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Through AVID, which TCU Lonsdale plans to implement in the fall, students follow common strategies in learning various subject matter from one grade level to the next. AVID focuses on the four domains of instruction, culture, systems and leadership. (Metro Creative Images)

Tri-City United Lonsdale Elementary is preparing a school-wide transition next school year, one that provides consistency across all grade levels.

Over the course of the 2020-21 school year, TCU Lonsdale teachers and staff have been learning how to implement AVID, which stands for “Advancement Via Individual Determination.” AVID prepares students in kindergarten through 12th grade for success after graduation.

Before fully implementing AVID at TCU Lonsdale in the fall, the administration and staff have been learning about the four key domains within the AVID framework: instruction, culture, systems and leadership. Tony Johnson, TCU Lonsdale Elementary principal, said the team most recently met Monday, Jan. 18 to discuss strategies to apply within the cross-curricular framework.

Examining the instruction domain of AVID, TCU Lonsdale teachers and staff have studied what’s called WICOR strategies. WICOR stands for writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization, and reading. To present a balanced framework to students, Johnson said teachers find ways to incorporate WICOR strategies across content. That means drawing connections from one subject matter to the next, so reading time is also science time, and writing time isn’t only reserved for language arts lessons.

“There are common strategies teachers already do, whether it’s quick writes or journaling, but there are also other strategies they haven’t tried yet,” Johnson said. “So as teachers, they’re able to not only reflect on which strategies work but also learn new ones.”

Kristin Schlingman, TCU Lonsdale special services teacher, looks forward to seeing these strategies in action so she can fully implement them in her classroom. She said staff as a whole is excited to implement AVID in the building and learn more about it in the months to come.

“The strategies are going to help students to get more involved and take ownership of their learning and also create an environment where teachers and students collaborate with each other,” Schlingman said. “They’re also going to help kids with study skills and promote self advocacy throughout their entire education, not just in elementary school.”

The TCU school district as a whole embraces AVID as a system, implementing the framework for middle school and high school students. By implementing AVID at TCU Lonsdale, Johnson said elementary students will have an earlier exposure to the framework’s strategies. This allows teachers to gradually increase the rigor of the strategies from one grade to the next, he said.

A key component to the AVID framework is common vocabulary and common strategies, which will benefit students as they grow as learners. While the foundation of a strategy remains the same, Johnson compared the process to “walking up the building blocks,” allowing them easier access to increasingly rigorous content. For example, in terms of literacy standards, students will learn what it means to summarize at early grade levels and deepen their understanding as they go from summarizing a paragraph in younger grades to a chapter or a whole text structure in upper elementary grades.

Schlingman said she’s implemented some of the AVID reading strategies already and talked about them with teachers. One example of a reading strategy that works for all grade levels is a KWL (know, want and learn) chart. Before students read about a topic, they first list what they already know and what they want to learn, and after reading the excerpt, they write what they learned from it in the last column.

Johnson said TCU Lonsdale staff will analyze literary strategies more in depth in February, a task the TCU district as a whole has taken on.

“Staff have been very eager to do it,” Johnson said. “It’s been amazing. Staff here are so hungry to get better, and we realize it’s not only students who grow by refining their craft but also us as educators.”

The Lonsdale Leaders Committee, a system for the school that establishes school-wide expectations and positive mindset strategies, has focused on the cultural component of AVID. Johnson said TCU Lonsdale staff expect all students to be respectful, responsible, safe and kind. Having that common expectation across grade levels also eliminates the confusion students may otherwise feel if expectations change, he said.

“There’s a lot of collaboration with AVID, too, and learning from each other in our building,” Schlingman said. “For us as a staff, it’s going to open a lot of doors for conversation, and we learn from each other as we share the strategies. We’re excited to have this in our building and look forward to learning more about it as we continue.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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