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Salli’s Monthly Blog: January 30th

Mark your calendars!

February 16 & 17th No School mid-winter break

February 23 half day Teacher Professional Development; school in a.m., extended after care available.

Language Arts:

This month, our focus will be on writing that adds details, proper capitalization, punctuation and grammar. We will write some narrative stories that will help all of us improve each of the above areas. We are wrapping up our read aloud Traders in Time and taking a slight break to read a book called The Enormous Egg. This book is about a family that finds one of their chickens sitting on an enormous and a triceratops hatches from the egg. The kids are really enjoying the variety and are looking forward to more discussion about this book. When we finish with this book, we will begin to read Erie Trail West which will help students have a better understanding of the Erie Canal and its role in immigration to America and to Michigan. I have started a couple of literacy circles with some students as part of an independent group. They will meet twice a week to read and respond through writing and discussion. My plan is to have every student involved in some sort of literacy circle by the beginning of March. This will help students to analyze characters, identify problems and solutions as well as build some team accountability. The parameters are that they must only read the book the days they are assigned, unless they are absent then they will be allowed some make up time. They are required as a group to read one to two chapters and choose something from their literacy circle log, such as writing a summary, analyzing the character, identifying new vocabulary words and their definitions as well as discussing the problems and making predictions and inferences whenever they read.

 

Math: Last Friday, I attended an excellent math conference about using strategies and activities to help students build their number sense. The focus for the month of February will be to incorporate those strategies into centers as well as to have my students build their number sense skills. The instructor, Gayle Pukall, noted that if students do not have their basic ten facts, they will struggle with higher level math concepts as they begin to progress. I recently read an article titled: Fluency Without Fear: Research Evidence on the Best Ways to Learn Math Facts, by Jo Boaler: Youcubed at Standford University, January 28, 2015 (updated). In this article, it was noted that students who practice their facts through memorization and repetition and then forced to be timed tested is unnecessary and damaging. It promotes test anxiety and frustration. The article also discussed how the common core  standards are requiring students to be fluent and have quick recall of facts when actually it is detrimental to students learning the basic facts and number sense concepts. At this conference, I was having a conversation with a second grade teacher who taught at a Flint charter school. Their second graders are required to complete 30 basic math facts accurately in 1 minute and 30 seconds. The 2-3 teachers at Honey Creek, as of last year, would require basic math facts to be completed and accurately in 3 minutes. As of this year, I have stopped the timed testing. I give students  approximately 15 minutes to complete the weekly math fact assessment. These facts should be completed in that time, though they may not always be accurate but completed. Actually, when students know that I am not timing them, most finish within a couple of minutes. I allow this extra time for those who need it to work on completing the assessment. If I find students are not completing the fact assessment in that time, then I do take it after the 15 minute period. One thing that I am changing for the weekly math facts is students will only be responsible for the facts on their weekly assessment that they do not master. This means, they will identify those and use the NEW strategies that I will begin to introduce this week. Students will highlight the ones to focus on and not be responsible for those that he or she has already mastered. On Thursday, students will highlight those facts and you will find the test in his or her planner. At this point, we will not continue with graphing of these facts-BUT instead focusing on the learning target, “I can identify the fact families and solve problems using those fact families.” In addition to focusing on fact strategies, we will focus on solving problems with multi-digit regrouping, explore area and perimeter and complete a project, as well as using mental math strategies.

Social Studies/Science:

For the month of February, the focus will be on our local and state government and the three branches of government. As a part of this unit, I will be tying in some character values and what it means to be a good citizen. We will talk about responsibility, respect and how we play a big part in our community. This will be done through various picture books and literature readings. We will also be learning more about the European explorers and the Erie Canal. We are introducing a STEM project that correlates with the properties of matter unit, students will need to design and build some sort of pet toy. There will be a rubric and once the 2-3 teachers have fine tuned this rubric, we will share more about this project later.

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