Friday, January 24, 2020

Hi Families,

I will keep this blog post short since we are still doing much of the same work as we were doing last week.  Details below!

The BIG thing this week has been finger knitting (as I'm sure many of you have witnessed!)  The students just love it and can't seem to get enough. It is soothing and satisfying, and I am happy to give them 5 minutes to work on it a few times during the day.  Thank you all so much for the yarn. We are going through it fast, and I will be sure to bring in more next week. I also plan to invite a friend (who is a master crafter) in to show the class a few other basic yarn crafts next week, just for some diversity!

The students are working to come up with topics to write their persuasive speeches about. We started by looking for problems that exist in the world, but moved on to looking for wonderful people who need to be recognized.  Next week we will settle on our topics and get into the nitty gritty of how to write a persuasive piece.

We've been learning a variety of strategies for recognizing social issues when they come up in books. We've discussed fairness, noticing when a character is struggling, and noticing when a scene is making us uncomfortable. All of this has been in preparation for book clubs, which we started today! The work today was mostly about where to meet, how many pages to read, what to discuss, etc.  But the class seems really excited about the independence I am giving them, despite the fact that they didn't get to pick their books!

This week we learned what the government does for us and how it can afford it. We learned about taxes (very generally!) and are beginning to understand that we have to pay them so our government can do things like fix our roads, etc. Today we learned (again, in a very basic and non-biased way) the main differences between democrats and republicans. The main message was that all voters should be responsible enough to know the candidates and their views, despite which party they come from.  Next we will learn about how a bill becomes a law.

We are finishing up geometry soon. 4th graders learned to use a protractor and are now learning about mirror symmetry. The 3rd graders are learning about the attributes of triangles and then will move on to quadrilaterals. We continue to work on knowing the difference between perimeter and area and how to find each.

Finally, we are going to the State House on February 5.  I didn't send home the permission slip today since you just got one for the Flynn trip yesterday. I will send it home with the homework on Tuesday. Chaperones are welcome, so check the date and mark your calendars if you'd like to join us. I'd love to have your help!

That's a wrap!  I hope you all enjoy a restful weekend.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Happy Friday! The sunshine is lovely, but we have hated being stuck inside all day.  We're hoping for some fresh snow and a warm-up next week.

This week started with some finishing up. The students took one last look at their writing pieces and then published them. As you can see, they are just "works in progress...." We are learning that writers must have deadlines and decide they need to be finished, even when it frustrates them. The most important part of the unit was learning how to organize our thoughts into paragraphs or sections. Elaboration is difficult in nonfiction writing!

We have moved into our new reading and writing units. In reading, we are doing a unit I call "Social Issues Book Clubs." Today we discussed what is meant by social issues (poverty, divorce, bullying, pollution, etc. These aren't exactly uplifting topics, but important for kids to be able to identify in books.  For now, we are reading picture books and learning strategies for recognizing the issues in the books. Next week we will begin reading books with others in a "club" format. The challenge is finding enough multi-copy books at appropriate reading levels that actually have issues in them!  I am almost there, and look forward to passing the books out to the class and having them get started.

At the same time, we are starting our persuasive writing unit.  This week the students "flash drafted" a speech about why recess should be longer, and then Ms. Graf came in to listen to them.  Today we started thinking about ways we can find topics to write about.  One way is to think of problems that exist in the school, or in the world (social issues come in handy here!) and write about those.  We are brainstorming!

These units go well with our social studies work. This week we learned about the 3 branches of government and the importance of the balance of power. Next week we will begin to learn about how a bill becomes a law and how ordinary citizens can make a difference.  Once again, thinking about social issues comes in handy!

Our geometry unit is getting more challenging. Third graders are learning about how to measure the area of irregular shapes. Fourth graders are starting to examine angles and learning to identify what is a right angle and what is not.  We will begin using protractors soon!

The students have been asking about bringing in items to put into our centerpiece for our Connection Circle.  I have told them that they are welcome to do this, BUT... the items need to be small (fit in the palms of 2 hands) and be something they are willing to leave her for a few weeks. They should also be items that represent them in some way.  If they have items that fit those criteria, they are welcome to bring them. If you aren't sure what I mean by the centerpiece, talk to your kids!  They are experts.

Finally, many of the students have gotten really interested in finger knitting. I am happy to have them do this while we are having read aloud, or during snack or indoor recess. If you have any yarn lying around that needs a home, we'd be happy to take it in the classroom! 

I hope you all have a warm and cozy weekend.

Friday, January 10, 2020

I love January!  We are settling into some hard work with focus and determination.  This week, we had our first "Connection Circle" following the guidelines of restorative practices. Be sure to ask your children what that looked like and felt like! I hope to have a circle time like this at least a few times a week for the remainder of the year, giving us a safe place to feel connected as a classroom community and get to know each other on a deeper level.

Our week started with a trip to the Flynn to see The One and Only Ivan. Most of the students seemed to enjoy the show, although they didn't all like the lack of costumes. I thought it was a beautiful envisioning of the story, which is moving and sad and happy all at the same time!  I'm glad we were able to have the opportunity.

We are finishing up our non-fiction reading and writing units. The students are making final edits in their writing pieces, and this includes thinking about what text features they can add (pictures, charts, tables, glossaries, etc.)  They want to add everything because it's fun to use technology that way, but we have had some good conversations about the importance of these features, and how authors only add them when they actually make it easier for the reader to understand the text.  The finished pieces will be coming home next week.  We got together into research teams this week to read about different kinds of extreme weather.  The students worked hard to break their research up into categories such as causes of the weather type, how it is predicted and measured, how humans try to stay safe, and what the consequences are of these weather events.  They are busy researching, synthesizing information, and taking some notes.

This week, we also learned more about democracy and the rights of citizens. We discussed how our Constitution came to be (becoming independent from Britain) and how our founding fathers set out to make sure we had rights as individuals, rights if/when we are accused of crimes, and protection from government power.  The students made posters summarizing and illustrating the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, and they seemed excited to be learning this information! Next week we will get into the 3 branches of government and what responsibilities each has.  We will be going to the State House in February, but dates are not confirmed yet. Stay tuned!

Finally, we completed the first bend of our new math unit (both grades.) In this bend, we learned about measuring, measuring systems and tools, and how to convert measurements. We also learned a lot about perimeter.  Next week we will start learning more about measuring area.

Weather permitting, we are hoping to visit our trees on Wednesday 1/15. We plan to leave at about 9:15 and be back by about 10:30. If any of you are available and feel like taking a walk that day, you are welcome to join us!  I always enjoy having parents join the class!

Thank you to those who have sent in bread ingredients. The only thing we lack now is butter. I will pick some up this weekend, and bread will start coming home again on Monday!

I hope you all enjoy the sloppy weekend. Stay dry!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Happy New Year!  This has been a short week, so this will be super short blog with just a few important announcements and a bit of news.

First of all, thank you all for your flexibility around the Flynn trip permission/money. I apologize for the confusion and not getting those to you earlier.  It WILL all work out!  I am looking forward to seeing the show -- the class loved the book and I know they will enjoy seeing it come to life on stage.

Secondly, I have added more dates to our bread sign-up since the kids really want to keep working on this fundraiser. The link is:
I am not completely out of ingredients, but can always use bread flour, butter, and eggs.  Remember, this is all optional!

Finally, we have started our new social studies unit about civics. Today we learned the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship, and we learned the definition of democracy. I know from experience that this unit leads to a lot of interesting questions and conversations at home, so be prepared! It will be especially interesting in an election year!

That's all for this week. I will be sending homework home on Tuesday as usual, and you should expect it every week until the week before February vacation. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Have a wonderful weekend, and think snow!

Friday, December 20, 2019

We had a wonderful day today making challah, learning more about trees, and making beautiful birch tree art out of watercolors and salt. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the wonderful parents and grandparents who came in to help and to just be here with us. It was chaotic, but everyone enjoyed the process and the end results! I couldn't have done it without your help.

I hope you all have a wonderful, healthy, restful holiday and that you get to spend a lot of time with your children. I will miss them all!

See you all next year!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Hello All,
I was so pleased when I came into school this morning and saw a note from yesterday's guest teacher. She had nothing but praise for Team 3/4! The kids really rose to the occasion and showed how their best sides. Well done!

Between the delayed opening on Wednesday and the fact that I was out yesterday, the week seems like it was super short. Next week will fly by, and then it will be January! Sometimes I would like to slow down time just a little bit...

We are finishing up our addition and subtraction units and getting ready to start our geometry units in both 3rd and 4th grades.  Third graders are still working on different ways that subtraction shows up in story problems (comparison, give away, or how many left.)  Sometimes they still think they need to add when the problem context isn't clear. We will continue to practice this skill during Math Menu.  Fourth graders finished their 10,000 chart!  They all know how to add large numbers using the US algorithm. Subtraction across a few zeroes is still a bit tricky, but we will keep practicing even as we move into geometry.

We continue to read and write non-fiction. We are learning tools to make reading non-fiction more exciting by activating prior knowledge, listening when our brains say, "Wow!" or "Really?" and being willing to be curious. As we write, we are organizing by making a tiny table of contents across our fingers for each chapter that we write. We are also learning how to write introductory sentences for each new section.

The students are just about finished with their science research about how humans use natural resources to make electricity. It was hard for them to grasp at first, but they have watched many videos and done quite a lot of research, and I think they understand how each resource is collected and used to make electricity, and how it harms the planet. We are growing smart consumers!

Next week will be fun. We will try to keep things as normal as possible at the beginning of the week. On Thursday we will get together with Mrs. Flint's class to make winter crafts. Then on Friday, we will walk down to visit our trees, make individual challah breads, and bake them in the outdoor oven.  Many thanks to the volunteers who have offered to make the dough and help with the braiding.  If you are interested in helping, you still can!  We could use some more bodies to walk to the park with us, and we'd love having you around for the baking as well. If you'd like to help, just let me know. We will leave school at 9:15 to walk to the park, and we hope to be back and making bread by 10:15 or 10:30. We will bake the bread right after recess at 11:30. Join us!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Think snow!

Friday, December 6, 2019

Happy December! It feels like the school year just got started, and we are already almost half way through it.  Wow!

This week has been a busy one academically.  We are hunkering down and trying to get a lot of learning done in the next 3 weeks.  In math, third graders are learning how to add and subtract up and down a number line using a story context.  They are learning how to represent story problems with equations and how to move up or down the number line to the next landmark number in order to be efficient.  This is hard work, but they are all able to do it!  4th graders and working with numbers in the ten thousands -- adding and subtracting using the US algorithm across multiple zeroes!  Learning to regroup and what it means is conceptually challenging, but I am pleased with the progress I see.  This class is a math thinking machine!

During reading we are focusing on main idea  and supporting details. From my years of experience, I know this is a tough thing to grasp. To understand that the main idea is NOT the same thing as the topic is tricky. We are looking at topic sentences and trying to figure out how the text is structured (problem/solution, chronology, compare and contrast. etc.) to help us figure out what they author is trying to teach us. 

In writing, we are finally drafting our expert books! We are learning all about how non-fiction writers elaborate, and we are figuring out how the chapters of our books should go -- in order, of equal importance, not repetitive.  Once that work is done, the expert book almost writes itself! I particularly love how this unit helps students think about organizing their thoughts. I always see huge progress in paragraphing and organizing as a result of the expert book completion!

Our science  unit on natural resources is winding down. This week we thought about how each of us could be a "Lorax" and do our part to save energy. Now the students are researching one renewable and one non-renewable natural resource to do a quick comparison.  They are becoming experts in energy -- learning about geothermal, propane, wind, coal, solar, oil,  and even nuclear.  They are learning what is meant by a fossil fuel and how they can be informed consumers.  I can't wait to see how they all present their research.

I am hoping we can use the outdoor wood-fired oven to bake something the day before the holiday vacation.  I have been thinking about what would be easy and fun and different to bake. One idea I have is to make challah dough in bread machines and then let each student make their own mini challah loaf.  We can either make them and bake them on the same day, or make them ahead of time and freeze them until Friday 12/20 when we can use the oven.  I am looking for some volunteers to help with this. If you are free on Thursday 12/19 or Friday 12/20, please let me know so I can figure out how to fit this in.  I am also open to other suggestions for things to bake. I like the idea of challah because I have a wonderful recipe for making the dough in the bread machine, and it would be satisfying to make dough, then bake it outdoors for a change rather than in the machine itself.  And who doesn't love braiding bread dough?

Finally, many of the students have been asking to go out to recess without their snow gear or boots.  Mrs. Graf sent out an email recently asking teachers to inform students that they need to wear their winter gear outside.  This means boots, coats, snow pants, hats, and gloves or mittens.  Of course I will be reasonable and not enforce this if the weather changes drastically, but my general policy is that students should wear what you send in their backpacks.  If you have questions about this, please contact me.  I know it feels "cool" to not care about the cold, but it's not so great to be in wet clothes and shoes for the afternoon!

That is all for this week. I hope you all have a relaxing weekend!