Inside a Learning Community: Modeling a Future

This 30 minute video shows Laura Ecken’s second/third grade learning community in action three different times across the school year[1]. In August we see 1) the students report their very limited views of their future lives, 2) Laura introduce a year long project in which the students will examine the adult lives of community members as well as famous people, and 3) Laura initiate the project by reading aloud and guiding the students in discussion of their first biography, Mae Jemison: Space Scientist. The video then skips to March and we watch student partners each select a historical figure to study, conduct research on their chosen person, and report their findings to the rest of the class. Student investment, enthusiasm, and learning are clearly displayed as well as their ability to work productively and cooperatively with a partner. Finally, in April, we see the students actively engaged in a wide ranging interview of a businessman from their own community, a landscaper, about his life and job. In addition to the moral purpose of helping students think about the ways that they might contribute to society in their adult life and the motivational purpose of helping students see the relevance of their school learning to their future adult lives, the activities shown in this video exemplify several key features of the kind of reading program called for in the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy. For example, we see students reading for a purpose: to gain knowledge of historical figures and the skills and goals of adult life. The students work in partnerships deciding on the topic and then working together to gather knowledge to present to their fellow students. They read text closely “like a detective” to gain knowledge about their chosen biographical figure, “drawing evidence from the text and explaining that evidence” to their fellow students (Coleman and Pimentel p.16)[2]. [1] This is the same class that is documented in Watson, M. S. and Ecken, L. (2003) Learning to Trust: Transforming Difficult Elementary Classrooms through Developmental Discipline. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. [2]Coleman D. and Pimentel, S. (2012). Revised Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy, Grades 3-12.


  • Directed by: Peter Schwartz

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