The teachers are doing an outstanding job, but at Shady Side we know that the most effective program utilizes the talents of our families. To that end, I want to clearly state the 2014-15 focus areas of the school.
· Writing: I have talked with your children, and why we have many positive comments to share about Shady Side, we will be known around the county this year as a “Writing School”. We are incorporating a highly regarded writing program developed by an educator named Lucy Calkins. Your child will be learning strategies and be involved in writing each day. Most of their work will be kept in their writing folders so ask to see some of the work whenever you conference with your child’s teacher. Additionally, you should notice the number of writing examples and projects growing on the walls of the classrooms.
· Boy Strategies: We are on our second year of discussing strategies to actively involve our boys in lessons. We have already worked to incorporate body movement, interest, and breaks. This year we will spend time talking about competition and technology. Don’t worry, we are not ignoring your daughters…good instructional techniques helps everyone.
· Math Fact Fluency: Parents are very important in this focus area. Why we expect our staff to spend most of the 75 minutes a day teaching math strategies and problem-solving we realize that the students not fluent with their math facts have difficulty mastering these higher level math standards. We have to creatively touch on these facts without taking much time from math instruction. Incorporating more opportunities in technology and homework are possibilities. A math night is being explored by the Math Committee. I am excited about a series of school-wide assessment we are starting to plan for the school. We envision a school wide trophy that moves from class to class each month, based on the percentage of class wide improvement and encourages the students that math fact acquisition is important. As each grade level selects the facts to concentrate on each month, we will inform you so you can assist your children to prepare for the assessment.
· Third, Fourth and Fifth Grade Language Arts: The teachers are meeting each week to plan opportunities to master their grade curriculums. They no longer use a prepared program to guide the sequence of skills. They select two or three standards and locate several texts that match up to these skills. Your young scholars are already becoming more proficient at reading two or three texts, applying the selected standards and comparing/contrasting the different texts. Confusing? The teachers are becoming experts at creating these new lessons. I would place them up with any school in the county.
· Fountas and Pinnell Assessment: Superintendent, Dr. Arlotto, has made primary literacy a county wide focus area. We all agree that all of our scholars should be reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade. This assessment, we are beginning to administer clearly will assist teachers with each child’s specific reading level. Knowing this information allows us to provide specialized instruction to meet the specific needs of our students. Instruction on too low or two high of a reading level is not the most effective way to improve reading. Reading Resource Teacher, Miss Kelly, a trained expert in this program and part-time Reading Teacher Mrs. Whalen, have already begun providing Professional Development
· Math Problem-Solving: Grades Four and Five will continue an initiative from last year. The students will be encouraged to apply math skills and strategies in problem solving situations. They will need to explain their thinking orally and in writing.
Told you that Shady Side was a special place! Thank you for being such important partners.