Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Light and Dark

It was yet another great day in room 19. We started with journal writing and language activities as usual. Our topic today was "What would you do if you found a 50 dollar bill on the ground?" Our answers were varied but all great. We looked at the difference between simple and compound sentences. This will help the students start to do some sentence combining, one of our principal exercises for developing the trait of writing fluency.

After checking homework, we went to the computer lab where Ms Richards introduced the idea of the LAUSD Digital Library. This is a large collection of premium resources - like Encyclopedia Britannica online - which the the students can access from computers on the LAUSD network.

In Science, we continued our experimentation with darkling beetles and isopods. Today the students did an investigation to see whether the insects preferred light or darkness. They created an environment in their runways where the animals could choose one or the other, and observed their choice.

Homework:  (1) Do “Picture…Equation,” pages 44-46 in the envision Math book. Do the “Test Prep” on pages 48-49. Do “Flying High” on the back. (2) Do the Science crossword puzzle. (3) Do “Middle Zeroes 2” subtraction practice paper. (4) Do spelling wordsearch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Bugs!

I'll update this later. Just the homework for now.

Homework:  (1) Do “Subtracting Across Zeroes,” pages 42-43 in the envision Math book. Do odd only today as the skill is also covered on the other math worksheet. Also do “Transportation Conclusions” on the back. (2) Do “Amazon Rain Forest Journal” questions. Students will need the Science Resources book for this. (3) Do spelling sentences for each of the 20 words on the “Kid Reporter” words. (4) Do “Middle Zeroes 1” subtraction practice paper.

Monday, September 26, 2011


What a whirlwind of a day! We had a great day in room 19, but I felt like I never had a chance to stop and catch my breath!

We began by reviewing simple subject and complete subject. All of this will help us to understand compound sentences. One of our major writing goals in fourth grade is get the students away from writing only simple sentences "The cat chased the dog" to more complex ones with subordinate clauses like "Eager for revenge, the cat chased the dog."  We started learning the vocabulary for this week's Treasures story, "Kid Reporters." We also evaluated a couple more anonymous stories for how well they score on the Ideas rubric.

Science was super fun today. In fact, it was so fun I didn't have time to even take a picture of them working. The students made "runways" today which they will use tomorrow for our work with darkling beetles and isopods. These runways look something like old-fashioned pencil boxes though they are made out of cardboard and aluminum foil. The students had a little time today to get some observations of the insects. Here is a stock image of a darkling beetle.

And here is another Google Image picture of an isopod. These are often called "pill bugs" or "roly polies" because they roll into a ball.

Tomorrow I will hopefully get pictures of our students with our bugs. After lunch, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and we also worked some more on body percussion. At Mixing, I worked with the students on doing hurdles on the track. These are really cones, not the long bars you see at the Olympics, but the students took them just as seriously.

Homework:  (1) Do “Subtracting Whole Numbers,” pages 40-41 in the math book.  This is straightforward subtraction, nothing strange today! They will need scratch paper. (2) Read “Isopods and Beetles,” pages 93-97 in the Science Resources book and answer the questions. (3) Do the spelling jumble for the “Kid Reporters” spelling list. (4) For “extra credit,” do “So Many Decisions” on the back of the math answer sheet.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pretty Ordinary

Today was just an ordinary day. Nothing wrong with that: in fact, they're probably the most important for steady learning.

We worked today in grammar on the difference between complete and simple predicate. We read a story about The Arabian Nights that gave a little background to the "Ali Baba Bernstein" story. We looked more closely at the ideas trait in writing, and the students used the rubric to explain why one anonymous writing sample had poor ideas while another had good ideas. To make sure they were concentrating only on ideas, both of them had pretty poor spelling. They went to Mr. Pratt for Social Studies. We began exploring body percussion in music. This is using snapping, clapping, patsching and stomping as a way to use the human body as a percussion instrument. We had our usual mixing for art, music, and physical education. In math we are studying the difference between too much and too little information in solving word problems.

Homework:  (1) Do "Missing or Extra Information," pages 34-35 in the enVision Math book. (2) Do "Remembering Details" and "Sequencing Events" worksheet. The students will need their Island of the Blue Dolphins for this. (3) Do the "Subtraction with Regrouping 4" worksheet. The students will be tested on this skill tomorrow. (4) Do the "Ali Baba Spelling wordsearch. As usual, the spelling test will be tomorrow. (5) Do "Bird Houses" on the back of the math answer sheet.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Today was our first session in the Tech Center. The students were given an orientation to the computer lab by Ms Richards. They learned her policies and procedures and she talked to them about some materials which may be helpful to have for Tech Center. They then created a user profile in the Mavis Beacon typing program and worked on using home keys.

After lunch, I gave them time to work on the "final drafts" of yesterday's art project. At 1:00, they went to their different "mixing" areas:  art, drama, or physical education. In math, we are continuing out work with estimation and mental math. This is usually the hardest chapter of the entire year for students and definitely the least fun for me to teach. If it weren't so darn important a life skill I'd happily skip it!

Homework:  (1) Do "Estimate Sums and Differences," pages 32-33 in the enVision Math book. (2) Write a sentence for each of the twenty spelling words. Students have the list from Monday. (3) Do "Subtraction with Regrouping 3." (4) Do "Camping Trip" on the back of the math answer sheet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Last Long Tuesday

Today was our last late Tuesday. The professional development schedule,with the 1:30 dismissal, starts next week.

We read the "Ali Baba Bernstein" story today as well as working more on subject and predicate. The students are learning about California landforms with Mr. Pratt while I planted terrariums today with his students. I hope they come at as well as ours did!

Since we had the extra time today, we started an art project. The skill in today's art lesson was life drawing from different points of view. A number of the classes were on the yard for teacher release time, so our students went out to watch them play.

As they played, out students carefully observed and drew them.

Tomorrow they will convert these plain-aire sketches into pen and ink drawings. 

Homework:   (1) Do "Using Mental Math to Add and Subtract," pages 29-30 and "Algebra," page 31. Look at the three strategies on page 28 to understand "compensation," "breaking apart," and "counting on" strategies. Also do "Mental Puzzles" on the back of the answer sheet. (2) Do the word jumble on this week's spelling words. (3) Do "Subtracting with Regrouping 2".

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yet More Growth

Sorry this one is a little late being posted. The district’s security measures are making it very difficult to connect with https: websites like blogger. It took me a while to find a workaround.

As you can see from the picture below, our students were thrilled to discover how much their plants had grown over the weekend. It was the first thing that grabbed their attention when they came in the door. They could barely wait until it was science time to do their measuring.

We did some other things, too. We studied subject and predicate. We learned the vocabulary for this week’s story, “Ali Baba Bernstein.” The students were introduced to California history with Mr. Pratt. We read a part of a chapter from Island of the Blue Dolphins. In math, we’re slogging through rounding and estimation.

Homework: (1) Do “Rounding Whole Numbers,” pages 26-27 in the math book. (2) Sort the spelling words into groups depending on how they make the long a sound. Some words will not fall into any category because they are vocabulary term. (3) Do the “Subtraction with Regrouping 1” worksheet. (4) Do “Rounding Around” on the back of the math answer sheet.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Fridays are a good day for assessing progress in many classrooms, and room 19 is no exception. We do not only have tests on Friday, nor is Friday only about taking tests, but it is the day when the students are most likely to be tested. Today we had a math quiz, a spelling test, and a reading test. This weekend I will send links to the gradebook for those people who have given me their email addresses and you can see how well your child did.

Students also did so assessing of their own, in this case the growth of their plants. They are justifiably excited about how well their terrariums are doing! We started work on a crossword puzzle with lots of words about environments. Last year, this caused a bit of a meltdown as students tried to do a crossword puzzle for the first time, but this year our students took to it like the proverbial ducks to water.

After recess, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. The students went to their different mixing activities: art, drama, or physical education. We finished the day, as usual, with math. Topic 2 in the math book deals with rounding and estimation. This is such an important life skill for the students, but they really don't like it much. Chapters like this are when math teachers begin to understand what it's like to be a dentist!

Homework:  (1) Finish the "Exploration 1 Vocabulary" crossword. (2) Do "Rounding," pages 24-25 in the math book. "Quick Math" on the back of the answer sheet is relatively easy, so there's no reason why everybody shouldn't do it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Today we started, as we usually did, with journal. Our topic today was "Something funny that happened to you" and there were indeed some very amusing anecdotes that the students related. I was impressed how many of the students showed the ability to laugh at themselves. That's a great sign of maturity! We went on to discuss more about the different types of sentences. We read a short biography of Cesar Chavez in the reader and discussed how it related to the main story. The students had some great insights. 

We worked after recess on starting to understand the "Ideas" rubric for the 6+1 Traits of Writing program. These scoring guides are written in "teacher talk" so our task was to "translate" them into words the students could understand. It was not altogether easy activity, but we finally managed to gain the appropriate comprehension of phrases like "The writing seems to be writing from knowledge or experience; the ideas are fresh and original." Just before lunch, we stopped to look at the terrariums. All the groups have something growing! They measured the growth in centimeters and recorded them in their Science journals.

We took our math test after lunch. The results are on the gradebook, and I am in the process of setting up parent emails. If you have already sent me an email I will have you set up by the weekend. The students will have an opportunity to take a second version of the test when we take the Topic 2 test. They will receive the better of the two grades. After correcting the test and recording our grades, we took off for our different mixing classrooms and activities.

Then, after we returned from our afternoon mixing the students completed the gesture drawing project that they started on Tuesday. It's a fun activity for them, and most of the completed works were great!

Homework:  (1) Do “Developing Thinking Skills.” Students will probably need their Science books for this. (2) Do spelling sentences for spelling words 11-20. (3) Do “Addition with Regrouping 4.” The skill will be tested tomorrow. (4) Do the spelling wordsearch.

Again, if the summary of “My Diary:  From Here to There” was not turned in yesterday, it should be done tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


A big thank you to all the parents who came to last night's meeting. I thought it was really productive. Please do send me an email with your name and your child's name so I can set you up on the gradebook.

We did have a busy day in room 19. We started out with our journals, and then went on to reviewing the story from the new reader. We worked on sentence types and developing inferences as we read. After recess, we check our terrariums again. The students were delighted to see almost everything starting to grow. We also read about the rain forests. We will be developing our compare and contrast skills with rain forests and deserts over the next couple days.

After lunch, we read the climactic fourth grade of Island of the Blue Dolphins where the residents of Ghalas-at fight the more heavily armed Aleuts and suffer terrible losses. We are starting to look at rhythm in music. We did our afternoon mixing and we talked about making lists and tables in math. The math pages are challenging tonight, but since tomorrow is the test, concentrate on the review pages.

Homework:  (1) Do “Make and Organized List,” pages 16-17 and “Test Prep” pages 18-19. Of this section, the "Test Prep" is the most important part. Don't spend too much time on pages 16 and 17.  (2) Do “Tropical Rain Forests” study questions. (3) Write sentences for spelling words 1-10. (4) Do “Addition with Regrouping 3." Also be sure that the summary for “My Diary:  From Here to There” is finished as soon as possible. It does not necessarily have to be done tonight. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hope to See Everyone at 5!

Just a short post since we will be having our meeting tonight. 

Homework:  (1) Do “Understanding Zeroes,” pages 14 and 15. “The Number Game” on the back is optional. (2) Finish the “Deserts” questions in science. Students had about 25 minutes in class to start this. (3) Do “Addition with Regrouping 2.” (4) Do “Review of Cursive Letters 5.”

Monday, September 12, 2011


Today we started work on our new reading series, "California Treasures." It is not that much different from our old Open Court series, so it should not be too hard an adjustment for either the teacher or the students.

In Science today we planted our terrariums. Students placed the potting soil in the containers and then planted rows of corn, peas, barley, radish, and clover. We'll be monitoring their growth over the next couple weeks as well as discussing the environmental factors which affect their growth. They had fun doing it today!


Today we also started our afternoon mixing program. All the fourth grade students will be receiving two sessions of physical education each week and one lesson each of drama and music. The classes are all mixed up so that students can have the experience of working with students from other classes. It will take a while for everybody to get used to it, but I think it will be great!

We finished the day with a celebration of Chuseok, the Korean harvest festival. Students from room 16 made a presentation to us.

They explained the traditions associated with the holiday and also fed us songpyeon, the traditional rice cakes. They were delicious! 

Homework:  (1) Do “Comparing and Ordering Numbers,” pages 11-13 in the math book.  Try “Follow the Leader” on the back if you can. Don't worry about this one if it seems too hard. (2) Do “Addition with Regrouping” worksheet. (3) Do the spelling scramble. (4) Do the cursive review sheet.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Today was a bit of an unusual day due to California English Language Development Test, or CELDT. This state-mandated test is given to students who are designated as English Language Learners each fall to determine their level of English proficiency and to monitor their progress in learning conversational and academic English. For teachers, it is probably the most annoying test of the year. Since only a few of your students take it, it's hard to know what to do with everybody else. And that really is a problem because it is not the kind of test that you can just give to kids and have them sit happily at a table and work by themselves. There are lots of directions to present, even on the written portions of it, and big sections assessing listening skills which the teacher has to read aloud. And then there is a section of the test evaluating speaking skills which has to be given one-on-one. This is the kind of thing that people in Sacramento who haven't seen a classroom in 20 year dream up. But we have to give it.

The fourth grade teachers at Third Street work together quite well, so we decided to team for CELDT. Mrs. Choi agreed to give the listening, reading, and writing parts of the tests to the all the fourth graders who had to take it. There were 8 students in room nineteen who were in that category. That created a bit of a conundrum for me. After all, with so many students gone, I did not want to introduce anything really new because the students who were off to take the test would miss it. So we spent the morning doing a bit of this and that. We worked some more on life maps. Since rubrics will be an important tool in our writing program, we talked about rubrics and students worked to create their own rubrics on a 1, 3 , and 5 point scale. We finished any work left undone from Wednesday and Thursday.

After recess, we did math. Math is usually an afternoon activity, but I knew that the students taking the CELDT test would be taking the oral section of the test in the afternoon and I did not want them to miss math. Our topic today was place value in the millions. I was pleased by how well our students did at reading and writing large numbers. This was a part of the book that really was difficult for many in last year's class.

After lunch, Mr. Pratt and I took all the fourth graders who were not taking the oral section of the CELDT and supervised them on the yard. It was "free play" physical education. They could choose their activity, but they had to be doing something, not just sitting under a tree. It is not the finest form of PE instruction, but there is only so much you can do with 90 students and 2 teachers.

Mrs. Choi, the fourth grade teacher, was assisted by Mrs. Choi, our school's coordinator, and Mrs. Cha in giving the time consuming oral part of this test. Big thanks to them for agreeing to take on this job!

Monday things will start to return to normal.

Homework:  (1) Do “Millions,” pages 8-9 in the math book. Do “Puzzling Place Values” on the back of the math answer sheet. (2) Do “Cursive Letter Formation 3”.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Real First Day

The second day of school in many ways is the first real day. There are so many special things to do on the first day that it is hardly a typical day at all. The second day starts to become a typical day, and with that, the students start to learn the procedures they will follow for the whole year.

We started out today, as we will in all the days to come, with our journal activity. Today they wrote about their favorite room in their house or apartment and also worked at distinguishing sentences from phrases or fragments. Our first theme in the new reading series is "Growing Up" and we did a couple activities to introduce this theme. First, the students started to create life maps. They will finish these tomorrow, so there will be some examples on tomorrow's blog post. They also created short free-verse poems which contrasted their lives when they were young to their lives today. Here is an example:

After recess, we started on our Environments unit in Science. The students completed a Circle Map and a quickwrite to summarize what they already knew about Environments. We read a short selection on terrariums and the students answered questions on it. They will be making terrariums next in Science, probably on Monday.

After lunch, we started reading Island of the Blue Dolphins. Besides giving the students an actual book to read instead of the mere selections from books provided in the reading series, Island provides them with a great introduction to the native peoples of California and the era of the Spanish exploration, a key part of fourth grade history.

We also started our rhythm unit in music. Today we were concentrating on the learning what beat and meter are. The students ran in place to find their own heartbeat, and we talked about the steady pulse which is the heartbeat of music. We tapped and clapped to our heartbeats, and then saw how much easier it was to keep up that pulse if there was a sequence of strong and weak beat. We practiced passing a hand drum and hitting it on the strong beat.

We started our work in the math book today. Our first chapter is on place value. Today we concentrated on numbers up to 100,000. We talked about standard form, word form, and expanded form.

Homework: (1) Do “Cursive Review” worksheet (2) .Do “Addition, No Regrouping 2” worksheet. (3) Do “Thousands,” pages 5-7 in the math book. Put all answers on your answer sheet. Also do “Changing Places” on the back of the answer form.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Fantastic First

We had a fantastic first day in room 19, despite the miserably hot weather. This year our class consists of 29 students, 18 girls and 11 boys. That's a first; usually we have more boys in room 19.

We started out today with the students working on an interest inventory and a reading pretest. The inventory helps me to help the students pick books in the library as well as giving me a better sense of who they are as young people. The reading pretest lets me know who my strong readers are and who will need a little extra assistance.

I went over a lot of rules and procedures with the students. The rules are pretty basic:  follow directions, keep your hands and feet to yourself, etc. The students know these basic conduct norms already. The procedures are less intuitive, and I don't expect the students to master them right away. They learned how to enter and exit the room, how to line up after recess and lunch, where to get blank paper and where to place completed work.  We'll be working for the next two or three weeks at really mastering these because once procedures are automatic the management of the class become pretty painless for both teacher and children.

We worked in partners to introduce ourselves and to learn about each other. The students interviewed each other using some questions I gave them. They then turned the answers into a rough draft of a paragraph with topic and concluding sentences. I helped them edit the draft, and they made a final copy. That took us up to lunch.

After lunch, the students worked again with their partner, this time to draw portraits. Some of their work was really excellent!

We finished the day with a math pretest. This assesses what they will learn during the year. It's a hard test, and it does not count for their grade. Nevertheless it gives me a good idea of who will need more or less assistance in math this year.

Homework will be light at first and grow a little heavier as we start on regular academic work this week and next. 

Homework:   (1) Do "Addition, No Regrouping 1" worksheet. (2) Do the "Cursive Review 1" worksheet.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


All is ready, as you can see, for a new year in room 19. I look forward to seeing meeting everyone tomorrow.

Please mark your calendars right away for our fourth grade Back to School Evening on Tuesday, September 13 at 5:00 pm. All the fourth grade teachers will be meeting with families to go over our program for the year.