Friday, October 30, 2015

PA and TD for the Week of 11-2

Project Arrow progress reports were sent home on Friday in an envelope that will be in your son or daughter's backpack.  Here is the plan for next week...

Kindergarten Talent Development will continue to work on a few logic puzzles this week, but we will also begin something new.  The kids and I will explore three books this week, Dr. Ted by Brookdale's resident author Andrea Beaty, Peanut Butter and Cupcake, and a version of The Three Little Pigs. We will be working on a three stage story map that will compare story elements from all three books and lead to a good discussion about how books can be different.

First Grade Talent Development finished the "Frightening Fruit" stories last week, shared them with the class, and they were brought home.  This week, we will try to finish reading Frindle and work on mapping examples of change in the text. 

Second Grade Talent Development will be finishing their butterfly effect timelines that we have been working on, and then we will be discussing interdependence, a topic being explored in the classrooms.  We will be learning about natural disasters and how the rescue efforts are an example of interdependence.  I have three information articles about responses to different disasters that illustrate how people work together in times of need that we will be reading together. 

3PA will only see me three days this week because of an assembly on Thursday and conferences on Friday.  We will be learning more about how adjectives modify nouns and learning about articles and how they act as adjectives as well.  Then the kids will begin reading a new novel written by O. T. Nelson titled The Girl Who Owned a City. This book is special to me because it is set in Glen Ellyn, IL where I grew up.  The main character's house is only a few blocks away from my childhood home.  The story begins at the end of a plague that killed everyone in the world over 12 years of age, so the kids are left alone to try to figure out how to make things work again.  The narrative fits in perfectly with our themes of change, conflict, and systems as well as our learning about complex story elements.  I've used this book for years and the kids LOVE the novel so I cannot wait to get started. 

4PA will continue with grammar, but we will also start a new project that I am excited to introduce.  The class will be reading the 1941 Newbery Medal winner Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry.  It is an adventure story about a boy's journey to find courage on an isolated island.  The kids will all be given the Newbery criteria that are used to select the winning book each year and deciding if the committee made the right choice in awarding the medal to this title.  I am anticipating great Socratic Seminars discussing how books for younger readers have evolved since the 1940's, and given the high quality of literature for kids now, if this book would even be a consideration today.  This will lead into a mock Newbery award book club.  Mrs. Furstenau and I have teamed up for this idea.  She bought twelve books that are up for the 2016 Newbery that students will be reading, not all of them, but a few.  The class and I will be evaluating the texts using the Newbery criteria and discussing which text is most worthy of the award.

5PA will be continuing our grammar voyage this week, taking an assessment on theme, and then we get to start a great novel project!  My thanks goes out to the parent who purchased 16 copies of two books I had on my Amazon wish list last year, because without the donation I would not have been able to do this unit.  The class will be reading two different award winning novels that were published last year, Crossover by Kwame Alexander and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.  Both are amazing, and both are written in verse.  We will be using the following questions, pulled from 6th grade ELA standards, to guide our reading:

  1. Describe how each story's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
2. What is the central idea/theme of the text? How do you know?

3) How do the author’s choices impact the development of a text?

4)  How does word choice affect the reader’s understanding of the text?

5)   How does the structure of a text contribute to my understanding?

6) How do the characters evolve from the beginning of the story to the end?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

All Students Invited to Conferences

For the upcoming PA conferences, I want to include the students.  I have done this in the past and found the discussions to be much more impactful if the student is there because everything discussed will be about their performance and setting goals for the second quarter.  Please make every effort to bring your son or daughter to our meeting. 

Red on Thursday!

As some parents may be aware, this past June our amazing Teacher Assistant, Kelly Skowronski, suddenly lost her teenage son, Matt. 
On Thursday, we are asking students at Brookdale to wear red in remembrance of Matt to help celebrate his birthday, which is on Friday.  We know Mrs. Skowronski would appreciate all the support we can give her.
Thank you again for supporting RED OUT!

Friday, October 23, 2015

PA and TD for the Week of 10-26

Kindergarten Talent Development will be learning about writing a reading response journal entry this week.  The kids and I will be reading a variety of Halloween poems for young kids and writing reading responses about them.  We will also continue to work on logic problems during our time together. 

First Grade Talent Development did an amazing job developing their ideas for "Frightening Fruit" stories last week.  During class we learned about words that describe nouns, adjectives, and I introduced a story mapping strategy used by the first grade teachers called CLAPS. C=characters, L=location or setting, A=important actions in the story, P=the problem, and S=the solution to the problem.  The kids have completed a story map and are now writing their spooky fruit stories.  We have rotting raspberry zombies, caged cantaloupes, chopping cherries, ornery oranges, killer kiwis, bad bananas, and murdering mangoes.  The stories are all very creative and we will continue working on this project this week. 

Second Grade Talent Development students are going to be examining "the butterfly effect" for the next few weeks.  The second grade team asked me to dive into this topic they have been examining in the classroom but at a higher level.  So, I have assembled a collection of Halloween themed books for everyone to read.  Next, we will imagine that we could jump into the story to intervene at a critical part and alter the trajectory of the narrative. Kids will be making a timeline of the original tale, and then creating an alternative timeline showing how the story would have turned out differently after the intervention.  This should be a lot of fun!

Third and Fourth Grade PA will begin our grammar mini-unit this week.  The main focus of the first part of Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Island and Grammar Town programs we use in PA are the parts of speech. This image will be used in class to show the eight parts of speech and how they are related:
Learning the parts of speech will be our main focus for the week.

Fifth Grade PA will have three days to work on the Capstone this week.  On Monday, I will be showing the class how they will be recording their progress and collecting information from their research.  On Tuesday and Wednesday the kids will be writing their Capstone proposal, or the initial idea they have for their projects.  I have met with every student to discuss their ideas already and am impressed.  I know that there is some anxiety about narrowing the ideas the students have, and some ideas are still vague and underdeveloped, but know that I will be helping to refine and focus the proposals this week.  It's hard with 26 kids, and an hour a week for Capstone to individualize instruction, but I am doing my very best.  That's why we will be spending three hours this week on developing the proposals. The main research focus for the next few weeks will be to identify the problem and find research that PROVES that the issue central to the project is truly a problem. If a student is concerned about air pollution or an endangered animal, then find the facts that PROVE that there is air pollution or the reasons an animal is threatened.  This is a long journey and many of the kids want to rush to the end, not so fast! Imagine we are on the yellow brick road...right now we are just standing next to the house that got dropped on the Wicked Witch of the East, I know that we need to meet the Scarecrow soon and find other friends and go to Oz, but right now we need to take the first steps on the journey.  Our focus for the next few weeks is only identifying the problem and researching facts about it.  The kids will miss one day of PA because of their field trip, and on Friday we are going to have some fun with Poe's "The Raven" and grammar. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

PA and TD for the Week of 10-19

Last week was a bit crazy as I was the music teacher on Monday, and the sub I had for Friday got pulled to teach kindergarten.  Hopefully this week will be a regular week for the kids.  

Kindergarten Talent Development will be spending the week with the Brother's Grimm.  We will be reading Rumplestiltskin, making predictions, and looking for the magic number 3 in this fairy tale.  On Friday we will also begin to work on some logic puzzles that require some out of the box thinking. 

First Grade Talent Development will be revisiting a writing activity we did last year using the book Creepy Carrots.  Last year, the kids worked on a new version of the story using vegetables.  Who could forget Spooky Spinach or Bad Broccoli? This week...we're going for the fruit with our "Frightening Fruit" stories.  I am excited to see where the kids go with this creative writing assignment.

Second Grade Talent Development will spend the week moving through different stations in my classroom to explore the wonderful wordless picture books of David Weisner.  Students will be making inferences to find the narrative of the tales. 

Third Grade PA will finish their presentations for our Shine School on Monday.  On Tuesday, we will begin reading a short story titled "The Green Man", a story with an environmental theme.  The class will have some reflection homework as the week goes on.  We will be investigating theme with this story, and with a collection of fables. 

Fourth Grade PA will have until Thursday to finish their essay on The Secret Garden.  This week, we will be watching the Francis Ford Coppola film version of the book.  The kids and I will have a Socratic Seminar to discuss which version told the story better, the book or the film.  We will then get into teams to compare the concept of change in The Secret Garden and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane which the kids read in their classrooms.  Teams will be making posters to compare the examples of change, and the themes of the two books. 

Fifth Grade PA will be finishing up our work with Ray Bradbury this week with a two day Socratic Seminar comparing the themes of all of the stories we have read, and looking at the stories from a writer's perspective to uncover how this author creates suspense and draws the reader in.  The students are now running the seminars and doing a fantastic job.  later in the week, we will spend some time with a short story titled "Ghost Cat" from The William and Mary curriculum.

Have a great week...go Cubbies! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

PA and TD for the Week of 10-13

Kindergarten Talent Development will be learning about the game SET next week. SET builds cognitive, logical and spatial reasoning skills as well as visual perception skills while playing a game! Because it has a rule of logic (three cards that are all the same or all different in each individual feature), and because players must apply this rule to the spatial array of patterns all at once, they must use both left brain and right brain thought processes. This fun game actually exercises your brain!We will also be reading the Brother's Grimm classic, "Rumplestiltskin" to learn more about story elements.

First grade Talent Development will be learning about making inferences in a text. I will be using the picture book The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg to introduce this concept.  We will then use the novel Frindle to continue making inferences as we read. 

Second grade Talent Development will rotate again this week, all new students will be joining me for a three week investigation of making inferences using picture books.  The basic formula for making in inference is like a math problem.  What the text says + my schema (prior knowledge) = my new understanding or an inference.  

Third grade PA will be presenting their Shine projects on Wednesday. The rest of the week we will be reading poetry about Autumn, discussing the elements of poetry, and writing our own poems about fall.

Fourth grade PA knows that our novel The Secret Garden should be finished by the time class starts on Tuesday.  This week, the kids will be selecting one of three comprehensive essay questions about the text. This essay will be written on a Google Doc in class.  There is a surprise on Friday!!!

Here are the three choices for the essay:

1) Throughout the novel, Mary and Colin are described as being "a perfect match" for one another. Why? What are their similarities?
When first we meet them, they are both extremely unlikable.
Does the narrator hold them responsible for their flaws?
If they are not responsible, who is? How do they change as the book progresses?

2)The Secret Garden, as its title suggests, is a novel organized around the motif of secrets. Which are the narrative's most pivotal secrets? How are they discovered? Explain the significance of the ways in which they are discovered. How do the “secrets” change the characters?

3) Compare Dickon's background with Mary's and Colin's.
How is it different? How do class differences function in the novel?
Why is Dickon so often described as "common"? Does this contradict or support the idea that he is "a Yorkshire angel"? Finally, select one of the three characters and explain why he or she is your favorite.

4) Examine the situation of servants in the novel. What is a servant's life like? How are they treated? How does the narrator regard servants? How does Mary’s attitude toward Martha evolve as the story progresses?

Fifth grade PA will be finishing up our look at the writing of Ray Bradbury in the next five days.  This week we will be reading a story about a time travel safari company looking for a T-Rex.  The kids will be focused on the themes of the stories we have read, how the idea of change can be found in every story we read, and what it is about Bradbury's writing that draws the reader in so well.  Wednesday is our Capstone day, the kids will begin to write their project proposals.  The final proposal is due on Wednesday the 21st, and all of the work will be done at school.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Go Cubbies!

Maybe Back to the Future 2 was right?

Conference Sign-up

Use this link to sign up for a conference:

Conferences are for PA students only.  There are not enough slots for the many students who come to talent development. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

PA and TD for the Week of 10-5

Kindergarten Talent Development students will continue their work with the five senses this week.  Last week we used books on the farm and the observations the kids made on their field trip to compare how a book and a real experience are different.  This week, the kids will be writing sensory poems about one word, "Happiness sounds like..." using all of the five senses.

First Grade Talent Development is going strong with Frindle.  This week, we will be reading more of the book as a group and playing some dictionary games searching for specific words or for a word that means the same as _____. 

Second Grade Talent Development will be comparing the research we did last week with picture books on the same subject to see if authors really use facts when they write fiction.  What in the book is accurate and what is made up?  

Third Grade PA will have one more week to work on their team projects based on The Green Book.  The groups had some really good conversations as they developed the course descriptions and essential questions for the school on Shine.  I am excited to see what the schools they design next week will look like. 

Fourth Grade PA is doing great work with The Secret Garden. The discussion at our first Socratic Seminar was really impressive.  One of the kids connected the metaphor of "closed doors" in The Secret Garden to Paulo Levi's mother's closed violin case in The Mozart Question AND last year's book The Tiger Rising with Rob's closed suitcase of emotions after his mother's death.  I was blown away with the quality of thinking on display.  This week we will continue reading, discussing, comparing characters, and examining conflict and change in this classic.  I hope to have the kids finish the novel this week. 

Fifth Grade PA will continue our exploration of Ray Bradbury this week with two more short stories, "The Rocket" about a father giving his kids the trip of a lifetime to Mars, and "August 2026, There Will Come Soft Rains" about a house of the future.  The class will also be reading an article from The New York Times about "Marginalia" or the practice of writing thoughts all over texts, a fancy name for annotating the text.  Our Capstone explorations of passions will continue on Wednesday this week.  Last week, kids explored clean water, string theory, protective clothing for athletes, animal poaching, rebuilding after natural disasters, and theater programs for kids with Downs Syndrome.  It was pretty awesome!  On Friday we will have a Socratic Seminar, the first that kids will evaluate each other using our rubric, on what the father in "The Veldt" could learn from the father in "The Rocket." I want to thank Bill Follin for sharing "The Rocket" with me, what an amazing story!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

PA PTA Message

Hello PA Families,
I spoke briefly at the PA curriculum night about the IPPA PTA  (Indian Prairie Project Arrow PTA).  Going forward I'll call it the PA PTA.  The purpose of this group is to show the state how much we care about the PA program since it is not mandated nor funded by the state.  In light of educational budget cuts we need to show the state our desire to ensure this program continues. You can show your support by becoming a member of the PA PTA.  The $10 membership fee also helps support our teachers, bring programs to the kids, speakers to the parents and sends 4 teachers to the IAGC onference.

During the first meeting of this year, Sept 22, Amber Morgan the District 204 Instructional Specialist detailed the PA program.  Mentioning that this year PA will be aligned with the common core standards.  This helps substantiate the program to the state.  PA will also be connecting it's themes with those in the classroom.  She went over how they identify children that are ready for PA and Talent Development (grades K-2).  Using the CBM reading test, Iowa Assement CogAt, standarized test scores and observational data. 

Last year for the first time the PA PTA held a High School Transition forum.  They invited families whose children were in PA classes and asked the teens and their families the effects of being in PA and the transition to high school.  This was found to be very informative and successful.  They hope to do it again this year as well as a forum for those transitioning into middle school.

The subsequent meetings will be:
  • November 2015: Date and location TBD for HS Honors Transition Nigh
  • January 2016: Tentative — Date and location TBD for Middle School Transition Night
  • February 23, 2016: 7:00 – 8:30 pm Crouse Education Center*
  • April 19, 2016: 7:00 – 8:30 pm Crouse Education Center (780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora, IL 60504)
You can get connected with the PA PTA through a google group (provide your email to, a Facebook page (Indian Prairie Project Arrow PTA) and the district website ( and more specifically 

Most importantly please contact us with any questions, concerns and suggestions.

Thank you
The Brookdale PA PTA Liasons
Dina Bradshaw (
Nicole Briggs     (
Kristen Harding  (

My Wish for my Students