Monday, January 16, 2017

Children Learn, Parents Learn, Teachers Learn, We All Learn!

We hope you have been enjoying the three-day weekend, as we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember his legacy of supporting civil rights and peaceful problem-solving. It's not only our students at Dryden who have been digging deeply into their learning. Our staff and parents have been learning a lot as well!

What a great discussion the fifth grade students are having as they research the costs and impacts of space exploration. They are thinking globally about "cost" in terms of money, human life, time, etc. It will be interesting to see if any students' views change as they read and research different sources. 

These fourth graders also had a great discussion as they attempted to discover multiplication equations whose product equals 499. They used many strategies, such as trial-and-error, division, repeated addition and estimation. 

School Social Worker, Mrs. Thompson, met with our PTA to teach them about Zones of Regulation and the strategies our students and staff use to help identify emotions and empathize, and to help one another be in the "green zone" for optimal learning. We greatly appreciate the interest and support from our parents in our school's use of the common language and strategies. This consistency is so helpful to our students. 

Advanced Learning Facilitator, Mrs. Wasik, led our staff in reading and discussing this article about mindset.  During this activity we had a lot of fun trying new and different tasks and reflecting on the self-talk and strategies we encountered in trying to learn something new. We highlighted that in addition to effort and attitude, looking for and trying new and different strategies helps us learn when we are stuck. We gleaned some powerful insights from one another that will help guide our personal goal-setting as well as our goal-setting with students as we dive into this new year of learning, 2017!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Learning and Playing, Playing and Learning

As I've been reflecting on our first week back to school and reviewing some photos, I'm finding that our staff and students are putting such great enthusiasm and purpose into what they are doing regardless of whether they are in a club, at recess or in the classroom. We are learning as we play at recess and clubs, and the learning in the classrooms is so enriching, interactive and fun that it often feels like play! Kudos to playful but important work of amazing teachers and students!!

Lots of deep and strategic thinking during Chess Club

Interactive discussions and problem-solving during indoor recess with pattern blocks, a game of checkers and with geo-boards

No snow? No problem! Students can visualize and write how to build a snowman with their teacher in first grade.

Kindergarteners were excited to share predictions and connections about comparing weights and discovering how a pan balance works.

Monday, January 2, 2017


Happy New Year!  It feels great to be back at school! I'm filled with optimism when I think about all that 2017 has to offer. 

In continuing with the strategy to choose one word as a central focus for the year as we kick off 2017, the word that immediately came to my heart and my mind was UPLIFTING

By focusing on this word, I hope to maintain a priority of uplifting everyone around me--to help others feel proud of their efforts, accomplishments and unique qualities and to support them through life's struggles. 

I find the time I spend with our students, staff and families incredibly UPLIFTING. Following are a few uplifting moments I experienced with them during the week before winter break:

Fourth grade students sang, danced and performed their hearts out--BRAVO!

5th grade students collaborating to solve a tricky math problem with fractions

Kindergarten students working together to build contraptions to help the Gingerbread Man safely escape--what awesome young engineers!

Fourth grade students helping one another create holiday gifts for their loved ones. 

The PTA provided a WONDERFUL Winter Wonderland experience for our students on the day before winter break. Older students helped younger students with crafts, card-making and BINGO. 

It was an extra special treat to have our superintendent, Dr. Bein, join us in reading 'Twas the Day Before Winter Break for our story time at Winter Wonderland. 

Third grade students proudly walked the red carpet to the Solars Awards assembly. This was a fun way to celebrate their accomplishments of their research on the various planets of our Solar System. 

It was great to see the third grade teachers all dressed up, interviewing the audience, telling jokes and presenting awards to the planets, very similar to the Oscars!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gifts That Bring Wonder and Joy

We enjoyed the first big snow of the season! It was a joy to see the children trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues and examine the crystals up close as the snowflakes landed on their mittens. A lot of teamwork went into building snowmen and snow forts during recess. Their sense of wonder and joy during the first snows of winter never ceases to make me smile. 

Believe it or not, there was a similar sense of wonder and joy inside the school building, too. In this class students enthusiastically worked together to design, construct, test and improve vessels to transport water, given limited materials. This was a wonderful science experiment that connected to the students' study of the migration of Native Americans across different regions in Social Studies. They made powerful connections as they imagined what it must have really been like for the Native Americans of long ago. 

The possibilities we are learning through coding are really capturing our sense of wonder and joy as well! All of our classes participated in the Hour of Code this week. LMC Director Mrs. O'Kelly has shared some wonderful resources that you may like to access to continue the coding challenge and fun:

Oh, and possibly my favorite gift of all... BOOKS! We were treated to a special visit from librarians of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library department of youth services. They brought many books and talked about their storylines which inspired our students to check them out to read in the classroom and at home. We are so fortunate to have such great resources and book lovers to nurture our students' love of reading. 

For many, 'tis the season of giving and receiving presents. However, just looking around, some of the very best gifts are right in front of our eyes... and they bring us so much wonder and joy!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Learning with Purpose

It's always inspiring to see how learning expands beyond our classrooms at Dryden. We were thrilled to welcome fourth-grade students from Futabakai Japanese School this week. They spent the day with Mr. Noltner's class. It was great to see the children communicating, sharing and learning together. Here they worked in teams to see who could build the tallest tower out of pipe cleaners. 

District Technology Director Chris Fahnoe, School Resource Officer Rick Veenstra and Dryden Technology Facilitator Grace Frantz helped many parents learn about digital citizenship and Internet safety. It takes a combination of mentoring and monitoring children, actively learning and participating with them. It's important to be aware of the social-emotional impact their online interactions can have. By maintaining open communication and providing nurturing guidance, we can help our children experience the positive benefits of collaboration, creativity and problem-solving that can happen online. 

Our PTA was recently recognized by the Area Council of PTAs for outstanding membership and programming. We are grateful for the high level of parent involvement and enriching activities the PTA brings to our students and families. 

It's so exciting to see students in charge of their own learning! During this lesson, the teacher could have just quickly told the students the word and what it meant. However, the fact that the students had to work together to figure out the "mystery" word with hints that the teacher provided made it an exciting, fun, purposeful interactive problem-solving activity. 

 These fifth-grade students found a creative purpose for Tangrams. It was a treat to listen to them share their fiction stories and how their Tangram figures transformed as their stories progressed. 

Throughout all grades, our students are finding great purpose in their reading. Third-grade students share that reading inspires them to enjoy their imaginations and helps them calm their minds and learn new things. 

First-grade students have learned that sharing a book and taking turns reading the different parts of different characters can be really fun and make the book come alive! 

Sunday, November 20, 2016


As we head into Thanksgiving break, I have been reflecting how grateful I am to be part of an amazing school community who, first and foremost, cares about the well-being of the children we serve and of one another. 

I've also been reflecting on how appreciative and thrilled I am to participate in classrooms where teachers are trying new, innovative teaching practices to empower our students to 
  • collaborate
  • problem-solve
  • innovate
  • express their creativity
  • identify and pursue their curiosities and interests
  • and be genuinely motivated to find, read and discuss high-quality, "just-right" literature. 

This student was so proud of his research and the discoveries he is making about the Periodic Table of Elements through his personalized learning experiences that began last year and are continuing this year. 

These third-grade students were collaborating with Mrs. Kenney in the production of their Solar System research video.
Fourth-grade students researched Native American leaders. They then identified attributes of leaders and connected these attributes to themselves and to leaders in their lives. There were some powerful life lessons to think about during this discussion!

Second-grade students learned about the election process and applied it to fictional characters in the classroom. It was great to see their active involvement and listen to their discussions in weighing the pros and cons of each candidate's campaign agenda. They were being such responsible citizens!

Thanks to PTA Art Volunteers, our students can learn about famous artists and works of art in-depth. We are inspired to think creatively from these wonderful experiences!
The multiage and second-grade musical performance, A Bowl Full of Silly, made us all laugh and smile.
Bravo, second grade!

I am so proud of the Dryden School Community, and I am so thankful for all that this community does to benefit our students. Happy Thanksgiving!