Lights...camera...action! Our classroom has been transformed into a video production studio, and we have been hard at work creating multimedia presentations about magnets and magnetism. Our presentations are designed to both inform and entertain.
What in the World is a Magnet?
We began our study of magnets with three important questions.
Now it was time for exploration and discovery!
Of course the more we learned, the more questions we had! We brainstormed our wonders and identified which ones we could research and which we could investigate. We read articles and watched videos. We designed and carried out investigations. Before we knew it, we had become experts on magnetism! Now it was time to demonstrate our understanding and share our expertise!
A Lesson from Bill Nye
We started by "close reading" a Bill Nye "The Science Guy" video about magnetism. We were specifically watching for presentation techniques that helped to make the video interesting and informative. Next we created a list of these techniques to refer to as we worked on our projects.
Creativity in Action
Now it was time to get our creative juices flowing! We had a list of questions about magnets that we needed to answer within our presentations and creative freedom to decide just how we would present the answers to those questions. We started by creating storyboards on large sheets of paper. We collaborated, compromised, revised, rehearsed and laughed...a lot!
It's All About the iPads
It's truly amazing what you can do with an iPad! We were able to video tape, create animations, make stop motion videos , import green screen backgrounds, and edit our final projects all on an iPad! We used the following apps during the process:
~Tilt Shift Video
We posted iMovie editing options on our whiteboard to help us in our planning.
Our Multimedia Magnet Presentations will be posted here on our class blog as soon as we finish editing them. We only hope you have as much fun watching our presentations as we had making them!
A Note from Ms. Copland: The American Academy of Pediatrics warns us to limit our children's screen time and with good reason. As a parent, I have seen first hand the addictive effects screens can have. In our home, we have had to set clear limits to ensure our children get a healthy dose of fresh air, exercise, creative endeavors, and social interaction. But is all screen time detrimental? Of course not, there are innumerable benefits to technology when used as a tool for learning rather than as a form of entertainment.
Here in our classroom, technology is integrated throughout our day. As a teacher, my job is to make sure technology is used to enhance and extend learning. We use technology to explore, discover, demonstrate, collaborate, communicate, and create. It is also vitally important that I provide students with ample opportunities to do all of these things without the use of technology.
Here's how we find that balance within our Literacy Workshop:
Book Club Reading
Book club partners choose a text together. We peruse our library, share and discuss options, negotiate and make decisions based on what makes sense for both readers. During the week, we consult with one another to determine chapter assignments. We read these chapters independently and jot down our noticings and thinking in our reading notebooks. On Thursdays, we write letters to our partners sharing our thoughts about the text. On Fridays, we have face-to-face "Dynamic Discussions" during our book club meetings.
Technology Integration: Throughout the week, book club members post their thinking online using Edmodo. This online discussion forum allows us to share our thinking and respond to one another without interrupting independent reading time. When we meet on Friday's, our discussions are enhanced by the exchanges that have occurred on Edmodo during the week.
We read independently every day. Independent reading books are self selected based on our individual preferences. We keep careful records of our reading to make sure we are reading from a wide variety of genres. On Thursdays, our Morning Meeting discussion prompt is "What are you reading?" Partners engage in lively book chats and recommend titles. We post our book recommendations as well as favorite book quotes on our classroom Graffiti Wall.
Each week, reading groups made up of 3-5 students select an informational article to read over the course of the week. Group members take turns reading with "pizzaz," paraphrasing, clarifying, elaborating, wondering, and determining important ideas as they "close read" the text. Together group members generate a reading response writing prompt based on the article and their interests. We write our responses making sure to include details from the text.
Examples of student generated writing prompts:
~ How can humans help save pandas?
~ How do raptors raise their young?
~ How do the world's deadliest predators hunt?
Once a week, each student completes an online "Virtual Reading Conference," and each reading group completes an online "Reading Group Check-in" using Google forms. These forms provide our teachers with valuable information about our reading. The information collected is then used to help our teachers differentiate small group instruction and individualize face-to-face conferences.
We have developed quite a writing community here in our classroom! Using mentor texts and prompts, we engage in "Quick Writes" to increase writing fluency and stamina and to generate writing topic ideas. During our Writing Workshop, we plan draft, revise, edit, and publish individual pieces and collaborative writing projects. We share our ideas, confer, and provide feedback to one another throughout the process.
We draft our pieces in Microsoft Word and publish our finished work using Kid Blog. Each day we celebrate "Featured Bloggers" by reading their posts and leaving thoughtful and specific comments. Blogging enhances our learning by providing each writer with an immediate audience and a clear purpose for our writing.
Let's face it, technology is here to stay. It is important that we use technology in responsible and meaningful ways and see technology as a tool rather than just a form of entertainment. Check out the following link to learn more:
Over the course of only a few days mountains of snow had piled up outside our school. How could we engage in meaningful learning and have some wintry fun? This was the perfect opportunity for an "Igloo" design challenge!
We began our study of technology this year with a big thinking question.
"What is technology?
We brainstormed and webbed out our ideas. Computers, iPhones, and gaming systems dominated our list. When someone added "paperclips," some students disagreed while others began to revise their thinking. Another student suggested that a wagon is an example of technology; now the discussion became really interesting! Ms. Copland pulled out a small wooden jewelry box filled with technology. She held up a staple remover, a glue stick, and a rubber band-all examples of technology. After a "Dynamic Discussion," we decided that technology is anything designed to solve a problem or meet a need, and engineers use the design process to create technology. For our design challenge, We would become teams of engineers and design and build snow shelters.
To prepare for the challenge, we conducted research. We watched "how to" videos and read informational articles.
The Design Process
First each student "engineer" wrote a letter to their design team outlining their ideas for building. Before collaborating, each team exchanged and read letters to ensure that everyone's ideas were heard and considered. Now it was time to get to work. We brainstormed ideas, drafted our designs, then headed outside to build.
Once outside, we scouted out our building sites and got to work. Some teams decided to take the"igloo" approach using plastic containers to create blocks of snow for building. Other teams opted to dig out "snow caves."
Along the way, we thought about what was working well and problem solved our way through challenges. We revised our plans and redesigned as needed. Some groups discovered that engineers design processes as well!
Alas it was time to head inside after a long day's work. We were proud of our efforts and had managed to learn quite a bit about the design process along the way!
Now that we were experts, it was time to share our expertise! Check out a few of our "How To" blogs for great tips on how to build the perfect snow shelter! Enjoy!
Let's face it, traditional math algorithms can be both efficient and effective when used correctly. But with all that carrying, borrowing, and bringing down, students (and many adults!) don't always know why they are doing what they are doing. We stop thinking about the numbers and their real life context as math is reduced to steps and formulas. That's why we begin math each day with "Number Talks." During our Number Talks, we demonstrate our flexibility and understanding of numbers as we solve equations. We use place value understanding and our knowledge of the associative, commutative, and distributive properties. We take numbers apart (or decompose) and put numbers together to create landmark of "friendly numbers." We share strategies, explain, defend and sometimes revise our thinking. Of course we still learn and use the traditional algorithms as well!
Pick the Perfect Problem
Here's how it works: First a student chooses our unit of the day (cupcakes and candy are quite popular!). Next Ms. Copland writes several problems on the board. Each student chooses at least one "right fit" problem and solves on their individual white board. Finally volunteers share solutions and explain their strategies. Take a look at our Number Talks in action:
You can check out some of our Number Talk strategies here:
Students are spread out around the room. Some sit at their desks updating their reading records or jotting down their thinking before nestling back into their books. Others stretch out on our "Groovy Grape" rug, books propped before them in various positions. Book club partners sit head to head in quiet corners sharing their noticings, wonderings, and predictions. A few students sift through book containers searching for their next read. They pass books back and forth enthusiastically recommending books to one another. Teachers confer with individual students. They marvel as students dig deep and share their thinking. Suddenly the book bell rings. Everyone pauses to give a silent shout out to the reader who proudly holds up the book he has just completed. Another student eagerly snatches up the much sought after title. This is what reading looks like in our classroom.
We started our reading year with the question "Why Read?" Once we established the motivation to read, we worked hard to build our reading community.
What We Do
We get excited about books in our classroom. Together we explore our classroom library, chat about books, make recommendations, and create "Books to Read" lists. We pass our favorite books around the classroom, and hold lotteries for the most highly sought after titles. We watch live webcasts and get books signed by our favorite authors.
This year in our classroom each one of is striving to read at least 40 books spanning different genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, traditional literature, poetry, informational texts, biographies, graphic novels, and picture books. We choose our own books and keep careful records of books read. We check in often to reflect and set goals.
As we read, we use thinking strategies to "dig deep" into the text. We notice, wonder, predict, connect, visualize, and figure out (infer). We explore setting, plot, theme, character, and author's craft. We "capture" our thinking in our reading notebooks and share during conferences and book club discussions both live and online.
We are reading tons! More than many of us dreamed possible! Our genre bar graphs are filling up quickly. We are choosing more complex texts and digging deeper than ever! We are well on our way to becoming the best readers we can be and life-long lovers of reading!
Recent Reads and Classroom Favorites:
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Over the past few years, I have read several books which helped shape our Reading Workshop. I have been so inspired by these teachers' passion for teaching reading. Much of what we are doing in the classroom is based on their practices. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon these amazing teachers and their inspirational books!
There are many different kinds of "smarts." We need social smarts in order to make friends, connect with others, and feel like we belong. Our words and actions affect those around us. Showing interest in others and thinking about how others feel doesn't always come easy. When we act in "unexpected" ways, the people around us have "uncomfortable" thoughts. In David Goes to School by David Shannon, David spends the day wreaking havoc in his classroom. His exasperated teacher utters the phrase, "No, David!” over and over again. David is seemingly unaware of the effects of his behavior on his unfortunate classmates.
With a picture of David and a classmate projected on to our whiteboard, we add thought bubbles and brainstorm David's classmate's uncomfortable thoughts. We decide David needs clearly defined expectations and reminders to use his social smarts, so that he can be successful and his classmates can feel safe and comfortable around him.
After reading David Goes to School, we agree that every classroom needs a set of clear and reasonable expectations. Promises we can make to one another to ensure that all members of the community feel safe, comfortable, and successful.
We ponder this important question:
**To begin the process we consider the following:
1. What kinds of student behaviors will make our classroom an uncomfortable place to be?
2. What kinds of student behaviors are important for making our classroom a safe, happy, and fun place?
3. What kinds of teacher behaviors will make our classroom an uncomfortable place to be?
4. What kind of teacher behaviors are important for making our classroom a safe, happy, and fun place?
5. What kind of behaviors drive you completely crazy in a classroom?
6. What promises can we make to one anther in order to make this the best year ever?
In small groups, we rotate around the classrooms jotting down our responses to these questions on large sheets of paper. Each person has a different color marker, so we can be sure everyone's thinking is represented. Next we read our classmates' ideas and comment back. We can agree, disagree, give an example, or ask a question.
Now it's time to "close read" our responses. We look for patterns and similarities, and we record our noticings and realizations. We write down the big ideas on sentence strips and work in small groups to combine these ideas into paragraphs. Finally, the teachers take all the drafts and combine them into one draft. We look over this draft together and make a few revisions before printing out our final draft. Here's what we came up with:
It was important that the class work together to establish these expectations, so that everyone felt valued, invested, and represented. The promises we made will have an impact on our classroom community every day throughout the school year!
*To learn more about social thinking visit Michelle Garcia Winner's website at socialthinking.com
**Thanks to Bill Ferriter for sharing this process!
There's a whole lot of learning going on in our classroom! We have been designing and carrying out scientific investigations, working with place value into the millions, engaging in "Number Talks" to share our mathematical thinking, developing close reading strategies, engaging in quick writes to build writing fluency and stamina, and the list goes on!
We are also learning about learning.
We discuss how to be an effective learner, and how to take responsibility for our learning. We realize that in order to "Grow Our Brains," we have to take risks and persevere through challenges. We recently "Close Read" two videos that led to deep thinking and eye-opening discussions about our role as learners. Our discoveries impact our thinking and learning everyday in our classroom.
The Broken Escalator
The "Broken Escalator" video reminds us to look at a problem carefully and recognize when we have the ability to solve on our own. We ask, "How can we get ourselves off the broken escalator?" We take pride in our abilities as we "find our way" independently.
~What does it feel like to work hard?
~What does it take to produce quality work?
~How can we feel proud of the work we do?
We watched "Austin's Butterfly" then brainstormed a list of strategies to help us work hard and produce quality work.
We use the "Butterfly Scale" to make decisions about the level of effort needed whenever we begin a new task. We ask where do we want this work to fall on the butterfly scale? Why? What do we need to do to get there? We stop to monitor along the way and make adjustments when needed.
Working hard and the sense of accomplishment that goes along with it feels great!
Vashti is a reluctant artist. When her teacher says, "Just make a mark and see where it takes you," Vashti begrudgingly jabs a dot on to her paper. The teacher asks Vashti to sign her creation. The next day Vashti finds her "masterpiece" hanging on the wall behind her teacher's desk in a gold frame. Vashti realizes she can do better and proceeds to create a gallery of "dot" masterpieces using splashes and swirls of color.
International Dot Day is a celebration of creativity inspired by The Dot written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. It is a day to think about ways in which we can use our special talents to make the world a better place.
Here in our classroom, Dot Day became Dot Week! We read three Peter Reynold's books that inspired our creativity and got us thinking about how each one of us can make a difference. We decided that "reading is thinking" and by thinking deeply as we read, our brains get smarter. As Ms. Copland blew bubbles, we pondered the question:
"How is blowing bubbles like thinking?"
Here's what we came up with:
Just as we tried to capture the bubbles as they came quickly, one after another, we wanted to capture and hold on to our thinking as we read. We recorded our thinking" as we read The following books:
We discovered the authors' "Big Ideas" (themes) along the way:
~Believe in yourself
~Think outside the box
~One person can make a difference
We created our own dots to represent the ways in which we can each "make our mark" on the world.
Finally, we read this parable about an old man who makes a difference.
Peach dangles on a tree limb above the pond. She is ripe, juicy, and ready for picking; her days are coming to an end. Below, a blue-bellied toad is startled by the tear drops that fall like rain from the tree above. How will these two unlikeliest of friends help one another see the world in a whole new way?
This beautiful picture book written by Sarah Kilborne and illustrated by Steve Johnson leads to a thoughtful and insightful discussion about strengths and challenges. Blue uses his ability to problem solve to help Peach down from the tree, build her a floating nest of leaves, and help her see a world she has never seen before. Peach, in turn, uses her gift with words and her ability to appreciate true beauty to help Blue "see" his world in a new light. We have to "think outside of the box" to understand how Blue becomes Peach's "legs" and Peach becomes Blue's "eyes." Each character uses their strengths to help the other with their challenges.
Through discussion and an invigorating movement activity, we realize that we all have strengths and challenges. We raise our right hands and promise to use our strengths to help others with their challenges and allow others to do the same for us.
Strengths and challenges come in many different forms not just the traditional "school
smarts." While some of us struggle with reading, writing, or math, others find it difficult to make friends, take risks, or see someone else's point of view. The list of strengths and challenges goes on and on. By appreciating our own strengths and recognizing our own challenges, we can begin to connect and empathize with others. We can also begin the important work of setting individual goals and making explicit plans for improvement.
Let the learning begin!
First Day Jitters
The buses pull up to the curb. Doors slide open, and children with fresh haircuts and brand new sneakers climb off. Weighed down by backpacks stuffed full of school supplies, they find their places in line. Beneath the friendly smiles, shy grins, and steely gazes, we can sense our new students' excitement and anxiety. Feelings we recognize because we are feeling the same way. A new school year and an overwhelming sea of new faces-what lies in store for the year ahead?
As teachers, we know our new students come to us
with apprehension. Will I know anyone in my
class? Will I make new friends? Will my teachers be nice? Will I feel comfortable? Our students need to feel a sense of belonging. They need to feel comfortable and safe in order to take the risks necessary for learning. They need to feel valued for their strengths and their uniqueness and feel supported when it comes to their challenges. Taking the time to develop a sense of community within the classroom is the most important thing we can do to start off the school year. The time invested now pays off every single day throughout the year.
Getting to Know You
The first thing we did on the first day of school was get to work! Some students created sculptures, others made posters or filled out questionnaires. It was important to offer choice, so all students could find a "Just Right" way to express themselves.
Over the next several days we used our creations as a springboard for "Dynamic Discussions" during our concentric circle share. First, the teachers role-played a less than dynamic discussion; students were quick to make suggestions for improvement. Next, we brainstormed a "Recipe for Dynamic Discussions."
Now we were ready to begin! We formed two circles, one inside the other. Each person on the inner circle turned to face someone on the outer circle. Partners took a few minutes getting to know one another before rotating to the next partner. We stopped frequently to assess our discussion skills. We added to our "Recipe" and revised where needed. Somewhere along the way we realized it feels really good when someone listens carefully to what we have to say and shows interest by asking questions. We realized certain kinds of questions led to more interesting discussions. We brainstormed a list of these "Deep Thinking Questions" for reference. We will continue to add to this list as the year progresses.
It took several Morning Meetings, but by the time we finished, we had each had the opportunity to get to know everyone of our classmates!
We are off to a great start and well on our way to becoming a caring community of learners!
I hope you are enjoying a summer full of fun in the sun and adventure, I know I am! I have been swimming in the icy cold ocean, hunting for hidden treasures on long sandy beaches, hiking rugged wooded trails, exploring new and exciting places, and unraveling real-life mysteries! Summer is so much fun!
As much as I love summer, I can’t wait to begin our fourth grade adventure together! This year we will wonder, explore, discover, and create. We will become scientists and researchers exploring our interests and passions, mathematicians making amazing mathematical discoveries, adventurers uncovering history and discovering the world, engineers solving problems and creating technology, and writers sharing what matters most.
Get ready to read this year! We will read books that excite us. Books that take us to magical places, books that transport us back in time or
far into the future. Books about characters we love or real-life people who inspire us. Books that make us laugh out loud or move us to tears. We will chat about books, recommend books, and share books. Just wait until you see our classroom library; you won’t believe how many books we have to choose from! What books will you choose to read this year?
You will have two teachers this year. Ms. Marcus and I have been working around the clock to get our classroom ready, but no matter how much we decorate, organize, and plan, it will not be complete until you are here. On the first day of school we will begin the very important work of creating our classroom community together. How do you want our room to look and feel? What would you like us to know and understand about you? What are your interests? What are you curious about? What do you want to explore? What is most important to you?
I can’t wait to start learning about you. If you would like, you can send me a letter or an email and tell me about yourself, a picture would be great too! You can even leave a message for us right here on our class website by clicking on the word "comments"! (Please check with a parent first).
Ms. Marcus and I will be waiting outside for you when you arrive on the 27th. Please bring a healthy snack and a favorite book to share. I am so excited to begin our adventure together!
Who we are:
What We Are
~Geometry:polygons, measuring and drawing angles, symmetry
Measurement: area and perimeter
~Number Talks: Finding differences using an open number line
~Close Reading informational text
~paraphrasing, clarifying, elaborating
~identifying important ideas
~supporting ideas with textual evidence
~Building fluency and stamina through quick writes
~Using clear and precise language
~Genres: Informational, opinion, narrative, and poetry
~Magnets and magnetism
~Designing and carrying out scientific investigations
~The Southwest Region