Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fuel Up to Play 60 with Mojo!

To a cheering student audience, Jacksonville Jaguar player, Maurice Jones-Drew took the stage. He was at Chets Creek today to speak to third, fourth, and fifth grade students about a special program, Fuel Up to Play 60 which emphasizes healthy eating and sixty minutes of physical activity every day. A grant written by our P.E. Coaches, Estrella Bailey and Ray Robinson funded the memorable assembly which will surely be a highlight of the kids' school year.

Jones-Drew not only spoke to the kids but eagerly answered oodles of questions. Just a few of the questions our students wanted to know:
What are your favorite foods? How much time do you spend working out during the season? What do you feel like in the five minutes before you take the field? What does it feel like to score a touchdown? Who do you think will win this year's Superbowl? Who is your favorite college team? Who is your biggest opponent?

My son took the stage to ask, "Who was your childhood hero?" to which Mojo answered, "My grandfather." Later my son remembered being told that Maurice's name was Maurice Drew, but in college while playing in the Rose Bowl, Maurice's grandfather died of a heart attack. In tribute to his grandfather he added his grandfather's surname, Jones, to his own name becoming Maurice Jones-Drew. What a great lesson for my young son to learn about honoring your lifelong heroes.

In the final minutes, our Principal, Susan Phillips asked, "What was your favorite subject in school?" Of course, he got a round of applause when he answered, "I am a mathematician!"

Here's to you Maurice, for not only sending the stay fit and healthy message, but also for reminding students to continually work toward their goals because anything is possible.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Purple Cow Standards Board of the Month

When you walk into our building, it's clear that we have a strong academic focus. Almost everywhere you look you see celebrations of student achievement, and unlike the holiday themed bulletin boards of yesteryear, our bulletin boards display student work samples with teacher commentary. Classroom instruction becomes transparent because of this visibility of student performance in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. Our only regret is that we've had no way of cataloging and keeping the boards for future reference, until now.

With nearly 50 bulletin boards at CCE, there is no feasible way to digitally warehouse all of them, so we've started by capturing two a month, one primary and one intermediate. After the new boards go up, teachers submit Purple Cow nominations for their colleagues' boards. A team gets together to read all nominated boards and selects one intermediate and one primary board that stands out above all the rest. The competition is steep because the boards are so creative and well done, but usually the Purple Cow is chosen because it presents a new idea that others may want to implement in their classroom or does an exceptional job capturing a moment of time in their classroom.

It's unlikely that every teacher will have the opportunity to read every board each month, but with the Purple Cow highlighted, we are hoping that every teacher will at least read the two Purple Cow Boards that can't be missed. So far, the idea has caught on and one teacher even teases that she's wearing her Purple Cow ribbon in her hair!

I'd love for you to visit our Standards Based Bulletin Board blog created and maintained by our Tech Coach, Melanie Holtsman, to read our highlighted boards. You'll see the start of what we hope will become a long tradition. Make sure you click on pictures to enlarge and print the items. I'd love to hear your comments. Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Academic Family Nights

Several times a year, we hold academic Family Nights to communicate grade level expectations with parents and answer frequently asked questions. Earlier in the year, Second grade teachers held a 2nd Grade Math Night, and this week Third grade teachers hosted an FCAT Reading and Math Information session while Fourth grade teachers held their FCAT Writes Night.

The session topics are selected with that grade level’s specific needs in mind. Typically, 2nd grade parents have many questions about the transition in math. They are curious about how math is being taught conceptually and what that means in reference to skill based teaching. They also want to know if their child will learn the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction the way they did. We begin the conversation with an overview of the three prongs of math—concepts, skills, and problem solving and explain how we use our math resources of Math Investigations, Every Day Math Counts, and Envisions to meet grade level Sunshine State Standards while teaching within each of the three prongs. Then, our teachers concentrate on explaining the strategies of addition and subtraction so parents have a better understanding of how we are teaching number sense and flexibility of thought. The session wraps with an open floor so all parents leave with their questions answered.
Third grade parents are always full of questions about FCAT and its implications. 3rd grade is the first year that students take the state standardized test in Reading and Math so this session is often packed with curious parents. The Third grade teachers provide an overview of the many facets of FCAT as well as show parents some sample problems. In addition, they discuss the embedded ways we are preparing students, like spiraling homework and formative assessments, and we clarify how we don’t stop teaching at any point for FCAT prep. Sharing strategies that parents can implement at home to help their child is a part of this gathering. Again, the evening ends with a questions and answers session.

Fourth grade parents are old hats at FCAT so just when those questions dissipate, they are curious about the state writing test. What do students have to score? What does meeting the standard look like? How are you preparing students for success on the test? How is a prompt different from the Writers’ Workshop? Is my child going to do well? These questions drive the evening’s conversation. In addition, teachers hold a fish bowl mini Writers’ Workshop with students to give parents a bird’s eye view of what is happening to prepare students in the classroom. Explaining the logistics of the 45 minute prompt write is something new to parents, and we hope they walk away feeling good about what we are doing to prepare their child. Teachers field questions as the session concludes.

Nights like these provide the platform for a deeper parent understanding of our curriculum, standards, and state assessment expectations. We hope that they leave with peace of mind and comfort in knowing that we thoughtfully and strategically prepare their students not only for the state assessment but for their future.