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Department for Learning - Bits and Bites
December 2017
Comprehensive School Climate Survey
Thank you to all students, parents and staff that tool the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI).  Your feedback is appreciated and valued. We are expecting to gather a number of data points from our students, staff, and parents at our different school sites which will help shape areas of focus in future efforts to engage these different stakeholders and communities. The survey results will be ready for analysis in 3-4 weeks. After we have time to review the results, we will be sharing with our school board, schools, and parents. The results will evolve into action plans and specific strategies tied to areas for improvement.

Latinos in Action

Latinos in Action is a program designed to empower Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities through college and career readiness. Leman Middle School is the first school in Illinois offering this program, and it is currently offered to 7th and 8th grade students.


In early October, Latinos in Action middle school students began tutoring a select number of Pioneer Kinder and first grade students.  One middle school student was paired with one Pioneer student.  The goal is to help the Pioneer students develop and improve their emergent literacy skills.  Tutoring takes place every Wednesday and Friday and lasts about 15-20 minutes.  

The LIA students recently held a parent meeting to explain the purpose of the tutoring and to explain the mission of LIA.  LIA hopes to instill in students leadership and public speaking while stressing the importance of service, goal setting, and academics. LIA middle school students will be taught how to effectively work with young learners to develop their emergent literacy skills.

November 2017

Inquiry Based Learning through Thematic Units

What’s New in My Child’s K-5th Grade Classroom?  

This year, District 33 is embarking on a new teaching approach called inquiry based learning. Our teaching staff spent last year researching the New Illinois Learning Standards for Social Studies, the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core Language Arts Standards. This was in preparation for developing thematic units to create an environment of inquiry in our classrooms.

Thematic units are units of instruction that are based around a theme. For example, in first grade, instead of teaching reading for an hour and then switching to science or social studies for 30 minutes, a thematic unit is focused on a social studies theme and reading and language arts are tied to the theme’s content. The teacher starts with the big idea around the theme content, sparks inquiry with essential questions about the theme, and then encourages students to ask their own questions-prompting “inquiry”. 

Inquiry-based learning is about triggering curiosity and engaging students in deeper learning around a theme. Students are encouraged to ponder these questions and develop their own curiosity. The theme and their questions are embedded throughout the day and tied to reading and language arts. This allows the teacher to go deeper into the theme and make learning more meaningful to students. As a result, children begin asking questions at home about what they are learning, thereby extending their learning beyond the classroom!

So what does this look like in a classroom setting?  This can be answered in four basic steps that should represent the outline of a simple unit (Edutopia, 2016). Lessons on literacy, researching, or informational writing, for example, should be embedded into each of these steps:

Students develop questions that they are excited to answer. This can be tied to writing through a problem statement that requires them to pose a question to a partner or the class.

 Students research the topic using time in class. Teachers guide them and model methods of researching in class. Reading and the internet are keys to this time in class. This is often done in teams so students can develop the skills of working with others to solve a problem.

Students present what they’ve learned. Students create and present an informational writing piece, oral presentation or visual display about the topic they have researched.

Students reflect on their learning. We want students to reflect on the process itself and how they can do even better next time. We want them to think about how they learned not just what they learned.

Our vision is to empower students to be problem solvers, critical thinkers and to work well in a team. We encourage you to develop their curiosity at home as well. 

October  2017

Fall Benchmarking - We have just completed the Fall benchmarking/testing for all students across the district. This includes MAP testing (grades 1-8) in math and reading, and Aimsweb reading fluency testing (grades K-5). Students take these benchmarks three times a year as one of our local assessments. The data from these assessments, along with the interim assessments in the classroom, help guide our teachers and teams when deciding on instructional areas for focus. 

This is the first year that our 1st grade students will be taking the MAP assessment. Along with that, our 3rd grade dual language students will be taking a Spanish MAP reading assessment for the first time. We took part in a pilot for this assessment last year, and now we are using this at 3rd grade only and will look at the implementation and data for possible expansion into other grades next year. This is an exciting addition to our assessment menu given that it is a comprehensive Spanish assessment and will give us another valuable data point for our dual language programming.

Khan Academy - We are excited to let you know about a new resource for students and parents, Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/about). Khan Academy will replace IXL, a supplemental online program the district has used for the past three years.  Khan has been selected to replace IXL because it has features such as a Spanish companion for our dual language learners as well as it aligns with our local math assessment, MAP. After students complete their MAP testing, teachers can take their math scores and enter them into Khan Academy.  After this, the website assigns specific activities and lessons to a student’s login so they can work within the areas of math. There are also practice activities on Khan Academy related to reading, social studies, and science. 

D33 Pathway to the Seal of Biliteracy

District 33 has made the commitment to biliteracy and bilingualism for all students enrolled in the dual language program.  The State of Illinois also sees the value in acquiring a second language and therefore established the Seal of BIliteracy in 2013.

The State Seal of Biliteracy is a recognition given to graduating seniors who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency in English and a second language.  Students must demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking in both languages. The Seal is affixed to the diploma and designated on the transcript. 

The Second Language Learners Committee will investigate a pathway to establish a Seal of Biliteracy at the middle school which will align to the expectations established at the high school level.  The goal of the committee is to award this designation during the 2018-2019 school year.  The culmination of the students’ hard work in learning and maintaining two languages will be recognized on the students’ transcript upon graduating from the middle school. 

Currently, the State of Illinois does not give the Seal of Biliteracy at the middle school or elementary levels.  Therefore, D33 will be in the forefront in establishing this designation for our dual language learners. 

It is the goal of the SLL committee to establish a pathway towards earning this designation at the elementary and middle school and then officially at the high school level.      

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