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Department for Learning - Bits and Bites

December 2018

The Benefits of Going to The International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico

Heidi Wagreich, Melinda Johnson, Amy Wagner, and Pilar Rocha

For the third year in a row, District 33 has sent a team of teachers to the FERIA INTERNACIONAL DEL LIBRO (FIL) in Guadalajara, Mexico.  This is the most important Spanish language book fair in the world.  The group was able to attend, due to a generous grant from the American Library Association in cooperation with the Universidad de Guadalajara.

How does the District benefit by attending this event?

  • American distributors are not able to sell any and all books in found throughout the world in Spanish.
  • Distributors often have to import books written in Spanish from other countries due to different publishing rights and restrictions within certain countries.  Distributors only get a limited amount books written in Spanish into the U.S. throughout the year.
  • The amount of choice is unparalleled!  There were over 400 publishers from Latin America, Spain and the rest of the world.  Many of these books are originally written in Spanish.  Many of the books have Spanish language that is poetic, art that is striking, traditional folk tales and images of children that reflect the cultural heritage of our students.
  • Books are available to purchase and can be brought back to the U.S. This is not possible when you order books from American distributors throughout the school year.

The group of teacher did a lot of preparation work before attending the fair.  They worked with a small distributor to get individualized attention before the fair and to target publishers that could meet the identified criteria for the books determined by the teachers, which included age level, content, language level and reading level. One of the main objectives in attending the International Book Fair was to purchase authentic Spanish books for students that could connect with topics covered in the classrooms. While District 33 could purchase Spanish books from U.S. publishers, these books often lack the cultural aspects that can only be found it original texts written by authors who have had the same experiences as many of our students. A student’s connection to the text is where the engagement begins. When students can see themselves in the books they read, they can identify with the characters and the stories that they share.

It has been a privilege for us to be able to attend this extraordinary book fair for the past three years. We have learned a great deal, not only about how to navigate our way through the vast number of publishers, but more importantly, how to select books with a vision of the many ways that just one book can be used to enhance the instruction in our classrooms, and consequently motivate young readers to want read.

The team from the district included: Heidi Wagreich, speech pathologist for the dual language preschool; Melinda Johnson, 1st grade dual language teacher from Currier School; Amy Wagner, dual social studies and ESL teacher from Leman Middle School;  and Pilar Rocha, dual language literature and language arts teacher, from Leman Middle School.  

November 2018
Parent Resources for Math
Math lessons for students now, are very different from when parents were in school, which makes it difficult for some parents to help their child(ren) with math at home.

Here are some online resources: 
Ballet Folklorico Visits the Auditorium Theatre
On Sunday, November 11th, the Leman Middle School Ballet Folklorico traveled to Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre to see the internationally acclaimed Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez.   Students and staff where mesmerized by the beautiful choreography, music, and colorful costumes of this talented dance company.  The company presented dances typical of the different regions and eras in Mexico’s history.  The show began with a breathtaking dance representing the Aztec dances and travelled through time presenting the viewers with dances from the revolution, carnival festivities and of course, from the state of Jalisco.  The dances from this region have become a symbol of Mexico and it’s cultural pride.  

Illinois’ Annual Statewide Conference for Teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students

The 42nd annual conference for Teachers of Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students will take place December 4-7, 2018.  This year, D33 is proud to have 3 groups presenting at the conference. 

The Ballet Folklorico, Los Mariachis “Los Rayos,” and Latinos In Action will all be presenting on different days. Teachers and staff representing District 33 include Pilar Rocha, Maribel Rivera,  Janet Sikma, Brad Rathe, Alexia Garcia, Rocio Fisher, Sal Tamayo and Humberto Ayala.  Teachers will share information on how to begin these student groups and the benefits associated with student participation.   

Leman Middle School - Focus on Engaging Families
This summer, the Leman Middle School Counselors, Lindy Ayala, Lori Koch, and Graciela Moreno, had the honor of attending the the Family Engagement Institute at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The four-day seminar included classroom lectures by esteemed Harvard staff, break-out sessions with key leaders in the field, as well as collaborative time with educators from across the globe.  This amazing experience was made possible through generous scholarships from Scholastic Books. Thank you to the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, ALAS, for nominating the District for this scholarship.

 The Counselors look forward to sharing this newly learned information with their colleagues.  Additionally, they have created a framework for connecting the Leman School Values with LMS families, and are currently continuing their studies in the field of family engagement. 
October 2018

Gifted And Talented Education - Screening 5th Graders

Every fall 5th grade students are given an ability test as one part of identification for the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program.  The screening test will be given between October 28 and November 9 this year.

In past years, the Naglieri Non-Verbal Abilities Test (NNAT2) was given.  This year the District will administer the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) to students.  The CogAT, recommended by the GATE Steering Committee, offers more subtests and allows a broader view of students’ potential than the Naglieri test of only nonverbal reasoning.

With this first year of full implementation, we will be administering the CogAT with either a paper/pencil version or an online version.  We plan to move to all online testing in the future.


How is District 33 Doing?

Do District 33 Schools feel welcoming and safe?  Is communication stellar?

We are asking students, staff and parents to provide feedback!

West Chicago District 33 is partnering with the National School Climate Center (NSCC) for the administration of the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory (CSCI) survey. The survey is designed to assess perceptions of school climate, including feelings about safety, relationships, learning, the environment, and communication within the school.

The survey will be taken by District 33 staff and students during the school day.  Results from the survey will be used by District administration, school leadership teams and committees to improve and maintain a positive climate for everyone in all District 33 schools. As part of school accountability, the state of Illinois requires the District to give students, in grades 3 and above, a climate survey each year.

We are asking all parents to complete this survey as well.  Your feedback is vitally important to helping district and building leaders understand and improve the specific climate issues in our schools. All responses are anonymous.

The CSCI will be administered between November 7 and December 21.  Many schools will be asking parents to take the survey while at the school for Parent-Teacher Conferences. 

The survey results will not be available to the District until late winter.  The District will provide information about survey results through school and district communications after that time.  

September 2018 
Fall Benchmark Assessments
“The whole class has been taking tests.” Have you heard this statement from your child recently? While it may seem too early in the school year for tests, these are checks of what students recall after the summer.  The district uses a system called AIMSweb for quick checks of reading speed and accuracy.  For kindergarten students we check their knowledge of letter sounds for a fall starting point.  normal'> normal'>Each student in grades one through eight will also take a longer check of math and reading.  These longer assessments, called MAP tests, take about one class period to complete.  They are more comprehensive than the quick AIMSweb checks.  The results from the reading and math tests give teachers information about what skills and standards the student already knows and what the student is ready to learn.  These fall scores are used as reference points later in the year to measure a student’s growth when they take similar tests in January.  Reports are shared at parent-teacher conferences.  If you would like to discuss results sooner please contact your child’s teacher.
Parent information- MAP Testing
Parent Information- AIMSweb
Eureka Math
Students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade are continuing with Eureka Math as the primary resource for math instruction.  This is the third year teachers in those grades have used Eureka math.While teachers have become much more comfortable with how to teach using Eureka Math, it is very different from how most parents learned math.  Parents and teachers can find information on the website greatminds.org.  Explanations and parent tip sheets are there and free.  Please contact your child’s teacher if you have any difficulty accessing information from that website or have math questions in general.



The Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee consists of bilingual program parents, guardians, and staff form West Chicago High School District 94 and West Chicago Elementary School District 33.  Veronica Jimenez (D94) and Rocio Fisher (D33) are the directors for second language learners and together organize several meetings aimed at parent outreach and advocacy.  The goal of BPAC is to provide parents with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their child in school. 


The first meeting of the year took place on September 11 and featured guests were Gabriela Hernandez Chico, Cristobal Cavazos, and Rafael Vieyra from the Concilio Escolar Hispano de DuPage County.   They spoke about service leadership and the parental role in advocating for the needs of their child.

Below is the schedule for future meetings:

December 11— Social workers/counselors from D94, D33, and the West Chicago Police Department will lead the meeting. 

February 12—Concilio Escolar Hispano Returns for a follow up discussion

May 11—Bilingual Parent Summit—Conference aimed at parents with multiple sessions on academics, socio-emotional learning, assessment, family dynamics. 

May 14—Dr. Ferny Ramirez

BPAC is open to all parents and staff. We welcome ideas for future agendas.  Please contact Rocio Fisher at 630-293-6060 x.2062.    All meetings are held at Leman Middle School, community room and begin at 6:30 pm.  Coffee, water and fruit will be served.  Babysitting provided.

March 2018

Dance Fever

The enthusiasm for dance is contagious!  The ballet folklorico dance troupe has over 120 students from grades fifth through eighth grade participating and is led by Pilar Rocha who creates the choreography based on the students’ level of dance.  Supporting Mrs. Rocha are Maribel Rivera, Luzma Fuentes, Martha Ayala, and Sal Tamayo.  

Each week, students attend rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday at Leman Middle School.  The Ballet Folklorico Dance Troupe will perform this Sunday, March 4th at the Lion’s Pancake Breakfast held at the West Chicago High School.  In addition, other performances are scheduled in the month of March including Northeastern University for the IALAS Conclave Conference.

 The student’s hard work will culminate into an end of year performance on May 11 and 12, 2018.  The dance troupe will highlight dances from the different regions of Mexico through ancient times to the present.  A call out has been made asking teachers to volunteer and dance “La Llorona” and twenty teachers will be participating.  In addition, we have a group of parents who are also excited about performing “La danza de la piña.”

Our end-of-the-year dance performance will be SPECTACULAR!


Summer School News

Plans are underway to organize summer school.  As in years past, summer school will be combined with the DREAM program and held at Currier School from June 18th-July 19th.  The theme for the program will be related to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and weekly field trips held each Thursday that tie in with the theme of the week.  Students will explore many different engineering and science concepts through hands on activities and projects. These concepts will be reinforced through reading and math activities.  Students will also participate in life skills lessons, nutritional programming, and physical fitness games that are related to the program science themes.

If you are interested in working summer school, please contact Rocio Fisher/Jamee Kenney or Angelica Romano.  We need teachers and support staff to run this program.

In addition to summer school, the district will also hold a BRIDGE program for rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade students.

Summer will be here before you know it!  We look forward to working with the children this summer.


Library Media Specialist

In the fall, our Library Media Specialists began full time at each elementary building.  As we continue to focus on Inquiry Based Learning, STEM, and 21st Century Skills, we recognized the need to ensure our facilities directly correlate with our learning.  In the fall of 2017, the Board of Education approved the Long Range Facility Plan.  This plan includes the renovation of each elementary library.  Turner Elementary School is the first school that will undergo the library renovation during the summer of 2018.   The Library Media Center Committee, consisting of 15 members, was developed to determine the vision for the project.   A lot of work has been put into place to ensure that the new Library Media Center will facilitate the vision of innovation, collaboration and critical thinking for students in the District 33.  The space will serve as the learning hub of each building. Library Media Specialists will continue partnering with teachers to extend the focus on inquiry, problem-based learning, technology and much more.  We are looking forward to this very exciting project!

January 2017

Update on GATE

The Gifted and Talented Program within District 33 has continued to flourish. In 2016, full time Gifted Specialists were added to each elementary building to fully support the needs of the students within the program.  The Gifted and Talented Steering Committee has worked very hard over the past 4 years to further develop the program. 

Over the last year, the Steering Committee has worked to plan a series of parent events for the GATE Program. 

=         The first parent night was held on October 25th.  There were approximately 550 parents and students in attendance.  We were greatly pleased with the large turnout. 

=         On December 7th, Dave Wollenzien (Leman MS Gifted Specialist) collaborated with Dr. Allister Scott (Assistant Principal at Community High School D94) to provide 8th grade GATE students and families the opportunity to learn more about the honors and advanced placement courses at the high school. 

The Steering Committee is currently planning the next event, which will be a Gifted and Talented Math Night.  This event will be held on February 13th.  As we continue to grow the Gifted and Talented Program in District 33, we look forward to offering several events to further engage families in their child's learning. 


Winter Benchmarking

It is that time of year again when we “benchmark” our students’ progress during this second assessment window. Specifically, our students will take:

  •     MAP assessment in reading and math
  •     Aimsweb reading fluency screener.


MAP is an adaptive growth assessment that looks at student academic growth in the areas of reading and math throughout the school year and within their time through the grade levels. We use the assessment in grades 1st thru 8th, three times a year. If you would like to find out more, you can find it here: English and Spanish.


Aimsweb is used in order to gauge reading fluency in English and Spanish for students in grades Kindergarten thru 2nd. Teachers may also use this tool at other grade levels when they deem it necessary given a students literacy needs. This tool allows teachers to “find” students who may be discrepant from their grade level peers, in terms of early literacy skills. Based upon this, those students may receive additional literacy support. 


As with any of this information, you can always ask your child’s teacher to find out more

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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