Fahari's Weekly Staff Memo: 11/13/2015 - 11/20/2015
A Message from Fahari's Principal: Stephanie Clagnaz, Ed.D.
Where is there more evidence of joy in learning at Fahari?
Charlotte Danielson teaches us about effective student engagement in domain/component 3c (Engaging Students in Learning). Danielson says that 3c is the heart of the entire Framework for Teaching; that all other domains and components help to plan, execute and reflect on engaging students in learning.
Some of the indicators that are identified by Danielson in 3c include:
student enthusiasm, interest, thinking, problem solving, etc.
students being highly motivated to work on all tasks
students working, rather than watching their teachers work
I have asked that Fahari instructional plans intentionally include sparkle and joy each week. Here are some places that I’ve seen joy occurring recently:
Ms. Pacheco/Ms. Brown’s 8th grade ELA class, in which students were asked to create a song, rap, or spoken word (poem) that identifies the central idea and important details from the text excerpt “First They Killed My Father”. Ask Ms. Pacheco to show you her video of student groups as they performed!
Ms. Cassaro/Ms. Pereira’s 5th grade ELA class where students were given the choice to play Charades or Pictionary to demonstrate their understanding of figurative language as used in quotes from the novel, Esperanza Rising. One of the quotes the children were given was, A sudden blast of hot wind took the flour sack from Irene’s hand and carried it the fields.
Ms. Guiteau/Mr. Turner/Ms. Soetan/Mr. Mayers’ 7th grade math classes where students were asked to create Number Sense: Rational Number Foldables. Students created foldables, adding rational numbers with negative and positive signs. The foldables demonstrated the use of decimals, fractions with uncommon denominators, fractions with common denominators and mixed fractions.
Mr. Thomas’ 8th grade social studies students created pre-Civil War narratives and are making parchment paper on which they will write their final drafts. The children will use tea bags dipped in water to stain ordinary paper, making it parchment-like.
How can you include sparkle and joy in your lessons this week?
- How can you increase student engagement by including more opportunities for joyful learning?
- When can you make time to observe a peer’s class where there are intentional plans for students to be engaged in this way?
On Culture with Jared Roebuck - Assistant Principal
There’s literacy, and then there’s literacy.
Last week we reflected on two conceptions of literacy: powerful literacy and functional literacy. What’s the difference between the two?
Professor of Education Patrick J. Finn suggests that there are four levels of literacy that schools prepare students for:
Performance Level - students can sound out words and turn sentences that are typical of informal face to face interactions into writing.
Functional Level - the ability to meet the reading and writing demands of an average person on an average day. Reading USA Today, filling out a job application, understanding directions.
Informational Level - the ability to read and absorb the knowledge that is associated with the school and to write examinations and reports based on such knowledge. This literacy is about getting the right answer, and rarely involves creativity.
Powerful Literacy - involves creativity and reason--the ability to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize while reading and listening and to persuade and negotiate through writing and speaking. It is the literacy of persons who are conscious of their own power and self interest. (Finn, 2009)
We work hard everyday to improve our students' capacity in reading and writing. But what is the goal of all of this reading and writing? What are our assessments preparing students to be able to do? Just because a student is able to read with fluency or correctly cite the central idea of a passage, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to translate those skills into the kind of power that Finn is describing.
It's important for us to understand that the primary tool used to hold students and schools accountable-- standardized tests-- at best only measures informational literacy. Because high stakes exams are geared toward informational literacy, the instruction that many students receive stops at informational literacy, and never moves beyond. Often, it is children of color who are subjected to this kind of instruction, and are thus denied the opportunity to develop powerful literacy-- the kind of reading and writing skills that allow true social mobility.
As you plan your lessons this week, and begin to think about upcoming units of study, remember:
There’s literacy, and then there’s literacy.
Thanks for all that you do.
Jared Roebuck, Assistant Principal
From the Desk of Traci L. Douglas, Assistant Principal
Last week I indicated that for the remainder of the school year, in this section of the staff memo, I hoped to bring the BHAG to life by exploring the multitude of ways that Fahari is working to realize its vision. This week I’d like to highlight our school-wide advisory program. On all grade levels, students have advisory once a week for a full class period. This school year, advisory sessions are facilitated by our counseling team as well as some members of our culture team. When I asked our facilitators what they believed was the essential purpose of advisory at Fahari, they stated that the program exists to build “connectedness, trust, community, teamwork, peer leadership, and mediation skills” in an environment that allows students “to bring to the table issues that concern their age group.” All across the country, middle schools are exploring a variety of advisory models to strengthen and deepen relationships between adults and students with the end goal of increasing both academic and non-academic student outcomes.
As I spoke with our advisory facilitators, I wondered how many of our staff members were aware of the topics being covered and the impact that the sessions were having on overall student growth. Ms. Miller noted that advisory “equips our students with the social emotional skills needed to navigate successfully through life” while providing a forum to “talk about things that they don’t typically get to discuss in other classes.” I asked her and the other counselors to provide examples of student learning in advisory and they shared the following:
In 5th grade, students are using scenarios to practice the steps to resolve a conflict.
6th graders are dissecting stereotypes based on gender and formulating new perceptions of themselves.
7th grade students are expressing their viewpoints on tobacco and alcohol use while getting clarity on the laws related to smoking and drinking.
8th graders are developing research skills as they work on their high school applications and are reflecting on the impact of their prior academic performance on their chances of getting into certain high schools.
It became clear to me that as Ms. Miller, Ms. Robinson and Ms. Yoruk talked about the various activities taking place in their advisory sessions that they were providing evidence of progress towards reaching our BHAG. Preparing the whole child for a life of leadership and service must include direct instruction in the areas of social emotional learning, conflict resolution and decision-making. While students will certainly learn critical thinking skills in their core subjects, it is in advisory that students will have opportunities to hone those skills through discussion of real life scenarios and guidance with real-time situations.
Chris Stevenson, author of the book Teaching Ten to Fourteen Year Olds, describes advisory as “the single most notable organizational feature that has emerged from studies of exemplary middle schools.” As we strive to achieve excellence, we can rest assured that by investing in our advisory program we are moving in the right direction!
Culture Time with Edwin Santiago Jr. – Director of School Culture
Greetings Fahari family,
Planning is key to a successful lesson. Planning makes sure nothing is forgotten. Without planning, most of our daily lives would be in chaos. Here at Fahari we have rolled out our student planners to the 5th, 7th and 8th Grade (6th Grade will receive them in homeroom on Monday, November 16, 2015.) What we encourage and expect is for all students to use them on a daily bases to help organize and keep track of their daily assignments.
The expectation for all students is to write their daily assignments for each class in their planners either as the first thing they do when they enter the classroom or five minutes before class ends. Students are to take their planners home and have their parents review and sign them to ensure that they have completed their assignments. By doing this students will be able to organize themselves and in doing so, plan for success.
Team, we now have 5 sets of speakers that can be reserved for your use in the classroom. If you need a set of speakers please email email@example.com at least 24 hours in advance.
We also have 5 HDMI to VGA cords for your use. If you want to project using a Chromebook you will need to use the HDMI to VGA adapter. If you need to use the adapter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org at least 24 hours in advance.
As always, if a laptop cart does not live in your classroom and you need a cart, please continue to email email@example.com. We have 8 functional and stocked laptop carts, the 9th cart will be available within the next 2 weeks, we are purchasing additional Chromebooks for that cart.
**GREAT News** Staff members only will be able to print from Chromebooks in the very near future. CTS will be here on Monday, November 16th to set this up for us. I will send an email once we are all set in this area.
The students listed below are Tech Team members. These are the only students who should be pushing carts in the hallway. They arrive to school at 7:10 to start delivering carts to classrooms and they pick them up at 3:00 for next day charging.
After School teachers - Please do not send students to pick up laptop carts. If you need a cart you must email me and a member of the Tech Team will deliver a cart to your class.
Thamar George - Co - Captain
Latoya George - Captain
Kevin Wright - Suspended until further notice
Alex Bearburn - Suspended until further notice
~ Beverly Parsons, Director of Operations
This week's schedule updates
Will it be an A or B week?
We will be following an A schedule this week.
Who will be out this week?
Please check the daily schedule for coverage updates*
Monday, November 16th, 2015
Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Friday, November 20th, 2015
Thursday, November 26th, 2015 to Friday, November 27th, 2015
Holiday - Thanksgiving Break
School Building closed - No school for students and staff
@ Fahari Academy - 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM