Lower School News

Literably Literally Helps Build Student Literacy
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager

Building literacy skills in children is critically important to their success as students. During in-person instruction, Nueva lower school teachers spend a considerable amount of time getting to know their readers one-on-one using the Fountas and Pinnell benchmarks. With the move to remote learning, and the challenges teachers face of being able to meet one-on-one with their young students, reading specialist Liza Zassenhaus introduced the lower school faculty to Literably, a reading assessment tool that provides teachers with information on student accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. 

“It’s important for us to have sustained, consistent benchmarks while we’re in remote learning,” Liza said. “Literably is designed to mimic Fountas and Pinnell, while providing us with clear data about what books kids can be reading at their levels. This is just one of the many tools we use to assess our students’ reading abilities.”

Literably is a unique tool—one that works particularly well in remote learning—as it records students reading and then provides teachers with marked-up texts where reading miscues occurred. 

For first grade teacher Emily Mitchell, this is the value of Literably. 

“While Literably provides us with just one data point, hearing students reading and seeing visually the text marked up is huge,” she said. “It’s so hard in remote learning to read individually with each student, so hearing them read through Literably gives me so much information I wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”

This information is helpful not only to individual classroom teachers, but also to a group of lower school faculty and administrators who are putting together a scope and sequence of the reading curriculum across grades. The group—made up of Director of Teaching and Learning Elizabeth Rossini, Lower School Head Megan Terra, fourth grade teacher Sarah Merkt, kindergarten teacher Paul Knight, lower school learning specialist Bailey Flood, and Liza—noticed a shift that takes place in expectations around reading assignments at the start of second grade. 

“The focus shifts from learning to read to reading to learn,” Liza noted. “Students in second grade are asked to read a diverse body of literature across different genres, including a number of nonfiction texts.” 

It is this shift, Liza said that informed the decision to introduce Literably and other reading assessments. 

“We really need to make sure that students have foundational reading skills by the time they reach second grade,” she shared. 

One of the benefits of using a consistent assessment tool like Literably is that it equips teachers with the information they need to provide book suggestions to students that are aligned with their reading levels.

“Liza does an amazing job of providing students with book suggestions that go hand-in-hand with our work around social justice and equity,” said Director of Social Justice and Equity Alegria Barclay. “I can’t speak more highly of Liza and the work she is doing not only in building reading skills in our youngest learners but also in introducing them to these really important topics.”

While Literably is a valuable tool for teachers, Liza emphasizes that this is not the only tool teachers use for teaching and assessing reading skills. 

“We don’t want this assessment to be the end all be all, and we don’t want it to overwhelm the way we teach,” she said. “It helps us by providing a baseline and a consistent lens through which we can determine how best to serve our students. Teachers need to find ways to lift up and support their students, and this tool is one way teachers can do just that.” 

Read More

Learning to Care for Living Creatures

We have all learned over the past year that while virtual learning can be done well, it can never replace the experience of being on campus. Lower school students have been back on campus since late October, and this spring they have been learning to care for silkworms and chickens, an experience that could not be replicated during virtual learning. 

Catching Up with . . . Izzy Mayer
Izzy Mayer is one of Nueva’s second grade lead teachers. While she is new to this role, she is not new to Nueva, having previously been an associate for two years. Drawing on the insights and experiences she gained through the Nueva ITP program and inspired by her students’ powerful sense of curiosity and humor, Izzy is proving to be an invaluable member of the second-grade teaching team.
Leonardo and Lisa Visit a Class of Renaissance Kids

“Good afternoon, Lisa. I’m so glad we could take a break from painting to join this kindergarten class.”

“Hello, Leonardo.” 

So began Paul’s and Rashida’s kindergarten class just before Thanksgiving break, one that took students all the way back to 15th century Florence to meet Leonardo da Vinci (Paul) and Mona Lisa (Rashida). 

Environmental Citizenship Program Launches Ambassadorship Role

Kindergarten associate teacher Carrie Stouffer has been named Nueva’s first lower school environmental citizenship ambassador. The role of the environmental citizenship ambassador evolved from the school’s desire to build strong, responsive, and effective relationships with faculty and division heads in all three divisions.

A PreK student playing in a puddle in a sandbox

PreK students have been our pioneers of hybrid learning! Watch scenes from their life on campus and hear more from students about their experiences this year.

Lower School Mavericks Days Provide Teachers Time to Prepare for our Return to Campus

As the lower school plans to return to campus came into greater focus late last month, Lower School Head Megan Terra felt strongly that she needed to find an extended amount of time for her teachers to plan, discuss, and put in action all that is involved with welcoming students back to their in-person classrooms.

Lower school teachers were incredibly grateful for the time Megan and our Mavericks Days programs afforded them. They used the time to prepare, create, and discuss every aspect of the upcoming return to campus.

Investigation Provides Foundational Theme of Kindergarten

Questions abound in our lower school classrooms, and student inquiry is the driving force behind the yearlong theme in kindergarten. This theme of investigation provides a through line for a number of explorations that kindergarteners will engage in over the course of the year, the first of which is a focus on identity. 

Literably Literally Helps Build Student Literacy

With the move to remote learning, and the challenges teachers face of being able to meet one-on-one with their young students, reading specialist Liza Zassenhaus introduced the lower school faculty to Literably, a reading assessment tool that provides teachers with information on student accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.