Meet the Teacher: Krysta Jenks Joins TNCS Elementary!

The New Century School welcomed Krysta Jenks as first- through third grade English Language Arts and Science teacher for the 2017–2018 school year. Mrs. Jenks has a special claim to fame in TNCS annals–she has the first-ever all-girls homeroom! She loves this, saying, “It’s really interesting to see what the dynamic is with all girls. They’re so much fun. They want to learn. They’re just excited to be here.”

krysta-jenks-joins-tncs

Mrs. Jenks came to TNCS from a charter school in Anacostia, but, living in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore, she found the commute to D.C. was taking up too much of her time and was stressful besides. She moved here in 2009 after earning a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at Penn State, which is located in central Pennsylvania, where she grew up. “From there I started working in special education,” she said.  In fact, her background is primarily in special education, where she worked for about 7 years. She has also obtained a Master’s degree in Leadership and Special Education as well as a Post-Master Certification in School Administration in this time. “I feel like I’ve gotten a wide range of experience from my administration certification and working in special education in the private, public, and charter school settings,” she said. “This is my first time working in a school that is mostly student-directed learning, so that has been really fun. It is also my first time working in a multilingual school.”

The student-directed learning aspect of TNCS is what appeals to Mrs. Jenks most about TNCS. “A lot of what I’ve done in the past has been more teacher driven, with the focus mostly on the teacher, and a lot of my experience has been in direct instruction, which doesn’t lend a lot of room for creativity,” she explained. “I really like the flexibility that comes with student-directed learning.

When we do our Daily 5 rotations, they have choices within each rotation. So, for example, the word work rotation has a multitude of activities they can choose to do—they could play a game with their words, they could write index cards with their words, they could write a story or comic book with their words from Wordly Wise for that week. They also cycle through read-to-self; listen to reading, which is primarily Raz-Kids; use SuccessMaker; meet with me; or work on writing.

In science, I also I try to do rotations because we are doing a lot of hands-on activities. In the first quarter when we were working on electricity and magnetism, I had a circuit board at one table that they can play with, a magnet station at another, so they have the flexibility to choose where they want to go.

Although the TNCS classroom style has been somewhat of an adjustment for Mrs. Jenks, she has acclimated beautifully. “It’s definitely different for me, but it’s great,” she said. “Also, the kids are fantastic, and all of the parents have been really supportive.” And that’s another aspect of teaching at TNCS that has been new for her: “I’ve always worked with high-risk populations, but at the end of the day, kids are kids. It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic status or what backgrounds they have, I’m learning that they all have the same needs. Having said all that, the kids here are really bright, they are really curious, and a lot of them are very intrinsically motivated. They seem like they genuinely want to learn.”

One thing that was not new to Mrs Jenks is using restorative circles in the classroom, such as introduced by Head of School Alicia Danyali during the previous academic year. Mrs. Jenks explained:

A big component of our classroom community is that we start and end the day with a restorative circle. So we have a talking piece, and then we come up with a question and go around the circle. Then, at the end of the day, we’ll go around and everyone will say what their highlight and lowlight was. And that’s been really fun because they love getting in the circle. I want our students to feel like this is a positive classroom community and environment that they want to be a part of and feel safe in. I think that academics are super important, but I also think building emotional intelligence and peer relationships is something that I really focus on just as much.

Next month will be an important one for Mrs. Jenks, who, although married to her military husband currently, will be having her “real wedding” then. We wish her well on this occasion and are so glad she has joined the TNCS community!

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!

Read-a-Thon Opens New Chapter for TNCS Outdoor Activities

read-a-thon

This is the mascot RAT (get it—Read-A-Thon?), who always has his long nose in a book!

On March 22nd, 2015 The New Century School launched its first-ever Read-a-Thon, which ran through Spring Break. To say that the event was an unqualified success is true on several levels. Collectively, TNCS students read about a ton of books, the school earned an impressive amount of funding for playground equipment and greenhouse materials, and the already-strong TNCS community galvanized in an altogether new way.

Before we get carried away with all of the excitement, though, let’s give some well-deserved credit to the mastermind behind this plan—three cheers for TNCS K/1st-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby! Hip hip hooray!!!!

Mrs. Jacoby, who specialized in literacy, says she has experience with the idea of read-a-thons, having put one together for a graduate school project. “I wanted to find something that would make kids interested in learning but also benefit the school, so I put together my own read-a-thon.” Fast forward to this, her first school year at TNCS, and she has does it again—but this time drew on some external resources. She says she really likes the ease and convenience that readathon.com affords. “Kudos to the people who designed this website,” she said. “Everything has been super easy to initiate and track, and the kids really seem to love it. They are reading, and that’s the important thing.”

read-a-thon-session

These TNCS students are part of the way through a pre-bedtime 20-minute reading session. The timer really motivated the kids!

TNCS students, indeed, read up a storm. Fledgling readers gained confidence and took off, confirmed bookworms luxuriated in the additional reading time allotted to them, and several readers progressed from picture books to chapter books during the event. Parents logged on with their special child-specific codes, set the timer for 10, 20, or 30-minute sessions, and word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page were hungrily absorbed by the eager readers. It was amazing how happily everyone embraced this endeavor!

In fact, the embrace soon spread. Originally slating the Read-a-Thon as a K/elementary event, Mrs. Jacoby opened it to the primary students once requests from primary parents started to pour in. (Those Montessori language drawers in the primary classes really work!) One key part of Mrs. Jacoby’s involvement was in making sure students had access of plenty of books to be able to read independently. She sent home Reading A to Z books for her students and also increased the number of books students could check out of her classroom library from two to five.

tncs-read-a-thon-supporters

This is just a small sampling of the outpouring of support TNCS students received from donors. What a great community to be part of!

So how did this all start? Mrs. Jacoby says that TNCS teachers were lamenting that students did not have more games to play outside during recess, and the lightbulb went off in her head. “I think a Read-a-Thon is a good way to raise money. It’s really nice to have friends and family support reading. For example, I just loved the notes that supporters were leaving for participants.” She went on to say that many of her students were on the brink of becoming fluid readers and that the Read-a-Thon represents that little push over the hump they needed to achieve reading ease. So, she brought the idea to an elementary staff meeting and was given an immediate green light. (And also volunteered to handle the project start to finish—win-win!)

From the start, the Read-a-Thon was a hit. Even the other elementary teachers were surprised at how quickly funds began accumulating. Of course, the TNCS community always faithfully supports TNCS initiatives, but perhaps a key difference with this particular fundraiser is that it involved the kids in a very integral way. It’s one thing to ask for donations to help achieve a specific goal; it’s quite another to make that donation contingent on active student participation in the form of learning. Sign us up!

TNCS students will actively participate in another important way: They will have a say in what is purchased with the money they helped raise. Moreover, they are the end-users of whatever outdoor equipment and materials are bought, so they are vested stakeholders in this outcome! “I want the kids to be involved in all aspects of this,” said Mrs. Jacoby,”the reading, the raising money, and what we do with that money.” Ideas so far include a zipline, monkey rings, and some kind of alternative to swings, which TNCS is unable to have in the given space. An outdoor classroom with chalkboards is also being discussed with a possible archeological dig site included (the dinosaur bones, alas, would most likely have to be artificial). And, oh yes, parents, sports and games are very much a part of these brainstorms. We might see something along the lines of an outdoor ping-pong table, but no definitive purchases will have been made until the most effective use of resources has been determined. In addition, Mrs. Jacoby says she would like to see each TNCS class get a raised garden bed to individually tend, with the various beds producing at different times so TNCS students are harvesting year round. Another very exciting idea is to raise chickens. Baltimore City would allow TNCS to keep five at a time, and one of the farms that TNCS regularly orders lunch ingredients from could potentially be asked to overwinter them.

There is no shortage of ideas, she says. “I like that the students will be able to do so much more outdoors, and I also really like that the Read-a-Thon means that TNCS students are reading independently. I hope every year it grows and becomes the ‘Big Spring Thing’.” TNCS teachers don’t like to give a lot of homework over Spring Break, but using that time for the annual Read-a-Thon would keep kids’ minds engaged yet won’t interfere with family time or plans. Books are eminently portable!

tncs-student-reads-from-school-library

This TNCS student explores the hall library for a new chapter book to read during Spring Break. He also very helpfully provided the following recommendations: “Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions” and anything from the Frank Einstein series.

Annual? That’s right. Mrs. Jacoby spoke excitedly about how each year the funding theme could change. Maybe next year we’ll raise money for the school library,” she said. Here again, TNCS students would act as stakeholders, identifying any gaps in current content coverage, for example, and suggesting topic areas to buy books in. This is a double boon—“Students would not only be looking at and reading all of the books in the library, but they would also be asking us to order what they’re interested in,” she said. Having books that they are interested in makes all the difference, especially for boys, she has learned from experience. “Make it available to them.”

“The more that children are encouraged by everyone around them to read, the less intimidated they will be, and the more they will read,” said Mrs. Jacoby. “I am so grateful that everyone participated!” You can see additional details, such as more parent comments and totals raised ($3,925!) by visiting TNCS’s dedicated Read-a-Thon page at http://www.read-a-thon.com/school/The-New-Century-School_4792.