Saturday, September 6, 2014

News of the world... Or at least the week

It was another great week here in Room 110. We had our first Genius Hour, which included time to work on the September Makerspace Challenge (ask your maker all about it!). I was reminded by how much fun we can have with cast-offs and thank you so much for your recycling items. Please keep them coming and don't be surprised if you find your kiddo rooting through the blue bins in the garage. This is perfectly normal behavior when they have me for a teacher!

We will spend the rest of the month working on this challenge. Here are some pictures from the first session:

The coming week contains the first Monday of the year. Rapture! We will begin meeting in our Word Study groups on a cascading schedule, meaning that I will work with each different group of students once a week, Monday through Thursday. The rest of the time, they will be working on their own or with their Word Study groups on the week's word work tasks. We will have weekly assessments to make sure that everyone masters the spelling pattern or feature that was the week's focus before moving on to the next word list. Students who were in my class last year or were fourth graders with Mrs. Goetz will be familiar with this model. There will not be spelling homework, but if you would like to quiz your student on the word sort of the week, we can send you home a copy of the list.

A word about Word Study groups, it is inevitable that a student or two will believe they are in the wrong Word Study group. Often, students feel that the words in their sorts are too easy and you might have similar feelings. The developmental spelling approach that I use takes into account whether students have mastered a spelling feature (e.g., consonant blends) or pattern (e.g., adding vowel suffixes) and sometimes some of the words used to practice a given feature or pattern might be words that the student has seen before; they might even be words s/he can already spell correctly. What I am looking for is more than being able to spell a word correctly on a test. I wish for students to be able to use a greater variety of words in their oral and written communication (vocabulary) and for them to be able to understand the mechanics of a correctly spelled word (morphology). Students should also have the ability to generalize spelling "rules" and patterns so that they can spell unknown words using the features of known words (e.g., I can spell "pleasure" because I know "please" and the rule for adding vowel suffixes).

Our Math fall benchmark assessments began on Friday, when we moved into grade level Math groups for the first time. I am getting a better idea of the sixth graders as mathletes as is Ms. Pierpont with the fifth graders. If you have specific questions about fifth grade Math, it is best to contact Ms. Pierpont directly (

During Humanities this week, we will begin talking about immigration and the waves of Europeans who came to this country at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. We will be on our way to learning about how America came to get its rich and diverse culture and explore the idea of "the melting pot" that some people purport our country to be. Along with our close read of the KIDS Discover: Immigration magazine, we will be learning content area vocabulary and close reading strategies. This mentor text will serve as a broad brush to give us content schema so that we can springboard to learning about immigration in deeper ways and through a variety of resources and activities.

The students set up their Reader's and Writer's notebooks last week and this week we are going to begin using them with our Myself As A Reader response to literature protocol. This will involve mini lessons on the skill of making connections to a story, which is a fundamental metacognitive skill. It's one thing to passively read a book; we want to cultivate the kind of reading in which students actively engage with a story, empathize with characters, and use their own experiences to create deeper meaning and understanding. Learning to connect to a text and articulate these connections in writing is an essential skill and one that is usually easy for students to master.

This week, we will have Chorus on Friday afternoon after recess. Students who are interested in trying Chorus under the direction of Miss Carina will report to the Music room for Chorus from 12:25-1pm. There is no audition for Chorus and students can choose not to participate after they have tried it (Miss Carina and I advise trying it at least twice). September will be a trial period and Miss Carina will take off singing with the first (in recent memory, at least) fully-formed MCS Chorus in October after the trial period has ended.

Other special events this week include a PTO Fundraiser kick-off on Wednesday at 11:05am and a scouting presentation at 11:30am during 3rd-6th lunch.

I'll close for now and remind you to ask me about anything that is curious to you. There is a lot going on and I want to make sure that we're always talking to each other!

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