The Roundup

A gathering space for educators

October 2019

In the Instructional Services Department at Van Buren Intermediate School District, supporting teachers and administrators with instruction is the heart of our work. It is our hope that this monthly newsletter will help capture upcoming events and important information to support your work in your districts, schools, and classrooms.

Browse our upcoming Professional Learning Opportunities below!

(Updated Frequently)

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

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MTSS continues into the 19-20 school year with 33 school leadership teams participating in the work of improving systems to support student outcomes. Cohort A began last year and is now in year two. MTSS Cohort A Leadership Teams participated in professional learning on September 18 and 19. Cohort B kicked off their work for the first time on September 25. Using implementation science and the lense of appreciative inquiry, teams created individual plans within the context of their schools. Between now and the next time these teams come back to the ISD for training, Cheryl-Marie and Jennifer Bloomfield will be in the buildings working with each individual team to help them navigate their individual obstacles.

VBISD Director of Instructional Services

Cheryl-Marie Manson -

VBISD Instructional Consultant

Jennifer Bloomfield -


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Essential Instructional Literacy Practices

This month we are focused on giving tips for Essential Practice #1: Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons. The ever-changing world outside of our classroom walls has provided us with a steep challenge to engage learners giving teachers quite the competition to reach our scholars.

How can we create opportunities for our students to see them as successful? Here are some ideas shared by Dr. Nell Duke:

  • Tasks that are challenging but within reach.

  • Scaffolding to put tasks within reach, for example, for a book that is difficult for a student:

    • listening to a recording of the book first

    • echo reading

    • partner or dyad reading

    • repeated reading

    • reading several ramp-up books

  • Tasks for which success is well defined.

    • I can . . . statements

    • Discussions

    • Anchor charts

    • Checklists

    • Rubrics

Daily 5

Many of our elementary buildings participated in walkthroughs where coaches from VBISD did a quick snapshot and observed classroom design elements. Why is this important? As we connect with our students and build the framework for our classroom, the arrangement of their environment will give them the sense of belonging and community that will allow them to thrive.

Of the 9 schools who participated here are some highlights:

  • 3.2 Student Work Space 95% observed
  • 3.1 Gathering Space 75% observed
  • 3.8 Classroom Enhancements 75% observed
  • 3.7 Teacher Work Space showed to be the greatest adaptive challenge at 34% observed

As we summarize walkthrough data, we want to highlight I-Charts and the opportunity they provide to you and your students. Based on brain research, the I-Chart facilitates the conversation of expectations and anchors it into the classroom. "Making the charts constructs memories, schema, background knowledge, and experiences that become the multidimensional layers each students uses to create meaning and understanding in his or her educational life" (Bousey & Moser, 2014).

These charts can be copied right from the Daily 5 book and Launching Briefs and written onto your chart paper. The format should remain the same to support the research and anything purchased online has not been given permission by the 2 Sisters to be reproduced.

See you again at the next set of Walkthroughs in November!

Take a look below to see some samples of classroom environment.

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VBISD Literacy Coach/Consultants

Geanice Miller - 269-271-9813

Melissa Wierenga - 269-599-7259

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When students use the distributive property to break up difficult multiplication facts like 6 x 7 always break them up the following ways.

6 = 5 + 1 7 = 5 + 2 8 = 5 + 3

For kids who still want to break numbers up differently ask them to hold up 6 fingers, 7 fingers, or 8 fingers. When they do, they will always break them up into the ways below, so why do it differently? Plus it is much easier to count by 5's, 3's, 2's and 1's.

Mr. Chad Conklin, Mattawan Later Elementary, Instructional Support Specialist -

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Web Resources

C3Teachers College, Career & Civic Life - — This is the best place right now to go for inquiry based social studies resources. While it’s not designed to Michigan’s standards, the sample inquiries there fit with Michigan’s standards, particularly in the early grades and the later grades. A third grade teacher will not find any Michigan Studies materials there, but that brings me to my next resource:

GIANTS - - GIANTS is a curriculum project run by Ottawa ISD in conjunction with Dr. Phil Gersmehl (formerly University of Minnesota, now contracted with CMU) and has a full set of inquiry based curriculum (which, because of my involvement and the project director’s involvement in the standards development team, already aligns to the new standards) for grades 3-8. K-2 stuff is being piloted this year, and HS Stuff is in development for future releases.

Michigan Open Book Project - - GIANTS stemmed out of this work. MI Open Book is an inquiry based free online text developed specifically for Michigan’s standards. Grades K-8 are done, as are the HS Econ and Civics texts. HS US is 99% released with two small ending chapters that no one gets to still waiting for final edits, and HS World is about 66% released, with the WW2 chapter coming in the next few weeks taking the total to 80% complete.

Thank you, Mr. Dave Johnson for sharing this with us!

News and Updates

Clickable Maps for Almost Everyone

Be sure to check out the new Big Ideas Teacher Page from the MI Open Book Project. Although this resource is designed to support the use of the 6th Grade Mi Open Book, there are some useful resources for World History and Geography and US History and Geography inside the Big Ideas Clickable Launcher. Toward the bottom of this page, 4th grade teachers will find a clickable map of Michigan.Read more on Social Studies with access to documents and upcoming dates here.

Civic and US History Oriented

White House Historical Association

Classroom Resource Packets – 30 different topics to explore, download as PDFs for free

Video Resources- short clips featuring historians on a variety of topics

Digital Library- thousands of images to explore on all aspects of White House history

Podcast – 1600 Sessions, with episodes featuring interviews with former White House workers and more

Books- They regularly release new publications like To Live on Lafayette Square: Society and Politics in the President’s Neighborhood by historian William Seale. Soon to be released as an audiobook.

Plus, historian articles, images, and more on their website.

Elementary - Civics


  • In Kidcitizen episodes, children interactively explore Congress and civic engagement through historical primary resources and connect what they find to their daily lives.

The United States Vietnam War Commemoration

This site and its numerous resources is a result of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 110-181 SEC.598) which authorized the Secretary of Defense to conduct a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

There is a Teacher's Toolkit that contains a lot of great resources, as well as other pages like this one which provides facts sheets, maps, and primary source material.

Roy Sovis, Coordinator for Instruction, Genesee ISD

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Connecting the Classroom to Real Life

My students often wonder how they’re going to use Biology in real life (even though biology is the study of life and they’re all living organisms!) so we have a weekly Nature Note. “ What’s been going on in the world outside our window?” has been the topic for the week.

Our noticings thus far have included:

  • Migrating monarch butterflies -spotted while we were outside for a fire drill
  • Killdeer and Gray Treefrogs -both of which were heard on campus
  • Barred owl -heard at my house
  • Grackles - flying into our woods

Why do some birds gather together before they migrate? Is it just grackles that do this?? My kids might think I’m a bit strange, but they know more about the world around them because of my eccentricities. Plus, a few of them can now do a pretty mean imitation of a barred owl!

What have you seen or heard lately? What are you wondering about? Science begins with wonder!

Torrey Wenger, Bloomingdale Middle & High School Science Teacher -

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Building Connections

This is a perfect time of the year to focus on building connections with students along with spending time defining clear expectations within the classroom and throughout the building. Take time to get to know your student’s likes and dislikes and a little about each of them as a person along with how that shapes them as a learner.

In the Classroom:

Building connections within the classroom can be done throughout the day in many ways, ranging from morning meetings, to classroom check ins throughout the day, to gage and model self awareness and create empathy amongst students. For more ideas on how to do this visit The Responsive Classroom at:

Engaging your students in a classroom discussion about classroom norms and expectations is a great way to create student “buy in” into the behavioral expectations of the classroom. Creating classroom expectations together helps students feel valued, increases collaboration, and creates a better understanding of classroom expectations while increasing personal accountability to meet expectations. Pairing your classroom expectations with CHAMPS is a great way to set your students up for success during every activity. If you’re really ambitious consider creating a class motto as part of this discussion “We are smart, we are kind, and we are here to learn.''

Throughout the building:

Use your building’s PBIS matrix to rotate through teaching the different expectations in your building, creating space to both model the expected behavior as well as for the students to practice demonstrating the behavior appropriately. Remember to schedule “refreshers” in these areas throughout the school year as a way to be proactive and explicitly teach the behavior you hope to see. Scheduling these refreshers ahead of time will make things easier as the school year progresses.

VBISD Behavior and Trauma Coordinator

Heidi Olivares -