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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sanborn Wednesday Family Ambassadors

Fourth and fifth grade student “ambassadors” at Sanborn School have been busy teaching critical character building skills to their peers.  As part of Sanborn’s Wednesday Family program, a team of student leaders works during recess to brainstorm and develop dynamic lessons to present to their Wednesday Family classmates.  Wednesday Family is a monthly mix up of grades and teachers designed to enhance community support across grade levels.  Wednesday Family Ambassadors strive to make lessons interactive, incorporating dance, song, drama, debate, or team challenge games that not only make the character skill relevant and meaningful, but also strengthen relationships among classmates.  A lesson on tolerance included a powerful video and song about acceptance, along with an interactive movement activity that encouraged students to reflect on similarities and differences.   A lesson on perseverance will include group challenge exercises that involve cooperation and determination.  Ambassadors are taught how to facilitate thoughtful discussions and demonstrate supportive listening skills.  All lessons are designed to promote active problem solving as well.  Goals of the Wednesday Family Ambassador program include providing students the opportunity to develop strong leadership skills and to serve as positive peer models.  Ambassadors have expressed a new appreciation for the challenges their teachers face teaching to many different learning styles and personalities!

At Sanborn’s next PTO meeting Ambassadors will present a brief overview of how students are teaching students to be better people in our community.   This will be followed by an adult presentation and discussion of specific skills being taught and how these skills can be supported at home.

Susan Hunter-Jones
Social Worker

Sanborn School

Friday, March 28, 2014

West Middle School's second TechAware Week

February 3-5 was West Middle School's second TechAware Week, and this year's event was an even bigger success than last year.  The whole school participated in a week of activities that were designed to raise awareness about the thoughtful and responsible use of technology and social media by our students.  To that end, our teachers and student leaders worked hard to develop and carry out a variety of activities designed to engage our students in discussions about important topics, like responsible digital citizenship and avoiding problems with technology – especially bullying and cyber bullying.

Some of the highlights of the week included:

  • Extended homerooms each day during which students signed, "Unplugged" pledges, participated in discussions with our student WEB and Stand Up Committee Leaders, and reflected on their own use of digital media
  • "Unplugged" games in the cafĂ© with teachers before school and during lunches.
  • A very well attended parent forum on the subject of digital awareness, cyber bullying, and social media, facilitated by Shelley Coughlin (digital learning specialist), Gina Murray (PAC president), Stacie Bilowz (social worker), Sandy Lunt (health teacher), and our WEB and Stand-Up Committee Student Leaders.  Thank you to the many parents who took time out of their day to join us!
  •    A video made by our teachers, shown as a special feature during Friday's homeroom.  This "I unplug to…" video was a humorous and thoughtful highlight of the week.
  •  Enrichment class discussions throughout the week focused on a multitude of resources regarding cyber-awareness and digital responsibility.  Many of the resources on bullying and cyber-bullying were made available from MARC – the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center.

We wish to thank our teachers, parents, and student leaders for the hard work they put into helping make this week such a success.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

7th Grade Social Studies Entry

In order to make the Roman Republic come alive for our students, the 7th grade social studies teachers contacted Senator Barry Finegold asking if he would come talk to our students.  Senator Finegold will address our 7th graders on Thursday March 27th at 8:00am. He will be speaking to the students about real world present-day connections to Rome, more specifically civic responsibility, representing citizens and how the local government system works, as well as discussing relationships with constituents and the challenges of representing a diverse population.

Students will be comparing the Roman Republic with our government, and following up the visit by having students write a letter to Senator Finegold about an issue that is important in their lives.

Kindergarten Leprechaun Trap Fair

Each year the Kindergartners at Sanborn School work on a special engineering project with their families.  They build Leprechaun Traps!  The traps are built at home and then brought in to school and displayed in the cafeteria in a science fair-like format on the Thursday evening closest to St. Patrick’s Day. 

Parents, siblings, extended family, neighbors and friends all flock to Sanborn School to see the Leprechaun Traps the children have built with their families.  During the Leprechaun Trap Fair, Kindergarten teachers Ann Carlson and Laraine Woo welcome all of the children and their families and then explain that half of the children stay with their traps and explain them as others circulate around the cafeteria learning about the plans to catch the elusive leprechauns.  Halfway through the event, these children are able to circulate while their classmates stay with their traps to proudly explain their plans to fair goers. 

When the evening concludes, the families take the traps home where they are set in the hopes of catching a leprechaun!  The excitement is contagious!

Sanborn School Kindergarten Team

Wood Hill Middle School “We are Crew”

Wood Hill is going strong with Crew, with the goal to ensure that every child has a strong relationship with at least one adult in the building.  This includes weekly check-ins with the Crew Leaders to hear from students and how they are doing both in and out of school.   Other focuses include team building, collaboration, problem solving and positive risk taking with our students going through project adventure challenges along with our low ropes course.  Embracing diversity and anti-bullying is addressed in Crew with students taking on various initiatives of leading assemblies with the themes of “I am her” “I am beautiful” and “Be a Buddy not a Bully.”  Community Service projects are taken on by Crews, including students putting together fleece blankets to give to a local organization that distributes them to families in need.  Our students are even embracing nature in the wintertime as we have had many Crew groups use our snowshoes to go explore and be active.  Crew is another reminder to us as educators of the importance to create strong relationships with our students.  We understand that without those relationships learning can be that much more difficult.  “There are no passengers at Wood Hill, we are all Crew.”


As technology visionary Marc Prensky writes in his book, Teaching Digital Natives, “…students in our classrooms are changing – largely as a result of their outside-of-school experience with technology – and are no longer satisfied with an education that doesn’t immediately address the real world in which they live…. Digital technology can make our students’ learning real, engaging, and useful for their future.” The iPad pilot initiative at South Elementary School aims to inspire students to make meaningful connections as they become self-directed, independent learners and increase their capacity to create, collaborate, problem solve and communicate their discoveries to others. One such example can be found on selected Friday afternoons when Mrs. Batchelder’s fifth grade class partners with Mrs. Whicher’s first graders to write their own books through the “Book Creator” application. Watching students’ confidence and excitement grow as they use the iPad tool together to plan, act, assess, rethink, and publish their work is an inspiring experience. Another popular application finds students creating “Explain Everything” videos to demonstrate their understanding of mathematical concepts. Watching students from Mrs. Kennedy’s fifth grade class explain in their own words using their own examples the “order of operations” or how to add and subtract equivalent fractions, provides insight into their knowledge base and is highly entertaining! Moving forward South School looks to expand access to the iPad tool as a way to empower our teachers to promote the lifelong skill of active learning.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Andover Fund for Education Grant

High Plain was fortunate to receive an Andover Fund for Education Grant to implement Sport Stacking with our students. Sport Stacking has been shown to increase the playing field and build self-esteem by allowing students with limited athletic skills to shine in physical education and beyond.   We are anxious to see how we can incorporate this instructional strategy to also realize academic gains.  We hope that with the information made available as well as the benefits documented by our fellow schools within the district that we are able to make cup stacking a part of the culture at High Plain. Not only will this be used in physical education, but also in our Reading Room with first and second graders receiving reading support.  Since the sequencing and patterning aspects of sports stacking mirror those in reading we are excited to make connections with both sides of the brain to stimulate the reading process for students who are performing below benchmark.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action at Shawsheen!

For the past five years, second grade students at Shawsheen Elementary School have participated in puppet performances to the delight of students and parents. Each year, every second grade class participates in a puppet performance focussed on a specific theme. In the fall, students in Ms. Thornton's class presented a variety of skits revolving around the Thanksgiving holiday. Last month, students in Mrs. Roumeliotis's class entertained the audience with performances centered around Presidents' Day. Not only do these performances help students develop reading fluency skills, but they also give students the opportunity to gain public speaking experience and to build self-confidence. The puppet performances have been made possible by a grant from the Andover Fund for Education which allowed the reading support team to purchase a portable puppet theater, as well as puppets. Shawsheen's final show of the school year will taking place in the spring with Ms. Gerry's students performing skits about the ocean, the current school-wide theme!

Sharon Faulkner
Reading Specialist
Shawsheen School

Ms. Thornton's Class - November 2013

Mrs. Roumeliotis's Class - February 2014

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