Monday, April 2, 2018

Using Readers Theater and Puppet Plays in the Granby Gator Library

Introducing Guest Blogger, Mrs. Anastasia Mayberry...

Check out what is happening in the Granby Gator Elementary School Library!

Using Readers Theater and Puppet Plays in the Library
By Anastasia Mayberry
(Librarian, Granby Elementary School)

Growing up in Russia, I was exposed to theater and particularly puppet theater from my early childhood. I remember going to the Obraztsov Puppet Theatre in Moscow, Russia for the first time ( ) and being completely enchanted by the talking puppets, a play, and how real they seem to be.  The arts have this amazing capability to send young children into another world. All the arts, particularly theater, enhance the education of the whole child.  In addition, theater involves multi-sensory learning, making learning more meaningful and therefore more memorable for students.

When I became a school librarian, I dreamed of introducing theater into my lessons, but I was not sure about the logistics.  While taking professional development classes at the Ohio State University I learned about readers theater. Readers theater is a bit different from a full theater production, because the emphasis is placed on reading of the text with expression (not memorization), and because few props are needed. Therefore, when children are introduced to performing arts, their experience is stress-free and enjoyable. There is no pressure to perform in front of a large audience. So I decided to try it.  

I noticed right away how much children enjoy performing in front of their peers. Students work extra hard to read their lines with expression. They try to act out their parts and make the story come alive.  Granby’s 2nd graders perform mini-plays based on the life of president Abraham Lincoln when they are studying American presidents. 3rd graders usually perform readers’ theater based on famous folklore stories. 4th graders perform plays based on stories from the Revolutionary war. Finally, 5th graders perform plays based on Mayan and Aztec legends, and 6th graders based on Egyptian Mythology. By working with classroom teachers, I try to connect the library readers theater productions to the regular classroom curriculum, so students can be engaged in higher level thinking, such as creating and synthesizing knowledge.  This kind of thinking allows the brain to transfer knowledge into long-term memory.

Last school year, I started offering readers theater and puppet shows during library noon options. Our 1st graders produced puppet shows based on fairy tales, such as The Three Little Pigs, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  2nd graders participated in the production of Halloween plays.  What made these productions memorable was that we did two performances for Kindergarteners and 1st graders as well as for students’ parents. Students were so excited to perform for their relatives that they spent extra time practicing at home, and many of them memorized their lines, even though this was not required. Watch an excerpt from The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams (script by Beth Saxman) performance by 2nd graders right here:

During the 2017-2018 school year, Worthington schools started offering 6th grade extension classes, in which all related arts teachers designed their own courses based on student’ interests.  This gave me the opportunity to take puppet theater production to the next level. I wanted to inspire my 6th grade students not only to perform ready-made scripts, but also to challenge themselves by writing their own original puppet theater scripts.  I had a small group of about twelve students who went above and beyond to create their original stories, practice them and finally perform them in front of a very enthusiastic audience of 1st and 2nd graders. You can watch a little excerpt shared on Granby’s Twitter right here:

When I asked my students what they liked best about their experience performing in a play/puppet show, they said, “Now we are famous in the whole school! It is hard to be famous!” This is because the younger kids view them as role models and look up to them now. Another student came to the library after this year’s performance of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and said, “Mrs. Mayberry, where are your plays located in the library? I want to do another performance with my friends at home.”  Later she asked me to make her ten copies of the Snow White script.  It was well worth it!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Digital Detox

I'd like to introduce you to Lori Poleway, Thomas Worthington Library Media Specialist. Lori and I have the opportunity to work together as educators in Worthington Schools and I am honored to publish her story, "Digital Detox" on my Dream Big blog.
Thanks to Lori for all that she does to help the students at TWHS learn and grow.

Digital Detox                                                                                
Lori Poleway                                                                                                                        
Thomas Worthington Library Media Specialist
A Google search for the phrase “tech addiction” produced 123,000,000 results in .53 seconds on February 26th 2018.   Parents, teachers, and even students will admit that their phones are harder and harder to live without and the controversy over use/abuse in the educational setting has increased in recent years as classroom teachers compete with the entertaining features of smartphones.  We also see the benefits that technology can provide and many of us admit that multitasking is the new normal.

At Thomas Worthington, administrator Greg Garris has had discussions with students about phone use during the school day. Many students report that their phones are deeply ingrained in all areas of their lives. They also admit, somewhat begrudgingly, that their phones can be a significant distraction. Homework, studying, and reading all take longer than they should because of the frequent interruptions coming from their phone. They are not ready to hand over their phones just yet, but agree that there are measures that could be put in place to limit the distractions.

During a recent OCC high school library media conference, one media specialist shared her “Tech Free Friday” program.  I was very excited about providing an opportunity for students to shut down the tech and interact with one another. A number of elementary and middle schools have implemented Maker Spaces to support creative collaboration, but that would be a little tricky in a high school setting where most students elect to come to the library to study.  In an effort to maintain the integrity of the library setting as a work/study space, I proposed my own version of tech free Friday to the department chairs and the administrators to get their reactions.  
For one Friday a month (Final Friday), students can elect to come from academic prep to play card or board games, work on puzzles, color, craft, build with legos, or read.  If a student needed to study quietly, use a chromebook, or their phone they would stay in their prep room for the period.  Seniors hoping to study would need to report to the CARDs Center.   The staff and administrators responded with an enthusiastic and unanimous, “Yes!”
However, “No!” was the initial response from students. The week of  Friday October 27th I posted signs, emailed, tweeted, and audibly announced that Friday would be “Tech Free” in the library.  Games would be available and students who needed to study should stay in their prep rooms. The first group of student arrived at 7:45. They were asked to sign in on a legal pad using their favorite color pen. (I was committed to giving up my scanner, computer, and phone to protect the zone.)  Students were told to put away phones--even headphones.  No, computers--unless they were just printing.  One student questioned the use of lights since they used electric technology.  I quickly determined that if the technology existed in the 70’s it could be used.

“No! Wait, you were serious? But I need to…...”
“No way! I need my phone. I can’t even listen to music?”  
“I have a test and the review sheet is online.”
“This is so dumb.  The library is suppose to be for studying!”
And my favorite, “This is absolutely the very worst idea anyone in this school has ever had!”
Even as I implored them to indulge in some down time for just 50 minutes, several students elected to return to the refuge of their prep rooms and their phones.  Most students who came in were willing to give the idea a try and they timidly selected games to play.   Chess, Yahtzee, Mancala, Jenga, Risk, Battleship, and Apples to Apples were a few of the most popular.  Several decks of cards were available with printed directions for various games.  Uno was soon a favorite.  It was great to hear students negotiate, discuss, argue, hold one another accountable, and cry out in joy when they won!
And so I spent the day watching or teaching students how to play card and board games.  And then they taught me variations they have played at home.  I got to listen to them teach each other.  And they realized that 50 minutes might not be enough time to play a game of Uno with a group of 6 friends.  They wanted to stay longer.

One student who spends most days watching videos on her phone during her first period late arrival told me, very seriously, that she had been thinking about trying to read a book.  “Hmmmm,”  I said.  “Would you like me to show you some of the titles that other students have read and really liked?”   Her response?  “Yes!”  Truly a win-win!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Worthington Students are Amazing...Coding Class at Park!

In my role as Chief Academic Officer in the The Worthington Schools, I have the pleasure of working with our Library Media Specialists. Check out the latest "Guest Blog Post" from Mrs. Jacquie Schmittauer and the coding work she is leading at
Worthington Park Elementary School.
Thanks, Jacquie!


By: Jacquie Schmittauer
Worthington Park
Library Media Teacher is a nonprofit organization that started the Hour of Code a few years ago. It was started as a way to bring computer programming into schools. The goal of the program was to increase participation in the field of computer science. Exposure at a young age would hopefully increase people in that career field. As a library media teacher who teaches all of the students at Worthington Park, I had all students participate in this international event for the past three years. It is always my favorite topic to teach, but one I find challenging to learn.

This year Google introduced their new curriculum for computer coding called Google CS First. The step by step program is free for educators. They even provide passport-style booklets with stickers, directions, and (thank goodness) answer keys to help direct a course for students. Video game creation is one of the courses they have developed and sounded like a fun, motivating option for students. I began the first semester with interested sixth graders.

After the first class, I knew that these students would easily pass my slow pace and knowledge.  As I have told them many times before, I was learning as they were learning. I told the students that I had a limited knowledge and that we would learn together. It was exciting to have students who were so motivated to learn.

At the end of the first semester, we started another class with more students who were interested. After seeing the excitement and expertise that developed with my first class’ students, I was disappointed to see my group move on. At this point I had a thought about one of my students who clearly is a natural at coding.Talking to him individually after the last class, I offered him the opportunity to be the teacher of the next class. I told him to think about it because he may want to participate in one of the other classes. He took a few days to consider it and then came to me to accept. As the new class began the new teacher was excited but nervous. We had talked through what he needed to do and what I would do to help support him. It took about 15 minutes for his peers to really believe he would be teaching. After the first five minutes, I knew this was the best decision that I made this entire year….maybe longer.

Over the past weeks I have seen my new sixth grade teacher grow into his role. I look forward to watching him each Friday and it warms my heart. There have been a couple of times I thought I needed to step in due to misbehavior in a couple other students in the class. Nope, he took care of it like a pro with the other students falling right back into learning. Watching his peers ask him questions and then his responses….best experience of my years of teaching. The things he remembers to say that he has heard me say was the greatest compliment of all. The delight in his eyes when he sees his friend/student learns what he taught….priceless.

Okay, maybe I am a bit late to the party to reach this epiphany in year 29. I know all teachers are told to not be the “sage on the stage”. Of course I have had many students explain and show and present to MY classes. This was completely handing over the reins and stepping completely back. Scary....Different...Seems easy….But SUPER HARD for a teacher at any level of experience.  I highly recommend any teacher try it! Students truly do surprise and amaze you!

**Many thanks to Hadi Partovi and Code.Org for introducing me to coding. Thanks also to Google for the CS First Program. Thank you to my student teacher for inspiring me! He is going to do great things in the future!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I sat in church this morning and listened to the words of the Rev. Dr. Timothy Ahrens, I was inspired to read more closely these words (What is Your Life’s Blueprint?) of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., written just 6 months prior to his assassination.  
Our students in Worthington Schools and several other schools around the world, will not be attending school tomorrow as Monday is a day for all of us to celebrate King’s birthday, honor his legacy and shine a light on his leadership during the civil rights movement.  I am hopeful that everyone, including our students, use this day to take the time to read the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or give back through public service.  Dr. King’s message to Barratt Junior High School students in Philadelphia are powerful and it is my hope that our students in Worthington Schools reflect on their own blueprint and continue to focus on being the best they can be, wherever they are and whatever they choose to do in life.  We believe in you and thank you for honoring the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America.

What Is Your Life's Blueprint?

On October 26, 1967, six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life's blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life's blueprint. Number one in your life's blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you feel that you're nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life's blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You're going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life's work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you--doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, "If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door."

This hasn't always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

"Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

This is a statement I often say in my leadership work and thus, I introduce you to an Academic Achievement and Professional Development (AAPD) Team who models the true meaning.  

It has been just over 2 months of getting to know and working with this team of educators at Worthington City Schools and I could not be more impressed with their care for, collaboration with and commitment to our school community.  They truly love what they get to do each and every day as a member of this professional team.  On Friday, September 22, 2017, we had the opportunity to spend the entire work day together at what we called a "Family Meeting," formerly titled, a Retreat.  I chuckled a bit during a planning session when a member of our leadership team made this suggestion, however, after the day was over, it was easy to see why the title was due for a change.  

Our day started with dedicated time for each of us to share our "WHY or our PURPOSE" with one another.  Needless to say, my ability to gauge the amount of time this would take for all 30 of us to share was off just a bit.  😆   But for this, time did not matter.  In fact, it really was the last thing on our minds.  I learned immediately, as a new member of this team, that knowing each other through understanding one another's why or purpose adds to the depth and ongoing success of a true team.
Our leaders shared why they chose to do the work they get to do and what they value most about being a mom, a dad, a wife, a husband, a son, a daughter or a sibling.   As a team, we determined quickly that our purpose must be a balance of work and family.  We believe that any successful team must take the necessary time to self-reflect, share their purpose and listen to learn from others.  What we know about those working alongside of us, matters.  The time spent learning about each other is a part of our work and will continue to make our team stronger.

Thanks for a great day, together!  I know it's hard work at times but you are and will continue to make a difference in the lives of our Worthington students and families.  I appreciate your team-focus and your continued care for, collaboration with and commitment to our school community.

"Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!"

(By the way, for those of you reading this blog, we did have a full agenda which included our continued work around the 4 Academic Focus Strategies.)


Monday, August 21, 2017

Purpose Statements > Goal Setting

I often equate the beginning of a new school year to the process of setting new goals for myself, both personally and professionally.  Already, I have shared that dreaded “2017-18 Goal Setting” form with our team and asked them to return to me by September 15th.

I say "dreaded" because,

“What does this really mean?  
Will this be a form that is completed for compliance purposes or will it be a true reflection of who they are and how they identify with their purpose?  
By setting goals, do we get too caught up in the result rather than the process?”  

Maybe we should set purpose statements that include timeline processes and checkpoints along the way to measure our growth.  Our value as leaders comes from getting lost in the work with others. It’s about maximizing our own learning and collaborating with others to help the organization succeed.  It’s about building capacity in others through trusting relationships.  It’s about collectively growing our students and our organization.  It’s about developing our identity as a leader, over time, not in whether or not we reach a goal at the end of 12 month period.

Think about others whom you admire.  How would you describe them?  Which of these leadership qualities do you hope for in yourself?  

Developing a purpose statement as leaders seems to make more sense than developing goals in isolation.  A purpose statement will help us reflect on the process and focus less on the outcome.  I care more about the process leaders take to reach their goals.  In the end, no one will remember whether or not we achieved our yearly goal, but they will remember how we persevered along the way.  As leaders, we all want to reach the top of the mountain, but what good does it do if we are at the top of the mountain alone?  The end goal doesn’t matter much if the camaraderie of team hasn’t developed along the way.  It’s about the process and those who band together during that process.  The process is personal.  Through processes, others get to know us and understand what we value.  Let’s also not forget the important role failure plays in this process.  I’d much rather work alongside someone who has failed a few times, knows how to navigate the bumpy road and lead our team to success. From failure, we grow.  Goals are boring in isolation, but a purpose statement allows us to focus on the process, keep our perspective and keep moving the organization forward.

So, if you have already started your Goal Statements that are DUE by September 15th, please HOLD, we have a few changes to make!😀

Monday, August 14, 2017

ALL teachers working together to better understand and grow ALL learners!

It is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Alison Palermo, a very talented Worthington City Schools Literacy Coach and guest blogger for "Dream Big!". I had the pleasure of learning from and with Alison and group of our teachers last week during a Wilson Reading System workshop and I was amazed, yet not surprised by the amount of deep learning and collaboration that took place.
ALL teachers are working together to better understand and grow ALL of our learners.



Worthington’s Framework for Literacy Instruction, Wilson Reading System and The Culper Spy Ring

This week I had the privilege of hosting a Wilson Reading System workshop for Worthington teachers.  In attendance at the workshop were Intervention Specialists, Reading Specialists and general education teachers.  You might be asking yourself why in the world would Reading Specialists and general education teachers want to attend a Wilson Reading System workshop? Isn’t that only for students receiving special education services?  

As teachers- whether general education teachers, reading specialists or intervention specialists- we are all responsible for instructing the Ohio State Standards.  The Ohio State Standards that were the focus of our workshop (and are the focus of Wilson Reading System instruction) are found in the areas of Reading Foundations and Language Standards.  

RF.K.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one grapheme (letter)-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.
RF.1.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs.
b. Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.
c. Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
d. Use knowledge that every syllable must have a vowel sound to determine the number of syllables in a printed word.
e. Decode two-syllable words following basic patterns by breaking the words into syllables.
RF.2.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Distinguish long and short vowels when reading regularly spelled one-syllable words.
b. Know spelling-sound correspondences for additional common vowel teams.
c. Decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels.
d. Decode words with common prefixes and suffixes.
e. Identify words with inconsistent but common spelling-sound correspondences.
RF.3.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
a. Identify and know the meaning of the most common prefixes and derivational suffixes.
b. Decode words with common Latin suffixes.
c. Decode multi-syllable words.
RF.4.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words by using combined knowledge of all letter-sound correspondences, syllabication patterns, and morphology (e.g., roots and affixes) to read accurately unfamiliar multisyllabic words in context and out of context
L.K.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
c. Write a letter or letters for most consonant and short-vowel phonemes (sounds).
d. Spell simple words phonetically, drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships
L.1.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
d. Use conventional spelling for words with common spelling patterns and for frequently occurring irregular words.
e. Spell untaught words phonetically, drawing on phonemic awareness and spelling conventions
L.2.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
d. Generalize learned spelling patterns when writing words (e.g., cage -> badge; boy -> boil).
L.3.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
e. Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
f. Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.
L.4.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
d. Spell grade-appropriate words correctly

So while we are all teaching the same content, for students who need the additional support from either a reading specialist or an intervention specialist- what changes is not the content being taught, but the instructional methods we use.  

The Framework for Literacy Instruction we use in Worthington has three main components:
  • reading
  • writing
  • word study  

Word Study consists of:
  • phonemic awareness
  • phonics
  • vocabulary
  • word analysis
  • spelling

Within the context of the Framework for Literacy Instruction, we as teachers have to differentiate our instruction to meet the unique needs of each learner.  

The group of learners who were the focus of our workshop this week are those learners who (for various reasons) have a documented deficit in the area(s) of: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, word analysis and spelling.  These are students who are struggling to acquire the necessary skills to be able to read in order to fully grasp the writer’s message and write to send their own message.  Upon in-depth analysis, we discover that at the core of these student’s reading and writing deficit is an inability to decipher and use the code of the English language.

Now to the Culper Spy Ring- (Washington’s spy ring during the Revolutionary War and made popular again by the A&E show Turn) their success was rooted in the development of a code only understood and utilized by those in the spy ring.  For students with deficits in the area of phonological processing (which means once they visually decipher the symbols we use in English, attach the symbols to the sounds of our language, and finally blend those sounds together to form words that have meaning) anytime they read or write they feel as if they are trying to decipher a secret code that everyone else in their life completely understands (and uses easily and effortlessly) but for some reason- they cannot break.

So for our students who feel like they are on the outside looking in as we all use this “secret code” when we read and write- we owe them nothing less than being able to instruct them at their point of need using methods that make sense to them.  I love the title of the resource Words Their Way.   It is a good reminder for us as educators that our responsibility is to teach skills and content- not our way, relying on our preferences, and teaching within our comfort zone- but their way.  We have to know each student’s unique learning profile and then differentiate our instruction so that we are teaching skills and content THEIR way.

For the group of teachers that gathered this week and spent three full days exploring a method of instruction to teach phonics, word analysis skills and spelling to students who  just can’t seem to break the code- they will now head into their classrooms this week with a deepened ability to teach each student THEIR way.