Monday, August 25, 2014

Kicking off a year of PBIS

Komensky was recently honored by the Illinois PBIS Network, achieving GOLD status for our implementation of PBIS.  PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) is a school-wide program focusing on creating a positive school environment and putting necessary supports into place when a student needs behavioral supports.  To learn more about GOLD status, click here.

One of the most important pieces of PBIS is the need to establish clear expectations and make them well-known at the start of the school year.  At Komensky, we've adopted the following expectations: Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Safe, and Be a Komensky Lion.  This morning, all of our students participated a series of rotations that demonstrated what each of these expectations looked like in various settings throughout the school including hallways, the playground, and bathrooms.  For example, students learned that in order to be respectful on the playground, we take turns playing with recess equipment and keep our hands to ourself.  In bathrooms, we learned that we are safe when we wash our hands and properly throw away our paper towels.  By spending the time to teach expectations upfront, we know that students are more successful throughout the school year.

Here are a few pictures of today's events:

Ms. Lopez reviews the 4 B's with students during an all-school assembly.
Students assist Mr. Kozin with the explanation of hallway expectations.

Mrs. Arenas demonstrates behavioral expectations on the playground.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Message to the Komensky Staff

A message to the Komensky Staff on the eve of the first day of school: 


Good evening, Komensky Lions.

Here we go!  The start of the school year is less than 12 hours away.  Tomorrow morning, we'll have about 450 students on the playground, anxious to meet you, see their friends, and ready for the routines the school year brings.  Accompanying them are parents, who are also anxious to meet the teacher responsible for the safety, welfare, and education of their precious little ones.  As a staff, we have the honor and duty of providing these 450 students with the absolute best education we can…nothing less.  This will be no easy feat, but you've accepted this challenge.  Over the next 180+ days, you have the opportunity to change lives…to build upon a foundation formed by those who came before you…and set our students on a path towards success.  Our school vision statement, A Future of Limitless Opportunities, drives us work tirelessly to ensure our students CAN go to college, CAN have the job of their dreams, and CAN go on to be more successful than previous generations in their families.  Let's let nothing hold us from providing this for our students.  It is time to RAISE them up!

The talent at Komensky is stronger than it has ever been, and there is no doubt in my mind that we can do this!

Wishing you all the best this school year!

Jeremy Majeski
Komensky Elementary School

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Komensky Welcomes New Staff

There have been a number of changes to the staffing at Komensky as we prepare for the 2014-15 school year.  One of the most exciting changes is a reallocation of resources to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 2nd grade.  At each of these grade levels, we added an additional classroom to intentionally reduce classes of 25-28 students to a size of 20-22 students.  Although space in the building will definitely be at a premium, it is our hope that this will significantly reduce the number of students who will need to be forced transferred to other buildings in our district as well as greatly impact the success of our primary students.

With that being said, Ms. Sonia Hilal, one of Komensky's preschool teachers has been transferred to Kindergarten this year.  Ms. Hilal student taught at Komensky 2 years ago and was hired on to teach preschool last school year.  She did an excellent job and couldn't be more excited to move into a full-day kindergarten program.

Mrs. Mariana Kelm

At the 1st grade level, we've hired Mrs. Mariana Kelm.  Mrs. Kelm comes to us from Chicago Public Schools where she taught 1st grade at Hayt School.  Prior to her experience in CPS, she taught in a dual language kindergarten program in Crystal Lake.  Mrs. Kelm holds her bachelors degree in bilingual/bicultural education and has been recognized as a Golden Apple Scholar.

Ms. Jaclyn Ricchio

For 2nd grade, we are pleased to introduce you to Ms. Jaclyn Ricchio.  Ms. Ricchio also comes to us from Chicago Public Schools where she has spent the last 4 years teaching kindergarten at Curtis School of Excellence and Howe School of Excellence.  Ms. Ricchio has extensive training in literacy and is very excited to put her training to work at the 2nd grade level.

Ms. Deena Trombetta

With the recent departure of Mrs. Lindsi Bratland (who will be moving to the East Coast in August), we've filled our building's special education leader position (DRC), with school psychologist, Ms. Deena Trombetta.  Ms. Trombetta is a recent graduate of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and has spent the last 2 years working as an intern in Maywood School District 89.  Ms. Trombetta will be responsible for organizing the special education program at Komensky, leading our school's Response to Intervention program, as well as meeting with students on an individual basis or in groups to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs.  We are thrilled to have a school psychologist at Komensky full-time this year!

Mrs. Amanda Drenth

Finally, with the recent transfer of Mr. Ed Beringer from science teacher to 5th grade teacher at Piper Elementary School, we are pleased to welcome Mrs. Amanda Drenth to Komensky.  Mrs. Drenth, a resident of Berwyn, comes to us after having taught middle school science and Spanish at St. Francis Xavier School in LaGrange.  Prior to teaching, she has worked as a research assistant at Loyola University Medical Center.  Mrs. Drenth will be working at Irving, Piper and Komensky.  We look forward to witnessing her passion for science at Komensky in November.

There have been a few internal transfers in the building with teachers moving to different grade levels.  As soon as everything as been finalized, we will be updating our staff list on the Komensky website.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Update 7.3.14

I hope that the Komensky community is thoroughly enjoying some time with family and friends this summer!  With the exception of some rain, the weather has been great to be outdoors barbecuing, attending ball games, or playing at the park.  Personally, I just got back from a family road trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.  What a beautiful place!  I highly recommend a visit if you are able.  The falls are stunning and are a great reminder of the beauty that is all around us.

In the Komensky world, a lot has been going on.  Our custodial and maintenance staff have all of our classrooms emptied as they wash walls, strip and relax floors, and make repairs necessary for the upcoming school year.  A large number of Komensky staff members have been participating in voluntary professional development as they work to refine their practice and stay up-to-date with well-researched classroom practices.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Mac, Mr. Palles, Mrs. Urbina, Mrs. Kristo, Ms. Connors, and Ms. Prendiville earlier this week for a summer book club.  We are reading the book, Fair Isn't Always Equal, by Rick Wormeli.  We had some great discussion about the best way to assess student learning and meet their needs in a classroom.  I'm looking forward to our next meeting later this month.

In addition to the list above, I've been busy hiring new staff members for the upcoming school year.  In an effort to reduce class size in primary grades, we've reallocated funds and opened new sections at Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.  Additionally, I've been reviewing applicants for a school psychologist that we'll have the privilege of having on staff at Komensky full time next year.  As individuals are hired, I will be sure to introduce them to our community through social media.

Finally, I've been busy monitoring the progress of students in our first ever Virtual Summer School. To date, Komensky students have read over 2,200 books on myON and have answered almost 60,000 math questions on IXL.  I am so proud of our students and their dedication to learning this summer.  Did you know that even if you aren't enrolled in Virtual Summer School that your student still has access to myON, IXL and Mathletics?  Be sure to access these programs all summer long to stay sharp for the upcoming school year.

I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reading Interventions - How do we help?

As you read in yesterday's post, Let's Talk About What Students Need, Komensky teachers come together 3-4 times a year to have in-depth conversations about the needs of our students.  Using Fountas and Pinnell benchmark data, combined with Discovery Education and intervention data, our teams make strategic decisions about how and when we will meet the individual needs of students.  When we ask ourselves about the needs of students, what do we have to offer?

Double Guided Reading: Guided reading is a small group (usually 4-5 students) who meet with a teacher to work on comprehension skills and strategies.  Essentially, the teacher "guides" a student through a text and ensures they understand what they are reading.  If students show signs that they are struggling, a teacher can jump in to assist and offer a strategy to move forward.  If a student isn't showing signs of success with a regular guided reading group with the classroom teacher, we may make a decision to offer an additional guided reading group with a specialist (reading specialist, bilingual interventionist, ELL teacher, special education teacher, etc.).  Generally the student is assigned to an additional guided reading group while the remainder of the class is independently reading, writing or working on science/social studies.

Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI): From the Heinemann website - Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI) is a small-group, supplementary literacy intervention designed to help teachers provide powerful, daily, small-group instruction for the lowest achieving students at their grade level. Through systematically designed lessons and original, engaging leveled books,LLI supports learning in both reading and writing, helps students expand their knowledge of language and words and how they work. The goal of LLI is to bring students to grade level achievement in reading.  At Komensky, LLI is provided in a setting with 1 teacher working with 3 students. A significant portion of the program includes an at-home component reviewing the books and skills worked on in school.

Academic Skills Groups: If teachers identify that students are not making sufficient progress in a certain skill area, interventionists will often form interventions around certain skill areas.  These groups can include anywhere from 1 to 6 students.  For example, if we find that a 1st grader who is not recognizing sight words in text, an interventionist will work with that student specifically on sight words.

Reading Plus: This is an computer-based intervention geared towards students in 3rd through 5th grade.  According to the Reading Plus website: Reading Plus develops a student's silent reading fluency, reading rate, and stamina that make reading comfortable and productive. The program provides essential structure to silent reading by scaffolding content, rate, repetition intensity, and lesson formats. Students build independent reading skills and confidence that prepare them for high-stakes tests, academic success, and challenges beyond secondary school.  Although students often have time during the day to work on this program, we ask that students use this program outside of school using their 1:1 devices.

Lexia: Lexia is another computer-based intervention, but geared to early readers (kindergarten through 2nd grade students).  According to the Lexia website: Lexia Reading Core5 provides students immediate corrective feedback, multiple levels of scaffolding, and explicit instruction both online and through direct instruction with the teacher.Students work independently to develop reading skills in a structured, sequential manner with a focus on: Foundational skills to develop automaticity and fluency, Listening and reading comprehension with complex text, Academic and domain-specific and vocabulary to improve comprehension.  Lexia is generally used in the classroom during centers.  Classroom teachers monitor student progress on the program and make necessary changes when the need arises.

K-PALS (Kindergarten - Peer Assisted Learning Strategies) - K-PALS is a research-based intervention that focuses on letter-sound correspondence, decoding, phonological awareness, and sight words.  Many times, we choose to use this program for students who aren't yet able to read a simple text.  K-PALS focuses on the foundational skills needed for students to be successful with reading.  This program requires a small student-to-teacher ratio, 30 minutes per day, 3-4 days per week.

As you can see, we have a number of options at our fingertips and it truly depends on what we've learned that the student needs.  I often think about this in terms of going to the doctor.  He/she has a number of medications and/or procedures that they could recommend.  Based on the information they have, they select a certain medication/procedure.  Sometimes this requires some trial-and-error and it takes a few attempts before the doctor finds what works.  This happens in our schools, too, and because of this, we hold the regular meetings to review data.  A student may start the year out in a double guided reading group and show minimal growth so after a data meeting, the team decides to move the student to an LLI group.

The bottom-line is that there is no quick fix.  The work we do daily is methodical, well-thought out, and always centered around what is best for a student.  It takes time, lots of research, and talented individuals.  As always, I'm proud of the work we do at Komensky.  We are on the road to success!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Let's Talk About What Students Need!

I'm really excited about the work the Komensky staff is doing.  Although today was our first day back from winter break, the kindergarten and 1st grade teams each spent 2.5 hours meeting with our building interventionist, ELL teacher, building special education coordinator, literacy coach and the building administration.  During this meeting, which we call a "Data Meeting," our teachers comb through benchmark data and classroom anecdotal notes for the purpose of guiding important instructional decisions.  At this point in the year, we have collected Fountas and Pinnell data (Reading), Discovery Education data (Reading and Math), AimsWeb (Literacy - LNF, LSF) data as well as specific individual intervention data.

Our meeting started today with a short clip to get us thinking about the work we are doing.  There were a lot of "take-aways" from this clip including the importance of being positive, cheering one another on, issues with handicapped potential, goal-setting, etc.

Following our discussion of the video, the teams then began talking about classroom instruction, focusing on the experience students have in each room as a reader, writer, and mathematician.  With our new focus on a balanced literacy model, reading looks different in our rooms compared to they way they looked in the past.  Teachers discussed what works, what doesn't work, and specific areas they hope to improve on in the coming months.  When discussing classroom instruction, teachers spend time reviewing benchmark data.  The carts below are examples of the data we review.  You'll notice that we look at data from three perspectives: classroom, grade level, and individual student.

An example of fall and winter Fountas and Pinnell data by classroom and grade level.
An example of student-level data including and special eligibilities (ELL, Special Education, etc.),
interventions they receive and who provides the intervention.

Using this data, the classroom teachers, along with our support staff, made decisions about what students need.   They asked themselves, "Are students making adequate progress?  In what areas do they need more support?  Who is best at providing these types of supports?"  At the end of the 2.5 hours, our teachers are able to discuss the needs of each of their students and have a plan for supporting them moving forward.  This includes students with disabilities, accelerated learners, English-language learners as well as our general education students.  Using this process, we can ensure that no students "slip through the cracks" and receives the support he/she needs to move to the next level.

The kindergarten team reviewing data and planning for
interventions at today's "Data Meeting."
Our "data meetings" are all part of a process called Response to Intervention.  These meetings take place 3-4 times a year following testing cycles.  No longer do we wait for a student to fail before we provide support.  Meeting regularly allows us to catch students as soon as they begin to show signs of struggling and intervene with researched-based interventions.

Although these days are often lengthy and intense, our teachers view this time together as sacred and necessary to the work they do the remaining 170+ days of school each year.  I look forward to meeting with the 2nd-5th grade teams throughout the remainder of the week!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cold Weather is Here!

There is no doubt that winter weather has arrived!  These last few days have reminded all of us what we've been missing out on as we've enjoyed the temperatures in Chicago this summer and fall.  With temperatures hovering around 32 degrees (or cooler), being outside for extended periods of time can definitely be unbearable, and even dangerous, if we aren't prepared.

With that being said, the Komensky staff follows guidelines as to when we decide to keep our students indoors for recess or even morning lineup.  The chart below, taking into account both the temperature and the windchill, guides our decision making through these cold winter months.
Click Here for Closer View

We know the benefits of having recess daily, which include social interaction, a time for a clearing of the mind, and most importantly, physical activity.  As a staff, we will always encourage recess while ensuring the safety and protection from the outdoor elements.  Days when it might be a bit more chilly than others, please be sure your student dresses appropriately.  Heavy coats, hats, gloves, and scarves are a necessity on most winter days - make sure your student is prepared.

If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to reach out to office staff members for more information.