Our Week – November 30

Phew!  What a week – snow, drizzle, warm, cold, wind. Thanksgiving exhaustion coupled with arriving elves excitement has made for a very rambunctious week.  Despite all this, we have begun our national holiday research, created interesting and diverse blog posts, and developed a long list of possible interview questions as we move into the next phase of our family story project.

I hope you noticed the Parent Teacher conference sign-up sheet that was sent home yesterday.  Please let me know if you need to meet at a time different from those offered.  I will be glad to schedule a different time with you.

Crafting Questions that Will Lead to Quality Stories

This week we learned about open and closed questions.  We want to plan interview questions that will inspire storytelling, not single word or sentence answers. We explored the difference between the answers we might expect if we asked, “Do you like pie?” versus asking “What was your favorite family meal when you were growing up?  Can you tell me that story?”

We spent parts of two days thinking about the stories we’d like to collect.  Would they be about things we already knew of, or would we hope to discover something surprising and new?  We created a first round of questions and then thought about them.  We found ways we might tweak our original questions so they could be more open ended to encourage storytelling.

In addition to thinking about how our questions could be answered, we tried to answer them ourselves by doing a quick write to answer one or two of the questions.  Next we will learn about interview protocols so that the children will be ready to conduct their interview sometime in December. Thanks for your help and support with this.

Using a Post-It Note Taking Strategy

Each of the children has chosen a national holiday to research.  There isn’t much information about many of the holidays, so children have to do a lot of inferential thinking to come up with the answers to many of their questions.

In addition to this, we are working to make sure we write our own original thought and understanding in this informational writing project.  The children are reading a page, putting the books aside and writing a post-it about what they think the author was trying to teach them.  It means the research process is slower, but because the children are working in teams they are able to help each other talk through what they understand.

Meeting the Challenge with Cooperation and Communication

This week we met with Mr. Guidi for a challenge.  We were given a rope and asked to make different shapes with it.  We had to make a circle, then a square and a triangle. Our goal was to work together to make the shape – if possible we’d work together as a team to make the shapes while we could see what was happening and then try the challenge over blindfolded to see how well we could cooperate and communicate.

We were able to work through the first step of the challenge, but struggles as a class with focus and behavior so we weren’t able to get to the second part of the challenge. Over the course of the school year we’ll see how our skills at self-control and self-management develop in ways that help our class become more successful so we are able to meet the challenges placed before us.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We had a great trip to Strawbery Banke last week.  We learned about how the traditions of Thanksgiving have changed.  We learned about traditions in the 1630’s and later in the 1770’s and still later in the 1820’s.  It was interesting and fun.  Strawbery Banke gave us family passes so you can go as a family to enjoy another of their programs.  Ask your child what he or she thought was most fun – making the corn husk doll, preparing food as they might have done around the hearth, making the charity baskets to share with the needy, learning about harvest festivals from around the world that have influenced our holiday tradition or creating matzo meal for Mrs. Shapiro.
  • Our nonfiction Thanksgiving themed book clubs have continued to meet.  I think we are all agreed; living at the time of the Pilgrims would have been hard.  Talk to your child about what he or she learned about this national holiday from this reading.
  • We are glad to be reading The Wild Robot Escapes. Roz and the Shareef family she works for just survived a tornado.  We are wondering if Roz will ever see Brightbill again – we think she will and we are wondering how the children will help her escape.  Is she going to be able to leave the family she cares about?
  • Thank you for your continued support in helping the children to understand how to calculate elapsed time. I am impressed with how well the children read the analogue clocks.  We’ll keep working through different strategies to record how the time passed.
  • During some of our Word Study work we’ve been learning about suffixes.  This week we’ve been working with the rules for how to change a singular noun to a plural.  See if your child can tell you the four different rules we’ve learned about.

Blog Prompts for November 28

Here are the prompts the children went to the computer lab with today for our Wednesday blogging session.  Part of today’s challenge was to find an original way to illustrate the post.  We’re learning to use the hand held scanner and how to use the camera along with all the tools we can use to create a great photo.

The children chose from this list:

  • Write a short piece about a winter snowstorm – real or imagined. What do you see, hear, feel and do?
  • Describe your favorite place to explore outside. What do you see, hear, feel and do?
  • Choose a natural object as you walk out the door. How does it inspire you?
  • What are all the good things about Winter?What are all the bad things about Winter?  (You can trade winter for any of the other seasons: Spring, Summer or Fall.)

About half of them were able to write and illustrate their post in the forty-five minute blogging session.  The other half will finish in the next day or two.  Thanks for all the comments.  The class really appreciates them.  it inspires them to write more.

While we were away for Thanksgiving Break, Bamboo, our gecko shed its skin for the first time.  Here is Bamboo in its new glowing colors.

Our Week – November 16

We’ve spent our week focused on portfolio preparations, beginning an inquiry into national holidays, learning more about elapsed time and stopping for a moment to count our blessings.  We’ve learned a bit about the history of Thanksgiving and how it came to be celebrated. It’s kind of cool to know that New Hampshire’s own, Sarah Josepha Hale was instrumental in creating American’s special holiday.  I am hopeful that by the time you read this note, each child will have completed his or her blog sharing a thankfulor gratefulacrostic.  Their thoughts are beautiful.  Enjoy them.

Student Goal Setting and Portfolio Shares

Thank you for spending time with your son or daughter as they shared what they are learning, their classroom and their goals for this year.  They are growing their abilities to reflect on their learning processes. Since we began this process, they can already see they have changed.  They realized how they grown as a mathematician by seeing problems from early October.  It is motivating to find proof of learning and to feel the rewards of focus and effort. The more actively the children participate in their own learning, the more they will grow.

It is exciting to see their thoughtfulness and their enthusiasm for sharing what they do each day. They deserve to be proud of their efforts and abilities to present their thinking and learning at this point in the year. I appreciate knowing what they are thinking.  They always surprise me.  Their ideas and approach to each task is totally unique.  They teach me something new every day.

Book Clubs – Keeping Track Thinking While Reading

Last week the children participated in book clubs. Our first book club choices were centered on the idea that everyone can write what they know and feel in their hearts.  All of these first choices were picture books and the clubs were designed so that everyone could meet the expectations of 1) completing the book, 2) writing a summary, 3) selecting a favorite part to speak to and 4) to make an inference about the author’s message.  All of the children met these expectations and had some great discussions about their books and reading.

Our second book clubs selections all have something to do with Thanksgiving.  They are nonfiction selections and have a wide range of length and complexity.  We’ll be learning more about note-taking and questioning during these book club meetings. We’ll use what we learn during these meetings to guide us into our second inquiry project about national holidays.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We finished The Wild Roboton Wednesday.  There was a resounding “YES” when I asked if we wanted to read The Wild Robot Escapes next. Roz is an amazing robot.  We loved the book so much we’ve decided to build some robots of our own.  It will be fun to see the personalities of our robots emerge.
  • Just a reminder – we’ve got a field trip on Monday to Strawbery Banke.  We’ll be there for the morning and will be returning to school around 1:00.  The children will need to bring their lunch – or order lunch from school as yesterday’s notice outlined.  We’ll be eating lunch on the bus while we return from the program.  Please be aware of the peanut and tree nut allergies in the grade.  Thank you.
  • We’ve continued to learn more about simple and compound sentences.  We are learning more about the choices we make can add to interest to our writing.


Our Week – November 9

Happy Veterans Day! We’re getting ready to develop our weather forecasts as we end of our weather unit of study.  This week we’ve begun exploring our nation’s history by learning some about our nine national holidays.  We’ve continued to discuss and plan for how we can each contribute to the creation of a successful learning community.  We’ve been learning about sentences and parts of speech – nouns, verbs and adjectives. And finally, we’ve been exploring time. We’re learning about elapsed time and how to use what we know about fives and multiplication to connect with telling time.  We’re always trying to get the most out of our time.

Building A Strong Classroom Community – S.E.L.

We’ve been struggling with behavior for the past two weeks.  Both of these weeks have been full of unusual schedules and events. Because of this, I waited to see if we could pull it together.  Some have, but others have not.  As a class, we mean well, but behavior choices have left much to be desired. This, along with little attention to personal best and/or thoughtful effort, is prompting me to ask you to have a chat with your child about what they might do to support their own learning. We’ve been reading about teamwork and cooperation.  We’ve had lots of examples and now we need to make some important choices. If you have a chance, talk to your child about what s/he could do put forth best effort?  Ask how can s/he contribute to creating a classroom community allowing everyone to succeed? These conversations will help us continue them in our classroom, so we can be sure that learning is what we are about at school.

In Open Circle we are exploring the importance in being encouraging and giving compliments. We’re learning more about cooperation and how to contribute to our classroom team.  Competition has its place, but it’s not often part of our classroom learning community.  We are working toward a cooperative classroom.  Here’s how we imagine it will look and sound when we’ve been successful. We decided that a cooperative classroom looks calm, relaxed, focused and helpful. We can see that people are making eye contact and listening.  It looks like everyone is working to meet the classroom goals and everyone is doing what is expected with what the task and materials are at the moment.  We also decided a cooperative classroom sounds quiet so each person can hear what he or she needs to hear.  There would be the sound of purposeful talk that is on topic and respectful in our cooperative classroom.  We’d hear compliments and encouragement.

Our outdoor challenge this week was about teamwork too.  The class was divided into groups and sent to three different stations.  We were told we had to listen carefully to all the directions, take turns and allow everyone to participate.  Our goal was to move all the objects from one hoop into another hoop. With those directions, the class began. Ask your child what he or she discovered working through this challenge.  Perhaps Open Circle and the challenge can help your child in coming up with ideas of how our classroom can be a place where everyone can succeed in the manner that makes him or her proud.

Exploring Adjectives and the Power of 3

We’ve been exploring different types of sentences.  We’ve learned about simple, and compound sentences.  We know each sentence has a noun that is its subject. We know that the subject of the sentence has to do something, and then we are hoping to elaborate on the basic sentence structure by adding adjectives to paint a picture of our meaning with our word choice.

We’ve discovered that it is a bit harder than it seems.  We’ve also discovered that writing we admire has all different types and lengths of sentences.  We’re trying to think about all our sentence choices when we are writing ourselves. Check with your child to see if she or he trying to fill it with adjectives and description.  Some of them are, and some of them are not yet ready. You’ll be able to see some examples of readiness in this week’s set of papers.

Bits and Pieces

  • We’re nearing the end of The Wild Robot.This book has taught us about building relationships.  In the book, having friends Roz can help and that she can help in return is important. It is important in our classroom too. We are all learning how to be supportive community members.
  • If you’ve not had a chance to read and comment on your child’s informational weather writing on his or her blog, please do.  This is their first published piece.  We’ll be publishing them as books to be placed in the classroom’s weather library in addition to posting them on the blogs.
  • We’re exploring national holidays.  We’ve spent some time reading about Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Independence Day. We’ve read poems and shared our ideas as to why we have set these days aside.  It’s exciting to know that Thanksgiving became a national holiday through the efforts of a woman from New Hampshire.
  • Student-Led Goal setting conferences will be on Thursday, November 15 or Friday, November 16.
  • Our field trip to Strawbery Banke is on Monday, November 19.


Wonderful Weather Writing

Most of the children were able to create a blog post to share the informational writing they created to share all they had learned about the weather topic they chose to research and study.

When you read through their posts you can learn about sandstorms and blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes.  You can learn about snow, clouds rainbows and meteorology too.  They have worked for several weeks to do the research, type their information and publish both illustrated books and these blog posts that are accompanied by another piece of original art.

If you have the time, please let them know what you learn from their information, what you notice about their writing and organizational choices and how their illustration highlights a piece of their learning.  Ask them questions – they likely have even more to tell.

This post is illustrated by cooperative, small-group illustrations made to show the five hurricane levels defined by the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.

Our Week – November 2

What an exciting week – Trick-or-Treating, Halloween and welcoming our new classroom pet.  Finally the Reptile Keeper has a real job to do everyday. On top of all that, our week has also been filled with reading, writing, researching, science and problem solving.  Your children are hardworking, flexible and interested in learning.  It seems as though 3E is a good place to be learning.

Goal Setting – Preparing for our Conferences

This week we continued our goal setting process.  As I’ve already shared, the students have described themselves as learners using the Multiple Intelligences model, they’ve described themselves as readers and writers, chosen “best” books and pieces of writing to highlight what they are capable of doing independently at this point in the school-year and set reading and writing goals.  These goals come from the traits of successful readers and writers we generated as a class.  Each of the children has chosen something they feel they would like to pay attention to and improve.  Our last goal-setting area is math.  We will have they completed by the middle of next week.  We’ll spend a few days organizing our portfolios and planning how we will share all our ideas with our families.  In the second week of November we will be organized and ready to share.

The students will lead their conference and share their learning profiles, work samples and goals with you.  The main goal of this reflection and writing SEL project is to help the children come to understand themselves as learners a bit better. It is designed to help each of them realize they are unique and totally capable of accomplishing whatever they are willing to work for.

The conferences will give you a clearer understanding of what your child is doing each day and give you a glimpse into how your child is feeling about third grade. Report cards will be sent home to you on Monday, December 3.  We’ll meet for Parent/Teacher conferences that week.  We’ll use the information from the conference and the report card narrative to set goals for we’ll do at home and at school to further to support our third grade learners.

Developing Descriptive Writing Skills

We’ve continued to learn more about adjectives and descriptive writing.  We’ve practiced writing descriptive sentences about weather. We’ve had the chance to create adjective poems.  We made one together about our gecko and the children wrote their own about the leaves they created in our symmetry project.

We’ve also practiced combining what we know about adjectives with words that stimulate our senses. Looking at a picture, we challenged ourselves to write descriptive sentences that follow “The Power of 3” rule. Ask your child about The Power of 3.  He or she may be able to explain a bit about how we use it to make our writing descriptive enough without, either going over the top, or leaving it bare bones.

Science Research and Writing

We’ve nearly completed our first informational writing project.  The children have each made a real effort to meet the deadline set for November 1st.  Most did. The children set their own criteria (with guidance) defining what they felt would be a successful (if not great) piece of informational writing.  They agreed

: to write what they understand, to write to teach others, to write in their own words, to write between 25 and 30 sentences (at least five sentences about five sub-topics) – more is always better, and to create their own illustrations to share their understanding of the topic.  They are excited to be sharing their weather library with others.

I am sure, as you read their writing, you will recognize where they are in their learning processes, and how they can grow as both researchers and writers. They should feel proud of what they’ve accomplished so far.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve continued to explore symmetry, congruence and angles.  We’re learning more about right angles.  We’ve learned angles larger than 90˚ are called obtuse and angles smaller than 90˚ are acute.
  • We’ve almost finished The Wild Robot.  We’re looking forward to finding out what happens now that spring has arrived and the robot will have lived on the island for a full year. We are realizing this is a book about the importance of friendship in order to survive and to be happy.
  • In Open Circle and in most of our S.E.L. morning meeting discussions we’ve been talking about including others and finding ways to be more aware of other’s feelings.  After reading The Invisible Boy, we’ve wondered if it is worse to be ignored and alone or laughed at.  Talk to you child about this story and see what he or she has to say.
  • Our Strawbery Banke field trip is coming on November 19.  We’re still looking for a few permission slips and trip fee of $5.00 for some children.
  • Just a reminder – there is no school for students on Tuesday, November 6 and there is a half day for students on Friday, November 9.