Monday, September 4, 2017

First Update of the Year

Hello families!

Before I begin, I want you to feel free to send this information to any loved ones that are interesting in the happenings in our classroom. Additionally, should they want to receive my emails and have not been, send me an email with their contact info so I can add them.

I'll be writing up a short blog entry every two weeks detailing the learning that has taken place the two weeks prior. You can expect these over the weekend at some point.

I must say that I am very pleased with how our school year has begun. While we are learning how to live and learn in our 2nd grade class, the growth I have seen over a short period of time is tremendous. Our students have been steadily building their 'school stamina' and rising to the occasion. Just the other day, Mrs. Watkins (art) pulled me aside and remarked how focused, patient, and helpful they had been in her class on Thursday. I brought that up with the kids and said, "That's not me...thats YOU." There is definitely some growing up happening in here and it's cool that others are noticing it too.

We work hard in 2nd grade. I'm sure that your child has probably come home exhausted at some point over the last two weeks. Trust me, having a second grader of my own this year I know the feeling. But, there's value in getting started fairly quickly in the school year. It sets the tone and helps build that stamina sooner.

I'd like to discuss what we have been working on in the classroom for the first two weeks:

When you are beginning a new year, it is important to take some time to set up what the classroom should look like and sound like during Reading Workshop. In the first week, the students created a chart that outlined their responsibilities during Silent Reading, as well as mine! This is something that we have continually referred back to. We have been reading picture books like Juna's Jar and My Name is Yoon, learning how to create responses to these texts. We began tracking our thinking in our reading journals so that we have information that we can reflect on. Our chapter book we are beginning this year is Frindle by Andrew Clements. I love this book! We have used it as a launching point for discussing Protagonist and Antagonist relationships.

In my conferences with the students, it became apparent that idea formation was where we needed to begin. We used our strengths in setting up our Readers Workshop to help us see books as the source of excellent ideas that we can make our own. The real world is also a great place to find ideas for writing. We created a chart of possible ideas that the students found in their books; it included pirates (which I'm really hoping someone takes up!) and good guy vs. bad guy stories. We also have had several mini lessons on approaching writing intentionally, such as imagining your piece being done before you begin writing or going into writer's workshop with a plan to accomplish. Additionally, we have set up our structure for students sharing out their writing and providing feedback to one another that helps and is specific.

You have probably seen a few examples of our work in math workshop this week. I do send home work that we do in class for practice so you can get a heads up for how you can help your child. Your child turns in an exit ticket to me most days and this is my assessment for that day. Sometimes they work on problem sets until it is time to move to their exit ticket. Your child also has a 'learning buddy' that they work on the math with before working independently on that exit ticket. This allows your child to communicate about their strategies before demonstrating it independently. The concepts we have worked on are using an understanding of tens to add and subtract more efficiently.

Unit of Study: Maps
I alternate between Science and Social Studies so we can devote more time to each subject without having to plan for transitions between the two. Right now we are learning about maps, how to tell directions, and how to use the features of maps to make meaning. We have discussed political and physical maps and are planning on learning about the relationships between population and area in different states.

I hope this gives you a glimpse into what we are working on. As always, if you have any questions, please let me know. I have greatly enjoyed working with all of your children and I'm hoping to see many of you at the Opening Picnic this Thursday.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Classroom Update

One of the beauties of looping at our school is how quickly students reconnect with each other and how smoothly students who are just joining us adjust. Since we're already starting the year with some momentum, we're able to get into the good work we envision much quicker. We're in the middle of some really incredible learning experiences, so here's a quick update on what we're up to so you can keep an eye out at home for your own authentic learning experiences.

Students have worked in table groups to research the natural features, plants, and animals that are present in different ecosystems. They used their research to collaborate on creating posters that demonstrate an understanding of those particular ecosystems. Then, they included captions to give it the look of a large nonfiction page. This week, we've been learning about food chains and food webs, how energy is passed between organisms. In their same table groups, they cut out cards of different producers and consumers and pieced them together on a poster, connecting them with arrows to show how the energy is passed.

Next week: Animals and plants have adaptations that assist in survival for specific ecosystems.

The Tiger Rising
Chris Hass, my fellow 2nd grade teacher, and I have been trying to make an effort to engage our classes in shared learning experiences more this year. Right now, we are in the midst of a shared literature study on Kate DiCamillo's book, The Tiger Rising. As we read the book, we are focusing on building on the thinking of others and we are noticing how authors describe characters through their actions and emotions. We are connecting this learning to our ELA workshop, seeking to develop stories that enhance our reader's experience and understanding.

Next week: We will begin to work on publishing our first fiction stories of the year.

We are continuing to work on the properties of multiplication and division. I hope the math homework packets gives you an insight into the material we are covering. In the midst of math workshop, we always make time for students to share their strategies in front of their peers. This gives them the opportunity to "put their thinking into specifics" for an audience. If you can teach it, then you really know it. Also, we're looking at strategies for us attending to precision; getting an answer is one part of math, but checking an answer for its reasonableness is another and, I think, more important.

Next week: We will be learning about the distributive property.

Important Dates
Thursday, Sept. 15: Opening Picnic
Thursday, Sept. 22: Early Dismissal
Friday, Sept. 23: Ecosystems Unit Test
Friday, Sept. 30: Gathering @ 2:20
Thursday, Oct. 6: Curriculum Night

Monday, August 29, 2016


This week's homework isn't too complicated. You'll notice that I'm putting a cover sheet on the homework packet to help give an outline of what's expected.

1. The first item on the outline highlights the importance of your child reading at least 20 minutes outside of school daily. The more your child reads, the more they'll grow as a reader.

2. Your child should have brought home their cursive handbook. They will complete four letters that are similar to one another. The pages to complete are listed on the homework packet.

3. Your child has their weekly math packet to complete as well.

All are due Tuesday, since Monday is Labor Day.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Weekly Blog

We have had a wonderful first week and a half in third grade. We've been lucky enough to add 6 new students to our already excellent classroom community and everyone seems to be getting to know each other, know, the good stuff.

I know you guys are busy, but you would like to be in the know about what's going on in our classroom. Each Friday, my goal is to give you a quick run-down about what we are learning about, cool anecdotes, and sometimes a discussion topic. You can always feel free to post a comment below with your thoughts and insights.

This week, we read the book Mr. Lincoln's Way by Patricia Polacco. It's an excellent book that helps us have discussions about appreciating the differences in people. In fact, Mr. Lincoln is one of my all time favorite "book heroes". Using the story, we thought about the idea of how authors create a story with a theme in mind. Sometimes it comes out that a character learns something over the course of a book, or they go through a change. Many times, the theme is connected to that idea.

We also spent some time over two days reading three of the Olivia the Pig stories. These books are hilarious. We learned about how words and illustrations can depend on each other for meaning construction. For example, in Olivia, if you were to isolate the text, you would get a very different meaning than when you read it with the pictures. Together, the tone is actually quite sarcastic.

As writers, we began our year just writing. Sometimes, we as teachers wait for kids to "be ready" to write. Instead, some of my colleagues and I thought it would be an effective exercise for the kids to start the year creating books. Setting the tone for what we do as authors. We also spent a good deal of time setting up expectations for our workshop and coming up with ideas for how to use it. One idea is to create a list of possible topics for writing at the back of our notebooks. This way, when we feel the dreaded Writer's Block, we can access our list to help inspire some creativity.

We also have been learning about how our life and the events we experience can be the basis of a story. I used my story about when I got in trouble as a kid for throwing mud at my baby brother. I didn't remember everything, but we discussed how I can change some of the details and it can become a fictionalized version of a real event. We paired up and shared our stories aloud before we began writing them down and it was remarkable how much more comfortable the kids were at creating these pieces.

In Math, we've been learning about how division and multiplication are connected, including the different properties these operations have. In the process, each day we are building our knowledge as we connect our new knowledge to our background knowledge about arrays.

Students are working in pairs called "learning buddies" as they coach each other up in Math Workshop. Before they work independently, they move through a problem set together and this puts each child in the role of a teacher. They are given the chance to communicate their strategies to another person.

As you already know, our science unit right now is ecosystems and habitats. We have gone out to different natural areas around our school to observe the living and nonliving things. We are also discussing how people impact natural areas in positive and negative ways.

The students are preparing to begin a group project where they are researching an ecosystem together as a table. They are discussing the physical features, animals, and plants that are in a particular environment. Then, they will use this research to create a giant one-page nonfiction page that reflects their learning.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Homework, Week of 8/22

Just a reminder about how I handle homework: I will give it all out at one time at the beginning of the week and it will be due on a specific day. If I need a particular piece of the homework for a lesson in class, I will make a separate note and due date on that particular assignment.

1. Observe an Ecosystem, due Monday: The directions are printed on the sheet, but your child needs to observe a natural area (it doesn't have to be a road trip) and classify living and nonliving things. They can also look for evidence of living things, such as a spider's web. If you would like for your child to extend the assignment, have them document by taking pictures and send them to me. Or, another idea is, instead of just writing "spider", your child can research to see if it's a specific species. For example...

I saw this amazing spider over the weekend. I showed the students in class and instead of just saying "spider", I used the wonders of technology and Internetness to find the species. One student said to search "spider with yellow circles on its back"...within a few seconds we had the answer. If you said, "Golden Orb Spider" you were right! Guess what else we learned...did you know that a Golden Orb Spider has venom that is similar to a Black Widow but slightly less potent? It affects you in the same way but to a lesser extent. It made me feel quite brave actually!

2. Math Packet, due Monday: Students will complete math packet covering properties of multiplication and division. This is an excellent opportunity to sit down with your child and listen to them share their strategies that they've learned in class. One of my best college professors once told me, "Teaching is the highest form of learning. If you can teach it, then you REALLY know it."

3. Richland County Library Cards, by Friday: We go to the library near the school about once a month. I already have several cards from last year, but if I don't, please send them in by Friday if you would like for your child to check out books. If you're not sure if I have your child's card, send me a quick email.

Dates to Keep in Mind:
1. Friday, August 26: We walk to the library @ 9:15.
2. Monday, Sept. 5: Labor Day, no school
3. Thursday, Sept. 15: Opening Picnic; if you're new to us, you'll be getting more information about this fun time.
4. Thursday, Sept. 22: Early Dismissal @ 11:30
5. Friday, Sept. 30: Our 1st Gathering @ 2:20
6. Thursday, October 6: Curriculum Night #1 @ 7:00

Note: In the future, I'm going to post my weekly blogs on Friday. When I originally said Monday, I forgot that it's our Faculty Meeting Day and it might be "information overload" with Homework info as well.

Technology RUP Forms: Please log into Parent Portal and complete your child's Responsible Use form for Chromebook use as soon as you are able. If you have questions or difficulties, send me an email and I'll forward it to our tech-guru Mrs. Hucks.

As always, if I forgot something, I'll send everyone an email. Have an excellent week!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Welcome to 3rd Grade!

Hello families!

It's almost time for third grade. This is a big year for your child and I'm very glad to be there to help them along the way. Most of you already know me, but to those of you that don't yet, I want to welcome you to a school where real learning happens, where kids are encouraged to ask questions, and where everyone is on a journey of outgrowing themselves.

I wanted to send you a quick post outlining some info about the beginning of the year and how I will communicate with you.

Our schedule will vary depending on the day. Some structures will stay in place, but others have to move around. I'll be sending each of you a copy of our class schedule. Plus, it's color coded!

Our class will have an MAT for the fall semester. Her name is Mrs. Katie Watson and I've had the pleasure of getting to know her over the last couple of days. She will be a real asset to your children this year. I was an MAT several years back, so it's a program that I really believe in and I'm excited to contribute to.

Dr. Mueller sent out an edconnect explaining that you may want to consider bringing your child between 7:45 and 8:10 because our parking lot gets extremely congested on the first day of school. It's really not bad the second or third day. So, you may want to plan accordingly for tomorrow.

First Day Jitters
If you are able to come in, look for the tall, lanky guy with a tie surrounded by tiny people. I would love to meet our new parents and reconnect with the old ones...(get it?). The first part of our day will be getting our supplies organized, so some help with that will be appreciated. However, my goal is for our class to get started around 8:20-8:25 so I can start getting everyone acquainted and setting the tone for our day.

At the beginning of each year, your child comes home with all these forms. I'm not sure when you'll get them, but I'll send an email letting you know to check your child's folder for them. It's very important that we get these back ASAP, especially the one dealing with technology. I need to have that form before I can get the students started with their Chromebooks.

Weekly Communication and Homework
I communicate through email when I need to share information quickly or am giving you specific information about your child. If you send me an email and I haven't responded in 48 hours, just assume that I didn't see it and send it again; usually I'm pretty good about responding quickly.

I communicate daily through our class Twitter feed: @footecfi. I use this to share pictures and videos of what we're working on during the day.

I will communicate weekly about homework and a reflection on the week in our class blog. I'll send you an email each Monday with a link to the blog post. It will start with a bulleted list of what your child will have for homework, explanations if needed, and due dates. Then, if you continue reading, you'll get a summary of how our previous week went.

Alright, there you go! I hope to see everyone tomorrow morning. Tell those kids to get some sleep. :)