Skip To ContentSkip To Content
    Center for the Collaborative Classroom: Reflections from a Year of Implementation
    Posted on 11/14/2018
    Books on a bookshelf in a classroom

    Center for the Collaborative Classroom: Reflections from a Year of Implementation

    At elementary schools across the district, a new English language arts (ELA) instructional resource has enhanced learning in the classroom. Officially adopted in 2017, the Center for the Collaborative Classroom (CCC) integrates social and emotional learning with literacy.

    The instructional resource addresses the core reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills that students need to thrive academically and socially. CCC focuses on building up students’ foundational skills in vocabulary, independent reading, and phonemic awareness. Additionally, CCC is filled with diverse literature, reflective of the multicultural perspectives in the Seattle Public Schools’ community.

    The three programs of CCC (Being a Reader, Making Meaning, and Being a Writer) frame a research-based ELA curriculum. Walking into a CCC classroom, visitors will notice a flurry of activity, contained within a structure where the teacher is the conductor, but students are at the center of their learning.

    “The curriculum is student focused and committed to student voice,” said Kathleen Vasquez, literacy and social studies program manager. “Students are given multiple opportunities to make meaning and share their meaning with peers and their teacher. This component of social-emotional learning models for students how they can respect one another’s viewpoints through listening and asking open-ended questions. They’re making meaning every single day, multiple times a day.”

    At Cedar Park Elementary, Emily Veling’s multi-age classroom reads, “The Paper Bag Princess.” The book is centered on Elizabeth, an unconventional princess that grapples with her social role, identity, and happiness.

    Every few lines, Veling pauses and asks inquiring, open-ended questions meant to unpack students’ thinking, “What can you tell me about Elizabeth after reading this line?” and “What does it mean when Elizabeth says this?” Instead of raising their hands, students signaled to their teacher that they wanted to speak.

    Alex responded, “Elizabeth doesn’t want to give up. She’s determined and is going to keep trying.” His peers signaled that they agreed.

    “Every class has their own expressions for communication,” said Vasquez. “This is again connected to the social-emotional learning piece. When a student wants to speak, they use the class signal. Everyone listens, and if others agree, they can also signal to their peers and teacher that they agree. If they disagree, they also have signs to communicate that. The learning environment is rich because what you see is students thinking, listening, and reflecting independently and with their peers.”

    In Katherine Paul’s kindergarten classroom at Cedar Park Elementary, students engage in independent reading. “This is quiet reading time,” directs Paul. “Please choose from the books you have in your stack.” All eyes are on the teacher, and in an orchestrated motion, students reach into their book collection. As Paul makes her way around the classroom, the only audible sound is the flipping of pages.

    Alex, a kindergarten student, makes his way through his second book during independent reading time. “This is my time to read quietly by myself,” he says in a soft voice. He slowly thumbs through the pages, takes it in, and flips back a couple more times to review the details.

    The purpose of this daily independent reading practice is for students to have access to texts that are matched to their individualized reading levels and appeal to their curiosity and interests.

    Since its implementation, CCC provides opportunities for young people to connect to literature, their peers, and themselves in ways that are authentic to each student. Students can interpret the text from where they are, and their ideas and expressions are valued within the classroom community.

    Michael Tolley, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning is looking forward to the continuous impact that CCC will have on students at the district’s elementary schools. “The adoption task force chose CCC for multiple reasons, but what stood out were the field test reports from students and teachers when it came to the texts. They loved what the texts offered. It was diverse, inclusive, and more reflective of our student population.”

    He also emphasized that the central office will continue supporting schools in CCC implementation. “For teachers to use these instructional materials as intended and take full advantage of the rich library of CCC resources available, the district will continue to shore up support through robust professional development. We want our schools, teachers, and most importantly, our students to be successful.”