FHMS Newsletter

January 2016

The Principal's Column, By Dr. Ted Huff

During the traditional Pre-Observation Conference, the question about “What is the lesson objective?” often surfaced. So what is so important about the objective? In looking at backwards design, if we understand what we want the students to learn, take away from, or further develop during a specific classroom lesson, then we can fully develop a lesson that will help the students master the lesson objective. The lesson is much more than your thoughts for the day or a list of activities to accomplish during the class period. The lesson objective should drive your instruction. It should direct, challenge, and empower our student learners.

The McREL instructional strategies are research-based best practices for classroom instruction. Last year our school began the year with an intentional focus. We determined that we would focus on the McREL strategy of the “objective”. We knew that by focusing on this key element of the lesson that we could make intentional gains in student understanding of the Learning Standards. We utilized Professional Development time, faculty meetings, plan time meetings, and time during our August Teacher Meetings focusing on this new approach to using objectives in the classroom. Thanks to McREL and Classroom Instruction That Works by Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, and Stone, we have progressed through our journey in transforming our educational practices.

In implementing the lesson objective with Quality, Fidelity, Intensity, and Consistency (QFIC), there are four McREL recommendations. These four components must be included during the instructional facets or phases of the given lesson:

1. Set learning objectives that are specific, but not restrictive,

2. Communicate the learning objectives to the students and parents,

3. Connect the learning objectives to previous and future learning,

4. Engage students in setting personal learning objectives

In working with our teachers, leadership team, and Classroom Instruction That Works trainer, we were able to see, over the course of this school year, a transformation in how our school prepares, writes, and implements the use of the “new” objective. Students are now having discussions with partners where they are personalizing the lesson objective and making it relevant to their work during class. From the Physical Education unit on volleyball to the choir lesson where the students analyzed their choir concert performance, or from the English Language Arts lesson on Argumentative Writing and the Socratic Seminar, to the Science lesson where students will understand the difference between position, velocity, and acceleration, our students are personalizing their learning and are making deeper connections within each content area of study.

So, when discussing the age old question, “What did you do in school today?” with your children, you can focus on the components of the “new” “old” objective that we are now including in our daily classroom work!

Sixth Grade Skating!

The student leadership club known as WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) hosted a skating party at the Great Skate skating rink in St. Peters, for sixth graders in the fall. The purpose for this social event was to provide an additional opportunity for the youngest group of our school to make connections with others in their grade and with WEB leaders. Often, students don't reach out to those who aren't in their classes and this "school happening" provided that. Additionally, our sixth graders were able to keep in the forefront of their minds who our leaders and counselors are. The added bonus was having a time to eat goodies at the concession stand and "hanging out" at the tables!


The WEB leaders are chosen each year through recommendations by teachers for exemplary behavior and good grades. This group is trained by the counselors (Ms. Lester, Mrs. Neider and Ms. Weiss) to provide guidance in the school. This after school event was well attended and a good time was had by all.

Precious Voices

Under the direction of Mrs. Olivia Howard, the Francis Howell Middle School Choirs performed at the Dardenne Presbyterian Church, along with the choirs of Daniel Boone Elementary and Francis Howell High School. The December 7th event was led by Mrs. Dixie Connell and her fifth graders. The angelic voices graced the audience with selections from "December Around the World". Our own school choir was made up of two entities: Francis Howell Middle Chorus and Concert Choir. The Chorus chose pieces that would challenge their voices, including Soldier which is based on "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier". Said seventh grade Chorus member Chloee Rudolph, "This ("Soldier") really touched my heart. It put me into a position where it really made me think about my dad and how it would be if he had to go to war. What would happen if I had a single mom for months? This song is about a man leaving for war and loved one trying to tell him to stay to a point where they are on their knees crying out." The Francis Howell Middle Concert Choir took the stage next performing songs of various genres, including traditional folk songs. The piece entitled "This Old Hammer", which brought about a comment from Dax Phillips, an eighth grader. He said, "In this song, John Henry was a former slave who worked on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad during the Civil War. He was one of the thousands of men who worked on the railroads for almost three years, drilling one hole through Big Bend Mountain in Talcott, West Virginia. When their boss introduced a new steam drill, it threatened jobs of thousands of men. John Henry challenged the machine in a contest to prove that the machine was no match. John Henry worked so hard to win! In the end, John Henry died."

The Francis Howell High School wow'd the audience with a strong performance by the Women's Chamber and Concert Choir. It was a prideful moment for many of us to see such a touching performance by students who formally attended our school. They made us all very proud! The grand finale came when all three schools took the stage while a slideshow was showcasing musicians. The 100 plus member choir sang in harmony African Noel. Such a lovely way to end the evening!

Santa Claus Lives at FHMS

The heart of Christmas, otherwise known as Santa Claus, lives right here at Francis Howell Middle School! Nurse Finnerty led the school staff in gathering gifts and food items to be given to persons of need here in our own community. Mrs. Finnerty has taken on the look of the greatest Santa's elf of all time as she made tie-blankets, wrapped gifts and gathered food bags to give to families on behalf of the school.


The staff was alerted to items of correct interest, size and color for special presents that would make children smile on Christmas. In addition, the staff was given an opportunity that is hard to turn down! For a $15.00 donation to the "Christmas cause" they were given executive permission to wear jeans all Christmas season. The purse was used to provide holiday meals to those who might not otherwise have delicious food on their table. We wish everyone in our community a happy Christmas season!

Strike up the Band!

Under the direction of Mrs. Keely Abeln and Mr. Chris Miller, the Francis Howell Middle School seventh and eighth grade band performed for an audience of family, friends and school staff on Thursday, December 10. This wonderful winter concert showcased the students' learning in band for the first semester of this school year. The Seventh graders were first to use their instruments to play music of the season. Songs included high-spirited Christmas tunes such as "Bobsled Run", "Deck the Halls with Rock n' Roll", just to name a few! The eighth graders were quick to show their strong talents when they played "Minka's Sleigh Ride" and "Jingle Jive" after tweeting out several patriotic tunes. The evening was uplifting, inspirational and one that made us very proud of our kids!

Door Decorating, It's Tradition!

In keeping with the grand tradition of Francis Howell Middle School, there was a door decorating contest among the CC classes that did not disappoint. Mr. Goebel, a past assistant principal, was visiting our school and viewed the beautifully decorated doors. Mr. Goebel commented, "I've never seen such nicely decorated doors!" The theme incorporated the spirit of the holiday season, along with sharing study skills ideas. The final product was Ahhhh, such wonderment! The winners of the contest and a donut party were the CC doors of Mrs. Brzycki and Mrs. Korba-a Joint win! Congratulations to them both! Please enjoy a few pictures below!

It's Cold and Flu Season!

As we head into the season of sniffles and sore throats, the school would like to remind everyone of our school district policy for fevers. A student who has a fever of 100 degrees will be sent home from school. Since fever is an indicator of an infectious or contagious illness, your child is excluded from attending school for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, without the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control the fever level. Our policy is in accordance with the mandated guidelines set by the Missouri State Department of Health.

It is also important to continue to remind our children to cover their mouths with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. Sneezing or coughing into their sleeve or elbow is much better than their hands if a tissue is not available. Good hand washing is probably the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Encourage your children to wash their hands often. Many items they touch everyday are home to germs. Remind them to keep their hands out of their mouth and face area as much as possible. Your cooperation in complying with these guidelines will help us control the spread of a viral illness and disease.