Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Boring Can Be Good

It was a really quite pleasant day. We did not do anything particularly fascinating -- read a really boring Open Court story, worked a little more on our writing, corrected our homework, and took a math test -- but the dull days are often the one where real learning takes place. Routine is mostly good with children. We always think that they want and need stimulation, but having things follow an orderly pattern is comforting. That's not to say that we should not occasionally do things that are wild and crazy and fun, but children, no matter what they think or say, really prefer predictability.

Home Studies
: (1) Do "Business is Looking Up" study sheet. (2) Do the Math worksheets on Simplest form and Adding and Subtracting Decimals. (3) Science chapter review, p A98 only. It's a lot tonight, but some nights are just heavy and others are just light depending on how the

Monday, November 26, 2007


We had a very pleasant first day back from break. It was a completely typical Monday, except Mr. Lawton came by at the end of the day to work with the students on their compositions. We will miss our usual lesson on Thursday when we are on the field trip.

I am going to make this a pretty short entry because I need to concentrate on getting things ready for final grades and parent conferences.

Home Studies: (1) Do Word Study and Vocabulary for "Business is Up". (2) Do Chapter Review and Cumulative Review, Math, pp 394-395. There will be a test over chapter 20 tomorrow. (3) Complete the study guide for History.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Getting Excited

Thanksgiving is nearly at hand, and the students are getting excited about an upcoming break. The teachers is too, actually....

We're making good progress on all the usual areas. I switched the usual order of stories in the Open Court reader to put a particularly short one for this week. It's called "Ice Cream Cones: A New Scoop" and there's so little to talk about there I won't even bother with the quiz. We're spending more time in writing, and students are getting caught up with the compositions. They still have a way to go to write complex and interesting stories, but at least they are aware of the writing process and its elements. It's a great start for the year.

Next week we will have a field trip to Cold Creek. Parents are welcome to come. The cost of the trip is 5 dollars for adults and children alike. They will be taking permission slips home on Wednesday. These are due no later than Wednesday.

On a sad note, we said goodbye to Taylar today. She will be returning to Texas for a couple months. We hope that she will be able to rejoin us in February when the family hopes to move back to Los Angeles.

Home Studies: (1) Copy and answer questions in Science, page A 87. (2) Do "Subtracting Decimals," Math, page 387, numbers 2-31. (3) Do "Practice Adding and Subtracting Decimals," page 390, numbers 6-40.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Owl Pellets

Owl pellets can contain a variety of bones of different
types of small animals. Dissecting the pellets is a "gross", but
in fourth grade that's a good thing!

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Short and Sweet

Well, after the owl pellet activity on Friday today had to be a bit of a let down. But it was still pretty productive.

We did the usual reading to begin the day, and then we went over Friday's homework. I've had to become a lot tougher with the students on homework than I have had to be in the past, but I guess every year presents unique challenges and opportunities. Most students, however, are getting pretty good about getting assignments done. We also worked on our writing. I am now completely caught up with the grading of the compositions, including some fairly lengthy comments. Please check the gradebook if you have not done so lately.

We also checked our math test from Friday. These were uneven; many students did extremely well, but others scored quite poorly. We discussed the material in this chapter more extensively than we had some of the other chapters, so I rather expected this to be one of the best tests yet. I was a little disappointed.

Room 17 invited us to attend their Thanksgiving pageant in the auditorium. It was short, but quite cute and our students were polite and attentive. I was particularly pleased by how they applauded the student with autism who tried to do some of the announcing.

After lunch we discussed the upcoming math homework. Mr. Lawton then came and worked with the students on their compositions. At 1:30 the students were dismissed to the yard for "psychomotor" activities while third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers did grading.

Finally, a big thank you to the people who helped make our basket happen for Harvest Festival. I was in Chicago last weekend for a birthday bash -- a good friend hit 60 -- but I understand it was nice. I hope it was successful.

Home Studies: (1) Work Knowledge and Vocabulary page for "Ice Cream Cones" story. (2) Estimating with Decimals, Math, pp 382-383, #2-27. (3) Adding Decimals, Math, p 285, #2-30.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Food Webs

A couple fine examples of the food webs that students
completed earlier in the week. Tomorrow in Science we
will be doing owl pellet dissection!
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Locking Down Learning

This was a quiet and productive day. Students are continuing to do wonderful work in Independent Reading and I am really struck by their ability to use multiple strategies quite consciously to improve their comprehension. We finished reading "Food from the 'Hood" in the Open Court anthology. This is honestly a pretty boring informational article about students at Crenshaw High who started a successful business. Even though it is local and happened only about a decade ago, it might have 200 years ago in the middle of Zaire for all the kids care. One of the bad things about mandated curriculum is we cannot skip things which do not work in favor of things that do. Still, we made the best of it and used it as an opportunity to practice predicting, questioning, and connecting strategies. And we all sort of stayed awake....

After recess we went to the auditorium and worked with Mr. Lawton on music. The students are getting used to working with the Orff instruments, and they are making good progress with the composition assignment he has given them. I am anticipating that we will have a great performance for the parents on December 13th. I am not sure what the exact time will be yet. Save the date.

After lunch we corrected and discussed our homework. We also did our Writer's Workshop in the afternoon here. During this time we had a "lockdown" drill where the school is asked to practice the procedures we would use if there were an emergency like an armed intruder on campus. For us at Third Street, this sort of thing is not likely to happen. We did have to use the procedure once however when some hungry coyote wandered onto campus in search of some food or water. Poor thing!

Home Studies: (1) Do the Open Court pages including the "post-it note" page, the study questions, and the word search. (2) Read "Car Trouble" in StoryWorks, pp 16-21. Do the paragraph writing exercise, p 22 on a separate paper as directed. (3) Do the review pages in Math, pp 376-377. We will have a test tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Good and Bad

A mixed bag of a day. The morning went wonderfully smoothly with reading and other language arts activities. I was a little disappointed though that quite a number of students had not finished the homework, particularly the food web, and many had to stay in during recess to finish it.

Tech Center did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. Mr. Abrams insists that all students must have the Internet use permission slip signed before they use the computers, and only a little more than half of our students had brought this in. The students who had signed sheets worked on Type to Learn, one of those programs designed to teach touch typing. The rest talked and drew pictures.... I hope everybody had a slip next week.

After lunch we checked and discussed the math, a good thing because there were quite a few misconceptions about the decimals. Children automatically assume that 0.61 has to be greater than 0.8 because 61 is bigger than 8. Lining numbers up by the decimal point to compare the place value comes naturally only after a lot of practice.

We had a number of students leave for orchestra after this, and a couple were dealing with Mr. Wilson about some their behavior during Tech Center. So with only about half of the class, we had a nice sockball game. We then came back and I finished reading Frindle.

Home Studies
: Read "The Spider Woman," pp 8-12 in Storyworks. Write paragraph as directed on page 13.. Math, pages 372-375, #2-33, 35-37, 40-42.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some Scenes from Friday's Field Trip

We took this picture after the field trip was over.
Here we are after we had lunch in the park across
the street from the Mission.

We saw some interesting things like this old organ in the
Mission museum.

Our guide was very sweet and knowledgeable about the
mission and its history.

Home Studies: Finish the food web paper. Do the Work Knowledge and Vocabulary from Context paper. Finish pages 368-369 in the Math book.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Overall a pretty quiet and typical day, but we did have one wonderful bit of news today. Mrs. Koneff, our wonderful librarian, held a conference for the library's 50th anniversary. Students were invited to submit both posters and poems. Well, I am proud to say that both the winner and first runner-up for poetry in fourth grade came from room 19! Why didn't I think to bring the camera? Darn!

I am catching up on grading and letting students know what they need to get done before the grading period closes. We'll be giving some extra chances for some of the tests from earlier in the year in math, too, plus a few opportunities for extra credit in Science and History. Stay tuned. For now, the most important thing is to catch up in writing where most students (though not all) are missing a number of compositions.

Field trip on Friday to San Fernando Mission. Let me know if you can assist. This is a bus trip.

Home Studies: (1) Open Court packet on "Word Knowledge" and "Vocabulary from Context". (2) Open Court packet -- pages on "Point of View" and "Inflectional Endings". (3) Bring in a picture from a magazine or a newspaper showing somebody working in a job -- this is for the Concept/Question board. (4) Adding Fractions worksheet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Day After

Surprisingly normal for the day after Halloween. Nobody felt sick; nobody fell asleep in class. You must be fabulous parents (and children, of course).

Today I felt like we really put it all together in reading. We read together the story "Eddie, Inc." from the Open Court reader. It's not the best story in the world; in fact, it's pretty lame in parts. But it gave the students an opportunity to use their post-it notes to do "predicting", "connecting", and "questioning". We shared these as we went along to keep everyone focused on naming and using the strategies. Then, after we had finished reading, students had to use two additional strategies -- "summarizing" and "visualizing". For the latter of these two, I just had them draw a picture from the story. I did not forbid them from using the book, but I did encourage them to pick a scene other than one the illustrator had created.

We also had music with Mr. Lawton today. He was working with the students on understanding I-V harmony and to start to get the idea of the circle of fifths. It's pretty tough stuff, but a surprising number of the students really seemed to connect. They are getting used to the Orff instruments, and I'm glad that Mr. Lawton is the one to introduce these so that when we use our own Orff instruments later on the students will be used to it. He gave them a challenging assignment for next week to write a blues song; I'll be helping them with that.

The rest of the day was pretty routine: checking homework, correcting homework, doing journals, recess and lunch. But in elementary school routine days are the ones which make a difference. They're not the days that the students remember, but they're the days when learning really happens. So a good day.

Home Studies: (1) Subtraction with regrouping worksheet. (2) Science, page A 63, numbers 16-25. Answer in complete sentences! (3) Open Court reading packet.

Continue work on the blue math packet (due Monday) and complete the "Eddie" summary and picture if it has not yet been turned in.