Welcome to the Office of Teaching and Learning Blog!
We hope you find our blog helpful and informative throughout the school year, as we share a focus from different content areas each month. Our goal is to provide our community with highlights of great educational opportunities that students experience in the classroom, explain some upcoming topics per content area, and provide suggestions for resources. Enjoy!
The Office of Teaching and Learning
June 2018Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 6/12/2018 11:00:00 AM
The English Language Arts Department Program News
The ELA Department oversees teaching and learning in reading, writing and language study for all K-8 schools. Our department includes classroom teachers, literacy specialists and literacy coaches. Below are some highlights of our work this year.
Phonics in Kindergarten and Grade 1
This year, all Kindergarten teachers implemented Fundations across the district. The program is designed to give all students a strong foundation in the phonics skills necessary for early reading. At a recent feedback session, teachers reported that students especially enjoy the “Echo Find” activities. Consider asking your kindergarten student about Echo the owl!
This June, all 1st grade teachers will attend a Fundations training and will begin using the system in September. It is exciting to have a shared language for this early reading work.
Unit of Study in Narrative Writing
All students in grades 1-8 were introduced to the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Unit of Study in Narrative Writing. Students wrote either personal narrative or fiction pieces, and many teachers developed creative ways to make this learning come alive by publishing the work and sharing it with the community.
This spring, literacy coaches launched an ELA newsletter for teachers and families. The first edition focused on independent reading. The most recent edition highlights argument writing, books about writing, student writing samples and literacy-related summer opportunities. Please read the spring and the summer editions if you have not already done so.
Summer Reading Opportunities for Teachers
Teachers in grades 3/4, 5/6 and 7/8/9 have the chance to join summer book groups. Participants receive a collection of texts to preview before the workshop. During the 2-day session, teachers discuss the texts, examine text features and prepare book talks that they can use to introduce these books to their students in the fall.
(3/4 selection) (5/6 selection) (7/8/9 selection)
The ELA department wishes you a lovely summer filled with reading and writing!
May 2018Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 5/18/2018 1:30:00 PM
The Enrichment & Challenge Support (ECS) Program supports the curriculum and practices in each of the other content areas. Throughout 2017-2018, ECS has collaborated with the other departments on elements of project-based learning and themes of innovation and creativity.
Here are some examples that reflect this collaborative student-centered approach.
Based on the collaborative efforts of the BEF-sponsored Brookline STEAM Team, the ECS staff has sought to promote the following “ingredients” for innovation:
● Commitment to getting students actively engaged in their own learning and advocating for themselves and others
● Culture of safe risk-taking, innovation, and growth mindset for students & teachers
● Curriculum integration
● Public sharing of student work
● Creative logistics of time and space
● Vision and support of district and school leaders
As further evidence of this work, ECS has served an integral role in the establishment and operation of makerspaces in the Public Schools of Brookline. As of this post, there are 3 functional makerspaces in our K-8 schools, with plans for 1-2 more next year. All other schools are along the trajectory of developing a culture of making in order to move these efforts forward.
Current literature relevant to our work includes:
Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner (2012)
The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros (2015)
Moving the Rock by Grant Lichtman (2017)
What School Could Be by Ted Dintersmith (2018)
For more information about the ECS program, please visit our website http://ecsbrookline.weebly.com
You can also follow us on Twitter @ecsbrookline
April 2018Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 5/2/2018 10:00:00 AM
Brookline K-12 Wellness Education Department
The K-12 Health, Physical Education and Fitness Department recently underwent a name change. The new department title is the Brookline K-12 Wellness Education Department. The name change was significant to better exemplify our programs’ focus and coordinated approach to children’s health.
Our programs provide a “wellness” approach to student learning and wellbeing. Wellness education encompasses a culture of holistic wellbeing focused on educating, promoting and supporting all dimensions of health education (i.e., physical, intellectual, mental and emotional, social, and ethical). Collaboration with other school and community-based health services supports the efforts of educating and empowering students to access resources and intervention services outside of the classroom. The mission of wellness education is to provide students with age and developmentally appropriate knowledge and skills to develop behaviors and attitudes to be healthy and productive for a lifetime.
Health education and physical education curricula align with the state and national standards, which identify what students should know and be able to do. Specifically, students in physical education and fitness are taught to demonstrate competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns, apply knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance, demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness, and exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others. To further influence students’ lifelong engagement in physical activity, they are prepared to recognize the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.
Health education teachers utilize a skills-based approached to student learning. With skills-based instruction, students have ongoing opportunities to practice skills such as analyzing influences on health behaviors, decision-making, goal setting, and communication to enhance health and avoid or reduce risk behaviors. Students learn content (substance awareness, violence prevention, human sexuality, mental health, nutrition and First Aid/CPR) through the practice and application of life skills.
Students, in grades K-8, receive physical education two days per week. Students, in grades 7-8, receive skills-based health education two days per week each year. Ninth grade students, enrolled in Lifetime Wellness, receive instruction four days per week for one semester (2 classes in the classroom for health education and 2 days in the gym for lifetime activity/fitness education). Tenth through twelfth grade students complete one semester of lifetime activity/fitness per year.
Brookline Education Foundation Grant Recipient
In 2017, we received a BEF Grant to focus on improving assessment and pedagogical practices in physical education and fitness courses. The grant afforded the opportunity for the K-12 Coordinator for Wellness Education, two K-8 physical education teachers, and two high school fitness teachers to attend the 2018 SHAPE National Convention. Through participation in the convention, we gained additional knowledge of authentic assessments and pedagogical trends to better prepare physical education teachers for successful programing. Further, we expanded our networking possibilities with some of the most notable health and physical education professionals throughout the country. The design of this project also fostered teacher leadership and collaborative opportunities in training and supporting physical education and fitness teachers district-wide. Thank you, BEF, for this amazing professional learning opportunity.
Left to right: Scott Newman, Amanda Grandstaff, Tina Bozeman, Gretchen Lima, Billy Graham
K-8 Physical Education Release Day Workshop
The changing landscape of physical education requires teachers to engage in ongoing professional development to ensure their instruction remains current and effective. Our expectation for physical education programs, within the Public Schools of Brookline, consistently and effectively focus on students’ cognitive and skill development, cooperation, appreciation, and enjoyment of movement. Physical education teachers had an amazing opportunity to learn from Dr. Shirley Holt-Hale at a workshop, earlier this month, which focused on the National Physical Education Standards and Grade Level Outcomes. Dr. Holt-Hale is a national recognized expert in elementary physical education.
Health Education Release Day Workshop
Earlier this year, health education teachers participated in a skills-based health education workshop facilitated by Melanie Lynch, 2016 National Health Education Teacher of the Year. Teachers learned and participated in best practices for teaching health education. Teachers also received a wealth of lesson ideas and other resources to enhance their current health education pedagogy.
Annual PBS Track & Field Meet
For decades, students in grades 5-8 have participated in the annual PSB Track & Field Meet. This year is no exception. Fifth and sixth graders will participate on May 29 (rain date: May 30), while seventh and eighth graders will participate on May 31 (rain date: June 1). The track and field meets will be at Larz Anderson Park beginning at 8:30 am. The track and field meet is an excellent opportunity for students to showcase skills learned in physical education classes. In addition to learning skills in class, the students practice either before or after-school prior to the track and field meets. Each year, the events are widely supported by teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. We invite everyone to join us of the 2018 PSB Track and Field Meets.
March 2018Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 3/14/2018 10:00:00 AM
K-8 World Language Program News
by Tanya Alvarado, K-8 World Language Coordinator
The World Language department has been collaborating with the Office of Teaching and Learning, school administrators, staff and families to create several key documents that will soon appear on the district website’s Programs page. We’re excited to share these now with the entire community:
The K-8 World Language Program reflects Brookline’s ongoing commitment to preparing its students to succeed in a multilingual and multicultural global society while raising their awareness of their own role as global citizens. Our school district deeply values the importance of learning a world language as an essential part of every student’s education.
In our Elementary World Language Program, every Brookline student in grades K-8 has class from 3-5 times per week, depending on the grade level. Students develop language skills to interact with others in their community and beyond, as well as to gain an understanding of and appreciation for the rich traditions and diverse perspectives of other cultures. We offer students a variety of opportunities to develop their communicative skills for real-life application, whether they’re learning another language for the first time, already speak more than one language or are heritage or native language learners.
In support of this Vision, we also made a Commitment to heritage and native language learners and shifted practices regarding the 5th grade World Language selection (when students choose their middle school language). We acknowledge that each child, along with his/her/their family, should freely decide which language to study in grades 6-8, regardless of a child’s linguistic or cultural background. You can read the full Commitment here.
Tanya Alvarado at the Sperber Education Center: Unpacking books for Lawrence teacher Kaitlin Robinson’s project on integrating authentic picture books into the K-5 Spanish curriculum.
We also updated our K-5 World Language Program Overview to include the integral role of the K-5 classroom teacher, who collaborates with the world language instructor to support world language instruction, help create the conditions that are necessary for students to develop as language learners, and help facilitate interdisciplinary connections. You can read the full K-5 Program Overview here.
We also have our first 6-8 World Language Program Overview. In it, we share our transition from textbook-based instruction to this year’s new thematic curriculum units. These units now provide middle school students with a continuity of instruction from our K-5 program model. We included the following comparison chart from from the introduction to ACTFL’s 21st Century Skills Map, which highlights this pedagogical shift. You can read the full 6-8 Program Overview here.
For the full 21st Century Skills Map, click here.
“Organic World Language” Professional Development:
Middle school teachers experiencing the joy that a communicative classroom brings when students are kept front and center.
February 2018Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 2/12/2018 1:15:00 PM
January 2018Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 1/10/2018 10:00:00 AM
Nurturing Curious Lifelong Learners in Brookline
By Janet MacNeil, PreK-8 Science Coordinator
This month’s blog features information on the PreK-8 Science & Engineering program presented in a question-and-answer format.
How Do We Teach PreK-8 Science & Engineering in Brookline?
Brookline’s PreK-8 Science & Engineering curriculum is designed to inspire students to think of themselves as scientists and engineers, and to give them authentic, engaging experiences that require them to figure out scientific phenomenon (solving the mysteries of science) and solve real engineering problems. Instead of listening to teachers’ lectures, students are diving into hands-on inquiries with intriguing materials, asking questions, creating and explaining models, making claims based on evidence, thinking critically, and actively participating in their learning. They use science notebooks and tools, explore the wonders of science outside in school gardens, and collaborate (helping each other build knowledge). All units and kits of materials are co-created by the Science Coordinator and teams of teachers.
In addition, the Nature of Science is woven throughout the curriculum (What is science? Who are scientists? How and where to they work? How does science change over time based on new evidence and tools?). In this way, students get to know the people behind science as well as the importance of science in our daily lives.
Why Do We Teach This Way?
Our curriculum is designed to ensure that all students have a deep, enduring understanding of how to think and work as scientists and engineers, as well as key scientific and engineering concepts that will have real world connections for them throughout their lives. We want them to be curious life-long learners, critical thinkers, stewards of the environment, and responsible global citizens who are equipped with the skills they need to innovate and thrive in the 21st century.
How Can Science Spark Interest in Literacy?
When students have investigated science phenomena as far as they can on their own to answer their questions, it’s time to turn to other sources for additional information. Intriguing science lessons often spark student interest in reading to find out more about topics of interest, as well as talking and writing to share what they learned with others. For these reasons, science talk, writing and reading are built into the Science/Engineering units and teachers are provided with high quality media (books, videos, and online resources) at various reading levels to support student learning. In addition, we offer extensive professional development for Brookline teachers on weaving science with literacy. This work, which highlights science instruction in Brookline classrooms, is now being shared with teachers worldwide in The Stories of Science: Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening into Science Instruction by Janet MacNeil, Mark Goldner, and Melissa London (Heinemann).
What Can You Do At Home?
Science learning doesn’t just have to happen in school! You can provide engaging materials, books, a science notebook (a blank, unruled composition notebook is best), colored pencils, a magnifying glass, and opportunities for your child to explore. Check out the NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book lists and Ten-Minute Field Trips by Helen Ross Russell for ideas. (Ten-Minute Field Trips is also available from amazon.com.)
“Of The Value of Saying I Don’t Know” (starting on page 7 of Ten-Minute Field Trips) highlights our philosophy of teaching science--we highly recommend that all parents read it. Although it’s hard to do, the best thing we can do to nurture science learners is not to answer all their questions. (When we answer a child’s questions, it actually stifles their curiosity!) Instead, turn the question back to them: “How can we find out? What can we do to investigate that?” In this way, we teach children the skills they need to find their own answers to their questions. . . just like true scientists.”
Janet MacNeil, PreK-8 Science Coordinator shows off some of the science and engineering materials that students use in our classrooms. Follow Janet on Twitter (@curiouslearner8), Pinterest (Janet3356), and via her website (janetmacneil.com).
December 2017Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 12/13/2017 10:00:00 AM
The Performing Arts Department Is Abuzz With Activity!
Freshman Play_Joseph and the Star Catcher, the students are, left to right, Eve Jones, Tamar Paserman, Phoebe Kallaher, Jamie Hintz (front), Lina Scoccia, Marina Leal, Henry Brill, Yuen Ler Chow)
This fall, the Brookline K-12 Performing Arts Department was awarded the Brookline Education Foundation’s 35th Anniversary Gift to embark on a very special yearlong project to work with world-renowned composer and Brookline resident, Jim Papoulis. Through this generous gift, the Performing Arts Department commissioned Jim Papoulis to lead songwriting workshops with students in all grades and together create songs that come from and embody the spirit of Brookline’s young people. These songs represent our students’ feelings, hopes and dreams, and will become part of Brookline’s Performing Arts repertoire and curriculum. We began the first part of this project in October when Jim met with every student in grades 6 through 8, system-wide, as well as many of our 9th through 12th grade chorus students. Together, our students and Jim created “Let Us Rise As A People,” a beautiful song for four-part choir, orchestra and percussion. The world premiere of the piece will feature our 6th through 8th grade and high school combined choruses and orchestras with Jim Papoulis accompanying on piano. Please join us for this event at the All-Town Choral Concert on January 9th and 10th, 2018, at 7pm in the Brookline High School Roberts/Dubbs Auditorium. Throughout the remainder of our school year, Jim will work with our kindergarten through fifth grade students to create more original music together.
left to right, Brookline Music Teachers Michael Carey, Elton Xhoja, Kenny Kozol (K-12 Performing Arts Curriculum Coordinator), Composer Jim Papoulis, Chris Thoft-Brown, Dylan Zobel and Rick Stone.
December begins our busy winter performing arts season, showcasing the results of many months of hard work of our students, as well highlighting what students do daily in their music, drama and dance classes in Brookline. Last week, our 9th graders at Brookline High School had a stellar run of Peter and the Starcatcher, this year’s annual Freshman Play, directed by BHS drama teacher Summer Williams with Technical Director, BHS drama and backstage teacher Mark VanDerzee. This Thursday, December 14th, at 7:00pm in the BHS Roberts/Dubbs Auditorium, we have our annual Brookline High School Winter Concert, featuring all of our BHS choruses, bands, and orchestras. It is a lively night of many styles of music from many parts of the world. To end 2017, we will have three performances of Revisions, our annual student show of music, improv theater, dance and more! Join us in Brookline High School’s Dance Studio One (downstairs in the Tappan Gym) on Thursday, Dec. 21 at 3:30pm and 7:30pm and Friday, Dec. 22 at 7:30pm. Stay tuned for many elementary holiday performances, and upcoming winter Band, Orchestra and Chorus concerts this January and February! Other performances at Brookline High School this winter and into the spring include a drama festival, musical (Pippin), chamber concert and much more! You can find a calendar of all Brookline High School Performing Arts events at www.brooklinefopa.org.
Jim Papoulis Working With Students at Pierce School
November 2017Posted by Nadine Ekstrom on 11/22/2017 1:00:00 AM
Dr. Geoff Tegnell and 2nd grade Social Studies Resource Reviewer Mr. Daniel Lipton
K-8 Social Studies Resource Review
Last summer we conducted an equity/diversity review of our K-8 Social Studies instructional resources. Utilizing best practices equity guidelines provided such organizations as Anti-Bias Education and Teaching Tolerance, we developed an equity/diversity worksheet to collect data for this review. This worksheet called upon reviewers to employ the lenses of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual preference equity in order to weigh the cultural and historical accuracy of our Social Studies resources, evaluate the presentation of multiple perspectives, and assess freedom of grade-level resources from dubious inferences, stereotypes, and bias.
K-8 teachers Tanya Paris, Nicole Zographos, Daniel Lipton, Gretchen Albertini, Nancy Springer, Cheryl Klausner, Jeff Denman, Andrew Cook, and Jacqueline Hallo volunteered to be the Social Studies Resource Reviewers of their grades and used our worksheet to evaluate the texts, trade books, and atlases our program provisions them with. They found that, by and large, our resources are accurate, honor multiple perspectives, and lack explicit bias. However, reviewers detected a few equity/diversity weak points in our resources, for example, a couple of instances of downplaying of impact of slavery, some inadequate reference to the impact of colonization on Native Americans, and little reference to LGBTQ’s.
We immediately notified grade-level teachers about these weak points and sent them supplementary online materials. In addition, over the past nine months our Curriculum Renewer and First Adopter teacher teams have purchased, piloted, and disseminated equity and diversity picture book, biography, historical narrative, memoir, and informational trade books for Kindergarten through 4th grade. I am currently meeting with K-4 school-based teacher teams to provision them with our new materials. My future plan is to provide our 5-8 teachers with both supplementary texts and professional development that focuses on those marginalized in our resources. Thanks again to our reviewers and grade level teams who have worked so diligently to make our K-8 program more equitable and inclusive.
October 2017Posted by Sarah Baker on 10/20/2017 10:00:00 AM
From left to right: Norma Gordon, District-wide Math Coach for grades 6-8; Julie Boss, District-wide Math Specialist for K-5; Clairemarie O’Leary, Math Department Assistant; Kathleen Hubbard, K-8 Math Curriculum Coordinator
Follow us on Twitter: @KBHubbardMath, @normabgordon
What’s new in the Math Department?
Brookline math teachers and specialists have been exploring Mathematical Mindsets through the work of Professor Jo Boaler and her team at Stanford University. This work is about helping students to see that everyone can do well in math; that mistakes, struggle and persistence are all important; that mathematics is an open, growing, visual, creative subject; and that communicating, reasoning about, and justifying ideas are central acts in the work of mathematics. You can learn more about these ideas on the website youcubed.org. Here you will find research, videos, books, and resources for parents. You may want to check out Jo’s free online course, her most recent Tedx Talk, or her latest article recently published in Time Magazine.
Math Program Review
The Office of Teaching and Learning is recruiting parent volunteers to serve on the Program Review Committee for the K-8 Mathematics Program. This is an excellent opportunity to work collaboratively with a cross-section of the community on a project that will directly result in improving achievement for all students. Since 2004, all Brookline Public School programs and curriculum areas enter in and work through a review process, during which a committee gathers information and examines data to develop goals and identify strategies for continuous program improvement. The goal of the review process is to improve student achievement. A Program Review committee is responsible for working through this process for each program. K-8 Mathematics is entering into its second round of Program Review. The last K-12 Mathematics Program Review took place in 2005.