Sunday, September 18, 2016

The First Few Weeks of September

Hello 4th and 5th grade families!

Below, you can find a brief summary of what we've been up to lately in the 4/5 classroom.  Aside from the core subjects you'll read about, we've also had our first two sessions with our kindergarten reading buddies!  Students look forward to working with their buddies; reading to them, helping them with letter sounds and sounding out words, and listening to them read.  It's great to see.  Enjoy some photos at the end of this post.  

Reading:  As we continue our whole group novel, Rules, students have been focusing on finding particular text evidence where the main character is acting empathetically. They've been practicing the skills of paraphrasing and determining importance. They've used their examples to write a paragraph that proposes and supports their view of the character. One of the other characters is unable to speak and needs to point to words in his communication book in order to express himself. Students have reflected on word cards they'd want to have in order to express themselves if they couldn't speak or write easily. Students have also completed the first DRA of the year to assess their reading level. We will do DRAs again in May, charting their progress.  

Writing:  Students have finished the research portion for their essay and this upcoming week we will be focusing on creating a simple timeline, writing a thesis for their essay, and flash-drafting. We will then take our drafts through many revisions, focusing on the traits of good writing. Additionally, students have completed the first writing sample of the year to assess their proficiency in various traits. 


Grade 4:  Students have been practicing rounding to different place values and using rounding to make reasonable estimates.  Students have practiced addition of numbers up to the millions and showing their work using diagrams, place value blocks, and the standard algorithm. Students have also been exposed to multi-step problem solving. This is a skill that is new for many students. I encourage all fourth grade students to create and discuss these types of problems at home, to help them get used to slowing down during problem solving and completing all necessary steps. Here is an example:

Raffle tickets were sold for a school fundraiser to teachers, parents, and students.  563 tickets were sold to teachers.  888 more tickets were sold to parents than teachers.  107 more tickets were sold to students than to parents and teachers combined.  How many total tickets were sold?  

Grade 5:  Students have been practicing rounding decimals to various place values and using rounding to make reasonable estimates. Students have practiced addition and subtraction of decimal numbers using place value disks and the standard algorithm.  Rounding and estimating is especially important when working with decimals in order for students to check their answers for reasonableness.  

Science:  We've continued learning about electricity through creating electromagnets using iron bolts, copper wire, and batteries. Students discovered ways to increase the strength of their magnets through increasing the coil in the wire and ensuring that the coil is going in the same direction so that the electrons move freely in one direction. Students have also made electroscopes which we'll be testing soon to determine which materials are insulators and which are conductors.  

Important Upcoming Dates

September 21st:  Progress Reports go home
September 22nd:  Malian Independence Day, No School
September 27th, 29th, 30th:  Grade 4/5 MAP testing days

Sunday, September 4, 2016

News from the First few Weeks

Hello Grades 4 and 5 families!

It's hard to believe that we've already been in school for three weeks.  Since the last post, we've really begun to dig into the curriculum for the year.  Here you'll find an overview of what we've been learning.  Also, I've added the syllabus to the top left of this blog, along with a list of alternatives to traditional homework.  

Reading:  We began a new class novel called Rules by Cynthia Lord.  It is told from the perspective of a 12-year old girl whose brother, David, has autism.  We did some pre-reading activities where the kids learned about autism and occupational therapy.  The objectives for this unit are for students to be able to propose and support the ways Catherine changes and to compare and contrast David's view of the world to that of other people.  Students are really enjoying the book and the wonderful discussions it sparks. Ask your child to tell you about the book so far and what they've learned about autism.  Along with this whole-group novel, students meet individually with the teacher at least once each week to conference about their individual book. 

Writing:  This quarter we will be focusing on non-fiction, informational writing.  Each student has chosen a person to research who overcame a great obstacle in their life.  Students have chosen people such as Stephen Hawking, Helen Keller, and Malala Yousafzai.  We will be using print sources such as books and articles as well as internet research to gather our information.  This week students will be learning some helpful tips for doing effective internet searches.  Some research websites can be found on the left side-bar of this blog.  Ask your child who they are researching and what they've learned about them so far!

Each quarter we will be publishing a piece of writing using Google docs. I encourage students to practice typing using their student account on to help improve their typing speed and accuracy.

This week we will also begin word work.  Students will be working with specific spelling patterns or prefixes/suffixes to improve their spelling and vocabulary development.

Math:  Each day, students learn or review a new concept for their grade level with the teacher and work on fluency, problem solving, and skill practice.  Currently, both grade levels are working on place value concepts. 

Grade 4:  Fourth grade students have learned how our base-ten number system works, how to represent numbers in standard form, word form, and expanded form for numbers up to 7-digits, and how to compare and order numbers.  Students can practice the following IXL skills to review these particular concepts:  A1, A2, A3, and A9.  Here's a video to review place value:   

Grade 5:  Fifth graders have also been reviewing place value concepts by focusing on decimals up to the thousandths.  The students have examined multiplication and division patterns of 10, 100, 1,000, etc. as well as exponents and powers of ten.  IXL skills that review these concepts are G1, G3, G4, G5 and G14.  Here is a video to review decimal place value:

Science:  To begin our unit on electricity, students have been exploring static electricity.  Through many different experiments, students have learned that static electricity happens when a material becomes charged through the transfer of electrons.  Ask your child to tell you about what they've learned!  Enjoy some pictures of our experiments.

And, last but not least, here are some pictures of the skit students performed during the elementary assembly.  The kids did a great job and the audience had fun and even learned a bit about the importance of complete sentences!  I think we have some future actors and actresses in this bunch!  

Upcoming Dates:

September 6th:  Whole-school Writing Sample
September 12th and 13th:  Tabaski holiday, no school