Junk and Trash

How can we reuse junk? How can we create less trash ? Junk and trash were two topics of discussion during the past few weeks. Many items we throw in the trash can be used as a instrument of your child's imagination.  Instead of throwing away a box , we used them to make robots. Your child picked out a recycled box and painted it the color of their choice. After we painted the box, it was time to find our eyes, and a nose. We looked through our recycled items to find the perfect pieces. A box that would have been thrown in the trash helped your child exercise their fine motor skills. We found a great use for our large boxes in our recycle area. A large box in our home living center became a dog house as your child pretended to be a dog. Our ability to balance and stand on one foot was amazing as the children climbed in and out of their dog house. 

Our music time was filled with a special beat as we used milk cartons for drums and water bottles for drum sticks. We took turns using our items and we learned that we could make sound from almost any of our items. This activity let your child explore musical concepts and gave them the freedom to express their feelings.  

The letter T is for truck and trash. Children love big trucks and they noticed that we have a large trash truck that visits our school every Tuesday and Friday. We took a walk to find out what happens to our trash after it leaves our class. We found a large , green dumpster on our campus. The number six was spotted on our large dumpster. We are learning to look for numbers and shapes everywhere.  I must say the highlight of that discussion was watching the trash truck pick up our huge dumpster and take our trash away. All of our trash is taken to our city dump .  We also found some liter on our walk , we are learning to keep our earth clean and put items that we can't recycle into a trash can. 

Lets recycle our items. I used our computer time to let this class take a virtual tour of a recycling center. After watching the tour, we created our own recycling center in the classroom. Your child pretended to be at work , using their sorting skills to determine what items were made of plastic or paper. 

Physical Education is flourishing as your child is learning to use their gross motor skills and math skills together. We played a game called junkyard. The object of this physical education lesson is to clean up the junkyard. The children were divided into two groups during last weeks class. Each group tries to keep their side of the junkyard clean as they throw the junk cubes and junk spheres over the net until the music stops. This class knows when the music stops they stop moving, then it is time to count.  Mrs. Nicole had each group count their cubes and spheres, and then determine which group had more items.  Lets clean up the junkyard! This game is fun, but it also helps your child with spatial awareness, and math skills. Your child is using their ability to be aware of their body in space. They are learning how hard they will have to throw their cube or sphere to get it over the net.     

Valentine's Day was full of love!  We had a great time with a name recognition exercise. The children had a blast passing out valentines and searching for names. A great big thank you to all our parents for helping with this event. 

Grandparent's Day was a joy and a blessing. I know every grandparent was proud of their grandchild on this special day. I know I was very proud of this class , it is amazing to watch these children sing on stage for their family. We enjoyed all of our visitors and I know everyone enjoyed visiting the classroom and looking at all of the children's work.   

diane johnston
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

We started a new unit and we are having a blast!! Children are fascinated by what is in the trash and by items that we throw away. Your child is learning that some items can be reused and recycled. I am helping the children understand that our trash can affect our community. We are exploring and finding out what happens to our trash after it is thrown away. It is our duty to help recycle. We must keep our earth clean, our oceans and landfills are not the place for all of our trash. Many items we carelessly throw away can be recycled or used again. 

During this unit we are reusing items. A paper towel roll can be a tunnel for our cars in the block center. We can also use a empty gallon milk container for a drum. We are using our math skills to sort and classify our recycled items. Your child is learning to compare objects and identify similarities and differences, which leads to the ability to classify objects. When your child classifies / sorts she is finding things that are the same, and grouping them by specific traits.  Our objects are then counted and we determine which group has more items. Our math skills are taking off as we sort, count and pattern everyday. Recognizing and creating patterns helps your child to make predictions based on observations. One of the favorite activities this week was making AB patterns with cubes of color. We love our math activities!! 

 February is National Children's Dental Heath Month. We must learn how to take care of our teeth. I could not think of a better person to help your child with their dental heath than the tooth fairy. Dr. Glass and Dr. Bunch were able to locate the tooth fairy and they sent her our way.  Twinkles the tooth fairy came to our class!  She gave your child important information about their teeth.  We learned that we should brush our teeth two times a day , and don't forget your tongue. One of our children was chosen to be a dental assistant! She learned how to preform the duties of a dental assistant.  A few other children were chosen to be teeth. We discussed the foods that are good or bad for our teeth.   

February also involves Valentine's Day! We are preparing the room for our Valentine exchange.   I let the children make hearts with shades of pink and red paint. Hearts of red and pink will be all over our room. As your child holds the paintbrush, their fine motor skills are getting a workout . Painting and using scissors are preparing your child to hold a pencil and form letters. 

One of our important events in February is  Grandparent's Day. The children are practicing two very special songs. We can't wait to sing for our grandparents! I know every child will be glad to show their grandparent our classroom. This year we have a special item up for auction. One of our favorite books is Goldilocks and The Three Bears. I have decided to put baby bear's chair up for auction. Everyone loves this chair!! I painted it and I put each child's fingerprint on the chair. I made ladybugs out of each child's fingerprint. Someone will be taking this chair home! February is a very busy month!

We love dramatic play in this classroom. I found a large rectangle box and brought it to class. I let the children use their imagination and our box became a boat. This is just one example of how we can reuse items. The children have a great time pretending and working together. As children participate with others in drama-related play, they develop social -emotional reasoning and problem solving skills. Your child is playing , but also learning to express their feelings and expand their language skills.  A special thank you to all of our parents for bringing their recyclable items, keep them coming. Lets all remember to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

diane johnston

This class made a touchdown!!! The ball unit is finished , and we have a group of happy, bouncing children !! At the ending of our unit we welcomed two new children to our class. We are thrilled to have new friends at St. James!  These little girls know how to use their imagination and they are right at home in this class! It looks like we have a future athlete and a mother to be, pretending to care for her sick baby.                                                                                                        

I ended the ball unit with a discussion of people that use balls on a daily basis.  We talked about constructions workers, basketball players and people that use balls for fun.  The children loved watching a construction worker use a wrecking ball to demolish a old building.  We also explored the types of materials used to make balls. Balls can be made from rubber, plastic or glass. Cotton balls and balls of yarn were a hot topic.                                                                   

 I love to bring in a activity that will include children bringing items from home.  Each child was asked to bring a ball of their choice to class. Our language skills are improving and this lesson was a wonderful way to help each child expand on their vocabulary. We used descriptive language to talk about our balls.   


Balls and math go together!! I  used ping pong balls to teach a math lesson. The class took turns opening sack one and sack two. Inside each sack were ping pong balls. The children had to take out the balls and count them , then determine which child had the greater amount. We are learning that numbers have meaning. Your child may not bring home a large amount of worksheets but we are learning with hands on activities!

Science for young children is a must!! The children watched a chemical reaction as we made our own snow!! I had a blast as we measured, poured and mixed. We learned that we needed to mix two ounces of water with every teaspoon of snow. If we don't have snow this year , we can make our own! The snow is also a great sensory activity, it stimulates our critical thinking skills along with our sense of touch.  I put our snow in the sensory table for each child to enjoy. 

Rolling on to P.E., class we spent the last couple of weeks working on our gross motor skills and improving on our hand and eye coordination skills. It is very important for your child to listen to instruction and participate in this class. The children had fun, but also leaned as they played. Balloons and paddles were used , as each child had to try to hit their balloon with their paddle. Balloons were also used for hitting up, down, throwing and catching during this class.  Scooters were used for gross motor skills . Your child had to move forward , backward and learn to spin!

Stay tuned for a wonderful new unit , this class will be leaning about Recycling!  I love using these units to teach your child. Our units are full of hands on math activities.  Please read the following information below ,it will give you important details about our math curriculum at St. James. 


There is an old saying that if you get two educators in a room, you will have three opinions about which curriculum is best!  And likely a dozen textbook companies willing to sell the latest and shiniest course.

Mathematics has been a particular flash point in these different outlooks on curriculum.  In the 1990s, most public schools shifted to Reform Mathematics, which was itself a reform of the New Math of the 1960s and onwards.  

The predominant reform approach to math has not been a great success.  In the period of 2012-2015, the United States has slipped 12 points in the PISA assessment administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an assessment that includes students from nearly 70 countries throughout the world.

Many private schools, St. James included, stayed the course by teaching Classical Mathematics, with one significant change being that traditional concepts are taught at earlier ages than they were in past generations.    

At St. James, we continue to use a classical curriculum because it has been our experience, honed over many years, that the traditional structure is best for laying a developmentally-appropriate and solid foundation leading to long-term mastery of content skills for success in higher math in middle school and beyond.  

St. James uses the Saxon Math curriculum across grades 1 through 6.  Its pedagogical underpinnings include the following:

  • An incremental development of concepts with understanding its parts before trying to work with the whole concept
  • Continual review with required homework that has 85% of problems from previous lessons (no skipping of lessons unless student shows 80% mastery of problems from that lesson; no working “every other” problem)
  • De-emphasis of transitory test-taking tricks in favor of permanent mastery of concepts
  • Frequent cumulative assessments
  • No “hunk swallowing” of topics
  • Practice with new problems of repetition for learning, not for drilling
  • No use of calculators.

With minor adjustments which we make, our curriculum correlates to Common Core and TEKS (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for math.   

Each year, we use the Stanford Achievement Test Series (SAT10), to measure our educational achievement.  The Stanford, used by many private schools, rates our students’ achievement not against a district norm, nor even a state norm, but against a national cadre.  We analyze these results closely at the end of each academic year.  

Instead of an approach to education based on “the average student”, we tailor our educational experience for each particular student.  As you would expect, different students have different skills and move at different paces.  For those students who need a “bump up” in a particular core subject, we provide it.  We do the same for those students who need extra support.   

Because St. James provides this individualized education, our yearly analysis of the SAT10 is for each student.  This way we can differentiate the educational experience so that each child learns at his own pace and in her own way.  We understand that this personal attention is one of the reasons that you send your child to St. James.

Needless to say, there will be students who excel in subjects when they leave us, math included, and those who will need extra support, but a firm foundation of skills and comprehension will have been laid at St. James in either case.

As a whole, St. James graduates regularly and consistently 

  • finish high school in the top ten percent of their class
  • receive significant college scholarship awards
  • are admitted to many of the most selective colleges to which they apply.   To give but one example, this year one of our 2011 graduates was admitted to Harvard.

Since 2000, thirteen St. James graduates have been either the valedictorian or salutatorian of local public high schools.  In eight of those years, St. James grads have seen both valedictorians and salutatorians amongst the several local schools.  This is hardly a statistical anomaly, but a remarkable accomplishment given that our graduates comprise only the tiniest percentage of the thousands of students who attend these educational institutions.

St. James Day School consults regularly with wider educational leaders to ensure that we are preparing our students for their next educational placement.  To keep current, we confer with local educators at public middle school, high school and university levels.  We also have the benefit of the collective wisdom of a community of Episcopal Schools through our accrediting body.  This consultation means that we provide the best and most up-to-date educational experience possible.  

As always, the Administration of the School welcomes and encourage ongoing feedback from parents, knowing as we do that we are partners in your child’s education.  For seventy years now, St. James has been the educational leader in Texarkana.  We are thankful that your family is part of this tradition of educational excellence.

diane johnston
Rolling Right Along

Our ball unit continues to thrill the children! The past couple of weeks we found out what type of balls would roll and bounce.  Cotton balls do not roll or bounce very well. Our bowling ball rolled , but it did not bounce well.  I used the bowling game to sharpen our math skills. Your child had to count how many pins were knocked down and then determine how many pins were left standing. Our games are fun, but full teaching opportunities. 

One of our favorite games is titled Busy Bee. The children love this educational game! Your child pretends to be a bee and they fly around the room, then they look for a letter or number that I have hidden in our room. This game helps with letter and number recognition and stresses the importance of waiting your turn. I love to bring in activities that encourage your child to wait a turn. We had to take turns with our marbles.  The children loved getting their hands in the marbles!! This was a favorite activity of our ball unit. We sorted by color , and counted how many marbles were a solid color. This marble activity is a great way to enjoy a little math fun!!

December was a great month!!  One of the highlights of the month was a visit from the Texas Dept. of Parks and Wildlife. A special thank you to Mrs. Sarah for setting up this event. One of the joys of teaching at St. James is the bond between our teachers. We share ideas and teaching methods. Mrs. Sarah invited my class to learn about the different types of animals that live in our area. We discussed the needs of these animals and the different characteristics of these creatures.

We ended the month with a special visitor.  Santa was thrilled to be in our room and the Christmas party was wonderful!! A special thank you to our parents for helping with this special event. One of my favorite things about St. James is this beautiful campus. I took the children on a little nature walk and we found a ball on our campus. The children took turns hitting the ball and we loved being outside!! I love teaching letters and numbers, but my favorite things to teach are sharing , getting along with friends and being kind to each other. These qualities  will follow your child through their years at St. James. Get ready for a great new year!!!















diane johnston
Bouncing with joy!

The ball study has your child bouncing with joy! Our first topic is what do we know about balls and what do we want to find out ? This study will help the children explore social studies, and science concepts related to the nature of balls. During this study we will encounter several different types of balls. 

Math and science is taking off in this classroom! We counted each time a ball bounced and we discussed the size of balls.  I brought several large balls into the classroom. The children loved having a ball that they could sit and bounce on.  We discussed the color of our large and small balls. Science is a favorite topic in this classroom. One of our lessons had your child guessing if a ball would float in water. The ping -pong ball floated , but our heavier solid ball did not float. We will be using several types of balls as we continue to find our what type of balls will float.  

Painting is one of my favorite activities! We used small, medium and large balls for painting. We placed our balls into paint, and let them roll! . As your child moved the tray the ball rolled and left beautiful colors behind. We are learning how natural forces affect the movement of balls. Each work of art is different and unique, just like your child.   

The physical education class is rolling right along , as Mrs. Nichole uses balls in several of her lessons. Mrs. Nicole teaches a structured class everyday . Your child is learning to follow directions, and take turns . Each class is filled with the joy of learning. The children can't wait to find out what activity Mrs. Nicole has planned for them. Your child is given a set of verbal instructions and a task to preform. It might be a tag game, or learning to kick a soccer ball from a line to a wall. We love p.e. !! The next few weeks we will be discussing balls that roll and bounce . We will also continue to explore forces that make a ball move.   

Important dates:   Christmas party - in our classroom -December 20th 9:15 early dismissal at 11:00. A special visitor will be attending our party.  

Christmas break    Dec. 21 - Jan. 2 

diane johnston