Below are photos that show a glimpse of the process that led to the phenomenal products you saw at our Celebration of Learning.
Students used books, articles, and reliable digital sources to take notes about their topic. Some used the boxes and bullets strategy to organize their notes while others used a color coding system to categorize their information.
Students met in peer writing groups to give and receive feedback after writing their drafts. They used the feedback they received to make revisions. They learned the importance of writing multiple drafts in order to create a high quality product.
The students were eager and proud to share their work with our community.
Thanks to all the families who came out to our Celebration of Learning on Decatur Square. Please continue to share the students' websites with friends and family.
Perseverance is one of the habits of scholarship that we work on school wide. We help students develop perseverance across all content areas. This week the students worked on perseverance during a lesson in PE that required them to follow multiple steps to stack the cups in different ways. It took many tries to get it just right. It was no easy task!
In Reading Workshop we have started our unit on reading nonfiction texts. This week the students worked in partnerships to identify text structures in nonfiction passages. Nonfiction writers use different text structures to organize their ideas. For example, a writer might use a chronological structure when explaining the life cycle of an animal or when writing a biography about a person's life. A writer might use a compare and contrast structure to tell about the similarities and differences between two habitats. Understanding the structure of a text guides a reader's comprehension because readers who are familiar with text structures expect the information to unfold a certain way. They approach the text with a plan in their mind, which ultimately increases comprehension of nonfiction texts.
The nonfiction text structures hunt was a challenging task, but the students definitely rose to the challenge. It required them to read nonfiction passages, identify the organizational structure, and post their ideas to Padlet. Perseverance was a key component to being successful with this task.
We are wrapping up our multiplication and division unit by studying the concept of area. Today the students played a game called Mowing for Money. They rolled dice to determine the length and width of a lawn and used graph paper and their knowledge of multiplication strategies to find the area of each lawn. The goal of the game is to mow the lawns with the most area in order to earn the most money.
Fact practice has been an important component of the multiplication and division unit. Students are still working on mastering their facts and improving their fact fluency. Please continue to work on this skill at home as it is critical for students to begin fourth grade knowing all of their facts. This will be another great lesson in perseverance. Students will bring home more information and resources about math fact practice next week.
Students are making African masks in art with Ms. Howarth.
Students are working on collaboration skills in PE with Coach Everett.
Students learned about groundwater contamination from Mr. Pope who works at the EPA. They also made pollution catchers and hung them up in locations inside and outside of Westchester to collect air pollutants.
As part of our fall expedition the students have been studying the human impact on the environment. Last Thursday Dr. Luber, an epidemiologist and the Associate Director of Climate Change at the CDC came to Westchester and taught the students about the effects of climate change on the earth and on human health. The students learned about the relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming, and brainstormed things they can do to make positive environmental changes.
On Friday, Ms. Allison from the Wylde Center led all of the third grade students down to the creek to study the water quality. She and Mr. Blackburn, an expert from the EPA, taught the students about how to determine the health of a water system and the importance of clean water in local communities.
Thank you to all the parents who volunteered to escort small groups of students down to the creek. Thanks to David Harry (Lawton's dad) for taking and sharing the pictures below.
We simulated an oil spill using water, vegetable oil, and cocoa powder. The students worked in teams to design a plan to clean up the oil using sponges, cotton balls, spoons, and Dawn dishwashing detergent.
This week we began our multiplication and division unit. This is a new unit for 3rd graders and they are very excited about it. Research shows that students learn math concepts best using a 3-step framework called the concrete-representational-abstract (CRA) approach. During the initial stage of introducing a new skill, students use concrete objects to physically model the concept. Once there is a solid understanding of why and how the concept works, students move into the representational stage where they turn the concrete models into pictures. Finally, in the abstract stage, students learn the algorithm that symbolizes the concept using numbers and mathematical symbols. Entering the abstract stage too soon prevents students from developing a deep understanding of the mathematical process. As we begin our multiplication unit, we are moving slowly using the CRA approach so that students' brains can make connections between what they already know about numbers (skip counting, making equal groups, doubles) and the new concepts they're learning. There's more to multiplication than just memorizing the facts!
On Tuesday we kicked off our fall expedition with a morning full of fun science stations. The students visited four stations that helped them learn about adaptations that help animals survive in their habitats. They are each working on a blog post on Kidblog to share what they learned, so I won't give away too much here. I will leave you with these pictures so you can see for yourself how much fun they had. Thanks to all the parents who volunteered as station leaders or sent in supplies!
Students interviewed their reading partners to get to know each other as readers. Reading partners will keep each other accountable for working towards their reading goals.
Jackson Pearce, author of Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, visited Westchester and spoke to all of the 2nd and 3rd grade classes. She told many hilarious tales from her childhood and helped the students see how these experiences later became a part of her books.
Georgia Regions Research Teams
The students have been doing research on the five regions of Georgia--Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain, Swamps & Marsh, and Atlantic Ocean. They've been learning about each region's land features, animals, and plants. On Wednesday they formed research teams and shared their information with each other. Each research team will become experts on one region, focusing on the adaptations that the plants and animals have that allow them to survive in that region. This research will be a part of the first case study in our fall expedition, which begins at the end of the month.
In preparation for the book clubs we will start when we come back from fall break we practiced having book discussions using picture books, short stories, and poems. Each book club had a leader who facilitated the discussion using prompt cards. Students used "talking sticks" to make sure everyone had the opportunity to participate in the discussion.
The Shoe Greeting
Every morning we begin our day with a Morning Meeting. This ritual helps students transition from home to school and creates time for us to gather as a classroom community before starting another busy day. Every Morning Meeting begins with a greeting. The students' favorite greeting so far is the Shoe Greeting. During this greeting everyone places one shoe in the center of the circle and sits so that no one can see the shoe they are still wearing. One student at a time chooses a shoe and greets the friend who s/he thinks is the owner of the shoe. This continues until every student has been greeted and every shoe has made its way back to its owner.
Third grade is an important year for reading development. Many researchers note that it is the year that students move from learning to read to reading to learn. They also emphasize the correlation between third grade reading ability and future academic success. (I've included the Center for Public Education's 2015 report on this topic below.)
The act of reading is much more than the ability to read words. It is a very involved process that includes phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. There are also sub-skills and strategies embedded within each of these larger skills. And what makes reading even more difficult to decipher is that by third grade it all takes place inside the student's head. All this to say, students begin third grade with many different instructional needs in the area of reading.
So where do I start? During the first three weeks of Reading Workshop I spend a lot of time kid-watching. I observe their behaviors during independent reading and take notes. How do they interact with books (engagement)? How long can they read before losing interest (stamina)? What book choices do they make and how many of these books do they finish (volume)? At the same time I do lots of mini-lessons on building reading stamina, increasing reading volume, and choosing good fit books. I watch to see how the students responds to these lessons. My goal is that by the end of the first six weeks of school, most students can read fully engaged for 20 uninterrupted minutes, choose books that are a good fit, and can begin to monitor their own comprehension and recognize when their comprehension breaks down. During weeks five and six we begin reading partnerships. Each student is paired with a reading partner to encourage accountability and conversations about books and reading.
Last week the students graphed their reading from the month of August and made observations about their reading habits. Then they set a reading goal for the month of September. Please take some time this week to give your child an opportunity to share the observations s/he made and the goal s/he set for September. Most students set a goal related to the number of books or the type of books they want to read. As the year goes on the students will also make goals related to the reading comprehension strategies they are working to strengthen. Please check in with your child throughout the month to see how s/he is doing and celebrate with them as they achieve their reading goals.
Below are some links to articles, reports, and websites that have given me much to think about as I hone my own craft of teaching reading. There is a large amount or research dedicated to this topic and there are varying opinions on what is most important and what works when teaching young readers. I share these with you not to advocate for one side, but to shed light on the research that is available so that you, as parents, can build a toolbox of strategies that you can use to help your child at home.