Austin Road News & Headlines
Colonial Times Reenacted at Austin Road
History came to life this week during Austin Road Elementary School’s Colonial Day. Fourth graders immersed themselves in period games, crafts and activities as part of their study of Colonial America and the American Revolution.
Students learned tinsmithing and stenciling, played games, and danced to Colonial music. But it wasn’t all fun and games. They also got to experience the strictness of “Dame School,” where teachers were not as kind as they are today.
“This was the first year Austin Road held this event, and it was great!” said fourth grade teacher Katie Douma. “We’re already looking forward to next year.”AR News & Headlines
New Writing Curriculum Enriches Mahopac Elementary Schools
Collaboration is the key to success of the new writing curriculum introduced to all three Mahopac elementary schools this year. “That, and more time spent on writing units,” according to Austin Road Assistant Principal Bryan Gilligan, who headed up the committee charged with changing the writing program last summer. “We used to spend a few days on each writing unit, and now we spend about a month,” said Gilligan. “You can really see the difference in the students’ participation, because they get much more of a sense of the material.”
The committee consists of teachers from each grade of each of the district’s three elementary schools: Austin Road, Fulmar Road and Lakeview. “We meet once a month, and the collaboration has been awesome,” said committee member Michelle Seymour, who teaches first grade at Austin Road. “Every teacher has always had great ideas, but now we all get to share with each other.”
The writing committee came together over the summer to plan the units and provide support materials, according to Gilligan. “It’s great because everyone is on the same page now, working on the same units at the same time,” he said. “But within those units each teacher has the freedom to be creative.” Teachers can share ideas for lesson plans on Google Drive, which makes collaboration easy.
Seymour’s class is working on the Opinion unit of the curriculum, with a recent class lesson devoted to students’ opinions on the fairytale “Goldilocks.”
With words such as I feel, I believe, and I think on a board in front of students during writing time, Seymour prompts them for their opinion on the story. “Do you think Goldilocks made good decisions?” she asks. Students excitedly raise their hands in unison, competing to respond first.
“The students are much more excited about writing now,” said Danielle Fearns, who teaches first grade at Austin Road. Fearns credits the extra time and the fact that students are encouraged to make “imperfect” rough drafts, which gives them more independence. “They know that they can have mistakes in their first draft and that there will be time to correct everything later,” she said, “so they are more confident. They know there is no stigma to having a misspelling in a draft, so they are more comfortable taking risks and being creative in their drafts.”
Lakeview teacher Michelle Savino said that the writing program promotes student independence and metacognition. “The students take ownership of their ideas and work collaboratively to edit/revise their pieces using the skills they have been taught during our mini-lessons,” she said. “These skills have transferred to their work in other content areas, and they have become stronger writers overall.”
Fellow Lakeview teacher Kathy Hursak also thinks the program has resulted in stronger writers. “The writing program enables the students to engage in text for optimal comprehension, resulting in better writing,” she said.
One of the benefits of the writing program is the use of mentor texts that are used to model and explain different aspects of writing, according to Fulmar Road fifth grade teacher Liza Kertelits. “This allows the students to analyze the writer’s craft, and it provides them with great examples of the different writing genres,” she said.
The workshop approach encourages students to take risks with their writing and be more independent, according to Fulmar Road teacher Carol Stefunek. “The children truly believe and know that they, too, are authors, and they can't wait to share their published pieces with their classmates.”
Students in Maryanne LaRue’s second grade class at Austin Road are working on writing “how to” books in writer’s workshop. “As part of the non-fiction unit, students wrote out things that they know how to do well and can teach someone else. Some examples are: how to do a cartwheel, or how to make pizza,” she said. Before that, students created “all about” books, where they went into depth about a topic of interest to them.
“I love the new program,” LaRue said. “It has improved students’ writing so much. It is much more hands on and provides them with research skills that they can really use later on. They are learning how to write in sequential steps, which is so important.”
Fulmar Road teacher Andrea Jones said that students love the program so much that they want to keep writing even when the period is over. “The new program brings an excitement for writing,” she said. “When students are complaining when it is over, you know the program is working.”AR News & Headlines
Austin Road Students Embrace Worldwide "Hour of Code" Week
First graders at Austin Road recently wrote computer code to enable their Ozobots (educational toy robots provided by the PTO) to move at whatever speed they wanted them to during special training sessions in computer coding. Held in conjunction with Hour of Code, a worldwide initiative to teach computer coding to students of every age, the activities engaged students from kindergarten to fifth grade in hands-on technology learning. All three elementary schools as well as the middle school are participating.AR News & Headlines
Mahopac Schools Celebrate Thanksgiving by Giving
Thanksgiving is about tradition, and nowhere is the tradition of giving more apparent than in the Mahopac School District. Its years-old custom of giving back via fundraisers and gift baskets celebrates community, as students, parents, teachers and staff go all out to help families in need.
Mahopac Middle School provided Thanksgiving dinner to 33 area families in need, including turkey, stuffing, potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, pie, and “You name it,” said Lynne Mongon, who coordinated the giving at MMS. They also set up a “pantry” full of staples that recipients could shop from, including flour, sugar, oil, cereal, fruit, baby food, desserts, veggies, and crackers, among other things. The fire departments and local businesses donated turkeys, a local businessman donated 100 pounds of potatoes, and area stores donated gift cards. “It was a true team effort from the community,” said MMS Principal Vince DiGrandi.
Fulmar Road’s annual food drive supports families in need in the school. Students and staff collected things like cranberry sauce, stuffing and other ingredients for Thanksgiving meals, in addition to staples such as paper towels and pasta.
Austin Road collected donations and bought gift cards for families in need in its community, with each family receiving a grocery-store gift card for $125.
And at Mahopac High School, boxes and bags of food poured in to help create an abundance of giving to share with those in need. More than 40 baskets were distributed to help families have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. This annual event was organized by high school social workers Kristel Halton, Jenn Stytzer, Davia Bugge and Valerie Trefny and included help from Mahopac’s school counselors, custodians, teachers, students, parents, clubs, and administrators.
Said Kristel Halton, “Mahopac High School is committed to making community service a priority and promoting empathy and resiliency through acts of kindness. I feel very grateful to be part of a wonderful community.”AR News & Headlines
Austin Road Coding Club Embraces Ozobots to Enhance Students’ Tech Skills
Hundreds of schools across the world have introduced their students to Ozobot products and Austin Road Elementary is one of them. Students in our after school Coding Club are using Ozobot to learn sequential thinking, logical reasoning and coding concepts. These critical life skills enable children to succeed in the digital age. Special thanks to the PTO for helping to fund these exciting new tools.AR News & Headlines
Spotlight & Events
Message from the Principal
Welcome to the 2017-2018 school year! Throughout the year, you will find monthly messages posted in this area. These notes will help keep parent/guardians and students aware of all of the exciting happenings taking place at Austin Road Elementary. Check back shortly for my September message. Also, please be sure to look under "Weekly Notices" for important upcoming PTO events and messages from the office.
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