This was field trip week!
Despite the miserable weather on Monday, the students enjoyed a fantastic trip to Plimoth Plantation. This trip furthered the work we did in the classroom this fall when we studied the Pilgrim's settlement in Massachusetts and their relationship with the Wampanoags. Having the ability to see a replication of an early English settlement and a Wampanoag village enabled our students to better visualize all that they had learned.
Conversely, the weather for yesterday's trolley tour of Mendon was glorious! I wish to extend a very special thank you to Mr. John Trainor, Mr. and Mrs. Grady and the fabulous students from Miscoe Hill who planned and conducted our trolley and classroom experiences. I am very thankful that they were willing to volunteer their time to help the third grade team teach local history. Having experts on hand to help us do this important work is priceless! I would also like to extend a warm thank you to the Clough PTO and Jen O'Donovan for funding the trolley this year. The entire experience was just perfect.
The American Revolution: 1763-1789
The Musical Opera!
Our BIG night is scheduled for Thursday, June 20th. The actors will take the stage at exactly 7:00 PM. Invitations will be going home soon so that we can get an idea of home many guests we'll be entertaining. Please feel free to invite extended family and friends. We're aiming to make this final production our best yet!
There will be a small cast party following the production. Please contact me if you'd like to provide a beverage or snack for our celebration.
Portfolios and MCAS
For those of you who read my blog over the weekend, it probably comes as no surprise that portfolios are not coming home with report cards as we were SUPPOSED to spend a LOT of time yesterday getting them ready to go. It was supposed to be our day off from MCAS prep! I think that ground hog needs to have his eyes checked...maybe even consider an early retirement.
However, whatever you did at home to prepare your child for MCAS (a healthful dinner and breakfast, a good night's sleep, a mellow morning and a pep talk), by all means, do it again. I truly wish it were legal for me to photograph/videotape these kids taking the test. I wish you could see what I saw. They worked with such determination. They poured every once of effort they had into completing the test. As I walked around, I could tell they were using all the strategies I taught them. EVERY child took the test VERY seriously. Should any child fall short of the mark it is likely my fault as they all gave 100% today. I am so proud and you should be too.
A special thanks to Mrs. Shilale for organizing snacks and to the generous parents who supplied today's healthful treats. The quantity and quality was perfect. I know that the extra body fuel helped. They were truly enjoyed by the kids.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding your child's report card. We'll send the portfolios home on Friday for you to enjoy over the weekend. Thanks for being patient with me.
MCAS season is upon us. For some families, this will be your first MCAS experience and you may be a bit unsure of exactly what to expect.
While the English Language Arts test will be administered this coming week, our preparation started long ago. The students are ready. They take each challenge I set before them seriously and I believe they'll attack this assessment with the same focus and determination.
They'll begin the week with a practice session on Monday morning. This will be the final work they'll do with a released MCAS reading selection and corresponding questions. I've scheduled a well-deserved day of rest on Tuesday. The major goal for the day will be to prepare our portfolios to go home with report cards. While assembling the portfolios, adding work, and reflecting on the past term, I will guide the students so that they can see just how far they've come! The portfolio is really physical proof of each child's personal growth. Tuesday will be a success if every child goes home feeling good about his or her progress and comes into school on Wednesday feeling confident.
Here's where you come in. Even though we'll both work hard to make this first MCAS experience stress free, there is always stress associated with testing. Please make sure your child gets to bed on time so that he or she gets a good sleep the night before. Also, try to have a mellow morning at home complete with a healthful breakfast. We'll have some nutritious snacks available to all students thanks to all our generous parents. Fueling their little bodies is important. Encourage your child to put forth his or her best effort. Let your student know that you expect the test to be taken seriously and that you know he or she will give it his or her all. Most importantly, tell your child that you are proud of him or her and the hard work he or she has been doing all year.
The first session will begin at 9:30 Wednesday morning. The students are typically required to read three different reading selections (usually one to three pages in length each) and to answer the corresponding questions. Most questions are multiple choice. There will be a couple questions that the students will need to respond to by writing a few sentences and there is usually one open response question where the response required is lengthier. The state estimates that the session will take most students an hour to complete. While this is generally true, students can take as long as they need (inside one school day) and some work well beyond the two hour mark. You should expect your student to come home a little whipped out. Even though we've really been working on building their stamina this test is demanding.
Day two is much the same. The nice thing about the second day is that the first day is behind the students, they know what to expect and they never seem as nervous. On Friday we get back to work...business as usual. We still have 1/3 of the school year left and lots of important English Language Arts work to do before the students leave for the summer.
Their next MCAS test is scheduled for the month of May when mathematics proficiency is assessed. Again, this test will be administered over a two day span with testing sessions lasting about an hour each. You can help your child to prepare by making IXL practice a regular routine in your home and by working with your child to memorize his or her facts as fact fluency helps all students to work through math problems with accuracy and efficiency. Bring math into your child's daily life by involving him or her in everyday math problems and play mathematical games.
Thanks so much for all of your support. Our partnership is a key factor in student success. I continue to feel lucky to work with such high quality families. Thank you!
Vacation on Mars!
These kids were just OUT OF THIS WORLD in their performance of "Vacation on Mars!" We knew we'd be taking it right down to the wire by trying to sneak another musical in before breaking for February vacation. That was before the Blizzard of 2013 hit! When school was cancelled two for two days, I really did consider postponing. However, there were a few good reasons to forge ahead. These students have shown me something again and again and that's that they're up for any challenge. Well, they sure didn't let us down today, did they? We were disappointed that our classmate Drew wasn't with us today. He had been spot on in every rehearsal and his big personality really brought the character of Mercury to life on stage. In his absence, Zachary stepped up and quickly learned his parts. Drew was still sorely missed but the show went on thanks to Zachary!
These kids continue to wow me with their courage and talent. Eddie had it right when he said that Emma "has a voice that sounds like it comes from heaven!" I think it is fair to say that everyone has been pushed well outside their comfort zones. Crazy thing is, they looked like they were confident and having fun there! I just loved Venus and her Venettes’ rendition of “She’s Hot”! Big Jupiter and his moons had fun with “16 Moons”. We’re just hoping that all the attention doesn’t go to Alex’s head! Jack had his best performance to date today. He didn’t let a little gas slow him down! Today's solos, duets, trios, and group performances were examples of lots of time spent practicing. Some of this practice happened in the classroom but more often; these kids were practicing at recess, during dismissal, in their neighborhoods and at home. Their hard work paid off huge. Thanks for all you did to support these performers!
Thanks to all the parents who were able to attend our matinee today. Our next and final musical opera will be an evening performance during the month of June. I will let you know the date as soon as it becomes available so that you can share the date with grandparents etc. Our final production focuses on the American Revolution. It is sure to challenge our cast in new and exciting ways! I know I’ll be excited to share their work with you come June!
I know I said I’d be blogging about MCAS in the very near future. I will be. While we’re all enjoying this latest success on stage, I can assure you that your students are hard at work, tackling the third grade curriculum and working to acquire all the skills and strategies necessary for success in life. I really am confident that this hard work will pay dividends when they tackle that English Language Arts MCAS in March too! More on that soon…check back often!
New Year - Great Expectations!
BLINK! We are nearly at the 1/2 way mark. We're halfway there? Halfway to fourth grade? Are you kidding me?
So, this is the thought I recently had. I can't believe how the days FLY. Thank you for being patient with me over the last couple of weeks. I hate that I have not blogged in so long. Here is the excuse: for the first time in YEARS it seems like I've been hit with every virus that has walked into the classroom. It all started at the end of November with a
pesky cold that turned out to be that awful upper respiratory thing, which was directly followed by Strep. I got WELL over vacation and then spent this past LONG weekend with the stomach bug. YUCK. Although I've said this more than once over the past month or so, I mean it THIS TIME when I say I'm done with being sick! REALLY!
Having been "away" for so long...we have a lot to catch up on. First, let me say, thank you for your kindness as all our lives were shaken by the unthinkable thing that occurred in an elementary school full of beautiful children in CT. The supportive emails I received and kind words helped me to get through that painful week. I was especially touched when I returned to school the Monday after to 23 beautiful children to teach. I had perfect attendance! The fact that you trusted me with your children after such a difficult weekend meant so much. As a parent myself, I know how difficult it was to put my own children on the bus. Thank you!
Thank you, too, for the generous
expressions of thanks you showered me with over the holidays. You know me so well! We have enjoyed shopping at Barnes and Noble, warming ourselves with cocoa and coffee at Dunkins, stopping by Target (such fun!), and ordering a few new books for the classroom at Amazon. I LOVE the Alex and Ani bracelets. Thanks for keeping this old lady hip! I didn't even know these trendy, cute, bracelets existed! Oh, and Charlie, our newest family member, loved his chew toy! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Onto the business at hand...show business in Brigham Theatre! I'm sure you've noticed lots of changes in the New Year. The biggest change is a greater shift in responsibility from teacher/parent to student. Now that we're midway through the school year, I'm sure your student has a routine down and things are moving along pretty smoothly in your homes. I hope that this routine involves nightly reading and at LEAST weekly opportunities to write plus healthy doses of IXL. I've added in the practicing of multiplication facts and cursive writing to boot. Although these additions may cause a little hiccup at first, I know that the students are up for this challenge.
The students are doing a SUPER job memorizing their math facts so far! This extra work will pay HUGE dividends as they move through elementary school and middle school. Trust me! Also, the cursive is coming along beautifully. Please insist on a proper pencil grasp. Changing to a correct grip now will make middle school writing much easier. Kids will say they HATE to write in middle school when what they really mean is that they don't like to write because it makes their hands hurt. The correct grasp makes all the difference. Initially, there were so many poor grips in the room. We've worked
hard to correct this. Please stay on your student to grasp correctly until the correct grip becomes a good habit.
Finally, I'm getting to the business of show biz! We have another musical coming up. I have no idea how we'll pull
this off but, we'll be performing "Vacation on Mars" for you on February 14th at 10AM. Looking ahead, I had to schedule it sooner than later. I definitely want to get it in during the second term and waiting much longer would run us into MCAS crunch time. I know the students will turn up BIG for this performance just like they did in their debut!
Speaking of MCAS...
No worries, no stress! I am doing everything I can to prepare the students by diligently teaching the third grade standards. I am pleased with the
progress all students are making. This preparation + some very good test taking strategy instruction and I know they'll shine! I promise, I'll devote a whole
blog to the MCAS test in a couple of weeks, but really, NO WORRIES!
Thanks for all you do in your homes to support the work I do in the classroom. The students would NEVER be making this kind of progress without your help. I wish you all the best in the New Year!
New photos in "Scenes from the Theatre" is my goal for the end of the week. Check back soon!
I'm writing with the news you've been waiting for...but before I get to that I'd like to share a couple of the outreach projects that your children have been working on.
Michele Arthur, who is one of our lunch and recess aides contacted me last week. Michele is very involved in the b Positive project. The organization was sending some b Positive t-shirts to the brave men and women being treated at the Walter Reed Medical Center. She thought that it would be great to send some cards made by our students along with the shirts. We were happy to participate in such a great project and are grateful that Michele included us. Michele is a very positive person and we are so happy that she has joined our team at Clough.
Speaking of outreach, students from Nipmuc recently visited with our third graders and shared their DECA project. They are collecting loose change for children in Kenya. So far we have filled one small mason jar. Could you please consider sending your child in with a handful of change for this worthy cause? I'd love to support the children in Kenya as well as our Nipmuc students in completing this project with success.
Finally, the news you've been waiting for: Our big production, Geology Rocks, is scheduled for December 21st at 10:00 AM. The students will be performing in the cafetorium. This musical opera will run for approximately 30 minutes. It will be followed by a holiday themed cast party. Please try to attend if possible. However, if you're unable to attend, know that there will be two more such productions this year. I'm looking forward to this science-themed play as it is really a great way to culminate our study of rocks and minerals. If you're able to attend, you'll see that our budding geologists can really ROCK!
It is two days before Thanksgiving and I am feeling especially thankful. I'm something of a list-maker (probably not surprising to you) so I thought I'd share my list.
1. I'm thankful for the 23 students who walk in the door each day! They come in everyday ready to tackle whatever challenge I send their way.
2. I'm thankful that my students love to learn. This makes the teaching really fun for me.
3. I'm thankful for incredible colleagues. They push me and support me. I know I'm a better teacher because of them. They're also a lot of fun to be around and for this I am very thankful.
4. I'm thankful that I teach in a beautiful, new school. Everyone at Clough School appreciates the beauty of our school. We all work hard to show this community how thankful we are for the sacrifices they make in support of education. Having a safe and beautiful building to teach and learn in really does make a difference.
5. I am thankful that my students ALL come from families who value education. The families I work with support what we do in the classroom. They make time to communicate with me, to conference with me, to check out the classroom website, to help with homework, to take their children to bookstores and the library. They list is endless. Long story short, they pick up where I leave off once their child walks in the door. This commitment to education makes my job a lot easier.
6. I'm thankful for the sacrifices that my own parents made to ensure that I had a good education. They had four kids so this meant that they put us and our needs ahead of their own quite a bit. I appreciate this gift every day.
7. I am thankful for my husband. He has come to realize that teaching is not a 9 to 5 job and often picks up my slack during busy weeks. He shows an interest in what I'm doing in the classroom and is really my greatest supporter.
8. I am thankful for my children. Owen and Caroline provide much of the inspiration I need to do my best. I try to always be the teacher that I'd want them to have. Of course I want the best for my children. Like your children, they are amazing and they deserve the best.
9. I am thankful that I have only 23 students this year. It makes a difference. 23 is manageable. I feel like my students are getting the attention, help, and challenge they all deserve.
10. I am thankful for my friends and family. I am thankful for our good health. I am thankful for the fun and rest that I enjoy. All of these things make it possible for me to be an effective teacher. It has been a tremendous year so far. I am very thankful!
My third grade students are thankful too. Today we experimented with SOUND CLOUD. Click on the little audio player on the right. The students recorded what they're most thankful for. Take a listen...the recording will warm your heart.
We're pretty excited to use SOUND CLOUD in the digital newsletter we're preparing. It will culminate our Wampanoag studies. Keep your eyes peeled. It should be coming your way in the very near future.
Finally, we've collected 562 boxtops for our PTO! They'll use the funds raised to support student learning. Our collection supports the learning unfolding in our math class too. Students see the connection between ones, tens, and hundreds as we aim to reach our goal of collecting 1,000 box tops. Each day we pose questions such as: If we paperclip box tops in groups of ten, how many paper clips have we used so far? In other words, how many tens are there in 562? Or, our 3/4 the way goal is on the horizon. How many more box tops do we need to reach it? You can see how we're using fractions, addition, subtraction, place value, etc. as we build our collection. Fun stuff! So, PLEASE keep those box tops coming in. The students are really excited to see our collection grow. Chloe was so excited she went home last week and made this fantastic collection jar with the help of her mom.
As always, thanks for all you're doing in your homes to support the work that takes place here at school. I hope you all enjoy a tremendous Thanksgiving with your families and friends!
So, by now, you've probably heard the good news. Our door won the Clough PTO's award for most creative! The students did a WICKED good job coming right in on Wednesday morning (let me remind you that it was HALLOWEEN) and settling down to write. The stories of their wickedness were darling! They were able to use many of the same techniques that good writers use in their pieces. They were able to share this wicked moment, using detail to tell exactly what happened. I will leave the door up until right after conferences so that you can enjoy their writing and admire their wicked photographs.
This leads me to talk about writing. We're continuing our work with narrative writing. My goal is to help my students become better writers. We've really been focusing on narrative writing during this first term. The students are part way done with the narrative pieces that will eventually become a published piece. We continue to work on adding detail, dialogue, and to make careful and deliberate word choices. All of this is done so that our readers will experience the moment in the same way that we did. The students are making progress but it is hard work. The biggest area of growth for the students is in the volume of writing that they're able to produce in a short period of time. When it is time to write, they simply sit down and begin writing. This is a BIG change from the beginning of the year when my request for them to write a page of text often came with moans and groans and lots of distractibility. I know that this increase in stamina is an important step in the right direction.
I can hardly believe that November is upon us. I really am enjoying my class. The days and weeks fly by. On November 14th and 15th I'll be sitting down with families to discuss individual student progress. I really look forward to these conferences each year. It is a great opportunity to share the gains the children have made and to outline goals and the specific work that will need to be done to achieve those goals. I'll be emailing my conference schedule out this weekend. Let me know if any conflicts have arisen.
I have posted some new pictures on the "Scenes from the Theatre" page. Check them out with your student when you have a free moment. Thanks for all you do in your homes to support my efforts in the classroom. I'm one lucky teacher!
So, Sandy is definitely going to slow our progress in the classroom this week. Our "WICKED" writing pieces will be postponed. I have total respect for nature and will accept this slow down but to be honest, she couldn't have come at a worse time. I've had some amazing professional development lately and I'm more excited than ever to be in the classroom.
As a parent, I completely understand that teachers' professional development days can be a hassle. I have to secure childcare for my own children on these days as well. It is always a scramble as I figure it all out. Will my regular sitter be able to take the kids? If so, great, but it is not going to be cheap. If not, will one of my neighbors be able to take the kids and if all else fails can my husband take the day off or "work" from home?
It is all worthwhile when I come home from one of these days energized about what I can now do in the classroom. Our day on October 5th was this kind of day. Elementary teachers spent half the day learning about the Daily 5 and CAFE and the other half learning about QAR. As you know, I already use the Daily 5 and CAFE but our instructor was FANTASTIC and she really did breathe new life into the topic and get me excited to try new things. She helped me to think about possibilities I hadn't considered. The QAR workshop was fantastic too. The presenters helped us to better appreciate the relationship between the text we ask students to read, the questions we ask of our students and the written answers they provide. The session is already helping me to better prepare my students to read text with purpose and communicate their understanding effectively.
You may have heard that I wasn't in school on October 22nd. It is true. I was at a workshop with Lucy Calkins. Lucy is a nationally recognized authority in the teaching of reading and writing. Her workshop focused on preparing teachers to meet the demands of the Common Core. The Common Core is a set of national standards for all students across the country. As Massachusetts has accepted these standards, all teachers in the Commonwealth will be challenged to help our students meet these rigorous standards. The good news: in the end, our students will be better prepared than ever to enter college or begin a career. This particular workshop, based on her book, Pathways to the Common Core, was amazing. Trust me when I tell you it has already changed the work I do with your children. Your children are incredible and it is critical that their teachers do everything possible to move them toward reaching their full potentials.
As you probably already know, we have another professional development day coming up on the 6th. We'll continue to study the way we teach reading and writing at the elementary level. I know that Dr. Maruszczak has a vision for this district. It is focused on providing your children with the highest quality education possible. We are definitely moving in the right direction. I haven't been this optimistic and energized about my teaching and the possibilities for all students in some time. I hope this is just the start!
A new season is upon us!
Are you impressed with your child's transition into third grade? I sure am!
Our theatre classroom is in full swing. We have lots to be excited about.
All the best,
Putting students center stage for 18 years