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Encourage Your Child to Read with First Page Friday

Fifth-grade Jordan Creek Elementary students read the first pages of books during First Page Friday.

Fifth-grade Jordan Creek Elementary students read the first pages of books during First Page Friday.

Fifth-grade students at Jordan Creek Elementary and Fairmeadows Elementary have been meeting with their teachers and teacher librarians for “First Page Friday,” a reading activity that gives students the opportunity to experience new books and genres. The students read the first page of several books, then choose one of the books to finish and share with their classmates. They can also share the first page of a book they like with the group.

“It’s all about reading for enjoyment and becoming a lifelong reader,” said Jordan Creek Elementary teacher librarian Kristy Skoglund said. “We wanted to expose students to more books,
and we wanted them to enjoy books.”

Jordan Creek Elementary teacher librarian Kristy Skoglund reads to fifth-graders during First Page Friday.

Jordan Creek Elementary teacher librarian Kristy Skoglund reads to fifth-graders during First Page Friday.

Jordan Creek fifth-graders Will Larson and Tag Booth both said First Page Friday has helped them find books they otherwise would not have read. Larson said he decided to participate in First Page Friday because he trusted his teacher’s recommendations.

“I like that it is a community of people who like to read,” he said.

Skoglund and Jordan Creek fifth-grade teacher Jeri Daniels gave the following tips for trying out First Page Friday at home:

  1. Ask your child what they are reading and what it is about.
  2. Just read! Show your child your “reading life” and read in front of them, whether it is an e-book, a paper book, or an audiobook.
  3. Access the West Des Moines Community Schools Online Library through the AEA. It has more than 1,000 free e-books and audiobooks. Ask your school librarian for the user ID and password to access this free library!

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Join Us for the 2017 Sweetheart Show!

The Valley High School Vocal Music Department presents the 2017 Sweetheart Show! Performances are 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, and Thursday, Feb. 9, with a silent auction/raffle at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors; children 4 and younger get in free. Online sales end at 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6. Tickets will also be available at the box office on Feb. 7 and Feb. 9, starting at 6 p.m.

The evening showcases Valley’s two competitive show choirs, Choralation and Ignition, as well as performances by other selected ensembles, performers, vocalists, and instrumentalists. Tuesday’s student performances will include Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings,” a flag routine to “Human” by Christina Perri, “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West ft. Chance the Rapper, and “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. Thursday audience members will hear students perform “When We Were Young” by Adele, “Listen” by Beyonce, Stevie Wonder’s “You and I” in the style of Michael Buble, and junior Addis Geletta’s original song “Wings That Carry Me Home.”

See the Poster

Get Tickets

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Project-Based Learning and Advanced Coursework

Parents of students in the WDMCS Extended Learning Program (ELP) may ask how project-based learning meets the needs of high-ability, high-potential, and high-achieving learners.

Research shows that project-based and problem-based learning provides natural differentiation for students because students can tailor projects to their interests and work at their own level.

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WDMCS Vocal Music Director First Recipient of National Award

Valley Southwoods Freshman High School Vocal Music Director Heather Nail with her Barbershop Harmony Society/NAfME Music Educator Award.

Valley Southwoods Vocal Music Director Heather Nail with her Music Educator award.

Valley Southwoods Freshman High School Vocal Music Director Heather Nail has earned the Barbershop Harmony Society/ NAfME Music Educator Award. She is the first recipient of the national award.

The award is presented by the Barbershop Harmony Society in partnership and collaboration with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). It honors educators “who give students the opportunity to learn and participate in the joy and power that music education brings in uplifting the human spirit and fostering the wellbeing of society.”

Nail was nominated by colleagues from Valley Southwoods, the Pride of Iowa Chorus, and the Pride of Iowa Barbershop Chapter.

All three nominations praised Nail’s work with students and fellow educators to promote vocal music, especially the barbershop style, through workshops, conventions, and youth music events. The nominations commended her “student-centered teaching style” and ability to “increase the energy and support of her music compatriots which, in turn, (results) in more widely based and active student participation in youth music events.”

Nail has been the Valley Southwoods Vocal Music Director since 2010. She is a Pride of Iowa Chorus partner and facilitates the Youth in Harmony programs. She is also a Pride of Iowa Music Educator Advisory Team leader and has participated in and hosted the Barbershop Harmony Society Des Moines Chapter Pride of Iowa Festival workshops. Nail has organized the Barbershop Harmony Society’s performance and presentation at the Iowa Choral Directors Association (ICDA) Summer Symposium for two years. She also recently authored an article on the benefits of barbershop-style music for the ICDA newsletter.

Before joining the West Des Moines Community Schools, Nail taught general music in the Des Moines Public Schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Drake University, an associate’s degree from Des Moines Area Community College, and a master’s degree from Drake University. She is certified in the Kodály and Orff-Schulwerk teaching styles.

 

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Level Up! Project-Based Learning Coming to Valley Southwoods

Next year, project-based learning is expanding into Valley Southwoods Freshman High School as it introduces its first “school-within-a-school.”

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Valley Students Perform in Second Annual “Opera Project DSM” Production

The Valley High School Performing Arts Department is partnering with The Opera Project DSM for the second year in a row for a production of Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana.” The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) will host the performances in the Staplin Performing Arts Center, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines. There will be performances at 8 p.m. on Jan. 21 and 3 p.m. on Jan. 22. Both performances are open to the public and free of charge.

Adapted from Giovanni Verga’s play of the same name, the tragic “Cavalleria rusticana” was an instant success after it won the 1890 competition for which it was composed. This production features the Valley High School Chamber Orchestra, students from the Valley High School Symphony Band, and students from the Valley High School vocal music program. The students had the opportunity to work with local college and community singers and 11 professional musicians, including the featured artist, soprano Kristin Sampson. Valley High School Orchestra Director Phil Peters directed the Valley students during their rehearsals and will also take part in the production.

“Collaborating with The Opera Project DSM is a great way to bring the experience of opera to our students and our community,” Peters said. “Opera is challenging on a musical level and a dramatic level. Accompanying an opera requires a constant level of attention.”

World-renowned conductor and The Opera Project DSM co-founder Maestro Stefano Vignati will conduct and direct this production of “Cavalleria rusticana.” The artistic director is local vocal instructor and The Opera Project DSM co-founder Gloria Olson.

Please join Valley High School’s Performing Arts Department for The Opera Project DSM’s production of “Cavalleria rusticana.”

Learn more on The Opera Project DSM Facebook Page.

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Three Tips to Make Online Learning Work for Your Child

High school student studying with computer.The West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) will be offering our highest number of online learning opportunities yet for the 2017-18 school year. All of our online courses are blended Blended learning provides a combination of digital online instruction, traditional direct instruction, and individualized one-on-one time. Teachers are better able to personalize each student’s learning in blended courses, but the format does require independence from students. Support your child’s
learning in a blended environment with these three tips:

Three Tips to Make Online Learning Work for Your Child

  1. Find Reliable Internet Access
    • While home internet access is helpful, it is not necessary to participate in a blended course. The community has many free Wi-Fi sources, including the library, coffee shops, and at school before and after school hours.
  2. Use the Canvas System
    • All of the WDMCS blended courses will use our new learning management system, Canvas, next year. Canvas has a parent portal that allows you to see your student’s progress and keep up to date on assignments. These keeps all of the class information in one place so there is less confusion for students and parents about where to find resources. Please contact Carrie Jacobs, Valley High School instructional coach and district online learning coordinator, with questions about Canvas.
  3. Encourage Them to Ask for Help When They Need It
    • One benefit of blended learning is that teachers can better use their time to provide individual support to students who need it. A blended course requires independence from students, but the teacher is still there to guide learning, answer questions, and help solve problems. Help your student decide when they should look for an answer independently and when they should connect with their teacher.

If you think online learning would work for your child, you can learn more in their school’s course catalog or by contacting:

  • Carrie Jacobs, Valley High School instructional coach and district online learning coordinator, 515-633-4180
  • Erica Whittle, Valley High School associate principal, 515-633-4000

 

This is the final part of our blended learning series.

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Online and “In Real Life”: Learning with Digital Natives

High school student studying with tablet.For today’s students, information has always been one Google search away. People have been selling things on eBay and playing online games like World of Warcraft nearly their entire lives.

Even though students are digital natives of the internet world, for many, online learning may be a whole new realm.

Knowing how to learn and work online is more important than ever now that most modern colleges and workplaces include online work, from full courses to employee trainings. To continue to prepare our students for their life journeys, the West Des Moines Community Schools will be offering our highest number of online learning opportunities yet for the 2017-18 school year.

Is All Online Learning the Same?
Also known as e-learning, online learning takes place when at least part of a student’s learning takes place online, instead of “in real life” or face-to-face in the classroom.

Not all online learning is alike, however.

The WDMCS Online Learning Committee, formed in 2014 to explore and expand online learning options for students in our district, categorizes online classes into two types: online-only courses and web-blended courses.

  • Online-Only Courses (“online-only”)
    • Online-only courses are held entirely online. There are no face-to-face meetings with teachers, except at the request of the student. These classes are very independent.
  • Web-Blended Course (“blended”)
    • Blended courses are held partially online and partially in-class. There are some face-to-face meetings with teachers, but not every day. Since these classes do not meet every day, they are fairly independent.

Through blended learning, students experience a combination of digital online instruction, traditional direct instruction, and individualized one-on-one time. Teachers are better able to personalize each student’s learning and give them any extra help and attention they need to become proficient in the curriculum. A blended course requires independence from students, but the teacher is still there to guide learning, answer questions, and help solve problems.

If you think your child would benefit from blended learning, you can learn more in their school’s course catalog or by contacting:

  • Carrie Jacobs, Valley High School instructional coach and district online learning coordinator, 515-633-4180
  • Erica Whittle, Valley High School associate principal, 515-633-4000

 

Watch the West Des Moines Community Schools website and social media for the rest of three-part series on blended learning. 

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