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Appreciate Your Teacher

Barnes and Noble Booksellers is hosting a very special contest this month: The Teacher Appreciation Writing Contest.

Who Can Participate:  Students in Grades 1 through 12
Here’s How It Works:  Students write an essay, poem, or thank-you letter (500 words or less, in English on 8.5″ x 11″ white paper) sharing how a teacher has influenced their life and why they appreciate and admire them.  Each entry should be submitted with the entry form and a parent or legal guardian must sign the entry form acknowledging that they have read the Official Contest Rules:  BN Teacher Contest
Turn your essay into our office by March 1 so we can submit to our local Barnes and Noble store.  Deadline for entries is March 1, 2012. Winners are selected, and the local store and community celebrations begin!
What Students Get: The students who author the winning essays, poems, or thank-you letters will receive a certificate of recognition and be honored at their local store during a ceremony for the winning teachers from their schools.
What Teachers Get: The winning teachers will be recognized at a special event at their local Barnes & Noble store and will receive a special award acknowledging their achievement, together with a selection of Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics series (for high school teachers) or a set of five (5) Classic Starts® series (for grades 1-5 and grades 6-8 teachers).
The six regional winners will each receive a NOOK™ eBook Reader and a $500 Barnes & Noble Gift Card. The winner of the “Barnes & Noble Teacher of the Year” award will receive $5,000 and will be recognized at a special event at a Barnes & Noble store. The winning teacher’s school will receive $5,000 as well.
The winner will also receive five copies of the winning essay published in hardcover by Tikatok.com, the site where students create and publish their own books, and a $250 Tikatok Gift Card that will allow the teacher to publish select stories written by students in their class.
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Using Technology to Showcase Writers

Mrs. VanHaitsma, our English Language Learner teacher, uses every tool available to help her students learn the complexities of the English language.  In December, Mrs. VanHaitsma shared a story written by Leah who is a native Chinese speaker and is quickly becoming very skilled in her second language, English.

Visit Mrs. VanHaitsma’s blog to hear and see Leah’s well written story. She will brighten your day!

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A Surprise Guest Teacher

TOOTHACHEMrs. Veldman came to school today and did not look like she felt very good.  When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I’ll tell you the truth…I have a terrible ache in my tooth.”  First I made a connection–I told her that this reminded me of one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems, Crocodile’s Toothache. Next, I did what any reasonable principal would do:  Sent her straight to the dentist.

This meant that I got the best job of all:  Taking over as the guest teacher in her first grade classroom!  We were very busy reading, and writing,  spelling and so much more.   The first graders did an excellent job helping me to know the routines…and also assisting me with finding all the items I misplaced throughout the day.

I must tell you that these children are absolutely brilliant in every single way.  Their READ TO SELF time was so quiet and focused that I lost track of time and accidentally let them read one more minute than was allowed for–a whopping 21 minutes! (There was only room to mark 20 minutes on the bar chart…so we had to problem solve to add the extra minute.)

We used fourth grade math (double digit subtraction) to figure out our minutes read throughout the day.subtraction They were quite good at figuring out how to do this…and even shared their math strategies aloud.  (Although I did tell them to not try double digit subtraction on their own!)

Enjoy a few great photos from the day.   It was perfect and fun in every way.  And…Mrs. Veldman…we do hope your tooth is feeling better!

Thank you first graders for being such great teachers for your guest teacher.

Hugs from Mrs. Reagan


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Poets in our Midst

I had the distinct honor of being invited to the writing celebration in Mrs. Jurewicz’s 4th grade classroom.  While sipping on a delicious cup of hot chocolate,  I listened to each fourth grader read a selected poem from their poetry anthologies.  I would like to encourage you to visit their classroom blog to read poetry that creates vivid images and feelings with meaningful word choice and creative phrasing.

Keep writing fourth graders…and thank you inviting me to your celebration!

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Celebrating Our MEAP Scores

The Michigan Department of Education has finally given us permission to release our MEAP scores.  These were published in the press last week, and I would like to share our results with you!  You can view this year scores in comparison to 2006 and 2007 by clicking on the attached document:  MEAP Results 08

We are very proud of the way in which our students performed.  We opened our school in the fall of 2006–with students coming from 7 + different schools (with varied curriculum and instruction) and staff from 4 + schools.  You can see that each year, our curriculum approach has tightened and this is evident by scores that have gone up every year, and scores that remain in the 90% percentile ranking.  The teachers at Georgetown are focused on best practice instruction and our students in all grades put their very best in working hard and learning well!  We are very proud of them.

We have focused very intensively on writing these past three years.  We have celebrated every gain and have noticed that our students have improved exponentially on their school writing assessments.  In some cases, we have seen students improve their scores low to high within one year.  This is due to our work on the craft of writing (Lucy Calkin’s Writing Program) and our focus on student’s owning their writing progress (rubric bases assessment).

We have, however, been very frustrated by the scores we have received from the state.  Although the state has shown that we have improved, none (that means zero) of our students have received a proficient score of ONE (1) in spite of their incredible improvement on our assessments.  It is important to note that throughout our district, not ONE student received a proficient score in grades 3-8.

As a teacher of writing, a writing trainer, and an advocate for writing to teach other subjects, I have been extremely frustrated with the inconsistent writing results.  I was even more frustrated when I found out that student papers received only one reading last year.  In the past, papers received a reading by two assessors–and any papers that had a discrepant score were read by another assessor.

I was happy to hear that our state Superintendent Mike Flanagan listened to many of our concerns about these results that lacked reliability and integrity.  The writing portion of the MEAP will be re-evaluated and retooled so that the results indicate true writing strengths beginning in the fall of 2010.  To find out more about the flaws in the writing assessment, read this excellent article by a west Michigan parent and writer.

Writing will be a focus of improvement at our school in all grades, every year.  We are amazed by the writing (essays, memoirs, personal narratives and poetry) that our students in grades K-5 are producing.  To view their published work, visit our school storefront at lulu.com In addition, we will be celebrating our writing school wide the week of May 4th with stories published on lockers, walls, and monitors.  We will be reading stories over the intercom and performing stories with a star studded cast.  More about this event is found here:  JUST WRITE. Remember, if you have something to say…JUST WRITE!

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Let us tell you about writing…

At Georgetown, our teachers use the writing workshop approach. During this writing time students are given daily time to write, shown models of good writing, and provided with responses that help them improve their writing. Writing workshop is a valuable and favorite time of the day. Watch this movie (created by our incredible reading teacher, Mrs. Bast) to hear our students’ thoughts on writing.  WRITING