Sunday, May 4, 2014

Newsletter April 29, 2014 Important Dates April 30 Swim Ends May 9: Pejebscot Historical Society: tours of the Joshua Chamberlain House; Whittier Scholfield House Welcome back to the last seven weeks of the year. We always find that this seems like a sprint to the finish. Here are some of the plans. Writing: We are finishing up the unit on essays. Children had been working on literary essays before the break. Our schedule was set up for them to be done well before vacation, but, between tests, swim, and a variety of other events, we lost many writing blocks. So we will be looking over the drafts that did get done, analyzing them, and setting goals. At the end of the week children will write an “on demand” essay. This will use the structure we’ve been practicing, but children will choose an opinion to defend. We will be working on another research piece for our last unit. We study the period in history know as the Gilded Age. This period is sometimes called the Age of Inventions, sometimes the Age of Immigrants. Children will choose something about this era to study: for instance: the railroads, the steel industry, the banks, Ellis Island, immigration, child labor, the tenements of New York, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge. We are very lucky to have the Curtis Memorial Library as a source of books. Word Study: We have sent the “No excuse word” list home several times this year, and we have worked on it and given the assessment in school. The final chance to learn these words is coming up in a few weeks. The list is included one more time. Please help your child to practice. We have gone over these words in class, practicing the differences between your and you’re, and between there, their and they’re. Now there are no more excuses not to know them! We will also give the inventory, a set of words grouped by spelling patterns, that we give at the beginning and end of each year in order to keep track of children’s growth. Social Studies: Children have been working on a flip book featuring Famous Mainers. Children chose 4 people from a long list; they are making the most wonderful drawings on the cover flap, and writing information inside. They must site their sources [class books and Maine Studies Weekly newspapers] on the back of each section. Science: It’s been a challenge to squeeze in wave lessons and activities. Our last session focused on transverse waves; we diagramed and discussed the crest and trough of a wave, wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. In the coming weeks we will use the slinkies, and also make a wave model using elastic and straws, in order to demonstrate that wave energy is transferred from molecule to molecule. We will examine sound waves, which are somewhat different from water or seismic waves. And we will move into empty space to learn about the electromagnetic spectrum. We learn about the many kinds of electromagnetic waves, with their different wavelengths: waves that we can and cannot see, and which are radiated from the sun. Math: we are finishing up Unit 7. In this unit students learned to: • Describe fractions • Find the fraction of a particular number, • The basics of probability, add and subtract fractions with common denominators • Determine whether fractions are equal • Compare and order fractions • Express probability of an event as a fraction • Predict the outcomes of an experiment and then test the experiment to see what actually happens Students will be assessed on this unit at the end of the week. Look for a review sheet to come home as homework. The review sheet includes all of the skills students will be assessed on. We are continuing to work on multiplication facts using rocket math. I know our lives are busy, but if you have a couple minutes of down time to quiz your child on their multiplication facts, that would be very helpful in supporting their math needs. The Dollar Tree is a good place to find flashcards, or you can make your own! Our next unit focuses on area and perimeter. Students will be learning skills such as finding the area of rectangles, triangles, and parallelograms, as well as finding the approximate area of irregular objects. Reading: We are working in the Historical Fiction: Tackling Complex Texts unit. Students have chosen a time period they would like to read more about and we did a little background research on that time period before picking up books that are set in that time period. Students are really enjoying this unit. I have some groups starting their second historical fiction book! Along with reading, students are also doing a lot of thinking as well. We are learning different strategies to truly understand and deepen our thinking of our historical fiction books. So far, we have discussed: • The setting and how it effects the mood • The elements of the story (who, what, where, when, why) because it is set in a time we have not experienced • Holding on to time when there are flashbacks and foreshadowing • Thinking about our characters: the choices they make and why, the type of person they are and why, and how they are feeling Reading at home if very important for every student. This is one of many things they can do to make themselves an even better reader. Lately, less then 50% of students are reading the expected amount. Many students do hand me in a log, which is GREAT, but I want to make sure they are working towards reading more and more. A great way for students to push themselves even further is to write their thinking on the back of the reading log. I have put prompts at the top to help them grow their thinking.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January 28 Newsletter

Important Dates: February 7: Chili and Chowdah Challenge (Benefits Grade 5 Trips) 5:30-7:30 February 13: Maine Sate Museum Field Trip February 17-21: Winter Break Math: We are finishing up Unit 5. In this unit we learned how to multiply using the partial-products algorithm, how to write and read numbers into the billions, and the powers of 10. Students have been working hard on multiplying numbers with two digits together. It can be tricky, but the more we practice, the better they get. If you have some down time, make up some problems for your child to practice. This is an important skill they need to master. In our next unit, we will be learning how to divide, and make and measure angles. 60% to 80% of students have been completing their math homework. We are having a friendly competition for homework completion. We would love to see 100%!! Homework is given Monday-Friday. Writing: Children finished their information booklets the first week back from the holiday break. They met in groups and read them together; this was an exciting and celebratory day. They scored them; peers scored them, and I am in the process of scoring them! Since then, we have been reading and discussing poetry. We began by reading William Carlos Williams’ poem, This is Just to Say. Then we read poems from an anthology called This is Just to Say, Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, in which the poet imagines a class of 6th graders writing poems, taking off from This is Just to Say, and students and teachers responding. Our children’s poems are so delightful and varied. We have been reading anthologies of poems; children have chosen a topic and just started to compose poems for their own anthologies. We have discussed what makes a poem, and each day we read a few, and talk about what makes them poems. Children have a strong and growing understanding that a poem has especially condensed language, very specific, carefully chosen words, and rhythm or cadence. Reading: We are at the end of our nonfiction unit. We have been reading expository nonfiction (all about books) and we are just starting to read narrative nonfiction (true stories, mostly biographies). We are all reading narrative nonfiction in class, but at home students should be reading their fiction books (yes, they can also read their books they get from the library some nights). It is always a good thing to have your child read aloud to you some nights to help with fluency. It is also helpful to talk with them about their book. On the next page, there are some prompts that can help with comprehension and help students think about their book in different ways. • Quick Quiz: Who was there? Where/When was it? What happened? • ______________ is feeling _______________ because ________________. • _______________ is the kind of person who is ____________ because ____________. • I think ________________ will happen because ____________________. • I wonder why________________________. Maybe it’s because ___________. Or Maybe it’s because ____________. Children should be reading 180 minutes per week. I collect the logs and give students a new one on Fridays. In both home rooms, the percentage of students who read the expected 180 minutes (or more!) and gave me their log went up from last week to this week, which means more kids are reading more! We know that the way to become a better reader is to read more! Let’s keep it up! **We are missing several books from the classroom library (Franny K. Stein in particular) and from the Topsham Public library. If you see any books that belong to school that your child is done reading, please send them in as soon as possible for other children to enjoy. Thanks! ** Word Study: The spelling of English words is both a frustration and a mystery to many of us. There are so many ways to spell the same sounds, making it hard to remember which is the conventional way! But the reasons for this complexity are quite fascinating, as they have to do with the long history of invasions of England by foreign peoples, starting in about 500 BC. A large group of students in both morning and afternoon classes have been reading about the origins of English; they are working on a time line. They are learning that the Romans were in England between about 50 BC and 400 AD, and that, therefore, a great deal of English has Latin roots. These students will soon be moving into the study of prefixes, suffixes and Latin and Greek roots and bases. Other students are working on the different spelling patterns for the long o sound [oa, oCe, ow, oCC and o, where C means Consonant] We are working on the strategy: Try one of the patterns, then check to see if it “looks right.” This is a surprisingly successful strategy, since 1. We all know the o words: so, no, go… 2. If a word ends in an open o sound without a consonant, it will be spelled ow. 3. There are very few oCC, words: such as mold, cold, most. So, most of the time the choice is between oa and oCe. And, most of the time, the words are familiar enough that, if children are mindful, they can recognize the spelling that “looks right”. Hope you enjoyed your spelling lesson for the day! Science: We have begun a study of cells, the smallest living unit. Children are learning about the parts of a cell, and how cells make up tissues in animals and plants. They will learn a little about different kinds of cells, how cells fight off attacks, and how they reproduce. We have a wonderful new National Geographic with an article on Germs, and the body’s defense systems. The photographs are exquisite. Social Studies: Our day at the Portland Museum of Art was a great success; the docents were excellent, and children came back full of excitement. Back at school, we are still working on our postcard sized drawings of Winslow Homer paintings. We were inspired by his work, especially Weatherbeaten and The Sharpshooter in the galleries. Children loved the model studio [I did not get to see that, so I plan to go back for a viewing of the model, and a collection of drawings by Homer and other artists that is now on loan to the PMA.] Our next field trip is on Thursday, Feb 13: it is to the Maine Museum in Augusta, where we will again have 3 gallery tours. We’ll be sending out field trip forms next week, and we’ll have room for parents on the bus! We’re on our third week of indoor recess, and we are all chomping at the bit to get outside. Even so, it’s been great to have children painting with water colors, and using the geometric polydrons. Matthew in particular, has worked with enormous patience and vision, constructing giant spider-like structures out of the colorful hexagons, pentagons, rectangles and triangles.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hello 4th grade families! Wow! It's hard to believe we have completed the first trimester. We have completed 1 week of conferences. Thank you all for signing up. It is great to have a chance to chat with you about your 4th grader. If you have your conference this week or the week after, don't forget your child. It's great to have them be included in the conversation and show you the great work they are doing. In math, we are just starting Unit 4. This unit is all about decimals. We will be learning concepts such as at place values and computing decimals. Math homework goes home every night, so ask students to show you what they are working on. We are still in our character unit in reading. Soon we will be reading non-fiction. I have been so impressed with the students' reading work in their notebooks and the volume students are reading. Home reading logs are collected every Friday. In writing, students are working on essays. They have written two fiction stories. You will get a chance to check them out at the conference! Below there is calendar that I have been updating with important dates. I hope this helps!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Our Learning: October

This month was very busy! We had NECAP testing, field trips, and lots of new learning. In math we are finishing up Unit 3. We are in the middle of our Character Unit for reading. Students should be reading for 30 minutes each night, and 60 minutes on the weekend! This Friday we have a field trop to the Maine State Museum in Augusta. Be sure to get your permission slip in! Conferences are coming up next week! Thank you all that have signed up so far! We look forward to meeting with you.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Learning Weeks 3 and 4!

We have had a couple of busy weeks! Last week we went on a field trip to the Wildlife Refuge in Bowdoinham. It was a lot of fun! We also had a great turn out at the Back to School Cookout. It was great to see all who came! In math, we have been learning about minimum, maximum, median, mode and range. We have also been working on partial-sums and trade-first algorithms for adding and subtracting 3-digit numbers. Reading has been going well. We have been reading just right books. We have also been growing our thinking in our readers notebook by thinking about our characters and the story and writing our thoughts. Students are onto their second story in writing. They have chosen some wonderful moments to write about! We start NECAP testing tomorrow, October 1. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating a good breakfast, and bringing a good snack. Stress the importance of this test and tell them to do their very best! Friday, October 4 is a Professional Development Day, so no school for students. Thank you for all of your support making sure math and reading homework gets done each and every night! ((I will post pictures soon! Stay tuned!))

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our Learning- Week 2

This week in math we learned a little about circles, such as what the radius is and what concentric circles. We had our first unit assessment at the end of the week. In reading, we have been working on multiple choice strategies when taking tests. Along with preparing for NECAPs, we read long and strong. We are working on talking to our partner about our books and our thinking. Each class we need to have a "jot" on a sticky note of our thinking. There are many prompts we can use to help us write our "jots". Students are continuing to work on their personal stories. In Ms. Burtt's class, we are also reading poems and analyzing them. There was a quiz on the oceans and continents this week in social studies. --Written from the notes of L.N. and L.N. The Back to School Picnic is on Thursday, September 26 at 5:30. We hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our Learning-Week 1

The past 6 days of school we have already learned so much. In math, we have been learning about geometry. More specifically, we have learned about polygons, angles, lines, and types of quadrangles. In reading, we have shopped for books that are “just right” for us, read faster, stronger, longer, and made reading goals for ourselves. With Ms. Burtt, we have been working on personal narrative stories. First we brainstorm “seed” stories and started writing a story from our life. We have also been working hard on word study and learning about maps and globes. Many have been remembering to do their math homework everyday and read for 30 minutes each night (60 minutes on the weekend). --Written from the notes of L.N. and A.M.