Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Butterfly Experience

Part of our Life Science study is a hands-on experience with our local butterfly experts who live in Indialantic. They bring us cocoons to keep and release when they are ready. The students were abuzz with new ideas, highlighted by how to distinguish a boy butterfly from a girl butterfly! We have some butterfly plants in both of our gardens. Since the day we released butterflies last week, we have seen some flying about and wonder if they could be the ones. We had zebra wing butterflies along with monarchs. Always a beautiful, happy sight. Here are a few photos to give a sampler of the day.
Wonderful Work!

Thinking Like a Scientist

Boy or Girl Butterfly...Hmm!

Home for Cocoons

Monday, August 27, 2012

Coming Next Week! The Khan Academy!

Check out this video about the Khan Academy. As soon as we are in the swing of things I will require each student to sign up with me as their coach. They will be given a special code. Students will use the Khan Academy as a tool for homework and extra in class math using our computers and IPad. Take a minute to watch the video. It's really amazing what he's created. http://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/v/the-gates-notes--sal-on-khan-academy

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This Week in Our Classroom

We are looking forward to a busy week! Highlights include:

Monday        Spelling City is the complete program this week.
                                Do 3 activities and take the spelling test by Friday.
                         New Reading Log in Monday folder.
                         Please take out the papers from school and return the empty
                               folder on Tuesday. ( ie graded
                               papers with school and
                               classroom information)
Tuesday        District Writing Test (essay - 60 minutes this year - an important
                                change from the Fla. Dept. of Education)
                            Topic 1 Math Test
Wednesday   Early Release Day- Students dismissed at 1:10 pm. Lunch at usual time. 
                                 CAMP changed to 8:15-8:45.
Thursday        Reading Selection test for the weekly selection
Friday              Spelling Test is due. Please print or email score
                                        from spellingcity.com test    

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gardening Fun

Remember! Not around the stem.
The personal touch!

That was the easy part!
     Friday was a work day! Indoors and outside, we had lots to accomplish. Before
we could spread our pine bark nuggets in the planting beds, we had to pull weeds.

Team Work

In the middle of the job!
The students were real troupers, pulling and tugging ample weeds that put up a lot of resistance. The temperature climbed, but no one faltered or complained. I was so proud of my class!  All the fourth graders took their turn outdoors, transforming the area into a lovely native garden. Thanks to all of the families that provided mulch and cash donations. It went a long way. We still have a few beds to cover in the next few weeks. Mr. Bill DeLuccia, an Indialantic parent and Nature Conservancy member, started the project of native Florida plantings with his own seedlings. His son, Dylan was in my class last year. He is coming in this week to speak with our classes about native plants and the invasive plant species that threaten them. It is part of our Life Science Body of Knowledge that we love to study.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More About the Daily 5

     The Daily 5 is a popular activity in our classroom each morning!  The students are learning each of the Daily 5 stations very carefully. We are writing in our Reading Journals about how it looks and sounds during the daily 5. We have learned Read to Self, the first station of the Daily 5. After a discussion of what makes a book a good fit, students chose 3 books to keep in their Daily 5 book boxes. I conferenced with each of them about their book choices and was delighted that they had found books to enjoy.  When you are Reading to Self (15 minutes) you may sit anywhere with your book box, but you must stay there! Now we have added Word Work, another station. This time we modeled the right way and the wrong way to work on words. We had a good laugh on the wrong way of course. At this station, the students complete spelling and grammar work of all sorts. Coming up... Work with Teacher and Mountain Language. We will be fully engaged after we incorporate these stations and Read to Someone, our final choice. We are taking are time to do it right. The groups are skill-based and only 4 or 5 students work together. That changes as needs change. We are doing the Daily 5 during the first hour of the day!  They love using the colorful book box!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Open House and the Daily Five

Dear Parents and Guardians,
            Welcome to a new school year!  I hope you had a wonderful summer and enjoyed spending quality time with your children. This summer I have been deeply engrossed in discovering what research says most benefits students as they become readers, writers and lifelong learners.  As a result, the structure of my literacy block may look and sound a little different and I am EXCITED! 
            It won’t be long until you hear your child talking about “The Daily Five.”  The purpose of this letter is to fill you in on what The Daily Five is all about, so you don’t have to nod your head while wondering what in the world your child is referring to. 
            The Daily Five is a way of structuring the reading block so every student is independently engaged in meaningful literacy tasks. These research based tasks are ones that will have the biggest impact on student reading and writing achievement, as well as help foster children who love to read and write. Students receive explicit whole group instruction and then are given independent practice time to read and write independently while I provide focused, intense instruction to individuals and small groups of students.
            When it is up and running smoothly, students will be engaged in the Daily Five, which are comprised of:
  • Read to Self
  • Work on Writing
  • Read to Someone
  • Mountain Language
  • Word Work
There are very specific behavior expectations that go with each Daily 5 component.  We will spend our first weeks working intensely on building our reading and writing stamina, learning the behaviors of the Daily 5 and fostering our classroom community.  I will also spend time learning about your child’s strengths and greatest needs as a reader in order to best plan for each student’s instruction. Therefore I will be inviting parents into the classroom after we have accomplished this important work.  Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding. 
One thing you’ll notice that may be a change for you is a direct decrease in the number of worksheets your child brings home.  While worksheets keep students busy, they don’t really result in the high level of learning I want for your child.  Instead, your child will be taught to select “Good Fit Books” or books they can read, understand and are interested in, which they will read during Daily 5.  They will be spending most of their time actually reading, which research supports as the number one way to improve reading.  I anticipate the motivation and enjoyment of reading will skyrocket when this gift of choosing their own books is accompanied by extended practice and specific reading instruction for each individual child. 
As you can see, I am excited about giving your child the opportunity to be involved in a structure that will have a positive effect on their education.
Please think of our classroom as you visit garage sales or clean your own child’s bookcase.  It is my goal to make our classroom library as appealing as your favorite bookstore for browsing.  
I hope to see you at Open House where we can talk more and I can answer any questions you may have. 

Mrs. Whitner

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Decorating is Fun!

Here's a look at our colorful classroom. Not everyone has had a chance to stop by, so perhaps a virtual look will bring you into our classroom library space called Reader Beach. The books are sorted by genre and the students have 2 books in their book box that they have selected after a lesson on selection that we call I PICK. The letters represent:
I- the person selecting the book
P- choose with your Purpose for reading in mind
C- choose a book that you can Comprehend
K- choose a book where you Know the words.
Today the students had media center during CAMP activity and more books came in. The first component of the Daily 5 reading instruction is Read to Self and we are off and running with that idea in mind.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Math Game Practice


We are learning about Place Value and the students will really enjoy this math game.

Reading Log

We have enjoyed a great start to our school year! Students have embraced the routines and already are using the textbooks and completing homework successfully! On Friday we held our own simple Olympics after discussing some of the positive character traits they have observed in the Olympians. It was a fun way to practice team skills we use in our classwork.
One important aspect of the homework is the Reading Log. Students need some personal reading time to build their skills. I would like them to return the weekly log each Monday and I will have the new log in the Monday folder. It is graded- based on the % of time read for the requirement of 80 minutes. Parents are asked to sign(or initial) so that your student can receive credit for their task. The most challenging part is making sure to remember to include it in the backpack on Monday. We talked about that aspect in class today. Many students felt that they could be most responsible if they kept it in the planner. Then the planner would be coming home over the weekend, even though, we seldom, if ever have homework on the weekend.
Thank you in advance for supporting the effort to read for enjoyment. We will be telling you about a reading strategy that we are introducing at school, called the Daily 5, which provides personal reading time in the school day and training in selecting and sticking with the books they have in their book box. It has been very successful around the country and we have high hopes of succeeding as well!
Above is a copy of the log if you want to print one for home.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our Supply List

Thank you for the wonderful response to our supply list! We are well equipped and ready to go! One of our compostion books is used for the Friday Letter. Students practice essay skills by writing a weekly letter to their parents about the events of the week. I love reading the letters. We work on them together, but gradually the students write independently on Friday mornings. (Most weeks!) You will see that their viewpoints and expressions are often entertaining and can be touching. At the end of the letter, the student writes :P.S. Please write back! You can respond to your child and they love to read it. Letters are private. Research has shown that writing for an audience is an important part of the growth process in writing. You can encourage your child in this area by letting them know that their Friday Letter is something you look forward to reading!

Here We Go!

We have plans for a great year of learning!!