Our Week – May 31

The count down is certainly on!  Ten days to go until the end of 3rdgrade.  It has been a wonderful and fast year.  It is such a bittersweet feeling, but your children are certainly deserving of a break.  We have several continuing writing projects.

We’re creating our persuasive piece about our states, and we’re completing our learning reflections. We’ll share those with you at our student-led conferences during the last week of school.   This week we’ve also spent time working on our last social emotional learning unit in Open Circle and morning meeting.

S.E.L – How Can You Deal with a Problem?

One of the first thing s we have learned is to figure out if it is a big problem or a small problem. Next, we’ve been trying to decide if our reaction matches the size of the problem.  A small problem should have a small reaction.  A big problem should have a thoughtful reaction, and we’re learning that is a skill that develops with practice.

We began the week by answering three questions:  What makes recess fun?, What makes recess disappointing? and, How do you describe sportsmanship or fair play?  The answers that we collected for the first two questions were all pretty similar. Playing and including everyone who wants to play, following the rules and being outside were common answers. There were many different answers about sportsmanship.  That is something we need to continue to explore, along with the concept of fairness.

We spent some time talking about perspective.  We read They All Saw A Cat and The Seven Blind Mice to guide our conversation. It isn’t always easy to see that there are different ways of understanding an event or situation.  We tried some perspective taking scenarios so we might learn how to react with understanding rather than anger. Everyone participated in our conversations and seemed to really make an effort to consider how they could each contribute to positive changes.


It seems as though many of the children are feeling more comfortable with fractions and the illogical notion that larger numbers in the denominator means a smaller part.  The children’s understanding of how to label fractions on a number line is growing, as is their ability to label parts of partitioned shapes.  Several weeks ago, children understood what half and a fourth was, that understand has grown.  Our next task will be to learn how to add and subtract fractions with like denominators. We’ll do that with recipes featuring something special from each state.

State Wonder Writing

The children have all completed paragraphs for at least three of their state’s Wonders.  Many have completed five and a few have completed writing about all of them.  Most of the children have moved beyond the copying phase, they are reading and taking notes to then create their own original sentences and ideas.  This has been a fun process to see as they’ve participated in four major research projects this year: weather, national holiday, global geography and national geography.  They have grown quite a bit as readers, researchers, and writers this year.

Bits and Pieces –

  • Everyone completed each section of the State Testing!  Woo-hoo!!!!
  • We’ve continued learning how to form our cursive letters.  Most of the class thinks it’s fun.  We’ve completed the “kite string” letters and are now beginning the “loop group.”
  • We held our belated April writing contest.  There were ten submissions.  It was exciting to not that all of the stories were complete with an obvious, beginning, middle and end.  Each of the stories showed that the author had intentionally used elaboration strategies and given some attention to using correct conventions.  The class voted for a single gold, and a single silver medal winner in the contest.  There was a four-way tie for the bronze medal.  We have creative storywriters in our class.
  • We’re close to finishing our eleventh chapter read-aloud as a class.  It’s an exciting fantasy, adventure.  The Green Ember is the first in a series of five books – the fifth is still being written.  If you’re looking for an exciting family read-aloud over the summer, I highly recommend this series by S.D. Smith.

Our Week – May 24

This has been a week of special events.  There was something different every single  day . The most special event of all, however, was The Parade of the States. Thank you so much for your support with this project.  We so appreciate your time and effort to bring everything together this joyous celebration. We couldn’t do this without your family support and we are grateful. The children were excited about the day and so proud to have the opportunity to share with everyone – it was certainly the highpoint of the week, if not the whole school year.

Here is a bit about the other special events in our week and some information about the “regular” learning too.   On Monday our day started off with a puppet show about Personal Safety presented by the people from Haven.  The children thoroughly enjoyed the show and had the opportunity to make sure they thought of the trusted adults they’d tell if ever they needed help or felt they needed to support a friend.  A flyer came home in the communication folder about Haven and a worksheet summarizing the main points of the discussion is with the student work sent home on Friday.

On Tuesday we took the state math assessment.  Again this week, your children worked thoughtfully and carefully throughout the test session.  It is a challenging assessment and most agreed that there were some problems they had to guess at. The children didn’t know what the question was asking. It is frustrating to know that sometimes children answer incorrectly, because they just don’t understand the wording.  If we were allowed to reword the question, the students would be more likely to answer correctly.  We are near the end of the testing sessions.  A few of the students will need time next week to complete their writing and math tests. I am proud of their effort.  They certainly put forth their best effort throughout each test session.

We also were able to attend the 4th and 5thgrade’s Junk to Funk concert Tuesday afternoon.  It was obvious those students had learned a lot about rhythms and beat, about cooperation and teamwork, and about having fun.  It is something to look forward to for next year.

On Wednesday we started our day by practicing for the recorder concert.  It was the first time that the two classrooms had the opportunity to play together, and they were great together.  You could tell they were working to stay together and keep the correct tempo.  They sounded beautiful together because they were playing calmly and slowly.  Not all of the students play all of the songs, and that’s fine.  The children were encouraged to do what they could.  As Mrs. Oliver indicated, children had the opportunity to give up recess for extra support and to learn two of the more complicated songs.  Not all of the children wanted to do that and that is fine as well.

The Grade 3 Community Meeting is Friday, June 7.  We’ll be performing the concert again for the entire school, share a movie of each student’s float in the Parade of the States and finish it by asking the school to join us in singing America the Beautiful.  It will be another opportunity for the children to showcase their hard work.

The special event on Thursday was the dress rehearsal for the Parade of the States.  Before that the classroom was full of floats.  We were excited to see how each person represented the Wonders of their state.  Each float was a totally unique creation. At the rehearsal the first and second grades came so they’d be able see what it might mean when they come to 3rdgrade and have to select a state to research.

The children began writing persuasively about the Wonders of their state.  They are continuing to research so their final piece persuades readers to vacation in their state – the most interesting state in the country. They will finish these pieces in early June.  We will be using a writing app called Book Creator so this writing piece will be posted on their blogs as well.

To learn more about persuasive writing we created essays trying to convince everyone on what the best season is.   We’ve learned how to make a claim and then support that claim with actual facts and evidence.  We’re continuing to experiment with effective leads and conclusions too. Our goal was to have these done and posted on our blogs… As you can tell classroom time was short this week, so next week will be our goal.

Finally on Friday we went to the Memorial Day Assembly, thoughtfully planned and organized by the 7thand 8thgraders in Student Government.  It is important to be reminded that this is not just another day to be out of school.  Make sure to ask your children what they heard and saw.

In and around all those things we were able to spend time reading.  I have been impressed recently with the book choices and reading stamina. Many children have been selecting and completing much more complex texts.  It is also fun to see how books get passed from one reader to another because the first readers is so excited and offers a review that can’t be resisted.

It’s been a busy week full of some different learning opportunities and challenges. Hopefully we’ll be back on track next week and will have more time in the classroom to focus on our daily work.  Learning together is fun.

Our Week – May 17

It has been a wild week! Nearly everyday, we’ve had something unusual happen.  We began learning cursive – finally!  One day we had a special assembly and percussion workshop.  There were the two days of testing and a testing session on a third day for children in need of more time, or for those who were absent. We’ve had to deal with new playground rules and teacher meetings and appointments that disrupted the typical flow or our day.  We didn’t get lots of the usual daily work done – but I realize as I’m writing this, we had some important opportunities for problem solving together.

State Testing– at time practice consideration, patience and stamina

You would have been very proud of the effort your children put forth by in the state testing session. As you know from your experiences with standardized tests, whether you were the test taker or your older children have had the experience, they are challenging.  Vocabulary and directions are tricky to understand and the children are mostly on their own.  The practice sessions did familiarize the children with the tools they had available to them – and they did use them, but there is little test proctors can do.  Teachers can read from the published script and we can encourage children to reread or answer simple procedural questions, but that’s all.  It’s nothing like that classroom.  Your children persevered and stayed still and quiet, focused and hardworking for nearly two hours both days with only a short snack break in the middle.  Yes, some children quickly answered questions near the end because they just needed to be done.  Most, however, took their time.  They felt proud of how they had worked and of what they felt they had accomplished.

New Rules– a time of communication, problem solving, empathy and advocacy

Ms. Vas made a rule about picking teams for soccer that caused a lot of commotion.  She had some important reasons.  Still, I’m guessing you heard about this at home.  It was upsetting to children in 3E who felt their efforts had been silenced.  The children are concerned about fairness, hearing all voices and recognizing the good that happens rather than the bad. They are concerned about sportsmanship and gender inequity.  This is not done.  Please know that we will revisit this in as many classroom discussions as are needed.

Two weeks ago I finished reading a fabulous book, Troublemakers – Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at Schoolby Carla Shalaby.  It really made me think and pushed me in ways that I hope will help me become a more effective teacher.  Here’s a paragraph from the end to the book that seems to fit with this issue.  I hope to use it to guide our process so we can all think about how our actions create a free, and safe environment where all of us can learn.

“I am convinced that if we continue to prepare children for the world we have now, we will necessarily reflect and reinforce the everyday harms and assaults of punishment, confinement, and exclusion.  Instead, we have to begin to prepare children for the world we want.  In schools where teachers feel stuck in how to break the harmful patterns of their classroom management, I often wonder if we might become unstuck by first imagining a world in which police are not necessary, in which prisons are abolished.  What are the skills required for thatworld – skills demanded by the need to keep one another safe and free – and how might we teach and learn those skills in school as our approach to classroom management?”

I know with your help and support at home, we will work through each piece of the upset and frustration that children may be feeling at this point.

From my vantage point- the observer of many of the recess soccer games this year – it is unusual for so many 3rdgrade children – boys and girls together – to play one game at recess, and (IMHO) that is COOL.  This year they have worked through showboating and uneven teams.  They’ve worked through the “skilled few” playing against everyone else.  They’ve worked to be more aware of including everyone – goals are great, but everyone playing is good too.  They have recognized that it is recess – not coached, refereed games.  They have tried not to be overly competitive – and yet that does creep in.  There has been so much learning on the soccer field at recess – they’ve done most of it on their own and when they needed help we spent time with their concerns.  I am proud of their effort and social learning. I’m excited to see how it develops as we continue to work through this issue piece by piece.

Fun with Cursive– something new and exciting to learn

When Ryan H. joined our class two weeks ago, we immediately noticed that he has incredible cursive penmanship.  This is something we typically learn in third grade and so we are finally on it. We have enough time to learn the whole alphabet if we practiced some every day.  This way the children will be able to read cursive when they encounter it, and they’ll be able to develop a signature. This week we’ve had fun learning our first set of letters, the clock climbers.  It is challenging, but also relaxing.

Persuasive Writing– learning how can we use words to achieve our goals

We’ve been learning more about the features of persuasive writing.  We’re practicing those skills when crafting book reviews and when describing our state Wonders.   In the learning process, the children have been discovering what it means to make a claim and how to support that claim with facts, as well as, opinion.  We’re developing rubric-like checklists to guide these writing projects. They seem to be feeling excited about what they are learning about their states and are trying to clearly share why those places and things are destinations to see.  It will be fun to share the work at our end-of-the-year conferences!

Bits and Pieces –

  • This week the class learned about the instruments Jeff Irwin makes out of “trash” and had the opportunity to participate in a percussion workshop with him Tuesday
  • We are learning more and more about the rabbits history in Green Ember, but we still have so many questions.
  • We continue to learn more about fractions and to explore what they are and how they compare.

Floats can be brought in to the classroom after school on Wednesday, May 22 or before school on Thursday, May 23.  We can’t wait to see you at the Parade of the States!


Our Week – May 10

As the end of the school year comes into sight, I am struck by how fast our year has gone.  I’m not ready for it to be over.  I know all of us will be ready for a vacation, but right now everyone seem engaged with what we are learning.  We’re continuing to explore fractions and measurement in math. In social emotional learning we are focusing on identifying how we feel when problems arise and finding a strategy to stay calm.  We’re continuing to practice comprehension strategies through a new round of book clubs, writing book reviews and various classroom read-alouds.  We’re practicing note taking, paragraph writing and developing persuasive piece to convince you our state is the best place to travel to.

We’d love to do more, but there’s just not enough time in our day.  There’s always something that doesn’t seem to get the time and attention we’d like to give to it.  Our days this week have often ended with, “Wait… what?  It’s time to go?”  I guess there could be worse problems…

State Testing

This week we learned about the tools available to us when we take the state tests next week.  They felt challenging for the children.  The reading test felt like A LOT.  The math test presents information in a very different way.  Some of the children felt overwhelmed by this.  If your child is expressing concern or worry, please assure them that their best is all that is asked.  They need to know that therewillbe some questions they don’t understand fully. They’ll have choose, or come up with, an answer they feel is best.

While we do have allotted times for testing so we can use the computer lab and library computers, these are not timed tests.  Children can pause a testing session and come back to it another day, and another, and another… as long as the tests are completed by June 6.  I don’t anticipate that we will need all that time, but we have it so children should be encouraged to take their time and read all of the directions so they fully understand what is being asked of them.  Some children will be in small groups in the classrooms as well as the other two locations. We do this so there are fewer people and fewer distractions in each space.  When children finish they’ll be able to read, write or draw quietly at their seat until the testing session is over for the day.

Parade of the States

Thank you so much for your time and attention with this project.  We’ve received the signed notes so we know families are aware of the project. The children have begun their planning at home and several of the students began their blueprints.  Again, thank you for your help with those. Being aware of the front side and back side of the float is important.  The children will be entering the gym from the lobby and pulling, pushing or walking their float all the way across in front of the bleachers.   If you are facing forward to walk across the gym, your left side will be the front. The goal is to have the blueprints completed no later than Monday, May 13 so the children have as much building time as possible.

The research and design process is in full swing.  The class is buzzing with excitement as they learn more and more about each state.  The children have been exploring the various resources about their states to identify wonders.  They are more than welcome to research and explore on their own. Several of the resources collected on the blog have videos that are blocked in the school.  Because we no longer have an IT person, they cannot easily be unblocked.  It would be helpful to view them at home.

Fractions and Equivalence

We’ve been exploring fractions and division in all kinds of ways.  We’ve cut shapes apart.  We’ve sorted shapes into different sized groups.  We’ve explored fractions on a number line as if we are measuring with a ruler.  This is really stretching their thinking and they are feeling frustrated.  It’s hard for them to realize that both the number of groups and the size of the groups matter.  Fractions have to be even in size.  They’ll understand this with time and practice.  Please encourage your children to be patient and remind them that this new, challenging thinking is growing their brains.  Sometimes learning feels tough.

Bits and Pieces

  • We’re starting to put lots of the pieces together as the fantasy adventure unfolds in The Green Ember.  Ask your child who their favorite character or setting is in the story. This story has a complicated plot. There is a lot to keep track of because we are trying to unravel the history, while also keep track of the present and trying to understand how the two times are connected.
  • This week we had a challenge with Mr. Guidi.  To be successful we had to communicate, cooperate and collaborate as well.  We had fun considering how the Whale Watch challenge could help us become an even more successful class.
  • A Reminder – The Parade of the States will be Thursday, May 23.  The children are asked to arrive at 4:45.  The event – including the recorder concert and the float parade – will last about an hour to an hour and a half.  It is an exciting celebration.






Our Week – May 2

I hope you had a wonderful spring holiday with your family.  From the stories told in the classroom, there were some ups and down, but mostly exciting ups.  I’m glad. Thank you for fitting in a visit to Wonder World.  We knew having it come right after vacation was tricky – thank you to all who were able to attend.  Spring is a super busy and active time.  I’m sure you are racing to meetings, practices and recitals in a thousand different directions.

Wonder World

The class was buzzing with excitement and pride as they prepared for the museum on Monday.  We had many parents and visitors come during the day and many families come at night.  Thank you for walking through the displays and talking to the children about what they’d learned and what they found most interesting.  The children spent a lot of time discovering new things about places around the world.  An awesome part of this project is that now, each of the students will be more keyed into their country and the countries of their classmates.  They’ll keep learning about them and will gain even more understanding about our world.

Many of the children (over half as I type this on Wednesday) have completed a blog post summarizing their global geography project.  They’d love to hear from you if you have time to read them.  It surprised me to read more and different facts on these blogs than I had read on their display boards.  How cool it that! If you have the chance to read the blog, leave a comment to let the children know what you learned from each part of the project, and what you noticed about the growing research and writing skills.

The State Parade Project

This week we read about each region in our country and looked at lots of different books about the states.  The children selected their top four states and tried to write a compelling reason as to why they should be the person to learn about their top choice.  We talked about dealing with disappointment because only one 3rdgrader can research a state.  It is going to be tricky.  Please help your child understand, that all states have amazing wonders – places, people, historic sites, festivals and exciting tourist spots. Once they begin discovering, even a fifth choice will feel exciting.

Ms. Coronato and I will meet on Friday so students know their state on Monday.  You will be receiving information about the project, as much of the building is done at home.  We’ll do the research and the writing in the classroom.  The students, with your help (thank you very much) will create floats of represent their chosen wonders.  On Monday we will look at examples of floats from past years.  I have posted some examples for you to see on a blog post announcing the project and posting the size criteria in case that gets lost in the shuffle.  You can get to those post here and here – they were posted on April 28.

The Parade of the States will be Thursday, May 23.  The children will need to arrive at 4:45.  The event is likely to last an hour to an hour and a half.  Thank you for marking the date on your calendars.

Bits and Pieces –

  • This week we welcomed Ryan Harrington to our classroom.  He has joined us from South Hampton.  We are glad to have him with us.
  • We’ve continued our work with fractions.  It seems as though most of the children understand the concept of numerator and denominator.
  • We’re in the thick of the action in our chapter read aloud, The Green Ember.  We’re trying to figure out just who Smalls is and why he is so important to Uncle Wilfred – even more important to protect than family.
  • We’ve been sharing books that help us think about friendship and friendliness.  We’re learning the steps of the Open Circle Problem Solving process to try to break from our habit of blaming first.  It’s tricky.