Fiske Monthly News

April 2016


Welcome to the home of the Fiske monthly news! We feature great news and updates by grade level and specialist teachers to help keep you informed about what our students are learning. Enjoy your reading!
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News from The Principal

Student Placement

It is hard to believe that April is here already and we've begun to think about student placement! It seems like it was just yesterday that students walked through the doors for the first day of school.

We've sent home our annual student placement letter to parents via Blackboard Connect, our new messaging system. Along with that letter, the parent input form was also included. It is my estimation that student placement is some of the most important work we can do to prepare for students each year, along with having a great school schedule.

In regards to student placement, teachers and staff know a lot about the children at Fiske. This helps us make informed choices about placement so that children have successful learning experiences. If you think that there is something we do not know about your child or you would want us to be aware of, you can include that information on the form that was attached to the Blackboard Connect message.

As part of our work in creating balanced classrooms, we ask that you not request teachers. This often results in unbalanced classrooms and doesn't result in the best placement for students. If you've had a teacher at Fiske with another child and that experience was not what you had hoped for, you can ask that your other children have a different experience. Additionally, the same is true if you think that your child should not be placed with another child they've had difficulties with in the past.

All placement letters are due by April 15th, which ensures that we give everyone equal opportunity in the placement process. Letters that come in late will be date stamped and saved, however, not used in the process.

As always, we want to honor parental input and use the working knowledge we have of our students to make the very best placements possible. We appreciate you partnering with us in what is a detailed process that requires all of our very best thinking.

News from the Assistant Principal

Dear Fiske Families and Friends,

It’s hard to believe that this month we will be having our final week long vacation before we end the school year for the summer! I must say... our students have worked very hard this school year, especially the students in grades 3-5, as they make their way through the MCAS tests. We are incredibly proud of the effort and grit that each and every Fiske student puts forth on a daily basis. They are certainly deserving of some time off from school. I hope you all enjoy the time off!

April is Autism Awareness Month, which is quite significant in our school community. We strive every day to be inclusive of all ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds, and learning styles. Please refer to the two websites below (Autism Speaks and Autism Society) that each recognize Autism Awareness Month and can give you more information. In recognition of Lite it Up Blue Day many Fiske Staff members and students wore blue to school on Thursday, March 31st.

Light It Up Blue takes place on April 02, 2016. Light It Up Blue is dedicated to raising awareness of autism. Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization, announced the launch of the inaugural Light It Up Blue campaign in 2010. This initiative is intended to raise international awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis in support of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States.


Mr. Baker

Kindergarten News

The kindergarten classrooms are surely the most exciting place to be in Fiske School during the month of April! The science unit began upon the arrival of 12 chick eggs per classroom. The children learned that we used the incubators to do the hens’ job: to keep the eggs warm (100º F) for 21 days. Every day we read books and discussed the development of the chicks. We counted down the days and examined a poster that illustrated what the chicks should look like each day during their development.

We “candled” the eggs as the chicks were developing inside the eggs. This means that we put a flashlight up against the egg in a dark room (the bathroom!) to see the shadows inside the egg. We were able to see the chick’s shadow, the chick’s movement, the air space inside the egg, veins and the eye! It was amazing. Finally, after 20 and 21 days inside the incubators, some of our baby chicks will hatch!

The children will help with the care of the chicks by providing grain and water, keeping the lamp on for heat, and giving them plenty of love and affection! After spending a few days with the children, they will be ready to go back to Drumlin Farm.

Throughout the unit, the children wrote and drew illustrations of what they were observing and learning in their chick journals. This journal is sure to be a keepsake of a wonderful kindergarten memory!

Next month, we anticipate the visit of an educator from Drumlin Farm. Thank you to the PTO for funding Drumlin Farm’s visit!

Grade One News

Language Arts Happenings:

The first graders have been working really hard on their opinion/persuasive pieces. They are learning how to be really convincing by using sparkly words, having lots of reasons and examples, and to include recommendations. The children have created letters and advertisements to showcase their convincing opinions. After opinion writing, the first graders are starting our Realistic Fiction unit! This unit will explore writing fiction stories that could actually happen in real life.

During reading, the children have been digging deeper into their books and really making sure that they understand the words they are reading. They are working on skills like predicting what will happen and visualizing what is happening in the story. First graders are studying characters and their traits to better understand their books. They are also working on making connections with their stories.

Marvelous Math:

The first graders have been working on a creative problem called the Double Decker Bus. The double decker bus has two decks with 10 seats on them and the children explore with the different possible arrangements of the passengers. For example, if there are 7 passengers on the bus, there could be 5 passengers on the top and 2 on the bottom, or there could be 1 on the top and 6 on the bottom. This helps students with decomposition of numbers and their different combinations. Knowing the combinations of numbers helps build fact fluency.

Social Studies:

The first graders are busy practicing for the American Symbols performance! They are learning the songs and practicing their lines. We love American symbols! Ask your child what their favorite symbol is! It might be the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, the White House, the American Flag, or the Bald Eagle. There are so many amazing American symbols to choose from! We hope to see you at our performance on Friday, May 27th at 9am!

Grade Two News

April Showers bring Bright Learners…. Especially in 2nd Grade!

Spring is bringing with it a deluge of learning opportunities for eager learners in the form of exciting units of study. From arrays, multiplication and graphing data to soil investigations, partner book club reading and writing lab reports. We will be keeping ourselves very busy over the next few weeks.

Along with occasional daily homework, please continue to read at home with your students and/or make your students are reading at least 15 minutes every day. Continue asking questions about their current book or passage i.e. What is the setting of this story?

Why do you think the author wrote this book? To persuade, inform or entertain the reader.

What is the main idea?

What are the details?

Also, please keep on practicing your sight words (have your child say them to you, a pet, brother, ect.)

Along with curriculum units, 2nd grade is continuing to learn routines that will help us as we move through the grades and become independent learners. Morning and afternoon expectations help us remember things we need to do each day and prepare us for our lessons or to go home for our afternoon activities.

One final thought, on these rainy days of spring please remind your children of dressing for the weather and checking that they have all the clothing and shoes they came to school with. Feel free to come in with them to check our lost and found.

Grade Three News


Geometry is our current focus in third grade. The children are exploring and discovering important attributes that define the various geometric shapes. They are learning essential vocabulary such as: angle, vertex, side, quadrilateral, quadrangle, regular polygon, parallel, parallelogram, perpendicular, square angle, right angle, face, base, area, perimeter.

As MCAS testing approaches, we are also honing our skills in measurement and data, and reviewing previously taught concepts such as multi-step word problems, elapsed time, and fractions. Students will be ready to show what they know on the mornings of May 18th and 19th.


Our third grade scientists have been comparing, contrasting and testing the chemical and physical properties of five mystery powders. The children make predictions, careful observations, record their results, and modify their predictions based on their evidence. The culminating test will be to identify these mystery powders through the data collected in our experimentation. Ask your little scientist to tell you more! Goggles not required!

Writer’s Workshop

Opinion/Persuasive Writing

If your child seems to be particularly persuasive lately, it is probably because he/she is practicing these skills in school. Perhaps we should apologize!

Specifically, the children are learning that persuasive writing can be used to convince other people of their opinion or view. They are seeing “problems” and imagining solutions. Their intention is to make the world a better place, whether in their school, home or neighborhood.

Our persuasive writers have learned that they need to consider their audience in order to be most convincing. For example, if we want to convince Mr. Martellone of something (such as more recess time), it is more likely that he will be swayed if we focus on how it will increase our learning. The children are also learning to organize their persuasive writing by listing reasons, elaborating upon them, and separating them into paragraphs. Additionally, the third graders will learn specific techniques to make their speeches powerful to hear.

Grade Four News

Like flowers in spring, our fourth graders continue to develop and grow. We look forward to meeting with you during our upcoming spring conferences to discuss your child’s growth and progress thus far in the school year.

April not only brings spring showers, but MCAS as well. Our fourth graders recently completed their English Language Arts MCAS testing. Throughout the school year we focus on how reading is thinking, and our goal is to help our students think deeply about text. During Reader’s Workshop, students have developed reading strategies such as visualizing, making connections, making inferences, and predicting. To help prepare our students for testing, the students analyzed exemplars, reviewed the rubric to understand scoring, and practiced various test-taking skills to enhance their performance. Our next and final round of MCAS will focus on mathematics and is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11th and Thursday, May 12th.

Our fourth grade mathematicians have been engaged in a Context for Learning unit on fractions involving real-life scenarios. Working collaboratively, students have been investigating fractions and are exploring the concepts of landmark unit fractions or common fractions, ordering and comparing fractions, forming equivalent fractions, and adding, subtracting, and multiplying fractions. Ask your child to share what he/she learned during our Field Trips and Fundraisers unit!

April is National Poetry Month, and our fourth grade writers are going to be delving into this creative and expressive writing genre during Writer’s Workshop. With Fiske’s Poetry Night scheduled for April 28th, we’re hoping our young poets will be ready, willing, and eager to share their passion for poetry with you!

In social studies we just wrapped up our study of North American regions and are now traveling over the border to learn about our Neighbor to the North, Canada. During this unit, the fourth graders will focus on Canadian geography, history, and culture. It’s sure to be a great adventure traveling up north into Canada, eh?

In science we continue to explore our Solar System. The students are set to begin learning more about the planets and their characteristics. Our fourth grade astronomers are set to blast off into our Solar System to make all kinds of exciting discoveries!

Grade Five News

Regie and Marlon, rapping poets, came to our class and taught us new ways of thinking about poetry. Regie asked us questions, and he told us no matter how crazy the idea, we should carry on with it. He even asked us the silly question of, “Why don’t airplanes fly with their children?” There were many answers from “They don’t have baby seats,” to “their children would be scared.” It helped us to make better poems and to be more creative. Regie and Marlon really know how to rhyme, and all of us had a great time! [This visit by Regie O’Hare-Gibson and Marlon Carey was sponsored by ACT/Fiske PTO. It was a great visit, and many thanks to the Fiske PTO for sponsoring the visit!] -- by Andrew H., Ms. Gavrin’s class

For our last unit in science, we were learned about simple machines. A simple machine is something that helps make work easier with one or no moving parts. Some examples of simple machines are inclined planes, pulleys, levels, wedges, wheel and axle, and sometimes springs and screws. We did tests, played games, and watched videos to help us learn about simple, as well as complex machines. A complex machine is simple machines put together. Science was really fun and interesting and I can’t wait to learn about the next unit in science! -- by Jiji J., Ms. Gavrin’s class

In reading we just finished learning about social issues. Social issues are problems that affect many people. For example, bullying, racism, and homelessness are some social issues. We learned about these social issues by splitting up into book groups in class, reading these books at home, and identifying the social issues in them. Some of the books the book groups read were Maniac Magee, The Color of My Words, Small As an Elephant, How To Steal a Dog, and Donuthead. Once the group read a certain amount at home and took notes, each group would discuss the social issue in their book. To take the social issue to ha higher level, we wrote a “full sentence of truth” abou the book, telling why the author wrote it. -- by Ashley T., Ms. Gavrin’s class

Specialist News

Counseling News


It’s normal for kids to feel a little nervous before a big test, but some kids get so anxious that it affects their health, their attitude, and their grades. Test anxiety has become more common as schools have put more emphasis on standardized testing. All types of students can get stressed out, including those who usually get good grades.

Here are some signs that a child is overly worried about tests:

  • Doesn’t want to go to school, especially on test day

  • Cries over small things during the days leading up to a test

  • Changes eating and sleeping patterns in the days before a test

  • Won’t complete even simple homework assignments

  • Is distracted and unable to focus

  • Puts herself down or calls himself “stupid”

  • Has an upset stomach or a tension headache before a test

  • Performs well on practice tests but not on the real test

  • Does well on papers and projects but not on tests

Schools, principals, teachers, and communities are increasingly judged on their test scores, making everyone involved overly anxious, says Joseph Casbarro, a former New York principal and school system administrator. As standardized test scores became powerful numbers, driving student promotions to the next grade, a school’s reputation, and even real estate prices, he observed that most students began experiencing stress to some degree.

“It seemed to be getting out of control,” says Casbarro, now an education consultant. “Test scores occupied every waking moment.”

To help kids, parents, and teachers understand where stress comes from and how to alleviate it, Casbarro wrote the book Test Anxiety and What You Can Do About It. He says it’s in everyone’s best interest to help kids feel less stressed.

Here are some of Casbarro’s suggestions for helping kids overcome test anxiety.

Look in the mirror. “Parents should ask themselves, ‘Am I the prime contributor?’ ” Some parents unwittingly heap stress on their kids by talking frequently about tests and sending the message that they measure their child’s worth in terms of grades and test scores. “Parents think so much of their child’s future hinges on tests and performance,” Casbarro says. “Parents think if they don’t push their kids they are being irresponsible.”

Find balance. By praising your child for accomplishments other than test scores and grades, you send the message that other pursuits, such as the arts, sports, and relationships, are important, too.

Highlight successful people who weren’t good test-takers. From his poor scores on high school math tests, you wouldn't have known that Werner Von Braun would grow up to be a rocket scientist. Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, which oversees the SAT, is dyslexic. Look for examples in your family and community.

Talk about a variety of careers. It’s tempting to focus on doctors, lawyers, scientists, and other fields associated with prestige and big salaries. Make sure your kids know there are other satisfying career options, and that the most important thing is that they are happy in their career choice.

Don’t expect all kids to excel equally. You may raise your kids under the same roof, but they are all different. One may do well on tests without much preparation, while the other may struggle just for an average score. Avoid the temptation to constantly heap praise on the good test-taker. Sometimes it’s the kid who didn’t do well on tests who has more success in after-school pursuits. “Be realistic about your kids’ interests and strengths,” Casbarro says.

Understand your child’s learning style. Some kids need more intervention from Mom and Dad, often because they have a hard time focusing on material for more than a few minutes. And while some kids are motivated to study hard because they want good grades, others respond to a more immediate reward like the opportunity to watch a TV show if they study for their test and demonstrate to a parent that they know the material.

Help your child with study skills. You can’t take the test for your child, but you can teach him how to prepare. “Doing well on a test begins well before test day,” Casbarro says. Teach your child to reduce distractions and avoid cram sessions. If your child is struggling to find a way to learn vocabulary words or facts, help her make flashcards or come up with a game. If your child doesn’t always know what the homework assignment is, work with her on using an organizer.

Help your child outsmart the test. Teach your child test-taking strategies that can help when she doesn’t know the answer. Casbarro recommends taking a cue from the TV show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and trying to eliminate two of four responses to a multiple-choice question.

Rethink the homework routine. Parents often insist their children complete their homework right after school. But some kids are burned out and exhausted at that time, Casbarro says. “That may not be the best time for homework.”

Encourage healthy habits. Kids need to eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and get a good night’s sleep. Parents can help by modeling these healthy habits and making sure the child has the opportunity to make healthy choices. Parents can stock the fridge with healthy snacks, for example.

Test stress is part of life as a student, but if your child is suffering over test anxiety, she may need professional help. Extreme stress can keep a child from reaching her potential in school and impact her physical health. You can help your kids by teaching them some strategies for coping with test anxiety. You won’t just be helping them become better test-takers, you’ll be equipping them with strategies that will help them handle whatever challenges life throws their way.

Art News

Mrs. O’Leary and Ms. V

Here are just some highlights of the projects we have been working on during art now and through

April vacation:

Grade K – We made our versions of “peeps” in an environment. We have experimented with color mixing this week. We will form some clay pinch pots. We will soon be starting “My Art Book”. The activities in this book are a review of all things we’ve learned this year.

Grade 1 – Group project - Funny things are everywhere emphasizing line, texture, details, cooperation and imagination. To follow that, we will sculpt owls from clay and create spring


Grade 2 – We will be looking at the work of Georgia O’Keeffe and creating a “bugs eye” view of a close up flower. We will create the ultimate dream house, inspired by the Taj Mahal.

Grade 3 – Our Mardi Gras masks are complete. We just sculpted cupcakes from clay, using the coiling and pinching techniques. We will then move on to a 3D self-portrait, of what we want to be when we grow up.

Grade 4 – We are finishing a planet/zodiac symbol project, inspired by the artist Paul Klee. We will soon be creating Mexican clay food. We will then work on another Mexican inspired piece, similar to the work we did with visiting artist, Giles LaRoche.

Grade 5 – Students have looked at the work of African American Artist, Romare Bearden and Faith Ringgold. Both are masters of collage and the use of pattern. Students are designing a story quilt square done in collage. They must have themselves in the square’s foreground. We will be creating birch trees with QR code poems imbedded in them. We will also be working on how to draw three dimensionally using shadow.

Ask your child what they do in art each week because many times our projects are carried over to the next week or two.

This year’s Art Show will be held @ Central Office, April 6th–12th. The opening reception is April 5th from 6:30-8pm, with additional hours: Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm. Even if your child does not have a piece in the show, it is a great opportunity to see all the artwork created system-wide, K-12.

Attention knitters and anyone with leftover yarn: We could use your unwanted yarn for weaving projects. We are also in need of recycled materials: clear egg cartons, yogurt containers, plastic take out containers, magazines, old calendars, gift wrap, paper towel tubes, ribbon, tissues, wipes and hand soap.

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ELL News

Happy Spring! All of our ELL classes are continuing to study language through content in our National Geographic REACH series. We thought you might be interested in some of the language functions (grammar) we are focusing on throughout the grades.

Below are some of the grammar points we are presenting in each grade a well as some ideas on language tasks you can practice with your child.

Kindergarten: Simple present tense, transition words (first, next, then, finally)

  • Ask your child to talk about their daily schedule: first we have morning meeting, next we…

1st Grade: Parts of speech, using descriptive language in our speaking and writing

  • Describe the weather or the changes they see happening in nature using as many describing words (adjectives) as possible.

2nd Grade: Action and helping verbs (modals)

  • Ask your child what they can or might do, using action verbs

3rd Grade: Comparative language as they prepare to write comparison/contrast essays

  • Compare and contrast different foods, seasons or sports

5th grade: Idiomatic expressions, adding details to speaking and writing

  • Share idioms from your native language with your child and ask them about some American English idioms.

  • Elicit longer and more complex sentences in either language to help your child produce richer, more detailed language.

Music News

Greetings from the Music Room….

The Fiske Music Performance Calendar is set. You are invited to any and all of these celebrations:

Fourth Grade Performance:

Friday, May 6 at 9am in the Fiske Gym

Third Grade Recorder Performance:

Thursday, May 26 at 11:30 in the gym.

Fifth Grade Chorus/Band/Strings Concerts:

June 8, 2016 at 9am and 7pm

Meanwhile, these are things you might see or hear if you walked by the music room at Fiske:

Kindergarten: Dancing and singing Bow Wow Wow

1st Grade: Skipping and Galloping to the Country Dance from Handel’s Water Music

2nd Grade: Dancing the Irish Stew dance with our giant soup spoons

3rd Grade: Recorder Madness continues!

4th Grade: Getting ready for our performance on May 6! Please come and see your 4th graders!

5th Grade: Practicing our new chorus songs: One from Pippin, one about a bullfrog and friends, one about John Henry and his hammer, and more!

Library News

Kindergarten completed our study of author and illustrator Jan Brett, including such books as Armadillo Rodeo and The Three Little Dassies. We recently began a chick and egg unit by comparing Little Red Hen folk tales and sharing P. Zonka Lays an Egg.

First Grade celebrated leprechauns with the book A Fine St. Patrick’s Day. We also compared fractured re-tellings of the Three Bears folk tale with Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Rubia and the Three Osos.

Second Grade is reading folktales that originate in West Africa, such as the stories of Anansi the trickster spider and his descendent, Bruh Rabbit. Books included Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl, and Tops and Bottoms.

Third Grade shared books about events leading up to the Battle of Lexington, such as Sleds on Boston Common, Katie’s Trunk, and Let it Begin Here.

Fourth Grade is studying tall tales, a uniquely American form of folk tale, to coincide with their social studies unit, Regions of the United States. We have read many tall tales re-told and illustrated by Steven Kellogg, including Johnny Appleseed, Mike Fink, and Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett.

Fifth Grade has been examining the founding of America, including the experiences of enslaved people. Books have included biographies of Boston slave poet Philis Wheatley (A Voice of her Own) and Thomas Jefferson (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything). In other exciting news, twenty six Fiske fifth graders were eligible to vote in the 2016 MCBA program run by Salem State University. The favorite book among Fiske fifth graders? School for Good and Evil, closely followed by Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and Land of Stories: Wishing Spell. What book will win the state-wide 2016 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award? Stay tuned to find out!

For a glimpse of some great new titles in the Fiske Library, click here:

Math News


At Fiske Elementary, we believe it is important to make connections when engaging in mathematics. Math is an integrated field of study and it is important that students learn how to make connections. Here is a show video from Dr. Jo Boaler at Stanford showing some connections in math:

It is important to be able to compare and contrast different strategies. One way to encourage making connections is to use color to highlight patterns. Another way is for students to represent their math results in different ways (words, pictures, equation, table).

Card & Board Game Ideas

Chutes and Ladders & Blink

Online Games to Play



Math Game – Nim-7

Place 7 counters in a group and decide who will go first.

Each player takes turns to take away either one or two counters.

The players that has the last turn loses.

Keep playing until you work out how to win: find a winning strategy.

Does it matter who has the first turn?

Math to Try

Show 12 in different ways – try to be creative. Submit your answers here:

Literacy News

Highlights from Read Across America Day!
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Health Office News

After a long cold winter, we have to deal with allergy season. Trees and flowers are blooming and pollen is wafting through the air. Sneezing, stuffy noses or itching, burning eyes make it difficult to concentrate on learning and there is little a nurse can do to alleviate the symptoms other than cool compresses to eyes and reassurance.

If your child has symptoms of allergic reaction that you treat with any medication, either prescription or over the counter medicine, it might be helpful if the medication is available during school hours. This will require both a doctor’s order and a signed parental permission. This is true for eye drops, nasal sprays and any other allergy medicines.

Please keep your child home if your child has had any of the following:

*Fever of 100F (37.8C) in the past 24 hours

*A fever accompanied by any one of the following: cough, runny nose or sore throat *Your child has needed Tylenol or Ibuprofen to control fever for the past 24 hours

*Strep throat , if awaiting culture results of less than 24 hours of antibiotic treatment

*Vomiting or diarrhea in the past 24 hours *An undiagnosed rash accompanied by an elevated temperature

Tips for managing a sick child at home:

* please keep your child home until no fever (off Tylenol/Ibuprofen) for 24 hours

*Use a thermometer to accurately measure body temperature, (not the back of your hand)

*Children do not usually wake with a headache, if your child wakes with a headache, a fever may be present, please check temperature

*Avoid sending your child to school after administering a dose of Tylenol or Ibuprofen “to get through the day”. Children are poor learners when they are ill

Please contact me with any questions. Thank you. Enjoy the nice weather!

Claire O’Connell RN