Thursday, August 18, 2016

Welcome Class 2016-2017

Welcome to the Fourth Grade.  There is a wonderful year planned for you, your classmates and me! This blog will provide a "window to our learning" for you, your families, relatives and hopefully many others.  (What I love about this blog is that you and your families can leave a comment in the section below! If you're not sure how, don't worry we'll learn how this September and you can teach others!)

Fourth grade is such an exciting year.  We will spend the first week or two getting to know one another and working on some team building activities.  We are going to try some "Whole Brain Teaching" which is fairly new for me! This year we will focus on a "Growth Mindset" which is how we "think" about our tasks, abilities and the effort we put forth.  I think you'll really like what's in store for you this year!

We will also spend time building our reading stamina. We will start out small and reach the goal of reading at a sustained pace for 30 minutes! You will be hearing a lot about the Daily5 which will give you many CHOICES on your reading journey. This year we will use the Guided Math model. Like the Daily5 you will be given choices in your math workstations.  I think you are going to enjoy learning math using this model (I went to school this summer so I could learn about it and use it with you!)  I have some new and exciting lessons planned in Science and Social Studies as well.

This year I hope to do more STEM type activities -  you will be designing and creating all kinds of interesting things from boats to roller coasters!  We will also become GLOBAL Learners and connect with other classrooms using Skype & other tools.  Hope you are as excited as I am about this upcoming year!

We are going to have a great year!  Looking forward to meeting you and getting to know you.  Please fill out this "All About You" Survey. (click on these words: All About You) It will help me get to know you before we meet face to face!  Click and you can get to know more about ME!

Please leave a comment below and tell me something that got you excited this summer!

I'll be looking out for you on the first day of school.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Third Annual Science Fair

Which salt melts ice the quickets?  What is the effect of increasing your running distance on jumping distance?  Does light travel faster through water or air? These are just a couple of questions that were being examined during our Third Annual Science Fair.

Using BrainPop, JP Taylor's Scientific Method Blues and other resources, students were given instruction around the Scientific Method.   To begin the process students explored a topic in Earth Science, Life Science or Physical Science and then learned about asking a question.  Following that came researching the topic, forming a hypothesis, testing that hypothesis and coming up with some conclusions. 

Students had the option of creating either a Google Presentation or a Tri-fold Board.  Most students in our class chose to complete the Google Presentation.  Some printed out some of the Google Presentation and included it on their tri-fold.  Others followed the tri-fold directions from the guiding packet.

On the day of the fair, students brought in items that helped create a visual for their project.  One student brought in the rocks and a scale he used to check for absorbancy, another brought in her lava lamp to show the effect alka seltzer has when mixed with oil & water, while another brought in the balloon & and metal items used in her experiment to show the effect of static cling on metal objects.

There was a buzz in the classroom as classes from other grade levels learned from the fourth graders about chemical reactions which create sedimentary rocks, how the weight of paper affects the distance it flies, and the reaction of certain candy to soda to which makes it explode.  Others listened intently as students explained which citrus fruit conducted electricity, which cupcake was chosen most - a smiley face or frowny face and explained how the flow of lava affects the landscape of the land.

When the Fair was all over the students completed a "Reflection."  The last question on the reflection asked students to describe the Fair in one word:  Awesome! Amazing! Fun! Educational! were just some of the descriptions.

The 4th Grade Science Fair is a worthwhile experience!

Students: What advice would you give others about completing a science fair?

Others:  What parts of the Science Fair would you like to learn more about?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Change Your Words - Change Your Mindset

Building and fostering a "Growth Mindset" doesn't happen overnight.  In Room 310 we have started the year with several activities to help inspire the idea that "intelligence can be developed" and that "you can learn anything through hard work and effort!"

On the first day of school we watched this video created by the Kahn Academy titled "You Can Learn Anything!"  Students viewed it once to enjoy, viewed it two more times to come up with a 'take away'.

The video really resonated with many students because they could directly relate to it. Students posted their thoughts on a sticky note which were displayed in the classroom.

Take a minute to watch the video to see what positive message you take away from it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section of our blog! I know the students of Room 310 would love to see what you think.

Another day we watched another video where the idea of Growth Mindset was introduced. From this video we talked about the idea of  "Training Our Brain" to accomplish things we want to learn. This happened to coincide with International Dot Day so we completed an activity where we drew on a dot something we wanted to learn.

For the first school assembly we decided to share some words that will help change your mindset.  It was inspired by this TeachersPayTeachers bulletin board by Pinkadots Elementary. For the lesson students were given the Fixed mindset statements (I give Up; I'm not Good at this; This is too hard, etc) and asked to replace them with positive statements (I'll try my best; I'll keep working on this; With some effort I'll get this; etc).  Then students carouselled around the room and added more statements to each others' posters.

The final step in this process was to select some phrases that would be added to some homemade speech bubbles, which would then be presented to the school during the assembly.  Students worked hard and did a fabulous job presenting.

Training your brain doesn't happen overnight so we will continue the process of working towards a "Growth Mindset" throughout the year!  The ultimate goal is about 'Learning' and how we can do that best!


Feel like sharing your thoughts on Mindset?  Please leave a comment - my students would love to hear your ideas.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Building Stamina to Read

2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 18, 20...Twenty Minutes (actually 20.41.4 minutes!)  The students have been working hard since the beginning of school to build their "stamina" during Read to Self time. By Friday of this week the class reached 20 minutes! I am so proud of their efforts. The goal for our class is to be able to be independent readers and to sustain their reading attention for 20-30 minutes. They are already on their way. 

 Building stamina takes time and training.  They have practiced finding a comfortable spot right away, stay in that one spot, read quietly the whole time and to respect others' learning while reading.  The training which began on the first day of school is hard work and students should be proud of their own efforts. 

The children understand that building stamina in reading is similar to running a marathon. You wouldn't just start by running 26.2 miles - you would gradually work your way up to it. This is what we are doing. We are 'training our brain' much like a marathoner would train their legs. There is a sense of urgency to become independent.  Once a student can read for a sustained amount of time, they are able to work on comprehension, accuracy, fluency and expanding their vocabulary.

One of the most important aspects of Read to Self time is that the students are reading books of interest to them. They also know that choosing a "Just Right" book is key in being able to read for extended periods of time. Students were giving the analogy: "If the Shoe Fits..." Ask your child about the "shoe lesson" that was presented in class.

Check out this presentation below that goes along with finding a book that is JUST RIGHT.

Students were asked to 'reflect' on the Building Stamina process in their journal. 
While some students said that it was an easy process for them some said it was a difficult activity. For those who thought it was 'easy' I responded that it must be that their 'brain muscles' have already been in that training mode while those who found it more difficult still need some practices.  Most all students shared that they were proud of their efforts and how they felt they worked hard.
Expectations for the upcoming week are high, and we hope to continue the 20 minute mark in Reading. This week we will also begin building stamina in writing! Becoming independent learners is a priority in Room 310!

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts about Read to Self and Building Stamina!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Visiting Scientists, Script Writing & Forget Me Nots

What a busy week it was in Room 310.  Some highlights included State Testing for Mathematics, revising craft stick bridges, a visit from local scientists, writing scripts based on a the story, "The Case of the Gasping Garbage" and filming of those very same scripts!  One other very important part of the week included making "Forget Me Not" cards for the local disabled veterans at the VA Hospital.

Each year, our class is visited by about six scientists who work at the nearby Siemen's Corporation.  Outfitting the students with lab coats, safety glasses and lab notebooks, the students become REAL scientists ready to work!  The visit starts with a review of information about the Water Cycle.  Students then observe a "Storm in a Box,"  replicate the sound of thunder,  learn how to make a thermometer and finally explore how filtration works.  Writing down their hypothesis and checking to see if they are correct, students go from passive to active participants.  It's an hour filled with wonder and wondering!

This visit couldn't have been more appropriately timed!  In ELA students were reading a story called, The Case of the Gasping Garbage! It's about two young detective/scientists who try to solve a mystery.  Vocabulary words included: beakers, analysis, precise, microscope and more (which they noticed the Siemen's scientists used too)! The two characters in the story go to their attic laboratory, make and test their hypothesis and solve the case!

After reading the story, students then created scripts based on the characters and the story. Working with a partner, students created their scripts using Google Docs.  Each student used a Chromebook (thanks to our Donors Choose Projects - please donate if you can we need a bit more to get one last chromebook!) and collaborated with their partner - each able to write on the document at the SAME time!

One of the challenges was to include at least 5 vocabulary words.  As an added bonus, once the scripts were complete, filming could commence! Using our green screen set up and the very-easy-to-use, DoInk App students donned their lab coats, grabbed their scripts and clipboards and they were ready to proceed.  After the film was created, we added it to the iMovie app and created the final product!
Be sure to check out one of our "Gasping Garbage Movies by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE!  Students LOVE making the green screen movies as they are learning all aspects of the process.


Probably the most IMPORTANT work of the week included the making of "Forget Me Nots" for our local disabled veterans!  Several times throughout the year we send notes or cards to those men and women who are at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury (you can read about some of what we have done HERE).  In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, we decided to create "Forget Me Not" flowers (the symbol of the Disabled American Veterans).  One each of the petals, students wrote a simple, thoughtful yet powerful message for the vets making sure each person that received one would know it was made especially for them!

I am so proud of all the hard work and effort my class exhibited this week and every week!

What message could you send the students about their hard work and effort?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Creating a Sail Car

An opportunity arose this past week for the students to participate in an activity where they would be 'sail' car designers!

The class was given some supplies to test out (and review through me) for Scholastic's Instructor Magazine.  The materials were very simple: cardboard wheels, notched craft sticks, 6 inch dowels, elastics & straws.

The level of engagement & enthusiasm was high! There were fist pumps & "oh yeahs!" when student learned they would be building.  They first decided if they wanted to work independently or part of a pair or group.  Once that was decided the work began. Students were encouraged to make some sketches of possible models.   However, most wanted to get right to the building part of the project. (Students later reflected that next time they would take MORE time planning!). 

Due to the cold weather we had indoor recess.  Most students voluntarily continued working on the 'sail' car for BOTH recesses.  Still, more time was needed to complete their creations which was given throughout the week.  Along the way we learned about and discussed axles, axle bushings and the importance of planning.  We talked about sail designs & about wheel placement.  In the meantime, those working in groups learned about compromise and listening to others' ideas.  Even those working independently learned that sometimes collaboration is helpful.   I hadn't anticipated the level of learning this activity provided.

The day arrived that we were ready to test the cars to see which one would travel the furthest.  A START line was created and several tape measures were secured to the floor!  Students were only allowed ONE blow through a straw - then the distance was measured.  Each car had 3 tries.  Students all lined up along the start line and awaited their turn.  It really was fun.  You could hear the students discussing why someone's car worked well or didn't work as well.  The cars' distances ranged between 6 inches and 60 inches! Huzzah!

To wrap up the project students all discussed what they learned and wrote a "Sail Car Reflection".  “Awesome! Fun! Confusing! Hard! Challenging!” – these are the words my students used to describe the project.  They loved being able to “create something using their own ideas.” "Next time I'll take time to make a better plan." "I liked the materials because they were simple to use."
What's the next activity???? I'm not sure, but I do know that IT will happen again and SOON!

Students: What is ONE change you would make to your car if you were to do this again? WHY? 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015 Drug Free Walpole Video/Poster Contest

Back in early February our students were given the opportunity to participate in the 2015 Drug Free Walpole Video/Poster Contest.  This contest which is sponsored by the Walpole Coalition for Alcohol & Drug Awareness is open to students who are in 4th-12th grade.  The idea: Promote "living a drug free" life.

 Class time was spent doing some research.  Before research began a quick introductory mini lesson on taking "Cornell style notes" was given. Students then partnered up and looked at a couple different websites that were on the class Edmodo page.

After students had gathered all their information we had a quick class discussion to answer any questions and clear up misconceptions.  Students were then ready to create their video or poster.
Students decided if they wanted to work alone or with a group and then got to work creating a story board for their video or brainstorming ideas for their posters.


It was really heartwarming to see the students working with a partner or in a small group discussing how best to deliver the message!

An award night for participants, families and friends will be held at the Public Library on March 23, 2015.  Even if their poster or video is not selected as one of the big "winners" my students are ALL winners for they surely worked hard on this project and learned something new.

However, YOU can help our video participants by VIEWING and LIKING their video HERE!  The more votes and likes they get, the better their chance of winning.  "Voting" is open until March 16th!  So PLEASE share the video with your family, friends and co-workers! Let's show these kids their work is appreciated!

Say No to Drugs 
Top 8 Reasons Why Teens Try Alcohol & Drugs