Monthly Archives: August 2011

Jump Right In and Be Yourself or The Top Ten Things New Students Should Know

This week on our Facebook  page we asked students, alums, and fans of Stoneleigh-Burnham School to weigh in and let us know what advice they would offer to new students. We received answers from Owls as far away as Brazil and as close as our own back yard. We’ve compiled the responses into a list of the top ten things new SBS girls should know. Let us know if you have other advice for new students!

10. Don’t let it pass you by, embrace it all, enjoy school.

9. Go out and try new sports, new foods, new activities.  The things you learn, opportunities you have, and the people you meet will be a bigger part of making you the woman you will become than you could ever imagine they would.

8. Participate in activities during the week and on weekends…even if you’re a day student!

7. Be nice to your RA…and keep your room clean!

6. Study hard and learn to write very, very well (it is school after all).

5. Keep a journal and take lots of pictures. You will want to remember every moment.

4. Talk to as many new people as you can…and get to know the shy, quiet kid. As one alum put it, they may end up being your best friend for life.

3. Believe in yourself and allow yourself the chance to become an assertive, self-assured woman.

2. Take advantage of every opportunity. Go on school trips, take risks, and don’t be afraid to jump right in and be yourself.

1. Have fun. From current students to alumnae from the class of 1988, everyone agrees that it is important to have fun and enjoy your time at SBS. It will be over before you know it!

We know there will be lots more advice to come…”like” our Facebook page and join the conversation!

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Filed under Admissions, School Happenings, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Learning in Community

While I certainly work throughout the year to see where I need to make adjustments to maximize student learning (most notably by talking with my students), I always welcome the summer as a chance to slow down my pace and reflect on my practice. So when a prospective parent mentioned in passing research on the usefulness of handwriting, it caught my attention. I’ve been working over the past few years to create as paperless a classroom as possible, for a variety of reasons including environmental concerns and to help prepare students to easily create and manage electronic portfolios for the IB program. Had I perhaps been too successful? Catherine and I used to discusss the possibility, but had decided to continue what we were doing given positive results and reactions on the part of students. Nonetheless, it was definitely time to do some investigation.

Within moments of my putting out a request on Twitter for links to research on handwriting, Larry Ferlazzo sent me a response, and Jen Marten followed soon after. Much of the research has been conducted with elementary-age students, but related research on adults learning a second language produced similar conclusions. Handwriting can rewire the brain, involving both hemispheres more actively, slowing down thought processes, improving memory and enabling greater success in learning second languages. This is, in part, a function of handwriting being tactile as well as visual. While some studies suggested that these effects are measurable only with cursive due to the different formation of letters (printing in these studies produced the same effects as typing), others did not distinguish between cursive and printing.

So what are the implications for my teaching? First, it seems clear that I will need to ask my French II students to do most of their work by hand. I will want to have a conversation with them about how best to learn a language, and stress the need to handwrite wherever possible. Second, I will need to find a place for handwriting in Humanities 7. Independent writing (usually short stories and/or poetry) and essays profit from the ability to easily and quickly revise and restructure when needed, so those activities would probably best remain electronic (given that when a student requests to handwrite a first draft, I certainly respect that request). Vocabulary learning, though, focuses on memorization; perhaps vocabulary lists and practice work should be handwritten in the future. And certainly the extensive goal-setting and self-reflection work the students do would seem to profit from both the improved memory and additional time for deep thinking afforded by handwriting. We can try this system through the fall and see how it works, and make adjustments as needed in the winter.

Note that none of these proposed improvements to my courses would be happening without the input of a parent, colleagues, and eventually my students. While learning is ultimately an individual’s responsibility as they follow their own unique path, it is also true that the best learning happens in community. I feel lucky and privileged to be surrounded by amazing learners that support and help me, and do my best to give back.

– Bill Ivey, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School Dean

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Filed under In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School