Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Kindergarten students "Making" and critically thinking about how to get an apple from a tree without climbing

Connecting with the School Community and Beyond

Over the last few weeks, Woodbrook and the Woodbrook PTO has hosted numerous events to bring the community into our school.  Whether is was a PTO Family Dinner Night, Book Fair, a school-wide morning meeting open to the community, a grade-level learning event, or a field trip, we, as school leaders, know the importance of having a school with open doors.  We want parents and local community members to feel at home at Woodbrook. Even a local news TV station, CBS 19, did a story on our school community raising money for a high school in Houston,  Their school was horribly damaged from a recent hurricane. The first night of a parent-teacher conferences went very well.  It is great to have parents come in and talk with the teachers and their children about their journey at Woodbrook.  There will be more on Student Led Conferences in a future blog post.

Also, we were fortunate to have Virginia Delegate David Toscano visited our 1/2 multiage classroom to learn more about the YouVille project they are completing.  The second grade and 1/2 multiage project concluded with a student success night on Monday, October 30th.  Parents came and learned about all the cool projects the students had put together.

At our first school-wide morning meeting, we had community members celebrating with us.  We Skyped with a high school in Houston, Texas that had been hurt by the hurricane.  Our school community raised money to help them.

Skyping with high school in Houston

PTO Family Dinner Night

4/5 multiage trip to Monticello. Parents attended the trip and learned along with the students.
Global Maker Day

Global Maker Day was on October 24.  It was a lot of fun.  For us, it was a pleasure to walk the school and see all the creative learning opportunities happening throughout the school.  When students are given a chance to be think critically while being creative, magic can happen.  The pictures below and the video are great examples of this.

Video of student in second grade making a homemade fidget spinner.  
Build a Rectangular Prism: Starbucks on wheels...yes please.  Critical thinking!!! 

4/5 students were asked to make a rectangular prism.

Learning with Mr. Thornton on how to use Audacity in the classroom.  Trying to make music. 

Making a mix-matched animal

1st grade students are working on building their community: Charlottesville

This week in the classroom...


After returning from our field trip to the apple orchard the students learned that they should not climb or shake the tree to get the apples. We proposed this problem: Show us with these various materials how you can get the reddest apples of the top of the tree without climbing or shaking the tree.
The students work in teams for over to an hour with very little help from any adult creating ladders, trampolines, trained birds and butterflies to retrieve the apples.  They cooperated, shared, communicated, created, problem solved and most of all had fun.  I love when I can be the observer of problem solving and creating.  All students were engaged, happy and so very proud of what they created.  This was one of my favorite days last week.

1st Grade

During Global Maker Day our students had the challenge of creating a mini-marble run. We watched a few short video clips of pinball machines, shared a teacher created run, and they were off making. The children were incredibly invested in their own projects and in sharing them with their classmates. It was a joyful moment of careful creativity!

While working on ST Math this week, many students came across some challenging concepts. While there is teacher support at this time, there are at times more students in need of help than adults available to help! When RM became frustrated with a particular puzzle, EM exclaimed, “I can help with that!” It was a beautiful moment of empathy, of kindness, and most important of student as teacher and leader!

1/2 Multiage and Second Grade

In second grade our students have been putting the finishing touches on their YouVille products for the maker market on Monday night.  They also completed their final copies of their YouVille stories, which they will also be sharing with the community at the market. Each student has created their own business and a good or service to present at the market to earn money to go on a field trip later this winter.    

3rd grade

It has been an exciting couple of weeks in our 3rd grade community! We celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, attended a classical concert, and participated in Global Maker Day. During Hispanic Heritage Month we used technology to travel to various Hispanic countries and learn about their food, sports, music, and art. The culminating activity was a fiesta with crafts, food, and a piƱata. We also attended classical music concert at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Performing Art Center where student listened to a pianist and violinist. Students had an opportunity to hear from performers about their instruments and their style of music. Finally, we participated in Global Maker Day. Students cooperated in teams to solve a marshmallow tower challenge and a mystery challenge. During our reflection time student engineers discussed what worked, challenges they faced, and how they would revise their designs. It has truly been an amazing couple of weeks with building community, stretching our minds, and working together in 3rdgrade!

4/5 Multiage

This week, 4/5 loved getting to face off in rap battles, Powhatan vs. Colonists. Students were assigned in groups to be rapping from either the colonist or Powhatan perspective. Students then collaborated to write and choreograph raps that emphasized the strengths of their assigned group, while shedding light on the weaknesses of the other. The activity helped us explore and experience the hot and cold relationship between these important groups of early Jamestown.

New Teacher Interview
Taryn Clark

Where were you born?  
I was born in Williamsburg, Virginia.

How long have you been teaching?
This is my 5th year teaching but the first year that I am privileged enough to teach Spanish. 

Why did you want to learn to speak Spanish?
When I first was introduced to Spanish in middle school I became fascinated with not only the language but also the Hispanic culture. It quickly became my favorite subject in high school and I knew I wanted to continue studying it in college. It was fun to switch from learning Spanish to learning in Spanish. Spanish has been a very useful language that I have been able to use in both travel and everyday life.

Have you ever traveled to a Hispanic country? 
I have been to three! I studied abroad in Spain, have been to Nicaragua three times, and traveled to Mexico. I am very eager to make it somewhere in South America next.

What is something about you that you want all your students to know? 
Language is a very powerful tool! Not only is learning another language important but it is also important to think about how you use words every day to communicate with others, share your learning and ideas, and express your feelings in a respectful way. Your language is a part of what makes you who you are.

Are there any other neat facts about yourself that you would like to share? 
Another thing I love about language is song lyrics! I have a strange ability to remember song lyrics, even ones from my childhood. So all those songs from boy bands in the 1990s...I still know them.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Lifelong Learning

School administrators have many hats to wear.  Each day brings new and exciting challenges that allow us to connect with students and staff on many different levels.  It is these connections that enable us to grow as educators and leaders.

This is especially true with the new instructional methods being established at Woodbrook along with the new construction.  Even though our days are filled with many different responsibilities, it is imperative that we, as school leaders, step back, stop, listen, and learn.

This last week, an instructional change happened within our 4/5 multiage classrooms.  After receiving feedback from students, teachers, staff, and the community, we decided to decrease class size by creating a new 4/5 multiage classroom.  This means that we currently have two open-space multiage 4/5 classrooms and two 4/5 classrooms in single classroom learning spaces.  Our goal is to serve every student.  Part of that service is giving them the best opportunity to learn in a classroom that best suits their needs.

Mr. Thornton has been spending mostly all day in the 4/5 multiage classrooms.  He is working directly with the teachers planning lessons and activities.  Mr. Thornton is also teaching lessons in each of the classes. He is working with the students teaching whole group and small group lessons.

We stress to the students and the staff that lifelong learning is an essential part of everyday life.  Understanding the value of lifelong learning should be modeled to our learners so that they begin to embrace learning as part of life not just part of "school".  This week was a perfect example of lifelong learning.

The changes we have made have helped develop a new start for the students and the teachers alike  Over the last week, students have been making, creating, and learning while using collaboration and critical thinking to share their work with the school community.  Below are a few examples of the work being done over the last week.

Photo Gallery: 4/5 Multiage
Students started to use Google Voice in the classroom.  This has increased engagement in writing.
Google Voice is offering an alternative which is helping them produce more. One student said, "Writing is a whole lot more fun when I don't have to use a pencil." #Winning 
Comfort matters.  When students feel comfortable in their learning environment, they will perform better overall.

Students are utilizing space to put themselves in the best place to learn.

Student rebuilt a ipod by soldering batteries to the ipod. He shared this with his classmates. 

It is also imperative that students have an opportunity to express themselves.  A passion for learning is helped by giving them an avenue to share their gifts. 
These students are learning about the importance of Jamestown by playing a game that lets them play John Smith.
Students are learning about 2 digit times 2 digit multiplication. These students are using arrays as a strategy to find a product.

Students are starting to learn about slavery at Jamestown.
In VA Studies, the students are reviewing the regions of Virginia.  This student is making a map of Virginia on a white board table. 
Students are using the ClearTouch boards to engage their learning and share their creativity.  
Students and teachers working together to learn how to use Audacity.
Students are moving more while also playing a game they love. 

Students are writing film scripts and making props before they film their video. 
Together as a school community, we will continue to learn.  We will continue to grow and develop new ideas that enhance student learning.  We will foster creativity and challenge students to be critical thinkers.  We will collaborate together so that all voices are heard and every student feels safe and comfortable in their learning community.

WHAT CAN WE BUILD TOGETHER? Welcome back to a great year of learning! Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher wrote: Nothing endures but c...