RISD Elementary Parent Newsletter

Week of 4/1/19

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Message from Julie

Dear RISD Elementary Parents,

I hope you are enjoying this "spring-like" weekend! It is exciting to see some grass - even if it is a touch muddy grass!


Here is some education focus for this week:

One of the concerns I have heard this year is about the 3/4 model for students in both schools. Though I won't be making the decision for next year, I wanted to offer some thoughts:

Here are some interesting articles about the issue:

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/19/21department.h33.html


https://www.weareteachers.com/should-elementary-schools-deparmentalize-we-look-at-the-pros-and-cons/


https://chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2018/05/17/as-nyc-encourages-more-elementary-teachers-to-specialize-in-math-new-research-shows-the-strategy-could-hurt-student-learning/


There are many pros and cons about specializing in the early elementary grades. I feel that sometimes our students are a little young for this practice in 3rd grade, but again, this is not for me to say. I would recommend talking with your new administrators if you have concerns (which some of you have already addressed with me).


MTSS

We have been working hard to tackle the issues of students who need more supports - be in academic, social, emotional, behavior, speech, or occupational therapy. It has been difficult as we are using Titles teachers to fill in for teachers who haven’t been able to be here. We are excited to offer different options for students for next year - and have more allocated to this. Students have a lot of need, and VT being one of the most difficult places for kids to qualify for special education, it is great to have money allocated to help the students who need extra. Our EST system has been working pretty well, and I am excited that plans are being written/ documentation is being provided so that we are offering the best opportunities possible for kids.


Differentiation

Another thing our schools need is some professional development in differentiation of instruction.

Teachers can differentiate instruction through four ways: 1) content, 2) process, 3) product, and 4) learning environment.

1. Content

As you already know, fundamental lesson content should cover the standards of learning set by the school district or state educational standards. But some students in your class may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some students may have partial mastery, and some students may already be familiar with the content before the lesson begins.

What you could do is differentiate the content by designing activities for groups of students that cover various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (a classification of levels of intellectual behavior going from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills). The six levels are: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Students who are unfamiliar with a lesson could be required to complete tasks on the lower levels: remembering and understanding. Students with some mastery could be asked to apply and analyze the content, and students who have high levels of mastery could be asked to complete tasks in the areas of evaluating and creating.

Examples of differentiating activities:

  • Match vocabulary words to definitions.

  • Read a passage of text and answer related questions.

  • Think of a situation that happened to a character in the story and a different outcome.

  • Differentiate fact from opinion in the story.

  • Identify an author’s position and provide evidence to support this viewpoint.

  • Create a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the lesson.

2. Process

Each student has a preferred learning style, and successful differentiation includes delivering the material to each style: visual, auditory and kinesthetic, and through words. This process-related method also addresses the fact that not all students require the same amount of support from the teacher, and students could choose to work in pairs, small groups, or individually. And while some students may benefit from one-on-one interaction with you or the classroom aide, others may be able to progress by themselves. Teachers can enhance student learning by offering support based on individual needs.

Examples of differentiating the process:

  • Provide textbooks for visual and word learners.

  • Allow auditory learners to listen to audio books.

  • Give kinesthetic learners the opportunity to complete an interactive assignment online.

3. Product

The product is what the student creates at the end of the lesson to demonstrate the mastery of the content. This can be in the form of tests, projects, reports, or other activities. You could assign students to complete activities that show mastery of an educational concept in a way the student prefers, based on learning style.

Examples of differentiating the end product:

  • Read and write learners write a book report.

  • Visual learners create a graphic organizer of the story.

  • Auditory learners give an oral report.

  • Kinesthetic learners build a diorama illustrating the story.

4. Learning environment

The conditions for optimal learning include both physical and psychological elements. A flexible classroom layout is key, incorporating various types of furniture and arrangements to support both individual and group work. Psychologically speaking, teachers should use classroom management techniques that support a safe and supportive learning environment.

Examples of differentiating the environment:

  • Break some students into reading groups to discuss the assignment.

  • Allow students to read individually if preferred.

  • Create quiet spaces where there are no distractions.

Pros and cons of differentiated instruction

The benefits of differentiation in the classroom are often accompanied by the drawback of an ever-increasing workload. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

Pros

  • Research shows differentiated instruction is effective for high-ability students as well as students with mild to severe disabilities.

  • When students are given more options on how they can learn material, they take on more responsibility for their own learning.

  • Students appear to be more engaged in learning, and there are reportedly fewer discipline problems in classrooms where teachers provide differentiated lessons.

Cons

  • Differentiated instruction requires more work during lesson planning, and many teachers struggle to find the extra time in their schedule.

  • The learning curve can be steep and some schools lack professional development resources.

  • Critics argue there isn’t enough research to support the benefits of differentiated instruction outweighing the added prep time.

Our spring Concert has been rescheduled again to 5/28 due to a conflict with the accompianst. Mark your calendars! It is going to be incredible!


I hope you have a great week! As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns; my door(s) are always open!




Warmly,

Julie

Benefit of Mindfulness

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More Mindfulness

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Momo Challenge

Many people have been increasingly concerned about the "Momo Challenge," a supposed game from the internet that challenges kids who see it to consider hurting themselves. There isn't a lot of evidence that it is actually occurring, but the kids are worried about it. Here are some articles that discuss it:

https://www.vox.com/2019/3/3/18248783/momo-challenge-hoax-explained

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/style/momo-mania-hoax.html

Our students cannot access youtube while they are at school, so this shouldn't be an issue there. As always, we continue our diligence to safe internet access.

What's New for the 2018-2019 School Year


Updated handbook!

We will be focusing on consistency between the two schools. A copy of the handbook will be sent home, but you can also access it online.


https://docs.google.com/document/d/19jroAmNhwgUPPgb80DztOg7WvUhc3hVh8JLW1rW57Xg/edit?usp=sharing

Upcoming Events

6th grade exhibition

Tuesday, Jan. 22nd, 6pm

214 School Street

Fairlee, VT

No school

Monday, Jan. 21st, 7am

This is an online event.