Kindergarten Teacher Blogs to Communicate with Parents

Marlene Viveiros, kindergarten teacher at the Highlander Charter School reached 500 views on her classroom blog today!

She started her blog this school year as a way to communicate with parents about what their students are learning in school.

Viveiros tries to post pictures and videos once a day. She says it’s a great way to get parents more involved in their children’s schoolwork. Many children will come home after school and when their parents ask what they did all day they just reply with “nothing”, but now they have the ability to show their parents exactly what they did creating more excitement around learning.

Parents comment on the blog posts and love seeing their children’s work. Viveiros shared that Max’s mom told her, “those self portraits are so great, I’m glad we could see them.”

MeliBeth’s mom says, “All I want to say is thank you to the great staff at Highlander, great people that work really hard to brighten the life of each and every student and care for them as a family”.

To check out more pictures and keep up with the kindergarten class go to:


Shawn Rubin discusses Blended Learning

Shawn Rubin, director of Technology Integration at the Highlander Institute was on Rhode Island National Public Radio this morning to discuss blended learning in the classroom.

Blended learning combines traditional face-to-face classroom methods with computer based learning. This approach is especially important in schools where there is a gap between the students that are on grade level and the students that are below grade level.

“The power in these tools is to be able to meet that student where they’re at [grade level wise] and to still allow them self-confidence to feel like they’re interacting with content that is appropriate for their age.” says Rubin.

Blended learning often meets resistance from those who believe that children should not be exposed to technology such as iPads, video games, or computers in the early grades. To this idea, Rubin replies, “Our students see us on screens so much during the day that it’s not really fair to say to them ‘we can learn this way, we do everything this way, but for you it’s not okay’.”

To listen to the entire interview go to:

iPads in the Classroom: Kindergarten Study

Results from the Nation’s first kindergarten iPad initiative

February 27, 2012 by Jamie Reysen

Earlier this month, a Maine school district announced initial results from the Nation’s first kindergarten iPad initiative, which reflected modest increases in literacy test scores. Auburn School District conducted a nine-week randomized control trial where students from 8 of 16 kindergarten classes were given iPads to use in school and at home.

Below are excerpts from the study.

Figure 1 (above) shows the average improvement across literacy assessments for iPad (in red) and comparison students (in blue) during the Fall 2011 assessment period. The results show that students in both settings made modest improvements in their RIGBY and CPAA performance during the first months of kindergarten. Comparing the RIGBY and CPAA gains from the iPad and comparison settings, gain scores were consistently greater for the iPad students than observed in the comparison settings …

… Comparing the OSELA gains from the iPad and comparison settings, gain scores were again consistently greater for the iPad students than were observed in the comparison settings. Most notably, students in the iPad setting exhibited a substantial increase in their performance on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSIW) subtest, which measures a child’s level of phonemic awareness and ability to represent sounds with letters. Subsequent statistical analyses showed that, after controlling for students’ incoming Fall 2011 scores, the impact of being in an iPad classroom had a statistically significant relationship with students post-HRSIW scores (t= 2.36, p.<.05). After controlling for other variables, the nine week impact was equivalent to a 2.1 point increase on the HRSIW, on average, for the iPad cohort.

Reading and the Brain

In October of 2011, Dr. Christopher Kaufman, Ph.D., licensed Psychologist and author of Executive Function in the Classroom, discussed how reading comprehension and the brain work together at the University of Southern Maine for “Reading Matters to Maine”.

Dr. Kaufman shared that as humans we are born to learn to speak, understand spoken language, use abstract reasoning, and develop executive capacity. However, we are not born prewired to read. In order to become literate the brain has to rewire itself within the first 10 years of life.

Thus, phonics are an essential core aspect to early reading and must be taught to students, rather than left to chance.

He backs his statements up by discussing the amount of time humans have been reading. Oral language has been used for more than 1 million years, such a long amount of time that it is embedded into our DNA. Literacy, on the other hand has only been used for 5000 years and commonly used for a few hundred years. Literacy has not been in practice for enough time to hardwire the brain to read. We must rewire children’s brains to recognize letter/sound association and letter/word association. For a handful of children this rewiring comes easily, but for many children it is very hard and needs more attention.

To view the highlights of Dr. Kaufman’s presentation click here:

Or to view the entire presentation click here:

The Highlander Institute's Work with Fort Barton School

Via Julia Steiny and

The Highlander Institute has developed a process that helps all students – whether their struggling, academically gifted, or in between – get whatever they specially need.

This process was tested at Fort Barton School in Tiverton, RI. In 2008, the school was struggling with state assessment scores and contacted the Highlander Institute for help. Highlander then invited the school to be part of their new grant-funded literacy project.

The grant-funded literacy project begins with teaching teachers how to collect and use data. With most schools, there is very little data to begin with, so Fort Barton School committed to assessing each child’s learning 3 times a year.

The tests showed that 35 percent of Fort Barton’s 200 students were at risk of not passing the state tests. After the second test period the results were
worse. This realization was the drive the teachers needed in order to start using the collected data to make necessary changes.

The Highlander Institute showed the teachers at Fort Barton how to use the collected data to divide their classes into four groups based on their individual learning needs. Each day the teachers collect data on how the students are performing and can tell that same day if a child is starting to fall behind and act upon it.

After working together for 4 years, Highlander considers Fort Barton to be a well-oiled machine. Through hard work, dedication, and a willingness to change strategies the Highlander Institute was able to get Fort Barton focused on student needs.


To view the full article visit:

Education Pledge Rhode Island

At the Highlander Institute we have made a pledge to education through Education Pledge Rhode Island.

Education Pledge Rhode Island was funded by the Rhode Island Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. They are committed to giving our educators everything they need to do their very best in the name of Rhode Island’s children.

According to the Education Pledge Rhode Island website, “A great education is one of the most important factors in determining success. In order to achieve great results, we need great schools which inspire students to greatness. By pledging, you show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to support our educators and our students.”

To date, 152 pledges have been made in Rhode Island by students, family members, teachers, principals, and interested citizens.

Pledges such as:

“to do my homework.” – Eric, Providence

“to support students and educators.” – Tina, Cranston

“to stay informed about how schools in Rhode Island are performing.” – Sara, Providence

“to be a partner with my students’ teachers.” – Carol, East Providence

What do you pledge to make the future of Rhode Island great?

Go to for more information and to make your pledge.


Diverse Learners Conference

On Saturday, November 3, the Highlander Institute will be hosting the Diverse Learners Conference. The conference will be held at the URI Providence Campus, (80 Washington Street, Providence, RI) and is open to educators, administrators, tutors, and parents.

Purchase your tickets here,

The Diverse Learners Conference features 12 workshops focusing on a wide array of topics from “How a Single iPad can Transform your Classroom” to “Understanding the Reading Brain”.

The Highlander Institute is proud to announce the 2012 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Anita Archer. Dr. Archer will be speaking on: “Engaging All Students: Establishing Inclusive Active Participation in All Classrooms”. In the past, she has taught both elementary and middle school and has won eight Outstanding Educator awards. Dr. Archer is currently an education consultant on effective instruction, classroom management, language arts instruction, and study skills.

To register for the conference visit:

For more information visit or call: (401)831-7323.