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Room 218 Week Ahead: March 12
Sunday, March 11, 2012 8:20 PM


So many thank yous! First of all, I received so many artistic, thoughtful and delicious Valentines this year. I can't remember another year when I noticed so much thought and energy going into notes, drawings, bookmarks, cards, candies, etc. We had lots of fun, and our Valentine's Day ended with a "bang"! I know that I've got THE nicest group of kids this year, but now I know I've got the support of the nicest group of parents as well. Thank you so much to all of you who helped out when my back was plaguing me. Within five minutes of sending out the request for classroom help, twelve parents responded. Thank you for coming into the class to help keep me on track and to help with groups of kids. An extra special thank you to Julie for the meal, and to Elena and Eric for the shoveling. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such caring individuals.

Now for the notes about academics:

We have three weeks before Spring Break and then a couple of week before testing. Actual sample practice testing will happen after we return from break. Mark Specker has linked the Upper Primary page on the Barton website to the MCA practice test. Please take a look. [ Here are the links again:  for Math and for Reading -- Mark ]


Most reading groups are into their second round of books. We will try to complete three rounds before practice testing begins. Students have also done quite a bit of reading about Greek gods and goddesses and are using this information for PowerPoints in media and for writing fiction stories in class. The stories are in the planning stages. Students are choosing at least one hero, one monster and one god or goddess and listing three internal and three external traits for each. They are then thinking about their characters' motivations, likes, dislikes, thoughts and feelings. The next step is to decide what the problem will be in the story and how it will be solved. They are asked to weave in real life experiences so that the story has a ring of truth to it. The problem also cannot be solved on the first try; the hero must endure a few trials before s/he succeeds. The Lightning Thief was our mentor text for this assignment. I am currently reading Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. Gary Paulsen lives in Alaska and has (some think foolishly) participated in the Iditarod. Some of his experiences as a fur trapper and musher end up in Hatchet, and I will read segments of his book, Winterdance to illustrate the connection between fiction writing and real life experiences. I am also going to read segments of Jeff King's book, Cold Hands, Warm Heart to contrast Gary Paulsen's experiences with that of a real pro.

It is the eighth day of the Iditarod today, so the race will probably end within the next 48 hours. We have been keeping track of the temperature, facts about checkpoints, the leaderboard, and learning about the terrain of Alaska. Once the Iditarod is over, we will begin a unit on the human body.


Our current math unit focuses on making a connection between the operations of addition and multiplication, and algebra. The MCA test is sure to have several word problems expressed in algebraic terms. We are also still practicing fraction skills and will begin making math vocabulary books this week. Knowing all the vocabulary that might arise is a big part of being successful on the test. Once we make the books, kids will practice with each other to make sure they can define all the math words that they are responsible for knowing at their grade level.

This week is a good time to pack up used books that are crowding your shelves, and bring them to Barton for the used book fair (if you haven't done so already).

Have a great week!

Reminder -- Swimming Tuesday Feb 13 through Friday
Saturday, February 11, 2012 3:55 PM


Reminder that we are swimming this week, Tuesday through Friday.

The swimming permission slip went home Friday.


MCA Testing Info
Monday, February 6, 2012 9:25 AM


We have posted some sample information about the upcoming MCA tests here.  This information is about the Minnesota standardized tests the kids will take later this year, and different from the MAP test we are taking this week.

For the math section, there are several files that show the types of problems the kids will see in the MCA.  There are separate files for each grade level.

For the reading section, you can log in as a guest, select your grade level, and see and practice a sample test. Here is the link:

Room 218 Week Ahead -- February 6
Monday, February 6, 2012 9:20 AM


A few fun events are coming up for room 218:

Today, Historical Perspectives is coming to Barton to perform a play about Amelia Earhart.

Tuesday is our field trip to Physics Force at the Convention Center. We have plenty of chaperones for this trip.

Next week we are swimming from February 14th to the 17th.

I can't exactly put this under the category of fun, but on Wednesday we will be taking the MAP math test. It is somewhat of an indicator for letting us know if a student is on track to pass the MCAs this spring. I will let you know how your child's scores compare to their fall MAP scores.

Last week we began fractions work in math. This means that students will no longer be practicing multiplication facts at school. Please continue to practice at home.

Last Wednesday we finished reading our classroom book, Balto, in preparation for Lit. Circles and the upcoming Iditarod. Lit. Circle groups began on Thursday. Thank you to Lit. Circle volunteers for helping us!

Students will continue to work on their rough drafts of their essays this week. When essays are finished, students will begin writing fiction stories containing characters from Greek mythology. I will still be reading The Lightning Thief this week, and students will be able to read from a collection of Greek mythology books I have in the classroom.

Thank you to everyone who has come in for a conference. It is so nice to be able to sit down and speak with you about your child's school experience.

Room 218 Week ahead -- December 4
Monday, December 5, 2011 4:50 PM


A permission slip to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts went home today. Our trip to see the pieces from our "Art Adventure" presentations is next Friday. I am hoping that our parent presenters are able to join us on the trip. The students are busy making their power points in media for their chosen artist. We have also had about three hours in the computer lab to work on reports. By the end of this week, I'm hoping that reports are finished at least to the rough draft stage. When students have completed their report, power point and art piece, they can share them with the class. Sharing can begin as early as next Wednesday and I like it to be complete by winter break. Thanks for your support at home.

I am reading the last of the Louis Sachar books I'll be reading, which is Holes. It is one of, if not my favorite children's books. While reading, I'm modeling the thought processes that good readers utilize to make meaning and deep connections. Students are keeping track of their own thoughts and notes in a journal, and having discussions with a reading partner.

We should have our cursive books finished by winter break.

Reminder that spelling new spelling words for the week went home today.

In math, both 3rd and 4th graders are currently working on geometry. The first Investigation was all about perimeter, and how to use different measuring tools accurately when determining perimeter. 3rd graders are essentially responsible for the "P"s: parallel, perpendicular, perimeter and polygons. 4th graders moved on to their second Investigation today, which is about polygons. In addition to polygons, 4th graders are responsible for knowing acute, obtuse and right angles and triangles, congruency, translations, reflections and rotations and area. Every morning, students are working on an addition place value practice sheet which will go home with the current Investigation they're working on.

Have a great week!

Room 218 Week Ahead -- November 7
Monday, November 7, 2011 7:00 PM


This week won't be quite as busy as last week (with swimming) but it will still be a busy one. We had Art Adventure today (thanks, Kerry!) and will have Options on Wednesday and a trip to Orchestra Hall on Thursday. The permission slip for Orchestra Hall went home today. It is a free trip to the Young People's Concert, which this year is a performance of The Tin Soldier.

I'm struggling to get all subjects in each day, but the one thing we are sure to accomplish each day is math. Last week we looked at the Minnesota math standards the students are responsible for so far.They are as follows:

3rd Grade

  • Tables and graphs:  Collect, display and interpret data using frequency tables, bar graphs, picture graphs and number line plots having a variety of scales. Use appropriate titles, labels and units.
    • Vocabulary:  pictograph, tally chart, bar graph, line plot, table, data, label, key, represent
  • Money:  Make change up to one dollar in several different ways, including with as few coins as possible.
    • Vocabulary - greatest, least, fewest, most, value
  • Time:  Know relationships among units of time, ie., minutes in an hour, days in a week, months in a year.
    • Tell time to the minute using digital and analog clocks. Determine elapsed time to the minute.

4th Grade

  • Tables and graphics:  Use tables, bar graphs, timelines and Venn diagrams to display data sets. The data may include fractions or decimals. Understand that spreadsheet tables and graphs can be used to display data.
    • Vocabulary - timeline, Venn diagram, survey.

The current math unit focuses on place value and addition and subtraction. Students practice many strategies for breaking numbers apart and using knowledge of place value to efficiently add and subtract three digit numbers. I have to supplement this unit quite a bit with what I call "really big numbers" because the text goes up to 1,000 but the standards go up to 100,000 for third graders.

The students will learn and practice the U. S. standard algorithms for addition and subtraction by the end of this unit so that they can work with larger numbers, but I will still stress using mental strategies when working with smaller numbers.

This Friday, the students will be bringing home a paper for you to sign. It is a reflection on how they've been doing so far with the goals they set at goal setting conferences. I am doing this is order to help them keep their goals present in their minds as they work their way through the week. Please sign and return next Monday.

I'd also like to make a plea for you to remind your student to practice their spelling words. Our last spelling test scores (two Fridays ago) were our worst scores as a class this year.

Thanks for all your support and have a great week!

Room 218 -- Update Oct 24
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:20 AM


I hope you had a great weekend. I was able to spend a couple of days in the classroom catching up on some things, which was nice.
I have now had the chance to sit down and meet with each family for goal setting, so thank you all for your time and support in meeting you child's goals.

Here's what's been going on in room 218.

Math:  We've continued to work on the data and graphing math unit. Some pages in this unit will be skipped and supplemented with others. The Minnesota math standards are more advanced than the national standards, and our math curriculum was written based on the national standards. The fourth graders, for example, may be tested on Venn diagrams and/or timelines as a way to represent data, and neither of these are in the text.

This week we will use supplementals to address objectives in the state standards which are not present in Investigations.

Last week, third graders continued to make and interpret bar and line plot graphs. Fourth graders focused on interpreting real data taken from hospitals, zoos and the WNBA.

We also all practiced counting money and making change in "Room 218 Town". Each desk group opened a business by determining items for sale and their prices. We have a bookstore, a pet shop, a bank, a post office, a restaurant, a clinic and a grocery store. Each day half of the room visits businesses and makes purchases and the other half runs the shops. Students practice their money skills by keeping track of bank exchanges, deposits and balances and by using receipts to keep track of personal spending. We will continue buying/selling this week until everyone has had a chance to visit all businesses.

Writing:  Last week, a couple of students completed their writer's workshop narratives. My goal is for everyone to finish their stories this week. Everyone is working at their own pace and has a story of varying length, so will finish at differing times. Students who have finished their first story have begun their second.

Reading:  I am reading the third book in the Wayside School trilogy, by Louis Sachar. Students are going to begin partner reading this week. These are the skills we have been working on:

  • choosing books we love and reading them "like gold";
  • reading books that are just right, reading longer and stronger;
  • making mental movies, retelling what just happened;
  • remembering character names and setting;
  • noticing when we are confused;
  • taking charge of our reading - what, when and how.

Events and Permission Slips

Three handouts are going home today - a permission slip for the Ordway for this Wednesday, a permission slip for swimming for next week, Options forms.

The student council decided that this Friday would be dress up/costume day. That means that next Monday will be a regular school day. Please be mindful of the amount of candy coming to school after Halloween.

Have a great week!

Room 218 -- Update
Monday, October 3, 2011 8:50 PM

Greetings and what nice weather we're having!

Homework:  The organization sheet in the front of the binder should let you know what work was taken home for homework. Please go through it with your child. Both grades had math homework today. At this point a typical night of homework would include reading, practicing math facts, practicing spelling and math homework pages.

Spelling:  A check on routines -- It is Monday, so new spelling words were taken home today. Some students like to take a pre-test on Monday night to see which words they already know and which words they need to practice. Spelling tests are on Fridays.

Science news:  We have five monarch larva in the chrysalis stage. Hooray!  Also, Uli completed his last lesson with us, which focused on purple vegetables.

Writing update:  Students have chosen the emotion based story they are going to write from the four possibilities that they shared with a partner. They then told their story to their partner with as much detail as possible.

Math update:

  • Third graders worked on counting coins and coin combinations to $1.00 Some combinations to 200 and $2.00 were also practiced. This morning we had some time to catch up on any math pages that needed corrections. All math pages from the first unit should be complete and sent home. Continue to practice addition and subtraction combinations.
  • Fourth graders continued to work on finding the factors of multiples of 100.  Fourth graders should be secure with their multiplication facts.  All pages from their first unit should also be complete.

Book orders:  The Scholastic book orders have been placed. They should take about a week to arrive.

A reminder that there is no school October 19-21.

Swim:  Swimming is coming up at the very end of this month from October 31st to November 3rd.

River Rendezvous -- Pictures
Sunday, September 25, 2011 9:45 PM


Our River Rendezvous field trip was a big success!

Thanks parent chaperones; and thanks Jessica for taking these great pictures.

River Rendezvous trip is ON -- next Tues
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 7:20 AM


We were able to get one of the remaining River Rendezvous trips for the 3-4 this year.  We have room for 4 parent chaperones per class.  We leave Barton on September 20th at 8:15 and return at 1:45.

The kids will need to dress for a day outdoors, rain or shine.  All are asked to bring a bag lunch.  More information and permission form...

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