Monday, December 12, 2016

Homework for the Week of December 12 to December 16

I usually don't do homework this way, but since this is the week before Christmas Break, this made more sense. For homework, I want students to read for at least 20 minutes each night. I also want students to practice memorizing their multiplication tables. On Friday, students will take another timed quiz. The class' goal is to show you growth in the memorization of their multiplication tables by the time Student-led Conferences come around in February.

I would focus on one number each night and have students use After students play a few games, they should go to the "Auto-scored Quizzes" tab at the top of the page ( They can do further work on memorizing their tables and get immediate feedback.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Passing of the Cans Gathering

Thank you to everyone who was able to come to our Passing of the Cans gathering. I have included the short video we made of different ways to pass a can, and a link to the powerpoint presentation of our gathering. The kids did a phenomenal job at gathering. They really worked hard getting their parts correct, practicing reading their parts, and coming up with the order. We only went through our presentation twice before sharing at gathering - that's how good they were!

Now that gathering is over, we can get back to our normal schedule. Here are some of the things we will be working on:

Math - memorizing multiplication tables and multiplication strategies

Science - astronomy

Social Studies - finishing study of Jamestown

Reading - working on nonfiction

Writing - Jamestown DBQ (students have been doing really well with this so far)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

. . . and Other Updates

I wanted to get out a few other updates as to what's going on in class.

Reading: In reading, we are working on nonfiction. We have spent the last week discussing what nonfiction is, finding nonfiction books that appeal to students, and will begin looking at the text features of nonfiction, which may help student's make better sense of nonfiction texts.

Writing: In writing, we are working on lots of writing and editing.

Math: We are now moving into multiplication. In 4th grade, multiplication means knowledge of arrays, factors and multiples, composite and prime numbers, doubling, and solving multiplication problems in a variety of ways. This also means students will need to begin memorizing their multiplication tables to the point of recalling multiplication problems automatically. A good website for this is

Science: In science we are at the end of our weather unit, and will be moving into astronomy.

Social Studies: In social studies, we have been looking at the Age of Exploration. This means studying different explorers such as Leif Erikson, Christopher Columbus, deSoto, Magellan, etc.

Also, our next Friday gathering will be Friday, December 9th. This means our class is in charge of the Passing of the Cans gathering. We would like to begin collecting items for Passing of the Cans.

Zoo Trip and Grandparent's Day . . .

Here are some pictures from our school wide zoo trip. I was having so much fun with the kids, I only got pictures from the class we took:

I also have some pictures from "It's a Grand Day." Everyone had a great time with the grandparents. While we presented a few things to the grandparents, the highlight was explorations with grandparents.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Video from Sphero Chariot

Mary made a stand that connects to the Sphero Chariot. Now we can take video from a moving camera.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Information for the Coming Week . . .

Now that we are back to school, I wanted to get some information to you that might be of importance:

1) Curriculum Night has been rescheduled for Thursday, October 20. We will still meet from 7:00 - 7:45. Since this is our first Curriculum Night, most of the night will be spent going over things such as class schedule, Khan Academy, Google Classroom, etc.

2) Zoo Trip - Field trip forms have gone out for our whole school field trip to the Riverbanks Zoo. Please return these ASAP. Make sure you mark on the form if you plan on chaperoning.

3) National Parks Free Passes - Since your child is a 4th grader, they are entitled to free passes through the U.S. National Park Service. Here is a list of National Parks located in South Carolina.

We finally seem to have caught up on overdue work and are on a roll. Here is a quick list of things we are currently working on:

  • In math, we have moved on to polygons and are studying their characteristics of;
  • In social studies, we are studying the various Native American regions. While learning about these various groups, we are also learning how to find and gather information from non-fiction texts, and record this information using a graphic organizer;
  • In science, we have moved into our study of weather. Right now we are collecting a variety of weather data from various cities all over the globe. At the same time we are taking a deeper look at the water cycle. I am also hoping to have students make time lapse videos of the clouds as a part of our study of the water cycle;
  • In reading, I have been conferring with students during independent reading. I have also been exposing kids to more books in my library in order to broaden the reading genres students read from;
  • In writing, we have focused on indenting, fitting our writing within the margins, and handwriting including using correct capitalization and lower case letters.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

CSI: Forensics in the Classroom

We had a great time participating in the CSI: Forensics in the Classroom. I asked many students what their favorite part of the day, and unanimously, students said the whole thing. Hopefully many of you were able to follow the day through my Twitter account. If not, I am posting a link to the pictures I posted on Twitter, including another 60 pictures I took throughout the day.

Here is the link:

Don't forget that Thursday, October 6 is Curriculum Night. Our Curriculum Night is 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm. In addition to students sharing some of their work, I will spend time discussing some of the incidentals of class life such as homework, how I address behavior, beliefs about teaching and learning, etc. If there is anything you want me to specifically touch upon, please send me an email. There may be something I'm not thinking about that would be beneficial to everyone knowing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

EdVenture Overnight Trip

Thanks to everyone who came out to EdVenture. Everyone had a great time! Here are some pictures from the evening.

On another note, this Friday (or next Monday), our classroom will be taking part in an in-school field trip called CSI: Forensics in the Classroom. A mock crime scene will be set up and students have to inquire, and use their knowledge of science, to solve the crime scene. Some of the things students will do is learn how to fingerprint, collect DNA samples, learn how to use microscopes, and enhance their observation skills. The price of the field trip is $20 per child, but we are not collecting money at this time. Later in the school year, we are taking a field trip to historic Brattonsville. Mrs. Debeaugrine is combining the two field trips so that payments can be made, little by little, through Powerschool. If I'm correct, the total amount due ($45) would not have to be made until the Brattonsville trip, which will be in April.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Some Information for this Week

Dear Families,

I wanted to let you know that I will be absent from the classroom this Thursday, September 15, Friday, Sept. 16, and Monday, Sept. 19. Last week, Debbie Manning, one of mentors and closest friends passed away after battling cancer. I will be flying to California to attend the memorial service on Saturday, September 17.

I would like to share a little about her just so you understand how special she was to me. In 1996, I did my student teaching with Debbie and we had an automatic connection. In the midst of doing my student teaching, I was hired at Dailey Elementary (in California) and worked alongside Debbie for the next 10 years. She mentored me professionally, demonstrated the importance of inquiring alongside children, and instilled in me a love for children's literature. It was at her insistence I move to South Carolina to work with Dr. Mills and the Center for Inquiry, as I earned my Ph.D. I would not be the person I am without her. The local paper in Fresno, CA wrote this article about her passing.

Unfortunately I am leaving during a busy week, having Opening Picnic on Thursday, and our first Friday gathering on Friday. So what does this mean for you? While I will not be at Opening Picnic, my classroom will be open. I will work with the kids to put together several centers in which students will share their work. On Friday, we are still scheduled to have our gathering. While our gathering may be a little short, I will be working with them so they can independently share their work (with the help of a few other adults). I apologize for any inconveniences, but I would never leave for this period of time unless if was important. Debbie was more than my mentor - she was family. How can you help? Please check in with your child each day. Ask them if they are doing their best, listening and helping out the substitute, and being a good friend to their classmates.

Here a few other notes:
1) The reading portion of MAP testing will be on Tuesday.
2) Our sleepover at EdVenture is Friday night, September 23 - 24.
3) We will be participating in CSI: Forensics in the Classroom on either Friday, September 30 or Monday, October 3 (still working on date with Ms. Whitecotton). A mock crime scene will be set up and students will have to use science (forensics) to solve the crime. This is an all day activity run by a former detective. I have been wanting to bring CSI: Forensics in the Classroom for quite some time, and know many other teachers who do this every year because students learn a lot and have great memories of the event. Here is the kicker - the price is $20 per student. This is not cheap, but I have heard from other teachers, including my wife (she teaches 4th grade), that it's worth the price. Permission slips have not gone out yet, so don't worry about payment. I am working with Mrs. Debeaugrine on doing a payment option that will cover this event, and a few other field trips we will do this year. More information will come soon.

Once again, thank you for your understanding during this time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Quick Post for the Upcoming Week

This week we continue to complete assignments left off from last week. We are finishing looking at the different regions of the United States before starting our first project. For this project, students will get into groups and make a poster about one of the regions we looked at. They will share these posters at our gathering next week (Friday, September 16).

Students will also begin sketching out their logos. I will hand out sketchpads for students to draft their personal logos. They will share these logos at our gathering next week.

In math, we are working on measurement. Right now we are working on creating benchmarks that will help us estimate the size of an object. For instance, a forearm is about the size of a foot. We are working on both American and Metric measurements (you will see practice sheets in their homework for this week).

In reading and writing, I am finishing up conferring with students.

For homework, packets will go out today and be returned on Friday.

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 28, 2016


On Monday, August 29,  I will be sending out homework. Since this is the first homework, let me spend a minute explaining how homework works in my classroom.

  1. At the beginning of the week, most likely Monday, I will send home a clear, plastic folder with your child's name on it. In that folder contains a packet of homework.
  2. The first page of the homework is like a calendar and says which homework to do on a particular day. 
  3. Homework packets are not due to me until Friday. Homework packets should be turned into me with the plastic folder. Really . . . I don't want to see the homework until that day! On Friday, we will go through the homework so that I can provide feedback to your child.
  4. Once your child has completed their homework, please sign your name at the bottom of the homework packet, letting me know you have made sure your child completed their work before turning it in. I don't give much homework, but I have high expectations that what I hand out will be completed and returned.
  5. If your child does not finish a piece of homework one night, they can complete it the next night. For instance, if your child has baseball practice and got home late, they can work on it the next day.
  6. Children should NOT finish their homework early. I do not want your child to finish all their work in one night.
I will share with you my professional view of homework so you have some background concerning my expectations towards homework. First and foremost I believe that I am your child's second teacher. You, as parents, are your child's primary teacher. While I have your child for eight hours a day, and am responsible for helping your child explore the world through math, science, reading, writing, and social studies, you are responsible for your child the other 16 hours. In that time, you teach your child so much. As parents, I think we underestimate how much we teach our children because it doesn't look a certain way. If your child is participating in after school sports, helping you in the kitchen, playing with siblings or friends, making a craft, or watching a relative fix the car, they are learning alongside others and you have created the environment for learning to take place. I don't believe in privileging homework over the teaching you do at home and the precious little time you have with your child during the school year.

The homework I send home is usually a review of work in class so it is something your child should be able to independently complete. Of course you can always support them if they have difficulty. If a piece of homework becomes too stressful, your child can receive homework help the next day during explorations. Send a sticky note, send an email, or have your child let me know they need some extra help.

A Few Notes About This Week . . .

Here a few things about the week . . .

1) I will begin sending homework this week. I will make another blog post with more information on how homework works in my class.

2) I have updated the calendar that can be found on the blog (on the right hand side). You will find dates for our upcoming gathering (Friday, September 16), an overnight trip at EdVenture (September 23-24), and an in-school field trip called CSI: Forensics in the Classroom (which I'll talk more about later).

3) As we head into the final week before Labor Day, we continue to establish classroom routines and procedures. While this has led to moments in which I have had to fuss for chattiness (which is to be expected at this point), I am finding that this group is sweet and caring. They have already taken an interest in many of the "making" items I have to offer during explorations. They have also taken an interest in computer programming through Scratch. I can't wait to show them what they can create, and how Scratch ties in with our robots.

4) This week I continue to get to know your children as readers, writers, mathematicians, etc. I have read with just about every child, noted their knowledge of place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions, analyzed some spelling, and will collect a piece of writing to analyze their writing. All this information will provide me a beginning understanding of your child as a learner.

5) We have spent some time looking at the logos businesses use to identify themselves. Students will create their own personal logos, as well as a logo that will symbolize the classroom as a whole. Why look at logos? I find out a lot of information about your child as a person, which helps me meet their needs as learners, creates bonds and builds relationships, and helps the community connect.

During our conversations about logos, students have already identified logos as symbols that carry meaning, and when you observe a particular logo, that logo wants you to think a certain way. For instance, when looking at the FedEx logo, there is a hidden arrow in the white space between the "e" and "x." Students thought this meant that FedEx wants the consumer to know they will get your package to its destination on time, always moving forward, and never backward.

For students to create a personal logos, they will have to reflect on what words describe themselves, and how they identify themselves. As we study more logos, the questions we ask that will help us create these logos will become more refined. I'm hoping to share these logs at our first Friday gathering.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Little Information for the Coming Week . . .

As we move into our first full week of school, I wanted to share some of what I will be focusing on during this time. I will spending this week trying to get to know your child as a reader, writer, mathematician, and historian. Understanding your child as a learner will help me map out short-term and long-term goals

In math, students are working on some math sheets in place value, additions, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions. As I observe their work, I am noticing their attitudes, how much they take risks, knowledge of basic facts, etc.

In history, I want to understand your child's historical thinking. Do they enjoy reading non-fiction? Historical fiction? Do they understand the importance of primary documents? Do they understand the importance of multiple sources? Are they skeptical, and question the validity of various sources, or do they simply believe everything that is stated?

In reading, I want to know what kinds of strategies your child uses as they construct meaning of the texts they read. I want to find out what kinds of books they enjoy reading, specific genres they gravitate towards, and their general attitude towards reading. I'm looking for similar things in writing. I want to know the kinds of strategies your child uses when they write. I want to know what kinds of writing they tend to write, and their general attitudes towards writing. I also want to look at their spelling and the kinds of spelling strategies they use.

All of this information will give me a quick glimpse into your child as a learner. This will help me respond to the needs of your children as we inquire into the world around us.

* I also want to let you know your child came home with two packets. One packet is from me (sorry I forgot to send this out on the first day of school) and shares a little about myself. The other packet needs to be filled out and returned to school ASAP. This packet can be turned into Mrs. Debeaugrine or myself.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Welcome Back . . .

Welcome back to another school year! I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow. I have met your child on numerous occasions over the last year - now I just have to put the name to the face.

The process of getting to know each other may be slow, but hopefully I can help bridge that through communication. While I will try to keep in contact concerning your child's academic and social behavior, please contact me at any time.

I wanted to share some important information that I think you will need as we begin the school year.
  • My primary way of communicating is through email ( I am pretty good about checking my email throughout the day, though I will probably only respond during my special areas time (10:00 - 10:50) or after school. I will also communicate though this blog ( I try to publish on the blog as least once a week. When I do publish, I will send out an email letting you know I have updated the blog. I have links to everything in the signature portion of my email. I also have a class Twitter account ( I use this account to tweet out pictures of projects, especially the "maker" stuff. If you use Twitter, feel free to follow that account. 
  • Snacks - Your child may bring a snack to school, though they definitely don't need to. They will be allowed to eat their snack during our recess break (1:00 - 1:30). As per state and district guidelines, we have to be picky about what kids are allowed to bring for snacks. Please emphasize snacks that are healthy. Birthdays and holidays are no exception. Things like pizza and donuts are no longer allowed. Once again, please be in the mindset of healthy snacks. Before bringing any whole class treat for the class, please contact me. I have to consider allergies and other classroom issues. 
  • Library cards - We will continue visiting the Sandhills branch of the Richland County library until they move. Mrs. Pender has passed library cards on to me. If your child does not have their library card at school, you will want to bring it in the next week or so.
  • I have a little maker space so that kids, during explorations, can build, create, and take apart items in the spirit of inquiry. If at any time you have some of the following items, please feel free to donate them to the classroom: any cardboard (boxes, paper and toilet tubes) and broken, small appliances (to take apart and figure how they work).
I think I might stop there with information before it gets overwhelming. As new information comes to light I will make sure I pass it on to you. And please let me know if you do not receive these emails.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Information for This Week

I wanted to get some information to you this week:

1) There will be no more homework this week and next week

2) I am collecting books from students, to return to my classroom library. If you see any of my personal books at your home, could you please return them back to class.

3) Students need to begin thinking about 5th grade speeches for graduation. If they are interested in speaking, they must have their speech completed by this Friday. Students will share their speech on Friday morning. We will announce speakers later that day.

4) Graduation attire: At the very least, boys are expected to wear khaki pants or slacks with a collard shirt; NO tennis shoes. Anything beyond that, such as ties or bow ties, is even better. Girls dress is much more open ended. I think we are asking for no spaghetti straps, or if you are going to wear spaghetti straps, your child should have some kind of sweater covering the straps. If they are wearing high heels, they should begin bringing them to school to practice walking in.

5) I have included some pictures from last week's CFI share fair and the Maker's Faire at EdVenture. I'll try to post more soon. By the way, the class won a Makers Medal of Merit award from EdVenture. Our class had the youngest sharers, and were one of the few maker's groups there (most of the other groups were selling things). I don't know what the medal exactly meant, but I'm glad the class' hard work was recognized.