Thursday, October 3, 2013

Native Americans, Numbers and Novels!

Happy October to all....even though this sudden spike in heat is reminding me more of the 4th of July than Halloween! I love hearing my students chat with each other about their costumes...can't wait for the Halloween parade to see what everyone ends up dressing as!

Last Thursday was crazy busy. We had a field trip AND Back to School night. Obviously, I had more than my typical AM cup of coffee that day!

We are studying the Lenape Native American tribe, so our first trip was to a nature center that has a model Lenape village. The students loved it! They had educators there dressed in traditional Lenape clothing to tell us all about the Lenape customs. Students were able to imagine themselves as Lenape Native Americans. We learned how the Lenape made tools and built homes, how they hunted and prepared food, and what games and activities Lenape children liked to play!

Clay was abundant in this region. Lenape children would use the clay that the adults used to make cooking pots to create animals and figurines to play with. Our class had the opportunity to make their own clay toys. 

We also learned about the structure and customs of Lenape families. Did you know that when a Lenape woman wants a divorce all she needs to do is throw her husband's tools or weapons out of their home? Talk about no muss no fuss!

(A traditional Lenape longhouse--no tools on the ground outside, so I am assuming this is a functioning, happy marriage!)

After school, it was a quick cup of coffee and prep for Back to School night. I generally stress about this in the days before, thinking about how to fill the time, but in the end, I always end up going over!

One thing I have learned from my experience doing Back to School nights is that PARENTS LOVE PAPER. Honestly, just throw a bunch of papers at them and they'll be happy:

At each child's table spot, I had out the following:

1. The child's published short story (our first writing assignment of the year)
2. A text-connections bookmark for parents to use at home when reading with their children
3. A copy of our group's schedule
4. A letter that the child wrote to his/her parents and an index card for the parents to respond (don't forget to provide pens!)
5. An overview of typical development for 3rd and 4th graders (adapted from Yardsticks)
6. The parent letter from our first math unit (with suggested "at-home" activities)
7. The parent letter from our first word study unit (with MORE suggested "at-home" activities)

After the parents got a chance to browse the classroom and respond to their child's letter, I had us all come together to play a game called "No Talk Toss" that I play with my students. It comes from the Energizers! book. I put a spin on the game for the parents. Typically, the game is played without talking so children can practice making eye contact and making connections as they throw a bean bag to a friend in the circle. For parents, I asked that once they catch the bean bag, they introduce themselves, who their child is, and a memory from their 3rd or 4th grade experience. It was hilarious and informative to hear what the parents remembered from their time in elementary school!

After we played the game, we sat down and I gave parents the overview of the curriculum. Reading, writing, math, social studies. The whole shebang. Fortunately, there weren't too many crazy or uncomfortable questions. Overall I think it was a success! I even received a few emails the following day from parents thanking me for a great evening--SCORE!


My 4th graders are really working on automaticity of their multiplication facts up to 12. We have been working on using facts that we know to solve for facts that we don't know. I had the students break up into groups to create posters with the five multiplication facts that were the most difficult for them to remember. I asked them to come up with a multiplication fact to "start with" that would help them figure out how to solve the "tricky fact".

Check it out! If you are having trouble with 12x5, just think about what 10x5 is. Then think about how many more groups of 5 you need to add. Two you say? Isn't that 10? Add the 10 to 50, and viola! The product of 12x5! 

Now...onto the organization segment of this post!

I have noticed that many of my students are not sticking with books during their 15 minutes of Independent Reading Time (IRT) each day. That makes things difficult for me, because when kids are constantly switching books, I never know a.) what they are reading and b.) if it is "just right" for them.

I decided to take action!

First, we had a conversation as a class about why people sometimes stop reading books in the middle. Some responses included:

- boring
- too many characters
- not what I expected
- I see another book I want to try

I introduced the class to our new system....DRUMROLL PLEASE......

Each child has an index card with their name on it. When they finish a book, they need to come talk to me so I can write the date on their card and the title of the next book they will be reading. If they are reading a book and want to abandon it for something else, they need to come to me as well and have a conference about why they want to stop reading their current book and begin a new one. If the reason seems valid, such as the book is too hard/too easy, I will allow them to choose a new book and record it on their index card with the date. Hopefully this not only keeps me up to date on what they are reading, but teaches them how to maintain stamina and get through the books they enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of having students try to stick with a book, if possible. This is a good habit to develop for later years, when they will have a lot of "required" reading.


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