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  • Writer's pictureMr. Masterson

TSMS Newsletter October 11, 2016


Good afternoon TSMS families! There's a lot to read and catch up on, so I'll keep the introduction short. Lot's of interesting stuff going on in and around TSMS. Plus, some thoughtful words from a few of our teachers! Happy reading! I'll just send a friendly reminder to check your SPAM FOLDER to make sure you are receiving all of our TSMS e-mails. Sometimes bulk e-mails get trapped by spam filters and you'll have to add the address to your allowed e-mails.




Wednesday, October 12, all NYC DOE public schools will be closed in observance of Yom Kippur. This brings an end to what is referred to as the High Holy Days in Judaism.


Monday, October 17 will be our monthly SLT (at 5pm) and PTA (at 6pm) meetings. Every one in the community is welcome to attend. We hope to see you there!


We have started our first fundraiser of the year. The GiftPak fundraiser is due by October 17th to Shirley in Room 351. Students were given a catalog package to bring home. This fundraiser is to help raise money for School trips and copy paper. If you have any questions, please let Shirley know.


Wednesday, October 19 will be our next Early Dismissal Day for professional development. Students will be dismissed at 12 p.m. or 12:55 p.m. after a bag lunch depending on how you filled out the form. If you would like your child to stay until our regular 2:35 dismissal, please e-mail or call Shirley at 347-563-5303.


On Tuesday, October 25, 8th grade students who have registered will be taking the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT). Those students who have opted out of the test will have a regular schedule for the day. Students who are testing will sit for the 150 minute exam in the morning and return to their schedule afterwards. Please ensure your child has a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast to ensure maximum success. We are still awaiting a few forms, if you haven't sent one in, please click here to print this document and send it in to us on Thursday.


On Thursday, October 27 from 1-4pm and again from 5-8pm, parents and guardians will have an opportunity to have a short meeting with their child's teachers to hear how they are doing in their classes. Students will be dismissed at 11am on this day. This conference is intended to be a short check in with your child's teachers. If there is a need for a longer conference, please take the time to schedule a follow up. Keep in mind we go first-come, first-serve for each time slot, so families should show up at the beginning of their time to sign in. You will see all of your children's teachers during that hour, though due to the sheer numbers of families, the meetings are short. March Conferences will be longer in duration and student-led. As you know already, parent and guardian involvement is absolutely crucial to students' educational growth, especially at this age! We look forward to seeing everyone!

If you haven't received a form, e-mail Shirley and she will schedule you for a time slot.


Tuesday, November 1 will be our school wide Picture Day. You will get picture package order forms backpacked home soon. If you wish to order a package, please fill out the necessary information and send in the appropriate amount to Magda. You can continue to send in your orders up until the day.


Highlights and such...


6th grade will be celebrating national "Mix it Up at Lunch Day" on Oct. 26th! We will be making new friends and new connections by mixing up where we sit. Students will have lots to talk about! If you're curious about the history of the event, check out Teaching Tolerance's website.


6th grade Humanities students are hard at work writing personal narratives and becoming experts at how to use timelines and other tools to study history! Independent reading continues! Please keep those library trips and book store visits coming!


In Lance and Akeem’s classes, we’re beginning to pick up pace! Students have recently completed their second drafts of the Pages of My Life writing project. This is a deeply reflective writing project, and we have been blown away by the candor and writing craft that has gone into the work.

We are also working diligently to enhance the quality of our grammar and punctuation. After a peer edit and final revisions, we will be having our publishing party on Monday, October 17th. Parents are welcome! In reading, we’ve just completed our second Weekly Reading Reflection. This assignment challenges students to identify a meaningful idea in their independent reading books and express their thoughts and feelings about the idea. The first round was great and we’re anxious to see improvement in round two! In social studies, after a quick study of geography and map-making (Do you know that we were born or our parents were born in over 34 countries?), we are beginning to move to immigration at the turn of the 20th century. We’ll be looking at why the immigrants left and why they chose America. Along the way, we’ll be comparing and contrasting the benefits and challenges of our immigration policy both historically and today. Lastly, many students have just completed the first Challenge Project. This is a 15-page paper that requires research and deep critical analysis. Students worked especially hard. If your student didn’t complete the assignment, he/she can still do one before the end of the module. We love original (and artistic) Challenge Projects!


When I was in high school, I was assigned to write an essay on Shakespeare’s great play Macbeth and whether Lady Macbeth was a “round” or “flat” character. I don’t remember what I wrote, I don’t remember which teacher it was for and, in fact, I don’t really remember reading Macbeth in high school. (It was a long time ago.) I do remember, however, that I got an 87 on that essay, and that somewhere on the paper, the teacher had written “vague” as feedback.

An 87 isn’t a terrible score, but I wondered then, and I wonder now: What happened to those other 13 points? Were all 13 points lost for this “vagueness”? Or was it 9 points for vagueness and 4 points for spelling? Did I misinterpret the play? Was there a certain piece of evidence I should have included? Did I misuse commas? Did my teacher simply not agree with what I had to say? In a nutshell, what could I have done differently to have landed a 100, or a 94, or a 90?

This was old-school grading -- before outcomes-based grading and certainly before I had ever seen a rubric outlining exactly what was expected. And when I entered the world of teaching (also a long time ago), things hadn’t changed much. On the other side of the red pen, I struggled to figure out how to weigh each essay. How many points were commas worth? Were they worth more than a big idea or less? And if a kid had great ideas but terrible spelling, should they get a terrible grade?

Outcomes-based grading begins to answer these questions (even, dare I say, solve these problems?) for students, teachers and families, but here too is a learning curve, because somewhere in all of our educational experiences, we have probably equated success with grades, whether we knew how we earned that grade or not. It may feel awesome to get a high score on something, but if we don’t know specifically what we did to earn that score, we may not be able to repeat it.

The idea behind outcomes-based grading is twofold: 1. When we deliver our outcomes to students and families at the beginning of the year, and throughout, we are telling them, “This is what kids should be able to do when they leave this class.” Clear expectations, no panic. 2. By isolating the skills and assessing them individually, we can help get kids figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are, help them become comfortable advocating for themselves when they need help, and we can also offer them many opportunities to show their mastery. Moreover, we can ensure that kids also get credit for the things they are doing well, so that they don’t walk away from an assignment (like I did) wondering if they’ve done anything right.

Of course, we do assess these skills and that means looking at numbers -- 4, 3, 2 and 1 -- and, of course, those numbers tend to stress students and families (and teachers) out because it is a “ranking” system that is loaded with expectation and competition. I once worked at an outcomes-based school that used phrases rather than these numbers. When a kid was performing at a “1,” we said that they had a “not yet” in that outcome. I loved this because it stated a very simple truth: sometimes kids don’t get it -- yet. But that doesn’t mean they never will. And it doesn’t mean they don’t get everything. Outcomes-based grading (especially paired with rubrics and a little digging under the surface of JumpRope) helps kids and families know which specific pieces need the most work -- and which pieces kids really excel at.




Both are free and awesome.

Engineering Wednesdays at TSMS

Dear TSMS Families,

A new engineering after-school program is being offered this fall at TSMS: Engineering Greywater Systems Club. Joining is free, you just have to sign up online as space is limited. If your student loves hands-on exploration, building things, coming up with creative solutions, and having fun with science then this is the place to be.

Engineers tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. Over the course of this program, students will think about how we can begin to conserve energy and water by investigating materials needed to build a water filtration system known as a greywater system. By the end of the program, students will apply the knowledge they’ve gained to build their own model system!

The local coordinator for the TSMS site is Katie Thorn, a teacher candidate in Biology Education at CUNY Hunter College. She has worked with TSMS students last year as part of her fieldwork experience and can’t wait to share this opportunity with our community.

EGS club will be offered Wednesdays after school from 3-4 pm starting October 19th, and ending December 14th. For more details, and to sign up, visit:

Exploring Urban Coastlines Tuesdays at the LES Ecology Center

It is incredibly meaningful for middle school students when they can take part in a real science experiment. This fall, through our partnership with the BioBus and BioBase, TSMS students can join BioBus and Lower East Side Ecology Center scientists to do just that!

Over the course of 2 months, students will take part in a scientific study to understand what creatures live in the East River, and how humans change this environment. We will learn how to collect and document life beneath the surface of the water! By the end, students will have real data they can share. Classes will be held weekly starting Tue October 25 from 3:30 – 5:00pm. Sessions will be held at the Ecology Center, right on the East River! Interested in signing up? Visit


In speech and language therapy, we always aim to have fun while learning new skills. Board games are often incorporated into each session to keep our students engaged, but also to reach many academic and social-emotional competencies.

When students get the opportunity to play board games they are strengthening a myriad of skills including: vocabulary development, turn taking skills, problem solving, dealing with disagreements, how to be a good sport, how to be an active community member by working with peers to reach a goal, and exercising their democratic right to vote for big issues.

These skills will support their ability to be active learners in the classroom and in the world. Whether or not your student or child receives speech and language therapy at TSMS, we encourage you to break out the dice and start playing! Our board game of the week is Consensus, which focuses on perspective taking and vocabulary development. To learn more about this game, please feel free to stop by our room or shoot us an email.

Warmest Regards,

Yolanda and Christine


The National Book Awards has announced it's finalists for the Young Peoples Literature and to celebrate, 25 of our 7th graders will be chosen to attend the Teen Press Conference on Tuesday, November 15th. In addition, those who are chosen will get a copy of one of the books and get to meet the authors to have their books signed! Any student interested will have to write an essay about why they should be chosen and which of the books they want to read. Find out more at:

**Our school is one of the few schools in the city chosen to attend!!!


In Justice & Liberty's Humanities classes, we've just started delving into deep thinking about our characters and using our notebooks to show our best thinking. You also may notice your child is coming up with some great counterarguments thanks to their development as debaters. Also in social studies, we're looking at power and rights in early America.


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