What's Happening in Our Classroom?

  • The Penguin Post
    Ms. Chester’s Class Newsletter
    for December 2018

    Hi, Parents!  Here is our class newsletter for the month of December.  Please make sure to review important announcements and upcoming events below.  Enjoy! 

    The Book Nook

    In reading, we continue to talk about and look for “just right” books.  This often poses some difficulty for students as they typically believe that a just right book is one in which they can read all of the words, regardless of whether or not they understand them – or, for that matter, the overall meaning of the book!  While many fourth graders have sufficiently mastered accuracy and fluency in their reading, they frequently continue to struggle with comprehension.  You can help your son or daughter by reading books together at home and discussing the story to make sure that he or she understands important themes and inferences.  Although many students in our class could probably read War and Peace, it is important to remember that they do not have the life experience and maturity to truly understand a text of this level.

    We have also been meeting together in guided reading groups. In our small groups of about 6 students, we preview our text and talk about potential difficulties that we will encounter during our reading.  As they read, the students analyze vocabulary, using good reading skills, such as context and familiar word patterns, to problem-solve words that they don’t know.  We then gather together to discuss and think more about what we read as a group.  We work on skills such as summarizing, predicting, making inferences from the text, and drawing connections to our own lives or other books that we’ve read.

    As our winter break approaches, please remember to take time to read, and discuss, with your son or daughter.  Not only is this valuable learning time, but it is also an excellent opportunity for some great quality family time! 

    The Pen Is Mightier…

    In writing workshop, we have spent the last several weeks doing opinion/persuasive writing!  As you might expect, students have many strong opinions – and they enjoyed voicing them during this unit! 

    Students focused on one of their opinions and decided on three supporting reasons for their opinion.  They conducted research to support their opinions, considering the reliability of online resources and discussing how to avoid plagiarism.  They also considered reasons against their opinion – so they could counter them before they were raised by their readers!  They thought about ways to hook their reader into their writing as part of their introduction.  They worked on developing paragraphs, or “writing sandwiches,” as we call them (paragraphs with introductions, details, and conclusions). They also considered interesting ways to wrap up their writing.  To provide clarity and create flow, they explored strong word choices and transition words that are common in opinion writing. As the students wrote, they moved through the process of drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.  We will culminate the unit with an author’s celebration during which students will have an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the fruition of all of their hard work!

    May I Have a Word with You?

    Spelling continues to be a primary focus of our literacy block.  As you may have noticed, the students are making great strides.  They seem to truly enjoy “catching” their spelling errors in their own writing and using classroom tools, including dictionaries and thesauruses, to enhance their spelling and word choices!

    Sum News

    Our third unit of math focused primarily on fractions, including finding equivalent fractions; comparing, sorting and ordering fractions; converting between fractions and decimals; reading and writing decimals; and studying decimals in the context of measurement using metric units.

    In unit 4, we are working on solving extended multiplication facts and multi-digit multiplication problems, using estimates to help us to determine the reasonableness of our answers, using multiplication to explore conversions between metric units, solving money numbers stories, and exploring area models for rectangular figures.  For those who are still working to secure their basic multiplication and division facts, this can be overwhelming.  Please continue to work on securing all basic math facts at home.

    You may notice, as your child continues through elementary school, that this math program relies heavily on repeated exposure, and building on prior knowledge, to support the learning process.  Please continue to reinforce concepts that your child may not have fully grasped and watch for daily Home Links to stay connected to what we are doing at school!  We continue to review and re-test at the end of each unit, so your ongoing support at home can directly support your child’s progress on these concepts at school.

    Finally, remember that your child can also continue to use Khan Academy to support math learning at home.  I have conferenced with students about specific areas in which they can continue working to strengthen their math skills based on the NWEA/MAP (computerized test) results.  These areas appear right in Khan Academy, so students can access them when they work in Khan here at school – and they can also continue to build on them at home by logging into Khan with their school g-mail accounts.  Not only is this a great academic tool, but students really seem to enjoy watching videos, practicing problems, and moving at their own pace through the program! 

    The World Around Us

    Students have wrapped up their Project Lead the Way (PLTW) unit on Energy Collisions and are now in the midst of Input/Output Computer Systems.  As you might recall from Curriculum Night, PLTW is the nation’s leading provider of STEM programs K-12.  It exposes students to all three STEM pathways (engineering, biochemical science, and computer programming).  PLTW utilizes an Activity - Project - Problem-Based Approach.  Students have really enjoyed these units!

    In their study of nature’s recyclers with Ms. Johnson, students have been continuing their discussion of waste and decomposition and have been learning about scavengers, such as dung beetles, and observing the effect worms have on the decomposition process!  Next, they will be taking a look at fungi and thinking about where our nature’s recyclers belong in the food chain.

    Mrs. Crook has been covering our science unit on The Big Blue Marble (our Earth).  Students finished watching a Bill Nye video on erosion and then completed a diagram of the rock cycle.  Ms. Choi led the students through a discovery lesson identifying and taking notes on different fossils found in Michigan. The students used the fossils as evidence to make conclusions about how Michigan has changed over time.

    In the Social and Emotional Health unit, with Ms. Shah, students have been studying the effects of teasing and bullying on others.  Students learned what to do if they or someone else is being teased and bullied.  They practice ways to protect themselves and others from these types of situations.  Students focused on what to do as a bystander, someone who bullies others, and if they were the target themselves.  Students are now identifying decision-making and problem-solving steps to help make informed decisions. 

    Please note again that these units included lessons on good touch/bad touch, part of our personal safety curriculum, and HIV/AIDS, part of our personal wellness curriculum.  Both of these lessons are mandated by state law and taught through age-appropriate curriculum selected by the District.  Letters about both lessons went home in Curriculum Night packets.  I will be teaching them this year.  Just let me know if you’d like to review materials beforehand.

    In social studies, students have been covering foundations of social studies.  After learning more about the foundations of history and geography, students moved on to studies of government and citizenship – just in time for election season!  We talked about the branches of government, debated the pros and cons of mandatory voting, studied the history of voting, and took a closer look at some of the candidates running for office as well as the platforms on which they were running.  We also discussed economics, thinking about producers, consumers, scarcity, specialization, exchange, etc.  Our study of economics culminated in a fun worksheet, that sort of mimics the game of Life, on which students decided their careers and then balanced their budget by making choices about home, transportation, technology, and so forth.  I think students quickly learned how expensive life can be!  Next, we will begin our study of human and spatial geography of the United States.

    Keeping in Touch

    Dates To Remember
    Christy Choi, our UM intern, will begin her full-time student teaching appointment with us starting in January!  Welcome, Miss Choi!

    The Winter Holiday Break begins at the end of the day on Friday, December 21, with school resuming on Monday, January 7.  Please plan accordingly!  Also, again, if your child will be out additional days around this break, please be sure to let me know so I can prepare him or her in advance!  Thanks!  May you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season!

    We will celebrate the holiday break with a class celebration on Wednesday, December 19!  More information from our room parent, Lisa Markman (Dax’s mom) is forthcoming!

    The Tappan Band and Orchestra will perform for the upper elementary grades at Burns Park on Friday, December 21!  We’re excited to see our Burns Park alum and their classmates perform!

    Just a reminder that students will be taking the NWEA tests again in January, which is now a mandatory test period for all students in the district.  I will try to complete the tests in the first couple of weeks of January.  Right now, I have reserved Friday, January 11, 9:00-11:30 and Friday, January 18, 9:00-11:30 for testing.  Please try to have our child at school on time and present those mornings!

    There is NO SCHOOL on Monday, January 21, in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

    Wednesday, January 31, is an early release day for students.  Dismissal will be at 1:29, with students receiving lunch before they leave.  Please plan accordingly!

    Special Interest Fair is on Tuesday, January 29!  Watch for announcements from the PTO in the coming weeks.

    NAAPID will be on Monday, February 12.  Our 4th grade recorder concert is also scheduled 10:00 on this day.  We’re looking forward to seeing you on this special day!

    Ms. Wolf and I arranged a performance of Under the African Sky, presented by Wild Swan Theater, in honor of Black History Month, on Wednesday, February 13.  This performance offers a “delightful collection of African tales performed through storytelling, acting, dancing, and drumming. Colorful costumes, masks, and traditional music will delight and teach our littlest fans, with lots of opportunities for audience participation!”

    We will celebrate Valentine’s Day with a party for Wednesday, February 14.  More information is forthcoming.

    Mid-Winter Break will be on Friday, February 15 (pending), and Monday, February 18. There is NO SCHOOL on Monday, February 18, while Friday, February 15, is still being solidified by the district.  Mark your calendars!

    Parent-Teacher Conferences
    I just wanted to share that it was an absolute pleasure to meet and talk with all of you.  I am thrilled that we are all on the same team, working together to support your child’s learning!  Thank you for all of your kind words and ongoing support!

    Consider This...

    The highest result of education is tolerance.
    - Helen Keller 

    A Special Tip

    Does your child spend too much time in front of the TV?  Here’s an idea…  Mute the TV and select your closed captioning option.  Now they can read while they watch!