Friday, January 15, 2021

 Happy sunny Friday! I have so enjoyed meeting with some of you this week during our parent conferences, and I look forward to seeing the rest of you next week. It is always nice to connect and spend some time talking about your children.  For those of you who haven't had your meeting yet, it seems like it might be best to join the google meeting from your child's chromebook (or another chromebook) since the link is through my google classroom. If this won't work for you for some reason, let me know and I will set up a separate google meet for our meeting.

The big news this week is our classroom economy. Everyone has been paid, paid rent and taxes, and received penalties and/or bonuses.  Subtracting our checks from our check registers has proven to be far more difficult that I anticipated, so we are taking a week off (having our own version of a "shut down"-- and maybe I'll give them all a stimulus check the week after!) so that our subtraction skills can catch up.  The class is disappointed, but we WILL get back to it the week after next, and we will extend the final date by a week.

Speaking of subtraction, we are learning a variety of subtraction skills, leading up to using the US algorithm (which is what we used to call "borrowing.") Before I teach the class how to do that, I need to make sure they have a solid grasp of place value. Here is a look at the strategies we are currently using:

I hope this makes sense! In the third example, we have learned that we can go over to the "tens house" when we are short ones, but in that house, the people are all stuck together in groups of 10. We can't borrow only what we need -- we MUST borrow an entire 10 and bring them all with us over to the "ones house." It's not the way WE all learned to do subtraction, but with the solid understanding of what goes in each "house" or place, the students will be better prepared for doing this with larger numbers.  Let me know if you have any questions about this!

We are just about done with our nonfiction reading and writing units. I am really impressed by the writing the students have done. I see a lot of great organizational skills and a lot of pride in their work! I will not be printing these since some of them are 15-18 pages and they have a lot of color. But be sure to ask your child to share them with you digitally. They are really lovely! We will be moving on to opinion writing soon. This class certainly has some opinions!

Speaking of opinions, we had our first "current events" conversation today. We discussed the importance of respectful conversations, and we learned how to have a "hands-free" conversation so that it felt more like a discussion. We also talked about how all of us have different reactions to the news, and we have to consider how it affects each of us based on our identities. We also discussed how important it is to know what each of us can control and can't control, and what we can do to take care of ourselves. We discussed the events that took place in Washington DC last week, and I was surprised and please to see how well-informed and wise they all are! Some spoke a lot, some just listened, and some had some excellent questions. This class rocks!  I hope to discuss current events every Friday from now on. They are hungry for this kind of mature conversation! 

Discussing current events goes along well with our unit on democracy and citizenship. So far we have discussed what "democracy" means, what the constitution is, and what rights and responsibilities citizens have. Next week we will get into the Bill of Rights and the balance of power. Great stuff!

I hope you all enjoy a restful weekend. Remember that there is no school for students on Monday. I look forward to seeing them all on Tuesday!

Friday, January 8, 2021

 This is a rather long blog post, so please stick with me.... Happy New Year! I am so happy to be back with all of the students again. Yesterday was the first day we had a full class, but we are all here and healthy, and that is wonderful!  Getting back into the routine has been easier for the students than I anticipated, but we did spend a little bit of time reviewing expectations and safety protocols. We are all back in the saddle now!

Before going into the details of our academics this week, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the recent sad and disturbing events in our news. I know that some of the students must be aware of these events and are probably confused or frightened by them. I have tried to balance the need to give them space to ask questions and express their worries with the need to keep with our routines. Since no one said a word about it to me, I stuck with our routines while keeping an ear out for any conversations that needed to be addressed. Ironically, we started our unit on Democracy and Citizenship today, and nobody brought up the news from the White House at all even though there was ample opportunity. I am sure the issues will come up over the next few weeks, and I plan to do my best to answer any questions with facts. Please let me know if your child is feeling confused or frightened and you need any support from me.

Our Democracy and Citizenship unit will be a repeat for the students who were in my class last year. Unfortunately, whenever you go from a multi-age to a straight grade classroom, half the kids are going to miss something and the other half will have to repeat something (in science and social studies, at least.) I think this unit is critical, and particularly in an election year. The main questions we will be answering are: What is democracy? What are the rights and responsibilities of a citizen in a democracy? How are laws made in Vermont? How can citizens be involved in their democracy?  I see students getting excited about these topics every year, and I hope this year won't be an exception!

We have started our new math unit -- Addition and Subtraction with Large Numbers. In this unit, students learn to use increasingly efficient strategies to add and subtract BIG numbers, ending with the standard US algorithm. This is trickier than it sounds. Up until now, they have been taught to add the hundreds, then the tens, and finally the ones. That is pretty ingrained! When they add numbers using the US algorithm (with "carrying and borrowing" the way we used to do it) they have to start with the ones place! So far, we have worked on addition, and in just 5 days, we are using the algorithm successfully! The students are begging me to write more problems for them on the board! It is an amazing "AHA" moment for them. Subtraction is coming along soon, and that is a totally different thing.... Stay tuned!

Reading and writing are moving along. We are learning some strategies to make our nonfiction writing more interesting, such as mixing facts with ideas, adding humor, and adding introductions and conclusions. We are also learning how to tackle difficult vocabulary and how to summarize what we have read. Both of these units will be completed in a week or 2.

Finally, I want to remind you all that report cards are coming home on Monday, and conferences will start on Wednesday. I think the easiest way to manage the conferences is for you to all use the google meet link that is on my google classroom. Here it is again, just in case Conference Link.  I will do my best to finish each conference on time, but please be sensitive to the fact that the conference before yours may not be quite done when you try to join. If that is the case, please just wait a few minutes and then join. You are more than welcome to have your child join the conference -- but I will leave that up to you.  Here is the Conference Schedule. Please let me know if you have any questions about your conference time or about conferences in general. I'm happy to help!

I hope you all enjoy a lovely weekend. The sun is shining -- which is a nice way to end the week!

Friday, December 18, 2020

 I can't believe this will be my last blog post for 2020. I'm happy to be saying goodbye to this year, but surprised at how fast time has flown by!

Despite the fact that the students are all ready for a vacation, we managed to get some good work done this week. We finished up our multiplication and division unit! Of course, we will never completely stop multiplying and dividing -- that work will continue through math menu until later in the spring, when we will have a similar unit with larger numbers. After vacation, we will begin a unit about addition and subtraction with large numbers (into the 10 and 100 thousands!) We will learn to regroup and use the standard US algorithm ("carrying and borrowing.") This unit is my favorite -- everyone is always successful, and learning about place value really helps with every other kind of math!

Our literacy units will both continue into January. This week, the students practiced finding the main idea and supporting details in parts of the books they are reading. They took notes and tried to figure out what was really important to write down. They also learned a few different strategies for elaborating in their own writing. They are begging for writing time, which is lovely!

Today we had our first "Maker's Space" day. The students really enjoyed being creative with a huge variety of craft items! Many surprise snowflake gifts are finished and wrapped! We will have another hour of crafting time on Monday so that we can make sure everyone has a chance to finish. I love this kind of activity -- everyone can find a way to participate!

I am still waiting on a few parent conference sign up sheets. If you can't find yours, feel free to email me and we can find a time for your conference. I have a schedule ready to share with you, but I am hoping to hear from everyone before it is finalized.

This week's vocabulary words were scrutinize, immense, and serene. We didn't get to put all of them into our visual dictionary, but we did try to use the words. See if you can use them too!

I probably won't write a blog post on Tuesday (although I might...) If you don't hear from me, I hope you all have a wonderful vacation!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Happy Friday!

I have so much enjoyed being back with the students this week. There's lots to tell you about, so here goes!

Math: I am incredibly impressed with the progress we are making in our understanding of and strategies for double digit multiplication!  The students are using place value and also their multiples of 10 to efficiently multiply. Here are 3 beautiful examples for 16 X 16:

These 3 strategies are so much more efficient than skip counting, and pave the way for multiplying with larger numbers. I am taking my time to make sure everyone is comfortable with this before moving on -- although my guest teacher did a wonderful job moving the kids forward! 

Reading: We have been reading nonfiction books since after Thanksgiving and will continue with that until mid-January. So far, we have learned how to choose a book and make a connection to it, how to commit to learning from it, and how to preview it so you get a good understanding of how it is laid out before you dive in. We have also thought about what messages our brains give us when we are learning new information (such as "Wow!" or "Really?" or even "Eww, gross!") When we notice the messages, we are able to decide which information to write down in our notebooks. Students are reading, learning and taking notes. Many of them prefer fiction, but such is life!

Writing:  The students have all planned their expert books and they have started drafting. We used a table of contents to do our planning (similar to the "outlines" we used when we were in school) and a mini table of contents to plan what goes in each chapter. We are getting the basics written now, and then we will begin learning how to elaborate next week. I love this unit as I think the structured method really helps kids learn to organize their thoughts as they write.

Word Study: Before vacation we learned about all the various long vowel patterns for each vowel. The week I was gone, the kids played games with those same vowel patterns on Spelling City. This week we learned about using Y as a vowel. Next week we move into learning about r-controlled vowels and how to use them to help us decode. Good stuff!

That's it for academics!

Here are a few other bits of information:

Thank you to those who have already sent in conference forms or been in touch with me about them. Please remember to get those from your children and get them back to me by 12/22.

Thank you also for your generosity with crafting materials. We are excited to have our Maker Space next Friday and the following Monday. I miss the days when I could ask you to come in and help! We chose names today, and we'll see how good the class can be at keeping secrets! We also made a list of what each student likes, so their peers can think about what to make them. The list is on the Bitmoji classroom in case the students want to access it over the weekend as they think about what to make. All the making will happen here in the classroom, but they can certainly plan at home!

We had visits from both Mrs. Graf and Nurse Lindsay this week. Mrs. Graf came in to talk to us about the appropriate ways to use the CHAT feature on our chromebooks. She explained to the class that they should not chat anything to anyone that they wouldn't say to them in person, and she asked all the students to tell an adult if they witness anything unkind on chat. I also encouraged them to ask YOU before they get on chat with a friend. It is a good tool, but we want to keep our eye on it to make sure they are using it appropriately.  Nurse Lindsay came in to remind us all about the importance of keeping our distance and wearing our masks. As the pandemic drags on, this gets harder and harder for the kids. I feel like I spend so much of my day policing them, and that is hard for all of us. We are all doing our best, and that includes them!

This week we only added 2 new words to our class dictionary. The words are embellish and oblivious. Try using those around your kitchen table!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, November 13, 2020

 It's a gray and gloomy Friday, but we have had a lot of fun in the classroom with our pajamas and stuffies and blankets! I even wore my bathrobe over my clothes most of the day, and it was cozy! The class was incredibly quiet and focused during both reading and writing today -- quite a feat on a Friday!

Here's the scoop:

Math this week was challenging! We moved from multiplication into division, and this always causes some anxiety! Starting yesterday, we learned about division with remainders, and that is another level of difficulty as well. It's hard to figure out the remainder, and then it's even harder to figure out how to "deal with" the remainder depending on the story context. For example, when dividing 44 by 8, the mathematical answer is 5R4, but if the story problem asks how 8 friends can share 44 crackers, you can break the crackers in half so each gets 5 1/2! This is new thinking, and we WILL all get it eventually! I try really hard not to move on until everyone feels ready, so we will take our time.

We are finishing up our first writing unit, and many of the students are sad about this! I have explained that all writers have deadlines, and that they can continue to work on their pieces from home or during our occasional free writing times. Today we learned about endings and how it is important to make sure our loose ends are tied up. Next week we will do some revising and then some editing. We will have a publishing party on Friday. I miss the days when I could invite parents to join us!

We are also finishing up our reading unit, and we will move onto non-fiction books after vacation. Today we learned about debatable ideas and how readers can debate with themselves while they are reading. The focus of our reading in Grade 4 is all about developing ideas as we read. As the students are reading, I am doing some assessments so I can give you all information about your children's decoding and comprehension skills soon!

This week the students each researched an animal and made and presented a poster about the animal's special features  -- or its body structures and their functions. After vacation, we will learn about some human organs and their functions as well.

During our social studies time, many heavy and mature issues have come up as we read picture books about a variety of topics related to race and justice. The students have brought up the notion of systemic racism, sexism, diversity, and equity. We have started SLOWLY discussing some of these issues in a measured and nonjudgmental way. Your children may come home with questions on their minds as we tackle these issues when they come up!

This week we learned 4 new vocabulary words -- all of which can be seen in our video dictionary on the google classroom. The words are livid, implore, elated, and blatant. Good luck fitting these into your dinner time conversations!

I hope you all enjoy a restful weekend. Stay safe and healthy!

Friday, November 6, 2020

 Happy Sunny Friday!  This weather is super exciting, especially after the exciting snow from earlier in the week.... Let me just say that our moods have definitely been affected by our weather -- lots of excitement all around!  It has been really nice to have our windows open and be outside the past few days.

Here's the brief rundown:

In math, we continue working on 1-digit by 2-digit multiplication.  The focus is to break the larger number into smaller chunks, either using a model (an array) or equations. I gave an exit ticket this week and was pleased with the results. Next week we will move onto division, which is a little tricky at first. We'll be mastering long division before we know it!

We have not done a lot of new work in literacy this week since we had Tuesday off and focus on math on Wednesdays. The students are still reading, writing me letters, thinking about the characters, and writing their first drafts of their narrative stories. Next week we will focus on debating to develop rich ideas and also on revising our stories to make them even better.

We have started having phonics instruction twice a week. One group is working on suffix rules (doubling consonants and dropping silent e) while the other group is reviewing/learning a variety of patterns for spelling long vowel sounds.  We have learned about patterns for long a and long e, and we will do long o and long i next week.  I'm excited about this work and think it will help the students as spellers AND as readers!

We made terrariums today!  Thank you to the parents who bought supplies for us!  Most of the students put 2 plants into their terrariums, but some chose to only put in one plant. They are all watered and ready to be put in a sunny location. They shouldn't need to be watered very often.  I ordered some fun little figurines to put in them, but they have not arrived yet. I will send the figurines home when they arrive. Our study of plants is over, but we have moved onto learning about the interesting structures of various animals and their functions. Stay tuned!

Don't forget to check out the video dictionary from time to time so you can see our new vocabulary words. This week we only had 1 new word -- blatant. I hope you can find ways to incorporate it around your dinner table!

Original Works and order forms are coming home today. I believe you all got directions for how to order in an email. Let me know if you have questions.

I am so enjoying this class! They are curious and engaged and excited about learning. We laugh a lot each day, and they make give me hope for the future of our planet!

I hope you all enjoy this sunny weekend!

Friday, October 30, 2020

 Hello Everyone!

We have had a wonderful week in the classroom! The class is working hard, but they also know how to have fun together.  Here is a run-down of our academics this week:

Math: We are starting double digit multiplication! This sounds a lot scarier than it is, and we will take it one step at a time. This week, we worked hard to understand that 13 X 8 is the same thing as 10 X 8 PLUS 3 X 8.  As I always tell the students, 10 is our best friend, and breaking double digit numbers into tens and ones makes everything easier.  Some students still prefer to draw out their equations and count by ones, and this is perfectly okay and developmentally appropriate. But we will keep pushing into more efficient strategies as they are able to understand them conceptually. 

Reading: Our work this week was all about figuring out how the characters in our book are complicated, just like real people. We thought about ourselves and how we are complicated -- for example, we are different at school than we are with our cousins or our friends. The character in our read-aloud book, Ghost, is also complicated. The students are working to figure out how the characters in the books they are reading are multi-faceted and complicated as well.  

Writing: Today we started writing the drafts of our narrative stories, and the class is so excited! They have done a lot of planning -- thinking about their characters, their problems and the scenes that make up the story arc. Now they are ready to get writing! Next we will tackle the hardest parts of writing -- revision and elaboration!

Science: Thanks to many flower and plant donations, today we dissected flowers (I totally forgot to take pictures!) We identified roots, leaves, stems, and flowers and discussed their functions. Then each student got to dissect 2 flowers and discover the goodies inside. Mr. Bouchard brought in his digital microscope so we could REALLY see the stamen, pistil, stigma, seeds, etc.  I was impressed by how much the class already knew, but there was a lot of new learning as well. Next week, we will get to make our individual terrariums, complete with little plants!

Social Studies: This week we learned about implicit bias. We learned that we all carry opinions and attitudes that come from somewhere -- the media, advertisements, friends, family, etc. We got into a wonderful conversation about advertising and the notion of beauty. These kids are perceptive! Then yesterday we revisited our identity maps and tried to make a distinction between the parts of our identities that we really own and the parts that others have "labeled" us with. This was heady work, but I was proud of the deep thinking the students did!

Today we also made some harvest crafts. Forgive me if you get straw all over your house this evening!  Our little terracotta pot scarecrows are perhaps a little messy... you should see the classroom floor!

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Halloween weekend.

 Happy sunny Friday! I have so enjoyed meeting with some of you this week during our parent conferences, and I look forward to seeing the re...