John Ward Elementary School

November 2020

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Principal's Message

Dear Ward School Families,

Each year, as the colorful leaves fall to the ground and the air fills with a new chill, I find myself growing excited in anticipation of the new season and new year to follow. Our children are over 1/4 of the way into this new school year and growing ever more confident and curious in their new learning community. When I spend time in remote and in-person classrooms every day, I notice students working together, asking thoughtful questions, persevering through challenging tasks, and sharing their thinking. Seeing and supporting this type of learning unfold is a true joy.

As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I am filled with gratitude. I am truly grateful to be a part of Ward. I am grateful for the eager students and committed staff members who fill our school and screens with joy, excitement, and energy every day. We are a community of members from many different backgrounds who learn and grow together. We are open to new ideas and experiences and are eager to share with one another. We work hard each day and are willing to fail forward-- to make mistakes and learn from them. Together, we recognize hard work and perseverance through difficult challenges. We also celebrate successes. I am proud of the growth already this year. Please read on to see the important community activities and learning that take place every day.

I am grateful for the families, parents, and guardians who support our school and who are eager to learn along with us. I am grateful for your vigilance and care to follow safety guidelines, complete the daily health check, and keep children home when sick. Because of this, we are able to keep our school building open for in-person learning. The commitment and generosity you provide enable Ward school and DLA to be places of constant improvement and growth. Your partnership enables us to build a strong community to support all of our students. Please reach out to me if you have an idea about how to further strengthen our community or if you would like to get involved in a new or different way.

I am most grateful for the fabulous team of staff members who are dedicated to Ward. There are so many professionals who work tirelessly to ensure that our school is a safe, warm, and thoughtful learning community. I thank all of our staff: our custodians, office staff, aides, assistants, nurse, teachers, and specialists for working together, striving to constantly improve, and caring for our students. It is through their tireless dedication that we strive to learn and adjust to help each child grow, learn, and to achieve his/her potential.

For all of this, I am grateful.

Sending you all my best wishes for good health, compassion, and wellbeing.




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On the Calendar... Planning Ahead

    • Wednesday, November 25: Thanksgiving Recess begins at NOON
    • Thursday, November 26-Friday, November 27: Thanksgiving Recess - No School
    • Monday, November 30: Cohort A/DLA Picture Retake Day
    • Wednesday, December 2:
      • Gr. 3-5 CAS Event: Women in World Jazz - 9:15-10:00am

      • Gr. 3 B.C. Penpal Meet & Greet Zoom: 10:05-11:05am

    • Thursday, December 3: Cohort B/DLA Picture Retake Day
    • Monday, December 7: Early Release at 12:30pm for Fall Conferences (no afternoon Zoom sessions)
    • Monday, December 7-Thursday, December 17: Elementary Progress Conference Window
    • Thursday, December 10:
      • Early Release at 12:30pm for Fall Conferences (no afternoon Zoom sessions)

      • DLA Parent Coffee; 7:00pm

    • Tuesday, December 15- Supporting our Children Parent Evening (stay tuned for details)
    • Thursday, December 24- January 3: School Vacation
    • Monday, January 4- School In Session
    • Monday, January 18- No School; Martin Luther King Jr. Day

    • 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.

    Attendance Reporting for DLA and Hybrid Students

    Reminder: Although you may email your child(ren)’s teacher(s) to let them know that your child will be absent from school/learning -- whether it be on a Zoom or physically in school -- you also must call the Ward Absence Line 617.559.6470, and leave a message before arrival time.

    Please continue to inform Teachers, but for health and/or safety issues, calling the absence line is a MUST. The office is responsible for tracking and recording all absences, dismissals, or late arrivals.

    Attendance is taken daily for all synchronous remote classes which include Art, Library, Music, and PEH&W. Participation is mandatory and will be reflected on the progress reports.

    Ward Gratitude Flipgrid

    We hope you will consider taking part in and viewing the Ward Gratitude Flipgrid to connect as a school community around our shared values. This month, our focus will be on gratitude.

    Students and families are invited to participate individually or together as a household in this Flipgrid. If your child or family records, other Ward families, teachers, and students will be able to view the messages, and some might even be shown-off in class meetings during the week leading up to or after Thanksgiving! Participation is completely voluntary:

    Follow This Link

    Sign in if you have an account or click on Enter your guest password:

    Password: Ward2020!

    School Picture RETAKE Days!

    CoffeePond Photography will be at Ward for optional retakes for Cohort A students on Monday, November 30 and Cohort B students on Thursday, December 3. DLA students may arrive at the back door to the Library between 1 and 2pm.

    Please send the original photos in with your child if you would like a retake.

    Photos will likely be taken inside given the time of year. Careful health and safety measures will be followed.

    Supporting Student Learning

    In our ongoing efforts to meet all students where they are, we regularly look at assessment data in combination with student work to plan and differentiate instruction. At all grade levels, teachers use a variety of formal and informal assessments to monitor student progress. We strive to ensure that all of our students achieve academic success. Research supports early intervention as a key to promoting on-level reading and math skills. Newton Public Schools has implemented a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) approach to ensure interventions are provided to students needing a boost to master specific grade-level skills. This regular education initiative reflects our best thinking about optimal ways to use our current staffing to support student growth. Decisions regarding participants are made by grade-level teams and are reviewed and adjusted regularly (typically 6-8 week group interventions). Students will meet with trained staff in small groups. While in an intervention group, participants receive an extra dose of instruction three to five times per week. This instruction is provided during designated times during the school day (remotely and/or in person).

    Nurse's Notes:

    Hi Ward Families,

    I would like to first extend a huge thanks to the Ward community for your immense effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 both in our schools but also in the community. I am comforted by knowing Ward families are taking the Daily Health Assessment seriously and your hard work at home with mask wearing and hand washing is showing off as our children are being so conscientious with healthy habits on a daily basis. As the weather turns colder, please remember to send your child with extra layers - this will help keep them warm as we continue to keep windows open for extra ventilation and for outside play time. As a reminder, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has made the Influenza vaccine mandatory for school participation. We are asking that children be vaccinated by December 31, 2020. If you haven't already, please provide me with your immunization records. I know that this is a hard time for many. Please know that I am a resource for you and your family if you ever need anything.

    Be well,

    Gretchen Egan

    As a reminder, influenza vaccines are now mandatory for school aged children. The deadline for a flu shot is December 31st and I am asking that you provide me with documentation.

    As always, I am hoping my health office continues to bring a sense of safety and wellbeing to you and your children.

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    Grab and Go Meals

    So many people in Newton are in need of food. Please pick up a bag of free food with 2 or 3 days of breakfasts and lunches inside. The food is available to ALL Newton students and residents at no cost.

    Since Newton’s Grab & Go food program began in April, more than 250,000 meals have been provided.

    The program operates out of Newton North (457 Walnut Street but go to the Theatre entrance on Elm Road which is one way from Lowell towards Walnut) and Newton South High Schools (140 Brandeis Road) each weekday, 10 a.m. to noon.

    Our website will be updated if there is a schedule change due to winter weather. Visit for weather updates and other information.

    DLA Materials Pick Up

    Another round of supplies for DLA students will be distributed on Thursday and Friday, December 10 and 11, from 1-3pm in the front of school.

    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 Jan 13-14, Mar 3-5, Apr 7-9, May 5-7, and Jun 4-6.

    Traveling Out of State?

    If you are planning to travel out of state for the long weekend or in the near future please be sure to review the state’s travel order. It includes:

    • Quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts - unless you are returning from a low risk state

    • If your COVID-19 test result has not been received prior to arrival, visitors, and residents must quarantine until they receive a negative test result.

    Ward Building Update

    A huge shout out to our custodial team of Mr. Cassidy, Mr. Fadden, and Mr. Curry! They go above and beyond each day to keep our school clean and safe. Mr. Cassidy joined the Ward team in September and has been attentive to the unique details of this building built in 1929. From repainted railings and doors to shining brass, the building is getting much needed TLC. Support for our building improvements is largely possible due to the generous contributions of the PTO. We want to share some of the updates until we can open our doors to families again..

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

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    Windows Into (and Outside Of) Our School


    Kindergarteners have been enjoying writing teaching books. They start by choosing a topic and brainstorming all that they know about it. Then they use pictures, labels and sentences to make their books easier for others to understand. Kindergarteners have been working on 2-D shape puzzles, filling in larger shapes with smaller shapes to complete the design. The best part is two people could look at the same puzzle and fill it in totally differently. We celebrate these differences in Kindergarten and connect it to our work of establishing a classroom community, both in person and at home.

    First Grade

    First grade students have been busy bringing their personal narratives to life by adding craft moves from mentor texts to their own writing. In math, they are counting on/back to add and subtract as well as show their work and explain their thinking when solving number stories. First grade readers are learning to solve tricky words, using the beginning sounds of words and clues from the pictures. Then they stretch out the sounds out and blend them together. Students are learning to do something after they read as well- share their favorite part of a book, make text to self connections, or reread to gain better understanding. First grade learners are learning to be part of classroom communities, both in person at school and online at home. They are embracing new learning modules and are eager to come to school!

    Second Grade

    The second grade has been working hard on developing detailed personal narrative stories. Students have been zooming in on one moment in their life and have been telling stories by bringing characters to life with action words and speech bubbles. They have also been working on editing their writing to notice times where words should have capitalization as well as the correct punctuation at the end of their sentences. In Reader’s Workshop, students have been studying the famous author of the George and Martha series, James Marshall. They have been analyzing characters and illustrations to make inferences about the stories and dive deeper into the text. In math, students have been practicing their fact fluency while working with addition and subtraction word problems. They have explored many different ways to show their work and choose strategies that best fit their style of computation. In Social Studies, students have begun to explore maps and their place in a community.

    Third Grade

    The third grade has been drafting personal narratives. Students have learned how to tell their stories step-by-step, not comment on their stories. They are using dialogue and adding details to make their stories come alive. Over the next few weeks, they will be publishing their work.

    Third graders have also been introduced to a program called ST Math. The students are enjoying solving lots of puzzles and working with their new learning friend, Jiji the penguin.

    Fourth Grade

    Fourth graders have been working hard to draft their realistic fiction stories. They have learned how to write their stories scene-by-scene while adding descriptive language and dialogue. They are also finishing up a short story unit in which they studied some of the elements of fiction, such as characters, setting, plot, and theme. In math, the students have been reviewing and improving upon their multiplication and division skills. Currently, they are working on multiplying two-digit by one-digit numbers and dividing two and three-digit numbers by one digit.

    Fifth Grade

    Fifth graders have been working on writing narrative stories. They have been focusing on the theme of their story by asking themselves, “What is my story really about?” They have also been identifying the most important parts of their stories and elaborating on those parts. They have begun to study Native American cultural groups in Social Studies. In Math, they are working on volume.

    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

    Musicians K-5 have been excited to use their new MUSIC PACKETS! These dry erase sleeves with inserts will be useful tools in learning music this year. Please remind students that we will not be writing directly on these pages, but will use the dry erase markers to write on the plastic sleeve with the pages on the inside. These markers should be saved for music class, as we’re intending them to last for the year.

    Kindergarten and 1st grade students have begun exploring their singing voices, and I am encouraging students to be brave and volunteer to unmute and sing one at a time!

    Kindergarten through 3rd graders have been getting up and moving to quarter notes and eighth notes (or “walk” and “jogging” notes) and soon 2nd and 3rd graders are going to be using their dry erase sleeves to write the rhythms down.

    3rd Graders have started to play their recorders! In addition to their music packer, they should have also received their Newton Third Grade Recorder Book, made by music teacher Deanna Mustachio at Franklin Elementary. These books are for students to use, and they may look ahead if they are motivated to do so. We have fewer classes together this year, so we are trying to get as much learning done as possible!

    4th and 5th graders have started Unit 2 and become Musical Explorers! Using the website All Around This World, students will explore the music of a culture of their choosing; many students are choosing a culture with personal or familial significance, and some students are choosing to explore a culture that is different from their own. I am encouraging students to use this as an opportunity to talk with their families and learn more about their family culture.

    Instrumental music has resumed at Ward, with 4th grade instrumental lessons in the afternoons, and our Ward Band and Orchestra meeting on Wednesdays. This new online format is different for students and teachers alike, but one thing that is important is having a good space which facilitates learning. We’ll be making sure we have our practice spaces sorted with everything we need for playing our instrument. Note: Ward Band and Orchestra will not meet on Wednesday 12/23.

    Library with Ms. Selwyn

    In kindergarten and 1st grade, we have been learning about the differences between fiction and nonfiction books. We have put on our detective hats to notice clues in the illustrations that help us understand the story or answer questions. We have had so much fun learning about animals with nonfiction books and PebbleGo! Ask your student about the tiny, stinky, and sleepy animals we learned about in Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers

    Second graders have spent the past few weeks exploring nonfiction in Library class! We have used nonfiction books and databases to learn about animals and cold places in the world. Plus, we’ve learned about text features, which are helping us to become expert nonfiction readers! Ask your student to show you what we do when we see a bolded word! ⚾️

    In third grade, we have been sharing and growing our love of reading! We shared our book recommendations and played a “Guess That Book Character!” game. We also read a book about gratitude, and students shared about the books they are grateful for on Seesaw. Ask your student to share one of the books they are grateful for! 📚
    Fourth and fifth graders have been practicing being responsible digital citizens. We have used lots of digital tools, like Google Forms, Google Slides, and even Kahoot! Recently, students have brainstormed personal interest topics and started learning about them using our Library databases. Ask your student what animal, state, or famous person they want to learn about! 📖

    Art with Ms. Decatur

    In Kindergarten and first grade we have been learning to embrace our mistakes and how artists transform and change everyday things to make them into something new. We learned about the contemporary artists Sarah Coey and Jen Stark that transform rainbows! Below are how some of us made rainbows into something new.

    In 2nd and 3rd grade we have been exploring the Studio Habit Express and how different artists express ideas and emotions through their artwork. We learned about three artists that express ideas with color (Sarah Coey, Helen Frankenthaler, and Beatriz Milhazes.) We also learned about how artists can be inspired by kindness and are creating digital kindness quilts! Below is our in progress 3rd grade kindness quilt!

    In 4th and 5th grade we have also been investigating how artists express themselves and recently we discovered the artist Matthew Hoffman and how he is inspired by compassion. We have been learning about the Studio Habits Express and Understanding Art Worlds. Hoffman uses text based art and the power of words to uplift others. As artists we can use our art to bring happiness and positivity to others!

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    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. This is now not only an expectation at all Newton schools, it is a state mandate per the Governor. 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:

    Ward Virtual Bookfair

    We have our own web page at Children’s Bookstore that raises funds through book purchases.

    Our book fair will start December 1st and conclude on December 14th. So shop early. It’s easy to participate, visit and buy books at our book page.
    1. visit:
    2. Shop for the books you can’t wait to read.
    3. Books will be shipped directly to you.

    During our book fair we earn 30% of every purchase! Throughout the school year, we will earn 15% of book purchases every day.

    There are more than 200,000 books available from baby books to the best in young adult literature. You can also purchase books to gift to teachers' classrooms from their wish lists.

    Please forward this information along to friends and family anywhere in the U.S. You can also post information about our book fair to your Facebook page or Twitter.

    You can buy books anytime at this URL to help us raise needed funds for our PTO.

    Thanks and happy reading!

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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.

    Ward FORJ will be hosting its second meeting of the year in early January. Stay tuned for more information. If it's anything like the first meeting, you won't want to miss it.

    In the meantime, as you purchase holiday gifts, consider books that feature the diversity of people, families, places, and experiences that exist all around us. You can search for lists of diverse books; there are many out there. Some may tell a story of a famous person of color, while others feature characters of color in their daily lives. Books are a wonderful way to engage children in learning about the lives and experiences of those who live different experiences from them.

    To get involved or for more information, please contact:

    Jeanne Choe-Arrieta ( or Angela Brooks (

    Ward School Garden

    Last Fall, Ward Kindergartners planted garlic cloves as part of Ward School Garlic Day, a self-sustaining project that started from a handful of garlic bulbs and has been carried on through many classes. The garlic bulbs are harvested in July, cured over the summer, and in the Fall 1st graders receive a full garlic bulb grown from the cloves they planted as Kindergartners. Individual cloves from the extra garlic will be planted by this year's kindergartners to continue the cycle. Huge thanks to Ward parent, Elizabeth Apgar, for coordinating and maintaining this special learning opportunity for our students.

    Giving and Caring-- City of Newton Holiday Gift Drive

    The Village Bank has partnered with the Newton Rotary and the city of Newton Department of Health and Human Services to sponsor the city’s annual Holiday Gift Drive. We have seen a significant increase in need this year and our number of families requesting assistance has nearly doubled. We are confident that the community of Newton can meet this need with enthusiasm and support! Gifts should be for children ages newborn to 10 and may include age-appropriate toys, games, electronics and sporting goods as well as gift cards from local merchants. Gifts can be dropped off to any Village Bank location in the City. Other ways to give include purchasing and shipping online gifts through the Amazon Wish List (Holiday Gift Drive ( or making tax-deductible cash donations to the Newton Rotary.

    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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