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Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing, Community Connections and Wet Weather-Janaury 24, 2012

Dear Sexton Mt. Families:                                                                                                  

Great things are happening at Sexton Mountain School.  Children in second grade were hard at work when I entered the room last week.  The assignment was to write a paragraph about a favorite winter sport.  Many were writing about basketball or soccer.  Kai was writing about croquet.  He described in detail how he plays the game when he visits relatives in Washington.  Right before recess Ms. Martin announced that kids needed to add a closing sentence and kids got right to work on wrapping up their ideas.  Girls at the back of the room were coaching one another on whether or not the sentence added just the right finishing touch. 

In the library, fifth graders were engaged in a discussion about the hard work that goes into learning to keyboard without peeking.  Mrs. Johnson talked about a code of honor and the importance of doing your own honest best work.  Kids seemed to take note of the powerful message on ethics and perseverance. 

At Family Movie Night Friday we had a great turn out. Thanks to our volunteers for creating such a special night for our students and their families.  From set up to clean up, many worked hard to make the evening a success.  One of the things I especially appreciate about our volunteers is how skills are passed along from one to the next.  Our new kindergarten parents got to learn how to clean the popcorn machine and strategies for putting away chairs.  Training up the next generation of volunteers is essential to continuing the good work going on here.

The spirit of community service is our school is strong.  Mountain Guides start and end the day in a positive way for our students.  With so many models of service through our parent and community volunteers, it’s not surprising that our students know the importance of giving back.  Service projects can help children explore aspects of future roles.

When my son was in the hospital for his appendix earlier this month, two therapy dogs stopped by and made his day!  Once he got home from the hospital, he has been researching careers related to animals.  On Saturday, he volunteered a couple of hours helping with homeless dogs.  When my husband dropped him off, he was in a pen with ten frisky dogs and had a goofy smile.  When I picked him up, he smelled like wet dog and reported that he’d spent more time cleaning up after dogs than playing with them.  He had interesting stories about the work and the dogs.  Most importantly, he came away with a better understanding of himself as a learner.  He realized that he is an optimistic, non-fiction reader.  Though he’s read about the hard work, he didn’t really understand how hard until he had a tiny real-life sample.  Community service projects provide learning opportunities beyond the text.

This Friday is a Staff Development Day and our teachers will be learning how to differentiate reading instruction to meet the needs of a wide range of learners.  Our students have a wide range of abilities so we are constantly striving to meet their needs by using instructional strategies to support and stretch each and every child.  We simply can’t do this job alone.  We count on our volunteers to help us.   We will be working to equip our volunteers to help us in this important work.  I will hold a parent training on Thursday, February 2 from 9:00-9:30am on a reading intervention called “Read Naturally.”    This reading intervention is intended to improve reading fluency but also has a comprehension component.  It teaches a strategy that is easy to use with a wide range of texts too, so is helpful for all reading levels.  Interested parents or volunteers are welcome to attend.

I’d also like to invite interested volunteers to join me in scoring this month’s student writing sample. Our fourth and fifth graders have set goals this month around sentence fluency, so I’ll need help with analyzing sentence beginnings and the number of words in each sentence.  Other grade levels have set important goals too.  This time kids are using paper towel tubes and foil to build boats that float, so the writing is sure to be fun to read.  One of the benefits of reading so many student work samples is that you can get ideas for helping your own child with writing at home.

Mr. Mori, our administrative intern brought to us through the Nike School Innovation Fund, has started his transition to work at different levels.  Last week, he moved to Beaverton High School for a short-term assignment.  He will be in our building on and off through the end of the year, but we won’t get to see him daily like we have grown accustomed to.  This may be the first time in the memory of most when the student supervisor’s office sits empty.  As a result of being reduced a staff member, our work will be different.  Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Last week, the snow and heavy rain made the morning drop off time extra congested resulting in many students arriving after instruction started at 8:30.  When I look at the ten day forecast, it looks like more rain is in store.  If you drive your child to school in the morning, aiming for an 8:05 am drop off will increase the likelihood of more students arriving in time for instruction.   With wet weather, kids attracted to puddles get extra wet during the rain too.  If your child tends to get wet, feel free to send a change of clothes in his or her backpack.  When my brother was little, my mom was sure he would grow up to be a scientist because he had to test the depth of every puddle he saw resulting in wet shoes, socks and often pants.  It seems that many of our students have the same desire of research and inquiry. 

Thank you for sharing your children with us.  Exciting things happen in our building for your kids each day!  We are happy to be part of their lives.


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

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.
  • Prizes for Sparky’s Running Club
  • Volunteers to help score writing
  • Postcards

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