John Ward Elementary School

April 2021

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Principal's Message

Dear Ward School Families,

Despite this snowy cold today, spring is here! It feels like such an incredible milestone given all of the challenges and adjustments we have experienced this school year. At Ward, we have been engaging all students in lessons about perseverance, focusing on building muscles in our bodies and our brains. These last 8 months have demonstrated that together, with creativity, open-mindedness, compassion, and persistence, we can do incredible things.

And while we have made important changes over these past many months for the wellness of our community, there are many uncertainties and injustices that we must continue to address particularly around race and racism in our country. At school, we focus on many learning objectives; one mathematical practice that permeates all areas is to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. This "mathematical practice" is, in fact, a life practice in which we all must engage. As I write this message, it seems worthwhile to revisit a message I wrote to our community last May:


For those of you with questions about talking to your child about race, our Ward students, no matter how young, are not too young to talk about issues of race and inequality. It is our silence about race and racism that perpetuates the cycle of inequity and misinformation. A number of resources exist on this topic; you may find this link helpful. It includes information about children’s attitudes about race as they age, as well as links to resources. I am committed to our continued work as a school community to understand and take meaningful action to address issues of race, racism, and achievement. We must take action.

It feels important to acknowledge the particular anguish of our Black and Brown families and students at this time and commit to making Ward School a place that disrupts patterns of inequity and makes every person feel welcomed, supported, and valued as they are. Schools are a microcosm of society and we know we can continue to improve.

Despite the many injustices and inequities highlighted by this pandemic, I feel heartened because the profession of teaching (and parenting) is a very powerful one -- I see our role as far more than teaching academic skills to prepare our children for the next level. It is our charge and our privilege to help our children be contributors, to understand what it is to be a part of a community, to think critically, to learn about history so that they can be a part of positive change. I believe we do this first and foremost by letting each and every child know through our actions and words that they matter and they are loved. Together, we are teaching our Ward students to become thoughtful, caring, and engaged citizens who speak up to injustice and to racism. We are nurturing students who respect, celebrate, and seek to better understand their differences. In this most upsetting time, our students, our children, give me hope.

I certainly do not have all the answers. As a parent and an educator, it is difficult sometimes to find the right words or to know the best course of action to live and lead in a manner aligned with my principles and values. I know I am not alone in this struggle and am grateful to partner with committed educators and families who are willing to work together to find our way to nurture a better and more just future for our children.

During the upcoming vacation week in addition to unplugging to relax, read, and have fun, I encourage all of us to reflect. As parents and educators, our greatest charge and challenge is to empower our children to be positive problem-solvers.

Sending you all my best wishes for good health, compassion, and well-being.




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On the Calendar... Planning Ahead

      • Monday, April 19-Friday, April 23- School Spring Vacation Week; No School

      • Tuesday, April 27- PTO Coffee, 8-9:15am, outside at the tents

      • Wednesday, April 28- 5th Grade Community Tree Planting Project

      • Wednesday, May 5- Grades K, 1, and 2 C.A.S.: Tanglewood Marionettes, Dragon King

      • Tuesday, May 11- 3rd Grade ELA MCAS

      • Wednesday, May 12- Eid El-Fitr

        • DLA Grades 3-5 and 4th Grade ELA MCAS

      • Thursday, May 13- 5th Grade ELA MCAS

      • Tuesday, May 18- 5th Grade Math MCAS

      • Wednesday, May 19- DLA Grades 3-5 and 3rd Grade Math MCAS

      • Thursday, May 20- 4th Grade MCAS

      • Wednesday, May 16- 5th Grade STE MCAS (DLA and in-person)

      • Monday, May 31- Memorial Day; No School

      • Wednesday, June 2- Gr. 3 C.A.S.: Wampanoag: People of the Dawn Zoom

        • 3MBJ- 9-10am

        • 3K- 10:30-11:30am

      • Tuesday, June 8- Ward Incoming Kindergarten Information Zoom; 7:00pm

      • Wednesday, June 9- Incoming Kindergarten Visit

      • Friday, June 18- Juneteenth observed; No School

      • Monday, June 21- 5th Grade Celebration; 2:30pm

      • Tuesday, June 22- Last Day of School for Students

      Please be sure to save the NPS School Calendar which includes all district-wide important dates and the Ward School Calendar for school specific events.

    April Break Travel Guidelines

    As we approach the April school break, Newton Heath and Human Services (HHS) urges Newton Public Schools families to do their part to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should continue to follow the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), CDC and NPS guidelines related to travel and return to school. Please visit this webpage for details on the Massachusetts travel advisory and Newton HHS expectations.

    Optional Parent/Guardian Input Form for Next Year's Classroom Placement

    We will soon begin the long process of creating class lists for next year. This is a multi-phased undertaking that engages classroom teachers and specialists to develop balanced classrooms. There are many factors that are considered, among them: ratio of boys to girls, student friendships and relationship dynamics, student academic needs, student social/emotional/behavioral needs, and student backgrounds. Working with your children every day, we develop a strong sense of them, both as individuals and learners, and we use that information to guide the creation of our class lists. Our goal is to create groupings that will best support students’ ongoing growth and development. Teacher names are assigned at the very end. It is a lengthy process that we take very seriously, with changes and modifications made throughout the spring and summer months. If you have any additional information regarding your child that you would like to share with the team, please do so via this form no later than Friday, May 7th. Classroom Placement Input. Please see the form for details. Reminder: late forms or requests for specific teachers will not be considered.

    Coming to Kindergarten - What You Need to Do

    If you have a child who will be 5 years old by August 31, 2021, it's time to get on the Registration Gateway to enroll your child for the fall! This will place you in the loop of information regarding upcoming events for incoming kindergarten families, including

    If you know of a neighbor, relative, or friend living in the Ward School district, we would appreciate it if you would share this information with them. Thank you!

    Nurse's Notes:

    Hi Ward Families,

    As spring comes into full swing, don't forget about environmental allergies! Especially as we spend more time outside and have windows open while we are inside, it is extremely important to be treating allergies at home with guidance from your pediatrician to prevent bothersome symptoms while in school - think itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, post-nasal drip, sinus headaches... (some of these mirror COVID-19 symptoms - if your child is experiencing any symptoms of COVID19 please remember to keep them home until you get a negative test or alternative diagnosis from their pediatrician or other provider)

    Also, as it gets warmer please remember that with outside time in warm weather comes the possibility of mosquito and tick bites. Please remember to dress appropriately and wear bug spray when outside during dusk hours.

    Thank you so much for your continued participation in keeping our community healthy. We completed our second week of pooled testing and your engagement really makes a difference in mitigating COVID19 spread.

    Thank you and be well,

    Nurse Gretchen Egan

    DLA Materials Pick Up

    Another round of supplies for DLA students will be distributed April 7-9.

    When you ring the front doorbell and say your name and your child(ren)’s grade level(s), Susan or Marcie will bring the supplies to you on the front landing.

    You may park briefly in the Live Parking or Blue Zone (but not in the Bus Zone) for this purpose. Future distributions will take place on May 5-7, and Jun 4-6.

    Ward Spirit Wednesdays!

    Our 5th Grade students are sponsoring school-wide spirit days weekly for the remainder of the school year. We are excited to have fun together as a school and please remember that all spirit wear must be school appropriate! Start planning and mark your calendars:

    • Wednesday, April 28- Pajama Day

    • Wednesday, May 5- Rainbow Day

    • Wednesday, May 12- Crazy Hair Day

    • Wednesday, May 19- Favorite Sports Team Day

    • Wednesday, May 26- Ward School Spirit Day /Wear Blue (Monochromatic)

    • Wednesday, June 2- Tropical Day

    • Wednesday, June 9- Camo/TieDye Day

    • Wednesday, June 16- Crazy (Covid) Mask Day

    Welcome to Our Newest Ward Dolphins!

    Ward High Five: Be Safe-- Be Kind-- Be Respectful-- Persevere-- Love Learning

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    Windows Into (and Outside Of) Our School

    Social Emotional Learning

    Hello Ward families!

    We have been so excited to see all the students back together! Big emotions tend to accompany big changes, so the SEL team at Ward has been working hard to support students in this transition period. Students across the school participated in a lesson about Perseverance and filled in 'dumbbells' that speak to a challenge they have faced and how they solved it (like coming back to full-classroom school!). Students' dumbbells are on display on our 'brain fitness center' billboard (pictured below).

    We have also been helping students identify different feelings associated with change through targeted SEL lessons. Some students may feel nervous or sad, others may feel excited and happy - all feelings are ok and welcomed! We will continue working with classes to identify what changes are happening, feelings about these changes, and what students can do if they ever feel overwhelmed by the changes.

    We will continue to support classes through weekly SEL lessons and activities. We look forward to a thoughtful and engaging spring together!

    ~Ms. Woods and Ms. Gordon

    P.S. Here are resources you can use at home to work with your child(ren) on identifying emotions and growth mindset.

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    March was an exciting month for Kindergarteners. We celebrated the 100th day of school by counting sets of objects to 100 and answering silly questions like what would you do with $100, or what will you look like in 100 years. Students are working on many different skills and strategies to make reading easier. They are learning to point underneath the words they are reading, use the first letter of an unknown word to figure it out, recognize sight words and blend three letter “CVC'' words. These skills have helped them become more independent as readers. We have also started working on lower case letter formation and recognizing letters in different fonts. In Math we’re working on story problems and decomposition of numbers. We have played lots of fun games to reinforce these concepts. We are nearing the end of our narrative writing unit and will soon begin writing “how-to” books. We’re also looking forward to continuing our work on life cycles, moving from plants to ladybugs (don’t tell! It’s a secret!)

    First Grade

    First grade students celebrated the 100th day of school the week of March 1st. Students had fun celebrating being “100 days smarter” and experienced the number, 100 through many different activities. In Reading, students are learning to retell the most important parts of a story, characters, setting, and the main events. Students will practice telling the events of a story using transition words, first, next, and then. We retell stories because we want to remember the details and share them with others. In Writing, we have been writing persuasive writing pieces. Students have written songs, poems, stories, cartoons, posters, letters, and more to share the problems they notice in the world and their very own “fix-it” ideas to help make the world a better place. In Math, we started Unit 5 which helps develop students’ ideas about counting and quantity, place value and the structure of the base 10 system, the meaning of operations with whole numbers, the development of computational fluency, and generalizations about numbers and operations. We will play lots of games throughout this unit to reinforce fluency with addition and subtraction facts. In Social Studies, we started our geography unit. In this unit, we learn what a map is and how to use it referring to a compass rose and the 4 cardinal directions. We review different landforms and bodies of water as well as the 7 continents and 5 oceans. During this unit, we use the globe and atlas as resources. We have been busy!

    Second Grade

    In second grade, we have been exploring nonfiction topics in reading and writing. Students have written books on topics they are experts on, adding text features like headings, tables of contents, glossaries, and indexes to their books. The students can now discuss the many differences between fiction and nonfiction books, and are excited to share all they learn from nonfiction texts.

    In math we have been working on solving word problems with an unknown part or unknown start. We have pushed our thinking to show numerous different ways of solving these complex problems, whether it be with a number line, sticker notation, or simplified equations.

    In Social Studies, we have flown to Mexico to immerse ourselves in the Mexican culture. Students have explored where it is on a map, the country’s flag, the landforms that can be found, and Dia de Los Muertos. During this unit, we will be comparing our lifestyle and cultures to those of Mexican children.

    In Science, we have observed our lunar moths. We got to watch them hatch from their cocoons and learn all about their life cycles.

    Third Grade

    The third grade is finishing Unit 4 of Investigations in math. This unit develops students’ ideas about the attributes of two dimensional (2-D) and three dimensional (3-D) shapes and how these attributes determine their classification. Additionally, the unit develops students’ ideas about measurable attributes and the techniques, tools, and units used to measure each of them. We have also begun our informational writing unit. The students have been taught many different ways to elaborate on their topics by including facts, definitions, and other important details. Children will learn how to write introductions, organize information and include text features that help their readers.

    Fourth Grade

    4th grade students are busy working on their Southwest Region projects. They’re using their creativity to create posters, GoogleSlides, books, skits and game boards. They are learning all about decimals in math, energy in science, and writing literary essays.
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    Fifth Grade

    March 4th, marked the 100th day of the school year, was the 1000th day of school (since starting kindergarten) for the fifth graders! Fifth graders are conducting research to find evidence to support the claims they are making in their opinion essays. They are participating in reading groups in which they are reading and discussing books with a focus on the themes of resilience and survival. In math, the fifth graders recently learned the standard algorithm for multiplication. Now they are beginning to explore decimals.

    5th grade DLA students engaged in a talent show showcasing a wide array of skills! Students performed magic card tricks, dice stacking, drawing, and musical performances.

    With the return to full in-person learning, 5th graders began to deliver morning announcements live... a tradition we are so happy to revisit.

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    Specials: Art, Library, Music, PEH&W

    PEH&W with Ms. Pargoli

    In Kindergarten through second grade we’ve been working hard on using equipment we can find in our areas for different skills. We went on a full body workout adventure starting at getting our heart pumping into the three zones in Cardio to using our own weights to build strong muscles. We then moved into hand eye coordination with tossing an object to ourselves while completing dazzling tricks around our back, under our legs and more.

    Third through fifth graders have been working on their fitness by locating their pulse and learning how to find their beats per minute. Students first worked on their cardiovascular endurance through HIIT workouts then followed it by showcasing their muscular strength and endurance with lifting weights in different muscle groups. We then took to our hand-eye coordination with tossing objects to ourselves while completing different fitness challenges. Students then challenged themselves to learn the art of scarf juggling with tissues to dazzle each other.

    Music with Mr. Miles

    Our younger musicians have been exploring music from around the world! The unit called “Windows and Mirrors” took us on a world-wide tour of cultures, to which we were able to make prior-knowledge connections. For example, we learned about traditional Chinese instruments like the erhu and the pipa, which reminded us of the violin and the guitar!

    Our Hello Song taught us NINE ways to say hello… students in grades K through 3 learned it and can sing it for you! Students are so thoughtful, and brought up that there were so many languages missing from our song…and yes, how silly that English is featured twice.

    🎵Hello, Bonjour, Buenos Dias, G’day, Guten tag, Konichiwa, Ciao, Shalom, Do-Brey dien, Hello to all the children of the world! 🎵

    Since returning from February break, Kindergarten and 1st grade have been exploring The Carnival of the Animals, a piece by the French composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns which features instruments including the piano sounding like and representing different animals! We have been having fun playing animal rhythms with our clapping hands and rhythm sticks, and moving our bodies like different animals along to the music.

    2nd and 3rd grades have also been learning about the instruments—of the orchestra! Students have been listening to different sections or “families” of instruments in the orchestra…can you name all four? (Strings, Woodwinds, Brass, and Percussion!) We have talked about how instruments make their sound, and how we can tell the difference between the sections. I know some kids are already deciding on instruments that they would like to learn when they are older.

    Fourth and fifth graders spent the beginning of the year exploring different American composers— from George Gershwin to Robert Johnson— and have now started to become composers themselves! We are using all the rhythm knowledge we have and creating our own musical compositions. Some students who play instruments are composing a piece for their instrument! We’re using technology to our advantage, and students are able to work at a pace and level that is best suited to them.

    Library with Ms. Selwyn

    In Kindergarten and first grade, we have been hard at work as nonfiction explorers! We researched pets using PebbleGo and practiced taking notes as a class. We learned about what pets need, and celebrated our learning with a virtual pet show! In February, we celebrated Black History month by learning about inspiring Black Americans. We explored space with Mae Jemison, celebrated illustrator Vashti Harrison by reading her book Hair Love, and ran fast with Wilma Rudolph. Ask your learner which sport was their favorite to act out during our game of Magic Rock! ✨🏀⚾️

    Second graders spent January learning about the Caldecott Medal! We read some books that were in contention for the 2021 Medals and shared our opinions about whether each book should win the gold medal or not. We were so excited when the Caldecott Committee awarded Outside In an honor medal -- that was one of our favorites!! In February, we started a picture book biography unit to learn about incredible Americans. Along the way, we learned about citing our sources and practiced taking notes. Ask your learner to share what Lonnie Johnson invented! 🏞☀️💦

    Third graders have been exploring fiction genres. To learn about fantasy, we read the classic fantasy story Jumanji; together, 3rd graders created a virtual version of Jumanji, which you can play here. We have also learned about science fiction and realistic fiction. Our genre adventures culminated in a celebration of learning on Kahoot. Ask your learner whether they like fantasy, sci-fi, or realistic fiction more! 🐉👽👧🏻

    Fourth and fifth graders have been working hard to practice the skill of source evaluation! Together we learned about the CARP Test, which is a series of questions we can ask to help us determine whether information we read is fishy or not. 4th and 5th graders showed incredible perseverance and grit while learning this challenging skill! Ask your learner what they remember about Bear-Be-Gone… 🏠🐻🙅🏻‍♀️

    Art with Ms. Decatur

    In Kindergarten and 1st grade we have been making art in our unit that asks the question, How do Artists Work? We are learning about the Studio Habits of Stretch and Explore, and Engage and Persist. We have been exploring different materials and so far have learned about Mark Bradford’s use of Mixed Media, Lois Ehlert’s Collage work and are now investigating Dale Chihuly’s Glass sculptures.

    Second and third graders are learning about how artists use their mind’s eye to find inspiration to create their art. We are practicing the Studio Habits of Envision and Stretch and Explore. We have been inspired by Kandinsky’s musical paintings, Michelle Samour’s scientific paper sculptures, and now investigating the story and fantasy art of Mary Blair.

    4th and 5th graders are investigating how to observe the world around us to create art. We are focusing on the Studio Habit, Observe and using all of our senses to notice details to make our art. We just finished drawing in 1 point and 2 point perspective while being inspired by artist Camille Walala. Now, we are now looking at Frida Kahlo and working on drawing self portraits.

    School Grounds for Students During School Hours/Activities

    Across the District, families are permitted to use school playgrounds and fields after 3:30pm on school days. Please note that masks are required. Those refusing to wear a mask will be asked to leave the premises. We also ask that families and neighbors keep dogs leashed and away from student gathering areas when grounds are used for learning, arrival & dismissal, and Ward Afterschool. Please respect and protect the health and safety of all in our community.

    We understand how precious outdoor play and socialization time is for younger students. Please know that you and your student may return to the playground after 3:30 p.m. when it is open to the community. You may also access any of these other non-school playgrounds in Newton.

    Lost and Found

    As always, it is important for students to dress in layers to be prepared for outdoor play and learning no matter the weather. We urge you to clearly label all clothing. Students should check out the lost and found in the front lobby if they are missing any items.

    We clean out the closet monthly and donate unclaimed items.

    Ward PTO

    The Ward PTO supports the school in innumerable ways. In addition to many fun family events, the PTO provides financial support for student activities, improves our building, attends to and provides playground equipment, supports our technology needs, and brings in phenomenal enrichment programs. The PTO is hard at work and is always seeking more involvement and new ideas. If you are interested in becoming more involved and/or can contribute any level of financial donation to the Ward Annual Fund, you are supporting student learning at Ward. If you are interested in becoming more involved and/or want to receive the PTO's email announcements, go to:

    Please join us for the next PTO Coffee on Tuesday, April 27, from 8-9:15am, outside at the tents.

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    Ward FORJ (Families Organizing for Racial Justice)

    Ward FORJ is a parent group at Ward School focused on building bridges among families within the Ward community and educating the school community about race, racism, culture, and identity. We are affiliated with the citywide Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ), organized by parents at schools across Newton. We are supported by the Ward PTO and parents, teachers, and administrators throughout the Ward community. Our goal is to help ensure a safe and supportive environment so that all Ward students and families feel that they belong and are valued and respected within the school and school community.

    To get involved or for more information, please contact:

    Jeanne Choe-Arrieta ( or Angela Brooks (

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    Community Opportunities

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    NNHS Next Gen Voices Art Event

    Saturday, April 24th, 1pm

    457 Walnut Street

    Newton, MA

    NNHS Next Gen Voices is hosting an art event focusing on artists of color in Newton. This is open to fine, written, and performing arts. We wanted to create a platform to highlight the talents of artists of color in Newton (this includes anyone with ties to Newton such as attending school or living here). Some art topics to consider include culture, race, ethnicity, and identity in general. This list is not extensive, and artists should feel free to submit any kind of art that they like. This event will take place on April 24th at 1 p.m. at the Arts Courtyard at Newton North. This event will include an area for performing art, as well tables to display the fine arts.

    Additionally, anyone is welcome to attend, enjoy the art, and hear from our amazing speakers!

    Here is the general interest form and our website which has more information.

    Here is the email to send submissions to if students are interested (please let them know to reach out with any questions or concerns!):

    Bike Rodeo for Grades K-6

    Thursday, April 15th, 10am

    140 Brandeis Road

    Newton, MA

    Join Newton Parks and Recreation and instructors from MA Safe Routes to Schools to practice bike riding skills on Sunday April 25th. Volunteers will help teach fun stations including knowing signs, hand signals and more. Requirements for participation include:

    • The child should be able to ride a bike independently.

    • Participants must bring their own bike and helmet.

    • An adult must be present for the duration of the program.

    Registration for this program opens on April 15th at 6:00 pm. through this link:

    Summer Programs

    Newton Neighbors/Newton Community Pride is currently fundraising to send 15 – 20 students to summer enrichment programs by offsetting the remaining fees/co-payments expected from families after receiving camp scholarships. Contact our social worker, Kadesia Woods, for information about receiving financial support or contributing to the fundraiser (or donate directly). If you are looking for summer opportunities for your child, Ms. Woods has created a list of local camps you may find helpful.

    Easy Ways to Financially Support Ward School

    Amazon Smile

    Be sure to use Amazon Smile when shopping on Amazon on your computer and phone! Please update your Amazon settings and earn money for Ward when you do your regular shopping. Choose John Ward School Parent Teacher Organization.
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    Box Tops for Eduction

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