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Terms Used at Siena

Having a glossary of words and definitions shared, understood, and used by the Siena community helps everyone involved share a common language surrounding Siena's mission and educational practices.


Advisor: Each student is assigned a faculty advisor who acts as a counselor for the student and monitors the student's academic progress. The elementary teachers share advising responsibilities for the elementary class. The advisor also serves as the coordinator for all communication with the parents, helping to streamline and coordinate communication between parents and the school. Students meet with their advisor twice a day, once during morning homeroom and again in the afternoon before dismissal. 

After-School: The Siena School offers an after-school program for elementary and middle school students from 3:45pm – 5:45pm, Monday through Friday on days when the school is in session. The after-school program includes a mixture of supervised homework help and activities.

Assembly: Every Monday morning, all students attend a morning assembly in the gymnasium. This assembly highlights important events throughout the week and gives teachers and students an organized platform to make announcements.

Asynchronous Learning: Forms of learning or instructional interactions that are not being delivered in person or in real time.

Authentic: Learning that is meaningful beyond the classroom.

Authentic Assessment: A summative assessment that is executed using tools, resources, and applications that reflect a "real world" setting. 


Chromebook: A Chromebook is a laptop with Chrome OS as its operating system, with most applications and data residing “in the cloud.” Elementary and middle school students at Siena use school-provided Chromebooks throughout the school day to complete assignments on Google Drive. High school students (Silver Spring campus only) can use school Chromebooks or bring their own device for use during the school day.

Cross-Cultural Competence: Congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in an educational environment to enable educators to work and teach effectively in cross-cultural situations.

Cross-Curricular: Collaboration across disciplines to enhance students' understanding in a variety of subjects.


DEAR: Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) time provides an opportunity for students to read or listen to books on tape independently and for pleasure. Students are required to carry a reading book each day and parents and guardians are encouraged to regularly take their children to the library to assist them when choosing books.

Differentiation: Instruction that offers students diverse ways to maximize learning.

Dinner and a Movie Night: After school one Friday each month, Siena runs a “Dinner and a Movie” night when students have the opportunity to travel to downtown Silver Spring, have dinner and attend a movie. These evenings are on a first-come first-served basis with 12 slots available.

Distance Learning: A method of learning in which classes are conducted over the Internet without students needing to attend a physical school.


Enrichment Clubs: Each quarter, weekly afternoon Enrichment Clubs are offered after school for an additional fee. Past offerings have included Minecraft, Improv, Yoga, and Coding.

Equitability: When students are given the opportunities, tools, and strategies they personally need to succeed. (Note: equity is not equality.)

Essential Questions: Core questions that provide a foundation for learning.


FACTs Family: FACTS Family is a private and secure parents’ portal that will allow parents to see academic information specific to their children while protecting their children’s information from others.


Google Drive: All students and faculty at Siena use Google Drive. The Drive gives access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage, so students can access their assignments from any computer at any time.

Green School: The Siena School's Silver Spring campus is certified as a Maryland Green School under the Maryland Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education. This certification signifies our school has made a commitment to developing stewards of the earth and reducing the environmental impact of our school. 


High Standards: The process of holding students to a high level of expectations with regards to quality of work and effort put forth, while keeping in mind that students' abilities and needs vary.

Houses: All of Siena’s students and faculty are sorted into four Houses. These Houses are modeled after the seventeen Contrade of Siena, Italy. Siena’s Houses (Drago, Leocorno, Pantera, and Aquila) are composed of a mixture of 3rd-12th grade students who compete over the year for house points in athletic and academic challenges.

HyFlex Learning: A learning environment that provides student the opportunity to learn synchronously online, in the classroom, and/or both.


Individualization: Instruction that focuses on the specific needs of a student to achieve learning goals. This teaching method can be used on its own, or it can be part of differentiated teaching (group instruction/activity).

Instructional Units: The bundling of knowledge, skills, and methodology in the context of a theme.

Internship: Each year, Siena’s high school students (Silver Spring campus only) undertake a two-week volunteer internship in the Washington, D.C., area. With guidance from Siena teachers, students choose a new internship annually to explore career interests through direct experience.


Learning Ally: LearningAlly is a nonprofit providing dyslexia support through audiobooks & parent support services. All Siena students are provided with a LearningAlly account, giving them access to audiobooks to support their reading.

Learning Objectives: The knowledge and skills students master.


MAP Testing: Siena students in grades 4-10 take MAP Tests in Language Arts, Reading, and Math in the fall and spring of each year. Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) creates a personalized assessment experience by adapting to each student’s learning level—precisely measuring student progress and growth for each individual. 

Metacognition: One's ability to think and reflect upon how one thinks.

Modeling: Demonstrating a skill to provide an example for students.

Multisensory: Instruction that involves more than one sense at a time to provide students with more than one way to absorb and connect with knowledge and skills. 


Parent/Advisor Phone Calls: In addition to parent/teacher conferences, parents of children in grades 4-7 receive mid-quarter updates from their child’s advisor to discuss progress and any concerns. 

Parent/Teacher Conferences: Parents also meet with their child’s subject teachers twice a year to discuss progress and points of action to keep students successful.

ParentSquare: ParentSquare is a web smartphone app that serves as Siena’s secure school-home communication system. Parents can sign up to receive emails/texts from the school instantaneously or in digest format at the end of the day. ParentSquare also hosts our events/academic calendar and allows for photo and file sharing.

PE Uniform: Elementary, middle, and 10th graders are required to wear a red shirt with the Siena logo and red, black, or grey shorts/pants during PE class. The Siena shirt is available for purchase through the Lands End online store. Information on how to order will be included in your registration packet in July.

Physical Distancing: Maintaining 6 feet of space between people at all times. This includes all faculty, staff, and students. The 6 feet recommendation may change over time, but this is what the CDC currently advocates.

Piazza: In reference to the Italian town Siena is proudly named after, Siena students congregate in the “Piazza,” a large common area for eating lunch. The Piazza also serves as a multipurpose room, hosting activities, classes, and events throughout the year.

Project-Based Learning: A teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. 


Reading Assistant: Reading Assistant is an online reading tool that uses speech recognition to access and support students as they read aloud. With Reading Assistant, students receive individualized reading coaching every time they use the software, making the most of each instructional minute.

Research-Based: Methodology, tools, and strategies based on empirical evidence.

Responsive: Teaching and learning that considers and provides for students' cultural and individual needs.

Rising Up Ceremony: The Rising Up Ceremony is a time to acknowledge the accomplishments of the 5th and 8th graders as they rise up into Middle School and High School. Along with the entire school, parents, family, and friends are invited to attend. Rising Up is held each June prior to Graduation.


Siena Band and Chorus: All students have an opportunity to use their musical talents in the Siena Band and Chorus. The Siena Band and Chorus perform at multiple events throughout the year including school plays, the Siena Celebration, performing arts assemblies, the annual Spring Concert, and Grandparents’ & Special Guests’ Day.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): The process through which students understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

SPA: The Siena Parents’ Association (SPA) is a great way for parents to get involved at Siena and helps to encourage a strong sense of community among all Siena families. 

Step Up to Writing: Step Up to Writing is an organizational program that uses research-validated, hands-on, multisensory writing strategies and writing activities to assist students in becoming successful writers. This program is first introduced in elementary school but continues to be integrated throughout all middle and high school classes.

Strengths Class: Students in grades 4 & 5 take Strengths class. Through self-directed learning opportunities, this course teaches students how to use their prior knowledge and learning style to develop and manage long-term projects while maintaining a high level of engagement and enjoyment.

Student Choice: A method of teaching in which students have choices. These choices can be the subject matter they explore, how they present the material, how they are assessed on the information, or all of the above. Student choice is designed to engage and empower students. 

Student Council: Student Council offers an opportunity for all students to have a voice in the Siena community. It also provides a forum for organizing student events such as holiday celebrations and Spirit Week. Students in all grades may run for a variety of positions within the student government.

Synchronous Learning: Forms of learning that happen in real time.


Tech Club: Siena offers an 8th period elective class focused on technology. Students in tech club learn a variety of skills, from music/video editing to computer coding. Students also participate in a variety of hands-on activities including troubleshooting and fixing software and hardware issues. Students also learn to disassemble and put together various technological devices (e.g. laptop computers).

The Three R’s: All students are expected to follow the “3 R’s” of conduct: make the Right choices based on Respect and Responsibility. This code of conduct creates a positive learning community. 

21st Century Learning: A method of teaching and learning that incorporates and focuses on critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration, thereby making lessons timely, relevant, relatable, and applicable in the 21st century.


Whole Child Education: A method of education that ensures that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, and challenged on an individualized level.

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