Friday, May 17, 2019

Hi All,
I am happy to say that we are done with our SBAC testing! (with the exception of one or two students who were sick...) I was so impressed with the perseverance and focus I saw. This class rocks!

This week, we have not had much in the way of new academic learning due to SBAC testing and play rehearsal. Math has continued as always, and we are learning how to divide 4-digit numbers by 2-digit numbers. Phew! That's a long way from where we started. The students have all kinds of great strategies for this kind of math, and I am truly proud of the learning I have witnessed.

Thank you to those who have already turned in their rafting waivers and checks. I know we have a full week, but feel free to get those in early so we have all of our ducks in order for this big trip  Thank you also to those of you who have offered to send in props and costume pieces. Keep 'em coming! Our play is looking SOOO good, and the kids are really excited!

I will be out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week since my youngest daughter is graduating from college -- once from her college and once from her university -- and the graduations are on week days!  I will miss the kids but have left them in very capable hands. Mr. Brezic will handle science, and Mrs. Bianca will be their guest teacher all 3 days. I will have access to email and will be happy to communicate with you as needed. I think it will be a smooth 3 days, and I will be happy to get back and reconnect with my class.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Happy Rainy Friday!
As you all know, the big news this week has been the SBAC testing. I talked to the class a lot about perseverance, and I am pleased with how hard they seem to be working on these tests!  As I walked around the room today, I saw evidence of so much learning -- some were writing essays with a thesis, others were writing narrative stories with characters and settings, and still others were writing informational pieces with sub headings and other text features. I am so proud of their grit and their learning! Not all are finished with Language Arts yet, so I think we will try to squeeze another hour in early next week so we get a break before starting our math testing.  This too shall pass!

The other big news of the week is our Vermont history musical. We are starting to work on set design and props and costumes, and we are beginning to rehearse little scenes. It should be a blast to watch! I hope some of you can send in some of what I requested in my email -- it takes a village to put on a play!

In academic news, we continue to work on strategies for solving double digit multiplication problems and some long division problems. Ask your kids to show you how we use "Menu Division" to solve division problems!  They are like sponges -- soaking up the new learning quickly and seeming excited about it all!  We are also continuing to learn about geology and plate tectonics. The kids are understanding how earthquakes and mountains are formed as well as various theories about the layers of the earth.

Thank you all so much for your generous contributions to all the delicious food that has been here for Teacher Appreciation Week. I certainly feel appreciated -- and stuffed!

Thanks also to all of you who have volunteered to chaperone our rafting trip. If it ever stops raining, it should be a fabulous and memorable day for all!

Enjoy your weekend, and as always, let me know if  you have questions or concerns about anything happening in the classroom.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Hi All,
Let me start by saying I was overwhelmed with the love and attention the class gave me on my birthday! In all of my years teaching, I've never had a class celebrate my birthday like this class did! Thank you to all the planners and organizers, and to those of you who sent in snacks, drinks, and gifts. I feel very lucky!

The class has done a great job getting back into the swing of academics after vacation. We are in full SBAC mode, practicing, discussing, reviewing, and generally talking about the need for balance -- doing your best and persevering while also recognizing that it's just one measure of your academics. I hope our conversations have put all the kids at ease but also motivated them to try their hardest.  Since we will have SBAC testing next week and the week after, I will not be sending home any homework. It's important for them to sleep well, eat well, and get a lot of exercise! 

I have told the students that they can chew gum during SBAC testing. If you'd like to send in a pack of gum for your child, feel free to do that. I will not allow them to share gum with friends, but I will have a few packs of sugar-free gum available for those who forget. If you DON'T want your child having gum, please let me know. If your child has braces or can't have gum for some other reason, I'll also allow Werther's or some other sort of healthier hard candy.  Let me know if you have questions.

This week we have started two new units -- one in math and another in science. In science, we are learning about geology and how rocks are formed. Today we made geology sandwiches, with different layers representing different kinds of rock. Check out the photos on Instagram!

In math, we are back to a unit on double digit multiplication and division. This is a review for us, but we will be using larger numbers so we can feel comfortable with them. We will learn some strategies for long division too!

Finally, we started working on our Vermont history play/musical this week. We have done a brief read-though and assigned parts. There are no stars -- and everyone seems pleased with the part they've gotten. Please check the JES calendar of events to make sure you have all the dates (play, field trip, breakfast, etc.) on you minds. This is a BUSY time of year!

I have heard from only a few people about chaperoning our rafting trip. If you haven't been in touch yet, please let me know when you can if you are planning to join us. If it ever stops raining, that should be a super fun day!

That's all for now. As always, let me know if you have any questions about your child or anything that is happening in our classroom

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hi All,
It's definitely spring.... and we are all ready for a break!  This has been a good week, but it has been hard to stay focused on academics.  I know we will all come back refreshed after a week away.

We finished up our fraction unit, and I am really pleased with the growth I see in ALL of the students! They know how to put fractions in order, add and subtract both fractions and decimals, and multiply fractions by whole numbers. That's a lot!  We celebrated by baking cookies and banana bread AFTER making the kids use their math skills to double and/or half the recipes. After vacation we will revisit multiplication and division with larger numbers. We will also do a lot of reviewing before we begin the SBAC tests.

We also finished up our reading unit about the Revolutionary War. We are not only experts on the topic, but we are also really good at using non-fiction reading strategies to get the most from our books. We were going to start a historical fiction unit after vacation, but there won't be enough time since we have testing and so many other 4th grade activities. Instead, we will go back to free reading and spend a lot of time reviewing skills we learned earlier in the year.

The students are still writing their final piece. This is a huge project which includes a narrative, an essay, and 2 chapters that are informational. Once the writing is finished, the kids will turn these pieces into magazines. I look forward to seeing the final results!

Finally, we finished up our Vermont history unit. Each student chose a person, place, or event from Vermont's history and researched it to find out how it impacted Vermont. We are all learning from each other and enjoying the research process. After vacation, we will begin working on our Vermont history musical!

That's all the news from this week. I hope you all have a restful week and enjoy a lot of time together!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Happy Friday!
It's been another quick week here at JES -- I'm starting to get sad at the thought of saying goodbye to this class!

This week has been busy. In math, we starting adding and subtracting fractions, thinking about how the denominators affect the way we do this. If the denominators are the same or are multiples of each other, adding the fractions is easy. If not, we don't add them until Grade 5!  I think the class is understanding fractions pretty well, but figuring out which is bigger/smaller is still a bit of a challenge. We'll get there

Students are continuing to research events from the American Revolution. We spent a few weeks researching the events leading up to it, but now we are researching battles, important people, and other events. Once again, I am impressed with the level of interest and perseverance I am seeing.  We also had out mock Second Continental Congress this week. I dressed up as John Hancock (thanks to Noelle Tripodi for the costume) and the Loyalists and Patriots defended their side. They were almost as heated up as the real Patriots and Loyalists from the 1700's! 

As we learn more about this topic, we are better equipped to write our research reports. This final piece of writing will include 2 non-fiction sections, a story (historical fiction) and an essay!  It is a culminating project that will end with the publication of a small magazine (one for each writer) and celebrates ALL of the kinds of writing we learned about this year. I've started reading over the beginnings of the drafts, and I can't believe how much these kids have learned!

In Social Studies, we have moved away from our focus on the Abenaki and have started learning about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. However, we are completing a few hands-on projects that are related to the Abenaki. The students are working in pairs to make board games that are about the Abenaki. They are also working together to make a model Abenaki village out of natural materials as well as some craft supplies. We will continue this next week. It is a ton of fun!

Our week ended with a celebration  with the 4th graders from both UCS and UID. All of the 4th graders did a "squiggle drawing" and then 3 other 4th graders worked on them by adding objects, details and a background. We hung them all here at JES and did a gallery walk and enjoyed snack together. It was a fun celebration!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Hi Families,
I have not posted anything for quite a while! Since we recently had parent conferences, I feel like you mostly know what has been going on in the classroom. Here's the rundown:

In math we are working with fractions. We started off with simple halves and fourths.  Then we moved into learning about equivalent fractions and how we can tell if two fractions are equivalent. Next we learned how to tell which fraction is larger, mostly by thinking about the size of the unit fraction and by drawing models. This week we started learning how to order fractions and place them on a number line.  This is still difficult for many of the students! We will continue practicing this skill as we move into more work with decimals and adding and subtracting fractions.  Understanding fractions conceptually is critical for fourth graders. Feel free to help your children with this at home!

If you look through your child's backpack today, you should see a completed literary essay. This writing piece was quick! We started just a few weeks ago and today everyone printed what they had completed. They learned to come up with a big idea about a book, write a thesis, and use evidence from the book (including quotes) to prove it. I'm pleased with the work the class did considering that this is their first attempt at this kind of work.  Next we will write a "research paper" about the Revolutionary War.

During reading, we have been researching the Revolutionary War and learning how to take notes, find the main idea, look at primary sources, and consider perspective. This is A LOT to learn, on top of trying to wrap their heads around all of the facts and events. When they take notes or highlight, they still think every single line or fact is critical. We are learning to tease out critical to know, good to know, and interesting to know. All of this research is getting us ready for our research paper, coming up soon!

We are also learning about Vermont's history, which is giving students another opportunity to consider perspective and how we learn about history. We have spent a lot of time learning about the Abenaki, both past and present. Next week we will begin building our own model Abenaki village, and the students are really excited about that. We will also move along our history and begin learning about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.

I think that's a wrap! As always, let me know if you have questions or concerns.

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Happy Friday!
This will be a short post since it feels like it has been a short week! We had a lovely day at the YMCA with swimming, yoga, nutrition, and tennis. It was a great winter activity and I think the kids had a lot of fun. Of course Wednesday's snow day made the rest of the week a little crazy, but we managed!

Here are some highlights:
VINS visited on Thursday and brought a barred owl, a kestrel, and a hawk. The kids asked a lot of great questions and our presenter told us a lot about various structures these birds have and how they function to help the bird survive. This ties in perfectly to or current science unit about structure and function!

Our Valentine's Day celebration was a lot of fun! Thank you all for sending in so much food and drink, and a special thanks to Lori Tourville who volunteered to help me with the silly games and general order!  I think everyone ate lots of appropriate junk food and had fun.

Today we had a "Senses Circus." Our young scientists went from station to station, using their senses to smell, taste, touch and see/hear different things. The task was to pay attention to how their brains told their bodies to react to each thing. I saw some great reactions-- from pleasure to gagging!  Once again, this goes with our Structure and Function unit, and kids are learning a lot about how their brains and their nerves work together!

In math, we have worked on making a chart of 10,000! We have discussed how many 10's are in 10,000, and we are learning to move around in our number system. Next week we will practice adding and subtracting using large numbers -- using efficient strategies like the US algorithm!

We are in finish-up mode with reading and writing -- trying to get units finished before break. There will be information coming home soon about report cards and conferences. I hope ALL of you will schedule a conference since it will be our last official meeting before your kids head off the BRMS (gulp!)

Have a lovely weekend

Friday, February 8, 2019

Hello Families!
Happy Friday! We've had a wonderful week here at JES -- I'm so pleased with the work the students have been doing this week!

The highlights of the week both happened on Tuesday. We had our dragon dance, which was short but made the students very proud! I heard many compliments about the dragon itself and about how poised and perfect the kids were as they marched through the gym. I hope I can make this a tradition at JES! Then we headed to the State House, and I think the class got a lot out of this day. It was lovely to walk through the building and see where our lawmakers do their work, and it was particularly great to sit in on the House in session! I was incredibly proud of the control and restraint the kids showed during this time. It wasn't easy to sit still and be silent for 30 minutes, but they did it!  The museum was also a lot of fun, although it was not as meaningful since we haven't studied Vermont history yet. That comes next!

Students have mostly finished their books and are beginning to plan their public service announcements. They are considering what issue they want to make an announcement about, what data they need, and what they want their message to be. We will film these over the next 2 weeks. I'll be sure to share! In writing, they are drafting their persuasive pieces -- some are hoping JES gets a pool, others are working on making it okay to wear hats at school, and still others are writing about friendship. They certainly have a lot of opinions!  Today they started writing a letter to their legislators, either recommending a new bill or supporting/opposing an existing bill. I love seeing their passion and their awareness that their words can matter!

Finally, today we started working on making a 10,000 chart. This means making 100 100's charts!  The class is thinking hard about what this means, how to make it, and how to move around the number system. Making sure they have a solid understanding of place value is imperative, and they are proving again and again that they do!  Next week we will finish our chart and then begin adding and subtracting these huge numbers!

I have a volunteer to help on Valentine's Day, and 2 or 3 people have offered to send in treats. Feel free to send in a treat even if you haven't signed up. We could use some drinks and cups/napkins.  I appreciate the help!

That's all for this week. Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Hi All,
I heard from many of you that the link to the Chinese New Year celebration didn't work. Here it is again -- please let me know if this doesn't work and I'll move on to Plan C!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48z_e_iwPho&feature=youtu.be

Friday, February 1, 2019

It's Friday again, and time for another brief update. The big excitement this week was working on celebrating Chinese New Year with the first graders in Ms. Tremblay's class.  We got together and made red envelopes (traditional Chinese New Year gift) and ate noodles, which symbolize long life.  It was a lot of fun! Meanwhile, we are creating our dragon so that we can "surprise" the school during Assembly on Tuesday. I will be sure to get our dragon dance filmed and post it for you to se. Of course you are welcome to come and watch -- but it will be quick and then we will be on our way to the State House.

The other big news this week was NEAP testing. The students got through it like troopers -- and the only complaint they had was the "racist" nature of the questions about their demographics. It bothered them a lot to be asked if they were white, black or hispanic. I tried to explain that the NEAP testers are collecting this information nationwide to make sure all students are getting equitable education, but this was hard for them to understand.

We didn't have much time to read this week, but I showed the students a few books by the photojournalist Peter Menzel that they were really interested in! The books are Hungry Planet and Material World. Menzel traveled the world photographing families with their food for the week and with all of their material goods. The photos are stunning and the comparisons quite stark.  I love watching these kids gain perspective!

Each student has been assigned a county and has become a representative to Vermont's House. They have researched their counties and become experts on them. Then today we looked at House Bill 10 (an actual bill that our legislature is discussing) which is about keeping Vermont permanently on Daylight Savings Time. Next week, my class (the House) will debate this bill with Mr. Brezic's "Senate" when we have our Mock Legislature.

Today we started working on coming up with persuasive essay ideas. The students really struggled with this until I suggested they think of what issues they see at school, and who they could persuade to change them. Wow!  They had lots of ideas after that -- from being allowed to chew gum to being allowed to protest!  I think we will have some really interesting essay!

Finally, this week we learned about subtraction with regrouping. I am incredibly impressed with how quickly this class caught on!  They are still a little shaky when "borrowing" across a middle zero, but they are getting there!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, January 25, 2019

Happy Friday!
Are your children coming home and using the words "I plead the 5th?" If so, I applaud them because they spent some time this week learning about the Bill of Rights and getting to know the amendments really well!  They know to ask for a search warrant if an officer tries to search their home, they know they don't have to incriminate themselves, and they know about their rights to free speech! If they plead the 5th at home, you can remind them that you have veto power, and they'll know what that means as well. As we wrap up our civics unit and get ready for our trip to the State House, we will be looking at one particular bill that our legislature is discussing this session, and then having our own Mock Legislature. I love this unit!

This week the students learned to use the US algorithm to solve addition problems with large numbers. They know how to "carry" the way we were taught (or should I say I was taught) years ago. They understand conceptually that they are actually not carrying anything, but rather regrouping their ones into the tens and the ones, etc.  Today they had an assessment, and 100 % of them solved the problem correctly!  Next week we will move on to subtraction with "borrowing" (which we also call regrouping.)

We continue our opinion pieces and will finish them up next week with the addition of introductions and conclusions. We will also dedicate one full hour-long period to sentence structure so that I can be sure the students understand what a sentence is and what a partial sentence is! This is tricky for many adults, but I never stop trying to teach it!

Many groups have finished their social issues books. We have talked about internment camps, refugee camps, poverty, paying a mortgage, animal abuse, gangs and drugs, and unemployment. It is a rather depressing list, but these children have a lot of compassion and care so deeply about fairness and justice. They give me hope for the future!

On Wednesday we spent a few hours outside shoveling snow into huge mounds so that we could make quinzees.  The kids were truly troopers out there despite their exhaustion and the cold. Of course, Mother Nature had other plans and yesterday's rain and subsequent freeze turned our mounds to ice, making it impossible to hollow out the quinzees. We will try again at another time. Think snow!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Happy Friday!

I just read last week's blog post and realize I don't have too much new to say this week -- we are still working on many of the same things!  Readers are looking for social issues in their books, thinking about fairness and unfairness, struggles the character is having, and parts that make them feel uncomfortable. Mostly, they are learning to build ideas and discuss them with their groups. They are doing a wonderful job with this! Writers have all developed a thesis and we are learning to elaborate with personal stories and transition words. In a week or so we will move into persuasive writing.

In math, we have started our new unit which is all about adding and subtracting with numbers up to 10,000. This is exciting! So far we have explored adding by breaking numbers up into their hundreds, tens and ones, or by breaking up one number and adding the other by place. We have also explored compensation a bit -- rounding one of the numbers up or down to get to a landmark, and then doing the opposite to compensate once we have the sum. Next week we will begin to teach the US algorithm, and I expect most of the math thinkers in this class to have a huge AHA and catch on to this method really quickly!

This week's big excitement was Lt Gov. Zuckerman's visit. We came up with a bunch of great questions and he patiently answered all of them. The students were a fabulous audience, and I think a lot of them listened to every word he said. Next week we will explore the Bill of Rights, and then we will start looking at actual bills that our legislators are discussing this session. We will pick one or two to focus on, and we will write letters to our legislators either supporting or disagreeing with them.  We will finish off the unit with a "mock legislature" where each student will become a representative or senator from a Vermont county and then we will hold a debate and a vote.  Stay tuned for more details!

That's all for this week. I hope you all enjoy the long weekend and manage to stay warm!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hello All,
Happy New Year! We have had a pretty smooth return to school (minus the snow day, of course!) I always love January sine the holidays are behind us and spring fever hasn't hit us yet.  I see the students really buckling down and a lot of work getting done!

Here's the rundown of what we are doing:

In reading, we have started our "Social Issues Book Clubs" unit. I am impressed (and even a bit saddened) by the list of social issues this class came up with! We have everything on our list from homelessness to gender issues to poverty and war. The students are reading in groups and working to have meaningful conversations about  the issues they encounter in their books. I love this unit, and I know how justice-oriented students in 4th grade are!

Writing is somewhat related to reading right now, as we just started our opinion writing unit. "The kids did a similar unit in Grade 3, but this time around we are really focusing on coming up with something meaty to write about, and we are making a thesis statement with 3 bullet points. Basically this is a 5 paragraph essay, complete with an introduction and conclusion. A lot of the students seem ot "hate" this unit, but I think the structured writing is really good for their organizational skills. From here we will move into persuasive writing, and I think they will like that better! 

The persuasive writing will dovetail nicely with our current social studies unit, which is about Vermont civics. At the end of the unit, the students will be writing letters to their legislator either urging them to pass a bill, not pass a bill, or with an idea for a new bill. In the meantime, we are learning about how our government works. We have talked about what democracy means, how our Founding Fathers declared independence, what it means to be Republican or Democrat, and what the 3 branches of government are all about. Next week the students will get to meet Lt Governor David Zuckerman and ask him questions!  This is my favorite unit of all -- I think it is exciting for the kids to realize how their government works and what their civic duties are/will be!

We are just about finished with our geometry unit and will be moving into our next math unit by the end of next week. Our next unit is about addition and subtraction with numbers up to 100,000. The kids will learn a variety of strategies, including the typical US Algorithm that we learned when we were children. They will learn to regroup (or "carry" and "borrow.")  A parent letter will be sent home soon.

The students have asked if we could start having a sharing theme again. The theme is only a suggestion, but some kids really like it because it gives them an idea. Next week's theme is "something that has parts."

Enjoy the snowy weekend, and stay warm!