Monday, September 29, 2008

Gradebook Coming!

This will be a pretty short post today because I want to get busy and set up the gradebook. All the parents who gave me an email address will soon be receiving a username and a password shortly by email. This will allow you to check on your students grades. Now, it will take me a few days to get all our scores posted! So be patient. But this will be an amazing tool to help you keep track of your child's progress.

I am working on getting Friday's blog entry to post correctly. My apologies for anyone who was not sure what the weekend homework was.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling sort using a tree map. All the words have the long i sound. (2) Do the Open Court Reading packet. This includes the circle map, the word knowledge section, vocabulary from context, and a long vowel worksheet. (3) Do the "Early People of California" study sheet. Be sure to answer questions in complete sentences. (4) Do the chapter review section in the large Math book, pages 72 and 73. There will be a math test on Wednesday. (5) Do pages 21 and 22 in the Problem Solving Workbook.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Program in Action

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Hands-on Equations

Today we started a new program which we will be using throughout the year. It's called "Hands-on Equations" and its a nifty program designed to help students master algebraic concepts by using objects that students can touch and move about. In this program, students use small game pieces to represent variables like x or y and number cubes to represent the numbers. The pieces are placed on a board which looks like a balance with the center column of the balance representing the equal sign. This way the students can manipulate equations by adding or subtracting pieces.

For example, suppose they are solving the equation 2x + 6 = x + 8. The students place two game pieces on the left side of the balance along with a cube with the number 6. On the right side they place one game piece and a number 8 cube. Now to solve the problem first they take away one game piece from each side. Although they do not write it down, they have actually simplified the equation to x + 6 = 8. They further simplify the problem by subtracting 6 from each side. On the left side, the number cube just disappears, and on the right side the 8 cube is replaced by a 2 cube. Now they have the answer: x = 2. They then return to the original equation to test whether x = 2 is correct. They calculate (2 x 2) + 6 = 2 + 8. Since 10=10 they know that the answer is correct.

Now this may seem complicated when I write it down step by step. But, think about it, can you imagine how complicated washing the dishes would seem if we read a written description of how to do it? It's the same with Hands-on Equations. It's easy and fun just to play with the pieces and get the answer.

At first some bright students can be frustrated because they are able to solve the problem using mental math and a "guess-and-check" strategy. But, as the program progresses, the problems become harder and harder, and the only way to solve them is to use the pieces. So we make an issue of actually using the pieces even if they already know the answer. Really, today's problems were pretty easy and we mostly concentrated on learning to set up the pieces instead of solving the problems.

Homework: Just a little math review here. Do page H35 in the back of the math book. This reviews the lessons for chapter 4.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Contour Drawing

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Drawing Blindly

Our students education in the arts classics continues. Yesterday they learned The Machine, a classic theater game. Today we learned a classic visual arts exercise, blind contour drawing. Students in art school spend a lot of time doing blind contour drawing. The results are never displayed in galleries or showcased in portfolios, however. Why? They look awful. Blind contour drawing is not about a great product. Instead, it is about learning to observe.

Our students read a bit about the lines and contours. They then practiced drawing their hands without ever looking at the paper or lifting the marker from their papers. What they draw usually did not look much like a hand. But they really look at their hands intently, maybe for the first time ever. After doing this a couple times, they worked with a partner. They tried drawing their partners, again never looking at the paper or lifting their pens from the paper. There was a bit of nervous giggling here, but there was also a tremendous amount of concentration and observation. You can see some pictures of the students involved in this above.

Homework: Enjoy a light evening. (1) Do "Equals," Math, pp 62-69, all problems. (2) Finish the final drafts of the All About Me paragraphs.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Input and Output

Wednesdays are great days in room 19 because we begin the day with our theater class. Our school's theater teacher, Mr. Pratt (he's the tall guy who stopped by at Back-to-School Night) does amazing things with the students. For the past two weeks he has been working with them on their pantomime skills. Today he taught them about the Machine.

Now those of you who have taken some theater know what a machine is. For everybody else, let me explain. The Machine is a classic theater game which helps actors learn to focus and cooperate. The idea is simple. The actors have to pretend to be parts of a complex machine. The different parts of the machine must work together to accomplish a task. The actors have to be aware of each others movements and the purpose of those movements. Mr. Pratt led the students through a series of exercises designed to build the skills needed, then, inspired by Shel Silverstein's poem "The Homework Machine" he had the students create a machine which would do their homework for them! (If you haven't read the poem, I'll give away the ending. The machine doesn't quite work like it is suppose to!) It was great fun! And the students learned a lot. I took some video, and I'll be posting some of it as soon as I have a chance to edit it.

We worked on a kind of machine in Math, too. Students had their introduction today to functions. As I noted before, students are now exposed to concepts in math that we adults did not learn until much later in our career. Functions are an example of this. Students are learning to solve problems like x +7 = y by solving for the variables which make this equation true. They are just creating function charts right now, but they will soon learn to graph these, as well. The math book avoids the use of the word functions and instead calls it "input and output." I like that because it helps the students to see that this kind of math creates its own sort of machine, one which processes numbers as raw materials.

Homework: (1) Do spelling sentences. Students can combine words, using two or three words in a single sentence, as long as the sentence makes sense. (2) Do the pages from the Open Court packet. These include the "Sarah Plain and Tall" study questions, the vocabulary crossword puzzle, and the "Silly Sentences" page. (3) Read pages 3-18 in Our California. This is review for the test. There are a few simple questions to answer as students read. They can mark in the book. (4) Do "Find a Rule," page 65 in the big Math book. Do only problems 4-16.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rhythm & Rhymes

Our Shields

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Connections and Coats of Arms

One of the strengths of the Open Court Reading program is its stress on reading strategies. We have been working on practicing these strategies as we have been reading the stories in the "Risks and Consequences" theme. In "Mrs. Frisby" we practiced making predictions. In "Toto" we worked on visualization. In our third story, "Sarah Plain and Tall" we worked on making connections. This is one of the most fun strategies for the students, partly because it is an easy one. As they read the text, all they have to do is to monitor their own thinking. When they read a word or see a picture in a story, what experience in their own lives do they remember?

In room 19 we use sticky notes to help with our reading strategies. We make notes on the post-it notes and stick them right next to the word or picture which prompted the prediction, connection, or other thought. This mimics the margin notes which good readers often make in their own books, less any wear and tear to the book. As we read through the story this morning, students made predictions and connections. After every two or three pages we shared these with the class. When we finished, the students took them out of the book and created a kind of response log by writing the textual reference on one side and placing the sticky note on the opposite side. You can see an example of this below.

In math, we started algebra! Students in middle and high school are often so intimidated by algebra that we now try to introduce them to the key concepts and skills when they are younger and have less math anxiety. Today we discussed variables. We talked about how they solve algebra problems all the time without thinking about it, and just showed how we can represent these every day problems using variables in an expression.

Also, in Health today we had a fun little assignment and you can see some of these above. We were reading about self-esteem and discussing good character and character traits. The book suggested creating a "coat of arms" with at least six symbols showing individual interests and strengths. The students had a great time doing this and you can see some examples of their work above.

Homework: Students had a lot of time to get started on these assignments during the day. Although this list seems long, they should not be doing that much at home tonight. (1) Look at the spelling words. All have the long e sound. Sort the words using a tree map to show which letter combinations create the long e sound in each word. (2) Do the chapter review worksheet for history. The chapter was divided into five lessons. On the visual organizer - the boxes with the circle in the middle - students are supposed to write the main ideas for each lesson. (3) Do the Open Court Reading packet. This consists of the Word Knowledge, Vocabulary from Context, and "The History You Are Making." (4) Do "Variables," Math, pages 62-63, numbers 7-20 and 24-26 only. (5) Do page PS18 in the Problem-Solving Workbook.

Using Post-it Notes

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Brace Map

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Whole and Part

We're working right now on what should be one of the easiest thinking maps -- except, it's not! It's called the Brace Map, and you can see an example of it above. The Brace Map helps students deal with the idea of whole and part. Now this strangely seems to pose difficulties for students. They have problems separating things into component parts which can be put together again. The Brace Map always deals with a tangible object, never an idea.

The assigned topic for this map in the Thinking Maps curriculum is "My Best Outfit." I've discovered that the boys really HATE this as a topic (well, most of them) and some of the girls do, too. It was a hard one for me when I was doing the training as well. (You may have noticed that your child's teacher is not the nattiest dresser on the planet.) So I decided that "My Favorite Meal" would do just as nicely. And that one was easy for me!

Homework: (1) Finish the Brace Map about "My Best Outfit" or "My Favorite Meal". Be sure to break each category down into its component parts as much as possible. Then do a rough draft of a paragraph on this topic. Be sure to add descriptive language. Your rough draft should be one full page, front side only, skipping lines. It can be longer. (2) Do "Parentheses", pages 56-57 in the big Math book, numbers 2-27 only. (3) Also do the same lesson in the math Problem-Solving Workbook, page PS17.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mopping Up

Not the most exciting of days, I'll admit. But some days have to be like this in fourth grade.

We spent a lot of time today "mopping up," just finishing off the work for one section or unit and reviewing some of the things were learned. In Independent Work Time, we completed the "Apply" sections for a couple pages of the Reading Writing Workbook. During Open Court Time, we worked on the vocabulary and the study guide for the "Toto" story. After recess, we corrected and discussed a couple days of math homework and generally reviewed for the test. After lunch, students asked for more time to work on the "Toto" materials, and, wanting to reduce the homework load, I postponed the music until Monday. We went to PE, and when we returned we took a math test. But, even though it was not the most exciting of days, it was productive.

Homework: (1) Do the Natural Resources Crossword and Land Use Map handout. Sorry for the clues being upside down on the crossword. (2) Do "Expressions," Math, page 55, #2-37. Be sure to read the directions carefully for each section!

Pen and Ink Drawings

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Children Playing

Thursdays is Art day in room 19. I picked Thursdays because it seemed a forlorn day -- no Tech Center, no drama, no Library, not even any PE! Yet Thursdays have become one of my favorite days because of Art.

This afternoon we did a particularly nifty art lesson. We began by looking at a couple of pictures, particularly on by Pieter Breughel called "Children's Games." We discussed how the artist uses a "bird's eye" point-of-view to create a scene of dozens of children playing in the square of a Renaissance town. We discussed other points-of-view and how each can give a different sense to a scene of children playing games. We then took paper, mounted on chipboard, and went out to the playground to sketch what we saw. I was surprised by how varied the drawings were. After about 20 minutes of observation and drawing, we returned to the room where the students went over their drawings in fine tip black markers. This gave the effect of a traditional pen and ink drawing without the danger of spilled ink. I think you'll agree that the results are marvelous when you see them posted tomorrow.

Homework: I had to leave early today to look at tile for my new bathroom. So, since I had to cancel homework club with no notice, I figured the best thing was to give as light load today. So, (1) do the "Natural Resources" study guide. Just about everyone started this in class already and several finished it. (2) Also do the chapter reviews, pages 50-51 in Math (the big book, not the Problem Solving Workbook).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Making Pictures from Words

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Pantomime, part 2

Today we started off with theater class with Mr. Pratt. Our students did a truly exceptional job here today! I was so proud of their focus and willingness to take risks without hiding behind acting silly. I will film some of their pantomimes this week and put them on the blog by the weekend.

When we returned to class, we continued our work on visualization that we started yesterday. The students took out the post-it notes they wrote yesterday and reviewed the descriptive language which they had picked out of the story. They then created a picture based only on the words on the post-it notes and their memories of the story. They were not allowed to look at the illustrations. Fourth graders have a terrible tendency to just try to copy what the illustrator did if they have the opportunity. When deprived of the book, they do interesting and creative work as you can see above.

In the afternoon we checked homework, went to PE, corrected last week's math test, and practice our body percussion pieces. These too will be videotaped and posted on the blog as soon as I can. They look like they will also be excellent.

Homework: I decided they deserved a lighter than normal night tonight. My friend Ann Kim, who works in Turkey for the Department of State, is coming to visit today, and I figured if I wasn't going to do any work tonight, they could also have an easy day! So just two math assignments: (1) Do "Greater Numbers," Math, page 46, number 7-33 only and (2) do pages 14 in the Problem Solving Workbook, numbers 1-6 only. That's just 32 problems and it should not take more than a half hour if they're working hard!

Theater Class

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A great day, even though the teacher felt seriously sleep-deprived. What a joy to have such intelligent and cooperative children this year!

A couple highlights of the day. First, in Open Court Reading, we focused today on visualizing as a strategy. Like predicting, this is a skill that good readers unconsciously use. Good readers constantly make movies of the words they read. Poor readers just focus word-by-word on what they are reading. But visualizing is a skill which can be taught and practiced, and that is exactly what we did today. We read "Toto," the story of a timid young boy and a foolish young elephant. This is probably the best-written story in the entire anthology. It has a lot of wonderfully descriptive language. Students wrote down words and phrases that seemed to paint pictures in their heads for them. They did this on post-it notes. Tomorrow they will use those notes to actually draw and color a picture of the story.

We also learned about body percussion today. This is a way to use the body as a percussion instrument. The basic moves are "clap," "snap," "pat," and "stomp." We reviewed the Marco Polo chant and added body percussion moves to it. We practiced it a couple times. The students then broke into groups to practice with their own rhymes or chants. We will spend a couple more days practicing these, and then we will film them and post these performances to the blog.

Homework: They had a good bit of time to get started, so this should not take that long. (1) Do the spelling jumble. (2) Do the OCR packet pages for the first part of the "Toto" story. These are "Word Knowledge," "Search and Circle," and "Vocabulary from Context." (3) Do "Estimate," Math, page 35, #2-21. (4) Do "Strategies," Math, page 38, #3-39. Find exact answers here, but do it mentally.

Monday, September 15, 2008

We've got Rhythm

Another good day, as usual. We began with more practice identifying and correctly using proper nouns. We did some independent reading, and the students began keeping their independent reading logs today. This will be a big part of their reading program as the year goes along. We reviewed our thinking maps, and we discussed the Flow Map. This is probably the easiest map, other than drawing the boxes and lines. It helps students sequence events. They did a Flow Map and then wrote a long paragraph about "My Perfect Day." This is usually a fun one for me to read. Students have to be realistic about what they can do in 24 hours, but I give them an unlimited amount of money. I look forward to correcting these! While the rest of the class worked on this, several students went to the auditorium to listen to a presentation from Mr. Mason about orchestra. I hope that most of these children and their families elect to be part of this program. It is such an excellent opportunity.

After recess we reviewed and corrected homework. There were more mistakes than there should have been on the addition and subtraction. For some reason, fourth grade students do not like to regroup numbers. They know they need to do this, particularly for subtraction, but they are sure that they can do this in their heads, and they do not need to cross out numbers and write in other numbers. It looks too messy, even for students whose work is usually messy. So parents, when you are reviewing your child's math work, when you spot errors, check to see if they showed all their work. This will be particularly important with tonight's math! We also continued reading about California's water resources and started a chapter about weather and climate.

After lunch, we did music. We have been looking at beat and meter, but today we started our look at rhythm. We began with some vocal warmups and rhythm clapping. We then took apart one simple jump rope chant to see how certain beats are stressed and how some beats have two syllables while others only have one:

Marco Polo went to France,
Taught the ladies how to dance,
How to bend, how to bow,
Marco Polo teach us how.

Students then had an opportunity to work in their own groups and choose a nursery or jump rope rhyme. They identified the stressed syllables and the beats in each each line. Tomorrow we will be continuing with this adding a simplified version of rhythmic notation and introducing body percussion. Hopefully groups will be ready to perform by Wednesday and we will be putting videos of these on the blog.

We went off to PE with room 17. We mixed classes and did some kickball today. We'll work on a short tournament here. At this point, I had to leave the class to work on clearing up the book room with other members of the textbook committee. This gave the students the last 45 minutes of class to work on homework. Mrs. Garcia, the extraordinarily capable aide from room 17, came by to help the students and supervise. If there seems like a bit of homework tonight, remember that they were given all this time to work on it.

Homework: (1) Sort the spelling words using a tree map. (2) Do "Subtract Across Zeros," Math, pages 42-43. (3) Finish reading "Weather and Climate" in the California book. Do pages 9-14 from the study guide packet.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Exploring Meter

Reading and Rhythm

Today we had our first trip to the library. In many ways, this is probably the most important activity of the week. Research shows that read, independent reading is the best single predictor of success in school. Students who read for pleasure, even if they are not the most diligent about doing classwork or homework, invariably develop the knowledge and skills needed for high school and university work. That's one of the reasons why we will stress daily reading in room 19 as a part of our Independent Work Time. More on that next week. Anyhow, Mrs. Koneff gave us a great review of library policies and procedures and we had ample time to look about and select books.

The other major activity today was music. We are beginning our study of music with a unit on rhythm. Right now we are developing the idea of beat and meter. We did a short project to help with this. Students were assigned to groups. Each group was asked to choose a meter (groups of 3 or 4 beats) and to choose a gesture and a sound for the first beat. One student would keep the steady beat on a hand drum. They were supposed to do this 3 times loudly, 3 times softly, and again 3 times loudly. Some groups, as you can see in the video link above, did this almost perfectly and others could have used a bit more practice. But everybody started to get the idea of meter even if the composition was not perfectly realized.

Homework: Two math assignments, both of which should be pretty easy. Students had a chance to start on these after the math test. (1) Do "Add and Subtract 4 Digit Numbers," page 41, #2-26 and (2) "Estimate or Find Exact Answers," page 29, #1-9.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gesture Drawings

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We had one of those days when everything took just a little longer than I expected, and there were a couple of unexpected interruptions. But it was still a good day.

After Independent Work Time, we had a good discussion of the meaning of September 11th and the terrorist attacks. Students were fairly knowlegeable, but we did work to correct a couple misconceptions and fill in some factual background. We then went on to go over some of the reading skills for the first Open Court story such as comparing and contrasting and identifying story elements. We had a little fun here by pantomiming the vocabulary words.

We spent a good deal of time going over the math. Rounding is a tough skill, and while some of the students are clearly doing well with it others are struggling. We postponed the math test and gave another day of review to make sure they do well on the chapter 2 test.

The fun part of the day was art, even if it was annoyingly interrupted by a fire drill. We studied gesture drawing, and talked about how artists can us quick line stetches to suggest motion. We did a few practices, and then they worked in small groups posing and sketching each other. It was pleasantly loud and disorganized, and they clearly had fun with this. After they finished with a few sketches, they colored these in and used a watercolor was to provide a background. We'll have pictures of these on the blog soon.

Homework: (1) Do "More practice," p H33. This is in the very back of the math book. (2) Do the rest of the Frisby packet. There is a crossword puzzle to help review vocabulary, worksheet about cause and effect, and some study questions. (3) There is an OPTIONAL spelling wordsearch. The words are the ones we have been studying all week. This is just a fun review for the test tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Today we had our first theater arts class with Mr. Pratt. I should have brought my video camera so you could see some of the great things they did! Next week.... Our first lesson dealt with pantomime skills. Mr. Pratt taught the students how to work with imaginary object in four steps -- see, touch, use, and release. He had them practice with passing imaginary bowls and then juggling balls. He stressed the importance of looking at the imaginary objects and making a clear release after using them. He had the students act out some simple stories in pantomime. Some students who did particularly good work were selected to model for the rest of the class, and the other students learned to give specific praise using theater vocabulary. This is what is called "aesthetic valuing" in the state arts standards.

Now theater is valuable in two ways to students. First, the arts are important in their own right, and well-educated people should be knowledgeable about different art forms. That is why there are state arts standards. But secondly, theater is an incredible valuable skill for mastering other content areas. Acting out an Open Court Reading story is a fantastically good way to improve reading comprehension. After all, if you can act out the story, you have clearly read and understood it! So we will be using all the skills we will be learning with Mr. Pratt long after his twelve week residency with our class is finished.

Homework: (1) Do the "Latitude and Longitude" worksheet. Note that the map is on the back of the paper. Also do the "California's Natural Regions" study sheet. This is designed to help the students review the second lesson of chapter one. Please look back to find the answers there. (2) Do "Make a Table," Math, page 25. Also do the two review pages, page 30 and page 31. We will be having another test either Thursday or Friday.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Just a quick thank you to everybody who participated in today's meeting. We had a great turn out of room 19 parents, and I also heard from a couple parents who wanted to be there but whose schedules made it impossible. I do appreciate your commitment to helping your children grow academically and personally.

I particularly appreciated hearing feedback about the math homework. As I said at the meeting, we're trying to get through the place value stuff - which is mostly review - in and get into the new stuff. I sometimes miscalculate how long an assignment will take, and I guess a couple of these days have been pretty long. At least tonight will be better, I hope.

But do let me know whenever there is a problem so that we can work it out.

Homework:  No homework per se today since students had quite a bit of time to get started on class assignments in reading, Science, History, and Math. Many will have a bit of one or two to finish, but it should not be bad. I hope....

Monday, September 08, 2008

Making Predictions

We started working on our reading strategies today. One of the strengths of the Open Court reading program is its stress on reading strategies as well as reading skills. Research shows that good readers consistently use a set of strategies in approaching texts, and that these strategies can be explicitly modeled and practiced.

Our first strategy is Predicting. Good readers are constantly making predictions as they read. They predict what the next word in a sentence will be. They use their knowledge of the structure of fiction and the genres of fiction to predict what will happen in a story. In nonfiction, they predict the information that an author will present or the point of view that a writer will argue. Most of this predicting is unconscious. The reader is not even aware that he or she is doing this.

I gave the students a selection from Produtit! by Chris Van Allsburg. This story has some unusual plot twists so it was a natural for making predictions. We read through it orally and paused along the way to write predictions next to the text. The story deals with a boy who gets tickets to see a magician who hypnotizes people. He returns home to try things out with his little sister..... It's a fun read.

Homework: (1) Pick one concept and one question from pages 1-2 of the OCR reading packet. We did these pages last week. Write each one on a word card. These will form the basis of the Concept/Question board. Write it big so it can be read from across the room. Illustrate, if possible. (2) Sort the spelling words according to vowel patterns, e.g., short a, short e, etc. Make a tree map, if you know how, or just a chart. Most word will be in two or more places. (3) Do "Comparing Numbers," Math, page 19 and "Ordering Numbers," Math, pages 21-23. Use the notebook provided so we have a record of homework completed and corrected.

Friday, September 05, 2008

And the Beat Goes On

We started studying music today. All teachers have particular areas of interest and expertise, and music is one of mine. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to participate in quite a number of music education programs. I was particularly lucky to have had the opportunity to study the Orff-Schulwerk method of teaching music, and I have received my Level I and Level II certification in this methodology. Orff is a wonderful program where students have so much fun they often are unaware of how much they are learning! The American Orff-Schulwerk Association's website has a good, succinct description of the Orff program and process. I also include some elements of the Dalcroze and Kodaly approaches, though I have never had the opportunity to study those techniques formally.

Today's lesson was simple. Students learned to find and express the beat in different ways. First, they found the beat in their own bodies by jogging in place and checking their pulse. One student volunteered to clap his pulse and the rest of the class joined the beat. We then practiced making "space bubbles" and learned how to move our arms as if they were pendulums. We listened to two short piano selections and moved our "pendulums" to the beat. We then moved into a large circle, and students practiced listening for stressed beats and making a big movement on each of the stressed beat. I improvised a little piece on the keyboard to accompany this exercise. We did this a second time passing around a large hand drum, hitting the drum on the downbeat. We concluded by journaling about this lesson.

Homework: There really is no homework per se today, but a few students have a few unfinished assignments from our classwork. These might include pages 13-15 in the Math book, a history study sheet, and some worksheets on vocabulary from the first Open Court Reading story.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


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Getting Down to Business

The first day of school is good, but the second day is better, at least for teachers. By the second day we start to get into a routine and the day moves more quickly. There is now homework to check, chapters to read, paragraphs to revise, and all the other normal stuff of every day classroom life.

We started the day, as we always will, with Independent Work Time. Here we reviewed a little cursive, and did a worksheet on the difference between complete sentences and fragments. Most of the students could easily identify incomplete sentences, even if they were not always sure what key element was missing. Some students finished early and did independent reading.

We then started our study of Thinking Maps. This system of graphic organizers is a core element of the district's ESL program, but it is valuable to all students. Plus, they're sort of fun! We looked at the Circle Map today. Each students did a circle map about himself or herself, and then wrote a paragraph. We will do something similar for all 8 maps, and when we are finished these will be bound together into a book.

We corrected the Reading Pretest. I understand why children hate pretests - they seem unfair even when they know they will not affect the report card grade - but they are helpful to teachers when we have to determine what to stress and what we can almost ignore. Overall, they did quite well compared to previous classes, but I know some children were crushed not to get perfect scores.

After recess, we went over last night's homework. We also read "Where in the World is California?" and discussed some basic geography terms and ideas like continents and hemispheres.

After lunch, we did art. We looked at the five basic types of lines - horizontal, vertical, zigzag, curved, and diagonal. Students then picked a cause and did a poster about this. Some of these were quite good!

Finally, we looked some more at place value. In third grade students studied place value to the thousands place. Today we extended that into the millions. The math homework relates to this skill.

Thank you for the many kind comments I have received about the blog the last couple days. I particularly appreciate it when you post comments so that we can all share parent and student insights. It keeps me posting regularly!

Homework: (1) Do "Introducing the Theme," pages 1 and 2 of the Risks and Consequences packet. (2) Write a story - roughly one page, not skipping lines - about a time you took a risk. This can be a true story or it can be made up. (3) Do "Place Value Through Hundred Thousands," Math, pages 6-7 and "Place Value Through Millions," also in Math, pages 8-11.

Extra Credit: Bring in a photograph of yourself somewhere in California, preferably from a part of the state outside of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

More Portraits

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What a Great Day!

We had an excellent first day of school. It looks like it may be my best year...EVER!

We began with having the students fill out an interest inventory and a reading pretest. The inventory helps me get to know them better, which also helps me to know what books they might enjoy reading and what subjects they might like to write about. The pretest gives me a rough idea of what skills needs a little brush-up.

We did our opening activities after that. These include the Pledge of Allegiance, Today in History, and counting school days in bases 5, 10, and 12. We will add current events to this soon. I then went over the basic class rules, and introduced some key procedures and policies. There are not many big rules in school, but there are a lot of special procedures to learn for the many different activities. I expect we will be working on this for most of the month; I do not expect perfection here right away!

Then we moved on to Language Arts. Today we mixed speaking and writing. Students interviewed each other and then wrote a paragraph beginning "I'd like to introduce..." about their partner. They learned some interesting facts about each other! This took us up to recess.

After recess, we learned to make simple portraits. The students again worked with the same partner as before. They drew the portrait first in pencil, and then went over it in oil pastels. You can see a few of the outstanding results above. This took a bit longer than expected, so we continued work on it after lunch.

Around one o'clock, we went to Physical Education. For the past several years, room 19 has done PE with the third graders in room 17. Mrs. Caruso, the teacher in room 17, and I went over squad order and warmup exercises with the students.

Returning from PE, we did a math pretest. This one is significantly harder than the reading pretest, and I expect the students to get a number wrong here. I am mostly interested in the things they get correct because these indicate fourth grade skills which were already mastered in third grade. The test allows me to know what parts of the curriculum I do NOT need to intensely teach. That's a big help because there are soooo many topics to cover.

Homework: (1) Complete the final draft of the "I'd Like to Introduce" paragraph. Corrected rough drafts have been returned to the students. Do the final draft in cursive if possible on good paper. Staple the final draft, the rough draft, and the interview paper together. (2) In the Math book, read page 2 about "Benchmark Numbers" and do page 3. Also, read page 4 about "Place Value" and do page 5. We did not discuss these much in class because they are review from third grade. (3) Do "What I Already Know" about California.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I would like to welcome everyone to room 19 and to fourth grade. I am excited to have such a great group of students and parents this year. The third grade teachers have raved about what a great group this is, and I am really thrilled to be your teacher.

Our first day of school is tomorrow. This blog is a way for me to let you know what is happening in our classroom each day and what students are learning. It is designed to be interactive:  you can also post comments and questions on the blog and we can create a virtual open house. This kind of communication makes the difference between students just passing and really excelling. 

I will be writing each day about what we did that day, and I will always include what the homework is. The blog page is usually posted first around lunch time, and then revised if necessary towards the end of the day. 

I particularly want to make sure that all parents know about our special Back-to-School meeting on September 9 at 5:00 pm. Please try to make it. Infants can remain with you, and we will make arrangements for supervision for older students. 

I look forward to meeting everyone tomorrow!