Zebra Homepage

DOE Blog

SD Department of Education
April 2019  

teacher feature TEACHER FEATURE: Nothing beats rich text at Robert Frost Elementary

“I need a nap,” Korey Erickson told his wife after his first day as the school librarian at Robert Frost Elementary in Sioux Falls.

Erickson’s previous library experience was part-time at a college library, while working full-time as a middle school English and reading teacher. He came to enjoy the part-time library gig so much that when he saw the job opening at Robert Frost Elementary, he went for it.

Four years in, he’s glad he made the leap. And he doesn’t need naps anymore.

What was that transition like, going from college and middle school students to the elementary level?
It’s a lot more energy-based instruction, trying to be exciting, trying to keep them engaged. At this level, the focus is on trying to get these students to develop a love of reading and to also build their stamina for reading.

Tell us more about how you seek to develop young readers.
I truly do not believe anything will ever beat rich text. If you can get that rich text for read alouds and kids are engaged to the point you could hear a pin drop, that’s key. That’s something I always try to do is have fantastic read alouds for great picture books, grades K-5.

How do you prepare for read alouds?
It’s not just reading the book; I’m “doing” the book for the kids. I’ll have had it in my back office for a few weeks, so I know how the story goes. I’m not literally acting it out, but I know it well enough that I’m not sitting there just turning the pages, reading it. I’m looking at them, making eye contact. When I’m up there, it’s a little bit of a show.

Erickson Book Read

What’s your favorite thing about being an elementary school librarian?
The best part about being a librarian is that I get to put books in kids’ hands. I feel like, having been here for four years, I’ve developed a collection that is well-utilized by students. When a kid says, “I love this book,” that is one of the best feelings to get.

Do your students read the books that are nominated annually for the Prairie Bud, Prairie Bloom, Prairie Pasque, and Young Adult Reading Program (YARP) awards?
Yes, I even serve on the committee that chooses nominees. I pepper the nominees throughout our read alouds, and I encourage my older students to read all of the nominees on their own as well. It’s always one of the students’ favorite things to vote on those. I’ll have kids asking, which one is the winner? Which ones did South Dakota vote for? So they’re excited about it. They want to know the winner, and they want to know if the one they voted for is the champion.

What other reading programs do you offer?
Our fourth and fifth graders can form teams to participate in a Book Battle. There’s a list of 15 books, and the teams try to make sure everyone’s read at least one of them. At the competition, we ask comprehension questions about the books. This program is another way I try to encourage students to read high-quality books—some of the “newer classics,” like “Hatchet,” for instance. It’s good for students to learn that even if the pages might be a little yellowed, it can still be a good book.

I also host some book talks for the older students.

How do you encourage students to read more in general, and more challenging books specifically?
As part of my lessons, I always try to include 10 minutes for students to just grab a good book and read by themselves.

I was also fortunate recently to receive a grant from our PTO that I used to purchase several Playaway devices. These are media devices that each contain one audiobook. For each device, I also purchased the print version of the book. So one thing I’m trying with these is to encourage intermediate students who aren’t yet able to read text at their grade level. My hope is that being able to listen to it and have eyes on the text will make challenging books more accessible to them.

How is the role of the modern school librarian evolving?
I’m trying to help students develop that love of reading, but also prepare them for navigating the digital world, so they can be good citizens of that online world and develop tools to evaluate and think critically about the information they see. A lot of these kids have their own YouTube channels and are even doing coding at home, so it’s also important that they learn to be responsible producers of information, too.

I think technology has shifted the role of the librarian from being just the gatekeeper and protector of the books. Today’s school library should be a buzzing, busy place. It should be the heart of the school, where students (and teachers!) come to discover answers to questions they didn’t even know they had.

How do you define information literacy?
I think of it as being able to locate, evaluate, and use information in an ethical manner. It’s finding information, but also being able to dig into what that information is saying and making sure that when you’re using or presenting it that you’re not misrepresenting what the information is saying.

How do you help students learn to evaluate the quality of information?
One of my favorite lessons is looking at a fake website called Dog Island. It has all this information about how you can send your dog to live on this island with other dogs. The students fall for it every time, and then we have a discussion about not believing everything we see online. I give them a list of other fake websites, and they evaluate one based on a set of standards or criteria, looking at things like its authenticity, authorship, and currency. We go into other discussions about web address extensions like .com, .edu, .org, and .net. It’s a good jumping point for getting them ready to do real research on topics.

You served on the work group that recently updated South Dakota’s school library standards [https://doe.sd.gov/contentstandards/documents/0319-SchoolLibrary.pdf]. What makes the new standards better?
As we were writing them, we wanted to make clear that these standards are not meant to be taught in isolation. We were aiming for collaboration, so that hopefully librarians are either in the classroom helping incorporate library standards into content area standards, or there is some co-teaching going on. The new standards empower librarians to not only teach library skills, but to be integral leaders in their school for all subject areas.

The Robert Frost Elementary school library is a 21st Century School Library awardee [https://library.sd.gov/LIB/SLC/21stCentAward.aspx]. Why is applying for that award a valuable process?
It’s a great chance to look at what you’re doing in your library and to be reflective. The process allows a librarian to celebrate the great things they’re doing for their school, but it can also lead to transformative action by realizing areas where they can improve, be innovative, and achieve that next goal.

Erickson Book Read

Teacher of the Year Congratulations to the District Teachers of the Year

Districts that choose to participate in the State Teacher of the Year program are invited to submit the names of their Teachers of the Year to the South Dakota Department of Education. Those teachers may then apply for Regional Teacher of the Year, one of whom will be named State Teacher of the Year in October. Congratulations to these District Teachers of the Year!

Read more at https://doe.sd.gov/pressroom/zebra/news/19/April/documents/2019-RTOY.pdf.

SPED Staff

Special education staff honored at statewide conference

Congratulations to the Parent Nominated Special Education Staff of the Year, who were recognized at a luncheon in their honor at the recent South Dakota Special Education Conference in Deadwood.

Shannon Merkouris, Sioux Falls School District, left, pictured with South Dakota Special Education Director Linda Turner, received the Outstanding Special Education Staff Award.

Parent Nominated Special Education Staff of the Year
Abigail Burgard, Aberdeen School District Kelsey Weismantel, Eureka School District
Angie Mulder, Project SEARCH, Teachwell Kyle Babb, Brandon Valley School District
Basil Knebel, Langford Area School District Norma Brown Bull, Little Wound School System
Brenda Bernard, Sioux Falls Shae Stephenson, Faulkton Area Schools
Carolyn Schuldies, Meade School District Shannon Merkouris, Sioux Falls School District
Cindy Anderson, Bon Homme School District Tamela Gilbery, Black Hills Special Services Cooperative
Darcie Langbehn, Wolsey-Wessington School District Terri Jensen, autism specialist, Teachwell
Deb Cross, Crazy Horse School Marla Skadsen, Sioux Falls School District
Jennifer Gross, West Central School District Jill Joyce-Hazard, Sioux Falls School District
Judy Uhrich, Custer School District Beth Lopes, SD School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Kathryn Rick, Sioux Falls

BHSU New online master’s degree in special education available from BHSU

To address a critical need for special education teachers across the state and region, the South Dakota Board of Regents has approved offering a new online master’s degree in K-12 special education from Black Hills State University. The master of arts in teaching degree is a new degree for BHSU and the public university system.

Read more at https://news.sd.gov/newsitem.aspx?id=24326.

School Library Month
Celebrating School Library Month

Thank you, school librarians, for all you do for South Dakota students! School libraries are hubs of activity where students study, research, collaborate, invent, and explore.
  • Subscribe to Collect + Connect [https://schoollibrarysdsl.blogspot.com/], the SD State Library’s school library blog
  • Sign up for School Library Boot Camp [https://schoollibrarysdsl.blogspot.com/2019/04/register-for-2019-sd-school-library.html]
  • 21st Century School Library Award [http://library.sd.gov/LIB/SLC/21stCentAward.aspx] application open until May 1
  • 2018-19 Prairie Bud, Prairie Bloom, and Prairie Pasque Award winners

    Prairie Bud (JK-first grades)
    Winner: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp
    Runner Up: Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John

    Prairie Bloom (second-third grades)
    Winner: Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis
    Runner Up: The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson

    Prairie Pasque (fourth-fifth grades)
    Winner: Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman
    Runner Up: Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann

    For more information and a complete list of nominees, visit the State Library’s South Dakota Children's Book Awards webpage [https://library.sd.gov/LIB/CYS/prairieawards/index.aspx].

  • 2018-19 Teen Choice Book Award winners

    Middle School
    Winner: Refugee by Alan Gratz
    Honor: Restart by Gordon Korman

    High School
    Winner: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Honor: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

    For more information and a complete list of the nominees, visit the State Library's SD Teen Choice Book Awards webpage [https://library.sd.gov/LIB/YAS/yarp/index.aspx].

Teachers at workshop Mark your calendar for summer foundational reading trainings

The South Dakota Department of Education will offer foundational reading training for teachers this summer. More details coming soon. Mark your calendars:
  • July 1-2: Grades 4-8
  • July 30-Aug. 1: Grades K-3

Apply by May 1 to become a mentor

The statewide mentoring program provides a first-year teacher access to a mentor teacher for a period of two years and participation in a summer academy following the first and second year of employment.

This is an excellent opportunity for experienced South Dakota teachers (current and retired) to share their skills and help guide beginning teachers. In addition, through this program, South Dakota’s newest teachers will be supported and welcomed into the education community.

Requirements have also been established for districts that would like to receive funding to handle mentoring locally.

Visit the mentoring program’s webpage [http://doe.sd.gov/mentoring/] to learn more and find the following:

  • Applications for new mentors and first-year teachers
  • Program information for second-year participants

Applications for new mentors are due May 1. Applications for new teachers are due June 15. Late hires will also have an opportunity to participate.

Those who are already participating in the program are not required to complete a new application.

IES Submit presentation proposals by June 3 for 2019 Indian Education Summit

The South Dakota Indian Education Summit targets educators of all content areas and grade levels, as well as administrators and school board members. The goal of the summit is to provide training on best practices in the field of Indian education. Have an idea for a presentation to share with your colleagues? Proposal deadline is June 3. The 2019 summit is scheduled for Sept. 22-24 in Pierre.

Read more at doe.sd.gov/pressroom/zebra/news/19/April/documents/RFP-IES-19.docx

Data Include learning about data use in your summer PD plans

The South Dakota Department of Education is offering a data use course for educators this summer. The Fundamentals of Using Data for Educators course provides educators with the skills they need to analyze and use data to answer important questions to drive positive change in their classroom, school, or district.

The course begins May 30 and requires a one-day face-to-face workshop as well as some online work.

Participants choose from one of three locations. On-site days will be from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. local time:

  • June 13, Rapid City [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12526]
  • June 18, Watertown [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12527]
  • June 19, Mitchell [https://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/public/Course/browse?courseid=12528]
Participants who wish to earn a graduate credit need to complete a final project. They will be given a week past the workshop date to finish the final project. It is not necessary to purchase a textbook or other material for this class. However, participants should bring a laptop that is able to browse the internet. Spreadsheet software such as Excel is also helpful for this class.

Participation is free, but graduate credits are available for purchase through the University of South Dakota at a discounted rate. One credit is available for the course. Those signed up for credit will also need to register with USD. They will receive an A-F grade.

Upcoming Events

Except where otherwise noted, details on the following events are available at GoSignMeUp [http://southdakota.gosignmeup.com/].

English Learner Chats
April 23 (postponed from April 16)

State Historical Society History Conference
April 26-27, Pierre

Norms for English Learners Webinar Workshop
May 6 and May 13

Board of Education Standards
May 20, Brookings

SD Dept. of Education Annual Conference
May 29-30, Pierre

MTSS Summer Conference
June 11-12, Oacoma

The Fundamentals of Using Data for Educators
June 13, Rapid City
June 18, Watertown
June 19, Mitchell

Co-Teaching & Collaboration (for educators working with English learners)
July 22, Mitchell [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/july-22-co-teaching-collaboration-mitchell-tickets-55909992292]
July 23, Aberdeen [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/july-23-co-teaching-collaboration-aberdeen-tickets-55910576038]

Save the Date! CTE Conference
July 28-30, Mitchell

Save the Date! Indian Education Summit
Sept. 22-24, Pierre

View printable version of this newsletter.
Contact us with your story ideas.
State Home Page | Disclaimer | Accessibility | Privacy Policy
© 2019 S.D. Department of Education, 800 Governors Drive, Pierre, SD 57501 - (605) 773-3134