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.

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