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April 2014
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Dates Coming Up

29 American Thanksgiving-No School

3-6 Santa's Workshop
5 PreK-G4 Concert
6 Grade 5 Concert
7 Candy Cane Swim Meet
7 Winter Ball
13 ES Assembly
16 Start of Winter Holiday

6 Welcome Back from Winter Break
6 ASAs Begin
28 Chinese New Year Assembly
30 Chinese New Year Holiday Begins

22 Mr. Toa's Birthday

Times Around The World


New Zealand

My Blog Has MOVED

Well, this is my final blog post. I now have a new address. Click HERE to go to the New Literacy Links…

Matt Glover is Coming to Shanghai!

…and it’s FREE!

Let me know if you plan to attend either the

Tuesday-Early Literacy session, or the

Thursday-Supporting Elementary Writing session. (For both teachers and parents)

Both held at Concordia International School-Thanks for sharing Concordia!


Raising Successful Children

I came across this opinion writing article in the New York Times.
It’s worth the read…try substituting the word teacher when you see parent.
(Click on the picture to read the article.)

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 10.50.13 AM

“The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing.”
“HANGING back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting.” We want our students to have the “opportunity for ’successful failures,’ that is, failures your child can live with and grow from.” (Can you hear Carol Dweck’s voice there?)
“Parents also have to be clear about their own values. Children watch us closely. If you want your children to be able to stand up for their values, you have to do the same…One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”
What does this mean for you as a teacher? How can you relate your teaching practice to this? How does thai connect with literacy, math, science and social studies, and even play and relationships?

Article written by Madeline Levine, New York Times, August 4, 2012.

Celebration Learning Walks part 1


There is so much to celebrate in our school.
Learning Walks are a reflective practice that promote a culture of learning within our community. They help us to not only look at our own classes, but also vertical alignment.
Teachers have been getting into each other’s classes with a lens of looking for commonalities across classes, stand outs, celebrations, and ultimately, take aways that we can push into our own practice.
Take a look at some of the Anchor Charts and Word Walls across our grades…

Anchor Charts word walls

Teachers: Educational DNA

As teachers, you are Educational DNA. You influence the choices learners make and the careers they choose. You play an integral role in determining who they become.” New Zealand Teacher’s Council.

A survey of New York teachers shows that job satisfaction is at an all time low. This means that teachers are coming to work, some hating their jobs. How would that look for the students in their classes?

At SAS I see teachers who have joy every day, who feel LUCKY to be teaching, and privileged to be a part of their students’ DNA. This shows in our students’ learning.


I am standing outside my Brooklyn school, PS29, ready to tackle the five flights of stairs, creaky hallways, small classrooms, with minimal resources, and ONE guard sitting at a desk at the door.

I spoke to one teacher about her timetable asking if she had any specials that day. “Yes, we had science today”, she replied. For that day, no arts, PE, library, and not a computer in sight.

We are privileged, fortunate, lucky to be Educational DNA. We have the opportunity to influence students with the Courage to Live Their Dreams!

Do Volume and Stamina Matter?

Which is more important-quality versus quantity?

Well, the answer is both. Quality certainly matters, and that’s why we explicitly teach writing skills and strategies, however quantity is important too.

Lucy Calkins writes, “Success in writing, like success in reading or tennis or swimming, directly relates to the amount of writing and rewriting a person does. This means that day after day, children need to write. They need to write for long stretches of time—for something like thirty or forty minutes of each day’s writing workshop. And it means that volume, stamina and self-sufficiency matter.”

And School learning walks matter too! Learning walks help to create learning communities. Together we look at common learning expectations to create school wide visions and goals.  Learning walks help us see outside of our classroom, and outside of our teams to look at the bigger journey of where our students have come from, and where they are going.

During one of our early faculty meetings, we did our first learning walk of the year, looking at volume and stamina in writing spiraling through the grades. We saw some great celebrations and were left with some interesting wonderings.

As a faculty we walked through the building looking at a slice of writing samples taken from one day. We were looking to see what we do well as a school, and what our next steps were, specifically in the area of Volume and Stamina.

A Slice of Writing-From PreK to Grade Five

A Slice of Writing-From PreK to Grade Five

Here’s what we celebrated:

  • At SAS we value writing. Everyone writes from PK to Grade 5.
  • There was an obvious progression across the grade levels. We notice many craft moves and writing strategies across grade levels.
  • The volume increased through the grades, however each grade level had a wide variety of volume and spread of abilities.

Here’s what we noticed:

  • This is the first time that we have studied student data around Volume. We need to raise our expectations.
  • If we are expecting our students in the upper grades to write more, we need to increase volume expectations beginning in the lower grades as well.

Of course, Volume and Stamina is just a part of the writing process, not to mention the CRAFT of writing! However, what we do know, is that along with generating ideas, revising, and editing, VOLUME AND STAMINA MATTER!

How are you focusing on the WRITING PROCESS in your mini lessons?

Practice is Significantly more Important than Natural Talent

Spotlight Writing workshop JPEGYou get bet­ter at any skill through prac­tice, but how do you prac­tice writing?
This was my ques­tion as I read Geoffery Colvin’s arti­cle about the “secrets of greatness.”
Practice, said Colvin, was sig­nif­i­cantly more impor­tant than nat­ural tal­ent. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve read this before in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
But some­thing struck me: there was prac­tice and then there was “delib­er­ate prac­tice.” Colvin says:
“Simply hit­ting a bucket of balls is not delib­er­ate prac­tice, which is why most golfers don’t get bet­ter. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leav­ing the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 per­cent of the time, con­tin­u­ally observing results and mak­ing appro­pri­ate adjust­ments, and doing that for hours every day-that’s delib­er­ate practice.”
Colvin talked about an exper­i­ment done amongst 20-year-old vio­lin­ists. “The best group,” he says, “aver­aged 10,000 hours of delib­er­ate prac­tice over their lives; the next-best aver­aged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000.”
I was stung by it. “How much have I prac­ticed writ­ing in this way?” I thought. “Deliberate, mea­sured prac­tice, get­ting feed­back from others?”

-Excerpt from Joe Bunting from The Write Practice blog

How do you get your students to practice their writing? Do you set specific goals and measure progress or do you simply set your students on a writing task? Think about your mini lessons (teaching one point that good writers do), your conferring,
How much time do you spend talking versus letting the students practice writing strategies? The student practice time of the lesson should be significantly LONGER than the teacher talking time.

Practice What You Preach

Spotlight Writing workshop JPEG

Our school values writing from the top of our administration to the small children in PreK4. And it is demonstrated in many different ways every day.

Andy Torris wrote an email last week, with a purpose that seemed simply to be to share his experiences, so that the reader could make connections and discover meaning. Did you read Andy’s Writing? What struck me as I read Andy’s story, was that I had goose bumps from the picture I visualized, and the the thought of what could have been. He did what good writers do-left me thinking and growing ideas. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum. You can see in Blake’s writing how he is writing to learn, to share his learning and to make connections. Blake’s writing takes my breath away.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 1.37.47 PM

Our SAS Writing Core Beliefs state We believe that Writing is Essential…and I DO write. I write emails, and I write lists. I write notes, and I write anchor charts…but do I live a writerly life? When was the last time YOU wrote something that demonstrated that you are a writer?

One of our SAS Core beliefs is that Writers need teachers who demonstrate the excitement of writing. Modeling with enthusiasm is a powerful inspiration for students, encouraging them to develop a joy of writing. YES! This means, if you are asking the students to write, you should have samples of your own writing where you have practiced writing a poem, or a memoir, or an essay.

Joe Bunting writes in the Blog, The Write Practice about why we write. He gives four main reasons,

  • We Write to be fully alive
  • We write to make a name for ourselves
  • We write to change the world
  • We write to discover meaning

When was the last time you wrote, not lists, or emails, but real writing? Writing from the heart? Writing with meaning? Writing because you wanted to, not out of necessity? When was the last time you wrote a personal narrative, or a persuasive letter, or an informational article? Have you written a memoir lately, or poetry? Maybe it is time to start?

For more reading try:
What it takes to be great (article) Research now shows that the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success (in writing). The secret? Painful and demanding practice and hard work!
The Write Practice (Blog) You have to write millions of words no one is ever going to see before you can write the ones that will change someone’s life.

Thank you to Andy and Blake for sharing your writing

Reminding, Telling, & Correcting is NOT teaching!

“Reminding, Telling, and Correcting is NOT teaching! SHOWING HOW is teaching.” This quote from Matt Glover has resonated with me over the last few weeks as I focus on mini lessons and conferring in the classroom.

talk and chalk
I am wondering what I do to actually TEACH students rather that just tell.
Think back to when you were learning something new; driving, knitting, yoga, sport…if you had a teacher or coach sit at the front of the class and just tell you what to do, you probably would have felt frustrated and given up. Instead our teachers SHOWED us what to do.
One effective way that I know is during the teaching part of the mini lesson, beginning with these simple sentences, “Look at how this author does it…” ”Now, watch me, while I…” Showing the students HOW an author uses a strategy and HOW we as teachers use the strategy in our OWN reading and writing is teaching!
Teaching students to use strategies that an author has used from a mentor text, and then SHOWING how YOU do it as a reader or writer is a powerful way of TEACHING student a strategy.

How do you plan for this part of your mini lessons? Do you show your students HOW it is done?

Photo courtesy of

The Art of Teaching Literacy

A handful of teachers went to HKIS for a conference about Literacy. We were fortunate to hear Lifetime Literacy Learner-Stephanie Harvey, Writing Nurturer-Matt Glover, and Award Winning Poets-Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook.
We presented to our teachers one Big Idea that we took away from the conference (it was difficult to choose only one!) but here they are…