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Monday, October 24, 2011

Hard Workers-October 25, 2011

Dear Sexton Mountain Families,

Great things are happening at Sexton Mountain Elementary School. Teachers are teaching, learners are learning and we have tremendous parental support.  As I visited classrooms this week, the first thing I noticed was the number of parents and grandparents hard at work in the pods, workrooms and classrooms.  One dad was making a chart, moms were preparing an Art Literacy lesson, some were correcting papers, others were playing math games and reading with children. We also had a group of parents working on the Jog-a-thon money collection, another group working on the Entertainment book fundraiser, and a dad organizing family night at a local restaurant.  These parents are busy raising money for our PTC that in turn provides amazing experiences for our kids. All our volunteers were making a difference for our learners. 

In addition to our hard working parents, students were hard at work too.  In music, I visited a fourth grade classroom when they were learning how to properly place a clarinet mouthpiece in the mouth.  Before even getting to the point of practice, students had to assemble the mouthpiece, put it on the clarinet, then curl their lips around their teeth.  Watching fourth graders follow multi-step directions with precision, then use cheek muscles many didn’t even know they had, was quite comical.  When the kids did their first long steady blow of breath into the clarinet, the room was suddenly full of some smooth and steady tones but also a lot of squeaks (followed by student’s squeals). The room was full of PROMISE!  With each practice, they got better and better.  I can’t wait to see how they sound a few weeks from now.  I visited our kindergarten classrooms as they were practicing for an earthquake drill.  They now know how to duck, cover and hold on.  In Ms. Burnett’s classroom, a student surveyed each member of the class about lunch choices.  Another student graphed the results then all students compared the results using mathematical terms like least and greatest.   I happened to catch our fifth graders during science discussions this week.  They were defining science vocabulary words, reading the National Geographic and charting information about biomes.

Not only are teachers doing great things with students but also with one another as well.  Ms. Lynch and Ms. Yokom lead a small group staff discussion on how to encourage students to use more descriptive language.  Their explicit instruction on how to elicit children to go from, “Ice cream” to “I want white ice cream please” was inspiring and I thought about how this might apply to all students in our school in spoken and written language.  At the inservice teachers attended on October 14, we were encouraged to have children practice saying and writing longer sentences by using the 7up rule (sentence needs to have seven words or more).  When I was in Ms. Martin’s room last week, kids were using a vocabulary word in a sentence and they were making sentences more concise and longer by adding descriptive words. 

Children and adults in our building are learning by doing and by reading.  Our Site Council is reading the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.  We will be meeting with the Site Councils from Nancy Ryles and Scholls Heights to discuss implications this book might have for our work.  The District’s TAG coordinator, Heidi Hanson, provided our school with multiple copies of the book.   If you’d like to borrow a copy, stop by the office.

We had our first Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) assembly this week.  At the assembly we celebrated Eagle Eye winners and learned about classes who had the best behavior in the cafeteria, library, gym or music through the Golden awards.  We also talked about behavior data and how we can all help reduce the frequency of misbehaviors by attempting to solve problems when they are still small.  Children were reminded about the strategies provided in Kelso’s Wheel too (see the Student Handbook for more info) and their thinking was challenged about assumptions we sometimes make.

During this week's assembly, Mr. Mori presented a lesson on "Similarities and Differences."  In one segment of the lesson, he projected an image of a very small home, and explained that at the time he was born, his family lived in a small two-room structure in the back yard of someone's property.  He then asked a series of questions to students about what they could tell about a family who might live in such a home.  "Can you tell by looking at the home whether the family is friendly or unfriendly?" was one example.  His questions stumped a large percentage of our students, who indicated with confidence that they could, in fact, tell by looking at the home whether the family was hard-working or lazy, nice or mean, healthy or unhealthy, and so on.  The lesson Mr. Mori tried to convey is that we all should be careful about how we form opinions about people before we get to know them.  The discussion could have gone on for much longer, and so we encourage you to continue the conversation with your children at home. 

As your children get older, your opportunities for great discussions seem to shrink.  I realized this last weekend when I found myself with two of my kids in the car with me for a trip downtown.  We went to see Blue Man Group at the Keller and it was the first time in ages I’d been alone with my electronic-free kids for more than 10 minutes.  Trapped in the Subaru, there was nothing to do but talk.  On the way home, they were trying to come up with words to describe to their dad what they’d seen and how to capture the perspective of a Blue Man then share it with someone who didn’t have the first hand experience.  We all got to write about our observations in our thank you notes to the friend who’d given us the tickets.

Special experiences can provide opportunity for rich language development but so can ordinary experiences like a walk on a fall day.  On Sunday I did the Columbia River Gorge Half-Marathon and part of the walk was through a state park overlooking the Columbia River.  The views were breathtaking (or it could have been the hills that took my breath away) but the discussion about changing of the seasons seemed to be my recurring eavesdropping experience.  The Mark Hatfield trailhead must be a place many families visit because small children on bikes or in jogging strollers were all along the route.  More than once I heard children talk about the size, shape and color of leaves.  Prompted by parents, kids stretched sentences or phrases.  One little guy was taking a break from his bike and collecting a bouquet of fallen leaves.  He started by holding up a yellow leaf and saying, “Look at this big one.”

His mom replied, “Big and yellow and…”  He finished, “It’s big, yellow and crunchy like it will disintegrate in my hand any minute.”  Maybe this week, your family can take a leaf walk.  You don’t need to go to the gorge to observe things of beauty and the changing seasons.  THPRD’s many trails or parks might provide the perfect place to develop rich language.  Maybe after your walk, you can encourage your child to write about the experience. What you do with language development at home, makes a difference in school. Thank you for sharing your children with us!


Dr. Teresa Clemens-Brower
a.k.a.  Mrs. C.-B.

Wish List  *Playground balls (red rubber wall ball type balls), basketballs or soccer balls

Many of you have probably heard that one of our Sexton Mt. families had a house fire a few weeks ago.  The parents and three children are so grateful that no one was hurt in the fire, but it has still been very difficult to recover from such a loss.  Although they had insurance, it will not come close to replacing all that was lost in the fire.   Many of you have already asked how you can help.  Our counselor has experience with such events and has found a way to support the family.  If you are able to help, there is a way that you can show support and encouragement to the family during this difficult time.  We will be collecting gift card donations to give to the family.  Gift cards to help them replace clothing, kids toys, and household goods would be especially helpful.  You can do this by ordering gift cards through the Scrip Program here at school or by purchasing the gift cards on your own and dropping them off at the school office. If you want to order gift cards through Scrip, please fill out the order form and write “donation” across the top of the form.  Our Scrip coordinator will make sure that those orders are given to the family.  Thank you so much for being willing to be supportive and encouraging to this family and to help show what a caring and supportive community we have here at Sexton Mt.   Please contact Michelle Solberg, our school counselor, if you have questions.

District Goal for 2010-2015:  All students will show continuous progress toward their personal learning goals, developed in collaboration with teachers and parents, and will be prepared for post-secondary education and career success.
The Beaverton School District recognizes the diversity and worth of all individuals and groups.  It is the policy of the Beaverton School District that there will be no discrimination or harassment of individuals or groups based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, marital status, age, veterans' status, genetic information or disability in any educational programs, activities or employment. 

Sexton Mountain Elementary School n 15645 SW Sexton Mountain Drive n Beaverton, Oregon 97007 n Office: 503.672.3560 n FAX 503.672.3563

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