Have You Ever Heard of the Math Ceiling Fairy?

By Inga Schoenbrun and Janice Graves, Math Specialists

Have you ever heard of the Math Ceiling Fairy? Many students’ eyes are glued to the ceiling anxiously awaiting the fairy’s appearance to give them the answer to math problems like 8×7. The fairy may be a figment of our imagination, but reliance on memorization is not. A recent article in Scientific American details research from Stanford University showing that an emphasis on memorization, rote procedures, and speed impairs learning and achievement in math.

At Langley, we strive to develop strategies that allow our students to use what they do know to figure out something they don’t. In the example of 8×7, a student might employ the double strategy: I know 4×7 is 28 and 8 groups is double 4 groups, so 8×7 is double 28 or 56! This student understands not only how to double numbers, but also the structure of multiplication as equal groups. Another student might realize they know 7×7 is 49, and simply add one more group of 7 to get 56.

Math at Langley

Students who recognize the effect operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) have on numbers are more adept at solving complex, multi-step problems. They construct concrete or pictoral models to illustrate the problems and allow themselves to take risks to solve problems using a variety of methods. Strategy-based learning leads to generative knowledge where memorization lends itself to temporal and compartmentalized learning.

Do we value math fact fluency? Absolutely we do. We are committed to building fluency hand in hand with number sense and mental math strategies. Listen closely as your child computes numbers and marvel at his or her creativity and efficiency. It just might surprise you.

Why World Languages Learning Is So Essential to 21st Century Education

By Glenda De Hoyos, Spanish Teacher

We are educating students to develop skills that can help them work in future professions that might not even exist right now. The world is rapidly changing and the needs of a globalized society are difficult to predict with certainty. However, with total conviction we know that our students will need some important skills in the future.

To start the list: thinking creatively to solve problems, being flexible and adapting to changes, collaborating and communicating effectively with others, and having technology proficiency. Further, empathy, compassion, and open-mindedness are important capabilities that can be developed and that grow through academic and social experiences. Other skills that are also important to add to that list include the ability to be resilient and recover quickly and positively from the many challenges that are faced every day.

The Langley School - World Language

At The Langley School, we have a comprehensive curriculum that integrates the many areas that will lead students to develop those skills and many others. I’m so proud to be working in a school that understands the importance of learning a world language from a very young age, and how learning languages is a key element in the development of all the previously mentioned skills, among some others. Our students are given the opportunity through our World Languages Department to learn Spanish from Primary School, and later on, given the choice to learn French or Chinese. This program gives our students an incredible chance to be bilingual and, in many cases, multilingual. This solid foundation can be continued in their future studies in high school and college, opening doors to studies abroad and exchange programs and boosting their careers no matter the area.

As Dr. Scully mentioned in her recent “State of the School” address, the World Languages Department has spent the past academic year reflecting, researching, and planning ways to strengthen our program for our students. For the latter part of this year and into next, the department has begun redesigning its curriculum to be more meaningful and relevant to student learning through the use of a variety of new resources. In addition, the department has aligned new courses to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ (ACTFL) “Can-Do” statements, which help define higher proficiency levels for our students. And our program encourages teachers to speak in the target language for approximately 90 percent of the class time.

The ACTFL provides research studies that support the benefits of language learning in three major areas: academic achievement, cognitive development and abilities, and a positive effect in the attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures.

Research proves that language learning correlates with higher academic achievements, positive impact on reading abilities, increments in linguistic awareness, and higher scores on standardized tests like the SAT and the ACT, among many others. There is also evidence that cognitive skills, like memory, attention, motor, verbal, and spatial abilities, are impacted positively by learning more than one language. The global awareness provided by the cultural integration of the world language curriculum provides the space to develop empathy and a positive attitude toward others. Interesting articles and research publications that support these statements can be found on the ACTFL website.

Without any doubt, learning foreign languages and discovering the similarities and differences among other cultures has countless benefits in the academic and social-emotional development of all our students. When you combine the strong academic foundation in language arts, STEAM, fine arts, and world languages with a carefully organized social-emotional base, you have the opportunity to enhance and multiply the learning foundation of our students. That is what our students live at The Langley School. I feel very proud to have joined this outstanding learning community as well as to be part of a highly qualified group of world language teachers.
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Where Vital Academics Meet a Deep Respect for Childhood

by Ayesha Flaherty, Parent and Administrator at The Langley School

Focusing our children’s attention on academic success is critically important to us as parents. And while we seek, encourage, and reward academic activities and accomplishments, we also want our children to retain the joy of being children.

We know that no single model or methodology can universally achieve this perfect balance. However, at The Langley School, the essence of who we are and what drives our curricular decisions is guided by our mission to seek this important, and necessary, balance.

What “vital academics” means at Langley

The word “vital” is defined as “absolutely necessary or important; essential.” When it comes to educating our children, making the trade-offs on how they spend their time and what skills and values are prioritized makes all the difference. That’s why The Langley School stays agile enough to respond to the most vital 21st-century skills. We invest heavily in professional development for our teachers and regularly review our teaching instruction and curriculum, building our students’ schedule and experiences with their futures in mind.

For example, we practice collaboration starting at a young age through our Big Buddy program. We teach empathy through our formal service learning program. We enforce digital citizenship to embed safe habits. We approach lessons with essential questions to spur innovation.

The secondary definition of vital is “full of energy; lively.” If you’ve ever set foot on Langley’s campus, you have witnessed the palpable sense of joy on every corner of campus. As one 2015 Langley graduate stated, “Langley was a place I could come and be assured that I would be safe, comfortable, and most importantly, happy. I feel blessed to have grown up at such a school.”

Guided by a deep respect for childhood

At The Langley School, we believe that childhood isn’t just a stage to pass through – but it is a period of crucial, foundational learning. From age 3 to early adolescence, there is steep cognitive and interpersonal growth. Our teachers are experts in this critical period of development and celebrate childhood while giving their students a solid foundation on which to build.

Where vital academics meet a deep respect for childhood.

This phrase captures our identity as a school. At Langley, you don’t have to choose; you can have both. Another 2015 Langley graduate summed it up best: “Of course I learned a lot academically at Langley, but I’ve also learned life lessons like how to work with other people, how to make lasting friendships, and how to be kind and tolerant.”

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Five Myths About Summer Reading

by Jan Silvano, Head Librarian

Summertime! At the end of a school year, this word holds such promise! Fun, excitement, relaxation, travel, and TIME! We relish that idea of more time…to do what we want, when we want; time without the constraints of the school schedule and all the other demands that school makes on us. Throw into this idyllic scenario: summer reading.

Yes, The Langley School expects students to read daily, all summer long. Students’ responses to summer reading range from “Great! I have more time to try the books I didn’t get to!” to “Do I HAVE to?” to “I WILL! Just stop nagging me!” and everything in between.

As a librarian, reading is an integral part of my life. In fact, right now I’m looking forward to finishing the young adult version of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken after I read The Washington Post sports section articles about the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. When I have more time, I choose to read…but many of us do not.

Speaking of The Washington Post, maybe you enjoy, as I do, the “5 Myths” column in the Sunday outlook section. I propose my own version with: “Five Myths About Summer Reading.” I hope they offer some food for thought.

  1. Schools should require students to read specific titles.

Consult the research. Choice is essential. Students are more invested in reading when they choose their books: authors and genres they find interesting; information in all formats; challenging books; books that are fluff; books already read; blogs that make them question; magazine articles that spark conversations with you. At Langley, many of our students create “Wanna Read” lists in May for their vacation reading selections. The library provides a list of websites that guides your child to quality fiction and non-fiction recommendations. Explore the options with them. Talk it over. Maybe the following will happen in your home this July:

Student: “What should I read next?”

Parent: “Let’s look at the lists on CampusNet for some ideas. You know, I checked out a new book yesterday when we were at the library, one of Mr. Willis’ recommendations!”

Student: “Yeah! I was impressed, Dad! I haven’t tried any that my friends suggested; they just read dystopias…everybody loved Insurgent but me…”

Parent: “Really? I thought you liked The Giver when you read it with Mrs. Gustin in LA. Let’s try the NCSS website.”

  1. Schools should motivate summer reading with incentives.

Surely not a pizza party? How about a Barnes & Noble gift card (choose a new book!)? A little external motivator, every now and again, can go a long way. For example, at Langley in September, the fourth- and fifth-graders’ summer reading times are tallied. The grade with the most minutes is recognized at a Lower School assembly. The “winning” grade is rewarded with 1) kudos from their peers and teachers; 2) a set of books for the grade to share; 3) pride in their accomplishment; and 4) improved vocabulary, fluency, comprehension; enhanced cultural references; exposure to intricate plots; and introductions to amazing characters.

  1. Schools should require students to do a project or hand in a report about their summer reading.

At Langley, we provide print and digital reading logs for our older students so they can document the amount of time they read, each day and each week. This is a more process-oriented approach. Reading can’t be crammed; absorbing text cannot be rushed; and reading takes effort. Watching people read is not very exciting. Yet, if we could take pictures of what is happening inside the mind of a reader – their imagination, their experiences, the impact on their interior life, their feelings – now that would be a pretty exciting project to hand in.

  1. Summer reading just happens; either kids read or they don’t.

Yes, many kids choose to read of their own volition. But many others don’t. There are hundreds of options competing for our students’ attentions. Yet when it comes to any skill a person wants to perfect, it is about intention; about practice; about honing a life-long habit; about having an objective and working toward it by carving out dedicated time to achieve it.

  1. Reading takes time.

This is no myth. Reading – fall, winter, spring, and summer – is a skill that requires practice and time. By making the commitment to each word, page, chapter, article, book – and by making time daily – students and parents will arrive together at a positive summer reading experience. It is our job, the parents and educators, to create the environment, supply the materials, model the expectations, and inspire our kids to get going.

Happy reading!

Day of Service at Langley

By Brent Locke

The holidays are often a time of happiness and joy. They offer the chance to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, show love and affection for our friends and family, and to prepare for a fresh new year ahead. This time can also serve as an incredible opportunity to teach our children how to share this joy and love with others. Building a desire and passion for service has powerful social and academic impacts for children, and reinforcing this passion with your children is critical to building service as a life-long skill.

This school year Langley adopted the Roots and Shoots Service Learning program. The cornerstone of this program is to teach students the power of service, develop their love and understanding of service, and to create, measure and reflect on a service learning project. As we know, service of all kinds is a critical component to character and community building. Our goal is to push students to understand the difference between an act of community service and a service need that is identified, researched, planned, and executed by a student. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, when students participate in service activities that they have personally identified and chosen to do, there are significant positive impacts to: “academic performance(GPA, writing skills, critical thinking skills), values, self-efficacy, leadership (leadership activities, self-rated leadership ability, interpersonal skills).” (Astin, Vogelgesang, Ikeda, Lee)

As students realize the power they can have as individuals within their own community, their passion for service grows. The tough work comes in helping students actualize this potential.

Practicing Langley’s core value of kindness is perhaps the most tangible way our students can internalize the benefits of spreading joy and love beyond their family and friends during this holiday season. On the last day of school in December, on Langley’s “Day of Service”, the entire school took part in recognizing acts of kindness they have seen, heard, or experienced as a Langley student. Students shared things like: “I saw a teacher drop all of her papers and a bunch of 2nd graders stopped to help her pick them up” and “I saw someone fall down on the playground and another kid asked them if they were ok” and “I was scared on my first day of school and someone asked me if I would sit with them at lunch.” We wrote these down and decorated our very own Kindness Tree, which can be seen here.

The final part of the Day of Service gave students the chance to generate ideas of how they could spread kindness within their community during the winter break.   Ideas ranged from serving food at a soup kitchen to helping elderly neighbors shovel snow. While the holiday break gives all of us the chance to relax and recharge our batteries, it also gives us the opportunity to build a love of service beyond the school walls, and to challenge our students to apply those ideas of kindness within their community. When children begin to realize that they can identify simple things within their community that they can change for the better, they begin to realize they are responsible and capable of making that change. So as you enjoy this break together with your family, ask your Langley student “how would you like to spread kindness today?” Happy Holidays!