News from the Hill

February 2018

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Principal's Message

Dear Parents/Guardians,

We have had an amazing first month of 2018! Our H.E.A.R.T. (Hillside Enrichment at Recess Time) program began this week to rave reviews. Second graders are participating in such activities as knitting, creative writing, crocheting, drama, meditation and crafts. I would like to thank our parent volunteers for their time and dedication to our students. Also, I would like to recognize our PTSA VP, Tammy Black, for coordinating this exciting program.

Our Building Leadership Team met this week to discuss how to promote our core values at Hillside. Our team has been comprised of administrators, teachers, and parents. This week, we welcomed 4th grade student members, Seren Zamore and Sophia Pereira, to our team. Together, we brainstormed and selected ideas to further enhance our core values. In the coming weeks, there will be a kick-off assembly where students will learn about our action plan. Stay tuned for more excitement around RESPECT, COURAGE and CURIOSITY!!!

Our Diverse Book Initiative is underway. In collaboration with our Race Matters Committee, PTSA Inclusion Working Group and leadership team, we have identified topics that need greater representation in our curriculum and classroom libraries. These include: race/culture, gender, family, socioeconomics, learning differences, health (allergies), religion and sexual orientation. Our teams are currently in the process of reviewing books and making recommendations for both read alouds and classroom library additions. This summer, our staff curriculum writers will build spark discussions around selected titles for each grade. This is important work and we are pleased to partner with so many stakeholders, ensuring that multiple perspectives inform our selections for our students.

The month of February is sure to be filled with joy at Hillside. We will begin the month with World Read Aloud Day on February 1st, coordinated by school librarian, Jamie Nedwick, where special people in our community will be invited to read aloud to our students. Then, get out your dancing shoes and join us for our Family Dance Night on February 9th. Students have been practicing an array of fun dances in Physical Education and this special evening, organized by PE teachers, Amanda Bassman, Michael Chappas and Ericka Melvin, will showcase all that they have learned! Finally, in collaboration with our PTSA, we will be welcoming the Lion Dance Program to perform at Hillside on February 28th where students will "experience the exciting festivities and learn traditions of the Asian Culture first hand." Please click here for more information on this educational program.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend with your families,

Amy Cazes


Hillside Building Leadership Team (BLT)

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Congratulations to Rory McKinnon and Benjamin Wohl, winners of the MLK Committee contest!

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RiverArts began their dance program with Hillside second graders the first week in January and we are off to an amazing start. The students are exploring the water cycle by way of dance. Some of the descriptive vocabulary that they are learning and exploring through movement include: splashing, drifting, flowing, freezing, meandering, raining, bubbling, waving, shimmering, evaporating and more! The children are engaged in the play-filled development of science concepts, building vocabulary, and creating movement. They are learning that they can craft dances themselves as well as learn new Dance movements and forms from their RiverArts teachers.

Current Events with Claudia Heitler

Current events kicked off in September for 3rd and 4th graders, and as an icebreaker before explaining the news to kids, Claudia Heitler mentioned her summer travels that included bringing school supplies to a newly-built library and tutoring center in rural Nicaragua. The library also has an outreach program where books and school supplies are brought to nearby Sofia Sanarucia elementary school and Las Salinas Secundaria high school near El Limon Dos.

Sadly, a month after her visit a one-in-a-hundred-year catastrophic flood came through and destroyed the 4,000 books that friends had hand-carried there to stock the shelves. The computers, as well as the entire storeroom of school supplies, were lost as well.

Thanks to the amazingly generous fourth-grade teachers, students, their families, and Principal Cazes, a request for a few used school supplies yielded about 300 lbs of pencils, crayons, glue-sticks, pens, and other items! Some of the students selflessly volunteered their lunch time to make sure the markers worked, picked out broken crayon bits, and made sure we weren’t sending items down that couldn’t be used -- no small feat given the volume of donations!

The first batch of school supplies has already arrived at the library (see below)! Another round is expected to make it there in February (there’s no mail service in this region so the supplies travel with people headed to the area). Everyone’s generosity is greatly appreciated! These children are amazing just like ours -- minus easy access to books and a solid education. But what a difference that makes. And thank you again so much!

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Hastings Booster Club Fundraiser

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Classroom News


The children are really enjoying our Five Senses unit! We have been discussing our five senses and how they can keep us safe on the playground (e.g. our sense of hearing allows for us to hear the whistle to come inside after recess). This has been a very “hands-on” unit where we have been exploring with a variety activities such as feely bins for learning the sense of touch and a “Taste Museum” where we will use our senses to describe some different foods (sweet, sour, salty and bitter).

We have also started a new unit in math and will be working on exploring measurable attributes of objects such as length, weight and volume in a very hands-on way. We have been comparing a variety of objects to see which object has “more of” or “less of” the attribute and the children have been describing the difference. We have also been identifying whether the number of objects in one group is “greater than,” “less than,” or “equal to” the number of objects in another group by using matching and counting strategies. Wow, all this amazing math in Kindergarten!

Reading continues to flourish in Kindergarten. Our students are now embarking on learning and strengthening reading strategies for decoding and comprehending texts. It is wonderful to see such love for reading in our classrooms!

1st Grade

First graders rock on!! Our children are completely fascinated with our new content unit, History of the Earth. Students are learning about the various layers of the earth and its characteristics, about different rocks and minerals and all about volcanoes and geysers. As this unit progresses, they will also study fossils and dinosaurs.

We were very excited to have Leigh Galanis, retired first grade teacher, come into our classrooms this month to discuss the important work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She visited each classroom sharing the important contributions he made to our world and discussed his message of peace. These powerful discussions and stories helped anchor our students’ learning. As a culminating activity and tribute to Dr. King, first graders participated in a peace march through the halls of Hillside. They carried signs that send peaceful messages and sung the songs, “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine” as a source of inspiration. We hope you caught the segment aired by Channel 12 News. Their voices were heard and their messages were inspiring. We are VERY proud of our students!

As readers, our students have completed our unit on tackling the tricky parts of reading and will begin our new unit, “Reading to Learn About the World.” Here first graders will be immersed in non-fiction and will learn how to approach informational text, understand text features and begin to think beyond the words on a page. We look forward to this unit and know the students will approach their learning with much eagerness.

In the upcoming weeks, our math work will conclude with a look at place value and begin with a study of measurement. This new unit gives lots of hands-on experiences with tools and objects. It’s lots of fun and we know our first graders will love it!

2nd Grade

The wintry weather has only enhanced our study of Earth’s systems. We’ve learned about the water cycle and are now modeling landforms and how weathering and erosion are responsible for the changes to our geosphere. We’ve watched glaciers move soil and rock and rainwater create canyons and caves. We’ll be creating models of landforms and bodies of water with salt and flour dough; watch for our display.

During readers’ workshop, we’ve cozied up with fictional titles. We have paying attention to our book characters’ thoughts, words, and actions, as we dig deeper to understand them. We often stop and jot ideas about those characters as we read. We enjoy conversations with partners, to talk about choices those characters make or changes they undergo, as they live their stories. Differing opinions about characters

make for the best discussions!

We continue to write narratives, to include opinions, letters, and story frames (for our Story Pirate entries). Self and peer editing for errors with conventions is an important practice. Revisions are encouraged; word choice, added details, and dialogue can usually improve our pieces!

Our mathematicians continue to add and subtract two and three digit numbers, using algorithms, place value charts and disks, totals below, and number bonds. Answers in the thousands are the motivation to continue the computations now!

The Second Step program has had us working on identifying and managing our strong emotions. We have learned several ways to calm ourselves when we need to: breathe, count, and use self-talk. Mrs. Snyder has encouraged us to be students with growth mindsets. We know that our brains grow with challenges. Bring ‘em on! We’ll persevere!

We look forward to our Valentine’s Day parties; we’ll celebrate our friendships!

3rd Grade

In math we have begun our fourth unit: students are exploring area as an attribute of two-dimensional figures as they relate it to their prior understandings of multiplication. We are also reviewing various 2-dimensional shapes – their names and their attributes. We have finished our multiplication mini assessments, and have now begun our division mini assessments each Friday. We send home fact cards to help study for the weekly assessment.

We continue work in our biography unit. We have been comparing and contrasting the characteristics of fiction writing and biography writing. Children continue to read biographies of their choice. They also have chosen one person to learn about in-depth, and complete a mini research project to show what life lessons they have learned from this person. In writing, students are completing their “Story Pirate” stories for the upcoming assembly where student work will be performed. This program is being underwritten by the Hastings Educational Foundation. Children are working individually, in pairs, or in small groups.

In social studies, we are finishing up our China unit. We were lucky enough to have author and illustrator Ed Young come to each of the classes to share the history of some Chinese words, as well as his story: Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem About China. He did not read from his traditional book, but a scroll that he created. As he unfolded the scroll, it completely wound around the classroom! He was joined by high school student, Emma Bowers, who is an ambassador for the U.S. China Strong program.

Students are learning about weather, and its measurement, in science. Our outside weather is giving the students a first-hand look at how temperature and wind impact our everyday lives. To discuss measurement, students have created thermometers to learn how to read them. They have also created anemometers and tested their use by making their own wind (by blowing).

4th Grade

In math, we have begun our unit on fractions. 4th graders are learning terms such as numerator, denominator, unit fraction, and equivalency. As we move ahead, we will also be learning how to add, subtract, and compare fractions, as well as convert improper fractions to mixed numbers.

In language arts, we have completed our second unit on Thinking Deeply About Characters. Now we are ready to begin our 3rd unit of study, Synthesizing Ideas Across Nonfiction Texts. Students will learn why and how people read nonfiction, and will also learn to gather information about a topic from various sources to synthesize information. Of course, fourth graders are still encouraged to read and enjoy fictional books, but now they will have an additional lens to view their growth and development in language arts.

In social studies, we are just about ready to write our Dutch letters. We have taken many notes about life in New Amsterdam and about “Old Silver Leg,” Peter Stuyvesant. The students were so excited to tea stain paper in order to make their letters look as authentic as possible.

In Science, we are continuing to learn about living things. 4th graders are learning about the life cycles of both plants and animals and how they grow.

Communications K-2

The Kindergarten students are really enjoying our Five Senses unit! We have been discussing our five senses and how they can keep us safe on the playground (e.g. our sense of hearing allows for us to hear the whistle to come inside after recess). Next, we will be exploring some materials and activities such as feely bins for learning the sense of touch and a “Taste Museum” where we will use our senses to describe some different foods (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). In math the students are working on exploring measurable attributes of objects such as length and weight.

The first grader students participated in a peace march through the halls of Hillside. They carried signs that sent peaceful messages and sung the songs, “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine” as a source of inspiration.

The second grade students are exploring the Earth’s systems. They are learning about landforms and bodies of water and will be creating models.

Reading continues to flourish in our class for all of the students. We continue to explore look books and heart books while learning to find just right books. Our students are now embarking on learning and strategies for decoding and comprehending texts.

Other curriculum is based on student IEP goals, grade level skills, and life skills. Throughout the day we will focus on individual skills in addition to accessing the general curriculum. As a whole class, we are participating in many hands-on activities that are both engaging and educational!

Learning Lab

In the Learning Lab we have spent a lot of time working on skills for independence. We are learning to use tools to support our learning.

Our fourth graders are learning about fractions. We are using manipulatives to find equivalent fractions.

Our third graders are solving word problems using multiplication.

Our second graders are working on two digit subtraction with regrouping.

As readers we are looking deeply at characters. We are identifying character traits and giving evidence from the text.

As always we engage in science and social studies curriculum with our peers in our collaborative learning classrooms.


Dave was a potter and a poet. He was also a slave. In January, fourth grades are exploring the art and poetry of famous slave artist, Dave. While little is known about Dave's life, he has left an entire history of his life thru his pots and the poems that he wrote onto them. In response to Dave, the fourth graders will be creating a pot with an accompanying poem.

To learn more about Dave, watch this short video at the Hillside Art YouTube Channel - click here.

Remember to follow the Hillside Art Studio at the Hillside Art Blog. The blog is updated regularly - click here.


Ms. Concra’s Music Class: While listening to Camille Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals Kindergarteners and 1st graders are learning about instruments, music characteristics, and are practicing identifying and performing quick and slow steady beats. 2nd graders continue to expand their solfege syllables and are practicing identifying and singing intervals using Mi, Sol, and La. 3rd graders are wrapping up the dynamics unit. Students identified and inserted their own dynamics in to a familiar song, then performed the song incorporating their own dynamics and accompanying themselves on Orff instruments. 4th graders are finishing Felix Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night’s Dream. We have been discussion orchestration, compositional structure, and using music to represent key story points.

Mr. Campbell’s Music Class:

Kindergarten students have been listening to Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. They are learning how music can have different moods and characters. First graders are also learning about musical characteristics and how music can be used to tell a story. Second grade students have been studying tempo and when it is appropriate for a piece of music to be fast or slow. See if your child can identify if a piece of music is Largo, Adagio, Andante, Moderato, Allegro, Vivace or Presto! Third graders have been learning about the composers Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Joseph Haydn. Some of the music we have studied are Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue for Organ, and Haydn’s Surprise Symphony and Farewell Symphony. Fourth graders have been learning how to improvise to familiar tunes on the xylophones. Using solfege they have been learning the difference between a tonic and dominant note in major, which then helps them to determine what note to choose when improvising.

Physical Education

Hello Everybody! I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to 2018. In Physical Education we are well into our dance unit preparing for Family Dance Night which will be on Friday February 9th. We are teaching the students various dances such as The Bunny Hop, Chicken Dance, Cha-Cha Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Macarena, Sid Shuffle, The Hand Jive, Cotton Eye Joe, and The Biker Shuffle. Dancing is a great way to allow children to exercise, have fun, and work on their coordination. We all are very proud with how this unit has been going thus far. And remember, if you love the songs mentioned above, or just love to dance please come and join us at Family Dance Night! All are welcome!


Students have continued exploring the language and cultures of Spain and Latin America as January comes to a close. Kindergarteners have learned the major colors in Spanish and participated in Color Scavenger Hunts in the classroom as well as many songs and games to reinforce this new vocabulary. Other important concepts, such as expressing how old they are, how they’re feeling, and their names, are also being continually reinforced. First graders have completed their weather and season books and are now learning how to say clothing vocabulary in Spanish. Second graders are continuing to learn family vocabulary in Spanish as well as how to answer questions about their family, such as “Cuantás personas viven en tu casa?” (“How many people live in your house?”)

Third graders have learned about major landforms of Chile, about the Chilean flag and about “el Huaso chileno” and have reinforced this learning through the continued creation of their Chile books. Fourth graders have enjoyed an “up close” look into Spanish culture by studying the food of Spain, el flamenco, and a popular festival called El Festival de San Fermín where the “running of the bulls” takes place!


Our kindergarten students learned about weather and the ways in which weather directs our clothing and activity choices. You can help continue this learning at home with a daily weather journal to record the weather type (sunny, rainy, windy or snowy) and, if you’d like, the temperature! First grade students have begun to design their own communication devices using only light or sound in order to share three separate messages. In second grade, our students created their own models of the water cycle while watching it happen in real-time in our classroom. You can help your child recreate the water cycle at home with some warm salt water in a glass bowl, a smaller bowl in the middle and some plastic wrap on top (adding some ice on top may speed up the process). Our third graders engineered a variety of meteorology tools including anemometers, weather vanes and thermometers. By learning how meteorologists record weather data, they will soon be able to explore patterns and make predictions about the weather. Coding took over our fourth grade STEAM sessions as they encoded and decoded messages using pigpen, morse code and even the binary system. Be on the lookout for your child’s morse code keychain!