Dear Families –
What an amazing start to the year! Everything is going so smoothly and students are engaged in thought-provoking learning experiences in their classes. K, 1st, and 2nd grade math students are starting the math block with “number talks,” in which teachers probe students’ thinking to uncover strategies for mental math. Third and fourth grade mathematicians have been working with Project M3 materials, designed to pull out higher thinking related to place value, especially when dealing with huge numbers and non-base 10 systems. Fifth grade mathematicians have focused on arrays, looking at what we see as we represent numbers in multiple ways, and how the arrays help us understand the characteristics of prime, composite and square numbers. The discussions in math class are truly incredible – ask your students about what they are learning!
I wrote in my previous blog entry about some of the changes to the school schedule this year, and want to discuss another change. As we have moved fourth grade science back into the responsibilities of the homeroom teachers this year, we have taken chorus out of the regular school day and moved it to an after-school activity. As you are all aware, the expectations for fourth grade social studies and fourth and fifth grade science are quite rigorous, and we want our students to be present in class for all lessons. For students who wish to take an instrument and also participate in chorus, they may miss two social studies or science lessons in a week. As a result, fourth grade chorus takes place after school on Tuesdays, and fifth grade chorus takes place after school on Thursdays. Permission slips have gone home, and please send an email to Ms. Kyser or Ms. Schildge if you need another one. Instrumental music permission slips went home after introductions to the instruments and process during regularly scheduled music classes. Please contact Ms. Schildge or Mr. Velsey if you need a new one. This was the best way for us to keep the opportunity for two music education opportunities available to all of our fourth and fifth grade students.
We are launching a new initiative this year, which we have named Tiger Time. This initiative responds to APS’ focus on the Arlington Tiered System of Support, ensuring that every child has access to academic interventions and extensions as she or he demonstrate the need for them. Tiger time is a block of about 30 minutes 3-4 days per week at grades 1-5. Teachers may regroup students across the grade level during the Tiger Time block and provide small group support in math to ensure all students master grade level concepts. Likewise, who students who have demonstrated proficiency will be provided opportunities for extension of the math content to higher level problem solving and applications of the math. The focus on math is a response to the 2015-2016 school year SOL results, and a desire to move our students forward in their mathematical understanding. Stay tuned for more information – we will start conducting Tiger Time groups after parent-teacher conferences in October.
As many are aware, most APS schools have moved towards a daily differentiation model in the delivery of Gifted Services. Barrett is joining this move this year, and our new Resource Teacher for the Gifted, Ms. Catherine Hwang, has jumped into the work with teachers. Ms. Hwang meets weekly with every grade level to demonstrate differentiation strategies and help teachers make connections to their lesson plans. She has been co-teaching in third and fourth grade math using the Project M3 materials I mentioned above to support deeper thinking about mathematical concepts such as place value. Part of her work in this coaching role is to demonstrate thinking strategies in the context of general curriculum. Third and fourth grade students recently learned about Encapsulation, a thinking strategy that focuses on synthesizing concepts and stating them concisely (almost like tweeting!). Be sure to attend the October PTA meeting and learn more about Ms. Hwang and how she will work with students and teachers this year!
We thank you for the great turnout and positive feedback after Back-to-School night. We look forward to seeing everyone for parent-teacher conferences next week!