School Improvement News January 2013

Classroom Management
When a student needs extra support to maintain appropriate behaviors.

This article describes how to think and work through the development of a student taking ownership in achieving appropriate behaviors in the classroom. An "Individual Written Agreement" needs a team approach which includes the student, parents, and school personnel.

*Elem; Behavior; Classroom


From the article: "I approached my work with Justin as a collaborative effort with other adults at school. In addition to working with our psychologist and social worker to teach Justin coping skills, I asked our school nurse to be available for times when Justin needed a break outside of the classroom to regain control. This helped reduce the disruption Justin's outbursts caused the rest of the class, and it provided Justin with another adult in the school who knew him well and supported him."

A Must in Every Classroom: Routine and Structure

For many teachers this is the hardest concept to embrace because we forget that routine and structure decrease anxiety, stress, and demands, which are the foundations for disruptive behaviors. Teachers who have mastered the use of embedding routine and structure into their classroom culture reap many rewards, students perform better academically, students experience fewer behavioral infractions, and students have a more enjoyable school experience. Mike Anderson, author of The Leap Into 4th Grade, explains how he implemented structure and routine into his 4th grade classroom. The ideas shared in this article are applicable to elementary and secondary classrooms. You will gain hours of instructional time by taking 10 minutes to read this article.

*Elem; Secondary; Behavior; Classroom; School-wide

Ideas That Create a Classroom Environment The Maximizes Opportunities for Learning

Preparedness - Materials, supplies, worksheets, books, notes, word lists and the like should be in a strategic place when needed on a particular day. This shows students that the teacher takes the lesson seriously enough that she/he has prepared so that time is not wasted finding and distributing materials. Students see that the emphasis is on learning, not "killing" time to get through the day.

Student Collaboration - Students should know ahead of time with whom they are partnering. Desks, tables, and chairs, should be arranged so that when students arrive in the classroom, they are seated in their groups or can easily transition to be in groups. Norms and roles should be established at the beginning of the school year (and reviewed often) so that students see this process as a routine that has structure.

Aromatherapy and Colors - Just as smelling an apple pie or a roast with onions and gravy from your grandmother's kitchen makes your mouth water, the aroma of peppermint oil can help students focus. Certainly, you must consider student allergies and sensitivities. However, many teachers have had a great deal of success using aromas and colors to set the mood for learning. The smell of lemons increases productivity. If students usually become very hungry even after lunch, let them enjoy a snack and use the color purple for your handouts or on your SMARTBoard. Check your school district's policy before beginning to use aromas in your classroom.

Tidiness - Classrooms that are orderly and uncluttered suggest the same to the brain. Students who work in an environment where their brains' input is order tend to be better thinkers. Why do most clean the kitchen before starting to cook a new meal? They need order and a place to start. Students need the same daily. They work better when they can freely think and collect their thoughts. Help students tidy their work areas and keep classrooms free of clutter.


January PD Opportunity

The West Virginia Department of Education is holding two special professional development opportunities in January, 2013. Watch the 2 minute video and wait for the surprise ending!

Registration here:


Registration opens at 8:00 pm on Friday, 1/4/13.

It will say “no longer accepting responses” until then. There is no need to contact me if it says “Something went wrong”.


West Virginia Department of Education
Office of Instructional Technology

Where to find the Office of School Improvement in Cyberspace

  • TWITTER:  @WVSchoolImprove

The Office of School Improvement has expanded into cyberspace to assist schools more effectively and efficiently.  The SI website offers an array of online resources to assist schools in the development of their school improvement blueprint.  As new items are added to the site, they are also tweeted for immediate use. 

On the School Improvement website, Principals, Leadership Teams, and Districts can access the High Quality Standards and Data Collection Tool, Principal’s Toolkit, Culture Survey, IPI, Conference resources and materials, and other resources for instant integration. 

Send us tools, materials, strategies, books, and articles that have helped your school improve. We will feature it on the Office of School Improvement website. 


Online Training Offered by the Office of Early Learning to Assist School Improvement

The newly established Office of Learning is dedicated to transforming and supporting the state’s early childhood classrooms.  As defined by the WVDE and the WVBE, early childhood education in the state of West Virginia will include Pre-K – 5th grade.  As part of the support, reflections and feedback provided to the Office of Early Learning from past TLI participants assisted in the preparation of a year-long agenda to support those who participated in TLI, as well as support the state early childhood field (Pre-K-5th Grade) as a whole.

The Office of Early Learning has prepared a series of webinars titled – “Transforming Elementary Classrooms—Extending the Work of Teacher Leadership Institutes.” This series of webinars is designed to support teachers in early childhood.  The content of these webinars will extend the work from the Teacher Leadership Institutes. All teachers and administrators are invited to participate. Topics for these webinars will be designed for the identified audience and are identified within the registration information. These webinars are voluntary. Due to the limited slots, teachers are encouraged to come together and participate in groups. It is necessary for only one person from each group to register. Below is a list of schedule webinars. **Additional resources can be found at the Office of Early Learning website – - Continue to check the website frequently, as well as joining the Office of Early Learning’s Twitter page to receive ongoing tweets throughout the year.

Webinars Schedule 2012-2013

Registration Information for the following webinars will be available in January 2013.

  • January 10, 2013/ 3:30-4:30
    • K-5 (Topic—TBD)
  • January 22, 2013 / 3:30-4:30
    • Fourth/Fifth Grade Teachers (Extending the work of Teacher Leadership Institute 2012)
  • January 23, 2013/ 3:30-4:30
    • Kindergarten Teachers(Extending the work of Teacher Leadership Institute 2012)
  • January 24, 2013 / 3:30-4:30
    • First Grade Teachers (Extending the work of Teacher Leadership Institute 2012)
  • February 19, 2013 / 3:30-4:30
    • Second & Third Grade (Introduction to the Next Generation CSOs)
  • March 14, 2013/ 3:30-4:30
    • Designed for Office of School Improvement (Making a claim and supporting with evidence)
  • March 21, 2013 / 3:30-4:30
    • Second & Third Grade (Introduction to the Next Generation CSOs)
  • April 9, 2013 / 3:30-4:30
    • K-2 (Topic: TBD)
  • May 7, 2013 / 3:30-4:30
    • Second/Third Grades


Instructional Practices Inventory in West Virginia Schools

Why use IPI?

  • For overall school improvement in learning and teaching
  • To increase student engagement with the curriculum and their own learning
  • To use data collaboratively to help your school continue to grow

The West Virginia Department of Education's involvement in the IPI process has given teachers the ability to reflect upon their collective teaching practices, thus raising the bar of expectations toward higher level and deeper thinking, in addition to developing a more active and engaged student learning environment.  WVDE’s continued focus on student engagement has expanded into 50 counties and the WVSDB.  This expansion has allowed for more than 2,075 IPI coders to be trained and certified statewide.  For additional information about the IPI process and development, please visit Dr. Jerry Valentine’s website at *(Please note this site is still being developed, but will give you an idea of what type of IPI resources can be accessed).

**IMPORTANT** For those currently using IPI, data should be uploaded when completing an IPI coding.  This data is used for research and continued development of the IPI process.  To upload your data, visit the IPI site at  To upload a WebTop login and password are required.  Each coding should be uploaded once.

Courtesy: Glenna Heinlein, State School Improvement Specialist at


A Must Watch Video

This is how we transform learning. A whirlwind of energy and ideas, Stephen Ritz is a teacher in New York's tough South Bronx, where he and his kids grow lush gardens for food, greenery -- and jobs. Just try to keep up with this New York treasure as he spins through the many, many ways there are to grow hope in a neighborhood many have written off, or in your own.

(Filmed at TEDxManhattan.)

Stephen Ritz teaches at-risk kids in the South Bronx.

Here is the link.


Principal's Toolkit

Have you visited the Principal's Toolkit? It is updated every week. There are school improvement resources for data collection and analysis, scheduling, articles, books, videos, forms and much more. No need to reinvent the wheel, find it here or contact us if you can't find what you are looking for.


Under Construction

A new page is on its way: The West Virginia Department of Education Support for Improving Professional Practice. Take a look! (WVSIPP).


January's Feature

Free Apps for the Classroom


Assessment is more than numbers in a gradebook. The collection of data regarding student behavior can offer great insight into areas that require intervention.

ClassDojo is a fantastic behavior management tool that monitors students' positive and negative behaviors. It's free to sign up and very user-friendly. ClassDojo can be accessed through an iPad app, data can be recorded from a laptop, or their fun graphics can be displayed on a SMART Board. A great feature of ClassDojo is that you can customize the different behaviors it monitors to fit your classroom culture and set of expectations. With easy-to-read reports, ClassDojo is a wonderful tool to refer to during parent-teacher conferences or IEP meetings.


Nearpod. An all-in-one solution for the synchronized use of iPads in the classroom. Teachers make lectures more engaging through interactive multimedia presentations.

Bring the classroom to life with interactive mobile presentations that teachers create and customize themselves. Students can submit responses on their mobile devices using the Nearpod app. There are 4 tools to easily create, engage and assess: Content tool, Nearpod Teacher, Nearpod Student, and the Reporting Tool.

Spelling City

Make practicing spelling fun. If you do not already use Spelling City, it is time to explore this engaging website that allows you, the teacher, to create spelling and vocabulary lists for your class.

Spelling City.

It is free to use the website and to download the App. However, many more tools area available if you upgrade. School and district licenses are for purchase at reasonable rates. With the new App, now parents and students can use Spelling City while on the go.


Once you have used any of these apps, please contact us so that we can share your experiences with other teachers.



Global 21