Resources and Tips to Avoid the Summer Slide in 2017!

Since its opening for the 2010–2011 school year, The New Century School has annually offered resources to families to help prevent the “summer slide” phenomenon that can happen to kids over summer break when they might be less academically engaged than during the school year and lose scholastic ground as a consequence. Although this problem disproportionately affects underserved communities, it is nevertheless felt to a certain degree across the board, as teachers find themselves re-teaching concepts that were learned the previous year and then forgotten. Some research has shown that students can lose as much as 3 months of reading and math achievement over the course of just one summer. (See Making Summer Count for more details on relevant studies.)

The best way to slow the summer slide, according to the research, is to provide students with resources and educational activities. Head of School Alicia Danyali provides the following ideas:

1.  Visit museums with your child/ren. Between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore there is an abundance of great, educational opportunities. Depending on the age of the child, together or independently, visit the museum website prior to the visit. If the museum has dedicated tabs for educators or parents, peruse to get ideas of a focus for activities to make the experience a learning one.

2.  Reading is key in the summer to encourage and reinforce a love of reading in spare time, as well as discussions related to comprehension and how authors can open a wide range of interests.  Visit the library weekly and allow your child/ren to choose books of interest. Forming a summer “book club” can bring like-minded kids together to make it a rewarding experience.

3.  Whether it is on car rides to camp, the grocery store, at breakfast, or together time, play language, math, and vocabulary games to keep skills fresh.  If you are comfortable with online platforms (elementary and up) for introducing or reinforcing topics of interest or need, Khan Academy is one of the best with its interactive and descriptive teaching tools (video, examples) built into practice.

4. We encourage you to have your child work through a supplemental workbook selected by your child’s teacher over the summer. The books are published through Singapore Math and align with the backbone curriculum taught at TNCS. They will be collected and reviewed in the first week of next school year. Parents are encouraged to review work completed periodically to ensure students are staying on the right track. Order one here.

To point #2, making sure children have access to books is something Enoch Pratt Free Library is all about in summer. Their former “Summer Reading Program” has become the Summer Reading Challenge for 2017, the challenge being to “Build a Better World.” The challenge incentivizes kids to read, read, and read some more during summer, offering related activities and even prizes.

Señora Sanzana offered these tips for continued Spanish language learning (in addition to what is shown below):

  • One way is reading: Scholastic’s Spanish website offers many titles for young  readers that can be purchased at a low  cost.
  • Pekegits.com is also an amazing website where you will be able to  find readings, tales, games, and grammar  review.

Websites by Category

TNCS students have been introduced to multiple websites throughout the year. These are either free, inexpensive, or can be easily accessed. The children should be familiar with their log-in information because they are familiar with these websites.

Math

Math skills can also be lost without regular practice. Here are websites that TNCS students can use during the summer months:

Language Arts

After TNCS students have worked very hard on their reading and comprehension all year long, to keep these skills sharp, try to read with your child each day and ask questions or talk about what you have read together. Here are suggested lists of unforgettable books, differentiated by grades:

And here are websites:

World Languages

To keep current on both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese skills, your kids can visit the following websites (they will already know their log-in information for some of these):

Handwriting

 Students entering grades 3 and higher are expected to write in cursive. We recommend having your students continue writing throughout the summer. A fun way to do this is to have them write to friends and relatives. There are also handwriting workbooks that try to make the task fun or valuable. Here are two such books, available on Amazon:

Wacky Sentences Handwriting Workbook

Cursive Writing Practice: Inspiring Quotes

Typing Skills

There are a number of great apps and sites that will help to teach typing in a fun way, for students who are not yet typing by touch. This skill becomes more valuable as students advance in school.

Finally, see Hit the Ground Learning in Summer 2016 with TNCS-Approved Resources! for additional websites and resources differentiated by age for keeping English Language Arts, Math, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish skills sharp over the summer.

The TNCS elementary team looks forward to seeing their students back for the 2017–2018 school year, refreshed and ready to once more hit the ground learning!

Hit the Ground Learning in Summer 2016 with TNCS-Approved Resources!

Since its inception in 2010, The New Century School has annually offered resources to families to help prevent the “summer slide” phenomenon that can happen to kids over summer break when they might be less academically engaged than during the school year and lose scholastic ground as a consequence. Although this problem disproportionately affects underserved communities, it is nevertheless felt to a certain degree across the board, as teachers find themselves re-teaching concepts that were learned the previous year and then forgotten. Some research has shown that students can lose as much as 3 months of reading and math achievement over the course of just one summer. (See Making Summer Count for more details on relevant studies.)

tncs-resources-to-avoid-summer-slide

Enoch Pratt’s Summer Reading program awards prizes to kids who fulfill a specified reading requirement and also offers the chance to “read down” your library fines!

The best way to slow the summer slide, according to the research, is to provide students with resources and educational activities. For summer 2016, TNCS’s elementary teachers compiled their own special set, curated especially for TNCS students. They also remind parents that summer is the ideal time to take trips to museums and libraries, get involved in organized activities, and making sure kids have access to books. In fact, Enoch Pratt library offers a wonderful summer reading program to incentivize kids to read, read, and read some more during summer. See Summer Reading Program for more information.

Language Arts

After TNCS students have worked very hard on their reading and comprehension all year long, to keep these skills sharp, try to read with your child each day and ask questions or talk about what you have read together. Here are suggested lists of unforgettable books, differentiated by grades*:

*The TNCS elementary team says: “Please remember, each child’s reading level develops at different rates. Some of these titles or authors may seem too easy or too difficult for your child. If your child picks a book you think may be too hard, have him/her read a full page aloud to you. If there are five or more mistakes while reading, the book is probably too difficult. If there are fewer than five errors, the book seems to be a good fit!”

(If your child is having more than a little difficulty with reading, Teresa Jacoby recommends Loyola University of Maryland Clinical Center’s summer reading programs, which can be accessed here.)

Another list comes from 4th- and 5th-grade TED-Ed Club Members, who shared the books that they’ve recently read and want to recommend to other kids their age: “TED-Ed’s Summer Reading List: 31 great books for students, chosen by students.”

TNCS students have also been introduced to multiple easy-to-access language arts websites. The students will be familiar with their log-in information, having spent time on them throughout the prior school year. These include:

Spanish

For Raz-kids in Spanish, the students will  log in to their accounts, click on the book room icon, and then select the Spanish level reader tab.

Chinese

To keep current on Mandarin Chinese skills, your kids can visit the following websites (they will already know their log-in information for some of these):

Math

Math skills can also be lost without regular practice. Here are websites that TNCS students can use during the summer months:

The TNCS elementary team looks forward to seeing their students back for the 2016–2017 school year, refreshed and ready to hit the ground learning!

TNCS-Approved Resources: Avoid the Summer Slide!

Since its inception in 2010, The New Century School has annually offered resources to families to help prevent the “summer slide” phenomenon that can happen to kids over summer break when they might be less academically engaged than during the school year and lose scholastic ground as a consequence. Although this problem disproportionately affects underserved communities, it is nevertheless felt to a certain degree across the board, as teachers find themselves re-teaching concepts that were learned the previous year and then forgotten. Some research has shown that students can lose as much as 3 months of reading and math achievement over the course of just one summer. (See Making Summer Count for more details on relevant studies.)

TNCS-preventing-summer-slide

Enoch Pratt’s Summer Reading program awards prizes to kids who fulfill a specified reading requirement and also offers the chance to “read down” your library fines!

The best way to slow the summer slide, according to the research, is to provide students with resources and educational activities. For summer 2015, TNCS’s elementary teachers compiled their own special set, curated especially for TNCS students. They also remind parents that summer is the ideal time to take trips to museums and libraries, get involved in organized activities, and making sure kids have access to books. In fact, Enoch Pratt library offers a wonderful summer reading program to incentivize kids to read, read, and read some more during summer. See Summer Reading Program for more information.

Language Arts

After TNCS students have worked very hard on their reading and comprehension all year long, to keep these skills sharp, try to read with your child each day and ask questions or talk about what you have read together. Here are suggested lists of unforgettable books, differentiated by grades*:

*The TNCS elementary team says: “Please remember, each child’s reading level develops at different rates. Some of these titles or authors may seem too easy or too difficult for your child. If your child picks a book you think may be too hard, have him/her read a full page aloud to you. If there are five or more mistakes while reading, the book is probably too difficult. If there are fewer than 5 errors, the book seems to be a good fit!”

Another list comes from 4th- and 5th-grade TED-Ed Club Members, who shared the books that they’ve recently read and want to recommend to other kids their age: “TED-Ed’s Summer Reading List: 31 great books for students, chosen by students.”

TNCS students have also been introduced to multiple easy-to-access language arts websites. The students will be familiar with their log-in information, having spent time on them throughout the prior school year. These include:

Math

Math skills can also be lost without regular practice. Here are websites that TNCS students can use during the summer months:

World Languages

To keep current on both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese skills, your kids can visit the following websites (they will already know their log-in information for some of these):

The TNCS elementary team looks forward to seeing their students back for the 2015–2016 school year, refreshed and ready to hit the ground learning!

Meet TNCS’s Newest Chinese Teachers!

On August 8th, 2014, The New Century School welcomed two new teachers from China, Cong (a.k.a., “Grace”) Jun and Fan (a.k.a., “Fiona”) Hongtao, courtesy of the Confucius Institute. Our new guests will remain with us for 1 year to fulfill their contract with the Confucius Institute (which hosts teacher-training programs for teaching Chinese as a foreign language) and are rooming together in Fell’s Point in a TNCS apartment used to accommodate out-of-town staff. The teachers have been in Baltimore exactly 2 months now and have settled in nicely, so this is a great chance to get to know them better! In their words, this post “is a great channel for more parents and staff members of TNCS to get to know us.” This is the first visit to the United States for both of them.

volunteer-teacher-from-china

Cong Laoshi, from Shandong Province, will be teaching and volunteering at TNCS for 1 year.

Cong (pronounced “tsong”) Laoshi is from Liaocheng city, in the Shandong Province of China. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Liaocheng University. Before joining TNCS, she worked as an educator for more than 20 years and has won many awards and accolades for excellent teaching. She is now very interested in primary education, which she believes is the most important period in a person’s life. She has been exploring interesting ways to teach children. Cong Laoshi plans to share Chinese art, culture, and cuisine with TNCS’s community.

When asked what she is most enjoying about being here so far, Cong Laoshi replied, “I like the children here, and I like the teachers. I especially like the parents—everyone is so friendly and kind. Everyone cooperates so well together—perhaps our school is famous for this?” You are indeed correct, Cong Laoshi! TNCS is very big on community building :)! This is her first time in the United States, and she is enjoying this trip. She plans to travel when she can and has already visited Washington, D.C. along with Fan Laoshi, in addition to Baltimore. Her favorite food so far is the iconic American hot dog, which she eats as often as she can.

The Confucius Institute connected Cong Laoshi to TNCS. After a series of tests at progressively larger levels (i.e., local up through provincial), she came out on top and was selected by the institute to become a teacher/volunteer in the United States. When she interviewed with Xie Laoshi (a.k.a., “Jewel”) via Skype, she says that the type of education TNCS offered appealed to her very much. Moreover, “it was a good chance for me to learn about the real America,” she said. “I will have a chance to communicate with many educators.” She laughed when she explained the irony that she had been teaching English in China for the last 10 years, then flipped and came to the United States to teach Chinese!

volunteer-teacher-from-china

Fan Laoshi, from Liaoning Province, will be teaching and volunteering at TNCS for 1 year.

Fan (pronounced “fun”) Laoshi is from the Liaoning Province of China. She was an English major in college and is now an Associate Professor of English. She says she has always had a dream to come to the United States and that, for many Chinese, coming to America to pursue their dreams signifies their diligence and is a symbol of excellence. For Fan Laoshi, the United States shares similarities with her homeland and also offers differences. “The local people are so friendly; this was my first impression of America,” she said. “I was also pleased to find that the climate here is very similar to what I am accustomed to in the Northeast of China. Baltimore has a clear division of four seasons, just like we do,” she said.

Fan Laoshi also connected with TNCS via the Confucius Institute. In order to advance in her career, she says, she needs to work at least 3 months in an English-speaking country, but she also wants to “broaden her horizons personally,” she said. “The teaching environment at TNCS is so different here from that of my local university. I get the opportunity to perceive the local culture, the American way of life, and the American way of education. This is the biggest achievement for me.” She particularly wanted to work at TNCS, she says, because she has a 7-year-old daughter in Grade 2 in China and wanted to be in a comparable stage in an American elementary school. The parental point of view on education is also something she is enjoying studying.

Fan Laoshi is amused by how independent even the youngest TNCS students are and how they assert themselves. She attributes this can-do attitude largely to the Montessori approach and says she hopes to employ some of it back in China. “We should learn to give our children more freedom, more space,” she said. She feels very lucky to be working at TNCS and respects the educational style.

Our two teacher/volunteers alternate mornings and afternoons in Mr. Warren’s and Mrs. Lawson’s classrooms, immersing the primary students in Mandarin Chinese (they speak only Chinese within the classroom). Both find American students to be admirably self-motivated, and especially so at TNCS. “In our country, we help our children a lot, but, here, they are very independent. They know a lot and can do a lot of things by themselves!” said Cong Laoshi.

The Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM) is TNCS’s primary vehicle for interaction with the Confucius Institute overall. CIM’s mission statement is: “Established with support from Hanban, also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International (CLCI), CIM promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.” At TNCS, we are grateful to have our Chinese ambassadors, Cong Laoshi, Fan Laoshi, and all of our other Chinese instructors both past and present, to acquaint our students with the rich Chinese culture and help teach Mandarin Chinese.

Welcome, ladies! We hope you have a wonderful year at TNCS!

TNCS Performs at Confucius Institute Day!

confucius-institute-anniversary

The Confucius Institute at Maryland celebrates 10 years!

This has been a week of anniversaries for The New Century School! With the publication of this very post, Immersed turns 2. The Confucius Institute at Maryland (CIM), however, who supports TNCS’s Mandarin Chinese program in multiple ways, hit double digits!

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the University of Maryland hosted Confucius Institute Day at the College Park campus, and TNCS kindergarten and elementary students took a field trip to participate in the revelry. It was a gorgeous fall day with warm temperatures and a blue sky, just perfect for a field trip and an outdoor event.

Established with support from the Office of Chinese Language Council International (also known as Hanban), CIM “promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics, and philosophy.” CIM also provides many of TNCS’s Chinese interns and teachers and is a sister school with Xiamen University in China.

The festival opened with the Lion Dance—something the lucky TNCS students in attendance will not soon forget! This dance that mimics a lion’s movements by dancers sharing an elaborate lion costume is performed during Chinese traditional, cultural, and religious festivals; special celebrations and ceremonies; or to honor special guests.

 

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To show their appreciation for CIM’s invaluable support, TNCS students and language staff put on a show. Each division—K/1st, 1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th—did a musical performance for the crowd of hundreds. The audience was charmed. In fact, K/1st teacher Teresa Jacoby overheard some high school students expressing their amazement that such young kids were so clearly proficient with the Mandarin Chinese language. They certainly work hard!

TNCS students got their share of Chinese culture at this event. Dances, acrobatics, opera, and music kept them awestruck all day. The first field trip of the year was a huge success, thanks to TNCS Chinese staff! Xièxiè xiè lǎoshī! 谢谢谢老师!

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Cultural Diversity at TNCS: Insiders’ Perspectives

At The New Century School, cultural diversity is an inherent part of the establishment. Academically, world cultures are explored, celebrated, and honored. More to the point, though, is that the school population itself is remarkably diverse. Students and families hail from all over the world, and instructors have joined us from several Asian and Latin countries. Multiple languages are spoken and taught: English, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. TNCS sits at the center of a nest of community-based concentric circles: school, neighborhood, city, and on up through the global community. A key principle is to be part of these communities rather than disparate; thus, cultural diversity is woven into the school’s fabric, a vibrant and exotic patchwork quilt.

Parents and staff certainly appreciate this gift to TNCS students, who get to experience this wonderful diversity as it should be experienced—not as an obstacle to overcome but as the natural way of the world. But what about from the inside? How do the Spanish and Chinese instructors themselves “cross the cultural divide,” such as it may or may not exist here? They may face what could amount to a double culture shock: Some not only must acclimate to the United States, but also adapt to a work environment in which yet a third culture is prominent—either Chinese or Spanish. Others may be experiencing the Montessori approach for the first time, which likewise requires some professional recalibrating. We spoke to assistant teachers Jennifer Hodapp and Wen Weisi, both new for the 2013–2014 school year, to find out how they are responding to “life in a melting pot.”

Spanish assistant teacher in Ms. Lazarony's classroom, Jennifer Hodapp has a Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Psychology. She loves working with children and has a strong desire to help students with their academic, personal, and social needs.

Spanish assistant teacher in Ms. Lazarony’s classroom, Jennifer Hodapp has a Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Psychology. She loves working with children and has a strong desire to help students with their academic, personal, and social needs.

Ms. Hodapp is the assistant teacher in Ms. Lazarony’s primary classroom, where she speaks only Spanish to the kids, and forays into other classrooms to give 45-minute Spanish lessons as well. She is from Massachusetts, about an hour from Boston, but her parents are from Puerto Rico, and she grew up speaking Spanish in her household. Although Ms. Hodapp was born here, she knows from her parents that school life was very different in Puerto Rico than it is here. “It was very traditional,” she said. “Students wore uniforms, and the atmosphere was strict. Students were expected to sit still and attend to the teacher’s lectures.” Her own school experience was similar insofar as it followed the conventional classroom approach.

Was adapting to a more relaxed, more student-centered approach challenging for Ms. Hodapp? Not in the slightest. She is considering pursuing Montessori certification, in fact, because she feels that the work-at-your-own-pace model is exceptionally effective for young learners. She came to Baltimore 2 years ago and worked (and continues to work) with adolescents with emotional difficulties. “I always wanted to work with younger kids, too,” she said, “and I find this job very peaceful by comparison to my work with older kids!” Ms. Hodapp has a gentle nature and a very ready smile, so it’s no surprise that she would adapt to TNCS so well. “I love circle-time,” she said, “and working in small groups in which I instruct in Spanish.” She also gets to work one-on-one with the students: “They will ask me for help with a task, and I guide them in Spanish. It’s amazing how they absorb the language!” At the very start of the school year, for example, she had to act out what she was saying, whereas now she no longer has to “model” for them because they have picked up so much Spanish.

Speaking only in their native language is a requirement for the assistant teachers in order to immerse the children in that language and allow them to develop not just the vocabulary and the cadence but also to really get to know the teacher very naturally, on his or her linguistic turf. Says Head of School Alicia Danyali: “The interaction with the child is the most important thing, not the number of foreign words acquired.” Preserving this model is paramount for Ms. Danyali, whose experience is in immersion settings. She knows firsthand how language is organically acquired from these special relationships.

Peace is the same in all languages.

Wen Weisi, a volunteer from Confucius Institutes of China, has joined TNCS as a Chinese “floating” assistant teacher. Teaching comes naturally to Wen Laoshi, whose mother and older sister also both teach. She loves children and helping them learn Mandarin.

Wen Weisi, a “floating” Chinese assistant arrived in the United States in August and got immediately to work at TNCS, where she spends time teaching Mandarin and teaching in Mandarin to several classes daily. She studied at the Confucius Institute, a program “committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide; it goes all out in meeting the demands of foreign Chinese learners and contributing to the development of multiculturalism and the building of a harmonious world.”

From Hunan Province in southern China, Wen Laoshi says she she feels lucky to be here at TNCS. “Everything is going well, and everyone is so friendly!” she reported. She also says that it’s very different here, especially scholastically, but the differences do not pose a problem for her; in fact, she seems to relish the progressive education environment. “Kids here are open and brave. They  face difficulties independently,” she said. This description serves well. Much of what TNCS hopes to cultivate in a child is his or her natural curiosity as well as the problem-solving ability to follow the adventure where it might lead. Another name for this process is learning. Given the freedom to pursue what interests them, the students enjoy learning; it isn’t a chore. Curriculum-wise, Wen Laoshi prefers a balance of core disciplines with the finer subjects such as art. “Chinese students are good at studying,” she explained, “but not so good at sports and arts. At this school, all of these things are being well developed.” This is exactly the “whole-child” education that TNCS strives to provide.

She hopes to learn more about the Montessori approach while she is here and bring some of the ideology back home to China. She recognizes its distinctiveness in terms of materials and the special ways of interacting with the students and is learning from the Montessori-trained teachers and from books. Staff development days are also helpful for this and for generally getting to know each other better, as Ms. Hodapp agrees. Wen Laoshi is here for a total of 10 months and plans to “focus on work” during that time to make the most of it. As for teaching Mandarin, she is duly impressed with her students. She finds the elementary students especially keen and notices that they seem to really enjoy learning the language. She says that in a very short time, she saw big improvements in their writing and speaking and attributes this rapid progress to Elementary Chinese Immersion Lead Teacher Xie Laoshi (a.k.a., Jewel), whose teaching ability she greatly esteems. In her capacity as Chinese Language Coordinator, Xie Laoshi also provides teaching resources to the other instructors.

That our two newest assistants, both who love children and love teaching, would adapt so beautifully to their new positions doesn’t really come as much of a surprise. (Let’s face it, those kids are terrific!) But did that “double culture shock” pose any particular challenges for Ms. Hodapp and Wen Laoshi? Evidently not. Wen Laoshi described how the assistants “take care of each other.” More seasoned teachers mentor the newer arrivals, for example, more or less taking them under their wings. Additionally, TNCS families may host an assistant in certain circumstances, which also helps with general acclimatization. But even across cultures, a lot of sharing takes place. The Spanish and Mandarin assistant teachers greet each other in their respective languages, such that Ms. Hodapp will speak to Wen Laoshi in Mandarin as they pass in the hallways, and vice versa. They also translate for each other. In this way, they, too, are absorbing new language and culture right alongside their students.

The roster of assistant teachers might change from time to time as one completes a pre-arranged term of employment and returns to his or her native country, but the language and culture curriculum developed and overseen by Xie Laoshi stays in place. New arrivals are set up with everything they need to become effective language teachers in their new home.

Ms. Hodapp said it best. “This is a really great school,” she stated with conviction. “The Montessori approach for the primary kids is great, but it’s really the Spanish and Mandarin language and culture that set it apart.”