Newsletter - May 2017 Newsletter

  • May 2017


    As usual, the last two months of the school year are filled with many activities and events, so please review the “Dates to Remember” flyer that was sent home in a school email and also the calendar posted on our website.

    The New York State Math Assessments for students in grades 3 through 5 will be administered on May 2nd – 4th.  There will be no school for students on Wednesday, May 10th as these Assessments will be scored.  School will resume on Thursday, May 11th, however, there will be no Buffalo Bussing that day.  Only busses originating outside of the Buffalo District will be running.

    Grades close for the 35th Week Progress Report on Thursday, May 25th.  This progress report will be distributed to students on June 1st.  Please review your child’s progress report carefully.  The school year is quickly coming to a close and students should be focusing on their class assignments and homework to ensure the best final grades possible.  

    It is hoped that everyone enjoys the Memorial Day “weekend” this month but that you also take some time to remember those who sacrificed so much for our freedom.


    Mr. Clemens

    Home School Association

     We are looking forward to our Ice Cream Social on Thursday May 11th at 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Please see the flyer with more information. 

    A big thank you to Tony Duggan and Angelia Pritchard for organizing and recruiting volunteers for the Dyngus Day event as well as all the volunteers that help raised close to $5,000 dollars. Our school and children at St. Mark truly benefit from the fundraising efforts that go on throughout the year and the money raised during the year to continue to fund activities and technology, and this would not be possible without the help of committed parents. If you are interested in getting more involved please join us at our next HSA meeting on May 18th at 6:30 p.m. in the school cafeteria or contact

    Please Save the Date for Thursday, June, 8th at Flying Bison Brewery for our last HSA fundraiser of the year. More information will be coming out soon.


    May is finally here and the end of the year is quickly approaching. The last couple months of school will be very busy as we wrap up the year and prepare for first grade.  This month we will learn all about plants and their life cycles, continue to work on subtracting and decomposing numbers and examine the structure and elements of various fiction and nonfiction texts.  We will begin rehearsing for our graduation, which will take place on Thursday, June 15th at 9am at St. Mark Church.  A small reception will follow immediately in the cafeteria.  

    We would like to thank our Kindergarten friends and families for all the donations we raised for Catholic Charities.  Not only did the money go to a wonderful cause, our friends learned so many new sight words. Your teachers are so proud of you!  

    Grade 1

    Happy Spring!  We hope everyone had a blessed Easter holiday with their families.  Thank you for all your support in our Laps for Love fundraiser for Catholic Charities.  With your help and generosity, our first graders were able to raise over $1600.00.  In Reading, we are working on strengthening our comprehension strategies.  Our students are working hard to use them independently while reading texts at their own reading level.  Please continue to practice and learn our weekly High Frequency Words.  In Math class we are working on understanding the concepts of time, measurement, and graphing.  In Social Studies our first graders are learning map skills, cardinal directions, and will be working on finding "Me on the Map."  In Science, we are continuing to work on learning our 5 Senses.  We are looking forward to our end of the year activities.  We are planning our end of the year field trip and will need parent volunteers to chaperone our students.  Look for more information to be coming soon!

    Grade 2

     Spring has Sprung in Second grade!

    The students will be completing the Journey’s Reading program this month. The students will continue focusing on applying their phonetic knowledge when reading text in isolation and their own written work. They will continue to develop skills to strengthen their comprehension.

    In Mathematics, the students are beginning a unit of study on the meaning of even and odd numbers, the formation of equal groups, arrays and data inquiries. In Science, the students have wrapped up their study on Weather. We were so honored to have Andy Parker visit both second grade classes to help us learn more about weather related topics!  The students will now be working toward developing their understanding that the continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development. The students will begin to study the major stages in the life cycles of selected plants and insects. The students will also concentrate on seed dispersal and pollination.

    We hope students are busy working on their state project for Social Studies! State projects are due on May 3rd. The next unit of study will be Geography and Natural Resources.

    This month the students will be expected to complete one book report. This will be our last book report of the year! The May book report will be due on Tuesday, May 16th.  Information regarding this book report will be coming home with the students shortly!

    We hope all of our mothers and grandmothers enjoy a very special Mother’s Day Holiday!

    Grade 3

    Time flies when you are learning and having fun! We are now in the 4th and final quarter and students are working hard to maintain their grades and be ready to start 4th grade on a high note!

    In math, we finished Module 5 (Fractions) and after the NYS Math Test, we will begin the last Module which focuses on Geometry.  Please remember to get on and to continue practicing what we are learning in class and review past skills to keep them fresh. Any skills with a star are ones students can work on. 

    In reading and ELA, students in Miss Olejarski's class are reading Charlotte's Web, and in Mrs. Strohmenger's class students are reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Both classes are diving deep into the novel and practicing our comprehension skills such as summarizing, character traits, inferencing, connecting, and much more. We are also continuing to answer short answer questions using complete sentences and evidence from the text to support our thinking. 

    In Social Studies, students are learning about cultures. In Science, students are learning about matter. 

    In religion, we are learning about passages from the bible, and how Jesus suffered and died for us, and how Jesus gives Spirit to the church. 

    Study guides for final exams will be going home with the students before Memorial Day break. Students are encouraged to review at home on top of what we do in class. 

    Keep up the hard work, 3rd grade! We are so proud of you!

     Grade 4

     We are using the time we have left in fourth grade wisely! In Math, we will be reviewing and enhancing the skills that students will need when they enter fifth grade in September. In Science, students are learning first-hand about electricity and magnetism by engaging in various lab activities. As part of a Social Studies assignment, students are busy preparing to portray a noteworthy New Yorker. This will happen next month when we will transform part of the school into a wax museum.  Parents are invited to come tour our museum and see our students bring famous New Yorker’s to life!

     Grade 5

    Fifth grade has been very exciting! Students made semi-self-sustaining ecosystems in Science to wrap up our Ecosystems unit.  Below is an easy recipe for Chive Cream Cheese, which can be made with the chives from students' ecosystems!

    If you need help spitting the recipe or even doubling it ask your fifth grader!  We just finished multiplying and dividing fractional parts of recipes.

    Chive Cream Cheese (yields 1 cup)

    8 oz. softened cream cheese

    4 tablespoons feta cheese

    1 teaspoon onion powder

    4 tablespoons minced/chopped red onions

    2 tablespoons minced/chopped chives

    The Lenten Season allowed fifth graders to reflect and focus on being compassionate toward others.  We read about compassionate leaders throughout history and the compassion that Jesus showed others.
    Lastly, this is an exciting time of the year where we apply all of the strategies we have learned thus far and begin our first novel, Number the Stars!

    Grade 6

    Happy Spring, Everyone!

    What a wonderful month of March the 6th Graders had! A big thank you to everyone who donated money to our Catholic Charities Dance-a-thon! Collectively the 6th Graders raised approximately $1,500.00!  We are so impressed with their efforts, and dance moves!

    In Literature, the 6th graders learned about two Native American tribes living in Alaska, the Haidas and Tlingits.  They were very interested to see how the Haida and Tlingit children are raised with a blend of cultural and modern traditions.  It was fun to compare our lifestyle with theirs, and we especially enjoyed watching videos of some of their native dances. The students are also very excited to begin our next novel, The Devil’s Arithmetic.

    In ELA, we prepared ourselves for the NYS test and started our Verb Unit.  We are so proud of all of the hard work our students put into getting ready for the test, and also for the way they handled themselves during all three days of testing.  We are confident that every student tried his or her best!  We will now set our sights on Math testing which is during the first week of May.

    In Math, students have learned to solve equations using inverse operations to give them a good foundation for the future. We are continuing our study of Algebra by writing, solving, and graphing inequalities, and are missing in some Geometry as we use formulas to find Area, Volume, and missing dimensions. Along the way we are also reviewing skills from earlier this year to prepare for the upcoming NYS Math Assessment, (It also doubles as the beginnings of review for the June exam.) Wow, this year is flying by!

    In Social Studies the students wrapped up their Unit on Ancient Rome, and will now continue learning about the Byzantine Empire. We are also excited to know that our Middle Ages Unit is getting closer! Huzzah!

    We have finished our Health Unit, and are more aware now of peer pressure, how to handle conflict, and how to set goals.  Our skits on peer pressure were a big hit! The students really went above and beyond with their acting, costumes, and props. We are switching back now to Science, where we have begun learning about Alfred Wegener, Pangaea, and Continental Drift.  

    In Religion, the Israelites are now in the Promised Land. Moses and Joshua have completed their missions, and the judges have stepped up. The judges will soon be replaced as we begin to study the first kings of Israel.

     7th Grade - Life Science

    This month we continue our study of modern genetics.  Discovering how proteins are formed, gene technology and genetic disorders.  Our next topic will be to explore the concepts of Darwin and evolution.  We will finish the year with a quick tour of body systems and the study of ecology.  We will continue with labs and activities to complement the material.  

    A study guide will be provided to students prior to Memorial Day weekend so they can begin preparing themselves for the end of year final exam, which is cumulative.     

    8th Grade - Physical Science

    We are currently learning about all things involving motion: speed, velocity and acceleration.  Next we will talk about Newton's Laws of Motion, which makes a perfect segue for students to have a hand at designing and building their own roller coasters.  

    The NYS Practical (lab portion) Science exam is May 24th and the written portion is June 5th.  We have already started preparing for end of year exams including my science exam that will be taken the week of June 12th.  Students have received review packets for independent study. 

     Grades 7 & 8 Social Studies

    The 8th Grade year is flying by. The children are excited about all of the activities that are coming their way. This is the time of year when they are excited to get to their graduation. As their teacher I'm thinking, I won't see these faces in my room much longer and it pulls on my heart strings. We will be having a 7th grade hosted luncheon in honor of the 8th Grade in May and are looking forward to our class trip in June. 

    In Social Studies we have finished up with WWII and the Cold War. We will be learning about the Civil Rights Era and I will be some living history to help them understand the struggles and strides of that time.

    Happy Spring!

    The 7th Grade has just wrapped up the concepts about the differences in the economy of the North and the South before the Civil War. We are working our way into the Civil War at this point. We will be discussing slavery, social reform, and the women's movement.

    The 7th Grade will be hosting a luncheon in honor of the 8th Grade in May. They are getting excited to be able to call themselves 8th graders very soon. I'm happy to have one more year with your children.

    Happy Spring!

     Grades 7 & 8 Religion

    Students in Religion 8 have finished their focus on the Marks (characteristics) of the Church and are now journeying with St. Luke through the history of the very early Christian community as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.  They are growing in their understanding of the challenges the community faced during times of great persecution and the heroic leaders God sent to guide the members during these difficult first centuries.  Our study will then move to the Church at peace under the rule of the Emperor Constantine and the history of the Church in the Dark and Middle Ages.  Along with this study of Church history, we will continue to reflect on what God calls us to be as people of faith in our world today.

    The Seventh Grade Religion class has just completed a unit on the study of the parables of Jesus.  Our work examined how Jesus took elements from everyday life, like baking bread or losing an object of value and used these ideas to teach what God, the Kingdom of God and those who follow God are like.  We also studied parables that challenged the Religious leaders of Jesus' time and continue to challenge us today to be people of mercy, compassion, faith and charity.  In May we will delve into the miracle stories of Jesus to learn Jesus' great power over nature, sickness, sin and suffering.  Like the parables, each miracle also contains a faith lesson for us to explore. 

    Grades 7 & 8 Math

    We are off to a busy start in this final quarter of 7th grade math! Students have spent the last weeks learning about chance experiments and probability. They have learned how to calculate theoretical probabilities to answer the question “what SHOULD happen when I do this experiment?  They also know how to calculate experimental probabilities to find out what actually happens. They have learned to draw tree diagrams and calculate outcomes of events using the fundamental counting principle. Up next, we move into the study of statistics where we will look at sampling populations, biased and unbiased samples, and different representations of data. Students have also been working very hard to get ready for the NYS assessments which are in early May.

    8th graders have been working very hard over the last few weeks while they begin their study of statistical relationships. They have learned how to construct and analyze scatter plots given a set of data. They also know how to draw a line to best fit the data, write an equation of that line and use it to make conjectures about future events. The 8th grade students have also been constructing and analyzing relative frequency tables in order to make associations between two variables. Up next, we will revisit volume of cones, spheres and cylinders and learn how to also find surface area of these figures. 


    April saw the Algebra students concentrating on work with quadratic equations.  They used both their graphing calculators and graph paper to solve and transform quadratics.  Then the students learned how to solve a quadratic algebraically rather than graphically by completing the square and by use of the quadratic formula.  Our unit ended by determining if a function was linear, exponential or quadratic by examining successive differences and graphing special functions such as step functions, absolute value functions and piece-wise linear functions.  In May we will turn our attention to Radical Functions and learn how to graph square root functions as well as simplify and perform operations with radicals.  At the same time, we will begin our initial preparations for the New York State Regents Algebra Exam which the students will take on June 13th.  In all, some very busy and challenging days ahead!

    Grades 7 & 8 English/Drama

    7th grade ELA students have spent the past few months reading, writing about, and discussing S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders as the basis for our unit on identity. We have explored the factors that influence both our own self-perception and others' perceptions of us, stereotypes, and identity formation. Students created character posters, successfully participated in whole-class discussions, compiled unit portfolios including regular journal entries, and are finishing up the unit with a 5-paragraph essay with an accompanying comic strip created on the school's Chromebooks. They are doing an awesome job with these.

    The 8th graders are currently reading Inside Out And Back Again, written by Thannha Lai (a Vietnamese refugee who came to the United States after the Vietnam War). We have been using the book as a jumping-off point to discuss immigrants and refugees throughout the world (including the vibrant refugee and immigrant communities right here in Buffalo!), current events, and both implicit and explicit prejudices. 8th grade classes also held their own student-led whole-class discussion and did wonderfully with it. Students will finish up the unit with a research project on refugees. 

    In 8th grade drama, students have been working on group video productions. Students came up with a proposal for a short film, created a storyboard along with that proposal, wrote scripts, and are now in the process of filming and editing. 


    Kindergarten through 3rd Grade: Insects and anthropoids have been "springing" up in class. If they bring bugs home, don't be alarmed! 

    4th Grade: We started our Street Art unit by creating our own graffiti code names and practicing stylized letter design.  

    5th & 6th Grade: I am very happy to share that the 5th and 6th grade classes have finished their Keith Haring unit. Each student made a poster designed to educate people about the importance of protecting WNY wildlife habitat. Each poster was formally submitted to the WNY SPCA for their "Humane Poster Contest." 

    8th Grade: The eighth graders just finished their photo-realism unit with the completion of their large self-portraits drawn with graphite pencil. In May we will be researching artists and creating graphics work like Shepard Fairey. 


    Saint Mark music students are focused on preparation for the spring concert.  The students have helped me select some excellent songs and we are very excited for the concert.  Come early to get a good seat!

    Our grade 4-6 students are continuing with the guitar in class, but I am hoping that at least a few will continue on their own.  7th graders are presently working with the keyboards, getting some basic skills down while learning a few songs to play.

    The third grade will begin to play some Jazz on their recorders.  Once the students have learned a few melodies, we will begin working on improvising over some common chord progressions.

    Kindergarten through second grade are learning songs of spring and renewal.  I recently brought in a Nepalese singing bowl, to demonstrate.  So if you get some requests to try and play some wine glasses, to replicate it’s sound, don’t be surprised.


    ¡Hola Padres! We had a very packed abril in la clase de español! Our fourth and fifth graders are just finishing up their third units on time, schedules, and hobbies, and our sixth graders have been learning some complicated new grammar skills with work on tener and possessive adjectives. Seventh grade dove into a few cultural studies with activities on the historic Mexican icon, Diego Rivera, as well as group projects on the different ways Spanish speaking countries celebrate La Pascua -- Easter. Finally, our eighth graders have been polishing up some advanced grammar skills with a closer look at direct and indirect objects and their pronouns. ¡Feliz cinco de mayo! -Srta. Toarmino


    My Library website is up and running!  My website can be accessed through the school site, staff directory and looking for my name! On my site, I have links to lots of sites we use here at SMK and lots of links to assist in the grades doing research projects.  Additionally I have a link to the Erie Co. library page as well as a searchable link to our library software so students can see if we have their book of choice!

    Honoring National Poetry Month, the library has been celebrating poetry.  Students in grades K-6 have been learning about and listening to various types of poetry, such as Haiku, Diamante and Acrostic (to name a few!).  The intermediate grades have been writing cross curricular poems about events and places they have learned about in either science or social studies.  While the primary grades have centered on Earth and its beauty.  Both second and fourth grades are in the midst of research projects and helpful tools and links can be found on my website. Students have been able to use our resources here to get some of the data collection done during library class.  For the month of May we will shift our focus to life cycles, flowers and looking forward to summer.  

    Also as a reminder, when late notices come home, please do not feel the need to immediately pay for the lost book.  Typically students just need the reminder of the title, and then it is found.  After a second notice I will highlight the fee if the book still hasn’t been located.  I usually adjust the fees as well, if it’s an older book, prices are from date of purchase.   Any questions please send me an email!

    Computers and Technology

    Saint Mark School is proud to announce the opening of the “SMK Internet Cafe.”   A set of eight computers has been set up in the cafeteria for student use.  These will be available for use during lunch, before school and in the after school program.  With more of our content going digital, this is a great opportunity for students to have increased access.

    The first of our 6th grade cars have rolled off the 3D assembly line.  Future car designers have been busy and the debut prototypes have been printed. The students also identified weaknesses in the original prototypes and reengineered their design.  Look for more of the designs to be produced in the coming weeks.

    A team of energy detectives is evaluating our lighting and energy use here at school.  In this student led activity, the participants are gathering data, examining infrastructure and calculating costs.  We are comparing the energy use of LED vs. Fluorescent tube lights.  When complete, we will submit our proposal for consideration.

    Second and Third graders are discussing the dangers of cyberbullying.  We look at examples of online behavior and discuss strategies to stay safe online.  Our program uses the Acronym S.T.O.P.  When something unsettling occurs online, students are encouraged to:

    Stop the game or website they are using and…

    Tell a trusted adult

    Only visit safe and approved sites

    Play online with friends, be careful of strangers 

    Physical Education

    Spring is upon us and that means we are in football mode. The NFL draft just happened and the Bills made a move in the draft to move down from 10th, I guess we will see how that goes. We have begun football in class and it has been going well. The younger grades are learning about what the game is and the most basic rules. We are learning how to grip and throw a football (using small nerf balls), and how to play catch with a partner. We are also learning how to hand off to a running back, doing some defensive drills, running some simple patterns and routes, and throwing to a target. We are using different colored hula hoops for targets and also doing 6-8 different football stations. These stations include skills like kicking off a tee, the tire agility drill, throwing, catching, and many more. We will try to play a game somewhat similar to ultimate football in the near future.

    The upper grades will also be doing football this coming month. The students are learning how to throw, grip the ball, throw to a moving target, what the line of scrimmage is and how it is used, how to cover someone by watching their waist (not their legs or shoulders), and how to get open. We are learning how to run a button hook, a streak, a slant, and a few other patterns. The kids are excited about playing and many of them have brought in their receiving gloves to use during the games. We are playing some "regular" flag football and also playing some "ultimate football." Have a great spring!

     Title I Math

    The NYS Math Assessments will be given on May 2, 3 and 4th.  In my small group sessions, grades 3-5, I have been spending a portion of our time exposing the students to previous test questions to get them familiar with the format and vocabulary on the state test.  Aside from assessment preparations, I stay in close communication with the classroom teachers ensuring my lessons are aligned with their classwork. In second grade, we have been reinforcing the various ways to solve multi-digit addition and subtraction problems.  They are also big fans of Prodigy, a computer game that features review questions, as well as material they will be learning next year. The third graders are working hard on their fractions and multiplication facts. In fourth grade we are plugging away in the world of geometry.  The fifth graders are focusing on multi-step word problems integrating fractions and conversions.

    It has been truly a wonderful experience working in this position. The moment when a student starts to conceptually understand a lesson, is the moment worth working for. Onto the fourth quarter!

    “Math may not teach us how to add love or subtract hate, but it gives us hope that every problem has a solution.” -Anonymous 

    AIS with Mrs. Betzig

    In reading we have been working hard on a variety of skills depending on grade level. Here are a few of the skills and strategies that we have been working on this month:

    Kindergarten - Students are working on tracking print with one to one correspondence. Some of the strategies that we are practicing at this stage are stretching out the sounds and using picture clues with the beginning sound to identify unknown words. The more practice they get at home the faster their skills will develop!  As always we have A LOT of discussion about what is happening in the book as we read to develop good reading behaviors. 

    1st and 2nd grades - We are working on practicing strategies for word identification. We have been using chunking (breaking words into chunks rather than each sound) and skipping the word (skip it, finish the sentence, go back and use the beginning sound to figure out the word that fits). In these grades it is critical that students use "word attack" strategies to identify unknown words rather than guess the words. So often I work with students and they guess using the first letter. I will ask "Does that make sense?" and they will always say "No" I say use chunking or skipping the word and BOOM! They figure it out! We also have been working on the weekly stories from the classroom and building comprehension on those texts to assist them with weekly assessments.

    3rd grade- In third grade students have a good grasp of reading fluently and identifying words. We focus primarily on building comprehension strategies to ensure the students are making meaning out of what they read. We are working on visualizing (making movies in our head while we read), stopping and summarizing, making connections, predicting, and asking questions. We are also working on using evidence to support our answers. This takes a lot of practice!

    4th through 6th grades- We have been using picture books and short stories to identify a theme, or lesson learned by all. So often the students describe the lesson the character learns as the theme which sometimes can match. We have to use the hardships and situations in the story to ask ourselves, "What lesson can I learn from what the character has gone through?" One example is the famous "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss. One student said the lesson or theme he learns is that he likes green eggs and ham.  We aren't looking for the lesson the character learns, but rather what can be learned from the character. There are two themes in this story that we can learn: Try new things before you turn them down AND with perseverance comes success. Then we are using details from the text to explain how the theme was developed. 

    As always, help your children to develop their reading skills by encouraging nightly reading. Work with your child to find books or other reading media that interest them and get them reading!