Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I can't believe we are already into our third week of January. Wow, this month is flying by. The fourth graders have been extremely busy since we got back from winter break.  Here is a little taste of what has been happening in class lately.

In reading, the students finished their reading group books and had final conversations about the elements of plot.  We then started a nonfiction unit.  Our room is loaded with all types of nonfiction books that the students will be diving in to read. We've been working on the fact that readers read nonfiction to learn new things and that this type of reading is around them all the time. Students are starting to recognize that instruction manuals for those new toys, recipes that they make at home, and most of the reading they do here at school are all examples of nonfiction.  I'm trying to instill a love of this type of writing. I want to expose them to the various differences and the breadth of choices that they have available to them.

In writing, students are working on writing personal essays.  They are using their prior knowledge of essay writing and using it to focus their thinking and ideas on a topic that matters to them.  They are in the middle of creating proof for their paragraphs using their own experiences and knowledge. We will soon take these one step farther and write an on demand essay based on what they are learning in social studies.

Fractions have been a huge push in math class. Students have reviewed the basics of fractions that they learned in third grade, and have gone further to understand equivalent fractions and how to add fractions together.  We have used egg cartons, rulers, and now clocks as the basis for visualizing fractions. Ask your child to share the various fractions they can make on a clock! I also want to stress that as we are coming to the end of getting weekly multiplication flashcards (we have 2 sets left: 11 and 12), students will be expected to know their facts pretty fluently.  We have had weekly quizzes since November, and these will continue to prove that they are doing their homework. It is so important that your child know these facts. Please make it a priority at home. 5-7 minutes a night reviewing their flashcards will go a long way in their learning.

Finally, the students have been enthusiastically working on their Vermont History projects.  They have each selected a topic that they wanted to know more about and have spent the past week and a half researching and learning all they can using books, websites, videos and even interviewing experts.  We will begin working on the project portion of this study. Students have choice in how they present their knowledge. We've given them access to various apps and sites that they might use, and this decision will be made very carefully in the next few days.  The finished project should be available for you to view by the end of next week.

We are certainly busy here, and I'm so thankful for all of the parental support at home. These kids are great, and they are learning so much this year!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Character Traits

Happy Holidays! In this crazy week leading up to the December vacation, it is often difficult to get kids' attention and keep focus on the school work at hand. However, this week was a little different, at least during reading class. The students were introduced to a wonderful online resource called Popplet.  It is basically a way to organize your thoughts and ideas. The students were asked to do some thinking about the main character in their reading club books. We discussed character traits and the evidence we have to prove that a character is a certain way. Students talked about the differences between being a characteristic at one small moment in time because of a single event and being a trait most of the time, over and over.  They worked hard on diving into their books and finding examples of the traits that they categorized their character.  From there they organized all of their thinking in a fun, meaningful way using Popplet.

Once finished, they shared their Popplets with the members of their reading group, who then got to add comments, suggestions, their own thinking, and compliments right onto the popplet. Then the owners could go back in, read all of the comments, make changes and respond.  It caused for wonderful conversations and sharing of thinking. I've posted some of the popplets below for you to see. You won't be able to see the comments as the site is interactive, and in order to see the comments you have to push on the Popples themselves.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a great two week vacation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Drama Club Rehearsal Schedule

Week of Dec.15-192:45-4:00 ALL CAST- Read Through2:45-4:00 ALL CAST- Chorus Rehearsal2:45-4:00 Scene 1- Orphans only (No Miss Hannigan)
Week of Jan. 5-912:35-12:55 (recess) Hard Knock Life Dance 2:45-4:00 Scene 1- Orphans, Miss Hannigan, Bundles12:35-12:55 (recess w/ Mrs. West) Scene 2-Annie, Apple Seller & Ward 12:35-12:55 (recess w/ Ms. Moon) Orphans 2:45-4:00 Scene 3-Tessie, Ms. H, Ward,Grace, Annie 2:45-4:00- All Chorus Songs w/ Ms. Moon (All Cast)12:35-12:55- (recess w/ Ms. Moon) Annie 2:45-4:00 Scene 4- Annie, Grace, Warbucks, Servants
Week of Jan. 12-1612:35-12:55 (recess) Hard Knock Life Dance 2:45-4:00 Scene 5- Grace, Warbucks, Annie, Star-to-be, NYC People12:35-12:55 (recess w/ Mrs. West) Scene 2- Annie 12:35-12:55 (recess w/ Ms. Moon) Ms. Hannigan 2:45-4:00 Scene 6-Grace (until 3:15), Ms. H, Rooster, Lily2:45-4:00 Scene 7- Annie, Warbucks, Grace AND Scene 6- Ms. H. Rooster, Lily (Ms. Moon & Mrs. West will share people)12:35-12:55 - (recess w/ Ms. Moon) Annie, Warbucks, Grace, Star-to-be (NYC) 2:45-3:15- Scene 8-Annie, Warbucks, Healy, Sound Effects Man 3:15-4:00- Scene 9- Orphans & Miss HanniganNo School
Week of Jan. 19-23No School12:35-12:55 (recess w/ Mrs. West) Orphans 12:35-12:55 (recess w/ Ms. Moon) Annie 2:45-4:00- Scene 9 & 6 Miss Hannigan, Rooster, Lily2:45-4:00 Scene 10- Grace, Annie, Warbucks 2:45-4:00 w/ Ms. Moon TBD2:45-4:00- Scene 10 & beginning of Scene 11- Grace, Annie, Warbucks, Servants2:45-3:45- Annie, Orphans, Hannigan, Grace, Warbucks, Lily, Rooster REVIEW SCENES
Week of Jan. 26-3012:35-12:55 (recess w/ Mrs. West) Orphans 2:45-4:00 Scene 11- ALL CAST MEMBERS12:35-12:55-(recess w/ Mrs. West) Annie & Warbucks 2:45-4:00- Scenes 1, 2, 3, 6 & 92:45-4:00 Scenes 4, 5, 10, 11 2:45-4:00 w/ Ms. Moon TBD2:45-4:00 Scenes 7, 8
Week of Feb. 2-62:45-4:45- All Cast Rehearsal on Stage2:45-4:45- All Cast Rehearsal on Stage2:45-4:45- All Cast Dress Rehearsal1:15- Show Time 6:00- Call for 6:30 show time

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fourth Grade Historians

The fourth graders began the Vermont History Unit this week. This week's focus was on learning about the job of a historian and starting to notice the change and continuity in Vermont using artifacts. It was a really exciting few days.
 We started the week focusing on the job of a historian. Ask you child what a historian does and why they do it, I am sure they will be able to give you an earful. To make this more meaningful to the students, we covered the room with old artifacts spanning the generations of Vermont's history. Thank you so much to Mrs. Susan Moore for bringing in all sorts of old family gems. After becoming familiar with the job of a historian and why the study the past, the students were given post it notes and told to roam the room exploring. They were given the instruction to write down any questions that they might have about the items they were looking at. The students spent the next half hour exploring, talking, examining, and most important, thinking.  When we gathered back together they had a million questions of the items. They were very thoughtful and had wonderful predictions based on what the items looked like or how they moved.
On day two, students were given access to this amazing website that offers thousands of old photos of Vermont. They had a task to begin looking at the photos as historians, trying to find clues to how things were during the time of the photo. Students began noticing the details. Some of my favorite comments from this activity:
   "The houses have more windows! Maybe they needed them because they didn't have electricity."
   " The women are wearing this think around their neck that look like they choke them."
   " Why do all the men have big bushy beards?"
As you can see, their minds were racing with questions.

On day three, the class was given multiple old maps of Vermont. They ranged from 1774 to the late 1800s.  They had a task to look and find the similarities and differences in the maps. I explained that Vermont hasn't always looked exactly as it does today. They were told to pay close attention to the towns, counties, boundaries, spellings of names, etc. They dove in and began noticing some fascinating things. Every discovery brought up new questions and more predictions. "How come on this map it says it is New York?" "How come this map says it is the Province of New Hampshire?" They were so into this activity that they didn't come close to finishing. They will have more time on Monday to finish.

Next week we will shift our focus to building a general timeline of the Eras of Vermont. Students will each get to study one of the six eras and share their findings with the rest of the class. We will put together their work to create a giant timeline of the History of Vermont.

Here are some photos of the Artifact Walk the students took on Monday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Vermont Geography

The fourth graders have spent the last few weeks up to their knees in geography! Ask them what that word means, they should be able to spit out the definition. We zoomed in starting from the continents, to our country, to New England, to Vermont, to Windsor county, to Hartford!  From there students started to take a closer look at the geographical regions of Vermont. Each student was given the opportunity to explore one of the physiographic regions more closely. The past two weeks they have studied the land-forms, the climate, and the relative and absolute locations. They also began to think deeply about how the geography of this region impacts the people that live there.

After studying each region, the students were asked to create a Glog. Glogster is a website that creates digital, interactive online posters.  They spent about three class periods learning to manipulate pictures and type in text into the site. These Glogs will be the basis of tomorrow's school wide scavenger hunt!

The class will be in their groups tomorrow and given a clue. The clue will direct them to a location in the school where they will find a QR Code that will digitally link the students to one group's Physiographic Region Glog. The clue card also includes 3 questions that the students will have to answer using the Glog as their text. Once they have completed that station they will return to class to check their answers and receive a piece of their Vermont puzzle.  Once the students have collected all of the puzzle pieces they will have one final question to answer about Vermont.  We are hoping that this fun and engaging activity will give students a chance to not only show off their Glogs to the whole class, but to also help them learn about other regions of Vermont that they didn't study.

Below you will find pictures of the process, along with links to the  students' Glogs!
I hope you all have a very relaxing and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Fungi, Bacteria and Viruses...Oh My!

  Even though we only had 3 and a half day of school this week, the fourth graders managed to get in a lot of learning. 

  In reading this week, we started literature groups. Over the next few weeks, each group will be reading the same book. Students will discuss and work on skills specific to their reading levels and needs. Our focus will be to build higher level reading skills that require students to predict, infer, and analyze the text and the author's purpose.  Ask your child what they are reading in class. Ask specific questions about the story setting, characters, and plot. The more they can talk about their books, the more they will be thinking about them.  This pays off in the end. 

  I am so excited to report that the class is doing phenomenal on multiplying larger numbers. We use an array model that helps the students see how we can break down larger numbers into more manageable pieces that make the problems far less daunting. Take a look at the picture below. You can see that we took 14 x 12 and broke it down into pieces that students can easily do in their head. This may seem like a lot of work for those of us who are used to the traditional method of multiplying. Don't worry,we will get there by the end of the year, but by doing this method students can easily make the transition. Look at the photos below to see what I mean. 

Students first learn how to break up a problem like 14 x 12 into an array. Visually being able to see how they know all the pieces makes them feel successful, and they end up with a better understanding of multiplication and how it works. From there we move on to this...

Now students can see that the same parts of the array are used when doing multiplication in a more traditional way.  They can see that all of the pieces are still there. This helps keep them from skipping steps and getting incorrect answers.  It is a more visual way of learning the standard algorithm. Of course from there it is quite simple for the students to make the transition to the format we are all familiar with...

   This week we also finished up science with a mini unit on germs: bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. We had the wonderful experience of having Dartmouth Graduate Students come to run an experiment with the kids. We investigated whether washing our hands with water, soap, or hand sanitizer would be best. The Dartmouth students came and collected each students' bacterial samples on Monday. We used petri dishes cut into 4 quadrants. The first quadrant students rubbed their unclean fingers, the second quadrant they rubbed the same finger that had been washed with just water. The third quadrant was rubbed by their finger which had either been washed with soap or with hand sanitizer, and the fourth quadrant was used for students to swab any place they wanted in the room to see how many bacteria were living there. On Wednesday the Dartmouth students returned with the petri dishes that had been in a grow lab for 48 hours. The fourth graders got to see the many bacteria that had grown. They even got to look up closely through this amazing microscope that gave them a wonderful view of their germs. Needless to say, I think we may have more students washing their hands on a regular basis. Check out the pictures below.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Check Out These New Animals!

The students have been working hard and learning a great deal about animal adaptations. Check out these amazing animals that the created. Each have specific adaptations to help it survive in their habitat. I think the kids did an incredible job.