What is RTI All About?

By Janelle Sweet Dean of Academics & Curriculum Beverly Campus

What is RTI??? It is an intervention program we have held on the Beverly campus for the past two years! This teaching strategy is used in many schools in many different ways.

RTI blog

Often, we associate the word intervention to suggest negative connotations, however, in education, it can imply a positive meaning!  Literally the word intervention means:  A situation in which someone becomes involved in a particular issue in order to influence what happens. In education, RTI technically stands for Response to Intervention. So, if we consolidate all of this, our RTI program on the Beverly campus is using a format where our teachers are involved with specific training in the areas of ELA and Math.

The goal is to influence students with targeted instruction to enable them to grow and strengthen learning strategies specific to their needs.  RTI provides children with enhanced opportunities to learn.  RTI is not a particular method or instructional approach, rather it is a process that aims to shift educational resources toward the delivery and evaluation of instruction that works best for students(Readingrockets.org)

Our school uses Response to Intervention (RTI) to help students be successful in all content areas.  In addition to classroom teacher input, we utilize student assessments to measure areas that a child would benefit from language arts or math intervention.

We began this RTI program last school year and found it to be successful! We categorize skill groups and place children in a grade band for tutoring over a 6 – week period.

3rd 4th RTIWe have had an ELA group and a math group.  By combining the expertise of our teachers, we are able to have three different ELA focus groups.  In the first-grade band, the teachers focus is on phonemic segmentation, letter and sound fluency, and letter naming.  2nd grade RTIOur second-grade band focuses on trick word fluency, phonics, oral reading fluency and guided reading.  Grade band 3 focuses on writing conventions and mechanics, (spelling strategies, punctuation, capitalization) and writing process review.  Our fourth-grade band focuses on reading fluency and fluidity, and comprehension of abstract text.

Our math RTI was broken up into three grade bands.  The focus has ranged from application and practice, fact memorization, drills, and concept review.

The afterschool RTI program for this school year is at the half-way mark!  We planned the program to run for six weeks this year with hopes of extending the time-frame in the future.   With many thanks to our teachers and students, it has been another successful and well-attended year.

Homework

What’s Homework Got To Do With It?

By Anna Heintz, Mrs. Kim’s PreK TA

To give homework or not to give homework? That is the question. Many school districts across the country are asking this very question, and they are finding that the answer is not that easy! There are many educators who believe that homework fosters responsibility and creates space outside of school for students to extend their learning by being challenged to dive deeper in content areas. While this sounds good, there are many educators who believe that homework only extends the work day for students and creates more problems than it’s worth. 

According to an article dated September 27, 2017, entitled 6 of the Most Engaging Homework Alternatives You’ll Find, (https://www.wabisabilearning.com/blog/6-engaging-homework-alternatives), educators argue that homework is not an either-or problem, but rather there is in fact a third option. In her book Fires in the Mind, Kathleen Cushman Book coverprovides the reader with six characteristics that all homework assignments should contain. Her work is research-based and includes her firsthand interactions with school-aged children.  These characteristics are as follows:

 

  • Purpose—It should have a goal, and not just be busywork.
  • Differentiation—Everyone is at a different level and assigning the same thing to everyone is not helpful.
  • Attention and focus—Doing assignments at home when kids are tired, perhaps from after-school sports or music, is not the best time.
  • Repetition and rehearsal—These are mainstays of sports and music regimens and should be with other subjects.
  • Careful timing/proper scaffolding/sequence—Do not give homework at the very end of a semester “just to get grades in.
  • Deliberate practice—This should be intended to lead to new skills. Don’t grade homework.
Hare from The Lost Words

All Nature Sings

By Jill VanderWoude, Advancement Associate

What a gorgeous weekend we had. 65 degrees in the middle of the winter is as lovely as it is unusual. I am sure most of us spent considerable time outside on Saturday and Sunday, and for good reason!

Not only is it good for us adults to get outside, it’s our responsibility to get our children outside too. Warm weather is a convenient motivator, but what happens when seasonable winter weather returns? Are we getting our kids outside?

Studies show that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. Clearly, time spent outside is a good thing.  It is worrisome then, that the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. (https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/ )

Yikes! That is alarming news. We remember playing outside, right? I cherish my childhood memories of building forts, hunting for things in the dirt and being a spy in the woods. I wanted that same childhood for my children, so when they were little, I made sure to send them outdoors. It’s true – it is work! When our kids are very little, we have to work at it and commit to spending time together outside. You have to get dirty and loud in order to model how to play. Once they get the hang of it you can sit back and watch it happen. It is a beautiful thing.

However, as they get older, play changes and so do their interests. I’ve noticed with my teens that they resist going outside. Don’t they remember when every day was an outdoor adventure? Making mud pies and jumping in puddles may no longer be entertaining, but I still insist they head outside in search of new adventures.

Why is it so important? Well, there are numerous apparent reasons: it’s good for your health, builds imagination, encourages risk taking and increases one’s socialization. Moreover though, spending time outside is the best way to investigate God’s creation.

The Lost Words bird“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”  Job 12:7-10

In England, they have eliminated from certain dictionaries a number of words related to the natural world to order to make room for more “modern” words. A book entitled The Lost Words was written in response to this. It is a collection of poems about these very important words, now removed. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

The Lost WordsOnce upon a time, words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly at first almost no one noticed – fading away like water on stone. The words were those that children used to name the natural world around them: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker – gone. Fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow wren…all of them gone. The words were becoming lost: no longer vivid in children’s voices, no longer alive in their stories.”

It is upsetting to think that the next generation may not appreciate or know God’s world from firsthand experience. Perhaps they will only have read about it from a computer screen or seen a clip of nature from an app on their phone. Harvard Medical School recently published the following affirmation of outdoor play. “If a child grows up never walking in the woods, digging in soil, seeing animals in their habitat, climbing a mountain, playing in a stream, or staring at the endless horizon of an ocean, they may never really understand what there is to be lost. The future of our planet depends on our children; they need to learn to appreciate it.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/6-reasons-children-need-to-play-outside-2018052213880

So the next time you look outside and wonder if it’s worth venturing out, consider this. Whether it’s covered in snow, dripping with rain, whistling with wind or filled with the sun’s rays; this is our Father’s world!

 

*All pictures used in this blog are from The Lost Words book by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

Blog, Blessing

A Blessing for the New Year

By Mrs. Angie Weyler, Preschool TA

I was flying home after spending the holidays with 16 family members in 1 house for 9 days. Phew. My husband gifted me with the best Christmas present ever–a seat by myself in my own row on the flight home, while he graciously sat in the same row with our 3 girls and took care of their every need for the 3-hour plane ride home. Again, the best presents aren’t necessarily wrapped. 

The flight home was the first time in 9 days I was able to sit, clear my mind, read, pray, and just be still. There were no more cookies to bake, no more meals to cook, no more presents to wrap, no more holiday movies to watch, no more. Period. For 3 hours I was able to just sit with Jesus and hear what He wanted to say to me for the upcoming new year. 

Since no one needed me to open their snack or adjust the volume on their headphones or take them to the bathroom (again), I opened the book my mother gave me for Christmas–To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings written by John O’Donohue–and got lost in the simple, yet profound words of wisdom. I was hardly surprised when one of the first blessings entitled “A Morning Offering” so beautifully and appropriately prepared me to usher in 2020. I have included an excerpt of this inspiring blessing below. 

From the blessing “A Morning Offering”

Blog blessing

I pray we all take time this year to give God a few moments of silence every single day to fill our tanks, strengthen our hearts, sharpen our minds, and refresh our souls. When we are intentional and determined to drown out the noise and give God the quietness of our lives, He repeatedly and faithfully and powerfully shows up. Time and time and time again. 

Praying we all get our own row this year and allow God to take and bless the few moments of peace, quietness, and solitude we have each day for His glory and the betterment of this world. 

 

book, teach like Finland, blog

Teach Like Finland

By Corrine Previte, 5th grade teacher

This past summer, I was able to take an Advanced Human Development class at Gordon College towards my masters. One of the assignments was to write a paper pertaining to childhood development. I decided to write about the development of children in the Finnish school system. Why did I decide to research this topic? Finland is one of the top-rated schools in the world and I was curious on why that was. This led me to dive straight into my research.

Over the course of my research I came across a book titled “Teach like Finland” by Timothy Walker. A Boston native himself, decided to take the plunge and teach abroad in Finland for a year. He soon discovered that maybe the Finns were doing something right. For instance, students in Finland take fifteen-minute breaks for every forty-five minutes of instruction. During this time, students usually went outside to play and socialize with friends. Walker had begun to notice that children would come into his classroom with a “bounce in their step” rather than “dragging their feet.” According to Anthony Pellegrini (author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development) his findings “confirm that frequent breaks boost attentiveness in class” (Walker, 2016, 11). Another professor from McGill University believed that “giving the brain time to rest, through regular breaks, leads to greater productivity and creativity” (Walker, 2016, 13).

After reading this part of the text, I started implementing this strategy into my classroom with my fifth graders and have found that the kids are more motivated to learn and ready to tackle their next task. One of my students stated that “brain breaks are fun, they just help us get ready for things, like tests.”

Another strategy I have used that is recommended by the Finns is mindfulness. I am currently using “Ready, Set, Relax” by Jeffery S. Allen and Roger J. Klein, which is a research based program. According to Teach like Finland, mindfulness not only helps kids remain attentive but it also helps them have greater empathy, emotional control, and Previtte's classroomoptimism. It also helped with their cognitive control and stress physiology and showed “greater decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and peer-rated aggression” (Walker, 2016, 52). By using this program, I have noticed that after we have done a mindfulness activity, students are more relaxed and able to transition smoothly to the lesson we are about to begin. Students are also eager to do it and want to do 1-2 mindfulness activities before we even begin a lesson. One of my fifth graders stated that mindfulness is “fun, it feels good because we get to sit down and relax after recess, it calms me down. It helps me to stay focused.” Another student stated that “I like it because it relaxes me and makes me feel less stressed.” Overall, as a teacher in the United States, I think we can all learn something from Finnish schools and maybe if we can’t implement all of their suggestions, we can implement some of their techniques in order to create a happy, healthy, and peaceful learning environment.

Brobots competing with robot

Congratulations to the NSCS Robotics Team!

Saturday, December 7th the NSCS Robotics Team competed in their 1st Robotics Tournament against 34 other teams from New England.

Our team consisted of an elementary team representing themselves as the Brobots, the 6th & 7th graders dubbed Code Breakers and the 8th graders also known as the Steam Punks.

Take a peek at their ranking!

Brobots Robotics TeamElementary team (Brobots)
Combined Teams: 11th place and qualified for Tournament Finals – Placed 5th overall in Finals
Combined Skills: 5th Place
Autonomous: 1st Place

 

 

 

 

Code Breakers Robotics Team6 & 7th Graders (Code Breakers)
Combined Teams: 23rd Place
Combined Skills: 4th Place
Autonomous: Did not compete

 

 

 

Steam Punks Robotics Team8th graders (Steam Punks
Combined Teams: 14th Place
Combined Skills: 8th Place
Autonomous: Did not compete

 

 

Note that although our teams are broken up by grade, there was only one competition (with 34 entrants) and all grades competed in together.

Thank you to Mr. Cook for his leadership in implementing the Robotics Program at NSCS and giving our students this unique learning opportunity. The next competition is January 19th. Stay tuned for more greatness…

Celebrating Christmas Around the World

By Taylor Morris, 3rd/4th Grade teacher

It has been said by many that this is the most wonderful time of the year and as Christians it is not hard to see why.  December is a much anticipated time of year as we recall our Savior’s birth and are reminded that He will come again. This is a time of celebration and of many traditions that are continually being carried on. This week through the rest of December  3rd graders on the Beverly campus are learning about Christmas traditions around the world. They are finding that even Christians around the world have different traditions than we do. 

Society tells us that this time of year is all about asking for and receiving the things we want, but as Christians we know we have been given all we need through Christ’s birth. The third graders are focusing on different traditions and cultures around the world and will be presenting their projects to each other so that everyone will learn about all of the different places. The places being studied are Ethiopia, Australia, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Canada, and Germany. 

Morris grade 3/4Students will be presenting their findings with a stocking report. They will show each other where the country they are presenting is on the map, relate their celebrations to how we celebrate through comparing and contrasting, tell us how this place says Merry Christmas, and either dressing up like people do in this place at Christmas or making a traditional holiday food. In class we are also reading about other places in the world to learn more about them. We are making our best effort to think outside of ourselves at this time of year when it would be so easy to just focus on inward. I am excited to see what each student learns through this process. The third graders are so excited to take on this task. Gifts and decorating are wonderful but at the core we are really concerned about the true reason for this season

 

Hamilton bulletin board

Thanksgiving in Hamilton

By Kristy Camp, Early Childhood Program, Hamilton Campus

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.  Psalm 69:30

In this season of hustle and bustle, we pause to give thanks to God for all that He has created, given, and blessed us with.  It is a time of preparation for the birth of that beautiful Savior, and also for gathering with family and friends.thanksgiving Feast Hamilton

During this month, my TAs Jan, Deb and myself have been speaking often to my class of preschool/preK-ers about giving thanks, being thankful and what it looks like to thank God for what he has bestowed upon us.  We’ve read some books about the Pilgrims, Natives and the first Thanksgiving.  We’ve read other books about what Thanksgiving looks like today in our homes and how we center around the table with family and friends.  We’ve read passages in our Bible, stories about God’s people who give thanks for hardships, trials and also joys and victories.  But most of all, we just talk to them about how blessed we are that we can come to school, worship and play with our friends, have good nutritious food to eat, shelter over our heads, and a beautiful campus that we can enjoy for its nature and green space.  And they get it!  The children may be young, but they show thanksgiving everyday in their actions toward one another, their kind words, or just the caring they have for each other and also us, the teachers.

thanksgiving feastAs we closed out November, it was our great joy to share in a Thanksgiving feast with the children at school.  Many wonderful parents helped set up and prepare a delicious spread of food for the children and each other to enjoy.  I was truly thankful to see the children all sitting together and enjoying the special meal.  They were kind, gracious and polite, all of the things you hope to see in your class.  I was proud as well as thankful.

As we move into December my prayer for them is that they remember what being thankful is and feels like as we begin our Christmas season.  We will continue to speak often of being thankful in the classroom.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Hamilton class thanksgiving

 

Middle School, Field trip, State House

Last Friday’s 7th & 8th Grade Field Trip

Students in grades 7 & 8 are in the midst of the 1789 Constitutional Convention this week and next week.

In preparation for this Constitutional Convention the middle schoolers took a field trip to the Massachusetts State House and Old South Meeting House last Friday. Students visited the House, Sentate, and Executive branches of the State House and learned about the revolutionary war connection to the Old South Meeting House.

 

Middle School, Field Trip, State House

Blog, Student Council

Student Government – A Dream Come True

By Liz MacDavitt, 3/4th grade teacher

I have learned a lot in my seven years as a teacher at NSCS. Most of what I’ve learned has been from watching my students be bold, daring, and confident. I have seen countless students ask big questions, persevere through challenges, and dream without limits. In these moments, the students truly have become the teacher!

I’ve always enjoyed teaching students in 3rd and 4th grade about government and politics. I’ve been interested in government and politics from a young age, and I grew up participating in Student Government activities in school. I once had big dreams of working for the US Government, but felt a stronger call of teaching on my life. I’ve been delighted year after year to share this passion with my students in the classroom, and my hope has always been that students will share in this passion with me. 

It seemed as if my dreams were coming true when a student approached Mrs. Heintz with the idea for starting a Student Government on the Beverly Campus last winter. This student asked me to advise, along with Mrs. Heintz, and admitted that some of this interest was born out of studying government in my class. We worked tirelessly last winter and spring to flush out this idea and make a concrete plan for putting it into practice. Students in grades 3-8 would be able to run for President and Vice President, by formally submitting an application and participating in an interview with the Faculty Advisors. President and Vice President elections were held in late May, and Class Representative elections were held this October. Candidates prepared speeches and campaigned by hanging posters, making buttons, and meeting with prospective voters – their peers. As a result, we have elected a team of eight students and appointed two faculty advisors to participate in the first ever Student Government on the Beverly Campus!

President Daniel Gardner (grade 5) and Vice President Emma Hickey (grade 6) had the opportunity to meet with Massachusetts State Representative Jerry Parisella (of Beverly) early this fall. Daniel and Emma sought advice from Mr. Parisella about how our school’s Student Government could serve the Beverly community. Next week, Student Government members will be removing Veteran’s Day flags from the North Beverly Cemetery, right behind our school. In the spring, we plan to partner with community members for an Earth Day cleanup project around  public places like parks and beaches in Beverly. These are just two examples of community service projects in which we plan to be involved. This group of young leaders is excited to serve!

Not only is this a dream come true for me, but also for the students involved, too. At our first Student Government meeting of this school year, President Daniel Gardner shared the following: “This is super amazing. I never thought this would be like this. Looking around at everyone, I’m just really happy. I can’t believe this just started as an idea. I think God really wanted me to do this. I felt like this school needed something special like this.” I wholeheartedly agree with Daniel and I wait in anxious anticipation of what awesome things we’ll see God do through this new program. The excitement and eagerness flows like a mighty river during our meetings, as we brainstorm ways we can work together to improve our school and community. I know we’ll keep asking big questions of God and each other, persevere through challenges that come as we grow and learn together, and continue to dream big things for our school and greater community. Stay tuned for an amazing year of Student Government projects, and keep dreaming with us!