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:


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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!


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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:

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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!


11,465, 263

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


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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

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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

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