BlogScott - Room 204 Daily Classroom Happenings (Note: scroll down page for blog)
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Welcome to the Room 204 news website and classroom blog!

This page is updated once or twice per week.  Parents, students, or any other interested persons can bookmark this page and refer to it for current information on class assignments, homework assignments, or important announcements from Room 204.  There will also be a "blog" feel to it sometimes, where I reflect on the happenings in the classroom so readers can share in the reality that we are building together in our classroom. The intent is that some of the information can be used for "talking points" with your child, to facilitate conversation and to reinforce learning.  These blogs may be insightful, entertaining, or possibly even mundane, but at least they will be something different to read.   Hope you find this website useful.  - Scott Devens

Happy Holidays!
Friday, December 22, 2017 9:00 AM

Here is some info for families:

- We are working on reading with expression, which I think I mentioned in a previous email to parents.  I believe I can tell already that some parents have emphasized that reading skill with their children.  We have fewer "robot readers" in class now, so thanks:)  Tell your child that I said they should read outloud to you sometimes to practice reading with expression and that you should help coach them on making their voice go up and down and not monotone.  It's not an easy thing to master, or everybody would be a newscaster:)

- Regarding those pesky Minute Math sheets.  We do about one per day.  Students usually self-correct and then are asked to bring them home.  It seems like a lot of paper, but worth it I believe.  Please check their sheets and help them understand some of the ones they may have missed.  I'm starting to collect them periodically, too, and correct them myself like a quiz.

- This goes along with MInute Math a bit, but I have posted the 35 basic multiplication facts in the room (the same ones that I sent home on a sheet a few weeks ago) and students all have a multiplication chart at their desks to study as well.  Sometimes, when we line up, if we have a couple extra minutes, I will point to the basic multiplication problems on the wall and have kids raise their hands if they know the answer (like, "what's this one?" as I point to 9 x 8 = ?).  I'm not seeing enough hands go up, so please try to help your child start memorizing those mulitiplication facts at home some more if you can.  This will make your child much more prepared for third grade if they know these.

- Wow, what a great holiday music show before winter break in the gym.  And thanks to our PTA Room Reps for providing the cookies and punch in the room afterwards!  It was so nice to see you all there.  After all the parents left, we carried on with our regular morning meeting and I wish we would have done that while parents were still in the room so you could see it.  Each meeting, students pass a candlelit bowl around a circle and briefly share any "joys or concerns" they are having.  It's a sweet, caring time of the day that really helps us build a nice classroom community.

- There is no December homework project, just the January one that was sent home recently about making a travel brochure.  I demonstrated to the students how to make a tri-fold piece of paper and emphasized quality work, so looking forward to some nice, informational, colorful travel brochures to share come the end of January.  I will probably post these in the hallway for all to see.

- Science: we have finished up our Air and Weather unit and have moved on to Balance and Motion.  We recently had some learning on "Center of Balance" where students had to figure out how to balance a pencil on it's tip!  This can actually be done when you attach a wire to the pencil and hang counterweights below the balance point (like a high-wire walkers pole dips down below the wire).  I also shared with the students about how my Ford Escape's owner's manual warns against tipping and that, if I had bought a formula one race car instead that owner's manual would not have a tipping warning due to the much lower center of balance.  You can ask your child to define what "stable" means, too, if you like (it's something's abilty to stay upright without tipping over).  These are some of the physics concepts we are investigating in science right now.

- To honor the diversity in our classroom, we had a brief social studies lesson on religion today [actually, didn't get to that before break], showing a short TedTalk video explaining the 5 major religions.  It's a well-done video that you may want to watch yourselves and possibly again with your child.  Even on the fun coloring packet that I made for the students today, I tried to represent diverse holiday traditions as much as possible.  Here's the link (not live) for the vid  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6dCxo7t_aE  which you will have to copy and paste into your address bar to view. [ We didn't cover this before break, so please watch the video with your child at home as I think it's a good one.]

- Sometimes in the mornings I will play MPR's "Rock the Cradle" radio station quietly while we work.  For those of you with younger kids, I noticed that the radio station has a story each night at 7:00 for kids to listen to.  You may want to check that out:  https://www.thecurrent.org/rock-the-cradle    This is a great radio station with clean, yet mostly contempory, songs for kids and adults.

- Today (1/10/18) students took a math test on solving word problems in class.  All students brought home their corrected 2-problem quiz.  About half the students could use more practice solving these types of problems, and that is indicated on the sheets by me.  I am planning on having the 2nd quarter math test on Friday, which includes many of these problems.  We have had many lessons and practice sessions in class, but I'm hoping that some dedicated one-on-one parent help with this might help more students be successful on Friday's test.  So, please look for that sheet in your child's backpack tonight and work with them on solving some similar problems while you watch and coach them as necessary.  They say a parent is a child's first teacher anyway, right? :)  Hopefully the example problem on the sheet will help a lot.

- Hope you all had a great winter break and survived the cold!  Looking forward to getting back to teaching and learning again now.

Turkey Tidbits
Monday, November 20, 2017 9:55 AM

First of all, a huge THANKS to Henry C's mom, Sara, for teaching two Art Adventure lessons recently!  For the first one, students viewed and talked about pieces from the MIA (that you can view again with your child by going here: https://new.artsmia.org/discover/art-adventure/  and then did an interesting drawing project from a photo that Sara had printed and gave to each student.  Then, I think the last series we viewed was "Dress for the Occasion" where each student made their own beading bracelet for the activity.  Thanks again, Sara, for teaching these interesting sessions and for providing all the materials for the related activities!

For science, we have finished our Air and Weather unit of study and are now working on an Engineering and Design unit.  It culminates in a team windmill design project where students designing (and redesign) windmill fan blades to make a working maching that turns a rod that will actually lift weight.  It's a great, interactive science kit that the district recently purchased.  We will be completing the unit these 2 days before Thanksgiving.  See if your child can recall the Engineering Design Process steps to you:  Ask (what is the problem?)  Imagine (What could be some solutions?)  Plan (Draw a diagram and make a list of needed materials) Create (Follow your plan and test it out!)  Improve (Make your design even better and test it out again!)  We will be following all of the design steps as we work in teams to build real, working windmills.

More science news:  on Tuesday, Nov. 21, we will have session one of 4 sessions with a guest teacher from an organization called Curious Minds.  This enrichment activity is funded by a special grant from the LH PTA.  Also, Mrs. Delebo helped our second grade team come up with another great science program that is coming to our school courtesy of the Science Museum.  It is a free program but Mrs. Delebo should be thanked for bringing it to our school.  It has to do with "coding" and more about that later.

Our annual holiday music concerts are coming up soon and I will tell you the schedule now so that you can arrange you work schedules to be here at school for this not to be missed event.  Here is the schedule (which I found on the LH School Website under the calendar feature):  9:50 K, 10:10 2nd grade, 10:40 1st grade, and 11:10 3rd grade. The music concerts are in the gym on Wed. Nov. 20th and come early for the choice seating.  After the concert, we will be having a brief "social" in the classroom with punch and cookies, but if anybody needs to leave to get back to work there will not be any program or anything in the classroom that you would miss.

Here is a website link to a chapter book that we are reading together in class (a book that I project on the screen and then the students follow along with me while I read outloud).  The book is called Wild Life.  http://cynthiadefelice.com/novels/wild-life  I had to explain what trap shooting was to the class to better understand this story:)

We are trying to have a regular 30 minute recess each day, so make sure to have your students dress extra well for the weather.  I may have to start wearing boots and bring my parka soon:)

Over Thanksgiving break would be a great time to work on math Dreambox at home.  Here's a tip:  Students can see how many lessons they’ve completed in a given week by clicking on the arrow on the right side of their screen. A pop-up window displays # of lessons completed (but this may only work on the computer, not the iPad version). Set a goal for your child for weekly lesson completion to improve their experience with Dreambox.  See if they can complete 5-7 lessons each week at a minimum.

Have a great Thanksgiving Break everybody and enjoy the time off from school.

Happy Holidays!
Friday, October 27, 2017 8:50 AM

Well, it's snowing outside right now as I post this update.  Ho ho ho.

- Hopefully, you already noticed many things sent home in your child's Take Home (And Bring Back By Friday!) Folder, including a letter that every child will be tested to see if they qualify for advanced learner designation (formerly known as gifted and talented) in November, a flyer about the pancake breakfast fundraiser (my child and I will probably be there around 11:30 a.m. this Sunday), our unit 1 booklet (each child was asked to read the whole booklet to their parents before setting aside or tossing), a flyer for the Alpha fitness program in PE, and a paper we wrote about meteorology after a KARE11 staffer visited out school this week, and spelling lists.  Nothing to return in the folders, but lots of info for you.  Please make sure your child's folder comes back empty (except for those things that need to be returned to me) each week.

- Next week we are taking the unit 1 math test and scores will be reported on progress reports eventually.  I think the students are well-prepared for that test.  Keep having your child work on Dreambox program at home to help build their math skills, too.

- In science we are wrapping up our unit on Air and Weather.  Yesterday, students brought home what may have appeared to be pinwheels, but those were actually Anemometers for measuring windspeed:)  Of course, some kids like to run with their device to measure their own speed:)  Soon, we we will starting a science and engineering unit focused on the design process where we make operating windmills that lift weight in class.  More later about that.

- In reading, we finished up unit 1 and are now moving into unit 2.  Students have been doing a great job annotating in their consumable books as they read, noting the key details and figuring out the main ideas of sections of text.  This new reading program is working out even better than expected and I am so glad that MPS invested in it for our students.

- Those "Minute Math" sheets that come home all the time, by the way, are basic skill builders that supplement what we are doing in math and that slowly introduce new concepts to the students (like multiplication and division).  Feel free to review them briefly with your child, maybe giving them similar problems to do based on what you see for fun, and then you can toss them or recycle them.  We spend a quick 5-15 minutes on them just about every morning before we start our regular math lessons.

- Room parent volunteers are working hard planning our first class party for next week on 10/31.  On that day (which just happens to be Halloween) our school has decided to allow all students to wear "character" costumes to school as a reward for our hugely succesful PTA fundraiser.  Your child could, coincidentally, use their Halloween costume, I suppose, IF it does not include ANY scary or gruesome aspects or IF it does not include ANY weaponlike things (not even a tiny squirt gun or a fake sword or ANYthing like that.  So, any peaceful, nice, fun character costumes are allowed on that day.  I hope you get the idea....:)

- The following day next week (Wed. 11/1) is our final class reward earned during the fundraiser.  We are having GAME DAY where students can bring their favorite olde-fashioned, non-electronic board games to school to interact with others while playing and actually talk to people, too, versus staring at a glowing screen:)  If your child forgets to bring their game, no big deal as we will have more than enough games if only half the class brought one.  Do us a favor, though, and tape the box shut send it in a bag so that the contents don't accidentlly spill all over the place enroute.  

- We are reading a new book together in class for a Read-A-Loud called "Wild Life" this time with a male main character.  It is a touching story about a boy from New York who has to go live with his grandparents in North Dakota while his own parents are deployed in their military service.  His grandfather's grumpiness is a mystery until the boy finds out about his grandfather's ungreived loss of one of his son's in a hunting accident.  Of course, the boy and grandpa eventually end up connecting and even hunting together after much struggle in the middle of the story. 

Again, Happy Holidays everybody and it was SO nice talking to families and working together recently at conferences!

Happy Wednesday! (9/27)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 1:10 PM

- First off, here's those two science videos I promised to share with parents.  We are studying Air and Weather in science and we watched these in class.  Check them out:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E43-CfukEgs   and    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZYwsAvHgVw  by just copying and pasting the URL into your address bar.  It's amazing that a bowling ball and some feathers fall at the same rate in a vacuum!  We've also talked about "air resistance" and how a formula one racecar cuts through the air much easier than, say, a flat-nosed school bus.  Talk about these concepts further with your child if you can.

- We are reading a book together in class (I am reading it outloud, but kids are following along on the screen) called "So B. It" and in it there are some references to Shirley Temple.  I asked how many had heard of her and only one or two kids had.  We watched a brief video of Shirley Temple (who passed in 2014) singing "Good Ship Lollipop".  A little fun would be to amaze your kids with what you know is going on in the classroom by asking them who sang that song to see if they remember:)

- We finished our bus safety lessons and all kids did the same or most better (some much better) on the final quiz.  Ask your child if they can recall the Big Four safety rules which were emphasized in class:  1.  Stay out of the Danger Zones  2.  Always sit down  3.  Follow Driver's Instructions  4.  Be respectful

- Yesterday I finished giving all the students an individualized (5-10 minutes each) math assessment.  Between those results and the standardized test results I have a very good idea about which math groups to place kids in.

- We shared the tunnel book projects in class and they look GREAT displayed in the hallway outside of our classroom!  Nice work parents supporting your children on that project.  Now it's on to the October leaf projects which were sent home recently and are due in a few weeks I believe. 

- I will be sending home Dreambox math letters and access codes soon.  If your child has a different account from last year or one of their own that you purchased, please have your child stop using that account and then start logging on and using the account that I will be sending home.  Now homework becomes 10-15 minutes of reading each night, some occasional work on the monthly home projects, and 10 minutes or so on math using Dreambox program (which we will also use a bit during math station rotations in class), along with spelling soon, too.  That's more than enough homework for kids of this age I believe.  

That's all for now.  More later.  I've decided to switch back to using this blog instead of just emailing so that all of the shared information is in one place for me and for parents.

 

Room 204 News #2 (from 9/19)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 1:10 PM

I've got quite a bunch of info to share so I'll just get to it in no particular order:

- A week ago, we had a very brief discussion in the classroom about our nation's 9-11 tragedy.  Not wanting to focus on the tragic, I steered the discussion to what happened with the 4th airplane and how the passengers that diverted the flight are considered heroes.  I know that this whole subject bothers some kids, but it also fascinates many others, which is why we have a couple of kids chapter books in the room about it and which is why I spend any time on it at all.  I briefly showed the front page page of a real newspaper I've kept dated 9-12-01, talked a bit about the heroes on the 4th plane, and reassured all that such a thing is even much less likely to every occur again due to new national security measures.  I encouraged those that wanted to know more (we could have easily have talked about this almost all day) to talk to their parents about it and/or find some of the many books written about what happened.

- We have a new emphasis in the district on SEL or Social Emotional Learning.  This will be covered more at curriculum night tomorrow, which is from 5:30 to 6:30 here in the classroom.  All parents are invited to attend, but kids should stay at home if possible or wait outside the room if necessary.  The first half hour or so I will give a broad overview of what we study in second grade and then we should have plenty of time for Q & A.

- Picture Day is coming up on Friday, Oct. 6th.  Our class is scheduled to get ours done at 2:00.  Picture retakes are scheduled for Nov. 15th for those students absent on 10/6.  I will be sending home picture packet order information in the Take Home (and bring back by Friday!) red folders tomorrow.

- Please, PLEASE go to the LHCS main web page and sign up for the electronic newsletter if you haven't already done so.  This email you are reading is to keep you informed about CLASSROOM happenings but the PTA website and electronic newsletter is to keep you informed about important SCHOOL events.  Dedicated parent volunteers work very hard to make our school info organized and successful and every parent should sign up and read it regularly.  This is your "homework" parents, so please get it done:)

- We are participating in Bike/Walk to school day on Oct. 4th.  Plan ahead to help support your child's participation in this earth-friendly and healthy event.  If you live too far to bike, drive and park a couple blocks from school and walk or bike from there with your kid(s).  Every student that participates that day gets a sticker from the school and at least a high-five from me:)

- In tomorrow's take-home (AND BRING BACK BY FRIDAY!) red folders, there will be the following (amongst other things): an invitation for a real, Native American Pow Wow and if you've never been to one of these I'd highly recommend it as an interesting and educational experience.  The first school I ever worked at in Minneapolis was Four Winds Native American School where I was exposed to many great cultural traditions.

- A Cub Scout representative presented to the students at lunch today.  I heard that he will be available for questions tomorrow night from 6:00 until 7:00, too, and will be located near the front office.

- Last Friday, the school hosted a wonderful Peace Parade and assembly for all 600 or so students and staff.  (Sorry, we couldn't invite parents into the gym with us because there just isn't room.)  We made mini peace posters that the students should have brought home today.  I lead them in singing "All we are asking...is give peace a chance" and then I let a few students take over the leading of that song and our class sang it while we walked on the sidewalk around the whole entire block!  Today, we watched this brief video as a followup to the Peace Parade:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJH4_BY2Rq8  This was our daily journal writing prompt and I got the idea from a (nondenominational) poem that was read at my church last Sunday.  Watch it again with your kids and memorize the poem.  Not much is better than peace education in today's world.

- We started our science unit on Air and Weather today and watched a video to support our discussion about air.  I will show that brief video at curriculum night presentation tomorrow to fascinate everybody:)

First News #1 (from 9/6)
Wednesday, September 27, 2017 12:55 PM

Here are some announcements and happenings about your child's classroom:

- First of all, what a GREAT group of kids!  Every...single...one of them:)  Thank you for the privilege of being their teacher.  We're off to a great start!

- Yesterday, Take Home (and bring back by Friday!) Folders were sent home with quite a few things in them, including the September Home Project (making tunnel books).  I explained the tunnel books project, showing the kids how pics can be attached on the ridges of the frame to make a 3-D effect.  They can pick or theme (soccer, chess, dance, etc.) or just make it all about them and their family.  It's a get-to-know-each-other activity.  If they pick a theme, they should still include some pics of themselves and their immediate family (not the whole reunion you had last summer:)  Have some fun with it and have each child do their best work, of course, and they will be displayed in the hallway outside our classroom for all to see.

- Also, school emergency cards were sent for each family and what you need to do is make any corrections with a red pen (cross out incorrect info and write correct info very legibly) and then return the card in the Red Folder so the school can update our records.  If no changes just sent it back as-is with a dated, red note at the top saying no changes.

- Please send a white T-shirt to school with your child before Friday please as we will be the-dying them during the nice weather at the end of this week.

- In learning the school rules and expectations, students completed the "Great Expectations" packet (hmmm, nobody got the Dickens reference, go figure) where we studied a huge matrix of dozens of "rules" in every category.  To make it more manageable, kids did a great job of choosing 2 or more rules that they feel are really important or that they would like to improve upon following this school year.  They even had time to illustrate a few.  You can just go over that packet briefly with your child before discarding that (it's not really a keepsake because we didn't spend too much time on it with just B & W quickly -drawn illustrations and all:)  But those tunnel books, though.....

- We have jumped right in with lessons from our new reading curriculum.  More about this later, but every teacher in the building is digging in and learning about and implementing this exciting new program that our district just adopted.  By the way, we don't assign a lot of daily homework (monthly projects, mostly) because we expect parents to be reading with their children at least about 15 minutes each day.  More later, at conferences, at curriculum night, and in future Room 204 News.

- If you haven't already signed up for an October conference time, no worries as I will contact you within the next few weeks to schedule that.  We always have 100% of families participate in conferences and we will find a time that works for you for this important meeting.

- Staff are planning for our upcoming curriculum night, so watch for more information about that soon.  At that time, Room 204 Parents will meet with just myself in the classroom for an evening where I will give a broad outline of what we will be studying for the entire year and then have Q & A.

- Take Home folders should come back empty each week, except for any signed pieces or notes for the teacher of course.  Thank you.