Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Florida Writes!

While kindergartners don't take our state writing test, the Florida Writes (thank goodness!), I was involved anyway this past week as a scribe for a 4th grade Special Education student. I had practiced with my student many times in mock assessments to get ready for the big day. As the children who had scribes gathered in the Media Center, Special Education teacher Debbie Rossignol was there to give each child a little squirt of "attitude spray"! Although she actually sprays a little water through a squirt bottle with a fan, the children are convinced that the squirt gives them the extra confidence they need to write a "6" paper. Then she sprinkles a little magic dust (glitter) on each child's head for good luck! Tammi Sani, another Special Education teacher was there to give out peppermint gum to "stimulate the brain"! It's all in fun! I'm sure all of the children would have done just as well without all the fuss, but it did drive any stress right out of the room as the children tried to hide their smiles as they walked to their writing place. All in all, it was a FUN day! Think 6!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

UV Nail Polish

Yesterday I was observing in a first grade Teacher Meeting because they were doing something that interested me. As part of their celebrations to begin the meeting, they talked about the awesome "Starry Night" Solar System Science unit they had just finished. One of the activities that they loved was beads they had purchased that changed colors when taken out in the sun. The lesson was around UV rays which is such an important concept if you live in Florida! I happened to mention that several years ago I had a pedicure and the nail polish had the same effect. My toenails were painted white and when I went outside they turned a bright pink. I thought it was too cool! The polish used the same theory. I told them I had looked for the polish since coming to Jacksonville but couldn't find it, but I thought it would be such a fun thing for the teachers to use with the unit. Before I got home one of the first grade teachers, Beth Roberts, had e-mailed a place that I could order the nail polish! That's what I LOVE about Chets Creek! Teachers get excited by new ideas and are so collegial in their learning! I count my blessings every day to have the opportunity to learn here!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Vertical PD: Co-teaching

Today was another in our series of vertical professional development days - vertical because the content cuts across grade levels. This day was billed as a day to see co-teaching at its best, including watching co-teachers deliver a mini-lesson, watching them each take a small group during the work session while monitoring the students that were working independently, and then finally watching two teachers conduct a closing meeting.

First we watched Christy Constande and Vicky Cole in their inclusion 3rd grade classroom. They presented a very deep and difficult lesson on the "seen" and "unseen" or rather how to make inferences. This is such a difficult concept. Christy and Vicky used the text, Book Fair Day, to demonstrate the megnacognition of the skill and then had the children practice with a different piece of the same book as their active involvement before they had the children practice independently at their seats with "just right" books in their book bags. In the work session Christy then took a small group that she knew would be challenged with the skill to offer guided practice with the picture book, When the Relative Came. At the same time Vicky took a small strategy group that she selected based on their data. After the children worked for about 40 minutes the teachers came back together and had two children demonstrate their thinking.

Eighteen teachers attended this professional development day. Well actually, 30 teachers signed up with an interest in the topic, but we were only able to accommodate the first 18. The others will be signed up for a second day on this same topic. The 18 came together to view and debrief the lessons and also to share lunch together.

Next it was off to see Melissa Ross and Ashley Russell's second grade Math Workshop. Once again the two teachers delivered a masterful lesson together that included both a Calendar Math and Math Investigations lesson. Their opening included modeling a problem with both teachers participating equally. During the work session of the Workshop the students worked with partners. As the students settled down to work with their partner, Ashley took a group that she knew would struggle with the hands on activity while Melissa took a challenge group. All of the students completed the first problem in their small group, with a partner, or on their own and then the second problem was differentiated - a more difficult problem for the challenge group. After the teachers got their groups started, they left the group to continue working alone as they each did "drive by" conferences with other partners that might be struggling. As they worked with their small groups and with partners, the teachers looked for and chose specific children to explain their thinking in the closing meeting to help all of the children understand several different strategies for completing the first problem.
I'm not a Math teacher, but anyone would understand how exceptional this lesson was!  What an outstanding day!


Today's Curriculum Leadership Council (CLC) meeting was about celebration. It was facilitated by our outstanding Standards Coach, Suzanne Shall. Each of the 19 members of the team was given pages from the DuFour's newest book, Learning by Doing (pages 28-32) that focused on why celebrating reinforces and maintains what we value. The DuFours make the following suggestions:

Explicitly state the purpose of celebrations.
Make celebration everyone's responsibility.
Establish a clear link between the recognition and the behavior or commitment you are attempting to encourage or reinforce.
Create opportunities to have many winners.

Now... celebrating is something that I think we do well at Chets Creek. Every single professional development meeting starts with celebrations. Every Wednesday a positive post card appears in every teachers' box so that they can send "good news from school" to any child or peer that has done something special. The Principal's Memo that comes out every Friday is full of "Grammys" that celebrate the culture and the academics of the week. The Grammys are submitted to the Principal and can be added by any of the CLC (Leadership Team) to a shared Google Doc. The Principal then rewrites/ edits the Grammys to be added at the end of her Memo each week. Below is a sample of the celebrations from this week's Grammys! They are called the "Grammys" as a tribute to this year's music theme.

The moon was glowing, the kids were shining and the movie was showing! Congrats to the first-grade team on their very first "Starry, Starry Family Night". Much planning and preparation went into creating a great experience for our students and their families. Karen Willet, Jessie Lipsky, Stanley Brooks, Tenean Allyene, Danielle Barnhart and, of course, K.K. Cherney spent all afternoon setting up our outdoor movie theatre which impressed all who were there. Chevaugn Sasso recruited her astronomer neighbors to display their telescopes while Rachel Bridges worked with them to make it happen. You should have seen the moon!! The rest of the first grade team served "Spacey Snacks" and welcomed each and every family to our shining night. The stars were shining bright and the night was "Out of Sight"!!!

This team never rests! ESE and KK Cherney attended Fast ForWord training last week. Christine Montero, dayle timmons, and Debbie Rossignol have begun to implement with a pilot group of students. Thanks for upturning every stone to find solutions for struggling students. KK has also approved for extended day to pay tutors. Special thank you to the teachers participating in this effort:
Christine Montero, Chevaughn Sasso, Terri Lehane, Julia Lewis, Wanda Lankford, and Patricia Wallace.

If you were in the lobby Monday morning before school you might have seen a strange sight as the teachers who run the CLC posed for a photo laying down on their backs! They did this for an image to be used in Susan's presentation for the America's Choice conference this week in California. Big thanks to Carolyn Swidorsky, Angela Phillips, Ashley Russell, Rachel Bridges, Debbie Harbour, Tom Ruark, Rick Pinchot, Melissa Ross, Michelle Ellis, Cheryl Dillard, Shea Beaudreau, Christy Constande, Debby Cothern, Betsy McCall, KK Cherney, dayle timmons and Melanie Holtsman for laying down on the job! LOL

Looking for some new ideas to highlight in your class newsletter? Ask Jenny Nash and Lynn Patterson about how they put the spotlight on character each week as they share the strategies from their Character Counts lessons with their parents. What a great way to show the parents we are teaching the whole child here at Chets. Nice job ladies!

Christine Valnoha continues to work her magic even though the big copy machine has been down. Christine has used creativity and lots of hard work to make your copies and to make them on time! Christine, what would we do without you?!!

Don't miss Kindergarten's work with the January Book-of-the month. Julie Johnson and Rachel Happ are displaying a standard-based bulletin board of the six word strategy this month and Debbie Harbour's blog this week has her class' delightful voicethread of their rendition of M is for Melody!

The following teachers have "adopted" fourth grade classrooms, providing support as they prepare for the Florida Writes! Lauren Morgan, Joe Montisano, Shea Beaudreau, Tom Ruark, Bridget O'Connor, Sherri Rabe, Carolyn Swidorsky, Jane Szerba, Gerri Smith, Christy Constande, Vicki Cole, Denise Evanko, Meli Launey, Dorry Lopez-Sinclair, Lori Metzger, and Karen Morris. These teachers are "loving" on our fourth grade students with posters of encouragement, decorated classroom doors, candy treats, personal notes, etc. What a wonderful demonstration of school support. Thanks to all who have become cheerleaders! Your encouragement is sure to produce self-confidence, extra effort and excellent results!

Cheryl Chascin has been rewarding her students with success tickets for getting the question right on the first try while accessing the FCAT explorer site. Thank you, Cheryl for inspiring your students to use this valuable tool.

United Way is responsible for much of the support that children and families are given in times of stress in our county. We are so appreciative of Michelle Ellis' willingness to lead this fund raiser for our school. Michelle, we hope you reach your goal!

After reading the research we divided into disciplines - Language Arts, Math and Science - and looked at the Grammys that had been written for each of our subject areas this year. We counted the number of Grammys (Language Arts writes many more Grammys that any of the others!) and looked at how the Grammys were distributed by grade level and within each grade level. Then, knowing that "you value what you celebrate," we looked at the content of the Grammys. As a group we realized that we write lots of Grammys celebrating our culture! Obviously that is because it is something that we really value! The Language Arts Team realized that we had identified Main Idea and Comparisons as two areas that we wanted to work on this year in our School Improvement Plan but didn't have a single Grammy that celebrated those two areas! Wow- what an aha moment. Did we really mean that we wanted to work on those areas that we identified through our data? Maybe not! We definitely need to make some changes!

Celebration is such a fun way to model the things that matter. Try it! You'll like it!

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Job Well Done!

I had the pleasure of being in the room while Mrs. Alvarado gave out her second term Kindergarten awards. The room was filled with parents but it was the children who took center stage. She seated her kiddos so that they could see the smiles on their parents faces and so that the parents could watch the action. One of the best things about the Awards Ceremony in Mrs. Alvarado's classroom is that every child leaves feeling good about themselves and every parent leaves feeling proud and hopeful. There is something to celebrate about every child every nine weeks and Haley makes sure that every child feels like they are special. Whether a child made all E's or has simply done the best that she can, she knows that her teacher is very proud of the progress. Haley also makes sure that the children know that their job is to lift up their friends. She makes sure that they clap for their peers' accomplishments and that they give lots of high fives to each other. Students who don't get a certain award are taught to wipe their foreheads and simply say, "No sweat!"

Soaring Eagle
A couple of children each nine weeks are chosen for the coveted "Soaring Eagle Award" which school-wide is the award given for outstanding accomplishment in a nine weeks. In Haley's class these students are also highlighted but certainly the bigger message is that each child feel proud of his own accomplishments and pledges to work harder in the next nine weeks and to support his friends in this nurturing learning community. Congratulations, Kindergartners, on your second nine weeks as learners! A job well done!