May 4, 2018

Dear Families,

I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with families in conferences in March and April. If you have not yet scheduled your conference, please let me know your availability, so we may meet together. I always enjoy sharing students’ progress with families.

We have been busy in these last few weeks. In Reading and Writing, students have begun a new project: a book review. Students have all picked a book that they would like to read and review in writing. When all students have finished their book review, I’ll collate all of the reviews into a big “Summer Reading Recommendation” packet, so students may read their peers’ recommendations and perhaps be inspired to read some of the books which have been “advertised.”

Math MCAS testing in Grade 3 is scheduled for this THURSDAY AND FRIDAY, May 10 and 11. MCAS is an untimed test, so students will be allowed all the time they need, within the confines of the school day. Like the English/Language Arts tests a few weeks ago, the tests will be taken on computers. Hopefully this will feel like “old news” for Team1, having successfully navigated the first two ELA sessions. We’ll mention the next sessions this week briefly, and again build a “tool kit” of strategies to help students feel comfortable during the actual testing. Again, please join me in helping your child realize the many strengths that he or she brings to the testing. ***It would be helpful to encourage your children to get a good night’s sleep and eat a hearty breakfast, and to bring two snacks - one for before the test, and one for afterwards. There will be no homework on Wednesday or Thursday. Please let me know if you have questions, or if your child may be feeling especially anxious about the testing.

Students have also enjoyed Math lessons in Fractions and are just beginning their work with Metric measurement. This past week, students used pattern blocks to find equivalent fractions, to find which fractions combined to make one whole, and then played a game in which they raced a partner to “build” several hexagon “wholes” from fractions. In addition, students have been learning to find a fraction of a set by drawing and coloring sets of balls, and by solving real world problems. Last, students learned about the difference between grams and kilograms, learned about their place in the Metric “Family” (as opposed to the U.S. Customary “Family,”) held a gram and a kilogram’s worth of weight in their hands, used a pan balance to weigh classroom objects using grams, and estimated the weights in grams or kilograms of several objects.

In Social Studies, we have been learning about the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Students just finished our exciting historical fiction book, The First Shot. We began our formal study of the war by completing an anticipation guide - a set of statements which students rated as true or false, based on their knowledge before reading about the events leading up to the war. We are now reading nonfiction test about the causes of the Revolutionary War, about Loyalists and Patriots, and we have learned about the Boston Massacre (and Paul Revere’s famous copper etching of that event, somewhat altered in order to convince Boston’s colonists to sympathize with the Patriots!) and about the Boston Tea Party. We will continue our work, stopping to look back at our anticipation guides and see what is really true about these historical events! Thank you for your help in returning your child’s permission slip, so that everyone may enjoy our upcoming field trips and learn more about the Revolutionary War.

Our Science work has involved learning about the force of gravity! Students participated in a STEAM engineering challenge to build a cart which could roll a certain distance using plastic disks, index cards, binder clips, plastic axles, straws, popsicle sticks, and tongue depressors - along with a lot of tape! I was impressed with each group’s efforts to plan, build, test, and then rebuild and retest their carts, until they met the challenge, given the materials allowed and the constraints they had! To prepare for this engineering event, students enjoyed lessons which involved rolling first cups, and then disks and axles down a ramp. They were given different challenges to change the movement of their cups and wheel-and-axle systems. This preparation helped them as they figured out how to build their carts; at first, some groups attempted to tape a wheel-and-axle system onto an index card, but they realized quickly that this set-up made it so the wheels would not turn, but merely slide. They then set to work with the binder clips, straws, and tongue depressors, finding several different ways to help the axles turn freely as the cart traveled the required distance! It was exciting to see their ideas set in motion (literally)!

**Though we are not yet at the year’s end, our pencil supply and tissue supply are dwindling. If it is possible for your family to send in a box or two of either of these crucial items, I would so appreciate your donations! Thank you so much!

Enjoy the week!


Kristin Murphy

April 4, 2018

Dear Families,

Spring has sprung! I hope you are enjoying the more temperate snow-free weather. Team 1 is happy to be outside consistently, after our rainy and snowy days. Please help your child to make a good choice when dressing in the next few weeks, as we are likely to have some colder days mixed in with the warmer days. It might be best to dress in layers, as our heat sometimes doesn't adjust for the weather in the first warmer days of spring... Thanks so much for helping your third grader dress so he or she is comfortable!

We have been busy in the last few weeks. In Reading and Writing, students have begun to learn about how to write an informational essay, after reading one or two texts. We are using the “TREE” mnemonic from our opinion writing to guide us, but we will eventually learn a new informational mnemonic - TIDE. I’ll provide more details about this mnemonic and students’ informational writing as the spring progresses. They have enjoyed sharing their own drafts with the class, as well as examining other “exemplar” essays, to make sure all of the “parts of the recipe” are included in the essay. Our reading has focused on answering comprehension questions, in preparation for next week’s MCAS state testing.

MCAS testing in Grade 3 will begin in next week, on Wednesday and Thursday. MCAS is an untimed test, so students will be allowed all the time they need, within the confines of the school day. Typically, most students work for 60 - 90 minutes. The tests will be taken on computers, which is new for third grade students, though students have practiced keyboarding in school and at home. We have also completed some practice questions and some specific review to help students when they are tested. This week, we have been talking about "tools" to put in one's tool kit; I plan to keep the mood light, positive, and as stress-free as possible, and I ask that you try to do the same at home. Please join me in not worrying overly about the testing, but simply encouraging your child to read for fun, get a good night's sleep and eat a hearty breakfast, as there will be no written homework on the nights preceding the MCAS. It would also be helpful to make sure your child brings two morning snacks to school - one for before the test, if needed, and one for afterwards. I have reminded students that every child in Massachusetts takes these tests, and all of the state's fourth graders and alive, well, and happy after having taken their third grade tests. I've told students I expect that this will continue to happen this year! :) Students will take the Math sections of the test in the second week of May. Please let me know if you have questions, or if your child might feel especially anxious about the testing.

Our work in Cursive handwriting will be exciting this week, as we have almost completed the whole lower case alphabet! Students will take the last weeks of the year to learn the capital letters, which are easily learned after all the lower case practice! Soon, we will have the fun of writing in cursive and knowing every letter!

Students have also enjoyed Math lessons in both Geometry and Fractions. I have chosen to teach these units concurrently (three days of fractions per week and two days of Geometry), since the two sets of concepts so directly relate to one another. Students have been involved with solving a "Four Triangle Challenge," in which they joined four paper triangles in many different ways to try and find every possible different polygon. Students worked together to check to see if their newly formed polygons were congruent to an already-discovered polygon ( learning what the term "congruent" means in the process). They then traced these polygons onto large paper and rotated their shapes around one vertex (learning the terms "vertex" and "vertices" and "rotation") to make a guessing game for the whole grade on our bulletin board. Students passing by the bulletin board will be able to try and guess which of the polygons on our chart made each student's rotation design, and which vertex on that polygon was the vertex around which the students rotated the polygon. Another project was learning to fold an origami-style "geometry vocabulary book," during which I taught students several geometric terms, and then writing some geometric terms in each of the resulting folded "sections" of the book. I have chosen to do this project each year, beca\use I want students to really WANT to open up their accordion-style origami book to find the meaning of their terms. Students also used a set of fifteen quadrilaterals to solve several Riddles, with three or four clues. They narrowed down their quadrilateral cards with the addition of each clue, and finally ended with one card - the "mystery quadrilateral." Students will continue with this project by writing their own riddles. Our fraction work this week has included a fantastic "Fraction Museum!" Groups of two or three students had fun folding string into equal fractional parts, pouring colored water into cups to represent their fraction exhibit's fraction, folding construction paper of various sizes, and splitting up homemade play dough into equal parts. We will display each exhibit (the thirds, fourths, sixths, sevenths, eighths, and tenths...) and student on Friday will walk around the “museum,” drawing and completing related work - noticing the relative size of each fraction at each “exhibit!” We have also made our own "fraction strips" for comparing fractions, and we are beginning to draw and use number lines with fractions. Soon, we will enjoy a bean bag game with fractions on a number line and bowls and cups of various sizes!

Our Social Studies study thus far has involved learning about Massachusetts - its state symbols, its government, and some of its history. Thank you to the parent chaperones who joined us on our recent visit to the State House! Students also have finished a group read-aloud of the book, Nicholas: A Massachusetts Tale, which is a fictional story of Nicholas, a mouse who embarks on a quest across Massachusetts to get the only other copy of his mouse family's family diary from his uncle, after his family's diary is destroyed in a flood in their Stockbridge, MA home (or should I say, hole!). Not surprisingly, the journey takes him to several important landmarks (I enjoyed hearing students pipe up excitedly that they knew where these landmarks were), and imparts important historical facts from Massachusetts’ history. Nicholas also meets several animal friends on the way, making this book fun for me to read, with different animal voices! After a pause to complete some science lessons, students will learn more about Massachusetts’ geography (and will remember the story of Nicholas and his journey), locating the various major rivers, mountains, reservoirs, cities, towns, bodies of water, and other physical and political features on our Massachusetts maps.

In Science, students have enjoyed several experiments with magnets - both with a partner, and one experiment demonstration (which caused a wonderful group “OHHH!!!” when the magnet tied to a string moved away from the magnet on the leg of a chair, and there was a visible gap between the magnets, making it look like the magnet was hanging in mid air. This surprising event helped us discuss and learn more about magnetic fields, and about the force of magnetism. This week, students have been learning more about magnetism, and also about gravity, by reading and taking “word web” notes while reading a non-fiction article about these two forces. This “research” will help us to do another magnetic experiment and a gravity experiment. I can’t wait to make corny jokes about the “force” being with us as we experiment!

Again, thanks so much for all you do for your third grader! Enjoy the week.


Kristin Murphy