Friday, October 2, 2015

Weekly Update


After some thought, I'm going to shoot for weekly classroom updates, to be published on Friday.  Here is the recap from this week in room 303:

Language Arts - This week our class made great progress with our "Language Arts Rotations" plan.

Every morning, after our morning meeting, students spend 15-20 minutes reading self-selected books independently.  They are allowed to sit anywhere in the room, but are encouraged to choose spots that are comfortable, quiet, and distraction-free.  Starting the morning with everyone reading books that make them happy is a great way to begin the day.  It also ensures a calm and quiet environment, making the reading time that much more enjoyable for all.

At ~8:40 a.m., we begin our first rotation.  There is a schedule that is projected on the board with groups of students working on different language arts tasks at the same time.  For example, one group of students might meet at the round table for a book group meeting (all students reading the same book, with teacher support).  Another group of students might be working with their word study words, choosing from a menu of activities.  Yet another group might be finishing up an assignment for a future book group meeting (e.g., finish chapter 2, find 3 unfamiliar words, etc.).  Students are expected to work independently for the duration of the 20 minute rotation.  So far, the class is doing great!

We transition to another rotation (#2) at around 9:00 a.m.  This allows another group of students to meet for a book group while the rest of the class works on independent reading, writing, and spelling activities.  Some students leave the room to meet with other teachers for more advanced reading groups or small group assistance.  The students seem to enjoy the independence and choice the rotations allow (they are allowed to be in control of their own learning to an extent).  I like the rotations because I'm able to work closely with groups of similar readers and really work on improving reading skills.

Every other Friday we will be having a word study quiz related to the words each student is studying.  The word sorts will change every 2 weeks!  We had quizzes today, so next Monday students will get their WS journal back with a graded quiz and a new set of words to work with and master.

At 9:25 a.m., we break for snack!

Being a Writer - This week, we focused on learning about pattern books and getting more ideas for our own writing.  We read the books Fortunately, by Remy Charlip, Animalia, by Graeme Base, and O is for Orca, by Andrea Helman (photos by Art Wolfe).  The students enjoyed the detailed illustrations in Animalia, and some even attempted to create an alphabet book of their own.  The class also enjoyed the humor and patterns found in Fortunately - a book that alternates good things ("fortunately...") and bad things ("unfortunately...") that happen to the main character.

Each picture is filled with things that begin with a letter of the alphabet.

Social Studies - We started our study of Maps & Globes this week!  We have been learning about map features like a legend/key, a compass rose, a scale, a grid system, and more!  Students have been introduced to world maps, globes (even watching a video about how globes are made), atlases, and computer mapping programs like Google Earth.  Yesterday, we spent some time creating our own treasure maps that we will then use to learn about coordinates.  Next Friday we will finish up the unit with a test on the continents, oceans, and various map features and skills that we have covered in class.

Math - This week we introduced the concept of rounding.  Many students remembered rounding from 2nd grade, however, this year we are rounding numbers to the nearest 10, 100, and 1,000.  To develop the concept of rounding, we spent our time doing three things each day.  First, we spent time practicing the art of estimating (  The idea of an "educated guess" and thinking "about how many" is a great way to warm up the brain for rounding.  Next, we spent time making "count by" lists.  Counting by 10s starting from 10, counting by 100s starting from 100, and counting by 1,000s starting from 1,000 are all things we did to get familiar with these benchmarks that will be used when rounding numbers.  Later in the week, we counted by the same amounts, but started from different numbers (e.g., by 10s starting from 680, by 100s from 3,200, by 1,000s from 18,000).

The strategy I used to introduce rounding was "building mountains" - basically a number line that helps students visualize the choice of "which number do I round to?"  We practice identifying the place that we're rounding to, choosing "friendly numbers" (e.g., when rounding 274 to the nearest 100, the friendly numbers would be 200 and 300), and then placing the number on the number line.  This helps students visualize the somewhat abstract concept of rounding.  Next week, we'll spend time reviewing all of the place value skills that have been taught (reading/writing #s up to 6 digits, comparing and ordering #s, etc.).

Thanks for reading!

Have a great (& dry) weekend!

- Mr. B

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