10 ways to get your student ready for kindergarten

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Starting school for the first time can be scary but it can also be a lot of fun. Every child is different, but teachers agree there are some things every parent can do to help get their youngster ready for kindergarten. Here are the top 10 things that you can do to ensure your child makes a successful transition to school.

  1. Practice Sharing and Taking Turns. Social skills are some of the most important things you need to do well in school. One of those things, especially in kindergarten, is learning to share and take turns. Chances are your child has already had some practice sharing, but find ways to practice this all-important habit. One way is to lead by example. If your child sees you sharing, they will be more likely to follow suit. If you have trouble getting your child to share or take turns consider using a timer to help them until they become more comfortable with the idea. When the timer goes off the next person gets a turn. The timer itself feels like a game and kids do not realize they are learning a valuable life skill.
  2. Practice Empathy. One of the hardest parts of learning to be a good friend is to understand how others feel. That is a skill your student will use their entire lives so it is critically important to start teaching it early on. Find ways to model empathic behavior. When youngsters know they can count on their caregivers for their physical and emotional needs, studies show they are more likely to show sympathy towards others children in need. Talk to your child when you see an upsetting situation either in person or on TV. Talk about what it must feel like to be that person or in that situation.
  3. Teach Your Child to Clean Up After Him/Herself. This seems like such a simple thing but teachers say this is a challenge they face with every new class. You can make a game out of picking up his/her toys or taking the dinner plate to the sink after each meal. Most children naturally want to be helpers. Easy cleanup tasks are a great way to build self-confidence. You may also consider giving your children simple jobs around the house and teach them why each job is important. In every classroom, just as in every family, everyone has an important role to play.
  4. Practice Following Simple Instructions. By the time kids are ready to start school, they should be able to follow simple 2-step instructions. For example, when they are getting ready for bed you should be able to tell them to brush their teeth and put their pajamas on. In school, they will be expected to do many simple tasks on their own without repeatedly being told to do it.
  5. Help Develop Both Gross and Fine Motor Skills. Encourage your children to get outside and play. Outdoor play is not only great for their bodies; it is also great for their minds. Studies show kids that get plenty of exercise will do better in school. It helps with their focus and their ability to sit still and pay attention to the teacher. Youngsters also need the opportunity to work on their fine motors skills. You can do that by giving them a pencil and paper and letting them draw pictures or practice their letters.
  6. Practice Writing Upper and Lower Case Letters. Children will not necessarily need to know how to write all their letters, but you can teach them to recognize as many as possible. You can also start teaching them the sounds each letter makes. There are so many fun and easy ways to do that. A favorite way is by naming common items you see. On your next drive, read signs and point out letters in the sign and the sounds they make.
  7. Teach them to Write and Recognize their Name. Teachers say teaching them first and last name is best, but if everyone would come to school on day one being able to recognize their first name, those first few weeks of school would go smoother. Help them practice writing their name repeatedly. If you can teach them to capitalize the first letter that will put them another step ahead.
  8. Instill a Love of Books and Reading. Reading is the greatest gift you can give your children to set them on the path to school success. Teach them to hold a book properly and talk to them about the parts of the books like the spine or the cover. Reading to your child will build their vocabulary, language and communication skills while also improving their cognitive skills. If you can instill a love of reading and learning in your child at an early age, you are essentially giving them a ticket to the world. Books take you anywhere you want to go and can be a gateway to limitless possibilities.
  9. Teach Basic Math Skills. Before starting school, children should have a basic understanding of counting and numbers. When you go for a walk have them count their steps. When you give them a snack, count the treats. The key is to make it fun and entertaining. Practice adding and subtracting with everyday items.
  10. Practice Telling Stories. Storytelling is such an important tool in early education. It is a fun way for youngsters to communicate complicated ideas and activities. Have your child practice telling stories whether fact or fiction. Having them tell you what happened on the playground or what they did after breakfast is a great way to start teaching story elements. Storytelling is a great way for children to learn to explain the order in which something happened. Oral storytelling helps expand your child’s imagination.

These are just a few of the things to help get your child ready to succeed in kindergarten. Below you will find more resources to help further your child’s readiness to exceed great expectations as they enter Metro Schools.

Further Parent Resources for Kindergarten Readiness

For any other questions about the 2017-18 school year, visit our Back to School Central page.

Metro Schools hosts 2017 SEL Conference

Metro Schools and Alignment Nashville‘s Behavioral Health Team hosted the annual Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Conference on June 29-30 to equip educators with the tools they need to incorporate SEL in their schools.

SEL is a practice that focuses on meeting the needs of the whole learner by helping students build skills to deal with all of life’s challenges and develop positive strategies for handling conflict and managing healthy social relationships.

The conference featured renowned SEL experts and dozens of unique workshops that attendees self-selected. Businesses and organizations that support SEL and mental health were also on-site to share information about their services.

Attendees enjoyed lectures from two keynote speakers: Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, and Erin Beacham, education director in the southeast region of the Anti-Defamation League.

Data from the CDC’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the Tennessee Department of Health’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System revealed that large numbers of Tennessee students are have been exposed to adverse life events. SEL can vastly alter the course of a child’s academic, social, and health outcomes, even after exposure to trauma. Seventy-two percent of students in Metro Schools live at or below the poverty line, making this a very critical issue in the district.

Tips for avoiding learning loss over the summer

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While summer gives teachers and students a well-deserved rest, the long break can also reverse some of the valuable learning that took place over the past school year. Eighty-five percent of the achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss among all student populations.

Learning loss, the loss of academic knowledge over the summer, is problematic, but here are several ways that parents can prevent it:

  1. Commit to a summer reading list. Reading is the area most widely affected by learning loss, but research shows that reading even five or six books over the course of the summer can improve your child’s literacy skills. Take turns reading with your child so they can practice reading out loud to you.
  2. Visit the library. Summer is the perfect time for your child to explore new topics and genres. A summer trip to one of the Nashville Public Library branches may ignite an undiscovered passion.
  3. Have an educational adventure. Nashville is full of fun places to learn. From the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Frist Center for Visual Arts to the Tennessee State Museum and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, spend an afternoon exploring and discussing these venues.
  4. Nurture learning in nature. Nashville’s local parks are full of fun learning opportunities. For even more of the great outdoors, admission is free at the Warner Park Nature Center.

Every child and age is different, so do what works best for your child! For additional tips and resources check out the Parent Toolkit.

Three Metro Schools employees named NELA finalists

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Congratulations to three Metro Schools employees for being named finalists for the 2017 Nashville Emerging Leader Awards (NELAs)!

Allison Buzard, family engagement university manager, Ricki Gibbs, principal at Glengarry Elementary School and Dr. James Witty, principal at MNPS Virtual School, are finalists in the education category.

The NELAs, chosen by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and YP Nashville, recognize young professionals under the age of 40 in 14 industry areas: arts, entertainment and music business; business services; community service and nonprofit; education; financial services; government and public affairs; hospitality and tourism; human resources; legal services; medical and health care services; public relations, advertising and marketing; real estate services; and technology. Five finalists are chosen in each category based on significant professional accomplishments as well as commitment and contributions to the community.

“As the Nashville region continues to grow, we are continually attracting and retaining the highest caliber of talent,” said Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ralph Schulz in a press release. “The Nashville Chamber and YP Nashville are committed to building the next generation of leaders, and these young professionals recognized today possess strong leadership and a proven commitment to the continued prosperity of our community.”

NELAs finalists and winners will be honored at a ceremony on August 3 at Lipscomb University.

Pearl-Cohn student earns scholarship with winning essay

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Lucki Price, a graduate from Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, earned a $1,000 scholarship that she’ll use at Belmont University by writing an essay about her experiences in Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. is a national program that aims to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold by equipping them with the skills to navigate gender, economic and social barriers. The YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee supports the program in several Metro Schools.

The scholarship was awarded to Lucki by Be About Change, a nonprofit committed to providing higher education scholarships to students from low-income households.

Read Lucki’s award-winning essay:

“There will be pizza,” are the words that stole my attention. A room with food and beverages, a couple of girls, and a strange woman who would ask a million questions that I would give a simple lie to is what I imagined Girls Inc. would be. In the beginning, I was only there simply for a meal that I knew I wouldn’t get otherwise. One could never be certain of tomorrow when living in a small duplex with three adults, three delinquents, and one monthly income. Life seemed like a game that we’d always lose. My mom felt this defeat the most, and every time I looked in her eyes I could feel her constant agony, and hear her desperate cry and it killed me. They say as a child you shouldn’t worry too much about “grown up problems,” yet I could never stop worrying. I always wanted to help even if it meant sacrificing something that I wanted. I would wait a months’ time for forty-five minutes of small talk, free food, and the key ingredients towards a better life. In Girls Inc. I began to notice that most of the girls had part time jobs, and were working when they didn’t have school. This made me realize that I was also able to get a job and contribute to myself and my family, even at a young age of fifteen. So I applied to Kroger, and because of what I learned in Girls Inc. I quickly obtained an interview and in no time, I became a working girl! Joining Girls Inc. and obtaining a job are some of the best choices I’ve made in my life so far. Although it is rough going to school full time and working I wouldn’t regret my decision to work because it pushed me to work even harder. “What doesn’t kill makes you stronger” is a quote that I live by every day. To me this quote is all about persevering even through your darkest days, and with the financial literacy I gained from Girls Inc., I am equipped with the strength to persevere, and thrive through every hardship and challenge that’s is thrown at me.

Over the years I have seen myself mature into a responsible young woman. I have overcome shyness, and low-self-esteem while battling health issues. Who would ever think that “tiny Lucki” would speak in front of roughly 1500 people? Never in a million years did I think I would have such an enlightening opportunity, but I guess dreams do come true, and now public speaking is a reality for me as well as a great skill and asset that I am proud to have. Not only have I overcome shyness, I have also become more focused and aware of my grades and how they have a huge role in life after high school. Prior to Girls. Inc., I was enrolled in all honors classes, but I wasn’t always attentive to how each assignment played a role in my overall grade, GPA, and college. It wasn’t until my Girls Inc. instructor showed me and my classmates the average annual income of people with some high school experience, only a high school diploma, and etc., when I realized that living paycheck to paycheck is not the life I want for myself and for my future family. After that when my junior year began, I came to school every day dedicated and focused to learn.

For each semester I had a goal, and when I reached one goal I’d replace that goal with a new and improved higher standard. I maintained A’s and B’s until I finally reached my goal and became a straight A student. Along with achieving better grades, I also started to join school clubs, sports, and activities. I became an Academies of Nashville Ambassador, a peer mentor, a student leader, I participated in mock trial, I joined the soccer team, I ran for SGA, I am in Girls Inc., and I am enrolled in AP and Honor classes, all while maintaining my part time job where I worked at least twenty-eight hours a week. In addition to that, I also started taking advantage of internships opportunities, and academy based summer camps. I am two-year Warner Music Nashville intern, I was an intern for the academy award winning actress Reese Witherspoon in her new store Draper James, and I attended Grammy Camp. Having said that, my AP and Honor courses, my grades, and my extracurricular activities are the source that eliminated my low-self-esteem. Being a part of all these tremendous things have made me realize my worth and my potential, and I am overjoyed, and honored to be equipped such great strength and power to work hard and be where I want to be. One of things I value most in life is having the ability to make a choice, and being able to be in control of what route I choose in life. Thanks to Girls Inc., I have the knowledge that is preparing me for the rest of my life. With that said, Girls Inc. is an organization that builds our community by equipping young woman with the passion, drive, and tools in effort to reform society.

Metro Schools hosts early childhood education summit

Metro Schools brought together early childhood educators, community partners and businesses to connect and collaborate at MNPS’ Excellence in Early Education Summit 2017 on June 21.

Attendees learned about MNPS’ pre-K program developments throughout this past year, and the program’s work towards building quality pre-K across Davidson County.

The summit also highlighted the milestones met through the federal Preschool Development Grant – Expansion (PDG-E), which has provided MNPS the opportunity to expand access to high quality pre-school programs by adding new classrooms and strengthening the quality of existing classrooms.

Dr. Shawn Joseph and Mayor Megan Barry provided remarks during the summit focused on the importance of building a strong learning foundation to support and develop Nashville’s youngest learners. Dr. Elizabeth Alves, assistant commissioner for the Office of Early Learning and Literacy at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), provided the keynote and discussed the importance of quality pre-K programs throughout Tennessee.

MNPS Pre-K community partners participated in a round table discussion, including: Conexión Américas, Global Education Center, KinderCare, Nashville Public Library, MNPS Pre-K Comprehensive Services, MNPS Plant the Seed, MNPS Pre-K Coaching and Instructional Support, The Headstart Program (Metro Action Commission), United Way of Metropolitan Nashville and Vanderbilt Peabody Research Institute. During their presentations, they provided attendees with an overview of their organization, and discussed their work through the PDG-E grant and the impact they have had on Metro’s pre-K program and students.

This is the second Excellence in Early Education Summit hosted by Metro Schools. The event was sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education with Preschool Development Grant-Expansion Funds.

Check out photos from the event:

Bottom row of photos courtesy of the Mayor’s Office and @MayorMeganBarry.

Metro Schools music teacher receives Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award

Rita Black

Rita Black, a music teacher at Eakin Elementary School, is one of 10 music teachers across the country to receive the 2017 Yale Distinguished Music Educator Award.

Awardees were identified and nominated in partnership with the National Association for Music Education and the VH1 Save the Music Foundation. They were selected in recognition of their innovative approaches to music education, their dedication to their urban communities and their desire to make a substantial difference in the lives of students and families.

“The Yale School of Music is continuing its tradition of recognizing exceptional music teachers working in schools across the United States,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe said in a press release. “This year, we’re focusing specifically on the leadership of educators in city schools, whose work is made more critical by a growing disparity in opportunities for music making in America’s cities.”

Black holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Central Oklahoma and has taught general music and choir for 13 years. In addition to being a music teacher, she also mentors pre-service teachers, directs theater and choir and presents workshops for educators.

She is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, having served as a committee co-chair in 2014. She is an adviser for music curriculum and serves as a peer reviewer for the Tennessee Fine Arts Growth Measures System. She is also a 2016 Teaching Fellow at Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education, where she focused on education policy issues, and was named a Music Teacher of Excellence in 2016 by the Nashville Public Education Foundation and the Country Music Association Foundation.

Recipients of the 2017 Yale Distinguished Music Educator Awards were invited to New Haven to attend this year’s Symposium on Music in Schools, which focused on the role that music-making plays in America’s city schools.

Congratulations to Ms. Black on this impressive accomplishment!

Quality pre-K is vital to student success

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On June 21, Metro Schools will host its second annual Excellence in Early Education Summit to highlight best practices in early childhood education, and to give participants access to resources to enhance pre-K educational programs. Mayor Megan Barry, a long-time supporter of early education, and Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph will speak at the event.

In the last two years under Dr. Joseph’s leadership, the district has increased its investment in pre-K programs. Research affirms that pre-K educational programs put students on the path to school success. Youngsters who are enrolled in pre-K programs are nearly four times more likely to do better in school when they have a solid educational foundation heading into kindergarten. Currently, MNPS serves more than 3,000 pre-K students with many of the available pre-K seats for economically disadvantaged children. MNPS’s pre-K program gives children of all income levels access to high-quality, project- and play-based instruction with highly trained early childhood education teachers.

Thanks to a federal preschool development grant, the district added 440 new seats to the pre-K program last year. The grant also funds the work of family involvement specialists who are dedicated to strengthening school-to-home communication. The family involvement specialists link parents to valuable district and community resources, teach workshops about kindergarten readiness and have developed a host of resources – all available online – to help parents support the academic readiness and success of their young children during critical formative years.

Check out these free resources:

Keep informed about new resources for parents and families at mnps.org, and learn more by following MNPS on social media @MNPSFamilies and @MetroSchools.

 

Metro Schools teacher featured by Tennessee Music Education Association

Franklin Willis

Franklin Willis, a music teacher at Andrew Jackson Elementary School, was chosen as the first Teacher Spotlight by the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA) General Music Division.

Willis, a graduate of Nashville School of the Arts, holds degrees from the University of Memphis and Belmont University. He has been selected for numerous teaching awards including Teacher of the Year (Madison Middle School, 2015-16), Blue Ribbon Teacher Award and the Country Music Association Music Teacher of Excellence Award.

Willis’ student ensembles have consistently earned superior ratings at state and national festivals. His students have performed at venues throughout Middle Tennessee including the Grand Ole Opry, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Cumberland Park, Gaylord Convention Center, Opry Mills Mall, retirement homes, churches and various schools.

Check out his interview here.

Two Metro Schools students win National Merit scholarships

Graduation_Social-Media_2017_FacebookAd-2Congratulations are in order! Jeremiah Ginder, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, and Joseph Henry, Hillsboro High School, are the recipients of National Merit college-sponsored scholarships.

Ginder and Henry were two of more than 3,200 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by U.S. colleges and universities. Officials of each sponsor college select their scholarship winners from the finalists in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution.

The awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

Ginder received his scholarship from Tennessee Tech University where he will study physics. Henry’s scholarship is from the University of Chicago, where he plans to major in computer engineering.

Congratulations to both of these students on this impressive achievement!

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