Thursday, April 2, 2009

To Loop or Not to Loop

In trying to decide what to do next year, a younger teacher asked me recently about the pros and cons of looping. She suggested that I ask the faculty because many of them have done several loops... so I did. Below are some of their thoughts. Please feel free to add your own comments.

Haley Alvarado, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
I think that there are WAY more pros than cons to looping. One of my favorite aspects of looping is that you get to know your students so much better because you are able to develop a deeper relationship with them and also their families. I think parents feel much more comfortable the second year. The second year you do not have to begin at square one, you have a lot of information from the previous year about each student and you can pick up where they left off and do not have to waste a whole lot of time assessing them again. MANY of the students that I have looped with, I still am in contact with them and their families. I LOVE LOOPING! I think that it has helped me to grow professionally and also to make a bigger impact not only academically with my students but also personally, socially, and emotionally!

Meredy Mackiewicz, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
In the second year you are able to actually start teaching the first week- you know the students and where they are academically and can jump right in instead of having to get to know a whole new set of little people and how they learn. You also already have the parents trained for the following year:) They know you and know what to expect. They also know each other and they seem more comfortable the second year. Parents will also help you get ready for the next year! It is also really great for students who are shy or have a harder time making friends- they really come out of their shell the second year! Students are more comfortable and confident to take risks in class- such as sharing more, presenting in front of the class, voicing their thoughts and concerns in class meetings, talking out issues with friends, etc. They also know and respect each other. They already know how to treat each other the way you expect them to. The personal/emotional/social growth you see in them over 2 years sometimes exceeds the academic growth! You also have an awesome opportunity to really help them become good, cool little people. After 1 year you can just hope they remember some of the values you taught them but after 2, it really becomes a part of who they are:) Another perk is that the class practically runs itself with your rituals and routines soon after the second year starts! I also think behavior in general is less of an issue the second year because the students and parents know what to expect and have already tried all their tricks with you!

Debbie Harbour, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
1. You really get to know your kids
2. You can take them where they need to go and beyond
3. You only can blame yourself if they are not prepared for the next year
4. You can start teaching the second day of school because they know you and your expectations - and you know them!
5. Don't have to work extra hard to impress the parents - they already know and love you
6. You know their strengths and weaknesses
7. You know what to expect from their home lives

Julie Johnson, Kindergarten Teacher (who also offers a parent’s perspective)
I have a few opinions as a teacher and a parent. I think looping is fabulous for the child... especially in the younger years. At a young age a teacher/child relationship is VERY IMPORTANT to how they learn. If a child feels comfortable and safe, they will learn and love to learning. I believe that the child and the teacher know what to except going into the next year. The set up time goes smoothly because you know which small groups each child needs to be in for reading groups. You know which children work best together and which one don't. Also, the children know each other well and know where they work best as well.

Lynn Patterson, who looped a Second to Third Grade class
There is the obvious advantage of hitting the ground running in the second year!

Christy Constande, Intermediate Teacher who has done several loops
I think the biggest advantage to looping is that you know the student so well. There is no lost time when they enter your room for the second year. You know right where they left off academically, socially, and emotionally. The students know your rituals and routines. No time is lost introducing those, they have already been established. Teaching time is maximized. You also have established a relationship with the parents. Education is a two way street between home and school, and to have that bond and rapport is wonderful. I love looping. Plus, it gives you another year to educate and learn from the little ones you only had for one year.

KK Cherney, Media Specialist
Continuance of service, comes to mind. I love that the learning continues without weeks of rituals and routines reviewed over and over. Having the relationship piece in place prepares one to take more risks.

Melanie Holtsman, Instructional Technologist who did several loops as an ESE and General Education teacher
Already know those parents and have developed relationships/trust
Already know kids
You become a better teacher of both grade levels because you understand the connection
You don't waste any time with rituals/ routines the second year
Always better scores!

Haley Alvarado, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
I guess some of the cons could be that you do have to learn another grade level and new curriculum. However, once you do, you become such a better teacher because your understanding of how far they need to go academically helps you teach more purposefully. Also, if a teacher was not able to ignore bad behavior from the previous year or had a personality clash with a student or parent, this would not be good to bring that into the second year. Each student needs somewhat of a clean slate going into the next year without a whole lot of assumptions about how they behave. Thankfully, if a teacher absolutely doesn't think that they would be the best for that child, they or the parent can opt out for the following year:)

Meredy Mackiewicz, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
I would say the pros way outnumber the cons but....looping requires a little more organization to make sure you don’t do the same holiday crafts, activities, etc. the second year (remembering what you do year to year is tricky sometimes!) Sometimes with lopping by mid/end of the second year some students really start clashing- they have been with the same kids for so long that more problems seem to come up. You have to be very good about changing seats and being aware of the same kids always being together and mix up groups/clubs/tables often (may also have to mix up some parents during events/ field trips/volunteering/etc if they get too comfortable too!) You also have to mix things up to keep things new and exciting for the next year so it’s not the same old, same old- like rearranging the room so it looks different, adding new responsibilities and privileges, adding new books to your library, different systems, etc.

Debbie Harbour, Kindergarten/First Grade Looping Teacher
1. By the end of the second year you are ready for a change of kids
2. You never do the same thing you did the year before - by the time you go back to that grade level things have changed.
3. You miss some of the kids greatly after having them for two years

Julie Johnson, Kindergarten Teacher (who also offers a parent’s perspective)
A down side may be that the children do get too comfortable and know each other way too well. Some children need a new teacher to learn in a different way.

Melanie Holtsman, Instructional Technologist who did several loops as an ESE and General Education teacher
You may be ready for something new
Not knowing what goes on with the grade level curriculum in the grade the year you're not there
Needing material/books for both grades

Lynn Patterson, who looped a Second to Third Grade class
Sometimes I've found that you don't necessarily challenge students to stretch their weaknesses...sometimes since you know them so well, you cater to their strengths.

Dee Dee Tamburrino, Music Teacher
From a resource perspective, I have noticed that the students become very comfortable with each other and because they have been together so long, begin to treat each other like family - not much of the "good," and too much of the "bad and the ugly." In our families, we say whatever we want to each other knowing that our ugliness towards each other will be forgiven because we are family. It doesn't work quite the same way in the classroom. I feel that the negative behaviors increase the second year because the students are so comfortable with each other. They are more physical and definitely more verbal with each other. They react to situations as a sister or a brother would; not necessarily as a friend or playmate would. Some of the "reverential" respect that normally occurs between teacher and student is lost. The teacher has to concentrate on distancing themselves to maintain the balance. If it were up to me, I would not allow classroom teachers to loop with their kids more than once (ie: K-1). From my vantage point as a resource, my experience has been that it seems to work best within the primary school.


Miss Correia said...

I learned a lot from these postings...I can definitely see both sides!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for taking the time to lay out your thoughts. It will certainly help in making our decision on whether or not to loop.
Cindy Tsengas

Patricia Wallace said...

What a great question! I've always asked this question to individual teachers if the subject comes up. I can see all sides... the pros and cons as a teacher AND as a parent. Thanks for giving me more to 'munch' on.

Laurie Thomson said...

Looping can be a great experience! With the right students and families, you can have two great years. It allows you to create strong relationships with your students and their families.