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Monday, November 14, 2011

Tradition, Reading and Teaching

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                      

Do you know that part in Fiddler on the Roof when one of the characters tells that the secret to balance is (he breaks into song) TRADITION?  I love that song!  Though I can really only remember one word, it’s the one word I sing over and over through November and December.  One might think that my traditions (and therefore song) are associated with some of the holidays that fall this time of year but I think that my traditions come instead from the shorter, darker, wetter days coupled with a break from fall sports.  At home, a favorite family tradition is to have soup for dinner with a good book.  Later we have cocoa with warm blankets and a good book.  At bedtime, I cuddle up with a good book.  Raindrops on the rooftop inspire me to READ!  At home, I love to read.

At school, my favorite thing to do is to watch teachers teach and student learn.  Great things are happening at Sexton Mountain so I am lucky to spend time doing what I love.  Last week, Mrs. Loumena’s students were hard at work in the computer lab.  Twenty-five five and six year olds getting logged into the website was quite interesting.  Once logged in they practiced letter names, sounds along and reading.  Extra adults are always appreciated in the lab.  Contact Dema Blood at if you would like to volunteer.

Being on time and ready to learn in kindergarten is just as important as the other grades.  Mrs. Cubley’s students were seated and listening to the morning announcements during the first few minutes of class.  Even in kindergarten, a lot of information is shared during the first few minutes of class.  Students reviewed prior learning.  Kids identified common attributes using descriptive words.  Mrs. Cubley described how they would use this skill on a new project.  Students had to identify similarities and differences.  They used words to describe size, shape, color and other attributes.  Children were called upon to use academic vocabulary to discuss attributes and sort items.

Our school counselor visits classrooms for guidance lessons each month.  When she visited a kindergarten classroom recently, she reviewed prior learning about big problems (things that are dangerous or scary like when someone is hurt or might get hurt).  When kids have a big problem they need to get an adult they trust right away.  Little problems are still important to kids and can be solved with strategies from Kelso’s Wheel.  This time, Ms. Solberg introduced a new character during this lesson.  Ask your child about Impulsive Puppy and the lessons they got to teach the pup.   Kids reminded the special visitor of strategies for being part of a classroom community.  Kindergarten students were able identify student skills like listening to the teacher, sitting attentively and not talking when others are talking.

In Mrs. Goei’s classroom, students were solving math problems.  The learning target was for students to make change.  The first problem was to use nickels, dimes and quarters to make exactly sixty-five cents. Madison shared that she used six dimes and one nickel.  Allison shared that she used two quarters, one dime and one nickel.  Paul shared that he used three nickels and two quarters.  The second problem was to provide money to buy something when you didn’t have exact change.  Kids had to think about reasonable answers for the task without providing way too much money.  They knew that if something cost less than a dollar they wouldn’t pay for the item with three one-dollar bills.  They really had to think about the task and what was needed. 

The adults in our building are learning as well.  The Site Council met last week with teams from Nancy Ryles and Scholl’s Heights to discuss the first three chapters of Carol Dweck’s Mindset.  We wanted a video clip that sums up the reading and it was powerful so I thought I’d share the link  since it applies to what we are doing in the classroom and what you can do at home.

Linking home and community is essential in our work.  Last Thursday, we had a parent listening session during the first part of our staff development day.  We had nine parents come and talk about their own experiences in school then share hopes and dreams for their child.  Teachers were touched by the stories of childhood, from Iowa to Indonesia, and left wanting more.  We heard a recurring theme of instilling the desire to be a good citizen as well as teaching the love of learning.

I feel honored to work in a school were kids, families and teachers are coming together to make a difference for the future.  Thanks for sharing your children with us!


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

Reminders and FYI

Wish List--These are little things or jobs that will make a difference to our kids.  If you have things you'd like to share, feel free to send them in.
  • Mini-marshmallows for upcoming writing project
  • Person who likes to straighten or clean to organize some of our shared areas.

Fascinating Facts:
Number of Cars in the Drop off line on a recent sunny morning between 8:05-8:27 a.m.-175

Insights for Families: Taking Advantage of Your Local Library
In addition to the home and school, our community has another major educational resource: your local public library. It’s no secret that children who grow up with a love of books will be more successful in school. Here are some ways you can take advantage of your local public library:
• Get a library card – for both you and your child. It’s an easy process!
• Once a week, instead of curling up in front of a mediocre television show, take a family excursion to the library.
• Investigate the possibilities at your local library. Libraries have more than books and magazines for children and adults. They may also have educational games, books-on-cassette, entertainment and educational videotapes, records, compact disks, audiocassettes, DVDs and computer access to the Internet.
• Children learn library skills at school. Ask your child to help you learn how to find things more easily in the library. If your child has not yet learned library skills, learn how to get the most out of the library together. Don’t be afraid to ask the librarian to get you started.
• Talk about your library visit before you go. Decide what and how many kinds of materials your children will be checking out and discuss them prior to the visit.
• Discuss how important it is to take good care of the books and other materials you borrow from the library and why it is necessary to bring them back on time.
• Take advantage of the free activities and programs libraries offer for children and families. These can include book clubs, story times, family films and lectures and special exhibits.
• If your children express an interest in something – a new puppy, for example – go the library to learn more about their interests.
• When publicity about a new movie attracts the attention of your children, encourage them to read the book before seeing the movie. You can often find the book in the library.
• Take advantage of the library for your own personal growth and assistance. The library is full of books, magazines and pamphlets on such subjects as parenting, home maintenance, time management, stress reduction, career improvement, hobbies and health issues.

School Start Time
Because the Sexton Mtn. parking lot gets really congested between 8:20 and 8:30 a.m. especially now that it's getting wetter, I would like to ask that you consider making it your goal this week (and future weeks) to have your child at school between 8:05 and 8:10 a.m. so that children can enjoy the gym, playground, library or cafeteria and be a bit more relaxed before being in class and ready to learn at 8:30 a.m. when instruction begins.  Our school day does begin each morning at 8:30 a.m. so students should be in the classroom at that time when instruction begins.  Teachers take attendance electronically at that time then they are off to a day of teaching and learning.  If children enter after 8:30 without having checked into the office, the teacher stops teaching or interacting with students, goes back to the the computer and updates the attendance.  In order to allow teachers to focus on teaching and building relationships with kids at the start of the day, we expect all students arriving after the 8:30 a.m. bell to check in at the office.  This allows the office staff to change the electronic attendance and teachers to do their most important work (teaching).  With larger class sizes, reduced support staff and higher academic expectations for kids, having children check in to the office after 8:30 makes the most efficient use of our resources and honors the instructional time of those students who were in class at 8:30.  This is a procedural change from past practice at Sexton Mountain.  Please note this change on page 7 in your Student Handbook by changing the office check in time from 8:35 to 8:30.

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