Monday, January 28, 2013


Your student has been receiving a Scholastic math magazine called DynaMath. It is a fun collection of problems for them to work through that have real-life math applications. Read the information below from the Scholastic website to learn more about this math magazine.

An innovative way to build core math skills and connect math to the real world

Here’s how DynaMath makes math relevant and engaging:

  • 8 issues reinforce core math concepts by showing students how they apply to current events, science, and everyday experiences.
  • Standards-based practice problems in each issue build the critical math skills students need to succeed on standardized tests and in higher grades. 
  • Common Core Connections: In each issue we cover the grades 3–6 math standards, including basic operations, fractions, decimals, measurement, geometry, and graph/chart reading.
  • STEM Connections–DynaMath relates math to technology, invention, and careers through features like our popular math-in-careers series.

National Geographic Bee

Congratulations to Charlie for winning our class Geo Bee! We were so proud of his performance in the school wide spelling bee with 4th through 8th graders and came in 3rd place for the whole school! Great work, Charlie! Kudos, also, to Parker for being our class runner-up.

The Secret Garden

We are headed to Imaginon on Wednesday for the Children's Theatre performance of The Secret Garden.

This summary is from CT's website:

Celebrate magic on a Broadway scale with The Secret Garden, a modern musical classic. Orphaned 10-year-old Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in England with relatives she has never met. With the help of Martha, a chambermaid, and the gardener, Ben, Mary’s own personality blossoms as she brings life to a neglected garden, as well as her sickly cousin and uncle. Based on the beloved children’s novel and winner of three Tony Awards, The Secret Garden is a timeless tale of hope and inspiration.

Biography Project

Information about Biography Projects

TRADING CARD (due on Friday, February 15)

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 informationabout 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? 

Wax Museum
Our class's Wax Museum will be on Friday, March 1. 

Mark Your Calendar!

Dates for Biography Speeches

Tuesday, February 19

Wednesday, February 20

Thursday, February 21

Friday, February 22

Upcoming Science and Social Studies Units

Science and Social Studies on the move...

Beginning this Friday, the two fourth grade classes will travel between Mrs. York's and Mrs. Rencher's classrooms for Social Studies and Science.  Mrs. York and Mr. Merritt will primarily be teaching our new Social Studies unit on early colonization of the Americas, while Mrs. Rencher and Mrs. Bryant will be teaching the systems of the human body.  This model allows primary ownership to rest with one pair of teachers, although all of us will be involved in the implementation and delivery of the content of these units and will collaborate in the assessment of student work. We are very excited to have this opportunity to share our interest and passion about these content areas with the whole grade level and to get to know more deeply the students from our partner class.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The BIG Map

Middle school Social Studies teacher, Grady Smith, arranged for the National Geographic map of Asia to come to Trinity back in December. Enjoy these photos of our class exploring and learning about the continent, countries, capitols, and land forms.

Word Study: Word Ladders

We have a new addition to our work in Word Study. Each week we will do a Word Ladders that helps to build reading, spelling, vocabulary, and phonics skills.  Designed to take approximately 10 minutes, students begin with one word and then make a series of other words by changing or rearranging the letters in the word before; clues are provided along the side to help kids know what words to write. Ask your student to show you the first ones we did. While they almost all moaned and groaned when I said that we were going to do something "fun," they all really enjoyed this word play!

Chasing Vermeer

Our new read-aloud book is Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. This is a complex mystery that includes math puzzles as well as art history lessons. We have to pay close attention as we are reading to keep up with all the scholarly twists and turns.

Here is a book review from Scholastic's website:

When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one — neighbors, parents, teachers — is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?

Want to learn more about this intriguing book?

Division Facts

As you are aware, we are working to improve our recall of division facts. We took our first timed test  to let the students have a benchmark of where they were with time and accuracy of 50-problems before they began to practice. A little practice goes a long way! I wanted to share two sites that I found that students can use to practice. Let me know if your student has other favorite sites and I'll share them with the group.

Fraction Cards and Decimal Squares

Improper fractions, mixed numbers, reduced terms, and denominators....oh my! We are in the midst of our unit on fractions and decimals. I trust that your student delivered the parent letters about this unit. 

Here are the big topics that we have focused on thus far:
  • Finding fractional parts of a whole
  • Adding and subtracting fractions
  • Comparing and ordering fractions
  • Understanding proper and improper fractions
  • Understanding mixed numbers
  • Reducing fractions to lowest terms

Please take time to read the following letters that contain more important information about the work we are doing in this unit.

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 characters' 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.


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.

Young Inventors Symposium

Does your 4th grader have a BIG imagination and love to create things?
This optional project might be perfect for him or her!

What is the Young Inventors Symposium?
It is a student-centered event open to 3rd and 4th grade students at Trinity Episcopal School, Charlotte Preparatory School, and Charlotte Jewish Day School. It begins with students developing an invention focused on making life easier for someone important to them. on Thursday, March 21, 2013, students of all three schools will come together to showcase their inventions, listen to speakers, and share their inventing experiences.

What Should I Invent?
Your invention is up to you! However, we ask that inventions are focused on the theme of making life easier for someone important in your life.

Can I Work With a Partner?
Yes, you can work in a group of up to 3 members.

If you are interested, please let us know and we will share more specific information with you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Welcome Back!

It's hard to believe that it is 2013! Mr. Merritt and I were delighted to see everyone on Monday morning. There's never a dull moment around here and we are back to learning. I wanted to give you a quick update about what we're working on this week:

Reading: Students are now expected to read 25 minutes (or more) each night. Also, we have a new format for our reading log. After reading, we are asking our students to write a 2-3 sentence summary about the main idea of their reading. This is a thoughtful exercise that will cause students to reflect on their reading in a new way.

Science: We continue to work on rocks and minerals. We will review the rock cycle and the various types of rocks. New work will be about the Mohs Hardness test which helps to classify rocks. Also, we will think more about materials engineering and will take a close look at twill and terry cloth.

Writing: Our new unit on opinion writing will focus on book reviews. We will work on the format and organization of how to write a strong book review that expresses your thoughtful opinion about the book.

Word Study: In addition to our word sort work in spelling, we will begin to have 6 high-frequency words for the students to learn each week. These words will be on the Word Sort test each Friday. You can find these words in your child's agenda. Also in word study, we will begin a unit on verbs. It is essential that students can identify helping, action, and state-of-being verbs in order to understand how sentences work.

Math: Multiple Tower and Division Stories assessments and student activity books were sent home on Monday. After a few days of review, we will take our mid-year assessment. Next Monday, January 14 we will begin our unit on fractions and decimals.

Upcoming Dates:

Progress reports for Trimester 2 : January 18
Class Wax Museum: March 1
Student-Led Spring Conferences: March 4 & 5
Earthshine - March 13-15 (Yes, it's sleep-away!)