God’s Love Endures Forever

The phrase, “His love endures forever” is repeated 5 times in Psalm 118 showing us that God’s love is unchanging in the midst of changing situations.  In Psalm 136, it is repeated 26 times as a reminder of God’s never-ending love for us.  As my class reflected on God’s love enduring forever, they also reflected on the things for which they are thankful. 

After brainstorming a “thankful list” on their own, each student wrote a psalm of thanks and repeated the phrase, “His love endures forever” after each item.  It was a great way to think about all the good things that God has given to us, even during these uncertain times.  As we continue to live and adapt in this ever-changing pandemic world, it is with thankful hearts that we can praise God for his endless love, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness that never fails.

Give thanks for the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever. Psalm 118:1 and Psalm 136:1

7th Graders Bring Joy to 2020!

Our 7th graders did not have the opportunity to attend Outdoor Ed at Catalina this year but that did not stop them from learning about the kelp forest and bringing the kelp forest to St. John’s! We discussed what we could do for an extra special project in lieu of the time that we would have been in Catalina.  The students came up with the idea of building a life-sized kelp forest!

Each student selected an organism in the kelp forest to research and become an expert on. Next, they shared their research in a video posted to Flipgrid. The class watched each other’s Flipgrid videos and took notes on the various organisms to collaboratively learn from each other. In addition, the students created a realistic life-sized model of their kelp forest organism. Each class created their own kelp forest. As a result, we have three beautiful and unique kelp forests in our science lab! 

Beyond the life-sized kelp forest, Mrs. Grack, our Technology Director, joined in the fun and introduced the students to Makey Makey circuitry kits. The students used Scratch to code a game or interactive experience within the setting of a kelp forest. The Makey Makey kits allowed the students to work with circuits to design an external controller, using conductive materials, to control the game or interactive on Scratch. 

Our 7th graders really stepped up and put a tremendous amount of effort and enthusiasm into this unit! They clearly demonstrated the 21st Century skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication! So proud of them! 

Kelp Forest Video- Individual Student Projects

Science Lab Kelp Forest

Spanish Language Proficiency at St. John’s

By: Senor Stone, 7/8th Grade Spanish Teacher

I’m excited to share results from last year’s benchmark Spanish proficiency testing.  A group of 8th graders (25 total) self-selected to take the Avant STAMP4s test.  (STAMP stands for Standards-Based Measure of Proficiency).  This test is a recognized reliable and valid tool which measures language proficiency based on our World Standards and the ACTFL guidelines.  The test measures proficiency in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.  It gives results which compare our students to thousands of students across the country and gives feedback to teachers as to the effectiveness of the methods they use to teach.  

Last year’s test group was special.  Due to changes in schedule, I had them for about 60 hours more than previous group.  Most of the groups take the test at 180 hours.   This group took the test at about 240 hours of instruction (that’s the equivalent in hours of Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 in high school. As well, this group is the first to have participated in Silent Sustained Reading for two years. 

The results were striking.  The group mean, across all four skills, was a 4.45.  The Avant company correlates a 4.45 to about 520 hours of study (comparing with students across the country).  That is almost double the amount of time this St. John’s 8th grade group had.  We had two students achieve a score of 5 in each of the four areas tested (at least 650 hours of study normally) qualifying them for the Global Seal of Biliteracy Functional Level (side note: the Global Seal is rigorous.  They require proof of proficiency in both languages and only accept specific, reliable tests.  STAMP4s is one, The College Board AP test is another.  The Functional level Global Seal is considered the equivalent of an AP 3 pass).  There were an additional 10 students who came within one or two points from qualifying for their Global Seals.    

Most significantly, these students achieved this level of proficiency without using a commercial book, without being given traditional grammar explanations (using linguistic terms such as preterit, imperfect, etc.—the AP doesn’t expect students know these terms).  As well they did no verb conjugation charts and did not fill in any vocabulary/grammar worksheets.  They did not take a single multiple-choice quiz.  How did they do it?  Simple: following the principles of proficiency and language acquisition research.  Students are given opportunities each day to interact with the language by focusing on content which is at least 90% comprehensible to them.  I work hard to keep the content engaging and repetitive in novel ways.  The repetition came from focusing on a limited amount of vocabulary and verbs from lists of the most frequently used words.  Because our brains are hard-wired to acquire language through story, the engaging contexts took the form of story co-creation with students.  The oral stories are linked to written stories which are in multiple versions designed to push their level higher with each version. Production activities (speaking and writing) are designed to help students to use circumlocution to make themselves understood.  The program is rounded out by Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) using novels based on most frequent words.

A shift from the outdated and inefficient grammar scope and sequences used in some high schools is taking place around the country.  The Denver Public School system shifted completely to proficiency teaching about 10 years ago and enjoy 92% pass rates on the AP tests.  Most of those students score 4 and 5 and never learned the linguistic terms “preterit, imperfect, etc” and did no motivation killing grammar worksheets!  If this interests you and you’d like to hear the expert’s opinions about what is going on in Spanish class at St. John’s and in other departments around the California and the country, I am attaching a link to a video.  It is one of the clearest examples of how the choice of method can make all the difference in the world.  You don’t have to watch the entire hour.  The first 20 minutes gets to the heart of what I am talking about here (and if your time is really limited, start at 4:00 minutes and stop at 18:00 minutes.)

Beating the “HEAT” in Physical Education.

Ever wonder how the kids make it through a Physical Education class during the month of September?  Well, here are our strategies on how we BEAT THE HEAT..

When focusing on the goal of each class engaging in vigorous activity, we must take into consideration the weather for that day.  For example, currently grades 6-8 are engaged in Volleyball (girl’s) and Soccer (boy’s), both activities require a lot of effort, movement and engagement while being outside in the sun for a considerable amount of time.  In order to combat the heat of the day, we use 3 simple strategies:

 Strategy 1: Hydration:  Encouraging students to bring their own water bottle or hydro flask to P.E. is a must.  We teach students to moderate their water intake. Students are given frequent water breaks to make sure that we our doing our best to stay hydrated through the class period.

Strategy #2: Short Activity Bursts:  Skill development and drills are timed, and set to maximize output through shorter activities.  Our goal during these hot days is to figure out how to get the most opportunity for each student to grow through participation, while being mindful of the importance of breaking for hydration and some quick time in the shade. For example, rather than working out for 20 minutes before a water break, we cut it down to every 5-7minutes.

Strategy #3: Education: We take the time to educate the students about the importance of proper hydration throughout each day.  That water consumption should be regular and balanced to keep their body hydrated. Remember, if you are feeling thirsty, your body is telling you that it has already entered a state of dehydration.  Preloading your body with water consumption is just like filling up your gas tank in your car before a long trip. You would never start that road trip with your fuel light flashing, yet we regularly see kids start their activities while already thirsty. A great formula for daily water consumption for the average person is to take your body weight, divide it by two and that number is how many ounces of water you should consume daily. For example, 200lbs divided by 2 equals 100, so at that weight, the average person should consume 100oz of water per day.

So as you can see, with these three strategies in place, we are able to run an educational yet vigorous physical education program; while maintaining proper hydration to help with success for students battling the heat.

Mr. Harrison, 6-8 grade Physical Education Department


COUNSELOR’S CORNER – September 2019 Edition: A Message From Miss Doyle

Teaching organizational skills from a young age

Have you ever thought about your own organizational style in comparison to your student’s? Are you more of a list person, while your child tends to have a photographic memory (at least they think they do)? Or maybe you’re more of a go-with-the-flow type of personality, while your child is more concrete with their routines? Whatever your style may be, organizational skills play a large role in our everyday lives, so starting to develop those abilities at a young age is important. 

Below you will find some helpful tips on how to foster your student’s organizational dexterities:

  1. Routines are key – Morning routines, nighttime routines, after school routines, and the list goes on. Children thrive off of routines because it allows them to feel safe and unwavering. Even though at times they may push back and want to adjust their routine, they more than likely will resort back to what they’ve been originally taught. 
  2. Sorting/Categorizing – Something so simple, but incredibly beneficial. Sorting can include anything from their toys or clothes at home, to their school papers and supplies. Sorting gives students the chance to arrange the things they use most often and take ownership of those items. A lot of the time this skill comes in the form of completing chores or organizing their school binder or locker. 
  3. Checklists – Introduce checklists early on. Keep it basic and start with a checklist that focuses on things like their nightly routine before bed or what to pack for a family vacation. And eventually when students get older, checklists can be used to help them prioritize their time with school, sports, social outings, etc. Checklists may even start to take the shape of a planner. 
  4. Letting them clean-up after themselves – This may be easier said than done sometimes, especially if you are like my mom who liked her household in a specific order.  However, something as simple as putting their clothes in a hamper, their shoes by the front door, washing their plate after dinner, or putting their toys away in their room is teaching them how to be responsible. That responsibility leads to independence and eventually the drive to complete tasks on their own without being asked.  
  5. Cook together! 🙂 Adventures in the kitchen are memories children never forget. Learning techniques like measuring ingredients, kitchen safety, making a grocery list, and healthy eating habits are essential. Organizational skills are needed in the kitchen, and what better way to teach those techniques than to have a little fun baking or meal prepping with your student 🙂

Of course, there are many more tips than just those listed above. Each household is different from the next, so find the strategies that work for you and your family. In fact, comment below about some of the organizational techniques that work for your family or even those that you have tried and didn’t work.