Thursday, December 19, 2013

Historical Day

I was impressed with so many different takes on the "Historical Day" theme from our Spirit Week theme, but I have to give it to Mr. Synnott for even getting the facial hair in on it!


4th graders presents Barbara Park

Barbara Park was best-known as the creator and author of the New York Times bestselling Junie B. Jones series.  She passed away in November.  In her honor some students in Ms. Boston's class created biographies using the app ""  You use the IPAD to scan the QR code the students created to hear their biography.  They have been on display in our library... check out these great projects!

All-School Assembly

We had a wonderful all-school assembly on Wednesday 12/18.  Students sat with their buddy classes to enjoy a winter sing along.  We sang Winter Wonderland, Let it Snow, Jingle Bells, Frosty, and Jingle Bell Rock.  Ms. E played the piano and Ms. E and Ms. Lanzo's classes led our singing.

Check out this haiku deck made by 4th grade student Lucy Whitelam: 

More pictures to come soon!

Friday, December 13, 2013

It was too cold!

I agree!  It was too cold this morning to wait outside.  Unfortunately I was out of the district at a meeting this morning, but I did not realize that there wasn't a structure in place to call indoor drop-off when I wasn't present for the start of school.  Please accept my apologies for the red noses and cheeks this morning and know that I have put into place a system so if I am (for any reason) not available to make the determination there are staff with the appropriate information to do so in my absence.

(for those of you interested...)
We will be using the table below as general guidelines to help inform our decision making when it comes to indoor drop off as well as indoor recess.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns!
Stay warm,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Exciting Happenings at Barrows

Friday was a day filled with exciting events!  Our Kindergarten students performed a wonderful Thanksgiving show for their family members. Our 4th grade had guests from RMHS come to teach a programming software called Hopscotch.  Check out the photos below!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thank you

The Barrows Staff is so appreciative of the generosity of our families and our PTO.  Thank you for the wonderful treats this week in acknowledgement of American Educators Week.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Student Council/Food Drive

I had the opportunity to meet with the wonderful Barrows Student Council briefly this afternoon.  They are a positive and engaged group of student leaders!  They did a wonderful job collecting items for the Reading Food Pantry, and beat their goal of 500 items! Thank you for your generosity and support of our community.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Veterans Day... a day "on"

Rather thank thinking about Monday as a "day off" from work or school, I urge you to consider it a "day on" to recognize, remember, and show respect for those that have served our country.

Here are some web resources you can use to learn about Veterans and patriotic theme activities:

Save a Turkey...

Kindergarten students work to 'save a turkey' this fall season through alternative foods and disguises!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Veterans Day Assembly

Barrows Elementary School honored Veterans Day today at our all-school assembly.

Check out the slide show created by Barrows Student Nicholas Steenbruggen from our assembly: 

More pictures and videos:


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Interesting article about the language of Mathematics

Adjusting Mathematical Language to the Common Core
            In this Kappan article, Valerie Faulkner (North Carolina State University) presents a number of changes in the way elementary mathematics is conceived in the Common Core. Implementing the new standards means letting go of a lot of old habits:

Old habit to eliminate: Defining equality as “same as.”
The problem: This is mathematically incorrect and leads to misconceptions.
New habit to adopt: Defining equality as “same value as.”
For example, 3 + 4 tells a different math story than 4 + 3, but they yield the same value of 7.

Old habit to eliminate: Calling digits “numbers.”
The problem: Failing to distinguish between digits, numbers, and numerals
New habit to adopt: Clearly distinguishing between numerals and numbers (which are essentially the same) and digits.
For example, 73 is a numeral that represents the number value 73 and has two digits – 7 and 3.

Old habit to eliminate: “Addition makes things get bigger.”
The problem: When negative numbers are introduced, the old habit has to be debugged.
New habit to adopt: Addition is about combining.

Old habit to eliminate: “Subtraction makes things get smaller.”
The problem: As with addition, negative numbers make this wrong.
New habit to adopt: Subtraction is about difference.

Old habit to eliminate: When borrowing, saying, “We don’t have enough ones so we need to go to the next place.”
The problem: Students don’t understand that in the number 10, there are ten ones, but in the decimal system, we don’t “see” them.
New habit to adopt: “We can’t see the ones we need, and we need to find those ones.”

Old habit to eliminate: “You can’t take a big number from a little number.”
The problem: The statement is intended to help elementary students deal with borrowing, but it’s mathematically inaccurate and leads to problems later on.
New habit to adopt: “We could take a larger number from a smaller number, but we would get a negative number. You will learn about these later, but right now we will learn to solve this problem using all positive numbers.”

Old habit to eliminate: “Let’s ‘borrow’ from the tens place.”
The problem: This doesn’t prepare students for more-difficult borrowing and fractions.
New habit to adopt: Use “regrouping,” “trading,” or “decomposing” instead.

Old habit to eliminate: Multiplication “makes things bigger.”
The problem: This is true only when using positive whole numbers and will confuse students later on.
New habit to adopt: Teach the three structures of multiplication: repeated addition; finding how many unique possibilities there are when matching one set with another; and finding a total amount or area when two sides are known.

Old habit to eliminate: Division “makes things smaller.”
The problem: As with multiplication, this is not true a lot of the time.
New habit to adopt: Teach the different structures of division: repeated subtraction of groups; answering the question “how many for each one?”; and finding a side when an area and another side are known.

Old habit to eliminate: “Doesn’t go into” (for example, 7 doesn’t go into 3).
The problem: Even elementary school children understand intuitively that sometimes cookies need to be split up when they don’t divide up exactly.
New habit to adopt: Prepare students for later learning by using accurate mathematical language. A teacher might say, “We could divide 3 by 7, but the result won’t be a whole number. When you begin working with fractions, you will solve problems like this regularly. Here we want to consider numbers that divide into other numbers without creating fractional parts or leftover pieces.”

Old habit to eliminate: Saying “and” means decimal point.
The problem: In common parlance and math parlance, “and” generally means to combine, add to, or augment. Insisting on using “and” only when there’s a decimal buries the opportunity to have a discussion that focuses on considering unit sizes and different ways to form a number.
New habit to adopt: Don’t create false rules for language. In other words, it’s not a big deal to call 145 “one hundred and forty-five.”

Old habit to eliminate: Canceling out – for example, “These eights cancel out.”
The problem: Students don’t notice how often properties are used and how important they are.
New habit to adopt: Explicitly use and discuss the idea behind simplifying. A teacher might say, “Here I have an 8 divided by an 8, and we know that anything divided by itself equals 1. So you can see here that we have simplified this expression without changing its value.”

Old habit to eliminate: Referring to “the answer.”
The problem: If the goal is to find answers, there’s a tendency to forget the most important part: How did we do that? Why did we do that? How did you know that?
New habit to adopt: Use “the model” or “the relationships” or “the structure” or “justify your answer.”

Old habit to eliminate: Guess-and-check as a strategy.
The problem: While this sometimes involves using number sense, it’s not logical or mathematical and doesn’t prepare students for more difficult challenges.
New habit to adopt: Teach systematic math representations – bar models, for example – to teach students to think like mathematicians.

 “Why the Common Core Changes Math Instruction” by Valerie Faulkner in Phi Delta Kappan, October 2013 (Vol. 95. #2, p. 59-63),
Faulkner can be reached at


Barrows Food Drive

Barrows Families – we need your help!

Barrows is ready to get involved in helping our community! The Student Council is running a school wide food drive November 4th- 8th.   The food drive will benefit the Reading Food Pantry, which is currently serving 95+ families in town. You can send in donations any time during that week. Each classroom will have their own donation box. Our school goal is to collect 500 items. All new, sealed items are welcome, but the list below contains items of particular need.  
  • Paper goods: toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex
  • Toiletries: Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream
  • Canned pasta (Spaghetti O’s, raviolis)
  • 100% Juice boxes
  • Raisins (small individual size boxes)
  • Granola bars
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned vegetables (spinach, creamed corn, beets, potatoes, yams)
        ***Please do not send in expired items!

The people of Reading and the Barrows Student Council thank you for your generosity!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Growth Mindset

I am re-posting from this week's Star Burst thoughts about Growth Mindset for those of you that may not have had the chance to read it:

Dear Barrows Community,

             Have you ever said the following to your child while helping them with schoolwork; “I was never good at math either,” “I’m really shy and hate public speaking too,” or “You got that from me, I have awful handwriting”?  I want to challenge you to think of another way.

             What does it mean to have a “Growth Mindset?”  Carol Dweck’s research defines Fixed Mindset as a belief that their intelligence is a trait they are born with, that they only have a certain amount of intelligence and that’s it.  Those that believe in a Growth Mindset believe that they can grow and develop their intelligence and abilities over time (Dweck, 2006.) 

Students with a Fixed Mindset believe if they are smart, then learning should come easy and they will tend to avoid more challenging topics or tasks from fear of failure or appearing ‘not smart.’  If the emphasis is on finding the right answer rather than the learning process, the Fixed Mindset student will give up if they encounter difficulty.  A person with Growth Mindset sees challenges as opportunities to problem solve, think creatively, apply novel solutions, and persist through difficulties. 

What can we do about this? 

· Encourage students for their effort rather than their achievement (“Wow, I can tell you really worked hard to find that answer” rather than “Wow, you got the right answer, you must be really smart.”) 

· Allow children to see us as adults learning new things and verbalize how we work through the difficulties of new challenges (and the feelings of success when we grow!)

· Encourage your children to take opportunities to learn outside their comfort zone (new hobby, sport, new environment, challenging homework/project, etc.) and talk with them about their new learning and celebrate growth

· Throw the old saying out the window; “Practice Makes Perfect.”  Instead, adopt the new idea that I have seen posted in many Barrows classrooms; “Practice Makes Better.” 

Heather Leonard, Principal

Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset, The new psychology of success. New York. Ballantine Books


Red Sox Day

Barrows Students root for their Red Sox!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Amazing Artists

Check out some of the creative work your students have created;

Whole School Mural

Color Birds by our 1/2 day K class

 Paper Sculptures by our 2nd graders

Sculptures by our 5th graders


Monday, October 21, 2013

Monster Mash!

What a fun community event on Friday!  Thank you to our wonderful PTO for hosting this event.  I saw so many creative student costumes.  Families seemed to have a great time.  Check out a few of the staff pictures below. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's the deal with the table?

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of a table in my office and left you wondering what it was... Please see below for a current picture of my table.  You will notice student names written on it.  As I get to know students through visits to my office, announcements, etc. I am asking them to sign my table.  I hope that it will be filled with names of Barrows students by the end of the year!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why didn't students have school? What were the teachers doing today?

Today was an In-Service day for teachers and no school for students.  So what did teachers do with their time today?

Barrows staff spent their day in a variety of trainings.  All K-6 classroom and special education teachers and paraprofessionals participated in trainings on the new math curriculum with trainers from Math in Focus.  Additionally they spent time collaborating with district-wide colleagues to create cover sheets for the new curriculum assessments that will be used as a communication tool with parents to indicate how students performed on their end-of-unit assessments. 

Other work done today included preparation and planning for the new Health/Wellness curriculum, planning for individual student needs, viewing a presentation by Boston Children's Hospital, preparing for meeting students' social/emotional needs, updating literacy benchmarks, and creating District Determined Measures (DDMs.) 

This work is key to your child's day-to-day learning and is not possible to complete in short periods of planning time and requires staff to work with their counterparts across the district.  Although our teaching and learning time is our priority, this work will help us do the best job we can!

I encourage you to attend the information session about the Math in Focus program information session for parents that is taking place tomorrow, Wednesday, October 16th at 7:00 p.m. in the RMHS Performing Arts Center and will feature a guest presenter from Math in Focus.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday Assembly & a Thank You!

What an engaging assembly we had on Friday with Hero Artist Rob Surette, his speed painting, and inspiring words to our students.  Check out some of our pictures below.

Also - a thank you to the Grant family for hosting me at their house for an evening meet & greet.  I enjoyed the time with you and appreciate those that were able to take time to talk with me.

President Lincoln

Who believes in themselves and know they will reach their dream? 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Barrows Update

Hello everybody!

I have to say, it really feels that we're off and rolling, students and staff are deep into learning, engaged in interesting lesson, and connected together as classroom communities.

Our all-school assembly on 9/18 students brainstormed lists of rules that would be important for our school community.  This past week students had the opportunity to vote on the Barrows School rules and they identified their top 5.  Check out the great ideas our students came up with:

Everyday everyone should come to school knowing that Barrows is a safe place to be!

     *Give your teachers, classmates, and school respect
     *Be nice and include everyone
     *No double-d behavior (dangerous/destructive)
     *Always try your best
     *Have fun

Clearly the Barrows School Community feels it is important to be respectful, be safe, try your best, and have fun!  Nice work students!

Students participating in "That's Me!" (Ask your child about it!)

Coming up on Friday we have another all-school gathering to enjoy an enrichment opportunity hosted by our PTO.  We will view "Hero Art" a presentation.  More information can be found here:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday - and what feels like FALL finally! :)

Thank you to the entire community for a wonderful Curriculum Night on Wednesday, September the 11th.  I was amazed at the turnout, even with the high temperatures! Pictures will come soon and I will post the presentation from myself and Liz Whitelam (our PTO president) on the Barrows Homepage as a reference or for any family that was unable to make it.

Also, Thank you to Ms. Cashins for hosting a coffee meet & greet and inviting her neighbors over to meet and talk with me about our school.  If you are able and interested please contact me to set up a time!

Finally... a little mystery for you.  The table pictured below will help me measure how many of the Barrows students I've met.  Wondering how?  Check back in a few weeks to see!

Have a wonderful week!
~Ms. Leonard

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Congrats Ms. DiGiovanni!

Congrats to our Barrows Special Education teacher Ms. DiGiovanni on the birth of her beautiful new baby girl Ava, born 9/9/13.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back-to-school picnic and Jail & Bail

The PTO hosted back-to-school picnic on Friday night was a great way to cap off the start to our school year.  Many Barrows families pulled out the blankets and chairs, packed picnic dinners (or bought pizza to enjoy!)  I had fun sharing the experience with my own family and watching the relaxed interactions between families and children playing on the playground.

Today at the Reading Fall Street Faire I was locked up in the Jail & Bail to support the Understanding Disabilities program.  Thank you to everybody in the Barrows community for their support in bailing me out - even Dr. Doherty pitched in to bail me out.  What a fun day and a great cause. 

See pictures of both events below.