17 Mar

“We Sing America!” – Annual Spring Concert

There is never a shortage of memorable moments from the annual Lower School spring concert, and this year was no exception. In fact, it had its own special charm, focusing on music celebrating the spirit of America and showcasing this country and the Lower School as places of inclusion, diversity and progress.

Our young performers sang, danced and played music reflecting the hopes and dreams this country aspires towards. Memorable moments included the fourth grade singing This Land is Your Land  in two-part harmony… the third grade singing and dancing to Bandstand…  and the charm of our second graders as they took to the main stage for the first time. The night was chilly, but our hearts were warmed by our young performers.

Despite losing two rehearsal days due to Winter Storm Stella, music teachers Mary Heveran and Lisa Dove led our performers through with poise and grace.

The beautiful artwork by our second, third and fourth grade students made a lovely display and showed all the talent that exists in the Lower School student body. Thank you to Lower School art teacher, Elisa Garcia.

We wish you a happy and safe spring vacation.

17 Mar

“Oh Give Me a Home…..”: First Grade Research Project

Our first-grade class completed their annual study of houses and homes. Our exploration of houses began with observations of homes in our local community and branches out to observations of houses and homes around the world.

We started the unit by taking a walk in the neighborhood surrounding the D-E campus.  We talked about the architectural details of the houses as well as the elements involved in the construction of a home.  The children were very observant and noticed different design elements and details.

This year’s unit focused on climate and necessity as we expanded our study across the globe.  We use what we learned through this study as a central focus for several math, language, art, science and social studies activities.  This integrated unit of study is something that we explored for a number of weeks.

As a culminating activity, first graders constructed models of houses from a variety of cultures in early March.  The success of this project relied heavily on the many parent volunteers who helped to enrich the children’s experience by coming in to lend a hand with construction and painting.  Their enthusiastic participation in our study of houses was a valuable contribution to our learning.

The students were divided into six “construction companies” and chose a company name. Then the company decided what type of home they wanted to build. The children learned the keys to success when working in a group; cooperation, collaboration, communication and compromise. The children worked hard to listen to, and incorporate, everyone’s ideas in a respectful manner. The homes this year include a house on stilts with a thatch roof, an adobe, a greenhouse, a mobile home and a tiny house that were presented to the full Lower School community during a recent assembly.

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19 Dec

Third Grade Book Club

Submitted by Ms. Kanter and Ms. Sussmann

One morning in late October, the third graders arrived and followed their usual morning routine.  They read their morning message.  But this message had something unusual.  It said that there would be an exciting announcement at morning meeting and that we would be having a community morning meeting with the whole grade to announce it.  The students were abuzz, trying to guess amongst themselves and asking the teachers for clues.  After a few minutes, both classes gathered in one of the classrooms in a large circle and morning meeting began.

Finally, it was time for news and announcements.  Students heard about their schedule for the day and then were told they were about to hear about something they would have the opportunity to do that was brand new to the 3rd grade.  They heard about the fun that adults have when they get together for a book club and were told that they would soon have the opportunity to have a real book club … on a cold December night … with their parents.  They were invited to wear their pajamas and were told that the evening would end with milk and cookies.  Smiles were seen around the room as kids began to chatter with excitement.

Finally, Wednesday, December 7th arrived, and it was time for the parent-child book club.  Parents and children arrived with their books ready to discuss the book Frindle written by Andrew Clements.  After a few minutes of gathering and chatting, parents and children went to their assigned rooms.  There were so many people that participated that we needed to use 5 classrooms to hold 5 book clubs.

Parent volunteers were the book club leaders.  They were provided with a discussion guide, and they led their group in conversations about the book.  Members shared what they liked, what surprised them and other thoughts they had while reading.  It was a time when they could hear new insights and express their own opinions.  It was clear that both adults and children really enjoyed the book and then having a discussion with others about it.

At the end of the meeting time, each club pulled a raffle winner who was then able to choose a book to take home.  After all book clubs finished their lively conversations, everyone met back together for milk and cookies and smiles.  It was a wonderful evening that brought 3rd graders, their parents and their teachers together in the spirit of shared literacy as a Dwight-Englewood community.

19 Dec

Second Grade Explores Englewood

Submitted by Mrs. Byrne, Mrs. Geller and Ms. Gomez

On Wednesday, December 14th, the second-grade classes embarked upon a “Tour of Englewood”.  After learning about the three types of communities, urban, suburban and rural, the students enjoyed touring our local suburban community.  Their tour included:  a drive down Palisades Avenue to observe and learn about commercial space; a visit to Englewood Florist to learn about a local small business; a stop at Englewood Police Station for a tour; a close look at City Hall; a drive by Mackay Park to see community recreation space; a stop at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center to tour and learn about our community healthcare; and a drive amongst local streets to observe and learn about residential space.  The tour was complete when we drove by our own Head-of-School’s residence!

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Mrs. Byrne, Mrs. Geller and Miss Gomez were our tour guides for this trip, and they highlighted the physical characteristics such as landforms, buildings, roadways, and the transportation system.  They pointed out the human characteristics such as workers, residents, volunteers, and people working in government agencies.  Finally, they highlighted the cultural characteristics such as historical markers, food, languages, and recreational facilities in the city of Englewood.

The students absolutely loved this trip, and it was a great way for them to see a suburban community in action!

02 Dec

What’s Happening in First Grade?

The Lower School faculty members that eagerly work with our D-E first graders have provided a glimpse into some of the work that they are doing in writing, music, wellness and technology.  The students are so busy that we will have to provide updates about art, math, reading, science and Spanish in the coming weeks.

Writing Workshop:

Once upon a time in a far off castle known as Dwight-Englewood, 30 first-grade princes and princesses were learning about fairytales in their classroom with Ms. Farrar, Mrs. Koteles and Mrs. Muus. They read magical stories during reading workshop where they discussed characters, problems and solutions, and the setting of stories. Then, their magical fairy teachers granted them magic of their own. But, instead of using wands, the children were given pencils. With these pencils the first-grade students began writing their own fairytale stories in writing workshop. Will the children finish their stories before the clock strikes 12:00? Well, as we have all learned, fairytales always have a happy ending and all the children will live happily ever after.  The first graders look forward to sharing their fairytales with each other and their families soon.


While exploring music with Mary Heveran throughout the first grade year, each month first graders are introduced to the lives of the famous composers.  They begin with Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart.

Children at this age are very interested in what life was like for these composers when each of them was 5 or 6 or 7 years old.  Each month when a composer is featured we learn about the composers family life, interests, what instruments each played and whether or not the family encouraged music or thought it was not important.

Here are some interesting facts that the first graders learned.  Perhaps there is something listed that will be new information for you.

Were you aware that at age 9 Bach went to live with his older brother, since his parents had died?

Did you know that Handel’s father did not want any music in the house and on the day that Handel played the march in church for the Duke of Weissenfels, the Duke insisted Handel study music.

Did you know that Haydn was expelled from the Boys Choir at St. Stephen’s Cathedral only to eventually be asked to live in the palace at Esterhazy where he served as conductor for the orchestra?

Were you aware that Mozart could play clavier at age 3 and violin at age 6 without ever having had one single lesson?

Along with these interesting facts, children also listened to Toccata and Fugue written for organ by Bach, The Messiah written by Handel, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart and a favorite- Surprise Symphony by Haydn.

Mary’s hope is that by exposing children to these stories and music they too will be inspired to play and compose music and perhaps be the composers we read about someday.


While working with Mrs. Nicolaou, the first graders have been experimenting with robotics and programming using Bee Bots. The children program these little robots using buttons that control the robot to move forward, backward and make turns. In addition to teaching sequencing, estimation and problem solving, they are also learning the fundamentals of coding. There is also a Bee Bot app that offers challenges that further expose the children to coding.

Why do we value introducing coding in first grade?  Coding empowers children and helps them understand what is behind the games and technology they will use in their life. It changes their perspective from passive consumers of technology to active problem solvers. Bee Bots are the perfect way to begin coding with young children.

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While working with Mrs. Franco, the first grade has been discovering how to safely move and follow instructions during health and wellness class. They have been engaged in activities, tag games and challenges that include following directions, decision making, risk taking and cooperation.

They are also starting to utilize throwing, catching and defending skills in simple games and activities in preparation for the sport “Team Handball”. First graders are also incorporating physical fitness activities and games in class in preparation for Fitness-Gram testing that will happen during the winter.

02 Dec

Peeking into Kindergarten

Have you ever heard the saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten”?  The kindergarten teachers, Mr. Coyne, Mrs. Fiore, Ms. DeCos and Ms. Augustus, like to think it is more factual than just a saying, even though it puts some added pressure on us to get this important job done.

These days, however, it is challenging for us to know exactly what our children will need to know in preparation for their future.  If you have ever heard Dr. De Jarnett speak about the future that our children are facing, you have likely heard from him that the vast majority of jobs our children will be doing when they enter the workforce have yet to be invented, which presents us with an interesting challenge.

For example, the three C’s can be found all over our Reading Workshops, where we have been focusing on story structure by reading books that don’t have any words.  Students are asked to use the pictures in these books to help them craft stories in their own words.  They need to be cognizant of characters, settings, problems and solutions.  They use story language and transitional words as they move from the beginning of a story to the middle and from the middle to the end. Much of this Reading Workshop work is done with different partners.  Students need to clearly communicate with each other in order to give these stories words. They must also be actively listening so teams can create a cohesive story that makes sense.  Additionally partners must compromise, as teams are deciding on which book to work with, what the characters’ names should be, how their voices should sound and what details should be included in their story telling.  A solid understanding of the way stories operate will be extremely beneficial for students as they begin decoding and interpreting texts, or reading, on their own.

Our Writing Workshops also lend themselves to practicing communication, collaboration and compromise.  Recently, students have been working on personal narratives or true stories about their lives.  A premium is placed on coming up with a plan for writing before students even pick up a pen, so they are asked to communicate specific story ideas with a writing partner.  Students let each other know which part of their story will go on each and every page making the actual pen to paper writing much less stressful.  Writing partners also work with each other during the revision process, letting each other know about things that can be fixed up to make a story the best it can be.   At the conclusion of our writing units, students are given the opportunity to publish stories they’ve written, share them with classmates and compliment each others hard work.

In both of the above examples, as well as nearly all other times of day, kindergartners are challenged to explain why they think the things they do because in order to successfully communicate, collaborate and compromise we must first develop an understanding of each other.  These things are the foundation of a successful community, and how to be a part of a community is something students will always need to know.

11 Nov

The Great 48 goes to the Metropolitan Opera House

On Tuesday, November 1st, the fifth-grade students attended a matinee performance of Verdi’s Aida.  As we entered the lobby students were excited to see the beautiful Swarovski crystal chandeliers, a gift from the Austrian government.  Their excitement continued as we entered the house, where students saw the beautiful theater, the stage, the gold leaf ceiling and all the other grandeur that makes the experience so special.

We were very fortunate this year to be given seats in the orchestra level.  Usually, students are only permitted to sit in the balcony or family circle.  It was mentioned to me by the director of education that because our school has a reputation for being so well prepared and appreciative of what goes into creating an opera, we were granted this privilege.

Students spent several classes preparing for the opera by engaging in activities such as listening to the arias, acting out parts of the story, and talking about the connections between their opera jobs and the jobs in the professional opera world.

At the second intermission, concertmaster for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra and D-E parent, David Chan, came to the lobby to speak to us about the production and to answer any questions.  We learned a great deal and truly appreciated Mr. Chan taking time to speak with us.


Here are some reflections from students in 5th grade:

Leah F: It was good – I liked that it was dramatic – the scenes, the backgrounds, the singing, the drama…

David L: I don’t speak any Italian – most operas are in different languages, they are rarely seen in English.  Even though I didn’t understand the language, it was a great opera. Descending down the death scene was showing you that they were underground and people above them were on ground level. What I really enjoyed was how the scenery looked so real.  I liked that they were brought out of a real place.  It was cool how the set moved up and how another set took its place underneath!

Demir: I liked the deep, loud voices to show the dramatic scenes.

Arhan: ….it shows us if we want to go far, you can.  If you choose the job of performer, or electrician… you can see how your job takes a lot of work.

Uma: I was surprised – I thought they would speak in some parts, but they sang the whole time.  I didn’t know that people could sing so high.

Kayla: I thought it was very interesting.  Some parts of the story I didn’t remember exactly, so I looked at the monitor that showed the words that they were singing. It was beautiful, relaxing, very entertaining.  I can’t believe they had real horses on stage!

David L: I noticed when they marched back from the war, the lights were bright; when the father talked to Aida, they were dark…

Sierra: The lighting for nighttime was really good – it was bluish black…

Christina: When it was night and Aida was talking to her father, the costumes were dark and weren’t vey bright – when it was daytime, they were wearing light colored costumes.

Jackson: I was looking to see where the light was coming from, and they were way up high in the air.

John:  It made me want to go to Egypt.

Alex F:  My grandmother said that when she saw Aida they had elephants on stage.

*(This is true. Many years ago when I first saw Aida they did have elephants on stage).

It was a wonderful day at the opera.  The opera house, the music, the scenery, the costumes, the singing, and all of the elements that go into making an opera is an experience one is likely to remember for a lifetime.

11 Nov

The First Six Weeks of School

November 2016

It’s hard to believe that we have successfully completed our first six weeks of school!  The preschool 4 children have been productively and thoroughly engaged throughout this time period.  For the teachers in the Lower School, these first six weeks of school are significant because our community is committed to following the Responsive Classroom approach.  By following the principles and practices of the Responsive Classroom, we hope to build a sense of community among the preschool 4 students and teachers; slowly and intentionally introduce students to the routines and activities in the classroom; work together to develop a set of classroom rules which the children agree upon and sign as a contract; and create an environment where respect and excitement for learning thrive.

The Responsive Classroom has been incorporated into many of our activities and classroom conversations. One such activity is our daily morning meeting.  During this meeting, the children and teachers gather on the rug and acknowledge each member of our classroom community using various greetings. We may shake hands while making eye contact and saying, “Good Morning, (student’s name)” or, we may greet one another by singing a “Hello” song.  Our morning meeting also serves as a time when we practice our math, literacy, and risk-taking skills.  Children whose job it is to take attendance or read the schedule stand up and count the number of children in school on our attendance chart or lead the children in going over our daily schedule, respectively.  As well, we use this time to introduce and model an activity that the children will have a chance to do during our work time.  This time is also a wonderful opportunity for the children and teachers to have important discussions, brainstorm about concepts that we are learning, or share personal experiences that, oftentimes, offer a chance for children to make a home-school connection.  We learn so much about each other and from one another during these valuable morning meetings!

Building community, developing social relationships, and gaining an awareness of self is an important part of the Responsive Classroom.  Many of our activities over the past six weeks have helped our students to grow in these areas.  One activity was creating our sunshine wall.  We began by painting paper to become our sun.  Next, the children thought of words and phrases that make others feel happy.  Some of the words and phrases they thought of include, “please hug”, “thank you”, and “sorry.”  Also known to the children as “sunshine words”, the children helped to think of these words and then wrote them on a strip of yellow paper that became one ray of our sun.  The children also drew and painted their own beautiful sun.  The preschool 4 children continue to think of new sunshine words to add to our wall and try to remember to use these phrases with each other.

The children have also been spreading joy and kindness by taking part in our card making activity. They have enjoyed writing cards for friends, family members, and teachers – adding special, thoughtful notes and decorations on each card.

As part of our “All About Me” unit, the preschool 4 children have been learning about each other and about themselves.  Each child had a turn to share his or her “me, family, fun” page and answered his or her classmates’ questions.  We displayed all of the pages on our bulletin board for the children to continue to learn about each other.

We also had an opportunity to draw all the members of our families.  We noticed that some families have brothers and sisters, other families have pets, and some even have brothers and sisters AND pets!

As well as introducing literature to learn about the similarities and differences that make each of us unique and special, the children looked closely at their features in a mirror and then worked carefully to draw and paint their self-portraits. They noticed their skin, eye, and hair colors and used the corresponding paint colors to illustrate their self-portraits. All of the children’s self-portraits are displayed on the bulletin board outside of our classroom. Please stop by and see them during conference time. They are priceless!

Please visit our preschool 4 “Rock Garden”, if you have a chance! After being inspired by the book, Only One You, by Linda Kranz, the children talked about how they each have unique characteristics that make them special and different from their friends. They also spoke about how they could make a difference in our community by being kind, generous, and considerate of others. The children selected and carefully painted their own rocks, each one different and quite unique. They then told us their idea for something they could say to help someone in our community feel better.

In learning more about ourselves, we also learned about our preferences as we tasted lemons and limes and different varieties of apples.  Following our apple taste test, the children voted for their favorite apple and then we graphed and counted the results.  Golden Delicious apples received the most votes, while Red Delicious and Granny Smith came in second and third, respectively.  And, surprisingly, some children really enjoyed the tartness of the lemons and limes!

Those lemons and limes were sour!

Another activity in our “All About Me” unit was measuring our height using unit blocks.  Each child worked with a partner to measure and record how tall he or she was in unit blocks.  We learned that, even though we are all in preschool 4, some of us are different heights.  Some of us are 9 unit blocks tall, while others are 7 or 8 unit blocks tall!


Please enjoy more photographs of all the fun we have been having in preschool 4!

Learning and practicing the letter “L”

Enjoying books and playing outside

Mixing colors using pipettes and test tubes

Mixing up some gak and building Mat Man

Collecting fall leaves and natural materials

Designing our leaf creations using our finds from nature

Learning the story of the “Little Red House”

Apple prints and observational apple paintings.

Contributed by Lorraine Yamin and Mary Cushman Early Childhood Teachers


28 Oct

Message from Kim

It was great seeing so many Lower School families at the Dining Event on Wednesday evening.  Thanks to Chef Ricardo, Chef Luke, Teri Pisack and, of course, Dr. De Jarnett for hosting this wonderful opportunity for families to learn about the meals that are prepared each day for our students in grades 1 through 5.  Que Magnifique’.

There are many fantastic events on the horizon for the close of October and throughout the month of November.  If there are families that have not yet been in contact with Mrs. Rullo to schedule a parent-teacher conference, please do so as soon as possible.  Conferences are being scheduled for Wednesday, November 2 for students in grade 5 and on Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4 for students in grades preschool 3 through grade 5.   Please refer to this week’s Just the Facts for more details about other events such as Project L.E.A.D and the Lower School Book Fair.