Gardner Bullis School principal Nadia Oskolkoff accepted the California Distinguished Schools award on behalf of the school from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson last week in Anaheim.
California has 5,868 public elementary schools, as of the 2016-2017 school year. Among the ones that applied to the California Distinguished Schools program, 287 were selected for recognition.
According to Oskolkoff, one of the reasons Gardner Bullis stood out among the schools was its G-Time intervention and extension program, with the “G” standing for “Growth.”
On a recent Monday morning during G-Time at Gardner Bullis, a first-grade teacher tutored a few students while their classmates worked in small groups. A student teacher walked around to answer students’ questions.
First-grader Nik Shah held a strip of paper in his hand and said he would read a picture book and then write a sentence about his reading on the strip.
“Writing the sentence will help me remember the book,” Nik said.
Students like Nik, who are at grade level, get to dig deeper into their learning during the 30-minute G-Time, while those in need of extra attention receive individualized instruction from the teacher, Oskolkoff said.
“When you are trying to support students, that original first instruction has to stop for a moment,” she said. “A child who needs intervention cannot be pulled aside while learning still happens for the rest of the students. That’s not fair to that child.”
Oskolkoff noted that she and a team of Gardner Bullis teachers learned the concept last school year at a conference sponsored by Solution Tree, a professional development company and publisher of educational materials for K-12 educators. It inspired them to create G-time.
“It just helps to establish the culture that all students are going to be successful,” Oskolkoff said of G-Time. “We are here to serve all students, whether their need is to relearn or to go deeper into what they’ve already learned. That’s really the point of what G-Time is.”
Even when the entire class is learning at the same pace, G-Time can help reinforce what they have absorbed, according to third-grade teacher Gunjan Tandon.
During G-Time, Tandon directed her students to read story summaries printed on task cards in small groups and discuss which genre each story should belong in. School librarian Tania DeRego supported Tandon by walking around to answer students’ questions.
“The students may get confused about the five genres they’ve just learned – fable, legend, myth, fairy tale and tall tale,” Tandon said. “This G-Time activity will increase their understanding of these genres.”