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Mrs. Dunion's Grade 5 page:

    * When in doubt, please check it out! Should families ever have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me via email at ddunion@johnsonschool.org, the school telephone system at (781) 581-1600 - extension 204, or by a note with your child. I firmly believe that the home and school must work hand in hand, so I truly appreciate any input, which will enable me to empower your students to learn more fully and grow as much as possible. Thank you.

July 8, 2013:
Hello! I want to thank each and every family for allowing me the privilege of working with your wonderful children on a daily basis throughout the past academic year. It has truly been a positive experience to be able to continue to learn and grow, along with each one of your students. I am thoroughly confident that every learner will continue to push oneself to become the wondrously successful person each is meant to be. Please know that in my heart, I will continue to be encouraging and cheering each student along as everyone strives to reach for one's stars and achieve success in every new endeavor. Ah, such promising futures just waiting to evolve! I honestly wish every student the very best. I truly believe that the foundation has been built, so now it is up to every individual learner to continue to blossom and flourish as much as possible. Always remember that we are only limited by our own imaginations. Do well, everyone. Take good care.
June 10, 2013:
Greetings, everyone. Hopefully all is going well. Your students are still working away completing a few writing projects, and I am still thoroughly enjoying spending part of my days with such interesting, promising learners. Hopefully, students are becoming in the healthy habit of reading for meaning each day, and I trust that this process will continue throughout the rest of this school year, but also during the summertime and for the rest of their lives.

May 18, 2013:
Hello, everyone! Well, we are on our last hurrah of the school year, and I am still thoroughly enjoying working with your clever and creative students. Your young authors are busy working on several projects, and most of their attention is focused upon crafting the 'best possible' book, which should reflect how far each writer has come so far this year. It is exciting to feel the positive energy and creative juices flowing! Hopefully, each student will feel proud of a job well done, and learn a lot in the process.
April 23, 2013:
Just checking in to let everyone know that your students are working industriously in class. We have been analyzing Longfellow's famous narrative poem honoring Paul Revere's Ride, in connection to our recent Patriot's Day holiday. We have been stressing the power of visualizing when one reads poetry. We also have completed our first Literature Circle titles, and are beginning to embark upon our next book group challenge. I am hopeful that the students will continue to take their roles seriously and work cooperatively within their new book groups. The students seem excited to tackle new titles, so I am expecting nothing but the best. How promising! It has been quite rewarding to observe the students working independently and seeming to thrive chatting about the characters and plots within their respective stories. How refreshing to watch and listen as the students demonstrate deep understandings and the camaraderie of discussing great books together.
April 8, 2013:
Greetings, everyone! Your students have been doing a great job participating in our Literature Circles activities. They truly seem to be well-invested and appear to be thriving when working independently within the book groups. I am quite impressed! Hopefully we can continue the process for the rest of the school year. I have some great sets of titles, just waiting to be explored and enjoyed together with members of the book teams. What fun and what a great way to build / reinforce those valuable reading comprehension skills.

March 26, 2013:
I received an email today stating that there was a delivery error distributing the Newspapers in Education articles (N.I.E.News) printed by the Daily Item. The message explained that the newspapers would be delivered next Tuesday. It is unfortunate to delay allowing the students to celebrate their published work, but it is out of our control. I did bring in my copy of the paper from home, so the students did have a sneak peek, but we eagerly await receiving the individual newspapers. This edition, we had 15 articles published, so the Johnson School was well represented. It is always interesting for the students to realize that the editors of the newspaper choose all of the pieces, so I am just as surprised as they are regarding whose pieces actually get printed. It is such a thrill to be a published author! I truly wish every single student could savor that sweet satisfaction associated with seeing one's work formally published for a wide audience. I strongly reinforced the belief that all of the students did successfully craft quality pieces of writing, but space is limited for actual publication. Hopefully the whole writing process was a positive learning experience for everyone.

March 25, 2013:
Hello! Hope all is well. What a relief to know that our ELA MCAS assessment is now history. Since I proctored the tests for my own homeroom students, I was not able to see for myself how your children attacked the challenges presented. I did sense positive vibes from many of the students, where they seem to truly feel that they applied our reading-for-meaning strategies and honestly tried to do their best work on the assigned tasks. That is all I can ask of any students, so we will simply have to wait and see how well they fare. I do see progress in class each day, so I feel confident that your students are learning and making gains. Of course, whether these positives are reflected on official results remains to be seen. I am just pleased to note the feelings of pride and satisfaction, which the students seem to share, since the actual tests are simply two snapshots of performance on those particular days. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the individual feedback notes from the students after the testing experience was completed, and we are now striving to finish the year on a positive note, where every student pushes oneself to reach one's own personal best. How exciting!
Today in class, we began modeling how to behave productively in quality Literature Circle groups. We are sharing a short realistic fiction story together, analyzing word choices, imagery, character development, theme, and sharing our ideas as we read. The emphasis is placed upon asking 'thick questions', which invite interesting conversations and the sharing of personal reactions, connections, predictions, and inferences. It was a pleasure to begin the piece together, and it was very refreshing to hear positive comments at the end of class that students did not want to stop reading! How promising! I am very hopeful that the entire Literature Circle experience wiil be positive and successful for everyone.

March 11, 2013:
Hello! All seems to be well! Hopefully there were no surprises with report  card results, as the grades truly are intended to provide a snapshot of student performance.
I wanted to let you know that I will be attending a promising program at Salem State University tomorrow with the 6th grade girls. The conference goes by the acronym W.I.S.E., which stands for Women in Science and Engineering, which is intended to encourage and affirm the attitude of girls choosing to follow rigorous academic programs to empower them to pursue careers in the maths and sciences. It should be an exciting and beneficial experience.
Mrs. Tibbo will be teaching the 5th grade, as well as the 6th grade boys, for the day. Students already have an ELA assignment due on Wednesday, and I just posted a new Study Island challenge due this Friday, March 15th, so no one should be bored!

March 1, 2013:
We had a wonderful day celebrating Reading! We enjoyed sharing many of our old Dr. Seuss favorites and and discovering some unfamiliar titles. All of the students did a top-notch job reading with their Buddies, matched up from First Grade. There was a gentle buzz of excitement permeating throughout the classrooms as all of the children seemed to be savoring the shared reading experience. What a treat! A great time was had by all, and I am sure that everyone learned a lot, too! How nice!

February 28, 2013:
Tomorrow is Read Across America Day, so we are sure to enjoy our time together celebrating the magic of Dr. Seuss. We will be buddying up with our friends in Grade One to do some shared reading of Dr. Seuss favorites, so if any students bring in books from home, they will earn extra credit the easy way! Please make sure all books have students' names inside, so all books can go back home again at the end of the day. Many thanks.

February 26, 2013:
Hello, everyone! I trust that all is well. I am still thoroughly enjoying the privilege of working with your students each day. I truly look forward to sharing their wondrously creative ideas and caring personalities. We honestly work, work, work during our allotted time together. Thank you for your ongoing support as your children are blossoming before our very eyes!
Tomorrow morning at 8:30, the school level competition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be held. All of the students in grades 4, 5, and 6 participated in the first rounds within the individual classrooms. The winning students from those bees will now be representing their classes, competing for the honor of representing the Johnson School in the upcoming Regional Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Daily Item. Best wishes to all participants. They are all winners already! Bravo!
Students have new challenges on Study Island, due February 28th. Thank you for your encouragement of successful completion of these valuable review and reinforcement opportunities.
January 15, 2013:
Hello! We are all eager to share the clever scripts teaching us some of Aesop's most famous fables, from 500 B.C.! Imagine that our students are making these lessons current for today's world. What fun! Thank you for all of your ongoing support and assistance as our authors / directors are preparing their performances.

January 11, 2013:
Hello, everyone! Your students have embraced the New Year, and we have been working industriously all week. Students should certainly still be reading for meaning on a daily basis, and then leaving tracks of their thinking in their RRJ's at least 6 days each week. In addition to strengthening reading comprehension strategies, these journal entries serve as practice for improving one's skills as a powerful writer.
The big buzz right now is creating screenplays, or scripts, to teach our classmates some of the more well-known of Aesop's Fables. We have been sharing several Readers' Theater style skits in class, and now students have the option of writing their own plays or a puppet shows, which they will present in class, beginning next week. The scripts are due on Wednesday, January 16th, and we will review progress so far in class on this coming Monday. It is refreshing to feel the positive energy and excitement as we begin the New Year on a positive note. How nice! The simile projects were terrific, too! Bravo!

December 21, 2012:
Greetings, everyone! This is a wonderful opportunity to wish every family the best of the best of the holiday season. Please cherish every memory with your wonderful children. Savor every moment, as Goodness knows, your young scholars are growing up before our eyes! I have been thoroughly enjoying sharing part of my days with your students, and I truly feel blessed to have all of you in my life. I genuinely appreciate working as a team, trying to encourage your children to achieve as much success as they possibly can. I wish you and all of your loved ones happiness, love, and peace throughout the New Year. Take care.

December 7, 2012:
Hello, everyone! I am still thoroughly enjoying having the privilege of working with your creative children each day. You can rest assured that most of us are working hard and trying our very best to keep building our repertoires of strategies and skills. If any families want to  meet for an update regarding report card feedback, please feel free to let me know, and we will gladly set up times, which work for all of us. Many thanks for your ongoing support and assistance in empowering your children to grow as much as possible this year. Take care.

November 9, 2012:
Sincere thanks to all of our wonderful families, who worked together so well to provide an outstanding celebration to honor and thank all of Nahant's dear veterans. The entire town thanks you for all of your generosity, time, and effort. Also, you serve as wonderful role models for your children. Many thanks for all you do. Take care.

October 27, 2012:
Greetings! I wanted to be sure to remind all of the families that our students have a new Study Island challenge due by November 2nd. Once the students achieve the blue ribbons in each topic area, they should still practice their skills by playing their favorite games out of those provided by the site. Thank you to all of the families for encouraging the students to successfully fulfill their responsibilites using this proven study tool, which is aligned with state standards. If past assignments still need attention, it is never too late to catch up!
This coming week, we are taking a break from our usual routine, and we are focusing upon a creative writing activity, in lieu of our usual vocabulary requirements. On Halloween, we will be celebrating a Story Festival in class, where students will be sharing their clever tales with the rest of the class and receiving valuable feedback. The students seem very excited and motivated to craft quality stories. What a treat! Each student needs to submit a prewrite activity, rough draft(s), and a polished final draft, as well as practicing in front of a mirror to perfect how to present the story. I am eager to share the students' creative expressions.
October 23, 2012:
Ah! The end of another full day! Your students have been working diligently to create touching poetry to honor our dedicated Veterans, and the pieces are really starting to come together. It truly is a pleasure to guide and watch as each student strives to craft a quality piece, which shares personal ideas and emotions. We worked in the computer lab this morning, and many of the writers seem quite proud of their products so far. How promising!
Students also need to be mastering the group poetry pieces to be recited at our programs. I realize that it involves a lot of hard work, but it is all for a noble cause. Thank you for encouraging your students to keep practicing each piece until the words become their own. We want that well earned sense of pride and accomplishment to shine through. The students really do seem invested and are making real progress. Many thanks.

October 18, 2012:
Hello, everyone. Hopefully everything is going well for all of our terrific students. True to form, we are very industrious in class each day, and it seems like just a blink of the eye, and your children are ready to leave me to move on with their days' schedules!
I am quite pleased and encouraged by the positive attitudes and willingness to participate in our preparations for our upcoming Veteran's Day program. So far, so good! Our celebration honoring our devoted veterans will be held on Friday, November 9th, from 12:30 - 2:00. I am sure that your Room Parents will be contacting families to assist in providing refreshments and helping to make this valuable undertaking a successful experience for all involved.
Tomorrow, I am hopeful to accomplish some serious writing and revising of the student poetry for our keepsake booklet for each guest to take home from our celebration. That means intensive conferencing one-on-one, in order to guide each author in fine-tuning the poems to make sure that every piece is actually the strongest possible. The sense of pride and satisfaction of a job well done is very important for every student to savor. I really enjoy being able to work with each writer, as he or she develops one's voice as an effective writer. How exciting!
October 10, 2012:
Greetings and salutations, everyone! It has been a while since I have had the chance to sit down and catch up with all that we have been doing. Trust me wholeheartedly when I report that almost every single one of us is truly working hard and trying one's very best to achieve success every day in class. I enjoy sharing part of my days with such an enthusiastic, eager group of learners. We are just beginning our preparations to honor all of Nahant's noble veterans for Veteran's Day 2012, so we are sure to be busier, even than usual! It is so worth all of the time, energy, and effort, though! Do take care.

Please remind your students to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by Study Island. The standards-based review and reinforcement really can play an important role regarding mastery.

September 27, 2012:
Today seemed quite productive, and many of us tried our best to accomplish all of our goals for the day. It truly is amazing how quickly the periods seem to pass, since we have so much on our agenda. Needless to say, we really do not have 'down time' to get restless or bored. On that note, if any students crave more stimulation, the option for earning Extra Credit is a standing offer. So far, I have already received pieces from several students on the 5th - 6th Grade Team, so please encourage your children to push themselves for excellence and demonstrate the initiative to do extra assignments of their own choosing. We constantly need to nurture and nourish that all-essential sense of wonder. If your children are unsure in which direction to proceed, please remind them to chat with me and work out an individual plan of attack. As a matter of fact, today's Power Word of the Day was self-actualization, so we discussed how everyone is continuously in the process of growing and becoming better and better.  How exciting!

Please Note: Students need to do a commendable job on their reading and RRJ entries tonight, as I will be checking them for grades in class tomorrow. I distributed a sheet of sample successful journal entries to the class, so everyone should now be crystal clear about expectations and responsibilities for daily ELA homework. Trust me, there are no gifts! I expect honest effort and proof of a desire to do one's best at all times.  We need to develop good habits and study skills. Thank you for encouraging your children to do their best on all assignments. I truly do NOT believe in simply assigning 'busy work', so every challenge truly is important and does count.

I want to thank those students, who made the extra effort, to stay for our Extra Help session yesterday after school. There is an open invitation to any and all students to attend each Wednesday afternoon, 2:15 - 3:00. We'll be there, and as they say, "Be there or be square!" Kidding aside, it can be helpful to receive the extra ELA review and reinforcement.

September 26, 2012:
Ah, another busy day! I was pleased to note that most of the students seemed to take last evening's homework assignment seriously. Today we took our time to very deliberately review the students' active reading strategies and to model how to successfully tackle multiple choice items on tests. We used individual white boards, so I could get instant feedback of each learner's status; plus it makes the activity more pleasant for the students (and not sheer drudgery!) We never yet made it to sharing the Open Response results, but tomorrow is another day! Of course, tomorrow, students also have their third vocabulary quiz. It will be interesting to see if the students are internalizing how to successfully approach these tests and whether they are being meticulous applying helpful study skill strategies. So much of what we do is focused upon instilling proper study habits, so the students can fine tune their skills and make every effort to earn full credit for all of their powerful ideas.

Of course, students should also be reading up a storm each day and keeping tracks of their thinking as they read. After 3 successfully journal entries each day, students may then cozy up with whatever reading materials they are currently reading and simply enjoy! How lucky!

Thank you for reminding your children about our Study Island challenges, too.

September 25, 2012:
Today we introduced our weekly reading comprehension practice assignments, which usually can be expected for Tuesday evening's homework. Much more important than the particular answers on these individual lessons is the process of how to successfully approach a testing situation. We are trying to instill proven study skill habits to enable each student to achieve as much success as possible. Over time, these habits should become internalized to empower each reader to actively read for meaning and be able to earn as much credit as possible for one's interesting ideas. Over the course of the academic year, it can be quite refreshing to observe how much progress each student can actually accomplish. While the students tend to moan and groan about these assignments, these lessons are provided by the state and really are very instrumental in fostering growth. We always review the work in class and try to model and reinforce clever strategies. While all assignments are noted for the amount of effort apparently put forth, random lessons will actually be graded for both reading comprehension and writing input for report card grades. Students never know which lessons will be scored, so they need to complete every assignment with one's BEST attitude and effort, assuming that these results will count. Students actually self-correct their Open Response performance each week, in an effort to assume ownership of the responsibility to strive for excellence. Let's see how far your children can grow this year.
There is a new Study Island challenge posted, with a due date of October 2nd. Thank you for encouraging your child to make the necessary time and exert the required effort to complete the task with pride.

September 24, 2012:
Happy Monday, everyone! We were quite busy, once again, in class today, where every student is actively engaged in further developing one's literacy skills. I made a point of modeling how to successfully actively read a piece of nonfiction informational text, leaving tracks of my thinking in the process, and the students then had the opportunity to practice their skills and share their ideas with their peers.

It has come to my attention that many of the students have NOT yet been taking our Study Island Challenges seriously. This is disappointing, as the Study Island component of our curriculum is a critical piece. It provides valuable review and reinforcement of the various concepts and skills, aligned with our state standards. Each week your children will be tackling challenges, and their progress on these assignments is factored into report card grades. The goal each week is to earn Blue Ribbons in each area of study. Once the Blue Ribbons have been earned, students may then continue to practice their skills by playing their favorite games, provided by the site to make the drills more interesting and fun. I truly hope to see a dramatic turn-around when I print out the stats regarding individual student progress, at the end of this week. I hope to be impressed by an honest effort and desire to showcase one's skills. Thank you for your assistance in encouraging your students to do themselves proud on their weekly Study Island ventures. These lessons really are important.

September 20, 2012:
It was a pleasure to touch base with families last evening at our Open House. For those folks, who could not attend, I did send home my handout information with your children this morning in class. I cannot stress enough that I firmly believe that the home and school need to work closely together in order to empower our students to grow as much as possible, over the course of the school year. I am hopeful and confident that we will all enjoy a successful 5th grade adventure. I enjoy working with each 5th grade student, and look forward to nurturing every child, as he or she continues to blossom as a learner. How promising!

September 18, 2012:
Another busy but productive day! Just a quick reminder that I am eagerly looking forward to meeting all of our terrific families tomorrow evening at our Open House.
September 17, 2012:
Well, we are pretty much back to our regular routines again! It was interesting to share some of the feedback of what the students believe they learned over the past week, which seems to be quite impressive. Then we went on to setting up our binders and organizing some of our paperwork. We reviewed our vocabulary words for this week's quiz, which will be on Friday this week. Before we knew it, it was already time for the students to pass on to their next class. Phew! Where does the time go?
Just a reminder that students have a Study Island assignment due tomorrow (assigned back on September 5th). Each week, students will have a challenge to complete, which provides valuable review and reinforcement in mastering key concepts, aligned with state standards. A word of caution: All responses count and are maintained by the site, keeping a running record of levels of success. Once every answer is entered, there is no deleting that response from one's score. The key is to carefully consider all answer choices before selecting the best option available. Individual and class results get automatically emailed weekly to the Principal and Superintendent, so students truly want to do themselves proud each week. Thank you for encouraging and supporting your children in their ongoing quest for excellence.
September 16, 2012:
Hello! I trust that everyone is sleeping more comfortably, now that we are all tucked in at home again, safely and soundly from our incredible learning experiences at the Ferry Beach Ecology School. I, for one, know that I am catching up on the zzz's and sleeping like a baby again, now that I no longer bear that heavy-duty responsibility, which comes from caring 24 / 7 for the safety and happiness of all of our children's well being. Hopefully your children have plenty of feel-good stories and positive memories to share from our week's adventures. All in all, I sincerely believe that this was a valuable experience for all involved. To paraphrase someone famous, "These are the stuff that dreams are made of."
That being said, we will be back to reality in the morning. I feel confident that the bonding from this past week will carry over in a positive way to flavor the rest of our  experiences throughout the school year. How promising!
September 14th, at 10:00:
We will be greeting you all in person in just a few hours. We are eager to be home again. It's been awesome, but it is time. How nice for everyone involved!
September 13th , at 8:10 pm:
Just touching base to reaffirm that all of your special loved ones are doing just fine. The clay in the Salt Marshes seemed to be quite the hit, and I have several great photos to prove it! Dinner this evening went by without a hitch, where we enjoyed salad, pulled barbequed pork, mashed potatoes, veggie medley, bread, fresh fruit, and banana cake. After dinner, the students needed to begin to pack up their rooms, since we need to vacate the dorms tomorrow before breakfast. The learners are now out on their final night lesson, and they will be returning shortly. Some of us are hoping to be able to watch the sunrise over at the beach in the morning, so we really need to have our gear pretty much set tonight. We certainly stay busy, so that is probably part of the grand scheme of things to keep the level of homesickness in check. Your children will love to greet you in the afternoon! It is fun to get away, but somehow it is always fun to get back to home sweet home again.
September 13th, at 2:10 pm:
Your terrific children are doing fine in our little home away from home at our school away from school. Another Middle School arrived this morning, so the campus is much more lively. There were well over 100 students at the cafe for lunch, but the staff seems under control to manage the increase in numbers. The new students are settling in at a separate dorm, so our living space is the same as we have grown accustomed. Lunch was a real favorite, since it included delicious home-made cheese pizza, salad, chips, fresh fruit, and lemonade. Each table received tokens to pick up 3 good sized pizzas, so everyone certainly had the opportunity to enjoy a hearty and nutritious lunch. Then after some volleyball and free time, the students got all prepped to go off safely and soundly for their afternoon lessons exploring the Salt Marsh biome. They are certain to come back with plenty of interesting stories to share about their experiences there.

September 13th, at 10:05 am:
Greetings! All is well, as we are enjoying another spectacular day in the wondrous state of Maine. We truly could not have ordered better weather. It is sunny and dry, warm without being too hot, and cool (but not cold) at night. The sunrises right outside our dorm windows have been picture-perfect! Everyone slept through the night quite well. Breakfast today was a hit, with French toast (from homemade organic bread), sausages, cereals and granola, fresh fruit, and apple juice. Everyone ate heartily, and the students are now out in the Forest (all covered and protected from mosquitoes and too much sun) participating with their naturalist educators in some new learning experiences. Such bliss!
September 12th, at 7:30 pm:
Just checking in with your latest update from the beautiful state of Maine. All of our students seem pleasant and most cooperative. Everyone is fully engaged and seems to be blossoming in our school away from school. It is a lot of fun to notice the bonding and new found respect beginning to take root as a result of participating in so many team-building activities and seeing each other in new ways.
Feedback from this afternoon's Tide Pools adventure was very positive, and free choice time went by smoothly. Dinner was delightful, with salad, chicken terriaki, rice, broccoli, lemonade, and fudge brownies. The darlings are currently out on a Night time adventure, and they will return to the dorm around 8:30 for the night. We expect everything will be on the up and up. Your children miss you, yet they are fully immersed in this new learning experience, which is just the way it should be. You have done a great job building their self-confidence to be open-minded and eager to tackle new challenges. How nice! Thank you and good night!
September 12th, at 2:05 pm:
All of your darlings are off on an adventure to some tide pools. They boarded a bus to visit some favorite spots, known for the variety of life forms. Lunch was great, with plenty of salad, warm turkey and cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, fresh fruit, and lemonade. As is the case for all of our meals, all vegetarian students also have their own option. Everyone seems to be fully enjoying the moment! We made sure that all students had sunscreen, hats, long sleeves, long pants, closed toe footwear, and possibly bug spray to keep everyone protected for their afternoon lesson. All is well.
September 12, 2012, at 9:45 am:
Good news! We all successfully made it through our first night away from home. The sunrise was absolutely breathtaking, and the students are currently out on a beach walk exploration with their study groups. Everyone seems happy and healthy. Breakfast was filling and quite tasty, with scrambled eggs, pan fries, choice of 4 cereals and granola, homemade banana bread, fresh fruit options, and apple juice. No one went hungry, and again - no complaints were voiced at all! Everyone is taking full advantage of the wonderful opportunities available to us. Hooray!
ps. I forgot to mention that with last evening's meal, there was also warm, homemade multigrain bread. Delish!
September 11th, at 7:40 pm:
Just checking in again to let you all rest easy that your darlings are all doing very well. The afternoon lessons were successful, and then everyone used the available free time in a positive way. We are all having fun, fun, fun! Dinner was delicious with salad, pasta, veggies, sauce (made mostly from ingredients in their own organic garden), and a yummy cookie. The weather could not be better! Right now it is getting dark and the students all wore sweatshirts or jackets to their evening class, which is on marine biology. I am sure they will be abuzz with excitement again upon their return to the dorms for the evening. At 8:30, they will have juice and a final team meeting of the day, and then the Ferry Beach instructors will return our charges to our care until breakfast, tomorrow morning at 8:00. Yes, all is well in Ferry Beach.
September 11, 2012:
How nice! There is a computer available for the staff at Ferry Beach. We all arrived happy and healthy. The bus ride up was comfortable and uneventful. We enjoyed a great lunch of chicken fajitas, salad, and fruit. There was plenty to go around, and I did not hear any complaints at all. They even provide vegetarian options for those students so inclined. Our dorms are recently renovated, and they truly are quite "homey". Again, I have only heard positive comments from all. Life is good! It is 2:20, and all of the students are out with their study groups, investigating Ecology ABC's. I will try to keep you updated. Take care, and rest easy that your terrific children are enjoying a wonderful experience.

September 10, 2012:
Gee, our time together seemed to go by even faster today than usual! We were able to tie up some loose ends, and the students all wrote 'pick-me-up' greeting cards to fellow members of our 5-6 Team, as well as to themselves. Each student also received a mini journal and a mechanical pencil to use to record thoughts, feelings, and reactions during the rest of the week. Everyone going to Ferry Beach seems very excited and appears to be looking forward to a positive learning experience in the Great Outdoors. For those students, who will be staying at the Johnson School, I am sure that they will be busy and happy, too. We will touch base again after we return from Maine. Take care.
September 9, 2012:
Woo Hoo! Just 2 more wake-ups until our exciting adventure to Ferry Beach Environmental School begins! How exciting to learn in the Great Outdoors, as our school away from our usual surroundings! Tomorrow in class, in addition to finishing up some other activities, we will be writing cards to our classmates to receive while we are away, so that way everyone will be sure to receive mail. We are even writing greetings to ourselves, to help to reflect about our thoughts and feelings regarding our new experiences. Students will also receive mini notebooks to take at least 5 minutes each day to jot down whatever is on one's mind. Upon our return to class, every student is to share at least one piece with me, and I will, in turn, share feedback. This should prove to be helpful for me to keep my finger on the pulse of each student's feelings. I eagerly anticipate a positive experience will be enjoyed by all.
On last Friday, students did receive the new vocabulary listing for the week upon our return to reality. Students were told to tuck the words into a safe place, in order to be prepared for the week of September 17th - 21st.
September 6, 2012:
Today the students began to tackle a standardized Benchmark Assessment in both vocabulary and reading comprehension. Upon completion, analyzing performance on this inventory should prove helpful to establish a starting point for each student for continued skill development over the course of this school year. We also discussed our Power Word of the Day (diligent) and modeled how to effectively study independently using our vocabulary study cards. It is important for the readers to be flexible with the words and definitions, so they should practice using the words and stating the corresponding meanings; then go back over the entire group of study cards, reversing the process, by reading the definitions and stating the corresponding vocabulary words. In this way, students should feel fully prepared to experience success on our weekly quiz. Hopefully, every student will feel positive about one's perfomance on our first test tomorrow morning.
Students should also be reading and using their RRJs daily. It really is important for strong readers to think about the content and leave tracks of their thinking.
While we are away at Ferry Beach Ecology School, each student should bring along a good book for quiet times, but students do NOT need to bring their RRJs. After we return, we will pick up where we leave off, and I expect all will be well.
I am looking forward to spending some quality time with all of your students, while we are away at camp next week. How exciting!
September 5, 2012:
Class today truly seemed to fly, since we were so busy! After working with today's Power Word (meticulous). we were able to complete setting up our Readers' Response Journals and actually had the opportunity to practice reading and making sample journal entries. It was encouraging to note that every reader was able to find at least one solid example of how the author used sensory imagery to help the reader better understand the content of the text. Tonight for part of homework, each student is going to read and write at least 3 entries in one's RRJ, hopefully being sure to code the types of thinking involved. We will share and review the students' performance in class tomorrow and see how well each reader fares. No worries if any student is not quite sure of what to do yet, as we will be constantly reviewing and reinforcing the various strategies inolved in reading for meaning.
We also began to demonstrate how to effectively use our study cards to master our vocabulary words for this week. Tomorrow we will continue to model how to use the cards as a powerful tool for studying independently.
I look forward to working with your wonderful students in the morning. Take care.
September 4, 2012:
Greetings! I am happy to report that I am thoroughly enjoying settling into daily routines with your students. It is fascinating getting to know each of your students and becoming aware of individual learning styles.
Due to the long weekend, we will take our first vocabulary quiz in class this Friday. Students received the words last Thursday, when we reviewed the definitions together in class. It is important to develop effective study skills, so each week students are required to make study cards (following the specified format presented in class). Tomorrow during class, we will take the time to demonstrate and model how to use their index cards effectively as a valuable tool for mastery. Tests are created in a style to encourage critical thinking skills, rather than simply tapping into rote memory demands. During typical full weeks of class, we will have our quizzes on Thursdays.
Today we began to set up our Readers' Response Journals, which will become an important component of our reading program. The emphasis is always upon reading for meaning and leaving tracks of our thinking as we read. Tomorrow in class we will practice using the RRJ successfully, and then it will become part of daily homework expectations. Students should bring their current books and RRJs to class each day, since we will also be "really reading" during class time and conferencing one-on-one, whenever possible. As part of homework, students need to read at least 20 minutes daily, 7 days each week, and also maintain at least 3 thoughtful responses to the material being read, 6 days each week. While it might seem a bit daunting at first, in time the students truly will form healthy reading habits and assume ownership for their own learning.
Students also work on expanding their vocabularies by participating in our daily Power Words program. In order for the students to truly internalize these 'grown-up' words and make them their own, it is essential for each student to experiment and play with using the words in various 'real world' contexts. Therefore, families are encouraged to review at least 3 of the new words each day, perhaps during dinner or carpools. If students should need guidance using some of the words appropriately, please help them to use the words more appropriately. Learning from mistakes is an important part of developing a strong working vocabulary, so I appreciate your assistance in encouraging our students to stretch their repertoire of powerful words toward mastery. This will be a year long process. Students have monthly calendars to keep track of each day's new word, and an adult is asked to please initial each day, acknowledging that some valuable word play has taken place. At the end of each month, calendars get submitted and are factored in as part of the overall ELA grade. Hopefully, families will have fun and look forward to playing with impressive new words together. The key will be when these powerful words start appearing in the students' conversations and writing. How exciting!
Well, that should do it for today's update. Thank you for all of your support and assistance as we strive to work together to provide the optimal educational opportunities for every learner. Take care.

September 3, 2012:
Hello, everyone! Over the long weekend, I have had the pleasure of sharing the first writing pieces for the 5th grade students. What a treat! While it is time intensive, I am thoroughly enjoying the variety of stories, and it is clear that each writer has truly tried to impress me with one's skills so far and power as effective writers. I am looking forward to sharing my feedback with the students tomorrow. How encouraging for a promising learning experience during our new academic journey!
August 28, 2012:
Welcome to the beginning of a wildly successful school year! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of your students this morning, when we switched classes for the first time. Everyone was cooperative and helpful, so I have every reason to believe that we are going to soar to new heights together throughout this academic year. How promising!

July 10. 2012:

Greetings, everyone! I trust that everybody is enjoying every sweet moment of our wondrous summertime vacation. I also hope that everyone is making time each day to enjoy some great reading of one's choice. Please be sure to keep an ongoing record of all of the materials read throughout our summer break. There is a form on the Johnson School home page to help to document your reading accomplishments during the summer months. Upon our return to class, it will be interesting and helpful for me to know the types of reading each student chooses. Many thanks. Take care.