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Time to Write ... But First, Yoga

Several students do a yoga pose.

Standing in warrior pose and practicing bear breath, snake breath, elephant breath or bunny breath, first-graders in Brianna Spitaliere’s class at Ann MacArthur Primary School are learning to self-regulate. Students choose the yoga breath they need depending on whether they need to calm down or energize before beginning their writing workshop.
Yoga is practiced in this classroom as a transition between guided reading and writing workshop to help children prepare for their creative session. The mindfulness activity is performed during the Integrated ENL/ELA block with co-teacher Marie Mills.
Standing yoga poses such as mountain, triangle and warrior contribute to the development of strength, balance and focus. Students also learn partner poses, which they do with their writing partners. Elevator and back-to-back chair pose offer additional benefits, such as building trust and cooperation.
Ms. Mills said that yoga has offered a positive transition to the writing process. “Physical movement fosters learning,” she said. Similarly, “writing partners must work together, provide feedback and cooperate with one another,” she said. 
Ms. Spitaliere said that the students have benefited from the workshops in many ways. “Students feeling tired now know some breathing techniques they can use to gain energy, while those feeling like they can’t sit still can use different breaths to calm them down and prepare them to write,” she said.
Co-teaching during the ENL/ELA block has allowed the two yoga enthusiasts to work together to bring more enrichment to the children. The idea was gleaned from a workshop the two teachers attended on Superintendent’s Conference Day. Taught by Bayville Primary School librarian Stefanie Lipsey, the session focused on ways to incorporate yoga into writing workshops and recommended various materials that Ms. Spitaliere and Ms. Mills have incorporated into their workshop, including the use of chimes to signal the start of breathing exercises and for behavior management.

Second-Graders Debate Topical Issue

The entire class poses with their speeches.
Should plastic straws be banned? This was the topic debated in Tanya Becker’s second-grade integrated ENL class at Ann MacArthur Primary School. Using persuasive writing, the students chose one side of this topical issue and made their viewpoint known.
Ms. Becker and her co-teacher Suzette Ioannou said the debate took place after the class researched the topic by reading an article on whether or not plastic straws should be banned. The information in the article was discussed in small groups before each child wrote their opinion with supporting information, based on the article and their personal experiences. 

Those students favoring the banning of plastic straws pointed out that the straws can injure animals and are bad for the environment. On the opposing side, students said that straws are needed by people with certain disabilities and that those using the straws should learn to recycle them.
Once each student in the class had read their persuasive essay, they answered questions as to whether or not the debate changed their own opinion. Some students said that indeed, a classmate had provided information that changed their opinion.

Ms. Becker and Ms. Ioannou explained that this type of challenging assignment will help prepare students for future academic goals and achievements and that the topic was chosen because it was one that the students could relate to regardless of language acquisition. 

100 Days of Learning

Four girls are dressed like 100-year-old ladies.

Primary school students can count to 100 by fives, tens and twenties and they proved it during assemblies celebrating the 100th day of school at Ann MacArthur and Bayville Primary Schools.

Students in kindergarten through second grade sang songs that included counting to 100, listened to a story about the 100th day of school and celebrated the number 100. The 100th student to enter the school that day, students who were present for all 100 days of school and those that correctly guessed the number of treats in a jar were all recognized. 

“While the 100th day of school may not be an official holiday, it is an opportunity to reinforce math skills through collaboration with reading, music and movement,” said Locust Valley Elementary Schools Principal Dr. Sophia Gary.

Community-School Partnership

Students and family work on a project

Math games, spelling challengesand puzzles made Family Math/ELA Night feel like fun, but the participants were learning how to work together at home on schoolwork. Parents and students joined together at Ann MacArthur Primary School and Bayville Primary School where they traveled through stations set up with various mathematical and English language arts activities. Advice on how to help their children with the skills needed to complete the tasks was shared and each family left with some new activities to engage in with their children.

“Enhancing the school community partnership is always a priority,” Bayville Elementary School Assistant Principal Dorothy McManus said. “Our goal is to support parents so they can help children succeed at home, and therefore be more successful in school.”