We have a lot going on in the classroom these days, and I just realized that it has been almost a month since my last update. Sorry!
First of all, I apologize for being unable to attend the Moose is Loose Carnival. It is one of my favorite Southmoor events, but my sister had her wedding on the same day this year, so I could not attend.
Below are a few classroom updates:
In language arts, we have moved away from narrative work and into our unit on five-paragraph essays. We are taking it slowly, however, and working with sequential justice and democracy units as vehicles for our essay work. Right now, we are about two weeks into our unit on justice, within which we are learning about three fundamental types of justice: distributive justice, corrective justice, and procedural justice. We are working from a book, Custis Learns Justice, which I have used in the past, and the book contains regimented anecdotes, intellectual tools, and projects through which kids learn about how to utilize justice and understand it as a human function within our world. Currently, students are working on a project on medical care, and they have been divided into constituent groups that, in the next few days, will present arguments to a "county board of directors." They have been analyzing a medical care proposal that involves tax and coverage elements that relate directly to real-world problems facing the nation today, and they are having a ton of fun. In the future, they will also be working on a public trial and one other project-based presentation. Students' first complete essays will incorporate their learning on justice.
Additionally, students are very close to finishing their reading of Ender's Game, and I will soon guide them in creating their own projects that will analyze the thematic elements of the text. I did the same project last year, and I was amazed by the projects students developed. Be on the lookout for more information on that project soon.
Following Ender's Game, students will be reading new books in small groups for the remainder of the year.
Math is moving along as expected, and the one aspect of the field that I am pushing with students is attention to detail. Because the students in the class are all so efficient with respect to single- and double-digit computation, I am finding that they generally tend to want to work through problems too quickly, especially when they are complicated or conceptually difficult. Even though we're moving quickly through content, thus, I am emphasizing that in math it is important for us to slow down and patiently consider all factors.
Students should still be working on math homework an average of three times per week, depending on how well they as individuals are able to move through content on any given day.
We have started our first unit in science, which is centered on ecosystems and symbiotic relationships. Students eventually will be working in small groups to develop models of chosen ecosystems, and they will be presenting their models as options for a hypothetical national biodome.
To aid this project, students will be reading related nonfiction Newsela articles and conducting their own research. I did this project last year with the help of Ms. Connolly, and it is a ton of fun.
This year, for those students on an ALP, I will be handing out ALPs during parent-teacher conferences. This is a little bit different than it has been in the past, when ALPs have been mailed or sent home, so please let me know if you have any questions.
I have not pushed i-Ready very robustly this year, but I want to add here that it is a school-wide priority. It is one of our main broad-based assessments, and I will review scores with parents during conferences at the end of the month. Because the lessons do verifiably contribute to student growth, I try to get students onto their lessons for about 15 minutes per day. Additionally, though, i-Ready is always an extra option for students at home. To the extent it is reasonable, I encourage parents to leave i-Ready as an open option for kids at home.
We are still finalizing details for upcoming field trips, and it is a process! Thank you for your patience as to this, and rest assured that I will push to you details as soon as I have them.
Our snack system is working well, and I appreciate all of you who have signed up to provide snacks. Additionally, I am especially thankful for the fact that all snack providers have been including gluten-free options on a weekly basis, as that is our one additional nutritional requirement for some students in the class (and me)!
Please pay attention to becca Winslow's emails for information on our upcoming Halloween celebration. This year, it will be very much the same as it has been in the past. If you wish for your child not to celebrate Halloween, please let me know as soon as possible so we can make appropriate alternate arrangements.
Have a wonderful week, and thank you for all that you do!
I hope you all are well, and I want to give you some updates that relate to our Curriculum Night and our classroom generally.
Thank you to those of you who were able to make it to our Curriculum Night! Our class' parents made a great showing. For those of you who didn't make it, and as a recapitulation for those of you who were there, I want to highlight my main points about our curricula this year.
Our language arts curricula, which will include reading and writing, will work at creating connections between the two.
To start the year, we are working on narrative elements and structure. Students are reading Ender's Game and we are having class discussions about the themes, meanings, and structural and thematic elements of the text. Students will complete a project on Ender's Game when we are finished reading the book. Additionally, we are working with the same content in writing, within a unit on narratives. We have learned about the elements and structures of narratives, and students have planned and begun writing narratives of their own. So far, the results are amazing, and I am thoroughly impressed by the written work students are creating. Our narrative unit will be comparatively short because it will serve as an introduction to the year. After our intro period, though, students will continue to work on their narratives, and work in varied novel reading groups, throughout the year.
Following our introduction to narratives, in a few weeks, we will begin working on the five-paragraph essay format and rhetorical thinking and writing strategies. Our essay unit will be the longest of the year, and we will take time to carefully walk through each and every component of rhetorical writing strategies and elements. To accompany that unit in writing, we will move into reading nonfiction texts. Many of our nonfiction texts this year will come from Newsela, a fantastic real-world website, and many will come from our Colorado History unit in social studies and varied science units.
After essays we will work on short constructed responses and evidence-based writing, and toward the end of the year we will venture into poetry. I will deliver more information about both of those domains when the time is right.
In math this year, we will be working with the 4th grade Investigations curriculum at an accelerated pace. We will finish the entire curriculum by February, and then we will work on a Project-Based Learning unit developed by Kelly Reseigh.
This year in math, we are focusing on conceptual understanding. It is important for kids to learn and know how to "do" math, but it is more important for them to be able to conceptually understand and explain what they're doing. As such, a primary focus we will have this year will be on writing within math. Students will be writing in math every day in order to practice the iteration of concepts, and they'll also be using writing as an error analysis and troubleshooting device.
Because we will be moving quickly through the curriculum, unit pre- and post-tests will come and go quickly this year, and I will use those tests to inform instruction just as much as I will use them to hold students accountable. Where students generally understand concepts as a whole, we may cut and/or omit components of our curriculum. So you are aware, if and when students take tests and earn unfavorable scores, they will have the opportunity to earn back half-points by identifying and correcting their mistakes. Students' tests will be learning tools as much as they will be assessments.
Math homework will be common throughout the year. For more information on that, please see my previous post on the matter!
Our first science unit of the year, which I have introduced, will be on ecosystems. We will soon be working on a Project-Based Learning unit during which students will be working together to create their own models of ecosystems (or hybrids) about which we'll be learning. In the interest of brevity now, I will soon provide more detailed information about the unit as we move farther into it.
Our social studies curriculum this year will primarily focus on Colorado History. The Colorado History curriculum recently moved from third to fourth grade, so your kids will get it this year. I have a metric ton of great materials with which kids will be working, and we will move into that unit following the completion of our first science unit.
Additionally this year, we will be focusing on aspects of government, democracy, and justice. I will tie these elements into our essay work, so stay tuned for more.
Homework and Planners
My last post on homework was more instructive than I'll be here, but I'll hit the high points again. First, I expect students to read two-and-a-half hours per week at home, as homework, and students know that they should be tracking their accomplishments in their new planners. Second, during many periods of the year, students will have a little bit of math homework every night. There will be some lapses when there are tests and other events, but math homework should be fairly consistent. Third, students have the ability to supplement their homework plans by working from home on (1) i-Ready (math or reading) or (2) writing projects and assignments (with some exceptions). Those two options are always available!
At the end of each week, I would like for parents to sign off on students' planners to provide an extra layer of accountability and keep all of us honest. Students should be managing their planners on their own, and the sign-offs should be simple; they either did what they say they did, or they didn't. I appreciate your help with this! Please let me know if you have any questions. And if you haven't, again, please read my previous post.
We have some field trips coming up, but details are not yet final. As soon as they are, I will let you know!
I apologize for the length of this post, and also for moving so quickly through so much information! At this point, I believe anything I have not covered here can and/or will be covered in one of three ways:
1. Look out for emails from our room parent, becca, as she will be supplementing my posts with PTO- and logistics-oriented messaging.
2. Stay tuned for information on future events and occurrences, as I will be updating information here as needs arise.
3. Reach out to me! If you have any questions for me, or if you would like more information on any of the topics I have breezed through in this post, please let me know. I am always happy to help.
All the very best,
I have three quick things to add to my post from Sunday:
Southmoor has issued new guidelines for homework, and those guidelines state that fourth graders should have between 40 and 60 minutes of homework per weeknight. In all honesty, personally, I view the guidelines to be extreme. However, my students will have homework this year, as follows:
Students are expected to read, or participate in reading by listening, for an average of 30 minutes per weeknight. That is, students should read, or listen to reading, for about two and a half hours per week. That time can be split up as students (and their families) see fit. And students can read whatever they choose, so long as their classroom reading assignments are completed.
Math and Other Completion Work
Students shall spend the remainder of any homework time working on completing work from math, language arts, and/or science and social studies. The time students spend on completion work should not exceed 30 minutes on any given night, and in many cases should consume far less time, depending on circumstances.
I will not send students home with homework that involves new concepts because I do not expect parents to teach their kids as to those. However, if and when students do not entirely finish work in class, they will be expected to complete doable tasks at home. If ever a homework assignment is too time-consuming, difficult, or confusing, students should stop work at home until such a time they are able to clarify confusions with me. Homework should never cause unnecessary stress, and if it ever does I expect students and their families to mitigate such stress in a timely fashion (by stopping the work!) at home before consulting with me about possible solutions. No homework task will ever be an emergency, or worth stressing over.
Also, I am always happy to reduce homework for students and families who wish for a reduction. I despised homework as a fourth grader, and -- in remembrance of times past -- I am perfectly happy reducing my requests on a case-by-case basis. Just ask! Many students and families appreciate and enjoy homework, and Southmoor's new homework policy tends to those people, but I also want to meet the needs of those students and families who don't like homework and don't want it.
All of my homeroom students will be receiving planners as soon as they come in, which we (the office and I) anticipate will be no later than next Tuesday. (The shipping company we are working with is experiencing delays, otherwise we would have had them sooner.)
I will teach students how to use their planners, and I will expect them to record their homework tasks on a daily basis. Each week, I will also expect students to have their planners signed (over each weekend) by a family member, to ensure accountability on all sides. Students should come prepared with their signed planners each Monday, indicating they completed their assigned tasks for the previous week.
I will cover extra details on Curriculum Night.
To start the year, we will be reading Ender's Game as a class. We will also work on a project that relates to the book. I will talk in more detail about the book on Curriculum Night, however I want to quickly address any concerns that may arise. I read Ender's Game for the first time in fourth grade, and I also read it with my fourth and fifth graders last year. All told, I've read it about 15 times. Additionally, experts at The Bookies recommended it specifically to me as a great option for my classroom and grade level, particularly because we are part of an HGT magnet program.
That said, there are a few short fights in the book, and out of the roughly 60 fourth and fifth graders to whom I have assigned the book, I have received two parent inquiries. Though the book is, in my opinion, relatively mild -- especially when compared to other books of the same or similar genres -- I understand parents' desires to protect their kids. If you have any concerns as to Ender's Game, please ask me. If need be, I can assign a different book to your student.
Ender's Game, though, is a fantastic book. It is centered on the story of an incredibly gifted child who is forced, whether he likes it or not, to navigate a world which asks a whole lot (perhaps too much) of his intelligence. Classroom discussions as to the book will be well regulated and yet enthralling and elucidating, and I am excited to again have the opportunity to share one of my favorite books with another group of incredibly gifted young people.
Please stay tuned in; I have more updates about assessments and schedules coming soon!
Thanks for all you do.
Welcome to fourth grade in the Highly Gifted and Talented magnet program at Southmoor Elementary.
I am Mr. Parker Fulton. If you do not already know me, you can find some basic information about me on this website's About Mr. Fulton page. I am happy to be back at Southmoor for another year of teaching, learning, and fun.
You can find important dates and events on this website's Calendars page, where I have embedded the Classroom and Southmoor calendars. Events most pertinent to my classroom will appear on the "4th Grade HGT" calendar, though be sure to regularly check the Southmoor calendar so that you don't miss anything!
The most important date coming up is September 7th, 2017. At 6:00 p.m. on that date, Southmoor will hold its annual Curriculum Night. During that time, I will talk to classroom parents about my year-long and unit-based curricular plans. If you can find a way to make it to that event, please do!
To start the school year, we will be working on a narrative unit in language arts, multiplication in math, and an ecosystems unit in science. Also, in language arts, we will start with reading Ender's Game as a class; a related project will follow. More details with respect to all curricula will soon follow this initial post, but please plan on attending Southmoor's Curriculum Night to learn more about what we are going to be doing this year. Also, before you attend Curriculum Night, please do your best to review this year's writing rubrics -- located here -- so as to acquaint yourselves with my year-long writing expectations in language arts and math.
Information regarding i-Ready, assessments, field trips, and volunteer opportunities will soon follow this initial post. However, for the time being, please relax, settle in, and enjoy the beginnings of what promises to be a fun and successful school year at Southmoor.
If you have any questions for me, please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can respond to emergency situations immediately, and I will do my best to respond to you as to other non-emergency matters within 24 hours.
Thank you for all you do.