I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I went through the Discovery Center last week and saw Mrs. Vandervort and some students building this tree of books in our library. It reminded me that the holidays are a personal feeling of joy in being with our families and celebrating the traditions we cherish. May students, teachers and members of the community feel joy in this Christmas season and the relaxation of winter break before 2014 begins.
Teachers will return on January 2nd for a day of Apple Professional Development sessions. January 3rd will be a work day on grades, report cards and preparation for the second semester. Students will return to school on Monday, Jan. 6th, and report cards for elementary students will be sent home to parents on Monday, Jan. 13th.
Interventions and Collaboration
Progress continues to be made on implementing intervention time for students and collaboration time for teachers. Mr. Josh Shimak has been hired as a long-term substitute to fill the position of K-12 Spanish teacher for the second semester. Heather Klenke will begin teaching technology classes in grades 3 and 5. Mrs. Deb Larson will be providing an additional PE time for some 1st grade sections. Adding Spanish, technology and PE classes will allow a fifth exploratory to be offered in grades K-5. Teachers have received the new schedule that will begin on Jan. 6th.
With these changes, students will have additional opportunities to learn Spanish and technology skills. First graders will have more time for physical development and fitness. Progressing to fully implementing Response-to-Intervention (RtI) or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) underscores our goal to provide all students what they need, when they need it. Regardless of whether that involves extra support or extra challenge, the intervention time is created to meet those needs.
One of the indicators of a successful intervention program is that teachers have time to collaborate and plan together so interventions can be done well. Teachers at each grade level have been working hard to improve the means of flexibly grouping students and tracking individual reading comprehension skills so interventions can be done effectively. We are looking forward to the results of this work second semester.
Extending a warm welcome to Mr. Shimak as he joins the Howard-Winn team. He will be teaching HS Spanish three periods a day in combination with serving grades in the elementary.
District preschool students went on a field trip last week to Decorah. After reading several stories by author/illustrator Jan Brett, the students enjoyed seeing her exhibit at the Vesterheim Museum. The preschoolers were able to play with several story-related artifacts, read a story in a Norwegian house and look for shapes in Jan Brett's beautiful illustrations. Other preschool happenings throughout the district include reading Gingerbread Man stories, making gingerbread cookies and making gingerbread houses. Preschoolers are studying healthy foods and "sometimes foods" (like gingerbread cookies). Students in Lime Springs/Chester had a special visit from a dental health nurse. A special holiday activity in some classes will be to have a Polar Express Pajama Day.
The Chip Shoppe Company hosted a mega-party in the K-8 gym on Dec. 17th. All district students in grades PK-5 participated in this celebration. Students were able to play on inflatables that filled the gym and have a dance party. Some students earned a limo ride and lunch for the amount of sales, and limo rides were held between the Big Blast class parties. Students really enjoyed the activities! Student field trips are funded from the profits earned through the Chip Shoppe fundraiser.
This week, students were doing water explorations as part of their unit in science. This photo was shared by Mrs. Voves on Twitter.
Mrs. Kuhn's students practiced beginning and ending sounds this week using "Fishing for Phonics."
Transforming Education at Howard-Winn
Several meetings have been attended by district teams during the last couple of weeks. The dedication and forward thinking of HW teachers is evident in the action planning that is occurring.
- The Iowa Core Math Investigations Team received their last day of training in Calmar this week. The teacher-leaders involved are Michelle Timp, Joellyn Berg and Becky Halverson. They spent three days doing an in-depth examination of the elementary math standards and the teaching strategies to be used. Teachers throughout the state are participating in these Iowa Core meetings to "unpack" the standards in both math and literacy.
- The second in a series of meetings for Competency Based Education (CBE) met this week in Des Moines. Our district received a grant to participate in this collaborative. We have eight teachers and two administrators attending. The big take-away from the meeting this month was for our team to hear what other districts are doing. We heard several times over that the first step is to implement standards-based grading and then to move to competencies. Several groups talked about the 3 steps to learning and how these relate to CBE: Acquisition, making meaning, transfer/performance.