Portland Public Schools
Portland, Oregon

da Vinci Logo imageda Vinci Arts Middle School

Creative minds for
challenging times.

2508 NE Everett Street | Portland, OR 97232
Phone: (503) 916-5356 | Fax: (503) 916-2721

Homework Newsletter


October 22, 2010


Greetings all,


I have a number of announcements this week. The Core Retreat announcement and new writing program announcement are at the end of this week’s newsletter, in case you missed them last week. I didn’t hear from anyone regarding supporting fundraising for next year’s retreat and I’m wondering why. If you have thoughts or ideas, please let me know; I’m all ears.


Regarding the new writing system (we’ve been calling it writer’s workshop), I think it’s going well. I hope you’re hearing good things about it at home. Please let me know if you have any questions.



Please read my need for parent support under the writing section of this week’s newsletter. I need parent help to make sure we get these kids’ poems published in our classroom anthology. If you can help out, let me know ASAP. Thanks!




It’s time to start thinking about Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences. My hope is that I get a chance to meet with all of my families AND my students. I would encourage families to conference with their child present. I have found conferences are much more effective if the student is part of the conversation.


For those possibly planning to be away during the week of Giving Thanks, we have intentionally scheduled one of our conference nights outside of that week. To accommodate vacationing families, conferences will be on Nov. 18. If you plan to be away the week of Giving Thanks and do not schedule a conference on the Nov. 18, I cannot guarantee you a scheduled conference.


The first opportunity to schedule conferences is on Monday, October 25 at our PTSA meeting. If you can’t make it the meeting you will need to contact the office for an appointment.



I am not at all attempting to be preachy and I do realize I am not a parent nor am I a doctor. However, I would like to implore every family to monitor the amount of sugar their child consumes over the next few weeks. In the last 12 years I’ve been able to observe a great deal of student behavior and I’ve witnessed what immense amounts of sugar and high fructose corn syrup do to students’ immune systems ability to focus in school. Generally student behavior and “drama” at and around school tends to increase during the Halloween holiday. Also, more students are ill during the latter part of October and beginning part of November. In my experience the sugar and lack of good sleep contribute to these two issues. Use Halloween and candy consumption as a teachable moment around health and nutrition. I really appreciate your support with this one.



We are having a costume dance and we need your support. If you could help chaperon and/or provide a few HEALTHY snacks, we’d so appreciate it. Please bring snacks to the office. Contact Connie about chaperoning.



We update our planners approximately once a week. I also have a planner in our classroom that is exactly like the one the students were all given. I expect students to use some sort of organizer/calendar to keep track of assignments and due dates. Please check in with your child about their usage of their planner. I encouraged them to color code their entries (orange for reading; purple for writing; and blue for social studies). Regular usage of the planner will assist in breaking large projects down into more manageable parts. It will also create good habits for the rest of their lives. Make sure to ask your child to show you their planner. Are they using it? Do the notes in it make sense to you? Is their writing legible enough for them to understand what it is they wrote in there? Can they explain what it is they need to do for homework? It’s good point in the year to check in.



A number of students are starting to come to class without school supplies. They often come to class without a pen or pencil and no lined paper. Please check your child’s binder to see if they could use a few more supplies. My spare pencil box is practically empty.



Each day when a student enters our classroom they know exactly what they need to bring to class because it’s posted on the door and it’s posted again on the front board. Students are expected to read the door and the board so that they can be prepared for class. Minimally, students are expected to come to class with a writing implement and paper/binder. Also, if students are making use of their planner, they know what’s due for the day and bring that work with them as well. I am of the mind that not coming to class prepared is a refusal to work and a self-sabotaging habit I would like to rid students of as soon as possible. I am working hard at helping our students be accountable for their own learning. Coming to class prepared is one of their responsibilities. I hope you will help support me in this endeavor.


I will institute a new policy around class preparedness the week our 6th graders return from Outdoor School – the week of Nov. 1. When a student does not come to class prepared, the following will occur:

1.     A WHY I’M NOT PREPARED FOR CLASS notification will be sent home.

2.     The form will require a student to explain what they did not bring with them, and should have, and why they weren’t prepared for class that day.

3.     Depending on the infraction, the student may not be able to participate in that day’s activities.

4.     The form will be shown to a parent/guardian and brought back with a signature. I will email the family if the form is not returned the following day.

5.     If this behavior becomes habitual, I will request a meeting with the family and the student. We will come up with a plan to improve the situation.






  • I AM INCREASINGLY CONCERNED THAT STUDENTS ARE NOT CARING FOR THEIR BORROWED NOVELS. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD KNOWS WHERE THEIR NOVEL IS. Students are responsible for the book I checked out to them. If a novel is lost, stolen, or damaged, it will need to be replaced. If you need to replace a book, please purchase the book rather than giving us cash or a check for it.


    • Assignments –

      • NEW Outsiders entries were assigned on Friday – my web site has been updated with what students need to do.

      • Entries 13 & 15 are due Monday, Oct. 25

      • Entries 16 & 17 are due Tuesday, Oct. 26

      • Entry 18 due Wednesday, Oct. 27

      • Entries 20 & 22 due Thursday, Oct. 28


        ·      Reading of the novel – Students should finish the novel by Thursday, Oct. 28 for our final book group session.

        ·      Book Group Schedule (October 28 – FINAL SESSION):

        ·       A.M. Core – meets from 8:30 to 9

        ·       P.M. Core – meets from 12:30 to 1

        ·       Parents, please read through the end of the novel. 



          • We did a ton of writing this week. I have been extremely pleased with our new writer’s workshop system. I hope your child has reported good news.

          • Due dates for the week:

            • Final peer editing opportunity Monday, Oct. 25

            • Ms. Wasson draft – the one I will read and give feedback on prior to student being assessed due Tuesday, Oct. 26

            • FINAL POEM & ILLUSTRATION DUE FRIDAY, OCT. 29 – this is the piece they will have published in our class anthology.

            • CLASS ANTHOLOGY

              • Each student needs to have their poem and art on ONE 8.5x11 piece of paper for publication purposes.


              • If you have the printing capability to take on this task, please let me know ASAP. Or if you’re willing to come help organize, paginate, and stand at our copy machine, I would be so grateful. Let me know if you can help.

              • NEXT UP: Outsiders character analysis essay. We will begin this work when our 6th graders return from Outdoor School.

              • Please read notice below about changes in my writing program (same notice as last week).

                Social Studies

                Colonial America

                ·   Students are creating persuasive Colonial brochures to attract colonists to their colony.

                ·       The assignment was outlined for them today and they will begin working on it in class Monday. Due to a tight schedule, they will need to do parts here at school and parts at home. I want to have it all said and done before our 6th graders take off for Outdoor School.

                NEXT UP:

                ·       French Indian War/Declaration of Independence/Revolution

                ·       The Constitution



                For a good number of years here’s what writing assignments looked, or at least felt like to me, in my classes. I would give students an assignment sheet, which outlined guidelines, expectations and due dates. We’d go over all of the information together. Students asked questions, we’d clarify what I expected. We’d do mini-lessons in class on technique. Students would bring in drafts of their stories for me to rubber stamp/check-in on their progress (I could never fully read any of the drafts, let alone sit down and conference with any of them while they were in progress – too many kids and not enough time). They’d take their drafts home and presumably continue to massage their writing (without much guidance from me at all). We’d have a few peer editing sessions. And when the assignment was due, I’d collect it, score it, and the assignment was “finished.” This does NOT work for me any longer as a writing teacher and I certainly don’t think it works for students trying to learn how to be writers. I absolutely must be more involved with my students’ writing while they are IN THE PROCESS of writing. My comments do them NO good if they received them once they deem the assignment to be “done.”


                For a little more than a year a team of teachers here at da Vinci has been working on how to improve writing for students here. The team went to a three-day workshop this summer regarding the importance of giving students descriptive feedback. In order to incorporate what I know my students need from me, my program is going to have to change. I introduced this change to students today.


                I know it’s going to be bumpy, experimental, and not a perfect system. I hope everyone can be patient and supportive while we work out the kinks. Here’s the bottom line, I want students to do their writing IN CLASS. The only way I can imagine this happening is if I require students to handwrite assignments during class. This way I can be there during their writing time and if they need or want help, I’m there. I know all of our science teachers are requiring students to have access to Google Docs. I may also have to go to this system but I have to learn more about it before I make that my policy. In the meantime, I will be requiring students to work on their drafts IN CLASS. They can then take them home and type them but they will need to do more writing at school as well. This system is also an attempt to get around all of the technology excuses students often have. Students can continue emailing me drafts of their work and I can print them here at school. We will practice this new process with our new poetry assignment.


                If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions, please let me know. I am looking for all of the input I can get as I really want this to work and I want to be a better writing coach for my students.



                Please don’t forget to order this week. As the holidays approach, consider gifting folks through our SCRIP program. It’s really a win/win for everyone. Thanks!

                PTSA MEETINGS

                The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Please try to support this important group. We really need to hear your voices. I know it’s yet another thing you have to put on your busy calendar, but it makes a difference.

                You will be able to sign up for Parent-Teacher Conferences at this meeting.


                The following is a letter Eric gave core teachers to pass along to 6th grade families. My students are attending Camp Howard but the rules apply no matter where students go to ODS.

                Dear Parents and Guardians,

                Your student will be attending Outdoor School during Halloween. I

                wanted to better prepare you for an Outdoor School Halloween event.

                Halloween is on Tuesday of your Student’s Outdoor School week. We will

                be having a harvest festival. There will lots of fun activities and lots of

                sugar, if that eases your students’ nerves. It is a lot of fun and something

                different then the traditional Halloween; here are some guidelines and

                information that may help you answer parent and student questions.

                We ask that refrain from bringing costumes or candy. If you would like

                to donate NUT FREE candy for the site you are welcome to do so and

                we can incorporate it into our activities.

                If your student that does not celebrate Halloween for religious or other

                reasons please call Arrah Wanna and let us know. We will provide

                alternate activities to the ones that are specific to the Halloween


                If you would like your child to participate in Halloween outside of

                Outdoor School (trick or treat), I assure you that Halloween at Outdoor

                School is a fun and candy filled event. Missing the first night of Outdoor

                School makes it difficult for students to adjust and they miss out on

                crucial time getting to know their cabin and introducing themselves to

                Outdoor School. Ideally, we would like them to enjoy the whole week

                with us.

                If you have concerns that your child will not have fun on Halloween at

                Outdoor School; we have celebrated many Halloween events at

                Outdoor School and the students enjoy it. It is safe, fun and with their

                classmates. Yes, they will get candy!

                If you have any questions please call me. If you have any concerns you

                can have them call me as well. Looking forward to it.

                Andrea Hussey“Coho”

                Arrah Wanna Site Supervisor

                (503) 622-3519 Arrah Wanna site



                LOVE BOOKS? Write one! November is National Novel Writing Month. Join kids and teen from around the world in tackling the fun, frightening, and totally unforgettable challenge of bashing out an entire novel in one month. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll write like crazy for 30 adventurous days. And on December 1, you’ll have a great new book to read. YOUR OWN!


                CORE RETREAT NEWS


                I was remiss last week in thanking all of the families who helped make this year’s core retreat such a success. I want to personally thank everyone involved. Thanks to those who pitched in and donated funds, shopped and made snack bags and lunches, to the parents who braved the adventure with the kids, to folks who found donations, such as bread from Grand Central Bakery for our sandwiches. I feel like the luckiest teacher in the world to have such supportive families. Now I need to count on your support and generosity even more.


                I’m already thinking about next year’s retreat. I’m still not sure if we were able to cover all of the costs for this year. Once all of the bills come in, I will keep you all posted. In the meantime, it’s not too early to be thinking about how to fund next year’s trip. I used to charge $75 for the retreat. I was able to do this because we raised enough funds to make it affordable for all to go. Between increases in costs and less and less interest in fundraising (mostly mine), we’ve gotten to the $110 I charged this year. I’m hoping a team of parents will want to get together and come up with a plan to make sure we can keep this tradition alive and affordable. I would like the energy and support for this to come directly from families. I will continue to plan and coordinate the retreat as long as there is an interest. However, my days of doing that and all of the fundraising coordination are coming to an end. We are all more stressed and our time is our most precious commodity, I am becoming increasing aware of how precious, and I need to pass the torch on to others. This is why I need to know there are a few among you who are willing and enthusiastic about this endeavor. Please let me know if you’d like to get something started. I’m happy to put those who express an interest in the same room, whether virtual or real.


                While you are cooking up ideas, please know that the type of fundraising I’m most willing to support would be those things that get students and families working together (i.e. car washes, read-a-thons, garage sales). I am not looking to have students SELL anything. Part of the deal for me has always been that we earn this trip. If we work for it, it means more to everyone. This is also part of the bargain we make if we believe community (and the building of it) is important.


                I’ve always started the school year with a car wash. I didn’t do that this year and I’m really sad about it. It’s a terrific way to break the ice for returning and new students. I’d like very much to return to that. Let me know if you’d like to be the parent who is willing to coordinate it.

                Thanks everyone!


                Here’s the web site to find out more: http://www.nanowrimo.org




                Have a terrific weekend!



                In the spirit of da Vinci,

                Shannon Wasson