‘How can we make a past participle?’

STAMFORD—Is “also” part of the present tense participle of a verb? How about “not?” With the sixth grade Personalized Learning English Language Arts (ELA) class at the Catholic Academy of Stamford, teacher Kelly Whipple is leading an examination of verb phrases, a main verb and a helping verb, in the past and present tenses.

English is a tricky language. In the sentence “He should not join,” the word “not” isn’t part of the verb tense. Once Whipple has presented the material and made sure the class understands it, the students break into small groups to devise sentences of their own using the present, present participle, past and past participle verbs.

Eddie likes football, so he tosses out the sentence “Bill is playing football.” He and the others in his group, Samantha, Brandon and Kaitlyn, quickly come up with the simple present tense: “Bill plays football.”

That was easy. Now they consider the next step: “How can we make a past participle of that?”

As they work through the verb tenses, one of the group tosses out “I also played yesterday.” Is “also” part of the verb, they ask Whipple. No, it isn’t, and she takes time to explain why to the whole class.

Each segment of the Personalized Learning session is 20 minutes long. Following the introduction and group work, each student follows an individual path on their iPads. Because their QR badges connect to their personal work history, each student’s study is unique.

Ryan is working on a study of giraffes. “Choose the two websites that would provide the best information on how giraffes adapt to their native habitat,” the program prompts him.

“The point is to find the main idea, and then look for supporting details,” Ryan explains. As he scans through the choices of possible websites, he is analyzing not only the introductory topic, but the way different sites will increase his knowledge and which ones will lead to unhelpful side issues.

This is a skill that will serve him well in every aspect of learning.

As they achieve success on their personal level, the students move along to new material. While Ryan selects a set of notecards on his giraffe, Joey is checking word relationships in science fiction and Kaitlyn analyzes the main idea in her article.

The iPad program sends a report to Whipple for each student. It is not simply that a given lesson has been completed. Instead, the program breaks down the report into how well a student understood main theme, characters, events, vocabulary, words with more than one meaning and point of view.

While students are engaged in independent work, Whipple can address any problems she is seeing. “I can work with someone one-on-one on a particular topic, but if I see that a number of students have trouble with something, I can pull together three or four of them for a group session,” she says. “If a lot of them have trouble with main theme or context clues, I’ll do a class lesson on that.”

“The lesson planning is so much more in depth,” notes Principal Natalia Cruz. “For these longer classes, they’re basically planning a lesson for each student. It was a lot of work initially, but it’s all moving in a positive direction for teachers and students alike.”

For the last segment of this session, the entire class has workbook exercises to compete on today’s topic. “Make sure you have the verb underlined and write the tense of the underlined verb,” she instructs the class. “Ability to follow directions correctly is also graded.”

The latest in technology and a strong, dedicated teacher. That’s what makes Personalized Learning a success.