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Introduction:

Thissemester,Ihavebeenobserving6yearoldHispanicboynamedTony*inMr.

Martins1stgradephysicaleducationclassandMrs.Buikemas1stgradeclassroomsatOrange

CharterAcademy.Observingatacharterschoolhasbeenafulfillingexperienceduetothe

differentethnicitiespresents,socialclassesrepresented,andlanguagesspoken.Tohelpmebetter

understandTony,Ihavebeenapplyingmuchofhislearningtowhatwehavebeenlearningin

Education202atCalvinCollege.Tonyisafunandenergeticboy,whohasgreatabilitiesin

longtermmemory,spatialthinking,andgrossmotorcontrol,butlacksinlanguageand

communication.Whilereflectingonmyobservationssofar,IhavefoundthatTonystruggles

tremendouslywithEnglishasasecondlanguageandhissocioeconomicstatus,butshowsagreat

strengthinthinking,memory,andgrossmotorskills.Tonyislabeledanatrisklearnerbecause

ofhishomelifeandlanguagebarrier.

Context:

OrangeCharterAcademyisaschoollocatedinGrandRapids,Michigantuckedawayjust

amileawayfromahightrafficintersection.TheschoolisshapedlikeanLandtotherightof

it,thereisaplaygroundthatappearstobeabout10yearsoldduetoitsfadedcolorsandolder

equipment.Toentertheschool,yougotothecorneroftheLandenterthroughtheoffice.

Whenyouenter,thereisadoortotheleftinwhichallguestsmustgotosignin.Therearetwo

receptionistsdesksandbyeachofthem,thereisavisitorsigninstation.Thevisitorsigninisan

electronicmachineinwhichyoutypeyournameandtakeaquickpicture,thatendsuplooking

likeamugshot;bothyournameandpictureareprintedonavisitornice,whichiswornaround

yourneck.Asyouexittheoffice,youturnlefttogotowardthegym.Asyoumakeyourwayto
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thegymbyturningleftfromtheoffice,youwalkthroughnarrowhallwayswiththestudentsart

hanginguponthewall.Afterwalkingbyalltheabstractart,whichwasdonebytheyounger

students,Imadeittothegym.Thegymisaolderbasketballcourtthathastanhardwoodfloors,

concretewallsfilledwithbannersoftheschoolsaccomplishments,silverbleachersthatpullout

whenneeded,astorageroom,andMr.Martinsoffice.Onthehardwoodfloor,thereisadecalof

theschoolnameandtheirmascotaferociousbear.Thehallwayparalleltothegymisthe

culturehallway,inwhichall48countriesrepresentedatOCAhasaflaghangingandpictureof

thechildwhorepresents.Byroamingthroughthehallwayandlearningabouttheschool,Ihave

cometotheconclusionthattheschoolhasmanyfocusesincludingcreativity,faith,diversity,and

acceptancetoall.

TheNationalCenterforEducationalStatistics(2013)revealedthattherewere669

students,withanalmostequalratioingender.Furthermore,morethanhalfofthecommunityis

BlackandaboutaquarterisWhite.Sinceitisacharterschool,OrangeCharterAcademy

receivesgovernmentfundingtosupporteducation.Over70%ofthestudentsareeligibleforfree

lunch(NationalCenterforEducationalStatistics,2013).AccordingtotheOCAwebsite(2011),

theschoolhasfivemainfocusesthateachteachertriestoportrayintheirclassroom:preparing

[children]foralifetimeofsuccess,academicexcellence,moralfocus,parentalpartnership,

studentresponsibility,andsafetyandsecurity.Thesemaingoalsgivethestaffandstudentsa

frameworkforthingstobeexpectedatOrangeCharterAcademy.

Mr.MartinisthePhysicalEducationteacherwhoteachersfromtheYoungFivestothe

8thgrade.Mr.Martinkeepsvarioustypesofsportequipmentinthegym:lacrosseandhockey

sticks,basketballs,soccerballs,teeballstands,andevenairbagsthathelpstudentslearnthe
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techniquesusedinvolleyball.Afterseeingalltheequipment,Iamundertheimpressionthatthe

schoolisfundedwellenoughtogivethestudentstheopportunitytotryeachsport.WhenIam

withMr.Martin,IobservetheYoungFives,whicharethestudentswhoenterthegradewhen

theyarefouryearsoldbutturnfivewithintheschoolyear.EnrollmentinYoungFivesisnot

mandatoryforchildren,butitgivesstudentstheopportunitytoprepareforKindergarten.After

YoungFives,Iobservethe1stgradersinthegymandinMrs.Buikemasclassroom.Theysay

theyoungerthestudentsare,thehardertheyaretotakecareof;however,Mr.Martinsstudent

teacherPathascertainmethodsthatcontributetotheorderduringPEclassfortheYoung

Fives.WhenboththeYoungFivesandthe1stgradersarebeingloud,Patclapsafewtimesto

arhythmicbeat,ifthestudentsarepayingattention,theyclapthemimichisclappingandstopto

lookathim.AnalternatewayPatgrabstheattentionofthestudentsisbyblowinghiswhistle

once,atthistime,thestudentshugwhateverpieceofsportsequipmenttheyhaveandlookatPat

forfurtherinstructions.Bymakingtheseobservations,Igotasenseofhowbothclassesare

handledandrun.

SocioculturalLanguageandSocioeconomicStatus

MyfirstdayobservingatOrangeCharterAcademy,Isawhowdiversityplaysabigrole

intheschoolandtheacademics.Bygoingthroughtheculturehallwayandseeingallthe

countriesrepresented,IgottheimpressionthatOCAtrulyisopentoallethnicitiesandhasthe

toolstogiveallstudentsequityinthislearningenvironment.InMr.Martinsgymclass,about

85%ofthestudentsareeitherBlackorHispanic,50%ofwhichhaveanativelanguageother

thanEnglishathome.ThereweretwoAfricanAmericanstudents,oneofwhichhadcornrows,

conversinginanativelanguageforaboutthreeminutesuntilthestudentteachermadearemark:
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YouareatschoolandeveryonespeaksEnglishhere.Pleasedothesame.Mr.Martintoldme

heknowsthatEnglishcanbehardifitisasecondlanguage,butthatdoesnotmeanthestudents

shouldnotspeakintheirNativelanguagesotheycanavoidlearningproperEnglish.Inthe

YoungFivesclass,thereisanativeKenyangirl;whentheclassistoldtodosomething,she

doesnotreactquickly,rather,shewaitstoseewhattheothersaredoingandfollowtheirlead.

Whenthe1stgraderscameintothegym,Mr.Martintoldmethepercentageofstudentswho

speakanativelanguageotherthanEnglishis10%higherthanthatoftheYoungFives;

however,theirlanguageismoredevelopedduetotheirhigherclasslevel.Tony,thelearnerthatI

amobserving,grewupwithhisLatinAmericangrandparents.HemainlyhearsSpanishathome;

however,whenheiswithhismother,whichisveryseldomduetoherbusyschedule,they

converseinEnglish,butsometimesTonyneedstranslatingtofullyunderstandwhathismotheris

saying.Duringgymtime,TonyseemstopurposelysurroundhimselfwithotherHispanic

students75%ofthetime.Whentheyspeaktogether,theytendtosaycommonEnglishgym

phrasessuchasPasstheballorItsyourturn.Veryseldom,maybeonceperhalfhour,they

converseinSpanishforaminuteortwo.WhenMr.MartinhearsthemspeakingSpanish,he

encouragesthemtotrytothinkofhowtosaythedesiredphraseinEnglish.Anotherexampleof

TonyslanguageabilitieswasevidentinMrs.BuikemasclassroomwhenTonywasreading

aloudtome.Hewashavingahardtimesoundingoutwordsincludingcaribou.Furthermore,

whenhemetwithhisESLteacher,itwasevidentTonyhadadifficulttimeansweringaquestion

duetohislackofvocabulary,buthewasabletouseadifferentwordtogethispointacross.

Whileobservingtheseexamples,IwonderedwhichlevelofproficiencyTonysEnglishwould

fallintoBasicInterpersonalCommunicationSkillsorCognitiveAcademicLanguage
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Proficiency.Sinceheisabletoholdaconversationandknowsessentialwords,hedoesnotfall

intoBICS(Haynes,2007).However,heisntproficientatthelevelofCALPbecausehehasnot

yetmasteredEnglishfully,yet,hecandomanyoftheclassassignmentswithouthesitationor

confusion(Haynes,2007).BecauseTonyspeaks90%ofhisEnglishatschool,heishavinga

hardtimegraspingkeypartsofthelanguage,whichaffectshislearningintheclassroom;

however,hislanguageisimproving,whichclearlyshowssomeofthechallengeshehas

overcome.

WhenIcameintotheschoolonebriskmorning,IenteredthegymandsawTonywearing

awhitepolo,khakis,blackandwhiteAdidassneakers,andaredOhioStatesweatshirt.

AccordingtotheOrangeCharterAcademywebsite,thedresscodeconsistsofabrightgreen,

white,ornavycollaredpoloandnavyorkhakidresspants.Although20%ofstudentswerenot

wearingschoolcoloredsweatshirts,Istillwonderedwhymyspecificlearnerwasnotwearingan

appropriatesweatshirt.WhenweleftthegymtogotoMrs.Buikemasclassroom,allthe

studentswereaskedtogetthishomework,whichconsistedifpracticingvocabularywords,to

turnitin.IfollowedTonytohiscubby,whichhadawornoutblueraincoatononehookanda

batmanbackpackwithaholeonthebottomcornerontheotherhook.Tonysaidhedidnotlike

hisbackpackandwantsanewonebecausetheBatmanoneisfromwhenhewasintheYoung

Fivesin2012.Whileotherstudentspulledoutafolder,Tonywasonly1of2whojustpulled

hisscruncheduphomeworkfromhisbackpack.Whenhetoldmeheaskedforanewbackpack

anddidnotgetitandfailedtobringafolder,Igotthevibethathisfamilymaynotfinancially

stable.IquestionedwhetherTonyhadessentialmaterialsforstudyingathome.Accordingto

Pearson,studentsthatcometoschoolfromalessstablehomearemorelikelytobelessprepared
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forschool,whichshowsthereisnotapreparednesstolearn(Taylor,152).AccordingtoMr.

Martin,Tonycomesfromalessstablefamily.WhenhismotherattendedOCAin8thgrade,she

unexpectedlyleftandreturnedafterseveralmonthswithababy.Thefatherofthechildwasnot

aroundtohelpsupportthebaby,thusleavingTonysmothertoturntowardherparents,whoare

immigrantsfromLatinAmerica,tocareforTonywhileshecaughtuptogether8thgrade

diploma.SinceTonysbirth,hehasmovedfourtimestodifferentapartmentsinGrandRapids.

AccordingtoHardTimesGenerationvideo,itisevidentthatfamiliesinfinancialtrouble

constantlymoveinhopestobecomefinanciallystable(Pelley,2011).Tonysgrandparentswere

verysupportive,butmadesurethatTonyandhismotherhadarelationship.Currently,Tonys

motherhasajob,isworkingtogetherhighschooldiploma,andtryingtomaintainahealthy

relationshipwithherTonyeventhoughtheirschedulesarequiteconflicting.WhenIheardthis

story,IquestionedifTonyisdevelopingaswellasothersduetohishomesituationand

socioeconomicstatues.AccordingtoPearson,somechildrenlivinginpoverty/lowerincome

homeareatriskforimpaireddevelopmentinschools;Tonyssocioeconomicstatusisa

socioculturalfactorthathasplayedaroleinhispreparednesstolearn.

Neurodevelopmental:SequentialandSpatialThinkingandMemory

Longtermmemoryandactiveworkingmemoryarebothimportantwhilelearningmath.

Longtermisimportantbecauseitispermanentandcanholdanabundantamountofinformation

(Ericsson,1995),whileactiveworkingmemoryinvolvesholdinginformationtogetherwhile

tryingtodecipherhowtousetheinformation(Morin,2013).Baseduponmyobservationsit

appearsthatTonyhasastrengthinlongtermmemoryandactiveworkingmemory.Whilein
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Mrs.Buikemasclassroom,Tonyandtheotherstudentswereaddingandsubtractingtwodigit

numbers.WhilelookingoverTonysshoulder,Inoticedsomeoftheproblemsareeasierbecause

theyconsistedofaddingtogethersmaller,onedigitnumbers;however,theproblemsgradually

gotharderwhenTonyhadtoaddtogethertwodigitnumbersandcarrythe1intothetensplace.

OnceIhelpedhimoutalittlebit,hewasabletocompletetherestonhisown,onlymakingfew

errors.ThenexttimeIwaswithTony,theywereaddingandsubtractingthreedigitnumbersand

doingwordproblems.Aftergettingpracticewiththreedigitnumbers,Tonylookedattheword

problemthatstated,Therewasaanairplanethatcouldhold430passengers,buttherewereonly

294ontheplane,howmanyseatswereopen?Tonytriedtocompletetheproblem,butwas

embarrassedwhenhegotitwrong.IlookedaroundtheclassroombecauseIwasquestioned

whetherornototherstudentswerealsohavingdifficultywiththisspecificproble;Idiscovered

about40%ofthestudentsintheclasshadahardtimewiththatone,soMrs.Buikemawentto

thefrontoftheclassroomtoexplainhowtodoitanddrewapictureinordertohelpthestudents

visualizeit.Shetoldthestudentsitisjustlikeaddingandsubtractingthreedigits.WhenMrs.

Buikemaexplainedhowtodoitwithwhatthestudentsalreadyknow,Tonywasabletosolveit

beforeMrs.Buikemarevealedtheanswer.BecauseTonywastryingtopieceknowninformation

tonewinformationlearned,heisusingactivememory,whichisimportantinmathbecauseit

dependsonanumberofskillsthatbuildononeanother(Morin,2013).Bystoringand

retrievingknowmathematicalconcepts,Tonywasusinglongtermmemory(Ericsson,1995).By

usingbothactiveworkingmemoryandlongtermmemory,Tonywasabletocomprehendeach

mathproblemandsolvethemwithnearlynoissues.
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SequentialandSpatialmemoryisimportantbecauseitgivespeopletheunderstandingof

howthesurroundingworldworks(Levine,2012).ThroughTonysactions,itisevidentthat

spatialandsequentialorderingarestrengthsofhis.WhenPatwasgivingthe1stgraders

instructionsaboutthepuffballs,hegavethemvariousdifferentactivitiesonhowtousethe

puffballs.Inordertoresisthittingthefloor,eachstudentwouldhavetohitupthepuffball

continuouslyuntiltheylostcontrol.Atfirst,100%ofthestudentsbegantohitthepuffballup

withtheirdominanthandandfeltasenseofaccomplishmenteverytimetheysaveditfrom

landingonthefloor.About85%ofthestudentswerehittingitabout3feetabovetheirhead,thus

makingithardtodeterminewhereitwasgoingtofallandhowfast.MylearnerTonyrecognized

thattheloweryouhitthepuffball,theeasieritistocatchitandhititupagainbeforeittouches

thefloor.Thesurroundingfourstudentswereinformedandthatgroupoffivestudentswasable

tokeepthepuffballintheairalmostthreetimesaslongasotherstudents.Basedonthefactthat

Tonywascreatingastrategytokeepthepuffballintheairlonger,itwasevidentthathefounda

pattern:thehigheryouhitit,thefasteritcomesdown,thusmakingithardtohitupbefore

touchingthefloor.Iquestionedwhetherthiswasspatialorsequentialthinking,butdiscovered

thatTonyisusingspatialorderingtoestablisharelationshipandpatternofthepuffball(Levine,

2012).WhenPattoldthestudentstoswitchbackandforthfromnondominanttodominant,the

studentsstruggledwiththeircoordination.However,bythemunderstandingandbeingconscious

ofwhichhandisdominantandwhichisnt,theyarepracticingspatialordering.Levinedescribes

spatialthinkingas"asetofmindoperationsthatenablesustothinkaboutandmovearound

withintheirmindsimpressivelycomplicatedimagesandspatialrelationships(2012);bysaying

this,Levineistellingtheaudiencetheimportanceinbeingabletomovearoundphysicallyand
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mentally.Whileusingthepuffball,itwasevidentthatTonywasusingmovements,butalso

usingmentallogictodecipherwhathethinksheshoulddo.WhileobservingTony,Inoticedhe

kepthittingthepuffballuptoacertainheighttherefore;bothhisleftandrighthandswereableto

timethepuffballperfectlysothathewouldnotdropit,besidestheoccasionalslips!ByTonys

abilitytopracticehittingupthepuffball,heusedspatialorderingtofindpatternsand

connectionsthatcouldhelphimimprove.Inadditiontospatialordering,Tonyalsodisplayed

grossmotorcontrolbyhisabilitytousebothhisdominantandnondominanthandand

controllinghismuscles.AccordingtoWells,grossmotorcontrolistheabilityrequiredtocontrol

thelargermusclesofthebody(2012).Tonyhitthepuffballupwithbothhandsandidentified

thatitwaseasiertohitwithhisdominanthand.Byusingbothhands,Tonywasabletoidentified

thathisstrengthplayedanimpactonhowthepatternofthepuffball;whenhefiguredthisout,

Tonybegantoregulatehishitssotheywouldstayroughlyatthesameheight.Byusinghisgross

motorskillsandspatial,Tonywasabletoberegulatethepuffballandmakemoreconnectionson

thepatternspresent.

Conclusion:

ThroughoutthissemesteratOrangeCharterAcademy,IwasabletoobserveTonyand

watchhimgrowinhisacademics.WhenIfirststartedtoobserve,Inoticedhowharditwasfor

TonytofullyunderstandEnglish;however,laterinthesemester,InoticedhisEnglishwas

improvingbecauseofhisabilitytofindproperwordswhenansweringaquestion.BothhisESL

teacherandhisstudiousnatureplayedanimportantroleinTonysprogressioninlearning

English.Becauseofhisbrokenhomelife,manyquestionaroseinmyheadregardingwhetheror

nothewaslearningtothebestofhisability.However,itwasevidentthatTonysdetermination
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helpedhimbreakthroughthesenegativehindrancesthuscausinghimtonotbefullyaffected.

Tonyslongtermandactivememorywereevidentduetofindingpatterns,recallinginformation,

andpiecingknowmathprocedurestogether.Throughhisspatialthinkingandgrossmotorskills,

Tonywasabletobefullyawareofthelocationofhispuffballandhisusetheproperamountof

strengthtokeepastablepatternofhispuffball.Language,socioeconomicstatus,memory,and

thinkingallplayedacrucialroleinTonysdevelopmentandcontributedtohislearninginthe

classroom.

*Allnameshavebeenchangedforsecuritypurposes.

References

Ericsson,K.A.,andWalterKintsch."LongTermWorkingMemory."Psychological
review102.2(1995):21145.ProQuest.Web.21Apr.2015.

Haynes,J.(2007,March).ExplainingBICSandCALP.InEverythingESL.RetrievedMay3,
2015.

Levine,M.(2012).Amindatatime:Howeverychildcansucceed.SimonandSchuster

Morin,A.(2013,December16).5WaysKidsUseWorkingMemorytoLearn.InUnderstood.
RetrievedMay9,2015.

NationalCenterforEducationStatistics.(20122013).RidgeParkCharterAcademy[DataFile].
Retrievedfromhttp://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?
Search=1&SchoolID=260020801135&ID=260020801135

Pelley,S.(Producer).(2011).HomelessChildren:TheHardTimesGeneration[Motionpicture].

Skiba,R.J.,Michael,R.S.,Nardo,A.C.,&Peterson,R.L.(2002).Thecolorofdiscipline:
sourcesofracialandgenderdisproportionalityinschoolpunishment.Theurban
review,34(4),317342.

Taylor,L.S.,&Whittaker,C.R.(2003).Bridgingmultipleworlds:Casestudiesofdiverse
educationalcommunities.Boston:AllynandBacon.Povertyandsocioeconomicclass,146
168.
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Wells,K.R.(2012,August21).Grossmotorskills.InHealthofChildren.RetrievedMay6,
2015.