May Newsletter

May 10, 2015

Thank you

May is a month that requires a huge amount of parent participation and I feel so much gratitude for your willingness to step up to the plate. We have 9 parent volunteers going with us as chaperones to NatureBridge. Recently, Tricia Kurtzman has been moving all our little mini-makers forward with coding instruction using our Arduinos. With Peter Vesnesses' co-teaching this past Friday, the students were able to program a buzzer/speaker to play musical notes. There was a lot of experimenting with variables, cutting & pasting, etc. Elise and Emma produced a very recognizable version of Mary Had a Little Lamb with our knowledgable parents' assistance. Others were busy creating their own "music".

I also want to sincerely thank you for all you have done to make our testing sessions the best that they could be. I appreciate your children's daily attendance and lack of tardiness. The snacks have been so perfect! I can't tell you how much joy they bring the students. A special thank you to Heidi Blair, our room mother, who has arranged for these substantial treats.

Outdoor Ed

Hard to believe it is true, but we will be leaving for NatureBridge a week from Wednesday. Tomorrow your child will bring home some additional salmon-colored papers (Outdoor Ed -related content) including two behavior contracts. Please be sure to promptly return the signed contracts after discussing the rules with your child. We will be doing a packing demonstration on Monday, May 18. We want to make sure every child knows what to bring on the bus in their daypack and what to pack in their bus-loaded luggage.

I must say that each child, teacher, and administrator headed to NatureBridge is looking forward to this trip. Every group of students that we take enjoys our stay at Lake Crescent, but we just know this group will love it.

How-To Guides and Books of Choice

Students should now have a topic, three sources, and a semi-completed storyboard. The official due date is May 29, but whenever a student completes his/her project I will schedule their presentation to the class. Noah is the first to finish and he will have a chance to share next week. He made a Power Point presentation. Students can also use Explain Everything, Pic Collage/Keynote, or create a traditional paper book. Callahan used GoogleDocs to do his slideshow on Survival in the Pacific Northwest.

To complete the Luvtareed Reading Log as required, all students need to read five books of choice by June 9th. About half of the students have already met this expectation as they have read titles beyond the requirements all year. An extra mystery, additional realistic fiction, etc. I will be letting each child know how many books he/she needs to complete before the due date. Please be sure your child is reading nightly.


Greek Mythology is a popular unit of study and we read the easy-to-enjoy D'Aulaires stories. We have been listening to a CD for the last week or so as it has been relaxing for the children to have a respite from all the computer screen reading they have been doing as part of the SBA. Fourth graders love these stories of gods, goddesses, heroes and monsters. Kids are always fascinated by the idea that the heroes Perseus, Theseus, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, and Bilbo Baggins have so many things in common. Thank you, Joseph Campbell.


I had the students fill out 3x5 cards last Friday asking them to identify math content areas that they would like to investigate further (extensions) or areas in which they would like additional instruction (reteaching). That information will dictate instruction for our last month. They want more practice with fractions and decimal operations, the metric system, and long division. They want more exposure to algebraic problem solving especially order of operations.

We've had no opportunity to do JiJi this month as every device with internet capabilities has been utilized all day every day for the SBA. We will be putting some effort that direction as well.

We will also be doing a problem solving contest. It is called Athenian Secret. Students are teamed in sets of three. They give their team a clever Greek name and then start traveling around Athens solving math problems. For example, The Stoa of Attalus may have a number riddle. Geometry, logic, puzzles - 9 required and many more if your team finishes before the allotted half hour is over. Drachmas are earned for correct solutions. Competitive and fun.

Science - Water

We are starting a new science unit. Water. I am piloting a Next Generation kit and it looks great. We will begin this week. There are lots of experiments. Should be fun.

Smarter Balanced Assessments

I am so proud of your children. They arrive each day prepared to show all they know and to be shining stars. Their stamina, grace, and commitment have been admirable.

My support for the Common Core Standards is whole-hearted and unconditional. Sadly, I am not feeling the same reverence for the SBA. I've been here before with both the WASL and the MSP. Very challenging. Very lengthy. Too much. Too soon. I am sorry that your children are at the beginning of this process. I do know this - if we teach to the Common Core Standards using child-centered, research-based methodologies Blakley will continue to produce students who read and write well. They will have strong number sense and be capable problem solvers.

Assessments with the correct level of rigor and the exact number of questions needed to indicate mastery of a year's learning are very difficult to write. Creating questions without cultural bias is also challenging. Writing directions that are clear and succinct apparently is also tough.

The test will come to us or we will meet at some comfortable place in the current gap. This is my third time through this. With each year the test will become more reliable, more appropriate, and more helpful in guiding instruction. It's just a painful journey.

We only have two more sessions to go. Both Math. We were lucky and drew a great schedule. It is a blessing to end with your strength and this class is math STRONG thanks to ST Math, three years of Common Core instruction, Number Talks, Rich Math Task problem solving, and Math Olympiad coaching from parents and Mrs. McMahon. Parental support with homework and BSF/PTO funding have also been very helpful. Two thirds of the class (18 students) scored above the 90%ile on the Spring MAP. Sixteen of those were above the 95%ile. All those students were invited to take the test for placement in the Advanced Math classes to be offered to fifth graders.

The SBA results are scheduled to be back to us before the school year's end. Whether the scores validate your children's learning or not, I will celebrate their growth. They say that facing adversity together can create strong bonds. We have struggled together. We have learned together. I am deeply moved by their progress and their perseverance. They have mastered a ton of valuable content, but more importantly they have experienced the powerful emotions that one feels when you rise to a challenge and walk away knowing that you have truly done your best.

Upcoming Events

I want to give you some important dates in June to put on your calendar. Our Greek Play is on Weds., June 10. I know this conflicts with the BHS choir performance, but I have exhausted all other possibilities. Mr. Rothbaum's First and Second Grade Concert is the week before and this seriously limits our time to practice on the stage. Another event is scheduled for the 11th, so the 10th is it. Our performance will be at 7 pm. We will be doing a dress rehearsal that morning from 9:00 - 9:40 and those of you who cannot attend the evening performance are welcome to come then.

The following day, June 11, we will go to Skateland for an end-of-the-year party. We have the rink just for our class so it is a great time to learn to skate or own the rink depending on your skill level. Then on Monday, June 15, we will continue our quest for fun with a grade level trip to the Bainbridge Aquatics Center. Students need a license to swim in the deep end, so if you have been putting that off now is the time to take action.

Yes, my goal is to keep them busy, active, and enjoying every last second together.

A Look Back at April

We have done a great deal of writing all year long. I have attached Eli's, Cashmere's, and Owen's Rent-a-Relative pieces because the three of them wrote about their mothers and it seems fitting for today's mailing. If you recall, I mentioned at Back-to-School night that all the 4th grade teachers had asked their students to write a three reason essay persuading someone (student choice) to rent a member of his/her family. The results were ALL single paragraph and shall we say "not very impressive". The first week in April, I asked the students to respond to the same prompt. Just to document growth. They were great. Enjoy!