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.