Enjoying a book on the comfy new seats in the Erskine Library.
Message from Head of School
Reversing the Decline in Middle School Independent Reading
Brendan Largay, Head of School
Post Date: October 4, 2019
– Guest writer, Elisabeth Klock, Grades 7 & 8 English teacher
I’ve been a middle school teacher for nearly a dozen years. Over those years, I have noticed an unfortunate decline in students’ independent reading, both at school and at home. Recent research bears out this observation. In many schools, opportunities for independent reading—known by many catchy names including SSR, DEAR time, free reading, and wild reading—diminish markedly by the time students reach sixth grade. In his 2013 book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, educator and author Jim Trelease notes that “54 percent of fourth graders read for pleasure, 30 percent of eighth graders, and only 19 percent of twelfth graders.”
Although this precipitous drop during the teenage years coincides with puberty, adolescents’ expanding social lives, and greater access to personal digital devices, the research suggests that the decline is not because of hormones, YouTube, or what some authors call ‘the curse of the whole-group novel study.’ It’s about time, and how the nature of that time changes as our students’ brains, and the demands on them, change.
Across the various schools I have worked in, reading groups, whole-class novels, literature circles, and literary teas—along with independent reading—were a significant part of the student learning experience, and time, as they progressed from kindergarten to fifth grade. And through those years, teachers support students to master decoding and fluency and focus on measuring reading comprehension. At Belmont Day, creating independent readers and instilling a love of reading and literature are among the primary goals of the lower school program–and I believe we do that very well.
Yet I have noticed that even here at Belmont Day the joy that many of our younger students have for reading often loses some of its buoyancy in middle school. Seventh grade is when many students make a distinct leap from concrete thinking to abstract reasoning. They are able to deal with more complex and nuanced literature that requires inferential reasoning to understand. The more complex the literature, the more it also helps to engage in reading that is guided or supported by a teacher. For this reason, there is often a shift away from literature circles or reading groups, toward a whole-group novel study. But when whole group novels take up reading time, it can be really tough to fit in personal reading during the school day. It is also increasingly difficult for students (or any of us, really!) to fit reading into the day if it is not assigned.
Last summer I was fortunate to hear passionate reading advocate Donalyn Miller speak at a literacy conference, where I was reminded that the American Library Association has reported, “Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.” The numbers for students who read books that they choose are even higher. Then I stumbled upon this gem from author John Green: “Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes a place for that.”
These two sentiments affirmed what Belmont Day teachers have always believed—sustained independent reading not only improves academic performance, it also offers time to focus and unplug. This year in middle school, teachers are committed to a simple goal: make reading more visible, encourage the whole community to talk about what we are reading, and in short, read more for pleasure. We ask that middle school students always have an independent reading book with them at school. And we ask that as an entire community, we encourage and engage in reading independently whenever and wherever we can. We can’t wait to celebrate and share in the joy of reading!
A win at home this week for the girls’ varsity soccer team!
This Coming Week at BDS
October 7 to October 14
Pumpkin Patch Sale, Tuesday to Thursday, October 8-10, during drop-off and pick-up times
Yom Kippur, sundown Tuesday, October 8 to sundown Wednesday, October 8 – School in Session
Monday, October 7
6:30–7:30 p.m., Neighbor Reception, Schoolhouse Gallery
Thursday, October 10
3:30 p.m., Boys’ Soccer at Carroll; Cross Country vs Shady Hill; Field Hockey at Nashoba; Girls’ JV Soccer vs Nashoba; Girls’ Varsity Soccer at Carroll; JV Flag Football vs Tenacre; Varsity Flag Football vs Rivers
6:30–8:30 p.m., Pre-k & Grade 8 Parent Social, Coolidge Hall
Friday, October 11
8–8:45 a.m., Erskine Library Grand Reopening, Erskine Library
8–8:45 a.m., Erskine Library Shelving Social, Erksine Library
8:50–9:35 a.m., Grade 3 Play, Palandjian Arts Center
11:15–12:15 p.m., PA Executive Committee, Head’s Office
1:15–3:15 p.m., SSAT Prep-6
Monday, October 14
School Closed: Indigenous Peoples’ Day
PA Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser
Tuesday, October 8 to Thursday, October 10, during drop-off and pick-up
The parents’ association will be outside Coolidge Hall with pumpkins of various sizes for sale, as well as colorful mums. All proceeds will help fund the many PA activities throughout the year. In addition, children can try to guess the number of candy corn in the jar to win some fun BDS swag.
We are still looking for volunteers to help with the Pumpkin Patch. Click here to sign up.
Cash or checks (made out to BDS PA) will be accepted.
Enrollment Open for Parent SEED
Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) is a peer-led program of community and personal development around issues of identity, equity, and social justice. Topics include race, gender, religion, class, and other social identifiers we all hold, and the intersectionality of these identities.
SEED is built on facilitated small group discussions, shared experiences (film, reading, etc), and food!
Parent SEED is open to parents of any BDS student and we welcome both new and returning participants. We ask participants to commit to attending all scheduled meetings. The group will meet from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on the following Tuesday evenings: October 22, November 12, December 17, January 7, February 4, March 10, April 14, and May 12.
Lunch & Snack Menu
October 7 to October 11
Snack: animal crackers; fruit cups
Lunch: bowtie pasta with chicken alfredo; broccoli; whole-grain rolls; chef’s choice salad
Snack: saltines; bananas
Lunch: hot dogs; veggie dogs; ketchup; mustard; relish; peas and carrots; Cape Cod kettle chips; creamy coleslaw; popsicles
Snack: Nutrigrain bars; pears
Lunch: teriyaki salmon; stir fry Asian vegetables; basmati rice; Asian greens with soy dressing
Snack: potato chips; strawberry craisins
Lunch: tomato alphabet soup; cider; grilled cheese sandwiches; roasted cauliflower; Caesar salad
Snack: apples; Gogurt
Sign-Ups Open Sunday
Conference times are now available to view by clicking here. The document is “view-only” until sign-ups officially open this Sunday, October 6 at 5 p.m. At that time, the link will once again be emailed to families and will also also be accessible from the Parent Site. This early, view-only access and extended lead time for sign-ups was designed based on parent feedback and is intended to help families as they plan for conferences.
We highly recommend using a desktop computer to access the sign-up sheets. To use a mobile device, download the Google Sheets app from the App Store or Google Play.
Parents of middle school students should sign up for a conference time with their child’s advisor.
Conference Day Off-Site Program Registration
Our external programs team will be running an exciting day off-site at XtremeCraze Fun Center, which will include laser tag, bounce area, arcade cards, a pizza lunch, and an ice cream dessert. Registration forms can be found at the front desk and on our website. Please leave all completed forms with a check (made out to Belmont Day School) at the front desk.
To ensure proper staffing, we ask that you sign up your child(ren) by Wednesday, October 16. Enrollment, if space is available, after Wednesday, October 16 will incur an additional fee of $25. For more information please contact Joe Jean-Mary.
Field Hockey Falls to Pike
The field hockey team had its best showing of the fall season against Pike this week. The game was much closer than the 3-1 final indicated, and head coach Abbey Nyland was happy with the way her team performed. Eighth grader Michelle Mejia-Levy netted the lone goal for the Blue & Gold who took a 1-1 tie into the half before surrendering two scores in the second frame. Co-captain Lynn Lewis was terrific at midfield, while classmate Maya Gregor had a strong game on defense. The team will face another tough test next week when they travel to Nashoba Brooks.
More Athletics News
- Cross country team captain Cole Sparks recorded a PR (15:46) on the home course during Belmont Day’s rout of Pike. Newcomers Bonnie Wang (21:27) and Nicky Mattox (22:36) knocked a combined six minutes off of their previous times.
- Sue Kelman and Emi Biotti fueled girls’ varsity soccer’s 7-0 gem over Waldorf this week. The seventh grade duo was instrumental in creating scoring opportunities for their teammates. Kiki Friedbauer scored three times for the victors.
- Juliana Li and Shireen Griffith-Ebrahimi played terrific defense during the girls’ JV soccer’s season opener against Shady Hill. Ruby Kokinos and Lila Abruzzi split time in net and came up with some big saves throughout the game.
- The boys’ soccer team allowed a goal with two minutes to play and fell to Waldorf 2-1 this week. Toby Gauld and Thierrence Mathurin played well in defeat for the Blue & Gold. The team will look to turn things around against Carroll next week.
- Davin Roy (varsity) and Ben Rowe (junior varsity) both had strong games for their respective football teams this week. Unfortunately, their performances weren’t quite enough as DCD (varsity) and Fessenden (junior varsity) each took the W.
Developing Characters in Improv Elective
The seventh and eighth grade students in this year’s improv class have been working hard on developing characters and expressing emotions. Improv scenes are more captivating to watch when they involve one crucial element: emotion. Feeling emotions in improv enables audiences to enjoy a deeper level of performance and comedy. Often times, the best movies, stories, or memories have a strong tie to feelings. The pictures you see are the starting points for different emotions. Can you guess what emotion each picture is trying to convey? Check out more of the students’ expressions on the BDS website.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION NEWS
Students Develop News Skills, Try New Sports
If there’s one thing we love to see in our physical education classes, it’s active students with smiling faces. With the year in full swing, we’ve been seeing plenty of them lately. Pre-k and kindergarten students have been working on locomotor movements and kicking skills, completing obstacle courses, and showing off fancy footwork. Meanwhile, first, second, and third grade students have been lighting up the Barn, using hula hoops in a variety of different ways to solve team challenges or as an instrument in hula hoop tag. Our fourth and fifth grade classes have been all over campus, mirroring our fall middle school athletics offerings with flag football in the Downing, field hockey in the Barn, soccer on Claflin, and cross country on the trails. It’s been an awesome start to the year and we forward to keeping it rolling throughout the fall.
BUILDINGS & GROUNDS NEWS
Arf! Arf! Rules for Dogs Visiting BDS
– by Banter, as told to Corrado Paramithiotti, director of operations
Hi everyone, my name is Banter and my human works at Belmont Day. I want to talk to you briefly about some basic guidelines for us dogs when we’re on campus.
First, I have to say it is so much fun to visit school and see all the students playing and running and the cars coming and going. I just want to chase them all! But we want to be safe at all times so I need your help.
So here are my, I mean Belmont Day’s, rules for dogs on campus:
- Dogs must always be on a leash
- Dogs must always be close to their owner
- Dogs must always be in control and well-behaved
I think these are pretty straightforward, but sometimes even I forget them or I get super excited and distracted. So I ask that you help remind me, and my human, of the rules. And take them to heart for you and your canine family members and friends.
One last thing to please consider. I love sports. Go Blue & Gold! But joining my owner to watch a game on campus can just be too exciting at times and too tempting for me to run out and join the action on the field. Trust me on this one. I got in trouble at a game not too long ago. As I said, I love sports …
Well, I’ve said enough. Time to go for a walk with my human. Arf! And thank you!
GRADE 5 NEWS
Art Exhibit to Open in the Erskine Library
On Tuesday, October 8, fifth grade students will proudly unveil a new art exhibit in the story room of the Erskine Library. Open to all visitors, this exhibit features the creative culmination of a humanities unit on the Great Migration and will run until Thanksgiving break. Commissioned by Librarian Amy Sprung, students created paintings in the style of African American painter, storyteller, and educator Jacob Lawrence and they used a poem by Langston Hughes as inspiration. Please stop by the story room to explore, learn, and be inspired.
RSVP for Grandparents’ & Special Friends’ Day by October 11
Our annual Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Visiting Day will be held on Friday, October 18.
We have a new RSVP process this year. We are asking parents to complete the registration on behalf of their child’s grandparents or special friends. Kindly reply for your child’s guests no later than Friday, October 11. And please note that grandparents and special friends do not receive an invitation from the school.
Click here to RSVP!
We are seeking a few more volunteers to help us make Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day a very memorable and fun day. The positions include:
- Morning Host in Coolidge Hall: greet our guests and help them find their name tags.
- Classroom Host: assist our guests in finding their way around our school and lead them from the Barn to the classrooms.
- Traveling Host: assist guests in finding their way around our school and answer questions.
Parents’ Association News
Walk and Talk
The friendraiser committee would like to invite parents to a walk and talk this upcoming Tuesday morning, October 8 starting after drop-off. Come enjoy the crisp fall air with old and new friends. Meet in the lobby at 8:30 a.m. If you have any questions, please reach out to Carolyn Atinizian.
We are nearly half way to our fundraising goal! Please help us get there! Consider buying your fall bulbs and plants from our Flower Power fundraiser. Plant them now for springtime cheer.
Online ordering is quick, easy, and fun! To order, visit the Parents Site or just click here to get started. Fifty percent of your purchase total will be donated to the BDS PA! The order deadline is October 15.
Our Deepest Concern: A Conversation on Race and Anti-Racism in America
The Cambridge Friends School begins its annual speaker series on Wednesday, October 16 at 6:30 p.m. with an author talk with five distinguished panelists: Princeton professor and author, Imani Perry, historian, Kerri Greenidge, novelist and writer, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and award-wining playwright, Kirsten Greenidge in conversation with award-winning journalist and diversity advocate, Jack Hill. Click here for more information.
First Belmont Pack 384 Meeting
Join Belmont Cub Scouts Pack 384 for its first meeting of the new school year, Monday, October 21 at 7 p.m. at the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church, 421 Common St, Belmont, MA 02478. Pack 384 is open to boys and girls in grades 1–5. At the meeting, the pack will be planning upcoming events for 2019-20 and registering new members. For more information, please visit the Pack 384 website.
Science on Saturday
MIT Lincoln Laboratory, 255 Wood St., Lexington
Saturday, October 19, 10 to 11 a.m.
Light and optics serve as the foundation for much of the cool technology found in our modern world! Come experience some of the amazing properties of light such as laser light bending and bouncing. Learn how different colors of light combine and watch how flat images pop up in 3D. Click here to register.
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