Category: Newsletter – Principal’s News

The Oldest Rules in School

September 2015

 

Dear Clinton Parents/Guardians:

What might be two of the oldest rules in school? Here are a couple possibilities. “Keep your hands and feet to yourself” and “Raise your hand to speak.” Please remind your students to keep doing the first one. But, Clinton teachers are challenging the second one.

The use of multiple opportunities to respond to teacher prompts is engaging and interactive for all students. Hand raising works well for assertive students but not as well for reluctant students or those who may not know the material so well. Unfortunately, in some cases, the less assertive students get used to checking out and thinking about something other than the lesson. So, teachers are often replacing hand raising with strategies to require all students to participate. For example, the teacher may gesture for students to hold their replies, while asking a question, then give another gesture to prompt a choral response from all students. In another instance, the teacher may use a call back where the answer is stated and students are signaled to restate the answer in unison. For more difficult questions, the teacher may ask students to have a discussion with a partner, then, share an answer with the entire class. Another engaging strategy requires students to prepare a response on an individual white board and when cued, hold up their boards for the teacher’s review.

These are a few response opportunities teachers are using as replacements to traditional hand raising. The goal is to engage every student in learning.

 

Terry Neddenriep, Principal

 

 

Back to School

August 2015

Dear Clinton Parents/Guardians:

Our students had a successful school year in 2014-15 and we look forward to them achieving at an even higher level in 15-16.  Noted below are a few points for your consideration as we begin the new school year.  We look forward to partnering with you to help your students do their very best.  Thank you for your support of Clinton School.

Terry Neddenriep, Principal

 

Celebrating with non-food items

As we begin a new school year, I’d like to review our routines related to celebrations of student birthdays and other holidays.  Within our celebrations, a primary goal is to keep students with food allergies safe and respect the cultural reasons others may have for avoiding various foods. We are pleased to have parents/guardians take the time to visit school and in some instances even have lunch with students.  We ask that if items are shared with classmates during these visits, they be non-food items in place of food.  Some parents have used pencils, erasers, and stickers or other small items to help students celebrate. Objects like these are always a hit in an elementary school. Please join us as we put these practices in place to be responsive to our students. Be sure to let me know if you have questions.

 

Clinton Club

This year we are initiating a check in – check out process for students needing an early behavior intervention. We are referring to this process as the Clinton Club and it will be available to students whose behaviors have begun to slip. A detailed description of how this process will support students is available in the Clinton office.

 

Achievement Wall

Last year teachers began using the achievement wall to recognize students for outstanding classroom success. Teachers wrote the student name and accomplishment on a fish cutout, presented this to the student and sent them to post their fish on the main hallway display. By the end of the year, there were hundreds of fish on display.

Our theme for 15-16 will be “Wild About Learning.” The achievement wall will feature a huge paw print with the words, “Look who made these outstanding achievement tracks.” Teachers will recognize students by sending them to the main hallway to post their achievement. We look forward to seeing the pride students take in placing their names on display for academic success.

 

Morning Routines

We again are beginning breakfast at 7:45 a.m. Thank you for dropping students off after 7:45 and helping students time their walks to arrive after the breakfast line enters the building. Our staff supervision and the serving of breakfast begin at 7:45. Thank you for your assistance with this timing to keep everyone supervised and safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Ways to Celebrate Birthdays

July 2015

Dear Clinton Parents/Guardians:

“Happy birthday!”  Those words have special meaning for anyone at any age but especially for children in elementary school.  To add to the significance, many Clinton parents/guardians have made a routine of coming to school on birthdays to have lunch with their child and/or visit in the classroom for a short time.  We are pleased parents take the time to make these visits.  As a staff, we help students celebrate birthdays by announcing their names over the school intercom.  In the classroom, teachers use a variety of methods to honor student birthdays.

Our goal is to build on the successful practices that make birthdays special while also assuring students’ safety, adherence to cultural expectations, and the maintenance of a regular school routine.  Safety can be an issue with some food items.  For example, students with egg allergies would not be able to eat most varieties of cupcakes or cookies.  In some instances, classmates may feel excluded if food items are shared that do not meet the dietary requirements of their culture.

For these reasons, we are committed this year to replacing foods (cupcakes, cookies, juices, etc.) as a means of celebrating birthdays with non-food items.  If you would like to bring a non-food item to celebrate a birthday, please contact your child’s teacher several days in advance to schedule your visit.  The early contact would also provide an opportunity to decide on a non-food birthday item appropriate for classmates.

I invite you to join this school-wide commitment to celebrate student birthdays with non-food items.  Please contact me with any questions you may have regarding school birthday celebrations.

Terry Neddenriep, Principal

A Growth or Fixed Mindset

Child A and child B are both assigned the same task.  Child A looks at the assignment, determines it is difficult and is put off.  Lock down.  Shut down.  “I can’t do this.”  On the other hand, child B sees the task as manageable and goes to work with confidence to complete the task.  Author Carol Dweck, an expert on student mindset, has written books on this topic.  Dweck emphasizes that when students give up or say, “I can’t do this,” we should make a big thing about adding the word YET.  Just one little word can move students away from thinking they are not smart to realizing they can grow their skills and abilities.  As adults, we have an important role in promoting the growth mindset.  Effort, persistence and the willingness to take a risk are key.  So, when we hear a student say, “I can’t do this,” let’s make a big thing about adding the word YET.

Clinton Comet Achiever

IMG_0582fish wall photoIf you’ve been at school lately, you may have noticed the O – “FISH” – ally Outstanding Achievement! wall.  Teachers have been recognizing exemplary academic achievement by presenting students with fish shaped, colored card stock including the student name and accomplishment.  It’s  good to see students proudly showing their fish to others along the way and at the office before posting the award on the main hallway display.  This recognition process began in mid-December and to date (end of 3rd quarter), approximately 400 fish have been posted.  Some students have been recognized multiple times.  The process has successfully drawn attention to student effort, achievement and pride in school success.

The next stepyard sign in recognizing students for their academic achievement is to take this to the neighborhood.  Using the fish wall as a source, students will be selected from each grade level to receive a yard sign with the words, “Clinton Comet Achiever.”  The student will be invited to post the sign in their yard or in a window for one week.  The yard signs will help us celebrate student success throughout the neighborhood as well as here at school.  When you see one of the signs, you will know it’s the home of one of our hardworking Clinton students.

 

 

Nag or Re-teach

If there is a continual need to redirect students, it’s time to do some re-teaching.  As a school staff, we remind ourselves of that.  Our goal is to avoid nagging and instead teach students the exact routines we expect to see.  For example, many teachers have a specific path students are expected to use as  they pick up classroom books.  Prior to an actual book pickup, the teacher may announce to the class, “It’s time to practice our Math Walk.”  But, before they move, the teacher would ask, “What will this sound like?” (answer: “Silence.”)  “What will this look like?” (answers: “A single line.”  “Taking books from the shelf.”  “Hands to self.”)  “What will you do after sitting down?” (answer: “Open the book to the correct page.”)  The practice and questions before their actual Math Walk, will set students up to do things correctly.  As we begin the new semester, teachers will be doing lots of re-teaching of routines.  Clinton teachers know the value of this.  Students will be more likely to do the right thing and practicing creates a positive classroom environment.  At home, ask your child about some classroom routines they have practiced.

Safety First

A reminder as we begin second semester, to drive with caution during student drop off and pick up.  With over 520 students entering and exiting the building at these times, there are many instances of traffic and student/parent walkers crossing through the same spaces.  As drivers, thank you for watching closely for student/parent walkers and yielding to them in school zones.

“You’re not in trouble…”

“I don’t want you to be in trouble, I’m going to ask you to move to the safe seat.”  This is really true.  Students are not in trouble when teachers assign them to the safe seat.  It simply means they need some time to get back into the thinking stage and fix the problem.  There are four primary reasons for moving a student to the safe seat:

1.  Interfering with the learning of others – talking out, making noises, hands on others, etc.

2.  Being emotional – crying, yelling, or non-verbal gestures

3.  Being physical or emotionally hurtful – put downs or physical aggression

4.  Unable to let the adult be in charge – arguing, refusing to follow directions, questioning or blaming others

After the student has moved to the safe seat and the behavior has stopped, the teacher will check in with them (within 20 minutes for K-2 and 30 -45 minutes for older students).  The teacher checks in when it fits their schedule.  Students are not to raise their hands to indicate readiness.  Instead, they indicate readiness by being calm and waiting for the teacher.  When the student shows they are ready and there is a willingness to work with the adult, the teacher will process with the student.  The processing involves first asking a few questions to determine if the student has taken responsibility.  Second, the teacher and the student will create an informal plan to help prevent the problem from occurring again.  The process should only take a few minutes.

A helpful message from parents/guardians to children each morning would be, “If you go to the safe seat, be ready to fix it.”  Those words reinforce our message that a move to the safe seat does not mean the student is in trouble.  But, they need time to return to the thinking stage and fix the problem.

Good Readers Practice Everyday

“Does that make sense?”  “What is happening in the story?”  “Re-read the sentence and look for clues.”  “Check the picture.”  These questions/statements and many others are used to check students’ understanding of letters, words or meaning of a story.  Improving reading skills is a focus at Clinton.  We are giving special attention to increasing the efficiency of guided reading time.  During guided reading, teachers work with small groups of students.  They listen to individual students’ reading, ask questions, and provide specific feedback.  In the primary grades it’s mostly about letter and word recognition, applying phonics skills to figure out unknown words, and fluency.  Later, in the intermediate grades, the emphasis turns to comprehension – understanding the meaning.

To become good readers, students need plenty of practice and repetitions.  It’s good to read new things but it’s also beneficial to have students re-reading familiar books and stories as well.  As you listen to your child read at home, you may want to watch for the following:

Beginning readers –

  • Reading left to right
  • Using letter sounds and other phonics skills to figure out unknown words
  • Pausing when coming to a period at the end of the sentence
  • Grouping together words so the reading sounds smooth
  • Using pictures to connect with the meaning of the story
  • Re-reading to figure out a new word or the story’s meaning

More experienced readers –

  • Follow the print with eyes, using finger only on points of difficulty (at places where it gets tricky)
  • Recognize most new words independently
  • Can read rapidly and pay attention to punctuation
  • Re-read a sentence or page when something doesn’t make sense
  • Can think about what happens in the story and pay attention to details

Thank you for encouraging reading at home.  Please let us know if you have questions about how to best support your child’s reading efforts.

What did you learn today?

What did you learn today?   Sometimes we idly ask this question of students at the end of a school day.  Give this question a little more spark.  Try asking students to repeat one of the objectives from their day at school.  Ask them about a math, reading or any subject’s objective.

Clinton teachers are participating in Classroom Instruction That Works.  This is a year-long professional development for us.  Some of our early study has been around making lesson objectives clear to students.  To do this, teachers post the objective and read it to students.   Teachers also ask students to restate the objective in their own words and write it down.  In some instances, students are reminded of the lesson objective at specific points throughout the lesson.  All these references help students know exactly what it is they are to be learning.  The experts remind us to precisely and directly align every detail within the lesson to the stated lesson objective.

So, try starting the end of the school day conversation with, “Tell me one of the objectives you worked on today.”  Students should be able to answer that question with confidence.

Early to bed, early to rise…

According to a familiar old saying, good things happen with a good night’s sleep.  For Clinton students to learn and achieve each day, sleep is a vital need.  Sleep promotes alertness, memory and performance.  Children who get enough sleep are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness.  How much sleep should elementary school age children get?  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children 5 – 10 years of age receive 10 – 11 hours of sleep each night.

Please help your children have the best opportunity for school success by teaching them good sleep habits.  To teach these habits, the Foundation provides parents with some tips.  The #1 tip for good sleeping habits in children is to follow a nightly routine.  A bedtime ritual makes it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep and sleep through the night.

Additional Tips:

  • Make bedtime the same time each night.
  • Make bedtime a positive and relaxing experience without TV or videos.  Television viewing prior to bed can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.  Save your child’s favorite relaxing, non-stimulating activities until last and have them occur in the child’s bedroom.
  • Keep the bedtime environment (e.g. light, temperature) the same all night long.
  • Be a good role model for your children.  Go to bed at a reasonable time and talk to them about the importance of sleep.

A good night’s sleep makes healthy and wise Clinton children.