Monday, September 15, 2008

Open House Advice from the Top!

Chets Creek Elementary Open House
September 2008
You never get a second chance to make a first impression – WOW them!

The following are items that should be covered at Open House. If you are addressing a looped class of parents feel free to address only those items you feel need to be touched on.

I. Purpose of Standards-based Open House
To help parents develop a clear understanding of what a day inside your standards-based classroom looks like.

II. Environmental Checklist
_____Attractive sign-in sheet and pens close to the door for parent sign-in.
_____Agenda of program to be covered written on board or hand-out
_____PTA envelopes available at sign-in
_____Classroom and offices clean and organized
_____Detailed Daily Schedule posted with Standards Based components included
_____Schoolwide Behavioral Standards/Classroom Covenants/Class Promise displayed
_____STARS wagon/basket outside door with books neatly arranged
_____Classroom libraries organized and labeled by genre, author, themes, levels, etc
_____Optional: “Packing List” for donations of classroom libraries with book
title, author/illustrator, other things … (YES! DO IT AGAIN!!!)
_____Book-of-the-Month spotlighted in room
_____Word Wall displayed with some words added
_____Standards-based bulletin board complete outside of room with a minimum of standard,
task, and student work, commentary

III. What to include in your Open House Presentation?
Standards Based Education (What and Why)
Assessments (Diagnostic/FCAT)
Behavior Standards (including STARS Procedures)
Readers to Leaders (Million word Campaign) – your grade level specific information
Book of the Month
Reader’s Workshop
Writer’s Workshop
Math Workshop
Science Workshop
Home-School Folders/Planners

IV. Possibilities for Open House Presentation
A. Student led focus walks with flow chart of key items
B. Demonstration lesson and debrief (Every Day Counts, Skills Block etc…)
C. Let students lead agenda
D. Activity based agenda to cover topics
E. Standards-based PowerPoint (Add your own slides, pictures, clip art, if you choose)
F. Teacher directed presentation/conversation
G. Video of day, lesson, or tour

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Open House

Open House makes many a new teacher shake in her shoes! All those eyes looking at you - so how can you make the experience less stressful? Below are suggestions from some veteran teachers.

Suggestions from 5th Grade teacher Tom Ruark: By far, the most productive Open House "routine" that has worked for me, as a math teacher, is to have the parents participate in a scaled down version of our Math Workshop. I have a Problem Of the Day (probably Every Day Counts Calendar Math) activity followed by a Math Investigations mini-lesson and accompanying student sheet. I advise the kids that they cannot do the work for their parents, but that they may help if their folks get stuck.

This allows the less "needy" parents to work with their kids in a real math environment, and allows the more "needy" parents to search me out and ask questions that allay most of their fears. At any rate, most seem to like this operation (they would stay for hours if we let them:-} ), and those who don't leave without saying a word, which always leaves me feeling great. I have officially entitled this "A Day in the Life".

From 3rd grade team teacher Jenny Nash: We usually send the children on a scavenger hunt or guided tour of sorts through our classrooms. However, there is one thing I wanted to share. I take this time to teach a little manners and social skills to my students. We have a lesson the day of Open House on introductions. (One of the items on their agendas/tours is to introduce their parents to me.) We role play in the classroom and I, of course, get silly and encourage them to introduce me as the best teacher in the whole world, etc. But on a serious note, I teach them the concept of waiting politely when I'm engaged in a conversation with another family, using eye contact and proper hand gestures, introductory language ("I'd like you to meet..."), what names to call adults by, what details to include in a personal introduction, etc. I LOVE DOING THIS. First of all, I think this is an area MAJORLY lacking in our children today (appropriate social manners). Secondly, I love to see the students pride in themselves when they have the opportunity to shine in front of their parents that night! Just a little touch from the mommy (and traditional, Southern girl) in me! :)

From 2nd grade co-teacher Vicky Sharpe: Brooke Brown and I usually do a video, "A Day in the Life of Your Second Grader". It has all the kids in it singing their transition songs and explaining what they do in all their workshops. We also have Eric Blair put the opening of the announcements at the beginning. The parents love that! Before the video, we have all the students come down to their carpet spot. They know the CHAMPs for the carpet and will be much better behaved. After the video each child has a check sheet at their desk which tells them all of the places to go and look in the classroom and also items and work to show their parents in their desk. Usually after this, open house is over! It is easy and fun for the kids! The parents love to hear what the kids are doing from the kids themselves. :) Brooke and I roam around the room helping out with anything that we may need to and talking to the parents.

From 3rd grade co-teachers Cheryl Chascin and Cynthia Rice: For the past several years we have created a PowerPoint slide show of a typical students' day. We begin taking pictures on the first day of school and try to keep a camera at the ready for photos of the students in action. We even include recess and lunch. Parents love seeing their children working and enjoying school. They are often amazed that we fit so much academic time into the school day and cover so many subjects. The best part about this is that we don't have to talk too much - just a brief introduction and a question and answer at the end. We get to stand back and watch the smiling faces of the parents. The kids get a kick out of seeing themselves, too. One thing we learned the first year we did this was to preview the slide show in school with the kids before Open House. That first year, the student reaction to the slide show was so vocal that it disturbed the Open House happening in the class next door!

I hope one of the things that you noticed in all these suggestions is that the teacher is NOT at the front of the room doing all the talking! Now, that's the way to relieve the stress!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Standard-based Bulletin Boards

Many years ago the decision was made that bulletin boards at Chets Creek would be teaching and learning boards instead of fluff. The idea is that a bulletin board is a window into the instruction in your classroom. The boards are used to show the teaching that is going on inside the classroom but are also used for learning as other teachers, classes, students, parents and visitors all stop to read the student work. Bulletin boards are one of the ways that we make our teaching visible, transparent.

The bulletin board shows the connection between a student's work, the standard the work is to meet, and the assessment that is used to decide when the work is good enough. Much of the work posted early in the year may not meet the standard or may be displayed as "a work in progress" but as the year progresses, more and more of the posted work will meet the standard and even exceed the standard.

Over the years, the school has adopted a specific criteria for bulletin boards. This is not to say that the teachers at Chets Creek don't often adapt the criteria as they take risks in showing work that has never been displayed before or use their creativity to rework the criteria. The proving ground is that a teacher can explain what is on her board and why she did or did not follow the specific criteria. Basically a Standards-based Bulletin Board contains the following features:

  • Title - Each board has a title that describes the big picture. Teachers sometimes use catchy phrases or a play on words to entice someone walking by the board to stop and read.
  • Standard - The standard is reproduced exactly like it is written in the Standards book or comes directly from the Sunshine State Standards.
  • Task - The task is an explanation of what the class or student was asked to do. Teachers often include a list of the mini-lessons taught prior to the specific assignment so that the reader can easily see how the specific task fits into a string of lessons.
  • 4 pieces of student work - 4 pieces of student work are posted that often show a range of work.
  • Commentary - Each piece of student work includes a commentary written by the teacher or by the student that explains why the particular piece meets the standard or does not. Sometimes the commentary includes "next steps" to show where the student should go next. The commentary can take many forms: written in paragraph form, bulleted or in writing, can be in the same form found in the rubric book

In addition to the required parts above, the bulletin board might also include student work copied directly from the Standards Book as an example of the expectation for a particular standard, rubrics, artifacts such as photographs of the process, models or artistic representations of a product or experiment, charts, graphs and anything else a teacher may dream up! Risk-taking is encouraged and reinforced!

Thanks to Christina Walag for sharing her collection of bulletin board photos over the past few years below!


We all know that bulletin boards are about the depth of the student work but several years ago we decided that the depth didn't really matter if bulletin boards weren't attractive and interesting enough to make people stop and read, so we present the following tips and suggestions from the Bulletin Board Police:

  • Does my bulletin board have a title that brings all the pieces together? (such as "Apple-tising" for functional pieces about making applesauce)

  • Is my board appealing? (You slaved over it and now you want people to read it! Think about the boards in the building that catch YOUR eye and make YOU stop and say, "Wow- what is this?" You want that to be YOUR board)

  • Is my most important point displayed at eye level? (That's where most people read)

  • Is my bulletin board easy to read and follow from left to right? (most people read from left to right and top to bottom)

  • Do my bulletin board borders look new? Do my borders coordinate well with the theme or color of my board? (anything bent or torn needs to come down - today!)

  • Are all papers securely fastened to the board? (One staple or one clip makes the work look temporary)

  • Does all my work in the hallways look fresh and new? (any work that is old or tattered needs to come down. Any seasonal work that is more than a month old should come down - no pumpkins in January!)

  • Is my commentary easy to read? (font should be simple and .14 or larger so it is easily readable)

  • Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes on my board? Check and double check spelling and then let a friend check it again. One minor error might be overlooked but many spelling and grammar mistakes will make the borad look unprofessional)

If you ever want a second opinion before putting up your bulletin board, stop by and talk over your board with your coach or a colleague. Or... e-mail your commentary for a coach to review before you put it up. We all learn more when we depend on each other for collaboration!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

All about Targeteam

by Lauren Werch

What is TARGET?

TARGET stands for Teachers Accessing Resources through General Education Team

What is the Main Ideas of TARGET?

Target is a proactive approach to address all students’ educational needs. The student's teacher seeks assistance while problems are small and more easily manageable. Help is directed toward the student and the teacher in the general educational environment.

Who should be referred to Targeteam?

The Flagging criteria for a child to be referred to Targeteam can be any one of the following:

• Failing grade or significant decline in an academic area
• More than three disciplinary referrals within a month
• Parent request for Target services
• FCAT (Level 1 or 2)
• Diagnostic scores in the lowest quartile

What is the Target process and how long does it take?

The Target process is a four part process:

Phase 1 is coordinated by the student’s general education. The teacher identifies a student with a need and designs either a behavior or academic goal, initiates parent contact, utilizes classroom resources, and collects data for a minimum of 4-6 weeks on student progress toward the goal.

Phase 2 is conducted by the Targeteam, a school-based interdisciplinary team with parent involvement to advance intervention efforts toward the student's behavior or academic goal. This stage is held in multi meetings (a minimum of 3) over a period of at least 6 weeks.

Phase 3 is held only if the student's goal is not met in phase 1 or 2 and the team feels the student should be referred to the Multidisciplinary Referral Team (MRT). This team considers possible referral and eligibility for ESE (Special Education) services.

Phase 4 is entered only is a student qualifies and requires an Individual Education Plan or Section 504 Plan.

How do I sign up for the Target meeting?

A Data Input form must be completed for a student after Phase 1 is completed. Please submit this form to Lauren Werch (primary students) or Liz Duncan (intermediate students). One week before the scheduled day and time an invitation will be sent home to the student's parents and you will receive an email notification.

When are meetings scheduled and where do they meet?

Primary(K-2) meetings are held on Tuesdays at 8:00 and 8:30 in the small front conference room and Thursdays at 8:00 and 8:30 in the Guidance conference room.
Intermediate(3-5) meetings are held in the Media Center (room behind the front desk) at 8:30 on Wednesday and Thursday.

What do I bring to the Target meeting?

Bring the student's cumulative folder, data relating to the student need, interventions tried, and ideas for specific short and long term goals.

How do I find information on students already in the Target process?

Students in the process that attended Chets Creek last year should have copies of goals, objectives and intervention pages attached to their yellow promotion card. Please check the cumulative folder carefully for any information that looks like the Target process, especially for a student you feel is in need.

Who is part of the Targeteam?

The primary team has a facilitator (Lauren Werch), school psychologist (Laura Nilsen), two primary general education teachers (Debbie Harbour and Randi Timmons) and an ESE teacher (Lourdes Santiago). The intermediate team has a facilitator (Liz Duncan), guidance counselor (Betsy McCall), a general education teacher (Ann Tillis) and an ESE teacher (Tammi Sani). In addition, all of the student's academic teachers and parents are a part of the team.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reviewing Cum Folders

This week, you should have checked all of your cum folders. Ever wonder exactly what it means to "check" your folders? As you have probably discovered, the cum folders can be found in The Guidance Office with the homeroom teacher's name on the front of the drawer. The first thing to check of course, is if every child on your roll has a cum folder! Tracy Carlin is the person to see if a folder is missing.

You often hear techers say that they don't want to check the cum folders because they don't want to form prejudices about children before they are able to form their own first impression, but this can be dangerous in the case of medical problems or custody arrangements. Often a child is entitled to particular services so a teacher needs to look for a few things from the very beginning. Below are some of the things that you should check to give you more information about the students in your class:

1. Target (our school intervention team work is filed in a manilla folder), ESE (Exceptional Student Education - Special Education folders, which include services for the gifted, are green), Speech and Language Services (in a pink folder), and Section 504 Packet Plans(which are also in a manilla folder) all have their own folders within the yellow cum folder. Each of these will tell you something particular about a student.

2. There will be an orange sheet of paper that will tell you if the child has had any interventions while at Chets. Attached to this are any PMPs (Progress Monitoring Plan) that will also tell you about intervention plans that have been designed for the student in previous years. The PMP will be signed by the parent indicating that the teacher and parent have had a conference discussing the needs and results of these interventions.

3.Custody issues will be a formal decree found after the Code of Conduct form towards the front of the yellow folder.

4. Students that have serious medical alerts will have a red dot on the front of the cum folder. You will also find additional facts about the medical condition with the health information inside the cum folder.

5. Make sure to also look for a red folder because this will tell you a child's ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) status. There will also be a Home Language Survery that will tell you if the family speaks another language at home and what that language is. This will be a big help in knowing if you need an interpreter for conferences. An active ESOL student requires that the teachers use ESOL strategies in the classroom documenting them in her lesson plans. An ESOL student in the 2 year monitoring phase requires a teacher to document progress on the left side of the folder on form c. An ESOL student who is finished with the 2 year monitoring phase does not require any additional paperword on the teacher's part but all of this information will be helpful as you get to know your students.

If there is anything in the cum folder that you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask about it. Tracy Carlin can answer any of your questions or can direct to the person that can!