Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Note on Homework

My daughter started third grade this month and is getting more homework than she was used to in second grade. There have been some nights where she's been really stressed about it, too. I'm talking on-the-verge-of-tears stressed. It is hard for me as a parent but as a teacher it really gets me thinking. That's NOT what I want homework to be for my students.

I want homework to be for skill building and for practicing important things we learned in school. I try to make sure that every homework assignment I give is meaningful, not just busy-work. And I think I do a pretty good job of that. But I also try to make sure that I don't give an overwhelming amount. When homework makes a child stressed or, worse, makes them cry, then it is no longer beneficial.

So, I need to say this. If you or your child is ever feeling stressed about homework--feeling like it's too much or it's overwhelming or it's impossible or it's making them (or you) cry--please just stop doing it, write me a note, and ask for help or ask for an extra day. I absolutely don't want them feeling stressed out and upset about their school work.

And this definitely applies to exhibitions, too. As we get closer to Exhibition time, things get busy and the workload increases. The best advice is to get started now. But if you do that and are still feeling like it's too much, let me know. We can work it out together.

If you ask me to choose between a child's confidence and homework getting turned in, I'll choose confidence every time. Thanks for listening--this has been something I've been meaning to tell you for awhile.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great Day for a Poetry Walk

This week we started a new poetry unit that I call "Poems Can Be About Anything." My purpose is to show students that poems are hiding everywhere; there is beauty in all objects and all parts of life. The job of the poet, I tell them, is to find the poems and give them life.

Monday we read a famous poem about a wheelbarrow. Yesterday we read a brilliant poem about a safety pin. And today we read one about some broken glass on the ground. To the uninitiated, this might sound really dull, but the kids are really enjoying it. On top of that, we've had some great discussions about the poems, as I teach them about poetry "moves." (Ask them to define moves for you, they should be able to do that.) And on top of THAT, reading these poems about "ordinary" things will help them become better poets themselves.

So after reading today's poem, we grabbed a camera and headed out on a "poetry walk," searching for beauty in places non-poets might not notice. In the sidebar of the blog (if you're reading this in an email, you'll have to go to the blog to see them) you can check out the photos they took. And I promise I'll be sharing the poems--we are in the drafting stages right now, but they're already looking really good. You might also want to click the links above to read the poems we've shared and maybe even ask your child about them.

Now I have to go and decide which poem to read about a gas pump or socks. (I'm not kidding.)

Problem of the Week and Other Stuff

This week's POW was sent home today. It's a little tricky and it's due FRIDAY. I gave them some help with it at the end of the day, so they should be able to figure it out.

Also, the field trip to Ford Field is next week on Tuesday. We'll leave first thing in the morning and get back by lunchtime. Please have them wear a red shirt (if possible--t-shirts are okay--but no print on them unless they are UPA shirts) and gym shoes. To be honest, I am not sure exactly what we're doing, but I know it centers around physical fitness and healthy living.

I posted a challenge for students using Edmodo. Have them check  it out--I asked them to post a question to one of the people that wrote a Slice of Life story online. I'm hoping to use Edmodo to encourage thoughtful "conversations."

Speaking of Slife of Life stories, the ones turned in this week were excellent. I returned them and last week's POW and Book in a Bag sheets today. Please check them out and read my comments. Math quizzes from last week will come home tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Quick Things

If you haven't filled out the form that gives me permission to send books and materials home, please CLICK HERE.

As I mentioned last week, our Society Contribution team has picked a project to try to raise money for. They searched a website called Kiva, where entrepreneurs from around the globe post loan requests. The team selected a farmer in the Philippines who is trying expand her business so she can afford good schools for her children. Our goal is to raise $25 to contribute through the Kiva website. If you're able, please send in a little to help our cause. We're going to try to pick a different project to donate to every month as a way of making an impact in the world. Thanks in advance for your help.

Field Trip Permission Slip

A two-sided permission slip is coming home tonight. Please fill out both sides and return it to school TOMORROW. Slips must be turned in tomorrow or your child may not be able to go on the trip.

And thank yous go out to Mrs. Young and Mrs. Stafford for volunteering to chaperone! We're set on chaperones thanks to them.

Homework by the Numbers

Our first week of homework went pretty well. Room for improvement is there, though...(all numbers are out of 17.)

Number of students turning in ALL Study Link worksheets last week: 13

Number of POWs turned in Friday: 13

Number of Book-in-a-Bag record sheets turned in today: 12

Number of Book-in-a-Bag record sheets turned in WITHOUT the paragraph on the back: 3

Number of Slice of Life stories turned in today: 10

Number of Slice of Life stories turned in via Edmodo (out of 10): 6


Here's this week's schedule for homework:

Monday: Study Link 2-2
Tuesday: Study Link 2-3
Wednesday: Study Link 2-4
Thursday: Study Link 2-5
Friday: POW due

Next Monday: Book in a Bag record sheet and Slice of Life story due

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chaperone Needed

We are taking a field trip on October 5 to Ford Field for a Blue Cross Blue Shield wellness event. We are in need of one chaperone. We're leaving first thing in the morning and should be back by lunch time.

Please contact me if you are able to help out with this.

Photo Source:

Permission Slip

Please fill out the form below:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Going Even More Global

What? You're not amazed by the things going on in Room 302 yet??? You're not impressed by our work with our Going Global theme yet??? Well, how about the book we're reading for our Global Read Aloud with classes from across the country, The Little Prince, the narrator shows the readers a picture he has drawn of a boa constrictor eating an elephant. This week, I asked students to recreate this drawing or some version of it...take a look...

This Week in Room 302--Episode 1

I promised it would be released soon...and here it is. Our Learning Documentary Team's first podcast about what we've been working on at school. Chase, Alexandria, Jenna, Danielle, and Terrion did a great job...have a listen...

Today We Went Global

Earlier this week, I posted about our "digital learning farm" jobs. We are working in four different teams: Research, Social Contribution, Learning Documentary Production, and Global Collaboration.  It was a beautiful thing to see today in the classroom as the students...

...used Google Docs to collaborate on a document that lists facts they learned about different places around the world. (Research Team)

...wrote, rehearsed, and recorded a podcast about what we've been learning in school lately--stay tuned it will be released soon. (Learning Documentary Production Team)

...presented to the entire village their plan for raising money to help an entreprenuer in the Phillipines--they've already collected over $3! (Social Contribution Team)

...sent an email to five other classrooms participating in the Global Read Aloud project, asking them if they wanted to work together in some way AND typed up a list of predictions about The Little Prince in Google Docs that I recently posted to the blog. (Global Collaboration Team)

Wow. A busy day to say the least. It was really great to see every student engaged in a meaningful learning task and it was lots of fun to get going on projects that are going to connect us with other classrooms and help us meet our goal of "Going Global."

Global Read Aloud Update

We've read the first 7 chapters of the book The Little Prince so far. In our first effort to collaborate with other schools across the country, we are sharing our answers to the following question:

How do you predict that the Prince and the narrator will escape from the desert?

Here's what the students came up with:

think they will get out by fixing the airplane and he is going to tell everybody about it.

I think that they are going to make something like something that flies.

I think hes going to escape the desert is that his car or something is going to work a little and he’s going to get help from people and they fix the car and after that he is going to fly or drive back home.

Maybe they will find a mechanic and he’ll fix the plane.

I think they’re going to take the airplane apart then make it in to a teleport device. So then they can teleport to the planet, so then the might save the planet.

The way I think the little prince and the narrator are going to get out of the dessert is that they are going to send a message to the planet that the little prince lives on. And they will come and get them.

I think Little Prince is going to escape by fixing the plane and flying to a different state or city.

I think hes going to escape the desert is that his car or something is going to work a little and hes going to get help from people and they fix the car and after that he is going to fly or drive back home

I think that they are going to fix the plane and get help.

I think he will call with his speakerphone and they will save them.

I think he’s going to fix the plane and learn where Little Prince came from.

I think they will find a tree to climb up and escape to the Prince’s planet.

If you are a reading this and you're a student, teacher, or classroom participating in the Global Read Aloud, PLEASE leave a comment to let us know what you think. We'd love to hear your thoughts. THANKS! And stay tuned for our pictures of a boa constrictor eating an elephant!

Book in a Bag due Monday

In addition to the Slice of Life story, the Book-in-a-Bag record sheet is due Monday. This is the sheet you've been signing every night when your child reads for 20 minutes or more. Their book doesn't have to be finished by Monday, but their sheet must be completely filled out. I'll give them a new one Monday morning.

Be sure to have them complete the writing prompt on the back of the record sheet. Their response should be a paragraph with a topic sentence and supporting details. Try for at least five sentences, please.

Slice of Life Stories due Monday!

Slice of Life stories are due for the first time on Monday, September 27. Wondering what a Slice of Life story is? Please click the "Homework" link at the top of the page to find out. You'll see a full description and four examples (two of them written by me!).

Stories can be turned in on paper (they should fill about a page of notebook paper) or they can be submitted via Edmodo. I sent home a complete instruction sheet today, including directions on how to submit them on Edmodo. My advice is to have your child write theirs out first, then have them type it into Edmodo.

I look forward to reading the stories next week. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Down On the Farm

I'm attempting to start our "class jobs" this week. We'll have to see how that goes. Students are working in one of four teams:

  • Global Collaboration Team
  • Society Contribution Team
  • Learning Documentary Production Team
  • Research Team
If you click the link "Our Digital Learning Farm" at the top of the blog homepage, you'll see a description. And be sure to ask your child what team they're on and what they worked on today. I tried my best to explain our goals to them--hopefully they understood. But after we work on these things for a week or so, I'm sure they'll pick up on it quickly.

What's the purpose of these teams? First of all, they are part of our "Going Global" theme...they help us connect our classroom to the outside world. Also, they are great, I think, for building teamwork and cooperation skills. The groups really have to work together and get along to get their jobs done. This might be the most important thing about the jobs!

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Global Read Aloud Begins!

Yesterday, we started the Global Read Aloud project. This is our first "Going Global" project of the year. It involves schools from around the world all reading the same book, The Little Prince, and collaborating on assignments together.

We read the first few chapters yesterday, in which the narrator describes his attempts at drawing a boa constrictor eating an elephant. The students' assignment this week is to make their own drawing of this odd and imaginary situation. Then we'll scan their drawings, upload them, and share them with others participating in the project.

I'll keep you posted on our progress, but it should be interesting and a great way to jump start our "Going Global" theme.

This Week's Homework

One day late in getting you this schedule...sorry!

Monday: Study Link 1-2
Tuesday: Study Link 1-3
Wednesday: Study Link 1-4
Thursday: Study Link 1-5
Friday: Problem of the Week Due

Every Night: Book-in-a-Bag reading (record sheet due next Monday)

Due Monday September 27: Slice of Life Story (look for a hand-out to come home on this)

Other Notes: Math Quiz this Friday!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homework Starts Monday

Regular homework assignments will start Monday, September 20. We'll start with math "Study Link" worksheets on Monday-Thursday. The Book-in-a-Bag reading program will begin Monday, too. Also starting will be the Problem of the Week (POW). This will go home on Wednesday and be due on Friday morning. The first Slice of Life stories will be due Monday, September 27.

If you want more details about these assignments, click the "HOMEWORK" tab at the top of the blog.

Learning Team Meeting Sign-Up Form

Let's try signing up online--without having to send paper forms back and forth between home and school. How's that sound??? Let's see if this works. Please fill out the form below. I'll assign times based on who turns theirs in first. Please note the time that is unavailable (9/23 at 1:30).

Back to School Night

Please join me and the rest of the Ellen Thompson staff from 5:00-6:30 tomorrow night for "Back to School Night." You'll get a chance to hear from Ms. Johnson, the principal, as well as hear from me about what we'll be working on in school this year. I'll be providing a detailed description of the fourth grade curriculum, as well as highlighting some of the work we've already done. Also, you'll have a chance to sign up for learning team meetings...which start next week!

I hope to see you tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Podcasting 101

Yesterday's technology project involved making a podcast. A podcast is basically a digital sound recording that can be uploaded to the web. Then, it can be played via the internet or downloaded onto your computer or mp3 player. Podcasts seem to be everywhere nowadays; there are thousands of podcasts available to search and download (most for free) in the iTunes store. They are fun to make with kids and the kids absolutely love making them.

We were able to spend about two hours creating our "Alligator Pie" podcasts yesterday. A few groups still have some finishing up to do today, but I think I'll be able to work on uploading them this weekend so they'll be ready to premiere sometime next week.

Why do I have students create podcasts? Well, like I've already said, students really enjoy them. And I've found that when students enjoy their work, they tend to do a much better job on them. Sometimes they're so much fun that it doesn't even feel like work! I also use them because it incorporates so many different skills: writing (I always make them write a script first), reading, and speaking. They're also a great thing to have groups of students work together to create, allowing them to build cooperation skills, too. In the future we'll be using them for reading projects (they are great alternatives to book reports), writing and poetry projects, social studies projects, and even a weekly podcast about what we've been learning in school. On top of all that, podcasts last forever...the podcasts they create with me will be available for download when they're 60 and want to listen to what the "good old days" sounded like.

So I think that about sums it up. Keep an eye (or ear) out for a post next week that explains how to listen and/or download them.

We did have a final "Tech Camp" project planned for today which was even more awesome than podcasts, but we will have to postpone it. Our laptop lab is being used for the MAP test the rest of this month and they needed to set them up this morning. All-in-all, though, I'd have to say my first ever "Tech Boot Camp" was a total success!

Please don't forget to vote in the poll on the left side of the blog and don't forget to come to Back to School Night next Wednesday the 15th from 5:00-6:30.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Please Vote

In the left sidebar of the blog, I've placed a poll about homework. Please vote so I can have a better idea of your opinions. I know that some parents want things to get started right away, while others believe students should be "eased" into a heavy workload. I'd like to know what you think, so please vote in the poll!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Edmodo Experiment

Edmodo is a special networking site designed for teachers and students. Basically, it creates a "facebook-like" environment (minus the profile pictures, the photo albums, the silly games, and the friends from junior high you have no interest in talking to) for teachers to post assignments, files, and discussion questions. However, it's completely secure. It is only used for people in the class to interact with each other, not with the outside world.

I learned about it from some literacy training that the staff attended in August. We plan on using it for students to post writing and reading assignments. Today we logged onto it for the first time and I let the students explore. I created a group called "friends" for them to interact with each other and get the hang of things before we start using it for our real work. I even gave them some an extra credit assignment tonight--post an answer to my question, "What did you have for dinner?" There's been a lot of activity already tonight.

Using the login information I sent home today, I encourage you to have your child give you a tour of the site so you can see how it works. The way they're using it now seems a bit silly, I know. But, trust me, it has lots of educational uses.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know.

Coming Home Tonight

Just a heads-up so you know what to look for tonight:

  • Another memo from me (this one goes over the specifics of the fourth grade curriculum)
  • A letter from Ms. Kelly Ritter, the new music teacher.
  • An overview of our "Technology Boot Camp" so you'll know what cool computer skills the students are learning this week
  • A list of the main sites we'll be using and your child's username and password for each one. One of our internet safety rules that we're discussing today is "I will not give out my passwords to anyone (except my parents). I believe it's a smart idea for parents to have access to all of their children's account. This is my way of helping out with that. Oh, and if you want to see the other rules we're discussing, click here
I think I have one more note after this that will go home tomorrow. After that, I'm done--for a little while at least.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Best First Day Ever?

I have to be honest. I've had a few "first days of school" as a teacher. At least 10 by my count. Today might have been the best. It was a really good day. I have a great feeling about this group of students and we really got things off to a good start.

What exactly did we do? Well, we had our first Morning Meeting, went to our first Art class, learned the classroom procedures and expectations, and set our "Hopes and Dreams" for the year.  And that was just before lunch. We also had a short reading and writing workshop and read one of my favorite poems, "Alligator Pie" by Dennis Lee. Click here to read it. (Tomorrow we'll write our first poem using this one as our inspiration.) Then---yes, there's more---we used the laptop lab to explore the class wiki.

The class wiki is a website that the students can edit. We learned how to post information to it today. The kids took what they worked on in Writing Workshop and started posting it to their wiki page. The great thing about wikis is that they can be edited from anywhere. Several students, including Selena, Kaelyn, Keturah, Armani, and Danielle, have already worked on theirs from home tonight!!! Parents, look for more detailed instructions to be posted here about how to access and edit the wiki. If you want to check out the students' work, please go to the class wiki by clicking on the "Links" tab at the top of this page. Then choose "Class Wiki."

A detailed note came home from me today. It says "From the Desk of Mr. Curran" at the top of it. There will be another one coming home tomorrow, too. And then one the day after that! I try to spread them out so as not to overwhelm you. :) If you have any questions, please let me know.

There is lots more to do tomorrow, which could very well be the best second day ever!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome to Fourth Grade!

We are less than a week away from the start of school. I could not be more excited than I am. I hope that you are, too. One thing you're probably wondering is: "What does my new classroom look like?" Well these aren't the best pictures, but take a look:

Like many things, the room looks much better in person. We have lots of work to do together in this classroom, and many successes to achieve. I can't wait!