Our Week – January 31

As I am preparing for conferences next week, I have again been stuck by what a huge growth year 3rdgrade is.  Our curriculum is divided into grade spans.  Third grade is the first year in the 3 to 5 span and what they are expected to accomplish is a lot.  They are working hard to do that.  I appreciate their attention and efforts.

S.E.L. – Sorting and Dealing With Problems

This week we’ve begun a new set of discussions about problems and behaviors.   We’ve learned that dangerous and destructive problems are ones where you really need to get help.  When you’re afraid you or someone else will get hurt you need to get help from an adult.  When you see that things are being ripped and ruined you need to get help.  We’ve also talked about “annoying” behavior as different from dangerous and destructive behavior.  Our class definition of annoying behavior is that it is something that distracts attention from the appropriate task, is repetitive (not just once), and might be intentionally teasing.

Dealing with annoying behavior is tricky and we’ll see if we can find ways to cooperate and compromise in our classroom so everyone feels comfortable, supported and heard.  We hope we can all be respectful, and find ways to behave so everyone can happily do his or her best in the classroom.

Story Mountains

We’ve been exploring plot and the plot line of narratives.  We’ve been climbing story mountains together and individually. We’ve been noticing how stories begin with a lead that establishes who the main characters are and initiates the main action.   This is followed by a series of small events and descriptive details that build to the main problem.  This problem is something that the characters have to deal with and find a way to get through it.  The main character learns something or is changed when the problem is resolved. And finally, the story ends in a way that connects back to the beginning.  The story has come full circle.

You’ll see a couple examples this work in your child’s folder this week.  Some of the children easily follow the characters through the story. They connect with them and recognize how they are interacting with the action of the story.  Others find it more challenging to follow the character’s growth throughout the story.  When you are reading together, talk to you child about the story mountain found in the books you are sharing.  It will strengthen his/her understanding of the story and build inferential comprehension skills too.

Furthering Our Use of Elaboration Strategies

Earlier in the year we learned how to develop more descriptive sentences by adding adjectives, and details telling when, where, why and how.  A simple sentence can become quite interesting.  We also learned about the “power of 3” to help guide our choices because generally three is enough.  Three adjectives, three actions, or three repetitions are enough to make the idea stick without becoming monotonous.

This week we’ve begun learning strategies to use to make our stories and informational writing more elaborate.  So far we have practiced adding descriptive details to help readers develop a clearer picture in their mind of the setting.  We’ve also learned how to add actions to animate the story.  In our example a storm is coming and so we added sentences about the wind and people rushing to get out of the weather.  We have two more strategies to learn: adding dialogue and introducing the characters’ inner thought to add emotion to our writing.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We are continuing to learn cursive.  We are on our third set of letters – the Loop Group.  Those letters are b, f, h, k, l and e.  Most of the class is having fun learning cursive, though it is challenging.
  • We are enjoying Winterhouse.  We are still in the build up portion of the story.  There are lots of characters and lots of details to keep track of.
  • The children are researching their countries.  They are learning about the geography and landforms, unique plants and animals, cultural celebrations and traditions, historic sites and landmarks and important museums, monuments or memorials.  This week the children wrote letters asking question on their blogs. We hope to get some responses from around the world.  If you have connections, please share.
  • Our next science unit is weather and so we have been building our background knowledge and understanding by reading poems and books about their topic during our shared reading lessons.
  • We have been learning about elapse time, equivalent fractions, and strategies for solving multistep problems.  We play games to practice basic facts in all four operations and we’re learning about perimeter and area.

Our Week – January 24

This week we began our global geography inquiry.  In Open Circle we’ve been talking about speaking up and setting goals.  We’ve been reading books around the theme of kindness while we learn about plot lines and we’ve been practicing our kite string letters in cursive.

Speaking Up

This week we’ve talked about speaking up.  Sometimes speaking up can be stating a fact and that would be something we all agree upon. Sometimes speaking up can mean stating an opinion and that would be something not everyone agrees with.  We talked about speaking fairly – and behaving according to our words.  It’s one thing to sit in circle and talk about behaviors and choices.  It’s another thing to make the right choices at recess or in the hall.

We’ve read several books this week that help us consider what it means to be kind.  It seems that it is the little things that matter most. We’re trying to see how we can make choices throughout our day that show others we are choosing kindness by following the rules and meeting classroom and school expectations so everyone has the opportunity to learn.

Country Inquiry

The children have begun to explore books and websites about the country they chose to research. Children in our class are learning about:  China, France, Iceland, Peru, New Zealand, Russia, Chile, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Panama, Japan, Egypt, Mexico and Thailand.  If you’ve been to any of those places and have things to share the children would be very grateful.

The children started learning about the flag and are now exploring geography and landforms, unique plant and animals, historic sites, cities and the countryside, museums, parts and monuments and cultural festivals and celebrations.  The final project will be to create a travel journal demonstrating what you know about nonfiction features in writing and creating several souvenirs collected along the way.  The children will“pack” the journal and the souvenirs into a suitcase they will have created and present their journey.

We need boxes for this project.  I know some families already read this, thank you – we have seven or so boxes already.  We need at least eighteen boxes in the shoebox or large cereal box size range would be greatly appreciated. If you have any boxes that we could use for our souvenirs, could you please send them in? Thank you.

Math Centers

Throughout January we’ve been learning about fractions and how they compare.  Fractions are featured on our calendar this month.  We’ve played fraction bingo and are creating our own fraction bar sets so we can learn more about equivalent fractions.

We are also learning how to track time – what can a person do in a minute, five minutes, or ten.  We do we consider to be important use of our time and finally how do we calculate elapsed time.  This means we need to be able to read analogue clocks and keep track of how minutes transition into hours.  Many of our daily problems are written to help us develop and practice these skills.

We’ve also continued to learn about perimeter and area.  The children have worked through several different activities and are now beginning a robot challenge.  They are designing and creating a robot blueprint for “NASA’s Mars Mission.”  It will be fun to see all the different creations.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve completed our second set of cursive letters – the kite strings.  These letters include: i, u, w, t, p, r, s and o.  We’ve learned half of the lower case cursive alphabet.   We’re having fun with that.
  • We’ve begun Winterhouse.  We’re keeping track of what we think is most important in each chapter.  This is a complex book.  There are lots of characters and several different sub-plots developing as the story continues.  Ask your child about the story and how s/he thinks the story will unfold.
  • Many of the children were able to finish and post blogs they’ve been working on for several weeks. We’d be grateful if you’d check out their blogs and leave a comment.  They do feel very excited when they know you’ve read their posts.
  • Ask your child about writing dialogue.  Perhaps you can write a short one together and he or she can show you how it is written. (End punctuation is still hard.)
  • I’ll send home a notice and sign-up for parent conferences on Monday. Ms. Snyder has asked us to offer a mid-year meeting prior to report cards so you’ll know what to expect when they are sent to you in March.

Links With Information About Countries Around the World

For this inquiry project you’ll be researching a country of your choice. You’ll be learning about the flag, and exploring outstanding landforms like waterfalls, mountains, lakes, etc.  You’ll be discovering extraordinary habitats and 0ne-of-a-kind plants and animals found in your country. You’ll uncover historical sites and learn about the cultural heritage of your country.  What festivals or celebrations would you hope to attend?

If you planned a trip to your country, where would you visit? What would you like to see or experience? What museums, parks or monuments would you be sure to visit?  What food would you hope to taste? What music would you plan to hear?  What game would you hope to see and where?

These sites have connections to each of the countries we are hoping to learn about:

Culture Grams has all of our countries.  It is a product the school subscribes to.  Using the User Name and Password will allow you to find even more information.  You can get those from the list on the whiteboard in our classroom.  This has great information – links to the national anthem, recipes and highlights one-of-a-kind features that you might decide are wonders.

National Geographic Kids – Type your country name in the search box and check out the information about your country arranged by topics.

Ducksters Geography – This website sort countries by continent/region.  There are many topics and basic facts shared about each of our countries.

FactMonster – This website begins with an alphabetical listing of countries.  It includes all the countries we have chosen to research.  Once you find your country, click on the link and it will share information.  There is more political history on this site and some of the others.  The index on the top right of the first pages shares other paragraphs about different topic about your country.

These links have some of the countries we are researching:

Fun Facts for Kids:  Countries – Check out fun facts listed for most of the countries our class chose to explore.  This is a website published from New Zealand.

Kid’s World Travel Guide – Fifteen different countries are featured on this website.  The information shared there is organized by topic.

While you’re trying to discover the stories behind the “wonders” of your country you can use these search engines.  They’ve been designed to filter information for kids – some of the articles are still challenging.

You could use  Kiddle or KidRex.

Once you’re there, type the name of your country or the site you are interested in”visiting”  (spelling matters) and add the words “information for kids” or “information for third graders.”  Sometimes that helps focus the search even more, so the information is more understandable for you.

Our Week – January 17

Thank you for supporting the children at 3E’s Inquiry Wonderland.  They had a “wonder-full” time sharing their work with you.  After the excitement of the museum, we’ve had an ordinary week of reading, writing and math.

Checking on Comprehension

This week I asked the children to think closely about what they are reading.  I’ve asked them to think about how their book choices are helping them grow as readers and thinkers. Many of the children are reading series together so they can talk about them – the Dogman and Amulet series are being read in this way.  Some of the children prefer nonfiction and are reading the Magic Tree House fact guides.

I’ve been conferencing and reading with the children to see if they are using any of the strategies we use during class read-alouds and in book clubs on their own to boost their understanding. Some of the children are, but most are not.  Some of the children can talk about what they are thinking about as they read – how they are connecting with the characters or what they are learning, but most are not yet making those deep connections.  This is something we’ll work to develop in the weeks to come.

Adding Dialogue to Writing

Writing dialogue is one technique that authors use to give their characters personality and to move a story along in time without explaining every moment.  Writing dialogue also follows some specific rules: a new line for each speaker, the first line indented, quotation marks around the talking, including frequent dialogue tags and careful use of commas and end-mark punctuation.

We’ve been practicing this with partners.  We’ve written about weekends and about our inquiry projects.   We’ve created puppets and created dialogues for them as well. With each practice the children are becoming more skilled.  Several of the children have been able to include accurately written and punctuated dialogues in their independent writing.  That’s a great thing to see.

Perimeter and Area

For the past several weeks one of the stations during our math block has been focused on developing an understanding of perimeter.  The students have created and measured polygons made from straws and pipe cleaners. They measured a variety of triangles, quadrilaterals and hexagons taped on the floor and added the sides to find each perimeter.  They have also measured things in classroom – most of these items have been rectangles. Several of the children realized they only needed to measure two of the sides and double to find the actual perimeter.

From the measuring activities to develop the concept of perimeter, the children have moved to building and drawing activities so they can understand area.  The children used multi-link cubes to create a variety of shapes to calculate both the perimeter and area.  Using actual square cubes is to help them understand that area is recorded as squared.  They are beginning to work with graph paper to create the letters of their names.  It will be interesting to find out which names have the largest and smallest perimeters and areas.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We finished The Mystery at Pine Lakeand discovered who had put the board in the dam that raised the water level and threatened the eggs in the loons’ nest.  It was not who we thought it would be at all.  That mystery is the start of a genre study.  We are beginning a new round of book clubs and a second mystery read-aloud, Winterhouse.  It will be an exciting study.
  • We completed the cursive set of Clock Climber: a, c, d, g and q.  We’ve begun our second set.  These are the Kite String letters.  Even though it can be challenging at times to form the letters correctly and to manage the size and shape without lifting the pencils, most of the class agrees that learning cursive is fun.
  • We are also continuing explore fractions.  We are comparing halves, thirds, fourths, sixths and eighths.
  • The children have learned the country they’ll be exploring in our next inquiry project.  This inquiry will have a social studies focus. We’ll continue to explore mapping, geography and landforms, while also learning more about culture, history and heritage.
  • The children continue to post on their blogs.  They would love comments!  Remember if you add your email – you’ll get weekly reminder and see what your child in the classroom.

Our Week – January 10

This week the children put the finishing touches on their inquiry research projects.  They’ve done a lot and they are feeling proud of their accomplishments.  We’ve been reading more about the world as we prepare for our next research project. We’re also learning about time and most exciting, has been learning cursive.

Cursive – Clock Climbers

We are beginning to learn cursive letter formation.  We are using a system called Loops and Groups.  The letters are grouped according to how they are formed.  Clock climbers start at the bottom, travel in an arch to 1 o’clock, retrace back down the line, curve up to complete the circle and then curve down to form the connector.  We’ve learned a, d, g, q and c.  It is challenging to keep the line going through all the letters and words. It is challenging to develop good letter formation habits – but mostly the class is having fun.

3 E’s Inquiry Wonderland

is Tuesday, January 14. 

The museum will be open from 2:15 – 2:45 and then in the evening from 5:30 to 6:15

This week the children chose the name for their inquiry magazine.  They decided to name it 1… 2… 3…Inquiry. They also designed the cover and created a picture representing their inquiry topic for it.

Everyone has completed all the parts of their project.  Here are the steps behind what you will see.  First they read, researched and took notes.  Next they determined what was important and decided how to organize the information into categories and paragraphs.  Then they designed and created their museum displays.  Once the displays were done, they selected the information they wanted to share in a classroom magazine.  They designed and created pages for that.  (We hope this will be ready for the museum, though it may take a bit longer to be put together at the printer.) Next they create a picture to hang in the hallway outside the classroom.  This is to give museumgoers a preview of what they will find inside. Each of these pictures is captioned with a sentence showing how we adjectives add detail to writing.  And finally, the last piece of the project was to create a picture for the cover of the magazine.  Yesterday was the deadline – and they are all ready.  We can’t wait for you to come and see.

We hope when you come that you will tour each of the displays and talk to the researchers about their inquiry.  They are ready to talk to you about why they chose their topic and the information they found most interesting as they researched and wrote.  I know I have written this before, but please remember, we asked the children to get help with editing before printing.  Some of them did, so their spelling and punctuation was corrected and some of them did not.  We hope you can look beyond that, at this point.  Learning that editing and revision is an important step in finishing is part of the process.  Our next research project will begin next week.  The children will have an opportunity to immediately apply what they learn from this project in that one.

Bits and Pieces –

  • We’ve created maps of the world and maps of our yards.  See if your child can remember the five things all maps have.
  • We’re learning about fractions.  The children are coming to understand numerator and denominator.
  • We’ve continued to develop understanding of perimeter and have begun to add in the concept of area.
  • We are nearly finished with The Mystery at Pine Lake. We’ll soon find out who raised the dam and caused the loons to lose their first clutch of eggs.
  • In Open Circle we’ve been discussing the importance of speaking up and of cooperation.  We’ve talked about respectful listening – something many in our class are challenged by – and respectful participation in discussions.  We are learning about when to lead and when to take direction from others.


Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a restful, healthy and wonderful vacation.  It seems as though the children made wonderful memories – they were full of appreciation and had much to celebrate and share.

Our Inquiry Wonderland

3 E’s Inquiry Wonderland is Tuesday, January 14. The museum will be open from 2:15 – 2:45 and then again in the evening from 5:30 to 6:15.  We’ll invite the school so siblings are able to visit during that day.  Families are always welcome.  Please come when you can.  We are hoping that the whole class will be able to share their research, writing, display and artwork.  We realized today that the invitations sent home a few weeks ago had the 17thas the date.  I’m sorry for the confusion and hope you noted the correct date in the past two weekly newsletters/blog.

This museum is the final presentation step in our first research and informational writing project of the year. I know I’ve written this before, but this truly is a challenging process.   When you tour the museum you’ll see that the projects reflect how diverse our class is in their interests, their awareness of outside audiences (some children find it challenging to write what they think everyone knows) and their attention to conventions like spelling and punctuation.

I think each of the children feel a sense of accomplishment.  They have learned about one of their interests in science.  They have read both print and digital resources.  They have watched videos and taken notes.  They’ve worked to organize their facts into categories to develop paragraphs.  They’ve designed and created their museum displays and magazine pages, and they created a piece of original artwork to act as museum preview.

Global Geography

This week we completed gathering facts and information about the seven continents.  We viewed National Geographic Kids Destination World videos of each continent (The links on the blog if you’d like to view them together.  They’re really great.)  We’ve also read two short books about each continent and from these resources the children have begun to gather facts and develop interests about different countries with their various cultures, pastimes and landmarks.

This will be our second informational research and writing project.  At this point in our planning process we are hoping that each child will be able to create suitcase or satchel to collect his/her souvenirs. To do this, we’d like to collect boxes for this project– any box in the shoebox or large cereal box size range would be greatly appreciated. If you have any boxes in this size range, could you please send them in? Thank you for your help.