What else is going on in Room 209?
May 31st, 2011 by jonmoss

What a busy few weeks it’s been in Room 209!  Besides the TUSS projects and presentations, we’ve been working hard on new math units, a special reading project, and more!

In math, we’re wrapping up unit 10, which is a fun unit about geometry – in particular, symmetry.  We’ll be testing later this week (or early next week), so stay tuned!  Because this was such a short unit, I also have several students who are still finishing up the recent math assessment.  Once I have them all turned in, I’ll be sure to share the results with you.  On that note, I want to apologize for the delay in sharing other recent math assessment results with you.  I just realized that I never sent the scores home, and I’m very sorry for the mistake.  Score sheets will go home with kids tomorrow.

We’ve had several assessments over the past few weeks.  The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) is administered to students individually twice each year (fall and spring).  The kids have done a great job working on these over the past few weeks, and I’ve been very pleased with the students’ growth.  We also just completed the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) assessment.  This assessment gives students a series of cloze-style passages in which they must choose the correct words to fit into a blank spot within a paragraph.  Finally, we have a few CFAs that we’ll work on over the next few days.

Last week, we went on a field trip to the Children’s Museum in West Hartford.  What a great trip!  We started off enjoying a planetarium show about the sun, earth, and moon.  This tied in perfectly to the kids’ recent science unit by the same name.  Later, the kids had an opportunity to try out some interactive stations that introduced them to a variety of concepts – among them, electricity.  In the coming weeks, the kids will learn about electricity through a unit that Mr. Giannini and I teach jointly.

Stay tuned!  In the next update:  Number the Stars, Junior Achievement, and Expository Writing!  Also, be sure to check out the first student article on the site!  You can find it right below this post.

The Exciting Computer Station (By #16)
May 31st, 2011 by jonmoss

I’m going to be talking about the computer station! You can do so many delightful things there. For example, you can make a hilarious story one sentence at a time! Everybody is allowed to join in. You can also write a serious story one sentence at a time! Also, if the computers didn’t have something wrong with them you could go on ichat. [Mr. Moss’s comment:  iChat is configured to restrict conversation to our classroom computers ONLY, and I keep a log of the chats, so this is a safe environment for the kids.]  Let’s hope both of them start working! You can also go on the calculator!!! Push in some outstanding numbers and watch them transform! If you want to have a whole lot of fun, you can play Math Magician and practice your math facts!!! If you write a super fantastic article, you might get the chance to paste it on the Mr. Moss’s class website. Isn’t that exciting??? That’s only some of it. There is much more!!! This is why we are so lucky to have the computer station!!!

Our newest CCLS: The Computer Station!
May 26th, 2011 by jonmoss

Over a month ago, I introduced the XO station to the students.  A few weeks ago, I also opened the computer station for student use.  There are many different activities at this station, but the most popular one allows kids to write articles for our class website.

During the week, one of our class jobs in the Cub Reporter.  In this job, a student keeps a notebook in which he or she jots down some of the different activities that we are doing in class.  Then, when our class works in Cross-Curricular Learning Stations, students at the computer station can use the notes in the Cub Reporter’s notebook to write brief articles about what we’re doing in class.  The kids are really excited to see their work in “print”, and hopefully their articles will keep you well informed about the last few weeks of school.  I explained to the kids that we’re not putting any names on their articles (for privacy reasons) and that I will make sure they’re well proofread and edited before being posted here.  But keep your eyes peeled – I have two articles in the queue that are waiting to be posted!

I’m so proud!
May 23rd, 2011 by jonmoss

I was so glad to see most of the students and parents at Thursday’s open house last week.  The tribute that the kids performed to honor Mrs. Cowdrey was touching and heart-felt, and their concert performance as a whole was lovely.  On our bus ride to the Children’s Museum this morning, the kids skipped the usual bus songs (“The Song that Never Ends” or “I Know a Song that Gets on Everybody’s Nerves” are the usual favorites) in favor of a rendition of “The Jolly Piper” – one of their songs from the recent concert.  I can think of no better testament to Mrs. Cowdrey’s impact than the fact that kids ended up singing one of her concert songs on a field trip.

Following Thursday’s concert, I enjoyed welcoming students and families into our seemingly 90-degree classroom for open house.  I appreciate all the positive feedback that I received from parents about the project.  As I said to one parent on Thursday and to the whole class on Friday, teachers are tasked with the job of preparing children to hold jobs in the future that, in many cases, may not have even been conceived of yet!  With this need in mind, it’s essential that kids learn the skills of how to plan, organize, and execute a project, not just those of completing an assigned task.  As much as this project was intended to help kids learn about a new topic or a new means of presenting, it was also intended to help kids learn how to manage their projects.   This skill will only become more critical for students in the coming years.

A few students presented their projects on Wednesday, and many more presented on Thursday.  I saw pride in the kids’ faces as they shared with their classmates during the day and as they shared with their families during open house.  On Friday, the kids rotated among the six fourth grade classrooms to see what their fellow fourth graders created for their invention projects.  At the same time, the other fourth graders came into our classroom to look at our kids’ TUSS projects.  The feedback I received was very positive, and the other kids loved looking at the projects that were on display in our room.  We finished the day by presenting a few other projects before our Town Meeting at the end of the day.

Today, given our morning field trip and afternoon Junior Achievement session, we only had time for one more presentation.  We’ll finish the presentations tomorrow, I think.  (As much as I love seeing the projects on display, we’ve already started to dismantle the “museum” layout so that we can start to get back to our daily routine.)  I’m going to hang onto the projects for a bit longer so that I can finish grading them before sending them home.  Please let me know if this is a problem.

Once again, thank you for your help as you worked with your son or daughter on his or her TUSS project.  I know many of the the kids enjoyed making their own projects, and I know that the kids have loved seeing their friends presenting their own projects.  In the coming week, you’ll see a survey coming home from me.  This survey is intended to bring me feedback about the project and what I can do differently in the future.  Thanks, in advance, for your help with this.  I know your time is valuable!

Strategies for Multiplying and Dividing Decimals
May 11th, 2011 by jonmoss

Yesterday, we started working on multiplying decimals.  To all the parents who saw the homework and thought that it was downright loonie that we were using a three step process rather than just multiplying the decimals outright, don’t worry – we will get there.  Using the three step process teaches valuable number sense skills that help kids to understand the nature of numbers and why certain multiplication tasks result in certain answers.

Today, we started working on dividing decimals.  The bad news:  Again, we used three wacky steps, rather than just learning how to divide decimals outright.  The good news:  The steps are the same.  In case you need a refresher (kids), here are the steps:

  1. Estimate the answer (by rounding the decimal up or down).
  2. Multiply or divide as if there was no decimal point.  (Just take it out.)
  3. Consolodate your answers.  Use the ballpark estimate from step 1 to figure out what your answer should be close to, and use the digits from step 2 to figure out what numerals should make up your answer.  Insert the decimal point appropriately.

Here are some examples:


3.28 x 5 = ?

Step 1:  Round 3.28 down to 3.  Multiply 3 x 5.  The answer, 15, if your ballpark estimate.  Your answer should be close (two digits).

Step 2:  Remove the decimal from 3.28.  Multiply 328 (yes, three hundred twenty eight) by 5.  328 x 5 = 1,640.

Step 3:  Using the digits 1  6  4  0, add a decimal that gives you an answer close to your ballpark estimate of 15.  In this case, put a decimal between 6 and 4.  Your answer is 16.40.




Step 1:  Again, round your decimal.  36.79 rounds up to 37.  When you divide with long division, you get an answer of 12 r1 (remainder of 1).  This tells you that your answer aught to be close to 12, certainly in the same place value.

Step 2:  Use long division to divide without a decimal point.  In other words: 3679/3=?.  You get the answer of 1,126r1.

Step 3: You need to use the digits 1  1  2  6 to find an answer close to your ballpark estimate of 12.  Insert the decimal point to make 12.26.

TUSS Program Page
May 9th, 2011 by jonmoss

Good evening!  A few parents have asked for an editable version of the TUSS program page so that their kids can directly type and print their page.  Here is the TUSS Assignment Packet that you can use.  (This way, you have all the components, except for the calendars, in case you need another copy.)  The program page is toward the end of the Word document.  Just delete the lines and type away!

Number the Stars Program
May 6th, 2011 by jonmoss

On Monday, we have the Hartford Stage coming to work with each of the fourth grade classes each day (for one week) on a novel called Number the Stars.  This well-known story is about a ten year old girl and her Jewish friend during the time of Nazi led Holocaust.  This is the first year Pine Grove School has had this program, and we are excited about it because Roaring Brook School teachers have raved about how excellent it is.  I just wanted to give you a heads-up since you may be having interesting conversations at the dinner table next week.  I’m told that it is age appropriate in content for fourth graders, so I’m sure this will be a terrific program and a good learning opportunity for the kids.

Japan Day Tomorrow
May 4th, 2011 by jonmoss

Just a reminder that tomorrow is Japan Day at PGS.  Students are encouraged to bring in a bit of money to donate to relief efforts in Japan.  (Any money raised from the origami is due tomorrow as well.)

Our class is performing at the town meeting tomorrow at 10:30am.  I’m REALLY excited about the great work the kids have been doing!  In their presentation, the kids will teach everyone how to make kid-friendly chopsticks and candy sushi.  Every single student is participating in some way, so I’m looking forward to a great outcome!  Parents, if you find that you have a sick child in the morning, please consider taking a moment to email me so I can have some more lead time to make alternate arrangements.  Families are welcome to come see their kids perform, but I’ll also have a video recording (if all goes well!) that I can share at Open House.

Sycamore Day
May 4th, 2011 by jonmoss

Good morning! The parents organizing the festivities for Sycamore Day on June 17 (rain date June 20) are in need of additional volunteers. If you can help, please email me and I’ll pass on your email to Mrs. Mascoli. (I don’t want to post it here, because email addresses on websites often get picked up by web bots and get added to lots and lots of junk mail lists.) Thanks for your help!

Math Support, TUSS, more!
May 2nd, 2011 by jonmoss

Good evening!  Here are a few updates for you!

  • Each grade at PGS meets as a data team on a weekly basis to examine student data (usually looking at overall patterns) and to identify needed changes in our instruction.  After a recent screening, we found that many of the students in fourth grade needed review of computational skills.  Each of the teachers on the team has been working with his or her classes for a few weeks on multiplication skills.  We have also had several pull-out tier 2 or tier 3 intervention groups that have worked on multiplication skills.  Both these intervention groups and the direct, whole-class instruction will wrap-up on Friday, when we will retest students.  When the teachers meet to review the data, we’ll determine how to best move forward.  Additionally, we expect to focus on long division in the coming weeks using the same general strategies.  Some students have also been working to reinforce and strengthen subtraction skills.  If your student comes home and tells about how he or she is working with Mrs. Searson, Mrs. Kryzanski, or Mrs. Daly-Byrnes on math, know that their involvement in the multiplication or subtraction groups is intended to be short-term boost to improve skills.  These intervention groups have been effective thus far, and we look forward to ongoing work and success in the coming weeks.
  • The Teach Us Something, Somehow project appears to be going very well!  I’ve reviewed students’ midway progress reports, and I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing so far.  (My feedback will go home tomorrow.)  Please remember that the purpose of the midway progress report is to keep me informed of the student’s progress so that I can provide support as necessary.  If that paperwork was submitted late or lacks adequate detail to show me what progress the student has made, I can’t be as effective at supporting your child.  If either situation was true for your child’s progress report, you’ll note that reflected on the scoring rubric.  (I’ll send home copies if your child has NOT received full-credit.  My intent is not to demoralize anyone, but rather, to provide that feedback early on so that there is still plenty of time to adjust plans and ensure that the rest of the project is on-track for success!)
  • Remember that any work for Teach Us Something, Somehow is excused from the Break Free of TV [voluntary] prohibition of TV, computers, and video games.
  • Our class is presenting at Thursday’s Japan-themed town meeting.  The kids have been learning how to make kid-friendly chopsticks and will work on how to write sequential directions (as you saw in this evening’s homework).  If all goes according to plan, we’ll learn how to make candy sushi tomorrow.  (I need to make it to the supermarket tonight on my way home to see if I can find some sort of fruit roll-up (or equivalent) that will represent seaweed.  We’ll see!)  All students will be involved in our presentation at the town meeting, but not everyone will be speaking aloud.  Parents are invited to the event, which is scheduled to start at 10:30am.
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