Archive for the ‘Rodel Teacher Council’ Category

What Makes a “Ready” Kindergartener?

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In Delaware all kindergarten teachers—including ourselves—will complete an observational assessment called the Delaware Early Learning Survey (DE-ELS) during the first 30 days of school.


We are observing various objectives under six domains of developmental growth: physical, social-emotional, language, cognitive, literacy, and mathematics. You can read more about these domains here.


This tool gives us an understanding of how “ready” a child was for kindergarten—we know this is not a precise definition for a couple of reasons: (1) Delaware code states that children are ready for kindergarten if they turn five before August 31 and (2) children develop at their own pace and through a range of developmentally acceptable benchmarks that five-year-olds should be able to reach. In other words, this is not a multiple choice test. Nevertheless, the data gathered from the DE-ELS helps to plan grouping and instructional needs for students.


So what exactly are we observing? Let’s break down the six domains:


Social-emotional wellbeing. Here we look at how well a child can take care of his or her own needs, and regulate emotions. We also look at whether he or she plays and talks with other children appropriately.


Physical development. To check on motor skills development, we look for whether a child can use crayons, pencils, and scissors with control, can button or zip clothing, and how he or she runs and climbs around on the playground.


Language skills. We listen closely to how a child talks to his or her peers and responds to questions, and whether they can follow multi-step directions, and whether they can speak a second language.


Cognitive skills. Can a child try to put a puzzle together or use their imagination to pretend play? Can they sort and describe the use of various objects?


Literacy and mathematics. Here we check to see if a child can identify letters and sounds, and whether they display basic literacy skills in reading and writing. Likewise, we look at whether a child can count, identify shapes, and match quantities.


While all six domains are critical, we might give greater weight to the first four, since they are truly the most important indicators of a child’s readiness for kindergarten. As most teachers know, we spend a good portion of the kindergarten year focusing on literacy and mathematics. But in reality we really dig in on building students’ social-emotional, physical, language, and cognitive skills—since these skills are typically at a greater deficit. With increased socio-dramatic play opportunities, these skills will positively impact the rest of a child’s learning.


So if you have a child getting ready to start kindergarten, what can you do right now?


  • Make sure your child is registered.
  • Start having your child go to bed earlier, and getting up earlier.
  • Work on learning to tie shoes, and fasten/unfasten clothing.
  • When you get your class supply list, make sure you have extra supplies at home as school supplies are much cheaper now then later in the school year.
  • Visit your child’s school and classroom to help overcome both your worries about how to get there and what it looks like, even if you’ve already visited.
  • Most importantly, read to your child, discuss the story, and ask questions about the details. The more conversations and experiences you have with your child the more successful they will be in school!


Other suggested child activities can be found here.


Lori Nichols teaches kindergarten at Brandywine Springs School in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, and Michelle Wilson teaches kindergarten at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in the Capital School District. Both are members of the Rodel Teacher Council.

Teaching in a Competency-Based Education Environment

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July 2017

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Teaching in a Competency-Based Education Environment

When I describe competency-based education to friends and family—students moving through education based on mastery of skill rather than seat time, lessons personalized to the individual, and students taking ownership of their learning — the reaction is generally “that sounds better.” Unless that friend or family member is a teacher, in which case a host of very good questions arise about the practicalities of teaching in a competency-based environment.


“I have 30 kids? Do I have to plan a different lesson plan for each of them?”

The answer to this is no. A learner-centered classroom doesn’t mean the teacher plans lessons for each student. Robin Kanaan, KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning, explained that you don’t have individual lesson plans for every student: “Students co-determine with the teacher what learning targets they need to accomplish and how they could show evidence of their learning. This is possible through agency and equipping students to understand themselves as learners.”

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Award Opportunities

Teacher Awards for Literacy (Deadline: September 15)
The Penguin Random House Teacher Awards for Literacy program recognizes the nation’s most dynamic and resourceful teachers who use their creativity to inspire and successfully instill a love of reading in students. Winners are awarded cash grants and book donations to help further their innovative reading programs and to disseminate them to other teachers around the country.
NEA Learning & Leadership Grants (Deadline: October 15)
These grants support National Education Association members who are public school teachers, public education support professionals, and/or faculty and staff in public institutions of higher education for one of the following two purposes: Grants to individuals fund participation in high-quality professional development experiences and grants to groups fund collegial study.TranspARTation Grants (Ongoing)
The TranspARTation Grant supports travel costs to Delaware arts and cultural institutions and venues so that students may attend events, performances, and exhibits that have high-quality arts components. TranspARTation applications are accepted on an ongoing basis but must be received at least six weeks prior to the field trip date.

Save the Date


2017 Delaware Estuary Watershed Teacher Workshop (Various locations, July 17-20)
Join Partnership for the Delaware Estuary for four days of exciting workshops. Come and learn interdisciplinary ways to translate the environmental experience to your classroom.


Reading Summit: Decoding Strategies for Literacy Development (Newark, August 16 – 17)
Participants will learn powerful strategies to teach essential skills necessary for strong fluency and comprehension. These strategies, when applied using an explicit, systematic and age-sensitive approach, rapidly improve grapheme-phonemic awareness, decoding, vocabulary, and spelling.


iNACOL Symposium (Orlando, October 23 – 25)
iNACOL’s annual conference is the industry’s leading event for K-12 competency-based, blended, and online learning. Experts, practitioners, educators, policymakers, and researchers gather and work to transform education. This year’s theme is “Personalizing Learning: Equity, Access, Quality.”


DelawareCAN Educators of Color Monthly Meetup (Wilmington, Multiple Dates)
DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now is hosting its monthly educators of color council meetup. Come connect with other educators of color across the state and learn about opportunities to make your voice heard about Delaware’s education system.

Must Read Stories

Did You Know?

Academics are critical, but so is a child’s social and emotional development. Strong academics will always be central in Delaware schools but in a rapidly changing world, it’s becoming increasingly important that young people receive a holistic educational experience that maximizes who they are as individuals—one that instills skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity.


This concept of developing “social and emotional learning” (SEL)—a phrase that’s often cross-referenced with “whole child”—is not a new one. Generations of educators have said that the so-called soft skills mentioned above are all important ingredients in child development.

In Delaware, it’s exciting to see a renewed focus and collaboration on social-emotional learning. We have created a webpage that combines national and state data and initiatives underway in order to inform ongoing conversations about SEL in Delaware. This list is not comprehensive, and we encourage you to share additional resources with us on Twitter by using the hashtag #SELinDE.

We communicate regularly about news and developments in Delaware public education with policymakers, community leaders, teachers, and the public at large.

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Recapping RTC Legislative Day

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Earlier this month, members of the Rodel Teacher Council took a field trip to Legislative Hall in Dover, where they spoke to some of Delaware’s most prominent lawmakers—from Gov. John Carney, to Chief Information Officer Sec. James Collins, to a handful of state congressional leaders.

On the agenda were discussions around school broadband connectivity, personalized learning, and the state’s tight education budget.

We spoke to Luke Crossan, a teacher at Alfred G. Waters Middle School and a first-year member of the RTC, about his experience.

Q: What was the overall experience like?

Luke: I had never been to Legislative Hall, so I just loved walking around and talking to everybody. It was great to get in front of policymakers and hear their viewpoints, since teachers don’t always get that opportunity. We met as a big group with Gov. Carney, Sec. Susan Bunting, Sec. Collins, Sen. David Sokola, and Rep. Earl Jaques. In my smaller breakout group we chatted with Rep. Harvey Kenton, Rep. Charles Postles Jr., and Sen. Gary Simpson.


Q: What did you talk to legislators about?

Luke: One was emphasizing the importance of strong education policy and personalized learning. For the legislators who were less familiar with those topics, we gave them some of the basics of personalized learning. Some legislators knew more, so we could discuss more specifics like waivers or content mastery.

One big thing we talked about was increasing the broadband capacity for all schools. We did dive in deep with Sec. Collins on that, and we were able to share stories from our classrooms that underscore the need for better broadband connectivity. He was super receptive to our stories, and he told us that his job is to increase that connectivity and he shared with us some of his plan for making those improvements.


Q: What was your impression of Gov. Carney and the members of the Legislature?

Luke: Gov. Carney seems super supportive of education—but tempered that by talking about the tight budget situation. He really does seem to understand that education needs to grow and change if we want Delaware students to thrive and for our system to keep up with the rest of the country.

He also focused heavily on local decisions, the idea that need to shift more decision-making to local schools and districts instead of state mandates.

Sen. Simpson had great knowledge of education issues and was inquisitive. He kept asking us for our ideas, and even our thoughts on how to trim the budget, for example, since my school has 1-to-1 devices, do we really still need textbooks?


Q: What were some of your takeaways looking back on the experience?

Luke: My takeaway is that it needs to happen more—educators engaging with policymakers. Districts should try to get in front of these lawmakers more.

The whole day was unique to me. Being face-to-the face with the leader of the state is a huge moment for me. It’s great to have that accessibility in Delaware, but sitting down with the governor around the table was an awesome experience. I’m definitely sending him an email asking him to come stop by my classroom sometime for a visit.

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