October 11, 2010

posted Oct 13, 2010, 8:10 PM by Anna Saunders   [ updated Oct 13, 2010, 8:13 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,

     Life continues at a dynamic pace at Walnut Acres as fall finally arrives. Last month we implemented the routines and procedures that will provide a comfortable learning structure through the school year. Each class of students began the process of becoming a cohesive learning family. Classroom families are built through the diligence of each teacher in setting a tone of welcome, structure, expectations, and support for cognitive and affective learning. We consistently strive to help students grow both cognitively (enhancing mental knowledge and skills) and affectively (maturing in feelings, emotions, and attitude). It is our goal to create a nurturing environment in which students feel safe to make a mistake, ask a question, try something new and challenge themselves to grow. The ever-deepening process of growing and sharing together will be the heartbeat of your child’s class throughout the school year.  

     To support the affective component of that process, we are creating a few new routines and practices that we hope will also enhance our positive school climate. Our monthly Friday afternoon sing-outs have already begun thanks to our remarkable Mrs. Ryken. These brief assemblies are a fun opportunity to come together as a whole school to enjoy one another and sing together about the crucial lifeskill that we have highlighted for that month. Parents are welcome to join us at these festivities. In fact, the words to the sing-outs are now posted on our website so that you can sing along at home!

     Coming soon will be our Celebration Wall which I mentioned in my September newsletter to you. To recognize students who go out of their way to practice the 3 Be’s of:

Being safe,

Being respectful and 

Being responsible,

we will give bee tokens that include the student’s first name and mount those tokens on a Celebration Wall that will soon appear in the quad. At the end of each month I will have the honor to return each token to its owner and shake the hand of each good citizen.

     To support cognitive learning, we have completed the Curriculum Associates assessments that provide baseline data and participated in training to learn the process for data analysis. Teachers are now able to use that data to collaboratively plan, modify pacing guides according to class needs, and help form ‘just right’ skill development groups. Many of our smaller learning groups, including our RSIP and ELD groups, and our math/universal access rotation groups will begin this month. Meanwhile, our computer lab, music room, science lab, and library are in full swing to support our learning adventures.

     Our computer lab is usually full of students, but pop in to see our new screen earned through a Donor’s Choose request. (Thank you everyone who shared donor’s request information with us!) Our music room emanates with the sounds of angels on Tuesday through Friday, and I’m excited to report that our science lab is now in almost constant use (or being set up or cleaned up by our wonderful science support staff) because all 1st through 5th graders are rotating through for hands-on science experiences. While our librarian’s hours were cut, our library is still open to students during school hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays and through 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Did you know that students are welcome in the library for 15 minutes after school on Wednesdays and Thursdays? Did you also know that students can go to the library any time during hours of operation to exchange a book or check out a new book (as long as a parent volunteer or Mrs. Ritthaler is available to help)? To check out the library catalog of books, go to http://destiny.mdusd.k12.ca.us . Click on Walnut Acres and you will be taken to the homepage. There is also a link to Accelerated Reader books for which the library has comprehension checks.)

     The affective and cognitive components of learning merge as teachers consider the strategies they will use to teach grade level standards. Walnut Acres teachers have participated in training designed to enhance student engagement strategies, but such learning is never complete. To provide teachers with engagement insights from the perspective of burgeoning technology applications, Dr. Francesca Venning, Apple Senior Marketing Manager, will lead a 90 minute presentation entitled, “Engaging and Supporting Today’s Learner” on Wednesday, October 27th at 2:00 p.m. in the MUR. Parents are invited to join us for this presentation. Please contact me at dowdc@mdusd.k12.ca.us by October 20th if you wish to attend so we can set up the appropriate number of chairs. Our feeder pattern schools and district office personnel have also been invited to this event.

    I wish you a wonderful harvest month and I thank you for your amazing support of our industrious school and the beautiful children in it. Our school community is a family too, of course, and I prize you for the part you play within our learning family. As business philosopher, Jim Rohn, would say, “Your family must be cultivated like a garden. Time, effort, and imagination must be summoned constantly to keep it flourishing and growing." Thank you for your loving cultivation of the very special garden we are growing together at Walnut Acres Elementary School.

Yours in learning,