Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/1204rodelrevis04.html

Creating excitement for learning pays off
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 4, 2003
Karina Bland
12:00 AM

It's early Monday morning, and teacher Sue Revis is reading aloud the spelling of each word on her second-graders' pretest.

The children check their work and let out a 'yes!' if they got it right.

"Number 17," Revis says. "Dream. D-R-E-A-M."

Walking from desk to desk, she tells the children, "If you put 'ee,' that's the right phonogram, but the word should look a little funny to you when you read it."

Revis looks over the shoulder of a girl who spelled dream that way and pats her shoulder: "You were thinking along the right line, so that's good."

Here in this 28-year-old school, where 77 percent of the students qualify for the free or reduced-priced lunch program, these children have among the best reading scores in the state for their age. They are even better in math. And they have the tailored Ms. Revis to thank for that.

A teacher for 26 years, Revis seems reserved at first, hesitant to talk about herself.

She breezes over where she went to college and the fact that she spent three years teaching English to fifth-graders in Colombia.

Inside her classroom is where it's clear why she has been named one of 10 exemplary teachers in the 2004 Rodel Teacher Initiative. Rodel officials elected teachers from schools in low-income areas whose classes scored well on achievement tests for three consecutive years. They also asked principals to point out teachers they would like to "clone."

"She's not very comfortable celebrating herself," Arrowhead Principal Trish Dolasinski says. "She's very comfortable with children. She gets them excited about learning."

Revis' students watch silently as she writes their 20 spelling words on the board.

"In spelling, we can sound out the words, and that's helpful. But we also have to remember what the word looks like," says Revis, pointing at her eyes for emphasis.

She picks up a stack of flashcards, and, together, she and the children practice the different sounds that letters make and when they make them, saying in singsong:

Qu. Qu. Qu. A quarter for the queen.

Dge. Dge. Dge. Rich cream fudge on the edge of the bridge.

Er. Er.

And the kids make the sound of a car taking a corner fast.

The children are enjoying themselves, counting out the sounds on their fingers and bopping to the rhythm.

"They love to learn new rhymes and jingles," Revis says. "It gives you a warm feeling to see a child get really excited about what you're teaching."

She has other ditties that work equally well for math: "The equal sign means both sides are the same," she sings.

The prompts, rhymes and jingles are tools Revis gives the children so they can figure out things for themselves.

Her teaching varies from all-eyes-on-her to working in pairs or groups. In math, they count out blocks and coins.

"You want to try to design lessons that are motivating, captivating and fun, but, at the same time, they have to learn," Revis says.

She introduces the word "snuggle," and the kids act it out, hugging themselves tight, and then use it in a sentence, think of synonyms and draw a picture.

The children read a lot, sometimes sitting together and take turns reading from the same book. Revis tells them, "Writing is saying, 'Read me! Read me!'"

The walls are covered with words written on notecards. Nouns are in green, verbs in red and adjectives in orange.

"Almost every day, you see growth," Revis says. "Other days, you think to yourself, 'What can I do differently to help this child learn?'"