RANDOLPH, NJ - Shongum teacher Bobbie Sobel impressed the New Jersey Education Association with her innovative approach to 5th grade education. After filming the class in February, the Emmy-award winning show, Classroom Closeup NJ, featured her Learner Active Technology Infused (LATI) method in a segment on Sunday.
To honor Sobel’s work, Angela Cordova and the Randolph Education Association hosted a Red Carpet viewing of the film on June 18. Approximately 185 family and friends of the class gathered for a catered dinner, film presentation and awards ceremony.
“The object is, in my room, to be who you are,” Sobel said in the video. “A child doesn’t need to come to a lesson if they already know the concept.”
She comments on sitting at her desk watching the students learning how they want to learn, “and they all get the same support, just in different ways.”
In her article for the NJEA, Sobel describes a typical day in the classroom, “Each day, students come into the classroom, read the front board for messages and then complete their daily schedule... If they have a music lesson or want to attend a mini-lesson, they write it on their schedules,” the article continues. “The students must decide what they want to accomplish, how long each item will take, and who they might want to work with.”
By setting their own schedules for three hours of the school day, students “learn what they don’t know,” she explains. The students can sign up for a mini lesson during the day or write their question on the Help Board.
This method also benefits slow learners who might be embarrassed to ask questions in other classroom arrangements. “They may need some kind of other way to learn, but it doesn’t look different anymore, because everyone is doing something different,” Sobel said.
Students commented on finding the place that they work best, whether near a window or with another friend. While the classroom may look different from other rooms, “there’s children on windowsills, lying on a carpet, but it’s controlled chaos,” she added.
Sobel began teaching LATI five years ago, and now, “I will only teach LATI.”
Steve Beatty, NJEA Secretary-Treasurer, spoke at the dinner, stating, “This method allows students to take responsibility of their learning.”
“In schools, students learn skills to lend to society, and one of those is responsibility,” he added.
Shongum Principal Clifford Burns also praised Sobel’s example and demonstration of teacher leadership by volunteering hours during the summer to learn and improve her skills, inviting guests into her classroom to see her approach, as well as holding students and herself to the highest standards.
Burns also thanked Cordova for sharing the “wonderful things going on in Randolph schools” with the NJEA, leading them to feature two elementary classes on Classroom Closeup this season.