Friday, November 9, 2018

Hi Everyone!

Last Friday was our Wizarding World so I never had a moment to write a blog post!  If I had written one, it would have said "party, party, party!" Our week seemed to be filled with celebrations as we finished up a variety of units and found ways to go out with a bang. We made candy maps to celebrate our geography unit. We had a bonfire and cocoa to celebrate our writing unit. And finally, we had a soap whittling party to celebrate the end of our reading unit (since the main character in our mentor book was a whittler.)  On top of that, we had a harvest celebration and ate treats and brain jello. Phew! It was good to get back to our routine this week.

This week, we have been busy with division. As I suspected, many students are feeling a little worried since they can't quite wrap their heads around division yet. I am not worried -- it is early in the unit, and we will revisit division later in the year.  For now, here is a brief lesson in how we are expecting students to tackle division:

We ask that they read the story problem and then find an equation to reflect the story. Then we ask them to turn that around into a multiplication problem with a missing factor.

I am making 128 cookies. I can fit 8 on each cookie sheet. How many cookie sheets will I need?
Equations: 128 ÷ 8 = _____    OR  8 X ___ = 128

Next, we ask students to use what they know to build up to 128. For example, they can do the following:

8 X 10 = 80
8 X 5 = 40
8 X 15 = 120
8 X 16 = 128

Of course, this is far more complicated when there is a remainder! We've talked about the remainder a a bit this week, and we have discovered that what you do with the remainder depends upon the story context.  Look for some division homework coming home next week!

We have started our non-fiction reading and writing units. In reading, we are looking how to look through the text to preview it before we begin. By doing this, we can see how it is set up and that will help us know what to expect as we read it. Writing is similar -- we are choosing topics we know a lot about and we are thinking about how we would organize the topic into sub-topics by using a table of contents. I love this writing unit because I think the structure is really helpful for young writers -- as opposed to the narrative unit which was so open-ended!

Finally, we are wrapping up our natural resources unit. Next week, students will begin researching one renewable energy source and one non-renewable energy source, and they will look at the pros and cons of each. Our goal is to have them see how they can be stewards of our environment in every choice they make.

On a related note, Mattea's mom Juliana came into our classroom today to teach us about water quality and how we can protect Lake Champlain even right here at JES by looking around the property and identifying places where a berm, a swale, a rain barrel, a rain garden, etc. might help keep the water and the nutrients from flowing into the lake. Although it is a Friday afternoon and most of the students were pretty bumpy and ready for lunch, I know they learned a lot from this presentation, and it goes right along with our stewardship conversations!  Thank you, Juliana!

I hope to see many of you next week at our Thanksgiving lunch or during the Scholastic Book Fair. Also, please be sure to send me your favorite recipes so we can put them into our JES cookbook -- our first fundraiser for our year-end trip!  You can send in several recipes!

Next week's sharing theme: Something hand-made.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Happy Friday!
This has been a week of finishing up -- we finished up our data unit with a fun assessment comparing temperatures in Boston and Philadelphia. We also put finishing touches on our fiction pieces and started working on editing, adding pictures, and getting ready to publish. We finished up our reading unit, although reading never ends! 

The big news of the week was that VEEP came to visit! We had a wind station and a solar station, and the kids got to experiment with the angles of the solar panel as well as the angles of the wind turbine blades to see how they could maximize voltage. Then they got to see a demonstration of how hydro works -- and fun was had by all!

Today we had our Great Vermont Scavenger Hunt outdoors. Be sure to ask your kids what that was all about -- and ask them to show you their prizes!  They know Vermont REALLY well at this point!

Next week is going to be a crazy one. We are starting a new math unit which is about multiplication and division.  Expect to see a dip in their confidence about math as they start this unit -- it is a whole new level of thinking for many!  Other than that, next week is all about celebrations and unusual activities. Here's the run down:
Monday: Watching Coco
Tuesday: We are running school wide meeting. Feel free to join us!
Wednesday: Candy maps to celebrate our Vermont unit
Thursday: Harvest festival with Mr. B's class, reading celebration, writing celebration
Friday: Wizarding World Day!

It's a good thing learning happens in many ways...

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

This will be a brief post since I met with so many of you this week and will meet with the rest of you next week!  I don't want to be repetitive...

We are wrapping up both our reading and writing units in the next 2 weeks. I am impressed with the volume of writing I have seen, and I love seeing the character development in the stories. The students are working hard to think deeply about the characters in their books, and they are developing theories and searching for lessons -- not easy work when you are 9!

We are having a lot of fun with our data unit, but it will be over by the end of next week. Then we start the big stuff -- getting into more difficult multiplication and division. Keep your eye out for a family letter with suggestions for how you can support at home.  This is a big turning point!

We are still having a lot of fun with our VT Geography unit, but the kids have learned most of what they need to know. Now for the fun stuff -- we had the Giant Vermont Map visit this week, and next week we will do an outdoor version that is similar. We will end the unit with candy maps on Halloween.

We enjoyed our visit to the solar array and the Essex Hydro Dam. The kids asked some good questions and I can tell they are thinking hard about what humans are doing to our planet by making electricity. We have discussed which resources are renewable and which are not. Next we will begin researching various types of electricity generation and the pros and cons of each.

We continue to work on kindness and smooth transitions. I see growth every day, and we are laughing a lot and enjoying our classroom community.

I loved meeting with you this past week and discussing your children. I look forward to seeing the rest of you next week!

Enjoy the long weekend together.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hi Families,

It was so nice to meet so many of you during our Open House. Thank you for letting your children be the tour guides -- it was pleasurable to watch them shine with pride as they showed you all their work!

This week, our major focus has been on kindness. We have talked a lot about how to make sure everyone feels included, and we have discussed how sometimes we don't have bad intentions but the impacts of our behaviors can be  hard for others. We have practiced giving and receiving compliments, and we have talked about ingredients for "Friendship Soup." These are all important life lessons!

Here's a rundown of our academics this week:

We have started a new data unit, and it is a lot of fun! We are doing all sorts of quick surveys in the classroom and learning to put data on a line plot. We measured ourselves and compared our heights to the heights of first graders. We are learning to use words like outlier, range, and data points. Next week we will learn how to find the median. We continue to practice our math computation skills during Menu each day.

We are still working on analyzing the characters in the books we are reading, paying particular attention to the characteristics the author points out over and over again. We are also learning to use precise words to describe our characters -- aiming for better words than "nice" and "awesome." Next we will get into how our characters are all learning important lessons as they proceed through the plot.

This week we have worked on making sure our realistic fiction stories have a setting that is clear to our readers. We have also worked on making sure they have a compelling lead, looking at leads from famous authors as mentor texts. Finally, we talked about endings and how 4th graders can do better than "The End" by wrapping up a story and making sure the character's problem is resolved.  The stories are looking terrific!

Social Studies
We are just about finished with our geography unit. The students have learned so much about Vermont! This week we made a huge map on the floor and placed all the important rivers and mountain ranges and cities on it. The students accepted the challenge of also pointing out all the counties. I am impressed with what sponges they are!

We began our new science unit which is all about how humans use and impact natural resources for electricity. We haven't gotten into renewable versus non-renewable yet, but our field trip on Tuesday will be the start of that discussion. (Nothing is needed for that field trip!) So far, we have learned to identify what is meant by the term "natural resource." Today we visited our outdoor classroom and read "The Lorax." Eventually we will each decide how we can become a Lorax to help take care of our planet.

Here is a link to a video Mr. Bouchard made from our field trip to the Maritime Museum. Enjoy!

Next week's sharing theme is "something that was lost and then found."

I look forward to seeing you all during conferences during the next 2 weeks. Have a fabulous weekend!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday again already! This is the time of year when the days seem to fly past....

We've had an excellent week here at JES. It feels like our routines are finally established and we are able to roll up our sleeves and get going with academics. I am so pleased with the attention and "braining-in" that I'm noticing!

Here's the scoop on academics:
 In math, we have continued working with factors and mutiples. Students are showing a lot of good strategies for solving a double-digit by single-digit multiplication problem (such as 14 X 7.) Some draw 7 boxes and put 14 dots in eacch box and then count their dots. While this shows an understanding of multiplication concpetually, we are working on moving to more efficient strategies (such as breaking up the 14 into 10 and 4 and multiplying each part by 7.) This is not as easy as it sounds, but we are getting there!  Today we worked on deciding if all of the factors of a number are also factors of its multiples. This is complex thinking!  This unit ends next week, and we will move on to a unit on data and measurement.

In reading, we are focusing on characters and their feelings, traits, and longings. We are working on having "fancier" jottings as we read -- moving away from retelling and moving towards growing ideas about our characters and the lessons they learn. This group of students loves to read, and I notice amazing stamina when it comes to reading! Now we have to work on the ideas and discussions...

Writing is another area this group seems to enjoy. We have finally started writing stories after a week of planning. The students all developed their characters, keeping internal and external traits in mind. They decided what their characters want, and what is getting in their way. Then they planned the plot of their stories on an arc. Now they are happily writing, trying to move away from summarizing and into showing by using descriptive words and dialog. Such sophisticated work they are doing!

The students are becoming experts on the map of Vermont. They know where the mountain ranges are, they can identify neighboring states (and Canada) and they are using mnemonic devices to memorize the 6 prominent rivers and the names of the counties! Be sure to ask them about "Mr. Lane Went Out With Cats" and Wolf cow grew bac... They seem to love this kind of memorization work!

I sent home a notice about parent conferences and another about our 4th grade trip, which has caused so much excitement! Please be sure to let me know when you would like your conference, and also reach out if you have any questions about our trip in June. I am looking really forward to actually meeting all of you during conferences -- it's always so enlightening to see parents and get the full picture!

I will send home some details about Mt. Philo on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Happy Rainy Friday! This much needed rain has been a bit of a disappointment here at school since we had to stay indoors at recess and also postpone our Outdoor Classroom time today. We did our best to enjoy our day anyway!

Here is a brief summary of our academics this week:
We are continuing to work on what it means conceptually to multiply. We have distinguised between equal groups problems (I have 4 bags with 8 candies in each bag) and comparison problems (I have 4 bags and my friend has 8 times more than I do.) We have practiced drawing or using a variety of models for each. These are baby steps, but critical before we can move on to harder multiplication problems later in the year.

We are just starting our first reading unit and we are focusing on characters, what their traits are, and what they really want. We are reading the book The Tiger Rising (a gorgeous book written by Kate DeCamillo) as our anchor book. This works really well for our writng unit which is a narrative unit. The kids are planning their stories, and they are so anxious to start drafing! For now, they are thinking about their characters, deciding on their internal and external traits, and planning their struggles. We have discussed words like antagonist, hero, villain, and protagonist. They love using these big words!

We started our unit on Structure and Function today. This was what we were hoping to get outdoors for, but we brought some of the outdoors in!  Today we discussed various structures of plants and what the function of each is. Then we observed a variety of plants (that I gathered from around the building, a spider plant, some weeds from outside the classroom door, etc.) and practiced sketching them and labeling the parts.  A Bill Nye video rounded out the activity, and everyone seemed to enjoy and learn.

Social Studies
This week we began learning about the different landforms and physiographic regions that make up Vermont. The kids worked in groups to become experts on one region, make posters, and shared with others. You'll see these posters at Open House!

Here are some considerations for next week:
We are going to the Maritime on Wednesday. Thanks for getting all of your paperwork and money in! The students will need to wear footwear that can get wet, preferably with a closed toe. I plan to wear boots. They should also be prepared to get their clothes wet as we will be in canoes. Jackets/raincoats are also necessary. Students should bring a snack and lunch (although bag lunches will be available if needed) as well as a water bottle. Let me know if you have any questions.

Sharing for next week will be "something purple" but students can share whatever they want, even if it's not purple!

Finally, I have started a class Instagram account so you can easily access photos. You can follow me at ehteshamclass for photos and updates!

Have a wonderful weekend, and as always, feel free to be in touch!

Friday, September 14, 2018

We've survived our first 5 day week!  We are all getting accustomed to our classroom routines and continuing to get acquainted with each other and our schedule. I feel like the students are beginning to settle in and summer vacation is only a distant memory...

We jumped into math this week, and Mr. Brezic and I are observing and getting to know all of the students as math thinkers. The students are working hard to recall their understanding of factors and multiples, and today we learned about prime numbers. In Math Menu, we taught them some fun games (such as Lighthouse -- see photos below and ask your kids about it!) and Prodigy Math on the chromebooks. Working together as a 4th grade team for math is working out really nicely for this unit, although we will also work in smaller groups on some days.

We also started our unit on Vermont's geography this week. I gave all of the students a pre-assessment which was basically a blank Vermont map. I asked students to fill in whatever they knew about our state -- rivers, mountains, cities, lakes, neighboring states, etc.  Most knew very little, but a few really surprised me!  We looked at a lot of different kinds of maps this week, including population maps, relief maps, precipitation maps, and road maps. Next week we will start learning about the physical features of Vermont.

The students have been enjoying our read-aloud -- and we will finish it on Monday. Make sure to ask them about Bradley Chalkers and Jeff Fishkin!

Finally, our collages are done and we have started collecting ideas for our first writing piece which will be realistic fiction. Today, I saw all sorts of great ideas from pirates taking over a boat to a girl who saves a bear cub. We will spend a few more days collecing ideas before beginning the drafting process. We are excited

The outdoor classroom is an incredible pull for the students -- they ask to be out there ALL the TIME This makes me happy since so many children seem to prefer the great indoors these days. We plan to spend a solid chunk of time outside at least once every other week. We will share our schedule for those times with you when it is solidified. In the meantime, we are seeking stumps to sit on, logs that can be benches, and mulch that can be used to create a sitting area. If any of you have any of those that you are willing to part with, you can leave them outside my classroom door (on the side parking lot side) and we will take it from there. Thanks in advance for whatever you might be able to provide!

A few things about next week:
Please be sure to send in your general permission slip if you haven't already. We have our first field trip coming up soon and need those in order to be able to go.

Please send in the $10 for our Maritime Museum trip as soon as you can, or contact the office about scholarships. Once again, we need that before the trip on 9/26.

Homework is due Monday. Please remind your kids to bring in their reading logs since this is the first assignment they need to return.

Next week's sharing them is "something that fits in the palm of your hand."

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Happy Friday! It's been a fast, short week, but I feel like we have all known each other forever!  We have spent a lot of time this week doing many of the same sorts of things we did last week -- getting to know our classroom routines and expectations, getting to know each other, and building our team. The class seems to be coming together nicely and they are getting better at listening and following directions. They seem eager and enthusiastic each day, and that is wonderfully satisfying to see!

This week, I also started some basic assessments so I can get to know the students as learners. I will continue doing assessments next week. These will help me form spelling/vocabulary groups as well as match books to readers.  By the end of the week, we should be all set to start our Literacy curriculum.

We will also start our first social studies unit next week. Our first unit is all about understanding maps, map symbols, map scale, and then finally (and most importantly) Vermont's geography. The students will learn about the mountain ranges, rivers, valleys and various landforms we have in our beautiful state, and they will also learn what counties are and what states/countries border us.  We will do many hands-on activities to make this unit fun!

We did a little bit of math work this week, and I was glad to see what curious math thinkers I have in this class! We will begin our first math unit on Monday. This unit is one that will be largely a review for most of the class, but an area that needs to be solid before we move on. The unit is called "Arrays, Factors and Mulitplicative Comparisons" and will cover multiplication and how we can use models to help us understand it. I will send home a family letter with Monday's homework. The letter gives lots of suggestions for how you can support your child at home with this work, but that is optional, of course!

We had a lot of fun spending time outdoors today, and the students were super excited about creating little spaces in the woods. We allowed them to use clippers and rakes and hoes, and they went to town clearing little areas and claiming them for their "clans."  Mr. Brezic and I will spend some time next week discussing what to do next with our outdoor classroom, and we may be calling on parents to help. Stay tuned!

Thank you to all of you who sent back permission slips/money so quickly!  Fall is a busy time with field trips. We are hoping to have another on 10/16 to GMP's Williston Solar Farm and the Essex Hydro Dam to support our energy unit. Keep your eyes out for that permission slip/info slip which I will send home as soon as I have secured the bus.

Here are 2 important notes for next week:
1. We will be making our collages on MONDAY so please be sure your child brings in photos for that. I have a lot of magazines here that can also be used. I am also happy to print photos here if that is easier.
2. Next week's sharing theme is "Something Shiny." This does not mean the students have to share something shiny, but I find it helps reluctant sharers to have an idea.

That's all for this week. Enjoy the photos below, and enjoy the cooler weather this weekend!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Hello Families,

It has been a whirlwind week, but it has been wonderful to begin getting to know this very lovely class! We have been working hard on learning classroom routines, figuring out who each of us is and what sorts of things we like and dislike, and learning how to work together as a team. We have discussed kindness and belonging, and of course we have worked hard to make sure each member of our team feels included and safe.  It has been a lot of fun!  We haven't done anything "acadmic" yet, but that will come soon enough!

One of the things we have done quite a bit of in these 3 days is team building. The students worked in teams to make a spaghetti and marshmallow tower that could hold a penny. They LOVED this!  They also worked together to make a stucture out of index cards that could hold books off the table. Some teams made simple structures that held 30 or more books! Finally, we all worked together to create a "TEAM" puzzle out of magazine scraps.  The students were amazed when we put the pieces together!

I know you have been inundated with paperwork. Don't worry too much about sending in photos for the writing journals as we probably won't get to that until the week after next. If possible, please send in a photo for the Cheetah Den bulletin board so all can feel they belong.

The easiest way to stay connected to our classroom is follow this blog.  I will send out emails for the next few weeks with a link to the blog, but I am hoping you will all "follow" using  your email eventually so you can automatically get notified when I post something each Friday.  Let me know if you have any problems with that.

Please feel free to be in touch with  me about anything I need to know about you or your child, and to ask any questions about what is going on in the classroom. I love to communicate!

Enjoy the long weekend!