Benchmark Universe – Training Reflection

This past week, many of our teachers attended a training for Benchmark Universe! This week’s blog post summarizes the learning from our Benchmark trainings, reposts blogs from past trainings, and works to ask questions about how to get the most benefits out of this program!

What is Benchmark?

The Benchmark program has six components:

  • Whole Group Reading
  • Guided Reading
  • ELD
  • Writing
  • Assessments
  • Intervention

The program includes 10 units that are all CCSS aligned by grade level.  Units 1-7 work to introduce and spiral the standards, 8-10 are review lessons. Daily, teachers have access to two reading lessons, guided reading resources, ELD lessons, and one writing lesson.

Third grade shared that they have started incorporating GLAD strategies during their shared reading time. They use input charts to support reading comprehension strategies and to make connections to vocabulary words.

The program is organized by weeks:

  • Week 1: concepts and standards are introduced
  • Week 2: practice with differentiated texts and resources
  • Week 3; apply the skill

Whole Group Reading

The reading section includes ten units that are 50% fiction and 50% nonfiction. The nonfiction expository section alternates between science and social studies. Both digital and consumable resources are provided with the program. All themes are consistent across grade levels which will lend itself to cross-grade level collaborative opportunities.

Guided Reading

All guided reading resources are leveled, include audio and digital components, DOK questions, and have a readers theater component.


This section is differentiated for all EL levels. It includes a rubric for formative assessments. Scaffolds are included to support students in achieving success in reaching grade level CCSS.


The curriculum includes weekly writing tasks. There is a task for the teacher and for the student. The writing section of Benchmark Education integrates with our current writer’s workshop model. Examples are included for each grade level, which could be used as mentor texts. Lessons on revising and editing and included as well.


All assessments are pre-made and aligned to CCSS. Weekly quizzes are also included to help teachers provide intervention to students who need additional support.


Mini lessons are included to support students with scaffolded instruction. The extra practice can also be connected to Achieve3000 by assigning readings about similar topics.

Dual Immersion

The DI section is not a direct translation of the English component. Instead, it works to maintain the meaning of the text while providing students with a grade level appropriate text.

There are so many components to this program and I know our teachers are using them in such innovative ways. As I was reflecting on this, I realized how much we can learn when we take time to communicate, reflect and share the strategies that we are using in our classes. This is true for the components of any curriculum and any online program! I am incredibly curious to hear more about how everyone uses the different programs we have. Some questions that I have that I would love to get information about are:

  • What are your go-to small group resources?
  • What are some challenges that you have students working on when they are not part of your small group?
  • How do you hold students accountable for their work?
  • What are some of your favorite features of _____?
  • Have you found any features of Benchmark that you feel make your teaching better or more effective?
  • Is this program innovative in the sense that it makes learning different for the better?


One of the things about Benchmark that I have found most useful is the fact that students can run a remote peer conference by sharing and commenting on each other’s writing! I also love the feature where students can message the teacher and get a response back (see the image below for an example of this). I was still curious about what parts of the program I have not yet seen. So, to learn more, I took my curiosity to Google and found the following:

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While we can learn so much from Google, I also wonder how we can share our practices with each other. I know that we are lucky enough to have time to do this during our collaboration, but how powerful would it be if we also shared our thoughts across multiple grade levels?! I know that I am constantly pushing these conversations and I hope that you will all take the time to share a few thoughts and strategies about how you are using Benchmark!




“Be Stubborn About Your Goals and Flexible About Your Method.”

Earlier this week, I happened to see my new favorite quote on the walls of one of our fourth-grade classrooms:

“Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your method.”

-Author Unknown

This quote really got me thinking because it made me realize that while the way that we achieve our objectives may not be the way we thought we would get to our goal, that is part of the journey.

As we work on report cards and reflect on our year to date, in my mind, I am going to try to keep this idea fresh: our goals may not have been achieved how we thought they would be or within the timeline we expected, but how has our method evolved? How have we created more opportunities for ourselves along the way to meeting our goals? How has our mindset shifted? Have our priorities changed? Have we maybe gained new skills and knowledge that has helped us in other aspects of our lives? These are all questions that we can ask ourselves as we reflect on our progress and the progress of our learners.


Parent-Teacher Conferences 12.2019

It is that time of year…again! The time when we get to catch up with our student’s parents and share important information about their academic education! This year, we do have a few new things to share and I am also going to share our previous parent-teacher conference blog posts for you to check out if you would like!

New in December 2019

  • Imagine Math Parent Portal: Check out this document that explains how parents can set up their own Imagine Math account and see how their students are using the program: Imagine Math Parent Portal English and Spanish
  • At Home Programs: Conferences are a great time to share our online programs with our families. Check out this resource: Apps and Programs for at Home
  • Modernization Parent-Friendly Calendar: Modernization is going to impact our entire community! The earlier we can share this information with our parents, the better! Please take some time to send home the parent-friendly modernization calendar with your student’s report cards: Modernization Parent-Friendly Calendar

Further Reading

If you would like more Feaster suggestions and strategies for your parent-teacher conferences,  check out these blog posts:

STEM Weekly Announcements 12.2.2019

● We have a Growth Mindset ● We Keep all Staff & Every Student in Mind ● We Commit & Follow Through

WINGS ● We Include everyone ● Never Give Up, have a ● Growth Mindset to ● Soar off to college

Shout Outs

  • Shout out to Coach Johnson for committing and following through as he coordinated our annual Turkey Bowl and ensured all students who participated received a turkey to take home for thanksgiving 🙂
  • Shout out to Mrs. Guerrero, Mrs. Rhoads, Ms. Arizmendi, Mrs. Gallegos, Ms. Cody and Mr. Wylie for committing and following through by accompanying our 6th graders up to Camp Marston for the week!
  • Shout out to Mrs. Gentile, Mr. Phan, Mrs. Silva, Ms. Palacio, Ms. Aguirre, and Ms. Conroy for committing and following through and organizing the 3rd grade Animal Wax Museum!

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📸Pictures:(1) 6th Graders at Camp (2) Feastergiving painted rocks for our garden 🙂 (3) 3rd Grade student with her turkey from participating in the Turkey Bowl

Additional Information

  • Modernization (See 2 PDF Attachments): We have created a modernization FAQ document with important dates to keep in mind and a parent-friendly modernization calendar. These were sent home before we went on break. You will also get a class set of copies to be sent home with report cards! Please remember to share these documents with your families.
  • iPad Restrictions: Did you know that we can place restrictions on your student’s devices? We can block websites, remove apps (even the camera app), and pretty much anything else you can think of! If you are interested or need any restrictions to be placed on your student’s devices, please email Heather and Roel.
  • Yellow School Pass: Please remember to use the yellow hall passes when you are sending your students out of the classroom! If you need more passes, they are kept in room 201.
  • How to Freeze an Image on Your Classroom TV: Did you know that you can freeze the screen on your TV so that it keeps the same image up? Just use the remote for your TV and press the “freeze” button to stop the screen from changing. If you do not have a freeze button on your remote, you can choose to get a universal remote that is compatible with your TV.
  • On the Blog this Week: This week’s blog post is all about the Thankful poem that shared at our last PD:

Week at a Glance

After-School Duty: 5th Grade ** Q2 Character Strengths: Curiosity & Self Control (School Work)**

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Looking Ahead & Other Information:

  • 12.9.19 – Search and Rescue Training with Dr. Stone
  • 12.10.19 – Lead Training
  • 12.11.19 – PBIS Meeting
  • 12.12.19 – FCMS High School Informational Sessions

Ernie Mendes PD Reflection

This past week, we had the chance to hear Ernie Mendes, “an organizational psychologist and specializes in the art and science of Emotional Intelligence” ( During the professional development session, we heard about various strategies that help us work with challenging students. Here are some of my main takeaways from the day:

  • Emotions drive our behavior and our motivation
  • I never have all the information
    • learner vs knower – there are both in every interaction
    • curiosity matters especially when we use it to become the learner and help us connect with the knower
  • When teaching self-regulation, be the person who has a relationship with the learners and help model what self-regulation look likes
    • Mendes modeled the example of having one place in the classroom where he would go to redirect himself which helped model calming strategies and routines that students can use when they too are feeling uneasy
  • Connect before you redirect by saying, “I can see that you are really ______. What would you like to do now?” Asking this validates how the learner is feeling and creates an opportunity for them to have a choice in resolving the conflict or discuss what it is that has been happening with the learner.
  • “If you can name it, tame it.” When we can name our emotions, that is the start of being able to also manage them and work to find that calm again.
  • The Total Truth Process is a way of writing down, recording using Voice Memos, or drawing out all of the emotions we feel while putting a cause to them and working to find a solution to moving forward. During this time, Mendes shared letters from students who had completed this activity and they explained each of the following emotions in those letters:
    1. Anger & Resentment
    2. Hurt
    3. Fear
    4. Remorse & Accountability
    5. Wants
    6. Compassion, Forgiveness, & Appreciation
  • STOP acronym for finding calm:
    • Stop
    • Take a slow, deep breath
    • Observe what is happening in you and around you
    • Proceed to do what is needed

At the beginning of the presentation, Mendes encouraged everyone to come up with a mission statement that describes what we do every day. I wonder how our mission statements have changed over the years and what they are now because of the strategies and resources people like Ernie Medes are sharing!

Class Dojo Portfolios

It has been over two years since we wrote this blog post about Class Dojo!  Within that time, Class Dojo has made some significant updates to their program yet it has remained a free service to educators! The blog post this week is being written to share the power of digital portfolios and to provide a resource that can be used by all of our learners to stay connected with their families. The Class Dojo portfolio resource is a great tool that can be used by all learners in TK-8 simply by taking and posting pictures of work to an activity that the teacher creates!

Digital portfolios have the power to share work and keep an ongoing online record of student achievements and work. When using the Class Dojo portfolios, students can add work during school hours or even from home. Teachers would simply need to create an activity and have students upload a picture or screenshot of the activity…imagine how much easier this would make collecting homework!

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This week, I was talking with a teacher who began using Class Dojo Portfolios in her classroom. While we were talking, one of the grade two students chimed in and was so excited about the screenshot of her Imagine Math Facts which she would be sharing on her Class Dojo portfolio! How empowering is it when parents can see the learning objectives actually being done by their students in real-time?? How empowering is it for our students to be able to share their work with more than their teacher and their fellow classmates? How will access to student portfolios change the conversations parents have at home – instead of asking about what students learned that day, the conversation now becomes a focus on how student work was completed instead of what!

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STEM Weekly Announcements 10.28.2019

● We have a Growth Mindset ● We Keep all Staff & Every Student in Mind ● We Commit & Follow Through

WINGS ● We Include everyone ● Never Give Up, have a ● Growth Mindset to ● Soar off to college

Shout Outs

  • Shout out to the Student and Teacher Motivation Committee for keeping all staff and every student in mind and organizing an outstanding Red Ribbon Spirit Week, which included a door decorating contest which runs through October 31st!
  • Shout out to Mrs. Macleod, Mrs. Hernandez and Dr. Sleiman for having a growth mindset as they worked with every grade level team on campus during their extended planning day to prep and customize Eureka Math lessons!

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📸Pictures:(1) Red Ribbon Week!! (2) Cooking during electives utilizing the Sage Garden Grant Lessons!

Additional Information:

  • Open Enrollment: Open Enrollment will be available until 11/12019. To update your benefits, see the information in the envelope that was placed in your box earlier this month.
    • Open Enrollment Website:
    • Login Information:
      • Username: Employee ID Number (can be found on your paystub) or your social security number
      • Password: Last four of your social security number and the last two of your birth year (for example, if your SSN is 123-45-6789 and you were born in 1980, your password would be 678980).
  • Imagine Math Weekly Emails: You can opt-in for weekly reports to be sent to your email. These reports will show how much time your students are spending on Imagine Math each week!
    • Login to Imagine Math
    • Go to “Usage” under “Reports”
    • At the top right corner of the screen, turn on “Subscribe to Weekly Emails”
  • Imagine Math Facts: If you have set up your Imagine Math Facts so that students must complete each category in a certain order (ie Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division), they must complete the post-test with 90% accuracy before they are able to move to the next level.
  • SmartyAnts: The issues we were seeing with SmartyAnts and the updated iOS 13 have been resolved! You can update your classroom devices as you see fit, or you can email Heather and ask her to update all of your student devices.
  • Updating iPad Devices: When devices are updated to iOS 13 and up, there is a mode called “Dark Mode” that turns everything that was a lighter color into a dark grey color. Please be aware that when students are in dark mode, it is much harder to tell when they are searching on a private browser. The private browsing search bar is black and the standard browsing is a dark grey color. Please have a conversation with your students about leaving their devices on standard browsing mode.
  • Headphones with PTO: K-2 teachers were recently provided with a class set of headphones. If you have a student who has mistreated their headphones and they are no longer working, we do have extra pairs available for purchase in the ASB store for $5/each.
    • Send the student to the ASB store after school with $5
    • They will get a receipt to bring to the media center
    • They will be given a new set of headphones
  • Locking Doors: Our classrooms are full of valuable items including our own personal items like wallets and purses. Please make sure that if you are not in your room that your door is closed and locked. We also want to make sure that students are only in classrooms when there is a teacher present, by locking your door when you are not in your classroom, students will know not to enter.
  • iPad Devices on Sale for Staff on 10/30: Immediately following our staff picture, iPad2 devices will be on sale in the Media Center. We will be selling to the community during the Fall Family Festival on 10/31.
  • On the Blog this Week: Read all about using social media in the classroom and learn how the benefits of sharing your amazing work! Read the entire post by visiting this link:

Week at a Glance

After-School Duty: RSP & Counseling **

Q2 Character Strengths: Curiosity & Self Control (School Work)**

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Looking Ahead & Other Information:

  • 11.5.19 Onsight Clinic