Monday, October 31, 2011


We've mentioned "Mixing" on this blog many times this year. This is when the students of all four fourth grade classes are combined and divided so that they can get to know each other and so the teachers can get to work with all the students on the grade level. Mrs Meldrum, the long-term substitute while Mrs Choi is on maternity leave, has been doing art with the students. Lately she's been helping them understand the difference between positive and negative space in art. Here are a couple examples of an activity:

Halloween is not a great day to introduce a lot of new concepts. The students are  little too spacey for that. This is one of those days when teaching elementary school is like trying to keep 30 corks under water at the same time. It can be done - sort of - but it's exhausting!

Our only really new idea for the day was in math where we introduced the ideas of variables and expressions. The students seemed to catch on pretty quickly to this.

Today I worked hard to give the students as much "study hall" time as possible so that they could avoid having homework tonight. I gave them the entire period from 1:00 to 2:30 to get started on some pretty reasonable assignments.

Homework:  (1) Do pages 118-119 in the math book. (2) Do Larger numbers 1. (3) Do the spelling jumble.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting Revved Up!

School today began with a special kickoff assembly for Culture Day. As most of you know, Culture Day is not only our special celebration of the many national backgrounds of the students at Third Street School, but it is also a major fundraiser for our parent booster club, The Friends of Third. At this morning's assembly, Frances Okwu, shown below, told the students about all the special celebrity guests that will be coming on November 5.

The students were generally pretty attentive.

Councilman Tom LaBonge was the special guest, and even thought the students hadn't the faintest idea who he was they follow Roy Forbes' direction that they give him a hearty welcome by screaming and waving as if he were somehow a fourth Jonas brother.

We cut out a couple minutes early from the assembly to get to library. In addition to Mrs. Sartore, we also now have Ms. Mia Drake as our library aide. She is a wonderful addition to our staff.

The students had less time than usual, but they did a great job looking for and picking out books.

The rest of the day was not quite as exciting as the first hour. Sort of boring, actually. We had a lot of assessment today. As we usually do on Friday, we had spelling and reading tests. We happened to come to the end of a math topic today, so we had our "first chance" test over Topic 4 and our "second chance" test over Topic 3. Overall, the students did well on both of the tests and the results are on the gradebook. Please check that if you have not done so recently. We also did the final draft of one of the compare and contrast essays - the students had their choice of which one - that they had worked on in journal time each day this week.

Homework:  As a special reward for being so fantastic yesterday for our visitors, enjoy a homework-free weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Display

Periodically at Third Street School, we have visitors from other schools in the district and even from other countries. Today, visitors from South Korea accompanied by our principal, Dr. Suzie K. Oh, came to room 19 to watch us work on our thinking and writing skills. Our students were amazing!

As I mentioned at our Back to School night, our class is using the 6+1 Traits of Writing program. Part of this approach to teaching writing - it isn't really a program in the way that Open Court was - has students reading anonymous papers and scoring them against a rubric. This helps sharpen the students' skills at analyzing good and bad writing. This was what our students demonstrated so capably today for our South Korean visitors. They looked at two essays, one on "Dinosaurs" and the other on "Rainy Days" and responded to them. Each was graded for Ideas and Organization on a scale of 1-5.

The students were so articulate as they connected the rubric with details in the composition. Our visitors were amazed and Dr. Oh was just bursting with pride.

After the visitors left, we finished our food webs. They were all good, but this one was particular nice.

Many of our students go to Beginning Strings after recess, so we did our math at this time instead of Science because I didn't want students to miss brine shrimp hatching. Our math lesson was pretty much review for tomorrow's test. After lunch we read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and worked on our body percussion piece in music. We did the usual rotations at Mixing.

Our somewhat belated Science experiment for the week is hatching brine shrimp. This is a great activity for several reasons. First, it connects to social studies because of the brine shrimp population at Mono Lake which is so important for our California gulls. Second, the experiment helps the student understand both range of tolerances and isolating one variable in an experiment.

The experiment works like this. The students fill four cups with 150 mL of treated water. In one cup, they add no salt. In another, they add one measure of salt. In another they add two measures of salt, and in the final cup they add three measures of salt.

Finally, they add a small mini-spoon of brine shrimp eggs to each cup.

We'll watch over the next couple days to see how many hatch in each salt solution.

Homework:  (1) Study for the spelling test. (2) Do "Reasonableness," pages 108-110 and "Test Prep" pages 112-113.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Warming Up

The wintry damp we had at the beginning of the week has now given way, according to the weather service, to a red flag warning! One extreme to another.

But there were no red flags today in room 19. We began with working on compare and contrast essays. Today the students worked on comparing spaghetti and pizza. It's not an inspiring topic, but it helps them master the form. We particularly talked about creating a good introduction to interests the reader, something more than "I am going to compare pizza and spaghetti."

In Tech Center we continued our work on the Lincoln paper. The students learned how to save images from Google Images, how to place them behind text, and how to make an image transparent. In Science, we worked on our food webs some more.

We read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. In this chapter, Rontu is attacked by the other wild dogs. The students were riveted by details like "muzzles dripping with blood." At PE, I continued work with students on the running broad jump. In math, we're working on multiplying four and five digit numbers.

Homework:  (1) Do "Greater Numbers," pages 106-107 even numbers only. (2) Do sentences for each of the 20 spelling and vocabulary words. (3) Do the math worksheet. (4) Do "Key to Multiplication" on the back of the answer sheet.

Monday, October 24, 2011


It was a remarkably cold day today, and the sun came out only at the very end. Those aren't bad days for fourth graders to concentrate, however, and we had a most pleasant and productive day.

We started out with writing compare and contrast paragraphs. The students are starting now to have to use more than one paragraph in their responses to the the prompt and to think about the structure of their writing in terms of paragraphing. That's a big jump from what they had to do in third grade. Today the student and teacher switched roles. Usually I provide them with pictures and a sentence so that they can infer the meaning of our vocabulary words; today I gave them the definition and they provided the sentences and the picture. Most will be finishing that tonight.

We also worked on food webs, using what is called Kodaly speech syllables to read rhythm, and many worked with me on the running broad jump.

Homework: (1) Do "Multiplying 2 Digit Numbers," pages 101-102 in the math book.  (2) Divide the spelling words into syllables.  Use dictionary as needed. Place on a separate paper. (3) Do the math skills worksheet.

Optional today: Mathematical Marlena" on the back of the answer sheet. It's really a cool number pattern, but some students and parents each year find it extremely confusing.

Also, be sure to finish the  vocabulary word pictures.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Sudden Knock

We begin each day, as I have often mentioned, with journal writing. The students get a prompt each day, and these are related to the writing trait that we are stressing. Right now we are focusing on writing structures, and we're beginning with narratives. So yesterday to give them a chance to write any kind of story they wanted I gave them an opening sentence and left them to develop a story with a problem and a solution. The opening line was "There was a sudden knock on the door." There were lots of good responses, but this one delighted the whole class.

There was a sudden know at the door. Mr. Manon was scared. He slowly opened the door. Nobody was there. A short while later, there was a knock at the back door. He got his club ready. He was ready to knock someone out when he saw them. Nobody was there. About a second later, there was a knock at the front door again. He thought it was just some teenagers doing ding-dong-ditch. So he got ready to yell at some boys. But when he opened the door, five walking dead were there! He screamed! He had to do something. H e took his  club and hit each of the five walking dead in the head. They each did get hurt but not injured. They stepped inside. They cornered Mr. Manon. Mr. Manon tried to fight back with his club, but the dead were too much for him. The walking dead had a nice meal. Mr. Manon joined the walking dead with no choice because, after all, he was obviously dead. 

You can probably guess that it was a boy who wrote that one! We had no zombies knocking on our door today in room 19, but we had a pleasant and productive day.

We read a story in the Treasures about Rosa Parks. This is a typical pattern in this reading series:  partner two selections with very similar themes so that the students can be more aware of the genre and literary structure. The students finished the time before recess by working on their trait of organization poster.

After recess, I worked with the students from room 18 on their food chain mobiles. I don't think I posted pictures of the marvelous ones that our students did last week. Here are a few.

After lunch, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. I gave the students some questions over the reading selections to help them review vocabulary and important concepts. Most were pretty well finished before mixing began.

At mixing, I've mentioned that my emphasis this week has been teaching broad jump. Students did quite well with this skill. To get a "4", they had to jump at least a yard and most of them did that easily.

Homework:  (1) Do "Using Rounding to Estimate" on pages 94-95 in the math book and do Who's Here? on the back of the answers sheet. (2) Do the Investigation 3 crossword puzzle. (3) Do Two Digit Multiplication (4) Do the spelling word search.

Also, finish the "Brother Martin" reading questions and study for the Social Studies test tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wondrous Wednesday

We had a really great day. Wednesdays give us an appealing day of Tech Center, Social Studies with Mr. Pratt, and mixing in the afternoon.

In our 6+1 Traits writing program we are turning our attention from the trait of ideas to that of organization. The students rewrote the rubric or scoring guide into kid-friendly language, and they're now using that to create posters. Here are a couple early examples:

In Tech Center, the student continued our work on the Abraham Lincoln exercise. The students not only learned to use the online version of World Book with this, but they wrote the paper in MS Word and learned to insert an image as a background.

Homework:  (1) Do “Using Mental Math,” pages 92-93 in the math book and “Block Party” on the back of the answer sheet. (2) Write sentences for EACH of the 20 spelling and vocabulary words. (3) Make a chart for transition/sequence words in Brother Martin. Copy the words and page numbers. (4) Do Two Digit Multiplication 3 worksheet.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


A hectic but pleasant and productive day. Here's the homework. If I have a chance I'll describe our activities in more detail later.

Homework:  (1) Sort the words into a chart. The categories are long vowel made by a single letter, short vowel, -le ending, r-controlled vowel, vowel partners, and silent e. Some words will go into more than one category. (2) Do pages 71-72 and 73-74 in the Treasures Practice book. (3) Do pages 90-91 in the math book. (4) Do the multiplication practice worksheet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Energy from the Sun

Today we learned about energy from the sun in two ways. First of all, it continued to be brutally hot and we once again had to cancel some outdoor activities. But more importantly, we learned how energy from the sun is the source of all food energy in ecosystems.

In Science today, the students learned about producers and consumers. They learned that producers, like plants or algae, make their own food from sunlight. They learned that other organisms, such as animals, cannot manufacture their own food but must eat other plants or other animals in order to survive. We distinguished between first and second level consumers.

To make this a bit more fun, the students were given cards with different woodland ecosystem plants and animals on them. They had to classify the different organisms and place them in a chart.

Homework:  (1) Do the "Food Chains and Food Webs" study questions. (2) Do "Using Multiplication Facts," pages 78-79 in the math book. Also do the "Table that Rule" on the back. (3) Do the multiplication and division study sheets. (4) Do the spelling wordsearch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


What happened to our cool fall weather? Just a week ago or so we were on rainy day schedule. Today we cancelled PE because it was just too hot to be out on the yard!

It was, nevertheless, a productive day. We did all the usual morning stuff with our journals and we corrected homework. We then went to the Tech Center where we continued work in the Digital Library and with Microsoft Word. After recess we added some more critters to our aquariums and we talked about food chains. In math, we're starting to finish up our look at multiplication and division.

Homework:  (1) Do the Winn-Dixie story questions on page 119 of the Treasures book. This is a major assignment, but I already gave the students ample time to work on it in class. (2) Do "Special Quotients" on pages 76-77 of the math book. (3) Write sentences for each of the spelling words. (4) Do the multiplication and division facts sheet. This will be Friday's quiz and it will be timed!

Extra Credit:  Do the "Analogies" page on the back of the math answer sheet. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Enriching the Environment

First of all, a big thank you to all the people who came to this morning's "Back-to-School Breakfast." I enjoyed talking with parents informally about their children's progress and any concerns. It was nice hearing how many children seem to be having a great experience in fourth grade. Of course, I cannot claim complete credit for that. We have a great team of fourth grade teachers. If you could not come, please stop by as soon as you can so that you can sign up for the December parent conferences.

It was a pretty short day. We did our journals - today's topic was "How to Brush Your Teeth" which elicited some great responses - and we checked our homework. We read the selection from the novel Because of Winn-Dixie in the reading anthology. In Science, we added plants to our aquariums. We added lemna and elodea. We'll see how this begins to affect the environment for the goldfish.

Homework:  (1) Do "Relating Multiplication and Division," pages 74-75 in the envision Math book. Also do "Just the Fact(or)s on the back. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the multiplication and division practice sheets.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tennis Balls and Fish

It was a much quieter day - literally. The noise from all the chairs dragging on the floors was getting really annoying to me and to the students, so I came in on Saturday after the gym and cut tennis balls to put on the bottoms of the chairs. It looks a bit dorky, but it certainly makes the room quieter.

We started out today with our journals as usual. We are working on accuracy of details as a key part of having good writing ideas, so the students wrote about how to make and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we discussed which students had the most complete and accurate details. We also continued trying to identify compound predicates in sentences. We went over the vocabulary words for the next story, "Because of Winn Dixie."

In Science, we are turning our attention from terrariums to aquariums. The students began Science today by observing gold fish in groups.

We also read about freshwater environments.
After lunch, we read a bit more in Island of the Blue Dolphins. We worked in Music at transferring our word chant from body percussion into instrumental percussion using hand drums and rhythm and lumi sticks. At PE, I am teaching broad jump skills this week. In math, we are reviewing division facts.

Homework:  (1) Sort the spelling words by long o pattern. Create a table or chart. Not all the words will be in the chart as some are vocabulary words. (2) Do pages 58-60 in the green Practice workbook. (3) Do the "Freshwater Environments" questions in Science. (4) Do "Meanings of Division," pages 71-73 in the math book. Also do "Babysitting" on the back of the answer sheet. (5) Do the practice page of multiplication and division facts. The students will have a time test on Friday.

Please try to attend tomorrow's Back-to-School Breakfast event. It will be your time to sign up for parent conferences in December and to talk informally about your child's progress.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rain, Rain

Children love rainy days. Teachers hate them. They had a pretty good time today. I just survived.

We started out with our journal and language activities as usual. In language, we're continuing our look at compound subjects. In writing, we're looking at the details we use to make sure that we are really "showing" and not "telling."

In Tech Center today the students used the digital library for research. To give them a structured introduction to this amazing resource, I wrote up a paragraph on the life of Abraham Lincoln with lots of mistakes in it. I suggested they use the World Book site on the digital library to research a bit on Lincoln and find and correct my errors. They had a pretty good doing this. Those who finished - and that was most of them - began retyping the story on Microsoft Word to improve word processing and keyboarding skills.

We switched as usual after recess and the students went to Mr. Pratt for history. During lunch time, we watched about half of the Disney movie The Amazing Journey. It's not only one of my favorites - it's about dogs, after all - but it is old enough that most of the students have not seen it before.

After lunch, we did a bit of blind contour drawing in art. This is a classic art school exercise where students do not look at their papers but only at the object. They try to never lift their pencil or marker as they do this.

I did modify the exercise slightly by allowing the students a few minutes at the end to make a few erasures and clean it up a bit.

Despite the difficulty of the exercise, some of the results were pretty impressive.

Homework:  Do "Multiplication Properties," pages 62-63 in the math book.  Do "Making Change 3" worksheet. Do "How does your Garden Grow" on the back of the math answer sheet. Do the spelling wordsearch.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Quick Post

Tuesdays is a pretty busy day for me, so I am just going to post the homework. 

Homework:  (1) Do "Patterns of Facts," pages 60-61 in the math book. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do "Making Change 2." (4) Do "Patterns, Patterns" on the back of the math answer sheet.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Marvelous Monday

Homework:  (1) Do “Meanings of Multiplication,” pages 57-59 in the math book.  Also do “Hurray Array” on the back. (2) Do “Making Change 1” worksheet. (3) Sort spelling words by long I pattern. Not all words will be used.