Friday, June 11, 2021

 Well, here goes. This is my final blog post for 2020-2021. When this year started, I was terrified and uncertain about how to make it through. I didn't think I'd be able to teach, have fun, or laugh. I was worried that the students would be distracted and unhappy.  The curriculum seemed daunting, and I felt unsure I'd be able to do it any justice. Your children, every one of them, made the year amazing. They were resilient, flexible, happy, funny, silly, hard-working, and overall fabulous. I am forever grateful for them, and for all of you for your support. The year was memorable, and I will certainly never forget any of them!

Thank you all for coming to our little Awards Ceremony today. I apologize for the technical glitches,  and I appreciate your patience. Here is a link to the recording of the ceremony in case you were not able to attend. As I said during the ceremony, ALL of the students deserved ALL of the awards, and it was hard for me to choose. They all shine!

I enjoyed seeing each of the students as they came up to get their Memory Books at MRP this afternoon. I wanted so much to hug them, but I know it would have made me cry, so it's probably just as well that hugging is discouraged right now! I have had many teary moments today, and I think Monday will be hard. There aren't many jobs that require saying goodbye to your entire team every 9 months! This crew is particularly special, and I am so sad to see them go.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your donations of materials, support, creemees, suggestions, and so  much more. It has been my pleasure getting to know you all and loving your children. I hope to see you all around!

Friday, June 4, 2021

 The big news of the day today was Move-Up Day, of course! The class left here yesterday feeling nervous, worried, excited, and anxious. They arrived back here today all excited and bubbly, wearing their brand new BRMS t-shirts! They are truly feeling like 5th graders now, and I don't know how I will keep them contained next week!

I have no academics to tell about other than the reviewing we have been doing. But there are a few important updates to tell you about. Please read carefully!

  • Next week is Spirit Week here at JES. I believe you have received this notification, but here is the link again just in case. It should be a fun way to end (almost) our year!
  • Next week, please consider sending in a reusable bag with your child. We will be cleaning out our desks and there is a lot of STUFF to bring home, including all of the writing from their portfolios from the past 5 years. 
  • On Thursday next week, we will be watching a movie (The Secret Life of Arrietty) and I have gotten permission from our health office to allow the kids to lie on the floor with pillows and blankets, and to give them popcorn and popsicles. I will send home a reminder on Wednesday, but in the meantime, please let me know if your child can't have popcorn. It'll likely be SmartFood popcorn. We would do pajama day, but it is also Spirit Week, and that would interfere. Blankets, stuffies and pillows will have to be good enough.
  • We are all set with t-shirts! I know a few of you said you would supply your own, but I have enough for everyone else (and a few extras) thanks to Amanda. We will be making t-shirts on Tuesday, so please be sure you send your child's in if you aren't using one from the classroom!
  • On Friday, we will be going to Mills Riverside Park for our final 4th grade celebration. You are all invited to join us for the Memory Book ceremony at 1:30. We will start promptly, so you may want to arrive by 1:25. This will be a masked and distanced event. Feel free to take your children home from MRP if you would like. Otherwise, they will ride the bus back to JES and have dismissal as usual. We DO have school on Monday, but it will be a day of cleaning and perhaps watching another movie. All of our celebrations and goodbyes will be done by then, so it will be a "holding" day.
  • Finally, I will be having an "awards ceremony" for the class on Friday morning at 10:30. Each student will be receiving a separate award. I wish you could all join me, but that is not in the cards this year. I would like to invite you to join us virtually if you can. I know it is a work day and many of you have other commitments. This ceremony will only last about 15 minutes, and it will be fun and casual. I will send you the link next week, and I hope you can join!

I hope you all enjoy the weekend and stay cool!

Friday, May 28, 2021

 SBAC testing is over! I am so impressed with the grit and determination I saw this week and last. It's good to have the testing behind us so we can move on to finishing things up and having some fun!  We all enjoyed a creemee today, thanks to Ange Smith. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

Sadly, (and surprisingly -- since I rarely find myself at a loss for words...) I don't have much to report on this week. We are still finishing up our graphic novels and our book group books. As students finish up, they are free reading and free writing, giving their peers some time to finish, and giving me some time to do some final reading assessments.  The graphic novels are adorable! They will get to bring them home when they are finished, and I plan to scan them and share them with each student so they will  have a digital version forever.

We had a lovely walk to the river on Monday. Mr. Bouchard showed us all various spots that had evidence of glacial activity MANY years ago. We used topographical maps and learned how the distance between the lines on them show us how steep the landforms are. Yesterday we used ice and sand and made our own "mini-glaciers" and investigated to see what would happen when we dragged them across "land" made from modeling clay. It definitely helped to visualize the effects that glaciers have had on our land!

I have decided not to teach the beginning of another math unit. We have covered all of the units that are required for 4th grade, and we have covered all of the "benchmark understandings." My personal feeling is that it is counterproductive to cram any new learning into full brains so close to the end of the year. Instead, we will do lots of fun reviewing of the skills we have learned this year. 

I just heard from parent Amanda Edson that she bought white t-shirts for the entire class! She got youth medium, youth large, and adult small -- some of each. Next week, I will see if I can match each student to a t-shirt that fits him/her, and we'll make adjustments as we need to. Of course, if your child needs a different size or you have already gotten a t-shirt, no worries! We are flexible.  Thank you, Amanda!

I feel lucky every single day to be a part of this community of students AND parents! Your support, your communication, and your willingness to help have made this crazy year feel almost normal! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Your children are amazing, and so are you.

Enjoy your long weekend!

Friday, May 21, 2021

 Hi Families,

I am so proud of this class for all their hard work this week, especially during the SBAC testing. They were focused and tried their hardest, and my heart swelled watching them being so earnest! The SBAC testing is long and arduous, and they rocked it out of the park!  The language arts portion is done, and we move onto math next week.  Halfway through!

I have tried to keep our academics a little more casual this week so that their brains didn't get fried, but we did do some work. In math, we worked hard on the distinction between division story problems and multiplication story problems, and what strategies can be used to figure out which is which. This class is really getting good at using a variety of strategies to solve division problems -- most of the small errors they make are calculation errors (not knowing their basic multiplication facts) and not about conceptual understanding. I am so happy with the progress they have made!

In reading, we are still working in our book groups and trying to practice writing in our notebooks. I will really push them on this over the next few weeks because I know it will be an expectation in 5th grade. I am hoping a few weeks of practice will show them that it isn't so bad!  I have started doing my final reading assessments, and it makes me smile to see the growth.

We continue to work on our graphic novels/narratives during writing time. I am loving some of the drawings and story ideas I am seeing, and I can tell the students are  super excited about their writing! I haven't decided how I will celebrate this unit yet, but we will manage to celebrate somehow!

Here are a few important pieces of information:

  • On Monday, we will be taking a walk with Mr. Bouchard down to the park behind the Red Mill. This will be a fun and informative way to finish up our geology unit. We will leave school at around 9:00 and return in time for recess at 11:00. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this.
  • You will be receiving a communication about our year-end celebration from the office later today (I think!) We are having our 4th grade celebration at Mills Riverside Park on June 11. We will take the bus over to the park at about 11:30. All of the 4th graders will be able to enjoy a fun, unstructured play time together (with the pods mixing, masked) until lunch time. We will have a picnic lunch. Then, we will have our annual Memory Book ceremony, during which each student will get a Memory Book from Mrs. Graf. Parents are invited to join us for the ceremony (masked and distanced, of course!) at 1:30. We will board the buses right after the ceremony to head back to JES in time for dismissal. If you attend, you can take your child directly home with you if you'd like. I wish we could do more to celebrate these wonderful students, and I especially wish we could invite all of you to join us for the entire event, but it will be a really fun day and I know they will enjoy themselves. Our last day of school is the following Monday (June 14) and we will spend that day just enjoying each other's company and cleaning out our desks. Then it will be time to say goodbye....
I think that's it for this week. As always, reach out if you have questions or concerns. Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, May 14, 2021

 What a beautiful day! We enjoyed Taiko drumming outdoors first thing this morning and then had lunch outside this afternoon. It's been a struggle to get everyone outdoors regularly with the rainy, cold weather. Today made it possible and we took full advantage!

Academics this week were simple: We read our books and worked HARD to write about our reading in our notebooks. We started drafting our last narrative (graphic novels for most) and we practiced division over and over and over again!  We have learned and reviewed three or four different strategies for long division, and now we just need lots of practice. Ask your child to show you how she or he would solve 1,448 divided by 4!  Ask how s/he will know if there is a remainder or not. You'll be amazed at the skill and understanding!

The big topics this week have been Taiko, SBAC, and the track meet. It seemed like everyone really enjoyed the drumming. Sensei Stuart showed them a lot of cool drumming techniques. He also taught them the importance of self-control and respect for the sensei, or teacher. It was a wonderful opportunity and I wish we could have had more of it! The track meet was also really successful. The weather was perfect, and I really enjoyed seeing all of the students cheering each other on in a healthy, inclusive way. A few were disappointed in their own performance, but in the end they realized that the fun outweighed the disappointment.

SBAC testing starts on Tuesday morning. We will do the ELA (Reading/Writing) first. The first session is more short answer and reading for comprehension. The second session involves lots of reading and writing. We practiced this one today, and I tried my best to assure the class that even though they need to try their best, this test is just a snapshot of ONE moment in time! For equity reasons, I am going to have all the students use school-issued headphones for the testing. If you child has fancy headphones from home, please remind them that they can't use those for SBAC testing.  Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns about the SBAC testing.

I think that's it for this week! We are busy planning a fun celebration for the end of the year. It looks like parents may be able to join, from a distance, for part of this celebration, although details and guidance change regularly. I'll give you more information as I get it!

I hope you all enjoy the lovely weather this weekend!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Happy sunny Friday! I have counted the days, and there are only 25 school days left. Wow. We are making it through this crazy year!

Academics this week have been pretty simple -- here's the rundown:

Math: We have moved from multiplication with large numbers into division strategies. Our work mostly focuses on how to "partition" the larger number into groups, always remembering to use multiples of 10 and 100 to partition large chunks at a time. I use the metaphor or moving 1,000 jellybeans from a vat into 6 bags. I could do it one at a time, or I could scoop 100 jellybeans at once, making the job more efficient and easier! This takes practice, and we are definitely not done yet.  But this is our last math unit, so we are taking our time.

Reading: The students have all chosen a new book group book, and the groups met once this week to hammer out some details. They discussed how many pages to read each day, what sorts of questions or topics they want to discuss, what expectations they have of their group members in terms of notetaking, etc. I am trying to give them a lot of space and time to take responsibility for these decisions since they are ALMOST 5th GRADERS!

Writing: I have enjoyed holding the students back this week (I say I am "torturing them" and I love hearing the collective groan...) making them do a lot of pre-planning for their final narrative piece. They are planning the plot, the problems their characters will encounter, the traits their characters have, and the way their stories will begin and end. Today we talked about the importance of a "backstory" which guides the choices our characters make. They are EAGER to get going, and I will let them start their actual drafting on Monday. They are like horses waiting to leave the gate at a rodeo!

Science: We finished up our energy unit today. The main focus here was on stored energy, whether in a rubber band that gets twisted or a hill that a marble rolls down. It was fun to see them work together (briefly) in groups to test some marbles and tracks. The concept was simple, but the learning was fun! Next week we will begin our final science unit about geology.

There is A LOT going on next week! Here's a brief schedule with some details:

Monday and Tuesday: Spring photos. The students are allowed to bring a prop that shows who they are, what hobbies they have, etc. I can't guarantee which day they will have their turn, so it would be a good idea to have the prop here on Monday and leave it here overnight if they don't get their turn that day. If you have questions about props, please contact Ms. Erica.

Monday: TAIKO Drummers will be here! We will see them perform Monday morning.Then our 2 PE periods next week will be spent learning how to drum!

Thursday: Track meet. I believe Mr. Steinman sent you all a letter about this. It should be a fun day. Think SUN!

In between, we will continue learning, reading, writing, and do 2 SBAC practice tests. We will be BUSY!

I think that's everything. Thank you all for the kind cards and gifts and flowers for Teacher Appreciation Week. I appreciate our partnerships! 

Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, April 30, 2021

 Hello! It's hard to believe we just had a vacation -- once we are back in the classroom, it feels like we never left. We have worked hard this week, and we have 6 more weeks to go. I can't believe that the time is going by so fast.

Here's a quick rundown on the week:

Math -- We are still working on multiplying and dividing large numbers. The students ALL have good and efficient strategies for solving multiplication problems, and I am really excited about that. The bigger issue is that many of them still don't know their math facts, and that makes their answer incorrect despite the strategy being efficient. I know that memorizing your math facts is BORING, but I highly recommend that they all find ways to get those facts into their memories so they can access them fluently when necessary.  We just circled back to division with large numbers today. We are solving problems like this:

The apple orchard picked 1,548 apples. They can put 6 apples in each bag. How many bags of apples can they fill?

Here's how we solved it today, after asking if they could fill 100. How about 1,000? How about 200?

6 X 100 = 600

6 X 200 = 1,200

6 X 50 = 300

6 X 8 = 48

6 X 255 = 1,548

So the answer is 258 bags with one apple left over. We are working to use what we know about the magical 10 and 100. If we can multiply something by 10, then we can multiply it by 5 by halving it. Then we can multiply it by 15!

Reading -- We are getting ready to launch our final unit of the year, which will be a genre-based book group unit. The students will get to choose what genre they want to read, and then they will read with friends, jot their ideas, and get together to have discussions. I think they will enjoy this, and it will give them more practice with coming up with IDEAS about characters.

Writing-- We finished our essay unit this week! I'm impressed with the literary essays the class wrote, and particularly with their ability to find and use quotes to prove their opinions. Good for them! Today we did our final assessment, and I am looking forward to reading their essays over the weekend.

Science-- We have started the second and final bend of our energy unit. This unit is all about stored energy. We are making a variety of fun manipulatives that use rubber bands to store energy. Next week we will try out the rubber band roller cars we made today, and we will also use "bumper coasters" and marbles to learn about energy transfer. I hope the rain lets up so we can do some of this outdoors!

I was out yesterday for a medical appointment, and I will be out again on Monday for a personal day. I am never out so often, and I apologize for the 2 days so close together. I look forward to seeing the class on Tiesday.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

 Well, here goes. This is my final blog post for 2020-2021. When this year started, I was terrified and uncertain about how to make it throu...