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...