February 1, 2018
Dear Northwood Families,
It is hard to believe it is already February, with mid-winter break on the near horizon.
This newsletter contains the following content:
- Do your children know your phone number?
- Differentiation in the Classroom
- Northwood Family Literacy Night
- Northwood Scholastic Book Fair
- Mindfulness and Focus Character Trait
- Upcoming Events and Activities
Do your children know your phone number?
With the proliferation of smart phones, all of us have increasingly come to rely on our devices to “remember” phone numbers and other contact information for us. However, it is still a good safety practice to ensure your children know “by heart” a phone number to use contact you in case of emergency. Kids can remember and store a number as early as Kindergarten. Please take some time this month to see if your children have your phone number memorized; if they don’t, now is a good time to help them learn it.
Differentiation in the Classroom
This month, we will shine the spotlight on what takes place in school that you may not see but that is instrumental in supporting your student(s) and making Northwood a premier learning institution: differentiation. Differentiation is the practice of meeting all students where they are and bringing them along the learning continuum. At the elementary level, we do this across the entire learning day and across all grade levels K-5; in the classroom, during specialists, and during large group gatherings (lunchroom and recess, for example). We also do this across all learning; academic, behavior, and social-emotional.
In the classroom, one might see an example of differentiation during reading. We assess our students to determine where their individual instructional reading level is and then we tailor instruction for them. We teach the whole class using a Mentor Text while targeting a particular learning goal or reading strategy. We then more narrowly focus on the literacy strategy by leading small group instruction where students can practice this new learning goal or strategy at their own level with teacher support. Finally, when a student indicates he/she is ready, we have the student practice the strategy or learning goal independently using “right fit” books. This type of gradual release approach (I do/We do/You do) sets our students up for the greatest level of success.
During specialists (PE/Music, Art, Spanish, Library), the approach is similar. If we take Music, for example, and the learning goal of playing a song on the ukulele. Some students come into the music room having years of intense music instruction, some students might participate in choir, band, or orchestra and some students have no prior musical education; so, how do we work with all of these students to support their musical education? Ms. Brown would introduce the notes to be played on the ukelele, she would then observe how students are doing while she is instructing them (i.e. Are the students able to play the chords? Can they get the fingering down? Can they keep up with the pace of the song?) From there, and with ongoing observations, she might suggest that some students who are approaching standard start by plucking a single note, while having those students who need an additional challenge play with a classmate and work on timing so that two ukeleles being played sound as though they are one.
Lastly, when working with students to resolve conflicts, we have some students who are quite adept at working through an issue, while we have other students who need our support to know what problem-solving and resolution look like. This is a necessary skill while on the playground or in the lunchroom, where large groups of multi-aged students are gathered together in a more informal, less structured setting than the classroom. Our paraprofessionals are critical in this process, as they are usually the first adults on the scene during a conflict. Our paraprofessionals, as well as the rest of our staff, are well-versed in supporting our students as they work their way through a conflict. Some students are able to take a “time out” from their activity and resolve a conflict on their own, but, if not, we meet them where they are and make sure that all voices are heard, that apologies are made (if necessary) and that all students are focused on finding a solution. We have the Kelso’s Choice program for students to use when determining a strategy that would best fit a situation and lead to a resolution.
As you can see, your students are learning all of the time, no matter where they are and who they are with. While a student may be soaring academically, they may need some support socially, or vice versa, and differentiation allows us to work with each and every student at his/her personal learning level.
Mindfulness and Focus Character Trait
In February, our Mindfulness instruction and practice continues at Northwood, and our Focus Character Trait for the month is Gratitude. Please see our Mindfulness webpage for the weekly Mindfulness challenges for February and for more information about supporting your children in practicing gratitude this month.
Northwood Family Literacy Night
Northwood’s first ever Family Literacy Night is scheduled for Wednesday, February 28 from 5:00-6:30pm. We are excited to invite parents/guardians and students to come to Northwood for an evening of learning together. Our Northwood staff have been planning lessons and gathering supplies to make this a great night, and we hope you will join us. For more information about the evening, and to register to attend, please see our website at https://www.mercerislandschools.org/Page/14536. Remember, you must register by February 16 to attend!
Northwood Book Fair
Northwood is hosting a Scholastic book fair February 26 – March 2. Students will have the opportunity to shop and/or develop wish lists during their regularly scheduled library time, and the book fair will be open to parents before and after school, as well. On February 28, the evening of our Family Literacy Night, we will open the Book Fair for families to shop from the dismissal bell at 2:05pm to the start of Family Literacy Night at 5:00pm. We will close the book fair for the duration of Family Literacy Night sessions, and then reopen it from 6:30-7:30pm for any late shoppers. We hope you find some great books to share and read together!
Upcoming Events and Activities
- Friday, 2/2/18 @ 1:20pm – Global Reading Challenge
- Tuesday, 2/6/18 @ 6:00pm in MIHS PAC – MI Parent Edge event: Angst
- Wednesday, 2/7/18 @ 7:00-8:30a.m. at the Mercer Island Community Center – Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Annual Fundraising Breakfast
- Wednesday, 2/14/18 – Valentine’s Day Classroom Parties (see teacher communication for details)
- Wednesday, 2/14/18 @ 2:05pm in Northwood Commons – Northwood PTA Non-Competitive Spelling Bee
- Thursday, 2/15/18 – NO SCHOOL – Scheduled Weather Make-up Day
- Friday, 2/16/18 – Tuesday, 2/20/18 – NO SCHOOL – Mid-Winter Break
- Wednesday, 2/21/18 – School Resumes
- Wednesday, 2/21/18 @ 2:05pm in Northwood Commons – Northwood PTA Competitive Spelling Bee
- Monday, February 26 – Friday, March 2: Northwood Scholastic Book Fair
- Wednesday, February 28 @ 5:00-6:30pm in the Northwood Commons – Northwood Family Literacy Night (Don’t forget to register to participate!)
- Tuesday, 3/6/18 @ 7:00-8:00pm in the Northwood Commons – Northwood PTA General Membership Meeting
Have a wonderful week.
Principal | Northwood Elementary School