Monday, May 22, 2017

Approaching Year's End

I'd like to invite you all to our third grade slideshow scheduled for Wednesday, May 31, at 6:00. It will take about thirty minutes and features pictures from throughout your third grader's year. This is a fun and celebratory event, so all students and their family members (including younger/older siblings) are encouraged to attend. I have been in touch with the Rec Center to make sure there are no baseball or lacrosse games scheduled for the 31st.

We'd also like students to bring in their HOC cans during the evening event so we can collect any funds that have been raised thus far. The class will do a coin and cash count to see how much it has raised as a team. Cans will then be sent back home for summer collecting.

There is a bake sale sponsored by the sixth grade this Wednesday, May 24. This is the same day as our annual May Day event.

Finally, in years past we have concluded the year with a class party at the home of a student. Most often there has been a pond or pool so that students can swim. If you are feeling inspired to host a class celebration please let me know as soon as possible. We would provide a lifeguard if swimming were to be an activity. The class will pitch in to coordinate meals, drinks, etc. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Start of Quarter 4

Report cards are being mailed home this week and you can expect your student's in your mailbox by early next week. If you would like to meet to discuss your child's progress we are happy to do so at your convenience.

You may recall heading to the STEM lab during Student Learning Celebrations and performing a pendulum investigation with your student scientist. Just recently the class wrapped up this unit on force, motion and engineering. As a culminating event student teams presented engineered magnetic prototypes designed to solve a real world problem of their choosing. Our audience included the fifth grade, a handful of available teachers, and Ms. Mills.

Static electricity exploration
Magnetic fields
Push and pull 
Engineering a prototype, a completed design & presenting to an audience

Several weeks ago first grade authors joined us to read their published pieces to our class. It was great to see the class act as mentors and enthusiastic listeners for their young friends.

In math we have circled back to adding and subtracting with a focus on large numbers. Students have used grams (metric form of measuring weight) and liters (metric liquid volume measurement) as a means of applying skills to real world problems. They were using scales and graduated cylinders to find sums for and differences between numbers.

In writing we have been listening to and reading fairy tales in preparation for doing our own "fractured" retellings. Students will settle on a fairy tale to retell by changing the characters, setting, and/or problem. At the same time the class will work on reading fluency skills and reading with inflection as they participate in readers' theater productions based on fairy tales.

During the past several weeks your child's teachers have been trying to catch individuals making good choices. Every time this occurs the student is quickly and immediately acknowledged with a movie ticket. Third graders turn in their tickets to a container in the classroom. When the whole class manages something as a collective group a pink ticket worth ten individual tickets is awarded. The third graders settled on a goal of 1,500 tickets that would then result in a class celebration at Vail Field. Well, today was the day we exceeded the ticket goal and so we are headed to Vail Field for some fun games in recognition of the hard work your children have been doing lately.

To put a finer point on things, 1,500 tickets means that over course of three weeks third graders have been praised or recognized 1,500 times! It feels great catching kids making productive, respectful, responsible, cooperative choices. More importantly, students are shaping their behaviors to be more in line with expectations and receive kudos for doing so. Awarding a ticket may sound like, "I noticed you...
  • put you name on your paper."
  • wrote on the lines."
  • got started immediately."
  • shared your materials."
  • are working very quietly."
  • helped her with that problem."
  • let ______ play with you."
  • arrived with a pencil."
  • raised your hand."
  • disagreed respectfully."
  • didn't get upset."
  • got loads of work done."
  • followed directions the first time."
  • got out when you were tagged."
This Tuesday the class will walk to the Courthouse after lunch to watch a play put on by the sixth graders. This will be a partially improvised, partially scripted trial of the character Ulysses from Roman mythology. We've been reading an abbreviated version of The Odyssey to provide some context for the third graders. They are highly intrigued by the many wild adventures of the main character.

We would love to hold a class party toward the end of the school year. If you have a pond or pool and would be interested in hosting a party (we'll supply the lifeguard) please contact Jay at at your earliest convenience.

Finally, early into our fourth grade year the class heads to the Hulbert Outdoor Center for some team building exercises. This is a three-day, two-night experience that WES students have been participating in for decades now. Much more information will be forthcoming, however, we need a couple of parents who would be willing to help with the facilitation of our fundraising efforts. If this is something you'd consider please contact Jay. Two parents would be really helpful and, to be honest, there isn't loads to do because a very successful model has been in existence for awhile now.

We hope you enjoy the arrival of spring weather and its accompanying outdoor activities!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Early Spring(ish)

WES has decided to significantly revamp the format of what were previously Student-Led Conferences. The goal of what we are now calling Student-Led Learning Celebrations is to provide children with an opportunity to show parents what they know and have accomplished in a celebratory atmosphere. To that end, we have scheduled the Celebrations to take place at a time unrelated to any sort of reporting or assessment period. Also, teachers will facilitate the structure of their grade level Celebrations, but, unlike conferences, we will not be active participants in them. We hope this new system will help maintain a focus on the student by avoiding teachers and parents having an impromptu conference in front of the child. Here is a link to the scheduled times available for your child's Learning Celebration.

Having just wrapped up our fractions unit, the class has circled back to building upon its understanding of multiplication in mathematics. This is obviously a major area of focus in third grade. In the upcoming week we will host two candidates who are interested in filling the third and fourth grade teaching vacancy left by the retiring Mrs. Siegler. Each candidate will teach a demo math lesson to the third grade that maintains the flow and pacing of our new multiplication unit.

In science we are involved in studying forces and motion. Students have performed experiments to help explain that a force is either a push or a pull that can make objects move. The class has also investigated the effects of balanced (objects remain at rest) and unbalanced (objects move) forces. Finally, on Thursday we discussed what makes a fair test how to conduct an experiment so it is a fair test (an investigation that is designed to give a fair chance of getting good data).

Unbalanced forces
Collecting Data
Scientists at work

Having settled on a thesis (big idea) for their opinion pieces in writing, students are diligently crafting their supporting body paragraphs. We hope to have these completed within the next week or so. The audiences for these pieces range from a parent to our principal to President Trump. Published work will be mailed via USPS to the intended recipient. Students will get to see how convincing and strong their arguments were by whether their audience made the suggested changes.

During our reading block, children are discussing the arc of the story while also partner reading self-selected, teacher-approved novels. The class is also tackling spelling rules and conventions.

Mrs. Klocek invited a local author to come in and read his published book dealing with the issue of bullying. The class was engaged in the story, could understand the overall message, and asked many thoughtful questions of the author.

Grab the Bully by the Horns
Q & A after the book has been read

There is a very informative Parent Information Series ongoing at WES. It takes place on Thursday evenings and is meant to address a range of issues relevant to raising children of elementary school ages in our current culture. Check out the Upcoming Events list to the right to see if there is a topic of interest to you. The PTO and Mrs. Klocek are always interested to hear from parents if there is subject matter you think warrants addressing during a future series.

The Winter Wishes and Valentine's Day celebrations were a big hit with everyone. Thank you for your support along the way.

Happy Winter Wish recipients

Making mailboxes

Almost delivery time

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mid-Winter News

Happy February everyone. Tomorrow Mr. Miles will begin mailing report cards. This is the second quarter and both the academic and behavioral expectations of third graders have increased since our last reporting period. The change in standards may be reflected on your student's report card as they possibly work towards improving respectful listening skills, maintaining a quiet body, sustaining productivity throughout work periods, and putting forth strong effort when completing assignments. 

The class has just wrapped up a supplementary math unit to help solidify and build upon third graders' multiplicative understanding. This mini-unit, entitled Groceries, Stamps and Measuring Strips, comes from the Contexts for Learning Mathematics series. Your child will also be bringing home a set of student created flash cards that he or she can use either independently or with your assistance to gain fluency with basic multiplication facts. Sorting the cards into two groups, Facts I Know and Facts I Am Working On, and then practicing with the working on pile for ten minutes a day will make the task most manageable.

Students are digging into what it means to write an opinion piece. We are learning to craft a strong, bold thesis statement (student opinion or big idea) and support it with solid reasons. Some of the ideas generated so far have been: I think I should have my own room; I think we should have a class pet; We should have more toys on the playground; The cafeteria should serve chocolate milk; and Third graders should have their own desks. We are also starting to explore grammar and the parts of speech. Nouns  (person, place, thing, or idea) were the first part of speech tackled. Our work will be stored in a Language Notebook which will serve as a reference for students. During reading periods the class is learning how to participate in Literature Circles (ask your child what they are and how they work) while reading shared novels. At the same time they are participating in mini-lessons around getting to know a character by noticing how they talk and act, arriving at a deeper theory based on evidence, and making observations to come up with an idea about what they are like. Word work continues during reading sessions with students focusing on both sight words and traditional spelling patterns.

We are about to kick-off a Forces and Interactions unit in science. This will have loads of hands-on, minds-on activities. It also includes engineering tasks built into some lessons.

Yesterday your third grader should have received his or her Winter Wishes parent letter and attached student survey. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this special WES tradition.

Cover letter that accompanied student survey sent home 1 / 31

Just last week the class was introduced to the typing instruction program Keyboarding Without Tears. Students will progress through the program at an individualized pace while using the Chromebook assigned to them. The system is designed to build typing speed, teach general computer skills, and inform students about what it means to be a responsible digital citizen.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy New Year!

We hope all families were able to find times of relaxation and rejuvenation over the December break. Fortunately, the weather provided ample amounts of snow so children could get outside and enjoy traditional winter activities...unlike the past several winters.

Today we began a class wide mini-unit on reading a special kind of informational book--biographies. Students were partnered with another student and given an opportunity to choose a book to read together from a collection of biographies from the Who Was...? book series. The class will cycle through several biographies as they dig into the structure of this type of book.

In math we're looking at division and its relationship to multiplication. Students are interpreting word problems to determine the operation (multiplication or division) necessary to solve it. They then apply either a combining strategy (multiplication) or break apart strategy (division) to solve and represent the problem.

Looking for arrays around the school to build conceptual multiplication understanding

The class is continuing work on their informational books. Topics include surfing, ice skating, chameleons, horseback riding, and homeschooling.

As always, please check in with your child to see if there is a need for any school supplies. I provided large erasers and pencils to each student shortly before break, but things of that nature are always in high demand. A personal pencil sharpener is also good for kids to have on hand.

The class is enjoying the many different play opportunities offered by the snow on the playground. With the arrival of rain and cold temperatures things may change dramatically on the playground. Below are pictures of what students were up to upon our return from break.


Prior to vacation each grade decorated their doorway in recognition of a seasonal winter holiday. Third grade was assigned Boxing Day. We also created and decorated scented ornaments to give as gifts. Finally, the class participated in yankee style book swap and spent some time reading the newly acquired novels.

Creating shapes from cookie cutters
Adding color to our ornaments

Reading new books at the tuffet lounge
An excited reader

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thank you parents for making the time to come in for our Parent - Teacher Conferences. We found them informative and beneficial. Please remember that your third grade team of teachers is always available to meet with you to discuss your child's growth, successes or challenges as we move deeper into the academic year.

We have officially kicked off our multiplication (combining or adding equal groups) and division (splitting a quantity into equal groups) unit. The first portion of the unit involves understanding multiplication as equal groups, writing story problems, using skip counting as a tool to find the product (answer to a multiplication problem), and using multiplication symbols. We plan on enlisting your help as parents to assist with the mastery and automaticity of multiplication facts. When the time comes we will provide a list of resources, strategies and websites that you can use with your student to help with this very important task. Our first job, however, is to build a deep understanding of what multiplication is and why it works. Along with cursive, this is one of the major accomplishments students know is associated with third grade!

In literacy we are developing topic ideas and potential chapter titles for our informational (non-fiction, factual) books. Students will settle on the final subject matter they feel they are an expert on and then create a plan for teaching the reader all they know about the topic in an organized way. While this is happening in writing, students are learning the ways curious readers approach an informational text. The class has practiced non-fiction reading, organizing factual information, and teaching a peer about what was read and learned.

The class began its spelling class this week. At this age we will be moving students from invented (a close approximation to the spelling of a word) spelling. Invented spelling does have a place in a writer's life. It is useful because it helps with fluency, word choice, and speed when drafting a writing piece. However, there are many instances when a word can be spelled correctly if just a tiny bit more brainpower is employed. We call these one-second words (misspelled words that can be correctly spelled with the aid of a quick trick).

  • Would -- say, "O u lucky dog" to remember the silent 'l'
  • They -- spell 'the' and then add 'y' to avoid spelling 'thay'
With simple tricks like these students can overcome their most frequently misspelled words. The class will also look at more personal spelling strategies along with universal spelling patterns.

Today we had our two Four Winds volunteers, Scarlett McDermott and Beth Harper, join us to explore concepts related to sunlight and shadows. It was a great hands-on workshop with lots of information packed into our hour and a half period.

We will hold a holiday class book swap on the last day before December break which is Thursday, December 22. Please help your student select a third grade appropriate book in good condition from your household collection that you are willing to part with. We do not intend for families to go out and purchase a book for the swap.

  1. Pick a book (used, good condition, third grade appropriate)
  2. Wrap it in wrapping paper
  3. Bring it to school between now and Monday, December 19

Thank you for continuing to support your child in their completion of thirty minutes of reading a night and filling out the Reading Log. You are helping to build a habitual reader!

Finally, ask your student if they are in need of any classroom supplies: pencils, sharpener, erasers, etc. Supplies are running low for some of the class.

Drafting away in our writer's notebook
Sharing ideas and providing feedback

Writing in a quiet space

Student starting to share all she
knows about a topic 
Representing multiplication visually

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

At some point over the next few days you should be receiving your child's report card in the mail. We suggest you read over and take time to digest the information contained in the report card prior to sharing it with your student. When reviewing the scores with your child it is our hope you will identify areas they have had success with. Maybe ask them why they think they earned the scores they did by asking him or her to say, "I got a ___ in ___ because I ___." Additionally, students often have room for growth in academic disciplines or personal development areas. These will most often be represented as 2s on the report card. A 2 is interpreted as a student who inconsistently meets the third grade standard or needs adult assistance to do so. If your child receives a score of 2, help him or her understand that this is simply an area where there is room for improvement in the coming quarter. We look forward to see you all for conferences next week. Here is the link, Conference Sign-Up, indicating the time you have signed up for.

WES wrapped up its schoolwide Everybody Engineering Week challenge with a whole school assembly. Your child worked on a student team and was instrumental in the design, construction and presentation of a popsicle stick tower. Teams were comprised of seven or eight students from grades 1 - 6. The towers are on display in the lobby if you want to have a look.

During math class we have been working on area (the amount of space a shape takes up) and practiced measuring using square units. The class is also exploring the attributes (characteristics or traits) of squares, triangles, and rectangles. We'll begin looking at different angle sizes and categorizing them as right angles (90 degrees or square), less than 90 degree angles, or greater than 90 degree angles. This unit should wrap up by the end of next week.

We've begun our next reading unit, Reading to Learn, focusing on reading non-fiction texts. Many of the skills associated with this unit will be applied in our writing as we embark on our Art of Information Writing unit next week. Students are energized by the opportunity to read a different genre and learn something along the way. So far we've looked at what text features are (the elements that are not part of the main text) as well as searching for examples in classroom books: table of contents, glossary, bold words, images, captions, etc. When students begin writing their own informational texts they will be expected to include many of these text feature elements in their personal writing.

Our Student Council is sponsoring a Food Drive to restock the community food shelf. Any contributions your family can make are appreciated. The most needed items are:

  • baked beans
  • hot and cold cereals
  • canned soups and stews
  • boxed macaroni and cheese
  • coffee and tea
  • spices

See you next week and enjoy your long weekend!

Getting the tower just right
Finishing touches

The finished model river
Determining area using squares and triangles

Playing hard
Hanging out

Building triangles of different sizes and shapes