Equity and Access Newsletter
Elementary Edition May 2019
End of the Year Count Down
Well, it is almost time to celebrate the end of another school year. The days are getting warmer; the kids are getting excited about summer vacation and teachers are overcome with the impending sense of nostalgia, panic, and relief that the end of the year brings. The countdown has begun! I am sure with all that is going on in your classrooms right now a checklist for a good home stretch would be appreciated. Education Week Teacher has a few suggestions that might help:
One Month Out:
The Standardized tests are almost over, which brings an end to the many challenges they bring, now is a great time to plan some multi-week projects that have nothing to do with filling in little bubbles with a #2 pencil.
- This is your chance to teach like no one is watching and set some goals for that last little leap the kids want to make in their reading, math, or writing abilities.
- Have the students work in groups to propose a new seating arrangement, then either pick the one you like best or let them vote.
- Inject everything that school should contain all year—time outdoors, creativity, color, noise, and fun— into these last four weeks.
One Week Out:
The last week of school can appear to be overwhelming, with the end of the year activities like charts to take down, and library books to return. But if you get too enthusiastic with the de-cluttering, the room can start to feel sterile.
- Have kids do colorful drawings or paintings of their favorite memories from the year, or what they’re looking forward to doing this summer to take home the last day of school and put them on the wall.
- Another great end-of-the-year take-home gift is a class literary magazine. Starting a few weeks before the end of the school year, I have the students choose an original story, nonfiction piece, or poem to revise and illustrate.
- Write the kids an end-of-the-year letter. Tell each child a few things you have noticed they have improved upon this year. Tell them what a pleasure it has been to be their teacher and wish them a wonderful summer.
Last Day of School: Celebrate
The last day of school seems to go better when there’s at least a loose structure to it.
- Class mural: Using a giant sheet of butcher paper from one wall to the other, pass out markers and have the kids draw their favorite memories from the year
- Memory wheel: Allow half the kids to form an inner circle on the rug, with the other half making an outer circle, so they’re each facing a student on the inside. Give a prompt like, “What have you learned this year?”, “What was your favorite class activity, funny story or read aloud and why?” Each child talks to the student in front of them, then the outer wheel rotates, so everyone has a new partner.
Minkel, Justin. “How to End the School Year Right.” Teacher Teacher, 19 Feb. 2019, www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2016/05/03/how-to-end-the-school-year-right.html.
Did You Know?
By Tracy Greiner Equity Champion at Wanda Gray Elementary
As we recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month, it gives us the opportunity to reflect and educate ourselves on the responsibilities we have to our students facing mental health challenges. Our students may not have a wheelchair or hearing aid to remind us of the accommodations and the modification they need to succeed at school. This can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgments.
It is essential that we understand our student's diagnosis to accommodate their needs and learning style. A child struggling with depression, anxiety, or mood disorder may be plagued by racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate and decreased energy. Therefore, they may require modifications in the teaching environment or instructional strategies.
Being open to making these adjustments could be the key to this student knowing that you care, understand and want them to succeed.
What's In Your Tool Box?
Culture Café Brings the World to Truman Elementary
By Angela Bounds Equity Champion at Truman Elementary
Through Culture Café, students at Truman experience the wonderfully diverse world in which we live, a world much larger than what we typically encounter day to day. Sadly, many of us do not have the opportunity to travel the world and experience the vast and diverse cultures the world offers. In response, we asked why “the world” couldn’t come and share with us, and Culture Café was born. Culture Café brings local individuals with varying cultural backgrounds to our school to share a glimpse of their culture and experience.
As outlined in the SPS Anti-Bias Framework, Culture Cafe helps to highlight the value of diversity: the idea that we can all connect with people who are like us, as well as different from us. Truman students are taught to understand, respect and appreciate cultural differences.
The Cafe was launched via local community interaction using both letters sent home and social media platforms such as Facebook. Truman families were invited to share their family’s heritage and cultural background with our student body with two primary goals in mind:
- Help students understand and appreciate other cultures
- Help facilitate a sense of connection with the culture highlighted
Two families responded to the invitation and, to maximize their time and provide the least disruption to classroom education, we agreed speakers should share during student lunch periods. Culture Café speakers highlighted traditional food, games, and dress from their culture. Students learned how to say small phrases in their native language, including “hello,” thereby helping to “bridge the gap” between different cultures. Items from each culture were displayed on a cart that was rolled around the cafeteria for each student to get a closer look at each item, ask questions and interact with the speaker.
It is my hope as their counselor that they experienced a profound sense of belonging and realized they are not alone in this small corner of their world. The Culture Café offered a brief window into these other cultures and offered a unique view of others’ experiences. Students were taught what they experience in the world may not be as different as they once thought. After all, people are people; we all have feelings, struggles, and desires for food, fun, and connection. The Culture Café was able to bridge these perceived differences, as well as promote a safe, secure environment that supports the well-being of all students.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and it’s a great reason to share some of the best picture books of the year with your students!
Grace Lin is a familiar name in children’s literature for young and old alike. The child of Taiwanese immigrants, Lin has been publishing since 1999. A Big Mooncake for Little Star imagines the Moon as a mother baking a huge moon cookie, and her child, Little Star, starting to snack on it a little every night! An excellent book for exploring the phases of the moon with students.
Minh Lê, the author of Drawn Together, is Vietnamese-Canadian, not American. But don’t let that stop you from sharing this amazing work with your class. We meet a young boy and his grandfather who don’t speak the same language, but they find a common tongue when they create art together. Dan Santat’s captivating illustrations blend the two artistic styles while clearly showing where the boy’s end and the grandfather"s begin. Use this to discuss language barriers, family relationships, and of course, art!