Sunday, January 12, 2020

1/13

Hi Families,

We're back into out daily routine after a long holiday vacation! Read below to see what we're up to. You can find more frequent snapshots of our days on the class Instagram account.


School Communications
Our school is trying to limit the amount of paper that gets sent home. Please contact me to let me know whether you prefer Smilie newsletters and communications electronically or hard copy. 

Reader's Workshop
We're continuing on with our informational unit, transitioning from reading expository non-fiction to narrative non-fiction. Expository non-fiction is written to inform or explain about a certain topic. As a reader, we don't have to read start to finish. We may target a certain chapter because we're looking to learn something specific. Narrative non-fiction reads like a story. It has a beginning, middle, and end. The main character usually has a problem or issue facing them that gets resolved. Students have worked to use a narrative reading lens when interacting with narrative non-fiction, as well as collect facts about the time period or setting of the book. 

Writer's Workshop
Students spent December writing non-fiction pieces about a subject of the choice. Writing to teach uses different skills than writing to entertain. Much of our work has been spent on structure and organization of writing non-fiction. Students also worked to add text features like pictures, drawings, diagrams, timelines, etc., which are engaging and informative to readers.   As each student nears the end of their piece, they conference with a classmate to get suggestions for any final edits or revisions. Most students are putting the final touches on their work, while some are still working to complete their writing.

Math
3rd graders began a new unit that focuses on geometry and measurement. We started the unit learning about perimeter. They have found the perimeter of regular and irregular polygons by measuring the sides with rulers, and found the perimeter of round shapes by using tape or string. Next, we will return to area, and explore how area and perimeter are connected. 

Theme
We are just getting started on a theme unit where students will work in partner groups to pick a country to learn about. This unit will tie into Reading, Writing, and Theme as students learn about their country's location, geography, and the people who live there. To kick this unit off, we've started learning about different maps and how to use them.

The unit will culminate with each student writing a research report about their country, and presenting a project that shows their learning.

Spelling
After vacation I administered the Developmental Spelling Assessment so I could adjust our spelling groups to better fit student needs. Along with the change in groups, I'm also trying to change our spelling routine, and shift the bulk of the work from work at home to work in class. While spelling will continue to be part of weekly homework, it will take a few weeks of getting our in class routine down to know how it will fit into homework.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

11/14

Hi Families,
I apologize for the delay in getting to these blog updates. Know that it's my goal to publish a new one more frequently than I have! Here are some updates to what we've been working on. Please be in touch with any questions.


Reader's Workshop
We have moved onto our second reading unit, which focuses on informational texts. We started by looking at headings, subheadings, and text features before reading to try and think about what we expect to learn when we read. This past week we started to think about the main idea of an informational passage or article, and support that with details from the text. In particular students have been trying to distinguish the topic ("lacrosse") from the main idea ("Lacrosse has changed significantly since it was invented.). Students are still reading independently for about 30 minutes and writing journal responses. 

Writer's Workshop
In Writer's Workshop most students have finished the true story narrative that they've been developing over this unit. About a week ago students did a writing assessment that focused on the features of narrative writing we studied. While each student has their own individual strengths and weaknesses, as a class I noted that students were writing strong leads that convey the characters and setting, and draw readers into their story, while elaboration and punctuation are areas that we'll continue to work on.

Next week we'll start an informational writing unit where students will work to write about a topic in which they consider themselves and expert. We will focus on strategies for organizing and presenting information in ways that make it easy for their readers to understand and learn from their writing.

Math
I usually try to summarize what 4th graders have been doing with Mr. Menz, however, his blog has a detailed update, which 4th grade parents can find here.

3rd graders completed a short data unit where they built bar graphs, pictographs, and line plots out of categorical and numerical data. We have moved into our third unit, called Travel Stories and Collections. This is a big unit, and focuses on place value, addition and subtraction strategies, and problem solving. The problems students solve can be grouped by the story situation; put together/take apart problems, add to/take from problems, and compare problems. Compare problems tend to be the trickiest of the problem situations students will face in this unit.

Theme
We are finishing are geology unit, and are in the middle of the culminating activity, and engineering design task where students need to design and build a model of a building that can withstand an earthquake. Concurrently, Dr. Jo came in last week to build seismographs with our class, and then use them to measure the seismic activity of events like bumping the table. We will have one more session with our seismographs next week.

During the engineering design task, as well as the seismograph project, working as part of team has been difficult at times. Today I introduced students to a rubric on effective teamwork. This rubric provided clear success criteria, and also provided students language for talking about ineffective teamwork sessions that allow for growing and learning from the experience. For instance, when asked how things went, instead of answering, "lousy", they could say, "one person did all the work".

We'll be continuing to use these rubrics for team activities as they come up during the year.









Tuesday, October 15, 2019

10/15

It has been great to connect with all of you at Open House and during conferences these past few weeks!

Book Orders
I sent out book orders a couple of weeks ago, and forgot to put a due date, and our class code.

Book orders are due by next Friday, 10/25. Our class code is W4BC2.

Homework
No spelling this week (10/14) due to no school on Friday. In addition, starting next week I'd like to try sending a Reading Log that is only for 1 week. For those students who read before bed, they can fill out the Reading Log in the morning, and put their best approximation for time spent reading.

Reader's Workshop
In Reader's Workshop students are consistently reading for 30 minutes each day. Students have also begun writing a journal response daily after independent reading time. Our recent mini lessons have been focusing on deepening these journal responses, not only reporting back what happened in their story, but connecting their own thinking to what is happening in their book.

I have also just begun administering the Fall Benchmark Reading assessment. I will be in touch with families individually as I finish each students testing.

Writer's Workshop
In Writer's Workshop everyone has chosen a seed idea and begun writing their first draft of a personal narrative. We've worked on the difference between writing like a news reporter and writing like a storyteller; this difference is hard to nail down in practice for 3rd and 4th graders! In the next couple of weeks, students will work to revise their writing, working with different leads, finding ways to make their story more interesting when it lags, and finding ways to elaborate and stretch out the best parts.

Math
Last week 3rd graders learned about division by connecting it to multiplication with a missing factor, something they've already been exposed to. Division contexts with equal groups can look two different ways; we might need to find out how many items are in each group (this looks like sharing out equally to a known number of groups), or how many groups we can make (this looks like making multiple copies of something until we hit a known total. While both contexts would be represented by the same division expression, the model and strategies kids use will look different.

Theme
We have begun our Geology unit in science. Students have been learning about tectonic plates, and how the earth has changed (and continues to change!) due to the movement of tectonic plates. We have also been learning about the rock cycle, and how different kinds of rock are formed. We will be going on a field trip to Rock of Ages and Hope Cemetery in Barre next Wednesday to learn more about granite.





Sunday, September 22, 2019

9/22

Here are some updates from the past couple of weeks!

Extras
We've noticed a need for spoons and forks in the classroom at snack time. Most days our snack time is short, and sending students all the way to the cafeteria for silverware means not much time to eat. Rather than ask for plastic utensils, I wonder if any families have any odds and ends metal silverware at home you'd be willing to send in? We don't need them to match, and any little bit helps. Please email me before you send them in, as I don't want to collect more than a class set.

Homework
Your students will have 3 pieces to their weekly homework, which comes home on Monday.

  • Spelling: A spelling list goes home, along with 3 activities. Spelling tests are every Friday, and spelling packets are due on Friday. 
    • Day 1: Sort the words on the front by the spelling feature that is focused on for the week. 
    • Day 2: Write 10 great sentences using at least 10 spelling words. Underline the spelling words
    • Day 3: Have an adult read the spelling words in random order, the student writes them in a blank grid, spelling them correctly, and also sorting them into the correct feature category
  • Reading Log: At least 20 minutes each night.
  • Math: Usually a front/back worksheet, due on Friday.


Reader's Workshop
In Reader's Workshop the class is still working to extend independent silent reading time each day. Right now they are up to 25 minutes, with the hope of extending to 30 minutes or more. That amount of time is hard for some students to sustain, so we're working on comprehension strategies to stay engaged with a book. I am also conferencing with students to do a Reader's Interview, as well as a running record.

Writer's Workshop
In Writer's Workshop students have been brainstorming lists. These lists are doing double duty; they are providing students with writing tasks that are short, engaging, and attainable at the beginning of the year. Second, these lists will spark the students' thinking when it comes time to generate story ideas for narrative writing.

Math
3rd graders are continuing to work on multiplication. Last week they explored multiples of 2, 5, and 10, and how they are related. Their discussions pulled in other math concepts like odd/even and properties of multiplication. This past week, we began each lesson with Number Talks. A Number Talk is an activity where students solve a problem mentally and share strategies out loud. During the share, my job is to notate their strategies and link them to the students' mental model. Our first Number Talks focused on the distribute property of multiplication.

Theme
Last week we used the class' Hopes & Dreams as a springboard for creating the class rules. The students brainstormed, sorted, and consolidated to com up with their classroom rules for the year: Be Kind, Be Safe, Be Responsible for self and materials, and Be in a Mindset For Learning. Some of the kids have begun to call them "The 4 Bs of Mr. D's".

Class Book
Most parents have sent in pictures for the Class Book. Students got a chance to begin making their collage last week. They will have one more day to work this week, and we should have the pages laminated and the book created by next week.




Sunday, September 8, 2019

Week 2

Welcome to our class blog!

I'll be using this blog to post newsletter type updates, hopefully weekly, but at least bi-weekly. I will also upload spelling and math assignments each week on the sidebar to the right.

I've also set up a classroom Instagram account under the user name duboisclass. There you will find pictures of what we're up to each day. You can find the Instagram page here.

Now, some updates!

Students have been spending a lot of time learning the procedures of the classroom, playing games, getting to know each other better, and working as a team these first couple of weeks. We've also begun our core academic blocks.

Reader's Workshop
In Reader's Workshop, our class is trying to expand our sustained silent reading time each day to build up stamina. Helpful strategies include picking a Just Right Book, finding a comfortable reading spot, and limiting distractions. Tomorrow we shoot for 20 minutes!

Writer's Workshop
In Writer's Workshop, students made a Heart Map filled with the people, places, objects, hopes, and experiences they hold close to their heart. We've also begun making lists. Both the Heart Map and the lists will serve as true story ideas for our first writing unit.

Math
Both grades begin with a multiplication unit in Math. 3rd graders have learned that equal group situations can be represented as repeated addition as well as multiplication, and are practicing making math pictures of equal group contexts. 4th grade students are learning about multiplicative comparison contexts. We can compare two things (4 feet and 12 feet) in an additive way, ("12 feet is 8 feet longer than 4 feet"), as well as in a multiplicative way ("12 feet is 3 times as long as 4 feet).

Theme
Students have begun working on their Hopes and Dreams for the year, reflecting on what went well and what was difficult last school year. They setting out one way they'd like to change, and also articulated worries about the upcoming year. These Hopes and Dreams will be on display in the classroom once finished, and will serve as a springboard for creating classroom rules at the end of the week.

Class Book
Please send in a few pictures of your child with loved ones, pets, at favorite places, etc. Once everyone has sent in pictures (hopefully later this week!) students will make their pictures into a collage page for our Class Book.

Extras
We've noticed a need for spoons and forks in the classroom at snack time. Most days our snack time is short, and sending students all the way to the cafeteria for silverware means not much time to eat. Rather than ask for plastic utensils, I wonder if any families have any odds and ends metal silverware at home you'd be willing to send in? We don't need them to match, and any little bit helps. Please email me before you send them in, as I don't want to collect more than a class set.