2008 12 December

Principal Notes for December 2008 Newsletter

Dear Parents:

Conferences:  I am pleased to report that we had  very high parent attendance at our recently scheduled conferences.  Our School Board has granted the elementary schools four afternoons this year for this express purpose.  I’d welcome your feedback as to what we may do to improve the communication of your child’s progress and the conferences in general should you wish to share with me.  Also, be reminded that we encourage you to call or email your child’s teacher at any time with questions or concerns about your child’s progress, or the aims of instruction.  

Professional Learning Communities:  One of our primary professional goals this year is to implement the protocols adopted by Professional Learning Communities.  Simply put we are striving to work collaboratively, “interdependently”, and systematically, to see that each of our students are learning to his or her maximum potential.  Our greatest challenge as teachers is to simultaneously see that this personal performance meets commonly agreed upon grade level standards of proficiency or that range of performance we call “on grade level.”  To that end, grade level teams meet once a week to discuss classroom activities and schedules, and twice per quarter to analyze student work and discuss how to use the results of the grade level assessments to improve student performance and learning.  By focusing on teacher team generated assessments in the language arts and mathematics, we will hone our skills as information gatherers and instruction planners.  This method and process describes how professional learning communities work.

On Writing: Last Tuesday, our teams of teachers followed the process described above to analyze a piece of student writing.  The rubric, or criteria the teachers used, is part of a writing assessment process initially developed twenty four years ago by a group of teachers in Beaverton, Oregon.  The process is now referred to as the “Six Traits + One” method, because these teachers found that all writing contains each trait to a greater or lesser extent.  The traits are Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Voice and Conventions.  The plus one is Presentation.  Using this vocabulary to describe writing allow the development of a common writing vocabulary, and allows teachers to focus instruction on very specific aspects of writing.  It also provides a specific focus for student assessment.  Our goal is to provide sample or “anchor” papers at each level of development (usually using a four or five tiered rubric) at each grade level.  For more information, you may visit the following site:                To encourage writing in your home, have your child write holiday greeting cards, post cards, keep a diary, make posters, keep a weekly calendar on the fridge and favorite word list or word of the week on their mirrors.  

The Principal’s Challenge to Parents or How your child may gain a year’s worth of progress in 7 months!  This is your opportunity to participate in some home grown action research.  You’ll need a calendar, clock,  graph paper, books magazines, a deck of cards, some dice,  a chess set, and a few word games.   You’ll need in the first week, including Saturday and Sunday, to chart with your child the minutes of all the time your child spends watching TV or playing computer games.  Now comes the challenge.  For each minute you permit this leisure activity, insist that your child spend that much time again in reading, writing, playing board games, playing number games with dice, playing chess with you, adding the grocery list items, or reading a recipe. If you are really stuck, just send them outdoors to play.  If yours is a typical American household it means that your child of six or under will go from 120 minutes of screen time and 39 minutes of reading or being read to, to two hours of reading or being read to!  (For second and third graders the national average is around three hours a day.) If you adhere to this ratio of equal read and math practice time to screen time, I am quite convinced that your child will experience 12 months of academic progress between now and the end of June.  Any takers?

Winter Weather:  We believe in getting the students outside to play.  As the weather gets colder please see that your child comes with mittens or gloves, a warm and warm shoes or boots, and warm jacket.  Also, label those items with permanent marker so that we may trace them back to their rightful owner.  Our general guideline for outdoor play is 10 degrees F.  

Alert Now:  Please see that the school has your latest contact information.  The district uses the telephone “Alert Now” system to announce delayed school openings, school closings, and other news of importance.  

        Nutrition:  Our weekly Healthy Snack store continues to be a hit with the children.  Working in partnership with Upper Valley Produce, teachers volunteer their class to organize the procurement and distribution of healthy snacks which to date, have included dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables.  Students are learning to practice business transactions in a real economy context.  We are grateful to the W. Lebanon PTO for helping to support this motivating and healthy learning initiative.  Healthy Snack Store is open on Friday mornings from 9:30 – 10:00.   
        Rest:  An occasional late night for special circumstances will not produce lasting negative effects.  However, in the most general terms, America is a sleep-deprived culture.  Please note that primary age children need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep per night to give them the rest their growing bodies need.  

Great Kid Gift Idea: As this is the season for gift giving, keep in mind that magazine subscriptions are a wonderful way to promote reading in the home. And, kids love to get real mail in the mailbox addressed just to them every month.  For a selection of quality magazines geared to the young reader you could start with www.cobblestonepub.com/index.html.  
Dates:  Last Day before the winter Holiday is Dec. 19th.

  Mount Lebanon Elementary School  5 White Avenue, West Lebanon NH 03784  Phone: 603-298-8202  F