Week of October 26, 2015

What’s on Our Minds:

RobinThis week in staff meeting we were able to celebrate the “life and times” of our beloved Robin Stephens. As you all know, Robin is retiring in November and starting the next chapter of her life as a full-time grandmother. Robin was the very first assistant hired to work at CSD with the very first CSD K teacher, Miss Leslie DEARMIN (later known as Tomko). As I sat in the staff meeting and listened to Leslie recount Robin’s legacy, I was profoundly struck by the energy in the room. It’s the energy that can only be described as palpable. Just as kids hang on a teacher’s every word when being read a favorite novel aloud to the class, Leslie reeled us in, not just with her account of how Robin came to be CSD’s first assistant, but with the genuine emotion that flowed as she offered her heartfelt speech. In that moment, I was reminded of our retreat theme – #storiesmatter.

Life is fast and busy, and it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day monotony of our hectic lives. That’s why it is essential to have a ritual that stops time and forces us to be in the moment. For me, Standing O has always been one of these times. There is something so very magical and powerful about hearing a loved one celebrated out loud publicly. There is always laughter and more often than not, tears, that also accompany this experience. And then there’s that moment right before the applause breaks out where your heart becomes so full of love it feels as if it could literally pop right out of your chest. That is a magnificent feeling – one that is universal yet unique at the same time. The truth is that I went home after Wednesday’s staff meeting in a much better place than when I arrived. And that got me to thinking… Why?

Connection. All of us long for connection. As infants, we are hardwired for connection and belonging. I think that sums up what we were feeling in that room on Wednesday as we took the time to celebrate our dear Robin. Through hearing each others’ stories and publicly celebrating the qualities we admire most in others, we are fostering the sense of community that is at the core of everything we do at CSD. So as we move forward into what could be a stressful week for some (with assessments, report cards, conference prep, etc…), let’s all be sure to take some time to appreciate the goodness that surrounds us daily at CSD. Let’s look for occasions in our classrooms to celebrate our students’ successes and accomplishments. Let’s be deliberate about finding opportunities to connect with others and deepen the relationships that drive everything we do. And perhaps most importantly, let’s be reminded that #storiesmatter.

~Juli

The Week at a Glance:
Monday, October 26th:
K-7 Report Cards Due
Sapp to the Pines
Whitley to Huntersville Oaks
Tuesday, October 27th:
Wednesday, October 28th:
Washam Teacher Leader
K-5 Parade of Fiction at 8:30
Hosse to Huntersville Oaks
Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 1 – Introduction 3:30
Thursday, October 29th:
Teacher Workday/Optional Parent Teacher Conferences/U-Visits
Friday, October 30th:
Teacher Workday/Optional Parent Teacher Conferences/U-Visits

Looking Ahead….
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; 5th Grade Barrier Island Performances
November 6 – 7th Grade Rube Goldberg Exhibition (MS Gym); 3rd Grade Bones Performance (MS Black Box)
November 10 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 2 – Mental Effectiveness – 3:30
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 12-14 – Book Fair
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 16 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
November 17 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 3 – Goals – 3:30
November 17 – MS and HS Band Concert at 7:00 in 8th Grade Theater Space
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL
December 1 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 4 – Priorities 3:30
December 2 – K-7 Staff Meeting
December 9 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 5 – Energy Management 3:30
December 15 – K7 Teacher Appreciation Breakfast
December 16 – 5th Grade Proof of Concept
December 16 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 6 – Work-Life Balance
December 17 – Kindergarten Gingerbread Houses
December 21 – January 3 – WINTER BREAK

Teaching Tips by Marianne

Preparing for Parent/Teacher Conferences

The very best parent teacher conferences are when a parent walks away feeling you truly care and know their child.  Here are some tips to help you prepare:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-teacher-conference-resources-matt-davis

http://www.nea.org/tools/tips/18858.htm

ken

Week of October 19

The Week Ahead:

Happy Saturday! I hope you all are enjoying the cool, crisp fall weather this weekend! It’s hard to believe we are half way through October. Don’t forget that conferences will be coming up soon. Remember to make sure you plan low stress activities that can be done independently so that you can allow time to assess. If you are feeling stressed about this please, please, please let us know so that we can help! If you have questions about how to mark report cards please check in with us as well. We have been visiting team meetings to hopefully answer questions about this, but if you are unsure please check in as we don’t want you to be stressed or frustrated.

This week’s Choice Literacy article is about Word Walls. Spelling/word study and word walls are something that has been on our minds a lot lately. Starting in second and third grades we really want to start holding students accountable for high frequency words that they use in their writing. Remember, just because they can spell it and sort it correctly on a Friday spell check means nothing if they can’t apply it in their writing. The application piece is the goal of spelling! Of course we would never want to make a child feel like there are a million things wrong with their writing piece, so we choose one or two things to focus on to help them improve as they write. One way to help with the spelling of high frequency words is the use of word walls. These should not be something pretty we have hanging in our rooms and never use. These should be used constantly. As you will read in the article below, it is important to make a big deal when we add new words to the word wall. I also love the idea of retiring words from the word wall when we feel like the class has mastered this word. Due to space it can often be hard to add all the words we want to a word wall. This is where the use of charts comes in handy! A chart is a great place to keep/write unit words so that students can see the spelling of these words. I also strongly encourage you to make sure each child has a personal word wall when they write. This way you can add specific words that the child needs. For example, if a child always writes about Superman, but not many other students in the class do this, this would be a word I would add to his word wall instead of the class word wall. Pull words from their writing so that you can best support them as individual writers. If possible I would also encourage you to make a copy of these and send them home with students to use when they write at home. This way parents can know what words you are specifically holding their child accountable for when they write. This could be a great thing to share at conference time. If you need help using word walls please let us know, as this is something we can help with and will change your student’s lives as writers and spellers. Also please take a moment to check out the excellent video clips in this blog to give you ideas and suggestions on ways to incorporate word walls! There are also two extra articles on spelling that I felt like were important ones for you to read. Have a wonderful week and happy spelling!
Leslie

What’s Up with Those Word Walls?
Shari Frost

It is the third day of school. Yet many of the classrooms that I’ve visited have word walls with up to 100 words already posted on them. How can that be? Words should be posted on the word wall in the presence of students, with the children reading, spelling, and engaging in activities with the words. Could that possibly have happened with 100 words in only three days?

I spoke to one of the teachers with an extensive early word wall in her classroom. I said, “Tell me about your word wall.” She responded, “It has all of the students’ names, so that they can get to know each other; the color words and the number words because they really need to know them; the Dolch words, which are important too; and the content words from our first unit on families.” Whew! That’s an awful lot for a first grader to take in.

Using a word wall in literacy instruction requires thought and planning. There are considerations that should go into the placement of the word wall, the words selected to be posted on it, the number of words to have on it at a given time, the number of words to be presented each week, and the instructional goals of the word wall.

Definition

According to Patricia Cunningham (2012), who is credited with inventing the word wall, “the word wall is an area in the classroom where words are displayed -– but not just any words -– truly important ones. They are systematically organized and a tool designed to promote group learning.” A word wall consists of words that young children frequently see when reading and use when writing. She emphasizes that it is not enough to just have a word wall. You have to do a word wall.
The Specs

Children need to be able to see the word wall and all of the words on it. I have seen word walls posted on those skinny little bulletin boards above the chalkboards, or whiteboards in the fronts of classrooms. Those bulletin boards are usually six feet above the floor! How well can a three-and-a-half-foot child read words that are posted that high? Reserve those bulletin boards for displaying the children’s artwork. Place your word wall at the children’s eye level.

Words with A-Z proceeding left to right.
In kindergarten, first grade, and even second-grade classrooms in some communities, arrange the groups of words on the word wall in a single line, with A to Z proceeding from left to right, as in the photo to the left.

Children who are still learning about directionality need the predictability of seeing the A words first, followed by the B words right next to them, which are in turn followed by the C words, and so on. Those tricky return swings, especially multiple return swings on a word wall, will make it much harder for children to find a specific word. I have seen children stand before word walls with multiple rows for long stretches of time hunting for a word.

Locate the word wall in an area of the classroom where it is frequently needed. The large group meeting area or the writing center is a good choice. Children should be able to access the word wall without disturbing small group instruction. Cunningham recommends writing the words on different colors of construction paper and cutting out each word to conform to the shape of its letters, i.e., tall where the letters are tall and short where the letters are short rather than just a rectangle. Both colors and shapes provide additional visual cues that might be useful to beginning readers and writers.
Which Words?

I am a fan of high-frequency, high-utility words for the word wall. It is worth repeating that the word wall was envisioned as a collection of words that young children frequently see when reading and use when writing. So which words, exactly, are those? Some teachers use the Dolch list as a source for words. Keep in mind that the words on the Dolch list are the words commonly found in basal reading textbooks (Dolch, 1948). Children are likely to encounter these words when they are reading a basal reader, which will help them read basals successfully. But what about words that the children will use in their writing, and what about words that the children will encounter in other reading contexts, such as trade books? If you want words on the word wall that children are most likely to find useful after taking into account all reading and writing contexts, including their own writing, try the Fry instant words. The first 100 words on Fry’s list contain 50% of the words that appear in all printed materials, making them very high frequency and high utility (Fry, 2005).

If you want to display color words, number words, word family words, enriched vocabulary words, or content words, consider making charts with those words. While multiple word walls are an option, this can be confusing to emergent and beginning readers. Some children will wonder which wall they should access to find the word that they are seeking. Think about what you hope to accomplish by having multiple word charts and/or word walls. Is a word wall or even a word chart the best way to accomplish the goal?
Doing a Word Wall

The purpose of the word wall is to provide maximum exposure to those heavy duty basic sight vocabulary words. These are the words that children need to know automatically, without any decoding or problem solving. The more experiences children have with these words, the more likely the words will be internalized.

Add three to five high frequency words to the word wall each week. Introduce the words with fanfare and pageantry; make a really big fuss. Engage the children in reading, chanting, singing, spelling and writing these words. Have a whole-group word wall activity each day. You might need to follow up with small-group work for some children. Keep word wall activities brief and highly engaging.

With word wall words containing a high frequency phonogram (word family) such as -an, -all, -it, or -ot, capitalize on the opportunity to point out other words with the same phonogram. For example, if “can” appears on the word wall, it is instructionally effective to bring words such as man, pan, ran, tan, and fan into the discussion and emphasize the pattern. Once children have learned words with phonograms, it opens the door to many other words. Some teachers distinguish these words on the wall by marking them with a star or a key. Children learn that these words can help them read and write other words.
Word Wall Pitfalls

Word walls have their critics. One of the big criticisms is that it is developmentally inappropriate to expect kindergartners and first graders to use the word wall to support them in spelling out words on paper. The act of finding the word on the wall, recording the first letter on the paper, going back to wall, locating the word again, proceeding to the next letter, recording it on the paper . . . you see what I mean. This issue can be addressed by constructing individual sized word walls. Teachers make them with manila folders and store them in the writing center or word study center. If a child wants help with spelling, writing, or editing, they can borrow a “word wall” folder. Remember, the classroom word wall is for whole-group instruction.

Another pitfall of word walls is teachers’ apparent reluctance to ever remove any words from the wall. Once most of the children in the class have learned a word, take it down. There is no reason to have “the” on a first grade word wall in January. Make retiring a word from the word wall a celebration.

Finally, with word walls and all other instructional tools, it is important to be reflective. Consider your instructional goals and think whether the word wall is the best tool for achieving that goal.
References

Cunningham, P.M. (2012). Phonics They Use: Words for Reading and Writing Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Dolch, E. W. (1948). Problems in Reading. Champaign IL: Garrard Press.

Fry, E. B. (2005). “Phonics: A Large Phoneme-Grapheme Frequency Count.” Journal of Literary Research.

Some other great articles on word study/spelling:

Why Some Kids Can’t Spell and Why Spelling Tests Won’t Help
http://bit.ly/1cBpzer

Word Study Is More Than Spelling
https://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=310

The Week at a Glance:
Monday, October 19th:
Garren – Huntersville Oaks
Tuesday, October 20th:
Juli at HS campus doing teacher observations
Holshouser – Huntersville Oaks
Wednesday, October 21st:
Hoover – Teacher Leader
K-7 Staff Meeting – 3:30
5th Grade Proof of Concept Test
Thursday, October 22nd:
Kindergarten Pumpkin Carving – 1:00
Friday, October 16th:
Elementary Night at HS football game
Looking Ahead….
October 21-25 – Community HS Musical – Pippin
October 26 – K-7 Report Cards Due
October 28 – K-5 Parade of Fiction
October 28 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 1 – Introduction 3:30
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; 5th Grade Barrier Island Performances
November 6 – 7th Grade Rube Goldberg Exhibition (MS Gym); 3rd Grade Bones Performance (MS Black Box)
November 10 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 2 – Mental Effectiveness – 3:30
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 12-14 – Book Fair
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 16 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
November 17 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 3 – Goals – 3:30
November 17 – MS and HS Band Concert at 7:00 in 8th Grade Theater Space
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL
December 1 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 4 – Priorities 3:30
December 2 – K-7 Staff Meeting
December 9 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 5 – Energy Management 3:30
December 15 – K7 Teacher Appreciation Breakfast
December 16 – 5th Grade Proof of Concept
December 16 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 6 – Work-Life Balance
December 17 – Kindergarten Gingerbread Houses
December 21 – January 3 – WINTER BREAK

Reminders:
Believe it or not, the first trimester is winding down! Make sure you are scheduling enough time for assessments so that report cards can be completed by October 26th for admin editing. Let us know if you need help!

Teaching Tips by Marianne:

Ways to Make Word Walls Fun!

Word Walls 2010

Youtube Videos on Interactive Word Walls

Upper Grades:

CSD WORD WALLS

IMG_2789 IMG_2791 IMG_2792 IMG_2793 IMG_2794 IMG_2795 IMG_2796 IMG_2797 IMG_2798 IMG_2801 IMG_2805 IMG_2806 IMG_2807

Week of October 12, 2015

The Week Ahead:

FootballHappy Sunday!  We hope you all had a wonderful weekend, despite the rainy weather.  It was the perfect kind of weekend to curl up and read a good book!  Which I have been thinking a lot about lately, reading good books, in particular kids reading.  The Choice Literacy article below speaks to this topic as well.  Are we allowing our students to read what they are interested in reading?  If we do, as you can see from the outcome below, the benefits can be great!  If we are always assigning reading are we really allowing kids choice?  This seems to be easier to do when children are in younger grades because we are trying to get them excited about reading.  However, we often forget that when students get in upper grades they still like to have choice.  We as adults like to have choice.  I know I have a stack of books beside of my bed that I want to read.  One stack is professional reading and the other stack is piled high with books I want to read for pleasure.  I go back and forth between the stacks because I know I need to read the professional books to stay current on educational topics.  However, there are nights where my brain just needs a break and I grab a book that I like to read for pleasure and just escape for a little while.  There are other days where I don’t feel like reading a book and want to read something short, so I hop on Twitter and look for a great article or what is trending in education or the world.  My point in telling you this is that I think it is important that we think about what we assign students to read.  Yes, we absolutely need to expose and ask students to read certain novels or texts that they might not necessarily choose on their own.  However, I believe it is equally important to also allow students to sometimes choose what they would like to read.  As you can see from the article below, the lessons and goals we wish to achieve when we assign novels can also be reached when students are allowed to choose to read about what is most important to them.  Good food for thought as we move through the school year!  Have a wonderful week!

Leslie

Reading for Football

Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.

Bill Shankly
Last winter, when the Ohio State football team played against Oregon for the national championship, my husband and son were so locked into the whole experience, I think there were times that they forgot to eat and sleep.

Not me.

About the game itself, I was ambivalent at best; at worst, I was a bit irritated that an entire state seemed to have lost its collective mind over a football game.
But for my own personal purposes, I was perfectly fine with the obsession happening in my own house. Why? Because my son and his father were like little buzzy bees as they prepared for the big game. They were talking, listening, pondering, thinking, predicting, inferring, and reading. Hours and hours were spent reading blogs about the two teams; searching online for sports reporters who were weighing in on game predictions; and studying information about the players on each team.

My seven-year-old son is an emerging reader. Seeing him so fiercely absorbed in something and learning how to seek out information, read it closely, and respond to it with another person doing the same thing was thrilling to me. Were they studying a classic children’s novel? No. But the reading they were doing was good stuff. It was well written, thoughtful, and carefully presented. The writers they sought were knowledgeable about the game and thoughtful in their discussions about it. In the weeks leading up to the game, I saw my son’s confidence as a reader grow.

But their football obsession did more than contribute to my son’s reading progress. In essence, my husband was teaching my son about research. Finding good resources and reading through them to determine their effectiveness isn’t easy to do, especially for a seven-year-old. But I kept overhearing my husband teaching this very skill as they searched, searched, and searched some more for all the information they could find about the game. For example, when they discovered a particular piece of information and found it to be lacking in breadth or legitimacy, my husband explained why it wasn’t a good source and guided them somewhere else. “I don’t think this reporter knows very much about football. Let’s look for someone who has more expertise,” he would say. Or, “This guy is from another conference which means he is going to be biased against Ohio State. That’s why his opinion seems off to us.” From these conversations, I could hear my son learning about finding good resources when doing research, and how to consider how bias or perspective might alter the validity or applicability of a resource.

So while I have no real use for football in my life, beyond the fun of an occasional tailgate and seeing my son and his father bond over something they both love, I am thrilled that loving the sport leads to making my son a better reader and a strong researcher. For that, I’ll take a football game any day.

Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy

The Week at a Glance:
Monday, October 12th:

Tuesday, October 13th:
K-7 Lottery Open House 9:30a.m. and 7:00p.m.
Carr to Huntersville Oaks
Wednesday, October 14th:
Staff Mindfulness Training (Interest Meeting) 3:30 in MS Media Center
Teacher Appreciation Luncheon 11:00-1:00
Tiffany Saborido – Teacher Leader
Thursday, October 15th:
Pick up your Pink Piggie K7
Kindergarten Fairy Tale Play

Marianne is out.
Friday, October 16th:
CSD Homecoming!

Marianne is out.

Looking Ahead….
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 23 – 4th Grade Stone Mountain Field Trip
October 26 – K-7 Report Cards Due
October 28 – K-5 Parade of Fiction
October 28 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 1 – Introduction 3:30
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; 5th Grade Barrier Island Performances
November 6 – 7th Grade Rube Goldberg Exhibition (MS Gym); 3rd Grade Bones Performance (MS Black Box)
November 10 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 2 – Mental Effectiveness – 3:30
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 12-14 – Book Fair
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 16 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
November 17 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 3 – Goals – 3:30
November 17 – MS and HS Band Concert at 7:30 in 8th Grade Theater Space
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL
December 1 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 4 – Priorities 3:30
December 2 – K-7 Staff Meeting
December 9 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 5 – Energy Management 3:30
December 15 – K7 Teacher Appreciation Breakfast
December 16 – 5th Grade Proof of Concept
December 16 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 6 – Work-Life Balance
December 17 – Kindergarten Gingerbread Houses
December 21 – January 3 – WINTER BREAK

Reminders:
Believe it or not, the first trimester is winding down! Make sure you are scheduling enough time for assessments so that report cards can be completed by October 26th for admin editing. Let us know if you need help!

Teaching Tips:

Preparing for Parent/Teacher Conferences

The very best parent teacher conferences are when a parent walks away feeling you truly care and know their child.  Here are some tips to help you prepare:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-teacher-conference-resources-matt-davis

http://www.nea.org/tools/tips/18858.htm

Week of October 5, 2015

Dear K-7 Staff,

As you all know, CSD is committed to continual improvement.  Each year at our annual Staff Retreat and throughout the summer, we examine our current practices and programs and look for ways we can improve as an organization.  We use staff, student, and parent input along with our observations as administrators to help set school improvement goals for the coming year.  

Last year, we identified several school improvement goals, one of which included keeping our most academically advanced students challenged and showing growth.  Most any educator would agree that this is a hefty task, perhaps one of the most daunting challenges we face.  We plan to communicate regularly with our parents this year to update them with our research findings and new programs.  HOWEVER, we have already found much affirmation for many strategies and practices that we currently use throughout our K-12 program.  We are doing MUCH right for our students and we are committed to holding on to the good as we tweak and improve without compromising the mission and vision of inclusive education at CSD.  These are great words to remember as CSD parents ask you for updates on this topic.  Let them know that updates are coming but don’t doubt that we are doing much well.  We have an entire high school full of budding extraordinary young adults thanks to your hard work thus far and we have two classes of alumni who are already doing amazing things.  Many of our students are academically advanced thanks to your hard work.  More importantly, they are amazing whole people who are intrinsically motivated to find  meaning and purpose in their learning and lives.

While we are doing much right with these academically advanced students, we continue to determine how we can best meet their learning needs.  As we reflect upon strategies,  it is essential that we continue to keep this particular population of students engaged in what Carol Ann Tomlinson (DI expert and guru) often refers to as, “respectful tasks.”

(http://www.yesnet.yk.ca/staffroom/studentsupport/pdf/12-13/respectful_tasks.pdf)

Part of this school improvement goal involves taking the 2015-2016 school year to assess our current practices and renew our knowledge around the educational research and best practices associated with academically gifted education.  CSD has always been committed to current research and trends in our field so we will definitely spend the entire year studying the most current research on this topic.  As I was re-reading some prominent literature on differentiated instruction, I was struck by something profound – something that I hadn’t thought of in quite some time.  Differentiated instruction is also known as “responsive teaching.”  Personally, when I think of it in these terms – responsive teaching rather than differentiated instruction – I immediately start to conjure up more authentic approaches to assessment and instruction.  Remember, education is not something we are “doing” to children.  Education is something that is occurring from within.  Therefore, as educators, our job is to truly know our students and match learning tasks to them, not vice versa.  We should not expect our kids to conform to our teaching, but we should tailor our instruction to meet the needs of the child.  And if we stop and think about it, the only way this can happen is if we, as educators, are engaged in a continuous cycle of assessment.  Assessment informs instruction, and without assessing critical factors such as who the children are (socially, emotionally, physically, etc.. – the whole child), how the children learn (learning styles, personality type, cognitive construct, etc…), and what the children know (background knowledge related to content), then there is no way we can effectively succeed in the act of responsive teaching.  Without the ongoing assessment (both formal and informal) that occurs daily in our practice, we are nothing more than dispersers of knowledge who may or may not reach our intended audience.  We know this level of “knowing” our students is intense and challenging.  This is one of many reasons that while schools around our state cut assistant and special programs, CSD hunkered down in the storm to make sure that our student to adult ratio is far better than any public school (and most private schools)  in the state.  We know that knowing our students takes time and human resources.

So here are a few things for us to consider as we use this school year to review our practice and hone our craft.

Make sure to pre-assess.  Pre-assessment truly is the cornerstone of all differentiated instruction.  Of course, to pre-assess, we must always remember to “begin with the end in mind” through our backwards design planning.  We should have the assessment for any unit made and ready for students before we begin teaching and that assessment should not be a secret.  We WANT our students to know where they are headed with their learning and what we expect at the end to show mastery and understanding.  From pre-assessment data, we can devise groups and develop tiered assignments.  As teachers, we generally have a “gut feeling” about who needs to be challenged, but this is not best practice.  We need data to back up our decisions.  This is why pre-assessments are an essential starting point in each unit of study.  From there, formative assessment takes over.  As we progress through the unit, we should anticipate that different students will master the material at different rates.  Therefore we must be prepared to reteach and enrich.  *Note – please keep in mind that flexible grouping is also a characteristic of DI (differentiated instruction).  Flexible grouping is not synonymous with gifted pull-out – something that we are adamantly opposed to at CSD.    We provide a “gifted curriculum” for all students and then use responsive teaching to help them attain mastery of the curricular objectives.  For more on flexible grouping, click here: http://www.eduplace.com/science/profdev/articles/valentino.html

When differentiating based upon content, use the resources at hand to deliver the next level of instruction.  For example, study island is an relatively easy way to offer differentiated homework or practice as you can easily advance students on to the next grade level.  Another great resource is the DPI math wiki.  Once again, you can search this resource for learning tasks, activities, and assessments that are below or above your current grade level.  http://maccss.ncdpi.wikispaces.net/

Start small!  Keep in mind that instruction can occur in three different ways:  by readiness (or content), by process (how students learn), or by product (how they demonstrate what they know).  It is completely overwhelming to think of doing all of this for every single lesson and for every single child!  DI is not individualized education as that is just not possible in a public school classroom.  However, through DI, students can have a much more individualized experience.  The key is to start small.  In the 2015-2016 school year, we really want you to examine your math instructional practices closely with a deliberate focus on stretching the high-fliers.  Teamwork is also key, so get with your team and devise a plan so that you are working smarter, not harder.  Admin would LOVE for either your team or a person on your team to take a planning day in the near future so you could really focus on gathering/developing tasks geared towards that upper 10% of students.  Unlike some other subjects, readiness is more relevant in math instruction, so we have to be able to compact curriculum and move students on to the next steps in the learning sequence.  In order to do so, we have to be well-versed in the math curriculum not just for our current loop, but subsequent loops.   Once again, this can be a daunting task, but working together as a team, we can take the time to dig into the curriculum and devise tasks that meet our high-fliers where they are and take them on to the next level.  So sometime in the next week or two, get with your team and make a plan.  Admin wholeheartedly supports planning days and would love to help you plan!  So please reach out to us.

Lastly, make an effort to consciously communicate with parents about how you are challenging their child.  You all are such incredible teachers that you often don’t recognize all that you do on a daily basis to differentiate for your students.  It comes second nature to you, so you don’t always point these things out directly to parents in your weekly newsletters and face-to-face conversations.  Take some time to reflect on everything you are already doing and make it a point to communicate these best practices to parents.  By hearing about your implementation of research-based best practices, parents become even more “wowed” by your teaching excellence!  Then at conference time, be sure you have the data and work samples to back it up.  This is the key to winning parental trust and strengthening the partnership.  But we have to be deliberate about clear and constant communication.

In closing, we want to provide you with a few more resources that will hopefully add to your DI teaching tool belt.   I know this is a lot of information, but I promise it will be well worth the time it takes to dig through it.  GREAT STUFF HERE!

Resources:

Google Folder – DI Resources:

https://drive.google.com/a/csdnc.org/folderview?id=0B7OJwJY6ufldRkJ1RGFUNm1WLUE&usp=sharing

In this folder, you will find lesson-planning templates that totally lay out how to plan a differentiated lesson (or unit).  There are also resources that give great explanations of DI and offer some wonderful “words” to use when communicating with parents.

Some great websites:

https://daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com/

http://byrdseed.com/differentiator/

Interview with 2 Gurus (Tomlinson and Wormeli):

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2012/01/response_ways_to_differentiate_instruction.html

NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics): GREAT leveled problems and activities to use in math instruction

www.nctm.org

mcoale@csdspartans.org

password:  csdspartans

Don’t forget to get with your team and decide on a planning day.  More specifically, decide on:

-who wants to focus on enrichment tasks that are tailored to the high fliers

-when can you make this happen

-how can admin support you

Admin will be attending your team meetings in the upcoming weeks to review best practices and brainstorm other ideas regarding differentiated instruction and challenging our high fliers.  If there is anything we can do to support your efforts in the meantime, please let us know!  We love using our teacher brains, so we look forward to thinking and planning with you!

Responsively yours,

Juli, Leslie, Marianne, Joy, and Connie

The Week at a Glance:
Monday, October 5th:
Christian’s Class to Pines
Randolph to Huntersville Oaks
Juli out – (Sugar Creek Accreditation & NC Charter Conference)
Parent Advisory – 7:30-8:30 p.m. at HS
Tuesday, October 6th:
Teckenbrock to Huntersville Oaks
Darkness to Light Presentation – 6:00-8:00 – MS Media Center
Juli out – NC Charter Conference
Wednesday, October 7th:
Mimi Siadak – Teacher Leader
Staff Meeting – 3:30; Baby Shower for Baby D’Esterre!
Juli out – NC Charter Conference
Thursday, October 8th:
Juli off campus – conducting teacher observations all day at HS
Friday, October 9th:
Round 2 Explore Electives
1st Grade Fairy Tale Ball

Looking Ahead….
October 13 – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:30a.m. and 7:00p.m.
October 14 – Staff Mindfulness Training (Interest Meeting) 3:30
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 28 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 1 – Introduction 3:30
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; 5th Grade Barrier Island Performances
November 6 – 7th Grade Rube Goldberg Exhibition (MS Gym); 3rd Grade Bones Performance (MS Black Box)
November 10 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 2 – Mental Effectiveness – 3:30
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 12-14 – Book Fair
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 16 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
November 17 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 3 – Goals – 3:30
November 17 – MS and HS Band Concert at 7:30 in 8th Grade Theater Space
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL
December 1 – Staff Mindfulness Training – Session 4 – Priorities 3:30
December 2 – K-7 Staff Meeting

Grunge buildings
Grunge buildings