Setting Reading Resolutions: Celebrating Readers!

We are ringing in another New Year! Throughout 2016 I enjoyed reading so many amazing books. As a school, we established a Little Free Library, Free Will Bookshelves, and added over 100 new titles to our library. It is clear when you walk through DGS and see teachers sharing what they’re reading on posters outside their doors, shelves of books in the hallways, and even a bathtub full of books, that literacy is important to our school. Not only is creating a culture of readers a school goal, but it is a deeply rooted value and belief of the staff. More than reading achievement, my goal is and always has been creating learners that LOVE to read. That love of reading with spark lifelong learning and reading enjoyment!

So, as I have done in the past, I set my own reading resolutions to model reading for my staff and students. In the past, I have set goals to read a professional book a month and blog about it, read a particular series or author, or maintain a good reads account. That has all become standard for me, so my reading resolution this year is to promote reading in fun and unique ways with my students and staff. I am starting by having them set their own reading resolutions and I am harnessing the power of social media to do just that.

On our school facebook page, I posted the graphic below (Created in Canva). I am encouraging parents and families to set reading goals with their students! Readers grow on the laps of their parents! As an added incentive, I am gifting a free book and certificate to any student that establishes their own reading resolution! Let’s get out their and ring in the new year with books!

 

Ditch that Textbook Book Study Review

I read “Ditch that Textbook” by Matt Miller early in 2016. It was among several of the “Dave Burgess Consulting” titles that I had on my nightstand. It only took me a short time to finish the book, mark up the pages with post-its and notes and knew I had to share this book with my staff.

With our professional learning days accounted for and the end of the year approaching, I decided to launch a twitter based summer book study that teachers participated in on a voluntary basis. I sent out an email and was floored that the majority of my staff wanted in! We extended the invite to several other teachers and before we knew it we had our staff collaborating with teachers across the country on the topic of revolutionizing their classrooms!

The first week was simply introductions. Teachers shared their position and a selfie of themselves with the book. It was an easy way to get acquainted with the hashtag, meet the educators participating, and dip our toes into the twitter book study waters. The teachers below are just some of those that participated!

The remaining weeks of the book study focused on each chapter of the book. There were opportunities for goal setting, resource sharing, and celebration of success. Teachers shared their favorite educational book titles, hashtags, digital resources, and more. Staff set goals for integrating technology in meaningful ways in the fall. Mystery Skype Sessions, Twitter Chats with authors, Hyperdocs and digital badges were all shared as goals for teachers. It was uplifting to see many ‘likes’ and “retweets” of their posts as others validated their tweets and learned from their posts!

I embedded some digital badges in the study to recognize those that participated as well. A the conclusion of the study, they were awarded a participation certificate (linked below).

It was empowering to see how many educators sought to be connected and learn through the summer months. In Matt’s book he indicates the importance of being connected for so many positive reasons: inspiration, motivation, challenge, camaraderie, apps, humor, and collaboration (pages 97-98). Each of those elements was evident during the book study. As teachers used their time on vacation to learn and grow, they were filling their teacher tool belts and making their classrooms better places to teach and learn!

Parent Lunch and Learn: Sailing the Seas of Literacy

literacy-lunch-and-learnDunlap Grade School hosted its first “Lunch in Learn” of the series on November 16, 2016. The topic of the month was focused on literacy and fostering a love of reading at home. 2nd Grade Teacher, Mrs. Pitzer, facilitated a parent discussion on essentials of reading, ideas, and resources. This event was intended to engage parents in a learning opportunity to extend teaching practices in the home. In addition to the resources shared, parents were given copies of several books to support reading at home! You can view the Facebook LIVE Video HERE

We will continue the Lunch and Learn series in December with the topic of “Educational Gift Giving” on December 14th at 11am.

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Title 1 Informational Presentation

I will present information regarding Title 1 Intervention Identification and Intervention Support Services on Tuesday, October 4th. Below is the informational overview that is covered as part of this presentation.

As a parent/guardian of a student at a school receiving funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, you have the right to request the professional qualifications of the teachers who instruct your child and the paraprofessionals, if any, who assist them.  You may request the following information about each of your child’s classroom teachers and/or their paraprofessional assistants:

  1. Whether the teacher has met State certification requirements;
  2. Whether the teacher is teaching under an emergency permit or other provisional status by which State licensing criteria have been waived;
  3. The teacher’s college major;
  4. Whether the teacher has any advanced degrees and, if so, the subject of the degrees; and
  5. Whether any instructional aides or paraprofessionals provide services to child and, if so, their qualifications.

If you would like to receive any of this information, please contact Charlotte Ferris (cferris@dunlapcusd.net) at the District Office.

Parent University Sessions Announced

Schools are not only hubs of learning for staff and students. They are a center for the development of our parents and community. Join Dunlap Grade School as we launch a year long series of family engagement evenings and parent lunch and learn sessions. Topics and concepts are related to school goals and popular topics. Each session is facilitated by staff, administration or special guest visitors. Our mission is to develop lifelong learners, and we hope our parents take advantage of these sessions to develop their knowledge and understanding of educational related topics. 

 

Class of 2029: Kindergarten Orientation 2016

Dunlap Grade School Kindergarten Families,

I am eager to welcome the Class of 2029 to our school as our newest group that we will be able to lay the foundation of lifelong learning for. If you are like me, you look at the children sitting next to you and feel like it was both a moment and a lifetime ago that they came into your lives. You are beaming with both pride and excitement as much as you are with worry and trepidation as they are on the brink of starting kindergarten.

To the kindergarteners, look up at mom or dad right now and tell them, “I got this.” One more time, “I got this.”

And they do… Sure there may be some hesitation, worry or concern, but they are going to amaze you. They are going to grow, develop, and make you proud. They are going to learn how to read letters, words, and sentences. They are going to learn to write to share their feelings and ideas. They are going to learn about numbers, shapes, and math-problem solving concepts. But, they are also going to learn to become more independent. They are going to learn to be a good friend.  They are going to learn that mistakes are ok and we learn from our failures. They’re going to learn all of that and so much more.

But what’s more, just as they will learn from the fabulous educators in this building, we will learn from them and just as quickly as they went from being a baby to being here tonight embarking on kindergarten, you are going to blink and this class of 2029 is going to be graduating high school and you’re going to remember the day they started kindergarten and smile and remember how far they’ve come. Because… they’ve got this.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About DGS

  1. The sunrises are beautiful. If you pull into the parking lot early enough, you can see some of the most beautiful light displays bouncing off the clouds and fields just in front of DGS. My favorite mornings are those that I can stand on the front walkway and take in the quiet splendor of the natural beauty before our day starts. Depending on the season, the colors range from vivid oranges and reds to glittering golds and yellows.

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2. There is a DGS Costume Closet in our teacher workroom. After reading “Teach Like a Pirate,” staff have increasingly used props, hats, wigs and costumes to hook and engage students. Staff can be frequently seen wearing these in their classrooms and we got to a point that a central location was needed. Since the below picture was taken, it has even evolved to be a larger cupboard that houses anything from Pirate and Cat in the Hat Costumes to tiaras, tutus, and even a brain hat!

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3. Our DGS technology device to student is currently 1:2. With the support of our Parent’s Club, we have been able to put a cart of devices at every grade level! Students and teachers use the device to enhance the educational experience for students and differentiate for their learners. Our devices consist of iPads, Chromebooks, and Touch Chromebooks. Our computer lab was also recently outfitted with new desktop to computers to ensure our students have access to the technology they need to support their learning! Our staff will participate in a summer book study of “Ditch that Textbook” by Matt Miller to learn additional ways to enhance their teaching to engage students in meaningful learning!

 

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4. Staff meetings at Dunlap Grade aren’t always traditional, but they do provide opportunities for ample learning, participation, collaboration, and FUN! This past year, teachers have gone on Pirate Treasure Hunts to find important elements of learning, artifacts related to standards, and develop appreciation for each others’ classroom spaces. Teachers have also used twitter and Canvas to hold virtual discussions on the topics of student engagement, technology integration, and classroom learning environments. Teachers also participated in a Book Bingo meeting in which they shared the latest titles in children’s literature with each other to stay abreast of titles that are engaging and meaningful in the classroom.

12274601_1053464344685419_6770068291022947252_n5. Our staff shines! All of our classroom teachers and most of our specials areas teachers have a Master’s Degree or are currently enrolled in graduate programs. Our staff demonstrate the importance of lifelong learning by making their own professional growth and learning a priority. Many of our staff members have also been recognized as award recipients for their contributions to the education profession! Way to go DGS Staff!

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Math Blizzard Parent Training: Numbers and Operations Progression

Our First and Fifth grade teachers are hosting a Math Blizzard for parents. The goals of the training will be to provide parents an understanding of common core standards and the progression of the standards from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. If you can’t attend the training, but would like the information and resources, you can view them below:

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Math Resources

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Finding the Spark. Lighting a Flame.

Following my first year as a building principal in 2012, I came across a book that turned to be a cornerstone of my professional educator library and has heavily influenced my ideas about how we engage students in an educational environment. After reading it myself, I bought copies for the staff. The book was the spark. The passion for teaching and learning has been the flame. Incrementally, I have observed much of my staff use the ideals in the book to create lessons and experiences for their students that make me proud to be a lead learner and principal. That book was “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess.

Over the course of the past several years, I’ve connected with Mr. Burgess on twitter. @burgessdave. As a connected educator, this social media tool has allowed me to develop a professional learning network that consistently and constantly equips me with a direct resource for new ideas, motivation, and resources. It is hands down my primary source for relevant, current, and innovative best practices in education. (The twitter topic and it’s power to promote professional learning is a completely different topic and blog post). That being said, I’ve participated in the twitter #tlap chats regularly to glean motivation and innovative ideas from other educators around the country and love seeing these applied in my building.

That being said, last March, I received the preliminary program for this year’s Illinois Reading Council’s 2015 Conference #IRC2015. I was excited to see that both Dave Burgess (#tlap) and Donalyn Miller (#titletalk/#nerdybookclub) were going to be featured speakers. I’ve referenced Donalyn Miller in a previous post about reading emergencies at http://dunlapgradeschool.edublogs.org/2015/09/28/a-true-reading-emergency/.

I connected with Dave on twitter and invited him to dinner with the DGS royals and was elated that he agreed to join us. I was thankful to provide such a unique learning experience for the staff to eat and socialize with a fellow educator that is so passionate about reforming the classroom in ways that spark engagement and boost creativity. Upon entrance to the restaurant, Dave placed a folded up piece of paper on the table and instructed us not to touch it. Talk about hooking us early on with a mystery. We were all intrigued and somewhat antsy to see what was contained in that small folded up piece of paper. Following dinner and conversation, Dave took time to do what he does best: engage and inspire educators by modeling practices that could be applied in any classroom across grade levels and content areas. I am so glad that the team of teachers below was able to share in this experience:

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It was no secret, that Dave has a passion for magic, entertaining, and MATH. We were amazed by his ability to recognize math patterns to perform some pretty unique ‘tricks.’ Although they were equally impressive, the final exercise required different individuals at the table to input a variety of randomly selected digits and operations into a cell phone calculator obtained from another team member at the table. Following the input of numbers, the equals sign was pushed and the answer was 62639. This seemingly random and meaningless number had us stumped. Dave then asked for us to reveal the contents of a folded napkin. Upon unfolding it, it my name was written across it. Still stumped, he directed us to the keypad on our phones where M=6, A=2, N=6, D=3 and Y=9. Amazing.

We ended up that positive note and parted ways for the evening, in awe of what we just witnessed. When I returned home, I framed the napkin. Not because it was written by an author and educator that I have tremendous respect for, but because of what it served to teach me about education, instruction, and learning. I plan on placing it in my office as a reminder of the following:

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1. The experiences we create for children should be magical. I look at my name inscribed on a napkin and can’t explain how the randomly selected numbers and sequences arrived at the answer. It is an experience that still brings a smile to my face a day later reflecting on it. The environment we create for our students should be similar. Can we expect them to reflect on a math worksheet with fondness and admiration? The answer is. NO! What can we do to create a similar sense of magic in our own content areas and grade levels? How does that apply to math instruction? How does that apply to reading, writing, social studies and science?

2. We don’t have to have the answers for children. The best part of the entire delivery was that we had higher level, in-depth conversations about the math patterns involved in his ‘magic’ without ever determining the final answer. Dave laid the foundation for these conversations and facilitated some talking points, but never gave us the answer. Learners should construct their own knowledge and hold collaborative conversations regarding this knowledge.

3. We can teach content standards within the context of well-thought out and orchestrated learning tasks that are memorable and in some cases, life-changing. There is a difference between teaching content and teaching children. That one napkin reminds me that a well-thought out lesson can have adults debating the use of calculation, math practices, and operations. We will remember that. If Dave can do that for a group of educated adults, we can do that for our students.

In addition to dinner, my team was able to be involved in three of Dave’s presentations at the #IRC2015 conference. These sessions focused on creativity, passion, and development of a PLN (personal learning network). There were moments of clarity, a-has and amazement, but mostly, sparks of light that are ready to ignite a fire of learning at DGS. I know that the experiences encountered today will translate to improved learning experiences for our students. The team that attended also left renewed, rejuvenated, and challenged to find ways to #tlap their lessons and improve their content delivery, focus on their passions, and foster learning environments that “kids want to buy tickets to attend.”

So that little napkin with my name inscribed symbolizes more than just a fun dinner out. It reminds me that we can’t just be a spark, we have to bring the heat!

And as Dave says, “We can’t be good…. we have to be remarkable!”

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