Recess at DAA!

DAA is a public urban school. However, we differ from many other schools in the various ways that we work to develop and educate the “whole child.” One of those ways is our philosophy on the importance of students having recess….TWO recesses at that!

DAA Teacher: “How’s things going for you at your school?”

Traditional Teacher: “With all the pressure from administration to meet our yearly achievement goals, I am STRESSED and that’s an understatement!” Sometimes, I just want to skip recess or gym. That time is cutting into the students’ instructional time.”

DAA Teacher: “Really? I cannot imagine cutting recess. The students literally need to have recess!”

Traditional Teacher: “I guess, you’re right! But I’m sure you could imagine how much more time can be spent actually teaching though. We have pretty ambitious goals for our students to achieve on the M-STEP and NWEA MAP assessments. Literally every minute counts!”

DAA Teacher: “We have ambitious goals for our students to achieve too.  We just believe that the advantages of having recess is huge part of that as well.”

Traditional Teacher: “Don’t get me wrong, I believe recess is important and all. But I’m just thinking about how to optimize my time with the students.”

DAA Teacher: “Yea but that time spent during recess is a necessary mental break for them with such a long day…that’s why we have two recesses everyday.”

Traditional Teacher: “TWO recesses???? Here it is, I’m thinking of ways to cut our ONE recess from 20 mins to 10 mins, and you’re telling me that you all give each student two recesses everyday.”

DAA Teacher: (awkwardly) “Uh….yea. It works for us! It helps us to truly develop the whole child- socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively.” And it’s supported by global research!”

Traditional Teacher: “Really? But you don’t feel pressure to spend more time teaching and working with the students academically?”

DAA Teacher: “Yes, I feel that pressure. We all do. However, that pressure is eased as students are more excited about finishing their high quality work right before recess. That pressure is also reduced when I notice that students collaborate better in academic groups because they’ve had ample time to collaborate often during recess. Finally, that pressure is almost eliminated when I notice that students are paying more focused attention during instruction because they had at least 2 chances to release their excess energy and antsy movement.

Traditional Teacher: “Wow!”

DAA Teacher: “I find that those mental, social, and physical breaks force both students and teachers to be more intensely focused and productive during instructional time- hence an overall less stressful educational experience for all involved.”

Traditional Teacher: “That’s fascinating!”

DAA Teacher: “And guess what? The students are still showing significant growth on all of the mandated school-wide assessments.”

Traditional Teacher: (smiling) “Well hey. Sounds like I need to be trying to adopt some of DAA’s philosophies in my own classroom. Thanks for sharing!”

DAA Teacher: “Anytime! I can share some of the research that supports what we do if you want.”

Traditional Teacher: “Ok. That would be helpful!”


Resource 1, Resource 2, Resource 3, Resource 4

Academic Resources for Home!

Summer is quickly approaching and you might be wondering what academic tools your kids can use during the break that will prevent the dreaded summer slip! At DAA, we incorporate technology into many of the classes in order to supplement our curriculum in both ELA and math. I would like to share some of these with you so you have opportunities to FREE resources available on a computer or smartphone.

Khan Academy

This website gives our kids access to math problems, explanatory videos, and immediate feedback for math grades K-12+. Recently, Khan Academy has added science and humanities for older students. All of our fourth and fifth graders use Khan Academy with Ms. Fowler to fill gaps in knowledge that they missed in previous years and need to refresh on, as well as current topics that she introduces. If you have a child in Ms. Fowler’s math class, they already have a login and will have access to it even after the school year ends. If your child has not used it before, the accounts are free and could even help them work at the math that will be introduced to them in the next school year so they can get ahead!



Raz-kids is a fantastic website that has over 400 e-books at various reading levels that can both read the book to the child and allow a child to read through the book independently. When the child completes books they earn stars which can be used to buy different accessories for their robot avatars. Again, both 4th and 5th graders have accounts for raz-kids that will last through the summer and we encourage them to continue using it. For children without an account, there is a free trial that lasts 2 weeks or you can purchase a home account for your children for $109 per year.

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Time For Kids

If you want to stick to strictly free websites for reading Time For Kids is fantastic! There are short articles at many reading levels that allow children to read about topics such as how we got the Statue of Liberty, an environmental article about how Lego is going green to protect our environment, and world news such as the newest Prince of England being born to Prince William and Kate Middleton. If you prefer to receive these in print, there is an option to pay for magazines to be mailed to your home.

National Geographic Kids

Similar to Time For Kids, National Geographic Kids gives access to free articles about our world, and in true NatGeo fashion, with incredible photographs. I’ve reviewed articles about how Ramadan is celebrated around the world, snapshots about each U.S. state with its history, geography, and wildlife, and a new glass frog (frog with a translucent stomach) that has been discovered in Costa Rica and looks like Kermit. If you have a curious child this might be a really fun website to explore with them!

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Hopefully you can enjoy some of these resources this summer with your kids and help keep their brains working throughout the summertime!

5th Grade // Athletes As Leaders of Social Change

For us, it all started with Jackie Robinson...

For him, it started on January 31, 1919. A man who would someday be a legend was born. He worked hard and was a talented athlete, but he lived during the Jim Crow Era. This meant that his opportunities were limited. However, on April 15,1947 Jackie had a great opportunity to join the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey gave him the chose him to join the Dodgers not only because he was a talented athlete, but also because he had strong character. His personality confidence and leadership made him the right man for the job.

There were many factors in Jackie’s success as a leader of social change. Some of them were people around him like family friends and fans. Others were the historical context of his time and of course, his habits of character. With lots of hate mail and all the racism going on throughout the country, his family supported him and kept him sane so he could change the world. One of the other factors in his success was that he had strong habits of character. He had respect for himself and others. He had courage and faith in our free society.


Almost exactly 99 years after Jackie was born, our 5th grade class started reading about him and learning about his legacy. Jackie believed that “A life is not important except on the impact it has on other lives.” He inspired athletes long after his time, and their stories have inspired us. This book is our way of making an impact on others’ lives. In the pages of our book you will read about barrier breakers, athletes who have carried on Jackie’s legacy by being great leaders of social change.

Every part of this publication was student driven. Students selected the athlete that they found most inspiring. Students created the artwork with Ms. Brott through a process of multiple drafts and revisions. They also conducted research, and created an annotated bibliography based on their learning.  They wrote the introduction, voted to select a title, created a table of contents, and decided that we wanted to sell our book not for profit, but to share the stories of these inspiring leaders of social change.

We ordered a few copies of our book for our classroom and our school library. If you would like you very own copy of our students’ work, the book is available for sale online. We hope that you enjoy it.

1st Grade Crew // Celebration of Learning!

Celebrations of Learning heighten the level of excitement among the Detroit Achievement Academy learning community. Students know a Celebration of Learning is a coveted event when they get to show off and display the hard work and learning they have done about a topic for their families and the school community. For three months, my first grade students studied the sun, moon, and stars, and at the beginning of February, they shared their hard work during this culminating event!

Families spent the evening as “students,” while students transformed into “teachers “ or “experts” on the sun, moon and stars. When we began studying this unit, students created a KWL chart --What I KNOW, What I WONDER, What I LEARNED. At the time, they could only fill out the ‘K’ and ‘W’ because we had just started our unit. Students had many wonders about our topic — “Where does the sun go at night? How does the moon change shape? How hot is the sun?”. While students had a tiny bit of knowledge beforehand, I looked forward to seeing the ‘L’ column (What I LEARNED) grow throughout the unit.

We began our unit by reading a letter from a curious boy who wanted to learn more about the sun, moon, and stars. This boy exemplified the curious first graders who sat before me. Through various narrative texts, students began to understand why the sun, moon, and stars inspire authors. Some of our read-aloud books included, Papa Please Get the Moon For Me by Eric Carle, Summer Sun Risin’ by W. NIkola-Lisa, and Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. Students responded to these books through role-play and written response. During our second unit, students began focusing on the science concepts of observable patterns in the sky. They tracked observations of the sun, moon, and stars through pictures and videos in their Sky notebook, something they will share during the Celebration of Learning. The final unit focused students on a read-aloud book What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees by Nancy Tafuri. Students first read the book to understand details about the sun and moon at different times of day. They used this book to inspire writing their own narrative poem about the sun. Students received feedback from their peers to help them revise their poems. This culminating project, a three-verse narrative poem about the sun, was another exciting piece of work students shared with their families.  

Students had opportunity to share all of the information they have learned and created as ‘experts’ during our Celebration of Learning. First graders sang a song, taught families a sun and moon movement routine, and presented their work in small groups to their families. Families were given a “question sheet” featuring the guiding questions from our unit to ask students throughout their presentations. Students’ responses showed off their learning!

During the weeks leading up to the Celebration of Learning, students were busy preparing to ensure they become ready and confident to display their expertise. They rehearsed, practiced, and received feedback from their peers. Prior to arriving to our Celebration of Learning, families were asked to fill out the same ‘KWL’ chart students filled out at the beginning of the unit. Families only filled out the ‘K’ and “W”— what I know and what I wonder. Once the presentations concluded, parents filled out the ‘L’— learning, and students were able to see all the information their family learned from them! It was so exciting for our whole crew!

Here are students giving and receiving feedback on the narrative poems they presented at Celebration of Learning:

2nd Grade // Field Work

During the morning of December 15, 2017, forty three excited and impatient second graders boarded a bus to the Ann Arbor Museum of Natural History. The air was buzzing with anticipation. During the long snowy ride, you could hear the little voices discussing “fossils,” “extinction,” “ichthyosaurs’,” and “paleontologists.” Peers were asking each other questions, trying to predict what treasures the museum would hold.

When we arrived, you could feel the kids’ joy. Students were eager to finally explore exhibits about the topics they’ve been learning about in the class. While exploring, each student worked as a scientist, using a note-catcher to document their findings and illustrate all the fascinating displays. You could hear students making connections to the work they’ve done in the classroom; they were reciting facts and information to others as they browsed. There were many “oohs!” and “ahhhhs!” as students learned new facts.

So why do we have “field work”? Why is it important to the success of students? Well, ask yourself this question- when you learn how to cook, do you just read the recipe and then you know it automatically? Unless you have a perfect memory, chances are, probably not. Just like chef’s need to create and explore with their ingredients, students need opportunities to extend their learning beyond the books. While rich texts provide an excellent source of information on a topic, they aren’t enough to make us experts in one particular topic. When students are able to have a direct relationship with the world around them and make authentic connections, they are able to expand their schema, and develop their own ideas!

Field work doesn’t only require students to use reading, writing, and listening skills. They are also able to develop their researching and critical thinking skills while they explore in the field. Students are also able to interview experts and raise questions they may have from their units in class. Students are able to take charge of their learning through field work by examining topics they find interesting and making connections to things they already know.

While it is an exciting day for students to get out of the classroom and into the real world for learning, field study is also essential for students to make real connections between what they’re learning in the classroom to the community around them. According to EL’s Core Practice’s, It provides opportunities for students to analyze multiple perspectives, voice their opinions, construct arguments supported by evidence, and to act in service to their communities.” By giving students an opportunity to achieve success inside and outside of the classroom, it will inspire them towards high-level academic achievement and bring learning to life!

Art // How We Achieve High Quality Work

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DAA artists have been hard at work in the art room creating beautiful and meaningful works of art. Students model expeditionary learning skills to reach their full potential, during each module students are encouraged to be reflective and thoughtful about their work through the peer review process and the creation of multiple drafts.

I would like to shine a light on the steps our students take to achieve such high quality work! The examples you see are from our third grade crew’s study of adaptations and the world of frogs. The first step in our process is research! For this assignment 3rd graders were asked to observe, investigate, and wonder about frogs. I ask students to make scientific observations and sketch the frog, unassisted. This is a great way for me to gauge their skills and abilities. Then step by step we learn how to draw a frog, practicing to build our knowledge of the frog’s unique body shape and features and confidence in our drawing ability.

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After learning how to draw frogs, we began research on the frog life cycle and habitat. We did this by creating an interactive life cycle wheel that the third graders will use as a tool to teach younger students. All of this knowledge and practice serves as a base for our final products that we will plan to use as a celebration of our learning from this EL module.

As part of our final product initiative, students learned about expert illustrator Jerry Pinkney and his artistic process, to help prepare for the creation of their own book cover about Freaky Frogs! Students had example images of frogs, their habitats and information about the other amphibians, plants, and insects that live there.   

Step 1
Planning Worksheet: Students use their research to develop an illustration that captures their learning.

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Step 2
First Draft: Students receive teacher feedback and start the first draft of their book cover.

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Step 3
Criteria for Success Checklist & Peer Review: Our checklist is used so students can know the expectations of high quality work. They go through this process with a partner, giving and receiving feedback on their work. For this peer review we used the praise, question and suggest protocol and each student received feedback to consider how to improve before beginning their final draft.

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Step 4
Final Draft: The final draft of our book cover for our end of module celebration of learning is where all the students knowledge, drawing skills and practice come together. The final draft of our book cover illustrates our students are active participants of receiving feedback and using it to refine and improve their work.

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Habits of Character // Contest!


As you pick up your kid from school on our early release Friday you will probably hear a lot of excitement coming from the gym. One of our favorite things to do at DAA is to celebrate our kids! Each Friday we get to celebrate one crew who has shown incredible compassion, cooperation, integrity, responsibility, perseverance, and curiosity and creativity throughout the week. You will certainly hear us singing our DAA cheer led by our light leaders and an exciting drum roll prior to Ms. Monge announcing which crew won for the week.

In order to fairly decide which crew wins we, as a staff, all use class dojo to track positive points when crews show certain habits of character. The class with the most points at the end of the week is our winner and has earned the bragging rights along with winning. Our students earn character contest points in many ways throughout the week such as having 100% participation in crew (responsibility), quick and quiet transitions in the hallway (integrity), or giving their best effort and not giving up on a test (perseverance). Each given point aligns directly to one of our six habits of character to celebrate when our kids show them together as a crew. These points can be given by their homeroom teacher or by another staff member who compliments the crew on their habits of character including at breakfast, lunch, and specials.

Each crew has won the character contest at least once this school year and it is quite exciting to watch the anticipation and excitement for the announcement each Friday afternoon. While only one class can win each week, it is so special to see other crews sending “shine” (one of our ways of celebrating others) to the winning crew. We hope that you can join us for one of our Friday community crews to see how proud our students are for their commitment to continuously building their character.


*If you would like to see how your child shows character throughout the week please connect with your child’s teacher and get connected on dojo! We’d love to have you connected!

Meet The Future #ENOUGH


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

One focus from the EL curriculum is the importance of social justice.  Our students are Change Makers.  This means they know they have a voice and can use it to create change within our communities.  They are incredibly smart, driven and capable of so much love.  It is with this foundation, that they will be our future, and our future looks bright.

One month ago today the tragedy in Parkland Florida took place.  Students around the country demanded to be heard, to be safe.  A nationwide walkout was scheduled for today, March 14th, for 17 minutes, 1 minute for each person who passed.  

As a crew we came together to speak about what makes us feel safe and what our dreams are for our school.  The students were asked, "What do you want our country to know?  What do you want adults to hear?"  Independently, they came up with responses such as "we deserve better", "stop the violence", "more love" and "we support each other."  It was important we made sure our statements were unifying, and that they were personal.  The students engaged in conversation about how they could be proactive and reflective in their lives.

They reflected on how we can become stronger communities, and look out for each other. One student wrote, "We have a chance to be alive.  We deserve to be loved.  We should be grateful.  We should stand up for ourselves."

As we stood outside, we received numerous honks, waves and appreciations.  They said they felt empowered, and someone said "they're listening!" 

For our crew, this is what it means to be reflective and get involved.  The world is huge and forever changing and we have an opportunity to change it for the better.  We are the future.

March Is Reading Month!


At DAA we are so excited to celebrate March is Reading Month many times this month. You may have noticed our doors decorated as books, heard about our reading competition amongst crews, and helped your child participate in Reading Spirit Week. Reading Spirit Week allowed students to dress up as what they wanted to be when they grow up, wear a shirt with words on it, wear a hat to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, wear pajamas for some school wide reading in the hallway, and teachers and students dressing as a favorite book character for Teachers Go Bananas Day!

Teachers Go Bananas Day is my favorite day of Reading Spirit Week because teachers can dress up as a book character and then share a read aloud of that book with a different crew during that day. On that Friday, you may have seen Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the pigeon from Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Captain Underpants, Fern from Charlotte’s Web, or the evil Miss Viola Swamp from Miss Nelson is Missing.


Schools all over the country celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday for the whole month of March by creating contests, book fairs, and providing incentives to make reading even more special to the students. We love making reading fun for the scholars at DAA and have loved seeing all of the creative hats, shirts, and costumes worn throughout Spirit Week to celebrate. If you weren’t able to think of a great costume this year we hope that some of these classic books provide some inspiration not only for costumes, but also great books to read before bed with your kids!

A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Kindergarten // Brain Breaks

It’s no secret that kids love to move, dance, and play, and in such an action-packed day of learning, it’s essential to make sure students have the time and to release and channel their energy in a productive way. Brain Breaks are short breaks throughout the day that can do a variety of things: get students energized, help them to calm down and focus, provide a break in between activities, or simply bring joy into the classroom! Most teachers will tell you that their students are more productive, calmer, and more focused after a brain break, so we use them all the time at DAA!

In Kindergarten, we use two websites to help facilitate these Brain Breaks: GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga. GoNoodle is a website that has a compilation of videos that focus on exercise, song, dance, stretching, and mindfulness. Our Kindergarten Crew was selected to be a Classroom Ambassador this year, which means that we get to test out new GoNoodle videos and we also get to try out all of the GoNoodle Plus videos and extensions. We love all of the videos, but some are especially helpful to our brain growth, focus, and development. Some of our favorite silly dance videos are Pop-See-Ko, Whip/Nae Nae, and the Cupid Shuffle.

As a teacher, my favorite GoNoodle are the videos that sneakily combine some academic learning with movement and fun. For example, we start our Math lessons after lunch, and my Kindergarteners are always a bit more wiggly than they are in the morning. To channel some of that energy, I put on the Mega Math Marathon, where students have to run in place while answering math questions or Maximo the Magnificent, where students have to hold a challenging yoga pose while answering math questions. I love that kids are doing math and also having fun. I also love that I can customize questions related to the topics we are working on in math, so it flows nicely into our learning targets for the day.

Other than using brain breaks to get our wiggles out and have fun, we also use brain breaks to calm down, relieve stress, and refocus. GoNoodle has some videos that teach students different breathing strategies, such as a Snake Breath, Rainbow Breath, and Bee Breath. The videos use fun characters to teach students skills they can use if they are frustrated or upset, and I like to use them after we do a fun and energizing activity or when I notice students have a lot of energy and we need to focus on a new topic. We also use Cosmic Kids Yoga, which is a YouTube channel that teaches kids yoga poses with a fun theme and adventure tied in. We’ve gone on adventures to the ocean, to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to outer space, to the desert, and to so many other places, all while learning new yoga poses that help stretch our body, and calm and focus our minds.

Both GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga are websites that can be accessed and used at home as well as at school. To sign up for a free GoNoodle account, simply go to and enter a parent’s e-mail address. To view free Cosmic Kids Yoga videos, go to or search “Cosmic Kids Yoga” on YouTube. Happy Brain Breaking!