The Roundup

A gathering space for educators

February 2019

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In the Instructional Services department at Van Buren Intermediate School District, supporting teachers and administrators with instruction is the heart of our work. It is our hope that this monthly newsletter will help capture upcoming events and important information to support your work in your districts, schools, and classrooms.

Snow, bitter temperatures and ice have blasted us into February! This can be a tough time with missed school days and the impending need to cover curriculum. It’s during this time that being mindful can help keep us grounded when outside forces might suggest we do otherwise.

Try these three strategies for mindfulness:

1) Brief body scan

Start off by taking a single, deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. You are welcome to gently close your eyes, or keep them open. Notice your body where it is: the positioning of your body, and also how your body is feeling. If you’re feeling any tension anywhere, see if you can allow that to soften, or adjust your body as needed.

2) Tune in to your environment

Begin to allow your awareness to wander a little bit. Notice the sounds inside your environment or outside your environment. Be aware of how sounds have a nature of disappearing and reappearing, and also how your mind comes up with different comments or images on these sounds, or on your experience. Allow for all of this.

3) Notice thoughts and emotions

Now begin to gently open your eyes, noticing how there’s also visuals in your environment. Notice how you feel. Take stock of how you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Are you looking for a 5-Minute Gratitude Practice?

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MTSS Connections

Since September, 21 schools in Cohort A of MTSS have been following an intentional path for many schools. This work has amounted in professional learning, staff meeting and work time, as well as in-district coaching. Most of our schools are completing the work of essential standards and are beginning to tackle the work of their common formative assessments.

What is the purpose of common formative assessments?

  • Identify specifically which students did not demonstrate mastery of essential standard(s).Because we give common assessments to measure student mastery of essential standard(s), common assessments should identify students who need additional help and support. Additionally, if an assessment measures more than one essential standard, then the test results must provide more than an overall score for each student and also delineate specifically which standards each student did not pass.
  • Identify specifically which students did demonstrate mastery of essential standard(s). Because we give common assessments to measure student mastery of essential standard(s), common assessments should identify students who met or exceeded our mastery target. Those students will be provided with extension and enrichment learning experiences.
  • Identify effective instructional practices. Because our teachers have autonomy in how they teach essential standards, it is vital that common assessment data help validate which practices were effective. This can be done best when common assessment results are displayed in such a way that allows each teacher to compare their students’ results to other teachers who teach the same course.
  • Identify patterns in student mistakes. Besides using common assessment results to identify best instructional practices, this data should also be used to determine ineffective instructional practices. When analyzing the types of mistakes that failing students make, patterns emerge that can point to weaknesses or gaps in the initial instruction.
  • Measure the accuracy of the assessment. Through a careful item analysis of the assessment, a team can determine the validity of each test question. Over time, this will build a team’s capacity to create better assessments.
  • Plan and target interventions. The ultimate goal of any PLC is to ensure high levels of learning for all students. If a team uses common assessments to identify students in need of additional help, determine effective and ineffective instructional practices, and measure the validity of the assessment, then they should have the information needed to plan and implement targeted interventions to assist the students who need help.

Simplifying Response to Intervention: The Four Guiding Principles (Mattos, Buffum, Weber) 2012

MTSS Facilitator for VBISD

Cheryl-Marie A. Manson - 269-330-2668


Classroom Libraries

"Build a library for the readers you expect; customize it for the readers you meet."

Essential Practice #8 is driving teachers to take a closer look at their classroom libraries. Some schools are completing surveys in order to better understand the individual classrooms needs and where to spend money on books. Others are facilitating professional development around the ABCs of classroom libraries. Increasing understanding and awareness around the areas of access, balance, and cultural relevance is currently the primary goal. So what are the ABCs of classroom libraries?

A= Access to a wide range of books and other texts

B= Balance of text types, levels, and purposes

C= Cultural Relevance of texts to match students' backgrounds and cultural experiences and to ensure diverse representation of characters

This easy to use tool allows teachers to determine next steps in enhancing their classroom library. Upon reviewing the checklist items, teachers will have short term action steps to take in order to reach the long-term goal of building a comprehensive collection.

Source: Harvey & Ward. (2017). From Striving to Thriving.

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Emergent Bilinguals

Research shows "...literacy skills and strategies learned in one language transfer to a second language without the need to be relearned. A balanced approach to literacy incorporates synthetic, analytic, and sociopsychological strategies."

Imagine Español is an online platform that is being offered by MDE for the current school year for free. The program provides authentic experience in language and literature-rich activities.

Over the last couple months, many local districts have began implementation with high hopes and a positive outlook. Here's a quick story about the impact this program is having right now on our youngest learners.

As a kindergartener heads to the computer and puts on his headphones, he begins the first lesson. His eyes open wide and his mouth drops. He slightly removes his headphones, looks over at the teacher and with a smile from ear to ear and with exhilaration says, "It's in Spanish!!!"

One of the greatest resources for educators are families of students. As the VBISD Early Literacy Network discusses Essential Practice #10 to increase family engagement, we are collaborating with ESL teachers across the county to improve our efforts in obtaining fresh ideas to ensure effective communication and cultural understanding. These collaborative efforts will support families in providing opportunities for students to access Imagine Español outside of school, whether it be at home or at a local library.

If you have more questions regarding the program, you can contact your ESL teacher or Melissa Wierenga.

Daily 5

The Daily 5 framework includes, Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Word Work, and Writing. This framework provides a structure to facilitate a love of reading and approach to explicit literacy instruction.

Here are the free resources Daily 5 shared to support Listen to Reading:


ReadWorks is committed to solving America’s reading comprehension crisis and student achievement gap. Driven by cognitive science research, ReadWorks creates world-class content, teacher guidance, and integrated tools that improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

Storyline Online

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations.


Starfall has been teaching children to read with phonics for well over a decade. Our systematic approach, in conjunction with audiovisual interactivity, is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children.

Stories to Grow By with Whootie Owl

Stories to Grow by is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the best treasury of stories and reader's theater scripts that are kid-tested and all with positive messages which provide children with meaningful experiences that will last a lifetime. The audio story podcasts section of this website offers free audio stories and audio books. Students can listen online without downloading.


Begin is the company behind the #1 Learn to Read Program, Homer. At Begin, we believe that children who explore their interests and passions through reading will become strong, motivated, confident readers ready to take on the world. We build scalable solutions to the literacy crisis by developing content that motivates children ages 2-8 to learn to read, teaches them the skills they need to become strong readers, and offers them literacy experiences tailored to subjects that excite them.

Story Time from Space

While in space, astronauts are videotaping themselves reading books to the children of Earth. These videos are being edited and placed on this Story Time From Space website- look under the heading of ” Video Library”. Astronauts on the ISS will also conduct and videotape 9 educational demonstrations designed by Veteran Canadian Astronaut, Bjarni Tryggvason, to complement the science concepts found in the Story Time From Space books. To make Story Time From Space even more useful for educators, cross-content curriculum will be designed to support the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core.


Storynory has been giving free audio stories to the world since November 2005. We are a podcast and a website with audio streaming. Some months we serve around a million downloads of our mp3 files (stored on Libsyn). All our content is free.


These resources will support your work in the following Essential Instructional Practices:

  • Essential #1: Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.

  • Essential #8: Abundant reading material and reading opportunities in the classroom.

Literacy Learning Opportunities

Responsive Teaching Institute

The 2018-19 institute focuses in on applying culturally relevant pedagogy across content areas. Participants will also examine how the integration of content areas can further engage students in the learning.
When: March 14 and May 2

Where: Eastern Michigan University

Cost: $35 for out of Washtenaw County

Registration Link

West Michigan Early Literacy Leadership Symposium

The Reading Now Network is proud to welcome Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp for our Third Annual Reading Now Network Symposium. We will spend the day exploring ways to foster literacy motivation and engagement in classrooms, schools and communities.

When: March 5, 2019

Where: Western Michigan University

Cost: $75 --Breakfast, lunch, SCECHs and the book Game Changer is included in the registration fee. See below for more details.

Registration Link

VBISD's Early Literacy Coach/Consultants

Geanice Miller - 269-271-9813

Melissa Wierenga - 269-599-7259

Timeline Creation Websites

Are you looking for a way to have your students create a timeline? Check out these timeline creation websites!


Time Rime



Time Toast

Our Timelines

Check out Mark Raffler's page for other resources connected to Social Studies!


What is Fluency?

As the statewide Early Math Task Force (GELN) continues their work on the Essential Instructional Practices in Early Mathematics, I'd like to recommend starting a conversation with your colleagues around a topic that is very important for developing mathematical minds. Fluency. Below are a few places that you could start a dialogue around the topic.

First, one of the Mathematics Teaching Practices that I shared in a previous newsletter was from the book "Principles to Action". This would be a nice prompt for a small group to launch some conversation.

Build procedural fluency from conceptual understanding.

Effective teaching of mathematics builds fluency with procedures on a foundation of conceptual understanding so that students, over time, become skillful in using procedures flexibly as they solve contextual and mathematical problems.

Sample question: What does it mean to be "flexible"?

Another place to start, might come from an article written by former NCTM President Linda M. Gojak, titled, "Fluency: Simply Fast and Accurate? I Think Not!". (November 1, 2012) Below is a quote from the article.

"Principles and Standards for School Mathematics states, “Computational fluency refers to having efficient and accurate methods for computing. Students exhibit computational fluency when they demonstrate flexibility in the computational methods they choose,understand and can explain these methods, and produce accurate answers efficiently. The computational methods that a student uses should be based on mathematical ideas that the student understands well, including the structure of the base-ten number system, properties of multiplication and division, and number relationships."

Lastly, you could use this "note" that can be found in the EngageNY (or Eureka) curriculum materials.

EngageNY/Eureka, says that fluency building activities have three goals:

1. Maintenance (staying sharp on previously learned skills).

2. Preparation (targeted practice for the current lesson).

3. Anticipation (skills that ensure that students are ready for the in-depth work of upcoming lessons)

Following any one of the above three prompts, it is important to allow groups to explore their current understanding of what they define fluency as... then challenge them with the article and video below. The article comes from NCTM and is titled "Assessing basic fact fluency" and the video is a great follow up to the reading. Honestly, you could do this in either order and could yield different results depending on how you choose to frame them. Your choice!

Article: Fluency

Video: Mathematics Fluency

Please reach out to Ben Tomlinson at VBISD for any questions, or if you need help setting up a learning team.

Ben Tomlinson

Curriculum Coordinator


Below is registration for NGSx training offered by Kent ISD. My colleague, Wendi Vogel, is running this training and is absolutely fantastic! Please consider registering for this in lieu of our recently cancelled NGSx opportunity.

Next Generation Science Exemplar

Wednesday, March 6th, 8am-3:30pm

2930 Knapp Street Northeast

Grand Rapids, MI

The Next Generation Science Exemplar System for Professional Development, or NGSX 2.0*, is a discourse based Professional Learning environment designed to engage participants in exploring the major ideas found in the NRC Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), developing tools and strategies to take this new vision back into their classrooms as they implement the new Michigan Science Standards.

In this workshop, teachers will:

  • Engage and deeply examine the Scientific Practices of Modeling, Explanation, and Argumentation
  • Develop and utilize tools such as scientific discourse, developing phenomenon and storylines
  • Improve classroom practice towards achieving the vision of the Framework for K-12 Science Education.

Lunch is included with your registration fee.

Date(s): 3/6/2019, 3/7/2019, 3/14/2019, 3/20/2019

Time: 8:00 AM - 3:30 PM

Registration open through 3/4/2019 6:30 AM EST

Cost: $50


Note: This course is aligned with the School Improvement Framework



Thanks to Damian Koob and the staff at the VBISD Technology Department for sharing so many great tips over the last couple months. Their staff supports many networking needs around the county as well as Powerschool support and hosting for the majority of Van Buren County schools. Click below to view this month's newsletter.

Social Studies

PD Opportunities

Echoes & Reflections Holocaust Curriculum for Social Studies Teachers

Echoes & Reflections is dedicated to reshaping the way that teachers and students understand, process, and navigate the world through the events of the Holocaust. The Holocaust is more than a historical event; it’s part of the larger human story. Educating students about its significance is a great responsibility. We partner with educators to help them introduce students to the complex themes of the Holocaust and to understand its lasting effect on the world.

When: March 11, 2019

Where: Kalamazoo

Cost: FREE

More details can be found on this Flyer.

Registration Link

Social Studies Standards

As we patiently await the results from the Social Studies Taskforce, there are always things we can focus on to improve our instruction in Social Studies. Below is a link to the "College, Career, anc Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards" as well as an excerpt from the Introduction.
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Welcome back from break!

As students and staff return from a long and well-deserved Christmas break, schools will want to get everyone back into a consistent routine and set of expectations. There is no better time to revisit your schoolwide positive behavior expectations and lesson plans. Pull those lesson plans out and into the hands of instructors. Revert back to your teaching schedule or choose from the following ideas to get students and staff back to basics on behavior:

1) Use 5-7 minutes of circle or calendar time to review behavior expectations in your classroom.

2) Remind cafeteria staff to reinforce and remind students of cafeteria behaviors as students move through lunch lines.

3) Prompt teachers to step out into hallways, greet students and acknowledge them for demonstrating positive hallway expectations.

4) Use related arts teachers, instructional aides or behavior support specialists to pull tier 2 and tier 3 students and reteach common area lesson plans the first few weeks back from break.

5) Review one lesson plan each day during homeroom or flex periods.

6) Remind students and staff of common area expectations during morning announcements or by email to student accounts.

Whatever way you choose to revisit school-wide positive behavior expectations, remember pre-teaching and pre-correcting are successful interventions for students across multiple tiers. If we don't explicitly teach behavior expectations we cannot expect compliance.

Welcome back!

Tier 3 Behavior Resource

Looking for a way to systematically address the most difficult and challenging behaviors of our students? Searching for practical and proven strategies to get kids back on track and ready to learn? Check out The Behavior Code (and Behavior Code Companion) by Jessica Minahan and Nancy Rappaport, MD.

Upcoming Trainings: Behavior

Initial CPI Training

Wednesday, Jan. 16th, 8:30am to Thursday, Jan. 17th, 3:30pm

490 South Paw Paw Street

Lawrence, MI

Click here for more information and/or to register for this event.

CPI Re-Certification

Friday, Jan. 25th, 8:30am-3:30pm

490 South Paw Paw Street

Lawrence, MI

Click here for more information and/or to register for this event.

FBA/PBSP: Making the Forms Work for You!

Wednesday, Feb. 27th, 8:15am-3:15pm

490 South Paw Paw Street

Lawrence, MI

Click here for more information and/or to register for this event.