Class Description - Robert Price

Lincoln-Bassett Community School - Third Grade
New Haven Public Schools
New Haven, Connecticut - 1995 - 1996

Included throughout the description are links to examples &/or more information. This is a continual work in progress. Any and all input is welcomed via email. The Class Description is an evolution over the past ten years that is regularly updated.

What we do in Language Arts
The children are learning to read through a method called Whole Learning. Instead of the traditional approach of learning isolated skills in a specified sequence using a limited and controlled vocabulary, the Whole Learning method encompasses the entire language experience.

From the beginning, Whole Learning involves the children in all modes of communication and emphasizes learning in real life situations using the children's already highly developed vocabularies. Understanding the meaning of whole stories, usually from literature, and creation of their own stories are a natural progression. Skills are not learned as parts to eventually be fitted together as in the traditional approach. Instead language is developed as a natural and necessary activity to creating and understanding meaning.

The activities that your child does as a part of Whole Learning are described in the following pages. Please note that unlike the traditional approach, which focuses on a set of particular skills at a specific time, these activities involve all aspects of the curriculum - science, social science, art, reading, writing, listening, speaking, music and thinking.

Oral language - The children say, chant, sing, act out, read to each other and read to themselves what others have created and what we have created.

Reading - We enjoy together literature, student books, poetry and anything written in other areas of the curriculum, such as art, science, social studies, etc.

Silent reading - Everyone in the classroom (adults included - role modeling is a superb & must influence) read whatever interests them. Students choose a book that they can read fluently or with little help. They often write down what they read (characters, setting & plot) to encourage comprehension. Silent reading is a daily activity.

Reader's Workshop - Everyone in the classroom reads together and/or separately. They may read with each other, listen and read with audio (cassette & compact disc) books together or separate, read student created books, things they have written in their writing book or Writer's Workshop, etc.

Writing Books - When writing the first time about a subject or emulating a style, the student will write rough drafts in their writing books. Keeping their daily writing in a book provides the student and teacher an ongoing record of their progress.

Writer's Workshop - Students choose their own topics and write about them. The students write rough drafts and learn to edit (content, grammar, spelling) their writing with other students. Writing can include stories, poetry, letters, etc. The teacher models writing their own stories and how to assist each other with topics, editing, content, etc. Students will often publish their final writings into a book, poster, pop-up book, video or computerized presentation.

Oral reading by the teacher - The teacher reads literature, poetry, stories, songs and from other disciplines. The children will often chant, act out and read with the teacher. Reading material that is concurrent with student interests is a great hook into the land of reading and the classroom.

Science - Students will learn the proper scientific method of observation and recording. Students record in words and pictures science observations from hypothesis to conclusion. Experiments are presented to the whole class with hands on activities in small groups.

Student publishing - Created by the students based on current readings, subject matter presently being learned from all disciplines (language, social studies, science, etc.), local activities and current events (e.g. earthquake, weather, neighborhood or school activities). The books may include pictures and are available in-class for quiet reading time. Students will often publish their final writings into a book, poster, pop-up book, video or computerized presentation. Class books are created with each student contributing in words and/or pictures about a topic we are studying. Individual books are created by each student often resulting from Writer's Workshop.

Spelling - Children learn phonetic patterns that will be used in their daily writing activities (creative writing that offers an opportunity to check for understanding). Knowledge is gained during group time from the hearing, saying and feeling of sounds. Students generate lists of words with a particular sound orally and written in groups and individually. Creation of the word list is from students from a charade exercise. Non-phonetic sight words are added based on frequent use.

Note Taking - Students learn to write down ideas in words and pictures to be used in their studies and writing. They learn to use the note taking as a regular part of the day. Their note pads are available for use whenever an idea enters their thoughts that they feel has value to use in the future. The ideas are often integrated with their writing. The teacher often models note taking and use of the notes with his own writing.

Poetry Book - We learn poems from masters. We use the poems to learn various mechanics of language culminating in our own poems. The student's poems are influenced by the style of the master we are learning from. At the end of the year each student will have their own book with poems from the studied writers and their individual poems.

Dialectical Journal - Generated from the story or poem we are currently reading. Students will discuss the book then write in their dialectical journals. Entries include characters, setting and plot. This coincides with the reading homework. The purpose of writing character, setting and plot is so the student learns to know what they read. The second part is taking a sentence from the story and paraphrasing the sentence. The students also generate questions about things they wish to know more about or don't understand in the story.

Word banks - Student generated words from the writing theme we are discussing. The writing and words are an extension of the story or poem we are currently reading and learning about. The words are put up in the room in alphabetical order (done by the class) and a second set is loose for desk use.

Computer - Students create and compose on a regularly scheduled basis. The students learn keyboarding skills, word processing, simulations, programming (logo), digitalizing photographs, time lines, communication, and art on the computer. The students often work on the computer in pairs. Computers are used as a tool on a regular basis.

Junior Great Books - A method of learning about what we read through shared inquiry. The literature includes folk tales and poetry which is initially read to the class and followed by reading in pairs and individually. After various activities related to the story (drama, comparisons, write about, etc.), we then discuss the meaning of the story by considering interpretive questions. These questions are often created by the students.

Cooperative Learning - Students learn we all have talents to share and grow with. This philosophy promotes self-esteem and cooperative learning. This philosophy is promoted both as a class and in small group situations. Students are seated at tables with four or five students and often work in small groups promoting idea sharing. The purpose is to learn and benefit from cooperative efforts through sharing their diverse knowledge (four brains are better than one!).

Music - Songs are learned for enjoyment. Students will also learn meaning to selected songs lyrics. They will illustrate a book with the lyrics to increase enjoyment and learning meanings. As with poetry, we use the lyrics to learn various mechanics of language culminating in our own lyrics.

Art - Art is integrated into all parts of the curriculum. Students are taught the basics of drawing, color, use of the senses and observation skills, utilizing various mediums. Students learn from studying, emulation, and writing about the masters. Students learn and create early motion devices. This is the introduction to animation while learning sequencing. Students learn origami (paper folding) which stimulates understanding math concepts, following directions, and potentially their own creations. Students use drawing, painting, and photo software on computers. Highly recommended books include Mona Brookes book Drawing With Children (Jeremy Tarcher, Los Angeles) that is available in booksellers.

Geography - Students discuss, use sand as a manipulative, and write about the various types of geographic forms.

Problem Solving - Students write and draw solutions to real life problems, then apply them to their lives. An example is 'How do you stop a dog and a cat from fighting?'. They then apply the solutions to a situation with people.

Video - Each student will be recorded on video throughout the year. They will read from books, their own compositions, and storytelling. The recorded tapes will be seen and reviewed by the class. Positive aspects and areas to improve will be discussed with the class or in small groups when reviewing each student's tape. The students will learn to operate the video camera. The students will learn storyboarding skills culminating in their own productions. The students' foundation of animation, sequencing, and storyboarding is derived from making and using early motion devices including flipbooks, zoetropes, thaumatropes, and phenakistascopes.

What we do in Math

All our math activities revolve around teaching the concepts, skills and applications of all the strands in the mathematics curriculum. Areas of learning include number, measurement, patterns and functions, logic, algebra, statistics, probability and geometry. In the past, arithmetic was dominated by pencil and paper activities. This is no longer true. Currently children learn the various strands of mathematics through a combination of hands-on experiences, mental math exercises and written application of the learned concepts.

· Manipulatives - Using materials to explore, develop and increase understanding of math skills and concepts. Lima beans, unifix cubes, toothpicks and assorted objects are used to feel and learn the concept of numbers. Adding, subtracting, multiplication and number families are all introduced through manipulatives.

· Mental math - Each student has number tiles to use in answering word problems. The students are presented a word problem which they must compute mentally. They then show their answer to the teacher on the number tiles. The word problems encompass all subject areas. Mental math develops good listening habits and promotes the ability to quickly solve math problems.

· Number families - Children write the various number families to develop understanding of number relationships. Initially the students continue building their foundation of the addition / subtraction number families. When + & - computation is a confident part of the students' knowledge, we begin exploration of the multiplication / division number families.

· Estimating - It is here that the children practice the math skill that is required most frequently in daily life. They learn techniques for making a guess and how to improve or adjust their guesses for greater accuracy.

· Measuring -Children learn to measure through the making of their own rulers and units of measurement before using standard units of measure. They measure objects around them and create objects using measurements.

· Patterns - Students learn how math is patterns and how to apply the knowledge to everyday use.

· Computation - The written computation skills will be practiced in-class with problem solving that complements the current strand in math. Areas include adding, subtracting, borrowing, carrying, multiplying, division, graphing, word problems, number sequence, place value, etc.

· Word problems - Children solve and write their own word problems to learn how math and language work together. This integrates language while presenting a real life application of mathematics.

· Graphing - We learn about creating graphs for comparison and contrast of the graphed subject.

· LOGO - Students use the computer program LOGO to learn manipulate geometry and estimating.

· Origami (paper folding) - stimulates understanding math concepts such as fractions, estimating, and mesurement as well as following directions, and invention with their own creations.

An Integrated Approach
All areas of the curriculum are integrated in the learning environment. We use math skills to learn mapping, computer skills to improve editing, scientific observation skills to assist sequencing, music lyrics to learn language concepts, art sensory skills to generate adjectives, language skills to express and write mathematical problems, math knowledge to size art projects and proportion class books, etc.

Generally all areas of the curriculum are integrated through a common theme. For example, if the theme is the desert: In language our readings (literature and nonfiction) will be about the desert, our science experiments will be related to the desert, our social sciences will be about desert culture and land forms, our art will be desert influenced art and artists, etc. This creates a purpose and common thread throughout the learning experience

Homework
Each week your child will receive Reading Records on Monday (Tuesday if there is a holiday on Monday). They are expected to remember to take a set of four Reading Records home each Monday for Monday through Thursday evenings. They are to read a book(s) for 20 - 40 minutes. I would appreciate them reading with someone in the family. They may read the book to a family member or listen to a family member read the story to them. Doing both would be best. When they have finished reading the book they are to fill in the Reading Record.

· the day, date, and the times they began and finished (for example: 4:30-5:00).

· who they read with (for example: I read with my dad).

· the title of the book they read.

· the author and illustrator (for example: written by Arnold Lobel & illustrated by Maurice Sendak)

· list and describe the characters in the story (list all people and animals that are part of the story).

· write and draw what happens in the story or draw a story map in words and pictures.

The information written on the Reading Record will change throughout the year. The students will always be modeled how to do the Reading Record in class. If they have a question they should ask me or another student. The student is to do all the writing on the Reading Record. If additional paper is needed they may write on another piece of paper (from home or school). The back side of the Reading Record will have different assignments including writing, problem solving, math, drawing, and other home assignments.

They may read books from home, the New Haven Public Library, the school library, and my personal collection in the classroom. Books from the classroom may be checked out each night. Classroom books must be returned the following morning. On Friday (Thursday if there is a holiday on Friday) your child is to turn in a completed Reading Record at the beginning of class. They are to remember it themselves, not expect their parent to bring it to school!

It is very important to practice reading each night. Your child should not do the whole Reading Record in one night. It is important to read Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for homework. There will be other things to do at home during the school year. Even when there are other things to do at home, the Reading Record is to be completed each night after reading a book. If you have any questions please stop by the classroom or call me. Thank you.

Robert Price

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