Monday, November 30, 2009

Nov. 30 "Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each." ~Thoreau

"The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
~John Updike, A Child's Calendar

The last day of November--a time of endings and of beginnings.

The first report card -- that official documentation of academic progress --goes home this Friday. For some, it is accompanied by increased levels of stress and uncertainty. Standards-based assessments and continually changing curricula are confusing enough for us as adults. Your children are facing lots of unknowns, too. More sophisticated technology-based learning tasks, more precise requirements for "presentation quality" performance products, deadlines, increased (multiple) expectations...

May I offer some advice?

How to Talk to Kids About Their Report Card

  1. Plan an uninterrupted time to sit down together and go over report cards. Don't discuss them in line at the supermarket.
  2. No matter what, don't get upset; speak calmly and supportively. Remember that real learning often comes from the mistakes we make.
  3. Remember, too, that report cards are designed to measure educational performance and progress, but they are only a snapshot, and as such they tell only part of the story. After all, how can you measure a child's learning potential?
  4. Listen to your children and encourage them to discuss their performance -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Recognize that they occasionally struggle as we all do. School's tough sometimes.
  5. Start with the positive. Praise your children's accomplishments, but also remember to praise improvements, however small they may be. Encourage their commitment to work hard on areas of concern, and offer your support.
  6. Celebrate successes, but remember that children want to do well in school even when they fall short. Reassure them that poor grades don't make them bad/stupid/a failure.
  7. Talk openly about those grades. Remind your children about the importance of good work habits, attitude, and effort. Poor grades may not be a reflection of ability, but rather a lack of sufficient effort. If that is the case, develop a plan for improvement.
  8. Use the report card as a catalyst for change, not as a reason for punishment. Set realistic incremental goals. Reasonable goals are achievable goals.
  9. End your discussion with a plan. Be optimistic; learning is an amazing journey. There's plenty of time to make the changes necessary for success.

Today we began pre-holiday preparations--a yearly tradition in my classroom. (Lock up your computer paper, I taught your children how to make beautiful intricate snowflakes.) Tomorrow, in another brief lesson, I'll show them how to make a perfect five-pointed star out of paper--requiring only four folds and one cut. Really.

I love the holiday season; it's fertile ground for creative projects! Stay tuned....

Today's assignments:

Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary: Day One assignments

Language Arts: Direction-following activity (...snowflakes). For tomorrow, bring in a favorite Christmas/Holiday picture book.

Social Studies: Postponed. (We'll make it up on Friday.)

Science: No class today, although some kids have not finished work for Mrs. DaBica. Ask your child if they know anything about that...

Reading: ALWAYS read for at least 30 minutes a day.

Enjoy your evening, everyone. Stay warm.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 25 "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice." ~Meister Eckhart

The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway ---
Thanksgiving comes again!
~Old Rhyme.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

November 21 "... everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission."

Welcome, everyone. As the first trimester draws to a close, we have the opportunity to reflect on our many projects and tasks. So much learning, so much yet to learn...

In Social Studies, we presented our American Indian projects; the experience was truly extraordinary. Students learned together as they gathered information, and all of them grew in their knowledge of and appreciation for the culture and beliefs of the American Indian. Despite their varied habitats and ways of life, all Indians shared one common connection--their reverence for the Earth, their mother.

"The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us...."
~Big Thunder (Bedagi), Wabanaki Algonquin

In the next couple of days, we'll polish reports and have them available for you to peruse on our bulletin board. Please stop by. Also, podcasts are almost done and will be posted soon.

In the meantime, in case you didn't get a chance to view them at our Thanksgiving Feast, may I present to you our projects.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Champlain Bridge

It's more than just saying good-bye to an old friend. For eighty years, the Champlain Bridge, connecting West Addison with Crown Point, New York, has been a critical link for families , farms, and businesses on both sides of Lake Champlain. Also known locally as the Chimney Point Bridge, this enduring landmark has contributed significantly to our way of life since it opened to traffic on August 26, 1929 . Now, after eight decades of wind and weather, it has been deemed structurally fragile, critically unsafe, and vulnerable to sudden collapse. Beyond any hope of rehabilitation, it must be demolished and rebuilt.

For those whose livelihoods have been so intrinsically linked to this half-mile span of steel and concrete, the Champlain Bridge’s abrupt closing on October 16th has been nothing short of catastrophic. What lies ahead? The Ticonderoga and Charlotte-Essex Ferries (see map) have been working overtime to accommodate the increase in commuters, and there is a plan to include a year-round ferry at Chimney Point. As for replacing the bridge, according to VPR News a report prepared for the New York Department of Transportation states that replacing the Champlain Bridge will take about 22 months and cost $67 million.

Meanwhile, in a time of no easy answers, the proverbial adage “you can’t get there from here” leaves no one smiling.

Native American Podcasts

Josh : Blackfoot Tribe

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13 - "I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." -- Chinese Proverb

Thank you, parents, for the care you give to your children, for the pride you take in their efforts, for allowing us the privilege of working with you to nurture your child's innate desire to learn. Thank you also for making the time to meet with us today. Addison is such a special place.

Author Unknown

"Whose child is this?" I asked one day
Seeing a little one out at play
"Mine", said the parent with a tender smile
"Mine to keep a little while
To bathe his hands and comb his hair
To tell him what he is to wear
To prepare him that he may always be good
And each day do the things he should"

"Whose child is this?" I asked again
As the door opened and someone came in
"Mine", said the teacher with the same tender smile
"Mine, to keep just for a little while
To teach him how to be gentle and kind
To train and direct his dear little mind
To help him live by every rule
And get the best he can from school"

"Whose child is this?" I ask once more
Just as the little one entered the door
"Ours" said the parent and the teacher as they smiled
And each took the hand of the little child
"Ours to love and train together
Ours this blessed task forever."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12 "Past experience should be a guide post, not a hitching post."

Alison and I are looking forward to meeting with you tomorrow and Wednesday. We'll have conferences in my room since the tables will provide more comfortable seating. Please accept our apologies in advance for the limited time we can offer--fifteen minutes isn't much, but it will give us a chance to begin the conversation.

It's important to remember that your child faces many demands at school: sitting quietly for extended periods of time, listening to and following directions, making mistakes and receiving (constructive) feedback, working independently, meeting expectations and deadlines, getting along with others, waiting patiently for help, being organized, adjusting to rules and consequences, controlling behaviors, dealing with rejection....

Without a doubt, schools are learning places, but children learn far more than how to read and write. They learn to pick themselves up when they fall. They learn that the challenges they face in school will provide them with many of the skills and "habits of mind" they'll need to be successful in life. They learn that learning never stops.

Like families, teachers create a safe, caring environment to help each child deal with these demands. We observe academic strengths and challenges, but also social and emotional ones.
Although the child is ultimately in control of his/her learning, we work in partnership with all of you to provide them with the experiences, opportunities, and support they require to be successful.

And so we begin.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

VETERANS DAY--November 11, 2009

The price of greatness is responsibility.
— Winston Churchill

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yesterday we had such a wonderful day. We spent an interesting and productive morning looking at rocks, minerals, and fossils at the Fleming Museun. Then, after an early lunch, we arrived at the Flynn Theater where we enjoyed a breathtaking, often humorous performance by the dance company, MOMIX. These spectacular dancer-illusionists created "otherworldly imagery" through the use of lights, shadows, enchanting music, and unbelieveable acrobatics/contemporary dance. Vermont native Moses Pendleton started MOMIX 25 years ago, and this internationally renowned dance company has now performed on every continent except Antarctica. The spectacular optical illusions and theatrics literally took our collective breath away.Check out the following video for a sample of some of the amazing things we saw.

Your children were wonderful, by the way. Addison kids are always a joy to take on field trips.

Thanks, everybody-

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4 "The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." Mark Van Doren

Don't forget our field trip tomorrow; we'll be leaving at 8:00 sharp. Everyone will need a lunch, a drink in a plastic bottle, and a snack for the bus. Please, please, please have your child stay home if they're not feeling well; there's nothing worse than long bus rides or extended periods of time in museums or theaters when you feel crummy.

I'll send home another reminder about conferences if you need one. Let me know. I didn't want to post names and times here.

Also please be looking for a letter from me regarding permission to post your child's special writing, podcasts, class videos, or candid photographs on the blog. I'm really anxious to turn "Cave Connections" over to the students a little more and share some of the great things they're doing. They're excited about seeing their work "published", and I think it will become an added incentive to do well.

Blogs or websites that include photo galleries, videos, and pod casts are commonly done in schools/classrooms these days--it's a great way for families and loved ones to share in their children’s educational experience. THIS is the reason I took a technology course last summer! Anyway, before I can showcase your child's work, I'll need you to sign and return the permission slip that's included with the letter.

It's really time to conclude the American Indian projects. Students should have their dioramas/visual displays done or nearly done, and the writing piece should be in its final stages. Mr. Wright will work with everyone on Friday to record their pod casts; we'll present our information to one another next week. Ask to see your child's work. Look at their checklist to see if they've followed the guidelines.

Those little Spelling/Vocabulary/Grammar packets should be done through Day 3. Tomorrow, even though we don't have school, they will need to keep up by doing Day 4 (We went over information today). These assignments are REALLY short; many of them are done already. Please help them review their words for Friday's tests.

Sixth grade completed a sensory poem today incorporating all the senses we've been writing about. They're reallly good! We'll do a final writing assessment on Friday. Grade five worked on the sense of "touch" today. They'll do the poem on Friday and the assessment on Monday.

It's time to sign off for now. Take care, everybody.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3 "Cultivation of the mind is as necessary as food to the body." Cicero

Two students came back today, but two more stayed home. My goodness, flu season is upon us all.
With so many students out, it's hard start something new... We completed day two of our Spelling, Vocabulary, and Grammar packets (Unit 7) today. In Writing class, many of us needed to redo or finish various "Sensory Writing" pieces. Lesson learned: it doesn't pay to hurry through assignments... Please help me check for job quality/completion.
Because not all teachers were here today to teach Literacy (grades 3 & 4 were on a field trip), we worked on our American Indian projects or silent read during that time. It's always nice to have a little extended time together to get things done. (As for Math and Science, always feel free to check Alison's website.)
I gave Grade 5 an extended Social Studies class to work on their American Indian projects. If you have a few minutes to spare, please feel free to help me help them organize their information. It's hard for them to pull what they need from books or internet resources. There isn't enough of me to give them all the time they require. Obviously we'll need to spend much more time on this throughout the year.
Don't forget that grades 5 & 6 will be gone all day on Thursday, November 5. Everyone will need to bring a bag lunch. Also, healthy snacks and juice or water in plastic bottles are fine for the bus ride. Cautionary note: If your child isn't feeling 100%, please consider keeping them home for the day; it would be horrible to get sick on the bus or in the theater.
Stay well, everyone. I'll be in touch tomorrow.
(Just so you know, I TRIED to space between paragraphs, but to no avail. Sorry...)

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2 -- "If I had my way I'd make health catching instead of disease." ~Robert Ingersoll

Well, two students were absent this morning, and by 9:00 or so, three more went home. Sounds like we have a tissue issue, here... I hope a couple of restful days at home will have everyone feeling better.

By now the kids should be winding down on their American Indian projects. I am reminding everyone of "presentation quality"--making sure that not only the content is accurate, but the overall appearance is visually appealing and draws the reader in. Several projects have come in already, and they are fantastic! Thank you, thank you, thank you parents for supporting your child at home; they're so proud of their accomplishments. Remember, reports should be in first person (and present tense since "you" are talking about yourself and your tribe). Mr. Wright will begin working on podcasts when students are ready.

This morning, students created a recording sheet for their spelling/vocabulary grades. We went over (again) the reasons why some people were under-performing (not following directions, hurrying through, not completing everything before turning in...) and they were able to calculate the effects of those practices. A significant eye-opener, and a valuable life-lesson learned.

The fifth grade didn't have Social Studies (although they should be plugging away on their American Indian information). In Language Arts, they started a packet (I just staple the week's work together to make it easier to keep track of) on capitalization. They completed pages 8 & 9 in that packet. Also, they completed(or need to complete by tomorrow) the Sensory Writing: Taste and Smell packet by writing a paragraph about a special memory related to a smell. I'm looking for details, details, details. The year's focus is ELABORATION.

Time for me to head home, I guess. Try to stay well...