Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

NPS Highlights – February 14, 2013 School Committee Meeting

Posted on: February 21, 2013

By: shutterstock

By: shutterstock

Bridge Street School:

This week the Kindergarten is writing about and studying Japan.  We’re also reading the magic tree house book – night of the ninja.  We’re writing about Japan and the people, geography (mountains/volcanoes), customs, origami, calligraphy, food, tea ceremonies, etc.

The third graders just completed a nonfiction unit on writing informational  “All About Books”.  The purpose of this unit was for students to examine a topic and convey information about this topic in a clear and organized way.  Students learned about all of the text features that make up nonfiction informational texts, such as: headings, subheadings, chapters, table of contents, glossary, index, bold words, pictures, and captions.  They explored each of these text features and learned how each feature helps a reader to better understand nonfiction texts.  Then, students applied this knowledge when writing their own informational “All About Books”. Students also learned that the purpose for writing nonfiction informational texts is different than fiction texts (The purpose being to teach the reader about a topic, instead of entertaining them with a story). This unit culminated in students publishing their own “All About Books”.  The students enjoyed this unit and being able to teach others about topics that they are experts in.

R.K. Finn Ryan Road:

Teachers throughout the grades at RK Finn Ryan Road Elementary School are implementing the non-fiction reading expectations of the new Massachusetts 2011 curriculum frameworks.

First graders in Mrs. Ramsden and Ms. Egitto’s class have been writing persuasive letters, including one to the Principal asking for a classroom pet.

Second graders in Mrs. Dihlmann and Mrs. Brady’s classes have just completed “All About Books” about a topic of their own choice from bees to skateboarding.

Fourth graders in Ms. Desmond and Mrs. Simmons’s classes have written non-fiction articles about the natural world and detailed reflections on nature field trips.

Jackson Street:

First graders at Jackson Street wrote essays to Principal Gwen Agna for their “Persuasive Writing” Unit.  Each essay identified a school issue that the writers felt should be fixed (not using the school compost,  touching the art work on the walls, running in the cafeteria, cutting in line).   The essays also suggested solutions for each problem.  Ms. Agna answered each essay and dutifully addressed the problems.


Grade six students have been working on non-fiction writing pieces including:

  1. Students chose a memory or experience to create a memoir piece.  One student wrote “Night Flying” detailing her first time on a Ferris Wheel and the good luck of being on the ride during a firework show.
  2. Developing “how to” instructions to teach a skill or task.   Two students worked together to compose “Cooking is the Essence of Life – How to Cook a Fried Egg”.

Grade seven students have been writing about the short story Rikki Tikki Tavi.

  1. In an introduction to argument structure students considered how the background and viewpoint of the author influences their writing.
  2. Students analyzed the character Rikki Tikki Tavi as both hero and villain, using text evidence to support their views.

Grade eight students just completed writing pieces analyzing a literary essay for how the author develops tone and conveys emotion through the use of literary devices. The essay was “An Open Heart” by Judith MacKenzie.


A.P. Modern U.S. History class wrote three letters to the editor (conservative, liberal, and socialist) from a 19-century political perspective in response to contemporary American issues.

As part of their Final exam, students in the mostly 9th grade Foundations of Art at the High School had to choose a work of Art and write an interpretation, description, analysis and evaluation.  They also did a visual interpretation.

Phoebe Gelbard 9th grade wrote about “Two Brazilian Tortoises” by Albert Eckhout 1640:
“At a glance, the scene appears as two large tortoises in an open space; take a closer look and t he incredibly intricate lines on the shells become clear.  With his effective use of lines, Eckhout was able to bring out the texture in what he was observing.  The surface of the tortoises’ shells appears fairly smooth to the touch, with shallow, alternating indentations that create lines.  The legs and feet of the creatures, however, appear rough and even sharp-as do the slightly menacing teeth.  One must look closely to observe all of the detail in a complex piece like this, and such dimensionality, intricacy and realism would not be possible without the use of lines and texture.”
“Compared to some art, the “mood” of this piece seems fairly calm and tempered.  The tortoises appear quite placid and unexcitable, as one would expect such philosophical creatures to be.  Nevertheless, Eckhout conveys their emotions (one excited and evocative, the other glum and ill-tempered) in a casual yet effective manner.  By revealing their expressions, it is possible that the artist wished to express a more playful, humanistic side to these tortoises; perhaps these gentle giants of the earth have a more excitable, mischievous side that would not otherwise be exhibited.”

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