What's Happening in Our Classroom?

  • The Penguin Post

    With January and February being shorter school months (with breaks), please consider this a combined January/February newsletter. I think it will offer all of the updates that you may need or want. With that said, I hope that you are all surviving the winter weather… Spring will be here soon!

    The Book Nook

    In reading workshop, Miss Vusich and I have been assessing the students’ non-fiction reading skills and are seeing tremendous growth! The students regularly demonstrate their deep thinking about their reading in our guided reading groups and in their reading response letters, so our re-assessments merely confirm the progress that we’ve already seen in many other ways.

    This is a great lead-in to our unit of study on informational texts. We will utilize texts that continue and extend our theme of multiculturalism. As many of you may already know, Ann Arbor Public Schools is moving towards increased instruction on informational reading in upper elementary, middle, and high school. The goal is to prepare students for the extensive informational reading that they are expected to do in high school and college.

    After we finish our unit on informational reading, we’ll be moving into literature circles. 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. Students usually love lit circles! 

    The Pen Is Mightier…

    Students completed an exciting research-writing unit with Miss Cocagne in December. During the unit, they explored causes and effects, including what’s being done to address the damage of, hurricanes and wild fires. The research was very topical after the hurricanes that hit Texas and Puerto Rico and the wild fires that spread through California this year. The students culminated their research study with an author’s celebration!

    Currently, we’re returning to personal narrative writing as we share stories about our winter breaks. We continue to consider how to tell a story by maintaining our point of view and embellishing with details that make sense. We’re thinking about the author’s message and how to make our message clear by sharing internal thoughts and feelings in our stories. And we’re exploring and considering strong titles, leads, and endings. We’ll finish our unit with some revising and editing in preparation for our author’s celebration!

    May I Have a Word with You?

    Given that our word study program focuses on a process that takes place primarily at school, some of you have been wondering what you can do to support your child’s spelling work at home. Some suggestions…

    Supplement what we do in school with your own repetition of the process at home. Pick up a set of magnetic letters (very cheap at any dollar store) and, on Mondays, have your child build his or her own words at home. On Tuesdays, have him or her work through the Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check process (which works just like its name) at home. I’m happy to provide sheets that we use at school for this stage if you’re interested. On Wednesdays, do a couple of practice tests with your child. On Thursdays, discuss what other words look and sound like his/her words – this not only helps your child learn these words but also develops good spelling strategies overall.

    Other suggestions… make flashcards of their words or have them write their words in sentences that reflect their understanding of the words. And, of course, rote memorization is the key for some children – so just have them write, write, write…

    Taking just a few minutes each night, students who struggle in spelling may find themselves better prepared for their spelling tests on Friday!

    Sum News

    After completing unit 4 on extended multiplication facts and multi-digit multiplication, we’re exploring fraction and mixed number computation and measurement. During this unit, we are decomposing fractions, considering the whole for fractions, working on adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers, learning about line plots, exploring angles and angle measurements, and reviewing line symmetry.

    I know that the math methods that our children learn in school today are not always the same as those that we learned as students ourselves. Please know that curricular coordinators and teachers in our district closely examine and consider the methods that we use as well as how they promote a deeper understanding of mathematical thinking. 

    Should you struggle to support your child at home with any of these methods, remember that you can find videos that demonstrate the methods, the online student reference book, and other resources on the online EDM website – http://connected.mcgraw-hill.com/school/m9k1. Alternatively, please do not hesitate to contact me to inquire about how to do the work, ask for a student reference book to use at home, or request that I work more closely with your child at school. I’m always happy to help!

    With that said, please continue to practice and support those areas of your child’s unit and cumulative tests in which he or she is not yet secure. Remember that the Everyday Math program is a spiral program, and each unit builds upon the next, with students repeatedly seeing and practicing material that they’ve already learned while new concepts and skills are introduced. 

    The World Around Us

    In social studies, students worked through units on foundations, government, citizenship and economics with Miss Cocagne. Miss C. did a wonderful job of bringing these units to life when she, for example, created voter IDs and a voting booth during their study of government and citizenship and had them create business plans during their study of economics! We are starting to examine spatial and human geography as we study regions of the United States. We will continue this study in the spring, at the completion of our PLTW units (see below).

    In science, we completed our study of Watery Earth with Mrs. Crook, Nature’s Recyclers in our class, as well as all of our health units with Mrs. Shah or in our own class. We’re now moving forward with the much-anticipated Project Lead the Way units! As you might recall from Curriculum Night, PLTW utilizes an Activity - Project - Problem-Based Approach. The students will be working with Lisa Ziegler, our PLTW teacher, as we move through these units. Soon, they will be working with iPads to create accounts and study logs of their work. In the weeks ahead, they will explore potential and kinetic energy, speed and energy, and energy transfer in collisions. They are particularly excited about working with the Vex IQ construction pieces, which some might notice as being a bit similar to… Legos!

    Keeping in Touch

    Dates To Remember

    Just a reminder that students will be taking the NWEA tests again this month, which is now a mandatory test period for all students in the district. I will try to complete the tests in these first couple of weeks, before Project Lead the Way begins and our schedule becomes a bit more complicated to negotiate. Right now I have reserved Friday, January 12, 9-11:30; Tuesday, January 16, 12:00-3:00; and Tuesday, January 23; 12:00-3:00 for testing. I’m hoping to do the tests on the first two days, but I’ve kept the third date on hold, just in case. Please try to ensure that your child is here on these days so he/she can test with peers in the classroom.

    There is NO SCHOOL on Monday, January 15, 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!

    NAAPID will be on Monday, February 12. Please join us for all or any part of the day that you’re able. The kids love to see mom and dad’s faces at school! Our 4th grade recorder concert is 9:30-10:00 that day, so you might consider timing your visit with the concert. 

    For the convenience of our parents, we are also going to hold our Valentine’s Day Party on this day. In traditional Chester classroom fashion, we will be doing a service day project to share a little extra love with those most in need. We will be gathering donations to send to the Detroit-based Hope Project, a program with which Ms. Kreger has worked for several years. The program provides various items to Detroit families in need. We’re asking families in our classroom to send the following items (unused, please) our way if you have extras to spare! Students will make gift bags of donations during our party. Our room parent, Gabrielle Gillard, will also organize some treats for the party. Please join us if you’re available!

    Small bottles (can be hotel bottles) of:
    Shower gel
    Bath soaps
    Hand soap
    Hand sanitizer

    Dental hygiene (can be freebies from dentist):
    Dental floss

    Small or sample size of:
    Small packs of kleenex
    Cotton balls
    Baby wipes
    Hand lotion

    Mid-Winter Break will be on Friday, February 16, and Monday, February 20. There is NO SCHOOL on these days. Mark your calendars! 

    Wednesday, February 28, is also an early release day for students. Dismissal will be at 1:29, with students having lunch before they leave. Please plan accordingly!

    For those new to Burns Park, I want to mention that March is Reading Month. We typically launch the month with an assembly and have some special incentives and activities, hosted by media specialist Ms. Erdstein, during this special month! More to come…

    On Thursday, March 8, we will go to Washtenaw Community College to see a performance of A Thousand Cranes, a play based on the book A Thousand Paper Cranes. The book follows the true story of a young girl Sadako who is diagnosed with leukemia after surviving the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. It is a sad but poignant story that one of our guided reading groups had the chance to explore in the fall.

    Our next report cards will go home on Monday, March 12.

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

    Special Notes

    Please re-welcome Kara Vusich, who will be assuming the full-time role of student intern in our classroom throughout this term as she completes her student teaching certification through EMU. Kara’s already proven to be a wonderful support and addition to our busy classroom throughout the fall as she completed her reading practicum with us. We’re very lucky! Please welcome or re-welcome Kara if you see her as you stop by the room!

    Please also welcome Armand Boisseron-Kamp, and his parents, Benedicte Boisseron and Ulrich Kamp, along with the rest of his family to Burns Park. Armand moved here from Montana and joined our classroom just after the break. Welcome!

    Consider This...

    The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.
    Great necessities call out great virtues.

    - Abigail Adams, quoted in David McCullough, John Adams
    (taken from Mel Levine, A Mind at a Time)