Today was a sad day in my classroom. Without going into many details, we learned that a member of our classroom recently suffered the loss of a parent. It came as a complete surprise to everyone. I am very grateful for the support of the principal, social worker, outreach specialist, and school psychologist, who were all on-hand to talk with students who were coping with grief. We also learned that another student had recently lost a close family member, so the grief was compounded.
Despite this tragic loss, I had the responsibility to continue to teach today. I told my class how important it was that we acknowledge the sadness, but that we needed to come together as a classroom family and support each other as we worked through the remainder of the day. The students did a great job of doing just that.
In the afternoon, our social worker came in and helped the students create sympathy cards for their classmate. The cards were very touching, very sweet, and far more sincere than what I would expect to see from an adult. I think that we, as adults, have been socialised to treat so many topics as taboo that we are unable to fully express how we feel to others. My students, on the other hand, have not yet learned to put up these walls, and they were able to express sympathy to a classmate in a very real, honest way.
As we continue to move forward, we will grow closer together as we help support one another during this difficult time. I hope that all of us, and especially our classmate, will remember the good things.
Shortly after the school year began, I made a decision to divide my class into two groups for math. Both groups are working on the standards for fourth grade math, but one uses the traditional Houghton-Mifflin Math series, while the other is using Houghton-Mifflin Math Expressions. The two groups worked mostly independently of each other through the first semester and most of the second, but I essentially merged them together near the end of the second, when we started focusing on multiplication.
Now that we are done with our major focus on multiplication, we have begun our work on division of whole numbers. At the end of last week, I decided to reboot the math groups, and have come up with a new strategy for how I would work with them. I began this strategy today, and I am glad to report that it seemed to have worked pretty well.
For about an hour or so before lunch, I had one group work with a tutor in the library while the other group worked with me in direct instruction. After lunch, the groups switched places, except that I didn’t have a tutor to work with one of the groups. Still, I was able to work with both groups in direct instruction and allow them to work independently at opposite times.
My goal will be to follow this pattern each day (except Friday, when we use the time after lunch for Read, Write, Think. Friday’s will be a spiral review day, which is an idea I got from my very awesome Title I partner. I am excited to see how math instruction improves as a result of this grouping and scheduling. There may be times that I vary what the groups are doing, or which students are working with me or a tutor, but the goal will be the same: ensure that every student has an opportunity for small-group instructional time and independent practice each day.
After a busy morning of researching the weather using a variety of books in our classroom, I decided to use my clothespins that have students’ names on them to randomly select students who wish to use the computers in the classroom during Read, Write, Think! this afternoon. This seemed to work rather well, as I am hoping to get a wider variety of content from students who wish to update this blog. The following is a joint-effort by two students in my class:
Today was Friday and we are in Read, Write, Think. Earlier in the morning Mr.Valencic told us that we are going to do another project, this time independent. This project will be about the thirteen colonies. Each student got to pick a colony to research.
On another note, today was mix and match day. Mr. Valencic claimed to have mix and matched something, but not many of us know what. Mix Match is about mixing the way you wear your clothes. Today I forgot it was mix match and I didn’t wear mixed clothes.
Here are some examples of what was mix matched: socks, shoes. hair, jewelry, and clashing designs for the shirt and pants. We also had a few kids wearing clothes backwards.
Today was the first sun in a long time.
For those students who may be reading and are wondering, I was wearing a brown belt with my black shoes today. That was my mix-match. The colony research project will be the first time the students have done a completely independent project in my class. We created a list of questions to be answered, which I will use for the students’ rubric. I am excited to see what kind of reports we will see!
By the by, for any parents interested in viewing students’ storybirds, please send me an email and I’ll set you up on our class account!
Yesterday I wrote about how I introduced my class to Storybird. I was surprised at the positive response, but I didn’t even begin to think the students would be as excited about it as they have been.
After writing my post last night, I started reading the storybirds that my students had been writing. I noticed that several students had written more stories throughout the evening and others were reading and commenting on them. It was really fun to see them participating in a literacy project outside of school, especially when I realised that some of them were students who are reluctant to participate in class.
When the boys and girls arrived this morning, several asked if they would have the opportunity to go into the computer lab to write more storybirds. I checked the schedule and found an opening. They were very excited to write more. I had to attend a meeting during that time, so I had a substitute teacher come and supervise them as they worked. I told each student that I expected them to write at least one story and comment on at least one classmate’s story. When I came in forty-five minutes later, I witnessed something I have never seen before: every member of my class was sitting at a computer, quietly writing.
To add to my elation, several students talked about writing more at home or going to the library to write. I have shared this with some of my colleagues and they have expressed a great deal of interest in using this in their rooms. I am definitely going to put this in the category of “Stuff That Works!”
Today was a day for celebrations in my classroom.
For one, we had two birthdays to celebrate: one for a girl whose birthday was today and the other for a boy whose birthday was roughly six months ago. (Because he has a summer birthday, his parents have him celebrate his half-birthday at school.) This week is going to be fairly full of birthday celebrations, as it turns out. In addition to today, we have birthdays on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Since the current tradition for classroom birthday celebrations is to bring in cupcakes or donuts, my students are going to be ingesting considerably more sugar than perhaps their parents would hope.
The other major reason for celebration was that the class finally filled our small vase with glass pebbles for the second time. The students earn pebbles for meeting class expectations throughout the morning, throughout the afternoon, for completing restroom breaks in under three minutes, and for receiving compliments from other teachers. We actually have two vases in the classroom. The small vase gets pebbles added to it each day for the above-mentioned reasons.
When that vase is full, the students earn a bonus Read, Write, Think! in the afternoon. After the small vase is full, we pour all of the pebbles into our second, larger vase. I measured out the glass pebbles specifically so that the small vase will be filled twice in order to fill the large one. So now that the large vase has been completely filled, we will have another, larger, celebration in the classroom. I have a few ideas about what this celebration will look like, but I haven’t locked on to any specific idea yet. I will make a decision tomorrow and act on it quickly (before the end of the week, for sure).
It was kind of crazy this afternoon, with donuts, Read, Write, Think!, and then cupcakes before recess. However, the students did fairly well today and I am looking forward to starting over with our glass pebbles!