Our Week – February 22

Our week has been filled with reading, writing, science and social studies. The children are beginning to create their display boards for our geography museum. We’ve begun a unit on magnetism so we’ve been having lots of fun with magnets too. They are cool.

Growing Our Informational Writing Powers

Most of the children have completed their research and have determined what they consider to be seven Wonders in their countries. They have read and taken notes and are now trying to organize those ideas into paragraphs. The expectation is that they share a minimum of six facts about each wonder and that they attempt to expand their writing using description and detail.

That is a tall order. Some of the children are not yet able to consider that their readers may not have seen the pictures they have. They cannot imagine their readers many not know what they know. Other writers have moved to a stance that “longer is better.” To make their writing longer however, they have shifted to having two screens open at a time so they can mimic the organization of online articles. You’ll be able to spot the rather stiff, adult-like construction in around the sentence gems that truly share what that child found wondrous about the topic. And finally, there are others who are able to consider a more general outside audience. They have read widely, taken time to record notes and have considered several ways to present the information before deciding to draft.

There is much to learn and master as writers. It takes time. All three of the above descriptions are typical in classrooms from third to fifth grade. When you combine learning to write well, with understanding content you can well imagine the how challenging it is to present the Wonders of a country. They are excited to try and are looking forward to our Country Convention on Thursday, March 15.

Investigating Magnetic Force

We’ve been having fun with magnets. We’re learning about their properties. How they pull – attract, and push – repel. We’ve also learned how magnetic force can travel across a distance and is useful in making many things run more smoothly. We can read about that and see pictures of that happening. In our classroom, they are really fun to experiment with. We can make items float and fly as if they can defy gravity.

Learning About Fractions

We’ve begun learning about fractions. We know that at fraction is a part of something and that it must be a fair share. We are learning the terms, numerator, denominator and equivalence. At this point we are learning to label fraction and to see then as part of a whole, sets within a larger group (division) or a part of a number line (linear measure.)

Bits and Pieces –

  • We finished Tiger Boy and learned a lot about life in the Sundarbans of India. What an interesting story about a very different part of the world. Talk to your child about what they think it might be like to live there and how his or her life would be different. In the story neither of Neel’s parents can read and his older sister has left school at 15 to care for her ailing mother. It is challenging to realize that Neel’s life is not uncommon at all.
  • We’ve been exploring how writers use a variety of sentence types and kinds. We already knew about statements, questions and exclamations, but now we’re exploring simple, compound and complex sentence structures. We’ve been exploring parts of speech as well. A new one for everyone was conjunction. Ask your child if s/he remembers that job and see if s/he can remember the five criteria we decided all sentences must have.
  • We’ve continued to explore revision with short personal narratives. We’ve also begun learning about and reading various fables. We’ll eventually use this genre as a model for writing our own original fables. We’ll publish both types of narratives in a classroom magazine.
  • As we are reaching the end of our Global Geography project, we’ve continued thinking of ways we can change the world for the better. We have a collection of poems about kindness and peace that we read together each day. We are creating a Peace Gallery for you to enjoy when you come to our Country Convention. Our images show what we think of when we think of peace.   Here’s something we hope will make you smile:

Our Week – February 16

We’ve had a week of celebrations – the 100th day of School, Valentines Day and the completion of The Global Kind Project – and projects. We shared kindness with three classes this week and made our Valentines bags. That on top of reading books by Trudy Ludwig and Patricia Polacco, exploring ideas of peace, writing, researching, reading and solving problems each day. It’s been a full week.

Global Kind Project Officially Completed…

We’ve completed the Global Kind Project and achieved our goals. We reached 100 acts of kindness in a month’s time. We probably performed more than that, but, recognized and recorded that many. We also achieved our second goal. We recognized every student in the school by making something just for them. That felt great!

We made name pencils for preschool and finger puppets for kindergarten. Thank you to Annika’s mom for helping us create the finger puppets we were able to share with kindergarten. We created 100th Day pencils for first grade and left kind messages for 2nd graders. We made monster pencils for 3rd grade and cupcake pencils for 4th grade. We shared some of those with the office too. We made super hero bookmarks for 5th grade and duct tape books marks for 6th. We made monster pencils for 7th grade and locker magnets for 8th grade. And finally, we created bookmarks for anyone to take from the library.

The month long celebration is over, but we ‘d like to continue to find ways to pay it forward and make people smile. We explored the ideas of kindness, empathy, gratitude, and peace. We’re learning to remain present and appreciate the wonders around us.

Creating Peace and Sharing Friendship

We’ve been exploring Peace – what it means to us, and how it shows in the world. We’ve been thinking about how “peace” looks and sounds, feels and smells. We’ve read a number of books and poems about peace and that inspired us to create our own images of peace and to learn how the word peace is said and written in each of our countries. We’ll soon have those images out in the hall for all to see.

Thanks to everyone for helping us celebrate friendship on Valentines Day. It felt good to take some time stop and realize that we enjoy being together. We like working together to do things and we like learning together as well.

Country Convention – our research, you’re reading

We named our museum this week. And we’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about ways to meet both the research and the writing expectations. We are attempting to do more than share a collection of listed facts. We are attempting to create cohesive paragraphs about each of the wonders. We’re thinking more about how our words inform and create mental images for our readers.

We are looking forward to sharing our work with families on Thursday, March 15. Our Country Convention will be open in the afternoon from 2:15 to 2:45 and later in the evening from 5:30 to 6:30.

Understanding More About Patterns in Math

We’ve continued to practice using the standard algorithm with both addition and subtraction in math. We’ve built models using base ten blocks so we can actually see the amounts traded to match the way we record this process on paper. Many of the children are feeling as if they’ve accomplished something as they come to understand this process. We’ve worked with zeros and regrouping and trading many times. It seems as though the class as a strong enough understanding of place value to keep track of the process even with amounts in the millions.

We’ve also explored the concepts of perimeter and area. While some of the children rely on counting, most of them realize that perimeter is the outside and is found by adding, while area is the inside and is found my multiplying.

Bits and Pieces:

  • Talk to your child about our current chapter read-aloud, Tiger Boy, and what s/he is beginning to realize about living in a place where money and resources of scarce.
  • Find out how the class is celebrating the Olympics in gym class with Mr. Caron and Mrs. Yeaton.
  • We could use your help in reminding your child how you hope they act at school. There is not a day that goes by that I am not talked over during instruction. There is rarely a group meeting or lesson not interrupted by chatting. While we are doing a lot, the class continues to consume a huge amount of time talking. I fear many of the children will not meet work expectations. Some will not meet them because they are unfocused. Some will not meet them because they have chat throughout instruction and are unaware of the expectation. They totally miss the lesson. Projects, play dates, video games or squishies are more important to them than learning. Chatting during instruction is a chronic problem for over a third of the class. Their chatting is negatively impact by reducing their time to practice and learn. Thank you for your help with this.

Our Week – February 9

There have been so many stops and starts recently, it is challenging to feel as though we’re accomplishing very much. Our progress has been slowed, but we are moving forward so that is something to celebrate.

Global Geography and the Global Kind Project

This week we planned and wrote down what actions we would take intentionally to make our world a kinder place. The children wrote things like smiling and being friendly to everyone, helping without being asked, thinking of others first, before acting. They are definitely considering how kindness looks and feels. This week we were only able to share gifts and a smile with one grade level – but it sure feels good to see and hear our schoolmates’ reactions.

We’ve also continued reading about different parts of the world. We completed Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, our first chapter book about a different time and place in the world. We have begun Tiger Boy, our second chapter read aloud set in a different country. This is a bit more challenging. It is set in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world and we have very little background knowledge (schema) to help us visualize the setting. We are going to begin some sketch-noting as we read. Clearly this is a different place and culture.

We’ve shared many picture books about different places in the world too: Four Feet, Two Sandals, Listen to the Wind, It Could Always Be Worse, Lost and Found Cat, Dear Primo and My Beautiful Birds. Many of you would be smiling if you could hear our discussions. They are full of questions and wonderings. They are full of indignation and empathy. They are beginning to recognize how different people are across the globe. Our next steps will be to learn what readers, thinkers and learners do when they recognize they are not fully able to visualize.

Synonyms and Word Choice

We’ve been learning about synonyms and the power of unusual words. We’ve been reading short magazine articles and looking at how they are written. Whole collections of words meaning “brave” or “gross” have been used by the author so they don’t have to write the same word over and over again. This makes the writing more interesting. It also seems to help it flow more smoothly for the reader.

We’re writing a collection of quick writes over the course of the next two weeks. When we have a collection of them we’ll be choosing one to elaborate. We’ll attempt to add more detail and description, action and dialogue and inner thought. We’ll explore word choice and sentences structure too. Finally we’ll choose a way to share our stories with you.

Learning New (for us) Math Strategies

As you look through your child’s work this week you’ll see how your child is using and learning to use the standard algorithm with addition and subtraction. The problems we’ve been solving have used large amounts associated with the countries the children are researching. Subtracting and subtracting with zeroes remains a challenge, as is expected.  The larger amounts help the children visualize the process of trading thousands for hundreds, hundreds for tens and tens for ones.

Bits and Pieces –

  • Our Valentine’s Brunch will be on Wednesday. We’ll begin our day sharing cards and enjoying fresh fruit and bagels. Please remind your child that any candy they get will need to be brought home to be eaten due to the Wellness Policy.
  • Thank you for all the cereal donations. Our class collected 34 boxes to contribute to the total. It is really exciting to see the entire collection as we walk down the hall.  It is a fabulous project to be a part of.
  • We’ve begun to share what we are learning about our countries by making a Wonderful World display in the hall. If you’re in the school, check out the facts and artwork the children have created.
  • Our Global Geography book clubs will continue for one more week. I am proud of how the majority of the class is accepting responsibility for reading carefully and recording the main idea of each chapter. They are also learning to make inferences and predictions as they show how they are thinking about their reading. They are curious about the patterns of each book in the series and are looking to make connections between the different volumes.
  • Up-coming units of study are Magnetic Forces in sciences and Fables, first in reading and then in writing. Your child will be asking you if you have a favorite fable in two weeks.

And finally here’s how our Kind Acts count is proceeding:

Week 1:

Week 2:

Week 3:

Our Week – February 2

Happy Ground Hog’s Day! I don’t think there will be a shadow, unless there’s some rapid clearing … and so, six weeks until spring. We can do that! This week as I read through book club work, responses to reading, blog posts, daily writing projects and math problems, I was struck by thinking that is happening in our classroom. Your children are puzzling through a lot. On top of that, I’m noticing that more children are willing to stop and put effort into an assignment, rather than jot one or two quick partial sentences to be done. That’s refreshing. They are beginning to notice the rewards of thoughtful time and effort.

Global Kind Project – Global Geography

This week we’ve been taking note of and appreciating the many opportunities we have. We are trying to understand how different life is around the world. We have explored books that share the stories of refugee children, currently and from the past. It is hard for us to fully imagine, but their stories have helped us become more aware of how we might use our voices to promote action to make the world an even better place.

We have begun exploring the World Health Organization’s Sustainable Development Goals and are trying to think about what our hopes are and how we might contribute to a more peaceful world. We watched Young Voices Count – for the World We Want in 2030 a couple times. After we learn a bit more about the goals and the reasons behind them, we’ll try to make our own video. What can we do for a more peaceful future? You might like to watch the video with your child as well and talk about what you notice and note about the plans and dreams those children shared.

We’ve set a date for our next class museum. In it we will share the information we are discovering about the Wonders of our countries. It will be Thursday, March 15. Many of the children are concerned that this is not a good choice for them because they have other commitments. Thursday was the most chosen day of the week. We hope that by knowing in advance, families may be able to make arrangements to attend. Sadly, though, we do understand if it is not possible for some to present their work in the evening. The museum will be open in the afternoon from 2:15 to 2:45 and later again in the evening from 5:30 to 6:30. Further details will be shared as the children make their plans.

Reading Is Thinking

During this round to book clubs, it became apparent that we needed to spend more time thinking about what we are reading. We needed to learn how to stop and consider the choices the author was making and to notice how event connects and builds the story or information. We are trying to uncover the main idea of each chapter or section to figure out how each part contributes to the authors’ message.

We’ve been trying to notice our questions as we read and to follow them with more questions and ideas. We’re trying to build stronger mental images and consider, “what if” more often.

As a class we’ve spent the week exploring an article called, “The Killer Smog” by Lauren Tarshis. It is an event that happened in London in 1952 that seemed to spur the environmental action like the Clean Air act in the 1970. Talk to your child about what they learned about it. You may want to help them understand why we burn coal and more about manufacturing. They are just beginning to be able to understand that each choice and action has a consequence and reaction. It’s complicated.

Understanding Place Value

This week we’ve been exploring the standard algorithm with addition. It seems that the children are secure in their understanding of place value and are aware of how amounts combine. Over the course of the week the children have showed their understanding of how tens combine to hundreds, hundreds combine to one-thousands, one-thousands combine to ten-thousands and on. This understanding is key. It means the children are doing more than working through a rote procedure with little awareness of the actual amounts they are recording. Next week we’ll continue to build in this process by working with the standard algorithm and subtraction.

You may have noticed that we’ll be doing another math fact check next week that will include all four operations. Our goal is to improve scores by at least 5 problems – 10 would be terrific. Thank you so much for your support with this goal. There is not enough time in our day to make sure that the kids the play games often enough to give them the opportunity to internalize the facts. Worksheets are quickly done and offer little reward. The games sent home like Tiguous, Circles and Stars, Multiplication Top-it or games you might have like Farkle or Yahtzee offer lots of practice opportunities. Thank you for your help with this!

Bits and Pieces –

  • Thank you to the group of 8th graders who were able to  come into the classroom to help us create our learning journals.  We are so grateful for their help.  We couldn’t have done it without their time and help.
  • We began Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes this week. We’ve looked at images of the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima – before, after and now.
  • We’ve continued to collect acts of kindness as the class did in Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler. You can see our progress, from last week to this.
  • We’ve continued to share smiles (we hope) and fun throughout the school through our participation in the Global Kind Project. We left cupcake pencils at the office, created monster pencils for 3rd grade and name pencils for the Preschool. It feels good to make others happy.
  • 3rd Grade is collecting cereal for the 100th Day Food Drive. Our class has contributed 24 boxes so far. The first grade is organizing and counting all of the contributions. They’d appreciate if all donations could be made by next Friday so they have time to prepare the display for February 12, our Hundredth Day of School. Thank you so much to supporting this school-wide Service Learning Project.

Have a Wonderful Super Bowl Weekend!