Friday, November 30, 2012

Good-Bye Fall

December Greetings Families of Mr. Abbott's Class!

Once again it's been a very busy week here at Yarmouth Elementary School in room 103.  Here are a few highlights that I thought you might want to know about. 

Portland Public Library - Yarmouth Branch!  Our classroom librarians are responsible for signing books in and out of our new section of library.  Books became available this morning, and were almost all signed out by lunch.  We're very excited about this, and hoping it will continue.

Geology - Field Trip!  We started our new unit on Geology and took a field trip to the Maine Children's Museum (some pictures below, but not enough!  We may have a new classroom job: paparazzi!) and read about how to choose the perfect rock.  Don't forget to bring in a rock for Monday!  Also for Monday, try to bring in a jar or container top, something small, to grow Epsom salt crystals in.  If you want to cut out a small piece of sponge to go inside the top that is supposed to make the crystals a little bigger, but this will be my first time trying this too, so we'll have to see what happens!  I was so engrossed in our presentation at the museum that I didn't take any pictures of the rocks part, but here's some others from around the museum:

Space Shuttle Pilot set for launch.

The Maine Lumber Industry is in for a run for its money!

Apparently our Space Shuttle Pilot is also a Lighthouse Keeper.
She has many talents!

Multiplication and Division!  We've started exploring these concepts in math, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for more work with them as this unit progresses.

Kind, Compassionate, and Considerate!  We took a few moments to try and imagine how sad the students at Falmouth Elementary School must be right now, following the loss of such an amazing person and teacher.  We put together a list of some of his attributes and wrote letters and illustrated cards to send to the students there at Falmouth.  You should be very proud of your child, they all showed very touching compassion and understanding.  Here is the update we (the teachers) received from Principal Betsy Lane regarding our act of kindness:

From: Betsy Lane

Hello Everyone - The cards and notes that some of you and the students made/wrote for the students and teachers at Falmouth Elementary School who lost their beloved teacher Kevin Grover were deeply appreciated. The person that called us this afternoon to express their gratitude said that students and adults were particularly touched by our thoughtfulness, especially the children writing to the children. They were genuinely moved by the gesture of friendship.

Have a wonderful weekend.
Thank you and your children for making such a touching gesture.
That's about it for now.  Enjoy the weekend, have fun looking for the perfect rock,  and I'll see you on Monday morning!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Classroom Update - Late November!

Now that Thanksgiving (if not the leftovers) is behind us, I wanted to update you on what's been going on and coming up in our classroom.  It's an exciting time of year, and with shorter and shorter days we're going to be fitting as much as possible into our classroom.

Science!  We have brought our Sound unit to a close.  We learned that sound is made of vibrations, it travels fastest in solids, fast in liquids, and slowest in air, and that two ways of measuring sounds are pitch and volume.  We did a series of Sound Investigations that were not only fun but extremely educational, and learned some of the habits of good scientists.  Our Sound Maker Parade was a fun way to showcase some of our learning for families and also to use what we had learned.  Now we move on to Geology!

Field Trip!  To kick off our Geology unit, we will be attending the Children's Museum of Maine for a learning session on Geology.  Please be sure to get your child's permission slip back to school as soon as possible so we can all enjoy this instructional, enticing experience.  Like Sound, Geology is all around us and presents a plethora of potential learning experiences and investigations.

Math!  We just finished up our unit on Measurement, which also focused on Perimeter and Area.  We will be doing our assessment of these skills early this week, your child should already have a pretty solid understanding of the foundational skills involved in these areas.  We have spent a few weeks practicing measuring with classroom units and standard units, and exploring the properties of perimeter and area of various shapes.  Sir Cumference helped us understand some of the different ways to measure a circle.

Reading and Writing!  Our class continues our work on the skills of a good reader during our Reading Workshop (Daily 5) and how to structure Better Answers during our Writing Workshop.  You may have heard that your "Turkey" wrote a letter to the farmer to try and trick its way out of being eaten this year, those writings will go home towards the end of this week.  We have some very creative writers in our class!

I hope you had a relaxing, replenishing, and thankful weekend, and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Math-giving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of yours!  I hope that you are relaxing, enjoying family, and feeling quite thankful today. 

In case you were looking for some last-minute cooking ideas, in class we watched Vi Hart teach us how to make math-ed potatoes, vector-field green bean matherole with Borromean onion topping, and Thanksgiving Turduckenen-duckenen (you'll have to watch to see what that's all about!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Books and Nooks

Good news!  Mr. Abbott (that's me!) and Mrs. Abbott (my wife, not my mom... I have to keep clarifying this when I speak to the class) finally made it to Portland Public Library where I promptly filled my big bike messenger bag with books!  I found some great looking picture books, some amazing chapter books, some mysteries and Greek myths, and some graphic novelizations of classic tales!  These books are going to go into a special book bin in our classroom where students will have to sign them out (they can just take and trade books in our regular classroom library) so I can make sure I get them all back in time to return them to the Portland Public Library.  During conferences I spoke with some of you about trying to find High Interest books for your reader, and this is a first step towards doing that.  If these books (some of which are series) turn out to grab our class, then there are plenty more to get where they came from.

These books will need to stay in our class in our special book bin or in student book bins.  We get to read independently for at least 20 minutes a day in class during our Reader's Workshop, which we call the Daily 5.  During this time students either Read to Self, Listen to Reading, do Work Work, or go to Teacher Table for Guided Reading.  If you've been following our Final 5 page on this blog you'll probably have heard a bit about those already.  Which brings me to...

Nooks!  When readers are doing "Read to Self" they are allowed to find a comfy place in the classroom to settle in and really get wrapped up in their book.  Right now, it's usually a little bit of a mad rush to see who can get to one of the two "teacher chairs" in the classroom because they are the comfiest places.  I was hoping you could help us create a few more comfy nooks in our classroom for readers to snuggle up in.  If you have any old pillows, crazy-creaks, tiny bean bags, or similar items that are clean (or washed) and you aren't using or would be disposing of otherwise, we would love to be a new home for them!  We're getting along quite fine as it is right now, but there's always room for improvement.  Again, this is not an assignment, please don't go out and buy anything, but if you do come across anything that looks appropriate please let me know!

One last thought on that.  We are not allowed to add any "furniture" to our rooms.  There has historically been too much "stuff" in the schools and not enough space to store it all.  So we will have to graciously refuse any donations of E-Z-Chairs, sectionals, Air Chairs, La-Z-Boys, or other such items, no matter how comfy they are.  We will need to keep things quite compact.  :)

Thanks so much, and look for a fun Thanksgiving post tomorrow with links to all sorts of fun math ideas for a mathtastic Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 19, 2012


Good Monday Morning!

I just received a very exciting email from Rachel Clark, the math specialist here at YES.  She has a special blog set up just for YOU, the families of students at YES to help understand some of that possibly confusing math homework that has been coming home.

Rachel's Family Math Blog is a great place to see some videos on how we teach the algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, as well as get some useful tips on how to make math an everyday activity.

While we're on the topic of math, I've been getting LOTS of Discovery Math worksheets back in these last two weeks!  Way to go!  We have many "Discovery Math Apprentice" certificates out there, and are about to hand out our first "Adjunct Discovery Mathematician" certificates.  Very exciting!  Keep up the good work.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Long Weekend and Homework Tips!

Hello on this beautiful Saturday, I hope you have some plans to enjoy this lovely long weekend.  I promised a few rapid updates on lots of subjects, so here we go!

At conferences so far, there have been a few parents who have asked me about homework and what homework is or should be coming home.  Here's a quick overview of most of our homework, there can and will always be small changes.  (This information will also be posted on the Homework page here on the blog.)

Reading: Your child should be bringing home a Reading Log every week.  I expect them to read for around 20 minutes a night, and to keep track of that reading on the log.  We will be doing this for our in-class reading soon, too.  When students bring them back to class I check them over, make comments, and then 3-hole punch them so they can put them in their Language Arts Binder to track their reading as the year progresses.  Since it seems to be the same students who are completing these on a regular basis, we are going to start tracking progress in a public space towards reading goals!  This is very exciting!

Your child should also be bringing home a "Word of the Week" half-sheet of paper each week.  We already do an "In-Class Word of the Week" each week, the at-home WotW is a word that your child has found in a book, conversation, sign, commercial... basically anywhere they hear a word they are unsure of.  Look it up, record the definition, and bring it back to school.  These get treated like the Reading Logs and we are going to make a class book out of them!

Spelling: Each week our new words for the week come home on Monday with your child's "Word Preview" showing what they have secured and what they should focus on that week.  On Wednesdays (usually!) there is also a Spelling Sheet that comes home isolating a specific skill that we are working on that week.  This sheet is not due back until Friday.  Some time during the week your child will get the previous week's spelling test back, with missed words circled and then highlighted on a review sheet.  You can practice with this sheet for future spelling checks.

Math: In general, you should get a math Home Link every night.  Some units take longer than one day to complete, and those days you may not get one.  These should be pretty quick to complete and will generally focus on a new concept and some review as well.  If they are causing stress, write me a note and send them back as-is.

Mastering Math Facts we do approximately two times a week.  We do the top half in class, and your child records how long it took and how many they got correct.  They bring the sheet home and try to do it faster than they did in class, getting the same or more number of problems correct.  We have completed up through letter J in addition already, so you should be familiar with these.  They do not come back to school, they are for your own reference/celebration.

Discovery Math comes home every Friday (unless I am not there or sometimes there are short weeks and strange schedules) and is usually on bright orange or yellow paper.  These are not collected until the next week, and get returned a week after that.  Since we don't teach directly to these, I cannot require your child to do them.  However, I will say that at Yarmouth we have noticed a correlation between completing Discovery Math and success in math in general.  These can be difficult, and should not cause too much stress.  If they become too difficult, then only doing part of a Discovery Math is totally acceptable.  Do what you and your child can, don't make it a stress-inducer.  As they are returned, students keep track of progress in their Math Message books, and receive "level" credits every four Discovery Maths they complete.  First four: Discovery Math Apprentice.  Second four: nobody's done it yet!  We'll see soon, I hope!

That summarizes the regular elements of our homework.  If there's something I've forgotten, I'll update it here and on the Homework page.  You will occasionally see additions/changes to this (such as the Sound Maker parade during NECAP testing, and other unit/theme-based activities) but these are the bones of our homework.  I hope this helps you keep track a little, and definitely check in with your child if some of this seems like news to you!

Enjoy the weekend,

Thursday, November 8, 2012



It's been a few weeks since we last updated and there's a list of items to tell you about that now extends across many sticky notes.  Rather than blast you all at once, I'm going to try and make a few small updates over the next couple of days to spread the excitement!

We've started Fall Conferences and so far they've gone great!  I would like to apologize to any parents if we started late, I try to keep on schedule but sometimes get a little backed up.  Thank you so much for your patience.  I'm really enjoying my time with the class this year, and it's nice to get to know some of the faces that brought them to me.  :)

Hannaford Gift Cards are an AMAZING way to help donate money to our school, and best of all, it's FREE to you!  If you send your money in to me I'll send it to the PTO who will then send you back a full-charged Debit-style card to Hannaford.  You get the full amount you pay, and 5% goes to the school's PTO!  That's 5% that goes towards trips, books, supplies, all kinds of great things for our school!  You can find out more information here, and if you have any questions please just ask.  This program seems great, they raised thousands of dollars last year!  Here's the link again:

I hope you can help out!  (For free!)

We're well into our work in Literacy Workshop following the Daily 5 format.  If you haven't heard about it from your child you should ask them.  Each week we work on a different skill that can help us with our reading.  This week it's chunking words into manageable pieces.  We watched a silly video that gave us some ideas of what chunking looks like, and played Chunk It in class.  I've been pushing our readers to use this strategy and have seen great results.

We also had a mock election at school this week, meticulously and tirelessly set up by Mrs. Colfer and Mrs. Parkin.  We learned much about elections and the electoral college and the road to the White House, and then on Tuesday we were assigned New Jersey (still a little waterlogged), Michigan, and Montana to vote for.  Once that was done we sent our electors to the electoral college in Washington, D.C. (the cafeteria) where they cast our electoral votes.  You may have heard the screaming when we heard the results.  It was quite an exciting event, and a great moment to talk about no matter how excited we were (or unexcited), the most important thing was that we all worked together to get it done and would work together in the future.

Here's a picture of how we divided the class into states and the start next to a name in each state was drawn from a hat to be that state's elector:

Then, during the Electoral Convention (lunchtime) our electors brought our class ballots to the convention floor:

Finally, the paparazzi caught a couple of our electors on their way out of the polling station:

Overall, this experience was a great success, and it was really fun to see so many students so excited about current events!

We're almost done our sound unit!  It's been really fun, we have one  more exploration, and today we listened to a kalimba just like (well almost just like) the one we have in class.

Snow!  We had our first snow today, and sadly had to stay in during recess while it rained most of that fluffy white fun away.  I've been "from away" for a while now, but my sources tell me there's a very good chance that we'll see even more of the stuff before winter is over.  I'll have to just wait and see on that one.

That's it for today, but keep your eyes peeled and fingers poised for more updates soon!
Todd and the Class