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!