Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tummy Bug Hits Hard

Just to make everyone aware, the dreaded stomach bug that has been going through our school finally arrived in our classroom this week.  Please stress proper hand washing with your children, covering when we sneeze, keeping fingers out of noses and mouths, and not sharing food at school.  From what I am told, the virus is powerful but short lived.  I hope you all stay well and enjoy your holiday.  Hopefully, the break will allow the germ to stop spreading, and we will all return virus free.


We do use Clorox wipes and Lysol spray in the classroom.  We are running low on both, if anyone would like to donate to our cause of staying healthy. 

Thanks and enjoy your holiday!

Mrs. Atkins

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

This is only a 2 day week, but we are still learning in class each day.  Don't forget to inform me in writing if your little one changes transportation. 

In reading, we are finishing up our unit on expository, or non-fiction text.  Most students have a harder time with expository text than they do with fiction.  They are usually more familiar with the structures and patterns of fiction.  We spent a lot of time in class learning the different ways that text can be organized in an expository piece.  (sequence, cause & effect, problem & solution, question & answer, description, and compare/contrast)  We reviewed author's purpose, and learned that an author's reason for writing a non-fiction text is usually to inform or persuade.  The students spent quite a bit of time learning about parts of a book and text features as well.  They learned how to use various parts of a book such as indexes, table of contents, glossaries, title pages, copyright pages, and author information pages.  We practiced using pictures, captions, tables, charts, graphs, labels, diagrams, titles and subtitles, headings, footnotes, and bolded or italicized words to help us to understand text.  Students used Scholastic News magazines to find, cut out, and label each of the text features we learned about in class.  Finally, we learned how to use reading strategies to attack a non-fiction test passage.  Since the most important strategy we learned is to underline support for each answer in the passage, your student's passages should show this work.  Some of us learned the hard way that skipping the strategies we learned and practiced in class can lead to a less than satisfactory learning outcome on a test.  After Thanksgiving, we will begin our poetry unit.  Students will learn all about figurative language, symbolism, imagery, rhyme, meter, rhythm, and more inferencing.

We completed our modules over division and have moved on to fractions.  Students who still do not have their multiplication facts  memorized had trouble with division, and are now struggling to see the patterns as we practice factoring and finding the greatest common factor.  I can not stress enough the importance of memorizing basic multiplication facts through 12 X 12.  We will be learning about equivalent fractions, finding simplest form, how to convert mixed numbers and improper fractions, comparing fractions, and adding and subtracting fractions.  Please review all math homework each night after Thanksgiving to be sure your student is catching on to the fraction concepts taught in class. 

In Science class, we completed a unit over natural resources, raced right into weathering and erosion, and are now beginning to learn about soil.  The students enjoyed a lab last week using Skittles to demonstrate weathering and erosion.  They were very excited to go to the lab, and even more excited to get to eat the Skittles when we were finished.  Thanks to everyone for sending the needed lab supplies.  Our soil unit lends itself to a few more trips to the lab, and I can't wait to share those activities with the students after Thanksgiving. 

Social Studies brings us past exploration and settlement, and on to the battles for Texas Independence.  The kids love to hear about the battles and the famous people and stories.  Our new book is a bit light on the history, so I love to get to be a storyteller every day.  We are continuing to use foldable organizers & maps to help keep track of what we have learned. 

My amazing authors have completed plans of their first expository piece in writing.  We spent quite a bit of time learning about how to organize our writing, and I think it has paid off.  Some of the students are enjoying this type of cut and dried, to the point composition better than the flowery narratives from the first 9 weeks.  We will draft, revise, and edit our writing when we return from Thanksgiving.  Then we will learn about figurative language, and begin to write some poetry right before the winter break. 

Don't forget to register for Boosterthon's Fun Run/Dolphin Dash & to collect those pledges from family members over the Thanksgiving break.  The fun run will be December 4th at our specials time, 12:45.  Also, we just need 4 more students to make their AR goal to reach the 100% challenge that Mrs. Mumphord set for our class.  We CAN do this!!!  The last day to take a test will be Monday, November 30th.  Free dress will be on December 1st. 

I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving break.  Thanks for sharing your little blessings with me every day.  I love your kids, and I will miss them over the break. 

Mrs. Atkins

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November is Well Underway

Thanks to all of the parents who took time out of your busy schedules to come to parent teacher conferences.  It was wonderful to get to talk with each of you about your sweet children.  Please don't forget to return the sticker card & report card envelope signed.  A huge thanks to all the parents and students who helped me celebrate my birthday last week.  All of the kind notes, cards, drawings, and gifts really made me feel special.  This is a truly kind and caring group of kids (and parents too)!

The students have been very interested in learning about the European explorers to Texas.  We have been using foldables in our notebooks to help keep all of the information organized.  Students can take home these notebooks anytime, and use them to study for this week's test.  Please be sure that the notebook returns to school each day, as we will be adding to it all year.  This week, we will learn about empressarios and early Texas settlement.  The test over chapter 4 will be on Friday, and a  study guide went home last week.

We will also have a Science test over natural resources this coming Wednesday.  A study guide went home for that test last week as well.  After the test, we will be learning about erosion, weathering, and deposition, or changes to Earth's surface.  We will get to return to the lab the following week to investigate these processes. 

Expository is the key word of focus in reading and writing class.  Students are learning about the different ways text can be organized, and how to use text features in reading.  They have been reading pieces about hippos and explorers, and using Scholastic News magazines to find examples of text features.  In writing, we are learning how the expository piece should be organized, how to generate distinct main ideas, and how to organize details.  Students will be learning to use a "4 blocks" graphic organizer in their own compositions, as we begin to brainstorm and plan original expository pieces. 

Division has been our focus in math class.  After learning many ways to solve division problems, including using basic multiplication facts, distribution, breaking apart, using compatible numbers, and repeated subtraction, we finally learned how to use the traditional algorithm to solve long division problems.   We use the acronym, DMSCBR (Does McDonalds Sell Cheeseburgers Raw), to remember the steps in long division.  (divide, multiply, subtract, check, bring down, repeat or remainder)  Please help your child to practice this process at home, as there will be a test Thursday over division.  If your student has not yet memorized all of their multiplication facts, it is imperative that they do so as soon as possible for future success in math.

The Scholastic Book Fair starts tomorrow and runs all week in the library.  Our class will be browsing the book fair to make wish lists on our normal library day, Wednesday.  This Tuesday night, the library will be open late for purchasing books, or you can send money with your child after Wednesday.   Don't forget about the amazing books on the Bluebonnet list!

This Friday will be a special day as we show that we are "Too Bright for Bullies."  Students are asked to wear yellow to show support of this cause.  Next week, we will kick off a Boosterthon fundraiser/fun run.  More information will be coming home soon about this special event.    There will also be another School Store before school starts next Friday, the 20th. 

The holidays are fast approaching, but we are going to be working furiously until they do.  Thanks for keeping your child on track during this busy & exciting time of year. 

Mrs. Atkins

Monday, October 26, 2015

Red Ribbon Week

Whew!  We made it through the first 9 weeks grading period.  Thanks to all of the parents who have already used the Sign Up Genius link to reserve a conference time and date.  If you haven't done it already, I will be assigning times tomorrow to those who have not chosen. 

It is Red Ribbon Week at Dickinson.  Students are invited to wear camouflage tomorrow, and to bring a canned good for the related food drive any time this week.  Students can wear a team jersey or t-shirt on Wednesday, but will need to wear the class shirt for the field trip Thursday.  Friday, they can wear Halloween shirts, or other spirit wear, as we have Field Day activities planned. ALL students need a complete (socks and underwear too) change of clothes and a towel for Friday. 

Are you coming with us on the filed trip?  It is this Thursday at George Ranch Historical Park.  Send your student in comfortable walking shoes, their class shirt, and with a packed lunch.  Students may not bring money for the gift shop.  Students will need to be responsible for anything else they bring, such as a water bottle, jacket, or hat. 

The October AR deadline is at the end of the week.  Has your child earned their 10 AR points for October free dress yet?  Remember that students are expected to read at least 20 minutes each night as part of homework.  Optional Square 1 Art orders are also due by the end of the week.

In class, math has some students baffled this week.  We started learning about division with remainders, and what to do with (how to interpret) a remainder in a word problem.  Students who do not know their multiplication facts are struggling with division, and everyone is reaching to apply real world experience to decipher how to solve problems with remainders.  Students needs to be able to decide if the answer to a problem is the quotient only, the remainder only, if a new group needs to be added to cover the remainder, or if the remainder will be shared and made into a fraction.  Tonight's homework may require some assistance, even though we have been doing this one lesson for 2 days.  We will be moving on to long division next week, after we cover division with rounded and compatible numbers this week. 

We completed our biography unit and are now learning about expository text (non-fiction).  We will explore using text features to locate information and different ways text is organized.  This relates to our language unit where we are also learning about expository text.  Students will investigate the organization of expository writing, and compare and contrast it with narrative writing this week.  Next week, we will look deeper into how an expository piece is organized and learn about topic sentences and graphic organizers.

We are beginning a chapter on explorers in Texas in Social Studies, and a unit on natural resources in Science class.  Last week, students really enjoyed our bird beak lab that demonstrated how different beaks are adaptations to help birds eat different foods.  The food chain boxes and brochures projects are finally finished.  You should be able to check them out on the walls when you come for your parent conference November 5th and 6th. 

I'm looking forward to speaking with all of the wonderful parents in our classroom then.

Mrs. Atkins

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bluebonnet Foster Program Anyone?

Has your child forgotten about the Bluebonnet books?  After a really strong start, September's heavy interest in Bluebonnets has thawed. 

In addition to the library copies, I have 9 of the Bluebonnet books on my shelf in the classroom.  Each day, there are at least 5 lonely Bluebonnets wishing someone would take them home. I feel the need to start a Bluebonnet Book shelter campaign.  Maybe some sweet 4th grader would foster a Bluebonnet for a few days at a time, read it, and show it interest.  These books are getting lonely.

Ask your child about their Bluebonnet reading.  Have they reached the 5 book voting participation goal?  How about the 10 book party goal?  Maybe they are working toward the 20 book trophy goal, and need a gentle reminder to stay on track?  How about it?  Are you willing to foster a Bluebonnet in your home to read and show interest for a few days until completion?  I promise they are well behaved, house broken, quiet, and don't bite.  Ask your child today!

Our October AR goal is 10 points.  There are only 9 more school days in October to read and take tests.  Please be sure your student is on track to reach their goal.  20 minutes of reading each night is a minimum. 

Happy Reading Everyone!

Mrs. Atkins

Last Week of the First 9 Weeks

The last week of the first grading period is upon us, and it brings with it a week full of tests.  I hope everyone saw the e-mail I sent last week with all the test dates on it.  If not, they are all listed under the Important Dates tab on this blog.  There will be no spelling test this week, due to all of the other tests. 

How can you help your child to be prepared for these tests and to do their best?  Make sure they are getting enough sleep, and help them study each night at home.  Please utilize the study guides sent home Friday for Science and Social Studies to prepare for these tests.  Online textbook information was also sent home for Math and Science Friday.  Tomorrow, go over graded papers that come home in their Monday folder as study aides, and review their homework each night. 

Please continue to help your student memorize basic multiplication facts at home each night until they are automatic in their recall of facts up to 12  X 12.  Some of the students who have passed off their 1 minute tests are now forgetting the facts they seemed to know.  Keep reviewing to cement these facts in their minds.  We are finishing 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication this week, and those who are not strong on their facts, are counting on fingers and making calculation errors, even if they understand the process or the problem solving strategy. 

Thanks for working together for your child's academic success.

Mrs. Atkins

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Week 8

We have been racing through the first 9 weeks, and are already in week 8. Heavenly Hat Day was a huge success last Friday.  Thanks everyone for donating to such a worthy cause and modeling philanthropy for your students.  The end of the 9 weeks is next Friday, and we have a half day that day with an 11:30 release time.  Please make sure you have signed up using Volunteer Spot for our mandatory parent/teacher conferences in November. 

Your children have been very excited by all the projects that we have been working on in class.  In Social Studies, we are making a brochure of one of the regions of Texas.  Students have been gathering information from various sources, paraphrasing, and creating illustrations to go with their information.  We are learning about the first people in Texas and will move on to the Native Americans tomorrow.  There will be a chapter test next Wednesday.

 In Science, we culminated our Plant and Animal Unit by making environment dioramas.  Students used clay, pipe cleaners, construction paper, string, toothpicks, and other materials to demonstrate their knowledge of food chains and webs.  Thanks for sending in all the shoeboxes!  We are now studying plant and animal life cycles, adaptations, & heredity.  There will be a chapter test next Tuesday. 

After studying character traits and character analysis in reading, students chose a character from a self selected novel, and created a puzzle illustrating traits about that person, along with evidence from the text to back up their thinking.  The students are also VERY excited about an ongoing project that we are doing with book reviews.  After learning about book reviews and critiques, and viewing a few examples, they are writing and filming book reviews/recommendations for their classmates.  This project will continue to develop and grow as the year progresses.  We will add other forms of technology, and expand our audience beyond the classroom.  We are learning about text features, and parts of a book and how to use them.  This week and next week, we will be reading biographies in class.  Students will be reading leveled biographies in groups, and then self selecting a biography to read independently.  They will be responding to prompts related to their biographies as they learn about a famous person's life.  There will be another test this coming Monday.

In math, we completed our module on multiplying by a one digit number last week.  This week, we are focused on multiplying by 2 digit numbers.  So far, we are estimating and multiplying by zeros, but the 2 digit times 2 digit practice starts Wednesday.  Students will be taught multiple ways to find answers.  There will be another math test next Wednesday.  Please review all daily math homework this week and next, as this can be a challenging skill for some students.  Continue to study X facts through 12X12 if your student has not yet passed off all of their facts.  Everyone is invited to use Xtra Math, an online website for fact practice that we use in the computer lab on Fridays.  Student passwords are in the front of the agendas. 

Class pictures were a success, and should be coming home soon.  Class t-shirts & class contact lists were passed out and sent home.  Field Day and Field Trip are important days coming up at the end of October.  I hope to see many of you on our field trip.  If you would like to help Coach Rice on Field Day, please contact her. 

I have many pictures that I hope to have time to post soon.  I hope your child is enjoying our class.  I know they are working hard.

Mrs. Atkins