ABS Thursday Notes- August 31, 2017

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                       August 31, 2017




No School-Monday, Sept. 4


How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


What sitting will not solve, travel will resolve.” – Fa-Digi Sisòkò from The Epic of Son-Jara: A West African Tradition


     African storytelling includes a rich oral tradition. When these stories appear in American children’s literature they have been translated, not only from another language, but from another form. The American psyche expects our ubiquitous narrative fiction form: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. Beginning, middle, and end. For several years our 2nd graders performed a re-telling of the Legend of King Sundiata of Mali. There was always something missing, though the narrative structure was present. One summer, I came across a transcription of the original saga as told by a great Malian griot, (or jeli – the keeper of history through story, dance and music in African oral tradition,) Fa-Digi Sisòkò. It was full of humor, strange and wild imagery, adult content, and was completely lacking in the familiar western narrative form. Based on facts, it was also packed with fantastic exaggeration. In a column to the right of the page was on-going commentary: “Indeed. This is true. Yes, truly.”  It seemed the response of a listening crowd. This did not resemble the westernized picture books we had been using.

The story was clearly one for adults. But many of the available African folk tales for children were “Americanized” and inauthentic, adapted by authors with no African heritage. A notable exception was Tololwa Mollel, a native Tanzanian children’s book author with a background in story-telling and children’s theater. I found and befriended him. He discussed the story-telling tradition he had learned from his Maasai grandfather. Listening, he said, is as important as telling in his tradition, and the commentary I had seen on the griot’s page was indeed that of active listeners, as “there is no story without them.” He said the richest value of a story is the lesson it teaches, not its entertainment punch or historical accuracy. Tololwa visited us several years ago. He approved of and contributed to our process of adapting traditional stories for re-telling by our 2nd graders.

Sitting is not the most effective way to discover African cultures; instead we get active. Our second graders are just beginning the process of making the move from listeners to story-tellers. Working with drama teacher Heidi McIver, who teams up with their classroom teachers, the students have been introduced to the basics of the African continent. They will soon begin developing a unique retelling of a story from Liberia. Ms. Heidi will share the tale, then work with students to develop an original, kid-generated script, in the manner coached and approved of by Tololwa Mollel. As they recall the story, scene-by-scene, they improvise it actively; generating the fresh words to accompany the movement.

Next Friday, September 8th, visiting artist (and 1st grade assistant teacher) Dawanna Benjamin will perform a dazzling demonstration of African dance, along with fellow dancers and drummers. She will visit 2nd graders over the next month, teaching them the basics of African dance, and preparing dances that will also become part of their story-telling. Then come staging rehearsals, African drumming in music class, studies of African art and textiles in art class. Also embedded in the play is a unique “stick dance” learned in dance class; an exploration of adventures in the Liberian rain forest. Meanwhile, second-graders will study everything from geography and maps to cultural details and continental water shortages, in preparation for this adventure.

We emphasize the listener and the participation of the story-teller, with the hope of opening young minds to the importance of stories, ushering them into the beauty of African traditions. Families of 2nd graders are invited to come and participate, as the active listeners.

Second graders will perform their “African Tales” this month in the ABS Ewing Blackbox Theater:

Cohen, October 3, 12:15-12:45

Sankey, October 4, 12:15 – 12:45

Parris, October 5, 12:15 – 12:45


First Friday Sing Tomorrow at 1:50 (K-4th grades only)

​Notes for new visitors: If you attend Friday Sing, ​please help us keep things running smoothly! The theater will be filled with children, and we often run out of space for parents, who stand around the perimeter. Please do not sit with your child, but allow them to share the event with their class. (You also don’t want your tall profile to block the view of a child behind you!) When the singing is over, allow your child to exit with their class. Parents wait for all students to return to their classes, then pick up their children at the dismissal tents (or at sibling gallery locations.) Please do not pull your child from their classroom or from a classroom line. Make sure that your teacher sees you, before you take your child. And please join us in singing, if the spirit moves you; it’s great for our students to see the grown-ups singing too.   Thanks for your help!


ABS Student Handbook

The updated Parent/Student Handbook is now available on our website

Parent/Student Handbook

If you would prefer a printed paper copy, stop by the front desk.


K-Kids Club for 3rd – 5th Graders

Does your child want to make a difference in our community and the world? Your child is invited to join the K-Kids at the Arts Based School. This club is a service organization sponsored by the Winston-Salem Kiwanis Club and provides the opportunity to develop self-esteem, leadership skills, morals and standards, and respect for others. The K-Kids program involves 3rd – 5th graders, along with their parents,  teachers, and Kiwanians in community. This club is involved in service projects that impact our school, our city, and our global community. The club meets on Friday mornings, from 7:50 – 8:15 in the dance studio in the MLK building. The first meeting will be September 8, 2017.


If interested, please fill out the attached form and return to your child’s homeroom teacher with $2.00 dues.

Parent Council Meeting – Friday, September 15!

Please join us for the first Parent Council meeting of the school year on Friday, September 15 at 8:15 in the MLK Cafe.  All ABS parents, families, and caregivers are part of Parent Council and are welcome to attend!   If you would like to submit a topic for the agenda, please send an e-mail to Parent Council Co-Chairs, Joy Blaser (joy.blaser@gmail.com) and Julee Nunley (julee@thenunleys.net) by Friday, September 8.  We look forward to seeing you there!


CardLink for ABS

Easy money for ABS!  Please do take a moment to link with Harris Teeter


Our code at Harris Teeter is 5054.


Kudos to the Arts Based School

Check out this article about ABS in Forsyth Family digital edition.   It’s the August edition….page 58!



Activity Fee

Each family is asked to pay $30.00 per year per child to help cover the costs of our extensive curriculum enhancement activities, including field trips and art trips.  Fees are payable at the start of the year and may be paid for the full year or in smaller increments, if needed.  Financial assistance is available to those families with demonstrated need per the approval of the principal.  Checks should be made out to The Arts Based School and turned into your classroom teacher or front office.


Parking Lot News

Thanks to each of you for being so careful and patient as we master the drop off and pick up routines in the parking lot.  A few notes…


-Please do not pass cars that are unloading or loading.  Stay in one lane until you exit 7th Street.


-Please sign up to help with morning traffic. Here’s the link for parents to sign up…



-Please unload students only when your car is next to the sidewalk.  Do not allow children to unload in the parking lot unless you are parked and escorted them inside.


Kindergarten Speech Screening

We will soon begin screening kindergarten students for any speech or language difficulties.  Ms. Jennifer Carter, our speech pathologist, will visit each kindergarten classroom to have a short conversation with each student.  If further testing is required, the parents will be notified.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Mrs. Carter at jcarter@artsbasedschool.com.


Beginning of Grade Test

The State Board of Education requires a standardized reading test  for all third graders in North Carolina.  Third grade students will take the Beginning of Grade (BOG) test in reading.  A student’s BOG score will be used as baseline data to measure growth as well as a screening tool to identify those students who will need remediation to pass the End of Grade test.  The NC Read to Achieve initiative which requires retention for students who do not pass the Reading EOG at third grade.  The test has 42 questions and takes approximately 90 minutes to complete.  It will be administered on September 12.    Testing accommodations will be provided for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP).  Make-up tests will be required for any student that is absent from the regular administration of the test.


mClass Reading

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction requires a kindergarten through third grade reading assessment called mCLASS:Reading 3D to help teachers assess, track and support each student’s reading skills.  Each student will be assessed every trimester using the online assessment program.  mCLASS:Reading 3D will instantly analyze your child’s development in grade-appropriate foundational reading skills. Teachers will use this data to focus their instruction around your child’s specific needs, in areas that may include:

  • Hearing and using sounds in spoken words (Phonemic Awareness)
  • Knowing sounds of letters and sounding out written words (Alphabetic Principle)
  • Reading words in stories easily, quickly, and correctly (Accuracy and Fluency)
  • Understanding what they read (Reading Comprehension).


After each assessment period you will receive a letter outlining your child’s specific assessment results and progress as a reader. The letter will also include learning activities you and your child can do together at home to reinforce skills learned at school.  Parent support and reading at home are a vital part of your child’s education. The teacher’s efforts, combined with your support, will help your child read with mastery and confidence.  If you have any questions about the assessment, the activities, or your child’s classroom work and progress, please talk to your child’s teacher.


Changes in Thursday Notes

We will soon be redesigning our Thursday Notes.  If you have some ideas or changes you would like to see, please send suggestions to Principal Hollis at rhollis@artsbasedschool.com

  • Upcoming EventsOfficers Meeting, K-Kids, Builders Clubs

    Fri, September 1, 7:30am – 8:15am

    Friday Sing

    Fri, September 1, 1:50pm – 2:20pm

    No School-Labor Day

    Mon, September 4

    1st, 2nd, 3rd, Bookmarks Author Javaka Steptoe

    Fri, September 8, 9am – 10am

    7th, 8th, Bookmarks Author Martha Brockenbrough

    Fri, September 8, 12pm – 1pm

     BOG Reading Test for Third Grade

    Tue, September 12, 8am – 12pm

    ABS Board Meeting

    Tue, September 12, 5:45pm – 6:45pm

    1st – Reynolda House & Gardens

    Tue, September 19, 9:00am – 11:30am

    1st – Old Salem

    Wed, September 20, 10:45am – 1:30pm

    Kinder – Triad Farmers Market

    Thu, September 21, 10am – 2pm

    4th – Piedmont Environmental Center

    Fri, September 22, 8:45am – 12:30pm