April Newsletter 2012:
On Reading: This year the students and teachers of Mt. Lebanon School and the Hanover Street School will celebrate a week of reading with guest readers, activities, book give-aways, costumes and dramatic readings. With the assistance of PTO volunteers all students and parents may receive free books for the home just by coming in and picking them up. Each grade level will be provide a weekly schedule of events, but the central theme is to promote reading. Aside from the learning the skills necessary to become good citizens and wholesome characters, reading is arguably the most important skill students will learn.
For the last several years the teachers at Mt. Lebanon have looked closely at those test items on standardized tests that typically present greater challenges for our students and they fall into two basic categories: making inferences from text, that is understanding the main idea from details, and responding in writing to open-ended questions about text. So, to help grow independent and confident readers, we follow basic steps in a certain predictable order. As reading is very complex we also know now, that the old traditional cliché, “children first learn to read then read to learn” is not so clear and straightforward. We also know that children develop as readers at very different rates depending on many factors. The steps in learning to read, however, remain the same: the young student at 4 or 5 years of age is exposed to the concept that sound represents linguistic communication: phonemic awareness. Next, beginning in kindergarten, the student will learn that sounds may be represented by symbols called letters, and so they learn the alphabet. However, English is confounding for the young reader because it not really a truly phonetic system in the way that Spanish is for example. Take the following “ough” words : “through” oo, “though” o, “bough” ow, “ought” aw, “enough” u.) The 15-20% of us who do not have strong visual memories, will, of course try to use our decoding skills, and because these letter combinations follow no predictable pattern, our energy will be spent in trying to decode the phonology, and so lose track of the meaning. Another key component of reading is vocabulary, knowing what words mean. We will be emphasizing this component more in our instruction because knowledge of the meaning of words is so key. A commensurate skill we must build is “sentence fluency”. All thoughts are expressed in complete sentences. For text to make meaning sentences must sound like spoken thought in the mind of the reader. If a student is spending time trying to decode a word, fluency is lost. If they don’t recognize the word, meaning is lost. So, all the above reading components must work together in the mind of the student to reach COMPREHENSION, the end result of reading. (Writing is even more complex, so you can see that for students for whom any of the above are problematic, writing about reading will be doubly complex!)
When you read with your child at home, read fluently, pause to ask questions, share your impressions, and above all be patient, encouraging and enthusiastic.
ELO: We thank the teachers who have provided tutelage for this first session of the before and after school Extended Learning Program. We will review what is working well and identify areas in which we might improve these services to students this month. Money for this program was made available through a grant.
The Outdoor Initiative: Mrs. Joanis and Mrs. Faucher were recently featured in the paper along with Mr. Jim McCracken on the educational benefits of the inclusion of gardening in the curriculum of the school. Our wildlife habitat is coming into full bloom this month and the vegetable garden soil is being prepared to receive seeds. If you have an aptitude for gardening or would like to help out, we offer “Gardening Club” as an alternative recess to students in the first and fourth quarters of school a couple of days a week between 11:25 and 11:55 AM. The students and activity supervisors would warmly welcome your offer of assistance.
Composting at Mt. Lebanon: We believe that as part of our mission we must educate students on how better to conserve our resources, and more effectively manage and recycle our waste products. To these ends, and with the support of our PTO, we have begun a composting project during our lunch time in which students will separate the organic from inorganic waste, and that that compost will be stored out doors and collected weekly. This project dovetails neatly with a similar project being conducted by students at Lebanon High School. The same individual, a local VT farmer, also picks up and recycles compost from our local co-ops. We look forward ultimately to reducing waste, educating students, saving overall costs to the school district, and reducing stress to our environment.
Kindergarten Registration: If you have neighbors or friends with children who will be five on or before Sep. 30, 2011, you may remind them that we have scheduled kindergarten registration on Thursday morning, April 7. Kindergarten will be a full day program in the Lebanon School District in both elementary schools next year.
Report Cards: Research clearly indicates that your active participation in your child’s education improves performance. First and third quarters teachers do not typically write comments on the students’ report cards though they may, because they will conference with you. Please come with specific questions about study skills, what your child looks like as learner in the class, and what you can do in the home to have your child finish the last quarter on a very positive and productive note.
Grade 4 NECAP: This the third year that we will be administering the grade four science New England Common Assessment. For the past two years our fourth grade students on average scored better than the state average, especially in the area of life science. A case may be made correlating our trained parent volunteers in the Four Winds program who visit classes monthly and use our surrounding environs for motivating and interesting lessons. These science tests will be administered in May.
Goodbye Ms. Whalley: We have said our goodbyes to Ms. Liz Whalley who was a long-term substitute teacher in physical education. She provided excellent instruction and maintained a high level of fidelity to the curriculum and program the she and Mrs. Ballou planned together. Thank you Liz, for your dedicated service.
Class placement and grade level configuration: You have recently received letters explaining our process for the creation of balanced class list for next year. If your child is in a class where looping (moving on with the same teacher) is taking place you will receive a second letter. We encourage you to take this opportunity to provide feedback that we will take into our consideration on the back of the letter and return it to the office by April 25.
The tentative grade level configuration for SY 2011-2012 is as follows:
Kindergarten: Three Classes
Grade 1: Three Classes
Grade 2: Three Classes
Grade 3: Three Classes
Grade 4: Two Classes
Parent Conferences are this week, Early Dismissal for tudents Wednesday, Thursday at 1:00PM, April 4 and 5.
“April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.” Mark Twain