So, what is this Project Based Learning (PBL) I sometimes hear about? Project Based Learning is all about giving students a reason to learn. I love PBL because students are able to practice and refine so many 21st Century Skills while while gaining proficiency in the fourth grade standards.
PBL is awesome because kids get lots of CHOICE. Choice is key. Don't we all love to have a say in the way we do things? Kids feel powerful when they can have a say in how they learn and how they show what they've learned. PBL is all about collaboration. Is there a more critical skill for our students to refine? Kids have an authentic reason to work on their spoken and written communication skills when constructing meaning with their peers.
As you know, we're fortunate at Clough to have so much technology in the classrooms. (The Clough PTO has spoiled us teachers and our students rotten! But we're so very thankful!) In the midst of a project, students decide how they'll use technology. They analyze the task and take into stock the tools they have. All of our students have used technology as a tool to conduct research. Some are opting to use technology to construct meaning and to produce their entire projects. Others are using technology to enhance their projects.
In the final steps, the students participate in peer review and self-evaluation. Each team evaluates their classmates project against a set of criteria. Once the teams receive feedback from their peers they use the feedback to help them evaluate their own work. They take time to consider how they can take the feedback they've received and use it to have a positive influence on future work.
In the end, the standards are met. The students become more creative, more thoughtful, more deliberate as they organize and make decisions, better listeners, learn to compromise, learn to accept criticism, practice self-reflection, develop written and oral communication skills, hone their tech skills and learn to take pride in their work. But honestly, the best outcome...kids are having FUN at school. Imagine that! It is good to be a kid learning in the MURSD. It is great to be a teacher here too!
Check out this student project. They used smore to produce a digital flier. Use the bar on the side to scroll down through their project.
View another project where students collaborated using iPads (donated by the Clough PTO) and Google Slides.
Everyday is new and different when you work with children. Each day is filled with a series of exciting moments. I love this time of year in the classroom. Fourth graders are more independent and inquisitive than ever. What I really love is the personality. They bring such great energy and pizzazz to everything they do.
In this blog, I'd like to share some examples of student work that show how the Common Core standards are enabling our students to go deeper in their thinking about math. It is hard to quantify all the ways education has changed since the Common Core standards were adopted in MA. To sum it up the best way I can, I will say that our students are engaged in THINKING deeply about math every day. Unlike my own elementary mathematics education where following prescribed steps and memorization were emphasized, today students are engaged in problem analysis and developing solutions that make sense. A deep understanding of our number system is emphasized in classrooms where collaboration and student lead conversation help students to grow their thinking. Their understanding of math is so much deeper than my understanding was at their age. Exciting stuff. Recently, I posed the below problem and the students in my class responded in many different ways. Although each looks different, each was able to do the following:
Dear Fourth Grade Families,
Thank you for the extraordinary generosity you extended to me this Christmas. I am very thankful for the gift card and I promise that I will put it to excellent use towards something special for our classroom. Thanks too for the restaurant gift card. It will be such a treat to take my husband out to dinner. Working with your students really has been a gift in and of itself. These presents are just the icing on the cake!
I hope you all enjoy a very restful and fun vacation week. I look forward to coming back rested myself. Vacations are always a wonderful time to recharge my battery. However, while away from the classroom, my brain is always working overtime thinking of the long list of goals yet to be realized and brainstorming exciting ways to get the students to meet these goals through problem solving, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. January is always a very productive month in the classroom with very little interruption. I'm looking forward to these busy days with the students.
Thanks for all that you've done this year to support the learning in our classroom. I'm looking forward to a very successful 2016 with the students!
Happy New Year!
Let's pause and applaud...
It is time we take a moment to celebrate achievement and share some of the really cool things our students are doing.
We just wrapped up a unit that focused on data and measurement. I'd like to share some of the work our students did to work toward proficiency in the following standard:
Make a line plot to display a data set of measurements in fractions of a unit (1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Solve problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions by using information presented in line plots.
Our work began with the fourth graders measuring one another's heights and recording the data to the nearest 1/2 inch. They worked in cooperative groups to collect and represent the data. They analyzed the data using their knowledge of range, median, and outliers. Next, the students measured the heights of first graders from Mrs. Barrows' class. Again, they worked in teams to collect and represent the data. They needed to create one representation that would allow their audience to draw conclusions about the two groups and how their heights compared. Our next lessons had the students measuring crayons of varying lengths and recording those lengths to the nearest 1/4 inch. The students worked together to add the lengths of crayons and find the difference between the longest and shortest crayons in their collections. Our final performance task asked that students measure ten plastic bugs to the nearest eighth of an inch, accurately record the data in a table, prepare a line plot representation of the data, and then use that data to solve problems involving the addition and subtraction of fractions with like and unlike denominators. I don't know about you but this certainly wasn't the math I was doing in the fourth grade. While our work with this standard is not finished, the students are well on their way to proficiency. I hope you enjoy the photos from our crayon and bug lessons!
English Language Arts
The Daily Cafe is up and running in our classroom. What is the Daily Cafe? Visit my S'more flier to learn more about the Daily Cafe. In short, it is a structure that affords the students time to practice their reading skills and strategies with independence so that I can deliver individualized instruction to all students. Students spend time reading to self, reading to someone, listening to reading, working with words and working on writing. Our Wonders Reading Program is our core curriculum and is a great resource for mini lessons and reading materials that offer rigor, variety, and interest. Students can read texts of their own choice and at their own reading levels during the Daily Cafe. Wondering what it looks like in the classroom...check out our photos!
Here are those commercials I promised! These should give you a small taste of what the students have been working on. I've also attached the scoring rubric so that you can see the project criteria too!
Find the project rubric HERE.
A giant thank you to you for supporting our classwork in your homes. My students come to school with amazing background knowledge. This is because them come from such caring families. The conversations you have, the books you read together and all the neat things you do with your children enrich learning. Thank you!
I am proud to say that I conferenced with all of my students families. I love that we set aside time to meet and discuss student progress, review work samples in the student portfolio and set goals together. I am so blessed to teach in a community where the parents care so deeply about education. THANK YOU!
Remember, the student portfolios will always come home at report card time. Please review the student portfolio with your child. You'll be amazed at the growth you'll see.
Teaching your children is a joy and a pleasure. Please contact me at once with any questions you may have as we continue to move through the year.
What a super fall we're having. Our classroom is running like a well oiled machine. Your students have learned all of the routines and are attacking every challenge I throw their way with enthusiasm and determination. Selecting a "Hero of the Week" has been a feat as there are many qualified students every week. I'm always on the look out for a child who is doing HIS or HER personal best. I think we've had some dynamite heroes so far.
Speaking of heroes, have you heard about our QUEST? Click HERE to visit the QUEST page. Here you'll find all kinds of opportunities for your fourth grader to challenge him or herself while learning new things, stretching his or her skills, and having FUN! Believe it or not, I've already had two students complete their first quest. We had a delightful, celebratory lunch together. They were even lucky enough to sample my "somewhat famous" chocolate chip cookies.
All students seem like they are handling the demands of fourth grade without too much stress. Is this the case in your home? Let me know if you become concerned about work load, grades, stress, friendships, etc. I'm always available to help troubleshoot.
Heroes do come in many shapes and sizes. We're reading about one such hero right now in the classroom. She is an unlikely heroine really. The smallest character in the famous novel by E.B. White, Charlotte puts her own needs aside to save that humble pig named Wilbur. The students have devoured every page of this text. Despite the rigor and challenge the students have moved through every chapter hungry to find out what would happen next. They are handling the vocabulary and the descriptive writing of Charlotte's Web with great success. We'll celebrate the culmination of this novel study on Halloween when the students will watch the movie. They are over-the-moon excited to see the movie and secretly, I can't wait for them to see the movie too. The movie really is well done but I know they won't be satisfied with it. Kids are smart. They always prefer a beautifully crafted novel over a movie, even a good one! We'll keep the festivities simple. I'll bring in some popcorn to help make the day a little more special.
Have you heard about our NORTHEAST REGION radio commercials? Our students are researching the 11 states of the Northeast region. Then, they've collaborated to produce a one minute radio commercial attracting tourists to the Northeast. They are working on developing research skills, reading skills, writing skills, and speaking skills. Check back soon and I'll share some of those fantastic ads right here!
I'm looking forward to conference week. Watch your inbox for a communication from me from Sign Up Genius. If the times available don't work for you, jot me a note and we'll make arrangements to meet at another time.
As always, thanks for all that you're doing to support learning in your homes!
Thanks so much!
Newsflash: The fourth graders in room 202 have superpowers. They can fight off, ridiculous heat, the urge to flee and head for the beach, and the notion that it is okay to give up when things get tough. In fact, they are quite amazing.
Well, here we are in week 2! We are still moving SLOW. We’re taking time to learn a lot of new routines. We’re practicing them so that we can be successful in fourth grade.
We’ve read some great books already like, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes. It is super. It helped us to realize that making mistakes can be a very good thing and it is a very natural part of the learning process. In math, we’re noticing the arrays all around us. For example, eggs come in an array. The egg carton is a 2 x 6 array that holds 12 eggs. Truly, there are arrays all around us. Can you help your students to notice them? As you have probably already guessed, this is part of a fascinating unit that focuses on multiplication. Multiplication is definitely a superpower!
Homework, although some students call it Kryptonite, will help to polish our skills and increase our power. Again, we are starting slow. This week your student will have math and reading homework. Next week we’ll add in some spelling. The following week we may add in some science and or social studies. I’m hopeful that this gradual increase will help students adjust to the high fourth grade expectations. Homework should not cause an unreasonable amount of stress. Contact me immediately if there is reason for concern and we’ll strategies a way for your student to meet the expectations.
Please mark your calendars for September 16th. That is our Open House. I’m really looking forward to meeting you all.
Thanks for sharing your little heroes with me. I am excited to work with them and I just know that with hard work, perseverance, and the belief that your student CAN, he or she WILL!
Grab your cape and let's go!
You guessed it! The theme for this year is SUPERHEROES. You might be wondering, "Why superheroes?" There are lots of good reasons why the fourth grade teachers are excited about our theme. Do you know what we've noticed in our line of work? We've noticed that there are heroes all around us! And, there is a hero inside each of us...just waiting to be released. Sometimes it takes a QUEST to unearth the hero inside of us. I am thrilled that you have been selected to adventure out on this 180 day quest with me!
During our adventure we'll explore the WONDERS all around us. We'll visit the 50 states of our great nation and we'll even travel to Canada and Mexico. While traveling we'll take time to smell the roses as we learn all about plants and how they adapt. Speaking of adaptation, we'll search out animals around the globe and examine how they survive in their environments. Our INVESTIGATIONS will truly expand our thinking and grow our skills.
Are you prepared for this quest? You'll need to pack of course...and more than just your cape. You can find a list of essentials by clicking on the "Supplies" tab up top. Most importantly, you'll need to have a sharp mind ready for the critical thinking and problem solving needed to survive whatever comes your way. How can you prepare your mind for the unknown you ask?
Start by reading. I hope you'll enjoy the Lemonade War. We'll use this book to launch our Social Studies work where you and I will be exploring and working hard to meet the grade four economics standards. While you do have to read one other book, in addition to the Lemonade War, to meet the summer reading expectations, I challenge you to read as many as you can. Can you read 6 books by the time school starts? I bet you can. I've read every Kate DiCamillo book except the Magician's Elephant which I'm currently in the middle of. She is my favorite author. Her books just warm my heart and fill me with hope. I admit though, I have a few favorite authors! What has been your favorite book of the summer? I'll want to hear all about it when you return to school!
Also, you can keep your math mind sharp by reviewing your multiplication facts on a pretty regular basis. A few minutes of review work every couple of days should do the trick. I know you'll be a more confident math student if you come to school with your facts under your belt. Do a little review here and there versus trying to re-learn them all during the last weekend of summer vacation. It will be way less stressful this way and you won't ruin those last precious days of vacation with math stress.
Finally, you should RELAX. Do not worry about school. We will have FUN and you will have a very SUCCESSFUL fourth grade adventure. I promise! I'm excited for our quest. I'm even more excited to help reveal the superhero inside of you!
Rest up and show up on the 2nd all packed and ready for our QUEST. We depart at 9:00 AM sharp. I just can't wait!
Teaching has been my superpower for 21 years!