E-Staff Weekly for 12/15/14

Panther P.R.O.U.D.

Holiday Classroom Parties

Due to the changes in security procedures requiring visitors to sign in/wrist bracelet, all holiday classroom parties will start between 1:30pm-2:00pm and be completed by 3:15pm for dismissal. This is required so our main office and lobby sign-in area are staffed appropriately during the day. No exceptions will be made.

In addition to your homeroom parents, you are permitted to invite 2-4 additional volunteers. These names must be communicated to Tina via email no later than Friday, December 19th. It is extremely important that these names are correct since this event is by invitation only (not open to all).

Lunch Counts

While serving lunches on Tuesday, I noticed that many classroom lunch counts were off. Please make sure your students are correctly indicating what they would like to purchase in the cafeteria. If these are incorrect, then lunches aren't prepared when they're needed.

Hanukkah Reminder

The first night of Hanukkah is December 16th. Please be considerate when assigning homework and projects for students that will be celebrating during this holiday. Thank you!

Holiday Sing

The Holiday Sing will be on December 23 from 9:30AM-10:30AM in the Gym. Classrooms will be called by the main office. Sara will be sending out a song list via email.

Hallway Holiday Tree Decorating

Each hallway (Wing) has an evergreen tree waiting to be decorated by its classrooms. Feel free to come up with some creative designs and themes that best represent your "personality". The tree decorating should be completed by Friday, December 19th. This is not meant to be complicated or stressful, but bring out good fun and cheer for all!

Embedded Technology Coaching

Brandon Lutz, BCIU Technology Application Specialist, will be at Seylar on December 16th to provide embedded technology coaching for our staff. This would be a great opportunity for you to "try-out" that new technology tool or app that you haven't had an opportunity to yet. He can provide insight, encouragement, and feedback on your classroom tech integration. More importantly, it is an extra set of hands when questions or issues arise with students. You can also schedule him during your prep time too. I will set up homebase in the faculty room for the day.

To sign up for a time, please CLICK HERE. I look forward to staff taking advantage of this service to further their professional growth.

Holiday Cards

In the main office, there's bulletin board dedicated for staff members to post greeting cards, etc. for the upcoming holidays.

Holiday Hat Spirit Day

Holiday Hat Spirit Day is Friday, December 19th. Please encourage your students to participate.

Letters to Soldiers

Amy Hejnar as asked to reach out to the staff about writing letters to soldiers serving our country. If you are interested in doing this with your students, please provide the letters to Tina no later than 12/23/14.

This may make a great a center activity too.

Silver Spoon Points

Just a friendly reminder to make sure you are assigning points to classrooms after the grade level lunch is completed. Thank you!

Deadline for PAW student names (Raise the Bar)

Friday, Dec. 19th, 3:30pm

Missy Kunakorn

Data Meeting

Wednesday, Dec. 17th, 4-5pm


Classroom Assessment Review - Grade 3

Grade 3 is scheduled for Assessment Review by the Principal. Please see the Seylar Staff Handbook for further details.

Happy Birthday to You!

PAMELA THOMAS - December 3



LEEANN HABERLE - December 25


What's Your Why?

Liz Wiegand - Teaching Assistant, Autistic Support

It seems my whole life has been surrounded with learning. As a child, I loved playing school. I loved my workbooks that I could pass out to my students, which consisted of dolls and stuffed animals. Then collect them to grade. When I was older, I loved babysitting. Later we moved to the Virgin Islands and I had an afterschool job working with preschoolers in the Head Start Program. The students were so loving and all they really wanted was my time and attention.

Once I had my own family, I loved being a stay-at-home Mom. Watching my own children learn and explore the world around them gave me such joy. It was the most rewarding job ever! When they were launched off into school, I started volunteering in school and soon found a wonderful rewarding job as a teaching assistant.

I have had many wonderful opportunities in my life and have been blessed with loving supportive people. I value the opportunity I have to give back to others. I give support and care for students in the best job ever. I feel I can have a positive impact on their learning. I love the feeling when a student gets a concept and you see the light bulb go on! That is my “WHY”.

Pamela Thomas - Personal Care Assistant, DVK

During my elementary years, I loved coming home from school and playing pretend school. I was always the teacher, and my sister was the student. I loved being the teacher! I also love working with kids! I had the opportunity of being the Pre-K teacher for three years at the Harleysville Learning Center. They were a joy to teach. Once of the most rewarding things as a teacher is to see your student’s faces light up when they finally understand what you have been teaching. Although I am new to Seylar, it has been a joy working as the personal care assistant in the DVK classroom! I look forward to one day teaching in my own classroom!

Carolyn Werner - Instrument/Music

When I was a middle school student, Mrs. Neff, who taught what was at that time called “Home Economics”, gave our class this advice for choosing a profession - “Find something that you love to do, and then find someone to pay you to do it!” What was probably an off-handed remark as she was teaching us how to thread a bobbin, really stuck with me and is what helped to guide me in my decision to become a music teacher.

Music education combines two things that I am passionate about – music and helping people. As Plato said “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” In my position as an elementary and middle school Strings teacher, I have the privilege of watching students grow socially, emotionally, and academically through learning how to play an instrument. From the 3rd grade beginner beaming with pride after performing his first concert to the 5th grade cellist who persevered and finally was able to master a difficult measure to the 8th grade violinist skillfully playing a solo for an auditorium full of people and then taking a deep bow of accomplishment , that is “My Why”.

Teaching Resources, Inspiration, and Sometimes a Good Laugh!

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The Best Ways to Prepare Students for Common Core Reading Tests

In this article in The Reading Teacher, Timothy Shanahan (University of Illinois/ Chicago) says the “data-driven” approach to improving reading achievement – using item analyses to identify the skills students haven’t mastered and drilling test-aligned curriculum items doesn’t work. Why? “Research long ago revealed an important fact about reading comprehension tests: they only measure a single factor…” says Shanahan: “reading comprehension. They don’t reveal students’ abilities to answer main idea questions, detail questions, inference questions, drawing conclusion questions, or anything else.” Having students practice answering questions on various reading subskills won’t produce better test scores. In fact, they may even depress reading achievement by wasting time that could be spent on productive activities.

Shanahan believes there are two reasons traditional standardized reading tests fail to produce useful data on subskills:

  • First, reading is a language activity, not the execution of various subskills. To make sense of a text, students must simultaneously use a hierarchy of language features. When a student answers a main-idea question incorrectly, it doesn’t mean the main-idea part of the student’s brain isn’t working. Here are some possible explanations:
  • The passage looked too hard and the student didn’t have the confidence to read it all the way through.
  • The student is a slow reader and didn’t read far enough to grasp the main idea.
  • The student’s decoding skills are weak and a lot of important words weren’t understood.
  • The main idea was embedded in a particularly complex sentence, and although the student understood the rest of the text, this sentence wasn’t understood.
  • The text had a lot of synonyms and pronouns and the student wasn’t able to form a coherent idea of what it was all about.

So what does explain students’ performance on standardized tests? Text complexity, says Shanahan: “[I]f the text is easy enough, students can answer any type of question, and if the text is complicated enough, they will struggle with even the supposedly easiest types of questions. That means reading comprehension tests measure how well students read texts, not how well they execute particular reading skills…”

  • Second, reading tests are designed to separate proficient from struggling readers. To achieve this and create reliable tests, psychometricians reject questions that don’t have the best properties. “Test designers are satisfied by being able to determine how well students read and by arraying students along a valid reading comprehension scale,” says Shanahan. “They know that the items collectively assess reading comprehension, but that separately – or in small sets of items aimed at particular kinds of information – the items can tell us nothing meaningful about how well students can read.”

Won't the innovative tests being created by PARCC and Smarter Balanced do a better job? Not at producing useful data on subskills, says Shanahan. “These new tests won’t be able to alter the nature of reading comprehension or the technical requirements for developing reliable test instruments.” The simple reason is that they can’t be long and fine-grained enough. So does that mean the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests will be useless to educators and parents? Not at all, says Shanahan: “These tests will ask students to read extensive amounts of literary and informational text, to answer meaningful questions about these texts, and to provide explanations of their answers.

These tests should do a pretty good job of showing how well students can read and comprehend challenging texts without teacher support.”

So how should we prepare students to do well on the new tests – and be prepared for college and career success? Not by focusing instruction on question types, says Shanahan – instead, by striving to make students “sophisticated and powerful readers.”

Here’s how:

  • Have students read extensively within lessons – not free reading, but reading that is an integral part of instruction, with students frequently held accountable for understanding and gaining knowledge. Round-robin oral reading is highly inefficient, says Shanahan. “Teachers like it because it provides control and it lets them observe how well a student is reading, but a reading comprehension lesson, except with the youngest children, should emphasize silent reading – and lots of it.” And this should also be happening in social studies, science, and math classes.
  • Have students read increasing amounts of text without guidance and support. Many reading lessons involve students reading a paragraph or a page followed by teacher questions and group discussion. “This model is not a bad one,” says Shanahan. “It allows teachers to focus students’ attention on key parts of the text and to sustain attention throughout. However, the stopping points need to be progressively spread out over time… Increasing student stamina and independence in this way should be a goal of every reading teacher.” It’s noteworthy that the shortest prototype that PARCC and SBAC have released so far is 550 words long.
  • Make sure the texts are rich in content and sufficiently challenging. “Lots of reading of easy text will not adequately prepare students for dealing with difficult text,” says Shanahan. They need to be reading grade-level texts with gradually decreasing teacher scaffolding around vocabulary, sentence grammar, text structure, and concepts needed to reach target levels.
  • Have students explain their answers and provide text evidence supporting their claims. This is an important part of increasing intellectual depth and constantly moving students toward reading more-challenging material.
  • Engage students in writing about text. Writing does a much better job of improving reading comprehension than answering multiple-choice questions, says Shanahan: “Although writing text summaries and syntheses may not look like the tests students are being prepared for, this kind of activity should provide the most powerful and productive kind of preparation.”

“How and How Not to Prepare Students for the New Tests” by Timothy Shanahan in The Reading Teacher, November 2014 (Vol. 68, #3, p. 184-188), http://bit.ly/1wr4JOa; Shanahan can be reached at shanahan@uic.edu.