There’s no denying that reading is an essential skill for academic success, but the best part of my role as the librarian is showing students how much fun it is to immerse themselves in a good book. My strategies vary based on the age, reading level, and individual style of each student, but below are four of my favorite ways to get kids excited when they visit the library.
Have you ever wondered what teachers look for when considering a school for their own children?
Consistently, teachers agree it is important to visit a school on a typical school day when students are present. No surprise...these teachers also feel you should do your homework. Start with a list of questions that are relevant to your child’s development. After all, you know your child best. Here are some of the questions they suggest:
The transition from kindergarten to first grade can make parents and students feel excited and a little nervous about leaving “early childhood” and becoming a “big kid.” At Sanford School, teachers think about helping students do three things to ensure that students all transition smoothly: seeing a familiar face, feeling comfortable in the space, and getting used to the pace.
Seeing a Familiar Face
Students often feel less anxious about going to a new classroom when they know a little bit about the new teacher that they’ll have. To help with this, kindergartners have recess along with the first and second grades so that teachers can start to connect with the students they’ll have in a year or two. In addition, faculty members who teach “specials” like art, music, and technology constantly remind students that even though the homeroom teachers change, the specials teachers will remain the same, so they can plan to see many familiar faces the following year. To help drive home this point, the specials teachers always participate in greeting during morning drop off the first week of school so that students going into a new grade can see teachers that they had the previous year
The Four C’s
For years the world of school was focused on the Three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. But in today’s world it’s not enough to read a book, write a story, and do a few math problems; we need to prepare our students for an ever-evolving global society. Now, education organizations around the country, including the National Education Association (NEA) are talking about the Four C’s:
- Critical Thinking
The Fifth C: Chocolate!
In the Third Grade we tackle the Four C’s and more through thematic learning. Thematic learning is when students focus on one theme that connects multiple subject areas. For example, in our Chocolate Economics unit we use the overarching theme of chocolate to bridge several content areas. Some highlights of the unit include:
- Science: Investigation of the cacao bean and its rainforest habitat, including the layers of the forest, the geography and weather conditions needed to sustain a tropical rainforest, and the importance of sustainability and conservation of these areas;
- Social Studies: Discussion of the history of chocolate, from the Aztecs and Mayans to the explorers who brought chocolate to various countries and continents;
- Reading and Performing Arts: Reader’s Theater performances—complete with costumes and music—of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Great Kaypok Tree;
- Economics (including research, writing, and math): Participation in the full scope of activities related to the business of chocolate-making, such as conducting market research, production of actual chocolate creations, branding & advertising via print and television, and, eventually, a Market Day where students sell their chocolate and calculate their profits, which are donated to charity organizations selected by the students.
DESIGN THINKING INSPIRES
Design Thinking is a teaching approach that incorporates the engineering design process in hands-on, collaborative projects. Students are guided through the design steps to problem solve. The process is meant to be repeated to create the best possible solution. Project-based and problem-based learning engages students while providing essential Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills that inspire innovation.
Elementary school is the perfect age to teach coding. Learning to code is fun, empowering, and provides essential 21st century skills. According to the US Department of Commerce, within the last ten years STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) employment opportunities have grown by 24.4% vs. only 4% in non-STEM fields, and STEM-focused employees make an average of 29% more than non-STEM workers. It is important that we provide our children with the computer science skills necessary to be successful.
The schedule says “language arts,” but, at first glance, you might think the fourth-grade class looks more like they’re having recess than writing. Students are scattered around the room and spilling into the hallway, happily chatting in pairs, drawing pictures, sticking and re-sticking multi-colored Post-Its on bright yellow paper, or laughing uproariously at a story being told by a teacher. But, believe it or not, this is what writing looks like in our classes! This past summer we traveled all the way to Barcelona, Spain and joined nearly 200 other teachers from all over the world at a summer writing institute created by Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. The week-long training introduced us to new ways to think about, talk about, and teach about writing, and our classes at Sanford School haven’t been the same since. Now when we approach writing lessons we think about how we’ll support the three different types of communication that we want to see happening throughout the class: teacher-to-student, student-to-student, and student-to-self.
Parent-teacher conferences have been a staple of communication between home and school for many decades, and certainly, there is value in maintaining those important traditional conversations, which often take place without the student being present. This communication is a key to student success. However, the paradigm is shifting, and the age-old process has changed in many schools, as the students are frequently not only attending the conference but actually leading it. Monica Martinez, a senior scholar for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and co-author of a book that addresses school approaches that facilitate deeper learning, queried, “How many of us, as students, appreciated being talked about in the third person as if we were invisible?”
Student-Led Conferences (SLC) are not new by any standard, but they are gaining momentum and popularity, not because they are a “trend,” but because they encourage and empower students from the elementary level through high school to take responsibility for their learning in a way that might not have happened previously. The format for an SLC can vary widely, from the use of a questionnaire, sharing a portfolio, or highlighting a strength and area of growth in every subject, but the common denominator requires that the student communicates to the parents WHAT s/he is doing in school and WHY.
Personalized learning is when the planning, teaching, and assessment focus on the individual needs and interests of each student. It provides an education that includes differentiation and individualization, tools which support student success.
“Transform a wish into a goal by putting a date on it.” Peter Turla
Managing time is a universal issue; certainly, it is not confined exclusively to students. However,
Many schools have incorporated technology into the daily lives of students and their families by posting all class assignments and grades online. The student can, and must, check their schools' website portals for a listing of all classwork that is due. Having all assignments in one accessible place can be extremely helpful. Because of the number of subjects a student takes, that list can cover quite a bit of space and, at first glance, may seem a bit daunting. A closer inspection usually reveals due dates that are staggered, which means that the student must now prioritize the workload. It is not enough to refer to the website daily and use that as the homework sheet. No time is being allocated for long-term projects, test review, or work that is expected to take several nights to complete.
For many students, this is the juncture where “high tech” should join forces with “old school.” Enter the student planner or some other form of a calendar. By transferring the information from the school website portal into their own calendar, the student can then begin to plan for the successful completion of all assignments.