February 2014



Dear Parents/Guardians,

It is hard to believe we are more than halfway through the school year.  Our students continue to be eager to learn and they are making fine academic progress!

During the month of February we are focusing on the “E” for Empathy in our T.I.G.E.R.S acronym.  Throughout the month, teachers will be working with students to help them understand how their actions and the actions of others could make someone else feel. This message is reinforced in our school song, “How would I feel if someone did that to me?” Teachers will be using classroom meetings and lessons to help our students value the importance of this character trait. Students continue to “Earn Tiger Stripes” as they are recognized for exhibiting these positive character traits at school.

Unfortunately, due to the amount of inclement weather which has resulted in snow days, early dismissals, and delayed openings, learning has been significantly disrupted. It has been difficult for our teachers to establish a teaching rhythm that is essential at this time of the year. As of February 5th, we have had a total of 6 snow days.  We have the allowance for 1 more snow day to be added to the end of the school year. If we are in need of any further days beyond this additional day, these days will be taken from the February vacation starting with Friday, February 21st.

You can help us at home by trying to keep consistent routines even on snow days.  As your children transition back to school, please be sure to get them to school on time. Arriving on time allows your child to ease his or her way into the school day without that rushed feeling they have when they are late. In addition to having your child here on time, please be sure he or she is completing homework every evening. Children should be coming home with a completed assignment pad as well as the materials needed to complete each assignment. If these items are not making it home consistently, please alert your child’s teacher so together you can develop a plan. Remember that reading is also a nightly homework assignment so please make sure your child is reading each and every night. Ongoing practice is essential in order for your child to continue to grow as a reader. Additionally, your child needs to study his or her math facts regularly. Even when a child understands math concepts easily, he or she still needs to know his or her math facts to apply this knowledge.  Thank you for your continued support!

Keep warm,

Mrs. Neumeyer

Using Conversations to Help Students

Develop a Deeper Understanding

Jennifer J. Neumeyer

As the academic demands on students increase and our curriculums become more rigorous, it is critical for our students to be able to formulate ideas, express opinions and communicate their understandings. We are finding that our students are developing a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught after they have had the chance to share their thinking and engage in meaningful conversations.   Two strategies that are being used at all grade levels are Turn-and-Talk and Think-Pair-Share.  These strategies are designed to engage students in meaningful conversations and allow teachers to differentiate instruction.  In using these strategies, students are given a structure for thinking about a given topic and timeframe in which to respond, enabling them to formulate individual ideas and then share their understanding with a peer or the class.  This helps students develop the ability to filter information, draw conclusions, and consider other points of view. As students discuss their ideas, teachers circulate and listen to the conversations taking place between the children. Listening to these partner or small group exchanges gives teachers the opportunity to see if the concepts they are teaching are being grasped. These observations allow teachers to assess the students’ overall understanding and they use this information to address the diverse instructional needs within the classroom. These learning strategies promote classroom participation by encouraging a high degree of student engagement. Rather than teachers posing a single question and enlisting the response of a single student, all children are engaged and participating in the learning task.  Providing these learning opportunities for students allows them to clarify their understanding and increases their sense of involvement in the classroom.  It also fosters learning environments where all students are accountable; one or two students are not dominating the classroom discussion and all students’ voices are heard and their contributions are valued.

As adults, conversation is something that most of us do naturally. However, students don’t necessarily come to school knowing how to have conversations.  Often times, their exposure to conversations has been limited due to the increased use of technological devices which do not require them to engage and interact with others.  It is critical for students to learn what listening and speaking looks and sounds like in order for them to be able to engage with the content and to make meaning of the world around them. Thinking and talking about information transforms information into personal knowledge.

You can help us at home by continuing to have meaningful conversations with your children. It is critical they are not spending too much time watching T.V. or engaging with electronic devices. Participating in conversations will increase our students’ ability to communicate with others and will improve their social skills, which will ultimately make them stronger problem solvers. Below you will find excerpts from an article that can be found at www.education.com. The article on the next two pages provides several suggestions for engaging children in meaningful conversations.


Parent/Child Communication

By Kristin Zolten|Nicholas, Long Center for Effective Parenting

It is very important for parents to be able to communicate openly and effectively with their children. Relationships between parents and their children are greatly improved when there is effective communication taking place. Children learn how to communicate by watching their parents. If parents communicate openly and effectively, chances are that their children will, too. Good communication skills will benefit children for their entire lives. Children begin to form ideas and beliefs about themselves based on how their parents communicate with them. When parents communicate effectively with their children, they are showing them respect. Children then begin to feel that they are heard and understood by their parents, which is a boost to self-esteem. Parents who communicate effectively with their children are more likely to have children who are willing to do what they are told. Such children know what to expect from their parents, and once children know what is expected of them, they are more likely to live up to these expectations. They are also more likely to feel secure in their position in the family, and are thus more likely to be cooperative.

Ways to Communicate Positively with Children

Start communicating effectively while children are young. While children are very young, parents should begin setting the stage for open, effective communication. Parents can do this by making themselves available to their children when they have questions or just want to talk.

Communicate at your children’s level. When parents communicate with their children, it is important for them to come down to their children’s level both verbally and physically. Verbally, parents should try to use age-appropriate language that their children can easily understand.

Learn how to really listen. Listening is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Listening is an important part of effective communication. When parents listen to their children they are showing them that they are interested and they care about what their children have to say.

Here are some important steps to becoming a good listener:

  1. Make and maintain eye contact. Parents who do this are showing their children that they are involved and interested.
  2. Eliminate distractions. When children express a desire to talk, parents should give them their undivided attention.
  3. Listen with a closed mouth. Parents should try to keep the interruptions to a minimum while their children are speaking. Interruptions often break the speaker’s train of thought, and this can be very frustrating.
  4. Let your children know they have been heard. After children are finished speaking, parents can show them that they have been listening by restating what was said, only in slightly different words.
  5. Keep conversations brief. One good rule for parents is to speak to young children for no longer than 30 seconds, then ask them to comment on what was said. The goal is for parents to pass on information a little at a time while checking that their children are paying attention to and understanding what is being said at regular intervals.
  6. Ask the right questions. Parents should try to ask open-ended questions in their conversations with their children. Such questions often require an in-depth response that will keep a conversation going. Parents should try to avoid asking questions that require only a yes or no answer.
  7. Express your own feelings and ideas when communicating with children. Not only must parents be available to and listen to their children for effective communication to take place; they must also be willing to share their own thoughts and feelings with their children. Parents can teach their children many things, for example, morals and values, by expressing their thoughts and feelings.
  8. Regularly schedule family meetings or times to talk. For example, families can use the dinner hour each night as a time to catch up with each other. Or, parents can set aside time to play communication games, such as picking specific topics of discussion and giving everyone in the family a chance to express their opinions. What’s important is that families set aside time at regular intervals to communicate with one another.
  9. Admit it when you don’t know something. When children ask questions that their parents can’t answer, they should admit that they don’t know. Parents can use such instances as learning experiences. For example, parents can teach their children how to get the information they’re looking for by taking them to the library or helping them to safely research on the internet.
  10. Try to make explanations complete. When answering their children’s questions, parents should try to give them as much information as they need, even if the topic is something parents don’t feel comfortable discussing. Parents should make sure that the information they give their children is age-appropriate. Parents should also encourage their children to ask questions. This will help parents figure out just what information their children are looking for. Not giving enough information can lead children to draw conclusions that aren’t necessarily true.Communication BuildersHere are some examples of things parents can say to their children to help open the lines of communication:
    • “I’d like to hear about it.”
    • “Tell me more about that.”
    • “I understand.”
    • “What do you think about …”
    • “Would you like to talk about it?”
    • “Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”
    • “That’s interesting.”
    • “Wow!”
    • “I’m interested.”
    • “Explain that to me.”