Sunday, December 8, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness

"Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world." This excerpt is from the book, Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, which Mr. Dearborn read to the class the other day as part of "Inclusive Schools Week".  The story is about a young school girl who misses several opportunities to befriend a classmate.  She finally makes a decision to be friendly to the other child.  The end of the story is not what one would expect (ask your child to share the story ending.)

Adding a rock for each kindness shown
The students (and I) were moved by this book.  So much so they were asking if there was a sequel. It gave us an opportunity to talk about friendship, inclusion and simple ways to make someone feel connected.   Next we discussed "Random Acts of Kindness".  Students brainstormed how to "Treat Others Like You Want to be Treated".  A few thoughts included: holding the door for someone, passing the ball to someone who usually doesn't get it; help find a missing item and Smile at someone.  

Knowing I must do something with these ideas,  I decided I needed to find a way for students to create "ripples" of their own.  I grabbed a container and filled it with water.  As I have a container of rocks in my classroom I grabbed those too.  And so, the Ten Days of Boyden Random Acts of Kindness was born.  Each student who performs a RAK at school will drop a rock in the container at the end of the day.  We will celebrate the ripples that will surely ensue from these simple yet grand gestures.  
Creating Ripples of Kindness

We started on Friday and were able to collect 12 rocks in our container.  While hoping to fill that bucket before the holidays the long-term goal is that these acts of kindness will continue way beyond our holidays and creep into our lives by habit!

Students:  What are some ways we can extend this to our lives at home?

Others:  What are some other RAK that could be added to our list for school?


Cybraryman: Character and Ethics. This collection is filled with all kinds of resources for Character Education which includes Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

20 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids: A list of other ideas that go beyond the classroom. 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Using Google Docs

Zack showing off his "bats"
Our district has gone "Google Apps for Education" which means that we are using "all things Google", documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.  With this initiative our school recently received a couple class size sets of "Chrome books."

Well, Room 310 couldn't wait to have a chance to use them!  Students first started by learning the different ways to log in to their Google Accounts.  Using their school usernames and passwords they can easily access their accounts from school and home!

Next students learned how to create a folder where they will place all their digital work.  That folder was shared with me along with any items that get placed in the folder.  Check out this video that Morgan and Shaylyn made showing how easy it is to create and share a folder.

Thanksgiving Dinner by Maggie S.
After that, students learned to create a document.  The first document they created was about their "Scary Stories". (These narratives are a work in progress).  As an added incentive students were allowed to add a "Drawing" to their work.  Using the Drawing app in Google the kids quickly were able to add a complimentary drawing that added to their stories.

This process was repeated again when they formulated their Jack Prelutsky-style Exaggerated Poems about Thanksgiving.   Please check out the examples.  Great poetry & great drawing!

What I love best about using Google documents is that I can give immediate feedback in the form of comments on student work - WHILE they are working.  As they are each writing I can literally "see" what they are doing from my computer and make suggestions, corrections without drawing the attention of other students.  More to come on this later!

Students:  What advice can you give others about using the Document or Drawing apps?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spooky Writing

There's nothing quite like Halloween to inspire creative writing.  Our class took advantage of this spooky season to generate some narrative stories.

First, the students learned how to "hook their reader" by incorporating "sound" as part of their entertaining beginnings.  Using this haunted house image as inspiration, students quickly brainstormed different sounds that could be associated with this picture.  Various sounds and ideas such as "Squeeaak! The front door slowly opened" or "Creak! The stairs made loud noises as I walked up tot he door" and "Ohhhhh! Ahhh! I heard the moaning of ghosts from inside the home." became the opening sentences of student narratives. 

Sharing the creature
Next on the Narrative Writing Diamond after Entertaining Beginnings is "Elaborative Detail." This technique asks the writer to stop the action and describe in 'detail' a character, setting or object using the 5 senses.  To aid in this process the students first brainstormed the types of creatures which might appear at this house on Halloween.   This would fit nicely with our theme of Halloween.  However, it had to be something more special than just drawing a creature.

In comes Wonderopolis and a quick lesson on Totem Poles.  Students each fashioned a Halloween creature to use as part of their writing project, which would then be placed with their classmates' creatures to create a Halloween Totem Pole. We modeled how to write an Elaborative Detail segment and then students had the opportunity to add to their Spooky stories. 

It was exciting watching students' creatures and stories come to life!  Here is part of Michaela's first draft:  Squeak! A little mouse ran by just as I looked up and saw an old run down house.  As we came closer to the old house the scarier it seemed.  My friend said "You go ring the doorbell while I run!" As I was walking up the steps to the unlevel porch, I yelled to my friend "I think I just saw a ghost in one of the dark windows!" I was about to ring the doorbell, but I spotted a black and dark brown creature staring down at me.  It was the size of three apples put together. The creature had a long, shiny wing and bright, round eyes. 

Students:  What was your favorite part of the writing lesson?

Others:  What creatures can you see in our totem poles?


Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Homemade Horned Toad

Kate holding our homemade "horned toad"
Before reading "The Horned Toad Prince" many of the students did not know the horned toad is really a lizard (including me!).  While the story which is a "Trickster Tale," based on the story about the "Frog Prince, doesn't mention this fact, the students did some extra research

The students discovered the horned toad is about 4 inches long and has the weight of a quarter.  It was a bit hard to imagine so we found a ruler about 4 inches long and taped a quarter to it.  The students were able to better visualize what this interesting little creature. 

After listening to the story and reading it together, the students created a Tall Tale using vocabulary from the story.  It was fun to read as the lesson included instructions to add a hyperbole or two.

Generating number as well as geometric patterns was a focus in math this week.  During math we are trying to incorporate centers using the    
Shaylyn doing At Your Desk Center
M A T C H acronym.  M stands for "Math Facts" - students at this center practice their math facts by going on XtraMath or using worksheets.  A means "At Your Seat". Students work on individual activities which include review topics or topics being studied. Students at the T center work with me on the current topic or a review lesson.  C stands for Center Games.  The Scott Foresman program came with Games that can be played for each lesson.  H is the "hands on" center.  This week the students used pattern blocks and created patterns and their partner had to predict the 15th block in the pattern.

Of course we rounded out the week with the class's favorite "Chicken Fat Friday" (to be explained in a later post!) 

Parents:  What did your child come home excited about this week?
Students:  What did you enjoy working on this week? Please leave a comment below! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

We Proudly Recite the Pledge of Allegiance

Each day the students at our school (like many other children across the country) recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of our day.  Not quite sure the students fully understood words like: pledge, allegiance, republic, nation, indivisible, liberty, and justice, I decided I would review the meanings of those words.

After reviewing the meanings and participating in a "Reader's Theater" about the pledge, the students in our class have a new found appreciation when speaking those words each day.  They respectfully recite the Pledge now with greater understanding.

This video by former comedian, Red Skelton, had the students sit up and take notice.  He mentioned two things that really got the kids wondering.  After listening to it, can you guess what the kids questioned?

At the end of the week the class presented the Reader's Theater about the Pledge of Allegiance at the school assembly.  It was our hope that all the other students would become more competent with the meaning behind The Pledge.

Even though there is still controversy about saying "The Pledge" in schools, our students proudly recite it each day.

Students:  Which word in the Pledge do you think is the most important and why?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Quadblogging - Getting to Know Our School

This year we are Quadblogging.  That means that there are four classes exchanging ideas and comments.  One class is from Wisconsin, one is from Australia and one is from India.  We are excited to be connecting with our fourth grade friends from all over.

It is our turn to share some information.  We hope you enjoy learning about our school.

Our school has different sections built in different times.  The kindergarten and art room section was built in the 1930's.  The gym and hallway where first, second and some third grade classrooms are located was built in the 1960's.  The fourth grade wing and the upstairs where the rest of the third grade classes are was built in the 2000's.  Our school is good sized. (Maggie & David)

We love our gym.  The floor is made out of rubber.  It is also very big.  We also have a lot of athletic equipment inside the gym.  (Faith & Daniel B.)

Our mascot is the Bulldog.  He was carved out of a log in 2008.  The who carved it went by the name of "The Chainsaw Guy).  He painted it too.  It welcomes the kids each day.  (Patrick & Daniel F.)

Can you tell which picture is includes the older part of our school? 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Math Tools

Toss and Talk (about the Distributive Property)
This year we will be using many different "tools" that will help strengthen the student's mathematical skills.

The Distributive Property was a focus this week during math time.   Students worked at breaking apart numbers into two simpler problems.  Creating arrays on graph paper to help visualize was one strategy.  After several days of practice the students really started getting the hang of it and showed deeper understanding.
A new tool is the Scott Foresman website. Each topic is introduced via a quick video.  The video includes vocabulary needed for the lesson.  Previewing vocabulary before the lesson helps activate the learning. There is also an engaging, guided story problem based on the concept being learned.

Students will have also have access to the Scott Foresman website at school and home.   The student text is available on line as well. Usernames and passwords will be given out this week.  Perhaps you could spend an evening checking out the site with your child.

Built into the math block is a game which correlates to the day's lesson.  Students played a "Toss and Talk" game to practice breaking numbers apart.

For homework students will be given at least one question where they will need to "explain" their answer.  Explaining using math vocabulary/numbers or diagrams will be modeled in the class all year long.

An Interactive Math Notebook will be used to aid the students. It will be a used as a resource where students may refer back to the concepts and explanations.  (More to come on this topic at another time!)

Math manipulatives will be a regular part of the classroom.  Using base ten blocks, fraction tiles, power polygons, protractors will give students an opportunity for hands on learning during math.

Finally, other math websites will be used to compliment the learning.   Some favorite sites include XtraMath (to practice math facts - username & passwords will be given out this week); Sumdog (a subscription based site that practices facts & more - usernames & passwords will be given out this week.) & Sheppard Online Math Games.

With the help of these varied tools the students are sure to have a wonderful year in Math. 

Students: What has been your favorite math tool so far?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reader's Theater Workshop Wednesdays

Wednesday afternoons in our class has been dubbed "Reader's Theater Wednesdays."

For a half hour or so each Wednesday afternoon the class will participate in by performing a Reader's Theater.  A Reader's Theater is a 'play' based on literature or poetry.  It may contain parts for two or more readers.  The readers are using their voices to perform instead of gestures or action.  Typically, it doesn't involve memorizing.

Students build confidence in public speaking while building reading comprehension and fluency.  Our first workshop consisted of a short 'play' about punctuation.  Working with a partner the students took turns being Reader 1 and Reader 2.  Roles were then reversed.  A final reading was done where students practiced the passage using expression.  Several pairs came to the front of the room and read for the class.  As the year progresses I plan to use more complex Reader's Theater pieces.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of  Reader's Theater, Linda Cornwell's article in Scholastic, goes into detail. She describes it as an "integrated approach for involving students in reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities."

Certainly the students were very excited, and said they were looking forward to the next one! Love the enthusiasm of this group!

For my students:  What did you like/not like about the Reader's Theater?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Snowball Fight in September!

Snowball fight!  Yes, you heard it right!  Our class actually had a 'snowball fight' on the first day of school.   It's an unusual activity for school, but it served several purposes.  The biggest idea behind the snowball fight was for students to share information about themselves. 

Students completed the 'snowball worksheet' and when finished crumpled it into a 'snow'ball.  (The worksheet contained 'getting to know you prompts' such as "Something I like to do..." "Something I'm nervous about this year..."  "One thing I'm excited about this year...")  Names were purposely left off the papers.  When everyone was ready the class was divided in half and took their places on opposite sides of the room.  With their 'snowballs' in hand, we counted to three and let the snowballs fly.

When the 'exchange' was over students picked up a snowball and opened it up making sure they didn't have their own.  Then, they tried to guess who the paper belonged to by reading and sharing the clues.  It was a great way to learn something new about one another.

Papers were returned to their owners and then we had another discussion (based on this lesson from a New York Teacher).  Students were asked to get all the wrinkles out of the paper.  Impossible right? I told the students the wrinkles represented harsh words or actions and no matter how hard you try to fix it or say your sorry - a mark is still left. 

We vowed to be good to each other and I believe this class will be true to their words!  It was a great start to building a strong 4th grade community.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Welcome Class of 2013-2014

Welcome to the Fourth Grade.  Planning on you having a wonderful year of learning with 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!)

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 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 there is a new math program called EnVisions.  I think you are going to enjoy learning math with the help of this new program!  

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!

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

End of the Year Activity - Roller Coasters

'Roller coaster' photo (c) 2004, Andréia Bohner - license:
Desperado, Nitro & Goliath are just a few of the roller coasters students learned about on the last 2 1/2 days of school.   This thematic unit (designed by a teacher, Lovin' Lit,  from Louisiana) included activities that related to all areas of the curriculum from reading non-fiction articles, recording and analyzing statistics, using map skills, to comparing and contrasting kinetic & potential energy.

Videos and pictures of roller coasters were used to engage students.  Sharing their war stories about being on a roller coaster helped them make connections.  Then following directions students slowly created a lap book using the information about the roller coasters.   They made bar graphs, learned about energy through this song.  The final activity was to build their own roller coaster using simple materials.  The designs were unique and many worked.  I believe if we had more time - ALL of them would have completed the challenge.

 As the temperatures remained high during the day, so did the level of engagement.  Students are encouraged to visit the eBoard site to design their own roller coasters via an internet program.

It was a great way to end the school year.  Please feel free to leave a comment (and especially leave a comment if you visit a roller coaster this summer!).


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Back to the Basics of Writing

      Written by: Grace M. (& Mrs. Carroll)

     On Thursday, June 6th, we were lucky enough to Skype with Jerry Blumengarten, author of the book “Energy Kids”, written for and energy company similar to NSTAR. He is a former New York City Teacher and Librarian.  He now compiles resources and houses them on his own "Cybraryman Man's Educational Websites."

     During our discussion, Mr. Blumengarten gave us helpful tips about writing and the many steps you have to take to write a book.  He used his "Cartoon Book" to guide us through the process.

Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks!

    We Skyped just in time for our “Night At The Museum” project.  It will definitely improve our grades because he spoke to us about taking our time researching and writing a detailed script.  For The Night at the Museum Project we will be researching a famous person then writing a script and performing as though WE are that person.  Night at the Museum will be held June 20th for parents.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Culminating Activities for Little House

Written by: S. Grant (and Mrs. Carroll)

Little House in the Big Woods is a story about a little girl's experience in the great woods of Wisconsin in the mid 1800's.  The students in the class completed many activities.

They have read the book, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Then, they filled out their lapbook. The lapbook was made from two folders stapled together and when they got to a certain part of the story, students would write in the space provided for that subject. After writing, they would decorate and color the inside and outside of the paper.

Next, students filled out their Log Cabin shaped vocabulary book. The book was filled with the words that they didn't fully understand. Students researched the words in the student dictionaries provided.

After the story, they created the Characters in a Can and made a "person" out of a can based on a main character from the story. On the 24th they had their Prarie breakfast and the Hoedown. The breakfast consisted of eggs, pancakes, breads, juice and much more.

Character in a Can Project
The last part of the day was the most exciting...A whole school assembly highlighting the fourth graders for our Annual Hoe Down.  The whole school was invited to wear their country western gear to get in the spirit of the activity.  Fourth grade students learned several country western dances including the Virginia Reel and Cotton Eyed Joe.  After each class performs the dance they choose members of the audience to try the dance with them.  The final dance consists of the entire school doing a line dance!

Through these activities life in the Little House comes a little bit more alive for the students! 


Monday, May 20, 2013

Letters to Thank Our Veterans

We started writing "Thank You" notes to a veteran in honor of Veteran's Day.  Before writing I prepare a lesson to discuss the meaning of 'veteran' and 'service'.  (I use this interactive poster below to help the students build an understanding. Scroll your mouse over it -click if there is a red circle to go to a website or play the music & video. ) The letters thank these brave individuals for their service, sacrifice, bravery and courage. Very often my students get a response from their veteran and this year it was no different.  Many of those who wrote back explained about their time in the armed forces and the places they have been.  Many stated how this is the "first thank you" they ever received.  In this process the students end up learning more than just history and geography.


This year we have extended our writing by sending notes several times throughout the year to a local VA Hospital.  A local member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has been gracious enough to come in and speak with our fourth graders about how meaningful and important it is to recognize and thank our vets.  Mr. Frank tells the students how 'thrilled' the veterans are when they receive these cards and letters as many don't have family and therefore, don't receive mail.  He says that these notes are a highlight.  

I really didn't believe Mr. Frank until the other day when one Trever received a letter in the mail from one of the veterans in the hospital.  He mentioned in the note that he had undergone open heart surgery and was feeling particularly down.  He went on to say how that note "made his life!"  It gave him the strength to get better.  Also included in the note was a patch from the 1st Infantry Division which the gentleman had had since 1967!

We had to take our Thank You's even one step further.   I learned about this organization called, Honor Flight Network.  This non-profit organization flies World War II vets and terminally ill veterans to our nation's capital to see the memorials.  (My dad flew with them from Michigan to Washington, DC and had a most memorable trip!)  Recently, I learned there was an Honor Flight New England so I asked all the fourth grade students if they would be willing to write ONE more Thank You. Of course these great kiddos said "Yes!"  This time we researched the National World War II Memorial so we could weave in a fact or two with our thank you's.

The power of these notes is undeniable

 Here's what I received by email from Joe Byron, founder of Honor Flight:  Thank you to you, your children and your colleagues for the letters to our HEROES. I am sure that our most senior veterans will forever cherish the letters and cards that they receive in their "MAIL CALL".

But the power of these notes is not just for the veterans.  It truly gives my 10 year old students a chance to recognize the efforts of others while learning about our country's heroes.  Students are interested in what these folks did during their time in the service.  They really take such pride in their work because they know it is important work! It would please you to read these heartfelt letters of thanks and know that today's generation  (your child!) really does care!

More Resources:

Operation Gratitude:  Writing Letters & Sending Care Packages to Veterans

A Million Thanks - Year round campaign to show appreciation to Veterans, past, present & future.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Praying Mantids & Cicadas

What do Praying Mantids and Cicadas have in common?  Ask your child as that was a homework assignment late last week. Or better yet, have them show you the assignment in Edmodo!

The other day we just happened to be lucky enough to be part of a mini lesson about Praying Mantids.  A middle school Science teacher from New Jersey was LIVE Streaming a lesson.  DanDan the ScienceMan  has been waiting for his Praying Mantid egg sacks to hatch.   My students watched as the enthusiastic teacher spoke about the insect.  We quickly reviewed the information following the 5 minute lesson.  (Watch a pre-recorded version of the lesson HERE - there is a brief commercial beforehand).

Interestingly, that very same day, during our math period, I had planned my own lesson on an insect...the Magicada Septendicum or Magic Cicada.  This cicada comes out once every 17 years and this happens to be one of those years. (The math lesson was about prime numbers.) Watching the students as they watched the video of these fascinating creatures was priceless.  See the pictures below and then watch the video for yourself!

Incorporating different areas of the curriculum in one lesson helps students make connections.  It embodies what life is like in the real world - science, math, reading, writing and other disciplines all coming together instead of separately.

Video of Magicada Septendicum

Sunday, March 17, 2013

MCAS, Math Centers & Moviemaking

Creating 2D & 3D figures
This week the students have spent time preparing and practicing for the upcoming MCAS test. The Long Composition is new to students and so a "dress rehearsal" of sorts was given.  The children were given a prompt and worked very hard applying the techniques taught this year.  Comments and conferences were given so students had feedback.   We are looking forward to sharing what we know this coming Tuesday!

Exploring Fractions
Students were introduced to Fractions and worked on identifying and creating Equivalent Fractions.  Students spent time each day at different Math centers.  This week the centers included:
Math Facts on Sumdog,
At Your Desk Station: reviewing area&perimeter, creating graphs & solving number puzzles
Teacher stations: learning how to use a protractor and exploring fractions using pattern blocks
Hands On: Following directions to create 2D & 3D figures

Reviewing the script on the Teleprompter
At long last creating movies using the Chroma Key or Green Screen has begun.  Using this type of technology is not only engaging but adds to the student's learning and understanding of a topic.  Read about the process and see one of the videos here.  Zach's video is about his knowledge on Siberian Huskies, Maddie R. presented information about the Iditarod and Jaami's movie referred to the Volcano he made during Genius Hour.  Stay tuned for more!