Curriculum Night Slides

A few parents have asked for my curriculum night slides. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Happy New Year!

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Welcome Back

It was a terrific week back to school at Willowbrook. After the “longest summer ever”, it is good to have the building full of students. Below is a short video that we shared at our Opening Ceremony. This year’s theme is “Great Things Start Here”.

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Summer Reading

Have you made your summer plans? Did you get into the camp(s) you wanted? Do you have your summer vacations planned? Great! Now, it’s time to think about how we are going to strengthen or develop healthy reading habits in our students. Summer is the perfect time to build a new daily reading routine, get lost in a series, or enjoy a family read-aloud of a classic.

Our students have made incredible gains this year. We want to avoid the summer slide. Let’s start the next school year with the same reading and writing stamina that we have now.

Willowbrook librarian April Eichmiller has provided parents with many good ideas and resources to maintain your child’s “reading life”. Take a look at her latest blog post.

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Principal for the morning

Third-grade student Maddie served as Principal for the Morning. She did an amazing job! We led a walking school bus route, ran Friday Flag Raising, and took a building walk with Mr. Pablo. Later in the morning, Principal Maddie taught a reading/writing lesson in Kindergarten and called a surprise recess for the whole school! We ended with a pizza lunch with friends in my office.

I had the chance to interview Principal Maddie and get to know her a little better. Below are her responses.

Q: Why did you want to be principal for the morning? A: I wanted to feel what it was like to be the principal of Willowbrook.

Q: What is the best part of a principal’s job? A: Getting to call recess whenever you want.

Q: What is the hardest part of a principal’s job? A: You have to be able to do a lot of things. All kids are different. You have to be able to take care of different types of kids. Every kid needs something different.

Q: Any surprises today? A: Roof access was really cool. And the boiler room was huge!

Q: What qualities make a great teacher? A: Kindness, helpfulness, and creativity. If teachers aren’t creative and do the same thing…

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up? A: I want to be a professional chef, a fashion designer, and a professional soccer player (goalie). I would like to open up a restaurant in Highland Park or Northbrook that serves hamburgers.

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Lew Blond Run

Has your family participated in the Lew Blond Memorial 5K Run/Walk? This is one of the most special Northbrook/Glenview community events of the year. I highly recommend signing up whether your family runs or not. There is fun for everyone… and every age. If you have little kids or strollers, there is a One Mile Fun Run. Willowbrook, Wescott, and several other area schools hold a running club each spring ahead of the event.

The race is held in honor of Lew Blond, a Maple School teacher who passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) in February 2000. The course begins outside Maple and snakes through the neighborhood around Glenbrook North. Proceeds benefit the Les Turner ALS Foundation, scholarships for prospective teachers at the Glenbrook High Schools, and special District 30 projects.

District staff and families begin planning for this event in the fall. You will see teachers and administrators assisting with registration, food preparation, and operations on the day of the race. Last year, we had over 1,000 participants and runners. For more information and registration, visit the website.

Lew Blond 5K Run/Walk – 2016 from Steven Grundy on Vimeo.

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Poetry Cafe

Willowbrook is celebrating National Poetry Month! Several grade levels have already moved into a poetry writing unit. Teacher Jen Schmidt and Librarian April Eichmiller have created an interactive poetry display outside the library. Students are jotting down small poems and dropping them into pockets to share. Other students are reaching in and taking a poem to enjoy. This activity was inspired by the April 18 Poem in Your Pocket Day. #pocketpoem

Our school librarian is hosting the annual Poetry Cafe next week. Throughout the week, classrooms sign up to visit and read their poetry into a standing microphone. The library is transformed into a Beatnik club. Classes never know who might make a guest appearance.

According to author Edward Hirsch, “Poems are like messages in a bottle sent out with little hope of finding a recipient. Those of us who find and read poems become their unknown addresses”.

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National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics this week. I joined a few other D30 administrators and teacher leaders. It was intellectually stimulating and reinforced that our math pedagogy and curriculum are strong! My workshops and presentations included foundations of instructional rigor, teaching for social justice, parent-teacher partnership, formative assessment practices, instructional coaching, and planning for the professional development of teachers.

A theme that ran through many of the week’s presentations was the importance of providing students with rich math tasks and asking questions that deepen student thinking. As Linda Gojak (past president of NCTM) explained, good questions allow students to make sense of a math situation and construct their own conceptual understanding. Our teachers’ role has shifted to that of being a facilitator of learning rather than simply providing information and procedures that are focused on answers.

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Morning Greeting

Our teachers work very hard to cultivate safe and joyful classroom communities. It begins by setting expectations, norms, and routines at the start of the school year. Social-emotional skills are taught throughout the year and classroom meetings promote understanding and positive communication.

A great example of this was shared with me this week. The video below shows a new routine that one of our student teachers brought to first grade. It shows a new “classroom job” of the morning greeter. What a fantastic way to start your school day!

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Student Recognition Breakfast

The Illinois Principals Association – North Cook Region’s Annual Student Recognition Breakfast is one of my very favorite events of the year. Dr. Brown and I had the opportunity to each bring a 5th grade student to be recognized this morning. Students are nominated by the teaching staff for demonstrating responsibility, dedication to school… a positive person to know. As you can imagine, it is a challenge to select only one student each year. We have a building full of students who meet this criteria!

Elk Grove Village H.S. Principal Paul Kelly hosted a great event that included guest speaker, Jimmy Chamberlin. While Mr. Chamberlin is best known for being the drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins, he should be known for his work to support educators in Illinois. Since leaving the band, Mr. Chamberlin has served on school boards, taught music, and launched technology companies. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Columbia College-Chicago.

Mr. Chamberlin opened his talk by discussing his 2 biggest influences – his father and his 1st-grade teacher. His father taught him the importance of passion and hard work (he worked on the railroad). His teacher taught him “how to celebrate his uniqueness… and ignited a passion for life long learning”. She also taught him a means to hold himself accountable. Mr. Chamberlin went on to emphasize the importance of engaging children and celebrating their individual differences. After all, “It is the inconsistencies in our personality that define us and bring value to our culture”.

I felt pride in District 30 and our students. I believe we strive to advance our students’ academic, social-emotional, and artistic growth. I also felt pride in the larger education profession. I expected to recognize a deserving student this morning. I did not expect to receive inspiration from the drummer of one of my favorite teenage rock bands.

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Play and Social Thinking in Kindergarten

When our Kindergarten program shifted to full day, we had the opportunity to re-imagine the school day for our youngest students. Over the past 4 years, our teaching staff created a developmentally-appropriate program that meets the academic, social and emotional needs of students. Opportunities for structured and unstructured play were woven into the curriculum.

Our Kindergarten team presented at the Illinois ASCD Kindergarten Conference two years ago. It was a fantastic experience. Willowbrook staff are back at the conference this week to present on our implementation of a social thinking curriculum.

We have borrowed from the work of early childhood expert, Michelle Garcia Winner, and her study of Shared, Collaborative, Imaginative Play (SCIP). Kindergarten age children are entering into complex play that requires negotiation skills, communication, understanding shared goals, reading the intentions of others, etc. As you can imagine, these skills form the foundation for social learning and success in school.

Social thinking lessons are introduced via our daily specials block (P.E., music, art, library) and practiced within the classroom. All teachers and instructional assistants share a common language with the students. It begins with teaching the students that other people have thoughts and feelings. When people have different feelings than us, it is because they are thinking different thoughts than us. Later lessons involve following the group plan, thinking with your eyes, and whole-body listening. One of our favorite lessons is “expected” vs. “unexpected” behavior. The size of the problem lesson is delivered around this time of year. Sharing an imagination with others is the final lesson and most sophisticated level of interactive play.

Winner, M., Tarshis, N., Palmer, K., & Hendrix, R. (2016). We Thinkers! GPS. Santa Clara, CA: Think Social Publishing, Inc.

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