Saturday, September 15, 2018

It seems as if summer just isn't letting go quite yet!  I hope you all get to squeeze in as much of the warm sunshine as possible this weekend!

I am sharing a reading/thinking resource with you today (see below) that may be helpful for you when guiding your child(ren) in thinking through the books they are reading.  Reading the words when reading is one thing, but critically thinking through a text, whatever the level, is a skill that learners need to practice not only in school, but outside of school as well.   

Where this resource may, at first glance, seem like it is geared toward more experienced readers, it is one that you can certainly use with emerging readers as well, as you read aloud to your child(ren).  Choosing one "signpost" to focus on a week, is a wonderful way to start.  Of course, some books won't lend themselves to all of these signposts however, having this resource available when reading is an excellent way for readers of any age to actively participate in reading and thinking through texts.  Give it a try in your own reading, too, so that you can be a role model for your readers at home.  

MAPS testing begins this week for grades 2-8.  Click here for the top six questions parents ask about MAPS testing.  First graders will take the MAPS test in the winter and spring (they take a PALS assessment in the fall, which is geared more toward letters and sounds), and second through eighth graders take the test in fall, winter, and spring.  MAPS tests give us detailed data about our learners that help us make informed, personalized instructional decisions to move our learners forward.  "But what if my child is not a good test taker?" many parents ask.  MAPS is just one data point we use to make informed instructional decisions about our learners, along with both formal and informal classroom assessments and finally a state assessment (Forward Exam) in the spring (grades 3-8).

We look forward to seeing you all at Curriculum Night this Wednesday, September 19th, from 6-7 pm. For this first curriculum night, we are asking that parents only come.  We will ask for your feedback before you leave, so that we can make the revisions our families want/need in the future.  We will begin altogether in the library  and then you will be invited to go to your child(ren's) classroom  to ask any specific questions you may have for the teacher.

I wish you all a happy, warm and healthy weekend!

Beth Wartzenluft
Curriculum Coach

"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here
With summer's best of weather
And autumn's best of cheer"
              ~Author unknown


Friday, September 7, 2018

The Learner-Teacher Relationship

"The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.  
Don't go back to sleep."

As I drove into work nice and early this morning, I reflected on the many amazing things I saw in Stone Bank classrooms this first week of the 2018-19 school year.  John Hattie, an educational researcher who wrote a book called Visible Learning, has done much work around what kinds of behaviors produce a large effect size (a statistical concept that measures the strength of a relationship between two variables) in learning environments.  Evidence based research has show that "students who have constructive relationships with their teachers are more likely to do well at school, and teachers who actively build such relationships have a strong effect on the lives of their students" (Hattie).  The visual below shows that the learner-teacher relationship has a .72 effect size, on a 1.2 scale.

Why is this important for you to know?  Because the amount of thoughtful learning opportunities that Stone Bank teachers engaged in with students this week were deeply grounded in the evidence-based practice of building strong relationships with learners, right from the very beginning.  I sat in on a class that did an activity on Fixed v. Growth Mindsets, a math class where kids were working in pairs while the teacher zoomed from group to group coaching, inspiring, and naming the great things learners were doing.  I was in another class that did an activity where they brainstormed, shared, and honored different ways learners read, write, and think about reading and writing.  I sat in on the most fun and hilarious music class ever with a teacher who clearly understood the importance of Hattie's work on the learner-teacher relationship and I wished I could do music class all over again!  I got to be a part of class that was engaged in delegating classroom jobs to students, so that they could have ownership in their learning environments.  I heard a student say, "I can't".  His teacher walked over to him, knelt down to his level, put her arm around him and said, "Yes, buddy, you can.  I know you can." And you know what?  He did!  He took the book back to his spot and read that book!  I could go on and on, but I think you get the point...the staff at Stone Bank School not only understand the importance of the learner-teacher relationship, but they purposefully plan and engage in activities that grow and deepen these relationships.

Next week we will be starting our coaching cycles as we delve into Reader's Workshop!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

You Are All So Lucky!

Good Afternoon!

Yesterday and today I had the great pleasure of listening to some of your kids do initial reading assessments with their teachers.  I listened to the sweetest little first grader read to Mrs. Leonard and as she was scoring the assessment, he, in the cutest voice ever, asked if she had gotten any new books this year!  He was excited to check them out!  I saw Ms. Bolinski sprint out of a classroom to embrace a student she had not seen all summer~and the student embraced her right back.  I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Mr. McConville, a middle school science and STEM teacher, giving a reading assessment.  How powerful is that?  A science teacher (and a social studies teacher, and a math teacher, and a writing teacher) getting to know students as readers.   Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another teacher with a student who was a bit hesitant to enter a new room with a new teacher.  The way this teacher, so very gently, walked the student into the new teacher's room, introduced her to her new teacher, and helped her feel more comfortable, was genuinely steeped in care and concern for this student.  I met parents who shook my hand, looked me in the eye, smiled at me and said, "I am so glad you are here" and "Welcome to our great little school!" 

Stone Bank School was ALIVE yesterday and today!  Lots of smiling, happy kids and equally excited teachers, all coming together to get to know learners and where they are as readers, from the very start, was so incredible to see.  I've been an educator for over 20 years now and believe me when I tell you that you are all so very, very fortunate to be able to entrust your children in the hands of these extremely competent and caring educators!

Leaving the classroom this year has not been an easy transition and yet today, as the school quiets down and I have a minute to reflect, I firmly believe that Stone Bank is the perfect place for me to be right now~amongst one of the most caring and competent staffs I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

Thanks for welcoming me into your community because already, I feel like family.

Enjoy every last bit of summer!

Beth Wartzenluft

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Book, a Few Poems, and Some Gratitude

Good Morning!

I hope you are all enjoying these dog days of summer and soaking it all in these last weeks before we begin the 2018-19 school year!

I am sharing a book and a few poems with you today.  The book is called Teaching with Heart; Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner with a foreword from one of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer.  It is a collection of "ninety treasured poems that is accompanied by an educator's brief personal reflection on how poetry helps them make sense of the challenges and possibilities of their work." (front flap).  It is a brief window into the life of educators and their experiences - "joy, outrage, heartbreak, and hope" (front flap).  Here are two of my far:

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

                                                    ~Wendell Berry

A Teacher's Contract

Between the teachers and the city
there exists a contract,
full of legal obligations on both sides,
pay steps, duties and responsibilities,
all to be negotiated.
But there is a higher, more important contract,
that requires no lawyers,
no arbitration, no picket lines.
It is a contract given, not stated,
ironclad and universal.
It is written on the smart board,
demonstrated in the halls, surrounding
student desks and classroom walls.
It is a contract automatically renewed each year,
forged in live, witnessed daily.
It is never up for discussion or a vote.
It is unchangeable, immutable.
And in Newtown the contract 
remains, unbroken in life, in death,
consisting of only two words:
"My kids."
                                   ~Mel Glenn

This would make a great gift for a teacher!  Teaching~a demanding and rewarding profession, to say the very least.  As we ease our way out of summer and into the new school year, we all have a tremendous opportunity to lean into this transition with grace and gratitude for those who choose to teach.  Sometimes it is smooth sailing, and sometimes the waters are rough.  I ask this year that you communicate in both times, and with the same grace, in a way that honors teachers, learners, and our entire Stone Bank community.  You are all so very lucky to have the teachers that I have had the pleasure to work with over the summer.  The common thread amongst this community is echoed in the poem above, A Teacher's Contract. Your kids are our kids and we can't wait to start the 2018-19 school year with them, and with you as we partner in education.

We will see you all soon!

Beth Wartzenuft

Monday, August 6, 2018

Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the Stone Bank Curriculum Corner!

For those of you who do not know me already, my name is Beth Wartzenluft. I am the new Curriculum Coach at Stone Bank School and I could not be more excited!  I am coming from North Shore Middle School, where I taught for five years and before that, I taught in Waukesha for 20 years.  I have a 28 year old son and daughter-in-law, a beautiful four year old grand baby, a 16 year old son who goes to Arrowhead and an 18 year old daughter who is off to the Twin Cities in Minnesota for her first year of college in the fall and yes, I am having a difficult time with that transition!  My husband Joe is a health and physical education teacher in Waukesha and we all love our beloved Maggie, a five year old St. Bernard, mastiff, lab mix.  Rounding out our crew are our assorted chickens, all named Frieda. Pictures of all are attached!

One of my goals this year is to keep families up to date with all of the great learning going on at Stone Bank.  At this point, my plan is to capture a few grade levels each week so that by the end of each month, families will get a snapshot of learning going on from 4K-8th grade.  These posts will most likely be posted on Fridays, and some weeks it may be on a Monday!  From time to time I may share a timely poem, quote, article, book recommendation or another blog that may be of interest to you.  I welcome your feedback on this blog!  Of course, you can comment right on the blog, but if you are concerned about something or would rather send me a private email, please do so at 

As with all human beings, I will make mistakes in this job.  I may misspell something in a post, or forget to check or uncheck some little button that may or may not allow you to view the blog post.  I am human, but know this; the decisions I make on a daily basis are always rooted in the best interest of our learners, our families, and Stone Bank School.  When I make mistakes or missteps, I will own them and then seek both forgiveness and understanding~and I will give you the same grace that you afford me.  

Check back to our new blog weekly to see what is new!  Enjoy these last few weeks of summer vacation and I look forward to meeting you all in the very near future!

Beth Wartzenluft

                                             My husband Joe and Jerry, our grandson

                                               Joe, Bella and Noah at Bella's HS graduation

                                                 My oldest son, Trav, and our daughter-in-law Miranda

                                              Maggie and her new friends, the little chicks!

It seems as if summer just isn't letting go quite yet!  I hope you all get to squeeze in as much of the warm sunshine as possibl...