Academic Year 2009 - 2010 Team Report

Onondaga Nation School Team Report


Team Members:  Denise Waterman, Simone Thornton, Kathy Gosh, Alison Bristol,

Patrick McCoy, Joy Gregg, Ellie Falter, Debbie Ferrer, Teresa Fisher, Jen Lyman, Marie Hayes

Summer Team Addition: Joanne Powless ~ Technology Teacher

Team Name                                                     Academic Year number   Summer Institute number        

                                                                                                11                             5

Onondaga Nation School


Team location and focus

Onondaga Nation School Literacy Inquiry Group

Data collected and analyzed on teacher learning

During this year’s ONS Literacy Inquiry Group we all started off by reading a book on literacy that pertained to our grade level, which was in a series of literacy how-to books. From there teachers were a part of one of three projects.  One was an elaborate multi-subject unit on Brazil which resulted in a compact disk, another project was writing a grant to the CNY Teaching Center on Code Talkers and Code Switching, and another project focused on early literacy and what kinds of literacy skills should be taught in an Onondaga language immersion Pre-K that is housed next to the school, and what literacy skills should follow up in Kindergarten.  I will address the data on teacher learning in all three of the projects.

I asked that the teachers keep record of their perceptions as well as any data that could be generated by their students. For most it was a notebook, for some who wanted a more formal feedback it was typed up notes given to me on the reading, and for others it included a more technology-driven record in the CD. Everyone had to come up with a purpose as to why they were in the Inquiry Group.

For the Pre-K group (Joy, Simone, Marie) the purpose was, “To establish a pre-school early literacy curriculum in an Onondaga Language-Based Immersion School, which will be most beneficial to the four year old students who will enter kindergarten the following year.” Their goals or “current focus” was, “Given the constraints of one hour, four times per week, our focus will be to prioritize the basic early literacy skills deemed important to the Onondaga Nation School Kindergarten teacher, and in accordance with the New York State standards.” Simone Thornton, the kindergarten teacher, then comprised a list of  “Ideal Incoming Kindergarten Skills” also called her “wish list”. She presented this to the small group in order to rank order the list and make it more manageable.

 In order to see how the preschool literacy piece was moving along, I was invited to the preschool to do an observation. I saw several of the four year olds working on letters and sounds and I was impressed with the colorful manipulatives and use of song to teach the kids the letters in their name. This group also decided to revise some of the early literacy assessments that test phonemic awareness. They welcomed my input as well as the speech pathologist’s input (Marie was very knowledgeable and part of this team). I witnessed incredible teamwork and they were happy with the outcomes of a concrete measure on how to assess kids, how to go about teaching the Pre-K with time constraints (only an hour per day), and the most significant skills that are needed in Kindergarten.

Denise Waterman wanted to work on a separate project and her goal was to assist verbal fluency. She would write fairly formal chapter summaries (I didn’t ask for these, she went beyond what was expected) on what was in the literacy chapter that she had read for the week, as well as her perceptions or her “take” on what the authors point was. She wrote a “2009 Classroom Research Grant” that had a very sophisticated seven criteria evaluation rubric. The grant was on the Navajo Code Talkers and this was linked to the idea of Code Switching as communications techniques. Although Denise did not end up receiving funding from the grant source ~ the Central New York Teaching Center, she was extremely proud (as we were of her) that she went for it. Denise also went through drafts of the grant with us, and we (the team) gave her constructive feedback on her effort. She plans on integrating the ideas in her grant in her third grade classroom.

The rest of the group (Patrick, Alison, Teresa, Debbie, Ellie, Kathy and Jen) did an integrated unit on Brazil and made a CD of all of its components. Teachers were from music, special education, physical education, second grade, and library and there were two teaching assistants working on the project.  The goal of the their project was to have team members work together to plan a unit on Brazil. “We will incorporate literacy in reading and writing in all content areas. Kathy, Teresa and Jen will plan language arts lessons including: reading for information, writing short informative paragraphs, fluency activities and spelling/vocabulary/phonics. Ellie and Debbie will plan supportive lessons in music and physical education, which will extend and support classroom activities. Alison will plan differentiated lessons for AIS and special education students.” The unit was an incredible success, and Kathy Gosh summed it up by saying in her reflection “I found working on an integrated unit with so many other teachers very stimulating and exciting. It was definitely rewarding from the teacher point of view. It resulted in many activities that I never would have found on my own. Having the specials teachers (music and phys. ed.) and the special education teacher on the same page as me reinforced what I was teaching and also kept me on my toes pacing wise.” She further writes, “I did not observe students getting bored or tired of the unit. They even wanted to videoconference with a class in Brazil.”

Ellie Falter (music teacher) and Patrick McCoy (teaching assistant) collaborated on another project in the 8th grade music classroom. The project was a musician unit that extended the students’ literacy by incorporating all four of the NYS ELA standards. The students would create a script, and from this script they would create a Photo Story that also incorporates visual images and music. In Ellie’s final response about the project “Through collaboration, individual learning was enhanced as students were able to delve deeper into the lives of their composers.”

Data collected and analyzed on student learning

Although it is difficult to make wide sweeping generalizations because of the small number of children being tested due to the fact that ONS (Onondaga Nation School) is a K-8 school of about one hundred students, ELA scores keep on increasing and the pass rates in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 for fourth grade ELA and math are comparatively better than similar schools according to the NYS report card summaries. I find this very interesting because those teachers in the Inquiry Group are predominately elementary school teachers. Although the fourth grade teacher is not yet in our group, kindergarten, second and third grade teachers are, as well as a special education teacher who services primary (K-2) and two teaching assistants that service the elementary grades. We have one teaching assistant from the middle school, but I would like to do further outreach to the middle school ELA teacher and the middle school math teacher to join our group.  I understand the 7th and 8th grade ELA teacher was busy with master’s coursework and couldn’t afford the after school time, but I think once he sees how the elementary students scores have picked up due, in part, to the atmosphere of collegiality and cooperation that the Inquiry Group possesses and the group’s “organic” nature(Simone Thornton’s comment to the Chancellor’s husband in our meeting at Oswego) we may be able to influence these scores as well.

There was a questionnaire given about the second grader’s research projects that they did for academic fair. Nine research surveys were turned in, and to the question, “What did you like most about your research project?” Four students said either that they liked the pictures or the books and two said they liked “researching”. Drawing the pictures and cutting was the most difficult part of their project. The final question was “Can you tell me in a sentence one thing you learned about doing a research project?” Four students wrote specific facts, and some thanked Mrs. Gosh, one said it was really fun, and two said that it took a lot of time. One comment really spoke to the research process, “I learned to look at a lot of different things before choosing stuff.” I was able to be a judge during academic fair, along with many other people, and I noted how well each second grade poster about their rainforest creature was done. On the CD are color pictures of the academic fair results, as well as the music that they learned for the unit, the books and websites pertinent to the unit and much more. I was pleased to come away with a tangible artifact that utilized technology.

 I have come to expect nothing short of amazing with this group of teachers, and I feel extremely lucky to be part of this process.