What's Happening in Our Classroom?

  • The Penguin Post
    March/April, 2018  

    The Book Nook

    The children continue to think more about their reading and articulate those thoughts in letters that they write in their reading response journals. As they dialogue with a peer, Miss Vusich and/or me about their reading, they are asked to share what they liked or disliked about their stories – and why, make connections, share what surprised or puzzled them, make predictions – with support from the story, examine the author’s craft, and generally share their thinking about the book.

    In addition to thinking about their reading, the children are also thinking about the mechanics of drafting letters. They are expected to incorporate all of the parts of a letter (including the date, greeting and closing), capitalize and underline the book title, and proofread their letters (checking grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization).

    In class, we completed an informational reading unit in which we learned how to use text divisions, organizational tools, graphic features, print features, and layout features to better understand the text. This unit is good preparation for all of the informational reading that students will do in middle and high school!

    Currently, we’re anxiously anticipating our next reading unit – literature circles! Again, literature circles are a bit different from guided reading as students select books based purely on their own interests, do all of their reading during their own time, and come together once a week to discuss what they’ve read. The students are usually eager participants, and I frequently have to cut our discussion short at the end of class!

    Finally, remember that March is Reading Month. Support our school-wide celebration by encouraging your child and reading frequently with him or her at home. While you may think that your child is getting too old to listen to you read, and would prefer to read alone, please know that the children are more attentive during read-alouds at school than during perhaps any other time. It’s an activity that they still very much enjoy – and it’s also a great time to model and share good reading and writing strategies! 

    The Pen Is Mightier…

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve spent some time discussing good strategies for completing the reading and writing portions of the MStep (and, really, NWEA). To prepare for the reading portion, we’ve discussed understanding format, referring back to the text for answers or evidence, eliminating answers that don’t make sense, and using context clues. To prepare for the writing portion, we’ve discussed understanding format, skimming the passage, understanding the prompt and purpose, and using success criteria to review our writing.

    Students are just beginning an exciting unit on opinion essays with Miss Vusich. During this unit, they will develop a definition of opinions, discuss how opinions are different from facts, explore how to develop and support an opinion, determine audiences for their writing, and work to develop their pieces with an introduction and conclusion. As you might guess, the children have many opinions – so they very much appreciated having a venue in which to share them!

    After we finish our writing unit with Miss Vusich, we’ll start MStep and NWEA testing (see “Keeping in Touch”). We’ll also spend some time examining parts of speech, grammar rules, and other fundamentals of writing in the spring.

    Please continue to encourage your child to write at home in his or her writer’s notebook each night. Remember that, when there is not a specific writing assignment, personal narratives, poems, fiction writing, comics, word webs, and lists are all options! 

    May I Have a Word with You?

    Miss Vusich and I continue to teach the students words based on patterns with which they are struggling and familiarize them with important roots and stems. In a small group, they come together to examine the patterns and meanings as well as brainstorm similar words. Our expectation is that they will not only know the words on their list but also be able to decode other words with the same patterns.

    Sum News

    After completing a unit on fraction and mixed number computation and measurement, students worked through a unit on division and angles. They used their knowledge of basic division facts to solve extended facts and explored multiple strategies for division. They also considered how to express and interpret remainders, find the missing side lengths of area problems, and convert customary units of weight. In addition, they learned how to measure angles using protractors and solve problems involving angle measures. And they extended their knowledge of multiplication and division to solve problems involving fractions.

    Next, students will be working through an exciting unit that includes multiplication of fractions by whole numbers as well as measurement. We’ll finish the year with a unit on fraction operations and applications. We should also have some time to work on individual goals in Khan Academy and play math games to reinforce our learning!

    Remember to continue to work with your child at home to secure mathematical concepts with which he/she may still be struggling to better prepare him or her for the upcoming test and beyond!

    The World Around Us

    In PLTW, we started with Energy: Collisions. We worked with Potential and Kinetic Energy, learning about a problem in which we had to design a solution. Students created a digital portfolio on Seesaw and shared with family and friends! Remember that this spot is a great place to look for enrichment activities, future projects, inspiration from other students, communication with Mrs. Ziegler and fellow scientists, demonstrations of understanding of engineering targets, and displays of project based science adventures.

    Students built vehicles in which they COLLIDED into each other! Through this process, they began to understand elastic and inelastic collisions and the effects of these collisions! They created their own test tracks, collided their vehicles, and designed and videotaped collisions (in slow motion)!

    Students watched parts of the Olympics to consider AMAZING forces of energy at work and, sadly, a few collisions. They collided the chassis that they created. They used this data to create their own vehicles to protect their egg from a collision. Mrs. Ziegler even used a 3D printer to create a new part for their chassis. This helped them see the energy travel throughout the vehicle.

    Next, students will work through a Project Lead the Way unit on Input/Output: Computer Systems. In this unit, students explore how computers work by making comparisons between the human body and the parts of a computer. As you might guess, the children love being on the computers, so this is a favorite area of study for many!

    Keeping in Touch

    A quick note about absences… Extended absences for vacations since December break have been quite excessive. I know that dreary Michigan weather can make it tempting to plan getaways. Please do your best to plan these over or around vacation breaks so that your child doesn’t miss too much school. It is really challenging to keep your child up to speed on a week’s worth of missed school! If it’s truly unavoidable, please give plenty of advanced notice so I can ensure that your child’s work is pulled together ahead of time so that he or she doesn’t feel anxious upon return to school. Thanks for your anticipated cooperation!

    On the afternoon of Thursday, March 1, we will launch March is Reading Month with a kick-off assembly. Students are excited to begin our annual month-long celebration of reading! 

    On Thursday, March 8, the fourth grade will take a field trip to WCC to see a Wild Swan Production of A Thousand Cranes. The performance is based on the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. To prepare for the performance, students made paper cranes with Wild Swan volunteers in art with Mrs. Higgins. We are stringing the cranes to take to the performance, where they will hang them and then send them on to the Children's Peace Monument in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park as part of its 60th anniversary commemoration!

    REPORT CARDS go home on Monday, March 12. Please remember to sign and return the envelopes for our use with the June report cards!

    We will attend the Scholastic Book Fair on Tuesday, March 13. Families can also attend with their children in the evenings that week. 

    Miss Vusich will begin her lead teaching on Monday, March 19, continuing for two weeks (the week before and after break)! Please help her to prepare for teaching in her own classroom by sharing questions and concerns with her at kvusich@emich.edu during this time. Of course, I’ll continue to support her in the classroom and work with her behind the scenes to ensure that her lead teaching is a positive and productive experience for the students and her! Miss Vusich’s official last day is Thursday, April 19, but she is planning to attend camp with us the following week!

    We will say goodbye to March Is Reading Month with our school-wide Afternoon Read-a-Thon on the afternoon of Friday, March 23. This will also be pajama day! As you can probably guess, this is a greatly anticipated event among students!

    SPRING BREAK will begin at the end of the day on Friday, March 23, resuming on Monday, April 2. NO SCHOOL! Mark your calendars! 

    On Thursday, April 5, Wild Swan will visit our school for a performance of Folktales from the Arab World. This should be a lovely addition to our yearlong class celebration of stories that celebrate diversity and multiculturalism. 

    On Thursday, April 19, the fourth graders will participate in a ½ day disability awareness workshop that immerses students in the world of the disabled and gives them experience with various types of disabilities, from fine motor and gross motor to speech, hearing, vision and learning disabilities.

    Our second visit to Camp Ohiyesa for FOURTH GRADE CAMP is Wednesday, April 25. Mark your calendars and join us if you’re able!

    Students will be taking the MStep and NWEA in May. The dates that I have reserved are as follows:
    Monday, April 30 – 12:45-2:45
    Tuesday, May 1 – 12:45-2:45
    Friday, May 4 – 9:00-11:45
    Friday, May 11 – 9:00-11:45
    Monday, May 14 – 12:45-2:45
    Friday, May 18 – 9:00-11:45
    Tuesday, May 22 – 12:45-2:45

    We will need four of these dates; I will likely try to frontload them, using the first four dates, but I will try to pick dates on which the students seem most refreshed and ready to test. Please make sure that your child is well rested and has had a good breakfast during this window. Please also try to avoid scheduling vacations during this time. If you need to schedule appointments, please try to do so around these times as it will help to ensure that your child can take the test with our class. This is especially important with the MStep as some parts of the test build upon other parts, so, if your child misses one part, he/she will have to wait to take the next part as well. 

    We will be off for Election Day on Tuesday, May 8. NO SCHOOL! Please mark your calendars!

    We will take our annual environmental education field trip to the Waterloo Recreation Area to learn more about our science unit of study on nature’s recyclers on Monday, May 21. Students will need to dress accordingly and pack a lunch. More information will come home as the date draws closer. Please mark your calendars! 

    Wednesday, May 23, is also an early release day for students. Dismissal will be at 1:29, with students having lunch before they leave. Please plan accordingly!

    Memorial Day is Monday, May 28. NO SCHOOL on this day!

    Our annual Field Day is scheduled for Thursday, June 7, with a rain date of Monday, June 11. Thanks to Mr. Leonard for organizing this fun event for the children! 

    The LAST DAY OF SCHOOL is Friday, June 15. This is a ½ DAY for students! Look for report cards to come home!

    A Special Tip

    You may have noticed, as I have, that children sometimes become dependent on adults to repeat directions because of our willingness to do so. I often share directions only once and require the students to resolve the issue themselves if they weren’t listening! I’ve found them to be incredibly resourceful! 

    Consider This...

    Education: A succession of eye-openers each involving the repudiation of some previously held belief.

    - George Bernard Shaw, taken from Teachers, Jokes, Quotes, and Anecdotes