Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Our Thanksgiving Feast!
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Happy Thanksgiving

We had a delightful day today.

We are working hard to finish up the City Wildlife unit so that we can go on to Imagination. We reviewed long vowel sound patterns, then poured over the intriguing Superheroes selection - the "superheroes" are rats and racoons! - to develop skills like distinguishing main idea and detail, fact and opinion, and fiction and nonfiction. Students also reviewed adverbs, an important skill for their unit test next month.

After recess, we had PE while parent volunteers set up our Thanksgiving Feast. Then the students lined up for a wonderful meal of turkey, dressing, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and wonderful desserts. They were hungry and they really wolfed it down!

After lunch, we reviewed homework and then I sent them off while I endured a particularly dull meeting. Sigh.

NEXT WEEK, conferences will start. They begin on Wednesday and will conclude the following Tuesday. You will receive a reminder notice Monday for the day and time you requested.

Homework: Finish up any unfinished work from this morning.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Thanksgiving Schedule

Just a quick post today to remind everybody about the schedule.

Tomorrow, November 23 will be a shortened day as usual. Parents in rooms 17 and 19 and working together to host a Thanksgiving Feast for the students. We have asked for a 5 dollar donation to cover the cost. This will be a full dinner with "all the fixins". Please don't sent your child with a lunch tomorrow! In fact, they probably won't even want much supper.

After lunch tomorrow, and before students are picked up, the school is having a toxic gas emergency drill. This is district mandated. The students MAY NOT leave the room for ANY REASON during the drill. That includes going to the bathroom. This isn't my idea or my rule. I hope it goes smoothly....

Wednesday, November 24 is a MINIMUM DAY (students are picked up at 12:35).

Of course there is no school on Thursday and Friday of this week.

Homework: Complete the digrams and abbreviations worksheets. Do the crossword puzzle. Complete the multiplication practice paper.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Our Concept / Question board, filled with ideas and queries.
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Constructing knowledge

One of the "hottest" ideas in education today is called constructivism. The idea here is that students do not come to school completely devoid of any knowledge, but instead have a wealth of information that they can need to add to and reflect upon as they learn. Constructivism also stressed the communal nature of knowledge, the idea that we know things in common with other people and learn from our friends and peers.

Open Court Reading contains a strong element of constructivism. I admit that I did not really appreciate this at first, and it was one of the reasons it took me a long time to warm up to Open Court. One of the principal ways that this is done in the Open Court series is through the Concept/Question Board. Here students write down what they know about the theme and what they want to learn about the theme. We regularly "visit" the board to check what we have learned so far in our theme. Students have become quite good at adding new concepts to the board and in answering questions that other students have posted on the board. In this way, we try to avoid a breathless rush from one story to the next and instead focus on the broad questions of the theme.

Homework: Practice the lullaby on recorder. Study the spelling words. LAST WEEK'S TEST WAS DISAPPOINTING! Finish the multiplication worksheet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Returning to School

After being out for a couple days, it was nice to come back and see the wonderful faces of the students in room 19! I really was quite sick on Monday, and wasn't feeling so great today, and the children was amazingly cooperative and helpful. I really am fortunate to have such a wonderful class!

We did some follow up today on the story they had been reading about city birds. Urban Roosts is not quite as hard a piece of reading as City Lots had been, but it still contained a lot of information packed into a few pages. Much of the hard work on the story the students did with the two substitute teachers. They read it, discussed it, and completed a study guide on it. Today we reviewed those study questions, and we did an art activity based on the story. I'll post one or two of the pictures tomorrow.

Students completed learning all of the lowercase cursive letters today. They will need to start practicing these a lot, particularly learning how to connect some of the letters. Cursive will start appearing in the next few weeks as a regular homework assignment. We also started to learn a new song for singing and for the recorder.

The big thing we did today was to start multiplication of two digits by one digit, e.g., 24 x 6. This is hard for the children even when they know their times tables. They will tend to make a couple predictable mistakes. The most common is to fail to regroup properly. You'll know this problem when they tell you that 24 x 6 = 1224. What they've done here is to fail to regroup to 20 of 24 on top of the 2.

Homework: Students need to complete their multiplication sheet for homework. I'll give them a spelling list tomorrow, but it won't be tested until Tuesday of next week.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Dance & Pantomine

Today the students completed our study of The Boy who didn't Believe in Spring by creating a series of movements to tell the story while a narrator retold the tale. This activity is classic pantomime, but we also added elements of dance to it to make is more stylized. For example, we reviewed axial and locomotor movements before we began, and we also discussed the different types of pathways that dancers and actors can move on. We practiced moving in different ways on different pathways - for example, skipping on a zigzag route. The students then worked in groups. One group would perform and narrate the story while another group improvised on pitched percussion instruments and a third group would critique the performance against posted criteria. Then the groups rotated. Children did quite splendidly, and really did not realize just how much they were reviewing the story.

Homework: Study spelling words. Complete the long vowel sheet. Complete the study sheet questions on Boy. (Students in RSP have already done this in group.) Do the math review worksheet.

Monday, November 08, 2004

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A couple wonderful examples of pop art influenced still lifes.
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An ordinary, yet pleasant day

This was such an ordinary day that at first I was not sure what exactly I should write about for today. And yet it occurred to me that wonderful "ordinary" days are the essence of education.

We began today with our silent reading. In recent weeks, the students have been taking independent reading VERY SERIOUSLY, and I am pleased with the number of conferences I have each day with students to discuss the books they are reading. A couple students have accumulated so many stickers that they are literally "off the chart"! Isn't that wonderful?

We continued with Open Court reading. We began with the Blending and Dictation exercises. Many teachers at Third Street skip these, but I think that the phonics component is probably the best thing about Open Court, and a surprising number of "good" readers really are quite clueless when they are presented with a new word and context does not help them guess the sound. That includes more than a few adults I know! So I work with the children on this, even though it isn't the most fun thing for them.

Today we read a sort of sappy story called The Boy who didn't Believe in Spring. It ties in with the overall theme of "City Wildlife" and I think the children will discover that it helped them modestly to understand the topic better. It's a little hard for them at times to relate to these very urban, east coast stories, but that's as much part of education as learning about nature is. They're learning "how the other half lives" to use the classic phrase.

After recess, we practice music. I am really stressing the importance of correct singing with the children, including using the diaphram and the use of the head voice. They're a little resistant to it, to be honest, but the sound is starting to be good. We started on a Jamaican folksong, first singing it and then playing it on recorder. We'll finish it tomorrow.

It was then off to the Tech Center where they were working on creating autobiographic slide shows on Kid Pix.

After lunch, we had PE. We then returned to the classroom where they started an art project based on the Boy who Didn't Believe story. There's a couple examples of completed work above.

Homework: Study the spelling words. Complete the math sheets. They'll be corrected in class tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Students studied both axial and locomotor movements. They created short dance phrases based on their interpretation of animals. They performed these while other students improvised music on the xylophones and other percussion instruments. It was a lot of fun!
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Again, the endless "improvements" to our internet here at school have mostly resulted in teachers and chidren being unable to connect to the network! So, while it is up again, let me bring you up to speed on a few things happening in room 19.

First, we have completed our first Open Court unit, the one on Friendship, and the students took their first formal assessment. The good news is that most of them are doing wonderfully in reading fluency and in story comprehension. The biggest area for improvement, for most students, is in the area of vocabulary. And there's just one remedy for improving reading vocabulary -- more independent reading! Check the gradebook to see how your child is doing in this area. Many are lagging a bit. By this time in the semester we'd like to see them reading about 500 to 600 pages in total.

Second, we're starting on our second Open Court unit. This one is called "City Wildlife" and it focuses on the animals who live in the city and the plants that are a part of their habitat. It is a challenging unit for the children because they are not used to reading nonfiction carefully and closely. To be honest, many of the children find it a little dull. But we are livening it up with dance and art and our upcoming trip to Placerita Canyon next month. Incidently, that has been rescheduled to December 10 to avoid conflict with the parent conference days.

Third, we will be taking our first math quarterly assessment tomorrow. The children has been getting ready for this all week, and it looks like they will do quite well on it. Results should be posted on the gradebook Friday.

Fourth, Friday is our walking field trip to the Peterson Museum. Please let me know right away, parents, if you can help with this. We need a driver to carry over lunches, and it would helpful to have another parent to two to walk with the classes.

Homework: Continue to study spelling. Complete the Science questions on E 26 and 27. Remember to copy questions 1-9. The rest are answers only. Continue to work on the math assignments. Also, review the quarter test practice sheets. Bring in a leaf (preferably yellow or red, though green is fine, too) for the art project tomorrow.