Students Create and Collaborate on Another Magnificent Musical

Have you ever wondered why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears? CICS West Belden students explored that question in their performance of the annual 5th grade musical. This year’s show, “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears,” was a musical adaptation of the West African folktale and was especially notable because, not only did students sing and act, but they also played accompaniments on live instruments, danced, and created both set pieces and original costumes. The show afforded our students the opportunity to connect emotionally to the arts through music, drama, dance, visual art, and literature.

Enrichment teachers, Mr. Lyerly (library/media) Ms. Ausmann (music), and Ms. Gore (art), each focused on a specific aspect of the play. In library/media class, students developed acting skills like expression, projection, pantomime, blocking, line memorization, characterization of movement, and constructive criticism. Each character in the play was an animal and students researched their particular animals to accurately depict its mannerisms for the performance. Furthermore, library/media students analyzed the meaning of the play and character motivations.

In music class, students sang authentic African folk songs and/or songs composed in an authentic African folk style. They also accompanied themselves utilizing a small percussion ensemble, including xylophones, djembes, bass bars, and various smaller instruments. While the melodic lines were simple, the accompanying rhythmic patterns were complex and fostered independent rhythmic skills, students’ knowledge of form, and note reading skills. In addition to singing and playing instruments, students performed complex dances requiring teamwork and cooperation amongst all students.

In art class, students created their own costumes using traditional West African textiles and stamping techniques. Students analyzed the meanings of Adrinkra symbols in order to authentically represent their character information and character traits in their textile designs. Students also painted a scenic backdrop that transformed the stage into an African jungle.

In addition to fostering unique aesthetic viewpoints, students simultaneously developed their 21st century skills- creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication – skills that are embedded throughout all parts of this production.

Students expressed themselves creatively by demonstrating originality and inventiveness in making textile stamps, bringing life to the script, and their musical choices. Students and teachers collaborated respectfully and responsibly to create a shared work of art. Students engaged their critical thinking skills by analyzing and interpreting the script, making connections between the folk tale and their production, and reflecting critically on their experiences. They learned how to communicate effectively in diverse environments and media through singing, playing instruments, dancing, acting, and costume making.

These unique opportunities are possible because CICS West Belden and Distinctive Schools are committed to the importance of a valuable arts education. While reading, math, and science are cornerstones of a child’s education, the arts allow students a consistent opportunity to connect with each other, create an expression of truth and beauty, and tangibly express the ineffable. The philosopher Plato once said, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

These cross-curricular Enrichment projects are further made possible each year by the Oppenheimer Teacher Incentive Grant, which funds project-based learning in Chicago Public Schools.

For more on the musical, listen to WNOW Radio or view the pictures on our Facebook page.

Parent Spotlight: Mrs. Molina

Parent Spotlight is a monthly feature that recognizes parents who go above and beyond to help the CICS West Belden school community.

This month, we recognize Cheyla Molina, PTO president, and so much more. Mrs. Molina is a fixture in and around our school and we appreciate her on so many levels. For starters, her gregarious nature is both unmistakeable and contagious, as she routinely implores those in her presence, be they young or old, to move to her ever-present, energetic beat.

Each May, in celebration of “Teacher Appreciation Week,” she spearheads an astounding annual effort in which many of our proactive parents partake- an authentic Latin luncheon. The savory scent of carne asada is noticeable for blocks, complemented by spicy salsas, tamales, and other unique culinary experiences- many of which are refreshingly new to members of our staff.

While we ultimately take pleasure in highlighting those special instances that are, in many ways, unique in experience alone, we can also readily recognize several notable contributions from this special parent volunteer in the form of a quick, yet impressive, list. Mrs. Molina has also helped CICS West Belden by:

-Donating the piano that rests atop our stage
-Coordinating uniform sales for our students and their families
-Leading the charge in our advocacy work, recruiting representatives here in Chicago and downstate in Springfield
-Serving as a reliable liaison between political representatives and our school
-Donating time to help in our school office

Though we’re probably forgetting something, we hope that Mrs. Molina, like so many of our incredible parents, understands our sincere gratitude for her many contributions to our school community. Our students and teachers are very appreciative, and also look forward to formally recognizing many more of our parents who, without question, are integral to everything we do! Thank you.

Summer Cooking Camp Opportunity


Our friends at Common Threads are offering a free summer camp opportunity (transportation included) for students who are interested in cooking!

Please click here for more detailed information and a printable application.

You may also register by following this link. Please visit the office if you would like to register online using our computer lab.

Music Students Fuse Folk with Technology

CICS West Belden 6th graders are getting creative with technology again, Bulldog Nation! In their recent GarageBand folk unit, students researched and brought in folk music that they identified as unique to their respective cultures. They identified specific folk characteristics through writing, and then created new versions of their songs using the program GarageBand. Students worked in groups to sing and record their songs, add accompaniment, variations, and different sounds that they created – such as clapping, laughing, or percussion sounds on their desks. At the end of the unit, students presented their songs to the class and explained how the song they chose met folk characteristics while also detailing how they mixed and edited their pieces in GarageBand. Great job, Bulldogs!

Join Us in Springfield for Lobby Day on April 8

CICS West Belden Supporters,

We need your continued support! With 15 anti-charter bills being proposed this year, we must make sure our voice is heard. On April 8, we will travel to Springfield with other charter networks to fight for the sustainability of school choice.

Please contact your child’s homeroom teacher or Ms. Collins to sign up.

Click here for more detailed information about the day’s events.

New After-School Care Services at CICS West Belden

Dear Parents,

We learned recently that our after-school care services provider, Learn It, will no longer be able to provide its services at our school after Friday, March 28, 2014. This change is the result of lack of enrollment and a shortage in collection of necessary dues. While the situation arose unexpectedly, please know that there will be no interruption of after-school services at CICS West Belden. Our school staff has agreed to continue to maintain operation of the after-school care program independent of Learn It.

Please note two important items regarding this transition:

  • Families of students who would like to participate in the after-school program for the first time after March 28, 2014 will be responsible for paying the $7.50 per day participation fee; all fees collected are used solely to provide after-school care services. Unlike Learn It, the new CICS West Belden After Care Program will not accept any state funded childcare assistance.

  • Ms. Gina Olivares will organize the new CICS West Belden After Care Program, which will run from 3:30 to 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (1:50 to 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday) each week. Parents will be required to by pay cash or money order on a weekly basis and remain in good standing to ensure continued participation in the program. Please complete the bottom portion of this form if you would like to register for the new CICS West Belden After Care Program.

WNOW Radio March 2014 Update

For your listening pleasure, our March radio update:

Technology a Terrific Tool for CICS West Belden Sixth Graders

Ever wonder how an effective and balanced blended learning environment looks? Look no further than Mr. Kissane’s room, where traditional instruction meets technology and kids make all the magic! Earlier this school year, Mr. Kissane’s 6th graders produced PRIDE raps using GarageBand to create loops, mix, and edit their products. Take a listen:

More recently, they created movies that depict the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Take a look at Anabelle Del Rio’s movie:

Mr. Kissane also partners with Digital Youth Network to further explore using technology as a creative tool. Stay tuned to our website for more output from our technologically talented students in 6th grade. Coming soon!

CICS Receives Funding, Still More Advocacy Work Ahead

Thanks to your advocacy efforts, CICS has earned substantial funding that was owed to charter schools! Help us further bolster our equal funding advocacy efforts by joining us in Springfield on April 8. Stay tuned to our website and/or Facebook page for impending details.

Who’s Looking at You?

CICS West Belden art students recently learned to recreate animal textures like fur, feathers, scales, and wrinkly skin by studying images of animal eyes in the picture puzzle book “Who’s Looking at You?” by Stephane Frattini. Students used chalk pastels to replicate the eyes and to accurately depict the animal textures. We are so proud of our WB artists’ efforts!

Click on any picture to enlarge it.

Bulldog Bulletin: March 2014 Edition

Dear CICS West Belden Families,

We are halfway through 3rd quarter and our students continue to amaze us with their motivation and their commitment to education. Our teachers have also been working very hard to not only set goals for students but also adjust their instruction to meet the needs of every child in their classroom. We have been looking at student needs and making necessary adjustments to ensure that every student is receiving the appropriate instructional resources and programs.

I am very excited about our SET program running on select Saturdays from now through May. This is an opportunity for students to come in and work with teachers on specific skills that they need to continue growing on their academic journey. We implemented SET because of the instructional time that we lost with the cold school holidays. If you are still interested in signing up, please see the main office.

ISAT testing is a few days away for our 3rd-8th grade students. Please encourage your children to do their best, take their time and answer questions using all of the skills they have practiced with their teachers over the past few months.

I want to take the time to thank all of our parents and families that have been working hard to sell chocolate to raise money for our school. We can’t thank you enough for all of your time doing this. We are excited to see how much money has been collected!


Mr. Frauenheim
Director, CICS West Belden

Important Dates:
March 3-7: ISAT testing
March 12: 11:30 a.m. dismissal
March 14: WBPTL Bingo Night at 4:00 p.m.
March 26: Spelling Bee
March 28: 3rd Quarter ends
March 28: Dress Down Day! Wear yellow for RESPECT for $2

Staff of the Month: Ms. Gore, Art Teacher
Ms. Gore is new to West Belden this year but you would never know it. She has been such a wonderful addition to our staff. Ms. Gore truly wants all students to be successful and she is willing to help support our school however she can. Ms. Gore has been preparing our students to participate in fun and exciting art projects. We are also very impressed with her engaging art lessons. Our students love when it is time for art class. Thanks, Ms. Gore, for making art FUN and interesting!


Parents can help children be prepared for the ISAT by helping them do the following:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Arrive to school on time (7:55 a.m.)
  • Positive structured evenings and mornings
  • Healthy breakfast and meals throughout the week
  • Words of encouragement
  • Practice test taking strategies
  • Pep talks and motivation!

NWEA MAP Scores Predict College Readiness

Did you know that NWEA MAP scores are predictors of future ACT benchmark scores and, therefore, are valid indicators of college readiness? Your child’s scores are provided by the classroom teacher for Fall, Winter and Spring. Click the image below to enlarge it and then locate where your child currently ranks in terms of college readiness.

Dental Health a Hot Topic in First Grade!

CICS West Belden first graders in Ms. Pollack’s and Ms. Baird’s classes joined forces to learn about dental health from Mr. Kumor, who set up several centers in room 004 recently. The first center focused on nutritious foods that support healthy teeth. The next one provided an opportunity for the kids to practice flossing on large egg cartons. The last center was lead by Mr. Kumor and featured hands-on instruction about proper brushing techniques. Our first grade students had a great time and are grateful to have a nurse who cares so much about them. Both Ms. Pollack and Ms. Baird report that since Mr. Kumor’s visit, their students proudly announce every morning that their teeth are clean!

Join Us for Literacy Night

Please join us on Monday, February 24 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. to celebrate reading at CICS West Belden Literacy Night! There, you’ll learn more about what our students are learning as readers and writers. We are also excited to announce a new reading program called myON® reader that will give our students access to over 4,000 full-length books, all available on any mobile device. Click here to learn more about myON® reader. Or, click below for a short introduction video. More details will be available Monday, February 24 at Literacy Night. See you then, Bulldog Nation!

Parent Spotlight: Mr. and Mrs. Plywacz

In the first installment of a new feature, we recognize parents who go above and beyond to help the CICS West Belden school community.


Whether engaging their daughter’s classmates in a game of tag prior to the first bell, or helping run yet another outstanding school event, our school community can always count on Chris and Dionna Plywacz. Shortly before winter break, they made a tremendous donation to the students of CICS West Belden, this time, in the form of a brand new basketball hoop.

A key component of our celebratory school climate, positive parent involvement is not something we take for granted at West Belden. In the case of the Plywacz family, while their gift of new sports equipment is truly remarkable, it pales in comparison to the consistent proactive presence they put forth at our school. Never too busy to stop and talk, they genuinely care for our staff and the well-being of our students. Just last week, after attending our assembly, Mr. Plywacz stopped to fix our drinking fountain!

So, again, we thank the Plywacz family, one of the many fantastic families whose children we have the pleasure of serving each and every day. We look forward to officially recognizing more of you soon, WB parents!

Saturday Extension Time: Ready, SET, Go!


As part of our ongoing commitment to providing our students a rigorous education, we will soon offer Saturday Extension Time (SET) at CICS West Belden. Saturday Extension Time will be just that: an educational extension of the school week in the areas of Math and Reading that will allow teachers and staff members to provide rich, small group instruction for students. SET will provide remediation for those students who need extra support, enrichment for students who are excelling, and targeted skill-instruction for students who need an extra boost.

Please click here to download a permission slip.
Haga clic aquí para descargar una hoja de permiso.

WNOW Radio February 2014 Update

Listen to our new podcast, Bulldog Nation!

Get Connected

Please click here to learn more about acquiring very affordable Internet service from Comcast.
Contact Ms. Sauza in the main office to find out if you qualify.

Bulldog Bulletin: February 2014 Edition

Dear CICS West Belden Families,

I hope everyone has been staying warm over the past few weeks with the subzero temperatures. As you may have noticed, we have jumped right back into our school routines since returning from winter break and our students and teachers have been focused on their academic learning goals.

The winter NWEA testing session is just about ending and we are very proud of our students and how hard they are working to reach their academic goals and their teacher’s expectations in the classroom. Our NWEA goals have been set at 130% growth targets from Spring 2013 to Spring 2014. These growth targets are set to align with the vision of CICS and to prepare our students for high school and college. The vision of CICS is to operate the highest performing school to serve your children, eradicating the achievement gap and providing our graduates with the academic and psychosocial skills required to be successful in a selective 4-year college or university.

Our teachers will continue to work every day to meet the needs of every student in our school. We have been targeting and differentiating our instruction to ensure that every student is receiving the attention and support that they need to meet their academic goals. Our students have been wonderful in this process and they are so focused on being the best students they can be.

In addition to our academic goals, we have been working hard to make CICS West Belden a very positive and fun environment for our students. Our after school clubs and athletic programs are thriving and our student engagement is something we are very proud of.

Thank you for your trust and support as we work with your students to reach their goals. I am looking forward to a very strong second half of the school year!


Mr. Frauenheim
Director, CICS West Belden

Important Dates:
February 6: Books for Breakfast event
February 12: 11:30 a.m. dismissal
February 14: Dress Down Day- Wear Red for $2
February 17: No school
February 28: Dress Down Day- Wear Yellow for $2

Staff of the Month: Ms. Pollack, First Grade Teacher
Ms. Pollack is such an important part of the West Belden family. She has dedicated over 12 years to our school and she works hard every year to make sure her first graders are prepared for success. She continues to see amazing results year after year. We are lucky to have Ms. Pollack and we thank her for her dedication and commitment to CICS West Belden.

Traffic: Families must follow all traffic rules outside of our school. Please contact us if you would like to volunteer to help with traffic and street crossing.

Facebook/Instagram: Please “like” our Facebook page and follow our Instagram feed.

Master Calendar: View our live master calendar here or at any time by clicking “Calendar of Events” on the right side of our website under “Quick Parent Links.”

School Resumes on Wednesday, January 29

Please note that CICS West Belden will be open on Wednesday, January 29. We look forward to welcoming our students for another exceptional school day!