Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Science Update

We are on a quest to learn about all the systems of the human body. So far we have discussed the skeletal, muscular, digestive, and circulatory systems.

The Digestive System

The digestive process begins in our mouths with the aid of our teeth, tongue, and saliva. Ask your scientist about the Ritz cracker experiement and the starlight mint experiement. We learned how long food remains in the stomach and how the small intestine is the workhorse of the digestive tract. Students were shocked to see that the small intestine is 21 feet long while the large intestine is 9 feet long. Mrs. Purlsley added to our study during Wellness class by continuing to talk about the many excretions made in our bodies to aid with the digestive process.

The Circulatory System

The heart, blood vessels, and blood make up our circulatory system. We learned (and laughed) at Bill Nye's video about the circulatory system. Ask your student why we squeezed a tennis ball 70 times in a minute? We are learning about how the heart pumps the blood, what is carried in the blood, and how the blood vessels are a massive transportation system.  To better understand the complexities of the heart, we will be thinking about it as "the heart house." Please see the Children's Heart Institute website for more information about this.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Word Sort Words -- Week of Jan. 30

This week we will focus on the following sounds: long-e on the first syllable, short-e on the first syllable, and long-e on the second syllable. Here are the sorts:

1st long

1st short

2nd long

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sam's Birthday Book

Big Map

Back in December our class had the opportunity to visit and explore the big map of Africa. Middle School Social Studies teacher, Grady Smith, arranged for the National Geographic Society map to make a stop at Trinity. Ask your student about this great experience!

Discovery Place

We will  head to Discovery Place on Thursday, February 2, to explore the Exhibit Halls and attend a class called "Move It or Lose It." The class will focus on the structure and functions of the skeletal and muscular systems using a variety of guided-inquiry activities and the examination of real human specimens. We will depart at 8:40 and return to campus in time for lunch.

Please Renew Library Books

We will not be heading to Imaginon this coming week, so please take time to log on to the PLCMC website and renew your 4th grader's library books online. Most students need to hold on to our biographies until after our book projects are complete.

Guest Speaker

The students had an amazing opportunity today to learn from a pro about the world of sports' medicine. Bill Heisel, also known as Annie's dad, came to share with our class about his job as an orthopedic physician's assistant. He prepared a PowerPoint presentation that included many x-rays and arthroscopic pictures of knee, shoulder, leg, and arm injuries. The students were in awe of the metal screws, plates, and other tools used to help repair broken bones. We also learned how torn ACLs are repaired. The world of sports is pretty rough on the skeletal and muscular systems! Ask your child to share some of the things he or she learned today. Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge with us, Mr. Heisel!

STORYPATH: Colonial Boston and the Struggle for Independence

We have officially begun our Storypath unit on Colonial Boston! This will be an incredible learning journey for our classroom. Storypath is an ingenious curriculum that truly brings history to life. How I wish that my elementary school teachers had been able to use this in my classroom when I was a child. Over the coming months we will be grow to understand the people, time period, government, and conflicts of the time. Here is an overview of what we will learn:

Who governed the colonies? What led the colonists to choose to be Loyalists or Patriots? What events led to the founding of the nation? As colonial families, students investigate these topics and must decide whether to support the move toward independence or to remain loyal to England. Through the experience, they gain a greater understanding of the events and attitudes that shaped the country at its founding.

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day will be here before we know it! We will have time during our day on February 14th  to exchange Valentines with our classmates. Students are encouraged to make homemade valentines for their friends. Be sure your "sweetheart" brings a card for each of the students in our class.  A class list can be found in the directory.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Word Sort #20 -- Week of January 23

This week in word sort we are focusing on the long-u sound. The primary sort was into 1st and 2nd syllable words. Within these sorts, students can create long-u sounds from oo, u+consonant+e, and ew.



Class Read Aloud

We have just finished reading our class read-aloud Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl. The students laughed and were shocked at the often cruel schooling that Dahl went through in the English schooling system. Hopefully they count themselves lucky that Mrs. Rencher and I don't thrash them and publicly humiliate them for trifling misdeamors!

Boy has been a great read for our class for for several reasons. In our nonfiction unit, we have discussed the definitions of biography, autobiography, and memoir. It gave us a preview of nonfiction writing before the students tackled their own biographies, and we used the book to practice and model finding the main idea of a chapter. The book has connections to Writer's Workshop as well. We began the year by writing about specific memories and moments, and we progressed into writing stories. Boy is a healthy mixture of stories and specific, concise memories. We talked at the end of chapters about whether it would be classified as a story or as a memory.

Have a discussion with your child about Boy and the many lessons we have gleamed from it!

The Borrowers

Under the floor boards, Arrietty Clock and her parents, Homily and Pod, live a quiet little life. Tucked away in their cozy home decorated with dollhouse furniture, they survive by “borrowing” what they need from the “human beans” who live above them. But life is too quiet if you ask Arrietty, a typical tween yearning to experience the grown-up world for herself. When the Clocks’ hiding place is discovered, they must venture into the giant universe outside, and Arrietty gets a bigger adventure than she bargained for. This inventive adaptation of Mary Norton’s beloved book transports audiences to a delightful new world.

Special Activities This Week

We have a busy week ahead of us. Highlights include:

Tuesday: Metro School

Thursday: The Borrowers performance at Imaginon (depart at 9:00 and return by lunch)

Friday: Mr. Bill Heisel coming to our class to share his expertise and knowledge of the skeletal and muscular system

Weekly Work with Spelling


Write the Word Sort words in alphabetical order. Do this in the right column of your Agenda labeled, "Words of the Week."


Practice your 9 personal words using a method from the list of fun ways to practice your spelling words.

Practice your Word Sort Words using another method from the list of fun ways to practice your word sort words.

Take a practice spelling test. Have a family member call out the Word Sort Words and your 9 personal words to you and write them down spelled correctly.

Fun Ways to Practice Your Spelling Words

ABC order- Write your words in alphabetical order.

Rainbow Words - Write your words in three colors

Backwards Words- Write your words forwards, then backwards.

Surround words - Write your words on graph paper and outline in colors.

Ransom words - Write your words by cutting out letters in a newspaper or magazine and glue them on a paper.

Pyramid Words - Write your words adding or subtracting one letter at a time. The result will be a pyramid shape of words.

Delicious words - Write your words in whipped cream, peanut butter,or anything you can eat! Bring in a note from a parent!

Good Clean Words -Write your words in shaving cream on a counter or some other surface that can be cleaned safely.

Dirty Words - Write your words in mud or sand.

Pasta Words - Write your words by arranging alphabet pasta or Alphabits.

Reversed words - Write your words in ABC order -backwards!

3D words - Use modeling clay rolled thinly to make your words.

Magazine words - Use an old magazine or newspaper and find your word. Cut it out and glue it on paper.
Cheer your words - Pretend you are a cheerleader and call out your words! Sometimes you'll yell, sometimes you'll whisper!

Sound Words - Use a tape recorder and record your words and their spelling. Then listen to your tape, checking to see that you spelled all the words correctly.

Other Handed - If you are right-handed, write with your left, or vice versa.
Silly String - With a long length of string, "write" words in cursive, using the string to shape the letters.

Backwriting - Using your finger, draw each letter on a partners' back, having the partner say the word when completed.

Telephone Words - Translate your words into numbers from a telephone keypad.

Flashwriting - In a darkened room, use a flashlight to draw letters in the air.

Secret Agent Words - Number the alphabet from 1 to 26, then convert your words to a number code.

Etch-A-Word - Use an Etch-A-Sketch to write your words.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Who's Who

In case you were interested!

Charlie - Albert Einstein
Sammy - Levi Strauss
William - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Elizabeth - Walt Disney
Annie - Amelia Earhart
Sam - Elvis
Jaylen - Barrack Obama
Ben - Nelson Mandela
Grace - Abraham Lincoln
S'Khaja - Sacajawea
Will -  Daniel Boone
Liza - Susan C. Anthony
Sohie - Harriet Tubman
Thomas Y - Thomas Edison
Zac - Winston Churchill
Georgia - Georgia O'Keefe
Rebekah - Helen Keller
Thomas R - John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Patrick - William Shakespeare
Bella - Vincent Van Gogh
Katelyn - Martha Bratton

Word Study Update

We have begun diagramming sentences in Word Study! The students enjoy the puzzle of figuring out what to do with different words in the sentences. One of the goals in 4th grade is for students to leave with ownership of all 8 parts of speech (noun, verb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, adjective, adverb, and interjection). We are spending the next two weeks focusing heavily on one part of speech per day -- they can expect a definitions quiz on the 8 parts of speech at the end. We will practice identifying the different parts of speech in sentences, and then apply these rules to sentence diagramming. Our intense study before the Christmas break of subjects, predicates, nouns, and verbs has given the students a terrific edge on identifying compound subjects and verbs. We look forward to further engaging the students in the parts of speech.

Math Rules!

Students in our class will start receiving a Math Rules! worksheet. These sheets are filled with challenging math problems that call upon many critical thinking skills. Each question is worth a certain number of points, indicated by the number of thumbs up beside the question. The number of points indicates the degree of difficulty of the question. This will be treated as a contest; we will keep a chart in class of the number of points each student receives every week to keep them motivated.

The worksheet will be handed out on the first day of the school week and collected on the last. Giving the students a week to work on it will develop their time-management skills -- doing the whole sheet on a Thursday night won't be fun!

Because Math Rules! is treated as a competition, the work must represent the student's thinking only. If they ask you for help, ask questions that could lead them to figure it out on their own, but do not reveal the answer.  

Words for Week of 1/19

I have been late posting these! My apologies -- I will get these out on Mondays going forward.

This week we are examining the long "o" sound. We have sorted these words into 1st, 2nd, and oddball. 1st and 2nd refers to the syllable on which the long "o" falls. But within these syllables, students noticed how different rules apply, such as "oa" combinations making the long "o."




Personal Schedule Planning Sheet for Biography Book Project

Personal Schedule for
Biography Book Project

Tasks to Complete

Check when Complete!

Read biography and take notes as I read. Mr. Merritt has modeled this for me and my teachers will collect my notes at the end of the project.

After reading the biography and taking notes, I will complete the graphic organizer.

Create front side of trading card (picture with decorative border).

Create back side of trading card (use template to plan what you will write – can be in paragraph form or bullet form, your choice)

Using information from my note-taking and graphic organizer, I will write my speech.

I will put my speech on note cards.

I will gather my costume and practice my speech.

Information about Biography Book Projects

Mrs. Rencher and Mr. Merritt’s 4th Grade
Biography Book Project

TRADING CARD (due on Monday, February 6)

Just like a sports-figure trading card, you will create a super-sized trading card for the biography subject using 8 ½x11 size paper.  Use one piece of paper for the front side of the card and a separate piece of paper for the back side. 

For the front side, you will draw a picture of your famous person or print a picture from the internet.  Use markers, crayons, or colored pencils to enhance your drawing.  You will also decorate the border with pictures or designs that relate to your famous person. 

For the back side, you will neatly write or type facts and information about your famous person.  Use the template provided to help plan the back of your card, but for your final draft, you will use another piece of paper following the basic format.  You will write important facts or details in paragraph or bullet form, but be sure to write in complete sentences and an easy-to-read format.  Think about trading cards that you have seen.  How is the format unique and different from books?  Try to make yours look like a real trading card! 

Cut out the front and back and glue (with a glue stick) onto construction paper, so the card will be two sided when you are done.  Remember I will copy these and make a book of everyone’s trading cards.

(My presentation will be on ________________________)

You will prepare a 2-3 minute speech about your person’s life written in the first person.  In other words, you should talk as if you are really the famous person (“Hello, I am Martin Luther King, Jr.”).  Your speech should cover important information about your famous person and what makes him/her an important part of history. 

You speech needs to be written on index cards.  Practice saying your speech several times so that you won’t have to rely on the index cards when you are performing for your audience.  Practice saying the speech with personality and expression.  You want your audience to “believe” you are that famous person. Remember, good speakers speak loudly and clearly, and they look up at their audience.  Eye contact is important!

Guiding Questions for Oral Presentation

Here are some questions to help guide your presentations.  You do not have to answer all of these questions, but they may help you plan out your speech.

1.  When and where was he/she born?  Describe his/her childhood and family.
2.  Did he/she get married?  If so, to whom did he/she marry and did he/she have any children? What was his/her family like? 
3.  What kind of education did he/she receive?  Where or did he/she attend college?
4.  Did they have to overcome any challenges or obstacles in his or her life?
5.  Why is he/she famous?  How did he/she become famous?
6.  Who are his or her friends?
7.  What are other interesting facts about the person and his/her life?
8.  How did they affect or influence other people?
9.  Who influenced them in their lives? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Quadrilateral Facts
Check out our quadrilateral facts and learn some interesting information about squares, rectangles, parallelograms, trapezoids, rhombus and more.

  • A quadrilateral is a polygon with 4 sides and 4 corners.

  • The word ‘quadrilateral’ comes from ‘quad’ meaning ‘4’ and ‘lateral’ meaning ‘of sides’.

  • The interior angles of quadrilaterals add to 360 degrees.

  • Any quadrilateral with 4 right angles is a rectangle.

  • A quadrilateral with 4 right angles and 4 equal length sides is a square. The area of a square is equal to the length of one side to the power of two (length squared).

  • Quadrilaterals with 2 sets of parallel side are called parallelograms.

  • A rhombus is a quadrilateral with four sides of the same length. A diamond shape is a good example of a rhombus.

  • A convex (outward) quadrilateral with one pair of parallel sides is known as a trapezoid in the US and a trapezium in other parts of the world. In both instances it comes from a Greek word meaning ‘a little table’.
  • Chicken Wing Dissection

    We have talked about the skeletal and muscular systems of the human body. Today, in the Middle School science lab, we will dissect chicken wings to put our knowledge to the test. Students will examine the skin, muscle tissue, tendons, bones, joints, ligaments, and cartilage. Ask your student about this learning experience!

    (If you were planning to cook chicken for supper, you might want to rethink that!!)

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Upcoming Biography Book Report

    As we continue our study of nonfiction texts, we are so excited to announce our upcoming biography book report. We will fully explain the details to the students with handouts and examples on Tuesday, but in short, this biography book report will ask students to read a book about a famous man or woman. From there, they must make a trading card featuring their subject. The culminating event will be a 2-3 minute oral presentation in which the student will dress up as their subject and give a speech in character. Students DO NOT need to prepare for this over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, we are only asking that they come to class with 2-3 possible people (not athletes!) to research. Students will get approval for their famous person by Friday, January 20, and must have the book they will read by Monday, January 23. More details to come!

    See the list below for possible ideas:

    Famous North Carolinians

    David Brinkley TV newscaster, Wilmington
    Howard Cosell sportscaster, Winston-Salem
    Elizabeth Hanford Dole public official, Salisbury
    James B. Duke industrialist, Durham
    Roberta Flack singer, Black Mountain
    Richard Gatling inventor, Hertford County
    Billy Graham evangelist, Charlotte
    Andy Griffith actor, Mount Airy
    O. Henry writer, Greensboro
    Andrew Johnson U.S. president, Raleigh
    Charles Kuralt TV journalist, Wilmington
    Dolley Payne Madison first lady, Guliford County
    Thelonious Monk pianist, Rocky Mount
    Edward R. Murrow commentator, Greensboro
    James K. Polk U.S. president, Mechlenburg
    William Sydney Porter author, Greensboro
    Randy Travis musician, Charlotte
    Thomas Clayton Wolfe author, Asheville

    Famous Men and Women from the "Other 49"

    Alexander Graham Bell
    Daniel Boone
    Louis Braille
    James Buchanan
    Johnny Cash
    Cesar Chavez
    William Clark and Meriwether Lewis
    Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)
    Christopher Columbus
    David Crockett
    Walt Disney
    Thomas Edison
    Albert Einstein
    Henry Ford
    Benjamin Franklin
    Hank Greenberg
    Ulysses S. Grant
    Patrick Henry
    Thomas Jefferson
    John F. Kennedy, Jr.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Abraham Lincoln
    Charles Lindbergh
    Thurgood Marshall
    Jane Addams
    Susan B. Anthony
    Clara Barton
    Beverly Cleary
    Marie Curie
    Amelia Earhart
    Anne Frank
    Jane Goodall
    Helen Keller
    Dolley Madison
    Georgia O'Keefe
    Annie Oakley
    Rosa Parks
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Betsy Ross
    Harriet Tubman
    Martha Washington
    Laura Ingalls Wilder

    Geometry Vocabulay

    There is a great deal of vocabulary that students need to understand in order to effectively converse about 2-D geometry. Here are the terms we have discussed so far:

    • Polygon
    • Point
    • Line
    • Line Segment
    • Perpendicular Lines
    • Parallel Lines
    • Right Angle
    • Acute Angelo
    • Obtuse Angle
    • Triangle
    • Quadrilateral
    • Pentagon
    • Hexagon
    • Heptagon / Septagon
    • Octagon
    • Decagon
    We'll be adding to this list often as we explore further geometric ideas. Ask your 4th grader to explain these terms to you!

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Word Sort -- Week of 1/09

    In word study this week we are working on the long-i sound patterns in spelling words. They are divided below into 1st, 2nd, and oddball categories. Words in 1st have the long-i sound on the first syllable, while words in 2nd have the long-i sound on the second syllable. The three oddball words follow the rule, but don't make the long-i sound. 




    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Science: Human Body

    I don't know who is more excited about our new science unit...the students or me! Our focus this week has been to understand that our bodies are made up of many systems. Throughout our study we will learn about each system and how it is essential to human life. Students learned that the organs in all systems are made up of tissues, and tissues are made up of cells.

    We are focusing first on the skeletal system. Our work back in October learning many of the bones in the body has given us a leg up, no pun intended, on this system. Ask your child about the various parts of the bone; the periosteum, haversian canals, and spongy bone. Quiz your child on the various types of joints: hinge, ball-and-socket, pivot, gliding, and fixed. Today we put a bone in vinegar and will observe how the bone reacts to the mild acid in the vinegar. We'll keep you posted!

    Math: 2-D Geometry and Measurement

    I trust that your student delivered the Family Letters that accompany our new math unit to you. This week we started Unit 4, our first geometry unit of the year. Our classroom has been covered with rulers and yard sticks and meter sticks as the students have been busy measuring things around our classroom.

    This week we have been working to:
    • Review the lengths of units of measure
    • Use U.S. standard and metric units to accurately measure length
    • Estimate lengths based on common units
    • Determine when estimates or exact measurements are needed
    • Find perimeter using standard units
    • Recognize and explain possible sources of measurement error

    Junior Great Books

    Back in August 2000, as we awaited the TCO for Trinity to open its doors for the very first day of school, Chris Weiss and I attended a workshop about teaching Junior Great Books using the Socratic method. Twelve years later, I am excited to be introducing your child to this amazing curriculum.  Junior Great Books is a collection of exceptional, thought-provoking short stories and fables. Interacting with these stories will help to develop our reading, writing, oral communication, and critical-thinking skills. The emphasis is on discussion, interpretation, and question asking. The primary goal is to teach students to read a text closely: recalling and organizing details from the story, drawing inferences, analyzing charactes' motives, and finding the main idea of a passage or the text as a whole.  Students will read each story at least three times, elevating their understanding and thoughtfulness each time. Mr. Merritt and I guide the discussions using a shared inquiry approach. See the information below from The Junior Great Books website about this approach.

    We are reading stories in small groups. Ask your child about "The Red Balloon" by Albert Lamorisse or "The Happy Lion" by Louise Fatio.

    Benefits of Shared Inquiry

    The goal of Great Books programs is to instill in adults and children the habits of mind that characterize self-reliant thinkers, readers, and learners. Great Books programs are predicated on the idea that everyone can read and understand excellent literature—literature that has the capacity to engage the whole person, the imagination as well as the intellect.

    At the heart of all Great Books programs is Shared Inquiry, a distinctive method of learning in which participants search for answers to fundamental questions raised by a text.The success of Shared Inquiry depends on a special relationship between the leader and the group. Shared Inquiry leaders do not impart information or present their own opinions, but guide participants in reaching their own interpretations. They do this by posing thought-provoking questions and by following up purposefully on what participants say.
    Shared Inquiry promotes civil discourse. In Shared Inquiry, participants learn to give full consideration to the ideas of others, to weigh the merits of opposing arguments, and to modify their initial opinions as the evidence demands. They gain experience in communicating complex ideas and in supporting, testing, and expanding their own thoughts. In this way, Shared Inquiry promotes thoughtful dialogue and open debate, preparing its participants to become able, responsible citizens, and enthusiastic, lifelong readers.

    Happy New Year!

    We have had a wonderful first week of 2012! We jumped right back into our busy academic lives at school. I hope your student has shared with you some of the exciting work we have begun this week. Please see my other new blog entries for the specifics in each subject area.