What's New @MWES...

MWES Keeping Reading Skills Strong this Summer!

posted Jun 29, 2017, 1:04 PM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Jun 29, 2017, 1:06 PM ]

The Errickson Eagles are off to a great start this summer, logging close to 7,000 minutes in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge! If your child is reading a good book remind them to log on to the challenge and record their minutes. If you need help logging on to the site please email Mrs. Gassner @sgassner@freeholdtwp.k12.nj.us

The homeroom with the most minutes will be awarded some "flexible seating" in the fall! Mrs. Pasola's grade 3 students are in the lead with Ms. Taddeo's 4th graders a very close second!
Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

Summer Learning = Summer Fun!

posted Jun 21, 2017, 8:34 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Jun 21, 2017, 8:42 AM ]

Summer is a time to relax and recharge, but it can also afford us time to learn something new! As in years past, we have compiled some resources towards this end. Visit our summer learning web page for ways to make learning an enjoyable part of every summer day while maintaining the gains students have made over the school year. The following tips for parents, provided by MA Literacy, will also help kids stay on track during the summer months.

Put away the mobile devices and spark stimulating conversations with your young children! You can help them improve their communication and critical thinking skills using “PB DD RA,” (Preview Before, Discuss During, Reflect After). For example, before a trip to the beach, parents can prompt kids with questions such as, “What do you think we will see/smell/feel at the beach?” During the trip or activity, parents can discuss the activity at hand with the child. After the trip, parents can talk to kids about the experience, or ask children to draw a picture or write a story about the event.
  • Get outside: Playing outside can be educational; there’s a whole world to count, spell and explain! When kids are drawing with sidewalk chalk, ask them to make certain shapes or comment on the colors they are using. Count the rings in a tree stump. Help kids learn how to spell the names of vegetables or flowers that they see growing in outdoor gardens.
  • Read, Read, Read: Perhaps the best thing parents can do is have their children spend time reading — for at least 30 minutes a day. Younger children will benefit just as much from having books read to them. Remember that children gain the most from reading when a parent asks guiding questions to check their child’s comprehension. Ask them to read a page out loud and then ask them a question based on the content of that page. Often when they only focus on decoding the words, the meaning gets lost.
  • Create math art projects: A great game for young children learning about numbers is also an art project. Children can decorate a piece of paper with small objects…beans, uncooked macaroni or pom-poms. Place the objects on the paper, no glue required yet. Take turns rolling dice to determine how many of the objects each player can remove from the paper and count them out loud. At the end of the game, children can glue down their game pieces to create a masterpiece.
  • Too hot to play outside? Head to the library! Most libraries have a summer reading program. Check the website of local libraries for hours and programs. Monmouth County Library - http://www.monmouthcountylib.org/ Libraries also have plenty of DVDs, and music to check out, and they have air conditioning!
  • Resources from Teachers: Check the school website or the website posted by your child’s teacher for resources. Teachers may also send home lists of suggestions with students.
  • Play with math online: Visit Greg Tang's math website and/or check out some of his math books at the library! You can also find a variety of math games for children on Pinterest? Just go to www.pinterest.com and search for “math activities.” Other online resources for math can be found on the school website.

Have a wonderful summer! We look forward to hearing all about your adventures in September!

End-of-Year Learning Experiences!

posted May 31, 2017, 7:56 AM by Sandra Gassner

It's hard to believe that in less than a month Errickson will send its students off for summer vacation. Before then however, we have many exciting things planned to further enrich student learning for the 2016-2017 school year. We hope you will be able to visit the school as students showcase what they know about a variety of topics. Listed below are the learning experiences currently
  • June 1st - Listen to the tunes created by our students playing the recorder!
  • June 2nd - 4th Grade Wax Museum: Famous people come alive through the voices of our fourth graders!
  • June 7th - An Evening of the Arts! 6-8pm
  • June 9th - Grade 2 Publisher's Party!
  • June 15th - 3rd Grade presents Animal Habitats!
  • June 15th - 1st Grade Reader's Retreat!
  • June 16th - Kindergarten End-of-Year Celebration!
  • June 20th - 5th Grade Moving Up Ceremony!

Kindergarten Preview!

posted May 15, 2017, 6:25 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated May 15, 2017, 6:37 AM ]

The staff of Marshall W. Errickson School will welcome the Class of 2030 for its "Kindergarten Preview" on Tuesday, May 16th at 9:30 am

While our newest students will be busy visiting the kindergarten classrooms and taking part in learning activities with the Kindergarten Preview team of teachers, parents will be treated to a video created by our own kindergarten students! Mrs. Areman and Mrs. Gassner joined forces with the kindergarten and related arts teams to film kindergarten students in action. This exciting video footage was skillfully edited by our building Technology Integration Coordinator, Ms. Coronado, creating an informative explanation of "A Day in the Life of a Kindergartner, by Kindergarten!" 

To support parents and students after the event is over, visit the Kindergarten Preview Website  which showcases all of the information presented during the preview! 

PARCC 2017: Parents...Be a Learning Hero!

posted Apr 25, 2017, 7:35 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Apr 25, 2017, 12:56 PM ]

Tuesday, May 2nd marks the first day of PARCC testing at MWES. This assessment allows students to show what they know...what they have learned through the years and test results allow teachers and administrators to plan for instruction to best meet the needs of each student. The last day of testing at MWES is May 10th. Make-ups will follow.

This is the third year our students will be taking the PARCC assessment on a Chromebook, and as was posted here back in 2015, we remain mindful to preserve the classroom environment our students have grown accustomed to; the one in which they feel most comfortable learning! 

The following list provides some good talking points for you and your child as they get ready to take the test.

  1. The test is on a computer (for us, Chromebooks). For most students, this is a big YIPPEE! For others, it is not as exciting as some might predict. Keyboarding familiarity is important, as are some basic computer skills our students are honing. Every minute students spend learning digitally is a step in the right direction, and we have provided time to become familiar with the technology skills students will use on the PARCC. 
  2. This isn't your grandmother’s multiple choice. The multiple-choice questions on the PARCC test are not always asking for one answer; sometimes they are asking for more than one. Often the test asks us to choose an answer for #5, and then #6 asks us to choose the best reason to support that answer. We keep reminding students to choose the best option, even though there might be other reasonable ones. These questions make us really think. As we practice test items similar to the ones our students will see on the PARCC we discuss the answers to these questions and the reasons for choosing particular answers.
  3. What are students thinking? The PARCC folks want to know what students think after they are exposed to two or three selections on the same topic. They want to see how kids compare, contrast and convey their understanding. We have been doing this since the fall, and we are very impressed with how students are now diving back into the reading (close reading) to find supporting evidence when constructing answers. One of the biggest challenges our students are facing is the fact that they have to include so many parts in their written answers. With consistent feedback, modeling and encouragement, we have seen growth in our students’ ability to express opinions using evidence from their selections. Yea!!! 
  4. Basic Skills Remix: In math, students are required to apply basic skills they have acquired over the past several years. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division skills will be pushed to the limits as students decide how to apply them in challenging problems. We remind our students that they already possess skills necessary to succeed. They only need to commit those skills to their problem solving to make it all come together. 
  5. Families can STILL help! If you are the lucky family member of a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader, you can provide valuable support! Make sure students are getting adequate sleep, eating healthy and staying active. Remind them every single day that effort affects everything, and that everything we do in school is important.
Yes, our young students are faced with challenging assessments, and have already demonstrated success using the computer to participate in such assessments. We know they will work hard to do their best on the PARCC, but in the end it is the rest of our interactive, reflective learning that determines the success of our school year.

Thank you to Falmouth, MA fourth grade teacher Suzy Brooks for her March 2015 blog post, Searching for PARCCing Spaces. The content of this blog post is taken from her blog, but has been modified to better match NJ students, more specifically the students and families in our K-5 community.

The Power of STEAM!

posted Apr 6, 2017, 12:29 PM by Sandra Gassner

Coding Club, Maker Spaces, these are just two components of the growing focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Math) education in our schools. This cross-content expansion of STEM, STEAM, allows our students to explore multiple subjects through hands-on making and integrates design and art into the STEM experience. Carrying out STEAM projects also fosters collaboration, something that comes naturally to children, as evidenced in their play with friends and family. Hands-on projects provide students with the opportunity to build something with others and to share ideas and gain new insights through collaboration. These communication and collaboration skills will serve them well in all areas of learning and future careers.  

We encourage higher-level thinking in our students by using computers and other digital devices to be creators, not just consumers. You can provide similar opportunities at home, taking advantage of coding and “maker” activities online using the following resources. 

  • Code.org: A website providing kids the opportunity to design and manipulate a variety of games, create intricate works of art and track mastery of new skills. A multitude of unplugged activities do not even involve a computer.
  • Break It Down: Encourage kids to take apart electronics (computers, DVD players, televisions) to see their different components. This process, which Hayes uses frequently with her students, helps kids demystify what is going on under the hood of electronics, just like coding.
  • Scratch: A website where kids use code to create animations, music videos, design games, send interactive cards and more. Kids communicate with others throughout the world to collaborate on a project and give design feedback to one another.
  • Interactive Robots: Students work on teams in programming robots to complete certain tasks. Encourages problem solving and sequential logic. Sphero and Olliie and Dash and Dot are a couple of examples.
  • Makerspace: Community centers are being developed in schools where students use various tools to physically engineer ideas for solutions to problems. They depend on collaboration and critical thinking, and they can be linked to coding.
  • NOT a free choice, but if you have an iPad and are looking for an STEAM-related purchase for your child you may want to look at Osmo.

Some Surprising Facts About Learning...

posted Mar 9, 2017, 8:01 AM by Sandra Gassner

Have you heard about a growth mindset? It stems from Carol Dweck's much published belief that, “...our most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Recently one of our teachers shared a video with us that we wanted to share with our entire school community, In this video Jo Boaler, Stanford mathematics education professor tells us, “You have probably heard people say they are just bad at math, or perhaps you yourself feel like you are not “a math person.” But this isn’t true and she goes on to share the brain research showing that with the right teaching and messages, we can all be good at math. Not only that, our brains operate differently when we believe in ourselves. Boaler gives hope to the mathematically fearful or challenged, shows a pathway to success, and brings into question the very basics of how our teachers approach what should be a rewarding experience for all children and adults. We hope you'll have time to give this 12-minute video a look!

How you can be good at math, and other surprising facts about learning | Jo Boaler | TEDxStanford

i-Ready Reports: Grades K-2 Reading

posted Feb 21, 2017, 7:49 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Feb 21, 2017, 1:06 PM ]

Our district’s vision is to foster students who are leaders of their own learning.  This post highlights one resource, i-Ready, while also sharing with you an array of resources that help students, teachers and parents gain insight, which when combined, provide information on the current strengths and areas to focus on for their child.  We are on a progression to student’s owning their data and setting goals to lead their learning as they are able to understand their current skills and needs.  The progression begins with teachers and parents utilizing an array of indicators that provide the ability to set goals and measure growth.  As you will see, although we are highlighting     i-Ready in this post, it is from a composite of many sources that we truly build our understanding of the whole child and his or her pathway to growth.  
Watch the 8-minute video and/or read this post to learn more about i-Ready in your child's classroom.
When you look at any data source from a variety of resources that our teachers and students have access to, it is important to keep in mind that one source provides a piece of the larger mosaic that is the whole child.  Many sources which provide indicators as to current levels of mastery and understanding are utilized in our classrooms.  This information is used to  build goals and set pathways to honor individual student’s strengths and focus on areas of need.  
Some examples of data sources are:
  • teacher observations which can happen in a number of ways from 1 on 1 conferencing, to small group instruction, to whole group interactions; 
  • Learning targets, learning progressions, and formative assessment tools, 
  • student’s writing, 
  • reading levels as indicated via Fountas & Pinnell (F&Ps), 
  • current behavioral and social strengths indicated through our Executive Functioning Tools (EF rubrics) 
  • Digital platforms - such as i-Ready.  
i-Ready assesses students’ academic skills in reading, helping teachers design individualized instruction based on their unique needs while setting a personalized pathway for students within the i-Ready Instruction module.  The Diagnostic, which takes place three times a school year, assesses skills across the reading domains aligned to college and career-readiness standards.  The i-Ready Instruction model is an instructional tool used during the school day.  This adaptive digital tool is ungraded and meets each child at his or her level.

Recently you received a copy of the parent report.  Let's take a closer look at this document. On the top of the page you will see your child’s name, their teacher, and their school.  Directly below that information you will see a brief description of i-Ready (in our district, we are using the assessment for reading only) and then your child’s overall reading performance.  A scale score (or vertically scaled measure) is utilized to indicate current levels (based on grade level standards) and also gauge the difference between the 1st and 2nd diagnostic.  i-Ready uses a vertical scale to measure what skills students have gained from one point in time to the next on a chart of skills that spans K-12th grade...think of it like the growth chart that you see at a pediatrician’s office.  

As mentioned earlier, and essential to keep in mind, i-Ready should be used in conjunction with other measures as each measure of achievement is valuable; however, none are perfect and using multiple measures is critical for getting a complete picture of your child. Statisticians note that a student’s score on any assessment will be affected by random influences (for example a student may get distracted) or by measurement error, and the best test cannot capture important teacher fostered traits such as challenging and engaging students.  Understanding this, let’s continue to learn more about what is available from this report. The second page of the report provides more detail for you about a scale score and details on your child’s indicated levels from the diagnostic. On the third and fourth pages the reading domains are defined for you from phonological awareness to vocabulary and comprehension of literature and informational text is explained.  

Please note, home use of i-Ready for MWES students is currently NOT encouraged. 

If you have additional questions about the i-Ready Diagnostic Assessment, and/or Instruction modules, we encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher, to Mrs. Areman or myself, or to the Curriculum Office.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this post to learn more about i-Ready and how we gain the best picture of your child using an array of resources in our district.  The goal is to provide resources to gain the information teachers’ and students’ need to foster growth and understanding to ultimately create students who are “Leaders of their own Learning”.  

Parent Conferences - January 12th, 24th & February 1st!

posted Feb 1, 2017, 6:21 AM by Sandra Gassner   [ updated Feb 1, 2017, 8:22 AM ]

We look forward to this time each year when parents have the opportunity to meet with their child's teachers. Parents might enter a parent-teacher conference full of questions relating to academic performance. Conferences give you the opportunity to inquire about your child’s progress and/or ask for more information about the curriculum. However, parents might be surprised when the conversation starts with a discussion about social skills, a very important piece of the school experience often overlooked. For some parents, talking with their child’s teacher about their expectations and learning about the teacher’s priorities for their child can be an eye-opening experience. There are many components to the school day that include opportunities for social and emotional learning.

During parent teacher conferences, is it more important to discuss a child’s academic development or their social/emotional well-being? This often asked question can be answered simply by stating that both are critical aspects to your child’s school life.

We, as educators, strongly advise to have a conference that does not in any way discount your child’s social and emotional needs, and looks at this piece of your child’s development equally with that of academics. “My child is having trouble with friends;” or “My child isn’t feeling confident on the playground;” or “My child is having difficulties navigating situations when they are not included;” “My child seems nervous about lunchtime because they have no one to sit with.” We often hear these common parental concerns. Providing your children with the tools to handle these situations will help them in all areas of their school life.

Parents might wonder if it is a waste of valuable conference time to focus on their child’s emotional well-being as opposed to how they are reading or have performed on their latest math test. We do not want to discount the importance of a child’s academic success or the importance of when they need that extra support in the classroom, but their social and emotional welfare should take up an equal part of the conversation.

Students that can find ways to feel good in the face of adversity (we have all been there) and can navigate many different situations on the playground are the same children that will hopefully take these life lessons outside the classrooms. The lessons on how to speak to your peers, how to be an ally to a friend and how to know when to get a teacher involved in a situation are invaluable. School is a place where they will have the chance to gain the support of their teachers, and families to guide them through life’s social and emotional challenges, hopefully making them adults who are better equipped and more resilient throughout their lives.

So, please, applaud your child’s academic successes, help them where they struggle in school, but remember to ask about your child’s behavior in the classroom, and don’t forget to share valuable insights of their personality that only a parent can know.

Rethinking Report Cards: Standards-Based Report Cards

posted Dec 7, 2016, 10:46 AM by Sandra Gassner

Why many schools are linking report cards to education standards and how that helps students and parents!

Adapted from a post from Great! Schools: May 2016

Did your grandparents give you a dollar for every A on your report card? Did you ever receive a dreaded F? For a growing number of today’s elementary school students, the days of celebrating or dreading letter grades are over. As schools and educators across the country focus on teaching content based on core standards, student report cards have changed to reflect this. Elementary schools are using standards-based report cards that align with their standards-based teaching. As a result, parents are getting more information about their students’ achievement.

What are standards-based report cards?

On traditional report cards, students receive one grade for reading, one for math, one for science, and so on. A standards-based report card lists the most important skills students should learn in each subject at a particular grade level.

Instead of letter grades, students receive a number that shows how well they have mastered the skills. The numbers represent whether students meet, exceed, or approach each standard. In Freehold Township we use the following key:

  • “4” Exceeds – Student exceeds grade level standards

  • “3” Meets the Standard– Student effectively meets grade level standards

  • “2” Developing – Student sometimes meets grade level standards. Needs more time and instruction to develop skill

  • “1” Novice– Student is not yet meeting grade level standards. Needs more time and instruction to develop skill

How does the standards-based report card help parents?

The marks on a standards-based report card are different from traditional letter grades. Letter grades are often calculated by combining how well the student met his particular teacher’s expectations, how he performed on assignments and tests, and how much effort the teacher believes he put in. Letter grades do not tell parents which skills their children have mastered or whether they are working at grade level. Because one fourth-grade teacher might be reviewing basic multiplication facts while another might be teaching multiplication of two- or three-digit numbers, an A in these classes would mean very different things. The parent of a child in one of these classes would not know if their child were learning what they should be to meet the state standards. Standards-based report cards will provide more consistency between teachers than traditional report cards because all students are evaluated on the same grade-level skills. Parents can see exactly which skills and knowledge their child has acquired.

Why are some districts are switching?

Diane Mead, a teacher on special assignment in the Beverly Hills Unified School District in California, believes students are the biggest winners when standards-based report cards are used. These report cards give students specific information about how they’re doing and pinpoint where they need to improve.

This approach can carry over to classroom assignments, too, as the report card influences the way teachers assess student learning throughout the year. In the first two years of using a standards-based report card in Beverly Hills, teachers worked together to describe clearly what student work that meets the standards looks like. Teachers share these expectations with students, often posting them on the classroom wall. Now when students get an assignment they know exactly what they have to do to be proficient or advanced. That’s a big change from the way assignments used to be given and graded. “If you get a 90 percent, it doesn’t tell you much about where to go from there,” says Mead. Because concrete skills and knowledge are listed on the report card, it is one way to help monitor whether all students are being exposed to the same curriculum and learning the skills they should learn in each grade. The new report cards also make the standards very clear to parents, Liddell says. “Parents should know exactly what their students should be able to do.”

Discouraging or encouraging?

One of the biggest adjustments for students and parents is that many standards-based report cards focus on end-of-the-year goals. This means that in the first or second grading period, instead of getting A’s for trying hard and doing well on tests, a high-achieving student might have several marks indicating that they are not yet proficient in some skills. Although this is normal — most students will not meet all of the year’s goals in the first quarter — it can be disconcerting to parents and kids used to seeing all A’s or B’s. Another big change for students is understanding the concept of “advanced” or “exceeding standards.” Advanced is not necessarily the equivalent of an A on a traditional report card. For example, if a fifth-grader received A’s on every math test during the semester, she would probably receive an A on a traditional report card. If those math tests measured only the concepts fifth graders are expected to master, those A’s would be the equivalent of “proficient” on a standards-based report card; the student is doing what he should be doing, but not necessarily more. Al Friedenberg, former principal of Grant Elementary in Santa Monica, California, noted that this means teachers need to provide opportunities for students to show they can exceed what is expected and be truly advanced. Standards-based report cards can encourage teachers to make sure their lessons offer students chances to go beyond “grade level.” Mead said one analogy her district uses to explain this difference to parents is: “You climb up the hill to be proficient, but you have to fly off to be exemplary.” Standards-based report cards provide the added benefit of keeping teachers and parents focused on student learning goals from the very beginning of the year. Friedenberg said this gives his students a chance to get help when it’s most needed, sooner rather than later.

Glitches and fixes

As with the implementation of any new program, students and parents should expect some glitches and fine-tuning as the new report cards are established. Both Mead and Friedenberg noted that the first few years with their standards-based report cards were challenging for teachers as they dealt with technical difficulties at the same time that they were working to align their teaching and assessment with the new report cards. Patience and understanding from parents and students go a long way when schools are working out bugs in a new program.https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B73K7o7FOdpmbVhyV2k5U3M2U00?usp=sharing

More information for the Errickson learning community...

Information on standards-based report cards specific to the Errickson learning community and Freehold Township Schools can be found here. 

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