#MassCUE2014

This morning I’m heading to Foxboro, MA to attend the MassCUE/MASS conference at Gillette Stadium.  For the 6th year in a row, I will be presenting my Technically Invisible workshop. My workshop is like a buffet of ideas teachers can use in their classrooms when they would like to integrate technology.

masscue pic

Created using Stationery Studio
Click on the pic to get to my Pinterest board of resources.

 

 

Collaborative Connections

For the first time ever, I went grocery shopping with a friend today.  My mum (@QuiltMiss18) said that she used to do that all the time ~ long, long ago when each family had only one car —- so everyone had to be creative.  Nowadays, we each have our own car(s), so what led to my shopping with a friend today, you ask???                   Great question!!

wax museum

One of our many 3rd Grade Wax Museum evenings. Mrs. Langmead and I always looked forward to welcoming 3rd grade families!

Mrs. Langmead and I have been friends for a long time.  We have lots in common, and when we get together we have so much to talk about, we never seem to squeeze it all in!  Over time, we have learned many things about friendship and collaboration.

1.  Know when to separate.

Robyn Suzy

Technically, we were separated in this photo. Mrs. Langmead had to splice it together to put us side-by-side.

Mrs. Langmead and I are awfully chatty.  Put us in a room, and we have enough to talk about to last the live-long-day.  That behavior doesn’t go over too well in a faculty meeting, so we have learned to sit apart during those events. Our faculty meetings provide us with important information, and because of that, we need to focus!  Careful observers might notice us winking at each other during meetings, but otherwise, we are focused and attentive.

2.  Trust one another.

flash mob

I know this will come as a surprise to everyone…. Mrs. Langmead and I are NOT perfect!!  WHAT!!!???  lol – We are always searching for ways to improve our teaching, and our health.  It is rare to find someone I can share my shortcomings with, while feeling supported and respected. I know if I tell Mrs. Langmead I need to fix something, I can trust her to help me – not judge me.  I always do the same for her. Mrs. Langmead makes me feel normal, and human, and accepted.

3. Hard work is easier with friends.

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Mrs. Langmead and I decided to make a new commitment to our health this weekend.  We had a new meal plan, and a grocery shopping list a mile long. We both knew this new adventure would be easier if we did it together so we chatted about our plan on Wednesday.  On Saturday evening, Mrs. Langmead sent me a text message saying she was going to meet me to grocery shop together. I was thankful (and excited!) and giggling…  Have any of you been to Market Basket on a Sunday morning? Wheeeeeee!!!!  It takes a lot of patience and determination to do your family’s grocery trip during the same time that 90% of Cape Cod’s population does theirs.

Sunday morning arrived, and we each had our list. Mine was color-coded on paper, and hers was on her iPhone.  We spent time learning the difference between coconut butter and coconut oil; between haddock and cod; between orange and yellow peppers; between zucchini and cucumbers (ha ha). We read labels. We texted our spouses. We consulted employees. We worked as a team to decide what we needed to purchase.  We even went one step further and figured out what supplies we could purchase and divide equally between us.

4. We are still individuals.

Suzy Robyn

With our baskets nearly full, we both realized there were items we needed to purchase for our families. I certainly wasn’t able to help her choose the best brand of diaper for her babies, and she wasn’t able to shop for those elusive Teenager Essentials.  We knew it was the perfect time to head off in our own direction.  Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were back together again, making purchases to (in theory) change our eating habits.

With Mrs. Lewis!

With Mrs. Lewis!

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I am writing about Mrs. Langmead on our classroom blog.  Am I right??

Well, it is now almost November, and I’m still looking to see my 303 students “jive” as cooperative learners.  4th graders need to recognize when it is a good idea to work together, and when separating is a better idea.  Trust is an essential ingredient when it comes to cooking up cooperation. When help is needed, we look for others to to be trustworthy in order to assist us without judgement. Because each 4th grade student has his or her unique strengths and weaknesses, it is essential we match up with others to enhance learning.

 

So?  4th graders? Be helpful. Be trustworthy. Judge less. Help more.  GET TO WORK!!!  Together we can make a difference.

Speak life.

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Reminders

Mrs. Nickerson’s new class starts on Wednesday. She will have 17 fabulous friends, which will leave us with 22 students. We are all looking forward to supporting the shift in instruction! Thank you for your flexibility!!

October 20

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Pummelo Geography

So, now that I’ve arrived in 4th grade I’m terrified excited to teach geography more in-depth. We’ll be traveling around the United States, Canada and Mexico; learning about national parks, major landmarks and the regions.

Truth be told, I don’t want to mess this up.  I LOVE geography.  I used to be a travel agent. I’ve experienced lines of latitude and longitude and what they mean because I’ve left my own time zone and climate zone. I had to know every country and state capitol and airport code back in the day so I could help folks choose and find their vacation destinations.

Cozumel, 1989

Cozumel, 1989

I have learned first-hand that geography is not written on paper – it is written on the faces of the people you meet and reflected in the sights you see along the way. And let me just say that jet lag is real, people!

I want my students to love these lessons and remember them long after they leave 4th grade. I want to create a veritable army of enthusiastic little geographers running amok around the town of Falmouth.

But… what if I’m boring? What if they don’t find geography to be the same riveting subject I find it to be? What if these lessons become just one more thing in this list of “hard work” they keep speaking of in their letters to me?

engagement matters

What if I can’t do it alone?

Then it dawned on me – I CAN’T do it alone! More importantly — I SHOULDN’T do it alone!  Doing it alone guarantees that boredom will infiltrate my classroom, as I can only be so entertaining (though, admittedly, I am pretty entertaining!).

So, Hello, World!  I’m inviting you into Room 303.  Please help bring geography to life for my students.  I’m getting started without you for now; laying the foundation so students understand where we come from before venturing off.  For that, I’m tuning into YouTube.  According to the statistics provided by YouTube this morning:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute

Craziness, huh?  The amount of content available on YouTube IS crazy.  Rest assured, I am watching more than my fair share of videos in my endless quest to find appropriate, engaging, educational materials to help students learn more about the world around them.

Last week’s video was a pair of crazy 6th grade social studies teachers from Maryland singing about Latitude and Longitude. I had students do hand motions along with the song to make the concepts “stick” a little better.  This week we’ll watch them sing about the continents and oceans (see Video of the Week below).

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 10.04.55 PM303 Students can now sing the entire Wakko’s America song with most parts committed to memory. After watching the video only 10 times over 2 weeks, 75% of students could accurately identify the capitals of at least 40 states.  I think that’s pretty cool.

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Now, our goal isn’t just to memorize states and their capitals. We are also using FableVision’s Mapping the World by Heart to draw our own United States maps from memory.

Though it seems like a tall order to draw a US map and label it with states, capitals, rivers and mountains, we are up for the challenge. Having all the states and capitals memorized will certainly help  us!

Finally, to be filed under Memorable Lessons With Good Intentions, I decided to take a page from the Mapping the World by Heart book, which suggested I use fruit to demonstrate the challenge of depicting spherical maps on flat planes.  YES! Students need to understand that many flat maps are only an approximation of what we see on a globe.

I went shopping for a grapefruit to magically transform into a globe. Apparently it isn’t grapefruit season, so instead I bought a pummelo.  Yes, a pummelo (which I’d never heard of, either, if that makes you feel better).

It looks like a grapefruit, huh? I agree - only this one is bigger, and heavier and the skin is much thicker.

It looks like a grapefruit, huh? I agree – only this one is bigger, and heavier and the skin is much thicker.

After using at least 10 permanent markers to draw the Equator, International Date Line and the Prime Meridian. I added some more lines of latitude and longitude for effect. Finally, I scribbled in some pathetic continents using whatever markers still had ink in them.  Students were getting a kick out of the fact that I literally had permanent marker all over my hands, and that my continents were starting to resemble a pitiful Pangaea.

I then spent the next few minutes trying to use old, sharp, rusty scissors to cut the skin and pry it off in one piece without slicing my hand open or getting marker on my arms.  Do not try this at home, kids.

Thankfully, my desperate attempt at creating a globe paid off exponentially.

Pummelo Map

If you look closely, you can see something resembling South America (in green) on the right. Am I right??

Sadly, as I finished removed the skin, the bell rang for dismissal. I was ready to take my Pummelo and go home crying with marker now on my hands, face, arms and clothes.  But then… I could see it. It was educational.  It was valuable. It was everything  what I hoped for.  And? It had to wait another day because everyone was heading home. I stayed after school, eating pummelo, planning my next lesson.

Another day dawned, and I was ready to share with my students.  We reviewed from the day before…

I shared information about Robinson projection maps:

Mercator projection maps:

and finally Equirectangular projection maps:

We talked about the similarities and the differences. We discussed the distortion on each map.  We considered the challenges of making a 3D object appear 2D. Finally, the map I was most excited to share was the one the pummelo showed me.

Can you see the similarities between the Boggs eumorphic map and our pummelo?  Seriously??!!  Look at the shape of the outlines! My pummelo looks like a Boggs eumorphic projection map! It was a great teachable moment I hadn’t anticipated.  Truth be told, it was a lesson I almost abandoned.

In a sense, that lesson, and my experience so far as a 4th grade teacher, seem to parallel this post.  You see the title and expect to jump in and get what you expect immediately.  Unfortunately, it takes a bit longer to get to what is most important.  Hopefully along the way, everyone learns something new. I know I am, every single day.

Speak Life,

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WRemindershen planning upcoming costumes for Halloween, remember to keep them appropriate for school. Remember, we have FUN, not FOOD in 303, so please save the munchies for after school. :) Thank you!!

 

October 13

fourth graders Letter of the weekweekly letter oct 13

 

fourth graders video of the weekScreen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.38.02 AM

 

Building Stamina in Writing

Fourth Graders have learned very quickly that writing is an essential part of our school day. We have been working on writing every day in one way or another. While in 3rd grade we were writing a well-developed paragraph, we now are expected to string several organized paragraphs together.

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Extending the length of our writing requires us to write in deeper detail. For some students, this is very challenging. While the first month of school offered students creative, unstructured ways to share their thoughts, we will soon be using graphic organizers and rubrics to guide our craft. Many students will find this additional scaffolding helpful, while some may resist the “magic” at first. We will get there together.

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I have been reminding students to pay careful attention to the rules of capitalization and punctuation. At this point, students should know to start sentences and proper nouns with capital letters. They should know that capital letters should not pop up randomly in other words.  Every sentence should have appropriate end punctuation.  This year we will work towards understanding the use of commas.

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One of the most important skills students can practice is reviewing their own writing several times before they publish.  I shared how I read and re-read these newsletters many times each week. It can sometimes be the 5th or 6th read that allows me to see some errors.  While I know most students won’t read their writing six times, I am hoping for at least three as a starting point.  Your encouragement and support is always welcome.

Reminders.

There is no school on Friday as we have a professional day. All homework will be due on Thursday. Please remind your student to pack their backpack the evening before so they don’t forget to bring all of their essential items to school!

 

October 6fourth graders Letter of the week

october 6 letter

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Rainy Day Gardening

Today was a great day for Room 303 to head to the Mullen-Hall School Garden for the first time.  We had a bunch of lettuce plants to put in the ground, and the softly falling rain was a perfect way to keep them moist. Let’s just be thankful that we had already been to the Gym for Picture Day!!

Students worked in small groups with our awesome garden volunteers planting lettuce in our Room 303 raised bed.

IMG_2402

The rest of us took a stroll along the bike path to see if we could find the Shiverick’s Pond swans.  We found them.  Can you see??

swanEach group was able to take a turn at the planting bed, and before we knew it, everything was planted!  Nicely done, gardeners!

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Salad, anyone??

Dig Deep,

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Seven Sign-Off Saturdays

Back in August, I made a decision that I didn’t think was going to be a big deal. I decided that I would set aside technology every Saturday in exchange for some down-time.  Anyone who knows me, knows I live a tethered life. My five (yes, 5!!) mobile tethering devices are never far from my grasp, and my weary eyes are the poster children for Visual Fatigue. After years and years (and years) of seemingly non-stop connectivity, I needed an intervention. I was finally committed to unplugging one day per week for my family.

sign off

Now, I know the promise I made wasn’t all that original, or unusual. Folks all over the globe take technology vacations, cut back on connectivity and (like me) ironically post about their experience online.  I know in the whole scheme of things, Saturdays sans technology isn’t THAT big of a deal.

Except it is.

It has been a very big deal.

My first Saturdays were spent in a bit of a lost-puppy phase. Without my Saturday morning technology check-in, I had to re-work my schedule.  The couch beckoned to me.  My laptop lay silent; pouting.  My iPad rang out with a chorus of dings and chimes which were clearly an attempt at a Siren Song.  I restlessly searched for diversions….  laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dusting, weeding, errands and (?!!?) more laundry.  I was trying to keep busy to keep away from technology.

You are probably seeing it already, but it was a lot longer before I did – I was missing the whole point, wasn’t I?

I had given myself the opportunity to connect with others and enjoy some down-time, and instead I was just trying to fill the time with busy work so that Saturdays would go by faster.  Seriously? I wanted to Saturdays to go by FASTER?  Ugh, I needed a re-intervention!!

When I woke up to the realization that I needed to enjoy Saturdays, I saw my behavior patterns change.  I started cooking, and shopping with my kids (it seems teenagers love to shop), and spending time with Mr. Brooks. We went seaglassing.  I took photographs. I volunteered my time.  I began reading actual books!  I started looking forward to Saturdays, wishfully hoping they would last a bit longer.

Tree collage

I also started being very aware of how technology-dependent everyone else appeared on these Saturdays.  After all, it wasn’t like the Internet shut down on Saturdays just because I didn’t show up.  I still received messages, and emails. I was missing photos and videos.  I was putting off responding until Sundays while I payed attention to what I saw going on in my home and in my community.

One of my favorite device-tethered people. My daughter, Kendyl.

One of my favorite device-tethered people. My daughter, Kendyl.

Heads-down and fingers flying, folks around me were Liking and Pinning and YouTubing and e-mailing and Vining and Tweeting and Posting in ways that made me see myself in a new light.  I realized the promise I had originally made to my family was essentially a promise to myself.  I was reminded of all the things I loved doing before technology overtook my very existence.

What surprised me the most over these past seven Saturdays was the fact that I started to crave down-time even more.  So, soon after school started, I designated Wednesdays as Web-Free for Me.  I check my email before leaving school, but now am trying my best to stay logged-off until Thursday morning rolls around.  I’m also finding myself setting aside technology earlier and earlier on Friday evenings; essentially extending my Sign-Off Saturday by a few more hours.

While striving for balance has been a goal of mine for quite some time, I feel that I am finally making strides in the right direction.  Admittedly, I have a ways to go.  Please don’t ask me about Stuck Online Sundays!  If you have any advice or connections to share, feel free to leave a comment!

Homemade zucchini bread, anyone???

RemindersPicture Day is Tuesday! Please have your child bring in their order form.  Thank you!
Thank you for returning your green forms. We are hard at work, trying to reduce class sizes for the benefit of all children. Your support is so very much appreciated.

 

Speak Life,

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September 29fourth graders Letter of the weekSeptember 29 letterfourth graders video of the week

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A Day in the PARCC

As the sun came up Saturday morning, I was bound for UMass Boston for a day filled with testing. I don’t mean I was being tested. Phew! I was asked by TeachPlus to join a group of teachers who came together in an effort to analyze and give feedback on the next generation of standardized tests for students. Feedback groups were assembled in cities such as Boston, Chicago, DC, Memphis and Nashville.

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Taken from the Student Center at UMass Boston – what a beautiful campus!!!

As we all know, MCAS has been around for about 17 years. With the onset of the Common Core in 2010, there has been a need to improve testing to reflect the critical thinking and hard work students are doing in schools. To this end, a consortium of many Common Core states came together and are developing the PARCC test. Some students already field tested the computer-based assessment last spring, and Falmouth students will be taking the PARCC (instead of MCAS) as part of a pilot program this year.  With feedback from field tests, pilots and teacher reviews, the folks at PARCC will improve and adjust their product so it is rigorous, engaging, well-aligned to the common core, and appropriate for each grade level.

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On Saturday we spent a lot of time analyzing the variety of question types on both the ELA and Math portions of the PARCC. We used an extensive rubric to evaluate whether or not the tests met the criteria for high-quality assessments.

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I can say without a doubt these tests will measure what students know, understand and are able to do.  MCAS questions were limited in their variety. Students either chose a multiple choice option, wrote a short answer, or composed an open response. Students now will answer multiple choice questions where they may have to choose more than one right answer. They may have to defend why they chose a multiple choice answer by finding evidence in the text. They will drag-and-drop information to organize tables and graphic organizers. They will compare multiple pieces (written and video) and compose written responses using those sources as evidence. They will complete multi-step math problems where process and understanding are key to the solution. They will use many dynamic digital tools to organize and explain their thinking.

I feel good about the fact that the PARCC test developers and the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education heard our hopes, concerns, criticism and praise.  As teachers, we were given a voice on Saturday, and I am learning what a powerful thing Teacher Voice is.  We want our students to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged and we all know tests are not the only measure of a whole child. While the system is not perfect, we are making strides in the right direction to improve education for all students. Thank you for your support this year as we scaffold students through a rigorous curriculum and find the balance between Play and Preparedness.

These tests will reflect the understanding students are developing as they become ready for college and careers over time. Though that “finish line” may seem so very far off from where we sit in 4th grade, I can assure you it is right around the corner.  My daughter is finishing her Senior year in high school, and my son will be taking the MCAS for his (hopefully) final time this year as a Sophomore as part of his graduation requirement.  They were little  just yesterday, believe me!  Their path towards who they will become is already being paved, and they are charting their own course. I can only hope there will be many folks lighting the journey for them along the way.

Alone.doc

Reminders
Thank you to those who made it to Meet The Teacher night. It was great meeting everyone! Also, thank you for returning your parent surveys. SO valuable!
Remember tomorrow is our first Early Release. Be sure to send in a note if your child’s dismissal plan changes.  Thank you!!

Speak Life,

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September 22fourth graders Letter of the weeksept 22 letter

fourth graders video of the week

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Getting Acquainted

We’ve had a great start to establishing a sense of community in Room 303. I am getting to know your children and they are getting the hang of our schedule, routines and expectations. A combination of games, videos, songs, lessons, and assessments have helped us  come together as a group and are allowing me to gain a clearer picture of these fourth grade students as learners.

This week, parents have homework, too! Please be sure to fill out the surveys I’ve sent home so I can get to know your family a bit better. I refer back to these several times during the school year as I find them to be very valuable.

I gave students instructions on how our Homework Menu works. Each square on the homework menu is designed to take about 15-20 minutes. Students are required to do at least one square on each night the Homework Menu is assigned. Adults are asked to sign the block with a quick note about what it was the student did.

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I have been enjoying the weekly letters 303 students have written. Students should work on drafting, revising, editing and publishing their letter for about 10 minutes each night. I’m certain their writing skills will improve over the year and we’ll get to know each other better in the process.

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Meet the Teacher Night is this Wednesday at 7pm in the classroom. I look forward to meeting everyone as we kick off your children’s final year at Mullen-Hall.

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RemindersWe have PE on Tuesdays. Please be sure your child is wearing sneakers so he/she can fully participate in the lesson.

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I am getting XtraMath up and running for the year. Once you register your child his/her progress from last year will carry over to this one. <<Fingers Crossed>>.

 

Dream Big,

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September 15

fourth graders Letter of the week

September 15 letter

fourth graders video of the week

 

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We are on a journey to memorize all of the states and capitols! Wish us luck!!

IntheHall Studios… In The Making

My fourth graders have been chomping at the bit, begging me to open the boxes that arrived in our classroom last week:

what is in the box

I had them make written predictions about what was in the boxes….  Their guesses ranged from iPads to Purple Ponies.

mystery boxes

When the time finally came, I still didn’t make things easy for them.  We opened up the items, one by one, with students furiously taking notes all the while.   They wrote down what they thought all the items were, and how much they thought everything was worth.  There were some familiar items, like silver umbrellas, while others were unfamiliar, like a 4-foot-round silver frisbee-looking thing.

One item that was a big hit was the 30-foot expanse of packing paper! We dragged that off to the art room to be re-purposed into something cool.

packing paper

Now, students are busily writing predictions on what everything will be used for. We’ll share more about our new project, soon!!

Welcome to Grade 4!

This is officially our first week in 4th grade, and I think I’m already starting to get the hang of things!!  I thought I’d use this blog post to show you everything that will soon be coming your way via email newsletter. Though I write a weekly paper newsletter, and post resources here on the blog, our classroom email newsletter is the best way to get ALL of our resources in one place!  If your email is already registered with the school office, your email newsletter will come to you automatically (within the next few weeks). Be sure to sign up if you haven’t already!!

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Each week, you will receive a newsletter. Sometimes it will be a curricular update. Sometimes it will describe current or upcoming projects. Sometimes the newsletter is simply a reflection of what is happening in our classroom.  In any case, it will help you to gain a clearer view of what goes on in Room 303.

fourth graders weekly newsletter

Psstttt….. Our “newsletter” this week is exactly what you are reading, RIGHT NOW!!!! :)   Sometimes, I will also include

Remindersfor upcoming dates and events, as well.

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Our homework for the week will also come home. For the first half of the year, students will receive a weekly packet, all due on Fridays. Oftentimes, our homework includes time to read, practice math facts, our weekly letter, and I’ll add in some extra practice here and there.  Our Homework Menu option is for students to choose that which they need to improve (organization, math, vocabulary, exercise, etc…).  There will be no homework on weekends or on early release days.

September 7

reading and math practice log

Created using Stationery Studio from the awesome folks at FableVision Learning!

homework menu

fourth graders Letter of the week

sept 7 letter

In class each week, I share a video with students. We watch it several times to allow learning to sink in a bit deeper. This video is shared on the website and in our weekly email newsletter.  Most of these videos are from YouTube and require an adult at home to assist in watching. In the classroom, we do not allow students to watch YouTube videos unattended.  Adults are always in charge in playing the videos, and I oftentimes use ViewPure, a website designed to remove advertisements and suggested videos.

fourth graders video of the week

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Our e-mail newsletter always includes a weekly website of interest to parents and families. I will not include this website on our blog or our paper newsletter. ;)

fourth graders parent site of the week

Edutopia is one of my favorite websites for current and relevant information.  This link will bring you to a Parent Guide for 21st Century Learning:

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Finally, our e-mail newsletter includes links to our classroom Twitter account, classroom videos, student presentations our curriculum resources, and any other opportunities I create during the school year.

fourthgraders twitter page

Whew! Looks like we’ll have resources floating around everywhere! Please let me know if you have suggestions or feedback to make communication more transparent as the year goes on.  WELCOME!!

Dream Big,

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Mr. Brooks, Kendyl and Carson are ready for the Patriots Game. Kendyl and I saw the Nutmobile and hung out with Mr. Peanut!

Mr. Brooks, Kendyl and Carson are ready for the Patriots Game. Kendyl and I saw the Nutmobile and hung out with Mr. Peanut!