As with every new year, I always enjoy reflecting on the tremendous growth of each 3rd grader. I have been so amazed with how each child has grown and matured socially, emotionally, and academically. Prior to the break, 3rd graders reflected on their “gifts” they have to offer the world. Each student is truly a gift to me, and I thank you for sharing your child with me each day.

The year will start off with much excitement as the 3rd graders put the finishing touches on their expert informational writing pieces. The 3rd grade writers have immersed themselves in the traits of strong informational writing, using their individualized goals to set the work they do in writing each day. The students will share their published books during our “Expert Fair Writing Celebration” on Friday, January 13th.

This month we will travel back in time to learn about the history, food, and culture of the Ancient Romans. Our unit ends with our Ancient Rome culmination, consisting of a performance, art and food!


Our current studies of the civil rights movement continues to progress. Students are busy taking notes and making connections of the importance of clear note-taking skills and the benefits for learning. We have been focusing on the non-violent protests and the successes enjoyed from the efforts of so many people, black and white, to push for equality. It’s interesting to me, each year when I teach this unit, how far our society has come since the 1960’s in working towards equality. One great example is how our students simply cannot imagine why a group of people would have their rights systematically denied simply because of skin color. Seems to me the future of humanity looks brighter with each passing generation. As we continue in our studies the students will be focusing on writing a short biography of their chosen character and creating a video presentation following a small core of requirements. Beyond the basics, the video will be up to the student to show their creativity in presenting the importance of their character in civil rights as well as their interpretation of their character’s most important contribution.

Language Arts

The 8th graders continue to impress with their insights as we finish “The Rock & The River” as well as their curiosity and thoughtful compassion as they explore and reflect on the Civil Rights Movement. After break, we will transition our “Challenge of the Hero” focus from the novel to a personal narrative in which students write about a person who has made a difference in their own lives. This can be a challenging essay for students to write, as it is deeply personal (last year they wrote a personal narrative, but from the point of view of a historical figure from the 1920s/30s), but I have no doubt that this group of kids will rise to the occasion.

As we head into the New Year, it is important to reflect upon all of the tremendous growth the 4th grade class has made since September. I am so proud of their hard work, caring ways, and most of all their enjoyment of life and each other and look forward to the remainder of the school year.

In Math, the 4th graders are not only becoming more fluent with their multiplication facts, but they can demonstrate their understanding of higher level 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication. They can describe multiplication problems by using arrays, place value blocks, partial products and the standard algorithm. They understand and can verbalize what is really happening with the numbers, not just the method.

In Reading, the class has worked extremely hard on Reading Intensely. They are learning how to read slowly and methodically for authors choose their words carefully for meaning and effect.  For example, last week we read and analyzed the poem below by Robert Frost.


Dust of Snow

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I rued

Here is a comment one 4th grade student shared as we discussed the poem:

“I believe the character in the poem is an optimist for even when he is having a bad day he can find something positive in the world to change his spirits. He notices a bird brushing snow to the ground off of a tree, he sees the beauty of nature and knows the world is a beautiful place.  This beauty he sees lifts his spirits and changes his ruined day”.

I look to 2017 with great excitement for we have much to learn and experience together.

In 5th grade, we are really starting to feel like a family. December offered many unique opportunities to connect and celebrate each other, from grooving at the winter band concert, starring in the Holiday Show, making personalized gifts for families at home, and just enjoying each other before Winter Break.

The new year will offer fresh opportunities to reevaluate goals, both academic and social, and settle into a season of calm. Mathematicians will continue to work on deeply understanding division, including decimals (goodbye, remainders!). Readers will dig deeper, learning strategies for analyzing the themes in the text. Writers will choose a controversial topic of personal interest to continue honing their research-based argument skills. Historians will explore the ancient Aztec, Mayan and Incan cultures, including how the European age of exploration impacted their civilizations. We sincerely look forward to being back with your kids! They are treasures, and it is a privilege to be involved in their lives.

We are so excited to enter the New Year! We ended December with a completion of Traditions and Holiday Celebrations from Around the World! Our billboard is filled with sparkling class Menorah’s to our glistening ornaments! From here, we move to studying the human body! We are completing our Narrative’s and working on our reading strategies by pulling apart those challenging words! Cheers to our Kindergartner’s! They are growing, changing, and exploring their learning all day long.

I hope you all had a relaxing and family filled winter holiday! Before the break we wrapped up our short unit on matter and in January we will be delving into the world of Ancient Greece! This is always a class favorite and a great way to learn about the rich cultures that exist outside our own. In reading, we will be setting new goals and working to delve deeper into comprehension strategies. In writing, we are continuing our work of informational writing and will be scheduling our writing celebration soon. I am looking forward to welcoming everyone back this Tuesday.

In Humanities, we watch CNN Student News every Friday to learn about national and international current events. As a last day before winter break activity, students wrote songs commemorating the major events from 2016 (check out Flocabulary’s summary rap here). In the Create-a-Country project, students have been investigating how climate and physical features can influence the culture of a country. When we return from the break, groups will be making promotional materials to convince people to visit their country. This ties in with the persuasive writing techniques students have been refining in the Language Arts literary essay unit. As we wrapped up that unit, I was impressed by how well students are moving beyond writing a simple “JV” essay and joining the varsity writing team to complete the final theme-based essay. I know students are anxious to move beyond the short story they have been analysing and are ready to find themes in longer texts, such as novels. After the break we will be studying non-fiction and informational texts.

Before break, second graders were immersing themselves in the world of opinion writing. Going deeper into a leveled book, each student has been drawing up opinions about characters in the story, as well as their favorite parts. To encourage this, we have been reading “Mercy Watson to the Rescue”, and discussing opinions about Mercy the Pig (she is goofy, she is spoiled, etc). Students have established a character opinion and organized their thoughts on a planning sheet. They use this to guide their writing process as they transfer their ideas from the planning sheet to their rough draft. Students have also been using the “Character Letter Writing” chart to check that they’ve included all the important parts:

  • Header/Greeting
  • Introduce reader to the character
  • Introduce the book and author
  • State your opinion
  • Give 3 reasons/evidence from the story to back up your opinion (using “because” to support)
  • Write a concluding sentence

It has been so fun to see students use the pictures and text to establish their opinions, while also using evidence with page numbers to “defend” those opinions!