Staff Weekly Update

September 4, 2015

It's hard to believe but the first official day of Fall begins on September 23rd. Fall brings with it cooler weather, pumpkin everything and, most importantly, fun events for our Apollo community. As we continue to strive to build a stronger, more connected Apollo family, we hope that you are able to join us for the Apollo Family Picnic on Thursday, September 24th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Dana, Nicole S., Carolyn and the Climate & Culture Team are working hard to make this event a success. Fall, food and fun - what could be better?

Thank you for all that you do!

Aaron & Lewis

Certified Staff Observation Scheduling

Aaron and Lewis will be emailing those teachers that are being evaluated this year over the weekend. When you receive the email please read it thoroughly, as it will detail important dates and information regarding the evaluation process. Questions? Don't hesitate to contact your primary evaluator.

9.9.15 Staff Meeting

All certified and classified staff members should attend our Apollo Staff Meeting no Wednesday, September 9th at 7:50 a.m. in the Staff Meeting Room. We will be joined by our Director of Communications and Community Relations, Janet Bishop. You will find the agenda attached to this email. Also, don't forget to fill out some Staff Bulldog Bones (attached to this email, too)!

9.10.15 Early Release Day Information

Certified Staff: We will be giving staff members the "gift of time" on Thursday, September 10th, our first Early Release Day, to use the new essential maps to plan instruction for the upcoming trimester. Please plan to meet at 12:45 p.m. in the Staff Meeting Room. Below is the agenda:

  1. 12:45 p.m. - Artsonia Presentation (Monica Larson)
  2. 12:55 p.m. - Guidelines for PLC Work Today (A/L)
  3. 1:00 p.m. - Instructional Team PLC Meetings

Teams - Please decide on a meeting location for the afternoon so we know where to find you as we visit and support each PLC Meeting. Team "Communicators" - please email that information to Aaron, Lewis and Brandy.

Reminder: Please follow the AM PFA schedule.

Classified Staff: Please use this time to complete GCN Trainings, which are required by our Human Resources Department.

Fire Drill & Share911

We will have our first official fire drill of the year on Thursday, September 10th at 9:45 a.m. Please make sure...
  • that you have a complete fire drill folder, which includes green and red cards.
  • that you have an up to date class list (these are being printed and put in your mailboxes via Louise).
  • to contact Solly and/or Louise via email if you are missing any of the above items.
  • to complete your registration with the Share911 app. We'll be testing out this feature during the drill for check-in purposes.
  • to review fire drill procedures with your students.

Thank you for your proactiveness in making this as smooth as possible.

From Dr. Cobb...

I am not sure if any of you utilize this resource already, but ISBE puts out a monthly newsletter for each grade level (K-12) related to Common Core and PARCC. The September 2015 issue has some useful information. You can read past newsletters and sign up for the listserv at the very bottom.

Reminder: Schedule MAP Testing!

Because there is a Chromebook Cart assigned to each grade level (1-6), we are asking that each grade level team correlate amongst themselves when Reading and Math MAP Tests should be given in each classroom. The earlier testing can begin and finish in each testing window, the better.
  • 3rd/4th Grade Testing Window: September 8th - 25th (2.5 week window)

If you have not done so already, email Tonya Tjarks so that she will know when you are testing in the event that support is needed. Tonya is also willing to assist any teachers who need help setting up the MAP tests.

Upcoming Dates

September 7th

  • NO SCHOOL - Labor Day

September 8th

  • Leadership Team Meeting @ 7:50 a.m.
  • 6th Grade Tier Meeting @ 10:25 a.m.
  • K. Team meeting @ 1:20 p.m.
  • 2nd Grade Tier Meeting @ 2:00 p.m

September 9th

  • All Staff Meeting @ 7:50 a.m.
  • 5th Grade Tier Meeting @ 8:55 a.m.
  • 3rd Grade Tier Meeting @ 12:30 p.m.

September 10th

  • PFA Tier Meeting @ 7:50 a.m.
  • 4th Grade Tier Meeting @ 8:55 a.m.
  • Fire Drill @ 9:45 a.m.
  • Early Release @ 11:30 a.m.

September 11th

  • Picture Day
  • Finish Line Friday
  • SPED Resource Meeting @ 7:50 a.m.
  • Aaron/Lewis Out - Biliteracy Training

The Power of Student-Generated Questions (from the Marshall Memo)

“We are kidding ourselves if we think our questions alone turn students into critical thinkers,” says Cris Tovani (Commerce City, Colorado English teacher and author) in this Educational Leadership article. “Instead of spending time honing our questioning skills, it’s time we help students hone theirs. Giving students opportunities to practice questioning will help them way beyond the classroom. People who wonder set a purpose for themselves. They know asking questions will propel them to continue reading and learning… Asking questions gives learners control.”

Teachers fire off as many as 120 questions an hour, and by middle school, many students have become expert question-answerers – and perhaps teacher mind-readers. The problem is that with many of these questions, teachers are looking for a single right answer, which leaves little room for original thought. Getting students asking their own questions changes this dynamic. “It’s a lot harder to fake an authentic question than it is to copy an answer from some Internet site,” says Tovani. Here are some strategies she recommends:

- Using students’ questions to drive the next day’s reading and small-group conversations. “Students’ questions provide a great deal of invaluable formative assessment data that helps me adjust instruction,” she says.

- Cruising around the classroom as students read and jot questions on their “think sheets,” checking in with individual students and collecting the papers of those she didn’t have time to talk with.

- Being selective about which student questions she’ll answer. She responds to Who, What, When, and Where questions, but when students ask How or Why questions, she’ll respond with another question, for example, Why do you think that’s happening?

- Sharing a text she’s been reading and annotating to show the questions she’s asking as she reads and explaining that some questions deserve more effort than others.

“I’m humbled by my students’ questions,” says Tovani. “Often they are better than mine.” They definitely help her differentiate instruction. “If students were all answering the same teacher-generated question, I wouldn’t be able to tell who got it and who copied.”

Of course Tovani does ask her own questions of students, and she’s noticed that they fall into two categories:

Questions that create awareness:

- What are you wondering about the book?

- What are you noticing about how the author is using time? Jumping forward, flashing back, chronological? What purpose do you think it serves?

- What background knowledge do you have about the book, topic, author, or characters?

- Did you notice the title? Any ideas on how it connects to the piece?

- What weird or unusual text structures are you noticing? Why do you think the author structured the chapter that way?

- What predictions are you making?

- What questions do you have? Which ones do you care about most?

- Which character’s perspective are you connecting to most?

- Are there any objects or colors that keep popping up?

- How could you look at this information differently?

Open-ended questions that inform instruction:

- Why do you think that?

- What do you need?

- Is this boring or are you stuck? Why? What have you done before to get unstuck?

- Have you tried what we talked about in the mini-lesson?

- What’s preventing you from working? What causes you to stop?

- What might you try tomorrow?

- What do you know now that you didn’t know before?

- What’s going on in your head as you read? What is your inner voice saying?

“Let’s Switch Questioning Around” by Cris Tovani in Educational Leadership, September 2015 (Vol. 73, #1, p. 30-35), available for purchase at