October 10th, 2017
I hope you enjoyed the extra long weekend and had the chance to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage! It's hard to believe we are starting the second week of October! Our class is off to a great start to the school year! We are fortunate to have a kind, respectful group of dedicated students in the classroom. In fact, four of our students received Act of Kindness awards for exhibiting exceptional caring behaviors towards their fellow students. Students are recognized at the end of each week in a whole school ceremony. I have been impressed with how helpful and thoughtful our class is towards their peers and the adults in the building!
Here is an overview of our last few weeks and a look at what's coming:
We began our year with a narrative writing unit. Students are in the process of writing stories set in Maine. We drew inspiration from books such as Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, Miss Rumphius and The Seven Days of Daisy. We are learning techniques on how to elaborate in our writing and make a movie in our reader's mind. Third and fourth grade students had lessons in recognizing theme in literature and finding evidence to support their thinking. Fifth grade students are beginning to work on a historical fiction essay. All students will be beginning book groups this coming week. Weekly spelling quizzes will begin next week. Words will go home on Monday and students will be quizzed on the words on Friday.
All grades are wrapping up the first unit in Everyday Math. As many of you know, the program uses algorithms that may seem different than ones many adults are familiar with. There is also a big emphasis on explaining your thinking. Don't be afraid to show your child how you learned a particular concept. It also becomes more important to master basic math facts as the math problems get more complex. There are many EveryDay Math games available that increase this automaticity. These are available online by going to www.portaportal.com. (The user name is westra and the password is chebeague.) There is also an additional math website accessible from portaportal.com called Xtramath that is great for mastering math facts.
We began our unit on forest ecology and will be doing a lot of outside investigations. We are learning why leaves change color and will be examining the characteristics of leaves and how trees exist together in our environment. Over the next four months we will also be participating in a citizen science project called WeatherBlur. Students will be going through a process to come up with investigable questions that are relevant to their community. Stay tuned for more on this! It may have something to do with beaches....
We will be learning all about the great state of Maine this year, beginning with Maine geography.
Grade 5 students will be going to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on Friday, 11/3. All fifth or sixth grade students in the state attend this program. In the afternoon, we will also be participating in an art scavenger hunt prepared by Mrs. Wickard at the Portland Museum of Art. We need drivers/chaperones. Please let me know if you would be willing to help with this.
We need to start meeting about planning our end of the year trip and fundraising as soon as possible. Please let me know if you are interested in being part of this group.
In a couple of weeks Tammy and I will send out parent-teacher conference sign-ups for the beginning of November. As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am really excited about the year of learning ahead!
May 9, 2017
It's hard to believe..... but we leave for Quebec City tomorrow morning!! Jess and I will meet you on the mainland at 7:20, along with our Custom Coach bus. The weather is supposed to be on the cool side with a little rain predicted so please pack accordingly. Please check your child's folder for the final trip note. This will have much of the information previously sent home plus a descriptive itinerary that the kids researched and wrote about in Google Docs. You can learn a bit about each of the places we will visit during our visit. Bev also made a one page sheet for each participant to have while touring around. We will have folders for everyone tomorrow, along with maps of Quebec City. I would like to give Bev a huge thank you for all that she's done to make this trip happen!
We have been doing lots of essay writing! We learned about the five paragraph essay format and created a "painted essay" to identify the important elements of this style of writing piece. Students are currently working on opinion writing. Third graders wrote about what makes a good friend and fourth and fifth grade students had a choice in their essay topic. Some of the topics include: Why Girls Should be Treated the Same as Boys, Why You Should Play Soccer, Why You Should Go to Florida, Why You Should Read The Land of Stories and much more! We also recently wrote informational and opinion responses in preparation for the upcoming Essay MEAs. We will soon move on to a unit on poetry and figurative language. We are just beginning our final books for book group this year. Students are reading Shiloh Season, Coraline and The Fire Chronicle. I am amazed at how much the students are devouring these books and am impressed by the students' rich dialogue during our discussion. We will be working more on making inferences in text and reading between the lines.
Fifth grade students just shared wonderful essays at a writing celebration. Their writing was for a contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution and students from all over the state participated in the contest. The boys wrote journal entries about a trip to Acadia National Park in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the national park. Caleb was awarded a prize as the second place chapter winner and Riley was the third place chapter winner. I would like to congratulate both boys on their accomplishment!
Fifth grade students just started a unit on multiplying mixed numbers, fraction division and using rules, tables and graphs. The fourth graders are working on multiplying fractions and mixed numbers, along with fraction and decimal number stories. Third graders are concluding a unit about equivalent fractions and comparing and ordering fractions.
Students will soon be finished with their country projects and we look forward to seeing the final versions during the World Fair on 6/9. The projects are a combination of footage from interviews and research through Google Docs. We will also be creating an artistic representation of our country shortly after the Quebec City trip. In preparation for the trip we learned a bit about Canada. Students each researched about different places we will visit on our trip and wrote a paragraph describing these landmarks. We will be using these as out trip itinerary! We also learned about Canadian geography, animals, historical events and much more!
We have been collecting data about invasive species at the Stone Wharf. We have been surprised to see some new creatures like the Bryozoa and Club Tunicate. We have noticed a consistent presence of skeleton shrimp and sheath tunicate, along with lots of native sea anemone. Our prediction is that the number of invasive will increase as the water temperature warms.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns!
January 19, 2017
I hope everyone enjoyed the LONG holiday weekend and that you are having a great week so far! My family has spent lots of time skating at Knight's Pond in Cumberland, a beautiful spot. I am happy to see the new snow so I can do more cross-country skiing!
Here's a look at what we've been up to:
We are just finishing up our first book club books, Moon Over Manifest, Because of Winn Dixie and Tuck Everlasting. The kids enjoyed these Newbury medal book winners and had some great discussion and ideas about the books. They are currently making dioramas of favorite scenes from the books. We continue to learn about reading strategies that reinforce and strengthen comprehension. We are learning how to ask questions about text, before, during and after reading. We continue to work in reading comprehension journals that give us practice responding to different types of questions about fiction and nonfiction text.
We are wrapping up our narrative unit and finished stories inspired by interviews of islanders that work in Casco Bay. I would like to thank Beth Putnam, Jeff Putnam, Bob Earnest and Mary Todd for helping us with this project. Students are currently researching a Casco Bay animal. They will use the information to write and illustrate a children's book about their animal. We are hoping to have a publishing party at the library to celebrate!
We will soon be wrapping up our fourth unit in Everyday Math! Fifth graders are learning about plotting points on coordinate grids and comparing and computing with decimals. The fourth grade group is focusing on multi-digit multiplication strategies and solving number stories or word problems. Third graders are almost finished with a unit on area, perimeter and measurement. As I have told many parents, one of the strategies we use may look different to you. Please don't hesitate to ask for any explanation or feel free to show your child how you learned a particular strategy. One of the great things about this math program is that it introduces kids to a variety of strategies and they choose what works best for them.
Don't forget that both IXL and Everyday Math may be accessed at home and are great ways for kids to practice math facts and concepts!
You may have heard that this past Friday we "zoomed" with a marine biologist in Antarctica. (Zooming is like FaceTime or Skype...) This biologist works at Bigalow Laboratories in Boothbay and is doing a research project in Antarctica about phytoplankton. We "grew" phytoplankton as a class and discovered they increase substantially if they live in high nutrient water in direct sun. We have also been testing salinity, ph and nitrates in two different marine water samples on a regular basis. We will be wrapping up this project and analyzing the data at the end of the month.
On Fridays we have been doing lessons focusing on diversity. We learned about different religions and did a short project that focused on some of the holidays in these religions. We were amazed to see how many similarities there are! We also started a penpal relationship with a class at Riverton School in Portland and are hoping to meet our new friends later in the year. In February we will begin learning about a different country and will create a project to showcase our learning.
Dance Mat typing is great website to practice typing skills. Kids will actually learn what the home is and what fingers are responsible for what keys on the keyboard. Please encourage your child to practice their typing skills at home if time permits! There are timed typing tests and other great websites under the typing section of portaportal.
If you are interested in volunteering for Lego Robotics, please let me know. We could use another volunteer!
As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
March 13, 2017
The school year has flown by! It's hard to believe spring is almost here. Please read the newsletter below to see what we've been up to recently. Also, Tammy and I will be sending a note home in a couple of weeks to schedule parent-teacher conferences.
We started new books for Book Club! Groups are reading Shiloh, Matilda and The Emerald Atlas. Students are very excited about the new books and are exhibiting some great thinking with their peers. We are beginning a reading strategy unit on inferring where we will learn to read "between the lines" and use text cues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. We will be learning how to support our written responses to reading, using details from the text.
We have completed writing our children' s books on Casco Bay animals and are in the process of making illustrations to match our writing. I have been impressed with the creativity students have demonstrated and
the knowledge we have all learned in the process. We are planning on having a publishing party at the end of March at the library. We should have a date soon! We are now moving on to opinion writing and will begin the unit by writing opinion paragraphs that are packed with detail to support our thinking.
Third Grade students were just assessed on a unit involving equivalent fractions and multiplication strategies. The break apart and doubling strategies were two successful strategies that helped students solve the problems. Fourth graders are learning about adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers and solving number stories with fractions. Fifth graders are focusing on fractions of all kinds: adding and subtracting mixed numbers and fractions with unlike denominators and multiplying fractions. It is interesting to see the different methods students choose to solve these problems!
We are moving into our next phase of the Weatherblur project! We have talked about the threat of invasive species in the community and beyond. We will learn a lot about the invasive species that appear in the water in our area.
We plan to study the effect of water temperature and salinity on invasive species at the Stone Pier. We will record the data on a biweekly basis and will participate in some activities with the participants of WeatherBlur.
We have started working on our country project. Students are researching different countries using Google Docs and will be interviewing community members about their expertise with that country. They will make an iMovie about their country and share it in late April for a World Fair. Stay tuned for more information about this engaging event! We will be starting our immigration unit next week!
August 21, 2017
I hope you had a relaxing vacation and have enjoyed the beautiful Maine summer. The summer has flown by and it’s hard to believe the school year is about to begin! I am excited about the opportunity to be your child’s teacher for the 2017-2018 school year. I look forward to a spectacular year ahead and hope we can work together as a team to ensure your child’s learning experience is successful.
This year we have some exciting units planned! They include: Forest Ecology, Energy and Forces, Maine and Chebeague Island, Native Americans (Maine), Watersheds and a Culture Study. We will also continue working with Lego Robotics and 3D printing, which we had a start with last year!
Our school provides school supplies such as pencils, erasers, markers, scissors and rulers, however feel free to buy what is needed if your child would like anything special. Your child may wish to bring a small pencil box or plastic sleeve to keep his or her supplies if materials are brought from home.
I have one homework assignment for the first day of school! Please have your child write a character description from a book he or she recently read and enjoyed. The description should include what the character is like on the inside and outside. (Feel free to use personification if your character is an animal.) Draw a colorful picture of your character on the same page as your writing. Don’t write the name of the character or book and bring it in on the first day of school.
We will have a parents’ night within the first few weeks of school. I am looking forward to a FANTASTIC 2017-2018 school year! Thank you in advance for your concern and support throughout the year. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns about your child.
Kristin R. Westra