Our Week – September 29, 2017

Our week has been full and busy, and, I hope the class would say, fun. We are finishing up the last of the beginning of the year assessments. We are looking forward to completing them so we can get into some more in-depth exploration.

Exploring An Array Model of Multiplication

This week we learned about the commutative property of multiplication. It is exciting to know that facts can be turned around backward and still equal the same thing. We can easily count by 5’s, so it’s good to know that 8×5=5×8. We can find that total without counting every single item.   We “built” Multiplication Main Street this week as a way to strengthen our understanding of this concept. We like our town. This class designed some pretty fancy buildings!

While working with some array worksheets, the class realized how learning multiplication would be a good thing. It will help us with accuracy and allow us to complete our problem solving work more efficiently. It is fun to see the children excited to solve math problems. At first the problems felt hard and now they are becoming easier. Many of the children are able to finish three and four problems in a work session. It is great to see their focus and dedication to learning new things.

Exploring Informational Reading and Writing

In the library this week Ms. Schmidt taught us how to use several of the amazing online resources available to children from our school. She shared ScienceFlix, Grolier Encyclopedia Online and SIRS Discover with the class. She showed them what the sites offered and helped them explore. They were excited to be using online resources and they were excited to think about the animal they’d be researching for our zoo. Please save the worksheet that is coming home in this week’s folder. The usernames and passwords for these sites are on them so the children can use them at home for any research project they devise. They’ll get to explore these and more resources next week in the Library as well.

We began thinking about what makes reading hard, easy and just right for each of us. We’ve discovered that nonfiction often contains “big words” (aka – content specific vocabulary) so it can sometimes be difficult to read and understand. We’ve realized that skipping those hard words isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes this causes us to misunderstand the facts. We’ve also discovered that it’s important to find a variety of books on a topic. By reading the easiest books first we are more likely to understand the information when the reading becomes more challenging. That is because we’ve built our background knowledge (called in the reading world – Schema) and we can develop a more detailed understanding of our topic.

The Forces of Flight

We have continued to explore the forces of flight during our science block. On Monday we had fun launching our propellers. It was interesting to compare a model that worked to our paper model.   Through it, we were able to discover what we could have done differently. Some of the kids want to have a second try. Yay! It was also interesting to notice how each person launched his/her propeller differently. Not everyone was successful (I was one of those people.)

During science we learned about, and engaged in the Engineer Design Process. The circular steps are: Ask, Explore, Model, Evaluate, and Explain. We are presently moving back and forth between the model and evaluate steps. We were given templates a variety of wings, fuselages and horizontal stabilizers and challenged to choose a combination that would glide the furthest when launched down a runway. We began the design process by using the 123D Design App to plan out our gliders. From these plans we made a variety of choices and changes and built. Many of the groups have created several designs. We hope that we’ll be ready to try them out tomorrow. Our final flight challenge will come next week. We are learning to deal with mistakes and disappointments. It is interesting to see the groups go back to their plans, examine their resources and make changes. As a teacher, I’m excited to see them engaging in this process. It is exciting to think about the possibilities when we all work together.

Bits and Pieces –

  • Thank you for attending last night’s curriculum night. We hope you feel more aware of how your child’s year will build and what the immediate expectations are. If you were unable to attend, we totally understand – life is full. We’ll send home the handouts in your child’s folder. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them.
  • We began cursive. We are learning a set of letters called the Clock Climbers – a, c, d, g, and q.   It’s exciting.
  • We are continuing to read The One and Only Ivan. As Max said, “This is a sad book.” It is, so be prepared. You might begin hearing some questions at home about how and why some people act so hatefully toward animals.
  • We began reading journals this week and are taking time to consider who we are as readers and how we will document our growth and progress throughout the year.

Thank you so much for reading and talking to your child about what they are doing, thinking and exploring. Your attention and support are greatly appreciated.

It’s Monday – here are some books you might enjoy

Pressure Point is the second book that I’ve read from the Game Face series. I highly recommend it. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re one of only four 7th graders who’s made the team and even more when you’re in the starting team. You have to stay cool.  You have to play smart.  You have to … Torry feels pressure to play well. He wants to keep his spot as a starter so he gives his all, all the time. What if that’s not good enough?  Read Pressure Point to find out how Torry works to play hard and be a great teammate.

Birdie is a crafter. She loves making things with her hands. She loves the idea that ordinary things can become extraordinary creations with a little thought, effort and time. Making things transforms Birdie. She becomes more than a girl – she is Crafty Cat. But when Birdie gets to Monster Craft Camp and discovers the janitor and the librarian are leading it rather than a Crafty King, AND, that Anya is there, she’s not sure what will happen. Birdie has to find a way to make the best of each challenge as she crafts her way through her day. It’s a good thing she has Evan and Cloudy. They help her cope with difficulties and disappointments.  This is a great story friendship and understanding.

On top of that, the directions for all the cool monster crafts are at the end of the book.

Our Week – September 22

Curriculum Night is September 28, 2017. The 3rd grade presentation will be from 5:30 to 6:15. We will gather altogether in Mrs. Oliver’s Music Room for 30-minute curriculum presentation. Then families will have the opportunity to go to the classrooms to see where your children work and leave him/her a note about the work left for you to see.

We posted a new sign at our doorway – “Let’s leave chatting at the door.” Our class has a lot to say and for some this is at the expense of getting work completed. That’s putting us in an awkward place – half the class is done and ready to move on, while the other part of the class is not. They’ve literally, talked their time away. Any reminders you can offer at home to encourage your child to focus on the projects and assignment first, rather than chatting will be greatly appreciated. We are working as a class to come up with a plan as well. I am confident that we’ll find a way. Thank you for your helpful reminders.

Franklin Park Zoo

Since our trip to the zoo we’ve been reading about them, and trying to decide how we feel about them. We think zoos are good because people can see and learn about animals they wouldn’t normally be able to see. They are good because zoos are making an effort to help endangered species and helping to involve people like us in conservation. They are also good because many of the animals come to zoos after they have been injured. Zoos enable them to survive.

We think that zoos are not all good.   The animals are kept in cages. Yes, some of them are created to be like the animal’s actual habitat, but the animals are still enclosed. We’ve learned that some animals kept in zoos have shorter lifespans than they would in the wild. Zoos have a hard time raising enough money to keep the animals as they should be kept. And in some zoos, the animals are not kept or treated well.

We decided, though, that there are more “pros” than “cons” and we are glad we were able to visit the zoo. We learned a lot from our trip. Our favorite animals were: red river hogs, zebras, tigers, African crested porcupines, pottos hippopotamuses, fruit bats, red pandas, bongos, gorillas and camels. In folders this week you’ll see lists and illustrations of animals that share what the children are considering as they make their final choice about the animal they will research and become an expert on.

Finally, thank you to all who were able to join us on our trip as chaperones. We are grateful for your time and attention. Thank you for making the trip a fun one for all. We hope you had a wonderful day with your children.

Informational Reading and Writing

We’ve been reading a wider variety of informational books this week. We’ve begun examining some of the different text features found in nonfiction. This is not new for your children. It is a little refresher – a reminder of the text features and graphics they learned about last year. In your child’s folder you’ll find an activity he/she did with Steven Jenkins’ books in the library. If you’re not familiar with his work, check it out at the library. He has a real knack for presenting unusual facts in fascinating ways and illustrating them beautifully.

In the classroom we’ve explored a variety of topics to give your child some idea of what they might teach others about. Next week the children are going to choose a topic and write their first informational piece. It is fun to hear them talk about all the things they realize they can teach others about. They may need/want some suggestions from you. It can be challenging to know what you know enough about to write in a way that will inform and teach others.


We’ve begun learning more about multiplication. We’ve learned a bit about arrays and function or ratio tables. We’ve learned that the first factor in a multiplication equation stands for the number of groups and that the second factor stands for the amount in each group. We know that multiplication is a way to add more quickly. We learned to play Circles and Stars this week. It is fun game that allows us to learn and practice these facts.

Bits and Pieces:

  • We practiced map-reading skills while we planned our trip around the zoo and chose the exhibits we wanted to be sure to see. Later we plotted our path through the zoo and the exhibits. Maps can sometimes be tricky.
  • We began reading Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan as our new chapter book. This is a novel based on the true story of a gorilla kept as an attraction at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. I imagine your children having lots to say about this book in the weeks to come about animal treatment and care.
  • We finished some of our spelling assessments. This year I’ve chosen to send them home. It is a tricky choice. The assessments are meant to measure June accomplishments. The children are looking at them and realizing they have some words to practice and learn. I think that is a good thing for them to realize. A few of the children have felt worried. They’ve asked if they could do them over. I’ve assured them that they will. Please know that we’ve got a whole year to learn and grow. All of these kids are in a good place to meet with success.

Thanks for reading and for all you do to encourage your children.

It’s Monday – here are some books you might like to read!

Thanks to Rachael and her mom we have the first book in a new series called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, The Jolly Regina by Kara LaRue.  Kale and Jaundice Bland are twins.  Their parents left for an errand several years ago and the girls are still waiting for them to return.  While waiting they follow the same routine each day.  Here’s how it goes:

“Jaundice and Kale pride themselves on their exacting routine.  After breakfast (plain oatmeal with skim milk, a cup of weak tea on the side) they tend to their business of darning other people’s socks, which takes the better part of the day.  Each allows herself one ten-minute break, during which she eats a cheese sandwich on day-old bread and drinks a glass of flat soda while gazing out the window, watching the grass grow.”

Their normal evening entertainment was reading to each other from the dictionary.  But then came the knock on the door.  What followed was a surprise or rather a predicament.  The girls were taken (in a burlap bag that caused chaffing) to the Jolly Regina to become deck swabs for Deadeye Delilah.  Being part of a pirate crew is quite a change for the Bland sisters.  It’s hard work and pirates are not always all that nice.  You’ll have to read the book to find out how Kale and Jaundice escape their predicament.  Will they develop a taste for adventure, or will their longing for quiet routine take over?  These “bland” characters will make you smile.


If you’re into sports you’ll like Between the Stick by Rich Wallace.  Griffin likes playing soccer for his local rec. league.  He plays defense and he’s good at it. In fact, this season his team is undefeated.  The team works hard and plays hard, but they have fun too.  That is, until the goalie sprains his wrist and is out for the rest of the season.  Now it’s up to Griffin to take his place in goal.  It’s hard work and a lot of pressure.  What seemed like a maybe championship season for Griffin, isn’t as easy as all that anymore.

Griffin and his teammates are into winning.  But when things don’t go their way, they handle it with style.  It’s exciting to find out how the season goes in this soccer story of the Game Face series.

Celebrating Dot Day

We had a wonderful day celebrating International Dot Day.  This is a day focusing on creativity, building confidence and sharing this important message with the world.  Here’s how we made our mark.

We began the day by each making a quarter of a dot.  Altogether we made four unique dots.  Next we worked from a menu of activities.  We drew personal dots, dotted dots, made magnet and button dots, painted a giant dot and created swirly gold frames for our own special dots.




















We created pendant dots and window dots that had to be left behind for the weekend.  They’re waiting for their creators along with our completed Dot Gallery.  I can’t wait until 3E comes to school on Monday to see how wonderful their “marks” look altogether.




I hope you’ll be able to stop in too.

Miles’ mom created a dot for the Celebri-dots Gallery.  Isn’t that COOL!


Our Week – September 15

Happy International Dot Day!   We’ll have fun making our marks today. Talk to your child about his or her favorite dot making experience. Some of the dots have to be brought home and baked so they won’t be coming home until Monday. Other dots have been saved so we can create our own gallery just as Vashti did in The Dot. We hope you’ll be able to stop in to view our beautiful dot gallery.


Rights and Rules – Social Emotional Learning

We’ve spent part of each day this week discussing how we would like to make a difference in the world. We began the week by reading, We Are All Born Free that shares The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN in 1948. We learned that rights are things that every person deserves. In 3E we believe we deserve to feel happy, safe, respected and able to learn. We spent time discussing how we would like to be treated and cared for. We agreed that we also deserve to be forgiven. We all deserve to have the chance to learn how to make better choices and to learn from our mistakes. We read The Bad Seed, Do Unto Otters, How to Lose Your Friends, Most People and If Everybody Did to guide and broaden our discussions. (If you’d like to borrow any of these books to read together as a family and continue the discussion at home, please let me know. I’m glad to share.)

The rules we decided should guide our classroom behavior are as follows.

In 3E we promise to:

Be respectful.

Treat others as we’d like to be treated.

Be responsible.

Be nice.

Be caring.

Listen to others and take turns patiently.

Forgive others.

We agree that following these rules may be hard sometimes, but we are all committed to doing our best. The children have been fully involved in our discussions and all are willing to make an effort toward building a positive learning community for all.

Reading Grows

As I get to know your children, one thing that I’ve been struck with is how eager and ready they are for reading. As a class they are able to choose “just right” books and have next choices in their book boxes or in mind so they are prepared to read for the full reading block. They’ve been reading nonfiction, picture books, poetry and “old favorites.” At this point in the year class favorites are Dogman, Bad Guys, Dragon Breath, Galaxy Zack and the I Survived series. Many of the books are getting passed from reader to reader. I am looking forward to the start of book clubs where we will build comprehension strategies for deepening understanding. They are a thinking class. I am looking forward to some rich discussions.

Bits and Pieces:

  • We’ve begun our unit of study about multiplication. The class seems excited about this. It’s a little surprising as they realize how much they already know.
  • We’ve continued our science exploration of Stability and Motion as we learn about the forces of flight. We’ve learned about balanced and unbalanced forces. We explored Newton’s Laws of Motion and we’ve made some paper airplanes to see how shape influences flight. See if your child can explain the opposite forces that must be overcome so an airplane can fly. This week we attempted to make handheld propellers to learn about lift. Only Izzy’s took flight. It was exciting to see at least one of our models working. We all had fun trying.
  • We’re nearly finished with our second chapter read-aloud, Word After Word After Word. See if your child has a favorite character. I wonder if they’ll be able to tell you how real and unreal are both true. Ms. Mirabel explained that to the class in the story. It is an interesting idea.
  • Be on the lookout for reminders about our field trip on Tuesday. Children will snacks and lunch in backpacks that they can carry all day long.
  • Picture Day envelope are coming home today. Grade 3 will have their pictures taken on picture re-take day in early October. We will send you the date as soon as we know it.

As always thank you for taking the time to read this memo, to review your child’s work from the week and to talk to your child about what is happening in the classroom.

Our Week – September 8

We’ve completed our second week of school and we are already becoming a community eager to learn together.   Your children are wonderful! They are funny and generous, hardworking and kind. They’ve been asked to change plans several times to accommodate other classes and they’ve done that with grace. They’ve been flexible and understanding. On top of those changes were fire drills, thunderstorms and indoor recess. In all that, they remained respectful and focused on doing their best. They deserve to be complimented for their effort to focus on learning.

Habits for Success – S.E.L. (Social Emotional Learning)

This week we continued to think about what habits lead to success. We read about Michael Jordan and Snowflake Bentley to see if we could discover how they had achieved success. They didn’t give up. They practiced A LOT. They were determined. And they had the help of their family. These habits coupled with the list we made last week have come together in a collection of habits we’d like to be able to say we have so that we can be successful learners in 3E. Ask your child about these stories and our habits list. I wonder if they’ll be able tell you which habits they’ll focus on making stronger as the year begins.

Exploring Scientific Inquiry

This week we conducted a chromatography experiment. Chromatography, simply put, is a technique for separating a combination into its original parts. We used water to find out if black markers are all the same. Look at the work in your child’s communication folder to see what was discovered. Talk to him or her about what they observed and noticed about the experiment. Please note that not all of the children completed the experiment write up so you may not find it in their folder.

We’ve begun a unit about Stability and Motion – the science of flight. We’ve only begun to explore balanced and unbalanced forces. Science is exciting.

Math Problem Solving and Fact Checks

We end each of our days with math. I’ve been getting to know your children as  mathematicians. They are looking for a challenge and seem to be enjoying the chance to choose the problems they will solve. Each day after a quick mini-lesson and activity, there are four story problems to choose from. They’ve been written with with a range of challenges – a variety of amounts in the 10’s, 100’s and 1,000’s, several operations and all with at least two steps. I use the children’s names and make up different stories about things they might be interested in – enjoying nature, dancing, building with Legos or playing sports. At this point in the year children often choose a problem because their name or their friend’s name is in it. The problem itself, though, may not be “just right” for them. Please don’t be concerned if you notice the math problems your child is bringing home are incomplete, incorrect or seem too simple based on what you know s/he can do. It will take another week or two, but soon enough your child will be selecting problems that will help him/her grow and thrive as a mathematician. You may want to put these early problems aside so you have something to look at as the year continues to help your child notice how he or she is becoming more efficient, accurate and able to handle more complex problems as their understanding of mathematics grows.

We did addition and subtraction fact checks this week. The goal in third grade is for children to be able to accurately complete 70 basic fact equations in five minutes or less with addition, subtraction and multiplication and at least 40 of seventy division facts. From what I saw this week, we are well on the way. Check your child’s folder to see where he or she is starting from this year so we can continue to support their growing fact knowledge through games and lots of practice.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve been reading and writing each day. Several of the children have finished reading the books they started last week. They’re discovering more of what our classroom library offers. Most of the children have chosen to begin the year writing fiction. Ask your child about what they are reading and what they are writing. There are some fun stories, poems and songs in 3E’s writers’ notebooks.
  • We created a class word jar based on Donovan’s Word Jar. We are collecting words that are interesting, fun and feel good. If you come into our classroom make sure to check out our collection.
  • We’ve begun our second chapter read-aloud, Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLaughlin. See what your child has to say about it.
  • Thank you everyone for returning the zoo permission slip. We have five chaperones joining us so we’ll be in small groups and able to explore all of the habitats and learn as much as possible about the animals. This trip will launch our integrated study of biomes, global geography and informational reading and writing.
  • The zoo trip is on the same day as School Picture day. This is not a problem at all. The photographers will plan to take the third grade photos on re-take day. That will be in early October. We will send you the exact date when we know it. Ironically, this same thing happened last year and all went smoothly. Please don’t be concerned.


Thanks for reading and for helping your child feel as though they have the combined support they need to succeed.

It’s Monday – here are some books you might enjoy

I’ve got some great new books for our classroom.  Some of them add on to series I’m know you’re familiar with. The Princess in Black and The Mysterious Playdate is lots of fun.  You have to love Princess Magnolia and Frimplepants, who along with Princess Sneezewort and Corny, vanquish the monsters.  You have to smile at their secret identities – it’s just what readers do.  There is a new addition to the Bad Guys series. This time they’re In the Attack of the Zittens.  It is plain old silly.  Full of laugh-out-loud characters in crazy situations.  And the laughs are bound to go on because the evil guinea pig, Dr. Marmalade has just sent issued an ultimatum from his new lair on the Moon.  Will he finally achieve his dream of world domination…or will The Bad Guys find a way to thwart his plans?  We’ll have to wait for the next installment in the saga.  In the meantime we can reread the first four books and snicker as we turn each page.

Dogman – A Tale of Two Kitties is one I know many of you are waiting to read.  It’s my favorite one of the series so far.  Petey is back with a plan to  eliminate Dog Man along with the rest of the police force.  Petey is sure this plan can’t fail…until it doesn’t go as he wants.  Throw a U Clone ’em Machine, Flippy the Psychokinetic Fish (with newly added bionic parts) and a factory of Living Spray into the mix, and you’ve got an action packed adventure full of danger, heartache and joy.  Yup, joy.  It’s the first book that George and Harold have written since they’ve become mature 5th graders – they’ve become more serious about their comics.  I think they pulled it off nicely,  After you read it, let me know if you agree.

The last book in the pile that I’m going to write about is Salsa Stories by Lulu Delacre.  This is realistic fiction, not funny, but full of heart. It’s New Year’s Day and Carmen Teresa is excited to be with her whole family.  Her abuelas, tias, tios, cousins and family friends are gathering for their traditional meal.  Mama is making her special sauce for the arroz con pollo – the house is full of laughter, conversation, and the wonderful cooking smells that mean celebration .  Carmen receives a gift from Dona Josefa, and as she thanks her she asks, “What should I write in this book?”

Dona Josefa’s creased face lights up with a her smile.  “There are many things you can write,” she says.  Perhaps you will want to keep a journal like I did.”
“Or,” offers Abuelita, “you could write about things that have happen to you when you were younger.”

“Yes.  Or maybe, you could collect stories from our family and friends,” suggests Mama, “since everyone is here today.”

“Stories – ahh, cuentos!” calls Abuelito from his seat in the dining room table where he has been eavesdropping.  “I have a great story for your book…”

And so the stories begin and Carmen is surrounded by wonder and love.  The stories are from all over the Spanish speaking world:  Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Argentina and more.  They are magical.  Each also all has a special food as part of it.  The recipes are included.  Yum!

I wonder if our class could collect family stories centered around celebrations and times when families eat together.  I wonder what we’d discover!  Want to give it a try?