Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reminder: Holiday Performance

Just a quick reminder:  The Holiday Performance of, "Holiday Moose-ical" will be on December 10th at 7:00 p.m. at school.  More information will follow.  The school hopes to have DVDs for families to purchase the week after the performance. 

The children are SO excited to share this amazing story with you!  If your child needs assistance with transportation to the evening performance, please let Mrs. M or Mrs. S know and we will make arrangements.

See you soon!

The City of Ember

The IMA 4th graders started The City of Ember weeks ago and our 3rd graders started this amazing novel just this past week.  Mrs. M and I are sharing this story from 11:30-12:00 each day during our class read-aloud time.  The story directly supports our current Community Unit and allows the children to view another society as they construct Imaville and live their daily lives.

The children are intrigued with this novel and the discussions would rival any book club hosted by adults.  The third graders are using the novel to discuss choices, challenges, and the way each character deals with conflict. We are also discussing the idea of "truth" and the idea of truth as a static or dynamic idea.  The children discovered how the students of Ember were given textbooks, but the IMA students questioned the truth or the accuracy of the facts found in these books. 

Parents are asking how they can support their child's experiences with this novel.  Our first request:  we beg you NOT to see the movie until after we finish sharing the novel.  Our second idea: if you would like to read and discuss the book with your child at home, we highly recommend this for home reading.   The characters, their city, and the challenges each character faces in the novel would make excellent discussions at home.  Ideas like community, a future career, character traits, and citizenship qualities are just a few of the topics you could discuss.  We just ask that you do not read ahead so we can all make predictions and discover the surprises together as a class.

If you decide to read, The City of Ember, at home, let us know if you need help getting a copy of the book. The children are captivated by this novel, so join the fun and read it at home. We promise-you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thinking About The Fiction We Read

Our fiction reading during September and October explored characters.  "What do we know and understand about ______?"  became a common launch question.  We learned to observe characters and notice their "outside" and "inside" details so we could have discussions about characters and their traits.  We learned how the work of illustrators supports our thinking.  We found that using the details helped to understand a character.  Students discovered that paying attention to the details helps us enjoy our books and allows for meaningful discussions.

Our next adventure with books involves plot.  We will explore how a character is affected by the challenges, conflicts, and choices encountered in a story.  Students will identify how characters form and maintain relationships with others.  Linking what we know about characters, our book discussions will explore what happens in the lives of our story characters.  This literature study ties into our community unit and explores how an individual or a group affects the community. 

The discussions promise to be exciting and we cannot wait to hear what the children are thinking.  Ask your child about the characters you encounter in books during home reading and enjoy the book talks.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why We Spend So Much Time in the Habitat

Have you ever read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv? You can access an excerpt from the book at It is a very interesting read on nature deficit disorder. The theory says that within the last few decades, our children have become video game and structured activity driven and they no longer have the  time to play and explore outdoors. The worry is that we will raise new generations of children who have not made a personal connection to nature and they will not see the need to be stewards of the environment and our planet. Check out this book sometime! It was a recipient of the 2008 Audubon Medal and labeled as a "must read" by the Boston Globe.

Friday, November 6, 2009

New Math Homework Choice

This week I will be attaching a step sheet inside your child’s Home Learning Notebook (Homework) to help you assist your child with online homework. If you have access to a computer at home, I think this is a new, fun approach to homework for your child. It offers me a way to more effectively individualize homework based on your child’s needs. It offers you a chance to see how topics are taught so that you can reinforce learning at home. The online homework will offer your child review lessons on topics we have covered in class as well as fact practice.

This online homework is meant to give your child easy access to valuable lessons. However, I will still offer a paper version of math practice activities to any family that finds online homework does not meet the needs of their home or to any family who does not have an easy, available access to the internet at home. If you would prefer to have paper homework, please let me know.

Please note – The online assignments may look daunting but I still expect your child to practice math on only 4 different nights during the week and for 20-30 minutes each night. So they do NOT need to complete every assignment! Students should continue to record what they have done in their Home Learning Notebook as they have done all year. 

Thank you so much for being open to new possibilities and for supporting our efforts at school. Your help is very important to your child’s success!

Discovering Ideas and Opinions

The IMA kids are writing a variety of articles to publish in their upcoming magazine.  Conducting surveys and presenting the results has quickly become a writing form that interests the children.  A writer creates a purposeful question that will help the writer and our readers better understand our learning community.  Favorite recess activities, birthday treat options, and literary genre selections are a few of the recent survey topics.  Once the question and purpose are established, the writer conducts interviews, collects the data and creates an info-graphic to share with others.  The final step is analyzing and writing observations about the results.  Children also add their opinions describing how they might use this information in the future. 

The integration of math and writing makes Mrs. M. happy while Mrs. S jumps for joy over the authentic writing.  The children LOVE getting to know one another while gaining valuable literacy strategies based on their friendships with peers.  We must say this is a win-win-win situation!  The IMA kids look forward to sharing their publication in the near future. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wonder Questions

Children ask thought-provoking, important questions and we are taking advantage of students' curiosity with a ritual called Wonder Questions.  Whenever possible, students develop questions based on their interests.  Their questions guide their independent reading and research with the goal of sharing their answers with classmates.  Students use books, magazines, people, other printed resources, and the Internet to answer their questions.  While they find joy in self-directed learning, students are fine-tuning research skills, nonfiction reading strategies and informational writing strategies. 

After a series of guided lessons, the children realized that Wonder Questions cannot be HUGE questions.  Wonder Questions need to be more focused so a person can investigate the wonder.  A question such as, What is a garter snake?, is a HUGE question.  A Wonder Question focuses on a smaller aspect of the topic.  How does a garter snake fit a mouse into its mouth and swallow it whole at mealtime? is a focused question.  This question surfaced right before we fed Fred the Snake.  Observations and reading helped a child answer this question.

Wonder Questions let children know that learning can be fun, purposeful, and challenging.  They've discovered that a Wonder Question often leads to even more questions and learning.  We are so impressed with the enthusiasm and determination of the IMA children to make Wonder Questions a part of their learning lives.

You can make Wonder Questions a part of your home reading lives as well. A pet, an upcoming trip, a question sparked by a documentary, or a spontaneous question can lead to many priceless opportunities with your child.  Enjoy your time together and let us know about your Wonders!