Friday, April 8, 2011

The Kenyans Are Coming!
We have been very busy preparing for the visit from the Kenyan marathon runners next Thursday! Students have been researching and learning all about some of our Kenyan visitors. This week, students began researching the Kenyan runners - reading short biographies about each one and identifying 3 important/interesting facts.  They used this information to begin creating a HUGE mural!  We hope to have this mural finished early next week and plan to display it in the hallway so everyone can read/learn about the many accomplishments of these elite athletes.

Ask: Who did your child research? What is one thing s/he learned about him/her?

In addition to this mural, students also “posed” in a running position and, with the help of our fabulous parent volunteers (Mrs. McCarron and Ms. Chabot), had their silhouettes drawn and cut out. These 19 silhouettes will look really amazing running down the hallway and if you have a chance, you should come by and take a look! I bet you will be able to identify your child just by his/her silhouette (I know I can)!

Marathon Fitness Challenge
Keep an eye out for some information going home next Monday about the Marathon Fitness Challenge. Students will be “challenged” to run a total of 26.2 miles over the course of the next few weeks (in PE class as well as at home). We will be graphing our totals as the weeks go on – I hope this encourages everyone to get outside and run!

Report Cards
Report cards were distributed on Friday. Hopefully there isn't anything in there that is too surprising!  If you have any questions, please let me know - otherwise, please sign and return the ENVELOPE as soon as possible.

Our Week in Review:
This was a review week in reading, during which students reviewed some of the important skills and concepts learned over the past 5 weeks, including making inferences, drawing conclusions, comparing and contrasting, comparative and superlative adjectives, inflected verbs, compound words, contractions and more!  Students put this knowledge to the test with an assessment on Thursday!

This week, all students had the same spelling list. The list contained words with phonics rules/patterns that we have focused on in the last 5 weeks. These rules/patterns included:

“Bossy R” (r-controlled vowels)
• ar (start)
• or (porch)
• er, ir, ur (her, first, turn)

the “ugh” sound
• oo (book)
• ou (could)

the “ooooo” sound
• oo (moon)
• ui (fruit)
• ew (stew)
• oe (shoe)

the “awwww” sound
• aw (straw)
• au (pause)

As we do with every review, students' spelling test was in the form of a dictation this week, which assesses ALL of their spelling and writing skills!!  Check your child's spelling notebook next week to see how s/he did!

Over the past few weeks, we have been learning a lot about irregular past-tense verbs. (We call them “crazy verbs” in class!) Instead of following the rule and adding –ed when using these verbs in the past tense, irregular verbs change completely! This makes them tricky to remember (and spell)! As a class, we have identified and discussed a BUNCH of these verbs including:

see – saw           go – went        write – wrote
do – did             run – ran          dive - dove
give – gave        sing – sang       drink – drank

and my favorites:
catch - caught
bring – brought
(contrary to popular belief…   bringed, brang, and brung are NOT words!)

There are TONS more!! Now that students are aware of these verbs, please encourage them to use them correctly in their speech and writing!

Students have also been working more with contractions - including a BINGO game played earlier in the week! At this point, most students understand that contractions are a “short cut” way of saying two words and that the apostrophe takes the place of one or two letters. The tricky part now is remembering where to PUT that apostrophe! Help your child with contractions…practice makes perfect!

This week, we began Unit 9 – the Measurement Unit. Although seemingly straightforward, this unit can get a little tricky. I have discovered, for example, that many students automatically begin measuring objects with the very end of a ruler/measuring tape – without checking to see if that is where the “0” mark is! This can result in inaccurate measurements!
Interesting Fact:  Did you know that when the Hubble telescope was originally sent into space it didn’t work?  Astronomers soon discovered that there was a miscalculation in measurement by just 1 millimeter!  I guess it is important to be precise in our measurements!

On Tuesday, after reading a great math story titled, How Big is a Foot, we learned that it is important to have “standard units of measurement” so that information can be shared and understood by everyone to mean the same thing. To better understand this idea, we measured the length of our classroom with different children…and, as we expected, found out that the classroom was different lengths, depending on which children were used (and how tall they were).

For the rest of the week, we reviewed and discussed some of the different ways we measure straight lines (linear measurements). We compared different systems (U.S. vs. Metric System) as well as the different tools and units within these systems. As a refresher:

US Customary System:   inches, feet, yards, and miles

Metric System: millimeters, centimeters, decimeters, meters, and kilometers

We also determined these equivalencies:
1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches
1 foot = 12 inches

I meter = 10 decimeters = 100 centimeters
1 decimeter = 10 centimeters
1 centimeter = 10 millimeters

We will be working with measurement for the next few weeks.  Please review these concepts at home!
We finished learning about different landforms this week and, as a cumulative project, students created "landform mobiles!"   Each of these mobiles shows off 6 different landforms - complete with definitions and beautifully illustrated pictures.  I hope to have these mobiles hung for all to see/enjoy in the classroom next week!  Feel free to take a peek! 
Our Mystery ReaderS this week were Hayes' grandparents!!  (He was VERY surprised!)  They each read a story.  The first story was read by his grandmother and it was titled, Ibis: A True Whale Story by John Himmelman.  Hayes' grandfather read the second story by Harry Allard and James Marshall, titled Miss Nelson is Missing.  The students greatly enjoyed listening to these stories - and I think Hayes' grandparents had as much fun as the children did!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's!

As the kids said this morning, "It looks like Mother Nature is playing an April Fool's joke on US!"  Can you believe it's snowing?!?! 

Important Information

Golden Pond

Every year, I take a special trip with my students to the Golden Pond Assisted Living Residence in Hopkinton.  This trip ties in with our social studies curriculum in that students interview important community members and create biographies about their lives. We were originally planning to visit TODAY (Friday), but the snow has postponed our trip until Monday.   (I am still looking for another parent chaperone or two for our walk on Monday.  Let me know if you are interested!)

Author's Visit
We had a very special visitor last week - did your child tell you about it?  Kevin Markey, Julia's uncle, came to talk to students about writing.  Why was that so special?  Because Mr. Markey is a published author!!  He has written 4 children's books in the Super Slugger Series (among other things).  During his visit, Mr. Markey let students in on the 3 secrets of being a good writer.  I can't share them with you, of course, but let's just say that the children were very attentive and his visit inspired some very creative writing!!

Junior Achievement
Last week, we began Junior Achievement - a special program that, in second grade, focuses on community and government.  The Junior Achievement program is presented by volunteers...and our classroom volunteer is Ainsley's mom, Mrs. Elliott!  Mrs. Elliott has been in 3 times now and has taught the children all about communities, taxes, government workers, and unit vs. assembly line production.  Whew!!  Ask your child to tell you about this great program!

Placement for Next Year
Mrs. Silver has posted a letter regarding parental input for students’ third grade placement. If you are concerned about your child’s placement next year, please read it carefully and note that while you cannot request a specific teacher, you are welcome to submit a request for a specific type of classroom/teaching-style (ex: structured, student-centered, etc.). If you have any questions, please let me know!

Report Cards
It’s that time of year again! Report cards will be distributed next Thursday. Please remember that the report card is yours to keep but I need the envelope signed and returned! Please let me know if you have any questions.

As you know, the Kenyan marathoners are coming to visit on Thursday, April 14!  This is a very exciting and special visit – one that students will never forget!  Next week, students will be working hard to learn more about our visitors and their country... and will be creating some special work/projects to make them feel at home in Elmwood!

Marathon Fitness Challenge
Keep an eye out for some information going home next week about the Marathon Fitness Challenge. Students will be “challenged” to run a total of 26.2 miles over the course of the next few weeks (in PE class as well as at home). We will be graphing our totals as the weeks go on – I hope this encourages everyone to get outside and run!

Aside from these "big" programs/activities, we have been VERY busy in Room 13 these past few days/weeks! Keep reading for a review:

This week’s reading story was Nutik, the Wolf Pup, written by Jean Craighead George. This was a great story about a little boy who takes care of a young, sick wolf pup. Ask your child what happens at the end of the story…

Through this story, students worked hard this week to strengthen their ability to make good inferences. Inferences are ideas that good readers form from clues that the author gives us in the story (pictures, context clues, background knowledge). Making inferences is a difficult skill because the information is not directly stated anywhere in the story – readers have to “read between the lines” – and figure it out on their own. Even adults have a trouble making inferences!

Students completed 3-4 centers this week, including: 

Grammar - Students cut out and match 15 contractions with their root words. Students then recorded their matches.

Art Center - Students wrote a paragraph comparing OR contrasting him/herself to the main character in the story, Amaroq.  Students then draw/color a beautiful picture illustrating their work.

Writing Center - After reading a short story, students answered a series of inferential questions, making sure to support their ideas with clues from the story.

Buddy Reading - With a partner, students read an encyclopedia article about wolves. They then work together to answer several comprehension questions about wolves.

Our spelling words this week all had the “awwwww” sound (like in claw and cause). Most students recognized the two letter combinations that we studied this week…

        aw              au
       paw           pause
       fawn          auto
       awful         hauled

…but some were confused because there are a few other letters that make that sound too! (Example: short o - as in octopus; and a - as in fall.) We talked at great length about how there are some words that you just have to “know” and how reading can help you recognize when words are spelled correctly and/or incorrectly!

In grammar this week, we learned about contractions. Contractions can be tricky because that apostrophe can take the place of just one letter…or two! At this point students should understand that contractions provide us with a “short cut” to say and write words and that the apostrophe “holds the place” of the letters that are “bumped out.”

Students did a lot of writing in their reading centers this week. I am really stressing the importance of answering questions in complete sentences. This includes beginning sentences with capital letters, ending with punctuation, and using the words in the question to help formulate an answer.

You may have been hearing a little about Writer's Workshop from your child at home...and that's because students have been writing their own books!  They are SO excited about it - which makes ME excited!!  Students have been extremely attentive during our mini-lessons, absorbing everything we talk about and incorporating many of the different writer's crafts and techniques (such as similes, idioms, detailed illustrations, tables of contents, page breaks, and more!) in their own writing.  I am so impressed with what they are doing - and you will be too!!

We wrapped up our Fractions unit this week!  Here are a few of the concepts students have been working on:

Fractions of a Collection
Finding a fraction of a “collection” is tricky business.  It is not the same as finding fractions of a whole.  Although we have been practicing and reviewing it daily, it is still very challenging to many students. Please practice this with your child!!

Here is a quick review:

3/4 of 8 = ?
The denominator (4) tells us how many equal GROUPS to make. So, ¼ of 8 means I have to put 8 counters into 4 equal groups. There will be 2 counters in each group.

The numerator (3) then tells me how many groups to count to get my answer. I have to count 3 groups in this problem…so my answer is 6.  Keep practicing!

Equivalent Fractions
We learned that some fractions represent the same amount, even though the numbers are different. These are called equivalent (equal) fractions.

Examples of this include:
1/2 and 3/6
2/3 and 4/6

To help students better understand this concept, they used their fraction cards to play the Equivalent Fraction game.

On Thursday, students participated in a math lab to further explore fractions. They created 6-scoop ice cream cones (which are proudly displayed in our classroom) and played Fractions Bingo with a friend!!  I think I overheard someone saying, "Fractions are Fun!"  

In Social Studies this week, we have talked a lot about different landforms. As your child now knows, landforms are special features on the Earth’s surface. And, surprisingly, not all landforms are land!

At this point, students should now be able to identify and describe the following landforms:

Ask about them! :)

This week, Mrs. Loretta DiPietro - Anthony's grandmother - was our Mystery Reader!  What a great surprise!  Mrs. DiPietro read two wonderful stories.  The first was Dr. Seuss's story On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects and the second was A Pet for Petunia, by Paul Schmid.  I think most students really enjoyed these two stories - especially the second one!  Ask your child about Petunia!!  :)