Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fourth Grade Focus: October

There are only so many minutes in a day, and learners of all ages only have so much capacity for learning each day.  Hence, the learning day choreography matters.

This week I'm meeting with all of the families in my class.  I like meeting with them all at one time as it helps me to really think about the class program, and students' needs, both individual and collective. As the week continues I'll probably refine this post with greater detail, so stay tuned.

However, at this moment of the school year, it's time to begin this revision.

Reading Workshop
Thanks to the multiple teachers before me and families, most of my students LOVE to read.  The key here is making enough time for reading practice, and creating time for a few small groups for students who find it hard to stick with a book. Our small groups will focus on readers' theater and project study (informational text/research) to start. RTI (response to intervention) efforts have started, and children look forward to these small group, teacher-led groups.

Close Reading, Read Aloud, and Reading Response 
Recent assessments and data analysis show that the whole class needs this instruction as they move from literal to inferential understanding of text. I'm enjoying this study too as I learn about multiple approaches. For example, yesterday we compared a picture book and novel about a similar subject. We used a venn diagram. I encouraged the children to stretch their thinking, and most loved reaching for the high-level connections. Later we culled the historical facts from both of these historical-fiction texts.  it was rich learning. We'll continue to learn and apply multiple reading strategies to understand a range of genre and learn in the weeks ahead.

Persuasive Writing Workshop
Our workshop focus on persuasive text has been rich. As children learn about the reasons for and application of organization, craft, voice, and important elements related to persuasive text, both their thinking and writing continues to grow.  Ralph Fletcher's inspiration this summer at The Wayland Literacy Institute got our writing workshop off to a great start, and I've noticed that students are approaching the subject with greater enthusiasm this year. Also our weekly Google docs "blog" share of persuasive paragraphs is serving to both educate parents and students well about this genre and writing in general. This "blog" is also a ready way for me to support, encourage, and share student writing regularly with all families and students.

I'll also set aside for class and small group spelling, word study, craft, and connections' study with respect to shared and individual student need.

Our math program started with a focus on math facts, and students are "climbing the computation ladder" with consistency.  Soon we will start RTI groups to support those who are challenged by math foundation skills while we'll continue to use tools like That Quiz, Khan Academy and project/problem base learning for enrichment.  The use of Google docs to make place value models and tables took time, but I believe the time was worth it because while children made the charts and models, they solidified understanding of place value in their minds.  Next we'll move on to addition and subtraction algorithm review and problem solving strategy and precision. I will begin to add more tailored enrichment to our home study menu as well to support students who are eager for more math learning and practice.

Project Work
Currently our close reading and read aloud is working to support our project work.  Multiple trips to Drumlin Farm support this work too.  In December, students will share culture projects so now our close reading and read aloud is supporting foundation study related to immigration and culture. Since we disbanded our grade-level STEAM efforts, I will open up a number of approved STEAM apps for Friday class project work and study.  During that time I'll foster student creativity, exploration and research that embeds multiple standards from all areas of the curriculum.  This time will be similar to the Creativity Days project a couple of years ago, yet this project time will happen each week.

Social Studies and Science
As noted above, I will embed the content and concept of these subject throughout reading, writing, and math curriculum.  There is also 30 minutes a week set aside for films related to these topics.

This is the fourth grade program at the moment, what would you add and what would you modify? How does this program look similar to your program, and what is different?

When you make the time to share with children why the learning is important and how they will use it in the future, they invest their energy and time with enthusiasm.  After a recent rut in the teaching road, we're off again. Thanks for the support.