Animals, Authors, and Autumn

This was the first week of the new grading period, which meant that we were able to begin new units.  And since it was Halloween, we also were able to have a little fun with spookier things.

In reading, we began reading Sign of the Beaver.  This nine weeks, we will read it separately, and then discuss a group of chapters together in a literature circle.

To prepare us for this, we discussed inferencing–using the context clues to read between the lines.  We watched the opening montage from Pixar’s Up.  Though that scene has absolutely no words, we were able to use the given clues to discuss the characters and what was happening within the story.  The children had some wonderful comments and observations.

On Thursday, we began our literature circle with roles.  We first started by going around the circle and saying what we thought of the first few chapters.  The children were commenting on each other’s comments to the point that we were unable to really go into all the roles.  I was proud as they really thought deeply about the book expressing expectations for what would happen next.  I’m excited to hear what the students have to say about the rest of the book.

In the Spirit of Halloween, we put some words in the grave—blah words, words that are boring, dull, and really tell our reader nothing.  In their place, we used thesauri to find more vivid, descriptive synonym survivors, and we wrote them on the tombstones of the blah words.


This week, we also had a special visitor join us in the classroom, a published author (also known as our dear principal Mrs. Stephens)!   She went over planning a narrative with the use of the skeleton story structure which includes the author knowing from the beginning an obvious and a hidden need for the main character and what was going to happen.  We also translated into this with a flower that blooms.  The children were so excited to have a visitor teach the class.

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Today, we also took our first field trip; we went to Triple R Ranch where we got to learn more about animals.  Our first stop was the Nature Hut where we were guided by Nature Josh.  We saw turtles, snakes, an iguana, among other creatures.

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It’s feeding time!

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After the Nature Hut, we took a hike through the woods looking and collecting things that bees would use.  Look at all the cool things we found!

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We then took our treasures to beekeeping where we learned all about bees, how they make honey, and how to keep a hive.  We even got to try some honey from the hive just a few yards away.

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This is the type of tree that bees from around here use to create honey; it’s a type of poplar.

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Our final destination was the pond to look for animals by swiping the bottom of the muddy banks with nets and putting what we caught in buckets.  Nature Josh demonstrated how to use the net and then the children were able to explore to find various animals including fish, ghost shrimp, crayfish and others.  We then discussed food webs and characteristics of the animals.

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New York

This week marked the end of our first quarter.  To showcase all that we learned, we prepared a fruitful event imitating old-time New York.  Thank you to all those who were able to come and to show their support including providing food.

In order for the event to go smoothly, we spent days creating things, putting things in order, writing, practicing, and setting up, among other things.  As a class, we discussed exactly what we would like to do, and we talked about what needed to be done before the big day.

Students worked in groups of three in order to write three newspapers about what they had learned.

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We also counted $21 into each envelope so that family members could go to the various stations and learn about all that we had learned over the quarter.  At each station, the children had to use the math skills that we had talked about during the first nine weeks.

Why $21?  It was an average of all the students’ ideas of what we should put into each person’s envelope.  We also decided on the prices for each place in New York.

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At the actual event, we first had staff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to greet the families, handing them an envelope with money, and encouraging families to purchase a ticket for the museum.  There, families could see the children’s artwork and folktales that they had written and comment on the work.


Once families walked into the classroom they were greeted by the shouts of people selling things: “Get ya newpapah!”  or “Broadway tickets here!”  Central Park was where the students got to share about what they learned in science with both crickets and with plants. They also used plants to talk about how God grows us in areas of our own life to bear fruit.  Ultimately, the reason of fruit is to bear seeds so that we can help others to grow.


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Little Italy we decided was likely where our main human character might live with his family, the Bellinis. Here we showcased our social studies pizza box projects about emperors of Rome.  Students also guided visitors to create their own pizza by putting on pizza toppings in the shape of characters from our book for example a cricket or a cat or a mouse or a human.  By doing this, the students were able to explain the various characters from the story.

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Finally we had the newsstand.  This was where all of the action of our book takes place–the Bellinis’ newsstand in the subway station of Times Square.  Here the students sold the newspapers that they created in class.  Unlike Mario in our book, the newspapers sold quickly…so fast we had to rush to the printers to get more hot off the press.  This newsstand was the reason behind our costumes–we were all newsies selling newspapers just like Mario.

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After 20 minutes of wandering at the various stations, we invited everyone to Broadway of course hoping that everyone had purchased a ticket because suddenly the prices were higher.  Our Broadway skit was called “Faithfulness” which defined what we thought was faithfulness and gave examples of faithfulness (or maybe not) including within the classroom or from the Bible.  In the end though, our narrator shared with the audience that we know faithfulness because it begins with God showing it to us as He guides us each step of the way and as He never leaves us alone.

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After the show, we headed to Times Square, where The Cricket in Times Square mostly takes place (at least in the subway station). Here we showcased our fruitful binders that we have been working on all quarter long. The children had a chance to share with their parents their binders and all that they had learned.


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And then we feasted on fresh hot delicious pizza just as if we were in New York.

Overall, I was very proud of the students and all of their hard work.  I look forward to this upcoming quarter and all the new adventures we will have.


Wrapping Up:

Next week is the end of the quarter.  Where does time go?  It feels like just the other day, I was eagerly and nervously awaiting the arrival of my students into my new classroom.  And here we now are finishing off the first quarter.

This week we were able to wrap up several of our units including finishing Cricket in Times Square.  From what I gathered, the children were happy with what happened to Chester, the cricket.  They eagerly shared with me that there are other books about Chester and his friends.

We also completed our plant unit.  Over the past few weeks, we have dissected, planted, watered, colored, drawn all about plants, how they reproduce, and how they create their own food and how they survive in general.  This week, we read a book called A Seed is Sleepy that shows us God’s creativity with the variety of seeds that He has created.  The smallest seed is the orchid that can have over a million seeds in a tiny section; the largest seed is the coco de mer which can weigh over 60 pounds!  We especially liked the seed called the Hamburger seed.


We also talked about the parts of a plant.  I used Beatrice Rosie, a rose bush that we named together, to talk about the parts of a plant.  Next time, I will remember to not choose a rose bush when I want to show the root system of a plant.  IMG_5569

To finish our unit on plants, we created a file folder on the parts of the plants and the parts of the flower.  The children then labeled each parts and discussed what each part did in preparation for their test.  Later, I had some help putting them up in the hall-way.  We chose a very specific location–right in front of our sign announcing our fruit–and a very specific pattern (see photo below).

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Wrapping up the Roman times and our study of the Gospels:

Though we haven’t completed it quite yet, this week we started piecing all that we have learned about the Roman period as well as the four Gospels together.  With a friend or friends, the children looked at various parts of Jesus’ final days and compared and contrasted them with the four Gospels.  Last week, when I announced we would be doing this, the children were very excited and told me they had never done it before.  Though it was challenging, the students were doing their best and discussing with each other what they noticed.  As I walked around the room, I heard things like, “In the first story, John didn’t have much detail, but in this one he had the most”  or “Matthew and Mark sound very similar” or “Matthew and John were actually there when this happened!”

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Star-Improvement Ceremony

Every Friday, we hold a star-improvement ceremony.  This is where we nominate students that we have noticed really improving throughout the week.  I emphasize to the children that this is a competition against themselves because each child is seeing how he or she can do better and gain improvement.  To open, I announce the ones that I would like to give stars to, and then I open it for peer-nominations.  Yesterday, I was so proud of the students as for 15 or so minutes they praised each other and acknowledged areas where they had each grown over the week.  The kind and uplifting language made me so very proud of them.


This week we began looking to next week where we will showcase all that we have learned during our fruitful event.  During our morning meeting, as a class, we discussed what we would like to do.  We decided that we are going to…now wait a minute.  I cannot just tell you!  You will have to come and see for yourself!  Next week our fruitful event called Faithfulness Begins will begin at 12pm on Thursday October 22.  I hope to see you all there!  Here is a link to the facebook event:

Once upon a time….

Once upon a time, in a little classroom there were nine young students.  These students loved learning and loved exploring.  And so it was that in week 7 of the year 2015, they continued to learn and to explore new things unknown to them before.

During their writing, they took on the task of creating a folk tale.  While the week before they had talked about what folk tales were, including specific types like parables and myths, this week they journeyed on to the discovery of fairy tales and fables.  The children eagerly wrote their own folk tale, many with a special twist and filled with lots of creativity.  Questions of “Will we have writing today?” danced in the air.

As they continued through Cricket in Times Square, they also traversed to other classrooms seeking the knowledge of reading through quests of Guided Reading.  Their first week in this new experience went smoothly and well.

As the computers roared, the children all found facts about the Roman way of life in the Roman Empire.  They looked into Nero, they looked at Diocletian, they looked at Constantine…they even looked into Pompeii.  They eagerly shared their knowledge with others in preparation to create their own specialty pizza about their subject as if it were straight from Times Square.

Through their Roman study, the children even discussed marriage and the banned marriages under Emperor Claudius.  They listened carefully to hear the story of Saint Valentine and his gallant efforts to continue marriage, a sacred ritual created by God from the very beginning.

Little did they know though that towards the end of the week, they would learn more about God’s creation through the process of photosynthesis in plants.  They discussed the purpose of the flower to bear seeds.  In fact, they even explored the uncharted and dangerous area of fruits–strawberries, peppers, and banana to discover parts of the flower that they could still identify after the fruit had developed.

IMG_5555 IMG_5556They even planted their own two seeds (a cucumber and a bean seed) creating the hypothesis “If I plant bean seeds, then they will grow faster than my cucumber seeds.” They chose the window as the best place to put their seeds since they knew the basic needs of a plant in order to bear fruit.

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However, unexpectedly, the most important lesson of the week came from little tiny colorful beads.  See these weren’t just any beads.  No they were not magical beads that would grow a bead stalk, but they are beads that can bring more princes and princesses to the Kingdom of God.  Together the children, created bracelets with these colorful beads, where each bead represents something from the story of Jesus.  Green is for God creating the whole world in just six days and resting on the seventh.  When He created the world, He gave humans the choice to either worship God or to choose to please themselves.  Sadly the first people, Adam and Eve chose to go against God and suddenly sin, the black bead, entered into the world.  Since this made God so upset that He could not have a relationship with these people because He cannot be near sin, but He loves His people, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus into the world to die and rise from the dead for His people (the red heart).  When anyone accepts what Jesus has done and believes that God did take the punishment for all their wrong, God washes them white as snow.  Accepting Jesus, people then experience the presence of the Holy Spirit or the baptism of the Holy Spirit (blue).  Finally because of this, one day all who believe in Him will live with Jesus forever in heaven which is paved with streets of gold.  And that is how we can all live happily ever after in the Kingdom of our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ.


Dissection of…

This week was full of new learning experiences.  We started a new math, science, and writing unit and continued on with learning about the Roman Empire and Cricket in Time Square

Book Buddies

Since the start of the school year, I have been telling the children that we were going to be partnering with first grade to do book buddies.  Every time I brought it up, the children eagerly asked, “Are we getting them today?”  This week we finally got to meet with our book buddies from first grade.  To get to know their book buddy, the fourth graders chose a book to read to their two (or three) buddies.  Next week, our book buddies will start choosing books to share with us.  As I watched Faithfulness fruitstand, I was so proud of the children interacting so well with their new friends.

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Cricket Projects

This week, we completed our cricket unit culminating in showing off our cricket projects and models.  The students were so eager to share what they learned about our little friends.  We put the projects in the hall, so that all people could come and admire our hard work over the past few weeks.

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This week, we finished our unit on place value as well and went on to estimation.  What would an estimation unit be without candy?  Bags of candy!  Each table had a different bag of candy.  Using the context clues on the bag, the students were able to determine a good estimate for about how many pieces were in the bag.  Then, they used strategies that they already knew to determine about how much each piece would cost based on the rounded prices.  Throughout the children had some wonderful thinking and used math talk to explain what they did to come up with their answers.

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In Bible, we are taking each of the Gospels and looking at it more closely throughout the week.  This week, we looked at Luke.  How can we study Luke without talking about Christmas and the Christmas story?  We walked through and discussed Luke 2, and then sang a verse of Angels We Have Heard on High. And now that it is October, we can sing Christmas songs more regularly!


During reading, we discussed author’s purpose, the many reasons the author might be writing.  We used the acronym PIE’ED to help us to remember the various purposes: persuade, inform, entertain, explain, and describe.  During morning meeting one day, we played a group game of memory with short sentences that we had to match to the author’s purpose.


This week the students were also able to earn lunch in the classroom because of their excellent behavior and hard work.  To go along with our work with author’s purpose, I made them hand Apple Pies.

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Yes, we did dissect this week.  Since the start of the school year, I have casually mentioned that in the next few weeks we would be doing a dissection.  I never mentioned though what we would be dissecting.  On Thursday, we had our dissection.

To begin, I put on magical safety goggles and suddenly a crazy scientist was there who called herself Scientist Bonhover with a thick accent.  She led the students through safety procedures.

“We’ll need safety goggles!”  one student eagerly explained.

“YES!” exclaimed the scientist, “We don’t want juices to squirt in our eyes!”

“EWW!” the class chorused in anticipation.

After going through other safety procedures like correctly using the scissors, the forceps, and the poking instrument, the crazy scientist asked for ideas of what they might be dissecting.



After several ideas, the scientist called for a drumroll.

“We will be dissecting….” she paused dramatically as the class collectively held their breath, “FLOWERS!”

The class was completely silent to the point that if our crickets were still singing, we would have heard them loud and clear.  The students blinked.  They were likely thinking, “Okay, this is the part where this crazy lady will tell us what we are really dissecting.”

“No really, we are dissecting flowers!”

Despite their initial reaction, the children loved exploring their flowers and discovering new things.  The next day, we sat around the small group table and discussed the various parts of the flower and what their purpose is in the seed creation process.  God is so amazing in making things both beautiful and useful as we saw in the flower that every part has a purpose.

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