Open Houses and Coffees provide insight into our real-life laboratory on living and learning. These adult-only events are geared towards families looking to apply for the 2015-2016 school year and beyond.
There’s a new face in Ancona’s Business Office! We are extremely pleased to welcome Reggie Walker, Ancona’s new Director of Finance and Operations. An experienced financial professional, Reggie has worked as a manager, analyst, controller and CFO in both private business and non-profit organizations. He brings extensive experience in accounting, finance and budgeting to Ancona’s business office, and we are very fortunate to have Reggie to continue the path of excellence in our business operations. If you see him around our halls, please give him a warm Ancona welcome!
Ancona teachers are life-long learners. Some of their learning experiences are scheduled, planned, and even involve homework, while some are casual, creative, and even unexpected. Just like their students, Ancona teachers take classes, go to camp, read books, and explore their world over the summer break, giving them a myriad new ideas and skills to share in their classrooms when we begin school in the fall. This summer was no exception; Ancona teachers traveled far and wide to engage in a variety of professional development opportunities.
As recipients of this year’s Reepmeyer professional development grant, our Maestras de Espanol, Christiane Westhelle and Christina Kuszewski Rouches, traveled together to Cuba, where they researched health and educational policy and learned about the rich Cuban culture and the impact of the U.S. embargo on Cuban life. They also met with Cuban academics, students, political leaders, social activists, and representatives from the U.S. Interest Section, toured public schools, medical centers, NGOs, religious centers, and even the homes of Cuban citizens. Visiting artists workshops, enjoying live jazz, theater and dance performances, and tasting typical Cuban cuisine in privately-owned restaurants made the trip as fun as it was educational. Our Spanish teachers are certain that this experience will re-energize their teaching about the Spanish-speaking Caribbean this year.
Senora Christiane extended her travels in Latin America this summer to visit Guatemala, where, she says, the native people and their Maya culture enriched her spirit in a way no other country has. While there, she reconnected to “Caminos Seguros/Safe Passage,” an organization that works with the children of at-risk families that live and work around the big garbage dump in the capital. Their work tries to bring hope, education and opportunities to these children living in extreme poverty. Christiane visited this garbage dump area and school and would like to connect Ancona students to the students there and establish a relationship between them, to learn from each other and to further develop a sense of empathy towards people and places suffering from “life in the dumps.”
In a very different part of the world, librarian Marsha Stewart and 3rd/4th grade teacher Janet Gray-McKennis were engaged in some very different modes of learning. According to Marsha, Constructing Modern Knowledge is “the ultimate hands-on maker incubator.” Educators from all disciplines get together in New Hampshire each summer to make, play and be true learners. At the institute, participants brainstorm together about projects they are interested in pursuing. They form teams and affinity groups and then “go to play.” Planning, collaborating, failing, and troubleshooting, they pool their knowledge and eventually triumph, because they learn a ton, and have so… much… FUN. The end result this year was an extravaganza of presentations from wearable art and robotics to an interactive tree house and sound garden.
Watch a video of Janet working with her team at CMK.
Marsha was joined by our 7th/8th grade math & science teacher, Katrina Pommerening, in Boston for the Building Learning Communities, the “ultimate learn tank.” At BLC, learners from all disciplines get together to share, connect, and collaborate with an incredibly diverse group of educators discussing all things related to the children in our worlds: how to connect them globally, how to help them to be heard, how to support their passions, how to inspire them to move from consuming to creating, how to expose them to and protect them from the world, and, perhaps most of all, how to help them prepare for an inconceivable future. Like CMK, according to Marsha, this conference has mind-blowing keynote speakers.
John Zurbrigg (1st/2nd grade teacher) enrolled in a Responsive Classroom Workshop this summer and learned many strategies for helping children to learn in the content areas and build community relations for better curricular involvement. As a result of his learning at the workshop, John plans to use RC strategies for building classroom relationships and establishing routines as as well as making school a fun place to be by providing active breaks (Energizers) and game-like activities at the Morning Meeting and the Closing Circle at the day’s end. Based on the experiences of John and two other teachers at Ancona, we invited Responsive Classroom to present a one-day workshop to the entire faculty during planning days this year and benefitted both from the practical pedagogical strategies and the camaraderie of all learning and preparing for the school year together.
Every summer Ancona sends at least three or four teachers to Teachers College (at Columbia University) for institutes in Reading and Writing Workshops (see last week’s Curriculum Connection for more on how we use these workshops in the language arts program at Ancona). At TC, as we affectionaltely call it, Bill Singerman, who is our 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher, took courses on deepening students’ skills in writing about their reading and on the use of mentor texts in the classroom. He reports that he was able to connect with teachers from around the world and compare and contrast our schools’ curricula with what they are doing. Elizabeth Bruner, who teaches 5th and 6th grade reading an writing, attended a session on raising the level of instruction in book clubs, which she says was extremely relevant in helping her consider the teaching moves that will leverage more progress for her students. She also learned about using technology tools in reading instruction and focused a lot on digital and alternative texts.
Our middle school art teacher, Janet Musich, also traveled to Boston this summer, where she attended the week-long Future of Learning Institute (at the Harvard Graduate School of Education), which invites educators to explore three core developments that are shaping the nature of learning in today’s and tomorrow’s societies: globalization, the digital revolution, and our growing understanding of the mind/brain. Janet had ample opportunity to reflect about the ways in which these changes call on us to rethink the nature of learning, adapt our educational practices, or reconsider our roles as professionals working in education. She also recognized that what we do at Ancona is “light years ahead of what is happening in the average school in this country.” Perhaps this is because Ancona teachers are engaged in professional development and are always renewing their practice as educators, whether that be through conferences and workshops or simply by keeping their eyes and minds open as they travel through, explore, and interact with their worlds each summer.
The Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that the following Trustees are up for reelection at the first Board of Trustees meeting of this school year at 6:30pm, October 1, 2014: Chip Bamberger, Lawrence Hill and Daryl Newell.
The meeting will be held in the Mitchell Commons. The Board encourages parents to attend all regularly scheduled Board of Trustee meetings as they are open to the public and there is a time for parent/visitor comments at each meeting. Moreover, parents have a vote in the election or reelection of Trustees. We hope to see you there.
With a new airborne virus (Enterovirus D68) causing respiratory problems for some children in our area, this is a good time to remind your children how to cough or sneeze into their sleeves. If they forget and use their hands — or if they aren’t wearing sleeves — they should wash their hands (with soap) immediately after coughing or sneezing into them. Tissues should be used only once, and hands should be washed after the tissue is thrown away. We’re teaching these lessons in school; we appreciate parents who help their children learn these good habits at home. They make all of us healthier!
The Ancona School will be keeping our ears and eyes open for symptoms related to this new virus. If your child begins to experience a fever, runny nose, trouble breathing or wheezing, please contact your health provider. As always, notify the main office of any diagnosed illness.
by Bonnie L. Wishne, Head of School
As we ease back into school every September, Ancona’s language arts teachers are laying the foundation for a year of minds-on reading by launching the Reading Workshop. The product of over twenty-five years of literacy research, the Reading Workshop (like its twin, the Writing Workshop) is a robust classroom architecture that develops engaged, thoughtful readers who are ready for high-performance learning.
The single factor most strongly associated with reading achievement–more than socioeconomic status or any instructional approach–is independent reading, according to Stephen Krashen, linguist and educational researcher. (The Power of Reading)
To cultivate the habit of independent reading, Reading Workshops give our students important reading time during their school day. Teachers begin the workshop with a brief and carefully crafted mini-lesson, one idea for the children to learn to use as they read. Teachers capture the important points of the mini-lesson on the anchor charts one sees hanging in the classrooms to remind children of the good reading habits we want them to practice.
Then, each child finds a comfortable spot for reading his/her book, and while the children read, the teacher moves about the class, conferring with individual students to assess their comprehension and application of the lesson and to offer guidance and reading strategies. S/he gains valuable insight into each child’s tastes, perspectives and ways of knowing that helps her to guide their reading and tailor her mini-lessons.
Reading is Communal
Studies show that children read more when they see other people reading, says Kashen. In the classroom workshop, Ancona students not only see others read, they learn to converse about their reading with partners, and, beginning in 3rd/4th grades, in small book clubs. Ancona students are fortunate to have teachers who are great readers, and researchers have long known that children who love to read come from homes where adults are readers. Partnering with parents, we make thinking and talking about books a habit.
Mini-lessons teach the myriad habits of good readers. They apply to readers at varying levels of proficiency, including those who are reading mostly pictures. Young readers might learn about the parts of a non-fiction book or how to figure out words they don’t know while later readers may discuss character, setting, inference, figurative language or the characteristics of a particular genre. Some mini-lessons give ideas for how to talk about our book or be a good listener for our partner. Above all, they teach that good readers think about and interpret the meaning of the text.
Just Right Choices
Various studies have shown that allowing students to choose their own texts fosters engagement and increases reading motivation and interest and that to progress in their reading, children need to choose and read lots of books at their just right level; in other words, books where they know 95-99% of the words. Every classroom (and the school library) has many books at every level so that each child has many books from which to choose. By reading many books at a comfortable level, children will enjoy reading, develop reading stamina and progress to more challenging texts.
Units of Study
To ensure a rich and varied diet of reading experiences for our students, teachers at every level follow a curriculum of study units in Readers Workshop. Study units may focus on a genre — biography, non-fiction or poetry –or they may focus on an aspect of being a great reader — Building a Reading Life or Close Reading and Interpretation. Some units of study are integrated with social studies or science units — Narrative Non-Fiction of Colonial America or Mythical Creatures: Fact or Fiction? Parents can find descriptions of the current year’s units on their classroom websites.
Working together with our Learning Specialists, our teachers assess each student’s reading in September to determine the child’s just right level. Assessments take word knowledge, word recognition strategies and comprehension into account in setting the correct level. Children will bring home books to read; parents can look for books of similar difficulty outside of school. Teachers will let parents know their child’s just right level when they come for conferences. Regular conferencing with children provides teachers with ongoing monitoring of each child’s progress, and they assess again periodically during the school year to track each child’s reading progress.
What if a child isn’t yet reading at an appropriate level or isn’t making the progress we would expect? Our learning specialists are available to further diagnose children experiencing difficulty and to provide specialized, supplementary instruction for children they identify as needing additional support. The learning specialist will notify the parents of children she is assisting.
Read alouds are an important complement to the Reading Workshop. Using a carefully chosen text, the teacher models the internal thinking of a good reader as s/he reads a story to the class. Each read aloud has a teaching point–making predictions, for example–that the children can then apply in their own reading. Read alouds teach children to think about their own thinking as they read.
The Reading Workshop is only one component of Ancona’s balanced literacy program. Word study, Writing Workshop, listening to read-alouds, conversing about reading and reading and writing for content all contribute to each student’s growing literacy.
Through the Reading Workshop, each child authors his/her own dynamic reading life.
Teaching great Reading Workshops is an art and a skill that develops over years, and we are fortunate to have passionate teachers who make reflection and refinement part of their daily practice.. We’ve been sending our language arts teachers to New York City for summer workshops at Teachers College at Columbia University for over ten years. All of our teachers of reading have been to at least one training, and most have been back many times for advanced work, to renew relationships and to learn the latest research and practices.
The External Affairs Office is once again gearing up for admissions and community marketing initiatives. The only thing missing is YOU! If you are available to volunteer at any of these events, we would love to have you! This involves talking to parents about Ancona, inviting families to our upcoming admissions coffee and open house events, and handing out information and give-a-ways. Share your Ancona experience with others!
About the NPN Fairs
NPN Fairs are designed for parents who are navigating the school search process. Parents meet representatives from numerous schools (public and private), as well as enrichment programs and family-friendly businesses from all across the city. See below for available dates and shifts:
NPN Southside Preschool and Elementary School Fair
Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave. (Hyde Park)
Saturday, September 20, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Shifts Needed: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon (2 volunteers needed) & 12:00 noon – 2:00 p.m. (2 volunteers needed)
NPN Preschool and Elementary School Fair
Grossinger City Autoplex, 1530 N. Dayton Street (Lincoln Park)
Saturday,October 18, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Shifts Needed: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon (2 volunteers needed) & 12:00 noon – 2:00 p.m. (2 volunteers needed)
About the 57th Street Book Fair
57th Street Children’s Book Fair takes place Sunday, September 21st from 12 noon-5:00 p.m., and is a Hyde Park tradition celebrating the love of reading through storytelling, music, puppetry, and craft activities. The Ancona School has reserved a table to share our educational offerings and engage with our community. See below for available shifts:
12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. (2 volunteers needed) & 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (2 volunteers needed)
If you are available, please e-mail and indicate the event and time slot by Friday, September 12. Or use the online volunteer participation form and note “admissions” in the text field.
There exists a wonderful new window into your child’s world at Ancona. Actually, it is many windows: My Classrooms is a password-protected section of Ancona’s new web site where teachers can communicate with parents and students in a dynamic way about the many facets of learning going on at school (on field trips and at camp, too!). The site allows you to see into all the classrooms that are part of your child’s learning experience at Ancona in a clear and convenient format. It also offers extra pages for sharing information about the curriculum, advisory activities, and special programming. The visit to My Classrooms is customized for you and your child to make it as useful as possible.
My Classrooms allows you to stay abreast of what’s happening and what’s coming up. Your landing page in the site pulls together information from all your child’s classes and includes a calendar that integrates all relevant events. For middle school students this means that they will see all their homework assignments listed in one place and can even submit their homework online (when that protocol has been established). When you visit the site, you can sign up to receive various kinds of notifications from your child’s teachers.
Many of the features of the web pages will be familiar from previous year. For example, you will be able to see pictures and videos of special projects and events or of the day-to-day work you child is engaged in. The library page will have many of the same resources that you found on teh library portal of the past. Some features are new and improved. Every main classroom page, for example, will have links to the family directory where you can not only see your child’s classmates, but where you can conveniently contact their parents as well. Teachers will have the option of creating sub-pages in their subject areas, allowing them to customize the experience for their classes while still maintaining a consistent experience overall.
The site also offers a new feature: a bird’s eye view of the curriculum. The Landscape of Learning page displays a curriculum map that lays out the units of study at each level and in every subject area. The unit overviews describe investigations of interrelated concepts, as well as the skills and strategies students develop as a result of these investigations. Units vary in length and complexity depending on a number of factors, including developmental level, subject, and topic. They are like maps of the various learning landscapes that student traverse throughout the year. Units are listed choronologically but without specific dates, as their duration is often influenced by student interest and side-trips that present themselves along the way. When there are interdisciplinary connections between subject areas, these are linked between the unit overviews.
These same unit overviews can be linked to or posted by teachers on their classroom pages, sharing with you the current unit your child is studying. Teachers will be regularly sharing this information, as well as explanations of the curriculum and programming, like Math Investigations or I-Math projects, online resources, and even suggestions for exploring topics further at home. When it is time for History Fair or Civil Rights play preparation, or other long-term projects, the calendar feature will be invaluable in keeping students organized and up to date. Students will also learn over time how to save, organize, and relfect on their work with a powerful e-portfolio feature offered by the site. This format for saving work can also facilitate student-teacher dialogue about growth and goals.
The goal of the My Classrooms web pages is to make learning visible to everyone involved: teachers, parents, and students. The site allows us to articulate the curriculum, to coordinate our work with colleagues and students, and to communicate effectively, making life easier and learning more dynamic at Ancona. You can visit My Classrooms right now to explore, and you can always find it linked on the Ancona School web site under the “My Ancona” tab.