Cultivating a Love for Reading

There’s often talk about how teachers pour so much time and energy into decorating and designing their classroom experience. While some may think this is simply for fun, there is deep purpose and intention behind every detail. We know in order to stay true to our mission to build generations of lifelong learners, a love for learning and a culture of literacy must be developed as a foundational principle right from the start. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the recent addition of our Classroom Libraries is much more than a Type-A pleasing, color coordinated, neatly organized, book-nook tucked in the corner of the classroom.

Kristy Rogalla, our District Curriculum Director and a team of our teachers and literacy coaches, have been working behind the scenes on a multi-year journey to provide each and every classroom with a mini library of its own. Many hours were dedicated to the selection process, ordering, receiving, and cataloging long before they were delivered and teachers could start their organizing fun! Efforts started at the elementary level, and the focus continues to grow and expand into classroom libraries for all kids, in all classrooms.

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1st graders in Kelly Osterink’s class at Rosewood Elementary enjoy choosing their own books for independent, structured reading time.

Two years ago, the team began to build robust classroom libraries and has worked to add to them this year, with future plans to continue. Considering state education expectations; book selections have been targeted for high interest books, at a range of reading levels (meeting students where they are) and choices that include fiction, non-fiction, science and social studies. Diversity is a key focus so students can see themselves in books and find reading enjoyable and relatable. The team also plans to add more interactive read-aloud choices for teachers and student books to support the work in Units of Study for Reading. 

132669468cd79bec71be52823f973543ea171940.jpg“The development of the classroom libraries also helps for when new teachers are hired or teachers move grade levels. This allows for rich student experiences with a variety of texts in whichever classroom family they may belong.  Equity is important in this journey.” – Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum

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 John Scholma’s 4th graders from Bursley Elementary have been devouring new books from the classroom library.

We have heard great stories of success with all the books that have become available. Our teachers have responded gratefully for the resources and have seen a love for reading that is organically growing. Students of all ages are engaged and motivated to read, not necessarily for a reward, but for the love of reading. We find the Classroom Library project to be an uncomplicated way for us to invest in our students daily and further our mission of building generations of lifelong learners. I applaud the efforts of Kristy and her team over the last few years and look forward to seeing this foundational program grow and evolve; setting our students up for success at school and in life.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

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Some of Jane Brown’s High School English Students; we have seen students of all ages growing a love and passion for reading with all the books that have become available in the Classroom Library program.

 

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Junior High Spanish Immersion students in Clare Chamberlin’s class have really enjoyed their classroom library to sharpen their second language skills. 

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Lots of planning, ordering and sorting work is done before our amazing JPS teachers get their hands and creative brains busy on their custom classroom libraries! These pictures are from this past summer; High school shipment being organized and new Units of Study curriculum ready for delivery.

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History Comes Alive for 8th Graders!

img_4675If you’ve ever tuned out your parents or an older adult when they started to say, “When I was your age…” you’re not alone and you’re probably in the good company of many of our eighth grade students.

This year, Jenison Junior High Language Arts teachers wanted to not only allow students the opportunity to embrace their curriculum unit on historical fiction but to do it by getting to know some older adults in our community who have their own history to tell.

img_4646English teacher, Jane Brown, wanted students to learn new ways to value history and personal experiences. “We are always looking for ways to make our curriculum real to our students. In eighth grade, we study historical fiction and – unfortunately – sometimes just that genre alone turns people off even though it can be fascinating. We wanted to help our students to see that the things that happened before their lifetimes matter.”

As part of the event held earlier this month, senior citizens were invited to participate by being interviewed in person by our junior high students. The students are also charged with writing historical fiction of their own and the real-life experiences they heard about will add depth to their writing.

img_4685“Students asked a variety of questions. The goal was for them was to find out what life was like in the past and also to hear the interesting stories that people had to share. The students were very excited to share what they had learned from the people they interviewed. They are looking forward to writing historical fiction short stories set in the time periods that they learned about.
Kids loved learning what people wore to the beach in the 1930s [suits and ties], how they talked on the telephone in the 1960s [party lines], and about the beginnings of Jenison Public Schools.”

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55 older adults between the ages of 50 – 90 participated in the event and were eager to share their experiences with the students. They also reported being impressed by their questions!

“We really liked that this event allowed students to learn about history in a non-traditional way from a first-hand perspective, while at the same time, practicing communication skills. The students came away from their hour disappointed that they didn’t have more time with the people they interviewed. Bridging the generations is such a wonderful experience for everyone involved!

Thank you to our community partners for being willing to participate in our students’ education! Your voices are invaluable to us!

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JJHS Language Arts Teachers Alana Kooi & Deb VanDuinen Rise to the Top!

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(L to R) Language Arts teachers Alana Kooi and Deb VanDuinen

For the past several years, Jenison Junior High Language Arts teachers Alana Kooi and Deb VanDuinen have been focused on a single goal: improving Language Arts instruction for their students and empowering other educators across the state and nation to do the same.

Together they have studied research related to how students learn to read and write, have poured over methodologies, and have applied new instructional techniques in their classrooms. Not afraid to ask hard questions, they have challenged traditional perspectives in favor of approaches that have been proven with data.

Because of their determination to excel, Mrs. Kooi and Mrs. VanDuinen have emerged as leaders in their field, recently receiving certification as consultants with the National Writing Project. They have additionally been awarded a grant in “Leadership and Learning” from the NEA and have completed work with the Lake Michigan Writing Project. 

Working as a team, this duo has presented at numerous conferences and conducted countless workshops to train their colleagues and help them develop a “deeper understanding of how students develop as learners…and use research-driven best practices in the classroom.”

Aside from working locally with West Michigan districts as the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, Mrs. Kooi and Mrs. VanDuinen have also presented at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English conference (MCTE).

“We’ve been privileged to work closely with teachers in several districts in the area over extended time — it’s exciting to build these relationships and see their enthusiasm about teaching writing!” they said.

Both women say the most important part of their work is the personal growth they’ve experienced along the way. Being well-read and aware of current developments in research gives them the tools needed to individualize their instruction and offer “specific moves” for their students to use in their writing. This also lays the foundation for stronger writers who are able to work more independently in a workshop-style classroom format.

This summer the team will be serving as facilitators for the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA)During the conference, Mrs. Kooi and Mrs. VanDuinen will be part of a team tasked with the enormous undertaking of aligning all of Michigan’s K-12 classrooms with the Common Core standards. They hope to achieve this with a student-centered approach to reading and writing.

“We thoroughly enjoy this work! It has changed how we see teaching and learning, and provided opportunities to work with other professionals on the cutting edge of education.”

Please join us in applauding Mrs. Van Duinen and Mrs. Kooi for modeling life-long learning and for their commitment to excellence in the classroom!