Thursday, January 28, 2010

K-2 Testing Forum: Six Questions to Ask Your Child's Teacher (in Spanish too)

Six Questions to Ask Your Child's Teacher
Seis Preguntas que puedes preguntar a la maestra de tu hijo/a

The teacher facilitator in our workshop mentioned that oftentimes parents just ask about behavior and let the teacher do the talking regarding academics.  Asking about behavior is good, of course, but here are some other questions parents can ask their child's teachers:  

  • "Can you show me how my child is progressing in his/her work? (ask for running records, writing folders, math work, science, social studies)
  • "¿Puede mostrarme como esta progresando mi hijo/a in su trabajo escolar?
  • “What are my child's strengths?”

  • “What does my child seem to like to do the most?”
  • ¿Qué es lo que mas le gusta hacer a mi hijo/a en la escuela?
  • “How are my child's social skills?”
  • ¿Cómo es el comportamiento social de me hijo/a?
  • “What would you like to know about my child that would be helpful to you as his teacher?”
  • ¿Qué informacion necesita saber sobre me hijo/a que le pueda ayudar a conocerlo mejor?
  • “What can we do at home to support you?” 
  • ¿Cómo puedo ayudar a mi hijo/a en casa para apoyarla?"

Sunday, January 24, 2010

K-2 Testing Forum: Six Questions to Ask Your Child about School

From the K-2 testing workshop I mentioned earlier:

One action step parents can do to see how their child is doing in school and what they're learning is to ask questions:

Yeah, I know...usually, when we as parents ask our children questions, the conversation may go something like this:

Parent: What did you do at school today?
Child: Nothing
Parent: Well, what did you learn?
Child: Nothing much.
Parent: How was lunch?
Child: Fine

You’ll see this conversation is going no where. But depending on the kinds of questions you ask your child, you can actually learn more about how their day was and what they did.

Here are some suggestions:

• “Tell me about the best part of your day.”
• “What’s your favorite time of day at school?”
• “Who did you sit with at lunch today?”
• “What was the hardest thing you had to do today?”
• “Who did you play with today? What did you play?”
• “Can you show me something you learned (or did) today?”

Move beyond "fine" and "nothing" answers by asking your child to describe his world. The key is to ask about things that are specific, but still open-ended.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NYC: Proposing K-2 Testing

!Feliz cumpleaños a mí!

Today is my birthday and I’m celebrating by participating in a forum at my daughters’ school. 

The city is proposing standardized testing for K-2nd grade students. 

Can you believe that?! 

My 5-year olds can barely copy down a sentence that I write for them, but the city thinks it can accurately assess how kindergarteners are doing, ascertain the quality of teaching, and determine teachers’ salaries based on these young children bubbling in answers on a Scantron sheet.

Some teachers and parents organized the forum to get the word out and make other parents aware of what’s brewing in the pot.  The forum was divided into 4 workshops:

1) What is the difference between authentic assessment and standardized tests?

2) What is the difference between an authentic reading lesson and a “test preparation” lesson?

3) What is the emotional and developmental impact of standardized testing on young children?

4) How do we know what our children are learning?

I participated in workshop #4.  Basically, we stressed that while it is important to know how our children are progressing and to ensure quality teaching, standardized testing for k-2nd graders is not the best means for doing so.  We gave parents 8 action steps they can take to make sure their child is learning.  We gave them examples of questions they can ask their children about their day.  We gave them questions they can ask their child’s teachers.  And we explained what the principal and administrators are doing to maintain quality instruction. (I'll post these steps and questions later)

Taking part of this forum was a pleasure for me.  It felt good being part of a team of teachers, parents and administrators who are active, organized, and have a sincere passion for the children at the school.  This was the first time I participated in a forum. 

*Please visit these websites to learn more about this K-2 testing proposal.  
*Protest the plan by completing this online petition:
If you live in the NYC area, please help pass this information along.

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Welcome to a New Year and My Blog's New Look!

    ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

     A lot has happened since I last posted, especially at my daughters’ school and with my son.  I’ll fill you in on all the details over the next few posts.

    For those who are new to my blog, let me describe a little bit about my daughter’s school:

    They attend a dual-language school.  My oldest daughter is in the 2nd grade and my twins are in kindergarten.  In kindergarten, they learn mostly in English and have 45 minutes of Spanish, where they may listen to stories and learn songs.  They also play games in Spanish on the computer.  I would have preferred more Spanish time during the school day, but they’re latching on to the Spanish they do get.

    Starting in 1st grade the dual-language model is one day instruction in English and the next day the instruction is continued in Spanish.  The class consists of 50% English-dominant speakers and 50% Spanish-dominant speakers.  The students have a Spanish teacher and an English teacher and they’re taught all subjects (including science, music, and art) in both languages.

    The school also provides a Spanish enrichment program.  The girls go twice a week for a little over an hour.  The program is additional Spanish immersion for the children where only English is spoken in the home.  So, the girls get a lot of support in Spanish.  The English portion was a concern for me, I wondered if they would be challenged and supported as they go beyond grade level.  Well, they are.  My oldest daughter is reading above grade level and her class library has  books readily available to support and encourage that.  And, of course, as parents we give them additional work.

    This school is like a dream come true for me because I spent years preparing my oldest to speak Spanish and the private schools and programs were unattainable financially.

    Does your child attend a dual-language school?  Are you considering it?  I’d like to hear from you.  Please comment below.