Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My, oh my! How time flies! 

Are we really at the halfway point already?

The beginning of 2016 marks the mid-point of our year as a fourth grade class. I love doing the mid-year reading assessments and getting to listen to each child read, retell three stories and talk to them about how they have grown since we sat down to do assessments at the beginning of the year. Then, they were strangers to me. They were just the new students who had taken the places of the former class that I knew so well and still missed. 

Now we know one another.  We have come a long way from the beginning of the year. As the days add up to months and months build up to half of a school year, we really have formed a small, tight- knit community. Everyone's unique personality has shaped it.

 I feel lucky to have such a special and talented bunch of kids. So many wide smiles and enthusiastic learners. We were learning the word reluctant earlier this year and to illustrate, I walked into the room very slowly and nervously. One student commented, "No one walks into our classroom that way!" It was true. This class comes in with something to say, a comment for me or a friend (often both) and an excitement for what is to come. 

Your child is needed here, in the whole group, in small guided reading and math groups, in a book club, hands on science group, and in one-to-one moments with me. When they are absent, they are missed. They have someone waiting for them on the playground. Their comments, jokes, questions are noticed and heard here. 

Here are some pictures that I have been intending to post for the past month. Enjoy! 

Students wrote "Snowman Poems" for a special snowman surprise that they exchanged with each other before our Winter break.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What do you get when you mix half a dozen iPADS 
and 25 STUDENTS?

On Friday, our class won 3 more iPads from the Washington Technology Committee after we received a grant.  It was an exciting moment for everyone when we found out during the WZRD news. Cheers went up in the room. This brings us up to a class total of 6 iPads, 4 desktops and a laptop, almost a 2:1 technology to student ratio. 
A small group watches a video on the Trail of Tears.
They are answering questions in their response journals as
they learn facts about the journey.

I had applied to receive  the iPads from the technology committee so that I could build interactive lessons and so students could create digital projects. In addition to class discussions I can now use interactive programs like Socrative and Padlet so that students can post their responses to the whiteboard from their desks. Vocabulary quizzes can become interactive with Kahoot.com where I can project the quiz and students login with their iPads. The feedback is immediate and students are 100% engaged.

I know that preparing our kids for citizenship in the 21st century will require ensuring their flexibility and skill at using technology. The number of devices we have still requires collaboration between students, which I think encourages important cooperative work skills. These new iPads are going to get a lot of use! 

What are your thoughts about technology in the classroom? 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Celebrating our Narrative Writing
With Writer-in-Residence 
Kelly Starling Lyons

After a week long study of techniques of good narrative writing, students got to celebrate and share their finished stories with the class. I could see students had learned at lot from our writer in residence, sponsored by the PTA. They are focusing on small moments, writing with active verbs, using quotations and dialogue, and adding similes and metaphors to make stories come to life. Ms. Kelly also shared her published books with the class.  
Using the microphone made for more
dramatic performances.

Ms. Kelly looks on as a student shares her story with the class

Students enjoyed entertaining each other
with their creative dialogue and descriptions.


We began our study of electricity with an investigation of how to light a bulb. With 2 wires, a battery and a small bulb, each group of 4 was able to work cooperatively to get the bulb to light. The excitement in the room was ELECTRIC!

Students learned the terms current electricity, closed circuit and open circuit, electrical receiver, electrical source, insulator and conductor. By day 3 they were adding switches and multiple receivers (bulbs, buzzers and motors) to their circuits. This week they will continue their investigations and learn how to build series and parallel circuits.


 The class did a great job collaborating to create circuits in small groups. Getting the bulb to light took many hands. 


Here is a view of the fossil pit after it has been renovated with PTA funds. See what your generous donations can bring to the school? Please consider giving to the Shining Star Fundraisers if you haven't already. See the flyer in  this week's Tuesday folders (going home 10/20/15!).


Sunday, October 11, 2015


The Final Product-  A Salt Dough Map of NC 


 Here are the pictures I managed to capture during the class's creation of salt dough maps of our state. Students were so excited to have a hands on project to show the three regions of our state, attenand the border states. They painted the Atlantic Ocean blue. Our capital city got a star, the Fall Line separating the Piedmont from the Coastal Plain is labeled and students molded and put a flag on the top of Mount Mitchell, the state's tallest mountain at 6,684 ft in elevation. If your child gave you any feedback on the project let me know in the comments below!

Thanks to our parent volunteers, all went smoothly! 
Students are studying the map to add points of personal interested to their maps.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Thoughts more than halfway through first quarter...

As interims go home today, I am reminded that we are 5 weeks into the quarter. The class is settling into routines and fourth grade work. Interims are just a snapshot of what level of mastery your child has reached at this point. All students progress at different rates, and there are many students who are still working on mastering first quarter goals.   A 2 on an interim is a sign of what needs more practice. The range of a 3 can span from having  just mastered a skill, or being very comfortable with it.  A score of  4 on a standard shows that a student is extending a skill beyond grade level expectations. If you have any concerns please contact me for more information.

When I grade assessments, I add up and down arrows to give more detail. A 3 up shows that a student achieved a high level of mastery. A 3 down would show that a student demonstrated mastery, but that there are areas left to strengthen. A 2 up indicates that a student has more work to do to be independent on a skill, but that they are close to mastery. If you ever have questions about an assessment score, please let me know. Next week you will receive the first two graded  math assessments and the results of Beginning of the year assessments for reading in Monday Folders. 

We will finish our second whole class read-aloud, Stone Fox this week. Ms. Gordon (our talented student teacher) and I have established guided reading groups that meet each day. During small groups we can target individual needs and get immediate feedback on student learning. Ask your child what they read about in groups today! In math, we have moved into large calculations and solving story problems. Tomorrow they will put their calculation and research skills together to show how they would spend a million dollars. In science, we will wrap up our study of magnetism and have a quiz Thursday. 

We have an exciting month ahead. Writing has been a big focus the past two weeks. Students have used graphic organizers to plan and  write their first multi-paragraph story of the quarter. Next week, the fourth grade will benefit from having a writer-in-residence come to teach a one hour class each day of the week. They will have writing homework so that they can complete a story within the week. I will share more about this great experience that is funded for the entire 4th grade by the PTA. 

I hope you all have a great week. Exciting things are happening in Room 316!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And on the Fourth Week we worked on breaking the force of magnetism....

Here is a T-chart Varen created to record his data.
Students are using the scientific process. 
 The experiment began with a research question,
 making hypotheses to test, collecting materials,
following procedures carefully, 
recording data and drawing conclusions.
At the end of the week they will present their results to the class.  

OPEN HOUSE is Thursday night. There will be no homework for students on Thursday. I hope you will be able to attend to hear more about our classroom, fourth grade curriculum, schedule for field trips and see all the work that students have completed in the first month of school. 

Open House Schedule 

      6:00-6:30       Intro K-2 staff followed by short PTA Meeting

      6:35-7:05       K-2 classroom teacher session with TA's

-          7:30-8:00       Intro 3-5 staff 

       8:10-8:40       3-5 Classroom teacher session


Locator Card Information Sheets were sent home in Monday Folders
Please return as soon as possible. These are used by the office to reach you in case of an emergency. 

RUNNING CLUB will be held on Wednesday mornings from 8:00am-8:50am. Sign up sheets were sent home with interested students on Monday. 

Math assessments for place value will be ongoing this week. Our next focus will be adding and subtracting into the millions.  

Beginning of year assessments for reading are complete. Students were assessed for fluency, accuracy, retelling passages orally and in writing. They also completed the Comprehensive Assessment of Reading Strategies, which tests 12 comprehension skills. Students are graphing their performance and determining strengths and areas for improvement in small groups this week. 

I will be contacting parents of students who are performing below grade level in any area over the next 2 weeks. If you would like a conference, don't hesitate to contact me. 

Electives are up and running. Students in band and orchestra should bring instruments Monday-Thursday. Please email Mr. Bell or Ms. Sherling if you need information on instrument rentals.

A BIG THANKS to those of you who have provided snacks! If everyone provides a box we will have enough for a few months. Students are enjoying spending their bonus bucks.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Rolling into First Quarter

What a start! Everyone is settling in. Students finished making  origami windows with character traits that described themselves, and decorated them beautifully to display in the stairwell.  Here is a photo of the result:

Important Dates

Sept. 8th      Elective Sign Up (by students)

Sept 14th    First Day of Electives

Sept. 17th    OPEN HOUSE * see schedule below

Sept. 23        Teacher Workday


Open House Schedule 

      6:00-6:30       Intro K-2 staff followed by short PTA Meeting

      6:35-7:05       K-2 classroom teacher session with TA's

-          7:30-8:00       Intro 3-5 staff 

       8:10-8:40       3-5 Classroom teacher session


Ways You Can Help this Week

1. Return all beginning of year forms, $6 for agendas if you haven't already

2. Join the PTA! Contact me if you need a new sign up sheet. 

3. Send in healthy snacks such as granola bars, crackers, pretzels, apples for students to buy.

4. Send in any costumes or props you have at home for Mr. Chappell's drama supplies



Language Arts 

So far we have finished the novel Jake Drake Bully Buster by Andrew Clements and read Anansi the Spider Stories with partners.Students have chosen "good-fit books" for silent reading (called read-to-self time) each day. They have created Response Journals to write entries on personal topics and reading responses. Students have also brainstormed and written small moments they recall from their lives. Mr. Bastin joined us to teach about interesting ways to begin stories, how to "hook" the reader. 

Retelling the story including character, settting, problem, events and solution has been a key focus, as well as identifying character traits. We also had some great class discussion on the character traits of "tricksters" in folktales and current fiction. We will move into more abstract concepts of making inferences and identifying theme this week. Students will explore more folktales from around the world in small groups. They will do a short research activity on the country from which their tale originates. In writing this week they will develop their own trickster characters and write a short story. 

Student-Led Book Clubs
Groups chose a book and assign roles (discussion director, illustrator, word detective and summarizer) for chunks of the book and then meet for discussion. I check the binders for quality work and to make sure they are on track with comprehension. Book clubs are very motivating for many students.

Math Matters!

Our Place Value Unit is underway! Students are learning to order, round and compute numbers into the millions place. 

For the first time, students are introduced to the concept that in a multidigit number, a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place value to its rightFor example, in the number 3,456 the 4 represents 400, whereas in 3,546 it would represent 40, which is 10 times less.

 Students work on word problem solving in this unit involves rounding numbers and completing multistep problems

If you are interested in more in depth information, including video lessons explaining each concept in the unit, please follow the link below. Math Resources from Wake County Public Schools Place Value Unit Guide for Parents

Students have been exploring magnetism. They have learned that magnets attract materials containing iron, nickel or cobalt. They are learning vocabulary- repel, attract, magnetism, force,  temporary/induced magnetism and more. This week we'll get into the scientific process and do an experiment to measure the force of a magnet.

Student Tasks to Remember

Here are the main responsibilities students are learning to do weekly-

  • Deliver Monday Folder to Parents and return signed folder the next day
  • Write homework daily in agenda
  • Read 20 minutes daily Monday-Friday
  • Practice Multiplication and Division facts with Mobymax.com, flashcards or other strategies
  • Have any think sheets signed and returned the following day

A last note ....

If you are like me, you ask your child "How was school today?" and get the reply, "Fine." I ran across this website with a list of questions to replace this question. Finally I got my daughter talking. The email link to the website is below, but here are a few we enjoyed-
#1.  What was the best thing that happened at school today?  (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)
#2.  Tell me something that made you laugh today.
#3.  If you could choose who would you like to sit by in class?  (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class?  Why?)
#4.  Where is the coolest place at the school?
#5.  Tell me a weird word that you heard today.  (Or something weird that someone said.)
For more, follow this link: http://www.simplesimonandco.com/2014/08/25-ways-ask-kids-school-today-without-asking-school-today.html/