Sweet 16 Tournament of Books

POD 3 at Alternative Paths Training School, Alexandria participated in a Sweet 16 Tournament of Books last month.  Sixteen early literacy books were chosen by teachers and our reading specialist to start off the competition. Some were childhood favorites such as Where the Wild Things Are, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs. Since POD 3 is the elementary POD at APTS early literacy books were the only type of book included for this tournament.

Round one started with all sixteen books. There were eight sets of two books that the students read and then voted on which book they wanted to advance in the competition. In the first round there were many books written by the same author that were competing. This includes The Three Little Pigs vs. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and If you Take a Mouse to School vs. If you Give a Mouse a Cookie. During this round teachers connected the books to language arts lessons. The students compared and contrasted books using a Venn diagram.  Also, in room 3-114 the students took accelerated reader tests to collect points. Once the class collected enough points they had a pizza party!


Making reading fun promotes literacy development in students. POD 3 took it one step further by using the stories to promote social skills.  The students in room 3-117 were paired with the students in 3-110 to have a reading buddy. Older students from 3-117 enjoyed reading the books to the younger students in 3-110. Each week the older students were encouraged to facilitate a discussion with the younger students about the books before voting with them.  The final round in the tournament was Ruby the Copycat vs. If you Take a Mouse to School. By only four votes, Ruby the Copycat won the tournament! Check out all of the books and the rounds they advanced in the hallway connecting POD 3 and 4. The students had a great experience during this exciting lesson!

Ms. Glaser is a Special Education Teacher at the Alexandria APTS campus. She graduated with a degree in Educational Psychology from George Mason University and is in the process of completing her Masters in Special Education.  Her passion for improving quality education has made her a truly dedicated teacher for the past 10 years. Most of her experience comes from early intervention in early childhood special education. However, she has been loving the switch to her elementary classroom at APTS. Outside of work, Ms. Glaser enjoys the outdoors, spending time with family, Zumba, and writing.

Hello students, staff and community members! With the spring season and spring break on the horizon there are many local opportunities for fun in the sun. Fairfax County and the surrounding areas have many activities and events planned. Check out the list of activities below and enjoy!

Digital Kidz Extreme Robotics

Location: Oak Marr RECenter

Age Group: 8-14 year olds

Date: Starts 3/21/2016

Time: 9am Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Spring Break On The Farm

Location: Frying Pan Park

Age Group: 5-12 year olds

Date: Starts 3/21/2016

Time: 8am Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Back To Rock

Location: Back To Rock Herndon Virginia

Age Group: 7-14 year olds

9 am Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

9 am Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Aqua Fitness- Individuals with Physical Disabilities 13+

Location: Spring Hill RECenter

Date: 4/3/2016

Time: 4:00pm and 5:00pm

Adapted Gymnastics

Location: Audrey Moore RECenter

Age Group: 5-12 years

Date: 4/3/2016

Time(s): 10:00am, 11:00am, and 12:00pm

Adapted Cooking Skills

Location: Wholesome Campus

Age Group: 7-13 year olds

Date: 3/29/2016

Time: 4:30pm

Adapted Family Farm Day

Location: Frying Pan Park

Age Group: 5 to adult

Date: 5/14/16

Time: 3:30pm

Adapted Ice Skating

Location: Mount Vernon RECenter

Age Group: 13 to adult

Date/Time: 2/21/2016 at 1:10 pm

Date/Time: 4/17/2016 at 1:00pm

Adapted Pilates

Location: Oak Marr RECenter

Age Group: 18 years +

Date: 4/4/2016

Time: 12:00pm

Adapted Tae Kwon Do

Location: Lead By Example Fair Oaks

Age Group: 10-17 years old

Date/Time: 4/2/16 at 1:30 pm

Date/Time: 4/7/16 at 4:45 pm

Kid Junction Chantilly
4090 Lafayette Center Dr. Suite E
Chantilly, VA 20151

Contact Number: 703-222-5582

Age Group: 10 and under

Day/Time: Mon – Thurs 10:00am to 6:00pm

                 Fri – Sat 10:00am to 8:00pm

                 Sunday 10:00am to 6:00pm

Monkey Joe’s Dulles
23521 Overland Drive Suite 120
Sterling, VA 20166

Contact Number: 703-996-8300

Age Group: 12 and under

Day/Time: Mon – Sat 10:00am to 7:00pm

                 Sunday 11:00am to 6:00pm

Drama Camp
Location: Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre

Age Group: Grades k-8

Date: 3/21/16-3/25/16

Time: 9:00am to 5:00pm

Two-Buck Tuesdays

Location: University Mall Theatres

    10659 Braddock Road Fairfax VA

Date: Tuesdays

Color Me Mine

4209 Fairfax Corner Avenue
Fairfax, VA 22030

Contact Number: 703-803-7246

Day/Time: Sun-Thurs 12:00pm to 7:00pm

                 Fri and Sat 11:00am to 8:00pm

Kidz N Motion

Location: 3310 Noble Pond Way #101

                Woodbridge, VA 22193

Contact Number: 703-878-0100

Daniels Run Park

Daniels Run Park

Van Dyck Park

Van Dyck Park

Lakeside Park

Lakeside Park

Clemyjontri Park

Clemyjontri Park

What are you favorite spring-time activities?  Share them in the comments!

Miss. Simms attended Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences Degree in Psychology and Sociology. While in Jacksonville Miss. Simms worked at The Hubbard House and provided comprehensive crisis counseling services to shelter families. Ms. Simms then continued on to attend graduate school at Eastern University in Radnor Pennsylvania, where she graduated with a Masters of Counseling Psychology K-12. While living in Pennsylvania Ms. Simms worked in Radnor Township School District, Lower Merion Township School District, and Philadelphia School District. While Miss. Simms’s responsibilities varied depending on her students developmental age and psychosocial presentation, she consistently delivered comprehensive counseling services individually and in groups primarily to students with Emotional Disabilities. Miss. Simms has obtained professional state licensure in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Miss. Simms is an active member of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA), and attends their professional conference annually to enhance her ability to effectively meet the academic, social, and personal needs of her students. Outside of the counselor’s corner, Miss. Simms enjoys traveling, exercise, cooking, and exploring the DC-Metropolitan area.

What Makes A Perfect Field Trip?

If you were to ask me as a teacher what makes up the perfect class field trip, I would probably say it would be having one big structured activity as the focal point--interspersed with pockets of free time to explore at one’s own pace.  Oh yeah, and plenty of imagination sprinkled in with lots of bonding time.  Include these main ingredients and it usually leads to lots of PRE- and POST-classroom lessons to milk the entire experience to the fullest degree.

Our Manassas campus went on such a trip on Friday November 13th as we toured UDVAR HAZY Air and Space Museum. 

Step 1: A Great itinerary.

Our leader, Ms. Mandeep, had a great itinerary arranged for our classes centering on a “How things fly” classroom session that we signed up for.

Once you arrive at this beautiful building you want to hit the ground running (not literally of course, the teacher in me says—running indoors is inappropriate) and cover every square inch.  Fortunately, we had just enough time to squeeze in a quick elevator tour up to the Observation Tower before returning to eat sack lunches outside on the benches.  The 360 degree panorama view was truly breathtaking as we watched various airplanes take off and land at nearby Dulles airport.

step 2: Connect a lesson to an activity.

Our Flight School lesson was loaded with great content and plenty of time for student participation.  In fact, after seeing a film on the science of flight, the instructor had the students make their own paper airplanes and then test the theories out by using a paper clip at the front, middle and back end of the plane.  The students did this by lining up and aiming their airplanes towards a cardboard display that had a cut out hole as a target.

After our flying class was over we still had time to scatter into small groups and get swallowed up by 2 massive hanger buildings that feature aircraft hanging at several levels. 

step 3: Make it personal.

Just building in time for each student to personally select their favorite color and make of airplane and pose for a photo, was worthwhile enough to make this a great field trip.  So we took multiple photos--just as if we were posing in front of works of famous paintings at an Art Gallery.  Except these works of art were vividly in 3D and sprawling above our heads!

Funnily enough, no matter how much each of our clusters felt free to roam around the museum, we still ended up bumping into each other around every corner it seemed, and in the gift shop.  I guess it only goes to show that great minds think alike right?

 All in all, it was a great trip by every measure one could use.  It was highly educational, highly entertaining, and great for forging long term memories with great classmates and staff.  As we walked back to the bus we were already imagining what we wanted to do next—from taking in an IMAX movie to spending more time on other topics like flight pioneers or the history of ballooning.

There’s never as much time as you’d like when you’re having fun, but we felt pretty filled up and content anyway.  Great field trips are like that.  They breed inspiration and remind us that no journey is ever finished.

John Watts, M.Ed.
Special Education Teacher
Alternative Paths Training School

Mr. Watts has been a special education teacher working with students for over 3 decades.  He particularly loves teaching functional academics and promoting community values and social skills.  He is an avid writer, hiker and traveler.  He finds continuous inspiration between his personal and professional life; which in turn leaves him constantly energized and reinvigorated.

3 Keys for Healthy, Happy Holidays

Holiday time is coming soon;  one of our favorite holidays centers around food- good food, lots of it, and time away from work to relax and enjoy family, friends, and special activities, or some extra rest.

This is a great time to focus on the important role that diet, adequate rest, and exercise, play in our overall well-being and health. We have time to practice some good health habits during our time off.  As we all know, without our health, we can’t perform our jobs, or enjoy our time off, or perhaps cannot return to work when we want.  With these upcoming days of Thanksgiving holiday, perhaps we could establish a few important health habits and carry them on through the winter months and into a healthy new year.


1. Rest

Turkey is a feature on many of our tables, and one of its special attributes is the tryptophan effect it has on our bodies; it helps our mind, and body, turn down the power and rest.  One of the number one contributors to weight problems, stress, and chronic and acute illness is the continuous lack of adequate sleep.  There are other methods to turn the mind and body down so that adequate rest is achieved:

  • Power down artificial light and technology: turn down the lights, sleep with blackout curtains
  • turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer/internet at least 30 – 60 minutes before going to bed – read a book,  listen to instrumental or classical music, have a phone conversation
  • Take a shower or bath at the end of your day
  • Wash your feet before getting into bed
  • Schedule a regular bed time and stick to a routine prior to this


2.  Water

Avoiding overeating, weight gain, and consequences of food indiscretion are important goals for a healthy holiday and year ahead.  Increasing the amount of water you drink, 8 cups (8 ounces each) of water a day help control appetite, especially if you stay well hydrated all day long; this will also regulate other important body functions.  The concept of small bites, sampling many foods but only small amounts, will allow your taste buds to enjoy the feast but for you to feel well afterward.   Avoid casseroles and appetizers that have high amounts of fat and starches, and pick instead protein options and fruit and vegetable. This is no time to skip dessert – just find small portions of your favorite pie or cake. 


3.  Dance, Wiggle, Jump, Walk, Run, Play...Move!

Exercise keeps it all in balance: if you get around 45-60 minutes of exercise a day, you WILL sleep better.  You WILL be healthier, and your body will function amazingly well.   Plan your day to start with some 15 minute block of walking, running, biking, dancing to music, court sports, whatever you prefer.  Then find two or three more times during the day to concentrate your effort to give your body the exercise it needs.  It is more important than television!! Do it while you are watching television.  Do it with a friend or your family; plan to make exercise part of the time of holiday celebrations.  You will be healthier for it; and your doctor will miss seeing you except for your annual physicals.   

Here’s to your good health!     
Nurse Ann

Mrs. Vernon is the Nurse Manager of the team of 4 nurses at the Alexandria, Fredericksburg, and Manassas campuses.  She has been with Alternative Paths Training School since 2009, when the first clinic and nurse were added to the campus.  Nurse Ann is a native of North Carolina, where she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received her BS in Nursing in 1976.  She enjoyed a career in Public Health Nursing for five years before raising her four children and 2 dogs in Alexandria.  She especially enjoys sports (tennis) and dogs.  She has trained and successfully graduated two dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind; Tilly is now 10 years old and returned after retiring from guide work and now serves as the Dog Manager for the therapy program at APTS.  Parsley, 5 months old, is her understudy and is in training now to be a future guide dog.

Meet Our Staff

Teenage Problem Solving: A Guide for Parents

 Teaching your teen problem solving: 

The best way to start teaching your teen better problem solving skills is to have a conversation about a particular incident. Do this after things have calmed down, and before you talk about consequences. Your goal here is to identify the problem, teach your teen how to solve it, and then hold them accountable --- not punish and make them miserable. 

1.  Notice Out Loud (Conversation Starter)

Tell your teen when you notice something’s bothering him or her. If you can, name the feeling you think your teen is experiencing. (“It seems like you’re still sad about your break-up, are you still feeling that way?”). This should NOT be an accusation (as in, “OK what happened now? Are you really still mad/sad about that?”) Make a casual observation that shows you’re interested in hearing more about what your teen is feeling/thinking about. 

2.  Eliminate “why” from your vocabulary. 

“Why” invites excuses and blame. Ask more productive questions to identify the problem such as, “What were you thinking about when… or what were you trying to accomplish by…?” This works well for middle school/high school aged students. 


3.  Focus on one issue at a time. 

Talk about one problem and one problem only during the conversation. Don’t bring up something that happened two weeks ago or something your teen did earlier today. If your teen brings up another incident, let them know you will talk about that later. Tackling too many problems at once usually leads to frustration for you, and your teen.

4.  Identify replacement behaviors.

Ask your teen what they will do differently next time this problem (uncomfortable feeling-thought) comes up. Allow your teen time to come up with the ideas on their own, make suggestions only if they’re struggling. Ask what advice they would give a friend or use the “In a perfect world…” scenario. 

5.  No wishful thinking allowed.

When you ask your teen what they will do differently next time, many kids/teens will give you an answer that is based on wishful thinking such as, “I just won’t do it again” or “I’ll do better”. Wishful thinking is a type of faulty thinking that indicates your child truly believes they can change behavior without putting the effort into it. Get your child/teen to be more specific. Ask them “How will you stop cursing at me…How will you stop running from me…What will I see you/hear you doing instead?”

6.  I Do-We Do-You Do.

  1. Demonstration (I Do):  Demonstrate how you solve your own everyday problems
  2. Guided Practice (We Do):  Work with your teen to solve problems that are important to her
  3. Independent Practice with Supervision (You do):   Be present as your teen uses a visual/graphic organizer/list to solve her own problems 
  4. Problem Solving Steps:
  • Define the problem  “I need (or want) _________, but___________.
  • Teen identifies several potential solutions 
  • Evaluate each alternative  Pros vs Cons
  • Choose a solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Evaluate results  Did it work?
  • Choose a different solution if results are not satisfactory 

Elizabeth Simms, M.A., LPSC
Licensed School Counselor
Alternative Paths Training School

Miss. Simms attended Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences Degree in Psychology and Sociology. While in Jacksonville Miss. Simms worked at The Hubbard House and provided comprehensive crisis counseling services to shelter families. Ms. Simms continued on to graduate school at Eastern University in Radnor Pennsylvania, where she graduated with a Masters of Counseling Psychology K-12. While living in Pennsylvania, Miss. Simms worked in various school districts delivering comprehensive counseling services individually and in groups primarily to students with Emotional Disabilities.  Miss. Simms has obtained professional state licensure in Pennsylvania and Virginia and is an active member of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA).  She attends their professional conference annually to enhance her ability to effectively meet the academic, social, and personal needs of her students. Outside of the counselor’s corner, Miss. Simms enjoys traveling, exercise, cooking, and exploring the DC-Metropolitan area. 

Learn more about our staff.

Environmental Print is Everywhere, Use It!

Look around you, what do you see? Maybe you see your grocery list, a street sign or even a take- out menu.  All of these things are called environmental print. Environmental print surrounds us throughout the day and appears in many forms. For some of our students environmental print can be a gate way to successful interactions with text and assist them with receptive language acquisition. 

By engaging students in their environmental print and calling attention to letters and words they see every day you can increase student confidence in reading, support letter-word knowledge, and facilitate making connections between words and even locations (such as school and home).

Suggestions to incorporate environmental print into your routine:

  • ask your student to identify names of favorite characters, restaurants or stores, then see if they can name another character, store or restaurant that begins with the same letter, or has the same beginning sound (for example: McDonalds and Mighty Mouse)
  • when you are at the grocery store, or using a store flyer, have your student match products with the same letter sounds at the beginning or end of the words
  • have your student read street signs as you go by or count the number of times you see a certain sign (for example: go on a hunt for 35 MPH speed limit signs) 
  • circle or stamp with a bingo stamper all the products that start with the same letter in a store flyer
  • ask your student to write the first letter of different items on the grocery list (for example: they write “r” for rice and you complete the word with “ice”  
  • cut out logos of familiar products, stores, restaurants and ask your student to match logos 

Note: Be creative! This is certainly not an exhaustive list but it will hopefully give you some ideas to help support your child’s literacy development at home. Also, not all activities can be used by all students, use your knowledge of your child to engage with materials in an appropriate way.  

Erin Warin, M.Ed.
Literacy and Assessment Specialist
Alternative Paths Training School

Ms. Warin graduated from SUNY College at Brockport with a degree in history and certification in elementary education (grades 1-6) and special education (grades 1-6).  Ms. Warin continued on to graduate school at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York and graduated with a Master’s of Education in Literacy (Birth-Grade 8).  She moved to Virginia in 2011 to begin teaching elementary students at APTS. She has since obtained her Virginia Postgraduate Professional License with endorsements in special education-general curriculum (grades K-12) and elementary education (grades prek-6), and is working towards obtaining her literacy endorsement.  Ms. Warin continues to read and study in order to stay current with methodologies and best practice strategies.

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