Thursday, October 30, 2008

Math for Exhibitions and a note on Birthdays

Yesterday and today, we went over the math requirement for next month's Exhibition. Just to clarify...

The students were given a sheet with four problems on it. They have to show us how to do the one about maximum, minimum, mode, etc. Then they choose 2 of the remaining 3 to do. They should have written their choices on their Organizer worksheets. The problems on the sheet are the exact problems they will present. They will not be required to make up their own problems.

When presenting, I've told them to "teach us" how to do the problems by explaining them step by step. I'll create an overhead transparency to project so they won't have to spend time writing the problems on the board themselves.

Tonight, for homework, they should work on the reading portion of the Organizer. At the Exhibition, they're required to talk about a book they've read this year. They must come to class tomorrow with that section filled out. The required information is: the title & author, the genre, the main events from the story, and their personal response (i.e. I liked this book because...).

Tomorrow, in class, we'll go over that part and start working on the Social Studies portion. Next week, we'll wrap up the writing and science portions.

As for tomorrow's birthday club party, it will happen after lunch and recess. Ms. Barnes and I used part of the donated funds to buy a cake. Students can also bring in other treats (juice, cookies, etc.) as long as they bring in enough to share with 32 kids. Thanks to those of you that sent in the $4. If you weren't able to this time, try to get it in by the next party, in mid-December.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Exhibition Update

As you can see from the handy dandy countdown clock on the right side of the page, Exhibitions are quickly approaching. Since this is the children's first presentation with me, I am going to try to be as clear as I can about my expectations.

Notice that I said try. In the next two weeks, if you're ever feeling "in the dark" or confused about the Exhibition, be sure to contact me ASAP.

Here is what you and your child should have in your possession by the end of the day today...
  • Exhibition Checklist--the detailed list of everything that must be presented.
  • Exhibition Organizer--a form to help the students organize all the information they need to present. I handed these out today and we discussed the math, reading, and writing requirements.
  • Exhibition Sign-Up Sheet--use this form to book your appointment for your child's Exhibition. These went home today.

If you need another checklist or organizer, I have a link where you can open and print them on the front page of the class website.

From now until Exhibition Week, students should be doing something to prepare for their presentation every night. At school, we'll be filling out the organizer and getting ready in some fashion every day.

I will post more updates throughout the week. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's Up This Week

The last week of October will be a busy one. As you can see from the Exhibitions countdown clock, time is short. Before you know it, Exhibitions will be here. Checklists will go home this week and next week you'll sign up for an Exhibition time. It's amazing how fast time flies, isn't it?
In math this week, we'll continue working on multiplication facts, but we'll add in some work with measurement, some story problems, and some work with what we call open sentences, which is really a pre-algebra concept. Here's an example of a very simple open sentence: ___ + 3 = 8 If you can fill in the blank, then you can do an open sentence!

We're on pace to have a Unit 3 test next Wednesday, the 5th of November. We'll have another quiz on Friday, too.

Writing Workshop will be busy this week, too. Students should have a final draft of their personal narratives by Friday. Hopefully, the kids will finish and will be able to type and publish their stories.

In science, we'll continue our exploration of matter. They have been enjoying the science activities so far. It's been fun.

We won't do costumes Friday, but we will have our first Birthday Club party! Thanks to those parents who sent in their ONE-TIME $4 fee. Friday is also a free-dress for $1 day.

Also this week, we'll really get into our "UPREP Goes Green Project." For those of you who weren't aware, I am part of a group of 5 teachers that received a grant of technology products from Hewlett-Packard. We got the grant for designing a project where the students start up a recycling program at the school. This week, students will complete the first phase, which involves creating a presentation on the computer. Next week, they'll present these to other classes in the school so that other students are educated and then the recycling program will begin. It's an awesome reward for our school--only 101 schools earned this honor. I'll update you more as we get more done with this.

Until then, if you have any questions or concerns, be sure to send an email or leave a comment!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recommending a Movie I Haven't Seen

I try not to recommend movies I haven't seen yet, but I just have a good feeling about this one. It's called City of Ember. You can learn more about it here.

It came out a couple weeks ago, so it might not be around for much longer. But if it stays through the weekend, it might be a good one to check out. (Hopefully it will show up at the discount theater at the Universal Mall, too). Here are some current showtimes.

The movie is based on a book by Jeanne DuPrau. I really loved it. It's set in the distant future. The city of Ember is the last remaining city on Earth. But there's a problem...the lights are going out. Lina Mayfleet, a young girl, is the main character and the city's only hope.

Fox Walden is the studio that produced the film. They were behind movies like The Chronicles of Narnia and Bridge to Terebithia.

If you do end up seeing it, let me know. I don't get a chance to see many movies in the theater, but I like to know good ones to rent when they come out on DVD!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two Weeks to Go!

With just two short weeks left until Election Day, it's a great time to talk about how America elects its Presidents. It's quite a complicated process and one that many citizens know very little about.

I found this video that tries to give a simple explanation. It's called "Electing a US President in Plain English" and it's courtesy of . Take a look, and share it with your child, friends, and family. It's quite informative and with this year's election being the most important and historic one, perhaps, in our lifetime, I think it's helpful to understand the process. And it's a great chance to explain how this all works to our children, the voters of the future!


Monday, October 20, 2008

Academic Goal Packets

I'm going to make a change regarding a very important due date. Academic Goal Packets were due tomorrow, October 21. They are now due Monday, October 28.

I have been meeting with several students today and it seems a lot of them haven't even started on these. Remember, we decided on these topics at learning team meetings. These packets are designed to help them get better at things they are currently struggling with.

Here's the thing...the packets are designed to be worked on with an adult. I don't expect the kids to do them on their own. Please help them with them. Guide them through. Each one has pretty clear step-by-step directions. I really think this extra work can help them a great deal.

I'll also be meeting with them to work on these topics. But I'd like them working on their packets first, so that we haven't something to meet about.

All of your help on these is appreciated. I really think this can be a great way of meeting some of the children's individual needs. But, they might need a push in the right direction.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Exactly Are They Doing All Day?

Ever wonder what your child's teacher is doing on those "Professional Development" (a.k.a. PD)days? Well I'm here to spill the beans and let you in on all the secrets of these days off. Days that are loved by students but maybe not so much by parents who have to reorganize schedules, find child care, etc.

Okay, maybe I've built this up a little too much. In truth, there aren't many secrets. Sure, most of the teachers "dress down" but the truth is, these days are all business.

Take September's PD day, for example. Together, the fourth and fifth grade teachers were able to plan the entire year's writing curriculum, making sure that not only will it be engaging and exciting, but also ensuring that it's aligned with the state's standards. This is a lot more work than it sounds like. But without that day off, we'd never have gotten it done. Most of us would have felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants when it came to our very important writing lessons. Luckily, though, we're now all on the same page and we have a vision of what we want to accomplish. And we've planned how we're going to accomplish it. Pretty impressive, I know.

Tomorrow, while our students are eating a little too much junk food, sleeping in, and playing video games, we'll be at work bright and early. Data Analysis is on the agenda this time. We'll be looking at test results (particularly MAP test scores) and figuring out how these numbers can help us improve our teaching, especially when it comes to individualizing instruction for each student.

I, being quite the math nerd, love working with data. But I enjoy it even more when I am learning how to use it to improve my lessons and projects. I'm looking forward to it.

So rest assured, we'll be working hard and making strides. Even without our students, it'll be hard work, but it will be valuable.

And this time I'll try to find out some secrets so that my next post about PD is a little more interesting!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Writing Workshop Update

Building on the excitement of Notebook Week, we've started our Personal Narratives. "What's a personal narrative?" you ask? It's a true story about a small moment in your life. Even in 9 short years, the students have literally thousands of small moments to write about. We've tried to pick the ones that are the most entertaining. And now we're writing these stories down.

The goal of this project is to write an entertaining story that's packed with detail and feelings. This can be a tough task, but this group is talented, so I'm not worried about it.

Now you're wondering, "What can we do at home to improve writing skills?" The key is the notebook. If you were generous to buy your child a pocket-sized notebook, encourage them to write in it every day about whatever they want, be it fiction or non-fiction. If they don't have this tiny notebook, anything will do. The key is, the more writing the better.

There's another way to work on writing skills at home...the class wiki. All students have used it in class, but it's a special page that can be accessed from any computer. Each child has a username (their first name) and a password (my last name). Ask them to show you how to log on and edit. If they can't remember, here are some instructions.

On their personal page, the parts they should have completed by the end of the week are: About Me, Words that Describe Me, and A Perfect Day. I'll have some more pages active for students to add to later this week.

The wiki is a fun, useful tool. Kids love working on their pages and they love it when they can access it from home. Encourage them to do so and be sure to have them teach you how they do it!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Math Unit and More

We began our new Math unit, Unit Three, today. The topic is multiplication and division and it will include work with word problems (a.k.a. number stories) and some introductory algebra skills. Yes, algebra!

I've updated the Math Central page of the class website with an overview of the Unit. Also, today I sent home the Family Letter for Unit Three. It includes some great explanations of the work we'll be doing, along with an answer key for all the Study Links. Check the class website often; I'll be letting you know when I add some helpful math content. As for now, there are two links to sites that tie in to our math program, Everyday Mathematics. Hopefully they will help you.

Since the main topic is multiplication and division, we'll be spending a lot of time talking about facts. Now is a great time to get into the habit of practicing facts every chance you get. By the end of fourth grade, students should know multiplication and division facts up to 10. Make your own flashcards and help your child to memorize them. Mastery of math facts really helps students when the topics get more challenging (fractions!).

As for some other notes...MEAP testing starts next week. We only test on three days, which is fewer than in the past. BUT, students are taking more tests each day. This rule change was mandated by the State, so it's out of our hands. I'm sure you've heard this before, but please make sure your child gets a good night's sleep, eats a good breakfast, and gets to school on time during MEAP testing. I always hesitate to say this since it's something they should do even when it's not MEAP time (and since you probably are already making those things happen) but it's just one of those things teachers are "programmed" to say this time of year. No matter how you feel about standardized testing, it can't be denied that the tests are tremendously important. Your support, as always, is appreciated.

Thanks again for keeping up with the blog. I hope you're enjoying it. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Resources due Friday!

Students received a form today for keeping track of resources they'll be using for their interest projects. A resource can be a book, website, magazine, etc. Anything they might use to get information for their project.

They don't have to bring the resources to school Friday, just the completed form. The reason we do this is to get students thinking about their projects well ahead of their Exhibition date.

The next "Milestone" will be due Friday, October 24. On that day, students should turn in all notes taken from these resources. This can be something as simple as a list of facts on paper or individual facts written on notecards. We'll be talking more about this next week, but I did want to make you aware of it well in advance.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

News and Notes For the Week Ahead

I had a list of things to write about that I made at school Friday. Guess where the list is now? On my desk at school. So I'm sure I'll end up forgetting things but here's an update for now...

In math this week, we're having a Unit Test on Wednesday for Chapter Two. A review will come home on Tuesday. It'll cover Place Value, Addition and Subtraction, data and graphs, and data analysis. On Friday's quiz, the most frequently missed questions were about the maximum, minimum, range, mode, and median. You might want to work on those a little extra. Tomorrow's homework is a bit tricky. We'll be trying partial differences subtraction. It's another way to solve subtraction problems. It's an alternative to borrowing. Try your best. What's most important is that students know how to subtract 3 and 4 digit numbers. We'll start Unit Three on Thursday. One of the main concepts in this new unit is multiplication.

In writing, our notebooks are complete and we'll be starting a unit on personal narratives. Personal narratives are kind of like memoirs, little stories about small moments in time. They're true stories that come from students' lives. We'll continue to stress "beginning, middle, and end" but will add in some new concepts that will improve writing.

On Thursday, students started meeting with their new Reading teachers. They will report to these teachers from now on for Reading Workshop and Word Study (spelling & vocabulary). If you need to know more about this let me know.

This is the last week of Social Studies for a while. Next week, we'll begin a 6 week science unit. We're finishing up by studying the explorers that first came to Michigan and we'll be learning what impact they made on the area as well as on the tribes that were living here at the time.

This week, I'm finally putting the finishing touches on the Learning Plans. Look for two copies to come home tomorrow or Tuesday. On Friday, I'll be sending home individualized Academic Goal work. That will have a due date of October 17, I think. More on that later this week.

The fantasy football project is going well. I think students are getting the hang of it, and I think they're enjoying it. Ask them how their team is doing!

Like I said, I'm sure there's more to report, so I'll get back to you when I find my list!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Notebook Decoration Day

What a day we had decorating our notebooks. The students did a terrific job and, as you can see below, they had a great time...

Click to play Notebook Decoration Day
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Even I got into the act, decorating my new mini-notebook. (It's pictured on the last slide, but it didn't show up that well).
So, you're asking, "Why did you do all this?" Well, my goal is to get the kids excited about writing. If they feel pride in and a connection to their notebooks, I think that adds to their excitement.
I can't wait to really start getting into this year's writing projects and activities. And I look forward to sharing student work with all of you online as we go. Some students have already written some things on the class wiki. We're definitely off to a good start.