Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

NPS School Highlights for September 2012 School Committee Meeting

Posted on: October 18, 2012

Northampton Public Schools

September 2012


First Day Highlights:

Sue Crago, AP Jr English:  I jumped right into the basics of rhetorical analysis.  Students were given the texts of two speeches:  Ronald Reagan’s speech on the Challenger disaster and George W. Bush’s speech on the Columbia disaster.  I chose them because both speeches share the same speaker (active President of the US); share the same subject (loss of astronauts with the explosion of a space shuttle), and share the same primary audience (the American public).  Without giving the students that background, I had them read both speeches and then identify the one they thought was more effective, give reasons why, and give examples of what worked and didn’t.  As a class, they jumped in and began engaging in rhetorical analysis. We then discussed the Rhetorical triangle and what makes effective writing.  This is how I introduce AP Language and Composition, which is the study of argument.

Jon Sass, Stats Teacher:  We start off with a fun exercise.   Each group of 3 students gets a bag of 100 pieces of data (they don’t know that each bag contains exactly the same information).   It includes 100 annual incomes of people – most in the $20,00-$60,000 range but also several very large incomes including one for $12,000,000.   Each group pulls out a sample of 20 pieces and they calculate statistical inferences from what they picked.  The point at the end is that depending on the sample they pick, they get very different answers even though all the data they began with was the same.

Cate Dollard, Biology and Forensics Teacher: Forensics;  I started the class and then while the class was in session, I had a stranger walk in to the room and behave a little strangely.  I pretended I didn’t see them.  Later, I said something is missing and asked if someone was near my desk.  Some student said they saw a person near the desk and I asked for a description.  We use a software called Faces to help them reconstruct how the person looks.  They started catching on at this point and I called the “suspect” back in after we worked on this for a while. Later we discussed why some people might have a different memory of what the person actually looked like.


JFK is beginning the year with a school-wide read.  On Monday morning, September 10th everyone at JFK started the book “The Misfits” by James Howe. “The Misfits” was published to much critical acclaim and has been widely read in middle schools across the country. The story focuses on a group of five 7th graders who are determined to end name calling at their school, to be seen not as misfits but as the unique individuals that they are.  The reading of the novel began during JFK forum as the first chapter was read aloud to the entire school. Activities related to the novel’s themes of name calling, personal differences and tolerance for others will take place in forum groups and English Language Arts classes.  The all school read is a wonderful way to build community and we are all reading!

Ocean’s Eight 8th graders: To begin the year, the Ocean’s Eight Team focused on creating individual connections with the content and interpersonal connections with peers and teachers.  In history students created a personal and historic timeline.  The timeline required a personal and a historic event for each year of the student’s life.  The result is that students are able to see themselves within the context of a wider world.  They are also able to forge connections with peers they may not have expected due to common personal experiences

Bridge St. School

First Day/Week Activities:

Students arrived on Wednesday to all of the teachers outside waiting for them. We had a great first day!
Mrs. Galenski (2nd grade) read “First Day Jitters to her students and then had an open discussion about their first day jitters.  They also create all about me posters and quilt squares that students had to draw and label about themselves.
Also, Bridge Street School won a ribbon at the Three County Fair for their beautiful garden.

Jackson St. School

1st Day of the New Year:

On the first day of school in the  5th grades at Jackson St. the teachers and students did a friendship-building activity called “Sign the Wall”. Each student had a sheet with “bricks” with various attributes, talents and/or descriptions, which they took around to their classmates, asking if they fit the descriptions. Examples are “I can write my name backwards”, I read at least 4 books this summer”, “I can use chopsticks” – there are 27 bricks in all.

RK FynnRyanRd.School

First Day of School Activities:

At RK Finn Ryan Road School students in all classes quickly learned each other’s names and began to form their new learning communities through daily Morning Meetings where they greeted each other by name and began to create their own classroom rules.

Mr. Kerstetter’s 5th grade students “mixed it up” by purposefully sitting with different classmates at lunch.  Each small lunch group had a facilitator who used conversation starters to get classmates talking with new friends.

Mrs. Smiarowski and Mrs. Lavallee’s kindergarten students were supported by their buddies from Ms. Desmond and Mrs. Simmons’s fourth grade students as they learn how to do lunch at school.  The fourth graders helped open milks and straws and were friendly companions to the new kindergarteners.

Leeds School

5th grade – studying a geography unit, map-making prime meridian.
4th grade – practicing routines dealing with Indoor recess.
3rd grade – making  covers for math folders, using geometrical shapes out of  yarn.
k-1 grades – are practicing the First Six Weeks-basic tenets of Responsive Classroom.

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