Friday, March 6, 2020

Hello Families,
This short week has been fabulous! I'm happy to be back with your children and really missed them. They have adjusted well to being back at school, and I feel like it's been a productive few days.  Here's a brief run-down:

In math, both grades are working on what it means to multiply by ten or by the multiples of ten. We discussed this earlier in the year, but I think the concept makes more sense to the students now that they have learned so much more. They understand that the rule is not "just add a zero" because you aren't actually adding anything! For example, 2X3=6. so 2X30=60, but we aren't just adding a zero to the 6 -- we are MOVING it over in place value and putting the zero in the ones place as a place holder.  Phew!  I know the "trick" of adding a zero is easier to remember, but I think understanding the concept will help them become more efficient math thinkers!  The 4th graders are learning how to multiply a number by 10, then by 20, then by 25 -- all mentally, using what they know about multiplying by 10!  We'll be finishing up this unit soon and moving on to.... fractions!

During reading, the students are researching animals in small research groups.  They are learning how to organize their research into categories (habitats, food, bodies, etc.) how to take notes, and how to summarize the author's main ideas.  This is preparing them for an independent research project which we will start by the end of next week. I am letting them research whatever they want, as long as we can find some books for them to use -- including books they bring from home. Please take a moment to discuss this with your child -- make sure they are choosing a topic they don't already know a lot about, and one that could lead to new learning without being too obscure.  I am also helping with this here at school, but I know they will appreciate your input.

We have taken a short break from writing while we learn to research. Once they kids have learned some information about their topic, they will begin writing their research in the form of an informational essay. This will be their final large writing piece this year!

In the meantime, we are using our writing time to do some fun projects that are unrelated to the curriculum -- just for team building and to remember that learning is fun!  We are doing an egg-drop challenge, and the students are really pumped up about this!  Today they made lists of materials they need me to bring for them, and materials they can bring from home. If they come home asking you to go out and buy all sorts of strange things, please don't hesitate to contact me -- I'm happy to add materials to the lists they have given me. We will drop our eggs on Wednesday, and I'll be sure to get some video to share!

We've started our "Structure and Function" unit in science. Today we looked at and dissected flowers and some parsley plants. The students drew diagrams of the plants, labeled the parts, and worked on figuring out what each part does and how the entire plant works together as a system. Next we will get into structures in animals and what functions they perform.

I sent home conference sign up reminders on Thursday. If you didn't get yours and are wondering when we are meeting, please send me an email and I will let you know. I'm looking forward to meeting with all of you to talk about your children! As usual, they are invited to the conference if you'd like them to attend, but it's entirely up to you.

Finally, we are going to walk to the river (weather permitting) to visit "our" trees next Friday (3/13) at 9:45 and returning at 11:00. It's a short trip, but I'd love a few extra adults to go along with us. If you'd like to join us, please let me know.

I think that's all for this week. Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Vacation is finally upon us!  It's been hard to contain our enthusiasm today, but we have managed! We started our day with the annual JES chess tournament -- results to be shared when it ends.  We took a break from chess for our tropical themed writing celebration, sipping juice with umbrellas in the cups while wearing flower leis.  This helps those of us who aren't going to warmer climates next week!

Our week was full. We finished our persuasive writing pieces and completed our on demand assessments. I was happy to see a lot of the strategies we learned reflected in the writing the students did on their own!  We also finished up our civics unit and the accompanying assessment. The students found creative ways to show me what they know about all our legislators need to consider when passing a bill into law.  We had our mock legislature with Miss Fecura's class, and I was so impressed at how thoughtful all the "senators" were. They are ready to be active participants in our democracy now!  Too bad they are too young to vote...

Our math work continued in earnest this week. 3rd graders started learning about how multiplication and division are related, and they worked hard to understand how to use what they know to figure out what they don't know, always remembering that "10 is their best friend."  4th graders began working on division with remainders and trying to wrap their heads around what exactly that means. They learned the difference between a straight mathematical answer (6r2, for example) and the answer to a specific question in a story problem.  Ask them to tell you about this -- they get it now!

I have heard from all of you regarding conferences, and I have made a tentative schedule which looks like it will give everyone their first or second choice. I will take one more look at it over vacation and then send home a confirmation on Thursday March 5. I'm looking forward to seeing you and discussing your children.

I hope you all have a wonderful, warm, fun-filled week (+) with your children. I will miss them!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy sunny Valentine's Day!  We had another rather short week here at JES... with a field trip on Monday and a delayed opening Wednesday, we managed to squeeze in some good learning anyhow!

We are learning about multiplication and division in both 3rd and 4th grade math. Third graders are working hard to use models to show their thinking of equal groups, and they are learning about how multiplication and division are related. 4th graders are learning how to use partial products -- breaking up one number into tens and ones and multiplying each separately. They are also working on division and how to deal with remainders.  There's a lot of good thinking going on!

In reading, we have finished up our social issues book clubs, and the students impressed me with their ability to discuss these issues and their newfound interest in what IS and ISN'T a social issue.  Now that they are all finished reading their book group books, they have some time to read on their own while I finish up assessments and work with individuals. After break, we will begin a research reading unit.

Our persuasive pieces are just about finished, and the students have some very compelling arguments about hats, recess, homelessness, the environment, pollution, smoking and so much more! This week they learned how to address their specific audience and how to add examples when they elaborate.  I think they have learned so much about organizing and saying more.  I'm proud of the work I am seeing!

Each of the students has become a "Senator" in our General Assembly. They have been researching their counties and learning about demographics. Next week, we will have our Mock Legislature with Miss Fecura's class (the House) and we will discuss a bill that is currently being discussed in the legislature about healthy kid meals at restaurants.  That will be the end of this unit -- and we will get back to science after the break.

A few important pieces of information:
The students have asked me to go back to giving them themes for sharing. Next week's theme is "something that warms your heart." Of course, the theme is entirely optional! I forgot to mention the theme to the kids today, so it would be great if you could tell them.

I have received many parent conference sheets but am still missing about half. Please get those back to me this coming week so that I can make a schedule and share it with you. If you don't want a conference, please let me know so I don't need to keep asking for your sheet!

No homework next week!

That's a wrap for this week. I hope you all enjoy your weekend!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Happy Snow Day!  I hope you are all on the slopes or cozy at home with your children, enjoying the day one way or another! It's pretty nasty out here in Huntington, and I'm happy to NOT be on the roads.

Not too much info to share this week since I was at a meeting one day, we had a field trip one day, and our week was a day short!  Our trip to the State House was lovely. Our tour guide did a nice job keeping his presentation succinct and giving us just enough information. We got to follow a big idea all the way through the process from becoming a bill to becoming a law. We started in a Senate committee room where the bill was approved. Then we moved on to the Senate chamber where it was approved again. We walked over to the House chamber where we got to meet 2 pages and hear about their positions. Our bill was approved there as well. Finally, we moved onto the Mural Room where our student governor signed the bill into law.  A highlight was getting to meet Lt Governor Zuckerman and being able to sit in his office and ask him questions.  What a treat!

The Historical Society Museum was also informative and fun. We did a hands-on activity with old maps, and I was impressed by how engaged the students were and how hard they worked!  It was a great day all around. Thank you to the chaperones that made the day go smoothly!

Here are 3 quick announcements:
1. I sent home a parent conference sign up sheet on Thursday. Please check to make sure you received it.  Spring conference time is around the corner!

2. We have our All School Flynn Trip on Monday. We will be leaving by 8:30 and hope to be back by 11:30. The lunch on Monday will be a bag lunch. Our class doesn't have lunch until 12:30 so we will be back in plenty of time to eat in the cafeteria as usual.

3. Valentine's Day is coming up. I don't make a big deal out of it -- no party or special treats. However, I do give the students a bag to decorate and time to pass out and look at their Valentines. Bringing Valentines is entirely optional. The only rule is that students who bring any must bring one for every student in the class.  Here is a class list to help you:

Hazen, Max, Blake, Hadley, Lena, Quinn, Anabel, Levi, Torrin, Cassie, Mollie, Sienna, Aila, Cooper, Silas, Kinsley, Griffin, Adri, Torsten, Cayla

That's all for this short week. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Another week has come and gone!  Time is flying by.... I can't believe it's February already!

There aren't many updates this week. We finished up our geometry units for both grades, and I am really pleased with what the students have learned!  Next week we will begin our new units, multiplication and division in both grades. 

Almost everyone has gotten to the drafting stage in our writing unit. A few are still finding ideas and trying them out, but most have a bold thesis about changing the world or changing the school. I love this writing unit for the organizational structure it offers young writers.  Now that we are drafting, the hard work begins!

We didn't have as much time in our reading clubs as I'd hoped for this week, but we took some time to decide exactly what is supposed to happen in a book club -- where to meet, how to have a discussion, how to be prepared, etc. That is time well spent, and I think the clubs will move along smoothly now!

Finally, we learned a lot more about the government this week. We learned how a bill becomes a law, and we discussed how difficult it is for our representatives to think about all the people they represent, their own values, and the pros and cons of each bill before them. We looked at 3 bills that are on the agenda this year (I rewrote them in child-friendly language) and decided on one to debate when we have our mock legislature next week or the week after.  We are excited about our trip to the State House, and even more excited that we get to meet Lt Governor Zuckerman (thanks to Bill Lofy!)  If you haven't already, please send in your money and permission slips for that trip on Monday.

I hope you all have a lovely, restful weekend!

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.