School Visit: Bagby Elementary 2nd Graders Make a Splash

Each time I visit a school for my California education writing project, I’ll post a few pictures and highlights. If you subscribe to this blog, or my EdWeek Teacher blog, you can read the posts where I get into deeper discussion about what I’m seeing and learning on my journey!

Alicia Hinde reading to her second graders and asking about ways to count and group the fish on the page.

Alicia Hinde reading to her second graders and asking about ways to count and group the fish on the page.

Date: 10/2/14

School (District, City): Bagby Elementary School, Cambrian School District, San Jose, CA.

Teacher, Class: Alicia Hinde, 2nd grade

It was a delight to spend all day with Alicia’s class, following them on their learning journey under the sea. Everything they did on the day I visited seemed to have an oceanic theme, which ties in well with Alicia’s SCUBA diving experience. When students reviewed math facts and concepts about grouping numbers, they not only used word problems based on the ocean, but also incorporated some animal facts. When they practiced reading in small groups and received direct instruction from Alicia, they read about animals that live on the rocky coast.

With my own kids have passed through second grade a long time ago, I found myself rediscovering the energy of 7-year olds. Many of them skip and hop from place to place, or just shake their arms and hands when they get excited about an idea. They squirm in their seats, but Alicia makes sure they have regular opportunities to move around, too. Given choices about where to do some silent reading at a couple of points during the day, students sat or laid on the floor or on cushions.

The highlight of the day was watching how they went about their work doing a science experiment to see if they could make an egg float in water by adding salt. You don’t often find eggs floating in the sea, but the salt water is what connects the lesson to the rest of their learning activities. One by one, the groups had their materials ready and began putting teaspoons of salt, then larger scoops, into containers of water. If they made enough effort to dissolve the salt, then the density of the water changed and the egg floated. To an adult, a floating egg is at best a mild curiosity, and the fact that it would eventually float would be a foregone conclusion. Alicia’s class however found it amazing whenever an egg rose from the bottom of a plastic container to the water’s surface, and students in each group would exclaim, “It’s floating! It’s floating!” It’s too bad for me I won’t be around to see the next lesson in the sequence, where Alicia says they’ll try to figure out why that happens.

I look forward to writing more about Alicia, not only because I appreciated her connection with students and her sense of humor, and not only because she demonstrated how experienced teachers take in so much information in any given moment and make smart decisions about how to direct their actions and energies. What made this visit even more interesting is that Alicia is a member of our state Commission on Teacher Credentialing, entrusted with setting policies that affect every public school teacher in the state. Her multiple perspectives on the classroom and the state policy landscape will be worth revisiting.


To support my travels and writing, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign through October 22, 2014. Please take a look at the campaign page and video, and consider a pledge that will support the work and also allow me to send you the book I’ll be writing next year!