Thursday, September 30, 2010

Busy and Artsy

It was a busy day in room 19 today! As usual, we started out with the students reading silently while I checked to see if their homework was completed. After 15 to 20 minutes of reading, they wrote in their journals about what they had been reading and tried to apply some of their reading strategies. We went on to correct and discuss the study questions over "Sarah, Plain and Tall." I then had the students work on final drafts of the "My Favorite Stuff" composition. This will be part of a compilation of Thinking Map inspired compositions which will be made into a book - in time, I hope, for Back to School Breakfast.

After recess, we did some Science again. The students made three hills of potting soil in their foil trays. They left one pile dry, slightly moistened another, and drenched the third. After this, they placed isopods in the trays and watched for the favored environment for the roly polies and the sow bugs.

We check out math right after recess, and then we did art. Our art lesson today focuses on both line drawing and point of view. First, we began by looking at a couple of pictures, one by the great Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel and another by a contemporary American, Paul Goodnight. Both were pictures of children playing. As we examined the pictures, we talked about "bird's eye" vs "ant's eye" points of view. We then went out to the playground where the students took turns playing and drawing each other playing.

Returning to the classroom, the students did "final drafts" of their pictures, first in pencil and then in sharpie.

Homework:  (1) Finish the brace map if necessary and then do the rough draft of "My Favorite Meal". Be sure to have a topic sentence. There should be good details with adjectives and specific nouns. The salad should be made of "cool, green, crunchy lettuce" and "sweet red tomatoes". (2) Do spelling sentences for words 11-20. (3) Finish the Rain Forest questions. We started on these in class. (4) Do "Subtracting," envision Math, pages 40-41, EVEN only. Again, show all work on a separate sheet of paper while putting the answers on the answer sheet.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Out and About

Today we were outside of our classroom more than we were in it! But that was fun for the students and a nice break for the teacher, too.

We started out in the room, of course. Following our new pattern, the students read their library books quietly while I checked to see if their homework was done. I am happy to say that our students are turning into champion homework completers! After reading for about 20 minutes, they then took some time to write about what they read in their reading journals. This is a great exercise for developing reading comprehension, and it will also allow me to respond to the students and guide their freely-chosen books. We then corrected our "Sarah" crosswords and I collected various papers.

As I said yesterday, we have been focusing on the strategy of "Making Connections" as we have been reading "Sarah, Plain and Tall." We finished that story today, and just like yesterday, the students, as they read through the story, recorded their connections on post-it notes. They then took these and placed them on a T-chart.

We went to Tech Center where the students started the process of setting up their LAUSD email accounts. This is important because it will allow them to use Google Docs for Education where they can work independently and collaboratively at school or at home on compositions and other assignments.

After recess, we went over to the auditorium where Mr. Mason gave a demonstration of various musical instruments and discussed the orchestra program. 

During PE today - it was cool enough finally for us to go out - I worked with students from all classes on jumping skills while Mr. Pratt worked on cooperation and team building activities. Mrs. Caruso concentrated on jump rope, a fun way to develop aerobic fitness. In math, we had an easy lesson today on adding whole numbers.

Homework:  (1) Do sentences for spelling words 1-10. (2) Do the "Sarah" study questions. (3) Do the "H" cursive. (4) Do "Adding Whole Numbers," envision Math, pages 37-39, ODD ONLY. Students should put answers on the answer sheet but also do all work on a separate sheet of paper which they will bring in with homework tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making Connections

Today was thankfully not quite so hot! It was easier for both the students and the teacher to keep focused.

We began the day with our Reader's Workshop. This is the independent silent reading with journaling that we started on yesterday. This will be the regular start of our day from now on. This gives me a chance to check the students' homework while they are engaged in a productive activity.

In Open Court Reading, we started the story "Sarah, Plain and Tall", an excerpt from the book of the same name. Our focus reading this story is to learn the reading strategy of "Making Connections." This refers to the way that good readers make personal connections with the text. Something in the text triggers a memory or a thought in the reader's mind. For example, as we were reading today, one of the students saw the words "cool, damp, and gray" which the author used to describe the weather in Maine. It reminded her of sitting in her family's house on a rainy day doing homework while the rain pelted against the windows.

We also worked on the skill of categorizing by studying the Tree Map. This is one of the thinking maps that looks most familiar to adults because it looks an awful lot like a corporate organization chart! The students brainstormed their favorite things and thought of appropriate categories for each one. They did some partner sharing of these - in LAUSD talk it's called "Think-Pair/Share" - and then did the rough draft of a paragraph.

We correct our Science homework, and we worked some more on rhythm using jump rope style rhymes. Again, the students used body percussion. I will be filming some of these and trying to get them on the blog. I say trying because recent "improvements" to the LAUSD firewall make doing anything with video very difficult. Since so many kids have internet-enabled smart phones, I am not sure who is getting protected here.

In math, we worked on telling the difference between important and unimportant information in a word problem.

Homework:  (1) Do the spelling word search. (2) Do "Sarah, Plain and Tall" crossword puzzle and the "Silly Sentences" on the back. (3) Do the letter E cursive. (4) Do "Extra or Missing Information," envision Math, pages 34-35 and the "Bird Houses" on the back side.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Too Darned Hot!

Wow! It was an insanely hot day today. Kids are really sensitive to changes in the weather, and any time it gets really hot I know it's not going to be anybody's most perfect day. But we all muddled through in room 19 and we actually did some really good stuff.

We began by correcting Friday's math and discussing it pretty carefully. Estimation and mental math are not easy for kids for developmental reason. They are still in fourth grade at what Piaget called a state of "concrete" thinking, so the idea that answers do not have to be exact seems a little foreign to them. So we took time to really go over some of the ideas and the problems we had with the assignment.

We then started to get organized. With some of the money parents have donated, I gave each student three colored folders:  gray for Open Court Reading, black for math, and olive green for Science. We went through out desks and made sure that everything was where it should be, and that the students knew which papers, like their tests, should go home and which, like returned spelling work, could be recycled.

We then did the word study and vocabulary and some other preparation for the next story, an excerpt from the novella Sarah, Plain and Tall. We also changed our desks. After a couple weeks, I have an idea who will work best separated from somebody else, and also who absolutely needs to be a the front of the room. I have to say that the students did the best job I have ever had a class do at changing seats the first time.

We did math after recess, and also a little music. In music we are introducing the concept of body percussion. This means using the body as a percussion instrument through snapping fingers, clapping hands, patting hands on thighs or chests, and stomping. It's a fun technique and it really help student internalize rhythm. Plus, there's nothing to pass out or collect!

After lunch, we did our first work with reading journals. This will be a significant part of our reading program as I said in the Parent Meeting. We then went on to Science. We are supposed to be doing an Investigation with Isopods and Beetles. Unfortunately, Delta Education, the district's science vendor, only provided us with pill bugs and sow bugs. So I guess we'll just go ahead with half the insects we're supposed to have. If anybody knows a good local source for darkling beetles, please let me know! Today we just took a look at these critters under a hand microscope.

Homework:  (1) Do "Estimating Sums and Differences," pages 32-33 in the math book. This is estimation and mental math - it should be relatively quick! Also do the "Camping Trip" on the back. (2) Do the "Isopods and Beetles" study sheet. This is the big assignment for the evening. (3) Do the "D" cursive page. (4) Do the spelling scramble. The word search is for Tuesday night.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Quick Post

I'm busy trying to get the email addresses into the gradebook, so you'll just have to believe me that it was a pleasant and productive day. Homework Club is going quite well; if your child has not stayed yet, it's amazing how much they get done at 2:30 (and you all know how little they get done at 8:30....)

Homework:  (1) Complete the "Toto" study sheet. Students started this in class. (2) Do Rounding, envision Math, pages 26-27 and "Rounding Around". (3) Do the cursive practice for letter C. (4) Do the spelling sentences for words 11-20 and review for the test tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thanks Again

First of all, let me thank all the parents for coming last night. I realize how hard it can be to get from work to school by 5:00 pm; your attendance showed your deep belief in your children's education. I also very sincerely appreciate the generous financial support of our classroom program. I can tell that this is going to be a very, very good year.

Today we worked a little on the visualizing strategy. Yesterday, reading the Toto story, the students identified the most descriptive language in the story. They wrote these on post-it notes and we glued them to a piece of paper.

Today, looking only at those post-its and not at any illustrations from the text, they had to create an image of some person or event in the story. This was a little hard for some of them because they have been very dependent on the illustrator to help them "see" the story. But, of course, as they grow older the number of pictures in the story will rapidly disappear. So today's exercise was to help them rely on words instead of pictures to imagine the story. Many were quite successful with this.

This student was particularly relying on the author's description of the "blue and purple hills" as you can see above.

We had our first trip to Tech Center today. Ms. Richard went over the rules and procedures and then had students start by writing a letter to their parents inviting them to Back to School Breakfast as way to review typing skills and Microsoft Word. 

After recess the students went to room 7 where Mr. Pratt worked with them on latitude and longitude. After lunch we corrected the Topic 1 math test. The results were generally quite good; ask your child to bring it home if he or she did not pull it out and proudly show it to you today.

We did our rotations in PE today with Mrs. Caruso working on endurance through jump rope, Mr. Pratt working on social skills like cooperation and anger management, and I working with them on leaping skills. Returning to the classroom, we did math. We are starting Topic 2, Rounding and Estimation. This is generally the most challenging unit of the year for students. Again, if math is frustrating at home, have them stay after school for "homework club."

Homework:  (1) Do pages 24 and 25 in the math book. The students can skip the back of the answer sheet. I couldn't remember whether I had assigned this before. It looked so familiar to all of us... (2) Write sentences for spelling words 1-10 only. (3) Do the Verb worksheet. (4) Do the letter B cursive page.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Short Post

Just a short post as I have to get ready for tonight’s Back to School evening.

Homework:  (1) Finish final rough draft of Perfect Day. (2) Do the Toto Vocabulary crossword.  (3) Do the Spelling Wordsearch. (4) Do the Letter A cursive page.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Switching Off

Again, we had a nice productive day in room 19. We started out by checking and correcting our homework. Although most of the students had everything, there were a number of students who were missing much or most of the work. It's not a problem to occasionally miss a day of homework, but those students who consistently do not have their homework or do not finish it usually also score poorly on their tests and other major assessment. Once our online gradebook is up and running I will let parents know if there is a problem.

I let the students get a head start on a couple of tonight's assignments while I worked with some of the groups to measure the growth in their terrariums.

We went to the auditorium after this to hear Miss Limb discuss the Student Council and elections for this important body with the fourth grade classes.

After recess, our class went to Mr. Pratt and the students from room 7 came to me. I am going to be teaching Science and Music to both classes; he will be teaching Social Studies and Drama to both groups. I think this will be a great opportunity for the students, and it went quite smoothly today. We will be switching off by the week so they will have History all this week.

After lunch, we checked math and then went out to PE. Our students have pretty much mastered the Physical Education procedures so we are now starting to work with them on very specific skills. As usual, we finished the day with Math.

Homework:  (1) Finish the "Search and Circle" page in the Open Court packet. This is really easy. Also finish the "Vocabulary" pages in the same handouts. (3) Finish the Science vocabulary crossword. This is the most difficult assignment. Be sure to use the number of letters and already completed words as clues. (4) Do "Make and Organized List," envision Math, pages 16-17. Also do the "Test Prep" on pages 18-19. The test over Topic 1 will be given tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fab Friday

Well, our first week came to an end, and I must say that we are off to a great start. We had a pretty regular day today. We checked homework, went out to PE, and did math. We did a couple unusual things. We had an art today. The first assignment in our art series discusses line and asks the students to use a variety of different lines to create a poster for a social cause of their choice. The students took this seriously and did some nice things.

We also started our observations of our terrariums. Only a couple of them showed much growth from the seeds, but I am sure that this will change by Monday.
Homework:  (1) Do the "Tropical Rain Forest" study sheet. Students had time to start this during class. (2) Do the cursive review paper. (3) Do "Zeroes" envision Math pages 14-15 and "The Number Game" on the back. Again, I gave them time to start this during class time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Working Hard!

It was a pretty fast day here in room 19 today, and quite a productive one, too. We began by correcting our homework. As I said yesterday, I am quite pleased by how seriously the students are taking this responsibility. We reviewed the elements of story like setting, character, and plot, and then we went on to doing a variety of follow up assignments related to the Frisby story. After recess, we did some reading relating to different environments, particularly deserts. The FOSS Science series does not have much written material, but what is there is quite densely written. I find the students have to read and re-read it to gain the vocabulary and concepts, and so I prepare quite detailed study questions to help them do this. They had a chance to start on this.

In music today we began our exploration of how beat and rhythm are present in words. The students finished brainstorming words related to food, and then working in groups of two to four they created 8 bar phrases. We will continue with this tomorrow and add the really fun element of body percussion to it, too.

After lunch we corrected our math homework and went out again to PE so we could work on the procedures of color groups and rotations. In Math, we explored the idea of comparing and ordering larger numbers.

Homework:  Most of the homework today is to finish work which was started in class. It should not be too extensive despite the large number of papers if they worked hard during class time. (1) Review spelling words for tomorrow's test. (2) Finish the Open Court Reading packet. (3) Finish the "Deserts" study questions. (4) Do "Comparing and Ordering Whole Numbers," envision Math pages 11-13 and the "Follow the Leader" page on the back of the answer sheet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hands On!

Today was another really smooth day in room 19. I can tell it's going to be a great year. We started by correcting and collecting most of the homework. I was very impressed by how many students had done all their work and how well it was done, too. We moved on to considering the theme of "Risks and Consequences" again, and the students also wrote ideas and questions about this theme for the Concept-Question Board. We read the first story in the Open Court Reader after that. It's called "Mrs. Frisby and the Crow", an excerpt from Robert O'Brian's novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. We worked on the reading strategy of predicting as we read the story today and the students recorded their predictions as they read on post-it notes which they stuck on the page as they read along.

We did our first Science investigation today. The students planted five different kinds of seeds in terrariums. It was a pleasant day outside, so I took advantage of our patio to keep the dirt out of the classroom. The students had a great time!

Doing this kind of Science is a lot harder than just giving them pages to read in a book, but they learn so much more this way that it's worth it!

After lunch, we corrected our math homework and went out for PE. Once we get our routine down we will only do PE 3 times a week, but right now we are learning the basics of squad order, warm-up exercises, and color rotations. After PE, we did math as we generally will do last thing in the day. Our topic today was reading and writing numbers in the millions place.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling sentences for the 20 spelling words. (2) Do the cursive letter formation review page. (3) Do the "Terrestrial Environments" study sheet. Note that the page number where the students can find the answer is written after each question. Do NOT do page 4. (4) Do "Millions," envision Math pages 8-9 and the enrichment sheet on the back.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Risks and Consequences

Today was really sort of the first day of school. It's the day that we start the routines that will define our class for the rest of the year. And I'm happy to say that everything looks great!

Our first unit in Open Court Reading is called "Risks and Consequences". It would be better called "Cost/Benefit Analysis" but maybe that's a little too much like Econ 101 for fourth grade. We started the unit today by getting the students to think about the theme. This is what teachers call "front loading". I gave the students pictures of people involved in a variety of activities. For each activity the students, working in pairs, had to identify the possible benefits and risk. For instance, one group had this famous picture.

Lots of people are on an I-beam. They are building the Empire State Building. The risks are falling and getting badly hurt. They could also die because they are very high off the ground. The risk is worth is because they are building the Empire State Building.

We also talked about how to figure out words from context and reviewed the Circle Map. We started to get ready for our first Science investigation tomorrow. We started to learn about correct breathing and posture for singing and did some activities to learn about beat and meter. So, all in all, a very busy and productive day.

Homework:  (1) Complete the circle map about yourself. Write about paragraph about yourself using the ideas from the map. Be sure you have a good topic sentence. Skip lines. Staple on top of the circle map. (2) Do the spelling scramble. All the words are in the box at the bottom of the page. (3) Do the cursive review sheet. (4) Do "Thousands", envision Math pages 5-7. Use the answer sheet provided. Also do the "Changing Places" section on the back of the answer sheet.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Great Start!

Welcome! We had a great first day of class in room 19! I can tell it's going to be a great year. I'm very excited! Can't you tell from all the exclamation marks?

We did some usual first day things. Students filled out interest inventories to help me get to know them better. They took pretests in reading and math so I can have a better sense of their skills in these critical areas. We spent a lot of time going over basic procedures like entering and exiting the room, lining up after recess and lunch, getting paper and sharpening pencils. Not very interesting stuff, but having these procedures learned makes the class work smoothly for the rest of the year.

We did some fun things, too. The students interviewed a partner and wrote a paragraph about their partner. They also drew portraits of their partners. They worked hard on these and many of them are really quite good as you can see.

As I mentioned to many of you this morning, we are having a special meeting for parents next Tuesday, September 21, at 5:00 pm. Please try to be there:  a really successful school year starts with good communication right from the beginning.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words in syllables on a separate sheet of paper. For example, for the first word, auburn, on the paper the students should write au-burn. (2) Do the cursive review sheet.

Parents also need to sign the teacher letter and the library permission slip. Please turn the emergency cards in as soon as possible. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Happy Rosh Hashanah

L'Shanah Tovah to everyone in room 19 who is celebrating Rosh Hashanah today.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Ready to Go!

I would like to welcome everyone to a new school year and to our first day of school on September 13 at 8:05 am. As you can see, everything is ready and the pencils are even sharp and on the table. I will be leaving this weekend to go to Maine and see my mother and will not be back until Sunday, September 12th.

If you have any questions you can email me at either or You can also leave a voice mail or a text for me at my Google Voice account: 323 570-1392.

Please be aware that there will be a special parent meeting on Tuesday, September 21st at 5:00 pm. This will allow us to meet before the Back-to-School Breakfast on October 12th.

I'm looking forward to a great year!