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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fourth Grade September Newsletter

Hi everyone.

We are off to a wonderful start of school! Firstly let me say that Sara and I think that your children are just fabulous!  While we had a bumpy start with the buses, things improved last week and we have settled into a nice routine. During the first week, children traded stories about summer trips and camps as everyone found their seats and navigated our classroom space.  Although half the group was new to us, but because our groups often mixed for lunch and certain projects, such as our Mathemagic Show, there was an immediate feeling of familiarity.  

Our first (short) week was devoted to setting up organizational structures in the classroom and getting to know one another. Gathering information about our community is really crucial work, as it sets the tone for all the work we'll do this year together.  Sara and I both believe that teaching and learning springs forth from the relationship between teachers and students and among the students themselves.  

For example, during the first week we explored the concept of what Carol Dweck calls “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” her book, which the staff read for our professional development this year.  While Sara and I didn’t use those terms specifically, we asked the group to think about things they like to do in their free time. They generated a myriad of skills and pastimes, everything from Monopoly to playing the drums to rock climbing.  After this brainstorm we asked children to think about how often they practiced these skills of their own free will, compared to things they don’t like doing.  In every case, they agreed that there is a huge difference between the two categories in their motivation and in the time they spend practicing.  

Dweck’s thesis is basically that many of us, often from a very young age, will cast ourselves as being either “good” or “bad” at something (fixed mindset), rather than seeing each experience as an opportunity to further develop a skill (growth mindset).  I think we can all readily accept that negative self-beliefs wreak havoc on one’s self-esteem and performance, but interestingly, Dweck provided quite a lot of data that “positive” self-beliefs in some cases can actually be just as detrimental, because people become so scared of losing their identity that they don’t take risks.  For example, if a child hears that s/he is “good at math” for years when things are coming easily to him/her, how will the child react later when they suddenly receive a poor grade?  If the pattern repeats itself, some children may flip their belief and sadly decide that they must be “bad” at math after all.  Others may blame the teacher or the course.
Still others do work harder, but all while nursing secret shame.

Enter growth mindset.  We spoke with the children about the evidence showing that, while some skills will come easier than others for each of us, growth is really about our willingness to jump in, work hard, and, as one of our students said, “smile through the frustration.”  Sara and I used ourselves as examples quite frequently, as we have some developed skill areas that overlap, but many that don’t.  Children made Wordles of the skills they liked to practice, and chose one that they didn’t that they wanted to really work to improve.  
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They even came up with a plan as to how they would do it.  They recorded their plan in these shoe drawings in honor of Sara’s summer skill work: walking 500 miles across Spain!  Many of us who consider ourselves quite skilled walkers, would surely be humbled by that undertaking.Displaying 20140916_112718.jpg

This week, we will ask you all to build upon this discussion with your child during a homework activity we call “Table Talk.”  Was there something you decided you were “bad” at and either avoided or gave up on?  Was there something you had thought you couldn’t do, but later realized you could?  On the flip side, was there ever a time when believing you were “good” at something held you back from taking risks or improving upon your skills? How do you motivate yourself to work on things that you don’t really like to do?  Look for a sheet in this week’s homework.  I will be very interested to hear how the discussions go!

Another question to talk over with your child: can you exclude by including? We believe that you can, so today during our drama work with Carol children created scenes that demonstrated this "accidental" unkindness, which we have seen recently here and there. Children realized that talking about a play date in front of other children (who are not invited), asking to eat lunch next to certain children, and having "best friend" time can inadvertently make others feel isolated. Please talk to your child about this and reinforce how important it is to be aware of people around us, and to be tuned into how we can make others feel welcome.

During the first few days of school we read an amusing "evil librarian" story called The Legend of Spud Murphy (who clearly does not bear any resemblance to our Amy!). Last week we kicked off our study of ancient Egypt with the book The Red Pyramid, a humorous and action-packed fantasy that incorporates interesting information about ancient Egyptian mythology and geography. The group really seems to be enjoying it so far and have repeatedly begged for more read aloud time.

We have also begun our first math unit, multiplication and division.  To see and touch multiplication concepts, children have been building arrays, rectangular and square arrangements of repeated blocks of numbers.  On Friday we combined math and social studies when we asked groups to build a pyramid using blocks of sugar cubes. While initially the groups assumed the task would be a simple one, they soon realized that some planning had to be done to ensure they didn’t run out of cubes.  For example, one group made a 12 by 15 cube base (which is an example of an array), and we realized that this base alone would need 180 cubes!  Since each box contained about 200, the group realized they needed to scale back.Displaying 20140912_113745.jpg

We have also begun reading and writing workshop.  In writing workshop, we are focusing on getting into the routine of regular writing, brainstorming, and giving and receiving feedback.  Children are creating pieces of short prose or poetry based on mini-lessons and mentor text examples. They are sharing their work with each other and learning to give and receive constructive feedback. In reading workshop, we have tried to get a sense of where each child is and what reading level feels right for them through half group mini-lessons and one-on-one assessments. We also began using the mentor text The Chalkbox Kid to think about using evidence from texts to support our ideas.

We’ll be taking our first field trip to the ancient Egyptian wing of the UPenn Museum on October 1.  We’ll leave at 9 and should be back at school by 1:30.  We would love to have 2 van drivers and one other driver.  Let me know if you are interested!

I have received completed questionnaires from only a few of Hilary and Diana’s families (J.B, A.H.-M., M.M., S.M.,, and possibly someone I am forgetting - you know who you are.)  Could everyone else please email me your responses to the following questions as soon as possible?
  • What do you see as your child’s academic and socio-emotional strengths?  Areas of need?
  • What areas of need did you and/or Hilary focus on last year?  What supports, if any, are in place for your child in these areas?
  • What goals do you have for your child this year?
  • Is there anything else I should know?

Also, if you haven't sent in two pairs of spare clothes (one summer, one fall), it would be lovely if you could do so.  Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Sara and I will share much more about our curriculum on Back to School Night on September 23rd. We look forward to seeing you. If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact Sara or me about anything.

Warmest, Sarah

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

News from Sarah and Sara's Group

Greetings, everyone!  Please enjoy our most recent newsletter, written by members of our group.
Sarah and Sara

Colonial Potluck Celebration and Museum Exhibits

Different people in our class are making exhibits for our potluck party. We have been studying colonial America and different jobs people had back then. These are some examples of some of the topics we studied: silversmith, paper making, innkeepers, blacksmith, hunting and trapping animals, schools, and games in the colonial times. We are going to be having the younger kids come and go to each part.

For an example, printers are going to make paper and the people who studied colonial children will have people play colonial games. Other activities people are doing include: write with quill, shoe the horse game, hoop spear, and a lot more activities.  Join us on Thursday, May 22 at 6 PM for our potluck!


In math, we have been studying fractions. For example, we learned how to change mixed numbers into improper fractions and improper fraction into mixed numbers. Also we've been making fractions into its simplest form. To get fractions into its simplest form you take the greatest common factor of the two numbers. For example 5/10. The greatest common factor of those two numbers is 5, so you figure out how many times 5 goes into 5 which is 1 then you figure out how many times 5 goes into 10 which is 2, So your answer is 1/2. 

We also have been turning fraction into percentages. Both the third graders and the fourth graders have been learning about fractions at their own speed. Learning about fractions has helped us in the scale paper airplanes that we have been making. The fractions are a big help for lots of things we do. We could say someone ate 6 out of 12 pieces of pizza or we could say 1/2 pieces of pizza - that's also called reducing. How about a pool? 1 lap is equal to 25 yards, 2 laps 50 yards, 3 laps 75 yards, 4 laps 100 yards. 1/4 is 25 yards, 2/4 also 1/2 is 50 yards, 3/4 is 75 yards. 4/4 also a whole is 100 yards. The 4th graders have been playing is closer to 0, a 1/2, or 1. How you play is you get a fraction, say its 5/8, and you decide which of the three it is closer to. 5/8 that is closer to 1/2 because 4/8 is a half and 5/8 is pretty close to 4/8 so it's a half.    

By H.M and A.C.D        
Dream Room Blog

In our half groups we made mini scaled dream rooms. We had to find the area, width, length and height of the furniture and the room. We worked in partners and began the process by “buying” our furniture and gadgets online at stores like Home Depot, Target, and Lowes.  After we ‘bought’ all of our furniture, we had to find jobs and earn “money” in case we spent all of our budget, which was 3,000 dollars. Some jobs we chose were: singers, mechanics, dancers, basically whatever our dream job was.  We made mini scaled models of furniture and built a small room out of balsa wood.  We used clay and balsa wood to design our furniture.  We decorated them using paint and felt. We ended up with gorgeous miniature dream rooms.
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The Geometry of Airplanes

After our dream room project we have been making paper airplanes to learn about angles like obtuse, acute, and right.  After we made the planes, we labeled the angles. We also measured angles with a protractor. Later we will make airplanes out of balsa wood and study how flight works. In 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the first plane that stayed up. On the first try the plane flew for twelve seconds and went 120 feet.

Cinco De Mayo

On Monday, May 5th 2014 our class celebrated Cinco De Mayo. In Spanish this means, fifth of May. It is a celebration of  Mexican heritage and pride. This day commemorates the  Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867).

In our class we made dulce de leche cheesecake, chosen by our group. Yum yum! We also sampled guacamole and made maracas.
by P.H. N.Y.

   P.E. Update
In P.E we have been working on skills, for example these: Dribbling, shooting baskets, volleying, throwing, catching, and so on. Our P.E teacher  Lisa teaches us all of those skills. In her class we have a lot of fun! We have been playing games such as: knock-em and block-em, castle ball, ultimate frisbee, everybody’s it, raid tag, and more. Lisa plays games with us that don't make the less experienced kids feel bad. M.K. said that P.E. is super duper ultimate AWESOME. Z.P. said P.E. is his favorite thing and also that it’s AWESOME.         

It’s Miquon Grass Time!

Miquon Grass is a yearly book of stories and poems that all of the students, nursery to the sixth grade contribute to.  For the last two weeks, our class has been working on our Miquon Grass stories. We’ve written a huge variety of stories, some from projects, some from homework, and some just written for fun. Currently, Sarah and Sara are reading people’s work to the class. Once they’ve read someone’s story aloud, we do illustrations and once everyone is done, Sara and Sarah will take the stories to Tammy and she will put them in the book. Everyone’s story is awesome. Here is a part of R.R.’s story.

I woke up one midnight cold and shivering. there was thunder outside. Peach Fuzz, my cat,lay by the foot of my bed, as always. I brought Peach Fuzz to the front of the bed and stroked his head,which was as soft as cashmere. I did this until he fell asleep. I didn’t name him for his fur, for it was all black and gray but for the fuzzy peach colored splotches that appeared in front of my face as he meowed or purred. His fur was not peach, but for a long time I thought that seeing colors that weren’t there was perfectly normal, it wasn’t until later that I found out most other people did not see the colors I saw. I later found out that my condition was called synesthesia.

This year’s Miquon Grass will be great! Everyone worked so hard on their stories and poems,and they should be proud of their work.  Awesome job to R.R and everybody else who contributed!

City of Ember

The book we have been reading as a class is called City of Ember written by Jeanne DuPrau. This is a story about a girl named Lina and a boy named Doon. They live in a city where the sky is always dark. There is nothing but the city as far as the characters know but some of them believe there is more to their world then they know. We are at the part where Lina has found a document that may or may not be important to the story.  The document was ripped by Lina’s sister. When every boy or girl turns 12 they get assigned to a job. Lina gets a job to deliver messages.
            This is a picture of the cover. THE-CITY-OF-EMBER-deluxe-cover.jpg
by  M.H and  Z.A

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Newsletter

Greetings, everyone! Here is our March newsletter, written by children from our group. Next week, Sara and Lisa will take over while I meet with families for conferences. Sara and Lisa chose an "Olympics" theme for their work next week. The group is really excited!
Sarah (and Sara)

Marble Party
In order to have a class party, we needed to fill a jar up to 1,000 ml of marbles. We earned marbles by cleaning the classroom and organizing ourselves during a countdown. We also earn marbles on how well we were doing music class. This took us 7 months to happen.
This upcoming Friday, we will be having a movie, pajama, dessert buffet, stuffies party! We voted on watching either Despicable Me Two or Wipeout. We will be making doughnuts with stations for toppings. After the movie and sweets, we will make clothes for our stuffies or play board games.
By R.R.

Harris Burdick Stories
4069053.gifOur class did a series of stories based on fourteen pictures and captions, made by an unknown and mysterious author named Harris Burdick. Chris Van Allsburg, a well known author, showcased the known information and captions in a book called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. The information tells of the publisher’s office that Harris Burdick went to and him showing his pictures to the publisher. The publisher loved the pictures and asked him to come back the next day. He didn’t come for weeks, and months, and the publisher frantically looked for more information about Harris Burdick, but he couldn’t find any. People tied to find out the mystery of who Harris Burdick was by looking for clues on the internet. Two children found out that there was no Harris Burdick,but that it was really Chris Van Allsburg the whole time.

Colonial Simulation
In simulation, we pretend  that we are colonists from three different countries Amsterdam, England and Germany. We left these countries because of religious persecution and  to make a new life in the new world, America.
We chose three boats to set sail, picked farm animals, people, weapons, food, tools and clothing for our journey. Once we set sail, each group would pick out of special envelopes to see how many miles we travel and what our colonists experience on the boat, good or bad.
There is a lot of math that goes into this simulation. For example, once our groups know how many miles we sailed, we subtract it from the miles left to travel. Another example of math practice is when the people eat units of food we must subtract it from each person and farm animal. 

We made miniature boats to scale out of paper, foam and cloth. This also had a lot of math in it.
Once we landed we had to find somewhere to settle. Again, we pick out of bags to see how much food people get, the weather, general welfare and sometimes we get bonuses! Each simulation day, we find another area to settle, but some areas are Lenape territory so we cant.
There is a lot left in our simulation, we will update  you soon!       
M.H         O.B.F

Mini Courses
The mini courses were four square with Lisa, Legos with Diego, cupcakes with Sara and Hillary. Kids in the  cupcake mini course designed their own cupcakes and they made a giant minion from Despicable Me.  Connie and Sue had a sewing course, writers group was with Sarah and Diane, and rainbow loom was with Amy.  They made rainbow loom bracelets like starburst fish tail and stuff like that. Sara said in her cupcake mini course they made cupcakes and made their own recipes. In four square they played four square and they sometimes played  knockout. In sewing they made stuff out of fabric.  In cartooning with Anne they sat around and did cartooning and drawing in their sketchbooks.  In writers group they wrote their own stored and the end they had hot chocolate. In Lego they built their own structures.

By D.Z. and D.G.strawberry-lemonade-cupcake-7.jpg

By HM and ZA

Mathemagic is a math show we performed with tricks for each math trick. Here are seven of the tricks: the 11’s trick part 1, 11’s trick part 2, Magic Square, 5’s trick, Leapfrog Addition, Missing Digit, and Calendar Trick. The 11’s trick part 1 works by a helper handing out cards that have problems like 11 X 54 =  ? Then the mathemagicians separate the 5 and 4.  For example, 5_4 then you add up the 5 and 4 to get 9, then put the 9 in the middle of 5 and 4 to get your answer. The answer of 11 X 54 is 594.

The 11’s trick part 2 works by the mathemagicians calling on a person in the audience. That person then has to think of 11 X a two digit number. For example 11 X 98. The 11’s trick part 2 is harder because you might need to regroup. For example, with  9_8 you need to add up 9 and 8, which is 17.   You break up 17 in to 10 and 7. Then you take the 7 put it in between the 10 and 8. The answer is 1078.

Next is Magic Square look down at the magic square to figure out.  First you chose a number between 22 and 99. All the corners, diagonally, and up and down will equal your target number.  Then say your number is 54 you subtract 54 - 20 to fill in the high left corner. Then fill in the multiples of 9. Then in the spaces that don’t have any a’s or multiples you put 9, 10, 11, 12. Now do a’s. You fill in them by taking 34  -/+ 34 depending on the symbols. Here is a video to help you learn. The 5’s trick is easy once you learn some hard multiplication problems. For the 5's trick people can multiply any two-digit numbers ending in 5 by themselves, meaning squaring them. The trick is that you know the answer will end in "25." To find the digits to put in front of the 25, you take the digit in the problem that is not 5 and multiply it by the next consecutive digit. For example, in 35 x 35, 3 x 4 = 12. Then add 25 to the 12, so the answer is 1,225.

Target number =54














6        4


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Dream Room Project

We are making dream rooms.We design an imaginary room in a house and we can’t go over our budget which is $3,000.We try to make a very, very good room that would be in a house. Most people thought it was fun.  I, A.E. designed a cool basement.  It has a couch from Lowes and a bunk bed from IKEA.782359130880lg.jpg
I, M.K. designed a living room with a flat screen TV and a electric fireplace from Home depot.