A window into the classroom

More than ever, teachers are providing parents with a window into the classroom with social media and other web-based applications. Many teachers are empowering their students to contribute or direct aspects of the classroom communication. Students are motivated by working for these “authentic audiences”.

One great example is our weekly digital curation of Willowbrook tweets. Our technology integration specialist, Mrs. Rich, has used the Storify network service to compile the week’s tweets that include #d30learns or #wbplays. She recently moved these tweets over to the Wakelet service.


Another application that teachers (and families) have embraced is Seesaw. These are student driven digital portfolios. Many teachers have replaced their weekly newsletter with this application. We believe there may also be aspects of this platform that could guide articulation for students (grade level to grade level) and alignment to our new report cards.

With so many powerful tools, our teachers are sharing more student learning and school information than ever before! Of course, this is a lot to manage. We often wonder which communication vehicles are the best. Do we need to spend time on Twitter, Seesaw, School Messenger, S’more, Kidblog, email blasts, etc. Could we focus our efforts on one or two applications? We welcome parent feedback as we work toward establishing common expectations.

Posted in Learning | Tagged | Comments Off on A window into the classroom

A special student recognition

A very special student and his talented Willowbrook teaching team was recognized at the North Suburban Special Education District’s Leadership Council Meeting tonight. Second grader Jonathan Ortega and his teachers Brittany Brown, Lauren Randazzo, and Ann Angel were presented with certificates for their excellence. Jonathan is an inspiring example of fortitude, character, and academic growth. The partnership between the NSSED staff at Willowbrook and our general education teachers is a model of best practice.

My heart swells with pride for this young man and the hard working teachers of Willowbrook School. Dr. Wegley, Lauren Schulman, and Betsie Onsrud were also present to cheer on Jonathan. What a great learning community!

This recognition came on the heels of our Ability Awareness Week. This week was another collaboration between Willowbrook and NSSED staff. All students were exposed to adaptive sports, assistive technology, and individual learning differences. We stand for inclusive classrooms and differentiated instruction.


Posted in School Events | Tagged , | Comments Off on A special student recognition

Grade 4 Energy Vlogs

Our 4th grade students explored renewable and non renewable resources in their most recent science unit.  Among other learning standards, this activity was aligned with Next Generation Science Standard 4-ESS3-1.

Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment… Over time, people’s needs and want change, as do their demands for new and improved technologies.

Mrs. Eichmiller pulled various clips from student-created Vlogs that feature their learning, experience, and growth.  This unit of instruction was a collaboration between the library, instructional technology, and classroom teachers.  You will also see the students posing questions to an outside expert in the field.

Posted in Learning | Tagged | Comments Off on Grade 4 Energy Vlogs

IPA Student Recognition Breakfast

Mia Hermann and her parents joined me yesterday at the 8th annual Student Recognition Breakfast of the North Cook Region of the Illinois Principals Association.  The event was held at the Metropolis Ballroom in Arlington Heights.  We enjoyed music from the Maine South Jazz Band.  Our keynote speaker was Brian McBride, a retired soccer player from the US national team.

My professional association allows each of its members to invite one student from their exiting grade level to attend and receive recognition. With input from the 4th and 5th grade teaching staff, I selected Mia.  We are proud of Mia’s work ethic and character.  She has consistently demonstrated responsibility and respect at Willowbrook School.  She is dedicated to her academic and personal growth.  Mia is a positive person to know!

Posted in School Events | Tagged , | Comments Off on IPA Student Recognition Breakfast

Coping with Grief

You may have read my parent letter or heard the sad news from a friend.  Two of our 4th graders lost their mother yesterday.  I am not surprised by the immediate compassion and care our community has shown.  I know the generosity of the larger Willowbrook Community.

We held class meetings with 4th grade this morning after flag raising.  However, students at every grade level may be impacted.  Your children may come home and wish to share their feelings, ask questions, and want to talk.  Below are a few tips taken from the National Association of School Psychologists.

  • Be understanding and tolerant of common grief reactions which include: decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, a decreased ability to concentrate, increased sadness, and social withdrawal.
  • Be simple and straightforward. Discuss death in developmentally appropriate terms.  Use words such as “death,” “die,” or “dying” in your conversations and avoid euphemisms such as “they went away,” “they are sleeping,” “departed,” and “passed away.”  Such euphemisms are abstract and may be confusing, especially for younger children.
  • Let children know that death is not contagious.  Although all human beings will die at some point, death is not something that can be “caught” and it is unusual for children to die.
  • Be brief and patient. Remember that you may have to answer the same question multiple times and repeat key information to ensure understanding.
  • Express your own feelings in an open, calm, and appropriate way that encourages children to share their feelings and grief.
  • Keep in mind that some children may have a difficult time expressing their feelings or may not feel comfortable talking.  Do not pressure them to talk. Some may prefer writing, drawing, listening to music, or playing a game instead of talking about their feelings.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me should you have any questions, concerns, or if we can be of help in supporting your children.  We have 2 excellent school psychologists available – Maggie Peters (mpeters@district30.org) and Megan Boarini (mboarini@district30.org).

Posted in Parents, School Events | Comments Off on Coping with Grief

Book Madness at Willowbrook

We are just a few days away from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament #selectionsunday.  Maybe your bracket manager has already emailed you…

Meanwhile, Librarian Eichmiller has brought Book Madness to Willowbrook School!  Students and staff have nominated 32 books for the contest.  The books were assigned seeds (1 to 8) and posted on a giant bracket sheet outside the library.  If a student is unfamiliar with a book, they can scan a QR code to access a short book talk video.  I recorded one for Drew Daywalt’s “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors”.

Do you believe each of the #1 seeds deserved their ranking?  Which chapter book will upset a popular Kindergarten picture book?  Students are voting all this week using Google Forms.  We can anticipate some upsets.  I wonder which dark horse will make it to the Sweet Sixteen next week?!

Posted in School Events | Tagged | Comments Off on Book Madness at Willowbrook

Future Chef Recipes

Our school district’s food service provider has held an exciting cooking competition for our 4th and 5th grade students over the past few years.  Unfortunately, this year’s Future Chef competition was cancelled.  I want to share the creative and delicious recipes the 3 Willowbrook students submitted.  You may want to try one of these at home!

Posted in School Events | Comments Off on Future Chef Recipes

Random Acts of Kindness Week

The Willowbrook Spirit Committee invites the whole school community to participate in Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 11-17).  This student video reminds us that it doesn’t take much to spread a little extra kindness.

Posted in School Events | Tagged | Comments Off on Random Acts of Kindness Week

Big Ideas in Math

As you may know, District 30 adopted a math curriculum and a set of materials that place a strong emphasis conceptual reasoning.  Our program is rooted in the concrete, pictorial, abstract (CPA) approach developed by American psychologist Jerome Bruner.  Each year since, our teachers have worked to refine their instruction and evolve their math workshop to accommodate students of all ability levels.

I have the distinct pleasure of seeing students at Kindergarten through 5th grade wrestle with big ideas in math each and every day.  For example, I observed Kindergarten students generating different ways (i.e., number sentences) to get to 20 using wooden number racks this morning.  While the students were giggling with excitement, they were also building deep number sense.  This afternoon, I observed 3 student struggling with exponential growth.  The teacher asked them if they would rather receive a one-time payment of $1 million or a penny that doubles every day for a month.  The students played with this until they figured out the equation.

As Stanford University Professor Jo Boaler has argued, math is a set of big ideas and connections (see her graphic below).  When math is taught exclusively as a series of procedures or methods, students miss what makes mathematics a cohesive whole.   If you are interested in the topic, I recommend her article, What is Mathematical Beauty?  Links to additional resources and other related reading are included in the reference section.  Of course, her book “Mathematical Mindsets” and her Ted Talk on math potential are also fantastic.

Posted in Curriculum, Learning | Tagged | Comments Off on Big Ideas in Math

Play Pack #3

Our 17 play packs met for the third time this morning.  Students from presch00l through 5th grade returned to their packs for unstructured play.  I observed older students joining in imaginative play with younger students.  I was told a 5th grade boy reminded a 4th grade boy to keep the content of his imaginative play “more appropriate for the little guys”.  Here is a brief snapshot from the Screaming Monkey Play Pack.

We finished Play Pack #3 in the gym as a whole school.  Each Play Pack shared their name.  Some shared a pack cheer or dance move.  Several share that they made new friends today.  The last play pack invited the whole school to a Cat Party Dance (see GoNoodle).  It got a little weird… and very fun.

Posted in School Events | Tagged | Comments Off on Play Pack #3