Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dear Parents,
     Happy Thursday!  What a week of nice weather! I think the kids have enjoyed the time outside.  I know I have walked every day enjoying the last of the warm days.  Sounds like temperature is due to drop,  Please get out the kid's coats.  Some of them, during the last cold spell, only showed up in a sweatshirt.  That is not enough when the high is only in the 40's.  I watch the weather and remind the kids when they need to bring in heavy coats.   I don't want anyone outside shivering.  That is no fun for them.  It is hard to enjoy recess when you are freezing.  The rest of this week looks to be great but next week is a different story.  

Language Arts -  This week we are reading a story called Coming Distractions: Questioning Movies.  This is an informational story about what we see in movies is not always reality.  It points out movies like Charlie's Angels where Cameron Diaz is fighting bad guys in high heels and doing a fabulous job at it.  It also points out that when a family has something bad happen like a mother or father loses a job, they do not make any adjustments to their lifestyle in a movie and in real life, life styles have to change.  Grammar lesson are based on verbs again.  We are looking at the verb tenses (past, present, and future).  We talked about latin words parts found in our language, those parts are phon, photo, auto, tele, graph, and their meanings or words they are linked to.  It may help them to better understand the words these parts are found in.  Tomorrow will be a normal Friday.  They will take a spelling post test and end of the week assessment.

Math-  This week in Math we have learned multiplication comparisons and will move on to relate that to comparison problems.  We will now move onto word problems that use multiplication comparisons to find an answer.  We spent several days understanding this topic to hopefully make the word problems easier for us.  We will begin the lesson today and hopefully get more into it or finish tomorrow. Again this chapter is pretty heavy and I want everyone to understand exactly what we are doing in each lesson before moving on, which is why this chapter takes so long. Multiplication is one of the main content areas at the 4th grade level that they need to learn and will make them feel like a "big" kid.  It is amazing the number of times I hear the students say, " I feel like a real big kid learning multiplication."  It makes it fun for me to hear them say it.  I am so glad they realize they really are learning things!  

Social Studies-  We are working on covering lesson 1 which discusses Niagara Falls and its importance to the state of New York. It looks at all the important mountain ranges that are a part of the Appalachian Mountains in the Northeast.  It also talks about the coastline and how it looks different from Maine to New Jersey.  This week the students started their interactive notebooks.  These are notebooks that will be full of information about the 50 states.  We are walking through how to look up the information and what is expected on their fact sheets.  They will learn how to put these items in their notebooks tomorrow.  Once they get used to it, the process won't take them very long at all.  We are studying the Northeast Region so those are the first states they put in the notebook and I have them put them in order of statehood.  The first one they did was Connecticut.  Yes Delaware is the very first state but it is not part of the New England States and that is where we started.  I love it when the kids are researching and asking each other questions about the states.  The other item they have to do is color in the state flag.  This allows them to see how certain regions have similar flags.  A lot of them have them same colors in them.  Again, I love this notebook cause it's so full of great information.

Spaghetti Supper - Don't forget the Spaghetti Supper is Saturday night.  If you signed up to help or bring an item remember to do it.  Also remember all families are asked to bring in a dessert for the supper or something for the cake walk!    Hope to see you there!

Conferences:  I have sent out a Sign up to your emails for conferences. Please take a minute to sign up for a time that works for you.  I have given all the times I am available including some time on Tuesday and Wednesday, if Thursday just doesn't work for you.  People were signing up as soon as I sent it out so hurry and get there or your time time you are wanting may be taken.Thank you in advance for signing up, I look forward to meeting with you.  In case you didn't see the email here is the sign up link.


I hope everyone has a great weekend!  I am very happy that next week is back to a normal week.  But then the next is a short week again!  It seems we are not in session a lot recently.   The rest of the year will move very quickly.  Once conferences are over than it is Thanksgiving Break, then we move to Christmas Break and then BOOM! A whole new year!  I am really enjoying your children.  I thank you for sharing them with me this year.

God Bless,
Mrs. Sickels

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dear Parents,
     Happy Thursday!  I hope all of you are enjoying the week.  Today is our last day of the week!  Two short weeks in a row!  I know the kids will enjoy their long 4 day weekend!  I told them to think of me when I was still here working.  Friday we will be here in our building working on literacy professional development and Monday we go to Des Moines to work with all the other Catholic School Teachers in the Diocese.  I hope they all come back rested and ready to go on Tuesday!  

Language Arts - This week we read a very interesting story.  It is called Invasion From Mars.  It is an excerpt from War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.  On October 30, 1938, they broadcast this portion of the book as a radio play.  Many Americans did not turn on their radios to hear the introduction of the radio show and if you turned on in the middle of the show you thought that aliens had landed in Grover's Mill, New Jersey.  It cause a little bit of panic in America.  You can listen to the actual broadcast on youtube.  Google War of the Worlds October 30, 1938.  The piece we read happens at about 10:12.  We listened to it once at school.  It is an interesting story for the kids to hear.  I think some of them were very intrigued about it really being on the radio and scaring some people.  In grammar we learned about action verbs, helping verbs, and linking verbs.  Today is our post test and end of week assessment since we do not have school tomorrow.

Math -  We have taken our chapter 2 pretest this week.  We have went over the beginning pages to review and also preview the next chapter.  Today I plan on starting the first lesson in chapter 2.  It is covering comparison problems.  They will be given a comparison statement and from that they will draw a picture to match the statement.  It is a very good lesson that is like a skill needed before we are able to do certain word problems.  This multiplication chapter is 14 lessons long.  Some lessons will only take us a day and some will take 2-3 days.  I am very picky about moving on.  I want all the kids to master the lesson before I move forward because in this chapter all the lessons build up from one another.  I have to teach one thing because you will use it to do the next.  I hope and pray we can complete this chapter in good time to get in 3 before Christmas.  We start messing with the schedule soon though.  Once we hit conferences then we hit Thanksgiving Break and in no time it is Christmas break.  When you are planning lesson it all seems very quick.

Social Studies -  We have completed our first test.  I am happy with all the scores.  Some maybe could have spent more time on their vocabulary words but overall it was pretty good.  We have begun talking about the Northeast Region.  We have listed the  11 states that make up the region in our notebooks.  We also put them into New England States and Middle Atlantic State.  We have begun talking about Niagara Falls and that it is not just beautiful but also very helpful to the state of New York for providing electricity.  We also are talking about the Appalachain Mountains being the oldest mountain range in the U.S.  I am also pointing out it is not the highest because that is the Rocky Mountains.  We will talk about the different mountain ranges found in the Northeast Region and where they are.  We will work on locating these states on a map.  I will have them practice and even do a practice test over this region before the first real test.  They will work on labeling the map with states and capitals.  We will also begin putting together our interactive notebook.  This notebook will have all 50  states in it and some facts about each one that the student will look up on their own.  We end up doing a lot of cutting and pasting!  The best part is they will walk away with a book full of information that they may keep.

I hope all of you enjoy your weekend and the kids take advantage of their long weekend to rest up and be ready for next week!  We are picking up the twins and heading to Iowa City this weekend to see family. My sister-in-law from Chicago is coming and my nephew lives in Iowa City.  I get to spend some time with my wild and crazy great niece.  

God Bless, 
Mrs. Sickels

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Dear Parents,
     Happy Thursday!!  Sounds like we are going to start getting a little wet!  We need the rain for sure but not sure we want as much as we are suppose to get.  I am suppose to be traveling to Sidney, Iowa tomorrow for a workshop, and I am not too thrilled about going anymore.  Two reasons: 1) We have had a big week of testing this week and some unfinished business I hate leaving for a substitute, 2) Sidney is in the area that there will be flooding.  Not sure I want to go and then be stuck.  I counted and there are 6 rivers to cross between here and there.  Ms. Surma is going to workshop also.  We are making a decision today whether we are going to attend or not.  I told the kids you may or may not know what teacher will be in here when you get here tomorrow.  

Language Arts- We have spent the week testing on the Unit 1 Benchmark test.  It is a very long test that I break up into 3 parts.  We take a section a day for 3 days.  I feel the students do a better job this way.  I will have results of this testing to you next week.  I apologize I didn't send home scores last week for week 4.  I totally forgot!  This week in the folder you will find week 4 and 5 results.  I feel like our Friday testing is not where it should be.  I have had a couple of kids improve and some fall backwards.  I don't think they take them very seriously.  I am trying to talk to them about the importance of these tests.  I am also discussing that we use this data for a lot of decision making.  These tests help us to decide how they are doing with comprehension and whether they need extra help in these areas. We also started a writing project this week.  They will be writing a Halloween story based off a fairy tale or children's story.   I shared with them the book Goldilocks and the Three Bears and then shared a former student's story that she created from it.  I will also share some other stories that are easy to convert to Halloween stories.  This is meant to be a fun writing activity.  The stories will be on display in our room!

Book Report- I also assigned them a book report that will be due November 7th.  These book reports are cereal box reports.  I explained the assignment to the students.  They are to read the book in it's entirety first, then come to me for the rest of the items.  I have pieces they are to fill out and put onto their cereal box, plus I have a grading rubric they can follow to put it together to make sure they are getting the score they want. Please be sure to save a cereal box that is in good shape and nice sized for this project.

Book It! -  We are participating in this program this year.  I love this program.  It is a good way to get kids to read.  One way I challenge the kids is, I tell them to beat me!  I read a lot, not as much as I did in the summer but still a lot.  I will give a prize to any kid that can beat me in the amount of minutes I read.  There is a goal every month on minutes to be read.  They all have their own calendar to keep track of their minutes on.  Goals for each month will go each month.  The Goal for October is 350 minutes, November will be 400, December will be 450, January 500, February 550 and March will end with 600 minutes.  I figured it our, we start reading 12 minutes a day and by March they should be reading 20 minutes per day.  I have already read 603 minutes this month.  That will slow down though.  I will begin to get busier so it will slow down.

Math-  This week we have focused on testing over chapter 1.  We took the test Wednesday, and we hope to make some corrections on Thursday.  I will be sure to share the students pretest and post test scores with them so they may see if they improved or not.  There was a lot of room for improvement by all.  It is always fun to see their faces when they see how much they learned.  We will begin chapter 2 next week.  This chapter covers multiplication.  It is a very long chapter and a very deep one.  There is a lot of strategies and new concepts that the students will learn in this chapter.  It usually takes a very long time to get through.  It is made up of about 14 lessons and a lot of those take us a couple of days to get through if I want full understanding.  So we are in it for the long haul.  I will talk to the students about it being a long process but also talk about all the things they are learning and how each one is important.  I will say this is definitely where we will see struggles.  Please work flash cards at home if you have any.  This will help them with the process.  At least it will make it easier on them.

Social Studies -  We just finished chapter 2.  We will be taking a test over it tomorrow.  They students had a study guide to work on and that study guide is just like last year and will cover everything they will see on the test.  We will correct that today so the students have the correct answers to study.  These tests are just like last year's tests.  The students should know exactly what to expect.  We will begin the Northeast Region next week!!

WOW!  What a week!  I can tell it is a full moon!  It didn't help that this was a testing week in many things.  We did a lot of reading which is great because it adds to our Book It minutes!  Have a great weekend!  I have one kid coming home to watch her sister in a volleyball tournament.

God Bless,
Mrs. Sickels

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Dear Parents,
    Happy Thursday!   I hope you are enjoying the cooler weather.  I know I am.  I love walking in the evening on sweats and being comfortable!  Hate to say it but we are getting into my favorite time of the year.  I like Fall but love winter.  I like the cold and snow.  It's Iowa, it's one of our four seasons, I like it.  So far we have had a good week in 4th grade.  Yes, I have given out some late slips this week, but we are learning from them.  Overall, I am very impressed, I thought I would be giving out a lot more late slips to this class then I am.  That is a very good thing!!  They are all almost used to my routine and schedule.  

Language Arts -  This week we are reading a story called Stormalong.  This is a tall tale like Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and John Henry.  Tall tales usually have to do with some sort of job, Paul Bunyan (Lumberjack), John Henry(building railroad), Stormalong has to do with sailors and fishermen. He is a giant of a man that they build a huge boat for.  He sails all over delivering cargo.  His real name is Alfred Bulltop Stormalong or A.B.S.  behind a sailor's name in the military you will find A.B.S. which means able bodied seaman but the tall tale states it stands for Alfred Bulltop Stormalong.  This week in grammar we are focusing on capitalization.  We talk about capitalizing historical documents, and events in history, proper nouns, titles, languages, and Nationalities.  Spelling this week was a list of homophones.  Words that sound the exact same but are spelled differently due to meaning.  The students have to listen carefully to how the words are used in a sentence to decide which spelling to use.  Some of the words were pretty easy and some were difficult.  Next week will be our first Unit test.  We will not have spelling next week or be reading a story, we will focus on the Unit test.  I will also have a writing activity we will start and assign the first book report.  We will have a busy week even though it is different from a normal week.

Math - This week has been kind of an easy week for us in the Math department.  Two lessons we have covered have been review.  They were about adding and subtracting whole numbers.  The only added item is the estimation part.  Students are taught to estimate their answers first so they can decide whether their actual answer is reasonable or not.  All students thing it means find the real answer and estimate that answer.  I show them to find the estimated answer first by rounding the two addends and then finding estimate.  This will help them decide if their answer is reasonable or not.  Is the answer anywhere in the ballpark of their estimate.  If it is not then they need to check over their work and be sure they have not made an addition or subtraction error. This is highly likely when it comes to subtraction because they forget to regroup and make mistakes. We are ending the week discussing Problem-Solving and focusing on the Bar Model for our strategy.  They are taught how to use a picture to show their understanding of word problems involving addition and subtraction  This is their least favorite thing to do for sure.  I know they want to just work the problem and be done but we are learning strategies to help them.  They also are learning that when they are given a word problem the answer needs to have a label on it.  If the question asks how many apples then the answer should have apples following it to show that is how many apples they have which also helps me to know they understood what was being asked of them.

Social Studies-  We have been slowly talking about government.  We have covered the Bill of Rights, and we have discussed a citizen's rights and responsibilities.  I talked about the difference between a right and responsibility and we discussed that voting falls under both categories.  It is our right to vote at the age of 18 but it is also our responsibility to vote to help put leaders in charge that we feel will do the best job they can.  This will actually end our chapter and we will begin a study guide tomorrow.  Next week the students are looking at their first test.  They have a blue vocabulary packet that they will study words from and a study guide to help them.  Tests this year are very similar to the social studies tests they took last year. 

Well, it's Homecoming weekend!  I think having a high schooler in the house makes it a lot more exciting.  We are gearing up for Molly's first Homecoming dance.  My older two are coming home to help get her ready and approve of her choices in dress, hair, makeup and accessories.  I am looking forward to having them home! Let the fun begin!!  I hope all of you have a great weekend!

Remember since it is Homecoming we will dismiss school at 1:10 Friday the 29th!  Wear your Panther gear to school to celebrate school spirit!!  GO PANTHERS!

God Bless,
Mrs. Sickels

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dear Parents,
     Happy Thursday!!  It has been a short week and definitely feels like it.  The students came back Tuesday and actually did a very good job returning.  They were not as chatty as they normally are coming off of a weekend and especially a long one.  They are really getting the hang of using their time wisely.  I am super proud of them.  They really work hard to be sure to limit the amount of homework they have.  That is exactly what I want them to do because the amount of work may pick up a little bit and I want them to be used to working hard at completing it.  Your kids are growing up!!  

Language Arts -  This week we are reading a play called The Power of W.O.W.  It is a story that kind of is a spin off of last week's story.  In Dallas, Texas there is a neighborhood that is too far from the library so a bookmobile comes to the neighborhood each week.  It was a trial program and the funds ran out.   The kids who utilize and benefit from the bookmobile decide they want to do something to help.  They organize a car wash to raise money.  A TV crew shows up and airs the story, and the car wash becomes very busy plus some very generous donors step in a donate and save the bookmobile.  It is a great story with a good lesson for the students.  It is written as a screen play so there are parts to be read.  We read it as whole class on Tuesday and discussed some.  They will read in small groups and then again in large group before Friday's test.  In grammar we are talking about sentences, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences.  The spelling list this week was short o and long o words.  The end of the week assessment will be tomorrow!

Math -  We have been working on rounding numbers.  This skill can be very difficult for 4th graders when you look at what we are doing.  We are rounding very large numbers.  These numbers are larger than what they have seen or worked with before.  It can get confusing for them. The rest of this week will focus on renaming numbers.  looking at the number 60 as 6 tens and the number 1,500 and 15 hundreds.  After this lesson the rest of the chapter is review.  It will cover addition and subtraction which we will cover rather quickly  because it is review for them.  Then we can finish chapter 1 and move on to chapter 2.  Our biggest chapters will be those on multiplication and division.  These are the two content areas we will spend the most time on.  

Social Studies -  This week we have been working on the Bill of Rights.  The students were grouped and given some amendments to make posters about.  They then shared the posters with the class so all could hear about the first 10 amendments to our Constitution.  I will hang these posters in the hall for all to see. We tried to make them kid friendly.  I challenge all of you to look up the Bill of Rights.  There are a few that are difficult to understand the way they written let alone try to get the kids to understand them.  Anything dealing with court cases was hard.  I feel like the ones we are all familiar with the students are now familiar with and will remember.  Amendment 1 &2 for sure, jury trial, and the one on search warrants they may remember.  I have always talked briefly about the Bill of Rights but this year I wanted to try this activity to dig deeper.  We have one more lesson in this chapter then we will take our first test!  

We are working hard every day.  I just want to point our again how proud I am of these kids. They are adjusting to the new environment pretty well.  I am very routine with some of the things I do in my classroom, which helps.  Learning to use time wisely is one of the hardest things to get them used to.  We are getting there!  Once we get the routine down, I will add a little more to their plate, NOT much but I will begin to need to keep them busy.  Once they figure out how to get work done then it gives them a little more free time which they don't know how to handle yet.  I am  very big on reading a book and not drawing or making items out of paper.  Some of you have seen the paper items come home, because I have made them take them home.  I will begin pressuring for more reading. 

Have a great weekend!   I have a volleyball tournament, run to Des Moines to finish Homecoming shopping and the St. Malachy Color Run!  It is a busy weekend for me!!

God Bless,
Mrs. Sickels 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dear Parents,
     Happy Thursday!!  I hope your week is going well.  We have had a pretty good full week.  Of course next week we go back to a short week with no school on Monday. I have found that this class struggles on the day we come back from a weekend.  Whether it be a Monday or a Tuesday we are very talkative and less attentive, but then the next day and the rest of the week are okay. Hopefully this is just a beginning of the year thing and it will wear off.  

Language Arts -  This week we are reading My Camel is a Librarian. This is informational text which I think is interesting but the students not so much.  It talks about some remote and isolated places in the world that do not have access to internet or books.  This story tells about the creative ways people have figured out to get the books to the.  One is by camel, elephant, boat, wagon pulled by donkey, and through the mail.  I try to tell the students how lucky they are to have a school with a classroom bookshelf, a library and also a public library. I also point out the electronic devices they can read books on.  We talked about them having access to books pretty much 24/7.  Of course they are not too impressed with this.  They did feel bad for the kids who didn't have books though.  On spelling this week their list was on short i and long i words.  In grammar they reviewed quotation marks.  

Math - We have talked about comparing numbers this week.  They are using the symbols <,> and =.  They have also learned how to put numbers in correct order.  The only struggle they have is paying attention to which order to put them: greatest to least or least to greatest.  We have done some activities this week using dice and a deck of cards to show place value and comparing numbers.  I think I have made it fun for them.  We will move on today with a new lesson.  I do have some kids who need to make corrections on some homework.  I think they are just going through the homework too quickly to get it done and not focusing on doing it well.  They will always get it back to correct with me, so maybe they will learn to take their time.

Social Studies- This week we have talked about the 3 levels of government.  The students were divided into groups.  Each group was assigned a branch of government to read about.  The group was to take some notes over important information about that branch.  The next day they were grouped again but in different groups.  One member from each branch was matched with a member from the other two and they had to teach each other about the branches. This puts the students accountable for their learning and not just the teacher teaching in the front of the room.  I did put photos on the Facebook page to show them working in.  They worked hard on taking notes from each other. Tomorrow we are going to learn about Time Zones.

I am trying very hard to pay attention to how much homework I am giving the students.  I do not want them to be bombarded with it at home.  But I also need them to show me they can work independently and show the knowledge they are gaining.  There are things we do in class as a class and things I expect them to be able to do on their own.  This is when I figure out if a student is struggling.  I hope everyone has a great Balloon Days Weekend!  Hopefully everyone gets to see the balloons go up at least once. Art this week was the students creating a picture with hot air balloons.  My kids are coming home so I am happy to have a full house again!

Remember NO SCHOOL MONDAY, September 18th!

God Bless,
Mrs. Sickels

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dear Parents,
     Happy Thursday!!  It's a short week this week!  I hope everyone had a great long weekend!  My older girls and I went to Chicago for the weekend!  We had a very nice time.  Always enjoy the long weekend!!  The kids were a little crazy on Tuesday.  I think excited to be back in the room together, but very talkative!!  I spent a lot of time trying to quiet them.  I asked them to go home have a good night but come back tomorrow with a better "school" attitude.  They did just that!  Wednesday was definitely a better day. 

Language Arts - This week we read My Brother Martin.  This is a biography about Martin Luther King, Jr written by his sister.  She tells the story of their childhood and what events led Martin to be the leader he became.  Some students already knew the reason behind him becoming a Civil Rights leader, some did not.  We are working on the 4 kinds of sentences in grammar. Your students have practiced declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory statements.  Spelling list this week is over short e and long e.  I know this has been a short week but they will be taking a spelling post test and end of week assessment on Friday like normal.

Math - We have been working on Place Value this week.  We have talked about the correct way to say numbers, place value positions, values of numbers using place value and the base 10 system as a whole.  The students are doing well so far.  We will see for sure after I get their first assignment.  This entire first chapter is focusing on place value.  It will get a little rough when we begin estimation and rounding.  Students understand how to round a number but when rounding very large numbers it gets difficult.  

Social Studies - This week we are learning about the Native Americans that were here in North America before Columbus arrived.  We have talked about the 2 major theories of how those Native Americas got here. We talked about them using the Bering Strait, which was a land bridge that connected Russia with Alaska.  We also talked about the fact that they may have just used a boat to get here.  I introduced some explorers to them.  These men were exploring the new land to see what they could find.  Most all explorers were looking riches. They also wanted to find to claim for their home country.  Next week we will be moving on to talk about government.  We just talk about the 3 branches of government and what they do for us.  We do not go to deep.

Tomorrow the kids are encouraged to support "Iowa" by wearing their favorite Iowa team.  The big Cy-Hawk game is on Saturday.  You can also represent UNI if you like.  It is a "Spirit" day tomorrow.

I hope all of you have a great weekend.  Have a safe trip if you are headed up to the big game.  It's an early one!  I am going up to spend the day with my kids.  Also, I hope all of you are enjoying this wonderful weather.  Temperatures have been pretty perfect.  It can't last forever.  It will either get extremely hot or cold one or the other.  We won't be spoiled long.

God Bless,
Mrs. Sickels