Sanborn’s Dragon Time is a Model for Differentiated Instruction

Teacher working with students during Dragon Time

Sanborn Elementary is advancing high-quality personalized instruction and differentiated learning for every student through “Dragon Time,” a dedicated instructional block focused on reading proficiency levels, rigor, and student engagement. 

“Our Dragon Time implementation is incredible, and I couldn’t be more proud of our staff for their work with identifying student needs and for delivering targeted instruction,” said Lori Peeples, Principal at Sanborn Elementary. “Through Dragon Time, our students are receiving additional specific learning opportunities.”  

Through this school-wide intervention block to support and enhance foundational literacy skills, teachers use assessment strategies to identify student’s individual learning strengths, needs, and interests, in order to design lessons and instructional resources to best advance their academic growth.  

“Every student is assessed using Acadience and iReady to determine any learning gaps, next steps for reading skills, and extension activities,” said Leah Menzies, First Grade Teacher. “We then create differentiated literacy groups to target the exact skill needed by each student in that moment.”  

Leveraging the technology and assessment platforms Acadience and iReady, teachers are able to quickly identify students who are at risk for reading difficulties and develop strategies that focus on whole-child learning and instructional support. 

“Progress monitoring and quick checks are used weekly to determine mastery of skills and flexible grouping,” added Menzies. “Our Sanborn Dragon Time ensures that every student meets with their teacher daily, in a small group, for targeted literacy instruction.”

Research has shown that differentiated instruction can have a significant impact on student learning outcomes, particularly in classrooms of students with diverse learning needs, and/or disabilities. In addition to increasing student focus and engagement, teachers can also use the assessment data to become more effective in their instructional methods.

“I really like how I now have a more dedicated time for morphology, and to help students who need to catch up on phonics instruction,” shared Samantha Benner, Fifth Grade Teacher. “It allows me to really focus on reading comprehension strategies during our small group reading time and be able to tie in the rules or what we notice about the vocabulary we come across difficult or higher-level words.”

In addition to providing differentiated instruction for students who may need additional literacy support, Dragon Time also focuses on individualized instruction for students ready for accelerated and more challenging lessons. As a school-wide focus, specials teachers at Sanborn are also using the assessment data to advance their classroom experiences and practices.

“​​I have started something during my specials Dragon Time called Sound Lab, which is an auditory processing class where I integrate music and auditory processing skills,” shared Maisie Phillips, Music Teacher. “I have some kids who are already able to complete four chronological steps after coming to this class when previously they could maybe do two. It’s been so interesting to research these skills and how music plays such a huge role in developing this part of the brain.” 

As one of the few schools in St. Vrain that are focused on an all-school pilot of the implementation of these specialized assessment tools and strategies, Sanborn Elementary will serve as a model as more school teams receive professional development and Acadiance training to leverage technology to further enhance instructional best practices that support academic growth.  

“The work that the teachers, administration, and school staff have done to implement Dragon Time at Sanborn speaks highly of a school that is taking on the challenge of implementing innovative strategies to advance student literacy and success.” added Dr. Diane Lauer, Assistant Superintendent for Priority Programs and Academic Support.

St. Vrain Valley Schools