What’s Happening in Room 44!

     (January - February 2016)


    Lexington Symphony Orchestra:


    We were fortunate to go on a field trip to hear the Lexington Symphony Orchestra play. Not only did we hear many beautiful pieces (some that were familiar!), but we also learned a lot about the history of this huge orchestra. One thing we learned was that it was not always so huge. Music could really first be found with monks singing in monasteries (we even saw a few "monks" singing in their robes in the aisles). During the Renaissance, we learned, musicians were just people entertaining other people (with instruments like recorders and skin drums). We heard a piece by Bach (a name familiar to many of us) from the Baroque era. We also learned that during Haydn's time, the orchestra would actually live in the castle upstairs so they could entertain at a moment's notice. Haydn also wrote a "surprise symphony." We heard this symphony and there was a surprise in it! Ask your student what was surprising about this piece.

    Next we heard a piece that was familiar to all of us, Beethoven's 5th symphony. Then we heard from Tchaikovsky and learned about the technique called pizzacato, in which the musicians pluck their strings with their fingers rather than play them with their bows. Finally, we heard some familiar music from Star Wars and even saw a character roaming the aisles! This trip was truly musical and memorable.


    Social Studies:


    In Social Studies, we began a new unit focusing on Lexington in 1775. In order to compare our 2016 lives with the lives of people in Lexington in 1775, each student was assigned the role of a real child who lived in Lexington in 1775! Groups of students joined together with their 1775 families to introduce themselves and their new identities, sharing their names and ages. They learned a bit about themselves and worked as a family to complete a Venn diagram, comparing their family in 1775 with their family in 2016. We noticed there were many differences, but very few similarities. Ask your third grader about his/her identity and family. How old is he/she? How many siblings does he/she have? We also learned about our 1775 homes and farms. We noticed many more differences in our lives now and then once we learned about our homes. Ask your third grader about his/her 1775 home. Ask him/her what every home had to heat it and cook, too.


    Math Workshop:


    In math we just finished a very exciting unit on fractions.

    Some highlights from this unit include:

    We learned that a fraction is a part of a whole, but that the whole must be divided up into equal parts or "fair shares." We also learned that the top number in a fraction is called the numerator (describes the number of parts being considered) and the bottom is the denominator (describes the total number of parts). We practiced shading in fractions of shapes (with the entire shape being the "whole"). We also labeled fractions on number lines.  We even did a lesson from the fourth grade math journal and these mathematicians completed it with great success.

    We then talked about equivalent fractions, fractions that look different and use different numbers (numerators and denominators), but have the same value and mean the same thing. We found that if two 1/8 magnets are the same size as one 1/4 magnet, 2/8 and 1/4 are equivalent fractions. We then practiced representing one fraction in many different ways on posters. Students chose either 1/2, 1/3, or 1/4 and made many different, equivalent representations on his/her poster.  We learned about comparing fractions with like numerators or denominators and we created a fraction number line in our classroom to represent different fractions. We watched and enjoyed many fraction videos and songs. Ask your fraction experts to explain fraction on a number line.




    Writer’s Workshop:

    In writing workshop, we have been working on Informational writing. The students started this by brainstorming a (long!) list of topics they already know about and then chose one topic of expertise. We learned a lot about the organization and structure of informational texts. We practiced planning out each chapter by jotting a mini-table of contents before writing. We also talked about the importance of connecting our ideas using transition words (something we practiced in our opinion writing already!). In addition to organization, we talked about the craft of the writing. We used our mentor text, Deadliest Animals, to find ideas on how to elaborate, or say more about each idea. We noticed the author told a little story and painted a picture so the reader could create an image in his/her mind as two ways to elaborate in her writing. Lastly, we did an investigation using our same mentor text, Deadliest Animals, to see if informational writing contains facts and only facts. We found that though it does contain many facts, it also contains ideas. Often these ideas are supported by facts. We practiced inserting ideas into all-fact informational writing. Before the February break we worked on our introductions and conclusions. After looking at a few mentor texts and noticing what those authors did in their writing, we wrote our own. We talked about how the introduction gets the reader ready to learn all about our topics, while the conclusion might summarize the information and ask a question or suggest next steps for the reader. Ask your writer about his/her information book



    Reader’s Workshop:


    We have been immersed completely in nonfiction reading. We started reading on a variety of topics (in a variety of kinds of texts) and doing different work as we read. We have been practicing pausing as we read to make sure we are really understanding and remembering what we have just learned. We can do this by making boxes and bullets in our minds or on paper. The big topic or main idea of what we have just read goes in the box and the supporting ideas/details are the bullets (you may have seen your child do this for homework this week!). We have also been practicing noticing our inner conversation as we read nonfiction. Noticing and recording this helps us realize we have just learned some new information. For example, we read a book about lightning together this week. A few parts made me stop and say things like, "Wow, I never knew..." or "This is new information!" We paused and recorded our exact inner thoughts on post-its. Ask your reader something he/she learned on a topic he/she read! We also are working on thinking about a topic before we begin reading and asking ourselves, "what do I already know about this?" After recording what we already know, we can record what we have learned as we read, then merge this thinking (or sometimes correct a misconception!).


    We are now working on a special unit called Research Club. Students have been working in their clubs to become experts on an animal. They are learning all about research methods. Watch out for this space to learn more about our exciting animal research club. Ask you animal expert which animal are they researching in their club.


    What's happening in Room 44
    (January 2016)

    We have started the year with a bang. We have started nonfiction in both reading and writing. We are working on multiplication and division in Math and in Science we have been continuing our favorite Chemical Testing. The students are on the verge of discovering the 5 unknown solids.

    Reader's Workshop
    In reading this week, we talked about how reading nonfiction is very different from reading fiction and realized that many of us have had different experiences reading the two types of text. We practiced revving our minds up to read nonfiction, something all good readers do before beginning a nonfiction text. We looked at the titles, subtitles, pictures, captions, charts, before even reading a single sentence and asked ourselves, "What will this be about? What will I learn from this book?" Then as we start reading, we pause and think about if what we are reading matches what we thought before beginning. We also practiced reading with a pen in hand when we read nonfiction. Though we can't always jot notes in the texts we are reading, we can pause after reading a chunk of text and ask ourselves, "What was this part mostly about?" and create boxes and bullets in our head (or in our reading journals). For example, we read a section in a book titled Gorillas about various ways in which Gorilla’s body parts have adapted to living in a jungle. For our boxes and bullets, "Gorillas bodies have adapted to survival in the jungle" was in the box and their long arms, opposable thumbs and toes and their big teeth were the bullets. Ask your reader what nonfiction topic(s) he/she jotted notes about.
    Writer's Workshop

    In writing, we finished our opinion writing! Though not all the writing was directed at me, I was very convinced by these writers! They worked on incorporating strong leads, stating their opinions big and boldly, giving multiple reasons and examples, using transition words, and writing strong endings.This week we started nonfiction writing. We practiced choosing an expert topic by testing out writing long and strong about things we know a lot about (if we could only write 2 or 3 things, we figured out we did not know enough to write on that topic as an expert). We will be practicing organizing our big expert topics into subtopics. We will organize our ideas into kinds, parts, ways, and famous examples. Ask your writer what his/her topic is and what some of his/her subtopics will be.
    Math Workshop

    In Math, after a very successful “Big Dinner” project, we have been focusing a lot on multiplication and division. We talked about division in terms of sharing objects equally. We also can think of division in terms of multiplication. If we don't know how 12 divides equally into 4 groups, we can think of 4 x ? = 12 (or how many equal groups of 4 would equal 12?). We learned many games like Knock if off, where the lines cross, Baseball Multiplication and Circles and Stars to help us get better at multiplication and division. We learned how to solve multiple step problems and we also learned what is a “variable”. Ask your mathematicians about all the exciting word problems that we have been working on in the classroom.

    Science has been a hot favorite with all the students in the classroom since December. We have been on a quest to find out what the 5 mystery powders are? The students learned about the Scientific Method and have been performing many hands on experiments to figure out what the unknown solids are. They carried out two physical tests (water drop and water mixtures) and four chemical tests (vinegar, iodine, red cabbage juice and heat) on the unknown solids. Students will review and analyze all the data that they have collected as a result of performing these tests. On Monday they will figure out what the unknown solids are. Ask your scientist about their predictions and what do they think the 5 mystery powders are and why?



    What’s happening in Room 44
    (November 9th– 20th 2015)

    Writers Workshop

    We began a new writing unit focusing on persuasive or opinion writing. We learned strategies for coming up with ideas for opinion writing. First we brainstormed what problems we see and thought of a solution or when you want to generate a topic idea, you can think of noteworthy people (places, things, or ideas) and write about them. We practiced doing this together by thinking of people in our school who are noteworthy and deserve more appreciation. Many writers already had topic ideas of their own, but many also used this strategy and wrote about people who deserve more appreciation. Ask your writer some opinion topics he/she has written about so far. Another thing that strong opinion writers do is they consider their audience, so we practiced this, as well. We noticed that anticipating what your audience might say/how they might react helps you to write more persuasively. A way to do this is to directly address your audience by writing things like "I know you're thinking..." or "You might be wondering why/how..." Lastly, we talked about a strategy anyone who wants to get better at something uses: they pause and look at what they have already accomplished and notice what they want to improve or do in the future. Ask your writer what goals he/she has already met and what goals he/she is working on.

    Readers Workshop

    We started something very exciting in Readers Workshop. We started “Book Clubs”. The students met their new Book Club team members. They brainstormed a name for their Book Club and they came up with their own “Book Club Constitutions”. We spoke about how every member of the book club was accountable to the other team members and about how they would have to come to book clubs prepared.We have been following our main characters along a story mountain. We noticed that all stories follow a story mountain. Readers expect their character to encounter problems, they notice what problems the characters face and also how they react to these problems. Good readers also notice the role of secondary characters in a story. We discussed and stopped to consider if the secondary character was an advisor, a sidekick (friend) or a challenger. We took a detour on our journey and did an inquiry lesson on the role of illustrations in a story. Ask your readers about their book clubs and all the exciting work that they do in their clubs.

    Math Workshop

    In math, we explored ideas of multiplication as equal groups. We solved multiplication number stories using pictures and diagrams, as well as writing multiplication number models to match the stories. We also wrote number models to match arrays and vice versa.

    We also began our new math unit called The Big Dinner this week. Exciting days ahead!!!!! These mathematicians are helping me prepare for a big meal and I have some problems for them to solve before I can really do all my shopping/cooking. First, working in partnerships, they helped me figure out how much a 24-pound turkey would cost at $1.25 per pound. Every partnership was free to use whatever strategy was easiest for them, and then they were asked to create a poster displaying their strategy and solution.. Some of the strategies used were repeated addition, multiplication, T-charts, doubling, and separating the dollar and coin amounts to make the solution simpler. Ask your mathematician what strategies he/she has been using to solve these Big Dinner problems so far and what has worked best.

    Social Studies

    The entire school has been abuzz about the fantastic Pilgrim and Wampanoag projects that students in Room 44 have made.  The students had an opportunity to share and talk about their projects with other 3rd graders as well as many teachers. The projects are now displayed in front of Ms. Lipsitz office for everyone in the school to enjoy. Thank you for supporting your children in this effort. In the classroom we continue our research on the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags with the focus being on the Mayflower Compact and the First Thanksgiving celebration.

    I would like to take this opportunity to wish all families a “Very Happy Thanksgiving”. I feel very fortunate and thankful to work with you and your children.  


    What’s Happening in Room 44?

    (October- November 6th 2015) 

    Writer’s Workshop

    In writer’s workshop last week, we have worked very hard on personal narratives. We worked on many different aspects of our writing, including our leads, storytelling voices, descriptive language, and telling the story bit by bit. We continued to improve our stories by testing out strong endings, staying on topic, and being as descriptive as possible. We talked about the importance of leaving the reader with a strong ending because it is the last thing he/she remembers from the story. We studied some of the endings authors wrote from stories we've read together this year for inspiration. Ask your writer about his/her story ending.

    We will be moving into our next unit, which is persuasive/ opinion writing. Students will be brainstorming ideas that they feel strongly about and will learn how to write strong persuasive letters to convince other about their opinions.


    Reader’s Workshop

    In reading we have been focusing on growing ideas about characters. Last week, we talked about pausing, once we are deep into a story and thinking about a character's actions/feelings. We can then step back and ask ourselves, "What kind of a person is this character?" We grew a bigger idea about what type of person a character is and named a trait for him/her. By doing this, we have an idea we can track throughout our future reading. Now when we see a spot where the character acts that way (or in a totally different, surprising way), we can stop and jot about it. We wrote about character traits and found evidence in the books to support our ideas. We have been doing this together as a group with Because of Winn Dixie, our class read-aloud, as well. Ask your reader to describe some of the characters in Because of Winn Dixie and ask them how they know (if your reader says Opal is big hearted, ask him/her how he/she knows that).


    Math Workshop

    In math this week, we worked very hard--both independently and collaboratively. We practiced solving number stories using various strategies and diagrams. We noticed the importance of reading the number story very carefully, even underlining or circling various parts to help us notice what information we have and what question we are trying to answer. We used part-part-total, comparison, and start-change diagrams to help us keep track of the information and solve the problems. Ask your mathematician which diagram he/she found the most helpful. We solved number stories with 3 or more addends! We also learned about solving 2 and 3-digit addition problems using partial sums (separating the hundreds, tens, and ones). Many mathematicians in our class were already using this strategy and just learned its name this week! In addition to solving with partial sums, we also practiced finding ballpark estimates ("smart guesses," as we called them) for addition problems. For example, the ballpark estimate for 38+72 could be 40+70=110. The point is to make the numbers simpler to add and get an idea of the ballpark of the real answer to check your work. Ask your third grader to explain partial sums to you!


    Social Studies

    In Social Studies we have been using a technique called QFT (Question Formulation Technique) to research about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags. The students brainstormed and came up with as many questions as they could about each topic. We then went on to discuss which question was an open-ended question and which is close-ended question. Ask your third grader to explain what an open-ended and a close-ended question is to you! We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of an open-ended versus a close-ended question and how we can change an open-ended question to a close-ended question and vice versa. The students have now been researching the answers to the questions by using various resources i.e. books, videos, internet and Mr. Shara (our Plymouth expert). Such self-directed inquiry results in quality and depth in students work.


    Project on Pilgrims and the Wampanoags

    The students decided they wanted to work on a project related to Pilgrims and the Wampanoags at home. They are very excited about the project. I am looking forward to seeing their beautiful work, next Friday.


    Growth Mindset in Room 44

    Students have been talking and learning a lot about “Growth Mindset”.

    In her book “Mindset”, author Carol Dweck tells us that basically there are two kinds of mindsets: Fixed mindset and Growth Mindset.

    In a fixed mindset, people believe that their basic qualities like their intelligence or their talent are simply fixed traits. They spend their time listing their intelligence or talent instead of honing them. They believe talent alone can create success – without effort. (Not True!!!)

    In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.

    We are in the process of preparing a special presentation for the All School Meeting on this topic and about how we apply it in our classroom. Ask your third grader about this very important topic and the posters that they have been preparing in the classroom.