The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Year in Review

Today was our very last day of school for the 2013-2014 school year and the end of my third year of teaching at Wiley Elementary School. Each year has had its own unique challenges and each year has had both similarities and differences in what we have done and how we have done it in the classroom. And each year ends with me realising that, despite the challenging days, despite the struggles to reach the students least willing to be reached, despite the personal goal to make sure that every student is being stretched to do his or her best, despite my own personal shortcomings, the year has been a good one. I have come to love each and every one of my students and know that as they grow older they will always be my fourth graders. I hope that they will fondly think of me as their fourth grade teacher. I have a not-so-secret hope that, just as I went back to visit my fourth grade teacher over the 20 years that she taught after I had moved on, my own fourth graders will remember me and come back to say hello, to introduce me to new books, to talk about their families, and to let me know what they are learning. I also hope that parents will forgive me for my shortcomings and know that I really do try my very best every day to help every student.

Here’s a recap of the year. This is the same recap that I sent home with report cards today, but since I know that there is a lot information that goes home with those report cards, I thought I’d share it here, too.

Science: We learned about ecosystems and habitats, especially around the Great Lakes region; weather and the water cycle; electricity and magnetism; and force and motion. The students conducted several independent research projects, attempted to build small electronic devices in the classroom and learned how to deal with the struggle of things not working properly, and constructed balloon-powered toy cars using household items.

Mathematics: We studied properties of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and learned how to use the standard algorithms to perform multi-digit arithmetic; we examined plane figures and two-dimensional shapes, learned how to find area and perimeter, and explored how to measure angles using a protractor; we learned about fractions, including how to compare and order, how to find equivalent fractions, adding and subtracting with like denominators, and multiplying by a whole number; we learned how to convert fractions to decimals and decimals to fractions; and we examined the two major systems of measurement and found different ways to graph data.

Social Studies: We started a journey through the history of how we got where we are today, starting with early European exploration, going through colonialism, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and Westward Expansion; we visited Springfield and learned about Illinois’ natural history and the visited the State Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. We read Alice McGinty’s wonderful book, Celebrating Champaign-Urbana History, and learned how our community was founded.

Literacy: We read! Oh, how we read! We read from our Houghton-Mifflin Reading textbook, we read chapter books in literature circles and guided reading groups, we read as a whole class, we read to each other, we listened to reading by our student teachers and others, we read to our first grade reading buddies, and we listened to them read to us! Many of us participated in the Battle of the Books program. We also read our own self-selected books, SOARing every day. We also wrote! We wrote in response to reading, we wrote about our own experiences, we wrote about personal hobbies and interests, we wrote to our pen pals at Robeson Elementary School in Champaign, and we wrote about short research projects.

Physical Education: We learned how to handle different sports equipment, we played games, we practiced volleyball techniques, we ran, and we trained for the big teachers vs. students kickball at the very end of the year. Four of our class members were on the student team and did very well competing against the teachers! We also participated in the Wiley Walk-a-thon at the start of the year and the Color Run at the end of the year!

It’s been a wonderful year! And while I am looking forward to a break, know that I will be spending the next few months attending workshops and conferences, reading professional journals, articles, and books, and planning for the coming year. I hope that each of my students will take time to read every day. The Urbana Free Library is once again offering their wonderful summer reading program. There are also programs available online through Scholastic and other sites. Enjoy the break and, as I told students who asked me to sign their yearbooks, have a fantabulasticaliciously awesome sauce summer!

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