Friday, May 22, 2015

Hard Work all Week = Dance Party Friday!!!

Happy Friday!!!  After SBAC testing and Science NECAP testing we were ready to DANCE today!!!  Check out the video we made in the outdoor classroom.  

Every student has a published “book” showcasing their informational writing.  Students included various text features (photos with captions, tables of contents, glossary, etc) and are very proud of their hard work.  Many students have also published a painted essay format report about their peacemaker.  A major focus this week has been on paragraphing and sentence variety.  Next week, students will enjoy the more constructive aspects of creating a visual component to their report in preparation for our open house.  With the end of the year nearing, students are also all being assessed on their reading growth using the Benchmark Assessment System (BAS).  Results from these assessments will inform our report card writing.  

Fourth graders worked diligently on Science NECAP testing over the course of three sessions this week. During their limited time in math, fourth graders reviewed multiplication and division strategies.  We are working on partial products, the bow-tie method, and the area model.  Third graders steadily wrapped up unit 6, geometry, on Friday with the unit 6 post assessment.  Students explored various ways to divide a geoboard (square) into two equal halves, both congruent and not congruent.  

In other news, the Equinox May/June master calendar will be emailed to families.  Please note the upcoming special events and specifically, the date change for our Peacemakers open house.  There will not be an event on 5/27 - it has been rescheduled for the morning of  Friday, 6/12.     

  • All Library books and materials are due before Friday 5/29.  Please help our class meet our challenge of having everything returned by 5/28!  
  • Equinox field trip to ECHO on 6/2.  Stay tuned for a permission slip and details!          

Friday, May 15, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week

All third and fourth graders in Equinox are currently working on a research project about a peacemaker of their choice.  Students are using a variety of resources both in print and online to support at least 2 reasons why the person is considered a peacemaker.  Students are practicing close reading and notetaking strategies and are taking notes/beginning their writing using tools that work best for them (recording notes in their reader’s notebook, using Google Slides template, etc).     

With 3 sessions of SBAC testing in math, we only had 3 “regular” math sessions this week.  Third grade math students are exploring early probability concepts through the calendar collector this month, and our calendar has some interesting and complex details including area, perimeter and fractions of rectilinear figures.  Fourth graders worked on solidifying multiplication and division strategies.  Students will be learning multiple double digit by double digit multiplication strategies!  Ask them to show you at home.


Our information writing is nearing completion.  Most students are in the editing phase, and have shared their work in a common shared “class” folder.  All students have at least 3 chapters (or equivalent) about the topic of their choice.  

Thank you so much for all of the love in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week.  The special treats, breakfasts, flowers, snacks, desserts and gifts really made us all feel like superheroes!  Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. 

There is still at least one confirmed case of lice in Equinox.  Please check your child’s head regularly and keep long hair pulled back.  Hair product (spray, gel, etc) is also a great ‘repellent.’ Thanks for your attention to detail!  Also, Save the Date: the morning of Wednesday, 5/27 there will be an open house and brief performance to celebrate our learning and work accomplishments about Peacemakers.  More details will be forthcoming.

Friday, May 8, 2015

SBAC is Underway!

The English Language Arts (ELA) component of the SBAC tests were administered during our reading blocks this week.  Students had the opportunity to utilize learned skills in close reading, comprehension and synthesis of new information, and the writing process to complete a series of challenging tasks.  Both third and fourth grader should be commended for their positive attitudes, perseverance and stamina!

In Math, third graders focused on attributes of quadrilaterals this week.  Students worked collaboratively to create and share “shape posters,” identifying and describing the unique characteristics of squares, rhombuses, rectangles and parallelograms.  Our May number corner “workouts” take area and perimeter to the next level on the calendar grid, and offer a “chance” for students to explore probability by rolling 2 dice five times  each school day, multiplying to find the product, and analyzing odd vs. even products.  Fourth graders are working on unit 6 as well.  Students worked through problem strings involving ratio tables while solving problems about packs of pens and cases of water.  They are using partial products to solve two by two digit multiplication problems.

Students are nearing publication of their informational texts writing pieces. Students have added cover pages, bold key vocabulary words and included glossaries.  They are currently working on "digitizing" their pieces. We will be continuing our research about our peacemakers over the next few weeks, and will be publishing these pieces as well.

Third and fourth grade students completed their first week of SBAC testing Friday.  Thank you
for remembering to have consistent, early bedtimes next week, as well as encouraging your third or fourth
grader to relax and do their very best in the testing sessions. We have one more week of testing sessions, which will all be math.  Please help make sure your child has plenty of water and a protein-rich breakfast and snack(s) especially over the course of next week.

Please note that there is at least one confirmed case of lice in Equinox.  Please check your child’s head regularly and keep long hair pulled back.  Hair product (spray, gel, etc) is also a great ‘repellent.’  Thanks for your attention to detail!     

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lots of Learning!

Reading groups who have been working with Ms. Gray wrapped up their work this week and we will shuffle and consolidate groups a bit next week. Students are reading various texts, including fiction and nonfiction selections, and are practicing oral reading fluency and comprehension strategies, specifically summarizing and inferences.

Third and fourth graders mathematicians are beginning unit 6. Fourth graders finished their work with geometry and angles with a unit 5 assessment on Friday. In grade three, unit 6 focuses on geometry and in grade four, the unit is about multiplication & division, data & fractions. Third graders completed and reflected on a pre-assessment for the unit, and finished April number corner activities with a bang! Please encourage and remind your mathematician to practice his/her math facts at home. Third graders have weekly “quick facts” checkups, and are working to master all of their multiplication facts.

After constructing a working definition for what a ‘peacemaker’ is the week before break, students learned about large-scale peace efforts over the past several decades. Students have selected a peacemaker to study and will be completing a research project over the next several weeks, which will eventually culminate in a celebration with families. So far, students have selected their person/topic, and have started reading about and gathering information about why this person was/is considered a peacemaker. Ask your child who s/he has chosen and what s/he’s learned so far. This project will be a good counterbalance with our SBAC testing schedule over the next couple of weeks.

Our informational text pieces are becoming more and more sophisticated each day! Students are working hard to include elaboration to their writing, including relevant facts and details from both background knowledge and current research. Students were expected to have first drafts finished by this Friday. The next two weeks will include revision, editing and opportunities to add nonfiction text features (photos and captions, diagrams, maps, glossary, etc) to their finished product.

SBAC News: Third and fourth grade students will be taking SBAC tests beginning next week. Thank you for remembering to have consistent, early bedtimes next week, as well as encouraging your third or fourth grader to relax and do their very best in the testing sessions beginning next Tuesday. Stamina, stamina, stamina!! Please help make sure your child has plenty of water and a protein-rich breakfast and snack(s) especially over the course of the next few weeks.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Spring!

We have had the opportunity to hear two more of the Red Clover books - Papa’s Mechanical Fish, and Matchbox Diary.  We are REALLY loving all these guest readers!!!  Also, students continued to work in reading groups and on self-selected independent reading.  Keep your eyes peeled for information about the upcoming SBAC testing in future School Bell issues!!!   As a team, Equinox is working on practice tests to become familiar with all the technology skills needed to show learning in English/Language Arts and Mathematics.  We’ve been working on some sample literacy tasks both on paper and using the secure browser and SBAC practice tests.  Stay tuned for more details each week and keep your eyes peeled for information about the upcoming SBAC testing in future School Bell issues!!!   

In math, third graders solved over 5 different division story problems this week!  Our work on solving these stories concluded with a project where we were able to create our very own division story problem. We are even going to solve one another's problems next week! We also learned a new concept called Fact Families, and how to find them using arrays.  Fourth graders continued learning about measurement. This week the focus was on measuring liquids in milliliters and liters. They also completed the Unit 4 post test today!
In writing, The Observer has asked us to contribute to the next Kids Edition. We have been diligently working on completing different types of writing to submit to the Observer (we want to get published!) Some of our writing has include idioms, haiku poems, and answering questions like, “What does family mean to you?” and “If you opened your own business, what would it be?”  Finally, most are close to publishing their final persuasive pieces for our current unit of study in writing. 


  • Our DIY basket for the Big Basket Raffle looks amazing! Thank you all who contributed to it!
  • No school for students on MONDAY, 3/23 due to conferences. Have a wonderful long weekend! 

    St. Patrick's Day Green!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring is Around the Corner

We have entered the final “push” of our persuasive writing unit this week.  Students selected topics, wrote thesis statements and began drafting their persuasive essays or letters.  Our goal is to finish these pieces by next week!

All students wrote a persuasive article about the importance of head protection in football experiences for youth. Evidence from the informational video and news article provided supporting details for the thesis:  “football should be safer for its players.”  Students continued to work in reading groups and in self-selected independent reading.  We also have had the opportunity to hear five of the Red Clover books read to us - A Splash of Red, The Day the Crayons Quit, Eat Like a Bear, The Mighty Lalouche and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.  

In third grade math, after completing the pre-assessment for unit 5, students received their unit 4 assessments and completed a reflection on their work for the unit.  Unit five focuses on multiplication and division strategies, including the relationship between the two operations.  We worked together to explore patterns and functions as we created a “groups of four” chart, and began to use multiplication and division in the context of story problems as we worked through “game store problems.”  In number corner, third graders are looking closely at rectilinear figures and examining the relationship between area and perimeter of these figures.  Ask your mathematician what the current area (in square feet) of our rectilinear figure is!  Fourth graders are learning about units of liquid measure and are using both customary and metric units.  In number corner, classes just uncovered the function for the March calendar:  x3 + 1.  Fourth graders also worked on story problems involving measurement.  A large problem the class has worked on all week was called “Running the Race,” where students calculated distances and determined how many mL of water each runner would need during the race!  This module gave students an opportunity to explore benchmarks and relative sizes for length, time, liquid volume, mass, and weight.  Students use ratio tables to convert units within the same measuring system, and apply some of the place value multi-digit computation skills they've practicing to solve story problems related to measurement.

  • Don’t forget...our Big Basket Raffle theme is “Gift Cards” this year!  3/20 is the last day to contribute to the basket! Our basket only has ONE item...please consider donating.
  • No school for students on MONDAY, 3/23.  Conference sign-ups were emailed today.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for information about the upcoming SBAC testing in future School Bell issues
  • Lucky U begins on Monday.  Students are able to purchase raffle tickets for $0.25 to WIN an activity with a teacher! For more information on Lucky U, please check the latest School Bell.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

We had a fantastic time today celebrating Valentine's Day with Minute to Win-it activities.  Thank you to all the families that donated supplies.  Enjoy your Valentine's Day!

February Update

The week before February break (next week) at WCS is “Theme Week.”  This year’s theme is connecting wellness with cultures around the world.  Students will attend fun and diverse workshops on Monday - Thursday and then a parade, cook-off, and dance on Friday!  We were each able to pick two one-hour sessions, a Monday-Tuesday workshop and a Wednesday-Thursday workshop. We will be trading flags with other third and fourth grade classrooms.  Our class country is Vietnam! File:Flag of Vietnam.jpg

In Literacy this week, students focused on visualizing as a comprehension strategy this week.  Groups are reading a variety of fiction and nonfiction selections, and discussing text features, themes, vocabulary and making connections.  Students also continue to practice persuasive techniques, including counter-arguments, in writing about noteworthy people and places.  Students began working on pieces for The Williston Observer Kid’s Edition!

In math this week, third graders are in the thick of unit 4 - studying various units and tools for measurement.  Students completed a measurement checkpoint on Friday, assessing their understanding of unit concepts thus far.  Our February calendar focuses on concepts of area and perimeter.  We continue to practice finding equivalent fractions and connecting fractions to decimals using money.  Fourth graders have an exciting new calendar for February and are learning about isosceles and scalene triangles.  Math lessons have included strategies (including the popular mental-math strategy “give and take”) for adding multi-digit numbers (in the thousands and ten-thousands!) and rounding large numbers as well.  We reviewed how to do the traditional algorithm and played two NEW math games!

We continue this week with our Properties of Matter science rotations.  Thanks to many wonderful parent volunteers, we are able to have exciting inquiry happening in multiple classrooms.  In Ms. Ward’s workshop, students are exploring the many fascinating properties of gas.  The core science idea is that gas is matter because it takes up space and has mass.  Investigations include comparing the circumference and mass of deflated and inflated balloons, explaining water displacement using an empty glass, and keeping track of data in a chart.   

In other news, our Big Basket has arrived!  Our class’ theme this year is “Gift Cards”.  Please consider sending in a donation for this important (and fun) fundraiser!  Thanks!

LOVE seeing this teamwork :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Reader's Workshop

The reading strategy we are focusing on right now is Connections.  While your child is reading he/she should be making connections to deepen their comprehension.  Schema theory explains how our previous experiences, knowledge, emotions, and understandings affect what and how we learn (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). Schema is the background knowledge and experience readers bring to the text. Good readers draw on prior knowledge and experience to help them understand what they are reading and they’re able to use that knowledge to make connections. Struggling readers will move directly through a text without stopping to consider whether the text makes sense based on their own background knowledge, or whether their knowledge can be used to help them understand confusing or challenging materials. By teaching students how to connect to text they are able to better understand what they are reading (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000).
Keene and Zimmerman (1997) concluded that students comprehend better when they make different kinds of connections:
  • Text-to-self
  • Text-to-text
  • Text-to-world
Text-to-self connections are personal connections that a reader makes between a piece of reading material and the reader’s own experiences or life.
Text-to-text connections are when readers are reminded of other things that they have read, other books by the same author, stories from a similar genre, or perhaps on the same topic. Readers gain insight during reading by thinking about how the information they are reading connects to other familiar text.
Text-to-world connections are the larger connections that a reader brings to a reading situation. We all have ideas about how the world works that goes far beyond our own personal experiences. We learn about things through television, movies, magazines, and newspapers.
Cris Tovani (2000) offers reasons why connecting to text helps readers:
  • It helps readers understand how characters feel and the motivation behind their actions.
  • It helps readers have a clearer picture in their head as they read thus making the reader more engaged.
  • It keeps the reader from becoming bored while reading.
  • It sets a purpose for reading and keeps the reader focused.
  • Readers can see how other readers connected to the reading.
  • It forces readers to become actively involved.
  • It helps readers remember what they have read and ask questions about the text.

Below are some examples of connecting statements for students to use as a reference for their Reading Letters.
This part reminds me of….
I felt like…(character) when I….
If that happened to me I would….
This book reminds me of…(another text) because….
I can relate to…(part of text) because one time….
Something similar happened to me when….
Below are some examples of questions that can be used to help your child make connections:
What does this remind me of in my life?
What is this similar to in my life?
How is this different from my life?
Has something like this ever happened to me?
How does this relate to my life?
What were my feelings when I read this?
What does this remind me of in another book I’ve read?
How is this text similar to other things I’ve read?
How is this different from other books I’ve read?
Have I read about something like this before?
What does this remind me of in the real world?
How is this text similar to things that happen in the real world?
How is this different from things that happen in the real world?
How did that part relate to the world around me?

What did you do on our Snow Day?

Monday, January 26, 2015


 We are participating in a whole-school read aloud of "Rules" by Cynthia Lord.  We will be reflecting in blog posts and connecting across school, practicing a new reading strategy each week, and having lengthy discussions within our classroom.  One of the main characters in the book has autism.  Students will be learning more about autism this week through a book called, "My Best Friend Will" by Jamie Lowell and Tara Tuchel.  See our KWL below.

Summary of "Rules" from the author's website.

"Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules—from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"—in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?"

Learn more about Cynthia Lord here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Promoting Peace

This week, we focused our reading on Rules, before we branch out to new reading group work beginning next week.  We are exploring character traits and making connections to Wonder and other books we’ve read with similar or overlapping themes.   Students are enjoying using Biblionasium as a tool to record their independent reading and to connect with friends around books.

We began our week focusing our learning on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and why he is significant both in our history and in our present.  We watched a Reading Rainbow episode (remember those!?) and had a lengthy discussion.  Students also brainstormed how they can promote peace at home, at school, and in our world.  

Third graders finished their unit three math with a post assessment on Friday.  Key understandings for this unit included rounding multi-digit numbers and estimate their sums and differences, and addition and subtraction of 2- and 3-digit numbers using traditional algorithms and other methods.  We will begin unit 4 on monday, which focuses on telling time, calculating elapsed time, modeling and comparing fractions in different ways, and solving problems including measurement of mass and volume.  Fourth graders are wrapping up unit 3, practicing finding equivalent fractions to more easily add, subtract, multiply and divide with fractions.  Number corner work has included fractions and story problems including division all with fractions!

In writing we continued supporting our claim that “we need individual floor chairs”  We reviewed the components of the “painted essay” (introduction, proof paragraph 1, proof paragraph 2, conclusion), and each table group worked together to write one of the four paragraphs.  Ask your child how s/he thought our collaborative essay came out!  Finally, we practiced thinking like persuasive writers and brainstormed a list of “problems” and “imagined solutions.”  Ideas ranged from longer school days and longer lunch times, to universal fire prevention education.  I can’t wait to see where our writing takes us next week!

Lastly, we are in need of cereal boxes (empty) for an upcoming project in preparation of Valentine's Day (more information about Valentine's day is forthcoming).  Please send in boxes anytime!  Report cards were sent home today (Friday 1/23).  Please review the enclosed documents and send the empty envelope, signed, with your child on Monday.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wrapping Up

All students have had a recent BAS (Benchmark Assessment System) assessment this past week.  Information about instructional text levels, fluency, comprehension and reading rate was collected, and is used to inform reading instruction.  We are participating in the whole-school read of Rules by Cynthia Lord.  We are going to be encouraging a cross-grade level discussion and writing quality blog comments to a wider audience.

In math, as unit 3 draws to a close for third grade students, we
finally explicitly taught students the traditional algorithm (or “carrying”) for multi-digit addition problems.  Much time was spent this week evaluating the reasonableness of an answer when comparing to an earlier estimate.  Finally, third graders are getting lots of opportunities to practice telling time and determining elapsed time during number corner!  Fourth graders have been looking at comparing and converting decimals and fractions.  They have been focusing on constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.  To prove their thinking, they use base ten pieces or quick sketches.  The base ten pieces are a powerful model for decimal numbers.  By using them to model different numbers and justify comparisons of those numbers, students are developing a deep understanding of decimal numbers and our base ten number system.

In writing on Monday and Tuesday this week, all students completed a pre-assessment for our newly launched persuasive writing unit.  We spent an afternoon “immersing” ourselves in model persuasive texts (The Salamander Room, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, and Earrings) we identified elements of author’s craft and strategies for persuasive writing.  Finally, later in the week, all students collaborated to write a brief persuasive piece to support the claim:  “we need personal floor chairs”.

This was our final week having a formal workshop with Mr. Harmon  and Mr. White, the engineers in residence.  We were able to learn about timbre - or the voice of an instrument - with some student demonstrations of musical instruments.  We connected what we learned about the travel of sound waves to various solids and liquids - which will be the topic of our next theme study!  Ask your child how his/her kalimba is coming!

Report Cards will be sent home with students next Friday, 1/23.  No School on Monday 1/19 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Have a great long weekend!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy New Year!

This was a fun week back mostly because we all put a lot of energy and effort into reflecting on our growth and looking forward to set new goals.   Students wrote two new goals - outlining learning accomplished, and goals for school from now until June.   

In math this week, third graders are in the thick of unit 3, exploring multiple strategies for subtracting two and three-digit numbers.  Students are becoming fluent with four strategies (each involving the number line):  removal (take away), differencing (count back), differencing (count up) and constant differences (change the problem).  Ask your third grader about these four strategies!  The third grade January calendar focuses on fractions, and number corner components include fact fluency - multiplication by 10 and 5, elapsed time and equivalent fractions.  In fourth grade math, students are learning how to add, subtract and multiply fractions.  Their January calendar focuses on the area of 2-d shapes.  A recent problem string examined the commutative property of multiplication and division.  

We will begin our unit about persuasive writing next week!  Unfortunately for you, we will teach your children to be more persuasive with their opinions.   We know this will make them better writers, but maybe a touch tricky around dinner time.  ;) Before we launched that unit, students were able to write a new blog post about what they did over winter break.  Please be sure to read and comment on student blog posts.

In Engineering, students are beginning to assemble their Kalimbas!  It is very exciting to see this integrated engineering - art - music project begin to come alive!  This week’s focus was on frequency, and how wavelength effects amplitude.  

In Literacy, we are beginning our School-Wide read of Rules by Cynthia Lord.  This book has many themes, including understanding differences, compassion and “normal.”   Our class has already made many text-to-text connections with our other favorite, Wonder.   We will be connecting with students in other classes to share our understanding and reflect while reading this book.   Also in reading, students will be given the BAS (Benchmark Assessment System) reading assessment over the next few days, to provide recent data for progress reports.   Students are assessed for accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.   The progress report will provide reading information about your student according to being 'nearly', 'at', or 'above' grade level according to this assessment and classroom observations. (sent home 1/23)


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Evolution of Education

Many technologies have promised to revolutionize education, but so far none have. With that in mind, what could revolutionize education? What are your thoughts? Stay tuned until the end...