Week of September 28, 2015

What’s On Our Mind….

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Did you know congratulations were in order? Well….they are! As of Friday, we have officially made it through the first six weeks of the school year. As you all know, this period is critical as it sets the tone for so many aspects of the upcoming year (or loop as the case may be). You’ve welcomed your kids into your classroom and have immersed them in your routines and procedures. You have built community by getting to now your kids and families individually and have capitalized on opportunities for them to get to know one another. You have established yourself as a professional through your weekly communications with parents and your presentations at Curriculum Night. Undoubtedly, you have already celebrated successes within your community of learners and more than likely have encountered a few bumps in the road as well.   But most importantly, you have focused on the relationships that drive everything we do at CSD. Kudos to you for a job well done! Leslie, Marianne, and I sit back daily and marvel at how beautifully each of you execute our mission.   These kids and families are beyond blessed to have you in their lives.

At this point in the year, the focus tends to shift from laying the foundation to analyzing the specific needs of your individual students, as well as your classroom as a whole. This analysis enables us to tailor our instruction and our practices to best meet the needs of the learners in our class. Likewise, your admin team does the same. As we continue to build upon the home/school partnership that is clearly outlined in our mission and vision, it is essential that we look for ways to keep parents engaged, informed, and empowered. Lately, the admin team has been giving extensive thought around the role homework plays in this parent/teacher/student partnership. We always say the most important question an educator can ask (and answer) of him/herself is… “Why are we doing what we are doing?” or more simply… “What is our goal?” This is always important to consider, but it is immensely important when taking homework into consideration. Why you may ask? Good question! If you think about it, homework is where the major overlap between school and home occurs. Homework can bring families closer together or it can produce major sources of contention. Homework can ignite within students an innate curiosity and love for learning, or it can extinguish the flame altogether. So if viewed through that lens, homework is pretty dang important!

This is a complex topic – one that we cannot begin to address thoroughly enough in just one post on a staff weekly blog – but the admin team hopes to continue to ponder and explore these ideas as the year goes on. We would like to start by asking you all to give some reflective thought to the homework practices in your own classrooms and grade levels with the following questions in mind:

Why am I assigning this? What is the purpose/goal of this assignment?

How do I know I’m accomplishing my goal?

Here are a few really terrific articles on the characteristics of quality homework.   We hope that you will take some time to read these articles as you reflect on your own practices and actively consider ways in which you might need to adjust as well as ways you are on target.

Five Hallmarks of Good Homework by Cathy Vatterott

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept10/vol68/num01/Five-Hallmarks-of-Good-Homework.aspx

Smart Homework: 13 Ways to Make It Meaningful by Rick Wormeli

http://www.middleweb.com/16815/smart-homework-13-ways-make-meaningful/

High Quality Homework by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher

http://fisherandfrey.com/uploads/posts/Homework_NASSP.pdf

Lastly, we encourage each of you to consider getting feedback from our most important source – our students. Oftentimes it is so easy to make false assumptions about how they are feeling. It is also common for us to grossly underestimate the amount of time some kids are spending on homework. As educators, we are so caught up in teaching and preparing them for the next step/grade/level that we sometimes neglect to consider if what we are doing is actually working. Perhaps there is a better way, and perhaps they may have some really great feedback for us to consider. You never know… At any rate, most all articles on this topic note the importance of empowering students through choice. While we can never fully individualize homework for every single one of our students (that would be crazy!!!), I do think we can find ways to offer choice so that students can determine what is most effective/meaningful for them. So going into these next few weeks, we hope that you will consider the following:

Can the students articulate the goal of each assignment? (Why am I doing this?)

Does the assignment give the student some way to “own” his/her own learning?

Do I have a firm grasp on the amount of time my students are spending on weekly homework?

In closing, please know that admin knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything you do for your students comes from a place of good intentions. Please know that we can’t thank you enough for the blood, sweat, and tears that you pour into your practice daily.   We truly remain in awe of your talent, your commitment, and your sincere love for your students. Thank you for keeping an open heart and for always looking for ways to grow and learn. Complacency truly is the enemy of excellence, and as always, our goal is to stay focused on #whatmatters.

Love,
Juli

The Week at a Glance:
Monday, September 28th:
Joy Warner’s Birthday. 🙂
Tuesday, September 29th:
Juli at DPI meeting in morning
Wednesday, September 30th:
Mimi Siadak – Teacher Leader
Thursday, October 1st:
Marianne out (send good vibes to Leah who is having a root canal!)
1st Grade Children’s Theater Field Trip – 8:30 departure
Friday, October 2nd:
Spirit Friday (8:40)
Staff Flu Clinic – http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0f48acac283-csdelemmiddle/417053
Make Up Pictures

Looking Ahead….
October 5 – Parent Advisory Meeting at HS – 7:30p.m.-8:30p.m.
October 7 – Staff Meeting – Baby Shower for baby D’Esterre
October 8 & 9 – 1st Grade Fairy Tale Ball
October 13 – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:30a.m. and 7:00p.m.
October 14 – Staff Mindfulness Training (Interest Meeting)
October 16 – CSD Homecoming!
October 21-25 – Community HS Musical – Pippin
October 21 – 5th Grade Proof of Concept; K-7 Staff Meeting
October 22 – Kindergarten Pumpkin Carving 1:00p.m.
October 23 – Elementary Night at HS Football Game
October 28 – K-5 Parade of Fiction
October 29 & 30 – Teacher Workdays – Optional Parent/Teacher Conferences
November 2 – Parent Advisory at HS at 7:30 – Cybersafety Guest Speaker
November 3 – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:30a.m.
November 4 – K-7 Staff Meeting
November 6 – 7th Grade Rube Goldberg Exhibition (MS Gym); 3rd Grade Bones Performance (MS Black Box)
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 12-14 – Book Fair
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL

Teaching Tips:

Gifted Education Resources:

“As with all students, the programming of instruction for gifted students should match the identified needs of students and may take many forms.”(http://www.nsgt.org/differentiating-learning-for-gifted-students/)

These two websites were found on our resource page provided by Anthony.

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/

http://www.nagc.org/

In addition I found this PpT from SlideShare to quite helpful:

differentiatinginstructionforgiftedlearners-090329174007-phpapp01

Please let Juli, Leslie or I know if you need help and support with planning and instruction in this area.  It may be helpful to discuss this at your team meetings in the next few weeks.

Thought-Provoking:

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