Sunday, May 25, 2008

Patrols Honored

Like many elementary schools, Chets Creek selects fifth grade patrols. There are almost a hundred patrols at our very large school! Two patrols are assigned to each kindergarten classroom. In the mornings the patrols watch the children as they come into the school and sit in the halls outside their classrooms. The kindergartners can pull their book-in-a-bag that they take home to read each night out of their backpack or they can choose a book from a wagon of books outside each classroom, but they are expected to read until it is time for the class to come into the classroom. The patrols are responsible for monitoring behavior in the hall. Many of the patrols bring the class in fifteen minutes early (when the teacher is in the room) and read aloud to their young charges, play games or do morning activities that the teachers set out. The patrols and students often develop very strong bonds over the course of the year.

As the year comes to a close, many of the kindergarten teachers honor their patrols because they so appreciate their perseverance to the task all year long. In Maria Mallon's class Patrols Vicky Holtsman and Madi Cothern were honored with flowers, a bag full of goodies (including a gift card to a favorite store and a photo of the Patrols with the kindergarten class on a magnet to put in their middle school locker next year!) and hand-written cards by their kindergarten charges.

Below, using the children's own spelling, are some of the cards written by the kindergartners to Vicky:
I love you - Jared
Thak you for all you did for use - Sophia
I no I dot want hugs from you but you mayk me and I will love you - Jackson
I love you and your a grate ptrol and good luck in middle school next year - Carter
I love win you play games with us like bingo - Blane
I love you Vickie you are the best patrol ever. You are sweet. I hope you are ready for middle school - Connor
I liket win you playd hayg man and the word was evyrwuh - Davis
I like wen you reed sum books to us - Natalie
Thank you for teeching us math - Sydney
I love you thanck you for tucking care of us love - Emily
I like when you pald four corners with us - Isabella
I like when you read to us and play games with us - Andrew
Thenk you for teching me - Austin
Thak you for being with us this year - Carson
Besides providing a service to the school this is an experience that will shape many patrols and that they will NEVER forget! Thank you Patrols for a job well done!

Friday, May 23, 2008


Since Florida voted to lower its class size and since we ran out of space at Chets Creek (no empty classrooms!), we are doing more co-teaching than ever before. Co-teaching is defined as two teachers sharing the same students and the same space - a little like a marriage. Several years ago, Haley Alvarado and Meredy Mackiewicz (K-1 co-teachers pictured at the left) realized that we needed a workshop to help new partners work through some of their questions and concerns, so, in typical Chets Creek style, they designed the workshop they would have wanted for themselves as they began their own partnership. The workshop has been highly successful over the years and new teams begin to ask for it as soon as they realize that they are going to have a new partner for the coming year. Our Chets professional development for co-teachers took place this week for partners that will be teaching together NEXT year so that they have all the information they need up front. We call this our prenuptial agreement.
Included in the day were 10 teams of teachers who will be working together for the first time next year. Primary partners met in the morning and intermediate teachers met in the afternoon (pictured above). Below is the agenda for this very productive day. This is the first step in developing a very successful partnership!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Teams

The roster for next year 2008-09 has been out for several weeks now. Planning for the new year actually starts at the Leadership table in early February, so by this time of year teachers know which grade they will be teaching next year, if they will be teaming and with whom, and where their new classroom will be. Last week we started getting the new teams together for a New Team PLC day. The new 1st grade team met this morning, just like every other grade level will meet. Each teacher began by introducing herself. This first grade team is especially strong with seven teachers looping up with their class from kindergarten, two teachers who will be remaining in 1st, two teachers who are coming down from a higher grade to first and one who interned at Chets Creek in first grade and will be a first year teacher. These are the teachers that I will travel with next year as I archive their year at the Creek.

The purpose of this day is for new teams to bond and to decide as a group what things they will all agree to do next year. We call these our non-negotiables. Teachers are reminded NOT to put anything on the list that they do not agree to do! Following is the agenda notes of the things that were discussed and agreed upon.

New First Grade Team Meeting (May 21, 2008)New 1st Grade Team: Randi Timmons and Cathy Daniels, Haley Alvarado and Meredy Mackiewicz, Debbie Harbour and Patty VanAlstyne, Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard, Toni Chant, Vicky Groves, Heather Correia, Chevaughn Sasso

Time for Subjects
2 ½ hour Literacy Block (includes Skills Block, Reading, & Writing)
1 hour Math Block
15 min. daily Science Block instruction plus hands-on on Long Wednesdays.
Social Studies & Science are integrated throughout the week
Math Counts & Calendar taught during the morning

Artifacts for Teachers and Students
Standards- It’s not important to post ALL of the standards, but rather coming up with a system to ensure that you are connecting the standard with the lesson so that students know and understand the connection. When asked, students should be able to articulate the standard they are working on in any Workshop.
Word Walls- Sight Word Word Wall, Vocabulary Word Wall, Word Family Word Wall, Science Word Wall, and Personal Word Walls in Writing Folders are all examples of the way word walls can be used and displayed. The purpose is to teach students how to utilize the word wall as a learning tool, rather than just having one posted in your room to be compliant.) Words should be added to these word walls and introduced to students throughout the year. Students should be able to articulate strategies for finding words on word walls that they do not know how to spell.
Portfolios/Individual Writing Folders-
Work-in-progress folders have already been ordered for the grade level. The first homework project is for students to take a piece of card stock to decorate with pictures and words. This serves as a “writing idea” menu for Writer’s Workshop.
Cumulative folders: Have a system to organize and show students’ daily work as evidence of daily Writer’s Workshop. Think of a system that works best for you. Work may be sent home but folders should always include enough work to show fluency and progress over time
Final year end portfolios: All final pieces of the portfolio should be kept in orange folders which can be found in the child’s cum folder.
Readers’ response- Decide on how you will be cataloging readers’ responses and what works for you and your kids (such as composition books, folder, etc.) Readers’ response is a primary focus in first grade.
Diagnostic "notebook"- Diagnostic notebook/ folders/ file system should include a tab for every child. It should include reading profile sheets, DIBELS and DRA documentation and the same type information for Math.
Readers’ and Writers’ “notebooks”- Some system should be in place to keep readers’ running records, benchmark tests, guided reading group work, anecdotal notes and also writers’ anecdotal notes.

Book of the Month: Have a place in which the book of the month is clearly displayed in your classroom. Must have a Book of the Month basket in your genre library which includes books from the previous and existing year that students have access to.

Standard Based Bulletin Boards: Of the 7 required standard-based bulletin boards, each first grade teacher will be responsible for one literacy, one math, one science, and the last one should be a work over time board. The remaining bulletin board content areas are for you to decide.

Standard Snapshots: This will be part of our early release days, discussing student samples and writing the snapshot. The topic for these snapshots will be decided ahead of time to give teachers time to collect adequate work samples. A piece of student work will be attached to the snapshot to go home.
Common Assessments: Comprehension common assessments in first grade are given after the first nine weeks. Specific test-taking strategies have been identified and common assessments written to roll out the comprehension piece in a direct, explicit manner.

Grade Level Homework: The Grade level will all do the same homework which will follow the Pacing Guide. Think carefully about adding extra homework! If adding extra homework gets to be a problem with comparison out in the community, you may have to get "add-on" homework approved.

Communication: Weekly Newsletters will be done by every teacher and will go out on Mondays! This is the best way to communicate with parents and let them have a look inside into the learning that is going on in your classroom.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poetry Too!

Kindergarten poems continue to pour into my office. Below are just a sampling of what the children are doing as they close out the year.

by Samen

Beaches Beaches
They are fun.
The waves splash
on me. It's really
really fun.

by Kiana

Balloons pop.
Balloons are different shapes.
Balloons have stars.
Balloons are pink.
Balloons are green.

Football Camp
by Izayah
football camp
fun and hot
and rainy
and sunny

From Mrs. Harbour and Ms. Stresen-Reuter's class:

by Lisa

warm hugs
good cook

by Dylan

I feel yellow
Happy day
A yellow day
A fun day

An Elephant!
by Zachary

little eyes
short feet
long trunk
long tail
hairy fur

I feel like blue
and slow

by Julia

live under the sea
they sing "ekeee ekee"
some are blue - some are gray
they always like to play

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Poetry 2008

Kindergartners end their first year in school writing poetry. Some teachers publish by simply encouraging the student to add a colorful picture to their poem. Others edit the poem by typing it for the student, adding "book" spelling. Still others edit and type and then have the student illustrate. Below are some examples of what the children have been doing in May!

From Maria Mallon and Julie Johnson's class

Ben 10
by Carter
Ben 10
Ben 10
I like Ben 10
10 new
Alien heroes
Ben 10
Ben 10
Star Wars
by Blane
I like when the music comes on
It makes me feel excited
Bom Bom Bom Bom BomBom Bom
by Ryan
Seal, seal
Big and fat
You are slimy
But I don't care about that
Wash Your Hands
by Davis
Washing your hands is fun
Washing your hands kills germs
I wash my hands to write this poem

From Chevaughn Sasso's class

The Beautiful Flower
by Taylor

The flower
I saw today -
it was the
prettiest thing I
have seen. I wonder
what's inside that
flower. One day
I will see.

The Magic Carpet
by Taylor

Maybe our carpet
is magical but
where will
it take us?
Maybe it will take
us to a magical

Bunnies, Oh Bunnies
by Julianna

Bunnies, oh bunnies,
soft as a
marshmallow. They
hop all around
on their little
bunny feet - so
fluffy and cute.
They look for
carrot tops. They
think they're so
good. Well, so
do I!

From Julia Lewis' class

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Duval County Math Educator of the Year 2008

Tonight the Duval County Mathematics Council announced its new Mathematics Educator of the Year... and the award went to our own Angela Phillips!

Angela piloted Math Investigations before it was adopted by the district and was instrumental in creating enthusiasm for the program. She co-led a Math co-hort for three years that led to the birth of the highly successful Academy of Mathematics which brings Math Coaches from across the county together for professional development. She hosts hundreds of visitors in her classroom that come from every part of the country. Angela wrote our Math Diagnostics and the Math formatives before they were offered by the district. She wrote all of the Chets Creek Math Pacing Guides and most of the homework. She didn’t do any of this because it was assigned to her, but because she recognized a need and filled the void. She is a true servant leader and is willing to do “whatever it takes.”

As a coach, Angela is unparalleled. Her instincts about how to deal with even the most complex personalities are always “right on”. Without exception, each teacher that Angela has coached identifies her as the single person that has raised their level of instruction.

As a learner Angela always wants to know more. She always pursues excellence. What is most amazing about Angela is that she is also such a nice person and such a caring, devoted mom.
This is the second year in a row that Chets Creek has taken the top Math honor in our county (last year went to Rick Pinchot). While Anglea and Rick are both intermediate math teachers and coaches - they coach half day and teach half day - they have direct influence on the quality of Math instruction in our Kindergarten. They listen to our concerns and respond because they realize that 5th grade Math is built upon the shoulders of each grade level that comes before it. We are so fortunate to have such incredible talent at Chets Creek. Congratulations, Angela Phillips, Duval County Mathematics Educator of the Year!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Writing scores are in!

Late this week - in the midst of Mother's Day celebrations and an author visit and 13 principals and teachers visiting from Texas - the 4th grade state writing scores came in. As always, the Principal covered classes so all of the 4th grade teachers could come immediately to her office and be the first to see the individual scores of their students and their class scores. There were hugs and high fives and pats on the back all the way around. With 92% of students scoring 3.5 or better, the school saw a 3% increase over last year! This includes all Special Education children! This year, for the very first time in Chets Creek history, no student scored below a 3.0! This is certainly a celebration - especially for our Special Education students and teachers and for Kindergarten teachers!mmThe amazing scores that our children post are the result of Writers' Workshop that begins on the first day of kindergarten. Our children have been steeped in writing daily and choosing their own topics. They've had many lessons on genres and author's craft and have mentored themselves to many professional writers over time. Great test scores are a reflection of depth and breadth in the writing program across the grades! Every single teacher - K-5 - was part of this celebration! Way to go Chets Creek!

Happy Mother's Day!

There was not a dry eye in the house as kindergarten moms joined their children for a Mother's Day celebration. On the Friday before the holiday mothers were invited into the classroom for breakfast. Each class did a little something different but they all performed in some way - singing a song, reciting a poem. In some classes the teacher read a Mother's Day book to the moms and their children. In others each child presented his/her parent with a poem or essay written about that most special person - mom. In some classes they even took photos of each mom and child. Finally the children presented their moms with homemade presents and cards. Teachers presented mothers with a snapshot in time, a memory to last a lifetime. Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Author Visit: Carolyn Crimi

Carolyn Crimi

Once again this year, our students were entertained by a published author! Carolyn Crimi visited for the day presenting to each grade level. She was as entertaining as her books. In fact her book, Get Busy Beaver! was the May Book of the Month, read to the faculty by Principal Susan Phillips earlier in the week. The students sat spellbound as Ms. Crimi (rhymes with "shimmy") told stories and answered questions. Each year our Media Specialist, KK Cherney, finds a published author or illustrator to visit our campus. Book sales are done ahead of time so that students can have their books autographed on the day of the visit. Having "real" authors visit helps the children realize that authors are writers just like they are. It helps them understand where published authors get their ideas, and I think it gives them a vision that they, too, can become authors and publish books! This is an amazing gift!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kindergarten Portfolios 2008

Teachers keep three different kinds of portfolios in kindergarten. They keep a works-in-process folder for each child. In Kindergarten this is a vinyl folder with clear pockets that includes an insert of pictures worked on as a family project to give the child a menu of things to write about that he cares about. It also includes the current work of each student.Teachers also keep cumulative folders that include ALL of the child's work. Some teachers keep these in a file drawer (above) and other teachers keep them in an open crate in the classroom. At specific times during each nine weeks, usually at the end of a writing unit, the teacher encourages each child to go through her folder and choose things to keep. The teacher then transfers the "keepers" into the cumulative file. In earlier years we kept every single piece of paper that a child wrote in Kindergarten, but now we clean out these folders on a regular basis, keeping several sample pieces that represent the student's writing for that period of time. The reason we went to this system is simple. Keeping every single piece of paper just meant bulky, messy folders so now we send home a few of the pieces and keep a few.
The final type of folder that teachers keep is the final portfolio. This is kept in an orange folder that is put in the cum folder at the end of the year for each student.

In writing we keep a single sample for each of the genres of writing: Narrative, Information/ Report, Functional/"How to" procedures, and Response-to-literature. In addition the final portfolio includes three pieces - one from the beginning, one from the middle and one from the end of the school year to document work over time. In reading we file an in-house assessment profile and a graph of the child's reading levels. In Math we simply keep the scores of the beginning, middle and end of year internal assessment scores.

Each grade level has an agreed upon list of items that go in the child's portfolio at the end of the year. This information informs next year's teacher and provides a history of the child as they move through the school. In the fifth grade the entire orange portfolio file is sent home and provides a keepsake for the child of their growth through their elementary years.

Work-over-time 3, 2008

Cheryl Dillard showcases Daniel's work across the kindergarten year. She includes a "task" and the writing standards on her standards-based bulletin board. The board also includes three pieces of Daniel's work - one piece at the beginning of the year, one in the middle of the year and one at the end of the year - along with commentary.Each standard-based bulletin board includes a "task." In Cheryl's task she describes the Literacy Block in her classroom. Her students have benefited from a daily Readers' and Writers' Workshop. In writing they have generated their own topics, worked through five genres (narrative, procedure, reports, response-to-literature, poetry) of writing and have polished a piece in each genre to go in their final portfolio.
Daniel attended Pre-Kindergarten and was well prepared for Kindergarten at Chets Creek. When Daniel entered he knew most of his letters and sounds. He could retell a story that had been read to him several times using his own language. However, he did not enjoy Writers' Workshop and was easily upset when it came to writing. He even tried to convince his mom to let him stay home so he wouldn't have to write! In the beginning Daniel did draw pictures and could write his name, although most of the letters were uppercase.
By January Daniel knew all his letters and was reading at the B level (the end of kindergarten benchmark). As he became most confident in writing, he began to write small amounts about his pictures. His pictures included more detail and so did his oral stories about his picture. He was beginning to use spaces, had left-to-right and top-to-bottom directionality, and spelled most words phonetically. His writing was readable. I went to the airport to pick up my Grandma and Grandpa.
On Spring Break I went to the Magic Kingdom The hotel was the Pop Century. On the second day I went to the kingdom. I went with my grandpa, grandma, dad, mom and two sisters. I liked Splash Mountain and Buzz and pirates. I got frightened (a vocabulary word from our Star Vocabulary Unit!) on Big Thunder! On the third day we went on the Monorail and a boat and a bus. This was my second favorite vacation.

By the Spring Daniel has really increased his stamina and fluency as seen above in his 3-page story that was written in a single Writers' Workshop. It is evident that he now enjoys Writers' Workshop and can write the stories of his life. He writes many words phonetically and uses many sight words with spaces between words. All of this makes his work easy to read.

These three pieces of Daniel's work provide a snapshot of his literacy development in kindergarten. He has learned a great deal as a writer. His remarkable growth as a writer is due in no small part to the quality instruction he has received in Mrs. Dillard's class!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Work-over-time 2, 2008

Maria Mallon keeps her work-over-time in a little different way - The Writing Book. While she keeps a final portfolio that includes a piece of work in each of the four genres and three pieces of work over time for each student, she also makes a booklet for each of her students and finds a time for them to write in it at the beginning of each month. In this way she can send home a work-over-time, a keepsake, that represents each month of the year so that families can join with their child to celebrate progress. The parents - and the child - are often amazed at how the work has changed across the kindergarten year. Maria showcases three booklets - three children - on her bulletin board, but in this entry I'll take a look at Connor's work.In Connor's booklet in August he is able to draw a person but is not yet able to write letters and words to represent his thoughts. He can tell about the picture orally but does not realize that he can also write about the picture.By November Connor is using the letters and sounds he knows to write words phonetically and also uses some of the sight words he has learned. When I went to school on the first day, I was frightened (vocabulary word from the Star Vocabulary Unit!) My grandma said, "Do not cry."By the end of the year Connor is able to write his thoughts and feelings. He is able to write a story that has a beginning and an ending and has many details. Because he writes words that he does not know phonetically, uses many sight words and spaces, his piece can be easily read by an adult.

Connor's booklet offers a snapshot of growth from August until May that is fairly typical of many kindergarten students at Chets Creek. What a celebration!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Work-over-time 1, 2008

On the last standard-based bulletin board of the year, Mrs. Conte/ Timmons/ Happ display the work over time of two students. The first student has three pieces on the top of the bulletin board and the second student has three pieces over the bottom of the board.Madison's first piece is from mid-September. When she entered Kindergarten she could recognize 40 letters and identify 26 letter sounds. She was a pre-emergent reader, able to retell a story but not able to use story language. Her phonemic awareness was at an emergent stage as well. Madison was able to draw a simple picture of a table such as the one above with lollipops, rainbow and water as well as her name (majority in capital letters).
Madison began to read conventionally (level A books) in January. She recognized 49 letters and 39 letter sounds (upper and lowercase). Her phonemic awareness grew by leaps and bounds. Madison began to choose appropriate paper for her narrative story, to use spaces between words, to use editing marks (circle misspelled words and correction written above), to spell phonetically (Oleckowluz = Ollie Koalas), and to use spelling strategies such as using the words from around the room (October). By spring Madison was reading at level B independently which is the end-of-the-year benchmark. She recognized most of the letters and letter sounds. She correctly identified at least 20 sight words and uses them in her everyday reading and writing experiences. Madison’s progression of work as an author is tremendous. She is now able to consistently choose paper with lines and multiple pages to fit her need, to use phonetic spelling, high-frequency words and spaces between her words, and to notice and use punctuation marks as well as a majority of lowercase letters in her writing. This multi-paged piece also shows Madison's stamina and fluency in writing.

This work is a good representation of the progress that kindergartners make throughout the year at Chets Creek!

CCE Annex at Panera's

Where do Chets Creek teachers disappear during lunch, during Teacher meetings and on WOW days? Often times they have taken their computers down to the local Panera's so they can get on the Ning. Our Ning is blocked at school so in order to get on the Ning during the school day, teachers have to leave school! The Ning is an on-line professional learning community. Panera's is the closest wireless where we can gather!

There are a million reasons why Ning must be blocked at school - for the security of us all (Really?) - and another million reasons why this is the cutting edge space for educators who want to exchange ideas and raise the level of their practice.

So often we want to share something with each other (such as a new teaching video or pictures from a colleague's room) or show someone a technology shortcut. Often we've wanted to show a video to our team for Professional Development that's been posted on the Ning so we can debrief the technique, but unless we take the time to get in our cars and drive over to Panera, it'll just have to wait.

One of the most frustrating parts of my day is to know something is out there that can make a difference and not be able to put my hands on it. I feel that way when I see a new book and can't get it fast enough or when I first found out that Lindamood Bell was a strategy that might help some of my ESE students but I couldn't afford it. I feel the same way about not being able to access the Ning at school when I know other districts have figured out a way around the scary parts. I know we have a Technology Department working on a solution - I am so trying to be patient - but as Dr. Stahlman used to say - I only have 180 days with these students. There is an urgency to do everything I can!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Relay for Life

Relay for Life is a fun-filled overnight event that celebrates survivorship and raises money for cancer research. Tonight teams of teachers from Chets Creek walked all through the night earning money. As usual Kindergarten teachers were out in force. The walk is dedicated to our Guidance Counselor, Betsy McCall, who has survived breast cancer this year and to our many family members and friends who have lost the fight but are not forgotten, those that are facing cancer so fiercely, and those that are now survivors. There was not a dry eye in our group as we watched Betsy and her mother walk the first lap of the relay race, the Survivor's Lap. It is so like the Chets Creek family to come together and support such a worthy cause. We raised over $3000! Wow! Walk for the cure!

One of the side effects of such an event is that teachers who may not know each other in such a large school, spend time together getting to know each other and playing together. It is this type of event that brings the faculty together and helps them support each other in other aspects of our school life. When you work hard together, you need to also plan time to play hard together. That is one of the "secrets" of success at Chets Creek!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

PTA of the Year!

Today, Chets Creek PTA was selected as the Duval County PTA of the Year for the fourth year in a row! It's unprecedented - 4 YEARS IN A ROW! I understand they won many of the categories at the luncheon before being named the winner in the large school category.  Our PTA really works so-o-o hard and are so deserving! The projects that they support, the hours that they volunteer, the support that they give are all such gifts to our children and to our faculty. Moms and Dads go above and beyond because they really care about their child's education. Like all successful groups, our PTA has the leadership of a small core group that just never says no! Tonight - after a full day - they are in our Media Center celebrating by hosting a Volunteer Appreciation event for all the parents, friends and business partners that volunteer in our school! Over 500 invitations were sent for tonight's event! They just NEVER stop working. Congratulations, Chets Creek PTA!