September 2019 Newsletter
Our theme this month is "Creating a Culture for Student Centered Learning!" We have so many ideas for you. (This should have really been in two newsletters!). So save the link and take a few minutes over the next few days to read up on ideas you can immediately use with your students.
Also, mark your calendars! Our two hour, Saturday morning virtual PD sessions start Oct. 26th!! There will be one each month from October- May. We are also available to provide virtual sessions specifically for your campus/building teams. Reach out to Randi for more information!
Happy teaching everyone!
- Kelly, Randi, and Ashley
Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Students
By Randi Anderson
This August, Sanford Elementary rolled out the red carpet for their students. Literally! Students were greeted by high school football players, cheerleaders, administrators, teachers, and even the district mascot (Panthy) as they walked the red carpet to their new classrooms!
As I walked my child into his new school, I was struck by the sense of school spirit and excitement that filled the entire building. The theme for this school year at Sanford is "Sanford Stars Shine Brighter". This made me think of how students are immediately a part of something great the moment they walk into school. The sense of community was instantly built and promoted unity through school spirit and the common goal of learning from day one.
Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast
Peter Demerath, PhD, says school culture is the secret to school success. A healthy school culture promotes student achievement. Feeling safe and having a sense of belonging ensures that students can get into a learning mode. Schools accomplish this by creating school spirit and sharing rituals and traditions, like school songs and chants. This creates an atmosphere where everyone feels part of something bigger than themselves!
Culture must be developed at the classroom level, as well. When I taught 4th grade at Elkins Elementary, my class name was "The A Team" (my last name is Anderson). We had a chant and on the first day we had a Classroom Pep Rally (the kids thought I was crazy). We also had Friday dance parties to celebrate the effort and learning each week. Everyday I met students at the door to greet them and let them know I was excited for them to be in class. We started class with class meetings and shared exciting news and kicked off class with positive words.
My students soared that year! It was that sense of belonging that happened on the very first day of school when I told them that they were on "The A Team" this year and it was their year to show the entire school what they were made of. My class was known as the"The A Team" from that year on!
Remember the saying "culture eats strategy for breakfast!" You can have the best instructional strategies and they won't work if the culture in the school or classroom isn't positive and safe for all community members. Taking time to establish a positive school/classroom culture daily helps everyone feel like part of the community so that they are safe to take responsible learning risks! Check out Every Student Matters for more ideas.
Keeping the Calm
The Power of Student Teams
I'm so excited to share a new book just out on using student teaming to increase the learning. In the book The Power of Student Teams, by Michael Toth and David Sousa, you will explore collaborative learning and crosswalk this strategy with SEL learning, 21st Century Skills, Habits of Mind, and more.
Having been part of the research team, I saw the impact on student learning, as students collaborated in structured, minds-on ways that included coaching and peer feedback. This strategy ensures students work as hard (maybe harder) than the teacher. And whoever does the work, does the learning! This is an easy-read guidebook for giving students the autonomy they need to engage in rigorous learning.
Two Truths and a Lie
A fact is anything that can be proven or disproven. It's the readers' responsibility to distinguish fact and fiction. Two Truths And A Lie will push your learners to read to find the truth! In each of the nine chapters, the authors provide three essays about a topic. Readers are challenged to find the fiction using research skills, as they sharpen their evaluation skills. Is the website credible, accurate, reliable? How do you know? In today's age of Google research, learning to evaluate the source is a skill students need to learn early and use often. This book is a perfect push on thinking about the source!
Laying the Foundation For Growth
By Ashley Taplin of Taplin Teaching
This month, as we dive into the consistency of school days, I have been thinking about ways we can develop and foster a growth mindset for students in math to gain confidence in their knowledge. I have been working with another department in our district to bring more SEL practices to the curriculum. We have been talking about how the foundation of this mindset is helping students become self-aware in their learning in order to take on challenges and new situations. Below are some strategies and ideas I have been reflecting upon to cultivate this.
The Numbers to Success
Vertical Alignment Planning
I recently dove into researching best-teaching practices for increasing student vocabulary. This is a topic I am asked to present on frequently, probably because it is one of the most complex areas to teach. This summer I read, Responsive Literacy by Editor, Patricia L. Scharer. Here are some of their ideas for helping students strengthen language comprehension.
Conversations in the Classroom
Practice using language is key to increasing vocabulary. Language is learned through production. Simply holding frequent, brief conversations in your classroom will expose and give students the opportunity to practice using new words. Plan time to talk about a variety of concepts from personal to academic. Allot a time each day to allow students to discuss a question of the day. (i.e. Which do you prefer, YouTube or Netflix? Why?) We made discussion cards for you!
Select 3-5 words from a daily read aloud to discuss with their students. Read aloud the text for the first time for students to comprehend the overall meaning of the text (day 1). The next day (day 2), reread the text and after the read aloud discuss the words with the students. Add the words to the class word wall. Have students add the words to their personal word wall. You can also have them create a vocabulary "no glue" book for the weekly words. Have students to draw a picture that shows word meaning and use the words in several different sentences.
Word Walls Organized by Units of Study
I love this idea of grouping words by units of study! Organizing words by how they relate is a great strategy for helping students make the meaning of words stick. For example:
- Kapok Tree
- Forest Floor
All of our students come to us with different levels of vocabulary development. It is important for educators to meet their students right where they are in their vocabulary learning. These ideas are easy to implement in your classroom for "fast mapping" student's vocabulary development.
Example Word Walls
Good News Postcards
By Ashley Taplin
Starting my 10th year tomorrow and I’ve been thinking about things I love doing each year. One of my favorite things I used to do as a teacher was “Good News Postcards”.
I loved writing these because I think we all get caught up in some of the craziness of the year, but taking a moment to reflect on the good students are doing really helped me refocus and recharge. It also made me see more in my toughest kids and connect with them as I continued to find value in each student.
I’ve always been a handwritten note type of person, and I think in my role now this could be cool thing to start with the teachers and admin I work with to highlight all the good I see...maybe I don’t need their addresses and I can just leave it in their school mailboxes...we all live at school anyway, right?!
Fall 2019 Virtual Seminars
Metacognition & Responding to Texts
9am to 11am CST
In this interactive virtual seminar, educators will look at instructional strategies that get students thinking about, within, and beyond texts. Explore ways to have students respond to texts to showcase their thinking. Learn how to facilitate guided student discussions that promote critical thinking through connections, inferencing, and synthesizing the text. Walk away with easy ways to get students motivated and thinking about their reading! For more info, visit our website.
The Author & Me: Thinking About the Author's Purpose, Message, & Craft
9am to 11am CST
In this seminar, educators will explore how to promote thinking about the author's purpose, message, and craft in not only texts but multimodal texts. Examine genre elements and relationships among different texts. Empower your students to look at texts through different lenses and apply those techniques to their own writing. Join us to learn more! For more info, visit our website.
Guided & Strategic Reading Groups
9am to 11am CST
In this 2 hour virtual seminar, Kelly Harmon will provide you with information and ideas to get students digging deeper into texts during small group time. Delve into resources and group planning structures for building student's comprehension and fluency. Discuss grouping strategies and how to coach students to becoming more proficient readers. Walk away with ready-to-use resources for your small groups! For more info, visit our website.
Kelly Harmon & Associates, LLC
Our Services Include
- Literacy & Math based seminars
- Instructional Coaching
- Curriculum Development
- Grant Writing
- Project Management
- Technology Integration