Bedford Bees…Learning With Ease!

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It’s been an exciting week of learning, sharing, and growing at Bedford Elementary School. Students in grades 1 and 3 worked diligently to complete the winter session of the MAP assessment. Both grades saw an increase of student growth from the fall administration. Hooray!!! : )  As we keep on track with the county-wide focus on literacy, the entire school paused on Wednesday to “Drop Everything And Read.” Both students and staff look forward to this special time when we are all reading together. The kids really enjoy when our principal, Mrs. Connolly stops in and stretches right out on the carpet to read along with them.

In mathematics, students are working to solve problems to develop strong, foundational skills using manipulatives and pictorial representations.

Newcomer ESOL students from various countries have been meeting together for a beginning level English class. During one of their recent sessions, each student shared a little bit about their language and home country. Even though there were several different languages being spoken, there was at least one student there who was able to translate for the group. ESOL instructor Nicole Obregon stated, “it was a beautiful cultural exchange among peers, and highlighted what a great job the school does to embrace differences.”

Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 auditioned this week to showcase their talents in the upcoming “Bedford’s Got Talent Show.” More than 40 students displayed their singing, dancing, martial arts, dramatic reading, gymnastics and joke telling flair for one of the 15 spots to compete in late March. It’s going to be an awesome evening!!! : )

Members of the Bedford Garden Club have been busy with making stepping stones this past week. The stones will be placed in the front flower beds when the club members do their spring planting in a few weeks.

Bedford Bee students, staff and families are looking forward to our exciting upcoming events. In addition to “Bedford’s Got Talent”, we will be hosting Reading Night later this month and Family Night at Chuck E. Cheese in March.

It’s great to a part of the Bedford community!!!

 

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Making Connections at Middleborough

Middleborough Elementary is tucked into a small peninsula in Essex, surrounded by Hopkins Creek, Norman Creek, and Middle River. Does this mean that we, the Middleborough Mariners are isolated? Not at all! In fact, this year we have been making a conscious effort to build relationships both within our building and beyond. This past fall, when Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, our Student Council decided to help. We contacted a school, Kirk Elementary, which had suffered great damage and offered to send them resources to assist in their recovery. During Halloween week, members of the Student Council sold Boo Grams. For a dollar, a student could send a note and trinket to a friend, and the profits went towards helping Kirk Elementary students hundreds of miles away. The Boo Grams sold out quickly each day, and by the end of the week, our students had raised $561.72! Closer to home, we have forged a connection with a technology innovation class at Chesapeake High School. The high school students are learning game design and needed a target market…and our fifth graders were glad to be just that! By skyping between the two classes, their students have learned the interests and motivations of one of our fifth grade classes. Meetings between teachers at both schools have insured that the games, though engaging and based on these interests, will actually prompt students to practice math skills that they find challenging. In March, we will take our fifth graders to Chesapeake High to try out the games made just for them, and to see some of the technology opportunities that lay ahead for them in high school. Everyone involved is quite eager! Relationships are also being nurtured within the walls of Middleborough. This year we began a mentoring program which matched intermediate students with primary students. The “buddies” connect daily before school. Their meet-ups might involve goal setting, reading together, or organizing their materials. Then, at the end of the day, mentors touch base again with their mentees to follow up on how their day went. Teachers report that the mentees strive harder to achieve in the realms that they address with their older buddies. And the buddies love the sense of responsibility and importance that this role provides. By encouraging our students to see themselves as empowered citizens of the school, the local area, and the nation, it is our hope that they will also come to understand their ability to change the world!

Books Alive!

A story of Novel Integration in the Social Studies Classroom
John Ayres, Social Studies Department Chair – Ridgely Middle School

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, we were introduced to BCPS’s literacy initiative. The Ridgely Middle School Social Studies Department has always had a commitment to student literacy, but wanted to be different and take a new approach on learning. As a seventh grade team, we discussed the opportunity of participating in the Global Read Aloud, by reading the book “A Long Walk to Water”. We wanted to find a way to make meaningful connections to curricular standards and outcomes in the Africa Unit of study, but also make the learning personable to students. Each week, students were tasked with reading 2-3 chapters of the book and interacting with it in a way where they could make connections with each other, their own lives, as well as discuss geographical challenges faced by the people living in Sudan, Africa.

In planning for novel integration, we planned to have students complete several tasks to provide a unique experience interacting with the text. These varied strategies and activities not only motivated students to read, but also made the study of Africa more fun and interesting. Each week, students were excited to learn about the next steps in Nya and Salva’s journey as well as what challenges refugees in war torn Sudan faced.

Throughout the novel study, students had the opportunity to interact in book talk formats using discussion protocols. Here students were able to answer proposed questions about their reading and how it related to their lives. Students were also given the opportunity to pose questions to each other about how characters were handling difficult situations, or what meaning they took from the reading assigned that week. Students were also able to interact with the text by using Notice and Note strategies. During this part of their study, students were asked to look for quotes containing extreme and abusive language, or contrasts and contradictions. Students were able to determine author’s purpose and answer the question, “Why would the author want us to know this?” The result of these discussions allowed the students to dig deeper into the meaning of the text and take on the perspective of the author in why she told the story the way she did. One of the most popular assignments with students was the use of Voice Thread. With these assignments, students were able to interact with others via text or video response discussing not only the theme of the week but also making connections to themes such as scarcity, conflict, resources, and interdependence; all concepts which students were learning during the Africa Unit.

To celebrate concluding the novel, students participated in two culminating activities. Students had the opportunity to discuss their new learning with students on an international level, via “meet.in”. During this experience, students from Ridgely interacted with students from the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Canada. Students took turns asking each other questions about how they reacted or felt about the week’s assigned readings, geographical challenges faced by the characters, or decisions made by characters. One of the most interesting things that came from this experience was when one student stated that, “I was surprised the students from Canada thought that mosquito attacks were worse than walking through the Akobo Desert. They must not have a lot of mosquitos in Canada, that’s probably why they said that.” At the conclusion of the novel, students were able to hear from Mr. Jeff Huber, a missionary, doing work in Sudan. He shared his experiences with students and allowed them to ask questions about his first-hand account of living and working with the Sudanese people. This interaction provided a new perspective for students and helped bring meaning to the real life struggles faced by people in Sudan.

We are actively looking for new novels to use in our Social Studies classrooms. Our eighth grade students are currently concluding their study of the American Revolution through their novel study of, Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen. The novel study approach in the Social Studies classroom has been extremely popular with students. In addition, teachers have embraced this concept. Teachers have been given the freedom and flexibility to be creative, and take risks using new and innovative pedagogical methods as a way to create connections to students’ lives in order to make history come alive.

Student Leadership and Universal Acceptance

Jill A. Carter – Principal

Halethorpe Elementary School

We begin morning announcements every day with a student leader stating, “Good morning, Mingalaba, and Ni Hao Ma!”  This statement exemplifies the importance of student leadership and universal acceptance.  This greeting is typical in our school and it makes us unique.

Halethorpe is one of the most distinctive and welcoming elementary schools in Baltimore County.  Many people do not know that over half of our students are from Burma.  In addition, many of our children came to this country as refugees.  Yet, when walking the halls of our school, you would not realize that many of our children have only been in the United States for a short period of time.

As you walk from room to room, you will see all children engaged in learning experiences that encourage them to read, write, speak, reflect and think critically.  It is very common to see small groups collaborating around tasks.  All teachers and support staff are on the same page; as a result, they are able to provide support structures allowing for universal access to grade level material and content.

We strive to incorporate VAKT strategies to support the needs of English Learners and the learning styles of all children.  If you visit our school, you will see push-in and pull-out ESOL support, extended day programming addressing the needs of gifted math students and the needs of English Learners, clubs addressing a variety of student interests, Cloze practices supporting vocabulary learning, math mats supporting problem solving strategies and Mathematical Practices, and inclusive practices throughout our school.

Another thing that makes us unique is the culture of acceptance.  We utilize Restorative Practices and have daily class meetings.  All of this has led to a culture in which children look out for each other and adults continually teach the importance of supporting our school family.  We have created a safe, supportive, engaging learning environment in which all children can thrive.

 

Virtues Anchor our Learning

Julia Olmedo (AP), Kelley Horvath (Inclusion Teacher), Jennifer Connolly (Math Resource), Nicole Wagner (Reading Specialist), Bridgett Palmer (STAT Teacher) – Chapel Hill Elementary

Virtues Anchor our Learning at Chapel Hill Elementary Watching students stick with a complex non-fiction passage utilizing the Notice and Note Nonfiction Signposts, shows their determination to focus their energy and efforts on a task.  Through our integration of Notice and Note Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst within the larger BCPS curriculum framework, students are more fully engaged and questioning the text they are reading. Across curriculum areas, students are adopting a questioning stance discussing what changed, challenged, or confirmed their thinking with one another.  When students utilize the Notice and Note Nonfiction signposts and strategies their engagement with the text deepens leading to greater rigor.  Students are steadfast and persistent as they construct meaning from nonfiction making connections from one topic to another and from one content area to another.   Students and teachers at Chapel Hill Elementary participate in their daily mathematics lessons with determination and perseverance.  As a school, students and staff are dedicated to high-level application and problem solving as we focus on the foundations of mathematical discourse. Teachers and students are mindful to incorporate rich mathematical vocabulary into their conversations and journal writing and make a deliberate effort to incorporate mathematical conversations and connections to the real world on a daily basis. During shared learning, collaborative small groups and in their written work, students challenge not only themselves, but their classmates, using Math Talk stems to spark dialogue and engage in meaningful problem solving applications.  At Chapel Hill, teachers have taken pride in creating supportive classroom environments that encourage risk-taking and provide safe learning zones for students to meet the high expectations that are placed upon them each and every day, and we are so proud of their commitment to successful learning and academic growth.

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“We want kids as readers of nonfiction to be active, to challenge the text, and to invite the text to challenge and change them. When students recognize that nonfiction ought to challenge us, slow us down, and make us think, they’re more likely to become close readers.” – Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

#BeTheChange. The driving force behind teaching and learning at Glyndon Elementary!

Alaleh Sadri- 3rd Grade Teacher

“Be the Change you wish to see in the world.”
Change in Mindset:

Last year, we began our journey with restorative practices. This meant a change in mindset for both staff and students. Not only did we need to learn a new approach to character education and discipline, but we also needed to learn a new language- the virtue language. We started small by implementing community meetings in every class, including special areas, to help build relationships. We then continued to enhance our work by teaching students how to use the virtue language and how to problem solve through “I messages” and justice circles. You can now walk into any classroom and hear students talking about perseverance, commitment, unity, and the meaning behind demonstrating those virtues throughout their lives. Instead of hearing teachers say “great job”, you will hear statements such as “I am proud of your diligence and purposefulness during that assignment”, or “thank you for your helpfulness and orderliness as we cleaned up the classroom at dismissal.”

Change in the Building:
As we focus on making all of our school wide initiatives cohesive, we are continuing to enhance our work with literacy and restorative practices on a daily basis throughout the building. You can now find a classroom library in our gymnasium for additional information on the sport of focus, and if you enter Mr. Allard’s art class, you are welcomed with an interactive timeline of art through the years.  Mr. Allard dives deep into vocabulary while promoting questioning using artwork during community meetings, and Mrs. Keller connects digital citizenship to the virtues so students are able to demonstrate their understanding of the virtues throughout their day. When you walk into any classroom during math instruction, you can hear students using math discourse and explaining their reasoning while questioning others using mathematics vocabulary. Our essential questions for reading come to life during community meetings when teachers have additional time to enhance the understanding of the questions using connections to the text using additional literature they are reading.  Literacy is everywhere!

Change in Our Community:
As we work to expand the Glyndon community outside of the walls of our building, we have been taking our academic celebrations into the community. Last year, we began the school year by riding a bus around our surrounding neighborhoods, giving out supplies to our families, and letting them know how excited we were for a great school year together. In October, we had our second annual “Fall Fest” outside of the apartments surrounding our school. Families joined us for a night of food, literacy and math games, the Book Fair, as well as a visit from Oregon Ridge Nature Center and the BCPL library.

Students enter into the building knowing that they are a part of a strong community of learners. We strive daily to ensure our students reach their maximum potential in learning. Using their knowledge, self-discipline, and self-awareness, they can #bethechange they want to see in the world.

 

The Power of a Strong Learning Community

By: Emily Caster, Principal Sparrows Point High School, Jennifer Gounaris Principal, Sparrows Point Middle School

At Sparrows Point Middle School and Sparrows Point High School, one of the things we collectively take great pride in is creating a family environment for our students. We have a saying at The Point, “Once a Pointer, Always a Pointer,” that represents the family feeling and warm, caring environment in our school building, that houses students in grades 6 thru 12. We are proud to have a fiercely loyal group of teachers, support staff, students, parents, families and alumni, all working towards a common goal of ensuring that every student has the best possible experience and leaves prepared for a bright and rewarding future.

We are a community of learners. This year, our school community has sharpened our instructional focus around literacy. We know that literacy can either be a barrier, or an opportunity for our students. One of the strategies we are using this year is called “Reengaging Readers,” through our English Language Arts Department.  Through Reengaging Readers, each student will self-select a full text that they will read throughout the school year. We are excited to see the results of having every student having selected and read a novel or biography of his or her choice from our library.

We are a community of leaders. At our school, we look for creative ways to grow student leaders. This year, we are growing student leadership through our Pointer Sisters mentoring program, which is a collaboration between our middle and high schools. We are also promoting student voice and leadership through our male mentoring program and our student led peer mediation program, Pointers for Peace. High school students support the middle school by serving as student helpers in middle school classrooms, and by serving as recreation leaders in the high school physical education department.

We are a community of change agents. At Sparrows Point Middle and High Schools, we embrace change, we encourage change and we are change agents! We pride ourselves on honoring the storied past of our school community, while planning for the ever changing landscape within our immediate community, county, state, nation and world. One way we equip our students with 21st century skills is through refining their P21 skills both in and outside of the classroom.  Through a study of 21st Century themes and subjects, we foster our students’ development of key learning skills including creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.  These skillsets are nurtured through a blended model of instruction where technology and media literacy are modeled and paired with face-to-face instruction in responsive methodologies. Additionally, our students are imparted with the life and career skills needed to be both college and career ready upon leaving The Point. This balance of content and process prepares our students for various post-secondary pathways.