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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

We want ketchup!

In an effort to make sure that all the kids who order lunch have time to eat it, I didn’t allow the ketchup pump to be available for most students the first two weeks of school. There’s one pump and 150 kids in each lunch period.   Later in the 2nd week, I eased up and allowed the 4th and 5th graders to spend time pumping the ketchup.  At last week’s parent coffee, one parent suggested preparing little ketchup cups for the students to take rather than use the pump.  I bought thousands of little cups over the weekend and the students were delighted to put ketchup on everything!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Staying hydrated

We all need to keep ourselves hydrated, especially in hot weather when we may sweat more than we take in.  Kids at school need lots more water than a little slurp at the drinking fountain can provide.  We have installed a Brita Hydration Station near the main entrance of our school outside the gym.  There’s a light sensor on it so students need only to move their bottle upward to begin the stream of water, and lower the bottle to end the stream.  We are encouraging the students to bring water bottles to school and to fill it up during the day.   Each classroom will develop different ways to keep our technology safe from water spilled.  In many classrooms, the students keep their water bottles upright in their chair pouch or on the floor next to their chair.  The hydration station is a great effort towards continuing to create opportunities for our students to form healthy habits.