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