January 2021 - Lower Yukon School District
February 2021 - Southeast Island Consortium
March 2021 - Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
April 2021 - Nenana City School
Hello, fellow AKCLSD subgrantees. We are Nenana City School, a combined K-12 local and boarding school located in Nenana, Alaska. Part of our plan to improve literacy in our student body includes Literacy Cafes. Literacy Cafes are meant to be an opportunity for parents and guardians to learn more about the science behind reading, receive support in helping their students learn to read, and provide other parental support as necessary.
While Literacy Cafes were written into our grant application, the concept did not fully develop until a group of interested staff members came together and created a vision for how they were to be implemented. Our Literacy Cafes are meant to serve families in the Nenana area, including all K-6 students and their families in Nenana City School and CyberLynx homeschool families in the surrounding area. The original idea was to host a monthly meeting at the school, where children and their parents would come in and be treated to food and good conversation. With full bellies, the idea was to split the students and parents up for a bit, providing students with some hands-on social-emotional activities based on the Brightways Learning curriculum. While students were getting some wiggles out, the parents would be meeting for information about literacy skills, a guest speaker, or a combination of the two. Finally, the Cafe would end with parents and students coming back together to read a provided book, using a strategy or two the parents just learned about.
Doesn’t that sound like a great way to spend an evening? Unfortunately, a global pandemic had other plans for us. While we’d like to get to some semblance of our original plan, our Literacy Cafes have taken on quite a different form this year. We are still using the same group of books, a series from an outfit called Dynamic Resources, but our Smart Start plans have not allowed us to host anything in our building. Instead, we chose to have a semi-virtual approach. Families who have signed up for our “Virtual Literacy Cafe” are provided a package every month with books for each student in their family, a one-sheet printout of a reading strategy appropriate for a beginning reader and a more experienced reader, and materials for an arts and crafts project related to the theme of the included books. While the idea is to keep students off screens and encourage a literacy-oriented family event, we also create and publish a video that walks families through each strategy included and often includes why the reading strategies are important.
While our participation is high, particularly for students enrolled in our building, the reality is that this approach is certainly less effective than our original plans. Thankfully, implementing a Virtual Literacy Cafe has provided us many learning opportunities. We have built capacity in our district to implement in-person Literacy Cafes next year more effectively, and we have expanded our initial designs to potentially including preschool-aged children. We hope to host in-person Literacy Cafes for our K-6 students and their families, partner with our local Head Start, and extend our Cafes' reach as much as possible.
Our Literacy Cafe initiative has probably been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, our team has attempted to meet our goals by providing students and families with books, materials, and videos to support literacy at home. While we’ve been happy to provide a Virtual Literacy Cafe, we are looking forward to the days we can invite students and families into the building for some warm food, good conversation, and the support and time they need to connect through reading.
Thank you guys for reading. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’ve approached Literacy Cafes or any of the materials we’ve used, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 2021 - Anchorage School District
To learn more about ASD Service High School’s Literacy Project, contact Christine Dennis at Dennis_Christine@asdk12.org or Ellen Scott at Scott_Ellen@asdk12.org
September 2021 - Denali Borough School District
This spring in Denali Borough School District, we collectively engaged in supporting our students to share their learning through a specific student-engaged assessment strategy called Celebrations of Learning. Celebrations of Learning invite students to publicly engage and assess their learning experiences through reflection. We saw enhanced student engagement when our students were able to reflect on and take the lead of their work. Taking ownership of these experiences encouraged insight, self-assessment, and complex learning, and was especially nurtured when our students wondered about their learning publicly with others. Making learning public became an authentic purpose that empowered and motivated our students to care about the quality of their work.
Celebrations of Learning is a community event that nurtures classroom-based learning experiences that ensure that students are fully empowered in the process of understanding themselves as learners. Students presented high-quality products and performances that were often modeled after real-world formats and intended for audiences beyond the classroom.The ultimate intent of Celebrations of Learning was to invite students to reflect on and articulate what they have learned, questions they answered, the research they conducted, and areas of strength and struggle in order to understand and take ownership of their own growth as learners.
Eric Filardi, Principal, Anderson School
For many of us who sat in the audience and watched our students and teachers rise to this challenge, even in the middle of the pandemic, our enduring impressions are that we’ve never seen this kind of student presentation or this kind of reflection by our students. Their voices and the excitement and motivation they had for sharing about their learning left impressions in our hearts and built bridges with our communities and families.
“Celebrations of Learning provided our students the ability to reflect on this year. Through the challenges during the pandemic, they developed and grew. Watching the students’ Celebrations, I noticed the authentic nature of their reflections on what they learned and how the projects changed them for the better. They shared about their academic growth and how persevering through rounds of revision and feedback with their peers developed their character to become stronger humans. These are the moments that help us all commit to our mission of nurturing, inspiring and empowering today’s student to positively shape tomorrow’s world.”
Dan Polta, Superintendent, Denali Borough School District email@example.com
October 2021 - Kodiak Island Borough School District
The 2020-2021 school year brought challenges and opportunities to stretch and grow in new ways. When KIBSD’s Rural Schools was awarded an Alaska Comprehensive Literacy Development grant from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development during the 2019-2020 school year, we could not have predicted everything that was ahead of us. There were plenty of things that we had planned to do in our Reading English & Alutiiq Development (READ) project that we were just unable to do or had to get creative to reach our goals in new ways. One big accomplishment for our READ project was the hiring of Sperry “Guuitka” Ash as the grant-funded Literacy Specialist. Mr. Ash was brought on board to help support our teachers and students in literacy teaching and learning. We were most fortunate that Mr. Ash was also able to masterfully integrate the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) culture and culturally relevant teaching strategies into his work. When working to revise our Year 2 budget for our READ project, he shared an idea that he had been working to bring to fruition for several years, ever since he had learned of the idea from an Indigenous Language conference he had attended in Arizona. He had a dream of using Japanese style Kamishibai theater boxes and story cards to teach stories through the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) language, and introduce traditional stories and storytelling to our students. He was able to begin the process by working on lesson plans for five stories and purchasing a Kamishibai box while working for the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak. He mentioned this to me one day and we were able to integrate this into our READ project. We commissioned local builder, Seth Minyard, to build our story boxes and carrying cases for our five rural schools and our Rural Schools Office. We took the stories and commissioned the artwork for story cards by local Alutiiq artist, Hanna Sholl. Hanna also painted each land and waterscape scene unique to the community for which the theater box is destined. We partnered with the Alutiiq Museum to revise the language of the stories so that they are ready for printing our story cards. Together with our partners, our Sugpiaq version of Kamishibai story boxes became a reality. We call them “Quliyanguarwit”- Story Places. Mr. Ash states, “I was fortunate to hear traditional stories from our late grandma. This is a great way to introduce those stories in the classroom and help our students become carriers of our ancient unigkuat & quliyanguat. The ciqlluaq (sod house) design will help our students imagine stories, legends, and history as they were told in the barabara. We will place story cards on the screens and the teacher can retell traditional stories with visual images. The script will be on the back of each card to help guide the storyteller. Students can make story cards to present to the class. Using story cards to tell traditional stories supports reading and writing skills.” During the next years of the READ project, we look forward to teaching and practicing our stories and working with students to have them create their own stories and present them either through story cards, shadow puppets, or puppet shows.
Director of Rural Schools
November 2021 - Yukon Koyukuk School District
December 2021 - Lake and Penninsula School District
Lake and Peninsula School District was finally able to accomplish its mission of providing an event that truly embodies the essence of this rural School District! This past November, 2021, the district hosted its first hybrid-model in-service. This event was held at the beautiful Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. The hybrid model offered in-person participation & virtual attendance by staff that were unable to attend. In order to accomplish such an event, LPSD developed and implemented a very strong mitigation plan for all participants in attendance. They also made sure that technology services were readily available, on-site, to accomplish the unique, virtual atmosphere for those afar. They even had virtual presenters to deliver meaningful content that was offered across a variety of sessions, encompassing grade spans from K-12, and including administrator collaboration and cross-curricular and core curriculum content. Such sessions included Building Better Foundations in Literacy, Argument Driven Inquiry, Reach for Reading-Balanced Literacy Approach, Structured Collaboration, Writing in Response to Reading Across the Curriculum, Implementing Writing Portfolios, New Math Curriculum Training, and much more!
Following the event, staff were able to provide valuable feedback regarding the event's effectiveness, the provided sessions and the overall facilitation. Staff really enjoyed the collaboration time with their LPSD colleagues and those from a neighboring school district (BBBSD), for sharing ideas, strategies, and resources. People responded very well to “having the option of attending virtually; and felt like they were very engaged throughout the event and sessions”. Teachers expressed their appreciation of the fact that “all was taken care of to ease stress on teachers so they could maintain focus on the event and their ability to glean pertinent information from this time together.” They also expressed that the “sessions were relevant and provided strategies for immediate implementation.” Finally, staff were asked to provide suggestions for future needs and offerings, which allows for the District to develop a clean and meaningful path towards future training and professional development.
Overall, this was a huge success, and we, as a district, are so happy to have had this opportunity. “The ability of the Lake and Peninsula School District to provide a hybrid professional development opportunity for staff set fire to the enthusiasm of our team in their work as educators. Offering the opportunity to connect in person was truly invaluable!” Superintendent Kasie Luke
Early Learning & Literacy Grant Coordinator
January 2022 - Kuspuk School District
For Alaskan educators the past several years have yielded many opportunities to either “crash or soar” when it comes to in-person school events. Like Kuspuk, many districts in fly-in locations of Alaska operate knowing that healthcare and travel are limited. Given these realities, face-to-face school gatherings last year were not possible for us. The option of having virtual gatherings in places like ours was also not a part of the picture; most of our villages either lack internet infrastructure or families do not have access at home.
At KSD, one of our main goals within the Literacy Grant is to have monthly gatherings focusing on parent engagement at each school site. Last year was our first year to introduce the idea of FLN@Home, with packets of monthly literacy activities for families to experience together at home. This year we are able to have some small, more protected family gatherings at schools, introducing FLN (Family Literacy Night) in a face-to-face mode. At last month’s FLN, a special app was introduced to our families, and we have had some positive feedback from its initial use.
One of the most helpful literacy tools that we have been able to utilize with students and their families this year has been our partnership with OverDrive Education’s online library and its library app called SORA. We first heard about SORA at the ASTE Conference last January, and also learned about SORA’s relationship with the Alaska Digital Library. If you have not heard about it, the app and the digital library are a great resource for all schools, but especially for rural locations like ours. The SORA app allows readers to check out district purchased e-books and magazines online (at school), then read them offline on any digital device. It has been an effective resource for helping our students and their families with reading outside of school, without internet.
Our first FLN (Family Literacy Night) at school sites featured a fun activity with students and families, followed by a tutorial to teach the adults about SORA. While students have been using SORA in their classrooms, many parents/care-givers did not know about the app. Teachers helped families to download the SORA app on their phones or tablets/ipads, then took them on a walk-thru of the features in the SORA app. Finally, students and their parents both checked out some books and magazines together to read at home; the app includes an automatic download at checkout, which enables the book/magazine to be read offline on any device. With the app and login, a reader may access it any time. Families are able to “checkout” every two weeks, as SORA will automatically delete the book after 14 days. To enable checkouts for the adult members of school families, KSD has set up a “Guest Network” at each school site, specifically for SORA checkouts during after-school hours on certain days. Users may choose to come into the school in limited numbers, but most just park outside the school and make a quick selection.
Since our SORA introduction at FLN, reading at home has happened for more than just our students. Adults are reading and requesting books too! Through the partnership with Alaska Digital Library, families have access to the books purchased by KSD and books/magazines in the Alaska Digital Library. Some of our fathers and grandfathers have discovered Popular Mechanics and Car and Driver Magazine in our SORA library, which means that students are talking about articles in these publications at home. Folks are reading together at home, which has not been the norm in our district.
In addition to the family engagement, KSD teachers are able to request books easily through our OverDrive account; they simply choose and place them in a cart, then an email is automatically sent to me for approval. Users may also access “free” collections from other libraries around the USA by adding a library to their app. Not all public libraries choose to share their collections, but some do. It really does open up a world of reading and allow us to “soar” during a time that it would have been easy to “crash.” It may be the start of something special in our district... I sure hope so!
Literacy Director & Instructional Coach
March 2022 - Alaska Gateway School District
Alaska Gateway School District (AGSD) is focused on literacy. One of our strategic plan goals is that every third grader read on grade level by third grade. This focus on reading across the district has ignited reading and literacy activities across the grade levels. Our CLSD project targets middle-grade learners who we realized are sometimes left out of the literacy push because of the early literacy focus. One of the ways we have encouraged reading and increasing reading skills is through our RTI/MTSS focused Academic Support Class. We were able to structure a class period a day for teachers to read novels of interest selected by students and for students to work on targeted intervention strategies. Other literacy connections within AGSD have been our monthly Family Activity Nights that are often rooted in literacy initiatives. These nights are funded through cross-utilization or braiding our funds for more impactful efforts. Some of these events include literacy theme-based evenings such as a student “Chopped” events where students won cookbooks for prizes! Other efforts have included a traveling book fair that went to remote village schools take-and-go bins for literacy activities that families can check out. Each bag is packed with books, activities like games and puzzles, and manipulatives. Items like manipulatives and books that students often enjoy and want to keep are replaced at no cost to the families. AGSD values literacy and is excited to be part of the CLSD project!
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
April 2022 - Bering Strait School District
Early Literacy Monthly Events in the Bering Strait School District
As part of the Bering Strait School District's Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) subgrant, each school has an early literacy event liaison that plans and holds monthly literacy events for their community. Early literacy event liaisons focus on coaching and modeling early reading skills with parents that they can easily use with their children. Children learn many important things during the early literacy phase such as
• Building vocabulary
• Learning how our language works and use it to tell stories, share ideas and ask questions
• Learning how to handle and use books
• Playing with the sounds of language through songs, rhymes and tongue twisters
• Building their knowledge of the world around them.
After the early literacy event, parents then have the opportunity to bring home new books to read to their children using the early reading skills that they have learned more about. Children enjoy reading more and learn the skills they need for reading from the everyday interactions that they have with the trusted adults in their life. Thanks to the CLSD grant, the Bering Strait School District has the opportunity to be a part of these wonderful experiences.
For more information contact:
Bering Strait School District
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
May 2022 - Aleutians East Borough School District
Parent Involvement is one of the critical elements of the CLSD grant and our comprehensive literacy plan that has been largely nonexistent in our district. Due to a stringent mitigation plan during the pandemic, a notable strength for our district has been keeping our schools open with face-to-face instruction for the past 2 years. However, a casualty of that approach has been a neglected component of our CLSD grant – parent involvement. In March our efforts showed that we had weathered the COVID storm, and now as our restrictions began to loosen, we were given the “green light” to invite parents into the schools for literacy events. Our reading specialist did not waste a second and began feverishly planning, coordinating, and leading our schools into a 2-month trek of literacy events. This action plan will spark a year-long crusade to bring kids and parents into our schools with fun and engaging reading focused events. Below is our step-by-step action plan to spotlight reading at home and throughout the summer. Our AEBSD reading mission at hand: To create a forum for home-school literacy connections and to provide a concerted effort to proactively combat summer learning loss.
Step #1: Family Literacy Events throughout April and May…8 TOTAL!
“Books are a Uniquely Portable Magic”
This year we are using a theme of “where books can take us” as a theme for two Family Literacy Events at each of our (4) schools and a summer reading program. That is 8 events total over a 2-month span! One will have the theme of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, the second is inspired by the imagination of travel to faraway places with a theme of different destination countries. Each event with be “literacy charged” including read aloud’s, reading strategy sharing, discussions and presentations by students, family-friendly activities for a “make it take it” component, and then each student who attends gets to take home a free book.
Step #2: Summer Reading Incentive Program
“Passport to Reading”
The Family Literacy Events build up to the students receiving a bag of leveled books that either have characters from different countries/cultures or are about unique places and cultures. Each student will also receive a “Passport” where they can record their summer reading adventures. At the end of the summer, if they bring the completed passport back to school they will receive a prize. The passports are leveled by age so that each student has a grade appropriate resource for independent reading and recording. We are encouraging involvement of parents from the inception of this program with the literacy events. Arming parents with strategies, excitement, and investment in their child’s reading success is our primary goal.
Step #3: Building Parent Communication and Connections
“Parents as Partners in Reading Success”
The Reading Specialist has also started a Facebook page where she will be posting monthly newsletters, reading reminders and resources, and a plan for consistent, year-long family activities for all four sites both over the summer and throughout the upcoming school year. Building this parent connection is essential to the success of our reading program. It is through their support coupled with the other reading intervention efforts delivered at school, that our students are set on a trajectory of reading success. Together we will close the reading achievement gap for our kids.
For more information contact:
Director of Special Education
Federal Programs Manager
AEBSD District Office
Office: (907) 383-5222