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Building Life Skills in a Middle School Classroom

Quinton A. Granville, a seventh-grade social studies and reading teacher from Atlanta Public Schools, has been using the LDC framework in his classroom for nearly a year. He says he’s come a long way since last February, when he was introduced to LDC through a district-wide initiative. “I consider myself a novice,” he says, “but the more I learn, the more I see what a valuable resource LDC is.”

“At first, I was skeptical,” Quinton admits. “Some of the programs we hear about seem to be focused more on entertaining students than improving student performance. What caught my attention was LDC’s focus on building transferrable skills—skills such as close reading and other strategies for understanding complex texts that you can transfer directly from the classroom to real life.

“When I had a chance to implement my first module, I instantly saw a difference in how students internalized the content so that they were able to develop verbal skills and use academic language—terms specific to the standards. I could hear them use words in context and transfer that skill to using words in context in their writing. Students were able to make better connections. With mini-tasks, they can prioritize skills to focus on.”

Quinton also credits LDC with improving students’ attitudes and motivation. “What I’ve noticed during eight years of teaching middle school students is that when they act out, it’s not necessarily a behavioral issue. When I see kids with their heads on their desks or with apathetic attitudes, it’s because they’re not engaged or interested or challenged. Before LDC, I saw that some students were removed from class discussions—or if they were participating, they were really just going through the motions. With LDC, the level of engagement in the text and in mini-tasks increased; students were genuinely interested. They became enthusiastic during group work. That really stood out for me. Students were invested.”

According to Quinton, the culture of the classroom transitioned into a culture where students felt free to make mistakes and learn from them. He says students’ attitudes changed from “Why do I have to write this?” to a competitive situation in which students would challenge each other: “How many pages did you write?” He laughs when recalling earlier struggles persuading students to get words onto the page. “I had to tell them to stop using 24-point type. At first, it was difficult to get them to write three paragraphs; within a short time [of beginning to use LDC], they were complaining that three paragraphs weren’t enough!”

He adds, “In the classroom, I see that students are capable—it’s just that they have not been exposed to the perfect practice that leads to perfect writing. I’ve seen the results. My students are not honors students. They’re considered remedial, but if you could see them working on LDC mini-tasks, doing peer editing, you would think they were honor students.”

Quinton collaborates with and supports the LDC community in Atlanta by meeting with instructional leaders in social studies and other subjects. “I want to participate in a rollout of LDC throughout Atlanta Public Schools so that other teachers will be able to experience what I have. LDC can open doors to life opportunities for students. I think about this a lot. I wonder where my students are going to be in 10 years and if what they’re learning now will help them with that.”

As for the next steps in improving his own practice, Quinton says he plans to continue learning the dynamics of LDC so that he feels well versed. “I look forward to the day I can implement a strategic plan using LDC—where I can create, plan, organize, review, and adjust it. That is going to be a beautiful day!”

December 2013

Quinton A. Granville
My students are not honors students. They’re considered remedial, but if you could see them working on LDC mini-tasks, doing peer editing, you would think they were honor students.
7th Grade Social Studies & Reading Teacher