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.

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