What's Happening in Our Classroom?

  • The Penguin Post
    Ms. Chester’s Class Newsletter
    March/April, 2020

    The Book Nook
    In reading workshop, we completed an informational reading unit during which we learned how to use text divisions, organizational tools, graphic features, print features, and layout features to better understand the text.  Students also focused on informational text prompts in their weekly responses to Miss Steir and me.  Hopefully, this unit of study has been helpful to students as they move forward into middle and high school, which, as you might guess, entails quite a bit of informational reading.

    Currently, we’re launching into literature circles!  Again, lit 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.  Our literature circles are themed around African-American history and include the books Freedom Crossing, Elijah of Buxton, One Crazy Summer, and The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963.  After week one, students seem to be loving literature circles!

    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, and understanding the prompt and purpose.

    Next, Miss Steir will be leading the students through opinion/persuasive writing!  As you might expect, our students have many strong opinions – and they always enjoy having an opportunity to express them!  In this unit, the students will be focusing on one of their opinions and developing three supporting reasons for their opinion.  They will conduct research to support their opinions, considering the reliability of online resources.  They will also consider reasons against their opinion – so they can counter them before they’re raised by their readers!  They’ll think about ways to hook their reader into their writing as part of their introduction.  They’ll work on developing paragraphs, or “writing sandwiches,” as we call them (paragraphs with introductions, details, and conclusions). They’ll also consider interesting ways to wrap up their writing.  To provide clarity and create flow, they’ll explore strong word choices and transition words that are common in opinion writing. As the students write, they’ll move 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!

    After we finish our writing unit with Miss Steir, MStep and NWEA testing will be approaching (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 Steir 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 Dreambox and Khan Academy and play math games to reinforce our learning! 

    Remember to continue to work with your child at home to secure quick recall of basic math facts.  Remember that xtramath.com (accessed via Clever) is a great resource for math fact practice!  Also, please continue to support mathematical concepts with which your child may still be struggling to better prepare him or her for the upcoming tests and beyond! 

    The World Around Us
    In social studies, students continue to move through regions of the United States.  After learning more about the Northeastern United States, including a study of population density, we moved into the Southeastern region.  Students enjoyed listening to the blues and jazz of New Orleans, learning more about favorite vacation destinations, like the Kennedy Space Center, and gaining a better understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.  Currently, we’re focusing on our home region, the Midwest, and will finish up with the Southwestern and Western parts of the country.

    In their Built for Survival science unit with Mrs. Crook and Mr. Hill, students will be investigating one essential question that will play a central role in every lesson. This question is “How do the structures and behaviors of plants and animals support growth and survival?” The activities and discussions during the first few weeks will be primarily focused on how plant structures play a role in plants’ growth and survival. After the first few weeks, they will transition to discussions about specific structures and behaviors of animals and humans that help them to grow and survive.

    As students wrap up their study of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs with Mrs. Wood, they’ll do a lesson on HIV/AIDS.  This lesson is mandated by state law and taught through age-appropriate curriculum selected by the District.  The students will finish up health with a review of what they’ve learned this year.  Then they’ll create some informative posters to display around the school!

    Our goal is to finish all fourth-grade switching by early May, before spring testing begins. 

    Keeping in Touch
    On the afternoon of Monday, March 2, we launched March is Reading Month with a kick-off assembly.  We are focusing our celebration around the theme of “choose your own adventure” books.  To kick off the theme, we hosted the Pioneer Comedy Troupe to perform improv theater.  Students loved the assembly and are excited to begin our annual month-long celebration of reading!

    The fourth grade will take a field trip to see Wild Swan’s Coding to the Moon: Margaret Hamilton and the Apollo Missions on the morning of Thursday, March 5, at WCC.  We should be back before lunch on this day.  No special accommodations are needed!

    There is NO SCHOOL on Tuesday, March 10, for Election Day.  Please mark your calendar!

    Our next report cards will go home on Friday, March 13.

    We will say goodbye to March Is Reading Month with our school-wide Afternoon Read-a-Thon on the afternoon of Friday, March 27.  This will also be pajama day!  As you can probably guess, this is a highly anticipated event!

    SPRING BREAK will begin at the end of the day on Friday, March 27, resuming on Monday, April 6NO SCHOOL!  Mark your calendars!

    Miss Steir will begin her lead teaching on Monday, March 23, continuing for two weeks (the week before and week after break)!  Please help her prepare for teaching in her own classroom by sharing questions and concerns with her at cleaj@umich.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 Steir’s official last day is Friday, April 24

    There is NO SCHOOL on Friday, April 10.  Please plan accordingly. 

    Students will be taking the NWEA and MStep in late April and May. The dates that I have reserved are as follows:
    Tuesday, April 21 – 12:45-2:45
    Wednesday, April 22 – 12:45-2:45
    Friday, April 24 (make-up) – 10:00-12:00
    Tuesday, April 21 – 12:45-2:45
    Wednesday, April 22 – 12:45-2:45
    Friday, April 24 (make-up) – 10:00-12:00 

    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.

    We will take our annual environmental education field trip to the gravel pit that coincides with our science unit Big Blue Marble (our Earth) on the morning of Monday, April 27. Students will need to dress accordingly.  We are expected to be back before lunch. More information will come home as the date draws closer.  Please mark your calendars!

    Tuesday, May 5, there is NO SCHOOL for Election Day.  Please mark your calendars and plan accordingly.

    The fourth grade will take a field trip to The Ark on the morning of Tuesday, May 12, to see Common Chords – Telling America’s Story Through Music and Cultural Expression.  Ms. Noble will be joining us on this trip as she makes ties between it and the students’ study of music.  It will also nicely support our study of regions in social studies.  Again, we expect to be back before lunch, so parent preparations necessary!

    Wednesday, May 20, 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 25.  NO SCHOOL on this day!

    Our annual Field Day is scheduled for Thursday, June 4, with a rain date of Monday, June 8.  Thanks to Mr. Leonard for organizing this fun event for the children!

    The fourth-grade field trip to Fuller Pool is still being finalized but is expected to take place on Wednesday, June 10.  This trip is a tie-in to our science units that study waves and energy transfer.  However, it’s also a nice way for the fourth grade to celebrate the end of the year together as it serves as our 4th-grade end-of-year class party!

    The LAST DAY OF SCHOOL is Friday, June 12.  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