This weekend, which marks our national holiday to celebrate the life and impact of Martin Luther King Jr, we are called upon to undertake acts of service. This means that we will be thinking about ways that we can serve our communities and spread kindness to others. This is a tradition on Martin Luther King Jr Day, and we have been discussing the practice of empathy, kindness, and equity in homeroom morning meetings.
This year, the world is different, and we cannot go out into the community to volunteer and support our community in that way. But there are some ways that we can spread kindness and support others from home!
I am sharing a short list of some things that your family and children can do this weekend to spread kindness and serve the community. Take some time this weekend to relax and play games. Create something kind and joyful. I cannot wait to see what the students have done when we come together on Tuesday!
This is the week for New Year’s Resolutions. I wonder if you have made any promises to yourself this year - to change a habit, manage your time differently, or take up a new hobby. Resolutions are so important. When we make them, we look back on all the things we did in the previous year and ask ourselves “What can I change?” and “How can I push myself in a new way?”
This week we made resolutions in Language Arts. As learners, the students looked back on their reading and writing work over the past few months and evaluated their progress. They asked themselves what they could do to push themselves to be better learners, then outlined how they could make that happen. The students resolved to improve themselves as learners by:
Your children have all made resolutions that are important to them. They have grand ideas about the learners they wish to be in 2021. Please take some time to discuss these resolutions with your children. Let them share their goals for the year, and their plans as to how they will get there. Help them find the time and materials they will need to make their goals and resolutions a reality.
One last thing we discussed as a class was the idea of perseverance. Making resolutions is easy and exciting; the most difficult part is sticking to your resolution and seeing it through. Your children may need support to make it to their goals. They may want to change their mind and stop working toward their goals, especially as life gets busier again. Push them to keep going. They have grand, important goals, and if we work together to support them, I know they will be able to get there.
Have a very happy weekend,
Happy Friday! The month of December is winding down and the winter days are fast approaching. It is getting very cold out, and one thing I love to do during the winter is curl up in a comfy chair with a good book and a warm blanket (and maybe some hot chocolate).
As we wrap up our Narrative Writing unit in Language Arts, and study for the Unit 2 Social Studies assessment on the Age of Exploration, it has likely become hard to find time to read and just relax. This time of year is filled with packed schedules and To Do lists, and finding time for your children to read and play can be a challenge. It is in this In Between time, when we are not studying reading directly in class, and when life tends to be hectic, that reading is more important than ever.
Reading is an essential skill. When you read, your brain engages in many ways: it problem-solves to read and discover new words, it envisions by making a mental image of the story, and it synthesizes to comprehend and understand what is going on in the story and what might come next. Reading transports us to new worlds, where we can experience new things and learn lessons from the amazing characters in our books. When we read we get the chance to relax and try something new, as well as push our brains to the next level of thinking.
Your child may be an avid reader, who can finish an entire library shelf in a weekend. Or your child may struggle to find a book that fits them well, and sometimes feels that reading is not for them. Whatever the case is, find some time to read together this weekend. Grab a good book (2 copies if possible). Read with your child and have a small book club. Curl up on the couch and get comfortable. Make some hot chocolate and share the best (and worst) moments in the book. Make reading a treat this weekend, because it’s a more important time to sit together and read than ever.
Have a wonderful weekend, and I wish you the best of reading,
How do you feel about writing? Often people have strong feelings about the art of writing - either they love it or they hate it. But no matter how you feel, you know that writing is essential to the world we live in. We write every day - whether it be emails and text messages, essays and critical analysis, or a story that we are inspired to tell. Writing is the process of sharing your thoughts with others, and while it is always enlightening, it can also be challenging and difficult.
Today I want to share with you about the process of writing. What does it look like? How do writers put stories together, or essayists put their ideas into written form? Why do writers and authors of all different kinds choose to write, and how can we be writers every day?
Academic writers and storytellers all begin in the same place: they are passionate about what they want to say, and they know that writing is the best way to share their ideas. As students, you do not always have the choice of what and when to write, so writing can be a challenge. Every day we practice the methods of writing, which help to build a writing life and help us feel more confident and accomplished as writers. Your children are talented, amazing writers, and they are practicing these methods to grow their skills.
The writing process is simple, and in its simplicity it can be challenging. The hardest parts are planning ahead for what you want to write, keeping that plan in mind as you draft and revise multiple times, and deciding how to publish in the end. This applies to both narrative writing (stories) and critical writing (essays).
This is what we practice in class. The process, which is a series of repetitions that grow and push toward skill. Keep this in mind as you child drafts at home. Multiple drafts are good. Revisions are good. They just need to keep that end goal in mind.
Good afternoon! As Thanksgiving approaches, we begin to think about the things we are grateful for - this year and every year. I find that I am grateful for each and every one of my students, and for you as well. Every day the students enter the virtual classroom ready and willing to learn, and work so hard to push themselves to new levels of thinking. I am also grateful to have such supportive and kind parents as all of you. Your kind thoughts mean so much to me, every day. It has been a pleasure to meet with some of you already in conferences, and I look forward to meeting with more of you soon.
In social studies, one of the major themes we have been thinking about is VALUE. This refers to the beliefs that a culture holds about the things that are important to them, and the things they strive for. The concept of value is one that carries into Language Arts as well, as we examine the values of a character (what they believe in and what might motivate that character to act the way they do) and the values of the author (what is the message that the story aims to teach us, and how do they teach that message using targeted techniques).
Looking for VALUE in Language Arts and Social Studies can be a challenge - it requires seeing beyond the facts of a story or historical event, and examining the reasons WHY. Just this week we looked at two key structures surrounding VALUE: What values must a culture have to motivate them to travel across the world? and What values does an author have to use specific techniques in their writing?
Over this weekend, and going into the short week next week, I wanted to share with you the idea of VALUE. Take some time to talk to your child about this idea. It is relevant in Language Arts, Social Studies, and in our lives every day. Try asking questions to start a question about VALUES:
These are big questions. As we say in Social Studies, we may not be able to answer these questions today, tomorrow, or in a year. What matters is the process of thinking and discussion, which leads to deeper learning. Continue talking with your children about these big ideas.
Though I do not get the chance to meet with you often, I look forward to talking with you soon. Conferences always bring a sense of gratitude to me, as I have the chance to meet with you and show you the wonderful things your students are doing. I hope that today and everyday you know how much you are valued: as parents, as teachers, and as thinkers.
Have a wonderful weekend,
Good afternoon! As we move into November, the days are getting colder and shorter. The end of the marking period approaches as well, and units come to a close and assessments approach. Today I want to share with you some information to guide you in supporting your child in their learning, studying, and managing their workload.
There are several different kinds of learners. Every one of us is unique and we all learn in different ways. Some of us learn best by reading, and others by listening. Some of us love to be up and doing, and some of us would like nothing more than a quiet evening spent in a good book. Depending on the type of learner you are, you may do your best work studying and learning in a specific type of way. The main types of learners are Visual, Auditory, and Tactile. When you know your particular style of learning, you know what you need to do to help yourself stay focused and do your best job as a learner.
If you are a visual learner, you learn best by reading or seeing pictures. You understand and remember things by sight. You can picture what you are learning in your head, and you learn best by using methods that are primarily visual. You like to see what you are learning.
Here are some things that visual learners can do to learn better:
If you are an auditory learner, you learn by hearing and listening. You understand and remember things you have heard. You store information by the way it sounds, and you have an easier time understanding spoken instructions than written ones. You often learn by reading out loud because you have to hear it or speak it in order to know it.
Here are some things that auditory learners can do to learn better:
If you are a tactile learner, you learn by touching and doing. You understand and remember things through physical movement. You are a "hands-on" learner who prefers to move, build, or draw what you learn, and you tend to learn better when some type of physical activity is involved. You need to be active and take frequent breaks, you often speak with your hands and with gestures, and you may have difficulty sitting still.
Here are some things that tactile learners can do to learn better:
We all learn in different ways, your children have numerous resources at their fingertips to help them (we reviewed them extensively in class this week), and the best way to start is to make a Study Plan. Depending on what kind of learner your child is, they may do their best studying by acting out key ideas, discussing a strategy out loud, or drawing and modelling to show their thinking. In your study plan, set aside a chunk of time for each subject, and set a goal for what will be accomplished. Do a little bit every day. Cramming is the most stressful way of studying, so avoid it if possible!
They know this. Their job is to show us by doing their best.
Have a wonderful long weekend,
Happy Friday! Recently we have been diving deep into learning more about Grammar and Vocabulary. We looked closely at sentences to discover their parts, and discovered that every sentence has a part that shows “what it’s about” and a second part showing “what is going on”. We separated these parts into the subject and predicate of the sentence, and began to work on analyzing sentences for their parts and whether those subjects and predicates were complete or simple.
For example, looking at the sentence “The class played soccer in the field”, we separated the sentence into the “what it’s about” and “what is going on”, labelling each part. That work looks like this:
The class | played soccer in the field.
The complete subject of the sentence always includes at least one noun, and the complete predicate of the sentence always contains at least one verb. By focusing on simple sentences, concrete nouns, and active verbs, we were able to target our thinking and begin to understand the purpose of a sentence and why it functions the way it does. We will continue to dive deeper and explore complex sentences and less concrete nouns and verbs in upcoming weeks.
But that’s not all! We looked even closer, asking, “What is this sentence really about?” With that in mind, we found the simple subject and simple predicate.
The class | played soccer in the field.
The simple subject is the noun at the center of the sentence - the WHO or WHAT of the sentence without any describing words to give us detail. The simple predicate of the sentence is just the very, the action that tells WHAT’s HAPPENING. By beginning to break sentences down in this way (and this is work we will be continuing in the next weeks), we are beginning to consider the jobs that individual words can have.
We have also been working on the skills of word analysis. In small groups, we took the words and broke them into parts to examine what they mean. The parts we used were prefixes, bases, and suffixes. The base is a key part of the word, where meaning starts. Prefixes and suffixes modify the meaning of the word. By examining the meaning of the parts, we built words and discovered meaning for the whole word.
For example: export. Looking at the word export, we can use syllables to break it apart into prefix and base. The base of the word is port, meaning to “carry or take”. The prefix changes that meaning, with ex having the meaning of “out”. So, putting those parts together, we discovered that the meaning of export is “to carry out”.
This work can be done with any word. By simply using the syllables of a word to break it into parts, we can find word parts that are familiar. Then we can find meaning and build new words/solve for unknown words. Here are the steps for breaking down words through inquiry.
That’s all! To do this grammar and vocabulary work, you must be a curious and determined reader, and the skills and strategies needed to do this critical thinking will be developed all year long.
Enjoy learning new words!
Good afternoon and happy Friday! As your child works hard to practice thinking deeply and critically about their reading, they have also been writing much more deeply about what they read, and the thoughts they have about their reading. This work has been done through Post It Notes (PINs) on a digital Jamboard, which collect a thought in the text. Your children then chooses one PIN and writes long about it.
When your child writes PINs, they are jotting down sentences that can “grow ideas”. These notes may contain a clue that the readers noticed, a reaction they have had to something in the story, something they wonder about in the book, or a theory they have about what is happening in the book. These PINs should be short - no more than 1 or 2 sentences (and sometimes less!) - and help them begin to consider a Big Idea about their reading.
Then your child writes long. This involves thinking “long and strong”: taking a small idea from a PIN and expanding it. When your child writes long, then look back into the book for evidence to support the theory they have about their reading, and then connect that evidence back to their original idea in order to draw conclusions. These responses support the CEW structure, and connect to important thinking practices across content areas. For independent, at home practice, your child’s response to an idea in their reading should be no longer than 10 sentences at most.
As we move deeper into fall and challenge ourselves further as readers and thinkers, this is the structure your child will be practicing to help them build and grow their critical thinking skills as readers. This work will be done in narrative fiction and graphic texts, allowing for a range of engagement and discussion. You can rehearse this structure by having deep conversations with your child and asking them, again and again: WHY.
Have a wonderful weekend, and happy reading!
As we head toward hybrid learning and new routines for learning (no matter where we are), I want to take a few moments to talk with you about a single word that holds a lot of meaning - transition. In school we often discuss transitions that have to do with movement: transitioning from one place to another within the classroom, or transitioning between classes and periods through the hallways. This year has been full of transitions - from one kind of learning to another, from one way of living to another, and through each one of these transitions we have been lucky enough to come together in the classroom and keep our community the same. The word transition itself means “the process of changing from one thing to another” and though we think of transitions as finite things, the truth is that they are always happening.
The start of the 2020-2021 school year has been a time of a lot of change and transition, and we have worked hard to master the new routines of virtual learning. As much as possible, I have tried to ensure that the routines we practiced virtually are the routines that your child will need when they return to the physical classroom -- so that whether that will be next week or in the future, they will have mastered the skills they need to be successful in fifth grade.
As we dive into hybrid learning next week, when some students will be in the classroom and others will remain virtual at home, there will be a few fairly big changes. Students will keep all the same classes, but the schedules for all students are shifting. This will allow for hybrid students to travel home and at lunch. One big change is that fourth period will come before lunch, making lunches come a little later in the day! We worked today in class to review these schedule changes so that students felt comfortable with how the day will go.
Here are a couple important things to keep in mind to ease the transition:
Transition times are exciting. They can be big or small, exciting or a bit scary. Checking in and slowing down can help us all savor the best parts of the day and realize the special things that happen each and every moment. Managing transitions can be a challenge, whether they are big or small. We don’t yet know what kind of transitions are yet to come. But I know that as we work together, and as we help each other, we will get through.
In the classroom (both virtual and physical), we will take this time to slow down, enjoy all the changes and special events, and do our very best every day. Thank you for all you do each day, and all you continue to do, to support your child in their learning journey. We’re going to accomplish great things together!
Happy Friday! It was a pleasure to see you all at Back to School night earlier this week! Remember, if you could not make or need to reference some of the information provided, the Back to School Night presentation was sent out on Thursday. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to send me a message!
Today’s blog post concerns our social studies work, but can also apply to language arts. In the past weeks we have been reading as researchers, with the aim of understanding the geographic features of the United States and the regions therein. As our unit of Early Civilizations of the Americas progresses, I wanted to take a moment to share with you the BIG essential questions that shape this unit and the inquiry we will be pursuing for the next month. Those questions are:
These questions are big, and you may have noticed that they are much broader than the scope of the unit itself. That is because the skills we practice within the study of history and social events apply themselves to all time periods - even today! We are learning how to see the world, and how to look at it in different ways.
With that in mind, it is easy to be an historian every single day. This weekend, please take a moment to consider these essential questions and share them with your family. You may be able to make connections between your own experience and these big questions. You may want to take a small tour of Montgomery this weekend, noticing the landforms that make up the region in which we live, and the lifestyles of the families who live in this area. What resources do we have in Montgomery, and how can we access them? Consider going (safely) to the Saturday Farmer’s Market or a walk in the park. Drive down to the river and take a walk: observe the wildlife that makes that area its home. We are so lucky to have these resources near us, and they have shaped the way our area of the state has grown and changed in the past.
As an historian, be watchful and thoughtful. This weekend your job is to observe the world around you carefully (kind of like a scientist!).
Enjoy the beautiful weather and the bounty that lives all around us. I can’t wait to hear what your child can share with us on Monday!