Wolcott's Weekly What's Up

Office of Teaching and Learning 9.24.2015


Thanks for all you have done to get the school year off to a great start! It is awesome to see such high levels of enthusiasm in the classrooms, the formation of significant relationships and so many other incredible things going on across the district on a daily basis.

Calkins Writing Success

It's exciting to witness how much students are writing and how much easier the start up of writer's workshop has been this year now that we are in year two. I also have loved seeing the quality of writing students are producing. Thanks for sharing your success stories when I see you in the buildings.

I know the transition last year at this time was a challenge, but hopefully we can all agree the effort has been worth it. Your efforts have created some great writers!

Java Issue- Will Impact Chrome

We recently found out that Google Chrome will no longer supports NPAPI (technology required for Java applets).

The Java plug-in for web browsers relies on the cross platform plugin architecture NPAPI, which has been supported by all major web browsers for over a decade. Google's Chrome version 45 (scheduled for release in September 2015) drops support for NPAPI, impacting plugins for Silverlight, Java, Facebook Video and other similar NPAPI based plugins.

Java applications are offered though web browsers as either a web start application (which do not interact with the browser once they are launched) or as a Java applet (which might interact with the browser). This change does not affect Web Start applications, it only impacts applets.

If you have questions, please contact Tarah or your LRC Director.

Discovery Education - Mt Kilimanjaro Expedition!!

Discovery Education is teaming up with The GLOBE Program, GLOBE Africa and St. Vrain Valley School District to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. From September 23rd through October 1st, an international team of scientists, teachers, and students will embark on an eight–day expedition to the summit of the tallest mountain on the African continent. My own boss is even participating in the climb!

It is free for any partner who is interested! Check it out here: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Kilimanjaro/

Reading Comprehension Testing

As begin looking ahead to the end of the first unit of reading, I have been asked about how to administer the first unit test. Below you will find some guidance:

  • First Grade: First grade teachers should read aloud the reading comprehension test to all students
  • Second - Sixth Grade: Contrary to directions in Schoolwide, and due to the fact that our students are used to taking STAR and AR tests, all students should read the tests to themselves. Having students read teh tests to themselves more closely aligns with the Common Core State Standards and specific expectations of students at your grade level.
  • Please note: Special education students should take the test with the accommodations noted on their IEP.

Passion Period

I have had a number of people talk to me about "when" they can teach their monthly Passion Period.

Four Options:

1) Consider using "Passion Period" to meet the newly revised Illinois Social Science (Social Studies) Standards:

  • "Our goal is to produce civically engaged, socially responsible, culturally aware, and financially literate. They will: Demonstrate self, local national, and global awareness, Critically analyze and evaluate information, and be civically responsible and environmentally, geographically, and historically literate."


2) Consider using "Passion Period" to meet the Illinois Social Emotional Learning Standards:

  • "Building and maintaining positive relationships with others are central to success in school and life and require the ability to recognize the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others, including those different from one’s own. In addition, establishing positive peer, family, and work relationships requires skills in cooperating, communicating respectfully, and constructively resolving conflicts with others. (Goal 2)


3) Consider using "Passion Period" to meet the "F" in our District F.O.C.U.S.

  • "Form strong caring relationships with and between students."


4) Just do it because it helps kids connect with you and see you as a real person.

  • "Kids are more motivated to learn when they feel a personal connection with those teaching them."

Standards Based Grading Parent Overview Meeting

Thursday, Oct. 8th, 6:30pm

Jefferson Junior High School, 7200 Janes Avenue, Woodridge, IL 60517

We will be holding an informational meeting for parents. More information will be forthcoming.


Standards Based Grading
Standards-Based Grading Overview



Every night when I am putting my daughter to bed, we talk about her day. Invariably one of the things she shares comes from something she saw that day while watching CNN Student News after lunch. She loves the cool stories and human interest pieces that are shown. I am sure she isn't the only child who loves these. Please look into this free resource if you are interested.

What is CNN Student News?

CNN Student News is a ten-minute, commercial-free, daily news program designed for middle and high school classes. It is produced by the journalists at CNN. This award-winning show and its companion website are available free of charge throughout the school year.

Where can I find CNN Student News?

You can see it as a streamed video or download it as a free podcast, both available on our website, CNNStudentNews.com. The show is available Monday through Friday during the school year. The program is free and accessible to anyone who wants to watch; there are no subscription charges, sign-ups, or contracts to complete.

For more information:


Shifting Students from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset in Math

In this article in Education Week, Evie Blad reports on how students’ mindsets can have a direct impact on achievement in mathematics. “A blend of family attitudes, cultural ideas, and frustration often leads students to believe that math ability is a fixed trait like eye color,” she says. “They believe they are either born with the skills necessary to succeed in math class or they’re not.” Researchers say teachers can attack this deep-seated problem in three ways:

Explicitly teaching the growth mindset. Students need to be told repeatedly that math is no more difficult than other subjects, that mistakes are a normal part of learning, and that they haven’t failed if they can’t quickly solve a problem using a prescribed algorithm. Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS) has released a series of online courses about mindset for teachers and parents with videos, exercises, and sample lesson plans (https://www.mindsetkit.org). A key mindset-shifting concept is that if something feels hard, that’s a sweet spot for learning, and persevering through the difficult part will yield big gains. “When you just focus on getting to the answer,” says Palo Alto teacher Mari Montoy-Wilson, “you really rob kids of grappling and working on that sweet spot. You don’t want to scaffold or carry the load too heavily for your kids.”

Teaching math differently. An essential companion to weaning students from the fixed mindset is presenting problems in a way that develops conceptual understanding versus speedy solving of problems using memorized algorithms. This dovetails nicely with the Common Core emphasis on sense-making, abstract reasoning, developing strategies to use math concepts, and critiquing others’ reasoning. This kind of math helps students escape the I-got-it-wrong-and-therefore-I’m dumb-at-math syndrome and prepares them for success in the upper grades – as well as for using math in their everyday lives. An example: a traditional perimeter problem asks students to find the perimeter of a rectangle 10 inches long and 6 inches wide. A conceptual problem asks students to draw two rectangles that have a perimeter of 32 inches and explain how they arrived at their answer. Another “open” problem for high-school students: figure out how many baseballs it would take to fill a classroom. Mariel Triggs, a San Francisco teacher who has used this problem, says, “I get these students and they will say, ‘I am not good at math,’ and I began to realize that what they were really saying was, ‘I don’t know how to do the problem in front of me.’ I frame it like a fun puzzle.”

Teachers exploring their own mindsets. “Teachers love the idea of mindsets as almost a panacea,” says University of Texas professor Philip Uri Treisman, “but they themselves have very fixed ideas of their own learning.” Many learned math the traditional way and need support to shift to a more conceptual approach. Teachers should practice their own sense-making and model it for their students. If math were music, says Treisman, the traditional approach would be learning scales and the new approach would be playing songs.

“Teachers Nurture Growth Mindset in Math” by Evie Blad in Education Week, September 9, 2015 (Vol. 35, #3, p. 1, 10-11), www.edweek.org

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