Friday, November 8, 2019

Happy Snowy Friday!
Last week's storm threw us all for a loop! I hope you all managed to stay dry.

We've had another busy few weeks.  We have been finishing up units and starting new ones. We finished our Vermont Geography unit -- and celebrated  by making candy maps. Most of the kids have done a really wonderful job learning where many of Vermont's geographic features are located. They also learned about how Vermont's geography has made it possible for various industries/businesses to flourish here.  They learned about the difference between human, natural and capital resources, paying attention mostly to the natural resources we have here in our beautiful state. This week, we moved on to learning about how humans use natural resources for energy. We will be learning about coal, wind, solar, hydro, and others. The main concepts in this unit are that some natural resources are renewable and others are not, and that no matter which we use, there are consequences for our plant.  Not a cheery topic, but one kids can learn about and then use to make good choices.

Our new math units focus on addition and subtraction. Third graders are learning to conceptualize what 1,000 looks like and they are understanding magnitude of large numbers and place value. They are learning new strategies to put tens together to make hundreds, and ones together to make tens. This work sets them up well for 4th grade units next year, when they will need to learn regrouping so they can add and subtract more efficiently.  Fourth graders are learning similar skills, but they are conceptualizing 10,000! They are learning how to use regrouping ("carrying and borrowing") when they add and subtract using the algorithm that we all used when we were in school (MANY years ago for me....)  They love the efficiency of the algorithm now that they can understand what it means when they put those little marks in each place value column!

We also finished up our narrative reading and narrative writing units! The students should have brought home their writing pieces -- and yesterday they completed an "on-demand" assessment piece to show me all they have learned.  I will be scoring these soon, and the scores will appear on report cards.  Next we launch our informational writing unit. The kids will be writing "expert" books, and learning to organize their information in a variety of ways. This is the unit I love the most -- huge growth happens as they begin to use paragraphs and think of other ways to separate the parts of their books.  We will also read informational books at the same time, giving us lots of mentor texts to use as examples in our own writing. 

Today I learned about a wonderful website that I want to share with you.  Here is the link: https://www.ryanandcraig.com/read-alouds  This is a website where Randy and Craig, two funny and engaging men, read books out loud. Like teachers, they stop and think out loud during the read aloud, engaging listeners and making them think.  This is a wonderful way to get your reluctant readers to be involved with stories!  I highly recommend checking it out. There are MANY books on the website, all read aloud by these 2 funny guys. Who wouldn't love that?

Okay, that is all for this week. I hope you all have a wonderful and restful weekend -- the crazy holiday season is almost upon us!


Friday, October 25, 2019

So many highlights this week!  One of the best parts of the past 2 weeks has been meeting with all of you. I always feel I get the know the students a little better when I meet their parents! Thank you all for taking the time to meet with me -- we make a good team!

One of our big highlights this week was having VEEP (Vermont Energy Education Program) come into the classroom. The students were able to see how solar and wind can work to make electricity, and they got to experiment with variables such as turbine blade angle, solar panel angle, distance from the source, etc.  They were all very involved and it was a fun and engaging way to start thinking about how we use natural resources to make electricity. Today we are having a celebration with the other 4th grade and watching The Lorax. As we learn about electricity, we will focus on how each of us can be a Lorax in our own lives.  Next week, we will be finishing up our Vermont Geography unit and start learning about electricity.

Another highlight this week was using our brand new pizza oven to make pizza!  The class got to work with Mr. Brezic's class to stretch pizza dough and spread sauce and cheese on it. Then we fired up the oven and baked the pizzas, and they were yummy!  The students were proud of their creations and definitely enjoyed eating!  This is a group that loves to eat.

A final highlight has been making bread. Many of the students have had an opportunity to make it, and I haven't had to help them at all! The bread has looked and smelled edible, and I'm assuming it's being enjoyed at home!  I am already getting a little low on bread flour and eggs. Donations are always appreciated!

We DID manage to continue academics this week! We finished up our math units in both grades. We learned all about the different physiographic regions in Vermont. We continued reading our fiction books and looked at how we find evidence to back up our ideas. And we continue our writing pieces, working on ways to elaborate and make the details come to life.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Another week coming to an end!  This will be a short post since it feels like a short week, and I will be seeing all of you at conferences in the next 2 weeks.  We had a lovely time at our school hike on Tuesday, and it was incredibly helpful to have some parent volunteers!  Wednesdays's delay made for a short day, but wearing pajamas and having stuffed animals was special and reminded me, once again, how little the students really are!  Today's tree study trip was wonderfully instructive (thank you Josh!) and we had a beautiful day for it. Again, thanks to the parents who make this kind of trip possible. 

On to academics -- Math in 4th grade has switched to data and measurement, a short and fun unit all about making line plots and noticing the "shape of the data." 3rd graders are continuing to work on multiplication and division, using what they know to figure out what they don't know. I'll give more details of these units and concepts during conferences.

We are busily writing either small moment stories (3rd grade) or fiction stories (4th grade) and learning how to paint images with our words, how to think about beginning, middle and end, and how to make sure our characters seem real. This class loves to write, and I am enjoying reading their work and conferring with them individually. 

They also love to read! Be sure to ask them about Rob and Sistine, the characters in our read-aloud, Tiger Rising. They are doing some heavy thinking about who they are more like. They are also learning that characters in books, like real humans, are complicated and don't just have one character trait. 

Finally, we are learning a lot about Vermont and its geography. Today we examined population maps, precipitation maps, relief maps, and elevation maps.  Next week we will get into the various "physiographic" regions of Vermont and think about what Vermont is famous for and why.  We will end this unit by making fun candy maps of Vermont right around Halloween.

We start our bread making on Monday.  A word of warning -- this bread is made by kids so it sometimes doesn't come out perfectly.... Please don't count on it as your main dinner!  Most days it is perfect. but there are those times....

Next week's sharing theme is "something from another country."

Enjoy your weekend, and I will see you all soon!


Friday, October 4, 2019

It was so lovely to see EVERY family here last night for Open House! The students were on fire, and so proud to show you around our classroom. I didn't even need to be here! Thank you all for coming out (and getting stuck in traffic!) to see our space.

Thank you also for sending in your conference sign-up sheets. Your confirmation will come home in Tuesday's homework folder. Keep your eye out!

Fourth grade mathematicians have finished their first multiplication unit. They reviewed what it means to multiply and they practiced using what they know to figure out what they don't know. Their final assessment was all about factors and multiples, and they all showed that they have a solid understanding of how we use these. The last few days, they have been involved in some "3-Act Problems," trying to figure out how many doughnuts were in a huge box, how long it took to fill a number of jars with water, etc. They have enjoyed the challenge!  Finally, we have talked a lot about using multiples of ten, and what it means to "add a zero" when you are multiplying by 10. They now understand that they aren't actually adding a zero, but instead MOVING the number over in place value and placing a ten in the ones place!  Monday we will start a short unit on measurement and data.

Third graders are still working on their multiplication unit and are busy making arrays to learn about dimensions and area. They are still working on understanding that multiplying means EQUAL GROUPS, and that skip counting is another way of getting at multiplication. We still have a few weeks to go in their unit, and then they will also move on to a measurement and data unit. We are taking our time to build this important foundation!

Literacy continues daily. Students are reading books at their levels and paying attention to character traits. We are tying to move away from retelling and into the realm of having thoughts and ideas about who are characters are, what they care about, etc.  In writing, we have done a lot of work to come up with story ideas (true stories for 3rd graders and fiction stories for 4th) and have planned using a variety of strategies. Some have drawn pictures, others have used graphic organizers, and others have made story arcs. Today we started drafting, writing for as long as we could to get as much of our stories down as possible. Next week we will finish drafting and start the hard work of revising!  We've also started our spelling program, which is a phonics based program this year. So far we are looking at beginning and ending consonant clusters and parts of words. Soon we will get into different kinds of syllabication.

We finished our first energy unit and have moved into Vermont Geography. This week we learned what a map is and what features it has. Then we examined a map of Vermont and added its most important features like the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. We will move into more details about Vermont's regions next week.

Next week is a crazy one! We have our field trip on Tuesday (please let me know if you plan to join us and make sure you have completed all necessary paperwork.) Then we have a delay on Wednesday. Weather permitting, we will walk to the park for our tree study again on Friday from 9:00 until 11:00. I'd love to have volunteers to help with that trip! Please let me know if you can join us.

Finally, on to bread. We have eaten 3 kinds of bread this week, and the students are excited to start making it themselves and selling it to you!  I will make a Sign-Up Genius this weekend and get the link to you soon so that you can pre-order either French, Cinnamon, or Dill bread.  I'd love some help with ingredients!  I need bread flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. If you can help, that would be great. Send the ingredients in any time!

Next week's sharing theme: Something purple!

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Hello there!
We have been busy this week! 

We are continuing to discuss classroom routines and expectations for behavior. We are discussing the problems with interruptions and disruptions, we are focusing on how to be kind and caring, and we are always talking about how to stay safe and keep others safe as well.  As a group, we really enjoy playing games and having fun together, but we are continuously talking about how important it is to be able to move quickly from silly to serious when necessary. We are learning!

We have completed some pre-assessments (which I call surveys) in both reading and writing, and those have given me some great information as we move into our first units.  Our first writing unit is a narrative unit, and the students will be writing stories from their own lives or realistic fiction stories based on their own lives. Yesterday we spent a lot of time discussing all of the stages of the writing process, and I emphasized that REVISION is the part we spend the most time on. This is hard for young writers who think they are finished once they write their first draft!  For now, we are working on collecting ideas for our stories before we begin to draft.

We started our first reading unit today. It is called Character Study and is all about getting to know our characters. In third and fourth grade, we move from retelling to having IDEAS about our characters. These ideas start with identifying character traits, then moving onto understanding how our characters change throughout the story. By the end of the unit, we hope to be able to interpret lessons our characters learned (and that we have learned as readers as well.) This is tough work, but we will get there!

Our multiplication units continue. Third graders are learning that doubling a factor doubles the product. They are using hundreds charts to skip count by various numbers to understand that multiplying means equal groups (or "jumps" on a hundreds chart.) 4th graders are examining factors of 100, trying to decide if 200, 300, 400, etc. have the same factors.  They seem excited about this work!

Finally, we are still working with our marble tracks (bumper coasters) to learn about stored energy and energy transfer during science. I am hoping to finish this unit up by next week so we can get into learning about maps and the geography of Vermont.

Please look carefully in the Thursday folder coming home today since there is a Parent Conference Sign Up sheet in there. Let me know if you have any questions about conferences or if none of the times listed work for you. We will find a time to meet!

This week, we learned a few new words for you to all have fun with at home: rigid, massive, defiant and ignorant.

Next week's sharing theme is "something you lost and then found."

I hope you all enjoy the weekend.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Hi All,
The main news this week is about our field trips, of course!  We certainly got lucky with the weather, and both of our field trips were lovely! At the Maritime Museum we got to paddle in old wooden canoes, learn to measure the turbidity of the water with an instrument called a Secchi Disk, and learn about the life cycle of salmon and the obstacles they face as they swim upstream.  On top of that, we got to practice good earth stewardship by learning about how plastic gets into our waterways, and then cleaning up the harbor area, where we filled more than 2 buckets with plastic!  All in all, it was a great day.

Today we walked to the river and spent some time in the woods. Thanks to all the parents who volunteered, we were able to "adopt" 6 trees to follow throughout the year. The students were keen observers and scientists, and they took measurements, did rubbings, noticed details, smelled leaves, and got to know their trees really well. In the end, we were able to identify them as beech, red maple, eastern white pine, and yellow birch. The next time we go, we will notice what has changed and what has stayed the same. 

Our math unit continues with learning what multiplication really means (Gr 3) and learning about arrays, multiplicative comparison problems, and dimensions (Gr 4.) I'm impressed with what I'm seeing! Much of what we are doing is review work, but this class knows math!

We are almost finished with the first part of our energy unit. Today we rolled marbles down ramps as we experimented with height energy (aka gravitational energy) and how to slow down the transfer of energy between 2 marbles. Next week we will finish up this part of the unit before moving on to learn about natural resources and how we use/abuse them to make energy.

Next week we will formally start both our reading and writing programs. We have spent a lot of time learning about procedures, how to pick books, how to keep track of them, and where to get ideas for our writing. I hope we have some writing to show you by Open House!

In the past, I have worked with students to bake bread (using a bread machine) to sell to families as a way to raise funds for a cause. I took a break from this last year, but would love to do this again this year. Here's how it works. First the class learns how to make a few kinds of bread (white, cinnamon, dill.) Then we set up a Sign-Up Genius for families (you, that is!) to purchase bread. If you sign up for a given day, you send in $5 and your child will come home with a freshly baked loaf of bread made by them right here in the classroom!  We collect money until January, then donate it to a good cause. If all goes well, we do this again and make a second donation in the spring. It's super fun, delicious, and helps make a difference while teaching fractions, cooking, teamwork, etc. It's a win/win! I'll let you know when the Sign-Up Genius is set up, and you can order bread. Please don't feel pressured -- this is completely optional!  If you'd like to help in ways besides/in addition to buying bread, I am always happy to take donations of bread flour and regular yeast.  Together we can make a difference!

Related to fund-raising, today we watched a TED Talk by Greta Thunberg (thanks to Hazen!) and discussed climate change and what taking action really means. Then we discussed the bread making fundraiser and who we should donate our money to. The kids learned about global versus local help, and they learned (very basically) what is meant by a non-profit.  We discussed many options for non-profits we could donate to, from the Humane Society to COTS to Doctors Without Borders and many others. I only suggested water.org, but the kids had MANY other ideas. We sorted them into categories: organizations that help people, organizations that help climate, and organizations that help animals. The conversation was very heated! These kids are passionate and want to make a difference! In the end, we voted, and overwhelmingly the class opted for giving to an organization that fights climate change. I am in the process of researching where our money can make the biggest difference, and we will begin our fundraising in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you have ideas for great non-profits that fight climate change, please let me know!

Next week's sharing theme is "something from nature." Monday sharers have a hard time remembering, so please check in with your child to see if s/he is prepared!

I hope you all enjoy the glorious weather this weekend. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

I can't believe it's Thursday again already!  The week has been very full, and it has all been wonderful. The students are starting to feel comfortable with our classroom routines and expectations, and we are all getting to know each other quite well. We are still spending a good amount of time reviewing expectations and playing games to learn about working together, but we have also started some academics.  I do my best to take it slowly -- we are all so rushed in life, and I want the students to feel more joy and less pressure!

I know you have all seen the math letter that came home so you know a little bit about what we are doing in math. Both grade levels have started a multiplication unit. Third graders are learning that multiplication is the same thing as EQUAL GROUPS, and I am already seeing a lot of "ah has" happening! Fourth graders are reviewing multiplication concepts and making arrays to show dimensions and area. They are learning about prime and composite and square numbers.   During Menu time, they are practicing their math facts, completing a tune-up "windowpane" sheet, and playing Prodigy Math.  They seem to be enjoying this a lot!

During reading time, we are still learning about how we choose books, where we record what we are reading, and how we stop to jot our thoughts. We are spending about 30 - 45 minutes a day reading quietly, and I am astounded daily that this class loves to read!  We will begin our first true fiction reading unit, as well as our first narrative writing unit, the week after next.

Finally, we have started our first science unit which is about energy. So far the students have learned what energy is, what some possible ways are to store it, and what "stored energy" (or potential energy) means. We had a lot of fun making rubber band racers, and we will actually race them tomorrow!  Then we will spend some time modifying thing as a fun engineering challenge.

Thank you to all of you for sending in permission slips and money. We are excited about our trip to the Maritime Museum next week. We have added an additional field trip next Friday -- we will be walking down to the park behind the Red Mill to begin our tree study, thanks to Josh Halman. We will be choosing some trees to observe over the course of the year, learning about how to identify them, how they change, and much more! Assuming we have good weather, we will leave at around 9:00 and be back in time to have our pictures taken at 11:00. I'd love to have some extra adults to help! If you are interested in joining us, and if you have filled out a volunteer form in the past 5 years, let me know. Feel free to check in with the office if you are unsure whether your forms are on file.

Next week's sharing theme is "something shiny." Many students are forgetting to bring their sharing in on their sharing day. Please try to help them remembers. No one HAS to share every week, but sharing from time to time is really good for their confidence and helps us learn to listen and speak to each other respectfully. Of course, the theme is only a suggestion, and the students can share something different if they want.

I think that's all for this week! As always, feel free to email or call me with any questions. This class rocks!