Academic Year 2007 - 2008 Team Report

Onondaga Nation Team Report


Team Members:  Jennifer Kagan. Kristy Kelly, Simone Thornton, Chris Homer, Mackenzie McElhannon,

John Sheridan, Pat McCoy

Team Name (e.g. Delaware Elementary):                   Onondaga Nation School

Write the number of Teacher participants for each period.

Academic Year number

Summer Institute



Team Location and Focus (e.g. Delaware—ESL literacy)

The team location is the Onondaga Nation School---

The focus: Literacy/Parent and Community Involvement.

During this weeklong course, we have focused on an initiative to involve the students, parents, and staff at Liverpool Central School District and The Onondaga Nation School. 

This initiative, developed four years ago by team member John Sheridan, a teacher at Elmcrest Elementary in the Liverpool School District, involved the Syracuse City School District students, parents, and staff with students, parents and staff at the Liverpool Central School District.  Together teachers from both schools planned activities around a novel by Paula Fox, entitled Monkey Island.  The book is about a boy that becomes homeless when his parents leave him because of extenuating circumstances. The author writes about homelessness through the eyes of a 6th grader.

There are many advantages to this program, including fostering English Language Arts knowledge as well as a service learning piece.

For ELA writing, students from both schools all write an autobiography.  Following that assignment, students write a biography of the main character in the book, Clay.  Lastly, they compare and contrast their lives with what they know of Clay’s life.  After this, they do a similar comparison with one another by writing a biography of their new friend.  The students also work together on comprehension questions using the Blackboard Learning System. 

Throughout the reading of the book the students get to “Walk a Mile in the Shoes” of their friend from the other school.  By writing to their friend, interviewing them at their school, and then actually spending the day at their friend’s school, they learn about their respective cultures: the similarities and differences.  During that day they get to know each other through introduction activities or “ice breakers”, take a tour, do activities involving the book, have lunch and recess together, and attend a special area lesson (i.e. art, music, gym, library, or technology)

Children typically feel inspired to help the homeless after reading the book.  The culminating event, a collaborative community service project, gives the students from both schools the chance to work with the three facets of homelessness that Clay encounters throughout the book: access to food, clothing, and shelter.

The students work together on community service projects in the city of Syracuse. Some of the service organizations include: The Salvation Army, The Rescue Mission, St. Lucy’s Food Pantry, and Habitat for Humanity.  Through working at these sites, the students learn the satisfaction and joy that one gets when you help others.  By reading the book, and working with those less fortunate, students are able to see the blessings they have in their lives and gain an understanding of one another and people that have fallen upon hard times in their community.   

The project this week was to make a parent packet, PowerPoint presentation to attract teacher and administrative support, and revamp the existing teacher and student packets.  We are all optimistic that this program can create and sustain parent support into the schools, and continue to teach students, parents, and teachers about the larger community in which they live and learn.  

Another project discussed for next year is an Oswego college visit by Onondaga Nation School seventh and eighth graders.  Oswego professors Dr. Jean Ann and Bruce Long Peng have created a program where students from Delaware Academy in the Syracuse City School system come for a day to the campus and learn about college life. They are matched with pen pals from Oswego State University. The Onondaga Nation School team feels that this would be an excellent activity for the students at the Nation School, as well as Elementary Education students from Oswego State. Dr. Jennifer Kagan would like to integrate this project into one of her undergraduate literacy courses: Lit 314. The benefits would be great for both parties. They would learn about their respective cultures, the Nation students would visit a campus and perhaps consider college as an option after high school, and the Elementary Education students would be able to have contact with students and engage in literacy activities with them.

We are also going to try to implement GESA for parents into the school program. There is a PTS organization that parents are involved in, but few teachers are involved in. We would like to strengthen the ties and communication between parents and staff at the Nation School. We would also like to create materials that the children can take home and practice skills with their parents. In the past, we have had an after school math program where parents and their children came to learn about math and how to practice math skills at home. Free childcare for their siblings was available. We would like to continue this program with a focus on literacy next year.

Next year we also plan on reading literature on literacy issues and implementing the literacy practices learned from the texts into the classroom. This proved to be very successful this past year. We were able to break up into groups by grade levels and create materials for classroom use. This worked well because the teachers in the Inquiry Group were able to see the relevance of the theory and put theory into practice.

Data analyzed on teacher learning and results (e.g. Faculty surveys, teachers reflective journals)

There were ten teachers involved in the inquiry group this year.  A kindergarten teacher, a fifth grade teacher, a third grade teacher, a second grade teacher, a reading teacher, a speech pathologist, an art teacher, a special education teacher and two teaching assistants.  We worked on vocabulary this year and read a book on vocabulary instruction entitled Bringing Words to Life by Isabelle Beck.  Teachers were able to implement vocabulary instruction based on the text read, and many found success in the implementation.  Simone Thornton, the kindergarten teacher, expressed in an end of the year reflection piece that the inquiry group was very helpful and informative. She explained that the book gave specific applications on how to incorporate some of the material into the kindergarten class. She also commented that, “I learned more on how children think.”

Kathy Gosh, second grade teacher, commented in her reflection piece that she has been a teacher for 30+ years, and she found this year’s study in the Inquiry Group “. . . the be one of the most profitable experience for myself and the students I teach.” She also said that, “The book used to kindle discussion, gave me insights into the new reading series we had begun to use. Her (the author Isabelle Beck) philosophy of teaching vocabulary as explained in the book clarified the instruction in the series.” By sheer luck, Isabelle Beck was one of the creators of the basal series newly adopted in the district! So, the philosophy of instruction was very clear Kathy was able to implement one of the ideas suggested in the book for the primary grades, which she called the million dollar word wall.

Data analyzed on student learning and results: (e.g. annual literacy assessments/NYS report card disaggregated data for 4th grade ELA, analysis of rubric scores on students writing samples each quarter for students in v.s. not in the program):

Revised May 2007