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Mantra Lingua Learning Resources

Lake Bluff School District 65 made a commitment to rigorously implement a World Language program beginning in Kindergarten and moving through 8th grade.  In a rigorous implementation, there are four domains of teaching and learning that must be present:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Listening
  4. Speaking

When all of these components are present in language learning programs, student growth is evident.  This grant includes two items to support these goals:  The Mantra Lingua PENPals and the LinguaTALK Spanish toolkit.

Mantra Lingua PENPals

Our new Mantra Lingua PENpals are digital readers that are programmable with a recording feature which lets you customize material to align with curricular learning tasks.  The technology of the reader allows you to record information using an electronic sensor label.  The sticker is coded with your recorded information so that when a student touches the pen to the label, the recorded content is played.  Labels can be used in books, posters, or on objects in the environment.  The recording feature on the PENpal allows the user to record specific content intended or could be used to record in-lesson information.  Recordings can be played back to a listener or the recorder.  The PENpal Class Kits comes with recordable labels, charging cables, batteries, and free software access to over 900 dual language audio files.

These devices benefit our students and learning in a number of ways.  First, they provide the opportunity to make any book available in Spanish, as instructional support to the curriculum.  PENpals give our teachers the opportunity to translate any book, regardless of the language in which it is written.  With respect to curricular goals, this supports reading and listening.  Second, with the recording feature, students have the ability to record responses and play them back.  This meets three learning components of the outlined curriculum (speaking, listening, and presentational). Lastly, PENpals support both interpretive and interpersonal tasks when they are used for different activities like scavenger hunts or interactive group/pair work.  

LinguaTALK Spanish toolkit

The resources in the toolkit promote the teaching and learning of Spanish.  The Spanish Toolkit “comes with interactive activities to help students progress from word through phase to sentence levels.”  This is one of the primary goals of our World Language program.  We want students to learn the language in authentic and developmentally appropriate ways, use the language they are learning through natural yet intentionally planned learning activities, and to be able to demonstrate growth through programmatic performance-based assessments.  The Spanish toolkit is equipped with audio books, PENpals loaded with LinguaTALK Spanish Audio (narrated by native Spanish speakers), Mini-book Creator Software, recordable stickers, picture bank of vocabulary and flashcards, thematic songs, 32 Charts, and a wide variety of teacher-based resources.  Moreover, the book topics and charts are exactly aligned to the thematic curricular units of study, almost as if someone from Mantra Lingua was a part of the development of the thematic units.  This spontaneous alignment of the LinguaTALK resources, alongside programmatic goals, provides an opportunity to capitalize on resources that will promote the Spanish language learning of our students and benefit their overall target language growth.  Standards-wise, the LinguaTALK Spanish toolkit will align with reading, writing, listening, and speaking objectives in addition to supporting interpretive tasks, interpersonal tasks, and presentational tasks.

Portable Sound System

LBES was in need of a portable sound system powerful enough to use for outside events such as field day, wellness week, veteran’s day ceremonies, outside classroom presentations, and our K-2 music shows.

This grant included a powered amplifier/mixer and stand, two speakers and speaker stands, microphone, microphone cable and stand, heavy duty extension cord, cord storage reel and a rolling storage case.

New Kiln

The art department requested a new kiln that was larger than the others and electric.  (The current kiln was very old, small, and has broken down a few times in the last two years). There were problems fitting all K-5 students clay projects in a tiny kiln (generally takes a whole semester to fire every students project 2 times). 

Our new kiln makes the LB ceramics project much more doable for each student.  Also the electric kiln provides greater safety, and protect students from broken/incorrectly fired clay projects.

Makerbot 3D printer

The affordable 3D Replicator features the ease of one-touch printing and has all the same technology as full-size MakerBot printers.  Creating 3D models has never been easier with the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer. It has all the same technology as the full-size, fifth-generation MakerBot printers and features one-touch printing—just send your file to print and press a button. It’s that simple. The Replicator Mini has a build volume of 4 x 4 x 5 inches (L x W x H), making it perfect for creating  household items, replacement parts, and unique gifts.

Odyssey of the Mind

Odyssey of the Mind

The Odyssey of the Mind teaches students how to think divergently by providing open-ended problems that appeal to a wide range of interests. Students learn how to identify challenges and to think creatively to solve those problems. They are free to express their ideas and suggestions without fear of criticism. The creative problem-solving process rewards thinking “outside of the box.” While conventional thinking has an important place in a well-rounded education, students need to learn how to think creatively and productively.  Learn more.

Ukeleles Program

The Alliance for Excellence funded the purchase of 25 Tenor Ukuleles for Ms. Cvitkovic’s 6th grade music students.  This pilot program affords students the opportunity to not only learn a string instrument, but also to explore other world cultures.

While all students benefit from these instruments, those who are kinesthetic and tactile learners directly benefit from their engagement with the ukuleles.  To further integrate the ukuleles into the curriculum and programming, Ms. C. has also created a Uke Club at LBMS.  Ms. C. and her students are really enjoying their awarded Alliance grant of ukuleles!  Uke on!

Rosalind Wiseman Presentations and Workshops

On Jan. 21 and 22, 2014, Rosalind Wiseman will be presenting and providing workshops within our district.  These include: a district-wide teacher presentation, a parent presentation, and 6th – 8th grade student workshop.  Rosalind is a nationally renowned speaker and expert on the topics of bullying, social competency, strengthening relationships, ethical leadership, and media literacy.  Her approach is direct and her ability to address social/emotional issues through directness has been especially effective with middle school students.  Rosalind addresses what people “think” and how that impacts what they say and do.

Technology Infusion for Enrichment Teams

All of the departments benefit from access to technology.  Wellness classes record mechanics, fine arts groups analyze performance and science classes use on-board apps for measurement.  Hands on learning in front of and behind the technology empowers our students and prepares them for success.  This grant helped supply updated technology to the teachers.

Digital Still Cameras (6)
Camera Memory Cards (6)
Apple TV’s (3)
iPad Application Vouchers (2)
iPad Covers (2)


As part of the School-wide Enrichment Model, the K-8 Enrichment Team ensures that student learning is supported with learning tools consistent with the 21st century skills of collaboration, self-directed learning, critical thinking, and creativity.

Orff Instruments for K-2

Testimonial from Mrs. Susan Haugland, K-2 Music Teacher

“I can’t thank the Alliance for Excellence enough for their support of the arts programs at Lake Bluff Elementary.

This year, the Alliance generously funded an Orff Instrumentarium (xylophones and glockenspiels) in my classroom. This allowed students in my classroom to have the same access to instruments as they do in Mrs. Ellis’ music room. Since becoming an Orff certified music educator, I have seen first-hand the benefits of this learning process and the xylophones and glockenspiels are integral to the curriculum. These are lovely instruments that not only have a pleasing sound, but also facilitate kinesthetic, visual, and aural learning of pitch and rhythmic relationships in both ensemble and solo performance.

Every student at Lake Bluff Elementary benefits from the generosity of the Alliance for Excellence. Thank you so very much for all you do for us!”

Headphones for 4th Graders

Compass Learning offers students mini-lessons on needed skills personalized for each student and based on MAP scores.  The lessons are engaging and can be loud and distracting.  Since students often use the laptops while small group instruction is going on, it is nice for them to have headphones to block the sound from others in the classroom.

Digital Audio Books

Playaways provide another tool for differentiated reading instruction in our classrooms.  They can be hooked up to a desktop speaker for whole class participation, or can be used with print material for audio-supported reading  practice.

They support critical listening and reading skills for all students, and they allow struggling readers to experience a book at their interest level which may be above their independent reading level.The entire book is loaded on the durable unit, which is about half the size of a deck of cards and made of droppable plastic.  The Playaway titles align with our guided reading groups, book clubs, and genre studies throughout the school year.

Sarah's Dream: Read with Me

The goal of “Sarah’s Dream: Read With Me!” is to improve literacy and foster cross-cultural friendships between children of neighboring communities.  Watch the video below to learn about the program that was co-funded with the PTO.

Read With Me! brings students together from neighboring communities in order to share stories and a love of reading while improving literacy in Lake County, as well as creating a culture of compassion and cooperation among children from different schools. It involves mentorship, friendship, and fun, benefitting students and teachers alike. Books have been selected to reinforce these concepts. In addition, the last selection has been a non-fiction, reference-type book useful for introducing/teaching research skills. Throughout the course of the school year, the students get together three times, typically in October, December, and April. Lake Bluff Elementary School host two of those meetings; Oak Terrace and Clearview host once. This means a field trip to their buddies’ school, which is more often than not a rare chance to see the inside of another elementary school.

The hour-long session consists of: an icebreaker, usually involving an information sheet that the students filled out before their meeting (e.g. an All-About-Me postcard); a healthy snack, book-reading, and a comprehension activity. When it’s time to leave, the third graders get to keep the books they have been reading.

Read With Me impacts all involved and anyone that comes in contact with, or observes the program.

The students, first and foremost are given an opportunity they may not ordinarily experience. Not only do the students get to meet a buddy from another school in a neighboring community, but they also get to be a mentor or a mentee. Students get to help one another learn about being a kind citizen by welcoming someone into their school and hosting the buddy visit. They also share the experience of reading and discussing a book. The 3rd grade buddies are given the book but everyone leaves with new, fond memories and the anticipation of the next visit.

Teachers are impacted. Read With Me builds relationships between teachers and an opportunity for colleagues and professionals in neighboring communities to meet and see their students through a different lens as they engage in conversation with another student.

Visitors to the schools to view the program are impacted by the power of these new relationships and the value reading with a new friend can bring to children.

LBES student testimonials:

“My buddy and I both like math.”- 4th Grade Student LBES
“My partner really like the book and wants to make the nachos recipe in the book.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“We both like comic books.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“Me and my partner both like Goosebumps books.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“I learned about my partner’s family. She has one sister.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“I loved and liked it. We have everything in common except our favorite book.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“It was really fun. I found out that we both play soccer.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“We had a lot in common. We’ve both been on all the rides at Six Flags.” 4th Grade Student LBES
“We all like the same sport — soccer. I told them about a soccer game on my iPod.”4th Grade Student LBES
“We had a really fun time. We didn’t have a lot in common, but opposites attract!” 4th Grade Student LBES.


When asked if anyone felt like they made a new friend today, everyone raised their hand. :) 4th grade teacher. Everyone is also excited about traveling to visit their buddy’s school.

Testimonials from buddy schools

“I wish we could come here every day!” 3rd grade student Clearview

5th Graders Build Robots

Teams of 5th grade students worked together to build their LEGO Mindstorms robots before programming them with their laptops . The goal was to get the robots to move in precise measurements and angles, tying in with their lesson on motion and design. Students had to program everything and be accurate and specific. It gave students a chance to use their math and spatial reasoning skills. If they did not build it right, the programming won’t work. The experience taught students that engineers have rethink and retry.

Fiddles for All

Elementary School music teacher Susan Haugland was the recipient of a grant which enabled ALL 2009/2010 2nd graders to learn to play the violin and expand their musical horizons.  This program will not only enhance the student experience but will further contribute to the award winning arts in our schools.

Testimonial from Mrs. Susan Haugland, K-2 Music Teacher: “We’re now in the fourth year of the “Fiddles for All” program where all second grade students learn to play violin as part of the general music curriculum. The beautiful instruments that the Alliance purchased for this program have enabled over five hundred children to experience the joy of learning to play a violin. Currently, fifteen students in grades 3-5 are enrolled in the after-school Horizons violin class and countless others have continued to study in private studios.  This year, three Lake Bluff freshmen auditioned and were accepted into the symphonic orchestra at Lake Forest High School. I anticipate that those numbers will continue to increase as graduates of the “Fiddles for All” program make their way to the high school.”