From the Desk of Kelly Harmon

Summer 2017 Newsletter

Dear Educators,

School's out for the summer! It's time to relax, rejuvenate, and rev up for the 2017-2018 school year. This month we are sharing ideas for professional learning and getting ready for the next school year. We hope you have enjoyed our newsletter this year and we look forward to continuing to serve you with great ideas that help you plan your instruction. Look for our Back-to-School newsletter on August 1st. You won't want to miss all the ideas we are sharing for the first weeks of school. But first, take a deep breath, enjoy some sunshine and rest! You deserve it!

Happy Summer Break!

Kelly and Randi

Preparing for Next Year During the Summer

1. Get Organized

Summer is a great time to throw out the old. My rule is, if you haven't used it in a year, throw it out! Education is constantly changing and that means that you are constantly collecting new teaching tools. If the fear of "maybe" needing it in the future hits you, then take a picture and upload it to a jump drive. This will help to keep your paper load or clutter down.

Summer is also a great time to start labeling binders, folders, or tubs for next year's groups. Labeling your teaching resources, classroom library, and centers is an efficient way to help teachers stay on track all year long.

2. Prepare a Schedule

Being well-planned is crucial to a year's success. Summer is a great time to collaborate with your team or other staff members about next year's schedule. Layout times for core instruction, RTI, enrichment, and blocks of time for genius hour, wonder Wednesdays. This will help you when you are setting up your classroom for next year's students.

Scheduling your units of study is also important during this time! Grab your scope and sequence or curriculum guide and map out where your students are going this next year. Plan for genre studies, major projects, and assessments. It's important to have a road map lined out before the first day of school. You and your students will have a clear vision of what they will be learning this year! Do you have a high wall in your classroom? This is a great place to place a "road map" for the year. I put up a road and labeled it with the months of the year. Then put the unit names along the way. This also reminded me (and the students) to make linkages between units. It's a great way to stay on track all year long.

3. Build a List of Critical Expectations

Map out your classroom management plan ahead of time. Write out classroom expectations that the class will be able to easily follow starting on day one. More than 5 rules or expectations can be daunting to anyone, so make sure you have 3-5 simple expectations. All of the expectations should have the outcome of building a successful learning community. Some examples might be:

1. Students are Respectful

2. Students are Honest

3. Students Make Responsible Choices

4. Students are Punctual

5. Students Always Try Their Best

4. Draw a Blueprint of Your Classroom

Before setting up your classroom for next year, draw a blueprint of how you envision your classroom being laid out. Plan for areas like:

  • Whole Group Meeting Area
  • Small Group Meeting Area
  • Classroom Library
  • Student Work Areas
  • Centers
  • Teacher Work Area
  • Storage

This will help you stay on track and plan for your most important spaces!

For more information on starting the school next year off strong, join us this June for The First 25 days of ELAR or The First 25 Days of Math!

Read Box

Summer is a great time to set up a Read Box for your classroom. Make it a goal to record a couple of books (or chapters) each week. Here is how to make a recording with the a QR code.

1. Select a recording app. I use the app Voice Memos on my iPhone. Read the text aloud, noting when students need to turn the page.

2. Upload the recording to Google Drive.

3. Right click on the recording file name to get a shareable link.

4. Paste the link into a QR code creator. Once the code is made, right click on it to save as an image.

5. Name the image with the title of the book and QR code.

6. Print out the QR code and tape it on the book.

Students can use iPads or old iPhones (Wifi still works on school network) to scan the code with a QR code scanner. Be sure to download a QR code scanner on the devices that doesn't contain ads. You may have to pay for the app, but this is necessary to keep your kids from navigating away from the recording.

Recording texts is an excellent way to scaffold students so they can practice comprehension strategies in grade level appropriate texts.

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Marzano Conference: Building Expertise

June 14, 2017 Orlando, Fl.

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

Helping students take ownership and develop proficiency in critical skills, strategies, and processes is the goal of carefully planned instruction. During this highly interactive day of professional discovery, learn four key ideas for creating practice opportunities that ensure your students soar to mastery in summarizing, inferring, composing texts, solving problems, and other mental processes. Learn what brain research reveals about perfect practice and how to provide “just right” coaching and support.

Click here for more information on the Conference

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A Walk to Affirm

Last August, right before the students returned to school, I was invited to participate in a "Walk to Affirm" at Fort Sam Houston Elementary. This was without a doubt one of the best back-to-school professional development sessions I've ever been a part of! On August 19th, grade level teams got together for an hour to share their goals for the year and their classroom set up. We walked through each room, seeing and hearing ideas from each teacher. We asked questions and celebrated all the work that it took to prepare for an awesome start for the school year. Everyone learned and celebrated as we walked the halls and through classrooms that had been lovingly prepared for the students.

If you've never done something like this, please put this down as a "must do" before school starts. You will be so amazed at what you can share and learn with the staff at your campus.

Thank you to Dr. Cerna, Lynda Jacob and the entire staff for making this such a meaningful professional discovery for all!

Follow Fort Sam Houston Elementary on Twitter @FSHE_PLC

Educator Spotlight

Teaching in today's environment is extremely challenging and stressful. It is easy to forget to celebrate all the little accomplishments and great work that is happening each day in every school. One educator who never fails to celebrate her colleagues and students is Genevie Rodriguez from Las Palmas Elementary School in San Antonio, TX. She has a strong passion for her students and staff. Ms. Rodriguez empowers her staff members on her campus with ideas, resources, and affirmations. She is constantly learning and refining her superpower called teaching. Follow Genevie on Twitter, @genevie79cr, and see how she is always sharing and encouraging her school to be the best they can be, while celebrating their victories. Way to go Genevie!!! You lift all of us up!

Follow Genevie on Twitter here!

Don't forget to celebrate and share each day. Taking time to do this will raise morale and help everyone remember the reasons we do what we do! Students who are surrounded by positive, growth minded adults become positive growth minded learners.

5 Ways to Prevent Reading Loss (From the Archives)

Summer is a much needed break for both teachers and students, but it can be a time of academic loss, too. Just like athletes who take an extended break from using muscles and skills, students who do not read over the summer will regress in fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Here are 5 ways teachers and parents can prevent reading loss.

1. Provide Books

Distribute 6-12 books for students to take home over the summer. "Simply providing children from low-income families with self-selected books for summer reading eliminated summer reading loss and spurred reading gains comparable to those experiences by middle class children (Allington, McGill-Frazen, Camilli, et al., 2010).

2. Meet Students...ONLINE!

Set up dates to meet online for book chats. If you use Edmodo, you can set up small groups. If you aren't an Edmodo user, use to set up a 2 hour chat on specific dates throughout the summer!

3. Meet Students Locally

Plan dates ahead of time to meet students at their neighborhood library. Meet to give book talks, browse and read books together, or set goals! Get your local librarian involved too!

4. Empower Parents

Suggest online library sources to parents. Tumblebooks is a great way to have instant access to great books! Visit our blog for a link to using Tumblebooks.

5. Make a Summer Plan

Create a summer calendar for parents and students to follow. The calendar can have fun simple daily activities for students to do with their parents or independently to build reading and math fluency & comprehension skills. Offer incentives for students who complete activities during summer vacation. Hold a "back-to-school" celebration so students can share summer learning activities and turn in reading logs for prizes and rewards.