ATC Principal's Newsletter

January 2016

Important Upcoming Dates

January 12th - PTO Meeting 6:30PM.

January 18th - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (NO SCHOOL).

January 26th - ATC School Council 3PM.

January 29th - Progress Reports (Grades 6/7 only).

February 15th - 19th- Winter Vacation (NO SCHOOL).

March 2nd - Full Court Frenzy 6-8PM.

March 18th - Report Cards issued for Trimester 2.

School Report Card

Every year the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education asks schools to share their State Report Card. This document provides parents with an overview of assessment and demographic data which shows how our school is performing in relation to other schools. We are extremely proud of the overall gains our school has made this year, specifically in the areas of ELA, science, and special education performance. Our school has identified some areas for improvement as well which are indicated in our school improvement plan posted on the ATC website. The report card can be accessed by clicking HERE and will also be attached to a separate email sent to all parents / guardians.

Students Get Reading!

With the Full Court Frenzy reading challenge under way, we have seen a tremendous boost of students getting hooked on books. Ms. Forina, our school librarian has noted a significant increase in the amount of students checking out books and the Reading Counts quizzes used in grades four and five have quickly skyrocketed. This time of the year is known as a high growth period for students as they build momentum with their learning. It is typically when we see the most gains in literacy and math so this challenge could not have occurred at a better time!


Each Friday through the end of February, the reading specialists will collect tickets for every book a student reads. Students in grades 4 and 5 need to pass a Reading Counts quiz and students in grades 6 and 7 need to have a "book talk" with one of their teachers focused on the text they read. Last week, we had many students submit tickets and look forward to this number going up and up!

How do I encourage my child to read more?

We all know the importance of reading and the overall positive benefits that students gain from developing a love of books. Students that read more tend to pursue more education, end up with higher incomes, and are less apt to take part in risky behaviors. Oftentimes, the biggest readers are the most active community members, volunteers and citizens. One could easily argue that developing strong readers is the most important job of parents and schools.


One question I frequently get from parents, especially parents of students that are in the middle grades, is, "How do I encourage my child to read more?"

I've spent a lot of time researching literacy and finding creative ways to get kids reading at all age levels. Three common suggestions tend to always dominate the discussion around fostering a love of books:


1. Limit distractions - Remove cell phones, TVs and electronic devices from the bedroom at night.

2. Have text available - One of the biggest differences between homes with readers and homes without readers is the presence of books, magazines, newspapers, and other sources of text. Picking out books with your children can be a really fun way to connect and spend time together.

3. Read together - In this digital age, it is so easy to get sidetracked with electronic devices. We sometimes forget how important it is for our children to see us read and enjoy reading as a pastime. Our kids will model our behavior so it is so critical they see us reading for pleasure.

ATC Students Visit M.I.T.

This past Monday, Ms. McCarthy's sixth grade STEM class visited M.I.T. and worked with Elizabeth Choe, program manager for the Office of Digital Learning. The students were invited down by Ms. Choe to help her undergraduate students as they create informational science videos for middle school students. Our students learned about the many components that go into an engaging informational film and even tried their own hand at videography.


Students visited various projects in the media wing including the personal robotics lab, the Scratch Computer Programming center, and the Opera of the Future experiment. They were paired up with an M.I.T. expert at each location and created their own informational video on this project. Ms. Choe will be coming to the ATC in a few weeks to help these students edit and produce their videos. Following this, students were interviewed by M.I.T. students in a "Shark Tank" style panel in which they gave feedback on various ideas the college students had for engaging multi-media films on various informational topics.

Grade 7 Hands-on Science

Once again this year, seventh grade students participated in a hands-on science lab dissecting pig hearts. The students were completely engaged as they learned about the functions and vessels of the heart. It was a very difficult activity but the students were well-prepared and did a wonderful job.
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Assessment Update: Winthrop Signs up for PARCC

This past Monday, the school committee confirmed the district will take PARCC this year for math and ELA. The ATC will continue with the science MCAS in grade 5 as there is not a PARCC science test available. This was good news to us as our students have not yet had the opportunity to take a computer-based assessment and the MCAS that will be administered this year is an experimental test which has not been proven to be a valid or reliable measure of progress. The 2016 PARCC test will be a good test run for students as we adjust to this testing format and the state develops the new MCAS 2.0 which we feel will be very similar to the current PARCC. With the work our students have been doing on TenMarks and the Chromebooks, we also feel confident they will be able to make a smooth transition and perform well.


Things parents should know:

- The PARCC is a timed test that will be taken between April 25 and June 6 of 2016.

- Sessions are either 60, 90, or 110 minutes depending on grade level. Here is a link with the exact testing times per grade: Click HERE.

- To see what these tests look like, check out one of the practice tests by clicking HERE.

- Students will be taking the exam on Chromebooks.

- Our school will be participating in a round of practice tests to prepare our students.

- Parents can always help by taking a look at the grade level standards and encouraging students to read and complete their homework. Grade level common core standards are available by clicking HERE.

- We will be providing more information as the year goes on and we get closer to the testing window.

- The ability to type well is a huge asset. Encourage your child to practice typing at home with these websites: Click HERE.

Curriculum Updates

Grade 4

In grade 4 ELA, students have been focused on the genre of realistic fiction in writing and reading. Character traits, motivations, and development are just some of the topics being targeted during ELA blocks. Fluency and comprehension skills are always a focus as well.

In math, students are beginning their unit on fraction equivalence as they tie up their unit on division.

Science classes are rotating through units depending on class.

Social studies classes are continuing their focus on states and capitals.


Grade 5

In grade 5 ELA, students are comparing and contrasting characters, texts, genres etc… They are distinguishing between cause and effect, building fluency through intonation and understanding an author’s use of pacing.

In math, students are working hard on decimals- we are comparing, ordering, adding/subtracting multiplying and dividing.

Social Studies: Students are studying cultural aspects of Native Americans.

Science classes are rotating through various units, depending on class.


Grade 6

In grade 6 ELA, students are identifying,analyzing and applying various forms of Figurative Language and Poetic Devices. These include Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Hyperbole, Alliteration and Onomatopoeia.

Math students in grade 6 are developing mastery of ratios and rates.

Social studies classes are deep into their study of ancient Egypt!

Science classes are working on weathering, erosion, deposition and how these processes change the surface of the earth.


Grade 7

In grade 7, math classes are focused on percent change and simple interest calculations, along with one and two step equations.

In Mrs. Dunn’s and Ms. Sarnelli’s ELA classes, students are continuing to practice towards mastering the standards with a particular focus on those that deal with recognizing and tracking themes as well as contrasting characters’ points of view. They are doing this using the books Matched, Hunger, and The Giver. Students are practicing these skills through discussion and writing both short paragraphs and long compositions.

Grade 7 geography classes are continuing their journey around the world, learning about geography, people, news, and cultures from all over the globe.

7th Grade science is wrapping up the unit on Human Body Systems and beginning our studies on Cell Structure and Function. Upcoming lab include Microscope Lab with Plant and Animal Cells.We will also continue our exploration of the benefits of meditation and being present.The Science Club is underway and we began by observing Fruit Flies under the microscope, comparing fly traits, flipping flies into new containers as well as exploring upcoming projects, including the building of a mount that transforms iPhones into microscopes.



ART

Seventh graders have finished up their two-point perspective cityscapes and shading projects and some will be moving on to explore color mixing while others will start a 3d design project. Sixth graders who finished their Notan projects are now sharing presentations on abstract artworks with their classmates. Those who just started art this trimester are working on observational flower drawings and paintings.


Fifth graders just started exploring rotation and reflection symmetry using their origami skills to alter paper squares into collage designs. Fourth graders are showing off all they have learned in a cityscape drawing that includes the concepts of balance, emphasis, variety, repletion, foreground, middle ground, and background. All this and lots of creative ideas too!


Below are some examples of 7th grade student work.

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Teacher Spotlight - Ms. Forina!

Our teacher spotlight this month is focused on our amazing school librarian Ms. Forina. I had a chance to catch up with Ms. Forina and ask her some questions:


Can you fill us in on your time in Winthrop?

Well, I am halfway through my 28th year. Prior to being a librarian, I spent time as a fifth and fourth grade teacher. I also worked at the Winthrop Public Library during high school and the Houghton Library of rare documents at Harvard University.


What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Living in Winthop, I enjoy running into students outside of school and I'm always impressed with how polite and respectful they are. I love traveling, baking, and spending time with my grandchildren.


What is your favorite book?

Recently, my favorite book is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is a terrific book and everyone should read it.


If you won the Powerball, what is the first thing you would purchase?

If I won the Powerball, the first thing I would purchase is a vacation home in Martha's Vineyard. I love spending time there and would really enjoy making it a permanent spot for my kids and grandchildren to visit!

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Mr. Curley's Corner...

This month, Mr. Curley would like to share this powerful link which provides some information around cyber-bullying: Click HERE. Preventing bullying of all forms is and will always be a top priority for the ATC.