SPRING 2014, Vol. 4: Issue 2                                                                                              "A Great Place to Learn."



Have you received this from a friend, neighbor or relative? Please join our mailing list to recieve future issues.

Join Our Mailing List! 


In This Issue
Wampus Third Graders
BHHS Students Introduce Coman Hill and Wampus Students to Foreign Languages
HCC Music Program Gives Students a Chance to Conduct the Band

Find us on Facebook!


The Byram Hills School District is now on Facebook! Find us there to get the latest in school news. 





Wampus Third Graders Practice Writing Through Pen Pal Letters


Bryce Polenz, Matthew Giovannetti, Colin McManus, Tyler Lynch and Aidan Weiss read letters. 


At first, the third graders in Sasha Davies' class thought they wouldn't have too much in common with their new pen pals in Hong Kong. But as the letters went back and forth over the past few months, that view quickly changed.


Matthew Giovannetti and Bryce Polenz learned that some of the boys in Hong Kong like playing the video game Minecraft, just as they do. Sydney Nichols found out that both she and her pen pal enjoy visiting Canada. And, when the whole class received a video made by their pen pals, they discovered that kids in Hong Kong like dancing to the popular YouTube hit "What Does the Fox Say?" as much as they do.


"The letters are giving them a personal connection to children who live across the world," said Ms. Davies. "They've learned about the differences in the cultures, but they've also seen how much they all have in common."


Katherine Dick shows off 
a letter from her pen pal.

Ms. Davies started the letter exchange this fall after meeting Edward Chang, a teacher from Hong Kong who like her was studying at the Writing Institute at Teachers College last summer.  The two thought that linking their classes would give both groups of students another opportunity for practicing their writing. Ms. Davies said that letters allow students to engage in a form of unstructured writing that allows a child's own voice to come through. The children decide what to share and how they want to express their thoughts, with some adding drawings to their letters.


Since the third-grade curriculum includes a unit on Asia, the letters have also enhanced that study. The children realized, for example, how important the Chinese New Year's celebration is to their pen pals. The Hong Kong students even created 'lai see' packets (red lucky envelopes that they filled with play money) for their pen pals. Mr. Chang said in an email that his class also loved writing the pen pal letters: "Learning about the different cultures and customs, family traditions, different perspectives and life experiences, and especially communicating with another child from another side of the world and learning through their eyes is something they may not have experienced if it weren't for pen pals."  



BHHS Students Introduce Coman Hill and Wampus Students to Foreign Languages  

High School student Carly Schwartz reads a Spanish story book to Coman Hill students.


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? Coman Hill students excited to hear their favorite story read in other languages!


High school language students recently gave the district's younger students a taste of the languages they'll eventually be able to study as part of the district's observation of World Languages Week. The high school students read foreign language editions of popular picture books, such as the Brown Bear story by Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr., to classes at the Coman Hill School. They also taught introductory lessons in Spanish, French and Italian to students at the Wampus School.  


In one Coman Hill class, kindergartners listening to the Spanish version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? quickly started calling out that a white dog was a "perro blanco" and a cat was a "gato." A group of second graders who heard The Hungry Caterpillar learned that "mariposa" meant butterfly and eagerly started asking for the Spanish words for other animals mentioned in the book.


Tenth graders Micah Jeng and Kevin Chang teach a mini lesson.

"It's a really nice way to introduce our younger students to foreign languages," said kindergarten teacher Danielle Wall. Ms. Wall said younger students look up to the high school students, adding that the older students did a great job making connections between foreign words and stories that the children already know. Second-grade teacher Elise Feder said the visit "gets them excited about the idea of learning a language when they're older. They'll be saying 'uno, dos, tres' for days."


The high school students enjoyed having the opportunity to try teaching mini-lessons, and the chance to visit their old elementary schools. "We used to get all excited when the older kids came to visit," recalled 10th-grader Sara Sanchez, "and now we're the older kids."   


Byram Hills also celebrated world languages in a variety of other ways. High school Spanish students made "Papel Picado," a traditional Mexican type of folk art, to decorate the hallways and held class celebrations focused on different cultures. At HC Crittenden Middle School, students made posters centered on the theme that all people smile in the same language.     


HCC Music Program Gives Students a 

Chance to Conduct the Band

HCC students practice conducting a recent band class.

HCC band students are learning that there is a lot more to conducting music than waving a baton.


Through the new "HCC Band Student Conductors" project, sixth, seventh and eighth grade band students are learning how to direct their fellow musicians in warm-ups and musical compositions. In the process, they are seeing more clearly how individual musicians and instruments fit together in a band.


"The project is teaching our kids that there is a lot more to conducting than they might think, that you don't just stand up there and wave your hands around," said music teacher Cheryl Beck. On a practical level, the project is helping students better understand certain basics, such as why it is important to watch the band director when they play, said Ms. Beck. It is also allowing students to grow as musicians by giving them an opportunity to make different musical decisions when it's their turn to conduct.


Seventh grader Josie Pilchik, who plays the clarinet, said she enjoyed having a chance to conduct.


"I like how the conductor is able to control the music and the beat," she said.  Since the project started earlier this year, students have heard different lessons on conducting from district music teachers such as Ms. Beck, Alan Lounsbury, David Wolfe and Marna Weiss.  After watching each teacher, the students wrote reflections on what they had learned and could incorporate into conducting when it was their turn to lead the band.


The students have also learned tips and techniques from professional band directors and music conductors who have led workshops funded through a generous grant from the Byram Hills Education Foundation.  They will also hear from a group of college students who will share their experiences as part of a planned visit from a Long Island University musical director.


Musician Karen Froehlich teaches conducting techniques to band students.

Most recently, HCC students were taught by longtime band director Karen Froehlich, who is also a professional musician. Ms. Froelich said she wanted to help students with different techniques, including the different ways to balance different instruments in a band against each other.

"It's surprising how much students can learn from trying to conduct," she said. Usually, they think of music simply as playing one instrument in the band. That changes when they step out in front.

"As the conductor, the band becomes the instrument that they are playing," she noted.  


Our Mission
In an environment of mutual respect, the Byram Hills School District and its community 
will provide students with the means, the knowledge, and the opportunity to excel 
in order to become productive and responsible citizens of the 21st century.

Byram Hills School District Board of Education: 
Mr. Ira Schulman, President;
Mr. Brett Summers, Vice President;  
 Dr. Leslie Blum (Cziner); Dr. Alban Burke; Ms. Robin Glat; Ms. Joyce Meiklejohn; Dr. Ann Tedesco

Dr. Bill Donohue, Superintendent
   Classroom Connection is published by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES