennis demos, swim team information and more. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Woodcroft Swim and Tennis Club
1203 W. Woodcroft Parkway
Durham, NC  27713
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Telephone: 919-489-7705
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Celebrate the return of feathered friends with game booths, activities, crafts and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Kids in grades 1-5 enjoy a scavenger hunt. Snacks provided.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Bible Fellowship
9043 Chapel Hill Road
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Grace Bible Fellowship
Telephone: 919-468-4590
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Search for salamanders, frogs, snakes, turtles and more with preserve staff. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Alice is a texting, tweeting and googling girl of the digital era, but she finds herself in the Wonderland of old. Lewis Carroll's original tale is transformed into a modern adaptation...

Cost: $18/adult, $12 ages 12 and younger

Where:
Raleigh Little Theater
301 Pogue St.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Learn what ingredients are needed to make good growing soil, why plants needs soil, how to make black gold (compost) and get up-close with worms and other dirt-loving critters. Ages 5 and...

Cost: $9/member, $10/nonmember

Where:
North Carolina Botanical Garden
100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27517
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Enjoy a sneak peek of Carolina Ballet's upcoming "Sleeping Beauty" production. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Explore the historic heart of downtown Raleigh on a walking tour of Fayetteville Street. Tours highlight the people, places, architecture and political movements that have shaped...

Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

Where:
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Become a scientist for a day. Collect data from bluebird boxes for NestWatch, investigate the different species of birds that use our nest boxes, and see nests and eggs up...

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd
Wake Forest, NC
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Come alongside Huckleberry Finn and his friend Tom Sawyer as they find themselves knee-deep in adventure, shenanigans and Mississippi mud. This show features a variety of audience...

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Kennedy Theatre
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: $10/boat

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-5638
Contact Name: Bianca Garner
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Children with special needs and their families enjoy an afternoon of boating. Ages 11 and older. Register online. Choose course #111595.

Cost: $7/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Come alongside Huckleberry Finn and his friend Tom Sawyer as they find themselves knee-deep in adventure, shenanigans and Mississippi mud. This show features a variety of audience...

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Kennedy Theatre
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Many animals are active around sunset or shortly afterward. Take a walk with a park naturalist to explore the woods and fields at this special time of day. Look for deer, coyotes and owls. All...

Cost: $3 for ages 4 and up

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson Nature Preserve
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.