Instructional Edge

What's up with the TLC program at WSR

Leader In Me

Beginning with an Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) some 6th grade teachers began to dive into the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and how that translates into a school based program called "leader In me." Both procedures stem from research done by Steven Covey. After being trained in the seven habits, teachers Julie Costello, Lindsay Schaapveld, Stacey Meisgeier, Instructional Coaches Kari Staack and Allison Rasmussen as well as Principal Jeremy Langner went to observe how the Leader In Me system looked in a middle school setting. Since then Mary Foy and Penny Toay have also visited Hoover and are prepared to support that work even further. If you have questions about Leader In Me, please contact Allison Rasmussen.

W-SR Earth Science Showcase

The Lexus Eco-Challenge is a nationwide competition in which high school student teams attempt to have a positive impact on the ecological health of the planet by creating practical solutions to environmental issues related to land, water, air, and climate. This challenge engages students in content learning, skill building, teamwork, and project based learning, as they identify environmental issues that affect their local community.


Over the course of November and early December, W-SR earth science students have been involved with learning about carbon reduction, global warming, climate change, air quality/pollution, greenhouse gases, and other topics. In teams of five or more students, they selected an environmentally appropriate topic to research, study, and develop an action plan in order to make a meaningful impact involving their topic.


Project topics include:

  • The Hydro-Gen: Building a perfect carbonless community

  • Capturing Carbon: Inform citizens of the positive impact in capturing carbon

  • Team Bellus: comparing the use of carbon dioxide in beauty products made in factories and products locally and naturally made.

  • Driving carbon out of town? Increasing the awareness of energy efficient cars

  • WSRSE (Waverly Shell-Rock Solar Energy): we want to help reduce our school district’s carbon footprint through considering solar energy sources

  • Straight Outta da Box: we want to help people realize how much carbon they are promoting through eating heavily processed foods

  • “Car”bon: focused on reducing the emissions produced by human transportation


For more information regarding opportunities to engage authentic audiences and community partnerships, contact Chuck.

Accommodations in Infinite Campus

We have been working on a way to make information about students with designated accommodation needs more accessible to teachers. In the high school, students with 504 plans or IEP's were flagged in Infinite Campus. We changed all of those flags to say "Accommodations" and included some of the specifics in a field that appears when a teacher hovers over the flag. This method provides a better level of privacy while still giving the teacher a reminder of the students' needs. More specific information can be found by switching to the Campus Tools view and clicking on the Student Information>Special Ed>General menu and choosing the Documents tab. Following the links, the teacher can access a document with more information. The document is a Google Doc that the roster teacher maintains (formerly known as the SWAM folder). The roster teacher will maintain the student's document and it will follow the student, providing a history. Access to the folder and documents is controlled by the sharing settings, giving privacy to the student. We plan on extending this system to all grade levels.

New Google Chrome Apps and Extensions

Two new apps have been proving useful for Chromebook users. The first, called Stay Focusd, controls access to websites. The student or teacher can lock the device into or out of sites or domains for a given time. The second app is Google Cast for Education. The app "casts" or displays the screen of one device to another, much like Airplay would cast to a projector. So if a teacher is displaying her device on the projector, a student could cast to the teacher to display the student's device. A teacher could also cast from a Chromebook to the PC that is projecting, allowing the teacher some greater mobility. Talk to Jeff if you would like more information.

The Evolution of Genius Hour at W-SR Middle School

The concept of Genius Hour at Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School continues to evolve and provide unique learning opportunities for 7th and 8th grade students. The overriding theme of interest-based learning remains constant, many Genius Hour initiatives have strayed away from the traditional view individual learning projects. While many students continue to be engaged in individual or small group endeavors, some have begun to branch out in to larger group opportunities - many based around service learning opportunities that are appropriate to the holiday season. Team Flight has challenged their students with learning a new skill which would result in the production of something that could be auctioned at their Holiday Bizarre. After the cost of materials, all proceeds from the bazaar with be donated to support the Northeast Iowa Food Bank during this holiday season.


"Genius Hour is learning by doing. Genius hour is learning through mistakes. Genius Hour is learning through experience." ~Teacher Quote


"I like that I can teach myself and I really like the variety." ~Student Quote


"...it's been a great productive struggle. I've seen a lot of improvement in the quality of the products as they continue to improve their skills." ~Teacher Quote


For more information about Genius Hour at W-SR Middle School, contact Chuck.

Brag Tags


Brag Tags are a source of excitement and pride in

Miss Bies’ classroom. Much like the Disney World system of lanyards and pins, Miss Bies has created necklace lanyards of which students receive and can earn tags. This positive reward system has worked very well in her classroom. Some examples of tags are “Welcome to Third Grade, Top Notch Behavior, Positive Peer, Stellar for the Sub, Rad Readers, Math Whiz and many more.”


During morning routine on a Monday using the class motto, “Be Responsible Be Respectful, and Be Awesome,” Isabelle and Jeremiah found out they had received the “Positive Peer” tags. The previous week, peers had recognized them as being the most positive. Isabelle and Jeremiah were very excited to be able to wear their lanyards with their new tags for the day! Whenever students receive a tag, they get to remove it from the “Brag Tag” wall and wear it around the school. I asked Isabelle and Jeremy about their lanyards. Isabelle excitedly exclaimed, “This makes me feel good!” Jeremiah then stated that his new tag made him, “feel kinda proud of myself!” Miss Bies makes sure she and her students are always watching for and exhibiting positive actions in and out of the classroom.

Empowering Teachers Through Curriculum

Our teachers have been working very hard to implement a new writing curriculum into their classrooms. They have been highly impressed with the new third and fourth grade writing curriculum called Being a Writer. In this curriculum, teachers lead a modeled approach to writing that enables students to listen to and analyze quality writing while developing genuine writing voices and a love of writing. Being a Writer begins with a mentor text exhibiting one or more genre writing traits, allows for student collaboration and conversation, proceeds to quick writes, and includes individual writing time, teacher conferencing, and sharing of writing with peers. Students are involved in prewriting, drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing during the course of the writing unit. As we have been in classrooms around the district, we have been so impressed with the high levels of writing.

In a recent meeting of third and fourth teachers the celebrations they shared were wonderful to hear. Teachers relayed how students’ conversations are much more genuine, and students are utilizing anchor charts and resources like never before. Students are also having conversations about writing that are focused and much more meaningful. One of our teachers observed an experience where Title I students were conversing about a title change and providing textual evidence to support their answers. One student was explaining to her group that the title of the story should be her particular title because the beginning, middle, and end of the story were all encompassed in her title while a classmate’s choice for a title was only evident in the very beginning of the story. Students having conversations detailing their opinions and evidencing those opinions with text is a depth-of-knowledge skill we are always trying to reach. Being a Writer and our new literacy text from last year Making Meaning both promote these levels of understanding. The Center for the Collaborative Classroom, a nonprofit educational organization and publishers of our literacy curriculum, states that their program is about “Empowering teachers to create classrooms where students learn from, care for, and respect one another.” Our teachers have developed classrooms where students work together to create high-quality writing and share their love of writing with each other.

Kindergarten Book Recommendations Using SeeSaw


Mrs. Sara Nuss’ kindergarten class was introduced to SeeSaw this month. SeeSaw is a digital portfolio for students to independently document their learning and share with the outside world. These kindergarten students are using SeeSaw to take a picture of a book and record themselves talk about why they like the book. Then during snack time the students will listen as a whole class to a book recommendation from their classmates. This has helped provide high-interest for students during Individualized Daily Reading (IDR) time. Many times Mrs. Nuss is working with small groups of students during IDR time, so keeping kindergarten highly engaged and learning independent is a win for everyone in the classroom.


Photo: Student from Mrs. Nuss’ class.

SIPPS in Elementary

SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) is a systematic decoding curriculum to help struggling readers. SIPPS is a program from the Center for Collaborative Classroom. The Center for Collaborative Classroom also has other programs used in our elementary classrooms: Making Meaning, Being a Writer, and Being a Reader. In our school district some classroom teachers, Title I Reading teachers, and special education teachers began using SIPPS last year. They have been pleased with the differences in their struggling readers, so they are continuing with this intervention. We have also started implementing SIPPS in some new classrooms at the elementary level this year.

SIPPS is powerful as an intervention because it closely supports the Being a Reader curriculum that all of our K-2 elementary teachers are using. SIPPS allows for struggling readers to get additional intensive, systematic instruction on the same concepts and in the same format as they are receiving during their differentiated core instruction. It is providing additional practice with multiple foundational skills that are at the right level for students. It helps builds students’ confidence as they begin reading more and develop

that love for reading.

Photo: From SIPPS website.

Small Group Reading

Our K-2 teachers have been working extremely hard this year on their small group reading instruction. We believe in the power of giving students differentiated instruction at their level. Along with this instruction involves creating a classroom environment where students are also able to perform independent learning tasks that also match their level. As a group a document has been shared of practices that are occurring throughout the district to support this independent work. We know that there are amazing things happening in every classroom and that we can learn from each other! The K-2 teachers are reflecting themselves and with their building teams about:

  • Are students given independent activities that focus on the literacy skills each student needs?

  • Are the activities at a student’s instructional level (not too easy or too hard)?

  • Will the skills be connected and reinforced in other lessons?

  • Do students have enough requisite knowledge and skills to complete activities individually?

Remember to thank your other teachers for the hard work, so the right work of differentiation happens in their classrooms.

High School PE Department

The high school professional learning group focusing on grit, resilience, and engagement spent time doing an activity with students on overcoming obstacles. Teachers showed a short video to high school students titled, Overcoming Obstacles with Steven Claunch. Teachers then had students think about what students saw as their personal strengths and abilities, the obstacles/hurdles/disabilities that get in the way of performance, and ways that students cope with getting over the obstacles.


Interestingly, teachers found that students were reluctant to put on paper what their strengths were, and then noticed students telling each other what they saw in each other, which prompted students to take the step to write down one's strengths. The final part of the activity when students brainstormed ways to overcome obstacles instigated a great conversation helping students realize that they are not alone, and that all students have to work through many difficult barriers on a daily basis to succeed.

Teachers involved in this work include: Mr. Ruebel, Mrs. Dawson, Mr. Chaplin, Mrs. Davis, and Mr. Caldwell.

Overcoming obstacles - Steven Claunch