Education Matters—Sanford School's Private School Blog

Transitioning to First Grade: How Teachers Pave the Way

Posted by Kathy Dabkowski, Kristy Patton and Katherine Stafford on September 7, 2018 at 1:04 PM

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 .

 
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Topics: Education, Academics, Parenting Tips

Why We Love Thematic Learning (and You Should, too!)

Posted by Christine Diubaldo and Candyce Pizzala on June 29, 2018 at 2:00 PM

 

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:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Creativity

 

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.

 

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Topics: Education, Academics

How Design Thinking Inspires Future Engineers

Posted by John Bell on June 1, 2018 at 12:30 PM

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.

WHAT IS THE ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS?

The engineering design process is a method of finding solutions to problems, but it’s more than just brainstorming a list of ideas.  When students use the design process they must:

  1. Explore: Learn about the problem.
  2. Brainstorm: Imagine many ways to solve the problem.
  3. Plan: Choose one of your ideas and decide how to make it a reality.
  4. Build: Create the model, test it, and make changes to improve it.
  5. Reflect: What worked well? What would you want to change?

 

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Topics: Education, Academics, STEM

Tools to Teach Coding to Kids

Posted by Patrick Martin on May 18, 2018 at 12:30 PM

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.

Starting in first grade at Sanford School, we give students a foundation in skills that they can apply in and out of the classroom, like creativity and critical thinking. One of the ways we develop these characteristics is by incorporating programming, or coding, into the curriculum. Learning to code has many benefits. Using tools like Scratch, Makey Makeys, and various robots teaches students basic, sequential programming to complex problem-solving skills. Let’s explore these four tools and how they build kids’ ability to code.

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Topics: Education, Academics, Parenting Tips, STEM

Is It Writing or Recess?: Getting Kids Excited About Writing

Posted by Susan Bachtle and Missy Bloom on May 4, 2018 at 12:30 PM

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.

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Topics: Education, Academics, Parenting Tips

The Power of Student-Led Conferences

Posted by Christine Yasik on April 17, 2018 at 12:00 PM

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.

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Topics: Education, Academics, Parenting Tips

Five Advantages of Personalized Learning

Posted by Sandy Sutty on April 6, 2018 at 12:30 PM

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.

Advantages of Personalized Learning

  1. Student-Centered Classrooms
    • Learning activities are meaningful and connect to student interests
    • Authentic learning empowers students
  2. Active Learning Environment
    • Instruction utilizes a variety of learning styles that support every learner
    • Personal attention is given to ensure that every child develops their intellectual and creative talents
  3. Collaborative and Cooperative
    • Students work with others to explore ideas and use knowledge for meaningful tasks
    • Teachers are facilitators of learning to guide them in acquiring knowledge
    • Opportunities are provided  for students to become “creators of content”
  4. Creates Positive Attitudes for Learning
    • Enthusiasm for school is increased
    • Creates life-long learners
  5. Caring and Supportive Learning Environment
    • Student-teacher relationships are respectful
    • Parents partner with teachers to encourage student achievement
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Topics: Education, Academics, Parenting Tips

From Attitude to Activism: To Kill a Mockingbird and Social Justice

Posted by Max Schneider on March 9, 2018 at 12:30 PM

As any former adolescent can tell you, teenagers can be defiant at times. This resistance often comes from being constantly told what they can and can't do. We are evolutionarily wired to push the boundaries during adolescence, when, more often than not, we hear “You can’t do that!” rather than more positive enforcers. The article, "Can Teenage Defiance Be Manipulated for Good?", supports that defiance can be harnessed in a way that allows for enlightening learning opportunities and avenues for inquiry.

I try to keep this in mind while planning how to teach To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of young siblings coming to grips with the hypocrisy and racial injustice of their small Southern town. Students become more engaged when the Tom Robinson plotline is introduced. The obvious facts behind the case point towards a not guilty verdict, which are ignored by the all-white jury. This clear miscarriage of justice is tough for my students to wrap their heads around. How can this happen in the United States, where, as Atticus Finch states in his closing argument, “All men are created equal”?

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Topics: Education, Diversity

Finding Great Children’s Books Starring Black Characters

Posted by Tanya Graham on February 23, 2018 at 5:00 PM

With Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January and Black History Month in February, I have spent the past few weeks talking to my children about classic figures in Black history.  However, this time of year also reminds me how necessary it is that my kids see themselves in the world even when it’s not Black History Month.  Sometimes this can feel like it’s easier said than done. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that of the 3,400 new children’s books published in 2016 only 287—less than 9%—featured Black main characters.

As an educator, I know it’s critical for my kids to see themselves in the books that they read. Professor Emeritus Rudine Sims Bishop at The Ohio State University, discussed the importance of children having both “windows and mirrors” in their books, so that they can learn about the world (windows) and, just as importantly, see themselves represented in it (mirrors). There are several excellent blogs and websites that I’ve used to help me find more mirrors for my kids. I was further inspired to keep making Black children’s literature a priority for my family when I learned about 11-year-old Marley Dias, her desire to see more Black girls and women in literature, and the #1000BlackGirlBooks book drive she started last year.

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Topics: Education, Community, Diversity

How To Use a Calendar to Help Your Student Succeed

Posted by Christine Yasik on February 9, 2018 at 12:30 PM

“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, school provides the perfect place, along with limitless opportunities, for young people to begin to form habits to effectively use their available “free” time that will assist them throughout their lives.

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.

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Topics: Education, Academics, Parenting Tips