News From Mrs. Talley

April 17, 2014

Dear Families,

I am delighted to report that Silver Beach Elementary is a recipient of the 2013 Washington Achievement Award for Special Recognition for Reading Growth. The selection process for the Washington Achievement Award is very rigorous, and all of us take great pride in this accomplishment.


This is an extraordinary accomplishment and is a direct reflection of the dedication of our teachers, the hard work of our students, and the support and guidance of our parents. Silver Beach’s award is well deserved. In the past year(s), Silver Beach has implemented numerous strategies that have impacted our students’ reading success.


  • ·         Wednesday grade level collaboration & learning meetings (K-5)
  • ·         Benchmark Literacy Core Curriculum (K-5)
  • ·         Benchmark Rdg. Assessment: comprehension, accuracy & rate
  • ·         Developing a systematic process for progress monitoring
  • ·         Tiered levels of reading support; Reading Support Specialist
  • ·         Collaborative grade level meetings
  • ·         Emphasis on developing and conferring with independent readers
  • ·         Focus on reading comprehension strategies
  • ·         Use of Thinking MAPS to summarize reading
  • ·         Student goal setting
  • ·         Increased use of non-fiction text
  • ·         Intervention and Extension Programs
  •           Raz-Kids, Accelerated Reader, HeadSprout, WWU Tutors
  • ·         Home-school communication and parent education


The Washington Achievement Awards are sponsored by the Washington State Board of Education and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. They celebrate Washington’s top-performing (5%) schools and recognize achievement in many categories: overall excellence, high progress, reading, math, science, extended graduation rate (high and comprehensive schools only) and English language acquisition. This highly-selective award is based on our school’s performance on the Achievement Index and uses criteria set by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility waiver.




Nicole Talley



March 2014



The PTO meeting, this month, is dedicated to conversational strategies for parents and round table discussions on how to motivate kids to do homework. As a parent myself, I find these both timely topics.


The Homework Battle: How to Get Children to Do Homework by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC
Over the years, I’ve talked to many parents who are in the trenches with their kids, and I’ve seen firsthand that there are many creative ways kids rebel when it comes to school work. Your child might forget to do his homework, do his homework but not hand it in, do it sloppily or carelessly, or not study properly for his test. These are just a few ways that kids try to hold onto the little control they have. When this starts happening, parents feel more and more out of control, so they punish, nag, threaten, argue, throw up their hands or over-function for their kids by doing the work for them. Now the battle is in full swing: reactivity is heightened as anxiety is elevated—and homework gets lost in the shuffle. The hard truth is that you cannot make your children do anything, let alone homework. Instead, the idea is to set limits, respect their individual choices and help motivate them to motivate themselves.


 Personally, I know that is much easier said than done. The homework experiences with each of my girls (now 23, 21 and 12) varied greatly and I must admit to entering into the battle mentioned above more than once.   Again, a few weeks ago, I realized just how much I was dreading homework time. Here’s how it had been playing out at the Talley’s:  Grace, our 6th grader (third child, you’d think we would have it figured out by now), after many reminders, drags out her math binder, shuffles through the loose papers trying to find the night’s assignment. After several more minutes, the wrinkled paper appears from the bottom of the backpack and the book slooowly gets opened. Insert heavy, twelve year old, sigh.  It was definitely time to revisit expectations and establish consequences.


 Here are 3 tips from the article, How to Motivate Your Kids to Do Homework (without having a nervous breakdown yourself) By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


  1. Eliminate the word homework from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word study. Have a study time instead of a homework time. Have a study table instead of a homework table. This word change alone will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of your child saying, "I don't have any homework." Study time is about studying, even if you don't have any homework. It's amazing how much more homework kids have when they have to study regardless of whether they have homework or not
  2. Establish a study routine. This needs to be the same time every day. Let your children have some input on when study time occurs. Once the time is set, stick to that schedule. Kids thrive on structure even as they protest. It may take several weeks for the routine to become a habit. Persist. By having a regular study time you are demonstrating that you value education.
  3. Keep the routine predictable and simple. One possibility includes a five minute warning that study time is approaching, bringing their current activity to an end, clearing the study table, emptying their backpack of books and supplies, then beginning.


Hope to see you at the PTO Meeting, 6:30 pm March 6th.







Welcome to February!  It’s hard to believe we are already in the second half of the school year.

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.   ~ John Cotton Dana

Seventeen years in the Bellingham School District and I have never worked alongside such a dedicated, hard-working team of teachers and support staff.  Across the district and State teachers are feeling the stress of ‘initiative overload’ brought on by new standards and curriculum for reading, writing, and math, new systems for family engagement, evaluation, reporting, and data management- just to name a few. Instead of choosing one or two to focus on, the teachers at Silver Beach grab a hold of their  boot straps and march right in!  This takes courage and above all else, the willingness to be a learner.  Every day, I am grateful to work with such incredible professionals.  

Here’s a snapshot of some of the learning our teachers have been doing.

Reading:  Teachers at each grade level spend a day together at the district office. In January their meeting focused on learning more about reading assessments and working towards district consistency in scoring comprehension and fluency.  There will be an online resource available soon so parents can watch videos of students considered ‘at standard’ in reading at each grade level.  Grade level teams scored a reading assessment in which students answered multiple choice and short answers. Students are being asked to use text evidence to support their answers. A third grade example:  select a multiple choice adjective describing a character and provide two pieces of evidence from the text justifying why they chose that answer. As I am in classrooms observing reading instruction teachers are using rich questioning to teach students to comprehend at higher levels. 


Writing has been a strong area of focus for us this year.  In December we gave a school-wide writing assessment and teachers spent many hours scoring and analyzing. In January, our teachers jumped out in front of district expectations with grades 1st-5th  focusing on an Informational writing unit using the newly adopted district writing curriculum.  The best part of my job is going from grade to grade and seeing the incredible writing our students are producing.  It has been exciting to see the alignment and how each grade level builds on the next. 


Math: The district grade level meetings have provided teachers time to dig in to the new Common Core Standards and the Mathematical Practices.  Once again, our teachers are way out ahead. The math curriculum we are piloting is tightly aligned to CCSS and grade levels work closely together to assess, plan and teach.  I see our students reaching higher and higher levels of mathematical understandings.


Student Engagement: Several teachers are working together to understand new research on student engagement.  The teams spend time reading, observing teaching demonstrations, reflecting together and then trying the strategies with their classroom. 


Teaching is a profession that is constantly changing whether from new national or state requirements, district curriculum or research. Our theme for this year, “Good, Better, Best…never let it rest… until your Good is Better… and your Better is your BEST!” reflects the high expectations our teachers set for themselves as well as their students. 


Thank you for sending us children who are excited to learn each day!









Welcome to December! 

 I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season!     ~ Nicole

This month’s topic… Math!

 One of the most frequently asked parent question is, “How do I help my child with this ‘new’ math?” Over the last decade there has been an intentional shift to provide students with conceptual understandings and a strong place value foundation rather than memorizing facts and algorithms. This change continues to be a topic of conversation between teachers and parents and we are in the midst of another shift in math standards.

The Shift to the Common Core: Math

Washington State has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in both K-12 Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) in July 2011. Until now, every state has had different learning standards. Common Core fixes that and raises the bar for learning. The K-12 standards in math and English language arts will be fully implemented in Washington classrooms in the 2013-14 school year. The standards focus on helping students build the skills and knowledge they need after high school.

Why Common Core Standards?

Common Core goes deeper into fewer topics and focuses on developing students’ deeper understanding of key concepts. The standards build on one another, allowing students to apply the skills and knowledge they learned in the previous grade to real-life situations.

  • Focus: fewer big ideas; learning of concepts is emphasized
  • Coherence: articulated progressions
  • Application: apply concepts and skills to new situations

 New Standards for Mathematical Practices

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

4. Model with mathematics.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.

6. Attend to precision.

7. Look for and make use of structure.

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

To learn more:

Come hear PTO Guest Speaker: Jeanette Grisham- District Math Coordinator

Thursday, Dec. 5th at 6:30 p.m. in the library       

 IXL Math is a GREAT resource for specific math skill practice that is aligned to the Common Core Standards. Every 2nd-5th grader at Silver Beach has an account.  Thanks PTO!


Happy November!  I would like to share two great projects that are underway at Silver Beach. Both projects could not happen without the support of enthusiastic parents.

Project 1: Watershed Rain Garden

This summer, the final stage of the Silver Beach Watershed grant was completed with the installation of a rain garden in front of the annex.  It is now up to us to design and plant this area.  The first phase of the project was completed Earth Day 2011. Kids and parents covered the grass in the bio swale (center of bus loop) with cardboard and added layers of soil, mulch and native plants. This summer the drainage was improved and rocks added. 

Why a rain garden?

  • Educational – for students and the community.  To provide information on what a rain garden is and types of plantings utilized in a rain garden.  The City of Bellingham will provide classroom lessons on the effects of storm water on the Lake Whatcom Watershed.
  • Currently, approximately 50% of the rain run-off from the sloped lawn and the asphalt entrance to the play yard will be diverted to the rain garden to provide natural filtration instead of going straight into the existing storm drainage system.
  • This area will also be used as a school garden. A team will look to have raised planters and garden plants in place before the end of the school year.

Community partners to support planting and education:

  • The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) could provide education similar to their “Students for Salmon” program. They may also be able to donate some plants. 
  • WSU Extension providing Master Gardeners to help with plant selection and proper planting procedure (  WSU can connect us with wholesalers for lowest pricing.
  • RAM Construction completed both the underground work and rain garden install as well as  the construction of the work at the bus circle.  Most likely, they will be donating tools and assisting with the planting day.

Important Dates:

  • Friday, November 1st: Curtis Lawyer and Robin Brown will run a Friday Club to involve students in the selection of plants and education of native plants.
  • Thursday, November 7th: PTO meeting: Eli Mackiewicz, from the City of Bellingham, will present on the rain garden, storm water and be available to answer questions.
  • Friday, November 15th: Fall rain garden planting. We will need many volunteers to make this happen.

If you would like more information contact Curtis Lawyer,

Project 2: Family Support Network

Many of our families wish to support those in our school community that are struggling.  Families with specific needs can contact classroom teachers and/or the school counselor, Mr. Gilmore.  The FSN will then be activated to anonymously provide donations.  A flyer went home last week recruiting families to participate in providing support.  Another flyer will go home soon explaining the process for accessing support.  The first big project for our Family Support Network will be to provide food, clothing and toys during the upcoming holiday season. If you would like more information please contact Vibha Maheswaran, or Nicole Talley.

October 1, 2013

Dear Silver Beach Families,

It’s hard to believe it is already October. We are off to a great start and welcomed 33 new students to Silver Beach in addition to our 73 new kindergarteners.  The school theme for this year is Expect the Best and that is what our staff does each and every day. We expect the best from our students and each other.

With three daughters I understand the challenge parents face in trying to balance work, sports, community activities and homework; there never seems to be quite enough time in each day.  Below you will read about our family engagement model and homework policy which will confirm the important role you play in your child’s education.  The staff here at Silver Beach will do all that we can to ensure you feel a close connection to our school and have access to support and resources.  Please reach out to us if there are ways we can partner together to support student learning. Thank you for sharing your beautiful children with us each day.

~ Nicole Talley


Building a Strong School-Family Partnership

Family engagement is a key strategy of The Bellingham Promise.

Research is clear; your involvement in your child’s education matters! Students whose families are engaged in their school lives attend class more regularly, achieve at higher levels, and generally have better behavior both at home and at school.

As you know, last year Bellingham Public Schools changed its approach with elementary conferences. The past practice of having a week of early dismissals in November has changed. This change is designed to provide more flexibility on when and how schools engage families while also reducing the disruption and lost instructional time caused by a week of early dismissals.

The Silver Beach family engagement model includes a wide variety of ways for teachers, parents and the school to communicate with one another about student learning. Some examples include:

  • Phone calls, emails, notes home
  • Parent, teacher and student conferences
  • Report Cards— Sent home Feb. and June
  • Family Nights
  • School Messenger calls


  • School and class newsletters
  • Curriculum nights and open houses
  • Silver Beach website
  • Student work samples
  • Home learning journals


Homework at Silver Beach: Home Learning Journals

Mission Statement: We provide homework structure that give students and families relevant practice that supports learning at school. We value a balance of traditional homework (reading, writing, math) and enrichment (sports, the arts, etc.).

Together with our Parent Advisory Council, teachers recommend that homework:

  • Be relevant, engaging and individualized
  • Extend practice
  • Encourage self-guided learning
  • Develop responsibility and time management skills

 Every student has been provided a Home Learning Journal. Students are required to track reading and math practice (district policy) as well as keep a journal of other learning experiences. Our hope is that families will develop consistent routines for practicing reading and math at home.  We know students of all ages can learn lifelong study skills by taking responsibility, developing time management and producing quality work. 

Inside the cover of each journal are the grade level expectations for weekly homework.  Grade levels have also provided examples and resources to help parents know exactly what their child should be practicing at home.  Additional resources provided at Silver Beach include:

  • RAZ-Kids-online, leveled reading K-2 and for kids needing additional reading support in grades 3rd-5th
  • IXL-online math practice that is aligned to the Common Core State Standards- grades 2nd-5th
  • A parent resource section in the library
  • The Homework tab on our website lists great websites for worksheets or online practice

On Fridays, students will be given the opportunity to share their journal with their teacher and peers. If a student does not return their journal on Friday, they will complete reading and math work at study hall instead of attending their Friday Club.  Our goal is 100% participation in the clubs and will seek ways to support families with the resources they need to help their child at home.

Also under the Homework tab on our website, you can find additional information on homework research as well as background on our homework policy. We appreciate your support, suggestions and questions…BRING ON THE LEARNING!

Lunch at Silver Beach 2013-14