Our Week – March 30

It is hard to believe we’ve completed the first week of the final part of 3rdGrade – time surely flies by!  We’ve finished up some projects and taken time to post a book review on our blogs. We’re learning about mysteries and the things that make this genre special.  We’re planning original fables and learning some revision strategies. And, of course, the Good Deed Club’s Animal Awesomeness event is just around the corner so we are creating games and decorations, gathering supplies and making sure everything is in place for a fun time.

Animal Awesomeness

After months of meeting during lunch on Thursdays, the plans of the Good Deed Club and coming together for the Animal Awesomeness event.  Nearly everyone in our class and some friends from the other third grade classrooms has been part of this planning and learning process.  At times it has been challenging to work together.  At other times it has been difficult to make choices, but your children have stuck with it.  They are determined to make the world a better place – they think animals are important and are concerned that so many are threatened or endangered because of the choices people make. They wanted to do something and they have!

The Animal Awesomeness event is Friday, April 5thfrom 5:30 to 6:30.  The kids, with the help of some 8thgraders {and any of you who can spare some time (I’m asking – they really want to do it on their own, but I’m nervous)} will be setting up the games and activities after school so everything is ready for the big event.

I am also planning some extra before- and after-school work times to complete the raffle journals, create donation containers and signs for each of the activities.  Please sign the permission slip so I know who will be able to attend the extra work sessions.  There is no expectation that children do this.  The extra time is so we feel certain that we’ll get everything done.

A huge shout out to THE GOOD DEED CLUB!  They have put forth a great deal of effort. Their ideas are inspiring.

Writing Projects and Revision Strategies

We’ve been reading many fables.  With those ideas in mind, we generated a list of “original” morals we think could be important reminders for us.  Using these moral ideas and what we know about fables, we’ve begun to plan our own. They have so many great ideas about being focused, patient, kind and honest.   I am looking forward to reading their fables.  At this same time we’ll be learning some revision strategies – we’ll apply these to the writing of our fables and some short personal narratives.

In addition to these writing projects, the children are learning the qualities of persuasive writing. We’ll begin this with a study of book reviews.  Our baseline review was done this week.  As we learn more about how persuasive writing is structured, we create more reviews. Our final persuasive piece will be one that convinces you to visit the Wonders of the state each child researches for The Parade of the States.

Fractions and Equivalence

Equivalence is challenging concept.  It is seems simple, but it’s not.  We’re exploring this concept with fractions and parts of a whole.  And we are also exploring the concept in equations.  Here’s an example:  What would make this number sentence true – 3 x 8 = _____ + 18? Almost all of the students feel that 24 should fill the blank and they just move on adding another equals sign and finishing that the answer to it all is 42.  You can see this process on some of the multi-step problems where the solution of the first equation becomes that next part of the second equation. We’ll be exploring equivalence as the idea of balance.  It means slowing down a bit to consider what “being equal”means.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve completed a third challenge for the Student Blogging Challenge.  We’ve had a few comments from other places.  We are hoping for more.  The next challenge is to do something to make the world a better place. I wonder if the class will choose to post about things they’ve already done, or if they’ll come up with a new idea and do things that are even more awesome.
  • The Good Deed Club presents Animal Awesomeness on Friday, April 6 from 5:30 to 6:30 in the school gymnasium.
  • Winterhouse, our mystery read-aloud, has started to get exciting.  We’ve met most of the main characters so now we can discover what the mysteries are we should be keeping track of and reading closely for clues.
  • Mark your calendars now! The Parade of the States will be Thursday, May 24.  It will begin with a recorder concert on the stage.  We’ll ask the children to arrive at 4:45 so the concert can begin promptly at 5:00 with the parade to follow.  The event is typically over no later than 6:15.  We know this is right in the middle of spring sports, but please make every effort to save this date and time.  It’s such an up-lifting celebration of learning and of our country.

Our Week – March 22

Report cards will be open to you next Tuesday afternoon. I trust you already know most of what you’ll find there. You’ve been reading the weekly memos to know what we’ve been focusing on. You’ve been reviewing the work sent home most Fridays and you’ve had the chance to see your child’s work in the hall and at The Country Convention. As I’ve been working to code report cards and craft comments to help you understand more about your child’s growth during our second term I am struck by several things. The first is that the standards expect a lot of eight and nine year olds, and your children are putting forth a great deal of effort to meet them.

The second is that your children have done many things and accomplished a lot since our goal setting/report card conferences in November. They’ve been part of two different book clubs – one nonfiction and one fiction. They’ve read and discussed books on their own. They’ve written many first-draft personal narrative quick writes, created stories and posted on their blogs. They’ve learned about maps and mapping and explored a different part of the world. They prepared and presented informational text about that country. They’ve explored the ideas of what it means to be a global citizen and what it means to be present and bring kindness and peace to the world. They’ve spent time to understand how to use the standard algorithm for addition and subtraction and learned more of how multiplication and division are related. They’ve learned how division and fractions are related. They’ve worked to solve multi-step math problems and become more skilled at representing their math thinking. They’ve learned about magnets and magnetism. And while exploring these topics and content, they’ve been learning how to support each other as a community of learners as a class, in small groups and independently.

The third thing I’ve noticed is that two-thirds of the class struggles mightily to focus on learning. They’d rather chat time away, than meet a challenge or complete an assignment. Some of the children will not meet report card expectations, not because they can’t, but rather because they’ve chosen not to. This week we’ve come up with three new rules: If you choose to talk during group instruction, you’ll be asked to go to the office. If you talk during independent or small group work time rather than completing assignments, recess will be used to complete them. During snack you must sit and talk with those at your table, rather than fool around. (We are chronically late for UA classes.) I’m not sure if the children understand the consequences of their choices. They are having a negative effect, and on top of that, the behavior is disrespectful.

Thank you for talking to your child and making a plan for how he or she will chose habits and behaviors that will promote success for all in our classroom.

Magnets – Force and Motion

We’ve been learning more about how to take notes and reword text to share our own new understanding. We spent several weeks doing this as we learned about magnets. Once the children had their notes, they used them to create a storyboard of an informational book teaching others about magnets. They’ve been creating the books using an app called Book Creator. We plan to publish them on our blogs. They are a fun final project showing both what children can do with informational writing and what they know about magnetism. They’ve all included original text, drawings and photographs. Some have also included original videos and images from online sources. We plan to publish them next week.

Fractions – a fair share

This week we’ve been naming and comparing fractions with like denominators. This feels easy for the children – it is. But we’ve been using these tasks to understand the roles of the numerator and denominator. In these tasks we’ve focused entirely on the numerator. We know that if the numerator is larger then it is the greater share. We’ll begin to compare mixed denominators next week. That will add the next layer of complexity.

Morals Remind Us of Right and Wrong

We’ve continued reading fables. We like them. We’ve been reading some in their original form and some in more elaborate picture books forms. We’ve read some chorally together – they’ve been written in a rhyming format for two voices. We are beginning to collect morals that we think may help guide our choices in the classroom and on the playground. Next week we’ll begin planning original fables. We’ll practice telling them in a storyboard format until we feel our story language is ready to be written. We are going to create both a narrative version and a comic version using Comic Life. We hope everyone will be mindful of deadlines and focused on the task so we can publish them in a class magazine.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve begun a mystery unit. We’re exploring the elements of this genre and plan to begin our third book club next week.
  • We’ve begun Winterhouse – a mystery read-aloud. We are learning how to identify and name main idea and important details through this read-aloud.
  • We are part of the Student Blogging Challenge. Most of the students have created two new pages. The first is an “All About Me” page and the second is a directions page for “How to Comment.” We’ve had a comment from a student in New Zealand so we are encouraged and excited to know that our writing is getting out into the wider world.
  • For the past two weeks we’ve gotten into the routine of recording things we are grateful for and taken note of what we’re learning and realizing each day. We are looking forward to what this record reveals at the end of the school year.
  • We had fun exploring The Invisible Maze with Mr. Caron.  We had to focus on observation, cooperation and respect in this challenge.

Our Week – March 16

Thank you so much for making arrangements and plans to make The Country Convention – our research, your learning a success. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful artifacts and information. Also thank you for helping the children work through their concern and worry in dealing with our unexpected days off. When the event started this afternoon you could feel the excitement and enthusiasm in the room – and you could hear many interesting things about Wonders in our world.

Because our week was so wonky, I asked the children to help with the memo. The sentences that follow are their own description of what they think is most special about the country they researched and what they liked most about the research process.

Here’s what they said:

“I think the Great Pyramid is the most special Wonder of Egypt because it shows Egyptian history. I loved making the 3D Sphinx because I got to choose how he should look.” Emily


“I think the beauty and the wonders were most special. I thought learning about this country was really fun. I liked finding out the fun facts and learning about the pretty things.” Annika


“The places that have history behind them like the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps are the most special. I like making the model of the Forum and the felt Italy.” Alex


“What I think is most special about Germany is that it has a very fun language. I say this because it’s a cool sounding language. I like that I got to do this project with my friends.” Izzy


“I chose France because of its history. I like to do the set up for our countries because I got to use my imagination.” Tavi


“I think Ireland is special because there is lots of nature and green. Researching.” Miles


“I like my country because of the fact that it’s a country and a continent. Its flag has another flag in the corner. I just really, really like it. My favorite part of the research was gluing things on and saying what mom should type.” Willow


“I picked the Hagia Sophia Museum as most special because they have facts about Ancient Turkey. I like writing because if I didn’t, you would not be learning what I know.” Dylan


“My country was special because my Nana and Baba went there and I wanted to know more about it when they brought it up. My Nana and Baba got real stuff from Greece.” Ryan.

“I chose Russia because at the time I thought I was 50 percent Russian, but now I know I’m 2 percent. Still I think Russia is cool and all the places there look pretty. Sadly, I’ve never been to Russia, but I’ve seen pictures of it. I liked it all, but it was most fun setting up the board. I like typing on the computer and I also liked reading a lot. The way I saw most of the pictures of Russia was from researching the information for making the display boards.” Maxim

“The Visocica Hill Pyramid because it had really cool stones and gems. I like making my bridge the best because it looks just like the real thing. Me and my mom worked on it.” Jack


“What special about Venezuela is that the Amazon forest and river are in it. I like setting it up.” Derek


“I think the baobab tree is most special because it hold water and makes medicine and other things. Making my board.” Brian


“Christ the Redeemer is the most special thing in my country. Because ever since I’ve known about the statue, I’ve wanted to go there. I like drawing Christ the Redeemer the most.” Corbin


“There are beautiful lakes and animals there. I would love to go to Guatemala. Making the display board was what I liked most because I love doing arts and crafts and this is some like that.” December


Finally I asked the class what they’d do to help the world become a happier and more peaceful place. They said:

  • Keeping the water clean. Listen to the water in streams. It sounds so peaceful.
  • Sharing something special and that will help him want to do something nice and it keeps going and going and going.
  • Instead of fighting talk it out with words.
  • Drop cookies from planes.
  • To make peace we need no wars. The Bosnian War ruined lots of things in Bosnia.
  • People should have the stuff they want.
  • Give the people the money, water and food they need.
  • Sharing a toy with a friend and then my friend sharing a toy with one of his friends. It keeps going on until none of the bad people are bad. They turn nice and there will be no harm.
  • I wish to stop cancer around the world so everybody is healthy.
  • I would like to clean the water in all places because not a lot of people have clean water.
  • Let people be free.
  • Help people treat people equally.
  • Feeding and helping poor people.
  • Helping animals all over the world because I think they should have better homes.

Your children are wonderful ambassadors of our world.

Our Week – March 9

I am hoping you have weathered the storm easily and that few of you were among those who lost power. At least we can be comforted that this snow won’t last long now with our longer days and the water table is better restored. How’s that for looking at things as if the glass is half full?

Even short, our week has been busy and full. We’ve been researching and writing, reading fables and learning about magnets. We’ve been building and creating. Best of all, we’ve been having fun together.

Writing Grows

We have lots of different opportunities to develop our writing skills. We’re excited to share our second informational writing project next week. We’ve been exploring ways of making our writing more interesting by becoming more aware of using sentence variety to keep our readers interested. The children explored these ideas further in creating an All About Me page on their blogs. This was part of the Student Blog Challenge. We hope you’ll read them as they get published and tell us what you think. Page links are found on the Home Bar at the top of each blog. Our goal was to make sure everyone’s got published this week, but our snow day may make that impossible.

We’ve also begun preparing for a third informational writing project – a digital book to teach others about magnets. The focus of this project is to make certain that every word of the published text is original. We’ve been sharing books together and taking notes after the text has been put aside. Through this process we’ve been working to identify the main idea and supporting details of the text.

I hope you notice how your child’s abilities with information writing are growing and changing through each project. There are so many differences between what they shared at the zoo and what they are preparing to share at The Country Convention. They deserve to feel proud of their effort. We are looking forward to our next writing projects in the last part of the year.

Questioning Like a Scientist

We’ve been exploring the properties of magnets for the last few weeks and developing questions we’d like to answer. Magnetism is an exciting force because it is invisible, unlike many of the other pushes and pulls we observe. Through our exploration of magnets we’ve been thinking about the difference between thin and thick questions. Simply put, thin questions are those we can answer easily by asking Siri or doing a Google search. Thick questions are one’s we’ll have to research and develop experiments so we can gather evidence and data to support or dispute our ideas.

We’ve been learning about the line of force as demonstrated by the way iron filings line up when they come close to a magnet. We’ve been exploring magnet strength as well. It’s fun to explore our questions and fun to mess around with this amazing force.

Fractions as Fair Shares

We’ve continued to learn about fractions. They are making us think about numbers in different ways. We are learning how to label shares by reading them out as one of two, rather than one half or two of six rather than two sixths. We are doing this so we keep in mind that it is the number of shares that is important. Sometimes this study seems easy, and other times it feels confusing. I trust that by the end of our unit all of the children will be able to explain what a fraction is and how division and fractions are related. They will be able to show and name equivalence, compare fractions and add and subtract fractions with like denominators.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve been reading several fables each day. We’ve been reading them in their original forms and also sharing many elaborated picture book versions. After we’ve explored many, we’ll being to craft our own. I am looking forward to discovering what morals they feel are important to remind us of.
  • We’ve begun a read aloud that takes place in Nigeria. It is called The No. 1 Car Spotter. It is sharing a very different way of life. We’re finding it very interesting and challenging to imagine. Talk to your child about what he or she understands and wonders.
  • We are focusing on the difference between common and proper nouns. The goal of this mini-unit is to help remind children of word that are properly spelled with capital letters. It is a small thing, but it matters when others are judging your work and will matter during the upcoming state testing. It is a habit worth cultivating.
  • Thank you for you time and support. We can’t wait to see you next Thursday at our Country Convention – our research, your reading. The museum will be open in the afternoon from 2:15 to 2:45 and later in the evening from 5:30 to 6:30.