Week of October 31

At CSD, we offer a gifted curriculum to all of our students, however, we know that in order to meet the needs of all our learners, we need to consider alternative ways to challenge our high fliers.  As educators, the challenges associated with differentiating instruction is one of the most daunting challenges we face.  That is why we so strongly believe in teamwork and in collaboration during your team planning times.  More brains are always better than one!  We all agree that learning needs to be individualized to ensure that each child flourishes academically and maintains a love of learning.  Additionally, we hope to teach the skills necessary for students to find success and happiness in life (Rankin, 2017) beyond the classroom.  Therefore, admin  has been researching DI for “gifted learners” and purchasing some resources to help you in this area as you strive to meet the needs of the high fliers in your class.

Choice menus work well for differentiation.  Below is an example taken from Differentiating Instruction With Menus for Math (Advanced-Level Menus for Grades 3-5) by Laurie E. Westphal.

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Some enrichment ideas which I recently read in Engaging and Challenging Gifted Students : Tips for Supporting Extraordinary Minds in Your Classroom  by Jenny Grant Rankin (2017):

2nd Grade Teachers STEM Challenge!

 * * * * * * *    Stem Challenge    * * * * * * *
     During this challenge, the children were giving 20 spaghetti noodles, 1  yard of string, 1 yard of tape, scissors and 1 large marshmallow.  The objective was to build the tallest free-standing structure with the marshmallow at the top in eighteen minutes.  It was fun to watch the children’s strategies for designing their structure.  These stem activities encourage team building, communicating and problem solving!  Make sure to check out the results of this challenge in our pictures section.

Getting Restless At The Head Of The Class

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They read a book quietly under their desks, pester the teacher for extra credit, or, perhaps, they simply check out and act up.

Every classroom has a few overachievers who perform above their grade level and don’t feel challenged by the status quo. A new report suggests they are surprisingly common — in some cases, nearly half of all students in a given grade.

“The start of this was a little embarrassing,” says Matthew Makel, who researches academically gifted children for Duke University’s Talent Identification Program.

One day, a philanthropist asked one of Makel’s colleagues, Jonathan Plucker at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth, what should have been a simple question, “How many students score above grade level on standardized tests each year?”

They couldn’t answer. So Makel, Plucker and a few fellow researchers took a closer look at the data. Their results have just been published as a policy brief (not a peer-reviewed study) by Johns Hopkins.

The authors studied statewide results on the Smarter Balanced tests in Wisconsin and California; statewide results on the Florida Standards Assessment; data from 33 states on the NWEA MAP test; and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “Nation’s Report Card.” The first two are high-stakes accountability tests, while the MAP test is usually given twice a year to benchmark student progress. The NAEP is a low-stakes national data collection.

Makel and his co-authors found that, on the NWEA, 35 percent of beginning fifth-graders were already scoring at levels you might only expect by the end of the year. And, on the NAEP, the top 25 percent of fourth-graders outscored the bottom 25 percent of eighth-graders every year but one — for 26 years straight.

On the state tests, the researchers took “grade level” to mean hitting the third-highest of four scoring levels — below basic, basic, proficient and advanced — for the gradeabove the grade being tested. In every case, the researchers found large numbers of overachievers. These are students who, by spring, meet or exceed the grade level standard for the following year.

According to the report:

  • “At the end of the 2014–2015 school year, between 25 percent and 45 percent of Wisconsin students scored at or above the next grade level in the spring of their current grade.” For example, 38 percent of third-graders already knew enough fourth-grade math to pass.
  • “Between 11 percent and 37 percent of California students scored at or above the next grade level in the spring of their current grade level.” For example, 34 percent of eighth-graders would have passed ninth-grade math.
  • “Between 30 percent and 44 percent of Florida students scored at or above the next grade level in the spring of their current grade levels.” For example, 42 percent of seventh-graders would have passed eighth-grade reading.

That Florida figure isn’t news to Lynda Hayes, director of the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville, Fla. The public school serves as a lab school for the University of Florida and accepts students by lottery from 31 Florida cities.

“I think aiming for grade-level achievement for all students is still an important goal for K-12 schools — but not to the detriment of growth and achievement for all students, including those that are achieving at the highest levels,” Hayes says. “We have had extended conversations at our school about enriching and deepening learning rather than simply accelerating students through grade-level courses.”

Ultimately, this meant big changes. In the past few years, P.K. Yonge has opened a new, designed-from-scratch physical space that allows for clustering teachers in large teams to give them extra time for collaboration, training and prep.

Today, the elementary school has three multi-age groups, each with 108-132 students and seven teachers: K-first grade, second-third grade and fourth-fifth grade. Students are grouped by ability and subject in ways that change throughout the year. In rare cases, they may be placed with other students who are two or more years older.

Andrew Ho says this report from Makel and his colleagues isn’t nearly as surprising as it might seem. Ho is a student measurement expert at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has a word for the findings: “obviousness.” He points out that large numbers of students will score both above and below the cutoff of a standardized test.

It’s also important to note that a score on a single test is not synonymous with being ready to achieve at a given grade level — academically, socially or emotionally. And the effective distance between grade levels is smaller in middle and high school than it is in elementary school.

However, for Makel the key question remains: If there are so many overachievers, why isn’t more being done nationally to make sure they are being challenged appropriately, regardless of age?

A large, national survey of districts from 2013 showed that two-thirds of middle schools offered acceleration by subject. Just under half offered acceleration by grade, but it’s unclear how many students took advantage of those programs. Four out of five districts reported that state laws did not define “gifted and talented.”

“There may be schools that do respond to these scores, and many students may be getting subject-specific or whole-grade acceleration. But there’s no national policy, and many states and schools don’t have policies on it either,” says Makel.

Hayes compares traditional school design — both the physical spaces and systems — to an egg crate. She says, as long as teachers are forced to work in isolation with limited time for teamwork, professional development and lesson preparation, “achieving what is possible in response to learner variability will be impossible.”

Further complicating matters, Hayes says, are the many bureaucratic rules and traditions enforced at the school, district and state level, including teacher evaluations based on student test scores, extensive federal reporting requirements, and curricula that “tell teachers what to teach and when and for how long no matter who the students are in front of them.”

Dallas Dance, the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, struggles with these forces on a districtwide scale. This fall, he proposed a policy change to how his schools handle gifted and talented students.

Previously, students had to be nominated for testing by a teacher or parent and were selected in third and fifth grades only. Now, Baltimore County will move to a universal screening process. And, rather than limit enrichment and acceleration to a predetermined group, Dance wants to allow for more flexible grouping, so that a student who needs “advanced academics” in just one subject or for a period of time can get it.

“We want to make sure that, in every area, we can extend, accelerate or enrich on an ongoing basis,” Dance says. He agrees with the Johns Hopkins findings that there are large numbers of undiscovered overachievers who could benefit from these resources. The change in policy, though, has proved controversial, Dance says, and it’s currently under review by the district’s board of education.

Teaching Tips with Marianne:

Education Update

April 2016 | Volume 58 | Number 4
Designing Better Teacher Interview Questions:  Six Strategies for Challenging Gifted Learners

by Amy Azzam

Gifted students—you may or may not spot them in your classroom. They may be highly visible, like the high achievers or straight-A students. But they may also be among those students who don’t finish their work (it’s never perfect enough), who zone out or act out in class (they’re bored), or who test poorly because they overthink things (“Hmmm, this answer might be true in this case, but it might not be true in that case”).

Some schools and districts have substantial resources to identify and support giftedness, wherever it shows up. Some offer pull-out programs. Others offer cluster grouping, in which gifted students are grouped in specific classes at each grade level.

Dina Brulles, director of gifted education in the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, Ariz., believes gifted students need less grade-level work, faster-paced lessons, deeper and more advanced content, and opportunities to work with other gifted students. They also require a different kind of interaction with the teacher, who must be less of a “sage on the stage” and more of a “guide on the side.”

But First, the Big Picture

M. René Islas, executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), notes one persistent challenge to gifted education—a lack of uniformity in programming. A recent NAGC study found that 19 states don’t monitor gifted programs at the local level, only seven require their districts to report on gifted student achievement, and fewer than half report on the race and ethnicity of their gifted students (minorities are significantly underrepresented in gifted programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights).

But there are promising signals as well, explains Islas. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states and districts to track the progress of their highest-achieving students and allows schools to use Title I funds to identify and support gifted students. Plus, the law opens up the possibility for schools to use computer-adaptive assessments to recognize student mastery of content above grade level.

Then there are the challenges and opportunities at the school level. With the following strategies, teachers can tend to the complex needs of their high-ability students in the heterogeneous classroom.

1. Offer the Most Difficult First

“Gifted students don’t need to do 25 problems in math when they can do the five most difficult first to demonstrate mastery,” says Brulles. She offers this opportunity to all students, not just those identified as gifted. Students who successfully complete the five problems are excused from that night’s homework. If classwork is involved, the teacher simply needs to have a few extension activities on hand—tasks that carry the concept to the next level—for students to work on quietly while others complete the regular assignment.

“Most Difficult First” is one manageable way for teachers to compact the curriculum for their high-ability students. With compacting, students get to “throw away” the part of the curriculum that they already know, while receiving full credit for those competencies. This frees up students to work on more challenging content.

2. Pre-Test for Volunteers

Let’s say a teacher is teaching two-digit multiplication. He might do some direct instruction for 10 minutes, then offer students the end-of-chapter test, saying, “If you get 90 percent or higher, you won’t have to do the homework or practice work. You’ll have different work to do.” According to Brulles, some gifted students will take this option, whereas others may decide, “I don’t know this; I need the practice work.” Again, as in Most Difficult First, this strategy requires having extension work for students who test out of the material.

3. Prepare to Take It Up

Susan Flores, a 2nd grade teacher in Paradise Valley, meets a range of student abilities by using the standard as her baseline. “My desk serves as a staging area. I have several piles of activities there that take a concept up or down.”

For example, when the class is working on the distributive property in math, those “piles” might include differentiated worksheets, word problems, and task cards. Depending on how students grasp the concept, Flores can either reteach, offer practice, or enrich.

Flores also uses “choice boards.” In math, she might offer nine ways that students can demonstrate learning of multiplication. “Students can [use] one of their iPad apps or create a game. They jump in where they want to jump in,” she notes.

All students in Flores’s class can choose whether they want to take their learning to the next level. “I don’t say, ‘Because you’re gifted, you get choice, and because you’re not gifted, you don’t.'” Optional challenge work is available to anyone who wants to try it.

4. Speak to Student Interests

Janice Mak, a gifted cluster teacher and 7th and 8th grade STEM teacher in Paradise Valley, gives students a menu of options in her computer science class. After stu-dents learn the basics of programming—perhaps through an online course from Stanford University or work with Google CS First clubs—they work in teams to create a robot. Students choose the level of complexity, from designing dogs that bark to building miniature disco rooms in which a record plays and lights flash.

Students can also tailor a project to their interests. In a module on architecture, some students designed a playground for Egyptian students using Legos, Build with Chrome, or Minecraft. One student opted instead to recreate the White House using Minecraft.

The Ignite presentation format offers another way for Mak to differentiate work on the basis of student interest. The presenter has exactly 5 minutes and 20 slides, which auto-advance every 15 seconds, to discuss a topic of interest (aligned to the unit). This activity allows students to share their passion with their peers, be it nanotechnology and its role in medicine, the physics of roller coasters, or the latest advances in virtual reality.

According to education expert Jenny Grant Rankin, knowing a student’s emotional intensities—what Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski called “overexcitabilities”—is also key to teaching gifted students. Dabrowski identified five areas of sensitivity that are strongly related to giftedness: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional.

Overexcitabilities will often appear as quirks, such as compulsive talking or organizing, heightened sensitivity to smells or tastes, insatiable curiosity, or daydreaming. Knowing a student’s overexcitabilities can help teachers shape engaging—and personalized—learning experiences. An imaginational student will benefit from an assignment that he’s free to complete in a unique way. An intellectual student will prefer to investigate why certain areas of the world struggle with starvation rather than simply listing those areas. Although we tend to see overexcitabilities negatively, they are often accompanied by great creativity, imagination, and drive.

5. Enable Gifted Students to Work Together

According to NAGC, research shows that enabling gifted students to work together in groups boosts their academic achievement and benefits other students in the classroom, as well. When gifted students work together, they challenge themselves in unexpected ways. They bounce ideas off one another and take a peer’s idea to a new place. They also learn that as smart as they are, they, too, must exert effort with challenging content—and that they’ll sometimes fail along the way.

That said, gifted kids need to work both in and out of their group. “As adults, we have to be able to work with everyone,” explains Flores, “and gifted students might not learn this if they’re always separated out.” Teachers can provide multiple opportunities for heterogeneous groupings through Think-Pair-Shares, Clock Buddies, and Season Teams.

6. Plan for Tiered Learning

This approach relies on planning lessons or units at different tiers of difficulty. But does this require teachers to add to their already full plates?

“I don’t see it as doing one more thing; I see it as being more strategic,” explains Mak. Teachers have to plan for their lessons, so why not develop deep and complex activities for high-ability students at the same time? This one way of planning—providing work at the entry, advanced, and extension levels or at varying Depth of Knowledge Levels—offers a multiplicity of ways to learn. It may take more time in the planning stage, but it is ultimately more efficient because bored students aren’t acting out or zoning out in class—they’ve got challenging work to do—and struggling students are getting support. Once teachers create these tiered resources, they can use them again and again.

Author Carol Ann Tomlinson advocates teaching up—”a practice of first planning a lesson that’s challenging for high-end learners and then differentiating for other learners by providing supports that enable them to access that more sophisticated learning opportunity.” It replaces “the more common practice of planning for mid-range performers, then extending that lesson for advanced students and watering it down for others.” This approach, Tomlinson says, challenges advanced learners more than trying to pump up a “middling” idea—and serves other students better as well.

“It’s Just Good Teaching”

All students have the right to learn something new every day, whether they are in regular classrooms or in special education, language acquisition, or gifted programs. And every student will benefit from being pulled up to go beyond the curriculum at times.

But as Tomlinson points out, “Learning should be joyful or at least satisfying, rather than just hard.”

Is this challenging for educators? Sure. But according to Flores, “Any good teacher can do these things well. It’s just good teaching.”

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http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/apr16/vol58/num04/Six-Strategies-for-Challenging-Gifted-Learners.aspx

Additional Resources:
http://www.mensaforkids.org/teach/lesson-plans/ 

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/educators.htm 

Week At A Glance

Monday, October 31st:
Teacher Workday; Parent Conferences
Tuesday, November 1st
Teacher Workday; Parent Conferences
Wednesday, November 2nd:
Kelly Sapp Teacher Leader
Garren to Huntersville Oaks
3:30- K-7 Staff Meeting in Black Box
Thursday, November 3rd:
9:15-11:00 – K-7 Lottery Open House
7:30-8:45 Love and Logic Parent Workshop is cancelled this week
Friday, November 4th:
7th Grade Africa Day
Kindergarten Aw Shucks Farm Field Trip
Elementary Spirit Friday
9:30 – Veteran’s Day Celebration on Field at Flag Pole

Upcoming Dates:
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 10th – 6-8th grade Family Documentary Night (evening)
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 17th – MS/HS Band Concert
Nov 17th – 3rd Grade Colonial Day
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson
Dec 2nd – The Lunch Project Presentation (7th grade)
Dec 5th & 6th – Grade Level Spelling Bees (grades 3-8)
Dec 6th – 4th Grade Performances (dress rehearsals)
Dec 8th – 4th Grade Performances
Dec 14th – K7 Teacher Appreciation Grab and Go Luncheon
Dec 15th – Kindergarten Ginger Bread Houses
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume
Jan 3rd – Parent Advisory at 7:30 at HS
Jan 4th – K7 Staff Meeting
Jan 5th – Final Spelling Bee (grades 3-8)
Jan 10th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Jan 16th – MLK Day Holiday–NO School
Jan 19th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Jan 25th – Fresh Take Day of Observation
Jan 26th – Teacher Workday; Fresh Take Parent Speaker
Jan 27th – Fresh Take Conference; No School for Students

Week of October 24

Dear Staff,

It’s hard to believe (and you wouldn’t know it from the unseasonably warm temperatures outside), but we are nearing the end of our first trimester.  As you assess your students, complete your report cards, and prepare for your first round of Parent/Teacher Conferences, we offer a few reminders.

  • In the Basic School, we view parents as our partners.  You all already do a beautiful job of this, but please make sure that parents feel valued as partners and are viewed as experts on their child.  Meeting with teachers can be very intimidating for some parents, so taking the time to share cute stories and observations you’ve made can go a long way in building trust with your parents.  Take the time to laugh and cut up with your parents.  This will help break the ice and will also help you in the event you have some “less desirable” or concerning news to share.  We want them to know we are a team!
  • Make sure you have evidence of your students’ learning available.  This concrete measure helps parents to see what you are explaining, so be sure you can back up your words with work samples that show what you are trying to communicate.  Also, make sure you are organized!  Having to search for papers across the room in the moment sends the message to parents that you may be scattered or either aren’t prepared.  If you need some help or ideas with this, let us know.  There are several organizational gurus on staff, and they are always happy to offer suggestions. 🙂
  • If you have a concern about a student, do not shy away from sharing it with the parents.  However, always have a plan about what you are going to do to address the problem.  If parents know we love their children and that we are actively trying to help their child become the best version of him/herself, then we can’t possibly go wrong.
  • If you feel a little “stuck” or “unsettled”as you prepare for conferences, never hesitate to ask for help!  As is the case with most things in life, it’s not really what we say but how we say it that matters.  You are surrounded by caring professionals who are filled with great words for every situation!  So please make sure you seek help if needed. *On a side note, if you conduct any conferences that feel off or leave you feeling unsettled after the fact, please give admin a heads up immediately.  We are in this together and want to do all in our power to help.

Below are a few resources we felt might be helpful as you approach report card and conference season.  If you have any questions or need any help at all, do not hesitate to let us know!  Thank you, in advance, for all of your hard work.  We are certain you will wow your parents with your organization, your smarts, and your huge hearts.  These kids are so lucky to have you in their lives.

Love,

Juli, Marianne, and Leslie

Love and Logic®

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Kids are always better off when they see their parents and teachers supporting each other. This perception underlines in the child’s mind that people love them enough to cooperate on their behalf… and that education is very important. Here are some quick tips for giving kids this gift:

As often as possible… and as soon as possible…
notice something positive.

Too many parents and educators wait for something to go wrong before contacting each other. Wiser ones find something positive to share and share it as soon as possible. People are far more likely to be supportive after problems arise when their first interaction with us was a positive one.

When problems do arise,
first describe your plan for helping.

Too frequently parents dump problems on teachers and teachers dump problems on parents. This never gets things off to a great start.

Here’s a completely different approach:

“I know Olivia is having a tough time staying focused. At home we are planning to work really hard on this. May I describe our plan?”

 

“I have a plan for helping Olivia stay more focused in my class.
May I describe it to you?”

It’s truly amazing what people are willing to do on our behalf when we first describe what we are willing to do on theirs.

As soon as you sense anger or defensiveness,
remind yourself to listen.

The points above dramatically increase the odds of success. They don’t guarantee that conflict won’t arise. Consider posting sticky notes around your house, each one of them reading:

“It’s time to listen when I sense anger from myself or others.”

People who develop this habit enjoy far happier relationships with everyone in their lives.

Remember that people are more likely to “experiment”
than to “do.”

The best way to start a fight is to tell someone what to do… or to imply that they must change. Instead, experiment with suggesting a time-limited experiment:

“Some parents decide to experiment with _________________ at
home for a week or two.”
“Would you be willing to experiment with __________________ for
a couple weeks when he’s having this problem in class?”

For more tips on win-win parent-teacher relationships, listen to our audio,Putting Parents at Ease.

Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.

Dr. Charles Fay

Week At A Glance

Monday, October 24th:
ASE Round 2 Begins
Renaud to the Pines
Holshouser to Huntersville Oaks
MS Tacky Day
Tuesday, October 25th:
MS Spartan Wear Day
Wednesday, October 26th:
Danielle Walker Teacher Leader
MS Pajama Day
Thursday, October 27th:
3rd Grade Field Trip to Schiele Museum
MS Crazy Hair Day
Friday, October 28th:
Parade of Fiction
MS Neon Day
MS Pep Rally
Upcoming Dates:
Oct 31st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 1st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 2nd – K-7 Staff Meeting – Accreditation Info
Nov 3rd – Elementary Day of Dead Celebration (Spanish)
Nov 3rd – K-7 Lottery Open House
Nov 3rd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Nov 4th – Elementary Spirit Day
Nov 4th – Kindergarten Aw Shucks Farm Field Trip
Nov 4th – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 13th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Nov 14h – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 17th – MS/HS Band Concert
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume

Teaching Tips with Marianne

Parent–Teacher Conferences: A Tip Sheet for Teachers

Parent–teacher conferences are an important component of ongoing home–school communication and family involvement in your classroom. Did you also know that home–school communication predicts positive outcomes for students and for schools? Although you may already be working hard to engage parents in their children’s education, this tip sheet is designed to build on your own experiences and provide you with additional information to help make your parent–teacher conferences productive and effective.

Approaching Parent–Teacher Conferences

• A two-way conversation. The parent–teacher conference is not only an opportunity for parents to learn from you, but for you to learn from them. Nobody knows your students better than their families. Their insights into their child’s strengths and needs, learning styles, and nonschool learning opportunities can help you improve your instructional methods. Your efforts to better understand their aspirations and perspectives make parents feel respected and build trust with them.

• Emphasis on learning. You can make the most of parent–teacher conferences, and other forms of family involvement, by “linking them to learning.” This means bringing events and communication back to a discussion of strategies to support student learning. You can arm parents with knowledge and suggestions for how to help their children learn.

• Opportunities and challenges. We all need praise and constructive criticism to grow. All parents are proud of their children and need to hear about their strengths as well as their challenges from you. This helps show parents that you value the unique strengths of their children and have high expectations for their ability to succeed in school and in life.

Ideas for before the conferences

  •  Send invitations. Disseminate information about conferences to families through flyers, notes, phone calls, and community meetings. Include information about the timing and goals of the conferences, as well as alternative scheduling options in your invitations.
  •  Review student work. Be prepared to go over student data, assignments, and assessments during the conferences. Think of what more you would like to learn about your students from their parents.
  •  Prepare thoughts and materials. Create an agenda or list of key issues you want to discuss about each student’s progress and growth. Also consider creating a portfolio of student work to walk through with families during the conferences.
  •  Send reminders. The week before the conferences, send home a reminder for when and where the conferences will be held. You may also want to include an outline of your agenda to prepare parents for the conferences.
  •  Create a welcoming environment. Make your classroom comfortable for families by displaying student work, arranging seating in circles (with adult chairs, if possible), and making a private space for the conferences.

Ideas for during the conferences

  •  Discuss progress and growth. Starting with the positive, let families know about their child’s ability level in different subjects and in relationship to his or her peers. Help families understand student data to demonstrate progress against learning goals and to identify areas that need to be addressed.
  •  Use examples. Walk parents through the assignments and assessments that are particularly demonstrative of the student’s progress and abilities.
  •  Ask questions and listen actively. Solicit family input into student strengths and needs, learning styles, and nonschool learning opportunities. Ask parents about their hopes and dreams for their child.
  •  Share ideas for supporting learning. Provide suggestions for activities and strategies families can use at home to help their child learn and grow.
  •  Seek solutions collaboratively. Avoid judgments about what “they” should do and instead emphasize how “we” can work together to resolve any problems.
  •  Make an action plan. Spend the last few minutes discussing how you and the family will support the student. Be specific about the kinds of things you will do, for how long you will do them, and how you will check in with one another about progress.
  •  Establish lines of communication. Describe how you will communicate with families (i.e., through notes home, phone calls, email etc.) and they can contact you. Schedule a way to follow up on your conference in the next few months.Ideas for after the conferences
  •  Follow up with families. If practical, contact parents (either by phone or in a note) who attended the conference and thank them for doing so. Ask if they have further questions or concerns and send home materials that can help them support learning at home. Contact parents who did not attend, as well, and offer alternative ways to communicate about their child.
  •  Communicate regularly. Communicate on an ongoing basis with families, with positive news as well as updates on student progress and challenges. Also let families know about other opportunities for them to be involved.
  •  Connect in-class activities. Create responsive instructional practices based on what you learned about family cultures, home learning environments, and student strengths and needs.For more resources on family involvement, visit www.hfrp.org.

Harvard Family Research Project Harvard Graduate School of Education 3 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138 Website: http://www.hfrp.org Email: hfrp@gse.harvard.edu Tel: 617-495-9108 Fax: 617-495-8594

parent-teacher-conferencetipsheet-100610

Week of October 17, 2016

Dear Staff,

We love this quote from L.R. Knost –

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

At CSD, we are committed to teaching the whole child.  That statement means a lot of different things, but it definitely includes teaching the head AND the heart.  This week we ask each of you to reflect on how you are teaching the “hearts” in your classroom.  Are you seizing opportunities to help your students develop their EQ as frequently as their IQ?  Recently this article about the “buddy bench” was buzzing all over social media.  It embodies what we strive to accomplish in our mission as educators at CSD.  We’ve often heard it said that schools are microcosms of society.  That may be (and probably is) true.  But how cool would it be if we could flip that statement and think of schools as being the microcosm of the next generation?  What if as a result of our schools, society became more altruistic, more empathetic, and more compassionate?  In this sometimes dreary, self-absorbed world, that’s a thought that gives us hope.  And when we witness the magic that occurs daily on our school campuses, we believe that what we’re doing could possibly change the world…  So keep fighting the good fight and focusing on the good.  You all do an incredible job of educating their “hearts” and “minds,” and we’re quite confident this “buddy bench” story could have been written about a number of our students.  YOU lead by example each and everyday, and that is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.  Thank you for your leadership and your attention to #whatmatters at CSD.  Your students are beyond blessed to call you teacher.

Love,
Juli, Marianne, and Leslie

Kids don’t have to be lonely at recess anymore thanks to this little boy and his ‘buddy bench

It’s been three years now since 10-year-old Christian Bucks thought his family was moving to Germany for his dad’s job and his mom showed him brochures about his potential new schools.

He would be the new kid there. The one without anyone to play with in the schoolyard. He was just in first grade then, but he knew what loneliness on the playground looked like. He’d seen it at his own elementary school in York, Pa.

But one German school he and his mom looked at had a solution for this. It was called the buddy bench, and if a child was sitting on it alone, it was a signal to the other kids to ask him or her to play.

Christian’s family never did move to Germany, but the little boy is credited with introducing buddy benches to America.

He brought the idea to his principal, Matthew Miller, and the two immediately set out to install a buddy bench at Roundtown Elementary.

Their project was covered by the local newspaper and went viral. Since then, the two have been featured in national news and gave a joint TedTalk in February 2014. Christian has been invited to schools as far away as Los Angeles and Honolulu to help them unveil their own buddy benches. There are an estimated 2,000 schools with benches across the United States now and in about a dozen other countries, Miller said.

“I didn’t like to see kids lonely at recess when everyone is just playing with their friends,” Christian said in a phone interview.

Christian’s mom, Alyson Bucks, said her son had always been empathetic. “He’s always looking out for the person who might need a little help,” she said.

For a kid with no one to play with, there may be no lonelier place than the school playground. And kids with an established group of friends may not think to seek out those who feel excluded.

Loneliness among young children is very common. One 2004 study in London found 80 percent of the kids between 8 and 10 years who were interviewed described being lonely at some point at school.

And it’s also common for children to go off by themselves when they’re feeling sad, and what they really need is for someone to notice. The benches give children a safe, nonjudgmental place to retreat. Once a child is asked off the bench to come play, the hope is that they’ll have the confidence to go play with their new friends again the next day.

Emails poured in from all over the country when Christian’s buddy bench story was picked up by the “Today Show” and the Huffington Post in late 2013.

One second-grader from Los Angeles wrote to Miller, “I have had a hard time making friends on the playground so I am going to use a buddy bench at our school.” Like Christian, he met with his principal and his school installed one. Christian and his mom flew across the country for its unveiling.

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Only a week or so after Christian’s buddy bench story went viral, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., happened.

As the principal of an elementary school, Miller was devastated. The buddy bench, and the inspiration it spurred, was a timely uplift.

“It was one little boy’s idea, and it really resonated with people,” Miller said. “It gave me hope at a time when I was feeling really down and out after what happened. And here comes Christian with this idea, and I thought, ‘We’re going to be okay.’ ”

In fact, in February 2014, Christian and Miller visited Newtown where Christian was awarded the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Award, named after one of the little girls who was killed.

There are still new buddy benches popping up on school playgrounds around the globe.

Week At A Glance

Monday, October 17th:
Carr to Huntersville Oaks
Tuesday, October 18th:
K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
PLP MS Math/Stem Observations 12:00-3:00
Wednesday, October 19th:
4th Grade Reed Gold Mine
K-7 Staff Meeting – Team Meetings
Thursday, October 20th:
Westbrook/Sharp to Olde Knox Commons
Love and Logic Parent Workshop at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 21st:
 

Upcoming Dates:
Oct 24th – ASE Session 2 Begins
Oct 24th – Report Cards due to Admin
Oct 27th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Oct 27th – 2nd Grade to Children’s Theater
Oct 27th – 3rd Grade Schiele Museum Field Trip
Oct 28th – Elementary Parade of Fiction
Oct 31st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 1st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 2nd – K-7 Staff Meeting – Accreditation Info
Nov 3rd – Elementary Day of Dead Celebration (Spanish)
Nov 3rd – K-7 Lottery Open House
Nov 3rd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Nov 4th – Elementary Spirit Day
Nov 4th – Kindergarten Aw Shucks Farm Field Trip
Nov 4th – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 13th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Nov 14h – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 17th – MS/HS Band Concert
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume

Teaching Tips with Marianne

Empathy in the Classroom: Why Should I Care?

A closeup of a young boy giving the peace sign with his fingers.

I vividly remember sitting in my classroom with my teaching coach, ready to begin my second year of teaching. We were strategizing my vision for the classroom and for my students. Over the past year, the school where I worked had grown increasingly obsessed with test scores, but the more I considered my students and their needs, the less test scores motivated me.

“Lauren, what do your students need?” my coach asked me.

I paused. They need . . . empathy, I thought before saying it out loud. Shortly after, I had constructed my entire classroom around the concept.

That year, empathy became a central component of my classroom instruction. Given that I taught history, empathy naturally lent itself to discussions of varying perspectives about and intentions of history’s key players. The deeper our discussions went, though, the more convinced I became that empathy needed to be a central piece in every school setting.

3 Benefits of Empathy in Education

Empathyed.org quotes Tyler Colasante by defining empathy “as ‘the intrapersonal realization of another’s plight that illuminates the potential consequences of one’s own actions on the lives of others’ (as cited in Hollingsworth, 2003, p.146).” As educators, incorporating empathy into instruction can have positive results for your immediate classroom, as well as for the community outside of the school building. Here’s why:

1. Empathy builds positive classroom culture.

With the diversity of students entering classrooms each day, paralleled by an increase in globalization, it’s more necessary than ever for teachers to actively construct a positive classroom culture. In his article “Developing Empathy in the Classroom,” Bob Sornson asserts: “Empathy is the heart of a great classroom culture.” Through empathy, he explains, students learn to understand each other, which helps them to build friendships based on positive relationships of trust. Taking the time to demonstrate empathy can also develop student-teacher relationships, as described by Ernest Mendes in “What Empathy Can Do.” On a more academic note, school programs that intentionally incorporate empathy into curriculum have also seen better test results, as described by John Converse Townsend in Forbes Magazine.

2. Empathy strengthens community.

Given that the definition of empathy involves understanding another’s feelings without having experience, empathy sets students up to deepen relationships with their current classmates and people that they know outside of school. In our increasingly globalized world, these people may be coming from different cultures and different socioeconomic backgrounds than before, thereby necessitating better developed empathy skills. Michaela W. Colombo writes in her article “Reflections From Teachers of Culturally Diverse Children” (PDF) that “approximately 40 percent of children in the U.S. public schools are from culturally diverse backgrounds (NCES 2003).”

As children learn empathy skills by communicating cross-culturally with their classmates, those skills will transfer to their lives in their community. The deeper relationships that result from strong empathy skills have the potential to strengthen a community and build trust. The effects of community extend far beyond the four walls of your classroom.

3. Empathy prepares your students to be leaders in their community.

Leaders must understand the people that they lead and be able to show that they care. Leadership articles emphasize human development as an essential leadership quality. A study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (PDF) found that “empathy is positively related to job performance” (Gentry, Weber, & Sadri, p.3). Jon Kolko describes in theHarvard Business Review how empathy is the key to a successful product. Our students must be able to empathize with those whom they lead in order to make them feel valued. This validation will strengthen trust between the leader and followers. As teachers, we must equip our students to be the future leaders of our communities and beyond.

Resources for Teaching Empathy

So now what? You’re convinced that empathy is important to integrate in your curriculum, but where do you start?

Fortunately, other educators have wondered the same thing, and many already provide lesson plans and ideas for how to incorporate and increase empathy in the classroom. Here are a few:

Do you teach empathy in your classroom? Please tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/empathy-classroom-why-should-i-care-lauren-owen

Below is a book list with 44 books that teach empathy:

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/books-that-teach-empathy?j=3447975&e=mcoale@csdspartans.org&l=26783_HTML&u=52307043&mid=7000332&jb=0&utm_source=091616+Default&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly#

Week of October 10, 2016

reflect

Dear Staff,

Well, we’ve made it.  The first six weeks of school are officially under our belts.  We all know how critical the first six weeks of the school year can be.  This is the time in which we establish routines and procedures and work diligently to get to know our students and families on a personal level.  This is when we try out new strategies we read about over the summer and stand by eagerly waiting to see whether they will work brilliantly or fail miserably.  In this six weeks, we experience highs and lows.  Some things work; some things don’t.  We laugh at the absurdities of our job, and then we cry only to laugh some more.  Then somehow we manage to fall back in love with our profession and proclaim we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  The first six weeks can be a rollercoaster of emotions as we celebrate some huge wins for our kids and then wade through some frustrating losses.  But somehow through the laughter and the tears and the sheer craziness, we typically begin to settle into the school year and figure out how to chart our course for our new community of learners.  At this point, we’ve learned what works (and what doesn’t) and begin to feel more confident about which tactics and approaches work with our particular group of kids.

So now as we begin to wrap up our first trimester, I hope you’ll carve out some time for personal reflection.  I’ve been doing the same, and it’s been very rewarding for me.  By doing some professional reading and engaging in some thought-provoking questions, I have a much clearer sense of what I’m trying to accomplish in my role at CSD.  My hope is that each of you will join me in this endeavor.  Through reflection we grow, and when we are brave enough to look at ourselves with a candid eye and an open heart, magical things begin to happen.  Below is a list of really great questions that help us assess our commitment to a “learning focused classroom.”  I sincerely hope they evoke some deep inner thoughts and perhaps even some great conversations amongst colleagues.  Please pay particular attention to the last section entitled “Mental Health.”  Lots of food for thought here!  Happy Reflecting.

Love,
Juli

30 Questions For Teacher Reflection

Written by Mark Clements – http://www.edunators.com/index.php/becoming-the-edunator/step-5-reflecting-for-learning/30-questions-for-teacher-reflection 

A lot of college level teacher training programs talk about the importance of developing a “reflective practitioner” but what exactly does this mean for the classroom teacher? If you haven’t yet accepted responsibility for student learning than it doesn’t mean much at all. You’ll have some success as a teacher and some failures which you’ll most certainly blame on any number of factors. If however you believe that all students can learn at a high level and that your performance as a teacher has a direct impact on student learning, than reflection should be an integral part of what you do.

Below you will find a list of 30 Questions Teachers should be regularly asking themselves to ensure they’re classroom is as focused on learning as they would like it to be. Feel free to beg, borrow, steal and share however you see fit.

Modeling Reflection – Questions to Ask With Students
1.Was this activity successful….why or why not?
2.If we do this again, what can I do differently to help you learn more?
3.Did this activity help you learn more than others we’ve done? Why?
Classroom Culture – Questions to Ask About Your Rules & Relationships
4.Are the relationships that I have with my students helping or hindering their ability to learn?
5.Could the problems I have in my classroom be solved by pre-teaching my expectations or developing rules/procedures to deal with these issues?
6.Was my demeanor and attitude towards my class today effective for student learning?
7.Am I excited to go to work today?
8.Are my students excited to come to my class today? (How much does #6 impact #7?)
9.What choices have I given my students lately?
10.Can I explain at least SOMETHING about each of my student’s personal lives?
Curriculum and Instruction – Reflection on Assessment and Grading Practices
11.Does my gradebook accurately reflect student learning?
12.Do my assessments really reflect learning, or merely task completion or memorization skills?
13.Why did I REALLY choose this particular lesson to cover this objective?
14.What evidence do I have my students are learning?
15.What new strategies have I tried lately that might benefit a student I am struggling with?
16.In what ways am I challenging students who are clearly being successful in my classroom?
17.What do I do when students aren’t learning in my classroom?
18.Which students benefited from this activity?
19.Which students did not benefit from this activity?
Collaboration – Questions to Ask Ourselves About Our Place in a Professional Learning Community
20.In what areas can I still improve professionally?
21.What’s stopping me from improving in these areas?
22.In what ways can I support my colleagues in their student’s learning?
23.Do my actions as a teacher show my belief that all students can learn at a high level?
24.Do my actions as a teacher show that I take pride in my work?
25.Are the relationships I have with my colleagues conducive to creating a collaborative culture focused on learning?
26.Are the relationships I have with my student’s parents conducive to improving learning?
Mental Health – Questions to Help Teachers Maintain a Healthy Outlook
27.What new ideas have I tried in my classroom lately to keep myself energized about teaching?
28.What have I done lately to relieve stress and focus on my own mental health, to ensure I remain an effective teacher?
29.What things am I currently doing that I could realistically make less of a priority in my profession?
30.How much time have I spent with my friends and family in the last two weeks?
would-you-want-to-be

The Week At A Glance:

Monday, October 10th:
Sapp to Pines
Teckenbrock to Huntersville Oaks
Tuesday, October 11th:
James to Laurels
CSD Kickball Tournament
Wednesday, October 12th:
TEACHER WORKDAY – Joy is allowing staff to trade this workday for attendance at the Kickball Festival, so enjoy! 🙂
Thursday, October 13th:
Washam to Olde Knox Commons
Webb to Huntersville Oaks
Love and Logic Parent Class 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 14th:
K-7 Garden Workday 9:15-2:30
Picture Makeup Day

Upcoming Dates:
Oct 18th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Oct 19th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Oct 19th – 4th Grade Reed Gold Mine Field Trip
Oct 20th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Oct 24th – ASE Session 2 Begins
Oct 24th – Report Cards due to Admin
Oct 27th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Oct 27th – 2nd Grade to Children’s Theater
Oct 27th – 3rd Grade Schiele Museum Field Trip
Oct 28th – Elementary Parade of Fiction
Oct 31st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 1st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 2nd – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 3rd – Elementary Day of Dead Celebration (Spanish)
Nov 3rd – K-7 Lottery Open House
Nov 3rd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Nov 4th – Elementary Spirit Day
Nov 4th – Kindergarten Aw Shucks Farm Field Trip
Nov 4th – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 13th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Nov 14h – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 17th – MS/HS Band Concert
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume

Nuts/Bolts/Reminders:

From Sarah Hoff:  I have updated and published your class lists in Jupiter for the 2016-2017 school year. While grades are not due until October, I need you to go ahead and log in to verify that all information is correct. When you have a minute, please check to make sure that the students in Jupiter accurately reflect your class list. Please let me know if you need a student added or removed so that everything is ready to go when you begin to enter grades next month. Elementary teachers, please also check to make sure that parent email addresses are up to date for each student in your class. Otherwise parents will not receive access to report cards when they are emailed out. (When you log in, click the “setup” tab in the top right hand corner and choose “students.” Then click through each of your students and verify the parent email addresses.) Elementary teachers, you have the ability to change or add parent emails as you check each student’s information. You can make email address changes yourself and just let me know if you need students added or removed from your class. Middle school teachers, I have done this for you since not all advisors are on Jupiter to verify parent emails. Thank you for taking a few minutes to attend to this. Please send me a quick email to let me know when you have verified your class lists and parent email addresses (if applicable).

Report Cards will be due to admin for proofreading on October 24th.  Please let us know if you need any help with conducting assessments or preparing for Parent Conferences.

Just for Fun…

flip-that-water-bottle-one-more-time-4209534

But on more serious note…being the mom of a 7th grade boy, I actually found this oddly interesting…  Goes great with our “perspective-taking” focus for this year.  Enjoy!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/09/29/bottle-flipping-becames-rage-with-middle-schoolers/1INRaYEj9dQILseR5cgVUK/story.html

Week of October 3, 2016

 

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The other day I was in line at the grocery store and the young man ahead of me turned and said, “Best book. Ever.”
“Which book?” I said.
“That one.” He pointed at my shirt, which featured Harry, the Dirty Dog.
“Oh,” I said. “Harry.”
“Yeah, Harry. My mom? She read that book to me like 10,000 times.”
“It’s a great book,” I said.
“Yeah,” said the guy. “It always made me laugh. When he buries his bath brush, and then when he gets so dirty that they don’t recognize him and then they do. It made me happy. I should read it again.” He paused. “I should read it to somebody.”
“That would be great,” I said. I smiled at him.
And underneath, my Harry t-shirt, my heart was beating wildly saying, “Yes, yes, yes, do, do, do, read it aloud, read it aloud, read it aloud. We all need a story now.”

-Kate DiCamillo

Dear Staff,

Can you tell I am a little obsessed with Kate DiCamillo these days? 🙂  She is one of my favorite authors and this particular post of hers made me smile.  It’s what I hope for all young readers; fond memories of a particular book being read with someone they love, a true love of books and the written word and sharing that love and passion of good books with others.  It’s one of the many reasons why doing book buddies is so important at our school.  It’s also why we (the admin team) try to make it a priority to get in classrooms and read to and with students.  This past week I visited some classrooms to read and it truly was the highlight of my week!  If you see me pop in your classroom with a book know that I am there to read to your class, but if it is not a good time I am always happy to come back or set up a time with you that works better.  Please don’t feel like you have to stop what you are doing.  It is our goal to share great old and new literature with our students so that hopefully a certain story or book will help spark their love of reading.

As I visited classrooms this week I was a bit like the young boy that DiCamillo writes about, reminded of some old favorites, so I thought I would share them with you.  Because, if you are like me I sometimes get caught  up in the day to day hustle and bustle and forget about the little things that make our school special.

  • games, games and more games…I saw one teacher in the upper grades have a chess board set up and students were playing this higher level thinking game during their free choice time.
  • puzzles….one teacher had a huge puzzle set up in her room that stays out all the time so that the whole class can work on it together.  She has it in a place in the room where students can come over and add pieces whenever they have a free moment.  I have also seen those special mats where your can work on a puzzle and then roll it up if you are not finished and then get it back out again when you want to work on it some more.
  • finger knitting…I saw lots of this going on in the lower grades this week, but remember this is something that all kids can enjoy.  For some kids who need a fidget to concentrate this could be the perfect fit!  If you don’t know how to finger knit ask someone who does, or ask me.  I would be happy to come sit in your room and teach kids how to do this.  It is a great way to work on fine motor skills as well.
  • crab walking and wheel barrow walking in the hall….I saw teachers pulling kids in the hall to do this to help get students bodies ready for the next activity.  Remember this is good for not only students who need to get some wiggles out, but good for EVERYONE! 🙂  However, please do remember that our hallways are also places where lots of learning takes place.  I have noticed that sometimes our hallways can get a bit loud and can become a flurry of activity.  If you notice groups of students in the hall working this might not be the best time to have your entire class crab walk to the bathroom.  Let’s make sure that we are being cognizant of others in the hall and that we are not disrupting learning time.  If you are working in the hall and a group of students is being too noisy make sure you address it with those students and let their teacher know.  We want students to have the ability to do some movement and get their bodies ready for learning, however it may be that we need to find a different place or time for this if the hallways seem filled with small groups of learners.  Also please remember that learning is going on in our special area classes so when students are using the restroom or in the hallway they want to use voice levels that do not distract from the learning going on in these classes as well.  We are a community of learners and all students grades K-7 are our responsibility to teach, not just our own particular classes.
  • liquid watercolors….I walked in one classroom this week and some students were writing while others were using liquid watercolors to paint about their final published piece.  Do you have enough watercolors in your classroom?  If not let us know.  Remember, students young and old like and need to paint.  Put these out at different times and allow your students to respond to a reading/writing with paints or to simply just paint for fun!
  • art center….I had a discussion with some teachers this week about opening up an art center in their classrooms that is there for students to create.  They may create about the learning topic, or they may simply choose to just create.  Switching out art supplies in this center helps keep it fresh and helps students get excited about what they create.  Ideas for things in your art center might include: fabric, buttons, beads, yarn, google eyes, jewels, feathers, etc.  If you need more ideas or need things to go in your art center please let us know.  We are happy to make sure you have these things in your classroom.
  • play doh….it’s not just for K/1! 🙂  Older students often get more excited about play doh than younger students.  Put some out on a table and sit back and watch.  Squishing and molding play doh is often times just what the sensory doctor ordered! 🙂  Again, if you need some let us know.  It’s also fun to make with your students.  Adding scents to it or making it sparkly also adds an element of fun.  Ms. Taisia is an excellent resource for this, as I remember one year learning about chocolate play doh from her.  Mix chocolate powdered cocoa into your play doh when you make it and it turns the color of chocolate as well as smells pretty devine! 🙂
  • science…are you making sure you include science learning into what you are teaching on a regular basis?  Experiments can often be the hook that turn children onto learning.  In our upper grades we do have science enrichment with Ms. Kim, but remember her lessons are an enrichment to what you are teaching about science in your classrooms.  Setting up a station in your classrooms where students can learn and explore the topic you are learning about in science is a great way to spark students natural curiosity, as well as with your lessons on these topics.  Again, if you need help with this don’t hesitate to ask!
  • cooking…it was so fun walking into a classroom and watching students work at a center with their teacher as they made “puppy chow” to go along with their author study.  It tasted pretty yummy too, as the students happily shared some with me as well as their recipe.  A cooking center in your weekly center rotations (when it applicable) is always a favorite, and is a great way to teach math and writing skills through measurement and writing directions or recipes.
  • art prints…we have lots…frequently switch them out in your classroom.  Great pieces of art are stimulating to the brain!  Have conversations with your students about what the artist may have been thinking about when he/she painted this great work of art.   These should be out all the time, not just during an artist unit.
  • The I Am Creed, Standing O, and the Shooting Star song….are you saying, doing and singing these things daily in grades K-5?  If not you should be!  Remember these are important pieces of CSD!  I know in kindergarten teachers will often slowly ease into learning these, as they want students to have a solid understanding of what they are saying and its importance.  Don’t forget to have these important conversations in the upper grades as well.

Like Kate DiCamillo’s, Harry the Dirty Dog shirt, I am hopeful that these ideas/reminders will spark something for you this week that you may have forgotten about or would like to try in your classroom.  Know that when we see these things going on in your classrooms it makes our hearts beat wildly, saying yes, yes, yes, do, do, do!  Please don’t feel overwhelmed by this list.  Just know these are great things we have seen going on and we wanted to share them with you.  Pick one of them to try this week and start from there.  Remember no one is perfect, especially me, but when we learn and share with one another that is how we continue to grow.  Have a terrific week!

Leslie

PS~ Welcome back 5th graders from Barrier Island!  Huge thanks to the 5th grade team, Marianne, Juli, Ms. Kim and everyone who helped make this important learning opportunity and tradition happen for our sweet students!

Week At A Glance:

The week ahead:

Oct 3rd – NO SCHOOL – Holiday
Oct 4th – Parent Advisory 9:00 a.m. at HS; Robinson to Oaks
Oct 4th – Bullying Book Study  7:00 p.m. at K-7 Media Center
Oct 5th – K-7 Staff Meeting; Posey to Oaks
Oct 6th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop 7:30 at K-7; Godwin to Olde Knox Commons
Oct 7th – Elementary Spirit Friday/Kindergarten Teddy Bear Parade
Oct 7th – CSD Homecoming

Upcoming Dates:

Oct 10th – Teckenbrock to Oaks
Oct 11th – CSD Kickball Tournament and Family Festival
Oct 12th – No School; Teacher Workday
Oct 13th i- Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7; Washam to Olde Knox Commons, Webb to Oaks
Oct 14th – K-11 Tentative Picture Make-Up Day

Oct 17th – Carr to Oaks
Oct 18th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30; Coppola to Laurels
Oct 19th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Oct 20th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7; Westbrook/Sharp to Olde Knox Commons

Oct 24th – Holshouser to Oaks
Oct 27th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Oct 28th – Parade of Fiction
Oct 31st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 1st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 2nd – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 3rd – Elementary Day of Dead Celebration (Spanish)
Nov 3rd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Nov 4th – Elementary Spirit Day
Nov 4th – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room; Schultz to Laurels

Nov 10th – Fisher to Olde Knox Commons
Nov 13th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Nov 14h – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room; Hoover to Laurels
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting

Nov 17th – Godwin to Olde Knox Commons
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room

Nov 30th – Band Concert – 7:00 pm at PLP’s new auditorium
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson; Washam to Olde Knox Commons

Dec 6th – Hoover to Laurels

Dec 8th – Westbrook/Sharp to Olde Knox Commons

Dec 13th – Coppola to Laurels
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume

Nuts/Bolts/Reminders:

Thanks to Jen and Shane for beginning the CSD Power of We Podcast Series!  Please be looking for opportunities to participate!  Enjoy their first segment investigating “Why We Teach!”  See Shane’s message below and please take time to subscribe and listen!  Share it with your friends, too!

Jen and I had a blast recording our first episode of the CSD Power of We Podcast! Many of you will hear familiar voices, and we hope it’s an opportunity for us to reflect, share, and grow as a school community. If you get the chance, subscribe and rate us on iTunes so we can share CSD’s story with a wider audience! Happy listening!

Check out the first episode: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/csdpower-of-we/id1158621626?mt=2&i=375747608

 

From Sarah Hoff:  I have updated and published your class lists in Jupiter for the 2016-2017 school year. While grades are not due until October, I need you to go ahead and log in to verify that all information is correct. When you have a minute, please check to make sure that the students in Jupiter accurately reflect your class list. Please let me know if you need a student added or removed so that everything is ready to go when you begin to enter grades next month. Elementary teachers, please also check to make sure that parent email addresses are up to date for each student in your class. Otherwise parents will not receive access to report cards when they are emailed out. (When you log in, click the “setup” tab in the top right hand corner and choose “students.” Then click through each of your students and verify the parent email addresses.) Elementary teachers, you have the ability to change or add parent emails as you check each student’s information. You can make email address changes yourself and just let me know if you need students added or removed from your class. Middle school teachers, I have done this for you since not all advisors are on Jupiter to verify parent emails. Thank you for taking a few minutes to attend to this. Please send me a quick email to let me know when you have verified your class lists and parent email addresses (if applicable).

 

Teaching Tips with Marianne:

How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class

When students let their minds drift off, they’re losing valuable learning time. Here are ten smart ways to increase classroom participation.
Tristan de Frondeville
Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates

Have you ever plunked yourself down in a staff meeting where some of your colleagues were, for lack of a better phrase, not paying attention? Grading homework? Having private conversations? Texting?

As we know all too well, kids aren’t a whole lot different than adults: If they aren’t absorbed by what’s going on, they’ll find something else that interests them.

Getting all your students focused, eager, and on task at the beginning of class is challenging enough. Equally problematic, once you have them locked in to the lesson, is watching them zone out. There’s nothing unusual about that. After all, anyone who has to sit through a long routine — including a teacher’s presentation — is bound to drift off at some point.

Still, unless you manage to capture and keep students’ focus, whether at the beginning of or midway through class, the engine of student learning that you are trying to drive simply isn’t even in gear.

From Dead Time to Active Learning

I call this lack of engagement dead time. Dead time interferes with students’ learning, and it is contagious. It lures those who are on task into wondering, “Why should I pay attention if others aren’t?”

I have come to feel that dead time is so pernicious that I will do everything I can to prevent even the hint of an outbreak. If you strive for maximum learning for all your students, then allowing kids to be stuck in dead time feels like a small betrayal — to yourself and to them.

Active learning and active listening — in which students are thoroughly and thoughtfully engaged with each other or the teacher — represents the opposite of dead time. In their book Inspiring Active Learning, Merrill Harmon and Melanie Toth present a ladder thatdescribes four levels of student motivation.

They call students at Level 4, the lowest level, the work avoiders, and on level 3 are the halfhearted workers. Near the top are responsible students, and, finally, come the fully active learners.

As a teacher and a project-learning consultant, I’ve always paid close attention to these levels of student engagement. I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to keep students focused when the lesson comes from the teacher. But it can be equally difficult when they are engaged as project-learning teams, especially when the independence demanded by project learning is new to them.

Sometimes it’s an individual on the team who can’t seem to get involved; other times it’s the entire group. Over the years, I’ve come up with a range of strategies to eliminate dead time and move students up the active-learning ladder.

Building Your Arsenal

Eliminating dead time starts with creating an arsenal of routines and activities. They can be general-purpose activities that apply to various subject areas or styles of teaching, or specific content-oriented activities that allow your students to learn by tapping into multiple intelligences beyond the usual listening and recalling.

Some are physical activities that help kids unleash pent-up energy, while others create private thinking time that encourages reflection. Or they can be well-managed student-to-student communication to guarantee that they are all thinking about the work.

Developing these activities initially takes time, but the payoff — in terms of classroom management and overall learning — is more than worth the effort. By building a storehouse of activities to draw on, I’m rarely at a loss to implement one of them to get kids back on track.

Not surprisingly, too, students get to know these strategies and look forward to them. I find they work at the beginning of class to calm kids down or any time they need an energizing way to refocus.

 

10 Rules of Engagement

1. Start Class with a Mind Warm-Up

A classic warm-up is to ask students to find the mistakes planted in material written on the board. (You can use this idea in any subject area.) But instead of asking them to work silently and alone, and then debrief in a classic question-and-answer session with one student at a time (while many sit inattentively), use a mix of collaboration and competition to eliminate what could potentially become dead time.

Here’s how: Organize teams of three students and ask them to work together (quietly) and raise their hands when they think they have found all the mistakes. After the first team signals it’s done, give a bit more time and then have teams indicate with their fingers — together on the count of three — the number of mistakes they found in the work. The team that found the most describes its answers until another team disagrees politely or until they are finished.

2. Use Movement to Get Kids Focused

Ask all students to stand behind their desks and join in simple choreographed physical movement. Because most kids find it invigorating and it’s easy to monitor full participation, it may become one of your favorite ways to get kids focused and kill dead time.

Here’s how, for the primary grades: Teach hand-clapping patterns to accompany a chanted verse or a set of math facts. Add foot stomping or hand clapping with a partner to create variety.

Here’s how, for the middle grades: Create a rhythm with finger snapping and hand clapping, which you model and they echo back. Vary the rhythm and pattern in intervals of 15-20 seconds to challenge them to pay attention and join in.

Here’s how, for any grade, including high school: Offer a seventh-inning stretch, or the cross crawl. To do the cross crawl, stand up and begin marching in place, raising the knees really high. As you raise the left knee, reach across your body with your right hand and touch the left knee.

Then do the same for the left hand on the right knee. Continue this pattern for a minute or more. (You can also vary it by, say, having kids clap their hands over their heads between each set of knee touches.)

3. Teach Students How to Collaborate Before Expecting Success

Doing project learning and other team-based work without prior training can lead to lots of dead time. You can nip much of it in the bud by teaching collaboration skills before projects get started. You don’t need to use an activity related to your subject area to teach teamwork.

Here’s how: One way is to give teams of students a pair of scissors, two sheets of paper, ten paper clips, and a 10-inch piece of tape, and ask them to build the tallest free-standing tower in 20 minutes.

Prior to the activity, create a teamwork rubric with students, which reviews descriptions of desired norms and behaviors. While half of the teams are building the towers, have the other half of the students stand around them in a circular “fishbowl” as silent observers.

Debrief afterward, and train the observers to give a positive comment before a critical one: “I liked that they [blank], and I wonder if they could have also [blank].” Switch the observers with the tower builders and see if they can do better, then debrief again.

4. Use Quickwrites When You Want Quiet Time and Student Reflection

When interest is waning in your presentations, or you want to settle students down after a noisy teamwork activity, ask them to do a quickwrite, or short journal-writing assignment.

Here’s how, for primary-grade students: Ask, “What was most interesting about [blank]?” “What was confusing about [blank]?” “What was the clearest thing you understood?” “What was boring about [blank]?” “What did [blank] make you think of in your life?”

Here’s how, for intermediate-grade students and above: Try prompts such as the following, or develop your own: “Summarize what you have heard.” “Predict an exam or quiz question I could ask based on this material.” “Defend one of the positions taken during the prior discussion.”

Teachers often avoid giving this type of assignment because assessing them regularly can be overwhelming. Manage this load by having students use a green (or other color) pen to circle one entry from the week you guarantee you will read.

Occasionally, have them write a few sentences next to their entry explaining why they want you to read that particular one. Let them know that you will read the passages marked in green and that, time permitting, you might read the rest if you have time.

5. Run a Tight Ship When Giving Instructions

Preventing dead time is especially important when giving instructions. There are a lot of great ways to ask for your students’ attention, but many succeed or fail based on how demanding you are of the final outcome.

Whichever method you use, before you begin speaking, it is critical to require (1) total silence, (2) complete attention, and (3) all five eyeballs on you (two eyes on their face, two eyes on their knees, and the eyeball on their heart). I’ve done this approach with every class I’ve ever taught, and it makes a big difference. Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) middle schools include detailed SSLANT expectations: Smile, Sit up, Listen, Ask, Nod when you understand, and Track the speaker.

Here’s how: When you introduce this routine to students, do it five times in a row: Announce that in a moment, you will briefly let them talk among themselves, and then you’ll give them a signal (you can count out loud from one to three, ring a bell, and so on) and wait until they are perfectly ready for you to speak.

In the first two weeks after starting this routine, remind students often what’s expected. To hold everyone accountable for listening the entire time, make it clear that you will never repeat your instructions after you have finished going over them.

6. Use a Fairness Cup to Keep Students Thinking

The more you can manage your classroom to be a supportive environment, where students are encouraged to take risks without fear of being put down or teased, the easier it will be to use your fairness cup regularly, without feeling that you are setting students up for failure.

Here’s how: Write each student’s name on a Popsicle stick and put the sticks in a cup. To keep students on their toes, pull a random stick to choose someone to speak or answer a question. Important: When you begin using your fairness cup, prepare a range of questions, some of which all your students can successfully answer. This strategy allows the bottom third of your class to get involved and answer questions without being put on the spot.

7. Use Signaling to Allow Everyone to Answer Your Question

To help ensure that all students are actively thinking, regularly ask questions to which everyone must prepare at least one answer — letting them know you expect an answer. Then wait for all students to signal they are ready.

Here’s how: For example, in math, you could ask, “How many ways can you can figure out 54-17 in your head? (Subtract 10 and then 7, subtract 20 and then add 3, and so on.) Or, to review a presentation, ask, “How many key points of this presentation are you prepared to describe?”

By asking questions that allow for multiple answers or explanations, you are differentiating instruction; everyone is expected to come up with at least one answer, but some may come up with more.

To convey the number of answers, students can use sign language, such as holding a hand to the chest (so their hands aren’t visible to their neighbors) and displaying one or more fingers to represent how many answers they have. This technique precludes students from bragging about how many ideas they thought of or how quickly they are ready. You can then call on volunteers who want to share their answers with the rest of the class.

8. Use Minimal-Supervision Tasks to Squeeze Dead Time out of Regular Routines

Tasks that require minimal supervision add purposeful activity during moments that might normally revert to dead time. They come in handy when passing out papers, working with a small group of students, handling an unforeseen interruption, addressing students who didn’t do their homework, or providing work to those who have finished an assignment before others.

Here’s how: While you pass out papers, ask students to do a quickwrite (see #4) or to pair up and quiz each other on vocabulary words. Also, train students to fess up if they didn’t do their homework. That way, during class homework review, these students won’t automatically be in dead time. Instead, they’ll immediately move to these prearranged minimal supervision tasks.

For example, you can ask them to study a review sheet, summarize a reading passage, read the day’s assignment ahead of time, or create and study vocabulary words or other content. You might find students suddenly doing their homework more often rather than face this extra work.

9. Mix up Your Teaching Styles

To keep students involved and on their toes, try to move from teacher-centered learning to student-centered active learning, and vice versa.

Here’s how: Introduce a presentation by having students pair up, talk to each other about their prior knowledge of the presentation, and generate a list of four questions for which they’ll want to know the answers. Make quick rounds to remind all students to stay on task.

To encourage active listening, provide students with a list of important questions in advance. Interrupt the presentation with a quickwrite (see #4), and then have students “pair-share” by asking them to compare their entries with a neighbor. Pull sticks from your fairness cup (see #6) to choose pairs of students to present their thoughts to the class.

10. Create Teamwork Tactics That Emphasize Accountability

By insisting that students “ask three before me,” you make it clear that they are expected to seek assistance from all members of their team before they turn to you.

Here’s how: To reinforce this rule, when a student on a team wants to ask you a question, you, the teacher, always ask another person on the team whether she knows what the question is. If she doesn’t, politely walk away, and the team will quickly understand what you expect.

Another way to emphasize accountability might be to say, “When you think your team is done with the task, find me within 30 seconds and tell me.” This strategy shifts the accountability to the team for being on task.

Read another article from Tristan de Frondeville, “Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement,” with ten strategies to increase student engagement.

TRISTAN DE FRONDEVILLE, A FORMER TEACHER, HEADS PBL ASSOCIATES, A CONSULTING COMPANY DEDICATED TO PROJECT LEARNING AND SCHOOL REDESIGN.

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