Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back to School Night 2013!


Greetings Parents!

Welcome to Room 303.  This is where your child spends most of their time when at school each day.  Please feel free to get up & look around the room.  There is a letter addressed to you at your student's desk.  If you feel up to the task, take a minute and respond to it (on the front or back)!

We will start once everyone has had a chance to arrive and find the room.

Thank you very much for coming!  My hope is that this blog will be a useful tool for students, parents and friends of our class.

Sincerely,

Mr. Balnave

P.S. - Tonight's homework is on the board:

- Read 20-30 minutes with a good book
- Reading log + Packet (due Friday)
- We will have a Math (graphing) quiz this Thursday (9/12).
- We will have a Social Studies (citizenship/government) quiz this Friday (9/13).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hello again!

The blog is back after a November hiatus...

Here is what we've been working on in room 303:

Language Arts - We have been working on a number of reading comprehension skills in Language Arts class.  One day, students listened carefully to the words read aloud in the children's folktale, The Emperor and the Nightingale, by Fiona Waters and Paul Birkbeck.  Students drew pictures based on what they heard and visualized in their heads.  Then they compared their pictures to those of the illustrator to monitor their own understanding of the details of the story.

"Close your eyes.  Listen carefully.  Ok, now draw what you heard."
          We have also been choosing characters from our book group novels for a final project.  The idea for this project was to really focus on the character development in the story.  Students made a model out of clay and listed four character traits that described how the character looked, behaved or thought in the story.  Students even spent time looking back in their books to find actual "proof" from the text for each trait they listed.

Writing - In writing we spent a great deal of time producing finished books for the animal research projects.  They are now bound and published, complete with title pages, tables of contents, pictures, captions and even a few indexes (indices?) and glossaries!

     We have also selected other stories from our writing journals to revise, edit and publish.  Recently, we worked on adding details to good sentences in order to make them great!  For example, students were shown the sentence "I walked to the tree."  With some coaching and encouragement, our class eventually changed that sentence to "I walked happily to the huge maple tree."  "He went home." changed to "He drove to a big brick house in a hot rod."  We decided that these new sentences gave the reader a better picture to visualize in their head!

Social Studies - During Social Studies, students have been learning all about the European explorers who discovered North America in the 15th/16th centuries.  We discussed the history of human settlement of the "New World" (North and South America) dating back to a land bridge over what is now the Bering Strait between Alaska and eastern Russia.  We studied the reasons European explorers chose to explore new, uncharted territories (e.g. "They wanted to find a faster route to Asia so they could trade for things like silk and spices.").  Students also chose one explorer to become an expert on (Christopher Columbus, Juan Ponce de Leon, Jacques Cartier or Christopher Newport) and completed a project of their own choosing (a poster, a map, a journal or a letter to the king/queen).  Projects will go home this week.

     This week we will be creating civilizations in room 303!  Based on the book, Weslandia, by Paul Flieschman, students will be tasked with creating their own imaginary group of people based around a staple food crop, a common language, similar clothing/shelter/food/music/games, etc.  Here's a video of the story for your home-viewing entertainment:



Math - We recently finished up our unit on addition and subtraction of large numbers (up to 4 digits).  Quizzes went home to be signed and returned, thanks for your support at home!  I'm allowing students to make corrections to any missed questions for 1/2 credit.

     We are also working with money in Math.  Aside from learning how to read and write different amounts of money, students have been working on adding, subtracting and making change using prices from various restaurant menus!  By the end of one lesson, we were even discussing how much tax would be added on to a bill of $2.60, and consequently, how much change would one receive if they paid with $15.00?  (and even... "Why would you pay with $15.00 if the total is only $2.60?").

"Hmm...what to order?"
 Parents, don't forget:

*Math Midyear Test happens this Wednesday, December 19th!

*Grandparent/VIP Day happens this Thursday, December 20th!

*Class Winter Party happens this Friday, December 21st!

Please feel free to call or email with any questions concerns.  Thanks for reading!

Best,

Mr. B



Monday, October 15, 2012

Picture Day, Conferences, etc.

Hello!

This is just a reminder that we will have yearbook pictures taken tomorrow (Tuesday, October 16th) at 1:00 p.m.  Order forms went home to all students last week.  There are extra order forms in the main office if needed.

Also, today I sent home a note about upcoming parent-teacher conferences.  Please check your child's agenda binder for more information!  In short, I will be meeting with any interested parents next week.  Monday, Tuesday and Friday are the days I have set aside, however, I will be happy to work with you if your schedule does not work with those days.  If you have any specific questions/concerns, please email me.

This week we are beginning our book group "rotations" in Language Arts.  Students will have two tasks assigned to them each morning (after our independent reading time).  During these rotations, I will be meeting with groups of students to discuss and guide their reading.  At the end of two rotations, all students will have 15 minutes to choose the activity of their choice (from the options listed).  Examples of Language Arts activities are:  completing a character map, making riddles with word study words, reading with a partner, working on writing, listening/reading/quizzing on www.raz-kids.com, summarizing a book, etc.

Today we finished most of our presentations for our terrestrial (land) environment projects!  We saw lots of great posters, skits and comic strips that showed knowledge of environments like deserts, rainforests, temperate forests and grasslands.  Thanks to the students for all of their hard work this past week!  Students also shared their outstanding "Make-A-Camouflage" bugs last week.  This week we will be focusing on food chains and animal adaptations.  We will learn words like producers (living things that make their own food), consumers (living things that must find and eat their food), and decomposers (living things that break down dead or decaying plants/animals).  We will also learn about carnivores (animals that eat primarily meat), herbivores (animals that eat primarily plants) and omnivores (animals that eat both meat and plants).

Some animals eat only plants!  These animals are called herbivores.  Are you an herbivore?

In math we are still working on rounding, comparing and identifying different numbers and values within those numbers.  This Friday (October 19th) we will have our Place Value Test!  A review packet went home to help students prepare for next week's 1st Quarter Math Test, which is a cumulative review of all the math we have studied so far this school year (mostly graphing & place value).

Leaf T-Shirts will be going home in Ziploc bags tomorrow!  Thanks for your help and patience with that project.  Also, (as always) thank you for making sure your child is rested, fed and gets to school on time! 

Sincerely,

Mr. Balnave

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekly Update

Greetings!

Here's the weekly update:

Language Arts - We will be starting book groups in class this week!  Students will be placed in groups of 3-6 and will choose from a limited selection of "good fit" books.  I will be working with each group on specific reading strategies, helping them manage their time and find creative ways to show their understanding of the text.  We will also discuss specific characters and practice identifying character traits (words that describe how a character thinks/acts/looks).  Students will learn how to distinguish between "round" characters (fully developed with many possible traits) and "flat" characters (undeveloped with few possible traits).  

Writing - In writing class, we are learning about different ways to write about non-fictional topics.  Students have seen examples of a caption, glossary, index, etc. and are getting ready to use that knowledge to help research and write a non-fiction book about an animal of their choice. 

Science - We are continuing our study of terrestrial (land) environments.  We have also discussed and defined different vocabulary words related to animal/plant survival.  Your child should now know about and be able to discuss different adaptations such as camouflage, migration, hibernation and mimicry.  This week students will be asked to produce a project (either a poster, a skit/play, or a comic strip) that shows their knowledge of different terrestrial environments and the animals/plants that live there.

Caption:  This pangolin (scaly anteater) has specially adapted skin to help it survive!


Math - This week we will be working on rounding numbers to the nearest ten, hundred and thousand.  Today, students did a great job of "building mountains" to help show their understanding of numbers and how they can be rounded.

For example:  When rounding the number 73 to the nearest ten, we drew a number line with "friendly tens" on either side.  In this case, 70 and 80 are the friendly tens that are closest to 73.  We identify the halfway point (75) and draw a mountain above our number line with the peak matching the halfway point.  Since 73 falls on the left side of our mountain, it "rolls" down to the number 70.  If the number falls exactly on the halfway point, our fictional mountain has wind that blows it down the right side towards the bigger number.  I find that creating this imaginary mountain scenario helps kids relate to the somewhat abstract concept of rounding.

The goal is to master even the most difficult rounding problems by the end of this week!  Some of the more difficult problems might be:

Round 382 to the nearest ten.

Round 5,064 to the nearest hundred.

Round 340 to the nearest thousand.

Round 7,299 to the nearest ten.  And so on...

This week is also special because we will be making our annual Fall Leaf T-Shirts!  Thursday morning we will work on decorating the shirts with leaves from outside.  Then, with help from parent volunteers, we will spray the shirts with bleach to create a cool looking leaf pattern!  Please remember to bring in a 100% cotton, dark colored t-shirt by Wednesday, October 10th.  I will make sure that everyone has a shirt by Thursday.  Thanks for your continued support at home!

Have a great week!

Sincerely,

Mr. Balnave

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weekly Update

Hello!

Thanks for being patient as I get used to doing a weekly update!  The past two weekends have taken me to Fairfax, Roanoke, Richmond and Virginia Beach for soccer games (phew).  I promise to do better!

Here is what we've been working on in room 303:

Language Arts:  Each day, I have made sure to include 15 minutes (or more) of independent, silent reading time.  During this time I encourage students to pick books that will "stretch" or challenge them.  After reading, we have been working on generating both "thick" (or "fat") and "thin" (or "skinny") questions.

Thick questions take a lot of thought and explaining to answer.
For example:  "Why do you think Omri wants to go home straight after school instead of skateboarding with his friends?"

Thin questions are easy to answer with only a few words.
For example:  "What is the main character's name?"

We have also been continuing our study of different types of words.  Identifying syllables, explaining the meaning of words through art, identifying words that rhyme or don't rhyme, etc.  We even have a "word of the day" that we choose from challenging words that come up during read aloud or perhaps science/social studies.  After working with the same word study sort for two consecutive weeks, students took their first word study quiz last Friday, September 28th.  We will have word study quizzes on a bi-weekly basis (students are encouraged to study their words at home the night before).
 
Writing:  In writing class we have been working on a project related to the book Amos & Boris, by William Stieg.  After hearing the story, students got to work brainstorming characters who would end up as unlikely friends.  We followed a similar plot-structure to Amos & Boris, however students had the freedom to choose their own characters, setting and even the problems the characters would face.  Upon completing a rough draft and sharing the story with a writing partner, students have been working diligently to produce a final copy that we can all be proud of!

Science:  This past week we learned all about various aquatic ("water") environments!  After learning a little bit about each and sharing what we already knew, each student chose from a list of aquatic environments (oceans, coral reefs, wetlands, rivers, lakes, etc.) to research.  We used books from the classroom, public library and laptop computers to help create brochures that contain relevant info about the different environments (animals/plants that can be found, fun facts and an advertisement).  This week we will learn all about terrestrial ("land") environments!

Math:  In math we are learning more about place values for numbers and different ways to think about how numbers relate.  For example, students have enjoyed making "count by..." lists that challenge their brains in different ways.  We have counted forwards by 2, starting from the number 1 (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11...).  Counting by 3s and 4s is a good way to prepare for our upcoming study of multiplication.  Other examples include:  counting by 10s starting from 231; counting by 100s starting from 3,486; counting backwards by 5s starting from 125; counting backwards by 1,000s starting from 31,020, etc.  We're focused mainly on being able to read/write/work with numbers up to the hundred thousands place, however, we did have a student write an extremely long number that ended up being one septuagintacentillion (1x10^513)!  We spent time making the largest/smallest possible number given ____ digits and we spent some time comparing numbers (>, <, =).  We will have a place value quiz on Friday, October 7th (study guide coming soon!).

That's about it!  It has continued to be a fun start to the year!  We spend time each morning getting to know each other (greeting, sharing, playing) and we're becoming fast friends.  Thanks for all that you do at home!

Sincerely,

Mr. Balnave

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekly Update

Greetings!

My goal for this blog is to share what we are doing on a weekly basis in Room 303 at Brownsville Elementary School.

Here is this week's update:

Language Arts - We started our first word study sort today.  Right now we're still learning different word study activities so the whole class has a sort related to commonly used words beginning with "a-" and "be-" (e.g., "about", "because").  We have also learned about synonyms (words that have the same meaning), antonyms (words that have opposite meanings), and homophones (words that sound the same but have different spellings/meanings).  As we read, we are learning to make different kinds of connections to ourselves and the world around us.  We have also been spending time learning how to use tools like the dictionary and thesaurus.

Writing - We have been brainstorming different topics to write about.  So far we have read books that model writing about our family, creating our own character(s), using memories from our own life and creating complex alphabet books that rhyme!  Right now students have the freedom to write about anything that interests them.  Soon we will choose a piece that we can take through the writing process (revising, editing, etc.).

We are learning about globes!

Social Studies - We played "Simon Says" today with geography vocabulary that we have learned in our Maps & Globes unit.  Students came up with creative ways to act out words like "hemisphere", "southwest", "prime meridian" and "coordinates".  We will have a Social Studies quiz this Wednesday on Citizenship (last week's study guide) as well as Maps & Globes (this week's study guide). 

We measure the "old school" way, with balance scales!

Math - This past week our class has been "rotating" through the 3rd grade learning about different ways to measure things.  For example, in my room, students learned about measuring the mass (weight) of an object.  We used both U.S. Customary units (ounces, pounds) and metric units (grams, kilograms).  Students worked with different types of scales including kitchen scales, balance scales and bathroom scales.  In other rooms, students measured distance, temperature and liquid volume.  Soon we will begin our unit on Place Value.  More info to come!

Parents, thanks for all that you do each day to make sure your child is prepared to learn here at school!

Sincerely,

Mr. Balnave

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back to School Night 2012!

Greetings Parents!

Welcome to Room 303.  This is where your child spends most of their time when at school each day.  Please feel free to get up & look around the room.  There is a letter addressed to you at your student's desk.  If you feel up to the task, take a minute and respond to it (on the front or back)!

We will start once everyone has had a chance to arrive and find the room.

Thank you very much for coming!  My hope is that this blog will be a useful tool for students, parents and friends of our class.

Sincerely,

Mr. Balnave

P.S. - Tonight's homework is on the board:

- Read 20+ minutes with a good book
- Reading log (due Friday)
- Social Studies/Math packet (due Friday)
- We will have a Social Studies quiz next Wednesday (9/19).  It will cover Citizenship/Government & Maps/Globes