Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Personalized Learning

One of our district goals this year is Personalized Learning. Personalized Learning is an approach that is designed around the individual student. Teachers are using  this approach to teach math in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade this year. The kindergarten teachers are also “trying” a personalized approach to learning with their reading skill work during Charge-Up. Considerations include: what are they ready to learn? what are their strengths, needs and interests?  The students are active in setting their own goals, planning how and what they will learn and keeping track of their progress.  Teachers are team teaching and students attend only the mini-lessons that they need. Students ready for skills at the next grade level, are working on what they need.

In 2nd grade math, parents you can support your child’s math learning by going over goals/assessments and checking on math homework. In third grade, students will share their goals and accomplishments with families on Seesaw, a digital portfolio. You are encouraged to look over your child’s math goal to see what they are working on and how they are doing.  In 4th grade, a student’s individual choice sheet (Goggle doc) is highlighted with his/her goal and you are encouraged to spend time discussing not only the goal, but the resources your child will engage in to support learning. Parents, this is exciting because it allows you to  know more about your child’s learning and who they are as a learner, than ever before.
Parents you may ask, why do we need to shift the way we approach learning and instruction in our school? Answer: Because it is essential that we provide our learners with the 21st century skills and competencies they will need as we prepare them for the future. Students will be more academically and socially successful, and will find a greater sense of joy in their school experience. Questions about PL, contact D. Held

Social/Emotional Learning

The Effects of Being Kind Based on Research
With so many reminders about being kind recently in commercials, movies like Wonder, and other places.  We thought it may be a good time to discuss some of the other benefits of being kind to help encourage others to make this a general practice throughout the year.  Whether you increase your kindness toward yourself, others, the environment, or the nation, we hope everyone enjoys all of the benefits kindness brings to the community.

Below are some of the additional benefits of being kind based on research with the link to the article:

  • It is in our human-nature to be kind - so it helps us feel like ourselves when we act kindly toward others
  • We can create and reinforce neural pathways when we are kind which increases our positive feelings
  • Those who regularly offered kindness to others had a lower risk of death
  • Kindness spreads - observing an act of kindness encourages one to engage in similar acts
  • Practicing kindness and gratitude increases one’s level of happiness


As our school theme this year is GROWTH POWER, we thought it would be helpful to provide some ways that you can reinforce this idea at home, specifically in the area of reading.  We have included a chart that you can complete with your child to encourage them to think of strategies that will help their thinking to change and grow in order to become successful readers.  We have also included a list of Growth Mindset picture books that you can read aloud to your child to start mindset conversations about making the most of their mistakes, embracing challenges, and never giving up.  Finally, we have included a list of Growth Mindset biographies in which your child can read about individuals who struggled but persevered and made a great difference in the world.  



Math 2017

Estimation.  You can hear the groans from the students when asked to estimate the answer to the problem.  They want to jump to solving the problem and getting an exact answer.  Estimation, for many, feels like  extra, useless work.  But estimation is a critical skill for students.   Annie Murphy Paul, in her  TIME magazine article titled “Why Guessing is Undervalued”  claims that strong estimation skills in young children lay a good foundation for further math learning as children grow older.

So why teach estimation skills?
First, we want students to be able to determine the reasonableness of their answers.    Without this estimate, we see students make computation errors that don’t even raise a red flag.  33 x 18 = 264.   If the student had estimated an answer  (30 x 20 = 600), he or she would have seen that a computation error had been made.

Second, we want students to be able to use mental math to quickly get to a ballpark solution.  An example of this may be when going out to dinner with friends and we are dividing up the bill.  A ballpark solution is usually acceptable among friends.

Third, we want to estimate about time and distance.  These estimation skills are essential for executive functioning.   How long will it take us to get from Point A to Point B?   How long will it take you to do your homework? Skill in estimating time is essential for success  with both short term and long term projects.

How can families encourage and support these skills?
Estimation skills are used in everyday life and create critical thinkers who understand what the task requires. Parents and family members can help foster these skills by reminding students not to skip this step when they are explicitly asked to do so.  Students can also be encouraged to use estimation as a strategy for checking over their math work, even when the task doesn’t specifically require it. Demonstrate the the importance of these lifelong math skills by thinking aloud when you find yourself using estimation and showing students the many ways that estimation will apply to their everyday lives in the future.

Why Teaching Both Estimation and Accuracy is Important

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Summer reading

Richmond’s day with author Marla McKenna was a success.  Marla presented to students during the day and spent time with families at night, highlighting her published books and spreading her love of reading and writing.  Thank you, Marla! 

Summer is coming!  Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. When choosing the six, be sure that they are just right — not too hard and not too easy. Take advantage of your local library. Ask for help selecting books that match your child's age, interests, and abilities. Libraries often run summer reading programs that motivate kids to read, so find out what's available in your area.

Summer Reading BINGO for younger students: 

Summer Reading BINGO for older students:

Reading at home: 

Summer Reading Lists for grades 6-8 (Parents would enjoy many of these books, too, and it is really fun to read books--or try short stories listed below--along with your child and talk about them!)

Contemporary works:

Reading to Prepare for High School (classic novels and short stories)

Ten Important Novels

Despite student complaints, high school required reading still includes novels. Many of them are classics.
1.     Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Parents should definitely read along with their child on account of the novel's mature content.
2.     1984 by George Orwell - Big Brother is watching, but is he reading?
3.     Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - Books are illegal. Firemen burn them.
4.     Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Pip goes from poor to rich to snob in just a little under 500 pages.
5.     Lord of the Flies by William Golding - A plane crashes. The survivors, exclusively children, get a little out of control.
6.     The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - This staple of American Literature classes captures the corruption of the Roaring Twenties.
7.     Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Political correctness has lessened Huck Finn's popularity, but it remains the most important novel in American Literature.
8.     Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Enjoy the greatest campfire story in the history of camping.
9.     The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane - Crane's realistic account of the Civil War has been a staple in American Lit classes for years.
10.   To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Explore the dynamics of race from the eyes of a young girl in the South.

Ten Famous Short Stories (Sometimes short stories are the best in summer! Not a long-term commitment, and an easy way to get 20 minutes of reading in on any given day!)

High school required reading includes numerous short stories. Here are some of the most famous and interesting:
1.     "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell - Zaroff hunts humans. Rainsford falls off a ship and swims to Zaroff's island. You figure out the rest.
2.     "The Monkey's Paw" - Sgt. Major Morris brings back an enchanted monkey's paw. Herbert White makes fun of him. Herbert White dies (twice).
4.     "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst - Prepare to cry.
5.     "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant - Learn the importance of thrift and the dangers of debt the easy way (as opposed to the hard way, which includes running up credit card bills and getting your house foreclosed).
6.     "To Build a Fire" by Jack London - It's cold. He's wet. He must build a fire or die.
7.     "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin - This short introduction to irony takes minutes to read.
8.     "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce - Peyton Farquhar is about to be hanged from a bridge he tried to blow up.
9.     "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" by Mark Twain - Twain's humorous account of an easterner out west is sure to entertain.
10.   "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson - This isn't exactly a lottery worth winning, but it is worth reading.
11.   The Sniper by Liam O’Flaherty (Very short, with an ending you will not see coming)
12.   The Veldt by Ray Bradbury (Great sci-fi story about a family living in a fully automated house. There is a fantastic audio version read by Stephen Colbert online)
13.   The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe (Creepy, of course, but a great read)
14.   Thank you, Ma’am by Langston Hughes (“When a young boy named Roger tries to steal the purse of a woman named Luella, he is just looking for money to buy stylish new shoes. After she grabs him by the collar and drags him back to her home, he's sure that he is in deep trouble...” from Google Books.)
15.   The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (A young married couple has to deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other, even though they have very little money. Good twist at the end.)

Tech Tips

10 great tech parenting tips to keep your children safe and yourself involved.

1. Get in The Game! Make an effort to understand the basics of the technology that your child are (or will be) using on a daily basis. Technology is such a big part of kids’ lives that no parent can afford to just step away from their responsibilities in this area.
You may be doing a fantastic parenting job in all other aspects of your children’s lives but without understanding at least the basics, you cannot be part of their ever-expanding digital world. It’s not difficult to grasp some fundamentals and get up-to-speed. Plus, it’s fun and educational – that’s why your kids love it so much!
2. Open a dialogue. Talk to your kids about technology and in particular about Internet safety. Agree on a set of rules for using the computer and going on the Internet. Surf the web together. Stay involved; your child’s tech and online activity will increase and become more complex as they get older and technology continues to evolve. Keep the conversation going.
3. Be informed. Know what technology your child uses, what games they play, which web sites they visit, and with whom they are communicating. For young children, give them an approved list of web sites.

4. Be interested. Ask your child what he is doing, what programs he is using, what sites he’s visiting. Ask him to show you how his tech toys work and what he and his friends do with them.

5. Help your child understand what inappropriate behavior is. If you or your child encounter inappropriate behavior – whether it’s violent video games, cyber-bullying, or online predators – don’t just let it go. Act on it, whether it’s talking to your child, bringing the subject up with another child’s parents or reporting it the appropriate authorities.

6. Buy a family computer and keep it in a public place in the home. Encourage your children to regard it as a resource for everyone to use. Give each of them separate IDs and passwords, so they have a sense of ownership and privacy.

7. Never give out personal information over the Internet. Explain to a child that he or she must never give out personal information. Family e-mail addresses, phone numbers, names, birth dates, home addresses, family details, photos, etc. should all be jealously guarded. Although social networking sites ask for and encourage sharing this information, your child should know that protecting his own and his family’s identity should be one of his top priorities.

8. Empower yourself. Use Internet filtering or monitoring software. You don’t have to check in on what your child is doing every day, but the fact that you can – and they know you can – helps set the right tone for responsible behavior.

9. Set a good example. It’s no good setting limits on your kids’ screen time if you spend all day with your eyes glued to your laptop or firing off hundreds of texts from your iPhone. Similarly, don’t ban devices from the dinner table if you reach for your smartphone every time it buzzes. Children take their lead from their parents’ behavior and interacting with technology is no different.

10. Talk to other parents about your children’s technology experiences and online safety. Form a network of other concerned parents.

- For more great info, check out

Summer Boredom - It’s OK!

Summer Boredom - It’s OK!

Are you worried about your child being bored this summer?  Frantically trying to sign him or her up for every possible camp, class and activity?  No need! Child psychologists and experts suggest over-scheduling kids during the summer is not needed and could ultimately keep them from discovering their true interests! Boredom is necessary for developing “internal stimuli” which allows for true creativity.  At the beginning of summer, sit down with your child and create a list of everything they may enjoy doing - from playing a board game, to painting rocks, going on a bike ride or creating a menu and cooking a fancy dinner.  If they tell you they are bored, tell them to go and look at their list.  It puts the onus on them to decide how to spend their time.  And if they mope around a bit, that is OK! It is not wasted time - they are developing their self-reliance.

Parenting can be hard!! So many questions!
 - for more tips and ideas on how to be a great parent check out these TED talks -

Summer math activities

Blog Post - Math Committee - May 2017

Check out a few activities to boost your son or daughter’s geometry skills over the summer.  For more ideas, check out

Use toothpicks and marshmallows to practice creating and naming polygons.
Write a riddle that describes a polygon and try to create that shape with legos.

Video Link: STEM Project - Tensile Bubbles

Other resources for geometry work.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Mathematicians:  follow these mathematical practices!

I took a SELFIE…

Showed my work
Explained my answers
Lots of math vocabulary used
Found multiple solutions
I persevered through the problem
Eliminated careless errors

Besides the content standards, there are mathematical practice standards that students are working to master.  Taking a “selfie” will help with that mastery.  


Writing is an essential skill and habit.  It is more than just putting words on paper. Writing is a process of communication that plays an important role in your child’s life—both in and out of the classroom. You, as parents, can make a big difference in helping your child develop writing skills by encouraging writing activities that are simple and fun.  Listed below are activities that you, as parents, can do with your child to help him/her learn to write well and enjoy doing it.

Resource: Put it to Paper: Tips for Parents to Improve a Child’s Writing Skills by Audrey W. Prince, M. Ed.    

·         Thank you notes
·         Journal/diary
·         Blog
·         Letters to Santa, Tooth Fairy, and/or Easter Bunny
·         Pen-pal letters (relative or friend)
·         Postcards
·         Madlibs
·         Grocery list
·         Recipes
·         Menu
·         Invitations
·         Science experiment (write about the process and the results)
·         Place cards for dinner parties
·         Plan parties
·         Babysitting activities
·         To do list
·         Instructions
·         Script for youtube video
·         Movie/book review
·         Magazine article
·         Scavenger hunt with clues
·         Newspaper article
·         Publish a story online (Little Bird Tales)
·         Joke book
·         Cartoon
·         Script for Skits or Puppet Shows
·         Travel Log
·         Poetry
·         Math problem
·         Message on family chalkboard/message board
·         Year in review notebook (ongoing record of family’s life)
·         Story to give as a gift
·         E-mails
·         Book review
·         Prompts (pretend you are the 1st person to create a flying car)
·         Copy song lyrics, a poem, or a short book

·         Open mic night (read poems or stories that have been written)