CROSSING CURRICULa

We are combining our social studies and our science this month.  We are learning landforms in science and geography in social studies.  So we have been surrounded by maps.  

Landforms were introduced in lower school.  The students even made their own models.  So we are adding to what they already know and moving into more terminology.  By October, we will be ready to test on what we have learned.  Right now it is practice and play to help us remember what we are learning.  

We aren’t going to make model landforms, but we are going to be making some of our own maps.  

There are a lot of different types of maps. One the fourth graders always enjoy is the relief map, where they can run their fingers over the mountains.  This map was given to us by the Schroeder family before the girls were even in middle school.  We have great parent support.  

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Katelyn Gunter
PREPARING FOR A GREAT YEAR

Assessments

Assessments can come in many forms.  The fourth graders did some paper work and some activities to help me get a better understanding of each student.  At the same time, they were able to get an idea of how to work best in the fourth grade dealing with me.

We began by defining assessment.  as·sess·ment    (əˈsesmənt)   noun

  1. the evaluation or estimation of the nature, quality, or ability of someone or something."the assessment of educational needs"

  1. synonyms:  evaluation, judgment, rating, estimation, appraisal, analysis, opinion"a teacher's assessment of the student's abilities"

Tests can be scary because they involve a grade.  An early assessment shouldn’t be frightening because it just shows where you are, and you aren’t expected to already have all the knowledge.  

One fun assessment was balancing peacock feathers.  We discussed the center of balance and then, while the students tried activities with the feathers, I observed.  

We did a week of assessing to find out where we are, where we want to go, and what we need to do to get started.  

We also learned a few things along the way!

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Katelyn Gunter
Fantastic Final Week

The fourth graders have worked hard and behaved well the whole school year.  They were rewarded for the hard work and good behavior with some fun learning activities the last week of school. 

A sixth grader’s parent came and did some demonstrations on wind and air power.  Bernoulli’s windbags, dry ice bubbles and more.  What a great way to learn why airplanes fly and how we can use air to power things.

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We have talked about the center of balance all year, starting with nature’s balance toy, the peacock feather.  This week, we made our own balance toys with popsicle sticks, wire and metal washers.  Our main variable was the positioning of the wire.  We had to figure out how to get the popsicle stick to stand straight up.  It required following directions, observation, and some experimentation, but most of us figured it out quickly.

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The fourth graders enjoyed watching a film based on the “Cottingley Fairies” of 1917.  We discussed what it means to base a story on an actual event.  We talked about the time period, including W.W.I. and its effects, child labor, and children being expected to be adults around 12. We also used it to distinguish between fact and fiction and real and make believe.   

The fourth graders collected some items from nature and attached them with glue guns to create some fairy houses.  Some of our balance toys were dressed to resemble fairies and placed in the tree above the house.  Of course, the first rain will displace them.  

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We researched dinosaurs for 30 minutes, and then we personified them, by having the student pretend to be that type of dinosaur and tell us all about him or herself.  

One student suggested that we each paint a picture, so everyone was given a small canvas, and then allowed to paint.  The subjects of our paintings varied greatly.  One was a rainbow colored dinosaur skull, and another was a realistic puffin on a rock.  

We also did M&M fractions, chess, Mastermind, a jigsaw puzzle, extreme dot to dots, word finds, and other activities suggested by the students in our class.   

We enjoyed the last three days of 4th grade celebrating some of the things that we learned and spending quality time with one another.

Pat Wagy
End of Year Activities

4th Grade End of the Year Comments    We do some fun things during the year, but the fourth grade tries to concentrate on curriculum, until we get to the end of the school year.  Then, if we have accomplished most of our goals, we add some extras.  These are some of this year’s end of the year features, and reasons why I love teaching at St. James.

Red Nose Day Activities   The class discussed the mission of the Red Nose Day, and then came up with some ways that they, as fourth graders, could help make people aware of the disadvantages some children face.   

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One of our activities was to place rocks around the campus and in our community.  The rocks are painted bright red on one side to resemble the red noses.  The other side is white and has a small message.  

Our administration gave us permission to put red tape on the door handles around campus with signs that explain why the handles are red.  We discussed ways to keep the tape from coming in direct contact with the handles, so that the handles won’t be sticky when the tape is removed.  This helped us with learning to problem solve.  We also brainstormed of ideas that don’t involve parents or money, and the problem solving activities, have been beneficial. 

A Capybara for a Guest    One of our parents said that she knew someone with a pet capybara.  When the students saw a picture, they wanted to know if we could have the capybara come to the school.  It was arranged for the next Friday.

We researched capybaras and found that they are very friendly, large rodents.  Each student found ten facts, and then we shared our information.  

The following Friday, the capybara came to visit.  Baby Jinxx’s  owner told us more about capybaras and some very cute stories about the ones she has owned.  Baby Jinxx has his own webpage and followers.  

We discovered that our preconceived idea that a large rodent would be frightening was wrong.  Capybaras are very large rodents, and they are very friendly.  

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Less Stress Tests   St. James doesn’t give the high stress minimum skills tests that appear to put everyone at risk.  We do the Stanford Achievement, which lets us know where we are, measures progress, indicates if intervention might be needed, and helps us plan for what we want to achieve next year.  

With this type of testing we are able to put less stress on the students and hopefully, reduce test anxiety.  Most of our middle school students look forward to testing week.  More recess, more fun activities, less homework, more special treats.  They seem to understand that to receive all the benefits of testing week, they have to do their very best and concentrate on the tests during the morning hours.  This isn’t real difficult for them, since they do the same on their regular assignments all year.  But, this week, they are rewarded during the afternoons.  

A Trip to Mayo Brothers Manufacturing    We learned about running a company, designing and manufacturing furniture, and assembly lines.  It was educational and a lot of fun.  We were treated like VIPs.  Did I mention the owners are St. James graduates?

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A Trip to Micah’s Jewelry  The owner and his staff enriched our rocks and mineral unit by sharing with us information about precious metals and gemstones.  I can’t afford to have samples of these in our collection of rocks and minerals at school.  This is a great extension of our science program and a way to utilize local businesses for a in-town field trip.  It also rewarded our fourth graders for working so hard during testing week.

Pat Wagy
Trip to Jefferson, Texas

The fourth graders took our one, all-day field trip to Jefferson, Texas.  We spend the first part of the year concentrating on the curriculum.  Near the end of the year, we see if we have time for fun trips.  We’ve done well this year, so we went to Jefferson and are looking at taking some fun, educational in-town trips in May.

The trip to Jefferson reinforces some of what we learn in Texas history and some of our science.  It is also a good way for us to learn about this area of Texas.  

Before we went, we researched and discussed some of the things that we would see or hear about.  That increases the students' interest in what they are actually seeing.  I was very proud of their behavior and the intelligent questions they asked.

We did the Bayou Tour, the Historical Wagon Tour, walked around Jay Gould’s private cars, ate lunch at the bakery, went to the historical museum, the Museum of Time and Measurement, and finished at the old General Store.

One unexpected animal was mentioned on the Bayou Tour.  At one time, somehow, a capybara had made his way there.  One of our parents arranged to have a lady with her pet capybara come visit our classroom as a follow up.  What fun!

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Here are some of the comments our students wrote on their paper about the trip

I liked the bayou and the boat ride.  I also liked the Time Museum.J.B.

I liked going to the General Store and eating at the Bayou Bakery.  D.M.

I loved the trip.  I loved the General Store, and I also really loved the Time Museum. H.W.

I really liked the boat ride on the bayou.  I also liked the museum.  It had a lot of history. Z.B.

My favorite part was the horses and the Bayou Bakery.  S.C.

I liked the Bayou Boat Ride.  It was so interesting, and I had so many questions.  A.F.

My favorite part of Jefferson was the boat ride and hearing about Jefferson’s history. M.Y.

What I liked best about the trip to Jefferson was the boat ride.  A.B.

Pat Wagy