Annual Longmont Rotary Club Compassion Essay Contest – DEADLINE (EXTENDED) APRIL 17

In partnership with the Longmont Rotary Club, St. Vrain Valley School District schools are invited to participate in our annual “Compassion Awards” contest. We are seeking entries from students who define one of the five elements of compassion:

    • Love
    • Empathy
    • Understanding
    • Gratitude of all things
    • Giving selflessly for the happiness of all beings

Entries can include stories, essays, or poems related to a compassionate topic and must be submitted by individuals. Past winners have written about people or personal experiences that touched them in a special way such as: a person who made a positive impact on your life; caring for an elderly neighbor; helping a terminally ill person; family changes; being sensitive to a non-English speaking student; losing a cherished pet or helping a hungry or homeless person in the community.These entries fall under several Reading and Writing standards including:

    • Standard 1: Students read and understand a variety of materials.
    • Standard 2: Students write and speak for a variety of purposes and audiences.
    • Standard 3: Students write and speak using conventional grammar, usage, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
    • Standard 4: Students apply thinking skills to their reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

These entries can also fall under the following Civic standard:

Students understand how citizens exercise the roles, rights, and responsibilities of participation in civic life at all levels- local, state and national.

Please note the following:

    • There will be 3 bands of competition, with one winner selected from each: grades 3-5; grades 6-8, and
      grades 9-12;
    • Submissions must be typed or handwritten (no videos or drawings) and are limited to two pages in length;
    • Writings may be submitted in another language, but an English translation must be attached; and
    • Teachers will collect and judge the entries of their students and submit no more than two entries from each class, accompanied by the attached cover memo.

Please return the essays to Zachary Chase via internal school district mail or email no later than Friday, April 14. Late entries will not be accepted. Please remember that this is an important event for your students! The students’ work will not be returned; therefore, you may either send the students’ original works or a good quality copy. There will be a winner at each of the grade levels of competition. Students will receive $50.00 from the Longmont Rotary Club and have an additional $50.00 donated in their names to a non-profit of their choice (must be a qualified non-profit organization under Section 401(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code). Teachers of the winning students will receive $50.00 for the purchase of classroom materials. Winning students, their guests, submitting teachers, and school principals will be guests of honor at a luncheon sponsored by the Longmont Rotary Club on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

This is an exciting and wonderful contest…we look forward to your participation. Thank you!

Download Details below:

Let’s Get Together – Elementary End-of-Year Check-In

Last Saturday, Ruth Hanna and I facilitated the last of our Saturday Mid-Year Check-In courses. Over the course of 4 Saturdays, around 50 elementary school teachers gave their time to sit down and reflect on their practice and plan together for the second half of the school year. Across each course, we had rich conversations about what it means to help support a culture of reading and writing at the elementary level and how to better help all students chart pathways to reading and creating complex texts.

While we were pleased with the turnout each Saturday, we also appreciate the sacrifice of giving a Saturday to plan for our classrooms.

If I’ve been to your classroom or school over the last few months, you may recall me saying this is the “what” year of implementing our new elementary literacy resources and next year is the “how” year. Well, we wanted to make sure there’s space for thinking about the “how”.

We invite you to join us Tuesday, May 30 from 8 – 4 at Timberline pK-8 for and end-of-year check-in. Folks from across the district will be sitting down together to reflect on the close of our year and plan for how to improve our practice and learning next year.

If you can manage it, I encourage grade-level teams to come together and take a day to say, “What do we want to remember for next year?”

The course is open for registration right now through OPD – bit.ly/svvsdcheckin.

See you there!

Making the Most of Essential Questions and Exit Tickets

tickets

Most any time I’m visiting a classroom, I’m having a conversation with the students I meet. The first few questions are pretty expected –  “What are you learning about?” and “What are you doing?”

The last two questions I routinely bring to the table working with students are less expected – “Why is that important?” and “What questions do you have?”

I know those last two are less expected because they are met with silence and stares from students – no matter the grade level. For me, it raises the questions of why are students are doing what they are doing and whether they have been asked to consider the deeper implications of a text. Whether it’s a third-grade student reading The Year of Miss Agnes or a ninth-grader wrestling with Regine’s Book, our expectation must be that students can consider key ideas, themes, styles, etc. outside of the pages of what they’re reading.

Much work has been done on the transfer of knowledge and skills, and there are certainly some thoughtful, complex projects students can embark upon to show those abilities. For the purposes of this post, though, I want to focus on two activities that can build students’ understandings of their learning and thinking while helping teachers understand areas of growth and need.

Essential Question journals can help students track their thinking about essential questions within lessons or units of study. For each of the curriculum modules within our elementary curriculum resources, for instance, students are asked to consider essential questions as they read, write, and speak their way through complex texts. Journaling around those essential questions can be easy.

  • Make routine time (5-10 min) once or twice each week for students to journal their answers to the essential questions within a unit of study. As they journal, have them consider what they wrote in their previous entries and focus on what they know or understand now that they didn’t before. Ask students to share/compare their journals with their peers and then engage in whole-class conversations about reading and writing.

Standing exit tickets help your students focus on a stationary target for thinking about their learning while giving you some quick formative information on what they think they are learning and wondering.

  • Have students fill out slips of paper with their names on them at the end of each class or lesson. Have them respond to the same prompts each time – “What can you do now that you couldn’t do at the beginning of class?” and “What is one question you have as a result of your learning?” If technology is available, have students respond via a google form. Imagine being able to conference with students with not only numbers and summative assessment results, but a portfolio of their own statements of learning and inquiry as well.

Not matter their age, all learners improve their abilities and skills if they have consistent, dedicated time to reflect on their learning. By including time to journal on essential questions and checking in at the end of a class, we make that time for our learners and provide ourselves with new windows into how we can alter our instructional practice to meet students’ needs.

Family Community Literacy: Winter Break Reading

woman and child reading together

The Gist

The more students read, the better they get at it. Winter break is a chance for your children to access many district library books.

The Whole Story

One thing research has show – the amount of reading your student does over the course of their time in kindergarten through high school has an effect on how well they comprehend complex ideas, vocabulary, new concepts.  St. Vrain Valley Schools are working hard to make sure our students have access to quality books no matter where they may be.

You kids have three specific ways to access books through the District.

  1. MyOn – For elementary and middle school students, the myon library has a wide selection of digital books students can read on their own or listen and read along with. Many schools in SVVSD run challenges trying to get their students to read as many minutes in MyOn books as possible during the school year.
  2. Physical Libraries – Every SVVSD school library has a wide selection of physical books your children can check out over break. During the last week before break, consider challenging your kids to check out new books to read as a family over break.
  3. The SVVSD District Digital Library – If you have a computer, tablet, or smartphone in your home, you have a device on which you and your students can access and read books from our district digital library. Everyone from our youngest readers to adults can find a high-interest book in the library.

BONUS: Your local public library will be ready, willing, and excited to welcome you and your children to browse and check out physical and digital books over winter break.

Suggested Activity

Take on a family winter reading challenge. Visit your local public library or your children’s school library and set a reading goal for winter break. Maybe it’s a family goal for the whole house. Maybe it’s a per person goal. Maybe it’s a competition to see who can read the most pages. Either way, set a goal and track progress. The refrigerator is a great way to keep track of reading progress.

Does your family have any special reading routines? Share them in the comments below!

 

Family & Community Literacy: Book Clubs

Cousin book club

The Gist

Two factors that can help kids improve their reading and thinking about reading: 1) Having role models who help them see the skills they’re working to develop, 2) Having opportunities to question and answer questions about what they’ve read. Family or neighborhood book groups can help your children get these opportunities and build their skills and identities as readers.

The Whole Story

The idea here is not an unfamiliar or complex one. The steps to follow are:

  1. Pick a book.
  2. Set a time.
  3. Read the book.
  4. Discuss the book.

Some key variations to consider are:

  • Rotating the selection of the book across family members.
  • Make it larger than the household. If you’ve got extended family or grandparents who might want to join the group from afar, think about tools like FaceTime and Skype to help them connect. Also consider adding neighbors or family friends to the book group to show your kids they are part of a community of readers.
  • Brainstorm some standing questions. If you’re worried getting conversation started might be difficult, sit with your children to think about how you might jumpstart a book conversation.
  • Consult with your kids’ English or language arts teacher on key topics, book suggestions, or language you might try to incorporate to show school learning has a place in the home.
  • Make it about conversation and enjoying the book. There will be plenty of time for lessons on reading.

Additional Resources:

Culture of Reading & Writing: Faculty Book Recommendations

Following a conversation with the electives teachers at Coal Ridge Middle School about how to foster a school-wide culture of reading and writing, Instructional Teacher Librarian Karen Hoppis took one question “How do we help students see their teachers as readers?” and built a solution.

Hoppis utilized Green Screen by Do Ink to stock the CRMS library with teacher book recommendations that literally show students’ teachers as readers. Thrilled by this tweet, I asked Hoppis to write a few words about how she did it. Ever an overachiever, she created the slidedeck below to help teachers and teacher librarians replicate and build on her process.

Take a look. Make it your own. If you have other ideas you’re using to build a school-wide culture of reading and writing, share them in the comments below.

Family & Community Literacy: Family Reading Talks

Family

The Gist

In the car, at the dinner table or in any other family space, take turns talking about what you’ve been reading – books, magazines, newspapers, content for work. If it’s your turn to share, talk about whether you like or dislike what you’re reading and explain why. Once sharers have finished, ask follow-up questions and make comments that offer connections between what they’ve read and other texts.

The Whole Story

It’s easy to think of reading and writing with your child as the only components of helping them become better readers and writers. While these are both tremendously powerful tools for helping them develop key skills and identities, they aren’t the only tools. By making time to talk about what you and your child are reading, and modeling what it sounds like for engaged readers to express their ideas, you’re adding another layer to family literacy.

When thinking about where these conversations might be helpful, consider one of the historically-dreaded conversations between families and their school-going students:

Family: How was school?

Child: Good.

F: What did you do?

C: Nothing.

(Family member makes frustrated face.)

[The End]

The goal with family reading conversations is to avoid the headache above, get to know what your child is doing in school, and help them learn to talk about their learning in productive ways.

Suggested Strategies

  • Model. Expecting your child to know how to talk about their thoughts and feelings about a text they’re reading without having any model to base it off of is dooming the conversation from the start. Consider the following steps:
    • State a specific fact or opinion about something/anything you’ve read.
    • Follow up with some piece of evidence or a memorable quotation from the reading to illustrate your point.
    • Ask what your child thinks about the idea or opinion.
  • Ask a specific question. Your child’s day likely includes no fewer than lessons on 5 separate subjects, all of them asking for retention of new material. Asking, “What did you do/learn about?” can very well bring back a flood of ideas that might be overwhelming to attempt to recount all at once. Thus, “Nothing.” Asking, “What is something you read today?” and then following up with, “What did you think about it?” or “Who was a character you liked/hated?” gives a more pointed line of thinking and can help your child organize their thinking for expression.
  • Share. If you read a news article that’s particularly interesting, share it with your child. If they have a text they’ve read they enjoyed, ask to borrow it. By showing interest and treating reading as peer activity, you’re inviting your child to be part of a community of readers.

Other Resources

If you’re worried your child will have trouble remembering what they’ve read, send a quick note to their teacher asking questions like, “What are you reading in class right now?” “What’s it about?” “Who are some main characters or what are some big ideas we could talk about at home?” These details can jump start conversation and show your child you’re willing to invest time in their learning too.

New Shortened Links to Navigating to District Sites

A Note from the Fine People at DTS
We now have short links for all the main digital curriculum sites that utilize single sign on so that teachers and students have an easy way to get to their curriculum if the portal is ever unavailable or if they simply prefer to type in a URL. These new links are below. Note that you still can’t bookmark these on iPads – they’re simply easier to remember and type in than some of the super-long links.
We didn’t create new links for Schoology or Discovery Ed, since these URLs are already short and memorable.


All Clever applications (i-Ready, myON, Lexia,Reading Plus, Think Through Math, VitalSource Bookshelf, VHL, and SpringBoard): stvra.in/clever

HMH (Collections and A-G-A): stvra.in/hmh
Pearson (ReadyGen and digits): stvra.in/pearson
McGraw-Hill ConnectED (Asi se Dice and high school geography): stvra.in/connected
OverDrive: stvra.in/overdrive

Family Community Literacy: Making the Most of Conferences

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The Gist:

With school conferences in progress, families across the school district are getting a chance to meet their children’s teachers face-to-face. Asking questions about what you can do to help your kids prepare for the learning that will be happening between now and the next few months is a great way to find out how to build connections between home and school.

The Whole Story

It’s easy to sit down at a parent teacher conference and be drawn in by grades and progress reports. And those are certainly important pieces for understanding how your child is progressing in their classes. If you leave the room only with an understanding of grades and how they got that way, you’re leaving some important information out. To get more out of parent teacher conferences, consider shifting your thinking from that of a meeting between a service provider and a client to that of a team meeting. When you think about it, other than your child, their teachers and you – their family – are the key players in making sure learning is happening and supported across home and school.

So, other than questions about grades, missing assignments and attendance, how can you get the information you need to make the most of your parent teacher conference?

  • Ask about readingAsk your child’s teachers what is being read in class, what they’d recommend your kid reads at home, and what you might consider reading as a parent. Ask for specific titles, authors, and topic areas.
  • Ask what you should be asking. We know the trope of asking a student what they did at school only to hear, “Nothing” in response. A conference is a great place to get material for specific questions:
    • What are the names of some key characters they’re encountering in literature?
    • What are some key words I could use when asking them about school work, no matter the content area?
    • What’s something you’ve seen my student get very interested in that I should bring up to help them see school as a positive experience?
  • Ask how you can help pave the way. Parent conferences are often about the past. By asking what you can be doing, viewing, talking, and thinking about at home around the dinner table or during family time, you can make sure your child has experiences with key ideas, books, etc. so they feel on top of things when they come up in class.
  • Ask about drive time. Time in the car – heading home, to practices, to rehearsals, to dentist appointments – can be time spent making connections to what students are learning. Ask your child’s teacher if they have suggestions for conversation topics, skill practice games, podcasts to listen to or any other content you might bring up during car rides.

More Resources:

Family Community Literacy: Modeling with Read Alouds

Reading

The Gist:

Take time, no matter the grade level of your child to read aloud or have them read aloud to you. This can be in the car, waiting in line, before bed, or anywhere a book will travel. Read alouds help build your student’s ability to pronounce new words and models the habits of a good reader. Pausing every once in a while to ask what they thought of what they heard or asking for a summary can strengthen the experience.

The Whole Story:

This one may seem simple at the face of it. Reading aloud to children is a frequent occurrence in many homes right before bedtime. Unfortunately, the bulk of parents cease the tradition before their children have finished developing as readers. Reading aloud to your child need not be relegated to the hour immediately before bed, either.

Here are some quick, easy ideas on how and when to bring read alouds into broader family time.

  • Keep a book with you at all times. Whether waiting in line, at a restaurant for a meal, or in a doctor’s waiting room, take those extra minutes to fit in some family reading time (instead of texting time).
  • Use time in the car as a chance for your child to show off their reading skills. For older students who may be able to read aloud, switch the roles of a read aloud and ask them to read to you while you drive. If your child can’t read on their own yet, check your local or school library for an audio copy of whatever book your reading and have your child follow along.
  • Similar to the above, use moments at home when you might be busy – preparing a meal, loading the washing machine, etc. – to ask your child to read aloud to you to pass the time and get in some practice.
  •  Pull in other family members. Read alouds can be about helping your students learn to read, by including other family members as readers or other listeners, you can help your child see good models of listening and engaging in conversations about reading as well.

Making the Most of Read Alouds:

  • Question. This can either be to ask questions to check to see if your child is comprehending, find out what they think/feel about events in a book, or ask them what questions they have about what’s happening.
  • Model. Especially for readers in elementary and middle school, you can be a great model of reading by thinking aloud as you read or are being read to. Thoughts like, “That’s a difficult word, let me try saying it one piece at a time,” or “That character is similar to another character in the last book we read,” help your child to hear how readers experience texts.
  • Take turns. Whether it’s selecting the next book, reading the next paragraph or deciding when to pause to talk about what you’ve read, take turns with your child so that they can own the reading process as well. If you’re going to model as suggested above, this is a great way to help your child get practice thinking, speaking, and acting like the reader you want them to be.
  • Balance your reading diet. While books of all types are important for your child to investigate, think about many different types of materials to include. If you find an interesting story in a newspaper or online, practice reading aloud with that. Let your child see the variety of reading opportunities available to them.