Take a Walk on the Wild Side….a Book Walk That Is…

mauricesendakOn our Friday,  Professional Development Day, the NRE staff started our
day at Bookies Book Store in Denver Central, on Mississippi Ave. From 8:30 to 11:00 am, teachers browsed the shelves in search of Touchstone Books to carry back into their classroom Writer’s Workshops.

Read Alouds…for the hearts and minds of our young authors! 

The Northridge PTA sponsored this wonderful opportunity for img_0124the staff to find and purchase several very special books that will be used to enhance our literacy program!

Thank you NRE Parent Teachers Association!

Eyes wide open, smiles wrapped around stories like warm abrazos, darts to the hearts…you could find staff members tucked into corners with a book in hand or a circle of friends sandwiched on the floor between Caldecott and Newberry, sharing their self-to-text connections with books and carrying on about “what teaching moment this story will evoke…” back in the classroom.

In our afternoon sessions, Mary Beth Steinher and Jessica Johnston modeled Writer’s Workshop mini-lessons for K-3 and 4-6 teachers and specialists teachers, as a way for us to “take apart” the phases of a lesson and share technique, strategies and teaching craft.

We completed our Professional Development Day by bringing together all of the fine book treasures found at Bookies and created a museum “Gallery Walk”. Teachers made posters for their Touchstone Books, explaining; “What touched me and connected me to this book? “, “What was the author thinking when s/he wrote this book? “, “What writing craft, technique, element or attribute of text or illustration have I found in this book to use with students in Writer’s Workshop? A magnificent collection of Children’s Literature was on display and teachers wandered the gallery, interacting with the posters and books, leaving new ideas and ahas behind on sticky notes. We finished our day, sharing out the ideas, and the ways in which these treasures touched us and inspire our teaching.

The act of teaching a classroom full of learners, is a very complex, interactive and unfolding of teaching points, co-dependent progress and achievement.

Liken it to crossing a rope bridge, hung loosely across a gorge, 30 children tied to the teacher at the waist and anchored only by the guidance of spoken word.

It is critically important for teachers to have collaborative time to talk, share and learn from one another. We are especially grateful for the time to engage with each other in this way.

We wish to thank again, all of the NRE parents and community for supporting this initiative, and the leadership of the PTA who has the clarity to see the value of this activity to our instructional program! 

We will continue our work of blending the wonder of Reading Aloud these exemplary models of writing craft with our students and helping them cross to the other side as writers.


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October soon arrives at NRE….

Dear NRE Families and Friends, coloradofall

The first two months of school streamed by and we are arriving in October at NRE.  A fabulous first months of friendship building and learning the rituals and routines that shape our days as a learning community.

We have all noticed that the Fall is coming to our neighborhood, the leaves on the tree in the front yard are turning and the air in the evenings now requires a light comforter for a night’s sleep.

But during the days at Northridge, the building hums with activity of children busy with learning and at playtime they still bask in 80 degree weather.

Rituals and Routines ~ Teachers focus on the rituals and routines  during these first 8 weeks of school, protocols for moving around in a classroom and school building, managing our relationships with each other as learning community members, practicing our approaches to learning…using materials and resources, caring for our environment.

Norm Referenced Assessments ~ We have been conducting numerous norm-referenced assessments to understand the proximal levels of understanding for each student across school subject knowledge. Every student in K-3 is assessed with our DIBELS assessment tools, for knowledge and understanding of print. We are committed to literacy proficiency for all children by Grade 3. We use the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to track reading proficiency: fluency and comprehension across grade-levels. This is the principal benchmark literacy assessment for Grades 4-6. But throughout the school days and the work of becoming proficient Readers & Writers, teachers gain and apply formative observations and assessments of every students progress in all subject knowledge, skill and understanding. They use each child’s growing profiles as learners to differentiate their planning and teaching in response to the changing levels of understanding that children demonstrate.

In these immediate weeks, additional assessments are made across grade-levels and for all 3rd and 6th graders using the CogAT abilities test in reasoning and problem solving using verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal (spatial) symbols – See more at: CogAT Abilities Test- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt . This assessment is used as one criteria to differentiate teaching and learning for children who demonstrate advanced learning needs in various subject areas.

Parents of last years 5th graders will receive individual Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) test results. The Colorado implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers  (PARCC) assessment results from the 2015-16 school year will soon be released. Before PARCC, Colorado had tests called CSAP, or Colorado Student Assessment Program, and then TCAP, or Transitional Colorado Assessment Program. The TCAP tests were given to students in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as Colorado transitioned to the Common Core Standards and the Colorado Academic Standards.

All of these assessments are used to provide general norm-referenced benchmark measures of student knowledge, learned reasoning and current levels of performance against the norms in the kinds of learning activities that traditionally occur in schools.

These assessments do not measure intelligence or many facets of knowledge, skill or understanding outside of traditional methods to measure school learning. They do not measure the holistic dimensions of a child’s growth and development.

They do serve to support teachers in approximating and planning for traditional school learning activities. These kinds of measures of school success are required elements of the Colorado legislatures measures of school performance, and they do serve in narrow ways to ensure a student’s success throughout their traditional academic careers. All of these assessments are snapshots in time using a controlled assessment tool. They do not fully predict a child’s growth mindset or capacity.

Holistic and Formative Assessments ~ Teachers are talented observers and data collectors about their student learning. Observations, incidental, informal and teacher developed criterion-referenced assessments help teachers gauge actual student performance under multi-varied circumstances, over time and in real-time performance. They support teacher understanding of a student’s thinking, so that a teacher can spiralnniunderstand the developmental shape of a child’s understanding whether it is about decoding words, mathematical thinking, a scientific concept or other kinds of learning.

Learning occurs as a spiraling activity. As an individual learner or a cadre of learners approach the study, understanding and interaction with a subject, they approximate their understanding and make their best guesses about the world around them. We easily observe young children approximating their understanding of text and print, both decoding text and making sense, comprehending text as literal or inferred meaning.

Academics, scientists, athletes….all approach understanding and application in the same way. Take for example the study of gene transfer across species, as it contributes to another potential understanding of evolution among living systems. A spiraling approach brings new knowledge, new connections and new approximations toward achieving  increasingly accurate understandings and performance.

Earth Geologists use their understanding of Earth geological systems to make approximations about the formation and changes of the surface of Mars. Olympic athletes train continuously toward perfecting neurological, muscular and cognitive memory and function that result in increasing competence, sometimes achieving a gold medal performance.

The instructional staff at NRE use the continuous progress monitoring that occurs throughout each lesson and across the trans-disciplinary studies in primary education to support each learning at their proximal point of understanding, helping them make connections between past assumptions and knowledge approximations and new information or experiences so that students refine their understandings.

Teachers collect this formative data from individual students and their class through continuous observations, notations, progress over time measures, capturing spoken, written, and performance-task  observations. They record these using multiple tools and multiple measures. It is through this collection of unique and collective measures that teachers make decisions on re-teaching concepts, or create evolving lessons that spiral toward greater complexity of information, extending connections between old and new knowledge and across disciplines, and evoke increasingly complex reflection and analysis of current and potential understandings.

Please make use of our Teacher & Parent Conferences in the next week to ask those essential questions about your “whole child’s”  learning needs. Listen and inquire about academic goals, social and collaborative goals, and aspects of “PRIDE” that your child demonstrates.



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Human Dissections are Happening in 5th Grade Classrooms !

img_0109The students in Mrs. Christine Kounkel’s and Mrs. Becky Lansville’s 5th grade classrooms were hands deep into dissecting and reconstruction of human anatomy!

Dr. Frankenstein could learn a lot from these young scientists!

Using an Interact  science unit, students worked in teams studying systems of human anatomy: nervous system, respiratory system, circulation system, skeletal and img_0102muscular system, digestive system…

Students learn essential scientific knowledge, and through an active and collaborative learning mode, develop understandings about human biological systems. They learn critical 21st Century skills as
they engaged in Cooperative Group Work Rubrics to measure the level of team collaboration and learning.

We aim for our NRE students to experience applied learning through STEAM approaches like this. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) refers to Transdisciplinary learning  approaches. Learners in the primary years learn best when the connections between subject content, approaches to learning different kinds of knowledge, integration of learned skills and new skill development and come together in applied practice, modeling and reflection to result in new understandings. 

Separation of learning into discreet bits and pieces  of information undermines conceptual understandings for young learners, while Trans-disciplinary learning connects the dots !

img_0106In order for students in Year 5 to accomplish this unit of study, they had to incorporate a wide range of knowledge, skill, approach and collaborative attitudes. They demonstrate open-mindedness when learning with others and apply their critical thinking skills. These are the best moments in my days as a school Principal, when I am able to encounter our students engaged in the types of 21st Century learning promoted as a Douglas County school. Throughout Northridge Elementary, on a daily basis, there are fantastic “ahas” occurring. Thanks to all of our dedicated staff for theses learning opportunities!

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NRE “K” Teacher, Missy Holmes is a Master at Interactive Reading with K-6th Grade Students…

During the AM, Missy is fully engaged with her Kindergarten class. She and her colleague Kim Anderson West, create an engaging, fun and exemplary learning experience for the K’s.


In this photo, Missy uses the children’s story, “Amazing Grace”, to interact with students about courage, perseverance, and celebration. This story is full of important ideas and teaches the Writer’s Craft of communicating essential understandings through narrative text.

In the afternoon, Missy works as a member of the Pedagogical Leadership Team, bringing literature and elements of our Writer’s Workshop program alive in classrooms across the school.


She has just completed a school tour as a visiting teacher ~ Reading-Aloud with students in her colleague’s classrooms,       co-teaching with a focus on our PRIDE initiative. Principled…Relationships… Inquirers…Disciplined…Engaged…

She will continue to contribute to our literacy initiatives, sharing rich and engaging text with students, modeling best teaching practices and co-teaching with our amazing cadre of teachers.

We are so fortunate to have a collaborative Professional Learning Community with such talented colleagues!

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Mrs. Yawen Lien, NRE Mandarin Teacher Brings More than Language to Our Students!

Mr. Hamilton dressed up for a photo op with Mrs. Lien. His family lived in China for two years and this time of year always brings back fond memories of their time in China and the many friends that his family has in Nanjing.img_0092

Everyday at NRE, students are engaged in the practicing of the four tones and the beautiful sounds of the Chinese spoken language ~Mandarin.

During this time of year the people of China and other regions of Chinese culture are celebrating one of the most precious of holidays. A vast migration of people travel home to spend time with their families of origin and their communities. Akin perhaps to our Thanksgiving  holidays, there is a pause in the great cities and everyone focuses on the importance of honoring their heritage.

Mid-Autumn Festival Facts

  • Name in Chinese: 中秋节 Zhongqiujie /jong-chyoh-jyeah/
  • Importance: the second most important (traditional) Chinese Festival after Chinese New Year
  • Date: September or October
  • Popular food: mooncakes
  • Celebrations: admiring the full moon, eating mooncakes
  • Origin: A harvest festival with origins in moon worship.
  • History: Over 3,000 years
  • Greetings: The simplest is “Happy Mid-Autumn Festival” (中秋快乐).


Yawen has been teaching while wearing some traditional clothing to impart the culture and beauty of Chinese culture. She is teaching older students some basic calligraphy, and throughout the year, she will share many important understandings about intercultural respect and understanding .

We appreciate the very important contribution that our World Language teachers bring to our school community. !









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Emergency Preparedness Drill Held Today ~ Emergency “Kits” to be Organized with Your Assistance

Dear Parents,teacher-e-kit

The school held a supervised emergency lockdown drill today, as one of the preparedness drills conducted on a regular basis. The students were coached by their teachers on expectations and they performed remarkably well.

The school Emergency Response Team meets to plan contingency for the care and safety of students under any kind of emergency. We conduct monthly fire drills. We must prepare to hold, care for and release students over an extended period of time, providing food, water, warmth. We must prepare for a lack of electricity, downed phones and other services until we receive external support and/or evacuation.

We will be sending home a letter with a list, and a zip lock bag and requesting that parents return this with some essential emergency supplies inside. You will write your name on the bag and these will be stored for the event of an emergency. The school will also be purchasing and storing some essential resources (emergency thermal blankets, etc) that we will store for this purpose.

We appreciate your support in helping us to prepare for any emergency and to help care for your child in the most comfortable means possible until you are able to retrieve them.

Please watch for this note and package in a Thursday folder in the following weeks.


James Hamilton, Principal

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Scale of Economy: Balancing School Enrollment, Class Size and Quality Learning Programs

The Architecture and Budgeting of Our NRE School Programs Requires a

Birds Eye Perspective

The architecture of the NRE learning program is unique among the Douglas County Schools. It is one of the reasons that our school, built for 450 students has drawn an expensivearchitectureenrollment consistently above or approaching 700 students.  The academic programs, the array of specials (World Language, Art, Music, IT & STEM-Based Think Tank, Advanced Maths, PE and Health, Library/Learning Resources ),  the support programs and the center-based Discovery program…
All of these options support multiple points of access, reach out to the mosaic of student interests, learning needs and promote many ways to succeed. This array of choices enables Organization and Activities centered around the core of regular classroom learning.

DCSD is committed to schools that define learning excellence and provide differentiated choices to students and families. NRE uses a site-based budgeting protocol to decide upon its program objectives and expenditures. Because of this emphasis on local control and accountability, NRE has been able to provide its community of teachers with an essential and precious commodity


Through the architecture of the many learning options we provide teachers “release time” from direct student responsibilities so that they can have “engagement time” with their grade-level colleagues and others to align and articulate their planning for highly effective learning. Teachers meeting with learning specialists, administrative coaches and have solo time to perfect their lesson plans during this time. It is at the heart of developing an excellent teaching and learning program. It is a critical value for a professional workplace that helps retain quality teaching staff.

NRE has chosen this approach to organizing its Professional Learning Community and instructional program because it enables a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum and World Class Outcomes. We are forward-thinking about the knowledge, skills, understandings and attitudes that our children need to become happy and effective members of our global community. Achieving this outcome requires substantial personnel and material resources. It is largely a function of the scale of economy of our comparatively larger school population, and the distribution through the balance of class sizes across the school program with the program offerings.

Achieving this wheel of learning opportunities requires financial resources, balanced with clear and aligned goals, a view of the full-spectrum of our learning program, and consistency in priorities. Any school’s staffing expenses are typically between 85 to 90 + % of its budget.  Our income is derived from the pupil attendance count, established by the Colorado legislature. Douglas County, has a relatively low per pupil funding base from which to operated all of its educational program needs.

Northridge student enrollment vacillates year-to-year across its grade-levels. Our “catchment area” is very large and diverse, including many single family homes and many apartment options for families. To predict our enrollment is an ongoing challenge. Like many of the Mountain Vista feeder schools, we have started this year with a decline in enrollment. Where it will go is dependent upon numerous variables, many outside of our control. We therefore need to plan and act with fiscal prudence to insure the quality of instructional program.

The school constantly monitors our enrollment and class sizes, but most importantly we have a very active system for monitoring the quality of teaching and learning that ensures the best educational program we can produce across our grade-levels and the highest quality of social-emotional environment conducive to learning.

We are very fortunate to have had the enrollment and the subsequent resources to accomplish the array of choices for all of our NRE students. This has required a constant adaptation in our planning and action. As this year progresses, we will continue to do our best to operate our school programs with sound planning and predictions, while remaining open and flexible as needed.

Parents can support our school NRE and DCSD programs by being informed about the needs of our schools, the ways that we are able to provide our educational programs and the challenges that we face as public schools. There are many avenues for participation and contribution to the efforts to provide adequate and predictable funding revenues for staffing, teaching and learning resources and to provide upkeep to our facilities. Ongoing support for increasing legislative support for schools, support for community-based initiatives such as school bonds or tax supports for specific or general needs of schools can help schools succeed.

NRE was built in 1982. It is the oldest school house in the highlands ranch area. We utilize parent volunteers within NRE to help us with the many tasks and upkeep of our school. If you would like to volunteer to assist, please contact Nicole Bolger, our Volunteer Coordinator.

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