The Arc- SJA's School Blog
SJA Reading Scores Well Above National Averages
In mid-September, our Kindergarten through 8th grade students took the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment. This assessment measures individual academic growth and provides schools with grade level averages. The results offer valuable data on how SJA compares to the Toledo Diocese; all based on the fiftieth percentile national norm.
Each grade ranged from 77-92% above the national average. As you can see our students are doing well! But we can always do better. During our recent professional development days, our team of teachers discussed ways to ensure the reading success of each student. As educators, we believe in a cycle of
continuous improvement which includes evaluation of current programs.
Currently, one of the biggest components to our reading program is the Accelerated Reader (AR) Program. The AR program is beneficial for encouraging ongoing reading practice, supporting students at their individual reading level, and collecting data for teachers to plan their instruction. But in and of itself, it is not enough. So we have developed a strong plan to supporting our ultimate goal - improving the students’ reading skills. This is all part of a broader plan to continue improving upon early development of phonics skills, phonemic awareness, and sight word fluency; ensuring all students exceed reading proficiency thresholds; and most importantly building a life-long love of reading!
There will be more leniency with student book selection to encourage a love of reading. While it is a confidence builder for students to work strategically within their reading range, teachers will be less structured about the step-by-step process. Individual classroom incentives will be offered as well as the
opportunity for students to earn school-wide prizes and recognition for meeting and exceeding their goals.
One such incentive is Mrs. Shinaberry’s kindergarten class received a challenge from Mr. Witker to read 400 books by the end of the school year. If they succeed, they each give Mr. Witker a pie in the face. The kindergartners enthusiastically said, “Challenge accepted!”
Learn more about how SJA intentionally incorporates STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) into our daily curriculum. SJA 1st grade teachers, Mrs. Gilsdorf and Mrs. Ponzi, share how first grade has incorporated STEAM into their reading curriculum.
First Grade STEAM Fairy Tales
In 1st grade this year we are working on many STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) projects which also involve fairy tales. We have been noticing over the past few years, that there are less and less children who are familiar with the traditional fairy tales we all grew up with.
To bridgethat gap in their literary knowledge, we decided to combine both
Literacy and STEAM into Fairy Tale STEAM. The STEAM emphasis in our curriculum is an intentional combination of various skills to help reinforce and challenge students to become problem-solvers.
Our first project (after studying simple machines: levers, ramps, and pulleys in science and reading the story of Rapunzel), involved helping Rapunzel escape from her imprisonment in the castle. Each student’s castle began with an empty toilet paper roll. The students had to construct an escape for Rapunzel. Using small boxes from grocery items such as pudding boxes, egg cartons, and many types and colors of construction paper, the students engineered elaborate escape systems.
The second project focused on the tale of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty loved to read so much, but also needed to take care of Beast by brushing and grooming him every day. So Beast thought of designing a reading stand for Beauty so that she could do both at the same time. The students worked in pairs using recess toys and objects like Legos and blocks to create sturdy objects that could hold a book at the correct angle.
Mrs. Jenna Shinaberry, SJA Kindergarten teacher shares her thoughts on a new concept called flexible seating to keep her students engaged and learning.
After completing my first year of teaching kindergarten, I found myself looking for ideas and solutions to help solve what seemed like a never-ending battle with the wiggles. With the growing popularity of flexible seating, I began digging deeper into the approach and quickly realized this might be the solution I was looking for! Flexible seating is a classroom approach that allows students to move more freely and provides them with opportunities to complete their work in a variety of seating options with varying heights and positions. It looks different in every classroom, but at its core, flexible seating encourages choice and movement for students.
The implementation of flexible seating in my classroom has been a gradual process. At the beginning of the year I offered students three simple choices, sitting in a traditional chair at a table, standing at a raised table, or sitting on the floor at a lowered table. I immediately began to notice the students showing preference for one type of seat over another. As the year has progressed I added bench seats, lap desks, clipboards while working on the floor, standing at the counter, and several comfortable cushion chairs.
Overall, I have loved the difference I have seen in my classroom since I have begun using flexible seating. It is a well known fact that young children need to move! They are active, curious, and full of energy. Kids thrive on choice and opportunities to make decisions for themselves. Flexible seating provides this all throughout our day. Now, when I look around my room, instead of seeing children tipping back on the legs of their chairs, I see them kneeling and wiggling their feet as they read a story. Instead of asking them to sit down so people behind them can see, I see them choosing to stand at the counter. I have seen an increase in engagement and longer attention spans in my students. No one wants to sit in the same place all day long. Now, with flexible seating, my students have the ability to choose a spot that is comfortable for them, enables them to focus and do their best, and provides them with the movement that is developmentally appropriate for their age.
Today we celebrated our monthly Be Kind First day with the theme "I WILL BE INCLUSIVE". We would like to share 8th grader Dominic W.'s thoughts that were recently published in the January issue of the Shield.
How Can I Be Kind
There are many lessons to be learned about kindness. On the Kindness Days we’ve had, Mrs. Guzman has come in and talked to the eighth grade class. During one of the first lessons, she asked us to give words about leadership. One of the words that was mentioned during our discussion was enthusiasm. Enthusiasm means, “intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval.” The noun enthusiasm is an amazing quality because somebody with a happy attitude can change an entire group’s attitude. Kindness is a powerful tool when getting along with a group and for becoming a leader.
I have been recently inspired to be a leader because of Camp Damascus. At camp, the eighth graders left for three days and stayed in cabins with several of their classmates. The eighth graders completed a series of tasks that required teamwork and leadership. At the end of each day at camp we attended a powerful adoration with a lot of music. This changed me and so many of my classmates.
At Camp Damascus the missionaries performed skits and showed us videos. There was a video about one man dancing alone on a beach. A second person joined the dancer, then a few people came over to dance with them, finally hundreds of people came over to dance with this one man. When I saw the video for the first time I wondered how this could even be applicable to life. It didn’t make much sense because people don’t just start dancing on a beach. One day at lunch, I sat down next to a fifth grader who was sitting by himself and then the rest of the eighth grade came over to sit with us. This was an amazing moment because it changed his and my day. We also ended up seeing each other that same weekend and he was so grateful that he received attention from so many people. The video I watched at camp became clear at that moment during lunch.
This year our school has picked the motto, “Be Kind First.” A way you can be kind first is by including everyone. This is a very popular saying that you hear from people, but it is true. Just simply letting someone be near you can change their life. My best advice for a middle school student to be kind is to have enthusiasm in your daily life and toward everyone. As Winston Churchill says, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”