Avoca West News

September 7, 2018

Starting the Year off Right!

After planning and prepping throughout the summer, it's finally "game time!" What a wonderful start to the year it's been so far! I'm not only grateful to see familiar faces back to share stories of their summer adventures, but the new energy of our kindergarten friends is infectious and is a natural coffee for the soul. What a fabulous reminder of all the growth our children make during these elementary years!

Across the district this year we're looking for ways to really come together as "One District" - a unifying theme that will come through in many ways. Mr. Palcer is excited to spend more time down here at Avoca West as he takes the lead on our English Learners throughout the district and I'm excited to wear my middle school hat with familiar faces and students to help get a greater understanding of how we can build a smooth transition from Avoca West to Marie Murphy. You might see that we're al sporting baseball tees with "District 37" to show a visible unity and pride for where we work. As I've shared previously -- our grass IS the greenest and we couldn't be luckier to be in Avoca!

At the building level, our leadership team is excited to bring our first ever color crews. This will be an ongoing, school wide effort to make stronger connections within the building so that our students know they are a part of something bigger! K-2nd-4th grade classes will be teaming up in four different color crews, and 1st-3rd-5th grade classes will be working together on four additional color crews. Together, we will make a beautiful rainbow, but we will also look to team up to make Avoca West and our community even greater! This past Friday was our first chance to come together to meet faces and have some fun. You child likely came home to share their color crew's cheer and hashtag -- a way that we'll greet each other for all school assemblies. We will plan to meet up once each month formally, though I anticipate that classes may find ways to team together more authentically as opportunities arise along the way. For example, our 3rd graders will be a wonderful practice audience for our 5th graders as they prepare for their Wax Museum project.

I will share our our progress and pictures via social media and newsletter throughout the year. Stay tuned for an abundance of smiles!

New To Avoca This Year - an ELA Update

We are excited to share news about changes to our English/Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. During the 2017-2018 school year, a committee researched best practices in the area of ELA and formally adopted the balanced literacy model for instruction. The primary goal of a balanced literacy program is to teach reading not as a skill broken into isolated steps, but as a lifelong learning process that promotes higher-order thinking, problem solving, and reasoning. The committee also identified resources that support best practice at both Avoca West and Marie Murphy.

The committee has made several recommendations for the 2018-19 school year. Various classes will be piloting programs, resources, and/or schedules throughout the school year to study how they fit our needs here at Avoca. The benefit of piloting any change is the flexibility to identify which parts of the program/resource/schedule work and what might need strengthening or tweaking to meet the needs of our students. Teachers piloting ELA changes have been trained and will be working closely with an implementation specialist throughout the school year. Additionally, we will be monitoring student progress and gathering data throughout the school year to inform future decisions.

Planned Pilot and Implementation for ELA at Avoca West this year includes:

  • Implementing Heggerty in K-1st grade to strengthen Phonemic Awareness
  • Implementing SnapWords in K-3rd grade to strengthen Sight Words
  • Implement Writing Units of Study scope and sequence K-8 to strengthen and align units across the district
  • Pilot Reading Horizons in K-3rd grade to determine what works best for Phonics Instruction
  • Pilot a Word Study Process at 3rd-8th grade to allow a greater focus on roots and affixes and to build student vocabulary
  • Pilot Fountas & Pinnell Guided Reading in Kindergarten to investigate the system as a possible resource for guided reading instruction
  • Pilot Reading Units of Study & Workshop Model at the middle school to determine its effectiveness in supporting an authentic literacy workshop (and perhaps enhancing the Writing Units of Study

If your child's classroom will be using pilot materials,

you will receive an email from Mrs. Hutchison.

Appreciating our Diversity of ALL Kinds!

In our August newsletter, I challenged our families and community members to think about how they can model BRAVEry at home -- as we learn so much about life outside of school as well!

"...to make sure that we stay together and that we see the beauty in the amazing diversity that is inside and outside of our school. That diversity is one of my greatest points of pride for our school and I believe that we should be able to provide a safe place for all students and families. A rainbow is remarkable enough to move observers to pull over cars, to stop and snap pictures, to post on social media -- because of the melding of so many colors in varying shades and levels of brightness. We need to celebrate that same beauty at Avoca West and in the world as well!"

One of the GREAT things about our school that separates us from many of our North Shore peers is the diversity in our community of children, families, and staff. We can celebrate our diversity and insure that all families and students feel welcome, is to be mindful of our diversity. This beautiful diversity includes individuals who are non-binary with gender identity. Avoca West has partnered with Lurie Children's Hospital for staff development to allow us to grow our mindfulness about how we can support all students within the building. For example, we're consciously avoiding sorting students by "boys" vs. "girls" (in a line or on teams), and move to odd numbers vs. even numbers. The flexibility allows our staff to be more creative and inclusive in even the smallest of ways! By learning more ourselves, we're better able to respond when students have questions as they make sense of their world.

Perhaps you've already had such conversations with your child at home -- but I know that I often freeze in the moment when my own kiddos catch me of guard. That "freeze" can send an unintended message to my children and I've learned to have a pad answer of, "Hmmm...I'm not sure...let's see what we can find out!" I encourage you to learn more about the topic of gender identity/fluidity so that you're better able to have a conversation with your child if/when the time comes up!

Some resources that we've found to be helpful in our learning include:

Lurie Children's Hospital Gender Development Program: https://www.luriechildrens.org/en/specialties-conditions/gender-development-program/resources/terminology-for-discussing-gender/

TransKids is run by Searah, whom after years of helping adults find high-quality gender expression gear, saw the need for a site and store that focused more on kids and their unique needs. https://transkids.biz. Searah hopes that all parents coming here can trust that this is a safe and affirming place, where helping your kids live fully and embodied is our only goal.

Gender Spectrum helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens. https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/

HuffPost has short video episodes put out by Queer Kid Stuff. This one specifically addresses non-binary identities. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/queer-kid-stuff-non-binary_us_5a7b47f7e4b044b38218a380

Learning More About Our Learners

September offers our teachers a time to really get to know their students better and to set goals for the year ahead. Avoca proudly has the mindset that "One size does not fit all," so this time allows staff to look at data from last year and help it come alive through their observations and interactions with our students.

We will be focusing this year on making the most of these observations, assessments, and what it tells us about how our students are learning. This month we will have the following assessments at Avoca West:

  • MAP testing - Grades 2-5 - beginning next week (the 14th) Please check with your child's teacher for specific dates and times.
  • Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment -- Grades 1-5 - Formally completed in the spring, our teachers will listen to their current students to confirm the levels from this past spring and to help set goals. All new students will read with their teacher to gain a precise level.

We are also looking to grow our practices of collecting/tracking all of our data in one spot. This includes those formal assessments but also observations and quick checks for understanding in the classroom. This will allow us to have greater conversations among teams about student learning and to problem solve for ways to make sure we are moving each child along in his/her learning.

Parenting in the Digital Age -- A Free Resource from Wilmette PD

Navigating as a parent in today’s technology rich world is confusing. It is common to struggle with providing web accessible devices while protecting kids from potentially harmful effects. Join us for a presentation on topics that include creating boundaries with mobile devices, watching for potentially dangerous apps, what expectation of privacy should my child have, dealing with inappropriate content, and online social conflict.

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Mark Your Calendars!!


9/11-9/14 - MAP Testing (Grades 2-5) * See above

9/13 - 5:00-7:00pm - Ice Cream Social and Volunteer Fair - Avoca West Playground

9/17 - Picture Day at Avoca West

9/18 - PTC Spirit Wear Sale Ends


Stay Connected to Avoca West This Year!

Stay in touch with us this year through social media! I strongly encourage all of our parents to sign up to the Avoca West 18-19 group on Remind -- which will allow you to get important updates from school in case of an emergency. No need to add the Remind app to your phone, simply send a text using the instructions below!
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Check out the Avoca PTC's Updated Website

Don't forget to stop by the Avoca PTC website for updated information and dates to put on your calendar as well. There are many exciting events going on -- including our Spirit Wear sales!!

Questions? Comments?

Please feel free to reach out to ask any of our office staff for help!