Performing with Joy

by Sheila Malcolm, Music Teacher

When it comes to my youngest students, musical performances are much more about showcasing their joyful exuberance than achieving a “perfect” show. And that joy is what parents saw last week during our Primary School spiral unit performance, “Let’s Go to the Zoo.” It was a true reflection of what the children learned in class, rather than a staged show. My aim was to create a safe and fun environment in which even the shyest of children felt comfortable.

Our performance reflected the culmination of a month-long study of age-appropriate, zoo-themed activities undertaken by each Primary School grade across subjects, including P.E., Spanish, technology, library, and of course, music. It represented a genuine team effort, not only from the faculty, but also from the children as they learned how important it was to work together, be considerate of others, and always strive to do their best in order to make their performance successful.

The songs and movement activities were chosen with great care to ensure they were age-appropriate and enjoyable for the children. There were lions roaring, kangaroos hopping, penguins waddling, elephants trumpeting, and monkeys playing, just to name a few. The songs were also linked to their classroom studies. For example, the junior kindergarten classes learned about how the welfare and well-being of the animals was important, so one of their songs was about the training requirements and work responsibilities of a zoo veterinarian. The kindergarten classes learned about how zoos help endangered species, so one of their songs was about the gorilla. They also learned how to differentiate between a monkey and an ape.

Musically, much of what was seen on stage was a direct reflection of skills the children had learned in music class. They played their instruments to a steady beat, used dynamics in the songs, learned about verse and refrain, focused on keeping together by listening to others, learned to recognize and listen for phrases in music, and learned how to count beats and listen to musical cues for their choreography and dances.

Performing in front of an audience, no matter how scary for some, helps build the confidence our students will need to flourish in the wider world. We’ll see this growing confidence on display on stage in the coming weeks as our first-graders take us Down Under to Australia, our second-graders give their “Coming to America” performance, and our Middle Schoolers present the musical, “Willy Wonka.”

“Planning” Ahead for 2017

By Amy Jones, Director of Resource at The Langley School

I love the comics. Here’s a strip from Luann by Greg Evans. The girl exclaims, “This is great!  No homework!!”  Her classmate stares at her in disbelief, “What about that huge science project that’s due in two days?  You haven’t even started it!”  She replies with delight, “I mean no homework TONIGHT!”

Executive functions, the thinking which takes place primarily in the pre-frontal cortex, are the functions responsible for planning — or lack thereof as we see in Luann. Many refer to these brain functions as an air traffic controller or the conductor of an orchestra. Students and adults alike use these functions not only to plan, but also to prioritize, organize, remember, reflect, and shift attention from one task to another. These functions help regulate emotions, inhibit desires, and attend to tasks. These capacities don’t mature until the mid 20s, but can be strengthened with practice — and it’s a perfect time to practice with a new year ahead!

Here at The Langley School, we are teaching these skills from an early age. In the Primary School, children are learning about time management and planning as they discuss the “before and after” as well as the present. During morning meeting, the children and their teachers review the calendar. “Today is Tuesday, December 20, yesterday was Monday, and tomorrow will be Wednesday.” In Lower School, the work continues. Schedules are on the board and teachers help students break down long-term assignments. Teachers give students more opportunities for reflection, allowing them to develop their metacognitive skills. In some grades, students keep track of their goals on their desks as well as use checklists for important routines.

Executive functions Skills Building

Middle School often presents challenges and opportunities for students, as they are changing classes and keeping track of homework in at least five different subjects. During sixth-grade orientation in the fall, teachers explicitly work with students to understand planning, time management, studying, and metacognition. In advisory at the beginning of the year, students “map” their week so they have a better understanding of the time that they have to manage. Self-reflection is built into many assignments, and students prepare to lead parent-teacher conferences by spending time in advisory thinking of their strengths and areas for improvement.

You can help your children develop better executive functioning at home. To learn more about executive functioning, and executive dysfunction, click here to view a recent PALS talk given to Langley parents by Kathy Essig of The StudyPro and to access other resources.

Langley Launches New Research-Based Teacher Feedback Model

By Phil Petru, Assistant Head of School, The Langley School

The Langley School teachers have long been recognized as one of the best and most respected faculties in the Northern Virginia region. Research suggests that the single most important factor in student achievement is the quality of a student’s teacher. Thus, the recruiting and hiring process is taken very seriously when any opening occurs at Langley.

But just as important as hiring is the school’s commitment to develop teachers’ instructional and curricular knowledge and abilities. Langley invests heavily in the continuing professional development of our teachers as faculty attend national and regional conferences about the best practices surrounding their respective fields. While professional development is an important cornerstone of maintaining and growing a strong faculty, so is the evaluation model that a school uses to provide meaningful feedback about teaching and learning.

Starting this school year, The Langley School faculty are engaging in a new teacher evaluation system designed to provide more timely and meaningful feedback to teachers about their instructional practices in the classroom. After spending the last school year examining the previous system and exploring other models for teacher evaluation, the Langley Academic Leadership Team (ALT) instituted a new system, the Marshall Observation Method, which is based on the work and research of Kim Marshall. Mr. Marshall, a lifelong educator who resides in the Boston area, is nationally renowned for his work in teacher evaluation and feedback. Langley’s ALT worked with about 25 faculty members during the 2015-2016 school year who volunteered to pilot two potential models of evaluation and feedback before the final decision was made to implement the Marshall Method.

Under the new Marshall evaluation system, members of Langley’s ALT visit each faculty member at least eight times throughout the school year for short, focused observations. Following each classroom visit, the teacher and ALT member reflect on the areas of strength and growth of the lesson. The ALT member writes a summary of the post-observation conference, along with any recommendations, and sends it to the teacher for his/her review. Each teacher also meets with his or her supervising ALT member in January and May for a mid- and final-year conference to discuss professional growth. Research shows that more meaningful and frequent feedback about instruction results in more observable growth of teachers.

The Langley School

Feedback from Langley’s faculty is very positive. Ryan McKinney, Lower and Middle School science teacher and Science Department head, remarked, “As teachers, we know that teachable moments lead to authentic learning experiences that help students grow. Implementing the Marshall Method at Langley provides more of an opportunity for teachers and administrators to experience and reflect on events that happen between students and teachers in the classroom. These ‘teachable moments’ are used to help start the collaborative process of developing strategies that improve teacher performance. In the end, it is a win for the administrator, teacher, and most importantly, the students.”

Devon Davidson, grade 5 teacher, was also impressed with the new process for teacher evaluation as she stated, “I think the Marshall observations allow for more holistic and realistic observations. The regularity of having someone come into my room, and not just once a year at the end of the year, gave the observer and me the chance to examine my teaching and the students in a realistic manner. The observers see authentic moments in our room which help develop relevant and applicable feedback. I appreciate that the post-observation meetings are short, and are more of a conversation rather than an assessment of my performance. One of the things I find most helpful in our post-observation conversations are the immediately applicable suggestions. Throughout the year, we get into our routines and sometimes forget about ideas or strategies that could be effective for our students. The post-observation conversations I have had always spark an idea to refresh what I do in the classroom.”

We are very proud of the impact that this model is having on our already vibrant teacher culture and community, and most importantly, our students’ learning. We hope you’ll reach out to learn more about our program.

 

Learn about Langley

 

 

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.
Learn about Langley

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.”

Langley Social Media

Blog header

The Reading Experience

By Jan Silvano, Head Librarian

Stories and books…they conjure up memories as varied and personal as each individual’s experience. As parents, we may want to share our own love of reading with our child and are dismayed if he doesn’t take to it the way we did as children. We are so thrilled when that initial spark of independent reading ignites that we try to force abridged versions of Moby Dick on her. We express exasperation when he checks out the Alex Ovechkin biography yet again or she brings home Puppies and How to Care for Them for the third week in a row.

We are well intentioned! We want to encourage a love of reading in our child and are horrified to be met with resistance or downright defiance. What is meant to be an enjoyable source of common interest becomes a frustrating battleground of bargaining and negotiating: “If you read for 15 minutes, you can have the iPad back!”

There is a saying, “Single causality is simplistic,” and in the current climate of bits, bytes, tweets, polarized opinions, branding, and quick fixes, parents are hungry for “the one” easy solution. Alas, it is sad to say there is no “one” answer to the question, “How can I ensure that my child will ‘be a reader?’”

Educational research gives us these strategies. Make sure your child sees you reading. Have a variety of reading materials in the home that are easily accessible and available in a variety of formats. Talk about what you are reading with your child. If you have to read for work, describe the different kinds of reading you do as a grown-up. Discuss your own childhood reading experiences. Were you “a reader?” Maybe you weren’t. Maybe it was not an option you chose among the myriad of options competing for your time and attention – options that have increased enormously in the past 10, 15, or 20 years. Welcome to our own students’ experience!

The educational research is pretty unanimous when it comes to allowing your child to choose the books that interest him. He has to discover for himself the stories, subjects, and authors that motivate him, that nurture him, that help him develop his own sense of self. She will go through different phases, be drawn to a particular series, only read non-fiction, gobble up everything by a particular author, re-read favorites. It’s up to us, as parents and educators, to provide the forum for “courageous conversations,” to be available, and to support our children as they grow into evaluators and critical thinkers, navigating their way through the experience of the written word. That is our work.

Everyone reads for different reasons: to be informed, to be entertained, to be part of a community, to be seen to be reading. At Langley, all students have access to the school library. It is enlightening to witness the children as they make their book choices at each developmental level. Already by three and four years old, peer influence on the reading selections is in evidence. Non-readers, emerging readers, deep readers, struggling readers. Each child has a sense of what book she wants to choose when she comes into the library. It is the librarians’ job to guide, inspire, cajole, suggest, urge, badger, recommend, promote, and sometimes require depending on the curricular goal – but ultimately, peer influence wins out.

All is not lost. Children also sometimes want “the” book their dad read, or their aunt recommended, or their mom LOVES, or Mrs. Gustin says is a “must-read before you die,” or the biggest book, or the book of the movie/video game. Remember, a library is the place where a comprehensive collection exists to encourage independent free reading, with no strings attached, and the reading choices are made according to the interests of the reader.

Be assured: our Langley kids do read. They are excited and nourished by books, they love to read, and the annual Book Fair, December 9 and 10 in the Pat Bush Library, is one of the most popular and anticipated community events of the school year. Spend time with your young readers, be present with them (no screen between you), and read with them – at the Book Fair, at the school library, and at your public library.

Purposeful Play in Primary School

CBy Amy Thomas, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

“Play isn’t the enemy of learning; it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it.” -Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

This September, New York City implemented universal pre-kindergarten, making it the latest of many cities and states to do so. In recent years, pre-k education has gained national press as research has consistently and repeatedly demonstrated the positive impact that high-quality early childhood programs have on student success in schooling and beyond.

Langley SchoolA recent New York Times article, titled “The Building Blocks of a Good Pre-K,” challenges the notion that high-quality programming is marked by a singular commitment to an academic curriculum. In fact, it argues quite the opposite – that some of students’ deepest learning occurs during play. The authors write, “As they play, children develop vital cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional skills. They make discoveries, build knowledge, experiment with literacy and math, and learn to self-regulate and interact with others in socially appropriate ways.”

This phenomenon is not new to us at The Langley School. A few summers ago, the faculty read Tony Wagner’s book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (2012). In it, Wagner writes about the changing role of the workforce and the necessity for students to develop a sense of play, passion, and purpose. He describes preschools in which teachers are acting as guides while the students take control of their own learning through authentic play experiences that encourage innovation and collaboration. I am proud to say that play is one of the cornerstones of Langley’s Primary School curriculum.

Students in our Primary School begin each day with “choice time,” a largely unstructured play time in which students are able to make play choices based on their own interests. Students in my junior kindergarten classroom enter each morning ready to take on a day of fun and learning. Some skip over to the play kitchen and begin working on their restaurant menu. Here they practice their phonetic spelling skills as they attempt to write words like “hot dog” while also practicing number formation as they list prices.

Others head to the block bin and begin working on their latest architectural project. This past week, their work focused on designing a new parking garage for Langley. Through careful thought, they were able to create a two-level parking garage with an entrance and a floor plan that enabled them to fit all of the cars from the car bin inside. Other students may find a comfy spot in the book corner to flip through one of their favorite books with a friend. I can hear them pointing out letters or see them dragging their fingers underneath the text as they pretend to read. This is purposeful play and it is one of the most valuable learning experiences that I can give my students.

In addition to its academic benefits, play helps students develop the social and emotional skills essential to success in school and in society. Students must work together to problem-solve when conflicts arise. What will they do when two students want to be the dog in the puppet theatre production? How will they react when someone else is reading the book they want to read? These experiences help students develop the communication skills necessary to articulate their desires, while simultaneously giving them the knowledge that they may not always get what they want when they want it, and that is okay.

In an ever-changing society, students need to develop more than the traditional content-based knowledge. They must develop an understanding of how to communicate, collaborate, and think critically. These are skills that we develop each day in The Langley School’s Primary School classrooms. As children play, we provide them with rich educational experiences in which they can take risks and expand their capacity for future learning.

The Power of Service

By Brent Locke, Interim Dean of Students

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a
difference. And we have a choice: What sort of difference do we want to make?”-Jane Goodall

Langley students impress me every day with their compassion for helping others both at school and within their community. By making acts of Middle Schoolers took part in the Capital Area Food Bank Face Hunger program.kindness both big and small a part of their daily routine, they make this community very special. Every day, I witness the simple, unprompted, thank yous our students give faculty after a class, a practice, an assembly, you name it. Langley students make treating others with kindness and respect a way of doing business.

While Langley students of all ages participate in a variety of service projects throughout the year, we launched Langley’s first-ever “Month of Service” this February to help raise awareness of the many ways students can help others on a daily basis. As the month progresses, I am hoping to harness the collective energy and goodwill our students exhibit by developing their understanding of service and the power of collective impact. Current educational research directly points to the immense benefits to students of participating in service learning. “Students benefit academically, socially, and emotionally; develop skills; and may come to appreciate the value of civic responsibility,” writes service learning expert Cathryn Kaye.

Developing a sense of empathy in adolescents, as they grapple with who they are and their place in the world, gives them powerful advantages in critical-thinking skills and awareness. Dealing with real-life issues, such as hunger and how to solve the overwhelmingly difficult hunger problem that exists within our own greater community, forces our students to see the perspective of others and expand their own problem-solving capacity. Further, students gain a deeper sense of gratitude and fulfillment of self when doing service projects.

As Langley constantly evaluates and improves our program and curriculum offerings for students, we have seen the overwhelming positive effects of collective impact that occur when our community works toward a common good together. For instance, nearly 30 people donated blood to support the American Red Cross blood drive we held on campus last week, donation boxes for the Capital Area Food Bank are already bursting at the seams, and best of all, students are learning the significance of our core values together as a community.

Langley students have embraced service and what it means to them in an inspiring way at school. At the end of the day, though, there is no greater thing you can do with your child than to continue these conversations about service with them at home. There are an abundance of opportunities to get involved within the community to further emphasize the impact and necessity of service in our everyday lives. If you are interested in volunteering as a family, I recommend you visit www.volunteermatch.org which lists a number of organizations that could use your help.

The Best Day of the Week: Big Buddy Time

By Melissa Legg, Kindergarten Teacher

The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are turning brilliant colors, and we are entering Little Buddyinto a very exhilarating time of year. As a kindergarten teacher, I get to see the uninhibited excitement of 18 5- and 6-year-olds as the holiday season is well under way. However, I must say that even the excitement of Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving dinner, and hoping for the first snowfall doesn’t hold a candle to what happens on Friday afternoons in the kindergarten classrooms.

Let me set the stage for you. It’s Friday afternoon, lunch is over, and the hubbub of excitement is at its highest level of the week. In about 10 minutes there will be several celebrities visiting the kindergarten classrooms. That’s right. We have celebrities attending The Langley School! These celebrities are sports stars, artists, actors and actresses, musicians, and wonderful role models.

Now, it is one minute until the 1:45 p.m. bell will ring and there is so much anticipation in the kindergarten classrooms that the students can barely sit still. They are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their Big Buddies. As the bell rings and the Big Buddies (our Langley celebrities) come into the classroom, the best time of the week is finally here!

The Big Buddy/Little Buddy program is a wonderful part of our year here at The Langley School. Each kindergarten student is paired with an eighth-grade student for the entire year. Every Friday, the Big Buddies come to the kindergarten classrooms to spend time with their Little Buddies. During this time, the buddies work together on art projects, play outside, draw pictures, read books, play board games, and get to know each other.

As teachers, we get to observe a very special bond forming between the younger and older students. This program allows the Big Buddies the chance to expand their leadership roles within the school and build their confidence. It can be a challenging, yet extremely rewarding experience that stretches many comfort zones. We have seen Big Buddies do everything from (patiently) teach a 5-year-old how to play chess, to (happily) act like writhing pythons in the grass during an imaginative game outside.

From the perspective of the Little Buddies, it allows them to see what lies beyond their classroom. Kindergarten is a time when students are just beginning to broaden their world beyond themselves. Spending time with a Big Buddy is not only the greatest 50 minutes of the week; it is also extremely instrumental in their personal growth and development. Kindergartners not only idolize their Big Buddies; they learn from them as well.

So, each Friday as you are counting down the minutes to the weekend, know that there is something very exciting happening at The Langley School in the kindergarten classrooms.

Off to a Great Start!

By Dr. Elinor Scully, Head of SchoolElinor-Scully-spring-2010

One of the many perks of being the new head of The Langley School is the unbelievably warm welcome I have received from all of the consitutencies of this great community. I have had such fun experiencing the rituals of a new school year alongside all those who are new to the community. There are many highlights of the first month of school, but here are a few particularly memorable ones that I will draw upon in the months ahead.

I was at the airport in early September to bid farewell to our eighth-graders as they began the journey to Costa Rica and Earth University. As their blog posts attested, the experience was life changing for many who ventured out of the United States for the first time. Their exposure to principles of environmental sustainability and stewardship, biodiversity, and cross-cultural communication clearly will influence them well beyond their time in Costa Rica. Many of the students continue to develop their own personal leadership plans as part of their return to Langley. Poised and articulate, these eighth-graders demonstrate on a daily basis why this trip is a fitting capstone to the Langley experience.

While the eighth-graders were in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to substitute for a sixth-grade science class. These budding scientists built towers out of spaghetti, string, tape, and marshmallows. Despite having an inexperienced science substitute like me, the students managed to build towers that were several feet high without incurring any injuries! Their innovative approach to the project was most impressive, though I am not sure I will be called upon to substitute again soon.

The Primary School students have invited me into their circle time, to read to them, and to attend a music class. One of the great joys of being at Langley is seeing for the first time how much learning takes place in these foundational early years. I have been moved by the joy and optimism our youngest students bring to school every single day.

And finally, thanks to our dedicated fourth-grade Langley school store cashiers, I am in possession of some awesome Langley swag. I have a new sweatshirt, hat, t-shirt, coffee mug, and Langley Spoonfuls cookbook! Like everyone I have encountered in these first weeks of school, they have ensured that I feel part of the school community. Thanks to everyone who has extended this kindness to me and to all of the new members of our community. I couldn’t wish for a better start to the school year!