Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer is almost here...

As the school year comes to a close, our minds and hearts are filled to the brim. It’s been a great year! What a school! Together we’ve learned much and shared experiences that will long remain with us in the years to come. The strength of our community and wholehearted passion to make our school a wonderful place of learning for our children primarily but for all of us makes Defer truly a special place.

Special thanks to all of you who have contributed in ways small, large and unimaginable! Copying for Thursday Folders, working in the clinic or the lunchroom, driving on field trips, helping with school pictures, providing food and/or organizing lunches for students and teachers, organizing events, working at these events, showing up to support your children, helping in the garden, serving on committees, sharing your talents, helping with traffic, picking up trash, participating in PTO night meetings, brainstorming the “what ifs”… supporting our work in countless ways and providing the resources to do what we dream and know is good for children. Thanks for getting your kids to school on time each day, for kind notes of encouragement that mean so much, for sending your kids with healthy lunches obviously packed with love, for making sure homework gets done… and turned in. Thank you for providing rich and engaging, well-rounded experiences for your children and knowing that education is about joy, wonder and fostering curiosity, along with the development of social skills so needed to succeed. For these, and a million other things, we are truly grateful.

To those of you who are leaving us for new places and adventures, we wish you all the best. Congratulations to our very capable 5th graders who are onto a new stage in their academic career! You are off to great places!

For your calendaring pleasure, the first day of school begins on September 6th. Back-to-School Night is September 7th at 6:30 pm.

Until then, enjoy a restful and replenishing summer with your families!

Friday, March 4, 2016

March is Reading Month

I can’t believe it’s already March!   The month of March is known as  the “reading month.”  This is a great time for you to grab your favorite book and dive right in!  Defer’s amazing teachers celebrate reading every day.  I’d like to focus this month’s newsletter on reading instruction and how we differentiate that instruction to meet the needs of all learners at Defer.
In Grosse Pointe, we teach reading through a Readers’ Workshop model.  A typical readers’ workshop lesson is composed of three elements.
Whole class mini-lesson focused on a specific reading strategy or skill 10- 15 minutes
Class begins with the teacher presenting a reading concept that the students will be focusing on that day.  The teacher presents the concept to the whole group usually using one book as the “mentor text” to serve as the learning vehicle.   The teacher will model the concept in the mentor text and through questioning techniques involves all students in the thinking process around this concept. 
 Independent Daily Reading:  20 – 40 minutes ( varies by grade level)
Students read independently at their own specific level.  With their own book they work on the strategy or concept taught in the mini-lesson.  During this time the teacher circulates in the room, conferring with individual students as they read. 
 Guided Reading/Strategy Groups:  10 – 15 minutes
These groups are composed of 3 -5 students that are gathered to work on a specific skill or strategy.  These students are grouped by similar reading levels so that they can practice the concept with peers at that same  level.  In this case the teacher will have multiple copies of the same book or article so that they can work with all students together.
Last year the Defer PTO supported this instruction by purchasing books for each grade.  Teachers now have a much greater selection of mentor texts as well as multiple copies of books for group work.  The impact has been huge as this has opened more avenues to differentiate instruction for our students.   Thank you Defer families! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Spirit of Defer

The Dragon Run was a phenomenal event.  Yes, our PTO listened to our families and went out on a limb and decided to hold just one fundraiser this  year.  And yes, through this fundraiser we were able to far surpass our wildest expectations and raised over $15,000.00.  And yes, there are going to be wonderful opportunities made available to our students because of the Dragon Run.  But, for me, the Dragon Run was so much more than raising money.  For me, it showcased the true spirit of Defer.   And for me, it was the overwhelming number of memorable moments.  Hard to say what was the favorite. 
Was it the group of spirited 5th graders who lead the entire school is our warm-up version of Whip Nay Nay and the sea of rainbow colored t-shirts dancing along and putting their own special moves into the mix?
Was it the students’ faces when they walked through the green and white balloon arch?
Was it the lower elementary students lining up at the starting line with their official Dragon Run running bibs pinned to their shirts?
Was it the Kindergarten students taking off in a pack at the start line only to run a few paces, tumble to the ground, pick themselves up, and keep charging around the course?
Was it the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders sitting around the outside of the course yelling out cheers to every Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade student as they participated?
Was it the spirited shout outs that every family took time to send into us so that their child got that message that says – I love you and I’m proud of you!
Was it the parents that ran the course with the students?
Was it the students who ran for all their might losing shoes along their way and never stopping or caring?
Was it the students who asked me to run a lap with them and were proud to hold the principal’s hand as they ran the course?
Was it the Dragon stripe of green paint on their cheeks that students proudly displayed on their faces?
Was it the red faces who with a sense of pride and accomplishment picked up their bottle of water as they completed the run?
Was it the 5th grade boys sitting on a bench with a Kindergarten student calling themselves his training team?
Was it the parents, grandparents, younger siblings, and guests cheering our Defer Dragons along the sidelines and sharing the moment as a community?
Hard to say . . . . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tardiness Hinders Student and School Success

Having trouble making it to school on time every day?  Then it’s time to come up with a new plan. Tardiness is sometimes a chronic problem for some students at Defer, and this creates problems for all students and teachers as well.

Did you know that some of the most important learning of the school day occurs between 8:20 and 10:00 am?  Students are the most alert and attentive at this time of day, so important subject matter and concepts are taught at this time.  When students arrive late to school, they miss out on some or all of these important subjects.  They also create a distraction when they walk into the classroom after other students have already begun working.  Teachers must stop what they are doing, and refocus the group.

Studies show that students who have perfect, or near-perfect attendance and are not tardy have much better grades and overall success in school than students who miss many days and are tardy.
An occasional tardy is not really a big problem, and sometimes cannot be avoided.  However, consistent tardiness creates not only the problems discussed above, but also does not help to prepare students for future success in middle and high school, or for the job market.

What can be done about this?  Defer has a tardy policy in place.  Here’s how it works:

·         When a student has three times of being tardy in quick succession (with a two week period), a letter will be sent home notifying the parents that their student has been tardy three times.  This will let the parents know that they need to work together with their student to get to school on time each day. 

           The students will miss their class recess on the day the 3rd tardy occurs. 

·         If the student continues to struggle with tardiness, the principal will make a phone call home to talk to the parents about how tardiness is impacting the student, and to discuss ways to be on time.  The student will again miss recess to help make up for missed instruction. 

·         If tardiness continues to be an issue, the principal and teacher will have a conference with the parents to discuss the problem.

Remember that being on time means being in line and ready to walk into the classroom when the bell rings.  Students who are at school, but not in their classrooms after the tardy bell, are marked tardy.

Defer is a great school with bright students and involved parents.  By refocusing our efforts on being on time each day, we can be even better!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A few notes about Defer's teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week

This is officially National Teacher Appreciation Week 2015 – May 4th to May 10th.  National Teacher Appreciation Day is May 5th.  The history of National Education Week and Day is not certain.  The movement for such an observance is commonly thought to have begun around the time of World War II and Eleanor Roosevelt made a major push for the day in 1953.

So what about teachers . . . . .

Great teachers give us a sense not only of who they are, but more important, of who we are, and who we might become.   They unlock our energies, our imaginations, and our minds.  Effective teachers pose compelling questions, explain options, teach us to reason, suggest possible directions, and urge us on.

Successful teachers are vital and full of passion.  They love to teach as a painter loves to paint, as a writer love to write, as a singer loves to sing.  They have a serious purpose and yet enjoy enormously what they do.  They more than teach their subjects – math, reading, writing, science, physical education, music, art, or whatever – they get excited about the topic no matter how many times they have taught it before.  They push themselves just as they push their students, and their classrooms become memorable learning experiences.

So what about Defer Teachers . . . . . .

Did you know that our teachers give up their lunch hours to work with students who are struggling?

Did you know that some of our staff taught Lunch Enrichment classes this winter even though that meant giving up their lunch hour?

Did you know that the Defer teachers attend evening PTO programs to support our school and to build relationships with our Defer families?

Did you know that the Defer teachers are giving up their planning periods to help grow leadership in our students?

Did you know that the Defer teachers wrap their loving arms around our students every day from a warm welcome, to providing a missing snack, to calling home to say a student did a great job? 

Did you know that the Defer teachers worked hard to organize a Food Drive and are now feeding Defer families in need of help?

Take time to thank a teacher before the school year ends.. . . . . . .

We have all had teachers in our lives that make a big difference.  For me, it was my high school biology teacher who planted the important message in me – Keep asking questions.   You don’t need to know all the answers; you just have to be willing to look. 

Take time to send your child’s teacher an email or a quick note whether it is today or before the year ends.  Let them know how much you appreciate and value the impact they have on your child every day.   I can tell you first hand – that’s the best thank you any teacher can receive!  

Friday, March 6, 2015

National Reading Month at Defer

March is National Reading Month, and the Defer students and teachers have joined in the celebration!   Guest readers will visit many classrooms in March to share their favorite book.  Classrooms are silent each day as students curl up and read for sustained periods of time.   

Reading together at home is extremely important for all children.  You have the greatest influence on your child and you send a powerful message about not only the importance of reading, but the pleasure of reading when you read together.  Try the following suggestions to make reading with your child both a fun and a learning experience.

1.       Make reading a priority.  Whether it’s 20 minutes every night before bed or an hour every Sunday morning, it helps to set aside a specific time for reading. 

2.      Choose the right book using the “five-finger rule”.  When selecting a new book to read have your child open the book to any page in the middle and read that page.  Keep track of how many words they don’t know.  If the child gets to five words before they finish the page, the book is too hard.  If the child knows all of the words, the book is probably easy and is a good one to build reading fluency.  If they don’t know two or three words, the book is likely to be at a good level for their reading to grow.

3.      Create the right atmosphere.  Find a quiet place for your child to read.  Your home is a busy place, but children need a ‘reading spot’ away from noise and distractions.

4.      Make reading fun.  There are lots of great a book that are filled with humor and that’s always a ‘hook’ for children.  Try ‘hamming it up’ a bit when reading at home.  Play around with funny voices or acting out the scene you are reading. 

5.      Keep reading aloud to your child.  Don’t stop reading aloud to your child once he/she learns to read on their own. When you do the reading, you allow your child to enjoy books that are beyond their independent reading level.  Children learn new vocabulary, and it is a great chance for you to model reading smoothly and with expression.

6.      Introduce new books.  Sometimes one book will steal your child’s heart and that is all they want to read.  Remember, there are millions of books to enjoy.  Ask a librarian or your child’s teacher for a recommendation.  Check out children’s literature web sites.