Sunday, December 21, 2014

December - the busy month! Craft Fair, the Rotary visits Barrows, Festival of Trees, and more!

There were so many amazing things that happened here during the month of December at Barrows.  I don't always have the time to stop and share, so I figured I would take a moment to update you on all the great stuff going on between these four walls.

Thank you to the Barrows PTO for an awesome Craft Fair event this year.  I know I went home with a couple of chia pets, an Olaf made of rice, and a very happy 4 year old! What a fun community event for all!

The Reading Rotary Club visited Barrows to read stories to our Kindergarten and 1st grade classes.  They also gave every 1st and K student a book bag with books for them to take home to spread the love of ready and early literacy skills.  What a wonderful experience and generous donation - thank you Rotary!

The Reading Education Foundation Festival of Trees was a beautiful event.  Thank you to Jeanne Borawski for chairing the Barrows REF tree committee.  The beautiful Barrows tree was decorated in honor of the 50th anniversary (gold anniversary!)

Have a wonderful winter break!

Vocabulary Development is key!

How do you introduce your child to new words?  What do you do when you encounter an unknown word when reading together?  Consider the learning opportunities you're presented with when you stumble across an unknown word in print or in conversation - establishing that understanding will be a well of knowledge children will continue to draw upon!  Check out the article below.

Vocabulary Development As the Key to Closing the Achievement Gap

            “To grow up as the child of well-educated parents in an affluent American home is to hit the verbal lottery,” says Robert Pondiscio in this Education Gadfly article. “In sharp contrast, early disadvantages in language among low-income children – both the low volume of words they hear and the way in which they are employed – establish a verbal inertia that is immensely difficult to address or reverse… When it comes to vocabulary, size matters.” A robust vocabulary correlates strongly with school achievement, SAT scores, college attendance and graduation, and higher adult earnings even among those who don’t attend college.

            So how do less-fortunate students build vocabulary? Not through studying and memorizing decontextualized word lists, says Pondiscio, but through repeated exposure to unfamiliar words in context – especially Tier 2 words like verify, superior, and negligent. These middle-tier words “are essential to reading comprehension,” he says, “and undergird more subtle and precise use of language, both receptive (reading, hearing) and expressive (writing, speaking)… There is a language of upward mobility in America. It has an expansive and nuanced vocabulary that it employs to nimbly navigate the world of organizations, institutions, and opportunities.”

            Consider the word durable. Here’s how a student might gradually master the word and add it to long-term memory by encountering it in four content-area texts:

-    The Egyptians learned how to make durable sheets of parchment from the papyrus plant.

-    With this lightweight and durable telescope, young scientists can explore the natural wonders of the earth or the craters of the moon and beyond.

-    Many durable Roman concrete buildings are still in use after more than 2,000 years.

-    Instead of having to find caves to create makeshift shelters for protection from the weather, man started to look for more durable materials with which to build long-lasting dwellings.

In each case, context is vital to figuring out the meaning of durable and gradually solidifying it in long-term memory. So is background knowledge. “This is the Matthew Effect in action,” says Pondiscio. “Those who have the broadest general knowledge, whether acquired at home, school, or elsewhere in their lives, are most likely to possess the ‘schema’ necessary to intuit the meaning of the word in context and ultimately incorporate the new words into their vocabulary; those who do not fall further behind. The language-rich grow richer; the poor get poorer.”

            Students’ knowledge base is the “context-creating engine of language growth,” he continues. “In short, schools that hope to educate for upward mobility should be doing all they can to make children as rich as possible in knowledge and language – so that they can grow richer still… Low-income children most specifically need more science, social studies, art, and music to build the necessary ‘schema’ that drive comprehension and language growth.”

            “Without a common body of knowledge and its associated gains in vocabulary and language proficiency as a first purpose of American education,” Pondiscio concludes, “the achievement gap will remain a permanent fixture of American society, and the odds of upward mobility – already depressingly long – will become nearly insurmountable.”


“It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” by Robert Pondiscio in The Education Gadfly, December 10, 2014 (Vol. 14, #50),

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spirit Week

Barrows students have enjoyed a fun spirit week this week!  We will continue to update with pictures soon but check out the pictures so far:


Monday, December 1, 2014

Barrows participates in the REF Festival of Trees

Check out the beautiful Barrows 50th anniversary tree put together by the Barrows PTO to support Reading Education Foundation's annual Festival of Trees this weekend.  It is a beautiful tree (with more goodies to be added!)  Thank you to our PTO and to REF for supporting the efforts in our schools!  Hope to see you there this weekend



Monday, November 24, 2014

The Barrows community is thankful

Barrows students and staff have been making feathers to acknowledge what they are thankful for this season.  We invite you to grab a feather up at the main office and share - what are you most thankful for?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barrows Budget Parents

Good morning!  Just wanted to send one last reminder out to see if any members of our Barrows community are interested in joining our Budget Parent team.  See below for the description of these important roles.  Let me know if you're interested!

Reading Public Schools

Budget Parent Information Sheet


WHO                                      Any parent who has children in the Reading Public Schools may become a budget parent.  Representation will come from the following groups:


·         Individual Schools

·         High School Extracurricular (Athletics, Drama, Music)

·         Special Education PAC


RESPONSIBILIITIES         The budget parent responsibilities are as follows:


·         Participate in meetings with the Superintendent of Schools and Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Administration from December-March to learn about the school department budget and the budget process.

·         Work with the Superintendent and the Director of Finance and Operation to review, critique and give input on the budget and the budget process.

·         Understand how the budget process works and be an advocate for the entire school department budget

·         Act as a liaison between the school department and their child’s school by reporting back to other parents both formally (PTO and School Council meetings) and informally

·         Attend School Committee meetings and other pertinent meetings during the budget deliberations in January, February, and March


WHEN                                    Meetings will begin in late November/early December and will occur prior to School Committee meetings.  The month of January is a busy month with one to two meetings per week.  February and March will have two or three meetings.


                                                The following School Committee meetings in January, February, and March are dedicated to the FY16 budget.  The Budget parents will meet at 6:00 p.m. prior to these meetings.


                                                January 8, 12, 15, 22, 26, 28 (Financial Forum)

                                                February 2

                                                March 18 (Finance Committee Meeting)



Please note that each budget parent does not have to attend every meeting. We would always like at least one representative from each school at each meeting.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

All-School Assembly: Veterans Day & Community Service

We had a wonderful all-school assembly on Wednesday to celebrate and honor our Veterans and encourage our students to participate in community service activities.  Check out the presentation here:

Check out a few pictures below.  To see more of our photos jump over to our Alice Barrows School Facebook page!
Pledge of Allegiance

1st graders sing

2nd grade shares a poem

School Council leads our community service efforts

Monday, November 3, 2014

Flu Season Reminder from Dr. Doherty

It’s Flu Season

The following information has been shared with school districts about the enterovirus, flu season, and Ebola virus from the United States Department of Education. If you have any questions, please contact the your child's school nurse or the Reading Public School's Director of Nurses Lynn Dunn at


Every year, millions of children in the United States get enterovirus infections that can cause coughing, sneezing, and fever. This year, children throughout the country have gotten sick with respiratory illnesses caused by enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68). EV-D68 is one of many enteroviruses that often spread in the summer and fall. It’s not a new virus, but it hasn’t been very common in the past. However, this year, EV-D68 is the most common enterovirus that’s going around.

Since you may not have heard of EV-D68 before, better understanding of how to prevent the virus and the symptoms that this virus can cause can help you protect your children.

What are the signs and symptoms of EV-D68?

Most children who get infected with EV-D68 may have cold-like symptoms, like fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body and muscle aches. More severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing. Children with asthma are at risk for severe symptoms from EV-D68.

How can I protect my children/students?

You can help protect yourself and others from respiratory illnesses, including EV-D68, by following these steps:

§ Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds

§ Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

§ Avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils, with people who are sick, or when you are sick

§ Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands

§ Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick

§ Stay home when you are sick and keep sick children home from school

Could my child get EV-D68?

EV-D68 spreads when people infected with the virus cough, sneeze, or touch surfaces that are then touched by others. In general, infants, children, and teenagers are at higher risk than adults for getting infected and sick with enteroviruses like EV-D68. That's because they have not been exposed to these types of viruses before, and they do not yet have immunity (protection) built up to fight the disease. If your child has asthma, he or she may be at greater risk for severe respiratory illness from EV-D68.

If your child has asthma, CDC recommends you do the following to help maintain control of your child’s asthma during this time:

§ Discuss and update your child’s asthma action plan with your child’s doctor (usually pulmonologist or pediatrician).

§ Make sure your child takes prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long term control medication(s).

§ Make sure your child knows to keep asthma reliever medication with him or her or has access to it at all times.

§ Get your child a flu vaccine, since flu can trigger an asthma attack.

§ If your child develops new or worsening asthma symptoms, follow the steps in his or her asthma action plan. If your symptoms do not go away, call your child’s doctor right away.

§ Make sure caregiver(s) and/or teacher(s) are aware of the child’s condition, and that they know how to help if the he or she experiences any symptoms related to asthma.

§ Call your child's doctor if he or she is having difficulty breathing, if you feel you are unable to control symptoms, or if symptoms are getting worse.


There is no specific treatment for EV-D68. Talk to your child's doctor about the best way to control his or her symptoms.

Remember, that while this has been a big year for EV-D68 infections, CDC expects the number of cases to taper off by late fall. But even after cases of EV-D68 begin to decrease, parents and children should continue to follow basic steps to stay healthy, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding touching their faces with unwashed hands. To help your family stay healthy this fall and winter, CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.

For more information on:

Flu Season is Upon Us

Remember too, as enterovirus season is expected to taper off, flu activity usually begins to increase in October. While there is not a vaccine to prevent illness from enteroviruses, the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Many resources for parents and others can be found on the CDC flu web site. CDC recommends that ALL children 6 months old or older get a flu vaccine.

Ebola Virus

Finally, we know your communities may also have questions about what schools can do to keep students and adults safe from the Ebola virus. The CDC is continually updating

its information on Ebola, information that can be found here:

The Office of Safe and Healthy Students has a number of materials available regarding Readiness and Emergency Management of Schools in crisis situations, and those materials can be found here: One resource at this web link is steps the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) has taken to keep parents and community partners continually updated on the Ebola situation there, including establishing a web site:

Additional materials developed by the DISD Communications Team included there are:

John F. Doherty, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Reading Public Schools

82 Oakland Road

Reading, MA 01867


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Classroom Guests

3rd grade gets a visit from a Bee Keeper and 4th graders learn about stamps from a philatelist

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monster Mash

Thank you to our PTO and Monster Mash chairperson Beth Robinson for another great annual Monster Mash event!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rainy Day Reminders!

We shifted our rainy day drop off procedures this year to try to decrease volume, provide an age-appropriate place for all grades, and ensure appro-priate supervision for all. Additionally we are looking to be tighter with our security to ensure the safety of all students. Please support us in these efforts!

    • Students may enter at 8:05am on rainy days. (please do not enter earlier than 8:05 as there is no supervision prior to this time.)
    • Doors that will be open for entrance for students on rainy days in-clude; Door 1, Door 19, and Door 12
    • Grades K-3 will wait in the cafeteria. Parents may choose to wait with their child but are not required to wait and are encouraged to ‘kiss and go’
    • Grades 4-5 will wait in lines outside their classroom. Parents are not permitted to wait with 4th and 5th graders in their hallway.
    • At the bell parents should say goodbye and leave through a cafeteria exit. Parents are not permitted to walk through the school hallways, as school is starting and we will be securing the building.

    Thank you for your support in keeping our school safe! :)

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Upcoming Monster Mash Info

    This Friday, 10/24, 6-8pm
    Admission is $1.00 per person/$5.00 maximum family

    The PTO will have lots of great baskets being raffled off including 2 tickets to a Celtics game on the floor rows back from the celtics bench and 4 tickets to a Bruins game!

    Thursday, October 9, 2014

    5th grade yearbook info

    Many 5th grade parents have been unable to access the photo dropbox with the link that was emailed out last week.  Please use the web address below to access the dropbox for photo sharing.



    Thank you,

    The 5th Grade Yearbook Committee

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Camp Bournedale Fun!

    Hello Barrows Community!
    The 5th grade students, staff, and parents down at Camp Bournedale are having a blast!  Students have had the opportunity to participate in 4 classes, eat meals together (family style), have open recreation time, ice cream sundae party, a reptile presentation, and a magician!  All students did well sleeping in their cabins at night and are not off to their classes for the day (Costal Ecology, Lobster Boat Adventure, Marine Lab, and Project Adventure.)  We will be heading home to Barrows this afternoon and hope to be arriving around 4:30pm.
    Project Adventure Teamwork

    Project Adventure Teamwork

    Family Style Meals - Barrows & Eaton together

    Recreation Time
    Magic Show

    Magic Show

    Magic Show
    Cabin Fun
    Marine Lab - buoyancy
    Marine Lab - Shark Dissection

    Monday, September 8, 2014

    Does Back-to-School Bring Mixed Emotions? We have tips, resources...

    An interesting piece about transitioning back to school written by the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, but many points are applicable to all students. 

    education update
    As fall approaches and our children settle into school, we know many of our families have mixed emotions about the transition to a new school year.   

    You may feel relief that you are entering back into more of a scheduled and routine way of life while, at the same time, you may feel anxiety about the school-year ahead.  

    Our children are transitioning into classrooms with new teachers, new classmates, and, for students entering kindergarten, middle school, or high school, they may be entering into entirely new buildings.

    This feeling is more poignant for parents of children with special needs. When your child has significant communication and learning needs, the anxiety for parents of your child entering a new grade is felt much more acutely. 

    • Will my child's teacher understand their needs and have patience as we all adjust?
    • Will my child's teacher be supported by the principal as he/she gets to know my student and seeks out resources to support both their instruction and my child?
    • Will the other students make an effort to get to know my child and find out how (insert wonderful quality unique to your child here) they are?

    The list of questions parents ask themselves could go on forever. Hopefully, by mid-September, you'll be able to look back and say, "Why was I so worried?"

    In the meantime, it's that time of year for the MDSC to share again some "back to school" tips for parents based on the many September transitions that I experienced as a teacher. Hopefully these tips and resources will get you to the middle of September with a little less stress than before!


    For teachers, the start of the year is crazy...
    This is important for parents to know.  Both right before, and at the very beginning, teachers are working non-stop to prepare for the upcoming year. Many school systems only pay teachers for one day before the start of school, but it's important to know that most teachers have put in multiple hours over the summer to prepare. Despite hours of prep, there are always unanticipated issues at the beginning of the school year and it is impossible for teachers to juggle it all without something getting put on the back burner. So, keeping that in mind, if initial efforts at communication within the first couple of days are not immediately returned, don't let it put you off.  It is likely that your teachers have a very full plate and are not intentionally avoiding you.  Give it a couple of days, and if you don't hear anything, try again.  Odds are your teacher will appreciate a second chance.

    Be transparent about the type of information you are looking for...
    Teachers appreciate parents being real and transparent about the specific information that they are looking for.  If you would like a copy of your child's push in/pull out/specialists schedule, go right ahead and ask for it.  Know that the information may not be readily available, but put it out there.   It's ok to even ask for a rough timeline about when you can expect it. This is an honest question and it's ok to seek out information that will let you know when you can expect your child's year-long schedule to be implemented.

    Be flexible about how you get the information...
    Email, handwritten note, phone call...all of these represent "preferred" types of communication of teachers, depending upon their communication style. Some teachers make all their phone calls at 3 pm, where others are late night e-mailers. A few die-hards still others jot down handwritten notes to parents while the students are at gym or art.   If teachers are able to communicate in the manner in which they find most comfortable, odds are you will receive a response quicker. 

    Be honest and up front about questions or concerns you have...
    Make sure you let your teachers know right away if there is something going on that you are feeling uncomfortable with. Bringing these things up in an honest, non-confrontational way is the quickest way to resolve the issue, and let the teacher know that the relationship that you are trying to develop is one of trust, not one of suspicion.  

    Share info from home that could support your child in the classroom...
    It was a rough night. Your student is coming down with a cold.  Mom or Dad is traveling.  Getting out the door was hard this morning. All of these things affect your child, and giving your teachers the "heads-up" about these things can go a long way in supporting your child with having a successful day. When teachers know and understand that there may be some precipitating factors that could affect how your child may be able to "process" the many demands of the day, teachers will be able to appropriately plan for and respond to your child.

    Stay connected to the MDSC...
    We, here at the MDSC, want you to know that we want to continue to support you as you transition back to school. We are looking forward to continuing our webinar series and we are excited to meet with families from all over Massachusetts at our Regional Educational Workshop series. Following this letter, read on to find out all the different ways that you can stay connected to the MDSC and access resources and programs that may be supportive to your families.

    We encourage families to reach out to us when you have questions or need advice throughout the school year. We will do everything we can do to connect you with resources to support you as you face challenges while navigating the ever-complex job of advocating for your child. 

    Please feel free to call or email me at 781-221-0024 (x301) or any time you have education related questions. 

    Wishing you all the best as you get through these next few critical weeks of school transition.

    Best Regards,

    Mo Blazejewski
    MDSC Education Director

    First Lesson of the School Year: Your Brain Can Grow

    First Lesson of the School Year: Your Brain Can Grow

    Students will enter school this year with all sorts of supplies and feelings. The pens, notebooks, books and class schedules will fit neatly inside their backpacks. The feelings, including excitement, fear, enthusiasm, and misgivings, can be confusing, shifting, and harder to pin down.
    They will also bring something intangible but very important for their success: a set of beliefs about their ability to learn - about their capacity and potential. This mindset is more powerful than their test scores or class rank, and it isn't always self-evident or obvious. It shows up when we listen closely to how young people talk about school:
    The impact of mindset
    We might miss the importance of statements that our kids make, but Carol Dweck doesn't. She's the world's leading researcher on mindsets, and her work gives us a lot of insights about our kids' beliefs about themselves and their ability to learn.
    Professor Dweck has worked with thousands of students across the country to explore the divergent impacts of what she calls "growth" and "fixed" mindsets on academic achievement. According to Dweck, students with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence and abilities are hardwired traits and that talent is what leads to success, not effort. In contrast, students with a growth mindset believe that abilities can be developed through persistence and hard work. They understand that their brain is like a muscle and that exercise and practice can strengthen it. Students with a growth mindset see mistakes as part of living and learning. Their motto is, "Never give up."
    Here is the difference between how a fixed mindset and a growth mindset might interpret a poor score on a physics exam:
    Learning from mistakes
    Research shows that students with a fixed mindset see mistakes as a sign of failure. Students with a growth mindset see mistakes as an opportunity to learn. When students start to avoid making mistakes they aren't just stepping back from risk and challenge, they are stepping back from new learning and knowledge.
    Of course these beliefs don't come out of nowhere. Stereotypes (e.g. "girls are bad at math"), educator's mindsets, cultural narratives about success, praise, and our own assumptions all influence young people's mindsets.
    The good news? Not surprisingly, mindsets themselves aren't fixed either. Evidence shows that even small interventions can shift a student's beliefs and boost achievement. We've written before about the impact of praise and nurturing real self-esteem.
    Another secret to fostering the growth mindset in students is to teach them about the brain itself.
    "Whatever the brain does a lot of, is what the brain gets good at."
    While compelling evidence has been building for years now Dweck and her team are conducting large scale, randomized, and controlled trials to substantiate their claims that learning about the brain shifts the way that students think about their education and ultimately impacts achievement. For example, in one study students read an article explaining how the brain grows and develops and then were asked to write a letter of advice to a "struggling" student. Even this small exercise yielded positive results. The intervention increased the rate at which underperforming students achieved satisfactory grades when compared to the control group.
    This isn't to say that teaching a growth mindset is going to solve all of our problems in education. We need to be wary of any theory that simplifies the issue. Don't believe any "expert" who says, "If students just believed in themselves there wouldn't be an achievement gap." It's more complicated than that. Solving the achievement gap is going to require a hard look at systemic barriers to learning like poverty, toxic stress, and inequitable access to resources.
    But in the meantime, we should make sure that every student knows that their brain has the capacity to grow.
    Make the first lesson of this school year be about growth:
    • Recognize hard work and perseverance instead of "natural" gifts and talents.
    • Normalize mistakes and model ways to learn from them.
    • Reveal the "hidden stories" of success. For example, how much practice it takes for world class athletes to get to the top of their game.
    • Express pride and praise your student takes on new challenges.
    • Talk to your child's teacher. How are exams treated? As judgement or an opportunity to learn? How are mistakes treated?
    • Teach your student about their brain. It is like a muscle - exercise it and it gets stronger.

    Jail & Bail support!

    Thank you to all the students, families, and staff members that 'bailed' me out of Jail at the Reading Faire this weekend.  I appreciate your support in the fundraising efforts for the Understanding Disabilities organization and the work they do to expand understanding for our school communities.

    Thanks again for bailing me out!

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

    Mrs. Leonard is getting JAILed! Come BAIL me out!

    I will be locked up around 4:00 P.M. on Sunday to support the Understanding Disabilities fundraiser.
    blue gold border

    Jail & Bail to Benefit UD

    Jail & Bail to Benefit
    Understanding Disabilities, Inc.
    Sunday, September 7
    12:00 to 5:00
    @ the Reading Fall Street Faire
    We're All the Same Inside
    Understanding Disabilities, Inc. is a non-profit organization that helps children in Reading see beyond people's disabilities and focus on the ways we're all alike inside.
    Please Like UD on facebook
    Dear Friends,   

    I am going to be JAILed and I need your help to BAIL me out!

    Actually, I am offering to be jailed for a good cause.   I am participating in Understanding Disabilities' Jail & Bail fundraiser at the Reading Fall Street Faire.  All BAIL proceeds help pay for disability awareness education in the Reading schools this year.    

    Can I count on your help?  I hope you can give generously to this important program.  All donations are tax-deductible.

    It's easy to help:

    Mail your check payable to Understanding Disabilities, Inc. to 
          Understanding Disabilities
          PO Box 465, Reading, MA  01867
          Include an email address for a tax receipt.
    Donate Now to UD  
    Please note "Heather Leonard" in the Jailee field on page 2.
    Come by the Jail to visit me!
    We'll let you know the time and location soon.
    Thank you for supporting disability awareness in the schools. And thank you for helping bail me out of jail!