Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh, What a Character!

Hi Families!  Just a quick update!

Here are a few more images of our Character Wall.  The kids are quite proud of this work.  Today they got to present it to the 8th graders and tell about their process.  Then everyone got in their groups to write stories.  Many were animated and laughing and connecting over this.  At the end of this time, some groups read out their stories.    Next week we plan to write more!

I hope you have a nice night!  Love, Jennifer

PS the blue sticky notes are their plan for what they are doing next in their work...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Try, Try Again!

Hello Families!

Today we started our new songs and poems a little early.  We only have three weeks until our winter break, so I thought I’d get a jump on them.  The new snowflake haiku inspired us to remember the pattern in making a haiku.  When we tried to make a line with five syllables, many of the kids realized that they were quite good at this!  Then we ended up writing our own new haiku from the example lines that came up.  Here it is:

The Ice Cream in My Tummy
Ice cream is yummy
In my big, happy tummy.
It’s so delicious.
By the Powerful Problem Solvers

We have already had some good discussions about the poem we are studying by Robert Frost.  If you would like to google these and read them together with your child, here are the poems and songs we are studying:
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost
Bear in the Woods, by Shel Silverstein
Everyday People, performed by Sly and the Family Stone

This is the homework that the students created for themselves.  I’m sorry I really took time over the break and didn’t get this up, but it all still applies, and many of these will carry over to the winter break too.  We will brainstorm more for the break too.  Do you have any ideas to add here?  (We already did add one, if you have a Christmas tree, how tall is it?  If your child is doing this one, have them help to measure it and to figure out in feet and inches!)

Our character wall is growing!  The students have worked so hard to create each character to be informative and personal.  There are a lot of writing skills going into these!  The feedback in this process is key here.  Many students made simple but realistic changes to move their illustrations from being like anyone could make, to being special and unique.  Please come in soon to find your child's work and to have them explain their process! 

 What changes do you feel made the biggest difference with these masterpieces?

 By Avery


  By Rainli


  By Joey

  Here you see that his character loves to run!

We are also still investigating and discussing the signs you have been sending in.  Thank you!  Our field trip was also an amazing source of this.  We are continuing to talk about that day.  Thank you to all of you parents who came with us on our outing.  You made it fun and safe!   I am trying to learn how to embed a slide show here... Stay tuned!

Coming Up:
Next Monday we will be starting our next session of Explorations.  We will be having these classes on Mondays still, but in the morning now, from 9:30-11:40. This session will go to March 12th.  The two classes the students will be involved in this session are Photography and Movement- more exciting fun to be had.  I hope your student will be sharing this experience at home with you, too.

Next Wednesday, December 7th, 2011from 4-6pm will be our next Family Night.  Please Come!  We will be enjoying community togetherness and have a school wide potluck.  I will email you more info.  I hope you will be able to come, it is always such a special thing to see the students and family members meeting and getting to know each other further.

Well, that's all for now!  I hope you enjoyed reading this with your child!  Love, Jennifer

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Have a Name!

Hi families!

How are you?  I am excited to present our class name: The Powerful Problem Solvers!

The kids went through a detailed process that included brainstorming, discussion, persuasive statements and multiple votes to get to the name we will have for the year.  Below you can see some of the process and the students voting.

We also had an all school assembly this week to see the performances from our Explorations classes.  The students were excited to see the other classes and to see some of their siblings performing!  Here are some of the images...

Just a quick post to get these images up.  I will share more info about our sign discussion we had this week!

Thank you for all the help for our field trip tomorrow!  Talk to you soon, Jennifer

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sadness, Excitement and Communication

Happy Weekend!

I hope to finish this post quick so that I can publish it!

This week was full of great work and lots of feelings.  The kids were excited about picture day and when the eight grade buddies came on Wednesday.  And we were all having sad feelings about Tennacee moving to Virginia.  Friday was her last day and she will be missed.  She  is someone who offers to help anytime anyone needs it, so she was a valuable member of our community.  I wanted to let you know of this, just in case your child shares their feelings, or is acting a little off.  We all go through saying goodbye to people throughout our lives.  This may be the perfect time to discuss how we deal with or work through these feelings.

Next week we will be doing some cool things that the students are excited about.  This week we looked at two of our brainstorms, the name for our group and the name for our baby fish.  We distilled these down to three or four main choices.  The group voted to find the main choices for the fish name, but for the group name we had a subtly different process.  The students started noticing key words that they liked and that were in many of the suggested names, for instance Brainstormers, Solvers and Adventurous. ( Pretty cool words to identify yourself with!)  Together they came up with the four options we are voting between. So next week we will vote and agree on these two important items!

We will also be going on our first field trip next week, on Thursday!  Monday we look forward to everyone turning in their money for the trip.  We do have enough family members going on the trip, but we could use more drivers, or we may chose to have you drop off at the bus stop that day instead... I will email you about this.  Check your prior emails for all the details.

But the real reason we are going on this particular trip is to check out all the signs across the city.  Thank you so much to all the families who have sent me images of signs this last week!  I can't wait to show them to the kids on Tuesday!  We will discuss each and generate a list of key themes or ideas that make a sign work. Here are some questions to think about:

What makes an effective sign?
What elements are universal in signs?
What symbols do we consistently see in signs?
What do we notice about the text in signs?

The students often want to create their own signs to communicate with the students from other classes on campus, so this research will help us to step up our creations.  With each sign we make the students try to answer three questions to help formulate their plan:

Why are you making your sign?
What is your sign’s message?
What symbols or illustrations will you use on your sign?

This work is important to the students because they want to organize things and are hoping to make agreements that everyone can uphold about the care of our school environment.  I am excited to see how our field trip helps us to think about the signs we want to create.  I also can't wait to get to go on all the different types of transportation!  I wonder how many students will be having their first boat experience on Thursday?

Well, I hope you are enjoying your weekend.  I loved the rain and now the sun.  See you soon!

Love, Jennifer

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Such Valuable Feedback!

Hello Families!

This morning friends worked on their character descriptions again and they are writing so much!  We outlined the steps to get our characters done.  This helped the students to see what they need to do and in what order.  The students realized that there are two places to get feedback because there are two elements to give feedback on: the written description and the illustration that goes with this.

Today we were able to see more helpful feedback emerge.  Students read what they had written so far and then their constructive partner asked questions or told what they felt they'd like to know more about.  These answers gave each student ideas about what to change or add to make their character description more detailed and clear.

This afternoon we journaled with a question from a story as a prompt.  I have read the beginning of the chapter book, Flat Stanley, to the children and we used this to practice writing a different style of journal entry.  The students were required to write the sentence starter and then continue the sentence and explain their reasoning for their choice.  Many students are working on making their work special and writing thoughtfully while still getting work done in a timely manner.  This is SO tricky.  But these times in the day are perfect practice.  Practice is how we learn, right?  

Below you can see how we go about our journaling process.  First we identify our topic and have a quiet moment to plan what we will say.  Next the students ask for words they will be using that they do not know how to spell yet.  I write these up on the board.  Finally, the students create their composition using the key words they brainstormed and other words they inventively spell.  

I was interested in hearing the reasons why they would or would not like to be flat like Stanley.  The kids identified elements that it is important to think about, like how does your eating style change if you are flat?  It has also been so neat to see their writing progressing!

Also, on Monday we played math games in the morning.  Here is a list of the games we played:

Make a Flat! (100)- This one was a big hit!
Subtraction Dominoes
How Many Ways can you make 10?
Make Ten then Make Zero
The Last Block

Some of these are very easy to make and require little supplies at home.  Some do require valuable tools like Pattern blocks, Unifix blocks and Cuisenaire rods.  These are great for learning different math concepts, such as grouping, addition and subtraction. Please ask your child to explain how you play these games.  This might stimulate an interesting discussion about what parts of math concepts your child likes!  Please come in and have your child show

If your student wants to make a new math challenge as their homework we have some topics to cover: writing a word problem, incorporate subtraction in a word problem or in an equation and also writing a math problem that incorporates coins.

Here are two new math problems that came up in discussions already this week.  Many of you may have heard from your child that three families have recently made changes in their five day at school plan.  This means we have said goodbye to having these friends in our class.  This brought up the first question here.

How will you go about solving these?

Another topic that has come up recently is how people go about memorizing words whose spelling just doesn't make sense.  Many friends have been challenging themselves to memorize words we see all month in the songs and poems we practice and study.  This has brought up discussions about each friend's personal method of memorizing information.  We have talked about chanting, writing something down many times and making up a movement to do when memorizing a new word.  But, aren't there more ways that help us memorize information?  With each friend's unique learning modality they need to figure out the best way they learn and retain info they want.  So another homework option friends gave themselves was to think about what their personal method is and to share it with the group at school this week.

Well, I hope this has helped you to connect to your child's learning this week.  And I hope the students are sharing more stories with you at home!  Have a great day!  Love, Jennifer

PS THANK YOU for all the sign images, PLEASE KEEP THEM COMING IN!!!