Audience Matters

Over vacation, I did some writing for Intel and posted an article on the power of an audience when it comes to being an author.  My article talked about some of the tools we use in the classroom to get students more excited about writing.

I started blogging as a teacher about 8 years ago, and have really enjoyed how it has allowed me to connect with my students, their families and the greater teaching community.  Through blogging, I have experienced the power of reflection, the importance of revising and the challenge of editing.  The more I write, the more I change what I write.

Though 95% of the comments I receive on my blog are spam, I do enjoy connecting with others when they take the time to say hello.  The questions they ask and the ideas they share make me a better writer and remind me that we are all connected in some way.

Your children are becoming stronger writers already – I have seen tremendous growth since September. I hope you have, too!!  They are more willing to write for longer periods of time, and some of them are starting to truly edit and revise their writing to make it stronger.  I am encouraging them to write on computers and devices more and more to be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. They are meeting those challenges head-on.

Perhaps having a broader audience inspires them to compose beyond expectations. Check out the following posts from Room 303 students:

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Receiving responses from family and friends means a lot to students. Occasionally, we also receive comments from others. This one came from my friend Jerry, who runs, an amazing resource for educators.  Jerry visited my class a few years ago and inspired my students to love writing. I am sure his advice has had a lasting effect on those young writers…

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If you haven’t already, be sure to visit your child’s blog at the link on the right.  Ask questions, make connections and leave comments for them – they will love it!!!

We have a busy week ahead – We are creating our Science Fair boards. If you did not purchase a board through me, please send one in with your child. If students are not using time wisely during the day to prepare, I will send them home with extra work to do in order to be ready for Friday.
We are tissue-less in Room 303. I’ve been bringing in boxes, but if you have extras, feel free to send some in, too! Pencil-cap erasers would be welcome, too! Thank you!!

Dream Big,

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February 23 Homework

fourth graders Letter of the weekWeekly Letter February 23


A few views from our vacation.

Under Control

It’s funny, as I sit here on my couch on another snowy Sunday, I am trying to figure out how much work to do in preparation for school tomorrow.  Do it all? Do nothing? Time’s a ticking!! Alas, I cannot control the weather, or the forecast (which we all know are two COMPLETELY different things).  I also cannot control whether or not we have school in the morning.

However, I can start planning in my head – for more fractions, for more Science Fair, for more Tuck Everlasting…. It seems that everything we are working on this week is challenging and interesting. Your children are having to work hard all day as we transition from one rigorous lesson to the next.  I know they are feeling how our studies are growing in difficulty.

With our 4th grade Science Fair postponed until February 27th, we thankfully have more time to experiment, observe, report, create posters and present before our new deadline. However, if any parents are available to come in during the afternoons Monday through Thursday THIS week, I would REALLY appreciate it. We are trying to do some pretty exciting science experiments in preparation for our science fair. Having an extra pair of hands in the classroom is essential to make this happen.

Our Mullen-Hall STEAM night is the Wednesday after vacation. I know volunteers will be valued as we work to bring Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics to life for our students and families. Be sure to let Mrs. Horton or Mrs. Stewart know if you can lend a hand.

Well, I’m having a hard time “controlling” my bedtime tonight. I think I’m going to err on the side of a school night and sign off!

Nite nite!

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February 9 2015

No Guff Week Room 303

No Guff Week: Room 303 Students



So here I sit watching television; seeing town after town after town cancel school tomorrow. I can see why – I was out driving in it this afternoon. The roads are horrible, covered in snow and ice, and the temperatures are dropping.   Certainly not optimal commuting conditions.

But, I think I speak for many when I say I am ready to go back to school tomorrow after five snow days.

I’ve taken enough photographs:

blizzard2015I’ve watched enough TV:


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I’ve cleaned enough:

(though I have no photographic proof of that)

I have had enough of the Internet:


I have completed enough projects:

crown moulding

I have avoided enough projects:


I have shopped enough:

Say no to the dress

This is not THE dress for Kendyl


I. Have. Had. Enough.

I’m looking to see my favorite fourth graders tomorrow.  In my classroom.  I am ready to get them back to work.  I am ready to bravely take on the science fair.  I am ready to push through all the way to February Vacation.  I am ready.

Are you?

Room 303 class cartoon

Procedurally Speaking

My @FourthGraders are learning the #ScientificMethod, and in many ways, I am learning right alongside them.  One step we are learning more about is how to write clear procedures.  Sound easy? Not so much.

Today we practiced by writing directions for others to follow.  I’ve been a long time follower of Science Stuff by Amy and her site has a resource that I based my lesson on:

Each partnership chose 20 blocks and arranged them in a design they liked. Their next job was to write step-by-step directions on how to re-build their design. Finally, we switched groups around, and partnerships had to follow directions to re-create the original designs. Here are our photos:


procedure 1

procedure 2

Procedure 3

Procedure 4

procedure 5

procedure 6

procedure 7

procedure 8

procedure 9

AFTER we were all done, this was Mrs. Brooks design and directions. Two students worked together to follow the directions and replicate it.


We had a great chat afterwards about how important it is for scientists to write clear procedures so that their experiments can be replicated accurately.

We’re learning more and more!!!


If you were in New England this weekend, you most likely heard this catch phrase.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “Do Your Job”.  Though the bottom line is that each of us (football players, teachers, students) have a particular expectation to fulfill, we know that each day can be a completely different experience.

Every day? We dig deep, try hard and push beyond our abilities to meet expectations.

Sometimes, those efforts fall short of where we hope to be.

Other times, those efforts pay off in confetti and cheering crowds:

I guess what it boils down to is trying your best every day.  Putting your best foot forward.  Daring to be great.  Dreaming Big.  You get the idea.

I ask a lot of your children.  The word effort is tossed around the classroom on a daily basis.  Every day, I expect them to dig deep, try hard and push beyond their abilities to meet 4th grade expectations.

Just like me, and the Patriots, student efforts are sometimes rewarded, and other times, they simply become part of the learning experience.   Thank you for learning along with us.

Go Pats!!

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RemindersStudents have all chosen their science fair question. Please start sending in their materials so that experiments can be conducted this week.

THANK YOU for the brave souls who are coming in to help during the afternoons this week. Even if you only have an hour, we could use your help.  No RSVP necessary, just come on in!


January 19 2015fourth graders video of the week

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The 19 Best Science Fair YouTube Videos

So, it is my first year teaching all-things Science Fair.  Anyone who regularly reads this blog probably can predict:

I’m terrified!

I’ve had to teach science before. I’ve even done a half-decent job at teaching the Scientific Method. However, now that I’m in 4th grade, I’m far more responsible for teaching students how to conduct science experiments so they can create Science Fair projects.

Talk about intimidating!!!

I knew that I wanted this article to be about our upcoming Science Fair.  For the life of me, I could not think of a topic. So, I turned to Portent’s Idea Generator. You know I’ve done that before in THIS POST.  This time around, I was looking for inspiration or motivation (or a way to force me) to write a decent blog post.  These were some of the Portent ideas I passed by:

science fair idea 1

science fair ideas 2

Here was where I ultimately landed:

science fair titleThough 19 seems super excessive (Thanks, Portent’s Content Idea Generator!!), I’m going to spend some time on the YouTube to see what videos I can find that will be helpful to me. Oh, and hopefully they will be helpful to my students, too!  Together, we will navigate this science adventure!!

Here goes!!!  Oh!! Remember, my adorable 4th graders, that you are NOT to run amok on YouTube.  Watch with a grown-up!!



# Views

Prepare for the Science Fair by Kevin Temmer



Science Fair Project Ideas – Make Science Fun


Science Fair Poster Boards



Science Fair Project Ideas that are EASY, AWESOME and CHEAP!



Beyond the Fizz – Sick Science! Fair Week



How to Make a Science Fair Table and Graph



What Judges Want in a Science Fair Project



Slippery Science Fair Projects – Cool Science Experiments



!!!How to Do a Science Fair Project Board!!!



5th Grade Science Fair Project Ideas



10 Crazy Experiments with Coca-Cola!



5 Phenomenal Science Stunts, Done with Dry Ice



A Baffling Balloon Behavior – Smarter Every Day



Wringing out Water on the ISS – for Science!


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Angry Birds Fizz Egg – Science Experiment and Tutorial






Mararu Emoto’s Rice Experiment – The Power of Words?



5 Fun Science Experiments for Kids (w/ Grover!) #5facts



TED: Beau Lotto + Amy O’Toole: Science is for everyone, kids included


fourth graders video of the week

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Kirsten Lepore is an artist and filmmaker who works with different animation techniques, including stop-motion animation and claymation. With these videos, learn more about the intentions behind her food-focused film, the unusual materials she works with to create her projects, and why she loves the laborious process of stop-motion animation. Lepore also demonstrates the basics of shooting a stop-motion animation film.

fourth graders Letter of the weekweekly letter jan 12HERE is a link to the Cape Cod Times website where students can learn more about their Classroom Times!January 12

Everybody Loves the Sun

But snowmen.

In the few hours we had before we left for break, 303 students and I created our first stop-action animation in our green screen studio.  “Everybody Loves the Sun But Me” was a collaborative project we all enjoyed. Every student was able to animate his or her own snowman, and if you watch closely, you’ll see some creative animation ideas!  To add to the fun, students learned the accompanying song after hearing it only four times. I am very proud of their musical performance!  The afternoon was a blizzard of activity, but it was certainly time well spent.

For those techies out there, we are challenging you to list the apps/programs/websites that we used to make this all come together.   Leave a comment with your guess!

fourth graders video of the week

Snowman still


Over vacation, I went to my class reunion.  While that might sound pretty normal for an adult to do – this reunion was unique!  I attended a reunion for students who attended my elementary school! The time I spent at Fisher School in Walpole was not only memorable for me, it was the same for many other students and teachers as well.  For example, over 300 students and teachers participate regularly in our Facebook group; all folks who enjoy sharing our elementary school memories! This was our 2nd annual reunion (my first!), and the 60 of us gathered right at Fisher School!

With my 3rd grade teacher, with my lifelong friends, with the whole group, and having dinner in the Fisher School auditorium!

With my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Lynch, with my lifelong friends,
with the whole group, and having dinner in the Fisher School auditorium!

There were so many highlights during the evening – one being a tour of the entire building. Walking the halls of my beloved school was an experience I truly appreciated, and walking into each of my classrooms brought back a flood of memories for me.  In some ways, the rooms looked much the same as they always had, and in other ways, I could see they reflected life in a 21st Century classroom. The teacher (and child) in me loved every minute of the tour.

Fisher K 1 2fisher 3 4 5 6Not surprisingly, everything seemed so much smaller to me.  Ceilings were lower, cafeteria seemed cozier, corridors appeared more narrow. However, the feelings surrounding my positive elementary school experience have little to do with the physical space.  All along the tour, reunion-goers reminisced, sharing stories and piecing together memories.  There were grownups hula-hooping, snapping photos, sitting in little chairs. There were giggles and grins everywhere I turned.  We even sang some favorite camp songs from our week at Camp Calumet in NH, led by our former teacher, Mr. Monaghan. We enjoyed a slideshow and video presentation honoring our former principal, Mr. Eldgridge, and a microphone was passed around the room for folks to share their thoughts and feelings.  The evening was just awesome.

Without a doubt, my Fisher School memories have everything to do with the way my teachers made me feel during those seven years.  They made me feel special. They made me feel smart. They made me feel braver than I believed myself to be. My desire to become a teacher was directly tied to my experiences attending Fisher School.  The games we play, the songs I share and the lessons I develop are often directly from my former teachers.

One particular memory I have is during Outdoor Education Week.  4 crazy teachers took 100 active 6th graders to Ossippee, NH for 5 days. We hiked, canoed, sang, and learned a lot about ourselves in the process.  One evening, we participated in a candlelight ceremony where we passed a light on between us.  Just as we passed on the light and warmth of our experience, I can only hope I pass on some of the same positive feelings I have carried for my lifetime.  May my students feel just how special, smart and brave I know they each are.

candle pass it on

Dream Big,

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RemindersCold weather has arrived! Be sure your child is dressed for outdoor recess. The wind off Shiverick’s pond is fierce!

To get ready for middle school, soon we will transition to nightly homework. Enjoy these last few weeks of homework packets, and start building daily routines for homework completion.  Thank you for your support – Hard Work Ahead!


January 5

alternative homework menu Download a PDF copy of our alternative homework menu

fourth graders Letter of the week

weekly letter january 5

Camp Read A Lot

Tuesday we will attend Camp Read A Lot together. Here is the information you need to know:

camp read a lot

Gift Ideas for @FourthGraders

Seems this is the time of year where gifts and giving are on the minds of many.  Because there are all sorts of classroom items our students love, I thought I’d share a list of gift suggestions your kids might enjoy.



postit1. Post-it Notes:  These are great for origami, doodling on, sticking on folders (and friends!). If you’re really feeling it – go for the SUPER sticky ones!


  2. Pencil-tip eerasersrasers: We go through at least a dozen of these every day, and I’m quite certain they aren’t used for erasing. How many erasers can YOU fit on a pencil? Your 4th grader will fill you in.


water bottles


  3. Empty water bottles:  Whether playing catch or banging out a rhythm, a box full of re-purposed water bottles will induce a smile!



4. Paper clips: Creativity abounds! They come in many shapes, sizes and colors, and can be used for all sorts of projects. I am always finding an entire chain of clips when I go to take just one.



  5. Dominoes: I never have enough of these to keep everyone in supply. While no student has ever played the GAME of dominoes, they have found endless hands-on uses for these versatile toys. Get on the floor and enjoy them with your child!


Though students aren’t “asking” for these items, I know they would truly enjoy them! I also know there is one more thing they are not asking for,  yet I know they would absolutely love…

What I’ve found my students want most is time and attention, and plenty of it. The time we spend chatting together about things important to them is priceless. Their enthusiasm and curiosity is endless, and their perspective always reminds me of what is important in life.

Enjoy your 4th graders. I know I do!



This week on Wednesday we will start Operation Secret Snowflake. It is imperative to have every student participate, so no one is left out.  To aid in that goal, there will be no other homework this week.  Take time to put forth effort for your Secret Snowflake, and then enjoy the extra free time!

I have had 4 families answer our classroom communication survey. Be sure to take a minute to complete it – I value every response!!


Dream Big,

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surf drive collage

Surf Drive Beach: I took a little detour on my way home last week. Though it was freezing, I couldn’t help get out of the car and capture the sunset. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful area.


“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time…”  
~Rick Warren


SimplySuzy on Sleep

I took two hours out of my day today to catch the re-airing of  National Geographic’s #SleeplessInAmerica.  The topic of sleep, particularly as it relates to children, is something I have always been interested in. In fact, I have written about sleep in prior blog posts as well (HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).  I cannot understate the importance of ALL of us getting enough sleep. This show is a MUST-SEE for everyone!

The informative program tied lack of sleep to many challenges children, teens and adults face including anxiety, memory loss, drowsy driving, irritability, ADHD, Diabetes, impulsivity, high blood pressure, depression, cognitive decline, heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, most surveys and research point to the fact that an alarming percentage children, teens and adults are just not getting enough sleep.

Setting up healthy sleep routines for your children while they are young will help you maintain them when they hit middle and high school, where the pressure to stay up later will increase.  We will be talking about the importance of sleep in class, but be sure to do your own research. There are dozens of websites and articles out there – serving two functions: alarming us to the problems of sleep deprivation and helping us re-design our sleeping habits for a healthier lifestyle.

Kendyl & Carson Napping on an Alaskan train.

Kendyl & Carson Napping on an Alaskan train.

What works for us is having bedrooms remain technology and media-free zones.  Exercise and eating are off-limits close to bedtime and we try to keep the same bed and wake-times no matter the day or time of year. Our teenagers certainly do not appreciate our healthy-minded rules, but perhaps someday they will come to agree with the added benefits a good night’s sleep.


If you leave a comment this week, include your thoughts on sleep habits!  Did you read any articles? Watch any videos? Change your thinking?  Feel free to share!


* Tomorrow is a half-day for Parent-Teacher conferences. Be sure to send in a note if your child’s dismissal changes.
* Report Cards are coming home this Friday. Students are also filling out a report card for themselves and for me as we all plan for a wonderful Term 2.
* Please be sure to answer this week’s Family Survey as I try to improve the way communication flows from Room 303 each week.

Sweet Dreams,

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December 8fourth graders Letter of the week

weekly letter dec 8

fourth graders video of the week

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