Friday, December 2, 2016

The Telling Room

We had an amazing morning at The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing studio in Portland.
 We warmed up with an activity called "Polaroid" where we had to freeze and represent something in a scene. Our scene was during a volcano eruption in Pompeii.
Then we got to walk around Commercial St. and use our 5 senses to to describe our surroundings.  
When we came back inside, we used the words and phrases we wrote down to create haikus.

 Thanks to Marjo, Thew, and Myles from The Telling Room for all your help.Thanks also to Tyler and Amelia's dads, and Seth's mom for chaperoning. Check out our haikus! (You can click on a picture to make it bigger.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"I Am NOT A Turkey!" Projects

 We had a lot of fun creating and sharing our disguised turkeys. So many creative ideas! 
 Luke Skywalker and an old Granny
 A hip-hop dancer and a hunter
 A gymnast and Albert Einstein
Cinderella and a Brussels Sprout
 A policeman and a paperboy
 A race car driver and an army soldier
 Amelia Earhart and Superman
 Isaiah Thomas from the Celtics and Punky Brewster
 A magician and a tiger
 A firefighter and Supergirl
 A ninja and Batman

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Terrific Teamwork!

We have been all about teamwork in fourth grade this week! On Monday, groups worked together to build the tallest tower they could from candy corn and toothpicks.
Unfortunately, the candy corn kept breaking, so our towers weren't as high as we had hoped. It was a good lesson in dealing with frustration, however. We talked about perseverance, and how scientists trying new things often have to deal with things not going their way, but they don't give up.

On Tuesday we had our second Adventure-Based Learning, or ABL, of the year. We are lucky that we get to participate in Sweetser's ABL program, which emphasizes cooperation and group problem-solving. A couple of times a month, all the fourth graders spend most of the morning in the gym on a variety of challenges that require them to communicate and work together in order to be successful.
One of the challenges our first week was to see how many times each focus group could hit a balloon ball  to keep it in the air. Lots of teamwork needed for this one!
This past week, the big challenge was to make a line that reached all the way across the gym, using only your group and what belonged to you. At first it seemed impossible, but with some brainstorming and cooperation, it was amazing what happened!

We finished up the week with some cooperative research based on the S.O.L.E. model, which stands for Self-Organized Learning Environment. Students worked in groups of 3-4 to research a Big Question, and report their findings to the rest of the class. Our question connected to our current math focus on measurement. We were wondering why different places in the world used different units of measurement.
We talked about what keywords might get us the results we wanted, and decided we should search for "History of Measurement for Kids," and  "Customary vs. Metric Measurement for Kids". 
Students had 30 minutes to research and find answers to the Big Question. They took notes so that they could share what they learned with the rest of the class.
We learned that the Egyptians were the first people to use a unit of measurement- the cubit. Many units of measurement were based on the human body, such as a foot.
We also learned that the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar are the only three countries that use the Customary System of measurement, rather than the Metric System. A meter, the basic unit to measure length in the Metric System, is one ten millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator. 
Everyone was excited to share what they learned. We all enjoyed learning more about measurement. In math class, we've started measuring items to the nearest inch. Next will be measuring to the nearest 1/2 and 1/4 inch. Families, look for opportunities to ask your child to measure real items at home. They need lots of practice to internalize the different units of measurement. If you don't own a ruler, tape measure, or yardstick, please consider getting at least one of them so that your child can practice, (plus they are just handy to have around!)
Here are the measurement charts that students will be putting into their math notebooks this week.

Thanks for reading about our terrific week of teamwork!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Weather at Your School

We had an exciting day a couple of weeks ago when meteorologist Mallory Brooke, from Channel 8, came to our school early on a Tuesday morning for the Weather at Your School program. And when I say early, I mean 4:30 am early! (No, we weren't there at that time, but when I got up at 4:30, I turned on my t.v. and saw her already broadcasting, outside of Skillin!)

Students were invited to come between 6:00 am and 7:00 to help out with the Bus Stop forecasts, and several hardy souls made the effort and came before the sun was even up!
 Mallory and cameraman Frank came into the school to give a weather presentation at 9:15.
We learned how Mallory uses the maps from the National Weather Service to forecast the weather up to a week ahead of time. The different colors mean different intensities of precipitation. We were glad to see rain forecast for later in the week, since southern Maine is having a drought.
Gavin got to ask a question on-camera for evening meteorologist Roger Griswold. He did an awesome job!

We were so happy to be chosen for the Weather at Your School program. It ties in perfectly with our science focus of Weather and Water, and we now understand a lot more about Mallory's job. She first decided on this career when she was only in 4h grade herself, and based on student comments I heard after she left, I think Mallory has inspired a few future meteorologists herself!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Factors, and Multiples, and Arrays, Oh My!

Our first math unit of the year is a multiplication unit. While students spend a lot of time in third grade working on basic multiplication facts, we find that there is still much work to be done in 4th grade to help students become fluent with those facts. This is such an important skill, because later this year we will be moving on to multi-digit multiplication and long division. If your child is still counting on his or her fingers, it will be hard to keep up.

There are many apps and online games that can make practicing multiplication more fun. Click on the picture below for a post on the Appydazeblog listing good multiplication practice apps.

For free online multiplication games, check out

Students take a 1-minute individual fact timed test once a week. As they show mastery, they move on to the next number.  We go in order of difficulty: 0, 1, 2, 5, 10, 11, 9, 3, 6, 4, 7, 8, 12.  The target for the end of September is to have passed 0-2s. Ask your child which facts are the trickiest for them and support them any way you can, whether it is practicing with flashcards, playing a game, or quizzing them in the car.

One of our ELTs reads, "Understands that a whole number is a multiple of each of its factors." In order to make sense of this, you need to understand the difference between factors and multiples.
We have been practicing this every day during math calendar.
Today's Number is always the number of days we have been in school, (which was 14 this past Friday.) The Calendar Helper does all the writing and manipulation of the SmartBoard, while the rest of the class records the information in their math notebooks. Since students also need to know if a number is prime or composite, we record that, too.
We've also been reviewing arrays. Arrays are rectangular arrangements of objects that can be used to represent multiplication. We've realized that arrays are all around us!
Students have been working with partners to make array posters, and find all the factors of a given number, using the factor rules. Some are even taking on the challenge to find the seven numbers between 1-100 that have 10 or more factors. Here are some mathematicians at work! 
Ask your child which number they have found the most factors for!

Friday, September 16, 2016


This year was the 15th anniversary of 9/11. We learned a bit about the history of that terrible day during our morning message Monday, and also by practicing how to read an article and "Find the Evidence", (which is a homework routine you will see a lot this year.) As a way to honor the memory of the Twin Towers, we also watched a video of the picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, which is the true story of Philippe Petit, a Frenchman who rigged a tightrope between the towers in 1974, and walked between them.
We also watched the movie trailer for "The Walk", a 2015 movie about this event. (Click on the image to watch it!) It is rated PG, and looks like it would be a great movie to explain just how Petit did the seemingly impossible. His perseverance fits right into our discussions about having a Growth Mindset. More about that in a later post!