Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Behavior System

After some talking with our 4th grade team and feeling like the students who are doing so well aren't recognized and praised enough for their great work I have decided to change our classroom behavior management a little.  Every day students will be self-grading their work (on a 10 point scale) where 10 points are best and 1 point is the worst for each class "period" we have.  The total day is worth 50 points.  If students earn less than 43 points, they will be losing their recess the following day and getting an email sent home to let you know about the behavior concerns for that day.  If students are earning more than 43 points, they will be earning bonus points for their table and will be working toward an extra reward.

I greatly appreciate the students who day in and day out are modelling excellence in our classroom and outside and really feel like they are not recognized enough.  So far, I'm super impressed with how much behavior has improved today and how everyone is really being honest with their self assessments.  Great job P4!

This week we are working on SO many new things!

Our new writing unit is "Writing Prompts" where we are focusing on being able to respond to a prompt on a deadline.  The downfall of writing workshop is that we work on one piece of writing for a month or more, so students don't have a great concept of time when working on these pieces.  To help prepare and become better able to work on a deadline, each week students will be given a writing prompt in class on Monday (or the start of the week, whichever is first) and their final draft will be due and scored on Friday.  This will help students get immediate feedback on their work, as well as showing what they have learned so far this year in practice.

In reading we are continuing to work on writing summaries for fiction writing, which is getting better, but we can always use a little more "tweaking" to perfect the craft.  Next week we will be starting chapter book groups where students will get to dive into learning and responding to a longer novel!

Ask your student which tribe we are researching for social studies.  If they can tell you the name of the tribe, write NP on their planner for bonus points tomorrow!  :)

Keep up the great work P4!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Well germs are ravaging our classroom and we are slowly dwindling in numbers.  To make sure we are all staying healthy take extra care to cover our coughs, wear warm jackets outside, and wash our hands a TON!  We want a full class again!  Having 5 absent today made for a tiny group!  :)

Have a great and healthy evening!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Field Trip and Happy Friday

Today we had a great field trip to Meany Hall to see Black Grace by a New Zealand dancing troup.  Ask your student what he or she thought of the performance.  If he or she can tell you what he or she thought, write TRIP on their planner for Friday to get bonus points!

If you can have a chat with your student this weekend about having a positive attitude and treating others in a positive way.  As spring starts to arrive we are already getting some very poor attitudes in class, but more commonly with our neighbors.  There are groups of students who are treating others in our room very poorly and it is becoming a problem.  It's important that we are always treating each other with respect and that our classroom and our school stays a safe place for everyone and a place where everyone feels welcome.  Like I tell the students every day, you don't have to be best friends, you just have to learn to work together.  Thanks for helping out at home!

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing up a Storm!

In P4 we are working on building our writing stamina.  Reading... that comes SO easily to most of the students that they could read all day!  Writing, however, is another story.  Writing is so easy to get the dreaded "writer's block" where we cannot think of anything to write, no matter how many ideas we are given. 

SO, to help with that, all of the students have made purple writing folders which they will be taking home every night (so be on the lookout for them!) to do some writing.  This week I am asking that students write for at least 20 minutes per night to build their writing stamina and realize how much they really have to say.  After checking them off this morning I am VERY impressed with the level of writing that they have been hiding this year!  Their stories were fantastic, especially for only 20 minutes of writing!  I can't wait to see more of that in their classroom writing this year and as we get closer to the MSP in late April and early May. 

Today we also took our second science CBA, comparing fats and protein nutrients we have been studying this trimester in science.  Students did a great job writing and working on their CBA and I'm interested to see what the students came up with.

This is our last week for our current science kit (food chemistry) and if you're interested in coming in to help inventory the kit Thursday or Friday afternoon that would be a HUGE help!  The inventory shouldn't take more than an hour (closer to 30 minutes usually) and can be done in our class.  If you're interested in helping with that, please email me and let me know.  First come, first serve!  :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Welcome Back!

Wow, that long weekend was nice!  Four full days off, PLUS the half day... couldn't have asked for a more relaxing weekend!  I hope you all had a wonderful time off as well!

Today there is a LOT coming home for parent eyes!  We have several field trips coming up in March and early April so as opposed to sending one form after another home, we decided to send home packets of permissions slips (3) so that one check or set of cash can be sent in with all three permission slips signed.  ALL of the slips will be due March 12th back to me so that we can make sure we have enough chaperones and everyone is ready to go. 

Speaking of chaperones, we have a field trip this Friday and we are in need of AT LEAST one more chaperone to make sure we can go on the trip.  We are going to Meany Hall at UW to see Black Grace, an aboriginal dance production.  It is sure to be a great show and if you're interested in chaperoning and haven't already signed up please shoot me an email so that I can get everything set up.

Book orders are also coming home today and will be due February 26th (next Tuesday).  Ordering online this month gets our class and you a free book so that is a great way to order.  Checks and paper book orders are absolutely fine as well.  Thanks for supporting our classroom!

We are winding down our food chemistry science unit and getting ready for our ecosystems science unit in the spring!  Food chemistry has been a lot of fun and I think that it has opened student's eyes to what they are eating!  The Valentine's candy load may not have really shown that, but they are definitely more aware!  :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day!  As a reminder, we will NOT be having a class party and I will be providing a small treat for all of the students.  However, if you'd like to bring in Valentine's Day cards for the whole class, your student is welcome!  We will pass out cards after lunch time and have our small celebration together before break. 

In the Valentine's Day spirit, if you're interested in donating to our DonorsChoose class project, click HERE and enter the donation match code HEART in the checkout box to double your contribution!  We are trying to fund an amazing set of nonfiction books for future book clubs and to keep nonfiction reading exciting in our classroom.  Any donation helps us get toward our goal - we still have $469 to go so tell friends and family who are interested in donating! 

In writing we are starting our revision process on our informational article tomorrow, so students should have their second draft completely written out by tomorrow.  We have been working on each step in class this week and students were given plenty of time in class to get most, if not all, of this done.  Revising and editing is a huge part of the writing process, and honestly the hardest part for most students so we will be spending a big part of next week working on that process. 

Students are also encouraged to wear pink/purple/red for Valentine's Day spirit tomorrow.  If they do, they will get bonus points for their group and start off their new group points strong! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Test Prep and Classroom Help!

Today was our first of several "Test-Prep Tuesdays" as we make sure all students are prepared and comfortable with the MSP.  While I absolutely know that there are mixed reviews about "teaching about the test" with students, I want to let you know that I am not teaching TO the test, but simply to let students have exposure to the problems they will likely encounter so that when the big day finally arrives, there is no need to be stressed or anxious since we have seen it SO many times before.  I have found it to be very helpful in helping students do their best since the "mystery" surrounding a test is completely gone and they are prepared and comfortable for the MSP, which is half of the battle.  Ask your student how they are feeling about EACH part of the test: writing (2 FULL days, reading, and math [taken in that order]).  Make sure that you, as family members, don't put any extra stress on the students about the test.  I tell them, it's just another test, like what we do all the time so there is no need to be stressed.  As long as they are doing their BEST, that's all we can ask.  And remember, it's just one piece of data about your student. 

To all those families that have said they want to help out in the classroom FROM HOME, I am calling on you now!  :)  We have been getting a lot of books for our ever-expanding classroom library, which is great to continue to build reading stamina and interest for all students.  However, we need help finding levels for those books and that is where you come in!  If you're interested, please email me and I can send a bag of books home with your student.  The process is simple, just enter the title of the book into an online database and write down the level for the book!  Easy!  :)  Thanks for helping and supporting our classroom!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fiction - Characters and Setting

Today we launched our fiction unit with miniature book clubs (teacher selected this time) and reviewing character and setting in stories.  Main characters are important people or animals in a story, while minor characters are people that don't have an important role in the story, but are featured.  The setting is the time and location where a story takes place. 

We reviewed with a story we had read together in the past, The Wolf Who Cried Boy.  This is a mixed-up fairy tale of the Boy Who Cried Wolf but this time all the little wolf wants is a nice juicy boy to eat for dinner so he keeps "crying boy" to his parents so that their dinner will get ruined and he can eat junk food! 

Tonight at home, ask your student to tell you the characters and setting of the book SkippyJon Jones, Lost in Spice.  Click on the link for the book to get a video reminder of the story.  If your student CAN tell you the setting and characters in the book, write CS on their planner for today for 5 bonus points!! 

Students are working towards some rewards for Wednesday and they can definitely use the extra points!  :)  Keep up the good work for a fast week!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Students... start... your.... PROJECTS!!

Science fair projects are officially ready to start!  Does that mean you HAVE to start your science project now?  Absolutely not, but especially for those people doing field studies or life sciences, you will probably need the time to start now.  :)  I can't wait to see what the students' results are!  We have some fantastic ideas this year so I have some very high expectations for this group.

Let me know if you have any questions as about the science projects as you start to "dig in"! :)  Happy weekend!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Just Right Books

As readers it is important that we are reading books that are just right, not too easy, not too hard, but juuuuuust right, just like Goldilocks!  Just right books make sure that we are able to read all the words AND comprehend them all (not just memorize what happened but really get in depth thinking from the text).  Comprehension is the hardest thing for students in reading.  They are all SO good at pronouncing words that sometimes we think, "Wow!  They understand this book!"  Even more sneaky is when students can retell (recount the events of the story in order) and so we are even more sure that they "get it".  But unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg in reading, especially fourth grade reading.  Expectations and standards are that students are able to apply their background knowledge to clues in the text in order to make inferences and use those inferences to answer questions and justify responses, using text based evidence.  This is honestly a tough one for readers of all ages, fourth grade especially since the texts are getting harder and students have to REALLY try to keep up.

Today was the last day of our nonfiction reading unit and tomorrow we will be starting to talk more about fiction, the different genres of fiction, plot, author's purpose, theme, etc.  SO I will be assessing students on their reading levels to make sure that they are going to be appropriately placed in book groups.  They will be asked to choose from a selection of books for class work and then can choose any book for independent reading.  It is important to me that students are progressing as readers, not just staying at one level because they are not challenging themselves or staying at low levels because they continually choose books that are too hard.  If students aren't able to self monitor books that are too hard or too easy, as their teacher, I will be doing that for them.  I'm hoping that students will be able to choose from books independently, but some students don't like others to know that a certain book is "too hard" or that another book is really "too easy" so I will help them with that, so there isn't any problems. 

Thanks for your support and help your student choose just right books at home and at the library as well.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hypothesis Due Tomorrow

Science fair preparation is in full swing and students have a hypothesis due tomorrow.  If you want to get a step ahead, start coming up with your science fair materials list to get a jump on your homework!  :) 

Students are also expected to have their rough draft of their informational article finished by tomorrow morning so some students may have that with them.  It's important that students stay caught up on their writing so that they are getting practice and can use our daily lesson to help improve and continue their writing.  Writing is a HUGE focus in 4th grade so it's great to have that support at home!  :)

It's important that students are working nightly on their homework to keep up with the expectations in fourth grade.  Students are given time to work on their class work daily so any unfinished work is taken home as homework.  It is important for students to make sure that they are using their time wisely (as they gain independence) to prepare for middle school and beyond.  As we are in the second half of the school year the expectations will be getting more rigorous for students, as I have high, yet achieveable expectations, to prepare for 5th grade.  That means we will start transitioning to 5th grade expectations as the spring continues to progress.  Make sure you're helping your student work on their homework little bits every night so that they are not overwhelmed with work the night before - procrastination is NOT our friend!  :) 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Science Fair Update

Just a couple quick reminders today!
  1. Students should be coming home with a class list of names just in case you're interested in sending in Valentine's Day cards.  Just a reminder that there must be one sent for everyone if you're sending them.  Since Valentine's Day is on a furlough day, there will NOT be a party happening, just passing out Valentines.  Thank you for not sending extra food.
  2. The Winter Beach Night is THIS Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 and there is an informational flyer that should be coming home with students today if you're interested in coming.
  3. Any student who is 10 years old is eligible to participate in safety patrol and applications came home today as well.  If you're interested, sign the paperwork and turn it in to me so that I can sign it and give it to Mrs. Sherman so she can schedule a training for new patrol members.
  4. Wednesday is an early release for students - just as an FYI. 
Science fair resources should have been done today, but many students didn't have any.  If students aren't finishing their science fair pieces on time, they will be kept in at recess to finish those pieces for as long as it takes to complete.  Furthermore, if students don't have a list of resources at this point, they are already behind, which is not a place you want to be for the science fair.  Students now must create a hypothesis by Wednesday, which should be in the form, "What is the effect of _____ on _____?"  For example, What is the effect of sunlight on plant growth?  Students in fourth grade are NOT doing reports so students are not explaining HOW anything is done.  They should be testing the effect of one variable on their tested subject.  Thanks for helping steer our students away from reports!  :)

Most of the class came home with their clay map today.  Ask them what the different colors mean!  If they can tell you, write SS on their planner for bonus table points!  This is still valid tomorrow when the rest of the maps come home.  :)