Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

A quick post here today, since you're all probably getting ready for trick or treating. We had a very pleasant day. It was nice to be back with the class. We finished up some odds and ends on the City Critters story, and the last section of the OCR test. We worked on environments in the Tech Center, and worked on Machine in Arts.

Spencer's mom provided us with a lovely Halloween feast. The kids were great and really appreciative. In math we discussed "tessellation", a less arcane concept than its name, and we also reviewed our work from Friday.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Tessellation, Math, pages 388-389, numbers 1-9, 13-20.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A fairly realistic portrayal of a city bird in flight.
Posted by Picasa

A very creative and whimsical version of a city bird.
Posted by Picasa

A Mosaic of Learning

Today we integrated our Visual Arts skills into Open Court. Since the students have been starting to study City Wildlife, we made some pictures of some of these plants and animals. However, instead of simply drawing them, we used torn paper to make mosaics of the wildlife. This required the students to really concentrate for an extended period of time on a fairly detailed work. They did quite well! It’s not an easy assignment.

We continued our work in Music today by learning the Kodaly names for the different rhythmic notes:  quarter note, for example, is “ta”, and two eighth notes are “ti ti”. They grasped this really quickly after we had practiced it with the rhythm of the classic “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear” jump rope chant.

In Science, we looked at ecosystems. There’s a lot of hard vocabulary here for the students, but the ideas behind those words are very important. In Math, we turned our attention to congruence and symmetry of plane figures. I never studied this stuff in third grade. I’m glad these guys are so smart!

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2) Science questions, page A83, numbers 1-4. (3) Congruence and Symmetry, Math, pages 385-387, numbers 2-21 and 23-24. (4) Adding and Subtracting Money worksheet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Picture Day

The best thing about Picture Day is probably that it’s another year until the next Picture Day. There’s so much waiting in line, and the kids get so restless. It’s definitely worse than the doctor’s office, since there are no magazines to read. It’s probably even worse than the DMV. Still, I think everybody probably took a nice picture, and this seemed like the most competent company we’ve had in years. You should be receiving some nice photos.

We filled up the rest of the day with usual Wednesday activities. We did some work in phonics and language. We worked on different kinds of plurals some more. We went to the library. We took a science test. We had PE. We talked about polygons in math and we had some fun drawing different types of polygons.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2)  Making Change, Math, page 87, all problems. (3) Polygons, pages 382-383, numbers 1-20 and 22-26. Students should also be finishing their polygon drawings if they did not do this in class.

We worked yesterday on determining what we already knew and what we wanted to learn about City Wildlife. Putting these together, we created our Concept / Question board. Thanks, Mr. Benitez, for putting it up so beautifully!
Posted by Picasa

Some of the questions from our Concept / Question board.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Short Tuesdays

Today was the first short Tuesday. A torture for teachers who have to endure a weekly meeting, but a joy for students who have an hour more of liberty. At least until they get bored. . . .

Be sure to remember that tomorrow is picture day. Be sure to look all spiffy!

Homework: (1) Spelling. (2) City Critters study questions. (3) Monday, page 89, problems 2-27. Be sure to copy 2 through 18. The rest can be answers only.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Gray-t Day

Wasn't it cold and gray and bleak today? Fortunately, the sun came out inside room 19 and we had a nice day inside. We did most of the rest of the OCR unit 1 test. Results will be on the gradebook soon. We finally did the Marco Polo video today and we went to the Tech Center.

In the afternoon we worked on Health instead of our usual PE. We read a chapter on self-concept, and then composed poems about growing up. It's a free verse assignment, and each line contains the words "I used to . . . , but now I . . . ." We'll post a couple of these on the blog in a day or two.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Complete the plurals worksheet, if not finished in the morning. (3) Complete the rough and final drafts of the "I used to" poem. A few finished this in class. (4) Review, Math, pages 378-379.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Nice Day

We had a very peaceful, ordinary day today. How pleasant routine can be in a classroom!

We did some review for the spelling portion of the Open Court test, and we did the first draft of our composition on a "Memorable Time I Spent with a Friend", the assigned topic for the writing portion of the exam. So far most of them look pretty good. We also had a blast in Music as we turned our Marco Polo poem into a two-part percussion piece and then improvised dance phrases to go with it. We'll videotape it tomorrow for the end-of-the-year DVD.

In the afternoon, we did the chapter 8 math test. Results are posted on the gradebook.

Homework: (1) Study spelling for the test tomorrow. (2) Crossword puzzle. We started this in class and discussed strategies. Pay particular attention to the number of letters for each answer and check the word box for answers of that length. (3) Types of Lines, Math, pages 372-373, 1-12 only.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Just Plane Hard

There are some things that you learn to just dread as a third grade teacher. Introducing children to plane geometry is one of them.

Students get the idea of the three dimensional shapes even when they have weird names like “rectangular prism.” But the two-dimensional world is different.  All of a sudden we’re telling them that them that the thing they always called a line isn’t a line but a “segment” and that there are they need to be able to distinguish between angles that are bigger or smaller than right angles – it tends to alternatively bore and befog the eight year old mind.

So homework may be hard tonight. We tried our best to talk about it today, but it was hard for them to wrap their minds around it.

Homework:  (1) Continue to study spelling. (2) Science book, page A75, questions 24-27. (3) Lines and Angles, Math, pages 369-371, numbers 1-25. (4) Review/Test, Math, pages 144 and Cumulative Review, Math page 145.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

One of our rainy day haikus.
Posted by Picasa

Indoor recess is fun for students. Not quite as fun for teachers....
Posted by Picasa


Maybe it was me, but today did not seem was a endless yesterday did. We began with silent reading, and then went on to discuss the homework at length. We talked about the four types of sentences – statements, questions, exclamations, and commands – and started on a worksheet about this. These items are on the district’s Open Court unit one test, so we want them to be well-prepared for it.

After inside recess, we work on haiku poems. You can see one example of these above. Students not only wrote their haikus about the rain, but illustrated them in watercolor. Many were quite lovely.

We did manage to get out today at lunch recess. That was good for my mental health! After this lovely play break, we did more review on life forms and habitats. This is a particularly confusing part of the chapter review, so we did it together. We then turned our attention to math. Students actually finished most of the work in class. We concentrated on patterns in numbers and in combining solid forms. They’re really getting the basics of solid geometry here. Plane geometry, soon to follow, will be a bit more mentally challenging….

Thanks for all the parents who have turned in emergency kits. Please send yours ASAP if you have not turned it in yet.

Homework:   (1) Continue to study spelling.  (2) Finish the worksheets on Exclamation and Statements. There was a lot of time to work on this today, so many students are already done with it. (3) Patterns, Math, page 137, numbers 1-9. (4) Combine Figures, Math, page 367, numbers 2-20. If students did not get any of the work done from yesterday for today because there was some confusion, they can work on it tonight and turn it in tomorrow.

Rain, rain, go away.
Posted by Picasa

Late Post

Sorry for the very, very late post. I was so preoccupied with finishing the GATE proposal and turning it in, and then starting on the Arts Education budget, that I forgot all about blogging the homework.

If students are missing something because of my mistake, then they can take some extra time to make it up.

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2) Vocabulary Review, Science, page A74, questions 1-14 only. Please copy the sentences. (3) Solid Forms, Math, pages 363-363, number 1-20. (4) Find Missing Factors, Math, page 142, numbers 2-28.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Page Museum Trip

Today we have a great time at the Page Museum, despite the heat. The children did a great job of walking over to the park. I’ve never had so little complaining. This is most fit group of third grade students I’ve ever taught.

At the museum, our guide was a retired dentist. He was remarkably patient, as 80 year old former dentists go. Not surprising, however, he did point out the teeth of every fossil we saw. That did help us to determine whether they were carnivores or herbivores. None of them apparently flossed which could explain their demise.

Homework:  (1) Write a good paragraph about your trip to the Page Museum today. Use the cluster we made in class today. Finish the rough draft we started, and then have some capable person check it before doing the final draft. Finally, do a good color picture. (2) Multiplication practice, math, pages 139-131, problems 2-46, 49-60.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I hope everyone is having a great day off. It looks like tomorrow will be warm, though not so warm as today, so please wear light colors, loose-fitting clothes, and comfortable shoes. Remember to bring a sack lunch tomorrow with something to drink. Soomi’s mom has volunteered to drive lunches over to the park, though I’m sure she’d love some help. We have a couple moms who have already volunteered to walk with us, but more would be fine.

Remember, if you have not yet turned in the permission slips, we need them by tomorrow morning first thing.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


A pleasantly disoriented day. Everything got a little switched around for the students, but they did just fine.

Because we have our field trip on Friday, we had to reschedule Art for the afternoon. That meant we needed to do math in the morning. You may think this is no big deal, but for third graders routine is very important! Math in the morning is sort of just plain wrong for them. Nevertheless, they did splendidly on the multiplication test. Check the gradebook for the scores if you did not already get an email.

We had library at the usual time, then took an early lunch. First lunch instead of third. First graders instead of fifth graders. I'm sure they sort of liked being the biggest kids on the yard. The art lady from Barnsdall came at 12:30 and she pretty much took up the rest of the day doing a bark project with them. It's not quite finished yet, so you'll see examples of their work next week.

If you have not yet signed the permission slip, get it back Friday so your child can go with us! We need the medical release on the second page as well as the Page Museum part.

Homework: (1) Study spelling. (2) Math, page 133 - all problems. (3) Math, pages 134-145, problems 2-43.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Things change

Today we began our day with our annual Back-to-School Breakfast. We had a pretty good turnout from our families. If you were not able to come this morning, please ask your child for the packet we gave to the parents this morning. It has some important stuff in it, including the permission slip for this Friday’s field trip. Please get that signed so your child can go!

The field trip will be to the Page Museum by the La Brea Tar Pits. This fits in perfectly with our Science unit where we are studying habitats, animal populations, and extinction. We read about extinction in the book today, and we have a great conversation about the different causes of animals going extinct.

Speaking of how things change, our final reading selection in the Friendship unit is called “Teammates.” It’s a lot harder than the other selections, but far, far better written. It tells the story of the friendship between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. The story is not only about friendship, but about the wrong of racial prejudice and segregation. It gives our students some really hard things to grapple with, but they are doing a good job of thinking about some really hard ideas and ugly realities. It also gives us a chance to contrast the American of the 1950’s with that of today and to see that at least in some ways, things are better now.

A big thank you to the parents who contributed to the Wish List. We took in enough to pay for all the requested musical instruments, though there are a number of items unclaimed on the PE equipment list.

Homework:  (1) Complete the study questions on Teammates. We went over all the questions in class, so it should be simply an exercise in writing complete sentence answers. Also, students had close to 40 minutes to work on this. (2) Contractions, Reading and Writing Workbook, pages 47-48. Again, they had time to start this in class and many may already have finished. (3) Math, Chapter Test and Cumulative Review, pages 128-129.

Monday, October 10, 2005

See You Tomorrow!

Just a quick post as I hope to see everybody tomorrow at our Back-to-School Breakfast event. Remember, breakfast from 7:00 to 8:00, and our classroom presentation will be from 8:30 to 9:00.

Other than that, tomorrow will be a regular schedule day. Shortened days will begin on October 25.

Homework:  (1) Spelling. (2) Math, page 127, #1-7. (3) Math, page H38 (found in the back of the math book).

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friendship is more than our Open Court theme!
Posted by Picasa

Art requires concentration.
Posted by Picasa

Having fun (well, most of us) during Art.
Posted by Picasa

Norm Day? Not Really

On the District calendar today is called “Norm Day” because as of this day all schools add or delete teachers as needed to make sure that the ratio of teachers and students falls within certain “norms.” Well, I have to chuckle a little here because there was nothing particularly “normal” about our “Norm Day” in room 19.

Today many of our students had to take the CELDT test. This stands for “California English Language Development Test.” We give this state-mandated assessment each year to all students who come from families where English is not the only language spoken. I worked with students individually in the morning to test speaking skills. Mrs. Caruso took those same students in the afternoon and gave them the writing and reading and listening sections. It’s an easy test, and generally our students do quite well on it. You will get the results in several months if your child took the test.

After that, we took an early recess and then went to the Mary Levin Courtyard near the office for an art lesson. The teacher, Mrs. Jones, is from the Barnsdall Art Center and her expert services are paid for by Friends of Third. She had the children working in “plein aire” drawing and painting pictures of the cactus and succulents in that wonderful space. You can see some of these pictures above.

In the afternoon, I had to go to Epi-pen training. That is, if you are unfamiliar with it, the medication given to students who have violent allergic reactions to foods. One of our children has such an allergy to peanuts. While I did this, Mrs. Caruso did the CELDT testing with some students, while the others have Phys Ed activities on the yard with Ms. Yoon.

Homework:  Students had a chance to start on all these assignments in the morning while I was doing the oral testing. (1) Extended Form worksheet. (2) Addition and Subtraction worksheet. (3) Multiplying by Threes, pages 123-124, #3-38.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Macaroni Math

Today we tried to really grasp the meaning of multiplication. It’s easy for students to learn a few of their multiplication facts, but it’s surprising how many have difficulty grasping what multiplication really means. They may know that 4 times 3 is 12, but they do not understand that this means that there are four groups of three and that this is the same as three groups of four. Lacking this understanding, they simply have no idea when to multiply instead of adding.

To help remedy this, we made arrays today. An array is a visual way to represent a multiplication fact.  We used macaroni and glue and construction paper, and we had a pretty good time with it! You can see a picture of one of these below. It also helps students to grasp the commutative, or order property of multiplication. This way they can SEE that 4 x 5 and 5 x 4 are just different ways to state the same idea.

Homework:  (1) Spelling. Test tomorrow! Study hard. (2) Science questions, page A 57. Please copy the question as well as answering. (3) Arrays, Math, page 121.

An array showing a simple multiplication fact family.
Posted by Picasa

The process of making an array is fun!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Our number line in Base Ten, Base Eight, and in Roman Numerals.
Posted by Picasa

Base Eight

One of our activities each day, as we start math, is to count the days of the school year. This is a classic kindergarten, first grade activity, but we give it a special twist in room 19 by adding counting in Roman numerals and in Base 8.

I think that just like you never really understand the structure of your own language until you can compare and contrast it with the structure of another, only by learning other number systems will students really grasp our number system in its wondrous simplicity and in its astonishing complexity. Roman numerals certainly help the student understand the brilliance of using only 10 digits in the Hindu-Arabic system to write all possible number. Imagine trying to subtract MMCMDLVII from MMMMXXII. It’s a headache even to consider the possibility!

But Base 8 helps the students to really grasp the place value concept better. By eliminating the digits 8 and 9, students have to imagine a world where things are counted

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, and so forth.

It enchants them and fries their brains at the same time.

Today we took that counting a little further and we started to subtract and add in Base 8. At first, students wanted to use their existing Base 10 number facts. For example, they wanted to tell me that 11 – 3 was 8. But then I reminded them that this digit didn’t exist in that number system, and they had to create number lines to learn that in Base 8 the answer is 6!

Homework:  (1) Study spelling. (2) Dog and Leopard study questions. (3) Multiplication by 2 and 5, pages 118-119.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Times Tables

A most pleasant day! The students were just wonderful.

We began reading one of my favorite Open Court stories today, "How Dog Outwitted Leopard." This Ugandan folktale explains how and why dogs decided to keep company with human beings. The students understood the subtle point of the tale: dogs are just plain smarter than people because they get us to do everything for them! I certainly work long hours so my dog can have a nice place to live.

We started multiplication today. Students now cover a good deal of this in second grade, and so the basic idea that multiplication is repeated addition is not new to them. But the struggle this year will be moving from that fairly easy insight to real mastery of the facts. Five minutes every day of flash cards will make this happen better than anything else. It will be easy to get students to a point where they can figure out the right answer if given sufficient time. But the amazing short cut that multiplication creates, and the way that it also simplifies what we do in mental math and estimation -- well, none of that works unless they really know the facts COLD.

Homework: (1) Study spelling words. (2) Science questions, page A47, numbers 1-4 only. (3) Math, page 116-117. We started this one in class, and discussed all the problems on the page which have caused confusion in the past.