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Reading Goals Bring School Together
Dual Language Program
Lead, Inspire, Grow


Reading Goals Bring School Together

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A Bagdad ES teacher reads to her students.

This year, the students and staff at Bagdad Elementary School are united in the pursuit of a central goal: to improve reading and comprehension skills while making literacy fun for students.

Evidence of the schoolwide initiative is visible from the moment the front doors open at Bagdad ES, where a bulletin board displays the amount of reading points the students have earned in the current nine-week period. During the most recent nine-week period, the goal was 15,500 points. The students surpassed the goal by earning a lofty 25,000 points. Each grade level is considered a team. Incentives encourage teams to compete to gain the most points; the last prize gave students the opportunity to see Christy Hilbun, Bagdad ES principal, and Ruth-Ann Johnson, assistant principal, taped to a wall.

Throughout the school, cozy "reading nooks" give a place for students to read in their free time. One wall display showcases an "Our Texas Bluebonnet Wall of Fame" where students sign their names under each Bluebonnet Book they read. Each "team" has a display in their grade's hallway.

The reading goals initiative does not stop there. In P.E., students read as a part of their exercises, teachers implement classroom reading goals in dual languages, art class projects piggyback off of classroom reading projects, and even the school's theme for the year - "Lead, Inspire, Grow" - reflects the school's belief in the importance of reading.

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Dual Language Program

Bagdad Elementary School is one of Leander ISD's One-Way Dual Language campuses. The program supports the goal to produce bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-literate students. For example, students whose primary language is Spanish would learn in English and Spanish. Ana Zepeda, dual language first-grade teacher at Bagdad ES, said this gives the students an advantage later on in life.

"This program really helps support our students' first language while building their second, making them truly bilingual and bi-literate students," Zepeda said.

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During PreK through first grade, students learn language arts in their native language. As they enter second through fifth grades, students learn language arts in English and Spanish. Furthermore, all students learn mathematics in English, whereas science and social studies are taught in Spanish.

Beatriz Campuzano, fifth-grade dual language teacher, said solidifying the students' first language benefits their ability to learn English. Campuzano uses the school reading goals to encourage her students to read in both languages. For example, the students have a "Biography Ninja Wall." When a student reads two biographies (one in English and one in Spanish), and then completes a report over the books, they earn a colored "belt" on the wall. The students enjoyed the challenge so much, Campuzano added more belt colors throughout the year.

"My role is to encourage students to read out of their comfort zone, to explore different genres and make reading fun," Campuzano said.

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Lead, Inspire, Grow

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During the staff retreat at the beginning of the school year, a theme was set for Bagdad Elementary School: "Lead, Inspire, Grow." Leigh Dufeau, the school art teacher, said she was particularly inspired by the theme, and that inspiration led her to try a different approach to teaching art.

"I always think that students learn better when the ideas come from them," Dufeau said. "It's a transition from more step-by-step projects to a more open concept where students are creating their own ideas. To me, that really helps in every area."

This year, Dufeau has made an effort to align the students' art projects with what they are learning in other school subjects and even schoolwide initiatives, like the school reading goals.

"I give them themes, and I show them artwork from artists who have used that theme in the past, and we talk about how the artist has ideas and how they create ideas and how ideas are the most important part of that process of creating," Dufeau said.

For example, her fourth-grade students are currently learning about storytelling and how ideas can come from unexpected places.

"We talk about where you find stories," Dufeau said. "It can be in songs or your favorite book. It's not just about illustration, but also about finding inspiration. It doesn't have to be about a whole story, but about one piece that inspired them."

While this year's theme has helped her grow as a teacher, Dufeau said, she has really seen a passion in her students as well.

"They're really excited about coming to art and working on their projects," she said. "I think our kids are so creative, and they do great things."