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

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fourth graders video of the week

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Term Two: Begin Anew

There’s something I just love about Term Two. It’s like we have all finally arrived where we belong.  This year, we are all full-fledged fourth graders. Gone are our 3rd grade behaviors and skills, and our new-found fourth-grade strategies are becoming stronger and stronger.

As a teacher, I no longer have to teach behavior expectations and classroom routines, I can now focus my energy on teaching new content. We build. We share. We grow. We learn.  We reach new heights because the curriculum we access is new and challenging.

Term Two Grade Four

Report cards going home will reflect the mixture of skills students are striving to achieve. While recognizing patterns and using new vocabulary are skills my students are familiar with, using evidence to support thinking is new. The majority of students in 303 will be working very hard this year to search for and quote evidence in their answers in all subjects.  How Do You Know??? will be a predictable question in our lessons, and proving that knowledge will become more and more common for students.

How can you help at home? Promote independence. Rely on your 4th graders to read signs, to plan trips, to budget shopping and to schedule time.  While their maturing skills might slow you down, you are helping your child build value as a 21st century learner.

I appreciate your support as the work in Term 2 ramps up for all students in one way or another.

Reminders* Tomorrow is our field trip to the Zeiterion Theater. Please be sure to PACK A LUNCH. We are looking forward to seeing We The People!
* This week is the Mullen-Hall Book Fair. We will preview the fair on Tuesday and then students can shop after that.
* Term 2 is here! Report cards will come home soon. Are you signed up for a conference? Let’s meet!!


With Thanks,

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December 1weekly letter dec 1

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Happy Thanksgiving from 303!

Poems for children help them celebrate the joy and wonder of their world. Humorous poems tickle the funny bone of their imaginations.   ~Charles Ghigna

We spent yesterday getting acquainted with several Thanksgiving poems. Students then worked in small groups to choose one poem and create a background for their performance.  After lots of practice (and some memorization!!) we opened our InTheHall studio and recorded!

Here are our Vine videos as we prepared:

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I wanted to get a video of the performances right out to families to enjoy for Thanksgiving break, so we assembled it right in class at the end of the day. Students were able to see how easy it is to create, and they are hoping you check it out on Vimeo!!  Enjoy!!

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American Education Week sneaks up on me each year.  What is American Education Week? I decided to snap a photo from the NEA website to share:

NEA Education WeekThe President, in his AEW2014 press release is quoted as saying “With grit and passion, America’s teachers give life to education’s promise.” and “This week, we honor the teachers, mentors, and professionals who guide our kids as they explore the world. Let us recommit to supporting a first-class education for all students, from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career.”

I wish, in his press release, the President had mentioned the most essential “ingredient” when it comes to educating the Whole Child —- Parents!!  This school year alone I can’t understate the effect parents have had on guiding our kids as they explore the world. I’ve already had several conferences, and have been so impressed and thankful for the commitment and support parents have demonstrated.  Bottom line for me, whether the President says it or not, I could not do this job without the support of parents.

With that being said… I want to remind my families that our classroom doors are always open. Whether you want to stop in to help, or observe, or just hang out, please know you can come in any time.  However, this week especially, please feel free to drop by 303 and say hello!  Whether you sit and read, or tackle some challenging math or writing assignments, we hope to see you!  No RSVP needed – c’mon in!  For those looking for suggested times, try these!

Stretch your bar-modeling skills this week during math: 9:30 to 10:45am (Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri)

Organize your writing from 10:45 to 11:30 (Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri)

Eat lunch and head to recess from 11:35 to 12:20 (any day)

Read with your child 1:10 to 1:45  (Mon, Tue, Wed or 12:25 – 1:00 Thurs)

Explore the Northeast Region of the United States 2:40 to 3:20 (Mon, Tue, Wed or Thur from 2:00 to 2:45)

If any of these days or times don’t work for you or your schedule – no worries!! We’ll be here for the rest of the year. Stop by anytime.  Or, check out our website, or our Twitter feed, or our Kid Blogs, or our e-newsletter, or just keep reading our paper newsletter and chatting with your child. All levels of involvement are welcome and encouraged.

Happy American Education Week!

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@SimplySuzy backyard turkey

A neighborly turkey in my yard, 2011 @SimplySuzy

November 17

fourth graders Letter of the weekturkey letterfourth graders video of the weekScreen Shot 2014-11-16 at 7.22.07 PM


Friday I’m heading off to attend and present at EdTechTeacher’s iPad Summit at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

ettipad cover sheetI will also be carrying a technology “baton” tomorrow as well.   The folks at EdTechBaton have asked a few of us (Shawn McCusker @smc617 and Jordan Garrett @ilearnandteach carried the baton today) to post on social media about conference ideas we can take back to our classrooms. I’m looking forward to searching out new strategies and sharing them with folks online. You can keep your eye on my adventures by watching the @EdTechBaton feed on Twitter or Instagram. Or, check it out on their website!


I look forward to working with folks who are starting to implement mobile devices in their classrooms!!

I’m looking forward to a day filled with learning!!

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Socratic Seminar in Grade 4

This week, I was brave and watched as my students led themselves through their first Socratic seminar. In our district PD this fall, we had learned more about how seminars work, and some strategies for getting kids to participate. So, finally this past week we took the plunge.

Together we read Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. You can read the story yourself HERE.  Students loved the story and were able to connect with the narrator in many ways. I then asked them the following question:

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

Students wrote their answer on our reflection sheet (download a copy of the socratic seminar reflection)

socratic reflection

Once everyone had prepared their response, we were ready! The class was split into two teams – the Inner Circle and the Outer Circle.  (Later on, we would switch roles.) The students created a tightly-fit concentric circle of chairs on the rug:

Click on the pic to watch our VINE video!

Click on the pic to watch our VINE video!

I told them the reason we were doing this:

Socratic seminars will give us the chance to connect with our text and each other in a deeper, more meaningful way.  We will become better readers, writers and communicators through the use of Socratic seminars.

I told them the rules for the lesson:

Teacher:  Observe. Stay quiet. Pay attention to the conversation.

Inner Circle: Be respectful. No interrupting. Everyone gets a chance.

Outer Circle: Be respectful, Do your job. Stay quiet.

While the Inner Circle discussed their answers to the question, the students in the Outer Circle had jobs to do, too!  Each student held a task card that allowed them to be a purposeful observer. Here’s a couple of examples: (download 20 task cards HERE)

Outer Circle Examples

We set the timer for 10 minutes, and the Inner Circle did their thing. Afterwards, we allowed 10 minutes for the Outer Circle to report out on their observations. After switching circles, we repeated the entire process and then debriefed before students filled out their 3-2-1 portion of the reflection. Reading their responses and listening to them during Seminar was very powerful for me as a teacher. When we raise the bar for students, it’s always amazing to see what they can do.

303 students are VERY excited to discuss our next reading. I am looking forward to sharing a very special narrative piece with them soon!

RemindersThis Thursday we will be traveling by bus to Barnstable High School to hear the Cape Cod Symphony perform!  The children should dress nicely for this event.  It would be great to have the ladies wear dresses or skirts and the gentleman to wear a polo shirt or a tie.  There is no need to go shopping, please wear what you have.  We will be eating lunch at school.

Operation Flags for Vets is always looking for volunteers to place and remove flags for Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Flag removal will happen this Sunday morning at 10am at Massachusetts National Cemetery. We go every year and feel it is something every family should experience.

Show up and Serve,

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November 10fourth graders Letter of the week

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

Created using Stationery Studio from FableVision

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Ready to BYOD?

For the past two years, I’ve participated in Falmouth Public School’s Bring Your Own Device program. Teaching students to be responsible digital citizens is something I take very seriously and I love the opportunity to work with them on devices they use at home.


We are going to start this week. I will chat with students on Monday, and will send home our district Student User Agreement for students and parents to sign. Once that is signed, students can bring their web-enabled devices.

I want students and families to be clear that BYOD is NOT required. I have 4 devices students can use (which belong to me), and I can also wheel in one of our device carts to supplement during lessons. We will get rolling slowly to see how things go. I am looking for self-control, responsibility, creativity and hard work in all areas of the curriculum. If the devices are a distraction, students will be asked to leave them at home. Each student will earn a Drivers License, which can be revoked at any time for off-target behavior. I have found that device use has been very motivating both academically and behaviorally for my students.

If it comes time to upgrade your old iPhone or device, consider donating it to Room 303. If it has wifi capabilities, we can wipe the device clean and put it into the service of learning.

I provide professional development for teachers from all over the world, giving them strategies and suggestions on how to integrate technology tools in their classrooms. It will be nice to work with my very own students on these same skills!

Thank you as always, for your support!


Conference sign-ups are coming in, I am filling spots and sending home confirmations. Please plan on being early to your conference so you can review your child’s work in the hallway before coming in to chat!  I look forward to meeting with everyone!!


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November 3

fourth graders Letter of the week

nov 3 weekly letter

fourth graders video of the week

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Next week we head to the Cape Cod Symphony where we will learn more about the connection between math and music. This will help build our background knowledge.

Friday was Frightfully Fun

Somehow, I survived Halloween at school without my laptop, which was accidentally left at home. (SCARY!!!) With a big day planned, I wondered how we would get through it?

If you’ve never been to Mullen-Hall on Halloween morning, you are in for a big treat. All 500 students assemble in lines inside the school, and make our way outside, where we form one very long, long line. Staff wearing costumes are cheering students on everywhere we go.

lining upWe then head down Main Street, where the streets are lined with more staff members, parents and community members. They are excited to see our students every year, and many are in costumes themselves!! Corndog, anyone??

paradeOne of my favorite parts is when all 500+ of us parade through the Falmouth Town Hall.  We see smiling faces at every office!

In... Through... and Out!!!

In… Through… and Out!!!

Student costumes are creative every year.

Halloween Mask

costumesAnd these turkeys seemed SO realistic!!!

Gobble, Gobble!!

Gobble, Gobble!!



We headed back into the classroom, where we spent the rest of the morning studying Jack Prelutsky’s poem, The Witch. After some time spent close reading the poem, I handed out some other Halloween-themed poems. Students got to work practicing and dressing up, and before we knew it, we had our brand-new InTheHall Studios up and running!!

green screen technology in 4th gradeHere are two of our short Vine videos:

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Click photo to play Vine video

Click on the pic to see the Vine video.

Click on the pic to see the Vine video.



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

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Click on the pic to get to my Pinterest board of resources.