Society of Illustrators hand raisingLogoHarlem Link celebration
Harlem Link Ink Title

Winter 2011

Thank you for taking some time to read about the exciting action at our school this year. 

We look forward to sharing more and would be pleased to have you visit and check out our amazing teachers and students in person!


Margaret Ryan and Steven Evangelista
In This Issue
Kindergarten Sight Words and More
Senior Update: Fifth Grade Journeys
Check out Our Blog
Donors Choose Spotlight
Kindergarten Sight Words and More

In this yearlong series, our teachers show how their grade teams are promoting higher-order thinking across the school.  Each issue this school year, the Harlem Link Ink will feature an article by a teacher providing insight into what high quality teaching means at Harlem Link.  As Richard Allington said, "Exemplary teaching is responsive to children's needs, not regurgitation of a common script." 


The best way to understand the message behind this series, of course, is to see it in action by taking a tour at Harlem Link.

By Julie Sutera, Kindergarten Teacher 

Kindergarteners at Harlem Link are stepping up to the plateStudent shows his reading progress with a higher reading expectation than we have ever had before.  This year we are challenging our rookie Linksters to move up to first grade able to read books at a level we used consider appropriate for first grade.  This change means that they will need to know more "sight words" (common English words, including many that don't follow basic rules of phonics like look, at, the, said, she, he, my) than in the past.  Additionally, they need to be better able to sound out words using what they know about the letter sounds like in the word umbrella.


Each child has a book of 50 sight words.  They practice five at a time until they master them and are able to move on until the next set of five.  These words are repeated on homework and during literacy centers.


Student tracks her reading progressAlso, each child has been given a bookmark to track their own reading progress.  When they fluently read 3 books at level A, they can mark their bookmark with a sticker and move on to the next reading level.  Stepping up their reading ability even more, our little super stars are aiming to be able to start at the beginning and tell what happened without looking back.  They are even able to give an opinion about what they liked best and why. 


Student tracks his decoding skillsIn our kindergarten classes you will hear our students demonstrating their higher level thinking by explaining how they figured out the answer.  You may hear them developing opinions by saying to each other "I disagree because....".


They are thinking about their thinking and we think you'd be impressed to hear these scholarly voices.

Senior Update: Fifth Grade Journeys

By Melissa Loeffler, Fifth Grade Teacher 

Our fifth graders have gone back in time to the early 1600s to visit the land of Iroquoia, the home of the Iroquois Nation. From hanging corn to dry in our classroom to writing detailed travel guides for visitors to Iroquoia to visiting the American Museum of Natural History, we have really delved into the lifestyle of how the Iroquois lived.  We have even made a model of an Iroqouis longhouse!  Through hands on learning in social studies and synthesizing our thoughts in writing, we have become expert historians and sociologists.


Our seniors are also revving up for the middle school application process.  Thanks to the guidance from Ms. Horton, our parent coordinator (who is now on maternity leave, and her temporary replacement, Ms. Greene), students have successfully filled in their applications and ranked their choices for middle schools.  Now we are practicing our interviewing skills, and soon we will be writing our personal statements.  We are now heading out for interviews, and by the spring, we'll know where we are headed!


Expect great things from our seniors over the next few months and beyond!


Check out Our Blog

Last summer Harlem Link launched a new website that is serving our community by providing information in a more clear and interactive way.

Screen shot of our new websiteFor now, our blog has limited content and irregular entries.  However, as time goes on, the school will incorporate more voices from the community, posting entries by teachers, family members and alumni.  Topics range from the ins and outs of urban education, child development and the hot topics surrounding education policy in our state and nation today.


Please check us out and participate in the converastion. 


Please visit our site and feel free to provide feedback at

Donors Choose Spotlight 
Kindergarten Puppeteers!
How wonderful it would be to invite children to speak, create situations, dramatize and have fun!

Our students are a vibrant bunch of NY students who are full of energy. So often they channel this energy to meet our ever increasing expectations. We would like to provide them with the opportunity to channel their creative energy into acting out stories that they've heard or they make up.

In Closing

In this year of raised expectations across the state, Harlem Link is leading by tightening procedures, demanding excellence from all community members, pushing higher order thinking, and getting ready to transition to the new Common Core standards.

Join us in our movement by visiting our website or more impactfully, visiting our school!

Director's Blog:

Fighting the FAE


I'm really glad that David Brooks mentioned the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) in his recent column about Samuel Huntington and the idea of clash of civilizations. This phenomenon, a basic element of Psychology 101 courses, deserves more widespread attending in education circles.


Simply put, the FAE highlights the human tendency to excuse our own mistakes and errors as influenced by circumstances beyond our control, while we assign permanent characteristics to others when we observe the same mistakes and errors, without considering the same influencing circumstances. We will blame the uneven sidewalk for our own trip and fall, but assign the attribute of clumsiness to the stranger across the street who trips and falls on the same crack.


I find the FAE to be so important in education because the mindset of teachers, parents and principals impacts our day to day decision making, treatment and expectations about children so greatly. A no-excuses, high expectations environment demands that we stay vigilant against falling victim to the FAE, and that we see the positive possibility and potential for good choices behind student behaviors when they strike us as awry. It means we need to understand why students behave the way they do, and to get inside their perspectives, rather than assigning a label or a judgment that closes to the door to change.


There are many student behaviors that stand out to me when I think about the FAE - behaviors to which a natural human reaction is to say, "What a ______ child" or "Clearly, that child cannot do this or that." But one, a fourth grader at our school who I'll call Keisha, is particularly dramatic. Keisha enrolled in our school in kindergarten in our first year of operation, when our expectations for student behavior were far less clear than they are today, and the structures and systems we had in place were commensurately so.


While we were still safer and more orderly than the school down the street, our imperfect adult behaviors formed the circumstances that led to many problematic student behaviors. In that start-up environment, with adults communicating different messages and unacceptable student behaviors leading to inconsistent adult responses, many of our five and six year olds naturally had a hard time adjusting to school.


Keisha didn't simply have a hard time adjusting. She was in pain. She spent most of each lunch period screaming at the top of her lungs. Unclear what she wanted, she would scream for an adult to hold her hand and then scream for the adult to stop touching her. She spent most of her classroom time wandering around the room, appearing to be in anguish, with no teacher intervention working to calm her down. On the school bus on the way home, Keisha was a veritable tornado of disruption. We feared for her safety.


Aware of the FAE (I was a psychology major in college for a reason), I knew that I shouldn't leap to conclusions about Keisha or her home life. Family members responded to our entreaties to get involved in school, shared some possible reasons for her behavior and committed to working with us over the years. This belief in each child, even a child with such obvious and outrageous struggles as Keisha, led our school to invest the time and resources needed to support her. Over the years, our Academic Intervention Services teachers and one of our school social workers collaborated with the family and classroom teachers to try a variety of strategies to support Keisha's needs and her growth.


Importantly, the school settled down that first year and systems and routines became clear. As the years have gone by, Keisha has struggled less and less, making at times dramatic improvements in her ability to adjust to school life. Having missed so much class time, she had to repeat the first grade and still went to second grade struggling academically. But she has caught up. Now in fourth grade, Keisha is having a terrific year. She has not exhibited a single behavioral problem and on the 2010 state reading test - a test that 48% of New York State students failed in grades 3-8 - Keisha scored at Level 3, a passing score. This morning she excitedly showed me a chapter book she is reading about a high school for Greek gods and goddesses (yes, a Rick Riordan ripoff, but a book that she chose herself and a gateway to interesting and high quality literature).


Working with Keisha now it's hard to imagine, let alone remember, the struggling five year old we met in 2005.  It was the family's belief in their daughter and our teachers' belief and commitment to Keisha's development - our shared resistance to the FAE - that facilitated this success story.


-Steven Evangelista


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