Sunday, December 8, 2013

Field Trips

When it comes to field trips, we are very fortunate that our school district supports the many requests that we have for bus trips all over the city and suburbs of Chicago. Our students visit farms, wildlife havens, museums, libraries, and theaters throughout their school career. Learning while doing, seeing live animals and their habitats, viewing authentic artifacts, and experiencing the arts in a live theatre round out the learning experiences of the classroom. We know that when our emotions are high— with excitement, joy, humor—we remember what we’ve experienced. There’s always excitement on a field trip. Just the novelty of getting out of the routine and learning in a unique manner, is a thrill.

Field trips are also an opportunity for parent involvement. For almost all field trips, there is a need for additional adults. In some cases, a student may need their parent to accompany him/her as there are extenuating circumstances. Students who are challenged to control their impulses and behave appropriately may need 1:1 support from adults. Besides our classroom teachers, our social worker may attend the field trip to assist with anticipated behavior problems. Choosing the adults that will make the trip a great experience for all the students may be challenging.

Parents generally have an opportunity to request to chaperone field trips. Often there are considerably more parents requesting than are needed. Teachers choose parents based on several factors:
  • Number of parents needed: if a parent has already had an opportunity to spend time in the classroom or on another field trip, they might not be chosen.
  •  Language: parents are not excluded who do not speak English well. We know that many of our parents are not fluent in English and so we may place students whose first language is Spanish in that parent’s group. The teacher can keep the group close to him/her to keep students safe.
  • We always need men on field trips to keep our boys safe in rest rooms.

As a parent who worked when my children were in elementary school, chaperoning a field trip was a very exciting opportunity for both me and my child. I was able to get to know the teachers and the students in the classroom in a different context. There were times that my requests were turned down. I learned not to tell my child that I was requesting so that I didn’t have to share the disappointment.

Please continue to enjoy your child’s field trip experiences either as a chaperone or through photos and stories told during and afterward. We will continue to use our social media so you can be there virtually, if not in person.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Slow Food

I am so impressed by many of the lunches that the children bring to school as well as those that they choose for lunch. Seeing children enjoying a bag of carrots or a selection from the salad bar affirms that we are seeing success with our healthy school efforts. However, 15 minutes into the meal, we start rushing the kids to finish.  It’s unreasonable to think that anyone can eat meals in 15 minutes and appreciate and digest their foods. Scientific studies show that it takes us 20 minutes or more for our brains to register the food and send a message that we are satisfied.  Eating quickly causes us to often consume many more calories than we really need because we stuff in food so fast thinking we are ravenous.  Quite a while later, we feel the “stuffed” sensation and realize it would have been better to have consumed a lot less food. The “slow food” movement that is growing rapidly on the West Coast speaks to this issue.  While the movement is in response to the negative impact that fast food has on our health and lifestyle in general, schools should take notice of the message as it applies our schedules. If children have a longer lunch period, they are likely to taste and enjoy their food slowly. They will be less inclined to over-indulge and eat only foods that can be consumed quickly. We know that more than 30% of our students are obese, and if they are not encouraged toward a healthier path, they may suffer throughout their life and never have a chance to live a full life with all its possibilities.

Our school board is considering adding a lunchroom to our school. The dedicated space for eating would allow us expand to a 30 minute lunch. Please consider supporting this effort by attending the school board meeting Oct. 23 & Nov. 20 to learn more about these plans.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday's Photo Ops

If you follow us on Twitter, you know that we had a pretty exciting end of the week at Pershing School!  On Friday we had two groups of visitors to the school.  “Tammy Town”  set up a safety town on the playground.  The pre-k, kindergarten, and 1st grade students learned all about what to do in situations such as someone following them home from school.  Giving the children the opportunity to act out these situations will really help them to remember.  They had such a great time with Tammy!

Nothing gives a parent peace of mind as much as knowing that their child can keep in touch.  So I’m always surprised at how few children know their phone number.  I think that adults are so used to always looking in their contacts for their phone numbers that they forget that their children need to memorize their parents’ cell phone numbers.  It’s easier for kids to learn a phone number if it’s remembered with an advertising tune.  Singing the phone number with the child many times will help them to recall it in times of need.  In the meantime, tape the phone number inside the child’s backpack so they always have it handy.

The storyteller, Megan Wells  spent time with our 2nd graders telling them stories and helping them to act them out with her.  Listening to someone tell a story is great for children who are developing their literacy abilities.  The 2nd graders have been working on picturing a story in their mind as they read.  Megan Wells demonstrated  for them what acting out the story that you’ve visualized looks like.  

Next Friday evening at 6 pm, Dominican University is hosting the Illinois Storytelling Festival.  Admission is $5 per family.  Check out the great event they have planned.

Don't miss a thing!  Follow us on Twitter: @PanthersD100

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gifted and accelerated learning

We are currently working to identify our students who are gifted and high performing so that we can give them some additional programming during and beyond the school day.  We plan to offer those students several diverse opportunities after school beginning next week.  Mrs. Lovero, Mr. Saracini, and Mrs. Daley will be leading sessions in science, art, theatre, robotics, literature, and more.  

Mr. Saracini will be working directly with the gifted students (those in the top 5% of the school) once a month.  The students will be pulled from their regular class for a 1/2 day or more to work on challenge based learning projects.  Our plan is that the students may continue work on the project on their own or during class throughout the month.  Mr. Saracini will be available to check in with students in between sessions.  

The students will participate in several district events or competitions during the year by grade level.  Parents will be made aware of the event or competition in advance.  

Our staff believes that on a daily basis we are able to meet the needs of our students who are gifted and high performing.  In reading, writing, and math, the students are able to move forward from where they are currently performing.  Teaching is very responsive to the instructional needs of the student.  The technology that is available to the students helps to personalize learning.  

ISAT, ACCESS, Discovery Education, and Fountas & Pinnell testing information will be sent home on Friday.  Students who are selected for gifted and accelerated learning opportunities will have a letter included in the packet.  

PantherTech Time

The work world that our students will enter will be a creative, collaborative, diverse environment.  Technology will enable them to work with people of various cultures all over the world.  The students will have to have good reading, writing, and presentation abilities.  Our 1:1 technology provides them with the ability to learn with tools they will use throughout their lives.  Even better-- students are able to work at their own pace, accelerating as high as possible just as quickly as they are able.  We know that not all of our students are able to take home their laptop or iPad and so we provide PantherTech time each morning at 7:30 am.  This hour block of time, enables the students to do the homework that they may not have been able to do without a device.

We offered PantherTech last year and learned from some of our successes and failures. This year,  1st-5th grade students must be registered in advance. Registered students will bring their device to the stage in the gym at the end of each day to lock the device in the charging cart.  Students will enter through the gym door by 7:45 to participate. Mr Buethe, who is a 5th grade teacher, will supervise and assist the students.

While we know that PantherTech time may enable a parent solve a before school day care dilema, and we are happy that it works that way, PantherTech is not day care.  The PantherTech time will conclude when the 1:1 device take-home program ends in May.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our First Cool Tool

Tomorrow begins the use of our first PBIS "cool tool."  As you may remember from my last post, a cool tool is a lesson plan designed to teach or reinforce an expected behavior.  This week's cool tool is "Be Ready: Get to School on Time."  Our tardy data shows that the students need to think about how to get to school on time.  Despite nice weather, we've had several kids late to school each day.  Some will admit that they might have been on time if they weren't watching TV before school.

It may not seem like a big deal to be a couple of minutes late for school, but it is.  Many kids hate to have everyone turn and look at them as they walk through the door.  Breakfast has already started, or may have ended so the student may have to rush or not eat at all.  Classes that go to art, music, science, or PE, may have already left the classroom, making the student feel even more awkward.  The teacher may have already given direction for the first lesson of the day and then the student has to catch up with everyone.

We have all been rushed and frazzled as we arrived somewhere late.  It's not how we want our students to start their day.  Thanks for helping us to create the best possible day for the kids!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hey, what’s PBIS?

About 8 years ago, our district began using the PBIS system to communicate with students what the expectations are at school, keep data on student behavior, and provide support for students who struggle with managing behavior. PBIS or Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports uses a 3 tiered system.  About 80% of our students are within the universal or tier 1 of PBIS. While we teach the expectations about how to be respectful, responsible, and safe (in the classroom, hallway, playground, lunchroom, arrival, dismissal, the bus), only about 80% of the students follow those expectations all the time without reminders or support.  About 15% of the students follow the expectations with extra help and support (parent contact for excessive absences). A handful of students need a lot of support to get to school every day, complete homework, be on time, behave well on the playground, etc.

We begin every school year with teaching the expectations in classrooms then have a big PBIS kick-off day. We continue to re-teach the expectations through “cool tools” or lessons focused on areas that our data shows us our students need re-teaching. We have periodic “ready raffles” for students who arrive on time. We reward students with “Panther Paws” and then use the earned paws for a Friday raffle. Paws are given to individual students and to whole classrooms for recognition of following the expected behaviors.

Ms. Bracco recently assumed leadership of PBIS tier 1 and Mr. Stachura is the leader of tier 2 & 3.  Ms. Bracco planned this year’s kick-off day (yesterday) with the tremendous support of the 4th and 5th grade teachers and their students.  This video highlights some of the 4th and 5th grade classes’ presentations to the younger students.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Building stamina

“Our stamina is up to 20 minutes!” “We reached 37 minutes today in reading stamina!”
       Both in the reading and the writing workshop, we work towards increasing the students’ ability to read or write for an extended period of time.  Research shows that students who leave elementary school reading at grade level must read at least 60 minutes per day in reading and write for 40 minutes during the school day.  In the first few weeks of school, teachers observe students reading and writing behaviors looking for signs of engagement, book choices, use of various strategies, etc. in addition to formally testing students. 
       Within the next couple of weeks, students will be pulled into small groups for strategic work while the other students read and write.  The students’ stamina for reading and writing for long periods will allow them to grow as readers and writers.