Saturday, November 30, 2013

Norman Elementary's Formative Assessment Learning Team

Monday, November 25th Norman Elementary had it's Monthly Formative Assessment Team Meeting.

Kathy Sweet & Tracy Hansen gave us an update on how 2nd grade is using CAFE and how it's linked to the Formative Assessment process.

Jackie Ringler shared how she is using the Writing Folders and how it's helping her students think deeper and improving their writing skills.

Kylene Nix shared how she is using formative assessment and how it's driving her instruction.

Denise Nelson let me come into her 4th grade classroom to video her during a lesson where she used a ticket out the door. She shared the lesson and samples during the meeting. Click into the link to view the video.

Snacks were provided by the First Grade Team--Thank you!

We started a Book Review with "CAFE", chapters 1 & 2 and watched several videos. Everyone received a folder with documents to start building their "Binder".

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Norman Elementary's Formative Assessment Team

Monday 10/28 Norman Elementary's Building Formative Assessment Team met.

* We have decided as a group that we will devote 15-20 minutes of each monthly FA meeting towards "CAFE" and how it links to the Formative Assessment process. In November, we will review highlights from Chapter 1 of the book along with a video.
We will continue to share new FA strategies & tools, learn more about the FA process and discuss ideas from the classrooms.

**Because there is so many things that we want to get through during the meeting and we still need time for dialogue & reflection we've decided to make the meetings 3:30-5:00ish (maybe earlier on occasion). If you are unable to stay the entire time, please feel free to leave.

*The group broke up into 8 different spots in the room and answered questions & discussed the different parts of the Formative Assessment Process.

Marcy shared how she uses the "Pie" Formative Assessment Tool in her room.

*Amy shared how "CAFE" is going in 2nd grade & how it is linking to Formative Assessment. She also shared a couple CAFE videos that were about Conferencing with Students.

*Jackie shared "The Power of Data". We will be talking about this during each meeting.

*Thank you to Brian & Stacy (2nd grade) for providing the wonderful snacks.

*Thank you to everyone in attendance for giving up part of your evening.

*Thank you Deanna & Rob for supporting the Team.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Formative Assessment Learning Team

Norman Elementary had a great turnout for the first building Formative Assessment Learning Team in September.
Kathy Sweet, Jackie Clark, Heidi Mellema & Kelly Sterns all shared during the meeting.
The October meeting is the 28th from 3:30-4:30 in the Library.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Becca Owens & Formative Assessment

Norman Elementary
Kindergarten Formative Assessment & Whole-Brain Activity

Becca Owen

Thanks Becca- Great job with this lesson!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Formative Assessment-September FAME Meeting

Norman Elementary's FAME Teams are gearing up to begin the school year. As I prepare our Agenda, I will be adding things to this Post that might be of interest to others.

*Video #1--Self Assessment

*Video #2--Faster Formative Assessment with Quick Response Tools


This POST will be used during our first Building "Formative Assessment Learning Community" meeting which is Monday, September 23rd from 3:30-4:30.

*Below is a 4 minute video from the Teaching Channel that shows a classroom using EXIT TICKETS for a Math Lesson. The Teacher uses the tickets to help her differentiate instruction.

*Here is another Formative Assessment Tool that helps with differentiation.

*Ticket Out the Door idea from Pinterest

*FA Tool ideas from Pinterest

*Kathy Sweet--2nd Grade

Kathy uses Learning Targets to help her students understand their expected outcomes.

Kathy uses the Pie Chart as a Formative Assessment Tool

Kathy is implementing the Daily 5 & CAFE in her room this year 
( I can't wait to hear/see how this goes!)

Kathy has been in education for over 25 years and is an amazing Mentor to our whole Building. She will be featured bi-weekly on my blog to show us different parts of the Formative Assessment Process and to keep us updated on how the Daily 5 and CAFE are coming along. She has been in a Title 1 position for the past 3 years and is VERY happy to be back in the classroom this year and texcited to try out these new things in her classroom.

Jackie Clark--Title 1

Jackie has been mentoring her Nephew who is a 5th grade teacher in Florida. Jackie is sharing some Formative Assessment tools and ideas with us...

Kelly Stearns--Special Education & Heidi Mellema--Kindergarten will be sharing Formative Assessment Tool ideas.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Formative Assessment: Back to School PD

Well, it's hard to believe, but we are back to school and ready to begin the exciting 2013-14 School year!
Most schools in Michigan have just completed their first week back with Professional Development & Open Houses and are now ready for students to show up bright and early Tuesday morning.

Norman Elementary at Reed City Public Schools is no exception. This week at Norman, the FAME team (Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators) presented information on specific focus points of the formative assessment process.

*After I gave a quick introduction and shared a short video clip, JACKIE CLARK and Teachers brainstormed on the differences between Formative & Summative assessments.
-Jackie- amazing job on helping us to understand the difference between the two-Thank you!

*Next up was JACKIE RINGLER who shared the importance of using Learning Targets. Each Teacher K-5 has a Ring with laminated cards that include each ELA Common Core Standard and Learning Targets that meet each Standard written in "Kid Friendly" terms. These cards are a visual teaching-tool and can be used in a variety of ways with students.
-Jackie, amazing job on highlighting the Learning Targets cards-Thank you!

*Kathy Sweet, Kylene Nix & Heidi Mellema modeled how to use Writing Folders as a tool for Self & Peer Assessment.
*You all did an amazing job presenting Ladies-Thank you!

Jackie C. was helping in the background (red) with the props.

*Amy Posey's topic was Essential Questions. She had the group assess themselves on how they were they feeling about Formative Assessment- Are they at the beginning stages of understanding; felt pretty good about it and am going to try Formative Assessment this year; or are they very confident and already do the Formative Assessment Process in their classroom.
Then she paired them off and sent them back to their seats to create some Essential Questions.
*Amy, amazing job presenting on Essential Questions-Thank you!

*Tracy Hansen shared Formative Assessment Tools and how to use them in the classroom. Some that she highlighted were Ticket-Out-The-Door, Using the "Sticks" and using the Stop Light or Pie chart. All of these tools help the teacher & the student to gauge their understanding--
Do they  understand?/ They think they have it. / Their ready to teach someone else.
-Tracy, you did an amazing job presenting the tools-Thank you!

*Jackie Clark ended the PD with a Think-Pair-Share. She had everyone take a moment to think (think) about this PD and last Spring's PD. Then share with their neighbor (pair) about one thing that they learned and one thing that they want to try this year. Then she asked for volunteers to (share) their answer with the whole group.
-Thanks for starting & finishing for us Jackie- Amazing job!

-I'd like to end this Post by saying Thank you to the MI Department of Education for beginning this Formative Assessment Initiative and giving Myself & Jackie Clark the opportunity to engage in Learning opportunities that will help to have a positive impact on our District.
-I'd like to thank the Board of Education and Administration for supporting this initiative.
-I'd like to thank the FAME team for working so hard last year learning, researching and networking so that we can learn more and share more about the Formative Assessment process.
-I'd like to thank the AMAZING teachers at Norman Elementary for having an open-mind and be willing to try something new, even though your plate is overflowing.

*I'd also like to say that I am VERY exciting about starting another FAME Team...well actually we are starting two new Teams.
-Our first "Formal Team" members are: Myself (Coach), Heidi Mellema, Amy Posey, Kathy Sweet, Jackie Ringler, Kylene Nix and Tracy Hansen
-Our new "Formal Team" starting this year is: Jackie Clark (Coach), Willie Jacobs, Ronnette Boltze, Brian Mumby, Jesse Nix, Marci Hamond, Lia V. and Kelly Stearns.

-The other Team that we are starting this year is the "Formative Assessment-Learning- Community" Team. So far we have 32 Teachers signed up to be part of this Team (Amazing!!)
We will be meeting the 3rd Monday of each month starting in September from 3:30-4:30.
Agenda items will be (but not limited to...) FA videos, new FA tools, articles, strategies and sharing with each other about what kind of FA is going on in the classrooms as well as supporting each other as needs arise.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Formative Assessment---Back to School!

Hello Friends!

Where did the summer go? It's hard to believe that it's time to head back to school. As I look ahead to the next few weeks  of  "Back to School" schedules and routines, meeting new students & staff, as well as changes in administration...I have HOPE. Hope for new beginnings, new programs and yes, another FAME Team!

If you read my Blog last year, you're familiar with FAME (Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators) which is a MI Department of Education initiative. Last year I applied to the State to become a Coach and was accepted. So we formed a Team of K-2 & Title 1 Educators to learn more about the Formative Assessment Process, and what a year of learning we had!
I'm VERY happy & excited to say that one of the FAME Team members, Jackie Clark (Title 1) applied to form a second Team this year and she was accepted---Congratulations Jackie!!!
I'm so excited that we will now have 2 FAME Teams in our Building (16 Teachers K-5 & Title 1).

Through the last year, we have learned how important the Formative Assessment Process is to student learning and achievement. And our goal is to get our entire building,"on board" with the Formative Assessment Process. My Hope is to build a Professional Learning Community within our building, not only FAME Team 1 & 2, but a Building (District) Wide Formative Assessment Team. My Hope is that we will meet once a month after school for an hour. Colleagues will share Formative Assessments that they are doing in their classroom, FA Tools, FA videos and maybe even a book study for those who are interested.

So my friends, if you are an educator and are heading back to school...I HOPE you have a wonderful year and that there are exciting things waiting ahead for you.

Until next time,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kindergarten CVC Awareness

Hello Early Childhood Colleagues!

Below is a link to a video that is posted on the Teaching Channel. It is of a kindergarten classroom practicing CVC Awareness. The Students are sounding out, blending and reading CVC words then making the motions.


Kindergarten Letter of the Week

Wow-It's been almost a month since my last post!
Well, I've been surfing the Teaching Channel for some Early Childhood videos and I found this one and wanted to share it with you. It's a kindergarten classroom that walks you through the routine of "Letter of the Week". This Teacher uses a story, a song and an art project as she introduces each letter.
So if you are an Early Childhood teacher take a couple minutes to watch.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Formative Assessment PD

Norman Elementary had it's first Formative Assessment Professional Development Workshops.
It was attended by all PK-5th grade Regular Education & Special Education Teachers.

Topics that were covered during the PD were:
-What is Formative Assessment
-Summative vs Formative Assessment
-The Formative Assessment Process
-Student Engagement
-Self & Peer Assessments
-Writing Folders
-Formative Assessment Tools

We also watched videos (just click on link to watch):

*The Formative Assessment Classroom:

*Self Assessment and Peer Support:

Other FA Videos featuring Norman Elementary Teachers
*Kylene Nix-Math Formative Assessment:

*Jackie Clark:

*Sue Rice

Thank you FAME Team for working so hard to pull it all together & Thank you teachers for being engaged and sharing things that you learned from the PD or things that you already do in your classrooms.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Norman Elementary's New *STARs* Are...

Building Administration

Tonya Harrison, Principal

Years in Education/Background:
                I taught  middle school Language Arts and Social Studies in Bellevue, Michigan for a year before coming to Reed City High School in 1997 to teach History and English for nine years.  I became the principal at R.C. Alternative Ed for a year, and then moved into the assistant principal position for four years.  I am currently finishing up my 2nd year as the Norman principal.

Working in Education:
                 I love working in the field of education.  Teaching history was so exciting, because I enjoyed learning with the students, as they made connections to current life situations.  I know there were days I learned more from the kids than they did from me.  When I crossed over to "the dark side", as they say about administration, I feared I would lose the interaction with the students, but it wasn't true.  I just learned a new way to connect with the lives of students.  I was definitely scared about coming to the elementary school.  Runny noses, tying shoes....I didn't think I had spent money on grad school for that.
I was wrong!  Being an elementary school principal, although exhausting and challenging, brings so much light to the educator's soul.  Academic growth is seen each day!  Kids learn to read and multiply, with the help of teachers, who give their entire being, to the kids in their classrooms.  The learning is so visible, and kids treat you like a super star when they see you outside of school.  I can say I haven't grown accustomed to the runny noses or the fact that "no biting" has to be in our handbook, but watching kids learn skills that last a life time and the "I love you, Mrs. Harrison" before a student boards a bus makes it worth it. 

New to Education?
                I don't consider myself a veteran to education and I learn new things every single day, but I have taken away a few things from my years up to this point.  Educators give themselves completely to their classrooms and students or maybe to their curriculum work and data.  A mentor taught me to prioritize...Health, Family, Work.  I still need to be reminded of this regularly.  Keep your priorities straight.
                Be visionary...look ahead.  Where can you take yourself and your students?  Set a goal to continue learning and set goals for yourself and your students.  The best teachers are really the best learners.  Be a learning teacher!
                Remember why we are is easy to be negative and frustrated with students, parents, and our colleagues.  However, we wouldn't have jobs without our kids and who better to work with every day, than other adults, who love learning and teaching.

The Things Kids Say:
                Last year a student said to me, "Mrs. Harrison, I think you have something weird in your teeth.  You are much prettier without it.".  At first I was embarrassed, but then I thought, "who wants to go all day with something in your teeth, and she just said I was pretty."

Elementary kids, even though they can be what feels like brutal honesty, love you on your worst day, even with food in your teeth.  Who wouldn't want to be here every day?  

Tonya's Family

Reading Month
Tonya rode a horse around the school because students reached their reading goal.
 Reading Assembly

Kris Griffin
Assistant Principal

I have been in education for almost 17 years, all at Reed City schools.  I have had an office in every building with the exception of the high school.  I started at Reed City as a social worker and worked with many students and families.  When I first started working in the schools, I spent a great deal of time working with families and did lots of home visits.  When I think back on some of those home visits that I made years ago, I am not so sure I would feel as safe as I did back then.  I may have been a bit na├»ve when I first started, but I also think that times have changed and I would not likely go to the same homes I did before. I worry about many of our students and the environments that they are in.   My first job in administration in the school was as the interim principal at the upper elementary followed by the Alternative Education principal.  Consolidating Norman, Hersey and upper elementary staff and students together was probably the biggest challenge.  I have been the assistant principal at Norman for four years. I have worked with all ages in the school, and can’t really say I have a favorite although I truly enjoy my time with the younger students.  I also supervise the special education and our homeless students for the entire district. 

Some of our most difficult moments at RCAPS have also been times when we have come together.  We have had suicides, deaths of staff members and tragic events happen to our students.  I have seen countless times our staff be there for one another to provide support in any way they can.  I am very thankful to be a part of that. 

I continue to be concerned about funding for public schools.  I have watched over the years all the cuts that have happened to our school and schools around us.  It really makes you wonder what our future brings.  I love my job as the assistant principal and enjoy the staff that I work with.  GT Norman Elementary is the largest elementary in our ISD, and often size brings challenges.  However, it is rewarding to watch our students from kindergarten through 5th grade.  One of my greatest strengths is my involvement in the community and the schools.  I love to go watch our students in athletic events and activities that they are involved in.  I am a Coyote by birth and always will be!  Some of my best memories are at sporting events.  I look forward to our current students growing up and watching them play in high school. 

My husband Dave also works at Reed City Schools and I have a son that graduated from RCHS and a daughter that is a freshman.  Working at RCAPS is not just a job, it is a huge part of our life at home as well.  We have amazing friends that also work at the school.  We are truly blessed to have as many people care about all of our students and want to do the right thing.  Times are tough, but many of our staff go the extra mile and want to do the right thing for our kids!

Thank you both for sharing a little bit about yourself and the role that you play at Norman Elementary.
I appreciate your support of this "STAR" project. It has been been fun learning a little bit about each of our teachers, secretaries and administrators.
Can't wait until next year's project! :-)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Connecting Common Core with "Morning Meeting"

"Morning Meeting" connected to CCSS: Speaking & Listening
 (ELA.SL.5.1b, ELA.SL.5.1c)

Below is a link to a 4 minute video that is on the Teaching Channel. This video shows a 5th grade class meeting their learning targets by participating in self-reflection during "Morning Meeting".


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Norman Elementary's New *STARs* are...

Our AMAZING Secretaries who are the brightest shining STARs in the school!

Angie Cornell

I started as a sub for the district and did that for 5 years.
I was hired as a full time employee with the district in 1998 as a parapro for a special needs student starting kindergarten. I worked with Mariah for two school years. I then started as a secretary with the district when Mrs. Bronson retired.
I have really enjoyed both positions.
A lot of the funny stories I have to tell you probably can’t publish. J
However I do have a very funny story that I can tell.
A student that had worked on the mosaic coyote that hangs in our office, would come in everyday to see if it was done and hung up.
I told him that I would call him as soon as it arrived and was hung up so he could admire his work.
The day it arrived I called the boy down to the office so he could look at the coyote.
I said to him “Someday you are going to come in here with your wife and kids and show them what you made.”
He looked at me with horror and said, “Oh my gosh Mrs. Cornell you're still going to be here!”, I laughed so hard.
He was not the least bit concerned that he now had a wife and kids…he couldn’t believe that I would still be here J

Cathy Eichenberg

I was hired in 1994 and began at the High School in Attendance and Athletics.  I then went to Community Ed. /Alternative Ed. for a few years. Then I came to Norman Elementary and Community Ed.  I will be finishing my 19th year working for the school. 

Laurie Meyer

I started working for RCAPS in 1997 as a substitute para-professional.  In 1999 I was hired as a secretary and worked for 4 years at the Upper Elementary School, until that building was demolished.  From there I worked as a secretary at the Middle School for 8 years, and have been here at G.T. Norman this school year...funny how I've come "full circle" in this career.
The most memorable time would be when the "OLD" Upper Elementary school came down.  It was a little bitter-sweet, as that was my middle school back in the day.  Correct, I never left Reed City... hard to see all of those old memories I had come down.
The funniest memory is participating in the middle school winter Olympics...I was "trying" to push Mrs. Decker on a large skate board into bowling pins, she was the human bowling ball, and we laughed SO HARD, I could hardly push her...good times had by all.

Angie-Cathy & Laurie,

Thank you for all you do--the school definitely would not run smoothly if it weren't for your hard work.
You are appreciated by all--administration, students and teachers.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Common Core: What is it?

Are you still confused or maybe frightened of the Common Core?
Below are some  videos from the Teaching Channel that might help you to understand the Common Core State Standards and maybe put you more at ease.

"How To Read The Common Core State Standards"
Let's Chat Core:
In this series, Sarah Brown Wessling explains the Common Core State Standards and offers insights on how to implement the Core in classrooms across America.


14 min

Questions to Consider

  • What does Sarah mean when she says that "Common isn't the same?"
  • What is the difference between ELA standards and literacy standards? Why are both important?
  • Sarah says, "The Core will require us to integrate." How will you do this in your classroom?

"Common Core State Standards--ELA " 

Lesson Objective
Learn about the key features and differences of the new standards
14 min
Questions to Consider
What is the purpose of the college and career readiness standards?
What are the benefits and challenges of the shift to reading and writing non-fiction texts?
What are the benefits and challenges of having standards for Science, Social Studies and technical subjects?

"Common Core State Standards--Math "

Lesson Objective
Learn about the key features and differences of the new standards
14 min
Questions to Consider
What is the purpose of the standards for mathematical practice? How should these be integrated with the content?
How will teaching fewer "topics" in each grade change your planning?
What does Dr. Daro say is the solution to closing the achievement gap? How will the standards help?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Robbie Svegel

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* Teacher is...

Robbie Svegal
Resource Room

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for 21 years; 3 at Morley-Stanwood Junior/Senior High School and 18 here at Norman Elementary.  I started out as a school psychologist with the MOISD for 6 years, but my heart was in teaching.

Favorite Memory
A couple of years ago my class teamed up with professional filmmakers to inspire writing for a reason.  Together we made a movie about bullying. The whole experience was amazing in so many ways.  I will never forget our “premiere” in the cafeteria. Over 70 friends and family members filled the room to watch the movie and celebrate the accomplishment.  The looks of pure joy and pride were priceless.

Funny Memory
Thinking about funny memories brought back many laughs, but one in particular.  Out of nowhere, one student innocently asked, “Ms Svegel, do you ever have dreams where you come to school naked?”

Math Strategy
A very effective strategy that I have used is Singapore Math’s bar modeling approach to solving story problems.  It is a structured way of teaching students to think through the steps using bar models—an intermediate step between concrete and abstract thinking.  

Reading Strategy
Special education for students with learning disabilities is a lot like physical therapy for reading—many interventions focus on repeated, small skills.   This is intensive, hard work and can only be done for so long during a reading period.  Another strategy to build word recognition is enhancing teacher-read novels through combining 3 best practices: retelling, rereading, and guided oral feedback.
After I read a chapter from a high interest novel, students retell it while I type their words.  We reread together to edit for content.  Then students reread with guided oral feedback from a “talking computer”.  Words are highlighted as they hear them.  This way they have guided oral reading—on demand.  I dubbed this the Hybrid Language Experience (HLE) method, and have been using it for the last 5 years.  Data from running reading records show that most upper elementary students accurately read retellings that are 1-2 years above reading level.  They are engaged as they get guided oral feedback and also improve fluency.  Student success was so impressive that I wrote this up for the Michigan Reading Journal, where it appeared as a featured article in the Summer, 2012 volume.  
Hopefully other teachers and students will find this to be a useful tool as well.

Guided oral reading with Word Talk, which our technology director has installed on many computers
There’s always more than one reading strategy to share, so… students improve fluency through repeated readings.  We reread phonics stories in an activity called Beat the Clock.  Below is a link telling how it is done and a photo of students using this strategy.

(Beat the Clock Video by Robbie & her students)

Advice for New Teachers
·         Listen to your students and take cues from them.  Build on their interests.  Doing this will both inspire and force you to be creative and think outside the box to meet their needs. 
·         Find the positive and build on it. 
·         What looks like “lazy” may in fact be hiding feelings of discouragement, confusion or being overwhelmed.  Be a careful observer to uncover what is driving that behavior in order to find the best way to help a child.
·         A wise social worker once told me, “When you like them the least, they need you the most.”  This has helped me many times when I am reaching my limit in handling a difficult child.

Congratulations on being published in the Michigan Reading Journal- VERY impressive and quite an honor!
Another thing to be VERY proud of is your Bullying video-that video was awesome. Your students did such a great job and obviously they had a great teacher guiding them. 
One more thing that I need to make note of...Your funniest memory--I would have loved to see your face!
Thanks for sharing your students, memories and advice.