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Grade 1 and 2 Letter Writing Campaign

Dear Families,

The Grade 1 and 2 Service Learning project swung into full gear today. After identifying our project back in October as The Apple Problem and learning basic facts about apple trees, today we moved to action. This afternoon, the children embarked on letter writing. First, we read Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s picture book The Jolly Postman. This got us thinking about letters and how we can use them to seek information from experts by asking them questions that may help us solve the Apple Problem. After identifying who these people may be, such as orchard farmers and arborists, we filled three sheets of chart paper with questions ranging from “What do you do with all the apples that fall to the ground, rot and get mushy?” to “How do you know if your apple trees are healthy or not?”

The children then worked with a partner to write a letter in which they had to:

*introduce themselves

*explain why they were writing

*pose 3-4 specific questions

*thank the experts for their time

Our next task will be to edit the letters, write final copies, sign them and address the envelopes.

We promise to keep you posted as we move closer to solving The Apple Problem!

All the best,

Kay

 

By |2019-02-06T19:14:51-04:00February 6th, 2019|

Grade 3 Newsletter

Please remind your child to read at least 15 minutes each night.  Encourage your child to wonder about plot or characters and begin to notice descriptive words.  Thank you again for being such good reading role models for your children.

The third graders have received this week, in social studies class, information regarding their next project- The Biography Report.  As they read about this person’s life, I would like them to answer the following questions:

1. Whom are you reading about?
2. Where did this person spend his/her childhood?
3. What did this person do before he/she became famous?
4. What are this person’s greatest accomplishments?
5. When did this person die? (or what is he/she currently doing?)
6. Share an interesting story about your topic.

I would like the children to answer the questions on a separate piece of paper and, pretending to be the famous person, create a presentation of at least a minute.  Students will dress up and use props to make their presentation come alive.

As noted on the handout, all projects are due April 18th.  The presentations will take place on May 3rd at 2:00 p.m. in the third grade homeroom.  Parents are invited to join us on this day for this spectacular event.

Beginning January 28th, all students need to arrive at school no later than 8:10 am.  The children will be taking the ERBs, a standardized test given to third graders at this time of year.  Thank you in advance for your help with this matter.

By |2019-01-22T10:56:57-04:00January 22nd, 2019|

Wintertime in the 1/2 Classroom

Dear Families,

The winter months are busy ones here in the 1/2 classroom. I often refer to January, February and March as “crunch time”. A great deal of work gets done during this time period.  With Ski Fridays replacing afternoon academic time, we find ourselves with our noses to the grindstone. Intense work across the curriculum leaves little time for free choice during our days. So please make sure your child has enough food to sustain them throughout the day and be forewarned that they may come home quite tired.

This winter our science unit will have us studying bears. January is our month to learn lessons in courage for Social Studies. On top of the continued work we do in math, reading, and writing, this year’s class has made an additional request. So enamored with our afternoon read-aloud The World of Pooh (which includes both A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner), we will be taking two of the children’s favorite chapters and making them into mini-plays. So there will be lines to learn and movements to memorize. Although very informal, there will be a performance here in the classroom for all of you. Details to be determined – stay tuned!

Report cards come out later this month. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.

As always, thank you for sharing your children with all of us here at BCD!

Kay

By |2019-01-02T09:55:34-04:00January 2nd, 2019|

“What Do We Do With the Mad That We Feel?”

Questions and Reflections From a Veteran Pre School Teacher

How do we help our children feel safe?

How do we help them understand their feelings?

How do we show and express our confidence in their ability to be kind?

How do we model compassion?

Each day across the land, preschool teachers and parents of young children struggle with these questions. In light of current events, even those of us who have been at this for a long time feel as though we are still wrestling with these questions.

A parent recently reminded me that Fred Rogers had some relevant insights about what children see on screens. In the wake of the recent horrific events in Pittsburgh and Louisville, and the fires in California, and inspired by a classroom filled with Superheroes on Halloween to reflect — on children, violence, and “saving the day,” I offer these reflections.

In our classroom this autumn, there was an explosion of Power Ranger play. Since this consisted mainly of weapons, large sudden movements, and fighting, I paused the play, and asked some of the children some questions. This led to great conversations and artwork among a few of the children, regarding both Power Rangers and a Big Foot monster, who had also entered their play.

One thing that really struck me was that the only thing the children were able to tell me about Power Rangers, aside from their different colors, is that “they fight.” Or, “they fight bad guys.” The term “bad guys,” seems to mean simply, the “others,” the “not us.” At this point, that is their take-away from whatever they are watching on screens. So that is what they are bringing to their classmates who have never seen shows with fighting.

Superheroes and “bad guy” play are not new, nor is violence in our country. In my kindergarten classrooms decades ago, alongside children who had parents deployed in the Gulf War, or in jail for violent crimes, I was dealing with Power Rangers. To be honest, it’s a challenge to have certain TV characters infused into our classroom of 3 and 4 year olds. It is even harder now than it was 25 years ago, because screens, and hence the graphic images of fighting that the children see, have become both larger, and smaller and portable, and more prevalent. Images of both real-life and make-believe violence  — in our living rooms, in cars, even in children’s bedrooms — live side by side on these screens. 

Although in our classroom the Power Ranger play has dissipated somewhat, it’s still there. The “Monster” play continues, and is particularly frightening for some of the students. A couple of my older students have learned to say, “it’s just pretend.” But for these same four year olds, and certainly for three year olds, pretend monsters — as well as teeth-baring fictional wolves, an angry-looking witch, or any one of a number of images that might be marketed for young children – can and do feel extremely threatening. Distinguishing between pretend and real is a complicated process, and does not even evolve along a predictable continuum. One minute, monster play can elicit shrieks of joy from a child; the next minute, the same child is running into my arms for comfort. In the light of day, monsters stimulate laughter; when darkness falls, tears.

Imaginative play is the work of young children, and for our three and four year olds, it is an exciting and constantly evolving and developing exploration. It grows their brains, builds social skills, and leads to joy and excitement, frustration and fear. In a group of 16 young children, we can see all of these emotions simultaneously. As teachers, we constantly scan and monitor, join and guide.

Getting the children to pause their play, and talk and paint about it, was just my initial response. I imagine in the future we might be having conversations in our classroom about different kinds of power — about being strong and capable, and about distinguishing between superpowers and real powers. We have started to have conversations about the FEELINGS we have — feelings that might cause us to hurt others, or to help others. And we will always have sand and art materials available for them to express, play out, and record their feelings.

Mr. Rogers points out that when bad things happen and when people are hurt, it is reassuring to “look for the helpers.” We want to teach the children that WE can BE the helpers, and that fighting and hurting others is not helpful; that it is, in fact, harmful. Even when others are not hurt, we can always practice being helpful. It is possible to develop our “helping” powers.

I offer a few videos. I hope you might spend a few minutes watching them. If nothing else, Mr. Rogers reminds us that being present with young children, and available to listen and talk about what they are feeling, as well as what they might be seeing on screens, is so important. Even though some of these clips are from decades ago — before ipads, smartphones, enormous HD TV’s, and the current hate crimes — I think he is also a good reminder to limit and very carefully control our children’s exposure to screens. 

The questions will always be there. So will our love for our young children.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9E-I7yBwIc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVNY2oPP2WI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKy7ljRr0AA

http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/about-us/

By |2018-11-19T14:02:37-04:00November 19th, 2018|

Grade 3 News

This week in math, we will explore subtraction with regrouping.  The children are beginning to work more accurately and confidently to solve problems given in class.  I appreciate your help in studying those pesky math facts.  Flash cards are a great idea to do at home or in the car.  I strongly recommend that practice with these basic tables be done daily.  Your child will be amazed at his/her progress.

The Berkshire Research Projects should be nearly completed at this point.  Dioramas are due November 16th.  This is a good first foray into the area of gathering information and then organizing it to share with classmates.  Thank you for helping your child find a suitable topic, books, and in some instances, for taking your child to visit a Berkshire site.

In language arts we are continuing to work on composition strategies, as well as the grammar-writing connection.  The students will write about what they are thankful for in writing lab this week.  These paragraphs will be sent home next week so that they may be shared at your Thanksgiving celebration.

I enjoyed discussing your wonderful third graders with you at parent conferences.  Please feel free to drop by the homeroom any time you are at school to look at all the fine work your child is completing in class.

 

 

By |2018-11-13T10:06:36-04:00November 13th, 2018|

When we Listen

After a humid summer and a mild September, autumn has arrived. Crisp air, colorful foliage and brisk breezes animate our beautiful campus. The stream runs swiftly down from the ridge, passing behind Peterson and Peseckis Halls.

Walking toward the Learning Commons before school one day earlier this month, I called enthusiastically to a very young student across the lawn, “Good morning!” Quickly came the reply, “Be quiet!”

“Be quiet?” I answered, somewhat querulously. “Yes!” came the insistent reply. And then more softly, “Yes; listen, you can hear the river!”

And so I stopped, and quieted, and we listened together to the rush of water in the stillness. How fortunate we adults are to be reminded by children to savor a moment, to take our time, to recognize the wonder of the world around us. Such opportunities abound here at the Brook Farm campus, whether on the trails above the playing fields, around the pond or in the garden plantings that line the courtyard walls.

The first six weeks of school have been inspiring to me, filled with examples of fine teaching, powerful curriculum, and engaged and happy students. It is a privilege to be part of this school community, helping to navigate BCD through a year of transition. I look forward to more of these encounters, to working with colleagues, parents, trustees, alumni and friends of the School to sustain its outstanding programs and prepare for new leadership next year.

Schools for young children and adolescents are remarkably complex enterprises, filled with dynamic relationships, daily growth, and occasional regression, unexpected moments of inspiration, doubt, and delight. We teachers and parents, seeking to do our utmost for each student in each of these moments, sometimes inadvertently achieve the opposite. It was a Tennessee psychologist who first pointed out for me that when we set high expectations, as we can create a hypersensitivity to perceived failure, particularly when our definition of success is too narrow. We risk focusing more on how to develop children and less on how children develop. And our sense (as parents or as professionals) that what we do “is never enough” can be contagiously dispiriting, influencing young people in ways we never intended.

Two innovative projects on opposite coasts are developing programs aimed at rebalancing the equation of what matters most in education.  They examine how schools and families can work effectively together. Challenge Success at Stanford, and Making Caring Common at Harvard, are working in interesting ways toward overlapping aims.  They remind us of our hopes that more should come from education than individual achievement or competitive advantage. An early morning moment can have this effect as well, reminding us that reflective habits of mind have great value, along with generative thinking and disciplined inquiry and analytic exercise. At a time of mounting rancor and recrimination in American culture, a small sanctuary of a school can offer a countering opportunity, a precious chance to learn how to listen, together.

Cordially,
Mark

Mark W. Segar, Ed.D.
Interim Head of School

 

By |2018-10-30T15:44:04-04:00October 30th, 2018|

Developing a love of reading

Dear Families,

Developing a love of reading is something we work towards in the Grade 1/2 classroom. Although not every child is going to love reading, my hope is that every child develops at least an appreciation of reading. Fortunately, this year’s class is filled with children who love books of all kinds and who love to read. From the nonfiction books about volcanoes, which prompted many thoughtful questions in social studies, to the always popular children’s books like Miss Nelson is Missing, to our end-of-day read-aloud, The World of Pooh… The words we read spark images, the images spark imaginations, and new worlds open up our hearts.  All day, every day, we are surrounded by books, including books that we have written.

Ways to Foster a Love of Reading at Home

* Read aloud to your children as often as possible.

* Keep books of all kinds in your home. Children who grow up surrounded by books          tend to become lifelong readers.  It is said that a home without books is like a house without windows.

* Model reading whenever you can, by sharing what you read with your children:  online news, recipes, a local newspaper, or even a piece of mail.

A few days ago, two students walked across the room with their noses in their books. We were transitioning from reading time to music class, yet they just couldn’t stop reading.  It was one of those moments that teachers of young children hope for, and it is one that all of us can help to create.

All the best,

Kay

 

By |2018-10-30T08:03:12-04:00October 30th, 2018|

Grade 3 News

In math this week we will begin our unit on multi-digit addition.  Please review the basic math facts at home.  This will increase your child’s confidence and speed, as we continue to work with larger numbers.  While in reading class, we are working to read for detail and to improve our written answers to comprehension questions.  I am looking for capital letters, end marks, and correct spelling.  The children are working very hard and I am pleased with the results.

Our latest character word in writing lab will be “cooperation.”  The children will discuss the meaning of this important word, and their final thoughts on the topic will be displayed in the third grade classroom.  I can see by their actions in class that the students have a good grasp of what this word means, and I am impressed with how they are applying it to their everyday school life.

The various towns that make up Berkshire County are our current topic in Social Studies.  This week the students were given information regarding their first research project of the year- “The Berkshire Research Project.” Students are asked to select and research a person or place associated with Berkshire County.  An instruction sheet complete with questions and checkpoint dates was provided to each student.  If your child has any questions regarding the project, please ask him/her to bring them in to school, as I will save time at the end of each day to discuss how the projects are progressing.

By |2018-10-18T13:34:13-04:00October 18th, 2018|

Fostering Independence

Dear Families,

Friday was our 26th day of school. Your children have been working very hard and already are developing into capable young people. How do I know this? By the many things they do independently throughout the school day. Establishing routines early in the year, paves the way for their newfound sense of security to move about our classroom with ease and confidence.

When the children arrive in our classroom they have three tasks to perform. First is to sign-in on a clipboard indicating if they will be picked up by a parent, taking the bus or going to PM at dismissal time. Second, they read the Morning Message and answer the question at the bottom. Third, they go to the white board to learn what the Morning Work is for the day and they get to work!

Do they sometimes need a reminder or some help reading words? Of course they do, but they own the process and the routine. At Morning Meeting they sit together as a class, and under their own leadership, proceed through the steps of greeting each other, sharing, re-reading the Morning Message, filling-in our calendar and weather chart before reviewing our schedule for the day.

Thank you for getting your children to school by 8:10. As you can see, your children accomplish a great deal within the first hour! I look forward to talking with you all during Parent Conferences on November 1 and 2.

All the best,

Kay

 

 

By |2018-10-15T08:01:49-04:00October 15th, 2018|

Blog Post #1

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” — Oscar Wilde

 

Dear Sixth Grade Families and Friends,

Thank you so much for all your warm welcomes and generosity as we wrap up our first month together. The spirit of communal effort in every aspect of life at BCD is such an invaluable asset and has been a wonderful gift. Thanks for sharing your delightful kids! They’re a remarkable group.

I was so happy to welcome Grandparents and Grandfriends to class Friday. Students had a chance to show off their writing and their Personal Map projects to a new audience. They were so excited while they worked on them and I think their projects speak for themselves. (Thank you for finding the time in the midst of your busy lives to collect poster boards). I thought each student’s work offered a unique insight into the formative parts of their lives and showed a good deal of effort from their authors. They also beautifully highlighted their distinct passions and quirks.  It has been great to get to know each and every one of your interesting and interested young people! The class has demonstrated a balance of burgeoning independent selves which shines through the omnipresent truth of their adolescence. Last Wednesday’s service learning discussion was a prime example. In their own way, I thought each child navigated discussions of difficult issues thoughtfully and respectfully. I loved getting a chance to hear their thoughts on the world today and see their passion on display. Ms. Doherty and Mr. Evans both stopped by and were thoroughly impressed. It was hard to reconcile that thoughtfulness with the intense albeit brief dodgeball match that followed, but that’s sixth grade for you!

I included an Oscar Wilde quote that summarizes how I’m feeling about the start to the year. Despite the warm weather and rain, the beautiful leaves remind me it’s already Fall. Our class is nearing the end of our first novel The Giver and preparing for our first Geography quest next week.

Thanks to all of you who sent in the forms for our upcoming Hulbert Trip in such a timely manner. I’m very much looking forward to that experience and will be updating you on each day’s events via this blog, so stay tuned! Also, be on the lookout for an email from Kathy and me with an overview of the packing list and departure plan.

It has been such a pleasure to be part of this community and as always, feel free to reach out via email with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Best,

Mr. Wood

By |2018-10-12T10:16:54-04:00October 12th, 2018|

At Berkshire Country Day School,
we value connection.

Tell us a little more about you and your child so we can connect and learn more about what you are looking for in a school.