Core Skills and Morning Work

What does a typical morning at The Village School look like? While each studio is different, heroes in Spark, Discovery, and Adventure all begin the morning with a launch and socratic discussion in their studio. Spark heroes then transition into their Morning Work time and Discovery and Adventure studios spend the morning working on Core Skills.

Morning Work in Spark

After the morning circle, Spark heroes spread throughout the Spark Studio and Spark Lab for Morning Work. During this time, learners master early reading, writing, and math skills through both guided and independent activities. Learners can choose to work with the materials or activities they have had already had a lesson on or ask a guide for a lesson on a new material. They are encouraged to find work that is challenging for them and can ask guides to give them one-on-one lessons on new material or as an extension with already familiar materials. Some days most heroes work independently and other days are full of collaboration, but each day Spark heroes can be found working with materials that have either a math, reading, writing, practical life, sensorial, or cultural focus.

At the beginning of Session 2, Spark heroes began using their work plans, a tool that helps them track their work each day, set goals, and work on materials in math, reading/writing, sensorial, practical life, and cultural areas. The other day one of Spark’s youngest learners approached me, enthusiastically holding up her work plan to say that she was “so proud” of herself for working on all five areas that morning. 

An example of a Spark work plan

Core Skills in Discovery

After the morning launch in Discovery, the heroes have time to meet with their squads to check in with each other, ask questions, share, and set individual goals. They then transition into Core Skills time, spreading throughout the Discovery Library and Discovery Lab, where they work independently on building strong foundations in math, reading, and writing. Discovery heroes are learning how to manage their time and prioritize their work. Some learners create daily checklists for themselves, many set SMART goals on Journey Tracker, and others are still working to find a system that works for them. 

The morning schedule on Wednesday

Recently, Discovery heroes were given the opportunity to write their weekly goals on the whiteboard and many showed excitement to do so. Others chose not to. Guides hold guide meetings during Core Skills, where learners can raise concerns or talk about areas they are succeeding and/or struggling, and guides can hold up the mirror, saying things like “I’ve heard you say you want to work on _____, but I’ve seen you _____.” Or “I notice you’ve been setting daily SMART goals in math, but not in reading. What’s stopping you from setting reading goals?” Between squad meetings, guide meetings, setting SMART goals, and sharing weekly goals, Discovery heroes are given the opportunity to problem solve and to find a system that works for them so they are able to continue to challenge themselves during Core Skills time and explore their emerging passions and interests.

Core Skills in Adventure

Core Skills time in Adventure is similar to Core Skills in Discovery. Heroes work on math, reading, writing, Quest, or Civilization. Adventure heroes spend 45 minutes on math and 45 minutes on reading each day so that they are able to complete their Core Skills badges by the end of the year. Every other day they spend 30 minutes researching for Civilization to prepare themselves for their Civilization discussion. Adventure heroes generally use Fridays to catch up or make progress on Character or Skills badges. They are learning how to prioritize their work and are continuing to challenge themselves, explore their interests, and make progress on their long-term goals.

Conflict Resolution in Discovery and Spark

The energy was high as the Discovery heroes flooded through the door on their way back inside from free time on Wednesday. Most heroes made their way into the Discovery Lab to prepare for launch, but one hero walked into the Discovery Lab, picked up the peace tray, and left the room. He brought it into the Discovery Library, where two of his fellow travelers were sitting, both visibly upset. 

The peace tray is a tool used in the Discovery Studio to solve personal conflicts. When there is an argument between heroes, the peace tray can help them work through it. It has different tools for conflict resolution, like suggested talking points that guide the learners through putting words to their feelings. 

So on Wednesday when two heroes hurt each other’s feelings, a fellow traveler decided to step in and help. He grabbed the peace tray and sat down with the emotional learners. 

Seeing how upset both heroes were, I sat there anxiously, unsure of how they were going to respond. That quickly faded as the fellow traveler effortlessly led them through a beautiful conversation about how they were feeling and why they were feeling that way. He was patient and gave each hero the time to explain their feelings. He was calm and reassuring, letting each hero know that he was listening, and he was empathetic, telling the heroes that he understood how they were feeling.

The two heroes gave each other sincere, heartfelt apologies. The fellow traveler then said, “So what do you think we should do differently in the future?” and they brainstormed a solution together. Then, the three of them stood up and walked into the Discovery Lab, where they joined their fellow travelers just in time for the beginning of launch. 

Earlier that morning a similar conversation had taken place in the calmer corner in Spark where there are tools to help the heroes talk about their emotions and brainstorm solutions. Wednesday morning, when a Spark hero walked over to the calming corner, a fellow traveler approached, eager to help the hero work through their feelings.

“Are you feeling sad? Angry? Tired?” the hero asked while flipping through cards labeled with different feelings.

“I’m feeling sad.”

“Okay, what do you want to try to help you feel better? Do you want to try taking a drink of water or closing your eyes?”

“Maybe I’ll drink some water.”

“Okay, try that and then come back to see if you feel better.”

Heroes at The Village School don’t shy away from talking about their feelings and emotions. They have tools to help them work through tough situations and they use them frequently. They step up when needed and help their fellow travelers work through hard feelings, not because they have to, but because they care.