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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time Flies

Today we started learning about time. They learn how to tell time in 3rd grade, but they definitely need a refresher again in 4th. I can't tell you how often I have to tell the kids what time it is. Today was our review of reading analog clocks.

We used the SMARTboard...

We played I Have, Who Has...

And we played telling time board games...

There just wasn't enough "time" to fit in all the fun! 

We kicked off our solar system unit this week. To explain rotate and revolve, I had the kids act it out. 

The Earth had to rotate and revolve around the sun while the moon revolved around the Earth. Naturally, it was hard to snap a picture of this, but that didn't stop me from trying. 
The kids thought this was so entertaining. I let several kids take turns modeling. I think they really understood the difference between rotate and revolve when we were done. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

One of Those Days!

Spring is in the air. The kids are reaching that point where they try pushing the envelope. It's that time  of year when I need to reign them back in, and re-teach all the basic rules, such as how to line up and walk quietly in the hallway. It seems that every March, the kids disregard all prior rules. It is a bit frustrating to spend time on the basics again, but it's necessary in order to have a peaceful rest of the year. Despite my big "pow wow" with the kids last week about respect, we still seem to struggle with the golden rule. Today was just one of those days! I felt discouraged. As a teacher, I love having fun with my kids. It's what makes my job so enjoyable. Days like this aren't so glamorous, but it's reality. As I was about to blog this evening, I came across this quote from a fellow teacher. It couldn't have been better timing.

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
― Haim G. Ginott

This is all the inspiration I need after a long Monday. Thanks, Mrs. Bainbridge! 

On a brighter note, we are starting our unit on the solar system this week. I set up my moon watching chart today!

Each night, the kids will draw the moon in their notebooks, and we will chart it with white crayon on our moon watching chart. It's a simple way to display the lunar cycle. The kids will learn that the moon goes through predictable phases.  

Tomorrow we will do this experiment. 
The kids will predict what will happen when the sand, water and soil are put directly in the sun's light. They will see how the soil and sand heat faster than the water. It is a little introduction to the importance of the sun. 

Here's to hoping tomorrow is a better day! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Home Stretch

We have one more day of the English Language Arts MCAS this week! Can I get a Wahooooo?

MCAS days are long and tough. MCAS days in unseasonably warm, 80 degree weather, are close to unbearable. I give so much credit to these kids. They have been working so hard. I was pleased to see them utilizing so many of their test taking strategies. They were highlighting, rereading and TTQA-ing (turning the question around). It was rewarding to watch them put to use everything they have learned. Phew! We did something right.

This is what I gave my kids on Tuesday morning before the long composition. Nobody can write on an empty tummy!
The poem is hard to see, but it was just a little last minute motivator. That and a glass of OJ, and the kids were pumped and ready to go. 

To prepare for the reading MCAS, I reviewed the 4 main parts of speech. We used Madlibs to make it fun. I remember when I was a kid, I used to laugh so hard while doing these. Turns out, I still find them just as funny. I was literally laughing out loud at some of their stories. 

Some of my kids had so much fun filling in the Madlibs, that they decided to make their own. (Talk about motivated! ) They even created one about Tom, and asked me to fill in the parts of speech. 

How cute, right?

One more day,  we're in the home stretch! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Morning Meeting

I'm still exhausted from another fabulous St. Patrick's Day weekend spent in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island. I hope everyone had a safe and happy time celebrating. Below is what greeted my kids on Friday morning. It was just a little something to celebrate. They were actually pretty excited about the bookmark.

The shamrock math boxes are a simple way to practice number sense and easily adaptable for each season and math concept. I did hearts for valentines day. This time I used them for measurement. In the center shamrock they put a unit of measurement. In the 4 surrounding boxes they write an equivalent unit of measurement. For example 1 Gallon = 4 qt = 8 pt. You get the picture. You can do this with a whole number and have them represent it in all different forms (i.e.- word form, expanded form, tally marks, addition problems etc.)

In other news, it's no secret most teachers feel that a majority of what they learned about teaching was acquired during their practicum rather than graduate school. Student teaching is where you learn classroom management. It's when you actually learn how to plan (not those horrid 9 page lessons plan you are forced to produce during grad. school) It's where you learn the craft. With that being said, one of the most useful things I did learn about while in graduate school was the Morning Meeting book. 
This book has a very specific format for morning meeting: greeting, sharing, group activity and news and announcements. It covers all grades from preschool through high school. I think it is so important to take time each morning to promote a safe and comfortable learning environment. Morning meeting is how I make this happen. It has detailed explanations of each part of morning meeting, and even tells you what time of year each activity is best for. 

Step 1 is taking the time for each student to be greeted, every morning. The book has tons and tons of fun greetings to choose from. I found them  printed up online, cut them and put them in a box on my desk. Each morning a new student gets to pick the greeting. 
We usually stand in a big circle for greeting. 

Next is sharing. I type up a calendar to hang in the room for students to sign up for sharing. This is your basic show and tell. Students are taught to ask non yes or no questions about what the person shared. At first, it is difficult for the kids to figure out deeper questions that can't be answered with yes or no. I learn so much about my students from sharing time. It is great for the kids to see what they have in common with each other. 

Next is my favorite part, group activity. The book has many great activities and games. You can also make up your own. It is a time for a little fun and team building. One of our personal favorites is "Who am I? We tape a name on someone's back and they have to ask yes or no questions to figure out who they are. Here is one we did last week. 

I usually pick something related to school or current events. This one was chosen by the kids. Sometimes its good to just have fun, right? They think this game is hilarious. 

Last is news and announcements. This is when you go over the schedule and share any news you need to with the kids. 

It takes to to explain morning meeting. It takes time to train the kids. It takes time to get the materials ready. It is time well spent. It is their favorite part of the day. It is a time for the kids to talk to friends they wouldn't normally interact with. It promotes good manners and social skills. It allows them to start their day with a little fun. Isn't that what school is about? 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meters, Liters and Grams

Stressed is an understatement. Today was not one of my best days. The MCAS is breathing down my neck. It was day one of parent conferences, and I had a little extra personal stress "bugging" me out as well.

It was clear I wasn't on my A game.  Even the student who never pays attention, you know the one who pointed out my pimple to the entire class (see insult here), was able to point out that I spelled milliliters wrong on my anchor chart. I would have posted a picture of this blunder, but I forgot my phone today! Add that to the list of things that stressed me out. Don't act like you don't feel stranded on a deserted island when you forget your phone.

Any who, I managed to get my act together enough to rap about liters, meters and grams with the kids.

It's catchy. I found myself singing it in the shower.

 I even let my kids stand up and put on their best rapper swag. We really have the dance moves down. If I'm lucky, maybe they will learn something while they're at it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Luck of the Irish

The long composition MCAS is just around the corner. This means one thing, CRUNCH TIME! I feel like I'm suddenly discovering all these last minute tips and strategies that I'm trying to squeeze in before next Tuesday. Everybody's stress level is up.  We work hard all year to get the kids writing well organized, descriptive essays using the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing. It all comes down to this! I feel like it's the week before the Superbowl. Yikes!!

I wanted to do a St. Patrick's Day writing prompt with the kids before beginning the MCAS blitz.

                                          So, we read this.

It's an adorable story about the mischief three leprechauns get into on the way to their pot of gold. 

Then I gave them this writing prompt to practice writing a personal narrative.

To get the element of MCAS in there, I had them write completely on their own. They had to revise and edit their first draft without my help.  "What?! We have to check this on our own?!!" It was like I asked them to actually find a leprechaun. Most of them accepted the challenge and did well. 

This is how I modeled what the final copy should look like. 

And, this is how one came out. 

Hopefully the kids eat their Lucky Charms next Tuesday!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Family First

It has been a busy weekend. Sadly, my family had to say goodbye to a dear loved one, my uncle Buddy. He was truly loved by all who knew him and he will be missed. I'm glad that Tom had the chance to meet him a few times before his passing. It would have been a real shame if he missed out on getting to know such an amazing person. Although many tears were shed over the course of the weekend, the up side of losing a loved one is spending time with family. I was particularly excited to spend time with family from out of town that I rarely get to see. If you live in the Merrimack Valley, you know how to play 45s. If you don't, you've likely never even heard the term before. I was raised playing the card game and it is a family staple. Uncle Buddy taught us all how to play, so it was fitting that my family held a 45s tournament this weekend. It looked a little something like this.

When you date a Blanchette, you have to learn how to play 45s. It is part of initiation. I must have taught Tom well because his team won the tournament. Below is a pic of Gramps, Tom and my cousin Matthew. 

 Even though we lost a generation, THE generation that taught us how to play 45s, we are keeping the tradition alive. After the tournament, Uncle Joe took some time to teach the youngest generation the rules. Life really does come full circle.

RIP Uncle Buddy

Now for a little school news. We've been talking about measurement in math,  Friday we covered converting units of measurement. 

This little rhyme was helpful, but the kids have a really hard time understanding this. What's funny is that a lot of the kids can tell you the answer, but don't know how they arrived at the answer. For example, they can tell me there are 48 inches in 4 feet, but they have no idea how they figured it out. Next week we will continue working on this. 

We kept plugging away at cause and effect all week. 

We sorted.... 

We read...

We wrote....

Another 4th grade teacher wrote up cause and effect signal words and had her kids cut and paste the signal words into their own cause and effect sentences or stories. She shared this idea with me and I decided to go a slightly different route and have my kids write copy cat stories of If You Take a Mouse to School or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. 

Have I mentioned I absolutely love working with my 4th grade team? Everyone is so willing to share their ideas and we learn so much from each other. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mind your Ps and Qs....

Today was a busy day in 4th grade.

I just recently learned the origin of the saying, "Mind your Ps and Qs".  Apparently it was an old saying used in English pubs to keep tally of how many drinks one was having. As in, mind your pints and quarts. It's all I can think of as I am knee deep in our measuring unit.

We've been learning about capacity this week. The past two days have been spent discussing pints, cups, quarts, gallons, ounces, teaspoons and tablespoons. Even adults have to stop and think about these conversions sometimes, so imagine how tough it is for the kids to understand. This morning was all about letting the kids get their hands on the measuring tools to practice. Armed with a big tub of water, lots of measuring tools and kids eager to "play" we were unstoppable!

We practiced estimating and measuring. Thanks to Dot for writing up the estimation sheet we used!

First, we estimated how many tablespoons of water it would take to fill the cup to the blue line.

Then we actually filled it!

I didn't get any "face-less" shots of the kids actually measuring, my apologies! 

I took all three of my math groups separately to explore the measuring tools. We estimated with mason jars, teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces, cups and pints! It was a real eye opener. Some of their estimations were way off, but by the end of the lesson,  they seemed to be grasping the size of each unit. Yay! 

For reading this week we have been focusing on cause and effect. 

In isolation this seems easy to the kids. However, ask them to read a non-fiction article about hurricanes and highlight examples of cause and effect, and that's another story! I'm sure as we continue to explore this idea and practice, it will get easier. 

Kate let me borrow this book today to help illustrate cause and effect. 

On a different note, Tom sent me an article today that really got me thinking...Confessions of a Bad Teacher
I totally agree with what this man had to say. Read it and let me know your thoughts! 

This teacher is pooped, goodnight, all! 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Running Man

This morning was the first teacher dance rehearsal for the end of the year talent show. Yup, you heard me. I am one of those crazy teachers who willingly gets on stage and embarrasses herself in front of the entire school. I did learn something while at rehearsal. This girl (point finger at self), does NOT know how to do the running man! I'm sure it was hysterical watching me try, though. The teacher choreographing the dance, actually stopped to come over and try to fix my "funky running man." That's pretty bad. I know what I'm "YouTubing" tonight.

Other than the excitement of dance rehearsal #1, today was just your average Monday. Having double special first thing Monday morning makes it hard to get into a routine.

I did my first "Word Splash" with the kids in Science this afternoon. I've done all sorts of other content area vocabulary sorts and activities, but it was our first attempt at the ol' splash today.

We are studying extreme weather, so I put all sorts of vocabulary words related to hurricanes on the Smartboard.
In case you aren't familiar with word splashes, the topic word goes in the middle and is usually a bit larger than the other vocabulary words. It is a great way to introduce content area vocabulary before reading nonfiction.

I had the students choose three vocabulary words. They had to predict how the words were related to hurricanes. Some of the students had a lot of schema about hurricanes and were able to accurately write a definition. Others were making guesses and had to revise their definitions after reading. 

They copied the word splash on this graphic organizer. 
Then they worked in partners to come up with the relationships between the topic vocabulary word, hurricanes, and the three other vocabulary words of their choice. They wrote their definitions below the splash.

After completing the graphic organizer, they read chapter 1 of a hurricane book which contained all the vocabulary words from the splash. (Big thanks to Kate who discovered the book. It's great working with such fantastic teachers) They then revised any of their predictions, if necessary. 

That's all for tonight. I have to go practice my running man. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

In like a lion...

 Leap Day comes but once every 4 years and this year it brought a friend, snow, and lots of it! We knew it was too good to be true. Could we really go through an entire winter without a big snow storm? We had been doing so well since that Halloween storm, it was actually unbelievable. But hey, we live in New England, we can't act too surprised. Any who, all this snow resulted in a snow day. I am thoroughly enjoying it now, but come June I will be cursing its name.

I did spend most of my day "working" on school things. I put working in quotations because Tom frequently reminds me that I don't get paid for all the work I do from home. Therefore, I can't technically call it work. Funny, sure feels like work to me.

                                 It looked a little like this.

Term two report cards are just around the corner. We are still getting used to the standards based system  so it's a bit stressful.

Stress results in this...

And you can't go out for that without ending up with this...

The guilt from that lead to this...

And I'm going to negate that by cooking this...

Yummy sweet potato avocado burger for dinner!!

Happy Snow Day!!