February 16, 2019
Dear Families,
We have had two weeks filled with hands-on learning experiences that I will share with you through photos.

Two weeks ago, we had an unbelievable experience visiting  the State House, Vermont Supreme Court, and History Museum. Students learned about the three branches of government and participated in a Mock Trial to learn how  a case is presented in front of the Supreme Court.

Here, five students were acting as judges preparing to hear about a case.
Two students had to defend their arguments before the court - one a defending attorney, the other a prosecutor. We learned that there are a lot of gray areas when interpreting laws.

Next, we enjoyed a self-guided tour of the VT History Museum, only having time to see perhaps half of the exhibits (this is a great place to visit over a vacation!) The highlight for most of us was exploring an Abenaki wigwam, complete with animal pelts, tools, baskets, and other artifacts to examine.

There was also an 18th century tavern, general store, cobbler shop, train depot and more with plenty of interactive materials to aide in our

At the VT Statehouse, we learned how a bill became a law. Students created a bill (Smoking should be prohibited around children) and followed it through the House and Senate Chambers until the governor signed it into a law.
Back at school, students sewed their own amulet pouches, similar to Abenaki ones -
they are a perfect size for a natural treasure, like a shell or feather.
We ended the week with a surprise - Jack's grandmother joined us for a satisfying afternoon of felting. We learned about the multi-step process of felting and created beautiful hearts, just in time for Valentine's Day!
These last two weeks were a perfect example of how the power of EXPERIENCES can drive and support learning - I wish all weeks could be like this!

We are onto our last week before our winter break - please, please, please, encourage your child to read over the long vacation, as well as get outside as much as possible to enjoy our beautiful winter wonderland.
Have a lovely break,

February 2, 2019
Dear Families,
 First off, a reminder: we have a field trip to the State House and museum this Tuesday, leaving at 9:30 and returning by 2:30. Please be sure to send in a bag lunch (unless you signed up for school lunch), drink (no glass) and a snack for this all day trip.

The last two weeks have been a bit chaotic with delays, cancellations, indoor recess, and our first Winter Wellness day. Despite the many interruptions, we have been learning up a storm! During literacy block, we have been analyzing the elements of Fairy Tales. Students have been partner reading many classic fairy tales and recording their observations in a table. This will lead us to understand which elements we need to include in our fairy tale rewrites, our next narrative writing piece.

Did you hear about the 5 Mystery Powders Science Lab? Students were such enthusiastic scientists last week when they had to use their observational skills to identify five white powders. Each student followed the scientific process of hypothesizing, writing a procedure, and making a conclusion based on recorded data.

In preparation for this week's field trip, we will be discussing the three branches of government and learning how a bill becomes a law. Students will have an  experience of this on Tuesday, as well as participating in a mock trial.
Enjoy the snow and warming temps this weeknd!

I have many pictures to share with you from all the active learning:

 Small groups of students carefully added water, vinegar or iodine to each powder.
Then, they recorded their observations. Below are some reactions the white powders had.
You can imagine the excitement as powders began to change!!

Here, a group is teaching others about types of food the Abenaki would have eaten.

 (Dark picture due to zoom)
Students are teaching all 3/4s about Abenaki clothing, using self-made puppets.

 A young K is learning how items in nature were used as medicines hundreds of years ago.

  A model of an Abenaki Long House drew lots of attentions during our Learning Fair.

January 10, 2019
 Dear Families,
 Happy New Year! Hopefully, your life has returned to a normal routine after the frenzy of December. I have a picture to share with you from our last week in school - it was such a  whirlwind that I forgot to post it as the holiday descended on me (and my broken foot).

Here we are after opening the many  amazing gifts we exchanged. Students really out did themselves with making their gifts which included sewing pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals, making games, ornaments, name tags and jewelry. It was a perfect way to end the year!
As an entire school, we are beginning the new year with a focus on Kindness. Each morning, every class writes kindness notes to any member in the school community. In the afternoon, we get daily letters delivered to us! This emphasized focus on choosing to be kind has encouraged more conversations about how we want to be treated and how small acts, such as a smile or helping hand, can go a long way to change our environment. I also introduced another new routine for the year - every Friday students are encouraged to promote a favorite book during a "Book Talk". Here is one of my voracious readers talking about a recent book she read which focused on an immigrant child's experience moving to the US.

  This past week, I finished assessing all my students in reading. I will be reporting each child's progress on the upcoming report card, which will be sent home at the end of this month. There were many gains in reading fluency and comprehension. Students are asked to think beyond the text to analyze and synthesize new knowledge - higher level thinking skills, for sure! Nightly reading and discussing what is being read is vital to helping your child become a successful reader.

During Literacy block, we have been learning how texts are organized. Students have practiced honing their skills in cause and effect, problem/solution, comparing/contrasting, and following step-by-step directions. This week, we will begin to use those skills when reading multiple Fairy Tales. This long unit of study will allow students to analyze texts within a genre. We will then use this knowledge to rewrite a fairy tale for our narrative writing unit.

We are in the final stage of our Native American Investigation. Students in both Mrs. Emmons' class and ours have been researching self-selected topics to find out more about the Abenaki in Vermont. This week, students will be working on creating a visual model to show what they learned. We are hoping to present our findings at a Learning Fair during the week of January 28th - I will let you know the specifics of this presentation when we solidify the details. I am also in the process of setting up a field trip to the Vermont History Museum and State House in Montpelier. This trip will probably be at the end of January/beginning of February. Permission slips will be coming home soon - we will need a couple of parent volunteers to join us.

Finally, our wonderful Winter Wellness program will begin on Friday, January 25th. Notes about this program went home last week. Please be sure to return the Permission forms ASAP so we can coordinate whee students will be spending their Friday afternoons.

Despite to chill, there is plenty of sun and snow outside - I hope you get a chance to enjoy it! (My walking boot should come off this week - perhaps I will be out on the trails soon).
Be well,

December 11, 2018
Dear Families,
 Time has slipped away from me - sorry for the delayed Newsletter. Perhaps you heard about my latest exploit - I am now walking in a boot with crutches after breaking a foot bone while.... vacuuming! Housework IS dangerous and should be avoided?!?  My students had a blast writing stories of how they thought I broke my foot. Some had me midnight skydiving, sledding, and dancing while others blamed my dog/cat, an icicle, and laundry! I love their creativity!

We have launched a  Social Studies investigation on who were the first people in VT. Judy Dow, an Abenaki historian, visited last Friday and astounded us with her display of Abenaki technology - things that make lives better. She explained a bit about the glaciers which created our great lake and many VT rivers and how the Abenaki settled near water so that they had a food/water source nearby. We learned about the use of many tools and held authentic artifacts, some from 10,000 years ago, including grinding stones, animal skins, woven baskets, beaded moccasins, and many more. At the end of the presentation, Judy taught us how to make cordage out of raffia, or dried grasses. Students are so eager to learn more about the Abenaki. We brainstormed a list of questions and will begin researching with partners in the coming weeks. Here are some pictures from Judy's presentation:
 Judy is showing us many Abenaki artifacts.
Here is an obsidian knife made from VT materials.
Students practice cording, which is as strong as a rope.
Math News: Our ingenious Mr. Hedler has created a website where students can practice math facts - addition/subtraction/multiplication/division. Students are encouraged to work on these in their spare time to help with automaticity. Here is the link:

Lastly, we are celebrating the holidays with a Cookie Making and Decorating Party on Thursday, Dec. 20th. The students voted on this during our Election unit. On Friday the 21st, we will exchange our homemade Secret Snowflake gifts.  Last week, a  note went home  with suggestions for making a homemade gift making (no food please).Students are to bring in their wrapped gift with their Secret Snowflake's name on it - not signed. We have fun guessing who made each gift during the opening. Let me know if anyone would like to send in cider or gluten free cookies for Friday's party.
I hope your home  is still calm during this exciting time of year!
Enjoy the spirit of the season with your families,
Be well,

November 20, 2018
Dear Families,
It was an absolute pleasure meeting with many of you during the last two weeks. I  support and depend upon the home/school partnership we establish during parent conferences. Thank you for your time.

Last Thursday, I was taken aback by the professional presentation my class did in from of the All School Assembly. All students stood in front of the entire school and many spoke confidently about their stream research. The entire student-led assembly was very impressive and we received many compliments from the audience. Ask your child what they did to present. Here is our Stream Mural, which is hanging in the hallway entering our wing. I hope you have a chance to see it soon.

Today, we read about the first Thanksgiving, learning about the difficult year the Pilgrims had which resulted in the grateful, harvest feast. Here is a list of items that my 3/4 graders are thankful for (notice we have been woring on adjectives!)
        We are Grateful For.....
            • our kind, loving families
            • hot, warm pie
            • bright, sparkly decorations
            • cute, loving pets
            • a dry,warm bed
            • comfy, colorful clothes
            • generous, loving grandparents
            • yummy, juicy turkey
            • a soft, cuddly puppy
            • interesting, good books
            • thoughtful, caring friends
            • active, fun sports
            • traveling to comfy homes
            • sweet, caring Mrs. Costello
            • joyful, exuberant students!
Enjoy the holiday with your families - hope you get a minute to yourselves  : )  !
Be well.

November 4, 2018
Dear Families,
 Next week, we will be meeting to talk about your child's progress to date (see the conference link below). I wanted to focus today's newsletter on how reading is taught in 3/4th grade. This year, whenever students read silently  - 30 minutes every day-they are reading with a specific purpose in mind. This is called Close Reading.  "Close reading is a skill that requires students to determine purpose and notice features and language used by the author so that they can think thoughtfully about the details of the text and why they were used".    I use mentor texts and our read aloud to model the skills we are working on for the week. We use sticky notes to track our thinking while we read. Students look for parts that are funny, upsetting, surprising, confusing, or important in their stories. Once a week, students write about their thoughts in a reading journal and are required to provide evidence from the story to support their thoughts. I write back to them to continue the individual dialogue about their reading. This week, we will be noticing how the main character talks and acts and try to form a theory around their personality traits. Students are learning that authors are intentional about giving us clues about characters. When we track a character, we can notice when a character changes and grows in a story.  That is a lot to do while reading  - it is an active process! While home reading should be for enjoyment, you should often ask your child about the characters, problems, and author's craft that they are noticing  in their story and how they know (evidence).  I will be showing you your child's reading journal and asking about their home reading habits. I look forward to our conversation!
Be well,

 Our BMI mural is almost complete - we hope to show it off for Parent Conferences.
 These girls are acting out how the brain works during Guidance class.
 One excited child was able to play  "the prefrontal cortex"!

October 29, 2018
Dear Families,
Parent conferences will be held during the week of November 12th ( no school that day). I am offering conferences on the 12th, the afternoon of the 13th, and before school on the 14th and 15th. Please sign up for a conference time - I look forward to seeing you then!

October 21, 2018
Dear Families,
 What a full two weeks we have had accompanied by more warm days followed by frost! Many of my students were "caught in the cold" during recess expecting short sleeve weather and getting a chilly rain instead. I am reminding them to bring layers to school as we have many more transition days ahead of us. ( I always have a pair of mittens in my jacket just in case).We have settled into our school routine and have begun to engage in many academic routines: 

    During our literacy block on Wednesdays, students have been introduced to Readworks, a short, leveled reading article accompanied by comprehension questions. This week, we learned how to begin a written answer by taking part of the question as a starting point. Students read and answer questions on their own. Then,after I score the answers, we meet as a group to discuss our reading thinking.  We have also been focusing on finding text evidence to support our answers. Have you heard about our new read aloud, Matilda  by Roald Dahl? Read alouds are a time for modeling many reading lessons, such as making predictions. Students sit next to an assigned reading partner, turn and talk about parts of the text, and jot vocabulary into a reading journal. We also have talked about setting weekly Reading Goals. Each child chooses a goal to work on that will improve his/her reading skills and records progress made in the reading journals. Reading is NOT a passive activity!

    We continue to work on our Benthic Macro Invertebrate research books during writing block. Students  are learning how to take written information from websites or articles and writing it in their own words - a challenging task for sure! We have also begun to create illustrated food webs, following the flow of energy from the sun to producers and consumers.

    Spelling began last week - your child was placed in one of three groups based on an earlier assessment. Twice a week, students work in collaborative groups to identify specific spelling patterns from a series of words. Written practice is recorded in a notebook - students have a Choice Board of Activities to help them remember the spelling patterns ( ask your child about "Michelangelo!"). Third graders are excited to use an online spelling program, Spelling City, which uses games created with their word lists to help with their practice. They take an online spelling quiz at the end of the unit. Occasionally, I will give a traditional paper spelling quiz as well.

    A note to 3rd grade Math Families: Last week, I sent home a packet of math games, as well as a recording sheet. Students were asked to play at least one game at home, record it on the sheet and return it to school on Monday. This is homework and should be a fun way to practice skills.

That is all for now — below is a picture from our 1st 4 Winds lesson on Leaf Eaters and Food Webs.
 Be well,

October 7, 2018
Dear Families,
 I hope you are enjoying the extended Columbus Day weekend with your families. This Wednesday, we will be hosting our Open House from 5 - 6pm. I look forward to reconnecting with last year's parents, as well as meeting this year's families. Your child is eager to show off our classroom, as well as their personal learning.
This past week, we...
  • learned how to write about our reading thoughts in our new Reading Journals
  • made an anchor chart showing the different features between fiction and nonfiction texts
  • solidified our understanding of adjectives and wrote a "self-poem" using many descriptive words
  • cut out magazine picture to create posters of 3-word phrases
  • took a survey which helped us determine our learning strengths and then drew pictures of our "smarts"
  • continued to test out our catapults by moving the fulcrum to change the force of thrust
  • discovered more facts about our Benthic Macro Invertebrates for our research booklets
  • (3rd grade students) identified the attributes of 2d and 3d shapes; identified number patterns; learned about various graphs and how to make them

Here are a few pics of our Engineering experiment. See you on Wednesday!
Be well,
PS I forgot to mention that we are collecting non-perishable food items for the Middlesex Food Shelf during the entire month of October. Please send in any food items to help support our food shelf!
Suggested items :
 3rd/4th grades – Tuna, canned meats (such as beef stew, sausage, ravioli), canned soup, convenience food (mac and cheese, other boxed foods).

 These engineers used popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a recycled soda cap to build a catapult.
We adjusted the fulcrum to test the launch force - pom poms flew everywhere!

September 23, 2018
Dear Families,
    Happy autumn!  What a relief it is to have cooler temperatures after our unusually long, hot summer. We have had three fans constantly on during the school days trying to circulate some air, but mostly just causing excess background noise - I am looking forward to quieter weeks ahead. 
    We continue to  add more academics to our schedule while still learning new routines. Students are working on two writing pieces as an introduction to our Writing Workshop. Children wrote a letter to themselves describing  goals they have for the coming year. Goal setting will be a common occurrence for us which will help students identify and track their learning objectives. The intent is for students to have ownership of their learning. We are also writing creative poems about ourselves in a unique way - we look forward to showing these off during Open House (October 10th, I believe).
    I will be assessing students' reading abilities this week. Reading instruction has changed a lot since we were in school. Students are now expected to analyze texts, make connections, notice structures, and be able to cite evidence for their thinking. In class, we have been talking about how to choose a "just right book", discussing different genres, and learning how to write about our reading. During a Reader's Workshop session, students are introduced to a reading skill and then asked to practice it in their own book. While students silent read, I will be meeting with small groups to work on solidifying specific reading needs. At times, students will be meeting with our reading interventionist, Jessica Kobb, to gain more practice in reading.
    We continue to learn about the health of the Shady Rill. During our second visit to the stream, students learned how to use kick nets to collect invertebrates.  Working in small groups, they had a key which helped to identify the various BMIs we found. In class, we tallied our finds and discovered that the Shady Rill is indeed a very clean stream! There is a lot of new vocabulary we are learning during this exploratory unit, "benthic, metamorphosis, predators, pollution tolerance, and adaptations" to name a few. In the coming weeks, students will choose an invertebrate to research and report on in the form of an informative booklet. Here are some pictures from our latest visit to the stream:
These scientists are using a key to help identify a BMI.

Checking a kick net for any signs of life.
A day of joyful discoveries at the Rill!
We harvested our carrots from last spring....
... then washed them,
and cut them up for roasting!
Enjoy the cooler temperatures and the coming fall beauty!
Be well,

September 6, 2018
Dear Families,
    Welcome to the new school year! It is a joy to be back working with your children! I am sure your child has shared some news from our class as we work towards building a community of respectful, collaborative partners in learning. Last week, I sent home our weekly schedule, our homework policy, and my contact information. Nightly Reading Homework should have started! I will only send home paper news if there is a field trip permission slip to be signed. All other class news will be posted here.

    During the last few (HOT) days, students have been engaged in team building activities that challenged them while strengthening our problem solving and persevering skills. Some activities included building towers using only spaghetti, tape, and one marshmallow and passing hula hoops in a closed ring of hands. We have also been playing games to help us get to know our likes and dislikes. We are slowly introducing academics and have begun our daily 30 minutes of silent reading, as well as an extended 90 minute math class. Today, we launched our first science unit studying the Shady Rill.  Before we visited the stream students pondered questions such as:
  • what lives in it? 
  • how do we know it is clean?
  • where does it start and end?
  • how did it get its name?
We will be studying maps, researching critters that live in the stream, as well as obtaining water data to answer some of our questions. I will send home a permission slip when we plan another visit to the Shady Rill.
Here are a few pictures from the last two weeks of discovery:
We are reading in our Nature's Classroom during an especially hot afternoon.
Students work together to come up with class rules that support the Big Four school rules.
Teams are working collaboratively to build the tallest spaghetti tower.
This team realizes the importance of a triangular base.
We had a long afternoon searching under rocks and along the shore for signs of life in the stream.

Next week, we have a Class Curriculum Night on Thursday, Sept. 13th. The 3/4 time will be from 6 - 6:30. I will be talking to all the 3/4 parents, including Mrs. Emmons' (she has a conflict with this date), about our yearly curriculum. This will be very similar to last year's presentation. You can email me any questions you might have about the curriculum or school year and I will do my best to have an answer for you on the 13th. We also have an Open House scheduled for October-hopefully I will see you during one or both of those times!
Be well,

A note from the office:
 It is highly recommended that you use Pick Up Patrol when making changes to your child's end of day plans. We have had some conflicting information from students who think they are going somewhere else at pick up which results in buses leaving later, as well as upset kiddos.Thank you!

May 22, 2018
Dear Families,
 This will be my last correspondence with you this school year. I am saddened to be leaving my sweet group of students before the end of the year. We have all learned from and grown with each other ~ it has been a joyful, full year! Sylvan Ross will be writing the newsletters as she finishes up the last four weeks of school. If you need to contact her you can email her at :

Today, we saw the last of the Quest Projects and they were truly amazing! Students gave well-rehearsed presentations and spoke like experts on their topics.While many are still writing the final copy of their research papers in school, all agreed that the long term assignment was a great learning experience.  Here are a few pictures from the presentations:

One student learned that food can be art - this is a Bento Box.
We learned some tips on how to train service dogs from an expert.
The Battle of Gettysburg was explained using a 3-d model.
Harry Houdini should have magic tips from this aspiring magician who "inserted" an entire Q-Tip into his ear!
We learned that sand can be green, pink, black, and even orange due to the minerals in the ground. 
Next year, I hope to include more student-selected research into our yearly learning.

Students in Señora Donovan's Spanish class voted on and raised money to protect anacondas. Here is a picture of our new "class pet"! 

 Thank you for all your home support this year! Please encourage your child to READ over the summer vacation, as well as revisit multiplication fact practice.
My plan as of right now is to be at school for Step-Up day on June, 20th. Have an enjoyable summer!
 Be well,

May 11, 2018
Dear Families,
By the end of today, the majority of my students will have successfully finished the SBAC assessments - all did a great job persevering through the hours of focused sitting, thinking, writing, and problem solving (gum, mints, Smarties, and lots of outdoor time helped ease the task a bit). We are ALL thrilled to have this behind us! I can't believe that I have only two weeks left working with this creative, diligent, and exuberant group of students. My long-term leave for knee surgery begins on Thursday, May 24th. I will be writing to my students while I am gone and plan on being back for step-up day on June 20th. Sylvan Ross will be teaching my class until the end of the year. She will join us full-time on Monday, May 21 which will give her a chance to get to know the kids, as well as plan the rest of the year with me before I depart. I have full confidence in her abilities. Here is her bio:

 My name is Sylvan Ross and I am so excited to spend time teaching at Rumney Memorial School. I'm graduating this spring from Champlain College with a degree in Elementary Education, and I spent this year student teaching in third grade at the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington, Vermont. When I'm not in the classroom, I love cooking and rock climbing. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to getting to know your children! 


Quest Project Information: Most of my students are now in the process of writing a research paper from their quest notesWe have had several conversations in class about the home Quest Project expectations. Students brought home two sheets ( one coming home today) with information about their Quest question and what they are planning to make/create for the visual project which is due in school on Monday, May 21st. This leaves them two weekends to work on a visual project. Please have a conversation with your child about their project plans. Next week, I will teach students how to write their facts onto notecards that they can use to support their Oral presentation.  Students know to rehearse their presentations in front of you at home; they are only 2-3 minutes long. Quest presentations will be on Monday, 5/21 and Tuesday 5/22. They are always a highlight of our year! 

Finally, in-between testing, we started two investigative mini-units, one on rocks, minerals and fossils (which includes weathering and erosion) and the other on Vermont's Economy. Outdoor exploration, rock observations, fossil making, letter writing to businesses, and a few videos will supplement our learning.

I am off to NH to graduate with my Master's Degree tonight and then driving to Pennsylvania tomorrow for my father-in-law's funeral. I will be back in school on Tuesday. Please contact the office if you need anything while I am gone.
Enjoy your weekend!

April 29, 2018
Dear Families,
 Some of you might know that I am in the final stages of completing my Masters' degree. Over the past three years, it has become very evident that the best learning opportunities come from authentic student inquiry and active engagement. We are in the middle of our Quest Investigations. It is astounding to see the level of energy and enthusiasm of all students while they are researching their self-selected questions. Many research questions are focused on learning more about the scientific world while others are about the natural world. Here is a list of our Quest Topics:

mummies    biometrics    nanoparticles    trajectory    book publishing    VT ghost stories    sphagnum moss    video game creation
Lake Champlain sunken ships    first bread ovens    bird coloration    color of sand    Legos    computers    Battle of Gettysburg
Harry Houdini    food as art    training service dogs    St. Patrick's Day traditions

Final Quest Presentations, which are to be completed at HOME, are due on May 22nd - a sheet discussing the details of this project will be sent home this week.

 Lots of  active learning happened over the last two weeks.We concluded our science investigation on electricity by exploring with Squishy Circuits, a science kit that contains batteries, lights, fans,switches, and buzzers. Play-dough is a conductor of electricity while clay is an insulator. Using these two mediums, students explored and made parallel and series circuits using battery packs, dough, and mini diode lights (LEDs).  The play-dough allowed for some creative designs to be made as well. Everyone thought this was a very "cool" kit! 
These friends created a complete circuit using all available tools, while the boys in the background work on building an electric car.

We also spent a morning exploring bridge building design. Groups of students tried to create a bridge using popsicle sticks and binder clips. I found it interesting that both design teams discovered the power of triangles as a structural component of bridge design.

 Very proud engineers!
In literacy, two book groups have finished reading their books. As a group, students are deciding on the one important scene in the story that had the greatest impact on the plot. Students will act out this scene for their peers at the end of the week. Also, by Friday, all students will have completed their opinion writing pieces. We will then learn how to write a research paper to support our Quest learning.

SBAC Testing begins this Tuesday and will continue until Thursday, May 10th. Please make sure your child is well-rested and has a nutritious snack to help energize him/her during the testing period. We have previewed a sample test to alleviate any anxiety, and we'll be  sure to offer a calm, classroom environment with plenty of movement breaks.

Finally, a field trip permission form will go home on Monday. We are heading to the Echo Science Center in Burlington on Thursday, May 17th. We will need 4 chaperones for this trip - please notify me if you can join us on the form.
Should be warmer this week - yahoo!

April 8, 2018
Dear Families,
  It is a raw, sunless, yet snow-covered morning as I write this letter to you.The person (T. S.  Eliot) who wrote, " April is the cruelest month" must have visited New England in the springtime! Let's hope for warm, sunny days during our upcoming spring vacation. I truly enjoyed the many conversations I had concerning your children during last week's conferences. For those of you who couldn't make it, I announced that I will be taking a short leave of absence at the end of May to have knee replacement surgery. A long-term sub will join our class (5/21) for three days prior to my leaving  to better ensure a smooth transition for the final three weeks of school. I will let you know who that person will be as soon as I can.

On Friday, you received  a letter from our superintendent notifying you that mold was found in our classroom ceiling. A leak developed in our room in January, due to an ice jam on the roof. As a result of this, my class will be moved to the library for this entire week while experts mitigate the situation. Please let your child know this today so he/she is prepared for the room change tomorrow morning.

I also mentioned to some of you that we are searching for a room parent from each classroom. A room parent is someone who would be in charge of contacting the other parents in our classroom when volunteers are needed for various events and activities at the school. For example, this spring we will need help building a new playground structure on the upper playground. Please let me know if you are interested in taking on this responsibility — you are not signing up to volunteer for everything, just contacting other parents in our room about potential events.

That is all I have for now - I plan on spending a lot of time this week outside with my kids to alleviate being on hard, library chairs. Our last sugaring day will be on Tuesday - it has been a sweet, productive season thus far.
 Be well,

March 31, 2018
Dear Families,

If you stepped into our classroom during the last 8 days you would have found the room buzzing with active learning from morning until dismissal. During writing workshop, students were actively engaged in debating their opinions on the importance of recycling and having healthy food available for school lunches. In science, they were  conducting their own experiments based on their questions concerning electric circuits: "What happens to a light bulb if I attach it to 3 batteries?" "What happens when multiple switches are included in a circuit?" "What happens when multiple wires are added to a closed circuit?" Students were leading book group discussions during our literacy blocks,(with and without me present) using text evidence to support their reading thinking to their peers - " If you turn to page 132, I thought Bud was impulsive when he stole the car". In third grade math, students were working with partners to solidify their understanding of a self-selected goal based on a learning target which we have already covered this year. Each child then reflected if he/she met their goal. Finally, we revisited the sugarbush and emptied 75 sap buckets and savored the sweet smell of a boil. This is why I teach - I love spending my days working with and learning from students who are driven, motivated, and eager to learn. ( many pictures of our learning below)

By now, you should have had a conversation with your child about their personal learning project called a Quest Project. Students were asked to talk to a parent about three possible questions they had which would require long-term, in-depth research. The questions should be about something your child is truly interested in learning more about.Research will begin in school, however, I am encouraging students to find people resources outside of school who might add to their learning.  Once students have all their research completed, we will be writing a formal paper in class. A visual project showing what they learned will be worked on at home - more about this in a future newsletter.

 Just a reminder that there is no school on Friday. I am looking forward to having conversations with all of you this week during our Parent Conferences.  Also, students still need to  bring in boots and snow pants daily until April break - it is snowy by the sugarhouse and wet/muddy on our playground.
Be well!

    Students use facts to convince others of their opinions during a debate.
 During 4 Winds, we dissected Owl Pellets to determine what was for lunch!
These scientists are learning about  a closed circuit.

It takes team effort to pour  a heavy bucketful of sap into the collector.
        Sugar queens!
 Ahhh - inhaling the sweet scent of sap turning to syrup!

March 18, 2018
Dear families, 
 This will be a brief letter with a few pictures from last week's active learning. On Tuesday, we revisited the sugarbush in hopes of collecting sweet sap, however many of us were a bit disappointed to find it frozen in the bottom of the pails. Perhaps it will run later this week? The Thursday performance at the Flynn Theater spurred some interesting conversations about slavery, racisms, and our country's history. Some students are considering researching more about the 1800s for their Quest Projects later in the year. We ended the week with an enjoyable science discovery session. Students experimented with moving electrons to create static electricity. When we left school on Friday, there were 5 balloons attached to our walls using only static - we wonder how long the electric charge will hold.
  Science can be a hair-raising experience!
 After conducting an experiment, students wrote their observations and conclusions and compared their findings with their predictions.
 Carrying sap through deep snow is easier with a partner.
Students checked every pail looking for liquid gold.
A sweet sap tasting straight from the source!

I sent out a link for the Parent Conference sign up earlier in the week. I am available to meet on  Wed. April 4th and Friday morning, April 6th. I can also meet most mornings at 8:15.

I look forward to our conversation about your child's growth.
Be well,

March 10, 2018
Dear Families,
Welcome back - I have a few items to share with you from before our long winter break. My intentions were to post them before I left for my Florida vacation to see my dad; alas, I was too excited to begin my break and forgot to write this Newsletter. I do hope you had some time last week to relax as a family. I was thrilled to have 19 healthy students back in class eager to continue on our learning journey.

In February, students enjoyed conducting several experiments focused on magnetism. We solidified out thoughts on magnets including how to make a magnet, what are magnetic fields and electromagnets, and what is the relationship to the poles of a magnet. We will continue our investigation by learning about the parts of atoms and what they have to do with electricity in the coming weeks.

 Partners worked together to make magnets attract and repel.
 These scientists are working to make a magnet fly off of a pencil.
Tanner is excited to make a flying paperclip!
Another unit that we completed was focused on Wild Weather. Here are links to the slideshows which were created by small groups - please ask your child to guide you through their presentation - click the link and hit the Present button:

In Literacy, we are continuing with Book Clubs. Students were assigned to read one of three books and are given specific jobs to promote active reading, such as finding new vocabulary or making connections to the text. Then as a group, they discuss their reading without teacher guidance. I have been audio and video taping these discussions and am so impressed with the focused, serious book discussions.  Ask your child which book she/he is reading and what roles s/he has had when participating in a book group talk. We also are beginning to learn about writing opinion essays. Students will be reading several examples of opinion writing pieces and scoring them with a partner. I am planning on having groups participate in a debate as a means of learning what language is best to use when convincing someone of your opinion. I will video tape the debates and link them here.

We had a joyful time tapping trees last week - the sap was flowing and already filling the buckets as we left our sugarbush. We will visit again to collect over the coming weeks. This week, we have a field trip to the Flynn Theater on Thursday, 15th to see a play about Harriet Tubman called Freedom Train. Permission slips went home last week and are due ASAP.

One more picture from 3rd grade math - we have been learning about fractions and created this beautiful Fraction Quilt out of origami paper to show equivalent fractions. (Students should still be practicing multiplication facts at home)
March is our transition month to spring, right? I am looking forward to more daylight hours while enjoying the fresh snow.
Be well,

February 11, 2018,
Dear Families,

I hope you had a chance to enjoy the recent snow with your family before the rains came - again! I am getting a bit tired of the yoyo weather we are experiencing this winter. I am hopeful that our school playground will stay ice-free for the coming week. 

We hope to finish our Wild Weather research presentations this week. Students are learning how to create a slideshow with online images, gifs, and charts, while adding their learned Wild Weather facts. Groups will present their learning to the class at the end of the week. Public speaking is one of the new transferable skills that we are focusing on as part of proficiency based learning  I will link all the presentations to my next newsletter. In class, we made a barometer, which measures air pressure, and anemometers  which measure wind speed, as well as wind vanes. We were fortunate to have a windy morning to test our weather instruments:

This week, we also celebrated the 100th day of school. In 3rd grade math class, students had to think of various equations that totaled 100 using multiplication and division. We had a joyful visit from Mr. Hedler, who updated our annual Zero the Hero character to The 100 bird, Zeron the Heron. He sang us a self-written song about the power of 100. 

Students began experimenting with Magnets as part of our unit on "Forces and Energy". We learned that the earth is a giant magnet! We will continue to use the scientific method to answer questions such as, "What makes magnets attract/repel objects? How can we make a magnet? What are magnets used for?" Here a few pics of our discovery learning:
 Scientists tested many objects to discover what magnets are attracted to - not all metals, such as coins!
Don't you just love their faces of wonder?

This unit will continue until the February break, followed by an illuminating unit on electricity (ha)... time for a walk outside~
 Be well,
PS. Our Valentine's Day "celebration" will only consist of sharing cards. Students know to bring in a card for every child if they are choosing to participate in this celebration of friendship. We will not have any sugary treats.
birds on branch sending happy birthday wishes clipart

January 27, 2018,
Dear Families,
We have been busy at school finishing some units of study and beginning others. Friday was great day - muffins with mom, followed by an All School Assembly, and ending with our first Winter Wellness which was very successful! Who couldn't enjoy a day of sun and snow! Last week, students in Mrs. Emmons' class and ours presented their Middlesex History Research Projects. Linda and I were absolutely amazed at the amount of content learned  from this focused unit on Middlesex. We heard from nine, informative presentations which were represented in various forms including posters, slide shows, a puppet show, and replica historic buildings. Students gained a deeper insight into our town's history and truly learned from each other. Here are a few pictures from the presentations:

                                                                     This group is talking about the history of farming in 
                                                                    we used to have Merino sheep covering our mountains!
                                                                                     Trains were an important means of transportation during the 1800s.
These students enjoyed building replicas of historic buildings in the town center,
including a livery stable and hotel.
One group drew a map of the physical features of Middlesex.

Here are the learning targets we worked on last week:
I can use dialogue with correct punctuation in my small moment story.
I can name a "strength" and a "next step" in my writing piece (self-reflection).
I can identify elements of nonfiction text.
I can use nonfiction text elements to focus my reading.
I can name the attributes of 2-d and 3-d shapes. (3rd grade math)
I can name the relationship between the 3/6 and 5/10 multiplication facts - doubling rule!

We are also engaged in a mini-unit on weather, learning about fronts, clouds, atmosphere, and the use of various weather instruments. Students are researching Wild Weather topics in small groups and will be presenting their findings to the class in the coming weeks. Our next big unit of study will be on magnets and electricity. Students will generate their own questions and wonderings about these topics and will hopefully find their answers through many hands-on experiments we will be conducting in class. This is a favorite unit for many!
Please be sure your child is keeping up on home reading.
Third graders should be practicing multiplication facts up to 6s (1x6 - 12x6). Many online games can be found on my Math page on the left.
Enjoy the longer days and sunshine!
Be well,
P.S. Here is a note from Aimee:


6PM Feb. 1

February 1st I will be hosting a time with parents where we will talk about how reading is acquired and inspired.  Please email Alissa if you are able to attend!  Hope to see you there!


January 7, 2018
Happy New Year, Families!
What a crazy week of frigid weather we've had to begin this new year! Our first full week back was short with indoor recess most days — not a great way to return to school after our long break. We are hoping for warm sun and snow this week.  On Monday,I will begin assessing each student in reading and writing to get an accurate understanding of learned skills for our upcoming report card. Here are some of the Learning Targets we will be covering during the first weeks of January:
  • I can use hooks, transition words, and author's craft when writing a personal narrative.
  • I can identify and find evidence for several character traits for the main character in my reading book.
  • I can organize my notes into a presentation which gives an audience information about my chosen topic (Middlesex History)
  • I can work collaboratively with my peers to research facts about Wild Weather (science)
  • I can identify the text features of non-fiction writing.
  • I can apply memorized multiplication facts to solve word problems (3rd grade - 2s & 4s facts)
Here are a few pictures from our Holiday Craft Party before the break. Students really enjoyed the hour of creating various crafts by hand.
Stay warm!
  Students enjoyed painting MineCraft ornaments.
 Making and decorating candy Gingerbread Houses was a popular activity.
 Clothespin dolls are ready to go to their new homes.

December 19,2017
Dear Families,                                                                                                                                                                  
 We had such excitement over the first significant snowfall this week only to be disappointed to have 2 days of indoor recess due the  frigid windchill! There was a lot of energy in class and thankfully, we were able to channel it into our drumming residency. I hope your child has shared some enthusiasm over the drumming experiences he/she has had from this full-body, hands-on experience. I hope some of you can join us for the drumming performance on Friday afternoon.

As you have read from Aimee's newsletter, we are immersed in a School-wide Kindness Unit. We have been watching and discussing various videos which show different ways of choosing to be kind and have been writing Kindness letters everyday to students and staff in our building. My class loves this activity! I have noticed and heard more kind behaviors in many areas of the school which I attribute directly to this focused unit. My plan is to ask students how we can continue to focus on Choosing Kind in the coming year.

In class, we have been busy with a  few new units of study:
  • Writing: While working with a partner, students are reading 5-7 examples of 3/4 writing pieces and scoring them on a rubric. These are examples of Small Moment or One Time stories which we will be writing later this week. The best part of scoring another person's work is having a conversation about  what you feel that writer did well and what they could improve on. Students have learned (relearned) about writing Hooks, using transition words, adding descriptive language, and correctly using dialogue in these personal narratives. Our story writing will continue into the new year
  • Reading: Our lessons have been focused on identifying personality traits from the characters in our books.This is a close reading activity which forces readers to slow down, analyze the text and find evidence of our reading thoughts. Students first identified 3 of their own character traits and had to provide evidence to support their thoughts. All wrote a reading response on their analysis in their reading journals. 
  • Social Studies: Life seemed to get in our way during our Middlesex Research Unit, but we  finally were able to begin searching for answers to student generated questions this week. There are 9 different focus inquiries being conducted between our class and Mrs. Emmons'. Groups are focused on learning more about diseases, schools, historic buildings, natural disasters, transportation, farming, our origins, population trends and physical features. Some students are writing letters to state government agencies for more information. We are using the book, Middlesex in the Making for most of the research information. After the holidays, we will be talking about various ways of sharing what we learned.
Our Secret Snowflake gift exchange will be this Friday at 1:00, with the drumming performance following. Since we will not have time for a holiday party after the gift giving, students voted on having a Craft Party this Wednesday instead. I have purchased all the materials to make 4 different crafts as my gift to the class. I am sure this will be an enjoyable time for all.

I wish you and your family a joyful holiday and a restful winter break!
Be well,
P.S. Reminder: Please send in a pair of inside shoes daily or to keep here throughout the winter - our classroom rugs begin to smell funky when students wear their winter boots all day long and track in the wet from outside

November 19, 2017
Dear Families,
 The last two weeks have been a flurry of activity in school. Thank you for the wonderful conversations we had concerning your child during our Parent Conference meeting two weeks ago. As always, please contact me if you ever have any questions or concerns that come up. Since then, I have had a bizarre medical issue crop up that has forced me to miss some school days. I suddenly lost the hearing in my right ear which has resulted in incessant ringing in my head accompanied by some dizziness. Being in a classroom with 20+ students chatting isn't ideal! An ear specialist has me on steroids which should help. Sadly,I am only able to work half days while on the meds. I am looking forward to the break so I can come back renewed and clear headed.

Last week, Sarah Seidman visited our class. She is a Middlesex historian who co-authored the book Middlesex in the Making, which is filled with first hand interviews from Middlesex residents. She explained to the students how the Rumney School location was chosen by our predecessors. Students were engaged in a mini-reenactment of a town meeting from 1950s debating where the school should be built. This spurred more questions we have about our town's history. We will continue our investigation of Middlesex in the coming weeks.

In writing, we began to investigate how to write a personal narrative or small moment story. Through picture books as mentor texts (Come On Rain, The Relatives Came, Crow Call, The Roller Coaster) we are noticing the important elements needed when writing about a specific, important, small story in our lives. Mini-lessons in this unit include learning about Author's Craft: adjectives, strong verbs, similes, onomatopoeia  transition words, and using dialogue. This writing unit will take us into the new year since we will practice writing many introductions, snap shot descriptions and conclusions before arriving at a final copy.

Students continue to track their reading thinking using sticky notes. In the coming weeks, Reading Mini-lessons will be focused on:
- writing a cohesive summary
- identifying the main idea or Big idea of a story
- analyzing character traits 

Interspersed throughout all of this class learning will be a school-wide focus on "Choosing Kind" (Wonder movie), our fabulous Taiko drumming residency, and, oh yeah, Christmas! I will do my best to keep us calm and focused.

I'd like to wish all of you a joyful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends. I am truly grateful and enriched to be working in our loving and supportive school community.  Thank you for all you do!
Be well,
                                                                        A late  Halloween picture - Mrs. B reads a favorite witch story to both classes.

  Sarah Seidman explains how Rumney school came to be.

October 29, 2017
Dear Families,
Ok, so country living IS wonderful, except when your dog gets sprayed by a skunk at 5:20am and you spend the weekend trying your best to get the smell out of the house! I might smell a bit skunky this week, but am hoping it will fade with time.  :(

School has been great - it feels like everyone finally knows what they should be doing and they are actually doing it!! This past week we began a new Social Studies unit on Middlesex history by visiting the Town Clerk's office and exploring the oldest cemetery in town. Students analyzed current and old maps of our town and wrote down many questions they had about our history. (I will send pictures of our trip later this week - I took them on the school's camera and need to upload them.) We will be researching our past for the next few months.

 We also created an impromptu, stunning mural of space and added our researched notes on the heavenly bodies in our Solar System. It is hanging in the hallway outside our door. Pairs of students chose which planet to research and then accessed a student-friendly website to read and take notes. We will do a lot of research this year and hopefully, each child will become an expert at analyzing text and paraphrasing it into their own words. Students continue to perfect the art of writing of a clear, detailed paragraph. This week, we will learn (relearn) about the power of adjectives. 

Our class also had two presenters join us last week. A lovely many talked to us about his father's experience with racism (Reading to End Racism program arranged by Lynne). He read the book Jackie's Bat to us which was about Jackie Robinson's experience with racism during his baseball career. We then talked about how we need to treat everyone with respect — always. Another speaker was Sophie Bowater, our 4 Winds teacher. She taught us about the structure of trees and leaves. We were so fortunate to get outside on another warm afternoon to study a maple tree. Students drew leaves, did a tree and leaf rubbing, and even wrote poems about our tree. Here is one:

Look at those leaves!
Rough and colorful
The trunk-
mossy and tall
Branches -
bumpy and menacing
the whole tall tree with many leaves.

Some of this week's learning targets:
I can write about my reading thinking and add evidence to support my thoughts.
I can work collaboratively in a group to ask questions about Middlesex.
I can take notes about my learning.
I can talk about the spelling patterns I am studying about.
I can write a focus sentence to a given question.
I can read a passage and answer questions by underlining the evidence in the text. 

Enjoy a few pictures of our learning!
Be well,
Reminder: Parent Conferences are coming up in 2 weeks. If you haven't signed up, here is the link:

    An expert at technology teaches the class how to make a file in Google Docs.

    A writing lesson - notice the use of our standing desks in the background.
                     4 Winds Tree Exploration

    Our Solar System Mural is out of this world!

October 15, 2017
Dear Families,
I loved seeing your child escort you around our classroom during last week's Open House! I listened in on many conversations and noticed your children taking on this leadership role with expertise. Many answered your questions with specific details and logical responses: parent - "How do all of you get your things from the bins - isn't it a bit chaotic?" child responds - " We are learning to see the person in front of us and wait for our turn". I have noticed a significant difference in the students' behaviors ever since I started talking about "being a leader" and "take ownership of your learning and of this classroom space". Students are talking and listening respectfully to each other and solving their own problems without as much teacher intervention. This last week, students ran our Morning Meeting. The Meeting Leaders reported how hard it was to get everyone's attention and how much they enjoyed "being in charge". We change Meeting Leaders everyday so all will have multiple opportunities to practice speaking in front of an audience and perfect their leadership skills.

There is a daily schedule that I write on the whiteboard which includes specific Learning Targets for each subject. These are objectives that students should be able to do at the end of each lesson. Two students read the learning target before and after the lesson asking if students met the target. We count thumbs up, thumbs sideways, and thumbs down to assess our learning. I have decided to include some of our weekly  learning targets in my Newsletters so that you can ask your child what we are working on in school. Hopefully, these will be good conversation starters!
This past week, our targets were:
  • I can write three details to support a focus topic.
  • I can add elaboration to my details to give more specific information on my topic.
  • I can begin to find places on a world map.
  • I can use a Map Key and compass rose to identify map symbols.
  •  I can find a location on a map using latitude and longitude lines.
  • I can sort my spelling words into categories based on a pattern of consonants and vowels.
  • I can set a reading goal to help me be an engaged reader.
  • I can use a sticky note to track a question in my reading.
  • I can talk to my partner about my reading thinking.
  • I can use a number line to show subtraction as addition ( 3rd grade math)
  • I can use rods to show repeated addition when solving a multiplication word problem ( 3rd grade math)
This week, we will continue our geography unit by making paper mache globes. I love hands-on projects! This unit will quickly shift from focusing on "Where are we in the world?" to "Where we are in Vermont?" Linda and I are planning a kick-off field trip to begin our long investigation into Middlesex - how did we get here and who are we now. (We will also do a little side-track exploration on Space - I was surprised by the number of students who have little background information about our planets).
Enjoy these pictures of our "Carrot Processing Factory" - we washed, cut, and distributed our garden carrots for a school-wide snack. Children love having meaningful experiences for a real purpose - that is why chores are so important at this age!
Be well,

  Washing  and chopping carrots with friends is fun!

 Our first student-run Morning Meeting was a huge success.

September 25, 2017
Dear Families,
 What a glorious, hot weekend! I hope you and your family found a way to enjoy the "summer revisit" . I have heard that this will be our transition week to fall with the temps dropping by the weekend. Our Elmore Hike is on Wednesday and it should  stay sunny and mild. Today is the last day to contact the office if you are planning on hiking with your child. Please be sure to send in a water bottle for your child, even if he/she has signed up for a school lunch. Due to my deteriorating knee, I will be hiking with the primary unit on the lower nature trail.

School academics are beginning to show up slowly in our daily routine, although I will be doing more reading assessments this week. Students are learning  (relearning) how to write a paragraph to one specific topic. I introduced the concept of an indent last week. We are all writing friendly letters to ourselves about our goals for the year. It is a class tradition to open the letters on the last day of school and compare how much we have learned during the year. We also began Keyboarding instruction and practice this important skill in the mornings before our class meeting. Students can access our Typing Club account from home if they choose to work on this after school.

On Friday, we finished our science unit on Paper Airplane Design and wrote an analysis of our findings. Students compared the results of three airplane designs and used their data to determine why a specific design was the most aerodynamic.  A few students taught the entire class how to fold a plane that truly soared - I am sure there will be more test flights this week. We will begin a long investigation about Middlesex next week ,wondering about where we came from, why this land, and who were the first settlers here. 

Students are still learning about their strengths. Last week, I introduced 24 Character Strengths that we all can access, especially during challenging situations.  I am finding picture books that help us identify these strengths in the characters we read about.Here is an image of the strengths we are discussing: Character Strengths Poster

Enjoy your week - I am committed to being outside everyday to soak in the last of this summer weather.
 Be well,

Dear Families,
 I can't believe how quickly  fall seems to be pushing summer aside. I am noticing more colored leaves on my daily commute along the mountain roads - I am still hopeful for warm, sunny days ahead!

  We had another full week of activities during this last 4 day week. Our academic routine won't begin for a few more weeks while we continue to spend time getting to know ourselves, each other, and the classroom routines. As a school community, we are defining what the Big 4 looks like and sounds like in all spaces of the school. We are focusing on becoming a more respectful, safe and hard working community of learners.  As a class, we are engaging in cooperative  games to help us learn about ourselves as a team. We played "Pass the Hula Hoops" while keeping our hands connected in a circle, as well as enjoyed a brisk game of SPUD. I feel that we have many connections already and are well on our way to becoming a school family who can depend on and support each other during the year. Students are also learning about their individual strengths. We have been learning about the Multiple Intelligence Theory which focuses on eight intelligences we all have to some degree:
        Multiple Intelligences Kid-Friendly MI Terms
 Verbal-LinguisticWord Smart
 Visual-SpatialArt Smart
 Mathematical-LogicalMath Smart
 Musical-RhythmicMusic Smart
 Bodily-KinestheticBody Smart
 NaturalistNature Smart
 IntrapersonalPeople Smart
 InterpersonalSelf Smart
Learning what we can do well will help us use those strengths in other areas that might be challenging.

Students did begin a fun investigation unit on designing the perfect paper airplane. This short unit introduces students to the scientific method while engaging them in cooperative problem solving. We are learning many scientific vocabulary words including "constant, variables, thrust, lift, force, and aerodynamics" to name a few. Here is a link to a short video showing our pretest flights in class: First Test Flights.   After choosing the best designed airplane, groups went to the gym to conduct 5 flights, measuring the distances flown. Students recorded their data and will analyze it this week. The investigation allows us to change one variable for each of the 3 test flights and then compare and analyze our results. Science is so much fun! Here are a few pictures form the week:
 Measuring the length of a test flight

 Recording the data
Third grade math students proud of their 3d shapes created with straws.

On Wednesday, September 20th, Linda and I will be talking about our fall curriculum expectations during a half hour presentation, one at 6pm and a repeat at 6:30.  Students should not attend, but child care will be available. A student-led Open House is scheduled for Wed., October 11th , 5:00 - 6:00pm. I look forward to seeing many of you in the coming weeks!
Be well,

September 3, 2017
Dear families,
Welcome to a new school year! If you are receiving this newsletter at an email that doesn't work for you, please let me know. I took the email information off of Infinite Campus and didn't want to leave anyone off.
Our first week of school was exhausting but it sure did fly by - we were busy! Every year, it is important to spend  time establishing the classroom norms so we can work as a collaborative  learning community. For the next few weeks, the students and I will be analyzing and agreeing to how we want to behave and be treated in school. We are following the Big Four that Ms. Toth spoke about in her newsletter. It is a revision of Rumney Cares. I am also committed to having students take more of a leadership role in their learning. For example, as a group, they decided what jobs we should have in our room. In the past, I just assigned them classroom jobs. We are engaging in more conversations while learning the art of listening to each other. Here are some pictures from our first week back:

                                                                        These scientists are teaching the class about Monarch caterpillars.                

                                                                                       We are learning how to draw self portraits.

                                         There is a variety of seating options offered for multiple learning styles in our room.

                                                             Friday Fun time - our first "Minute to Win it " challenge games!

In a few weeks, we will be hosting a curriculum night. Linda and I will share more specifics about the 3rd/4th grade learning objectives for the coming year. I look forward to meeting new parents and reuniting with last year's families then.
Enjoy the Labor Day holiday!

June 15, 2017
Dear Families,
 This will be my last letter to you this year. I want to sincerely thank you for the collaboration and support you have given me in helping your child learn and grow this year. Each of my students has made tremendous gains socially, academically, and emotionally. I will miss this class of creative, kind, social children - we truly bonded as a school family!

Below are a few pictures from our last few weeks of school. Quest presentations were fabulous! Please encourage your child to READ over the summer, write some, and play many card/dice games to keep their math brains engaged. Also,  have them spend as much time outside as possible!!
 Enjoy your time with them,

        Floating our milk/oj container boats in our new Rumney stream

    Edge, from Good Heart Farmstead, tells us about their Friday music and flatbread days 
        ( first and third Friday of each month, 4pm - 7pm) Their mountain view is spectacular!
    We are excited to finally visit with Kate, Edge, and Waylon!
        Some students enjoyed pretending to make flatbread pizza!
    We are working together to clear the fields of rocks!
    Here is one example of a model for a Quest Project
    Another Quest presentation!


May 31, 2017
Dear Families,
Hope you enjoyed the long Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start to summer. Now if only the weather would cooperate!

We are busy, busy, busy at school! Students are writing their final drafts of Quest Research. Please remember that the home project needs to be in school by Friday, June 9th. By the end of this week I will speak to the class about using notecards to help them practice their oral presentations. As a class we also are reading and analyzing a short story from a literacy program called Junior Great Books. This guided reading unit has students read the same story multiple times to gain a deeper understanding from many perspectives. We will read at least two stories from this series. There will no longer be Read Works homework, but please be sure your child is reading nightly.

 We weeded the school garden today - pics below - which will get us ready to work on the farm next week. We have a morning field trip to the Good Heart Farmstead - rain or shine - on Tuesday, June 5th. We will be back in time for lunch. Students will also be taking many end-of -year assessments next week: Star 360, an online math assessment, Spelling DSA, and a few students  will be taking a final reading assessment with me on Monday.Please read the weekly school bulletin for the many other activities happening at school ( Art show, field day, step-up day, etc.) Here are some pictures from our wonderful field trip to the Shelburne Museum. ALL of my students expressed a desire to go back - it would be a great family destination this summer!
Be well,
        Two  captains navigating on the Ticonderoga
    These merchants are learning how to barter for needed goods.
    Such distinguished, young gentlemen!
    The jail is the most popular destination at Shelburne!
       24 kids pulling weeds - a great work crew! 
   Dirty hands mean our gardening was successful!

May 14, 2016
Dear families,
 Happy Mother's Day to all the nurturing, supportive, loving moms - I hope you get a little spoiled today! I was hoping to spend some time in the garden, but it seems like another cool, wet day is in store for us. ( I am not doing housework!)
The cooler temps are actually perfect for keeping young minds focused on school work instead of the summer that is fast approaching. This past week, we have been:

    - taking notes from various sources on our Quest topics - some students are already writing rough drafts of a research paper
    - reading poetry and finding specific ones that speak to us individually
    - learning about contractions and possessive plural nouns - when and where do we put that apostrophe
    - understanding what a fraction is  - making fractions, finding them on a number line, and noticing what makes an equivalent fraction
    - solving our Mystery Powder exploration!
    - beginning a Vermont Geography unit - using Google Earth,we reviewed the continents, found the countries of North America and "explored" Vermont through this virtual mapping program
    - listening and discussing our read aloud, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm

This week, we will analyze student report writing and calibrate our writing expectations using a rubric scoring guide. I will talk with your child about the Quest Project expectations, which will be worked on at home, and send home a list of multiple ways to present our learning. As a class, we will review many science concepts through online practice provided by the NECAP assessment. Fourth graders will be taking these in the coming weeks. Only one picture to share with you - here we are in the library immersed in reading poetry.
Be well,


April 29, 2017
Dear Families,
Welcome back - if finally feels like spring! My students and I know that this is going to be the fastest, most disruptive time of year. We have many field trips, in-school performances, projects and great outdoor weather to distract us from our daily lessons. Time will fly!

Tomorrow, we have a field trip to the Flynn Theater in Burlington to see Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, a play based on the book of the same title. It is a retelling of Cinderella set in Zimbabwe. Two weeks from tomorrow, ( May 22nd) we will be traveling to the Shelburne Museum for  a day-long exploration of this gem of a museum. The grounds are designed to replicate a  Vermont village in the 1800s. This trip is a perfect closure activity to our year-long study of early Vermont history. In class, we will be learning about VT's geography, studying about the 5 different physiological regions and creating a 3-d topographical map of our state. One more field trip to come - a visit to the Good Heart Farmstead. We have been writing to these lovely farmers all year and are ready to see and help out on the local farm. I will let you know that date as soon as I hear back from them. 

Quest Project Contracts with due dates went home last week.This signed agreement will be returning home so that you and your child will be aware of upcoming due dates for this end-of-year project. Students will be choosing a specific question about a topic to research and write about. All research and writing will be done in school. However, a visual project showing what was learned will be worked on at home. The final presentation will include a short, oral presentation, as well as a visual project/demonstration/model , etc. I will send home a list of possible project ideas in the next few weeks.This research should take us through the end of the school year.

Finally, 4th graders will be taking the Science NECAP in May - yes, another assessment! However, this one is a lot more enjoyable for the kids. Students will be conducting a hands-on science experiment with a partner and then writing about the results as part of the assessment - dates to come soon. In class, we began a Mystery Powders Investigation - a highly engaging science lab where students conduct several experiments to determine the identity of 5 white powders. We will continue with the lab this week. Here are a few pictures of the exploration:

These Scientists use a dropper to mix vinegar into a white powder.

        Recording accurate results is a vital part of any scientific exploration.

Also, I wanted you to know that I corrected the link for last week's slideshow. You should be able to access it now without "my permission".
Below is a poem we will be reading this week - enjoy!

April Rain Song ~ Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain. 

April 10, 2017
Dear Families,
 Thank you for the wonderful conversations we had about your child during parent conferences. I really love having the time to talk with you about your child's progress and work with you as a team to support his/her growth.

Hurray for today - it is already 63 with temperatures excepted in the 70s for the next few days. Let's hope we get this warm, sunny weather over next week's vacation. We are still SBAC testing this week. Linda and I decided to break up the sessions into shorter time periods which seemed more sensible for students. Children who missed any testing last week will make it up this week before the break. We were also able to get to the sugarbush for one last collection and  to watch and smell a boil — pictures below.

 Also, I am attaching a link for our science Slideshow on Light. Each student researched a question about light, created a slide and presented it to the class. This was a great way for students to practice researching on line, getting us ready for our Quest Research which will happen after the break.

Enjoying the sweet smell of boiling sap!

The sap buckets were so full - we needed teamwork when collecting.
Enjoy your vacation!
Be well,

March 26, 2017
Dear Families,
I have many pictures to share with you this week from our recent units of study. In Science, students have been learning that light is a form of energy. We conducted many experiments that helped us understand new science vocabulary: transparent, translucent, opaque, reflection, refraction, absorbed light, and the classic ROY.G.BIV (colors in the visible spectrum). On Friday, we headed down to the sugarhouse and helped Brian Prendergast tap some trees. He taught us about the cambium  layer inside the  bark which is where the sap flows through. Students were able to turn a hand drill to make a small hole in each tree to fit in the tap. We named our trees and hung seven buckets. Next week, we will return to collect the sap! On our way back, it was snowing like a February snowstorm so we stayed outside to play in the heavy, falling flakes - it seems like winter wants an encore!
Our Empathy Book Study and opinion writing unit are coming to a close this week. I will be introducing students to the joys of reading and writing  poetry, as well as showing them a fabulous creative writing website called Storybird. I look forward to chatting with you this week about your child's progress during Parent Conferences. Enjoy the pictures!

The pencil looks cut due to refraction!
 This team is testing objects to see if light can pass through.
 We had fun using mirrors to learn about reflected light.
 Brian is talking about the importance of placement when drilling a hole.
  These girls take turns drilling with a hand drill.
The hand drill was a cool tool!

March 12, 2017
Dear Families,
 Welcome back from our winter break. This brief newsletter is mostly about giving you a sign-up link for the upcoming Parent Conferences. I will be offering meeting times after school on Wednesday, March 29th and most of Friday, March 31st ( no school for kids this day). I am also available to meet most mornings from 8:15 - 8:40 and some afternoons at 3:45 - 4:30. Contact me if you need an alternate time than what is posted on this site: 

School News:
  • Students still need snow pants, boots, etc. for recess. We will begin sugaring, hopefully this week, and it is much colder down by the Shady Rill. We also are expecting a bit of weather this week!
  • We began our investigation on Light before the break - more student-led experiments coming over the next few weeks - I will post pictures in the upcoming newsletter
  • we will take a practice SBAC assessment to acquaint ourselves with the online testing format - SBACs are schedules for the first weeks of April
I will be enjoying this sunny Sunday indoors all day - it is Arctic outside!!
 Stay warm,

February 18, 2017
Dear Families,
    Just returned from a lovely x-country ski wearing a t-shirt!! What a wild winter we are having. Last Friday's snowshoe and ski session at Morse Farm was a quintessential VT winter day - sun, kids and lots of snow! This week looks like more warm days and rain coming our way - mud boots instead of snow boots?!?
    Perhaps you have heard that we are immersed in a unit focusing on Empathy. Students are reading books where the main character is experiencing a difficult situation. Some of the themes our class will discuss include children dealing with poverty, immigration, physical disabilities, race and gender discrimination,  living in a war zone, and dealing with death. These are heavy topics! However, reading about difficult situations prepares students for later life experiences. We are  focusing on the feelings and emotions a character experiences  and then trying to identify a time when we have felt that way. That is how empathy begins: seeing  and naming another's experience,accepting and appreciating that different is not wrong,  identifying feelings, and finally communicating our understanding.We have created a visual board of words to use when conveying empathy; "I am sorry for your loss", "you are not alone", "you are a good friend of mine and I didn't realize I hurt you, I am sorry" and more.

We will also do some role playing, as well as have many conversations about "stepping into someone else's shoes."
    During our opinion writing time, we will attempt to have a debate on two different topics: "Is homework necessary " and " Should we have year round school?" Students are just beginning to realize that strong opinion pieces work best when there is factual evidence to back up your opinion. We learned this during our recent trip to the state house. Students were shown the process of how a bill becomes a law with our proposed class bill, " Smoking should be banned in cars when children under 18 are present". We learned that evidence was gathered in support of, or against a bill at each reading. Convincing someone of your opinion with substantiated evidence is an important skill in life. 
    Our VT history unit is taking a short hiatus. On Tuesday, we will begin a Science investigation on Light. Students will be using the scientific method to conduct several experiments to answer the questions: what is light? how does it travel?how do our eyes see? what is color? and more. We will continue this unit into March, in between tapping! I am thinking the sap will be flowing this week!
    Vacation starts on Friday - well, at 3:40 : ). If necessary,I urge you to remind your child to pick up a book several times during this long break. Reading shouldn't be a homework assignment anymore but an established, joyful habit (plus, the house is quieter when they are reading). 
Enjoy the break, find time to have fun like a child, and stay healthy!
January 28, 2017

Dear Families,
    I am hoping that you read Friday's Rumney notes to learn that report cards will be sent home tomorrow (Monday) instead of last week. I have spent many hours trying to put together an accurate snapshot of your child's progress in school thus far. Please contact me if you have any questions about the report card.
    We continue to  learn about life in VT during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Candle dipping was great fun!(see pictures below) This week, we will be reading primary source documents to figure out what schools were like back then. We looked at hornbooks, slates, quill pens and actual "text" books from 1840. I am hoping to recreate a school room setting so students get an idea of how different education was 200 years ago. Permission slips went home last week for our trip to the state house and Historical Museum. We will be going on February 16th. 
        In Literacy Block, our biography unit finished last week. I was very impressed with the thoughtful comments students posted on a blog about the famous person they read about. This week, we will learn how to respond to a blog post. Also, I will be introducing the class to a terrific online magazine that we subscribe to. "Kids Discover" magazine is chock full of interesting nonfiction articles about science, history and civics. Students will be able to access this site from home as well. We will use one literacy class a week to read and respond to these articles. With Lynne's help, I am creating a collection of chapter books focused  around stories that will encourage us to take someone else's perspective. Understanding empathy is a much needed skill these days at our school.
    Our opinion writing paragraphs have expanded to become a "painted essay". This is a five paragraph essay that essentially expands each supporting detail of a sandwich paragraph into its own paragraph. Although this is a 4th grade standard,there are many third graders that are willing to take on the challenge of writing 15 or more sentences to one focus. Again, I am so impressed at how far we have come in our writing abilities!
    That's all for now - hope you got outside this weekend. My mood certainly improves when I get some fresh air.I found some powder in the woods for some very decent cross country skiing! I am still hopeful for a dumping of snow to cover up the ice from last week's warm up.
 Be well,

Dust of Snow

Related Poem Content Details

The way a crow 
Shook down on me 
The dust of snow 
From a hemlock tree 

Has given my heart 
A change of mood 
And saved some part 
Of a day I had rued.

January 15, 2016

Dear Families,

This past week was a busy one. I finally finished assessing all my students in reading. I will be reporting each child's progress on the upcoming report card, which will be sent home at the end of this month. There were many gains in reading fluency and comprehension.Students are asked to think beyond the text to analyze and synthesize new knowledge - higher level thinking skills, for sure! Nightly reading and discussing what is being read is vital to helping your child become a successful reader.

I was able to borrow two kits from the Vt Historical Society focusing on life in a Vermont village and school experiences from the 1800s. Each kit is filled with artifacts, primary source documents, and suggestions for activities to help students understand what life was like in the 18th and 19th century. On Friday, we made butter using a replica butter churn! My students thought it tasted a lot like whipped cream. This week, we will be hand dipping candles with Ms. Campbell. Linda and I hope to replicate a one room classroom experience for our classes as well. There will be a field trip to the VT State house and history museum in February - I am just finalizing the details this week. We will need some chaperones for this trip.

We also had our first Winter Wellness on Friday. Everyone seemed to have a great time, despite having the skiers and snowshoeing kids stay at Rumney  The woods were filled with snow where we were more protected from the biting winds.Not sure what we will do this week after another thaw passes through mid week....

Here are a few pictures of us enjoying our homemade butter. Let's hope for more snow soon!
 Be well, 
    Reading a biography to a 1/2 buddy is fun!

    Churning cream into butter takes a lot of patience.
 Yummy butter on bread!

January 8, 2017
Dear Families,

Happy 2017! This past week, my students and I have been discussing our vision for the coming year and the opportunity to grow through change. Change, although difficult at first,  is always good. We are focusing this year on being more compassionate, kind, and accepting of differences. As a staff, we have been noticing an increase in hurtful language and behaviors amongst our student population. We are revisiting classroom rules  and Rumney Cares to remind us that all students need to feel safe and included in our learning environment.

We began a few new units of study this week. During literacy, students are solidifying their understanding of nonfiction text features. We are learning that we read differently when engaged with nonfiction text. Students will be reading biographies in class and recording their  learning thoughts using technology. This week I will introduce them to blogging using a website called Seesaw. My students will be able to  "chat" with each other about their reading thoughts using this secured site. Students will also create a "Biocube" - a 3-d paper block that has information about the famous person they have read about. Nightly reading for at least 20 minutes is still a homework expectation! This New Year is a perfect time to get back to good reading habits.

Students have been practicing paragraph writing (clear, focus sentence, details and elaborations, conclusion) which is preparing us  to learn how to write an opinion piece. Opinion writing and persuasive essays are very similar. We will learn when to use both types of writing. I am hoping to inspire some to write letters to businesses or organizations with my students' strong opinions on topics that concern them.

Our early Vermont history unit continues as we learn about the first European settlers that arrived in this area, originally called the New Hampshire Land Grants. Linda and I will be using history kits provided by the VT Historical Society which  focus on village life and schools in the  18th and 19th century. As a read aloud, I am reading Cave of Falling Water, an historical fiction book which chronicles the lives of three girls living in the same area but in different time periods: Abenaki, colonial, and modern day. Through the characters we are learning what life was like in VT long ago. 

Did you hear that we watched Governor Phil Scott's inauguration? I am amazed how knowledgeable many of my students are about politics. The presidential inauguration will be televised at noon on January 20th. We are at recess during that time, however, students can come in to watch it if they choose.

Please remind your child to bring enough clothing for recess -  hats, gloves, boots and snow pants are needed daily. We go outside in light drizzle and temperatures above ten degrees. Let's hope for more snow and less ice this week.
Be well,

December  18,2016
Dear Families,

 To say we had a crazy week last week is an understatement! With the delayed opening, two indoor recesses, a highly contagious stomach virus on the loose, and a full moon, I felt as if the week was a month long! We have been more diligent about hand washing and desk scrubbing to avoid catching any nasty viruses  before the holiday break. Our Holiday Party will be this Friday at 1:00. Please be sure your child brings his/her Secret Snowflake gift in by Friday. We are still looking for a donation or two of a holiday snack. Here is a quick synopsis of what we have been doing in school:
  • students are continuing their reading book group discussions, focusing on asking more in depth questions about the text - I have noticed a significant improvement in writing summaries about our reading
  • we are participating in The Great Mail Race where we write letters  to students across the country to learn more about our states and regions
  • half of the class is working in a focus group  learning how to write a complete sentence, as well as how to identify incomplete sentences in our writing
  • we revisited writing a Sandwich Paragraph
  • students learned about endangered frogs in the rainforest through an interactive Smart Board application designed by National Geographic
  • Judy Dow presented to both classes about the Abenaki Culture and what technologies they used to survive
  • we baked and decorated Sugar Cookies - this was one of the choices we voted on during our  Mock Class Election in November
  • 3rd grade math students  solidified their understanding of 1d, 2d and 3d representations; we will be using this knowledge to build the area model for multiplication
  • we played outside in the snow!
Enjoy  a few pictures from our learning. Let's hope we all stay healthy this week!
Be well,
      Aida sews an amulet pouch, similar to an Abenaki pouch.

        Our first snowy afternoon - time to make snow angels!

          Hide and seek in the deep snow

                   Molly finds a frosty treat 
        Judy Dow shows us Abenaki technology - a spear thrower
  First, we decorated cookies with frosting, sprinkles, chocolate...
        basically, sugar on sugar!

        Then, we devoured them! De-li-cious!

Dec. 4, 2016
Dear Families,

 It is beginning to look a lot like... winter! Yahoo for the snow coverage.We have had 2 weeks of mud on our playground and I am hopeful that the colder temperatures will freeze the ground this week to prevent all that dirt coming into our classroom. Our school rule is: if there is snow on the ground, bring snow pants and boots! Students can leave a pair of inside shoes in our room and just go between school and home in boots, if that is easier.

Last week, we had our grand finale from the puppet residency. Mr. Hedler filmed all the shows and I am hoping that we can get a link to watch ourselves during the performance. The kids really enjoyed this creative, hands-on unit while acting out an Abenaki story, which supported our ongoing investigation. In class, students  have been researching the answers to many questions about the Abenaki. We also sewed amulet pouches with the intention of getting outside to find a special object from nature to keep as a talisman.This week, we have an Abenaki expert presenting to both 3/4 classes. On Friday afternoon, Judy Dow will  show us many Abenaki artifacts, as well as teach us about the Abenaki people and their culture. This will be her 3rd visit to our school - she is a treasure of knowledge!

In literacy, students self-selected books which created reading groups. The dog-themed books include Because of Winn Dixie, Shiloh, Henry and Ribsy, and Sable. Each group of  students decides how much to read in a given time period.  Each child  records questions they have about the text, notices and jots important vocabulary,  and makes predictions about what will happen in the coming chapters. I am encouraging students to "run" their own book talks. We are learning how to have a discussion on our reading without my input. It is a work in progress...

Many students have written a second personal narrative, some are onto their third. By the end of this week, each child will chose their best writing piece to turn in to be scored. Students have a writing rubric which guides them in their writing. I am encouraging students to conference with their peers to get feedback on their writing.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that I sent a letter home last Friday telling you about our class tradition of making a homemade gift for our Secret Snowflake exchange. Students are very aware of what the parameters are for making this small, thoughtful gift ( no food items). We will celebrate the season of giving with a gift exchange on Friday, December 23rd at 1pm. If anyone would like to send in a holiday treat or cider, please let me know.

Three weeks - I am committed to keeping all my students calm and focused as the "world" around us ramps up for the holidays.... but I do occasionally break into  song during our lessons.... and I have promised to have a cookie baking session soon! Tis the season!

November 5, 2016
Dear Families,

 This past week, I feel like I have had a personal conversation with each of you about your child after writing comments in his/her  progress report. The reports will be going home before my conferences on Wednesday and Friday. I look forward to our meeting.

In class, students are working diligently on revising a personal narrative and learning about the elements that are needed to make a good piece of writing. It just so happens that I have been taking a graduate class on assessment. In this course, I learned that students should have multiple opportunities to assess written work. I created a packet of 7 narrative writing pieces and allowed students to score each piece using a rubric, or checklist of criteria  As an entire class,we then calibrated our scores on a few pieces. This process allowed us to have a clear understanding of what a proficient writing piece looked like and of  student expectations.  When observing the student groups, I noticed how engaged EVERY child was on the task! I heard conversations that were focused on the elements of writing. Students were very critical  when scoring writing pieces - they have very high standards! This activity was so valuable and I will be sure to include it in every writing unit I teach. Here is  a video of my students in action:

This past week, we also began our investigation about the first people to live in VT, the Abenaki. We generated a list of questions we had about who the Abenaki were, how they lived, and what contributions they made to VT. In small groups, students will begin to research the answers to their questions. Ask your child how long  the Abenaki have been living on this land and what questions s/he has about this native tribe.

We will have more time to chat personally at our conference.
I am off to clean my gardens in between raindrops. November is such a housekeeping time for me.
Be Well,

October 23, 2016
Dear Families,

I was at Mad River last night and drove home in a gusty, wild snowstorm! I am not ready for this....yet. The week is foretasted to be blustery and cold. Please remind your child to dress in warm layers for  a week of chilly recesses.

Here is our first student written article to be published in a section called "Kids' Corner". Originally, I thought writing for this column could be a weekly job for two classmates. However, it was challenging for students to find common planning time  during our hectic schedule. It is now an elected activity. I think it is valuable for my students to reflect on their learning.  I  hope to include more student writing in upcoming Newsletters.

Kid's Corner 

Making Masks in Mrs. Costello’s Class

By Anna and Kiersten

Last Friday Mrs. Harris, Sam's grandmother, came and she read us a story about a raven in the Native American Northwest. After she read us the story she showed us how to make a mask. Our class colored them and cut them out. Next, we stapled them so they became masks! There was a thunder bird and a wolf mask. At the end when everyone was finished we took a picture.

We also finished making our BMI booklets which will be hung on a display alongside our 3-d BMIs in the 3-6 hallway. This concludes our research about the environment in and around a River. Students really enjoyed taking a "quiz" to summarize our learning on a website called Kahoot, an interactive site which plays like a game-show. Students learned many new environmental terms and concepts during this unit as is stated in the Next Generation Science Standards for our grade level. Linda Emmons and I are slowly transitioning our science units to align with this national science curriculum.

 Our  next focus will be a Social Studies unit on the first Vermonters, the Abenaki. Most social studies units dovetail well with literacy  lessons on nonfiction reading. Students will be learning about the Abenaki culture and its influences on early Vermonters. This is a favorite unit for most students because of the many hands-on activities, speakers, and field trips associated with it. More about this to come later.

Students also presented their rehearsed Readers' Theater plays. Students practiced multiple readings of their scripts focusing on reading fluently and with expression. One last group will perform on Monday. During our daily silent reading, students are practicing slowing down  and tracking their thoughts with sticky notes. We have talked about the many different questions that readers have while reading. We are learning that when we ask questions, we are uncovering the deeper meaning in our text. This is a new skill for 3rd graders - one we will practice all year long. 

        A group reads from a play called, " The Alien".

During writing time, your child is working on a personal narrative of his/her choosing  As a class, we learned about the many tools that writers use to enhance a piece of writing. We had many mini-lessons which focused on the following authors' craft: similes, strong verbs, using transition words, adjectives and 3 word phrases, onomatopoeia, and beginning our stories with a hook. Please ask your child what each of these terms means and how each improves a piece of writing. Third graders, who are still learning how to keyboard efficiently, are hand writing their narratives while 4th graders are able to type theirs in a Google Doc. If your child shares his/her piece of writing with you, please don't be tempted to edit the work - we will be revising and editing over the next month. It is much more valuable for a writer to notice and make edits and revisions than for an outside person to do it for him. Learning from our mistakes is valuable learning!

Finally, Parent Conferences are just around the corner! I have conference times on Wed., Nov. 9th into the evening and on Friday, Nov. 11th, our day off from school designated for conferences. I am also available to meet most mornings before school at 8:00. Let me know if you need a different meeting time.

I guess this weekend's snow was a good reminder to put snow tires on - soon. Personally, I hope we get a dumping of snow this winter after last year's flop.
Enjoy the last colors of autumn,
 Be well,

October 8, 2016
Dear Families,
I hope you have plans to enjoy this beautiful, long fall weekend with your children. My drive home to Moretown takes me over a mountain road with spectacular views of the foliage below - such a stunning time of year.

Over the last two weeks, our classroom has been a cacophony of coughs - so many students are getting or recovering from a fall cold. As you know, we had an exposure to Whooping Cough in our room, so keeping your sick child home was a good call. One day, we had six absent. I take daily doses of elderberry syrup as an immune boost - extra vitamin C, plenty of water and a good night's sleep certainly help to combat infectious germs. We are washing our hands often and being mindful to turn our heads away from friends when coughing into our elbows. 

Here is what we have been doing in class, while reading assessments, a hike and a day off were sprinkled throughout the last two weeks:

    - creating 3-d BMIs with Ms. Campbell during Studio Art for a hallway display
    - researching and writing  our BMI  mini-science books which explain about our BMI
    -  learning about the elements of a Personal Narrative  - our first writing piece
    - writing several starter stories in our Writer's Notebooks - writing "short" for 5 minute sessions to get an idea for our "long" narrative
    - practicing our new Spelling words on Spelling and keyboarding on
    - working on reading fluently with voice and expression through Readers' Theater scripts 
    - harvesting, washing, sorting and delivering our garden carrots for all to enjoy
    - 3rd grade Math students were introduced to: 
            - the concepts of repeated addition and skip counting as representing multiplication
            -reviewing how to round numbers to the nearest ten/hundred place value
            - perfecting our subtraction strategies
    - exploring the school's nature trail - we will visit this trail for longer sessions in the coming weeks

Here are a few pictures from explorations.

                                                                                                3rd grade math students eagerly solving subtraction problems

                                                                                                                           The carrot harvest begins

   We helped Talitha plant a cover crop to enrich the soil for next year


        Counting our washed carrots

                                                                                            Chopping carrots so we have enough to share with the school

September 25, 2016
Dear Families,
 It was so nice seeing many of you at our Open House this past week. It is definitely a whirlwind of greetings and quick conversations for me with many familiar and new faces flashing by. I love seeing my students as leaders and guides on this night, taking ownership of their learning environment and speaking like experts in their familiar surroundings. I look forward to having more meaningful conversations with you about your child's school experience at our parent conference date in November.

I wanted to devote this newsletter to my thoughts about reading. Rumney School staff believes that reading is one of the most valuable activities that can impact a child's learning. When a child reads, s/he is being exposed to so many rich experiences: hearing about new worlds/cultures, identifying with characters like themselves, learning new vocabulary, seeing  models of grammar and sentence structure, being exposed to new ideas that might challenge their thinking, ... Reading is mentally stimulating - like a work out for the brain. It improves memory, focus and concentration. Reading can reduce stress - in school we talk about getting so immersed in a book that our daily life and problems can slip away. And, it is cheap entertainment!

For these reasons and more, reading is an expected Homework assignment. It is an expectation that our students are engaged in reading at home for 5 days a week or more and  for a sustained, uninterrupted time. In class, students independently read for 30 minutes every day, so I know each child is capable of reading for this long at home. However, I know that there are some days when my students don't have the time to read for more than 10 minutes, or not at all. The expectation is that each child makes room in their life to read ~ maybe before school, after school, or at bedtime,  but always as a daily routine.

I will also be sending home a reading article with questions once a week for homework. This assignment will be at each student's reading level and  should take 30 minutes to complete, if s/he is focused during the entire time. If your child is stuck when answering the questions, please help them. You will be able to see what they know and what struggles they might be having. I will be using these articles and questions to guide me in future reading lessons.
I will also be sending home a reading article with questions once a week for homework. This assignment will be at each student's reading level and  should take 30 minutes to complete, if s/he is focused during the entire time. If your child is stuck when answering the questions, please help them. You will be able to see what they know and what struggles they might be having. I will be using these articles and questions to guide me in future reading lessons.

In class, we will talk about reading homework expectations. Your child can pick anything to read at home - chapter books, magazine articles, non fiction books, the newspaper... It should be something at his/her just right level. You might choose to read with your child - you read one page, s/he reads one page. However, it does not fulfill the homework assignment if you are doing all the reading. Talking about reading is also so valuable. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the reading homework expectation, please contact me. I will be assessing each child's reading level for the next two weeks. If you want a list of just right books for your child, let me know and I will send one home.Lynne is also a terrific resource for books.

Thank you for supporting us in making sure your child is a reader at home.
Be well, 
 PS - ALL SCHOOL HIKE is on Friday - please send your child in with a water bottle, snack, lunch and good walking shoes 

September 10, 2016
Dear Families,
We had  another great week at school and are slowly becoming more familiar with our daily routines. Students are now very adept at creating paper out of recycled paper and require little, if any, assistance from me. Most  have made creative, colorful, full sheets of paper that we will use as a border to display  poems about our unique selves. You will be able to view these works of art during Open House on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 6:30pm.

Our first Science unit on life in and around a river is well under way.We began this unit by asking as many questions as we could think of. Questioning is a vital part of research and begins the thinking process. I am using the QFT Model to begin most investigations this year. Here is a list of our questions: Question List.Twice, we visited the Shady Rill to gain a better understanding of the habitat surrounding a stream. Has your child been talking about BMIs? Please ask him/her what it stands for and why the presence of certain BMIs indicates a healthy stream. On Monday, we will once again explore the Rill near the sugarhouse and collect data on the water quality. Mrs. Emmons' class and mine are working with Ms. Campbell to create a huge, 3-d river mural which will have student researched facts posted alongside representations of life in and around a river. This highly motivating investigation will take us into the month of October. There are photos of this exploration  below.

This past week, we have also been learning (and relearning)  about  "sandwich paragraphs" - a 6 - 8 sentence paragraph written to a specific focus. Every year, my students write letters to themselves about their hopes and dreams for the coming year. This  goal setting activity also acts as a time capsule. On the last day of school, each child will receive his/her letter to read and recall what they were like at the beginning of the year. We also measured our height and will revisit our growth  in June.

September is assessment month - all students finished Spelling placement assessments this week. In the coming weeks, I will be performing individual reading assessments. Also, students will be taking a new, on-line Math Assessment. These  valuable tools  help us gain important academic information about each student so we can best meet their individual needs through our instruction.

To the delight of most, (three students were not able to log on) students were able to access an on-line typing program called Typing Club that we will be using to teach keyboarding skills. Keyboarding skills are essential in our ever increasing technological world. In my room, we use our laptops for research, for writing papers, for collaborating on Google Docs, for practicing skills, etc. We are trying our best to establish good, keyboarding  habits and encourage you to have your child type with fingers on the home keys whenever they are writing on a computer. 

Enjoy the river photos - there is nothing better than kids and water!
Have a restful weekend,
All 3/4 graders found a quiet spot to observe the stream and record their questions about it.
    Mrs. Emmons is explaining how to  find BMIs.
     One student searches for organisms using a kick net, while others eagerly look under rocks.
    We were so excited to find many organisms including mayfly larvae, dragonfly nymphs, water pennies, water spiders and leeches!

September 5, 2016
Dear Families,
 We had a fabulous first week of school! Granted, there was very little academics going on, so there should have been happy, tired children coming home each afternoon.  I truly believe that becoming a caring, cohesive community is vital to making the rest of the year successful. We spent time learning about each other, playing a few cooperative games and exploring the classroom surroundings. I also introduced students to the art of paper making. This collaborative project is very engaging, creative and reinforces all of our school Cares rules - we are cooperative, assertive, respectful, encouraging and safe while exploring this new paper making process. Here are a few pictures from our first full week back to school:

Students enjoyed water coloring name tags that will be on their desks.
 We explored many classroom materials.

 Students work in groups to tear recycled paper to begin the paper making process.
We are touching the soggy, blended paper which is now pulp.
 Pairs of students worked together to make individual sheets of paper, as well as smaller circular designs.
There was a lot of pride in our final products!
            Through paper making we learned many things: 
    - everyone needs to participate in the process,
    - staying focused helped all to be successful,  
    - clear communication helped in partnerships, 
    - mistakes happen and then we move on, 
    - it feels good to be independent and responsible
    - patience and perseverance are worthy virtues!

A student suggested we try to make paper out of other natural materials ( ask your child what elephants have to do with paper making!)

This week, we will begin another exciting unit of study with Mrs. Emmons' class, a river investigation. On Tuesday and Thursday, we will be walking to the Shady Rill and exploring the area in and around the water. Walking shoes for woods will be needed (no flip flops). Just a reminder that the Handbook Scavenger Hunt Sheets are due on Friday.

I am off for a swim in my pond, while I still can. I heard that we will have a warmer than normal fall followed by a very cold winter. Hope you can get outside to enjoy the end of summer.
Be well,

August 29, 2016
Dear Families,
 Welcome to a new school year! I am so excited to begin this year with 24 curious, kind and energetic students. Mrs. Emmons and I spent some planning time over the summer to ensure our upcoming units are engaging and collaborative - we want to make sure that all 3/4 students have similar experiences at Rumney.

Today, we began our day with an All School Assembly which focused on the new Bus Safety Rules. All students have assigned bus seats. Mr. Rosen also introduced the revised Family Handbook. In an effort to making the reading of this lengthy handbook more enjoyable,there is a yellow Scavenger Hunt sheet that can win your family a pint of Rumney Maple Syrup. It needs to be returned to school by the end of next week. You will  also receive our class schedule,  (PE is on Mondays and Fridays = sneakers!) as well as a Gum Chewing Contract for our class. Please ask your child to go over these with you.

In the coming days, I will be writing to you about  our class procedures. For now, I know you have many forms to fill out for the office. I look forward to reuniting with returning families, as well as meeting  my new parents.
If you need anything from me concerning your child, please know that you can reach me at:
- 223-5429 x 1119
- call my home before 9 pm 496-2032
- stop by in person for a quick chat or to set up a longer conference time
Finally, all my Newsletters are posted on our class Website which can be found using the Rumney Home Page. This year, I am trying something new - students will be contributing to the Newsletter in their own column, " Kids' Corner".  I will gladly email you a bimonthly Newsletter link. If you have a specific email account you would like me to use, please let me know. Otherwise, I will use the email you filled in on your child's school forms. ***If you don't have email or prefer a paper copy, please let me know!
I look forward to working with you and your child this year and providing the best educational environment for him/her!
Be well,

June 5, 2016

Dear Families,
Last week was hot and humid in our room, partly from the weather and mostly from the flurry of activity to finish up the year!  There has been a whirlwind of activity at school as we count down to the end. My students have been working diligently on finishing their Fairy Tale Narratives during any free time they have. We have suspended our Spelling instruction to add more writing time during the day. The result has been many well written stories that include details and descriptive writing elements. Students learned how to use quotation marks in this writing piece. They will be coming home next week.

We also began our Quest research. Students are taking notes on a specific topic of interest, using books and the internet as resources.  The presentation format will be different from last year. In class,  we discussed that time truly has run out to make a big project at home. This will be  an Oral Presentation with minimal visual aids needed. We discussed that posters do not have to accompany an oral presentation. A student may choose to hand draw a diagram,  bring in a model ( stuffed animal, Lego creation, etc), or show a learned skill (dance, sign language,..)  only if it will enhance the presentation. We will talk about the use of note cards in class as an aide to help during oral presentations. The presentation will happen towards the end of the week , depending on when our all school field day will be. I can't believe how quickly time has run out!

Last Thursday, we planted our garden bed with carrot seeds - we sang "Inch by Inch" in hopes of encouraging our seeds to grow and bloom. Here are some pictures of this sweet event. I love that every class now has its own bed. We can't wait to harvest theses vegetables in the fall. 

        Carrot seeds are tiny!
            Students made furrows with their fingers - how deep is a 1/2 inch?
        We didn't have a watering can so we cupped our hands and sprinkled water on the seeds.
        Singing with garden 

I am sure the next eight days will fly by. We have two more field trips planned - Wrightsville this Friday and a walk to the Shady Rill on Monday for a lunch picnic. Please join us for either of these if you can. I heard a rumor that Step Up day will be on the last day of school, Wednesday, June 14th. 

Last Friday, we reminisced about the past year, remembering projects we made, places we visited, and living through the construction, which was a  memory all students talked about. I will miss this class of exuberant learners and look forward to spending next year with  my third graders as the mature, all-knowing fourth grade leaders. As always, my doors are  open to all my former students and I look forward to hearing news from the new fifth graders next fall.
 Thank you for all your support this year in helping your child grow! 
I hope to  send another brief Newsletter before June 14th, but no promises - my daughter's wedding is out of state on the 18th  and I might be a bit "over my head"!
Have a wonderful, restful summer.
Be well,

May 23, 2016
Dear Families,
 Were your children filthy when they arrived home on Friday? If so, it was the sign of a fabulous field trip to the Good Heart Farm stand  Katie and Edge were the most informative couple. We learned about hardening seedlings, heirloom varieties, the importance of loosening soil vs. tilling it over, the value of worms, and how to pull weeds, carry compost, collect rocks and work!!! We met Misse Axlerod, the person who coordinates the Farmer Correspondence Program. Luckily, she remembered to bring her camera ( can't believe I forgot). She will send me photos that I will post later this week.

We have another wonderful, all-day field trip this Thursday, May 25th to the Montshire Museum. Students should bring a snack, a water bottle, and  lunch. We will be participating in a guided lesson while at the museum, as well as have ample time to experience the entire inside. I know that a big focus for the younger grades is to play in the outside water area, but we are really focusing on all the science lessons and activities inside the museum. Student should spend TIME at one area, really exploring it fully.

Fourth graders will be finishing the experiment portion of the Science NECAP on Monday afternoon. I will be conduction reading assessments all day this Wednesday. Also, my third graders will begin an end of year math evaluation that I will spread out over a few days. The end of the year is truly here!

This week, students will be researching a Quest Question. This is not the typical Quest Research Project that I have done in past years. We have run out of time to research and write a formal research paper. Instead, students will research and  take notes this week on one area of interest and then create a visual project AT HOME to show what he/she has learned. Guidelines for the project will be coming home this week. Students should create the majority of the project themselves. They will be scored on the oral presentation, as well as the effort put into the visual project. I realize that there are 23 days left before the end of the year, and that baseball/soccer/weekend trips are scheduled. I am hopeful that students can spend 2-3 nights in the next three weeks working on a Quest Project at home. Quest Presentation will be presented on June 10, 13, and 14. 

I will send a link with farm and field trip pictures soon,
Be well,

            Recording data is an important part of science. 

            Two scientists try to make a complete circuit and turn on a light bulb.

        These girls (tie dye bird!) are attempting to add a switch to their circuit.

May 16, 2016

Hello Families,

It snowed today ... we need a redo on spring. 

This week we have a field trip to the Good Heart Farmstead in Worcester. Students have been corresponding with these farmers since December. We are excited to meet our farmers and learn how to run a CSA. We will be leaving school on Friday, May 20th at 9:15 and returning before lunch. Students should wear suitable outdoor clothes; if it is raining, that means boots and raincoat, and bring a water bottle and snack.

Today, we reviewed a Science NECAP assessment. Tomorrow, I will demonstrate how to perform an experiment and write it up in preparation for our 4th grade testing this Thursday, Friday and next Monday. Third graders are involved in the pre-assessment strategies as well. It is a good review of many science concepts and has led to interesting conversations.

Our fairy tale rewrites are shaping up nicely. Many students are working on adding more specific, descriptive language to their writing. Usually at this time of year, students would have begun a Quest Project Research. This year, we will be researching topics of our choice, but I will not require students to write up a long paper with the project. Instead, students will be taking notes on their topic in school and then creating a visual project at home which will be part of their class presentation. More information about the Quest Project will be coming home next week.

Students continue to read books that they selected and are meeting with their groups to discuss their reading thinking. I have also been assigning weekly Read Works packets, targeting specific reading skills.  Next week, I will be doing reading assessments on most students. Nightly reading is still the expectation.

I have posted more pictures of our recent science exploration with electricity - we had an illuminating experience!

Be well,


May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful, supportive moms - I hope you get spoiled today! I am having a breakfast feast with my daughter's "about to be in laws" arriving soon, so this will be a quick Newsletter.

This past week,  we had a visit from a Google employee who shared a 3-d experience with us involving smartphones and panoramic pictures. Students explored many land forms from around the world, as well as went on an underwater dive to see life in coral reefs. We were also introduced to our newest "class pet" during Spanish. Students fund raised money to adopt a sloth.Finally, we conducted more science exploration with static electricity and will learn about circuits this week. Enjoy these pictures from our learning:

Students are viewing 3-D images from around the world - imagine the sounds of many "Wow!!- Cool! - Ohh!" filling the room.

                                   Meet Steve the Sloth!

            Science can be a hair raising experience!

                Static electricity is the flow of electrons from unbalanced atoms.

 The weeks are becoming a blur, filled with fairytale writing, book talks, outside read alouds (finally!) as well as time to play games in the warm, outdoor air. This week, we will be practicing for the Science NECAP assessment that all 4th graders will be taking during the week of May 16th.

Please remind you child to dress in Camouflage-type colors for tomorrow's 4 Winds class, if possible.

I can see light green buds on the trees and grass that needs to be mowed from my window - so glad that spring is here!

 Be well,


May 1, 2016

Dear Families,

Happy May Day! I am so grateful that the snow has finally melted from my yard and I was able to work in my gardens this past weekend. Students are also glad that they can stop bringing in their boots to school, unless it is raining and muddy out. What a strange spring we are having...

Last week was a busy one! In Science, we are learning about atoms. On Friday, we were able to go outside and make human models of atoms - protons and neutrons  huddled together as a nucleus while electrons zipped around. We also attempted to make atom models using small, round cereal bits, but we ended up with sticky, crushed, cereal-covered fingers. It's important for  students to observe failure - including mine!-  and then learn from mistakes. We will make atom models on Monday from a more reliable material. Experiments with static electricity and complete circuits will follow later this week.

We also began planning our Fairy Tale re-writes. This is our first narrative writing piece  and it will be a lengthy assignment. After reading many fairy tales, students chose a fairy tale to model their writing after. They are now deciding on the setting, characters, and adding creative elements to make the stories entertaining. Our new read aloud is focused on fairy tale characters. Sister's Grimm is a series of fantasy books set in Fairy Port Landing. Many fairy tale characters show up in these adventurous, detective novels. There are nine books in this series - I hope some students will be inspired to read some on their own.

In Literacy, we are beginning new book groups. Each child was able to choose his/her next book which created interest-based book groups. There will be five different groups reading a variety of books, all fiction. On Monday, ask your child which book he/she selected to read. Many children have told me that they don't have time to read at home due to after school sports, dance practice, etc. Please continue to encourage your child to read, even if it is only on the weekends. Summer is coming and it is vital for kids to have an established reading habit. We see so many kids lose ground in their reading abilities every fall because they drop the reading habit.

Sometime this week, I will be sending you a link to a Google Slide Show that the students created themselves. We have been writing poems for that past few weeks and have a poetry bulletin board emerging outside our room.  A few students began writing their poems on a slide show presentation - others wanted to join in and now we have an almost complete visual of every child's poem. I was impressed with how advanced my students have become with technology! 

I'll end with a poem about a perfect spring day - let's hope for many of these days to arrive soon!

 Be well,



Related Poem Content Details

If ever there were a spring day so perfect, 
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze 

that it made you want to throw 
open all the windows in the house 

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage, 
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb, 

a day when the cool brick paths 
and the garden bursting with peonies 

seemed so etched in sunlight 
that you felt like taking 

a hammer to the glass paperweight 
on the living room end table, 

releasing the inhabitants 
from their snow-covered cottage 

so they could walk out, 
holding hands and squinting 

into this larger dome of blue and white, 
well, today is just that kind of day.

April 10, 2016

Dear Families,

It was such a pleasure meeting with you over the past two weeks to talk about your child's progress. I always feel like I have so much more to teach my class, but taking the time to analyze where my students have been helps me to see their growth as well.  This week will be our LAST week of SBAC testing - yahoo for that! We have one more math assessment that should take two to three class periods to finish, with a trip to the Stowe Performing Arts Center on Wednesday thrown in the middle of it. Here is what we have been working on in school:

We finally had time to begin an exciting Science unit on Magnets and Electricity. Students had a great time exploring how to make a metal object into a magnet, discovering what is attracted to a magnet and testing the strength of magnets. Later, we will be making an electromagnet in class which will lead us to a unit on electricity. Students will also make a model of an atom and learn about the smaller particles that it contains. Here are some photos of our explorations:

These partners notice that magnets stick to magnets. We discovered the poles of magnets as well.
The class was surprised to see metal filings in sand!
 This budding scientist made a paper clip float!
This joyful pair is running trials  to determine the strength of a magnet. 

In Literacy, we  began our narrative unit on Fairy Tales. We have begun to read and analyze many classic and modern fairy tales while noting the elements that are present in this specific genre. After this analysis, students will chose one fairy tale as a model for a rewrite, creating their own version. We will use our keyboarding skills to type our rough drafts in a google doc, which will make the final draft so much easier to publish. This writing unit will take a good six weeks to complete.

Here are the links to the posters students created during our Wild Weather Unit. Ask your child to show you which one he/she worked on. We continue to film our Wild Weather reporting movies and hope to have them available for you to see before the school year ends.







Diverse Winds

I heard about many exciting plans for the upcoming vacation. Let's hope we all have sunny, warm days during the break.

 Be well,


March 20, 2016

Dear Families,

 Happy 1st day of Spring! It is colder today than last week, but knowing Spring is officially on the calendar makes the weather more bearable.

 I am writing to remind y0u that we will begin SBAC testing tomorrow. Students saw a practice test last week which hopefully alleviated any worries about this web based assessment. One student remarked that the reading questions seemed similar to the Readworks articles and questions we have been working with throughout the year - so true. The assessments are not timed, so we will spread out the testing sessions throughout the week, mostly on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. This week and next, the 3/4 will be testing in the afternoons right after lunch. If a child is absent, there will be  make up times later on. SBAC testing will continue for the next three weeks.

Also,  Parent Conferences are just around the corner. I am available to meet with you on Wednesday, March 30th after school and on Friday, April 1st until lunch time. I am also flexible and can meet families most mornings before school and right after school if it is more convenient for you. Here is a link for the sign up:

I have decided to introduce students to a unit on poetry during our abbreviated literacy time. We are exploring poems of everyday objects, inspired by the book, All the Small Poems and Fourteen More by Valerie Worth. Students will be selecting common objects to write poems about, and then illustrating them. We will be learning about different writers' craft that makes poetry sensory. In a few weeks, we will be going to the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center on Wed., April 13th to see a Flynn sponsored play based on the book, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, which is also written in prose.Here is a sample poem from the collection: 

Chairs by Valerie Worth






On themselves, almost as if

They were people

Some fat, some thin;

Settled comfortable,

On their own seats,

Some even stretch out their arms,



I look forward to chatting with you soon about your child's progress.

Be well,


March 13, 2016

Dear Families,

After this past beautiful weekend, I am hopeful that this crazy winter is over! However, the mud seems deeper and stickier than ever.  I will be avoiding Middlesex dirt roads during my commute for at least another week. The good news is that the sap is flowing! Last week, we were able to collect sap from our sugarbush in 60 degree weather - enjoy the images below - notice the short sleeves!

            There was such joy being back in the woods!

                                SO SWEET!
            Collecting is a group effort.

I am sure you heard all about our fabulous circus residency and perhaps you were able to join us for the school show last Friday. We all had a blast learning how to juggle and had fun experimenting with various circus tools of the trade. Troy taught us the importance of failing and persevering, he called it "failing successfully". Every student felt accomplished. I am so grateful to the PTO for funding these yearly residencies that expose kids to out of classroom learning.

In class, we are also beginning a new learning unit. During literacy, students are reading in book groups. For this first round, I selected the books for each child based on reading level and interest. The books are: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Kylie Jean Hoop Queen by Marci Peschke,  and Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. The next book groups will be self selected. Students are deciding, as a group, how far to read for their next meeting. During book talks, they are engaging in discussion circles without my interference.  All readers come prepared to book group with comments and questions about the text.  Here is one group in the middle of their book talk:

We have also been learning about new digital technologies that help us culminate our learning. After researching about weather, student groups turned their information into a poster using the website Basically, this is an online tool for creating a poster without paper. We should have all our posters completed by the end of this week - I will post a link  for you to see all of our creations. The other big excitement is that we are about to create a movie using  green screen technology. This app on my iPod will allow us to film a video in front of a graphic background. Last week, students were filmed introducing themselves in front of the pyramids in Egypt and in a snowstorm! I am hoping to show the films during an All School Assembly once they are completed.

It sure sounds like it's all fun and games in school (I like when our learning is active and creative) but the fun will be taking a back seat to the up and coming SBAC assessments. This week, I will spend some class periods showing students preview SBAC tests so that all feel comfortable with the online testing that will begin on MONDAY, MARCH 21st. Please, try to have your child well rested for these assessments. The SBACs include two reading/writing tests and two math tests. They are not timed so students can work on one assessment over a few days time. We will be testing for the next three weeks.

Just a reminder, students still need to wear boots during recess - it is wet and muddy. Snow pants can stay home!

Have a great week,

Be well,


February 14, 2016

Dear Families,

Happy Valentine's Day! We celebrated this Friendship Holiday on Friday by passing out and reading many heartfelt Valentines while enjoying a sweet treat baked by Cariah and her mom. I am so glad for this " holiday" - it really makes us mindful about appreciating each other.

We have had a busy two weeks at school. During Literacy, students have been partner reading about the regions of the United States. We are comparing and contrasting climate, landscapes, cultures and traditions across the different areas of our country. For some, it is the first time they are hearing the names of our states. We have listened to Zydeco music from Louisiana, "visited" the diverse communities of Chicago, "explored" many National Parks including the Everglades, and learned about cheeseheads, tornado ally, and the bread basket of the US. We will finish this non fiction unit of study during our last week of school before the break. 

Our latest read aloud book is by one of my favorite children's authors, Roald Dahl. Students are enjoying Matilda mainly because the characters are developed so well. I am encouraging students to read as many Dahl books as they can - I have copies in my class to share for home reading. Vacation is  great time to read these humorous, engaging stories!

After the break, students will begin book groups during literacy time. I have carefully chosen books at various reading levels to challenge each student. Groups will be reading and discussing books using the Reciprocal Reading protocol, which will be taught and modeled. This is an active reading model, where students have prepared roles for each time they meet with their book groups. It really puts the ownership of learning on the readers. My goal is to video tape groups during their book talks so we can analyze and improve how we participate in reading dialogues.

We have been using our Writing time to begin researching Wild Weather facts in small groups. We are using both hard copy books and accessing websites to gather our information about tornadoes, hurricanes, thunder storms, blizzards, etc..  I am also incorporating lessons on being responsible Digital Citizens - knowing how to use the internet safely and appropriately - using a curriculum from Common Sense Media . Students will create a Google Document to share their notes. After the break, I will be introducing several ways to present  research using  creative applications through technology - no more paper posters! This is part of my graduate course work on Incorporating Technology into the Classroom.

 For my final  project, I need to show my impact on students' learning. A permission slip will be going home this week, asking your permission to allow me to post images of your child on my graduate website.  It is a website that is open to the public, however, it will be embedded in the SNHU website. 

I am hopeful that we will be able to be outside this week during recess - this cold front has been brutal! Our last Fitness Friday will be this week. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to skate with students from 1 - 6 grade.

Hope you have an enjoyable winter break!

Be well,


January 28, 2016

Dear Families,

 This will be a shorter Newsletter. I have just spent the last two weeks closely examining the progress of each child in my class and feel as if I wrote personal letters to each of you. Report cards will be sent home on Friday. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns after receiving the reports. 

My class finished reading the first non fiction book in the Regions of the US series. We learned about the climate, landscapes, culture and certain tourist attraction in the North East.  Many students were excited to learn that the Hershey Chocolate Factory is in PA ( giving free chocolate samples) and that there is an amusement park attached to this tourist destination. This could be a long weekend get away for a mini-vacation this summer! As we continue reading this series, we will be comparing  and contrasting different geographical elements in all five regions.

We continue to explore the writing genre of a persuasive essay. On Monday,  students read an article, " Is Summer Break Necessary?" which gave many facts for and against summer vacation. Then, each chose a stance and wrote a paragraph supporting their claim. We are now on our second revision of writing. It was challenging for these young writers to NOT put in their own opinions of the importance of summer break. We are learning that it is important to use factual evidence when trying to persuade a reader of your opinion. For the record, one child thought we should have school year round, with shorter breaks in-between sessions!

Our Science unit on Wild Weather has taken a back seat to Fitness Fridays, All School Assemblies, concert practice, etc. which all seem to be scheduled during our science block. I am looking for a creative way to fit in time in our busy schedule where students can begin to research various types of weather in small groups. 

Here are a few pictures from a recent  literacy activity.( sorry, forgot the camera at school - I will post them on Monday morning!) We have been collecting juicy vocabulary words from our read aloud books and writing them in our journals. On Thursday, small groups of students randomly selected a word and then acted it out in charades format while the rest of the class had to guess what word was being portrayed. We all enjoyed this creative way to reinforce the meaning of  new vocabulary.

Three girls are acting out the word " kaleidoscope".

                                                                                                    These students are walking over a "knoll".

This group is shopping in a "boutique"!
                                                                                                                     These boys know that a "humidor" is a place for storing cigars.

Addendum: I wanted to mention that I will no longer check Reading Logs at school. Students have been asked to record their nightly reading for five months; they should have an established home habit of reading by now. Please encourage your child to read often. 

Enjoy the weekend!

 Be well,


January 10, 2016

Dear families,

Welcome to the New Year! I heard many wonderful stories of all the things you did with your child over the long holiday break. My students came back a bit tired but eager to begin the new year. Before the break, we had a joyful class party with a homemade gift exchange. I am always amazed by the amount of effort and creativity that students put into their secret snowflake gifts. It was a great way to end 2015!

This past week  we began a new unit of study in Science. We are learning about weather, which includes learning about climate, temperature, our atmosphere, and air pressure. Over the next few weeks, we will be making weather instruments and then researching different types of Wild Weather in small groups. Students will have options of how to present their learning to the class. I am currently taking a graduate class on incorporating new technology into my teaching. I have some amazing tools that I will be sharing with the class and hope some students will use these for their final presentations.

We are also shifting gears in Literacy. Beginning tomorrow, we will be reviewing the elements of non fiction books, and talking about the use of non fiction features such as the table of contents, glossaries, verso  and end pages, headings, etc..  Then, students will be reading about the regions of the U.S. using a series of National Geographic books written specifically for this age group. We will be learning about different note taking strategies as well. This unit will also include strategies for finding information  on the internet. We will continue this non fiction study for several weeks.

For the next two weeks, I will be conducting reading assessments in preparation for the upcoming report cards. All teachers have substitutes in the room while we administer these one on one assessments in small break out rooms. I am hopeful that my class will have few distractions while I am out of the room for a few days.

In writing, students are now typing their persuasive essays on visiting a continent, which they researched during our geography unit. Each child is writing from the perspective as if he/she is a travel agent, persuading someone to visit their continent. Students are using the Painted Essay format, which includes writing a focus paragraph with a hook, three body paragraphs and a concluding paragraph. I am so impressed with the effort and diligence that each child is putting into this five paragraph essay - it is a lot to work!

Last Friday was our first successful Fitness Friday. I had so much fun skating with students from 1st - 4th grade! Just a note, students should bring water bottles with them on these Fridays. The cross country skiers will be skating on Fridays if there is limited snow at Morse Farm. The school will notify skiing students what to expect each week.

The weather continues to be typical New England weather - rain, 50's, below zero, snow, wind.... all within a few days time. Please be sure to send in boots for mud and snow, snow  pants when the ground is white and everything in between!

Perhaps this week we will do a snow dance and  write a  letter to encourage the snow gods in the sky flurry on us soon!

Be well,


December 16, 2015

Dear Families,

Just one question: Who created that "elf on a shelf" anyway? I am amazed how many children are obsessed with where their elf will be every morning. More than one child has recently told me that they "can't think of anything else" when asked to refocus in school. Despite the increasing anticipation, we continue to stay on task and get through these last few days before the long, holiday break.

During Literacy, students are tracking evidence of character traits in their fiction  books.  I am using our read aloud book to model examples of writing which describe the personality traits of Eben, the main character in The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs. Speaking of which, ask your child what "wonders" Eben has discovered so far. We are all enjoying this story.

One of the writing genres students are assessed on is writing a persuasive essay. Students recently researched many interesting facts about a continent of their choice. Each child is now writing an essay (five paragraphs) persuading a reader to visit their continent. We are learning to include interesting facts to convince someone of our opinion. Fourth graders have been very helpful in coaching third graders on how to grab a reader's attention using an interesting hook. We are just beginning our rough drafts and plan on typing these essays in our Google Docs after the holidays.

Did you hear that we now have bulletin boards and carpeted floors in our room? The room is quieter - our thinking balls don't squeak when being bounced on! We (the kids!) do have a concern for tracking in mud when coming in from the muddy outdoors - students have been so conscientious about stomping their shoes on the entrance rugs before coming into our room. They all know that it is time to leave a pair of shoes in school and to wear rain boots, and eventually snow boots, when coming or going.

Not sure if you knew, but this year our school is trying to offer choices for students  during recess time. In 3/4, every Thursday students can stay in for "game time" with me! Many students play Yahtzee, Bananagrams, dominoes, checkers, or enjoy building creative structures with whatever they can find. Here are a few pictures from last Thursday's indoor recess - these kids were so proud of their creative cities.

Our Holiday Party will be in the afternoon on Wednesday, December 23. Please be sure all homemade gifts are in by then. If your child will not be in school on Wednesday, it is important to send in their gift by Tuesday. Please don't send in any items- I will treat the class to cookies, fruit and cider.

I wish you all a peaceful, joyful holiday, sprinkled with some time for yourself!

 Be well,


December 6, 2015

Dear Families,

 There is definitely a heightened energy in our room and an excited buzz about the upcoming holidays. In both 3/4 classes, we celebrate the holidays by exchanging small, homemade gifts. Students  received their Secret Snowflake name on Friday.   In class,we discussed the importance of MAKING a thoughtful gift for a friend. In the past, students have created drawings, written a poem, sewn stuffed animals, made puzzles and stationary, woven friendship bracelets, decorated treasure boxes, etc. and have put in great effort to creating a special, original gift for their chosen classmate. (no food gifts, please) We will have a class party and gift exchange on the last day before vacation - Dec. 23rd. I will bake something gluten free and bring in cider. Please be sure your child  sends in their finished gift by Tuesday, December 22nd in case of inclement weather. 

Weren't the paper mache globes wonderful? We really enjoyed making these in class. Students are now researching geographical facts about continents in small groups and will be presenting their findings to the class later this week. Many groups decided to present their learning through a slideshow. This was a new technological skill for many students. You can view your child's slideshow on their google doc account. 

Speaking of computers, your child can access the  Typing Club website we use from home. Practicing keyboarding at home would benefit your child's proficiency and speed when typing papers/stories. Did you hear that we began cursive instruction last week? Learning to read and write in this font is still important  in this digital age - we still encounter cursive text in books and when researching primary source documents. Learning how to make cursive letters is also helping those who have " challenging penmanship"!

In reading, we are learning  how authors develop character traits using thoughts, actions and dialogue. Students are identifying a personality trait of a main character and then finding  evidence in  their reading to support their thoughts. We are also working on improving how we write about our reading. Students submit a reading response once a week, or so, in letter form and I write back to them. This written conversation helps me know what they are comprehending and internalizing while they read. We also analyze character traits through our read aloud book.  The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs is a sweet book about a boy who discovers wonders in his own backyard.

My class has had a lot of practice writing letters lately. We all wrote at least one thank you letter to the people who donated items for our Harvest Dinner Silent Auction. We also wrote a letter to our farmer partners. For many years, my classes have participated in the Farmer Correspondence Program. Over the course of a  school year, farmers and students write letters back and forth, learning about farming in VT. In the spring, we visit our farmer. This year, we are writing to a vegetable farm in Worcester - forgot the name and will add it later. I will be looking for volunteers to drive us to this farm in May.

I just know that the weather will change quickly ( it's rather warm and sunny outside right now). Please be sure your child is dressed appropriately for outdoor recess. Students can leave a pair of indoor shoes in class if they were boots to school. We have had some very chilly, wet afternoons that have made kids miserable - time to put away the thin slip-ons, shorts, and wind breakers.

My first batch of holiday cookies is coming out of the oven!

 I hope the joy of this season fills your home with delight and few stressful moments!

 Be well,


November 16, 2015

Dear Families,

Thank you for meeting with me during parent conferences last week. I truly enjoy working with you to best support your child. As always, you can contact me anytime if you have further questions or concerns. I will be sending home copies of a few chapters from Yardsticks , a book that describes children at many  stages of development. It really helped me understand my growing daughters, and what behaviors were considered " typical".

Have you heard about the paper mache globes that we are working on during our study of geography? We made them last week, and are painting the continents this week. Some students have had to repaint due to improper placement of continents but as we like to say often, "making good mistakes is how we learn."

First, we cover balloons with paper and paste.

Then, we sketched the continents on with white pencils and painted them. We used globes and maps for reference.

During Literacy, students are still tracking their deeper thinking with sticky notes. Whenever an interesting or unknown topic emerges from our reading, I encourage students to research and learn more.  A pair of reading partners is researching who was Anastasia and what was her importance in history; another student is looking up Bubble Gum Alley. Here, students are using their laptops to research topics of interest after reading Time for Kids.

Today, students wrote an independent essay on a topic of their choice for a district-wide writing assessment. Students were given 45 minutes to organize and write a paragraph with supporting details on something they know a lot about ( soccer, Legos, building a fort, etc). Linda and I will study these pieces of writing and adjust our instruction to be sure all students are meeting the writing standards.

Next week is a short, two day week. Please encourage your child to read over the vacation - reading should be seen as a daily activity - not a homework have to! I hope you have a restful, joyful holiday with your family. 

Be well,


Reminder: Please send in goods for the Food Drive this week!

November 1, 2015

Dear Families,

I wanted to share some photos from our latest geography  exploration. As part of my graduate program, I am learning to incorporate more constructivist activities into my lessons where students are in charge of their learning. I thought it might be entertaining and educational to create a latitude and longitude game to help students understand  how to navigate around a globe. I told my class about a vague idea I had to turn our rectangular table into a map with a grid using yarn and classroom items. Then, I stood back and let the kids design the rest.   A flurry of focused activity encompassed the room! Some students took on the task of creating the grid, others created labels for the coordinates ( 30 degrees north, 40 degrees west, etc) while another group searched for items from our room to place on the game board. When the grid was finished, we stood around the table with clipboards and focused on recording the coordinates for the placed items. Students intuitively helped each other out so  all felt successful in mastering the skill of reading coordinates on a map. I was impressed with the determination, focus, and creativity of the entire group! My role as a teacher is not to provide my students with information, but rather to foster a sense of wonder and curiosity so that they are responsible for their learning. I am hoping to create an environment that supports passionate learning.

Students work to design the grid. The white yarn represents the equator and the prime meridian.

Items have been placed on the game board and we are working to determine their coordinates ( purple paper along the edges).
Some students are explaining to others how to read the coordinates.

This was an exciting afternoon of learning for all of us!

I look forward to meeting with you to share personal stories of your child's growth during conferences this week.

Be well, 


October 25, 2015

Dear Families,

It is finally Halloween week! Your homes must be building with excitement for this ultimate children's holiday. In school, my students have been buzzing about this date for a good three weeks - one child truly thought that the entire month was dedicated to Halloween. We will celebrate this holiday by reading "spooky" stories in class on Friday - no costumes or candy, though.

I should mention that our Literacy time on Fridays is spent differently than the rest of the week. We have been partner reading  Time for Kids magazines. This is the first year Linda Emmons and I have introduced these to our classes. Time Magazine chooses appropriate articles from the past week's news written especially for 3/4 graders. Students read the articles and discuss them with a partner - then we share our insights as a class. Reading and understanding non fiction requires students to use different reading strategies. Many reluctant readers are more engaged with  non fiction text due to the interesting topics and photos. Your child can read non fiction at home for reading homework if they choose - it might encourage more reading!

We began a Geography unit last week. Students are learning about the oceans, continents, hemispheres, and working on map skills including reading keys, learning about latitude and longitude, and analyzing different types of maps. Later in the year, we will rely on this knowledge when reading about the regions of the United States. I have plans for each child to make their own globe..... it will be messy but fun!

Perhaps your child has mentioned that Sandwich Paragraphs are back? This unit on writing to a clear focus with details and elaborations should be familiar to fourth graders. Some third graders even remember Miss Theresa mentioning this paragraph style. Students will be writing many of theses paragraphs over the coming weeks.

I have begun writing Progress Reports for the end of the first quarter. Many of you have signed up for a conference with me. Here is the link if you haven't had a chance to secure a spot. I'll mention again that I can also meet most mornings at 8:15 - 8:35 or some afternoons at 3:45. I look forward to discussing your child's progress next week!

Be well,


Autumn Song  by Katherine Mansfield

Now's the time when children's noses
All become as red as roses
And the colour of their faces
Makes me think of orchard places
Where the juicy apples grow,
And tomatoes in a row.

Come then, find your ball and racket,
Pop into your winter jacket,
With the lovely bear-skin lining.
While the sun is brightly shining,
Let us run and play together
And just love the autumn weather. 

October 10, 2015

Dear Families,

It was lovely seeing so many of you at  Open House. As I looked around the room, I saw many smiling faces listening to students show off their work and explain our daily schedule. Our building changes weekly - I am sure it will be different in November during Parent Conference time, when I will meet with you individually to discuss your child's progress.

We had a very busy week, which included the installation of our heaters!! In Science, we finished our investigation of building the optimal paper airplane. One team had a plane that consistently flew the farthest. Here, Nate demonstrates what design features  are needed for  the ultimate paper airplane. We then test flew the new design and recored the distances flown. It truly was a great design!

Our next unit of study will be focused on geography, answering the question of "Where are we?". Students will work in Inquiry Teams to research the question, using maps, atlases, and the internet ( our library resources are not available...yet) to construct new meaning of where we are in this world. In the meantime, we enjoyed making Leaf Mobiles to celebrate the beauty of Vermont during this foliage season. Students are finishing their Sensory Poems, many of which focus on the autumnal woods. We were inspired to create water color paintings to compliment our poems. I hope these can be on display soon.


Sam's grandmother was visiting from the west coast and stopped by to read to us. She also gave our class a book, one with no words, and encouraged students to come up with the text for the story! This was a great activity that required kids to use many of their  reading skills to create a story based on the pictures and the previous content. 

Here is a request from the PTO: 

Please help us FILL the donation boxes in the lobby for the Middlesex Food Shelf! Our goal is to bring in 600 items. That’s only 3 items per student/staff member.

We have a list of most helpful items from Dave Carkeet, the director of the food shelf. We’ve broken down the wish list by classroom to keep from getting 600 cans of tuna. This is just a general guideline. Please note that every and all donations are appreciated! 

PreK/K – Breakfast cereal, both hot and cold. Nut butters, jams, jellies. 

1st/2nd grades – Pasta, beans, canned soups.

3rd/4th grades – Tuna, canned meats (such as beef stew, sausage, ravioli), canned veggies.

5th/6th grades – Convenience food (mac and cheese, other boxed foods), condiments (mayo, spices, salad dressings).

Rumney staff – Toiletries, soaps, paper products such as toilet paper.

My family used to volunteer at the Middlesex Food Shelf. I was astounded to see so many local families in need of the most BASIC right -  food.  Over  my career as a teacher, I have witnessed hungry children coming to school and am so grateful that breakfast is now served to students. I learned that I could have a monthly donation automatically taken from my bank account to support the  Vermont Food Bank , much like the VPR requests for sustained members. In no way am I preaching for you to do this  - we just never realized that it was a possibility.

Enjoy the Columbus Day weekend - remember there is no school on Tuesday due to a teacher in-service.

 Be well,


PS We still have LICE lurking in our room - please be sure your child's long hair is somehow tied up

September 27th, 2015

Dear Families,

This is just a reminder that we will have Open House on Thursday, October 1st from 6:30 - 7:30. I am sure many of you are interested in seeing the renovations of the entire building - although it isn't complete, there are many changes in the interior design.  Linda Emmons, the 4th grade math teacher, will be on a different schedule than us since she is in the primary wing. If you would like to meet her, you should plan on visiting her classroom from 6:00 - 6:30. The primary wing doors will close at 6:30; our wing will not open until 6:30. I lo0k forward  to meeting with my new parents, as well as reconnecting with former families. 

Last week, we began our Word Study groups -  what we used to call "spelling".  Students are learning about one of the six syllable types, depending on their proficiency on a Developmental Spelling Assessment. Your child will not be responsible for memorizing how to spell a list of words; rather, we focus on learning about spelling patterns and how to apply them in our writing. A spelling pattern sheet with word examples will go home every two weeks or so. Please ask your child what spelling patterns they are learning about during their word study lessons.

During writing, we are learning (or re-learning) about author's craft, focusing on using descriptive language in writing.  Last week, students were becoming more familiar with using similes, metaphors and adjectives to make their writing more visual. I often use books, or mentor texts, to show examples of literature that reinforces a lesson. During class, we read Many Luscious Lollipops  and Quick as a Cricket to learn about specific elements of author's craft.  Students are applying  this new knowledge when writing their own sensory poems based on a book called, Hello Ocean. I hope your child will show you his/her rough draft during open house.

In Literacy, we are learning to use sticky notes to track our thinking. This week, students will get a reading partner, a person who they can share their thoughts with about their reading. Our focus will be on noticing vocabulary and using specific skills to uncover the meaning of difficult words. The read aloud I selected, Donavan's Word Jar, is filled with juicy words for us to focus on. 

Reminder: please be sure that your child is reading for a sustained period of time for five nights a week as part of the homework expectation .

I am off to peek at the Super Moon before heading to bed - I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!

Be well,


 Septemer 20, 2015

Dear Families,

It is the last day of summer as I write this note to you while wearing a sweater and long pants for the first time in months. We were so fortunate to have had sunny, warm weather all last week. Our  school hike up Mt. Elmore was successful for all. Many students chose to hike up to the fire tower this year - a huge accomplishment. I joyfully walked with a group of 9 girls who never stopped talking the entire way up and down!  It just shows that they were in great shape to be able to walk up the sometimes steep path while never breaking the conversation! : ) I was quite exhausted by the time we got to school.

On Thursday, we continued a science investigation on paper airplane design. This mini unit is teaching students about the scientific method. We discussed the importance of a constant (one sheet of plain paper), performing flight tests and recording data, analyzing data, changing one thing to improve on flight (variable), and sharing our results. This unit will continue for another week or so. Enjoy these pictures from our class work:

Students are discussing their airplane designs to each other.
Partners collaborate and discuss possible design alterations.
Students enjoyed  testing their designs, then measured the length flown.

This week during Literacy, I will finish reading assessments. Students have been learning how to write a summary after finishing a  book - all have written one reading response in their journals. It is a challenging task to be able to summarize the important ideas of a book in just a few sentences. I will begin a unit that focuses students' attention on the vocabulary in their reading. We will use sticky notes to track "juicy" words, discuss reading strategies that help us discover the meaning of difficult words,  and create a classroom Word Wall - well, sort of. We are still on hold for putting anything on the painted walls. Students have a vocabulary journal where they will write new words and definitions from their reading.

You should be aware by now that Reading Logs went home this past week. This is reading homework. Student are expected to read for 5 nights a week for about 20-30 minutes. Students can  choose to read any type of genre (non fiction, fiction, magazine, etc.) as long as it is at their reading level - not too hard, not too easy. They are to track the number of pages they read, aiming for 25-30 pages read at a time, as well as how long it took them to read. We will use this data in class to analyze our reading habits. I am asking parents to sign these logs for a month or so to help establish a routine of reading. The class discussed that reading can happen in the mornings before school, at night, on the weekends, during a sibling's soccer game, etc. We all agreed that bus reading was too challenging since it was not a quiet, uninterrupted time period. Here is a short  article discussing the importance of daily reading : Benefits of Daily Reading

Thank you for your support on this.

Be well,


September 7, 2015

Dear Families,

 We had a fabulous, full week of school filled with many fun activities! ( 4th graders should recognize the alliteration in that sentence!)

Here are some pictures that captured our learning:

Ours is one of the few classrooms with individual desks. Students enjoy having their own space to put all their folders, books, and notepads inside. Every month, I switch the desk spots so students can sit next to new friends and become better acquainted with their classmates. Here, students are painting wooden cutouts that will become their desk name tags while listening to calming music (as the hammers play their own songs all around us). 
Third graders were particularly excited to receive their own laptops! We will begin keyboarding skills ASAP. Students will often choose to go onto their computers first thing every morning to research a posed morning question, play a school approved math game that increases their automaticity with math facts or works on problem solving, or practice their keyboarding skills. Notice the "thinking balls" at every desk - they really allow children to move while focusing on their work, and building core strength.
This week, pairs of students worked on solving an open-ended Science problem. They were given a finite set of materials and asked to build a "puff mobile". There were 11 unique designs created using one sheet of paper, 3 straws, 2 paper clips, 4 life savers and 50 cm. of tape. It was an activity that promoted cooperation, trial and error investigation, and creativity.
Here is a team that is anxiously waiting to see how far their puff mobile will travel when moved by a floor fan. The entire class watched and commented on each design. Molly noticed that a puff mobile moved farther when there was " more surface" for the fan to hit - a brilliant scientific discovery! We will have monthly scientific investigations  throughout the year.

We had another visit to the stream equipped with clipboards and paper. Students were encouraged to write sensory words or draw pictures of the woods and water. An idea for a Woods poem is forming in my head....

Finally, students worked in collaborative groups to re-write our classroom rules framed by Rumney Cares. We are not allowed to put anything on the walls, yet, but a poster with the written rules was created and each student signed their name to show they agreed with the "contract". Adjectives to describe this group of children are kind, caring, curious, and enthusiastic! I feel so fortunate to be sharing my days with them!

Enjoy this spectacular long weekend,

Be well,


September 1, 2015

Dear Families,

Welcome to the new school year! It certainly has been an interesting beginning. We are in a new space which is still under noisy construction. We arrived to a room filled with boxes and minimal furniture but with a collaborative effort, our room is starting to take shape. We have adopted the word "yet" when talking about all our missing materials, " Our Smart Board isn't functional...yet!" My students and I are counting any new additions as "daily gifts" - last Friday we got a clock in our room and over the weekend, the counter tops and window sills were installed. We have been told that ours is the most challenging room to be in, but these flexible, focused students don't seem too fazed with the work that is going on around them. Having said that, we spend many hours outside under the shade of a quiet tree or in the cool, calm of the woods near the Shady Rill and Rumney sugarhouse. 

In the past 5 days, we have:

- spent time getting to know each other

- played many cooperative games to build our classroom community

- sorted fiction and non fiction books

-chosen a just right chapter book to read daily in class

- revised our classroom rules to reflect our values

- had Art, Music, Library, Spanish, Guidance, and Technology in our classroom

- had daily lunch in Mrs. Emmons' room with her class

- painted name tags and Touchstones - stones with words to inspire and help with our learning

- begun to write our Hopes and Dreams for the year in a friendly letter to ourselves

- played math games to reacquaint ourselves with learning from last year

-  celebrated two birthdays!

I am sure my students are sleeping well at night as we adjust to the school schedule - I certainly am!

In the coming days, I will begin assessments in spelling, reading, and math which will aide with curricular plans. Our school follows the Responsive Classroom approach which focuses heavily on establishing a positive, learning culture in the first six weeks of school. We will ease into academics and homework. 

Questions to ask your child:

- What book are you reading in school?

- What do you sit on in class and why?

- What's unusual about the Wayside school and its students?

- What was one of your"hopes" for the coming school year?

I found many of your emails on the school's contact sheet - if you'd rather receive this Newsletter at a different  address, please email me at school at

Our classroom phone doesn't work..... YET! 

Be well,


August 8, 2015

(a hard copy of this letter was sent to new families)

Dear Families, 

What a glorious summer we have had in Vermont! I hope you had the opportunity to enjoy some time outside with your family. I was so lucky to have my recently graduated college daughter at home (and working!) this summer. Now, it is time to get back to schedules, shopping for classroom supplies and planning for the first few weeks of school. We will be in a new classroom this year and Under Construction! Not sure what to expect on day one, but I am confident my 21 students and I will face the challenge with open minds and a positive attitude.

Last year, my newsletters were posted on a class website. You can view this website through under Class Pages. There is a Home page that gives information about my teaching history, as well as specific subject pages. In my Newsletters, I post classroom news, pictures, occasional videos and links to information about our current units of study. I will gladly email you when a newsletter is posted. Send an email to my school address - - if you would like notification of posted newsletters. You can include a work email if you prefer. Also, if you do not have internet access, please write me a note and I will send a paper copy of the newsletter to you. Last year's parents are already in my system – unless you have an updated email address you want to change.

I've already had a few inquiries of class supplies that might be needed for this school year. I know your children LOVE to buy new school supplies, but we supply everything your child will need for the year including a pencil box, colored pencils, glue, scissors, erasers, sticky notes, markers, etc. If you are begged to buy your child something to begin the new school year, please buy them a book to read!

I have received 17 student letters this summer and have written over 40 letters back! Some students have written more than once. I enjoy hearing about vacations, adventures, and family visits. Please encourage your child to write to me if they haven't yet – it is a sweet, simple way for me to stay connected to my students over the long summer.

I will write more detailed information about our curriculum and class happenings in my newsletters. If you need to contact me for any reason, you can send a hand written note, email me at school, call my home after 5pm and before 9:00 pm, (496-2032), or (least effective) call the classroom ( 223-5429 x 315). I am very excited to begin the new school year in an updated building! I look forward to sharing the days with your child - exploring, wondering, and learning about this world together!

Be well,


May 26, 2015
Woohoo! We are on a role in school. I love this time of year when we are busy finishing up many projects including book groups, Quest and pop-up poetry. However, I am not enjoying the many days of testing that is new this year. Your child isn't too fond of it as well. This is our last week of SBAC testing - all math. The school will have make up days next week for students who missed a day or need more time to finish a test. Overall, students are doing very well, putting in great effort and concentration to do their best. The 3/4 teachers have a Friday afternoon celebration planned to honor all the students' hard work over the past three weeks of assessments.
Quest Update: In class, most students have finished researching their quest question and are  now writing a research paper. Your child should have told you what he/she is thinking about for the Quest Project, which is completely done at home. On the back of the purple contract sheet there is a list of possible projects to do -  a poster is only one choice. I have poster paper here to send home, if a child needs it. Projects MUST be in school on Monday, June 8th. We will be presenting during that week.
Shelburne Field Trip: Just a reminder that we have an all day field trip to the Shelburne Museum on Tuesday, June 2nd. Students should bring a snack, water bottle, and bag lunch (unless they signed up for a school lunch on the sheet). It is a rain or shine field trip - send raincoats if the weather looks wet.
Last Friday, we had a wonderful presentation from a group of Abenaki drummers who drove down from the Northeast Kingdom. We learned about the importance of the drum to the Abenaki culture and listened to many songs. Each child had a chance to drum on the sacred drum, while the rest of us used percussion instruments to add to the songs. Here are a few pictures from the afternoon.
Groups of six students got a drumming lesson from the elders.
All the students  sang and participated in a group drumming session.
Please be sure to read the school's weekly Newsletters for updates on school-wide events - there are many changes happening over the next few weeks. Enjoy the sunny, warm weather that is finally here!
 Be well,
April 28, 2015
Dear Families,

Here it comes!! We teachers are in a bit of a panic knowing how quickly these next six weeks will fly by. There will be many disruptions to our daily routine, which makes it challenging to fit everything in. Here are a few upcoming important events in May:

4th grade Science NECAP Testing:
Wed., May 6th 1:00-2:30, Thurs., May 7th, 1:00 -2:30 and Friday, May 8th 10:00 - 12:00. ( Friday will be the experiment day)
NECAP make up test on Monday, May 11th.

All students SBAC Testing:
Tues., May 12th and 13th - 10:30 -12:00
Tues,. May 19th and 20th -  10:30 -12:00
Tues. May 26, 27, 28, 29th - 10 - 12:00.

There will be make up times following the testing during the first week of June for students that are absent during the testing times.

We also have our end of the year Field Trip scheduled for Tuesday, June 2nd. We will be visiting The Shelburne Museum and will need many chaperones to join us. Permission slips will be coming home toward the end of May.

Last week, 4th grade parents should have received a letter from Adam talking about 5th grade placement. Please return your input about placement as soon as possible - we value your insight into this process and will be starting  placement conversations soon.

In school, students are excited to begin Quest Projects. Students will be choosing their own topic to research and write about. All research and writing will be done in school. However, a  project showing what was learned will be worked on at home. The final presentation will include a short, student summary of what was learned, as well as a visual project/demonstration/model etc. Students will be bringing home a packet of information which will include a time line of due dates.

Our Literacy Book Groups are finishing up within the week. I have been very impressed with the students' ability to find examples where they made inferences in their books. We have been spending some of our literacy time prepping for the SBAC test, learning how to use the computer tools, as well as looking at sample questions. Our next literacy unit will focus on the elements of non-fiction text, as well as learning how to take notes from non-fiction.  

 Here are a few pictures from a recent Science Unit on "Mystery Powders". Students were given 5 white powders and were asked to perform several experiments on them to see if they could determine what each powder was. Each child made a hypothesis, wrote down the procedure used, and recorded data and their observations. This week, we will compare our results against a characteristics chart to identify each mystery powder.

Students observed each powder by looking at it, touching it, and identifying distinguishing traits ( texture, color, etc).

Students were surprised at the reactions caused when water, vinegar, iodine, and heat were added to each powder.

The final results of the mystery powders: corn starch, baking soda, salt, sugar, and plaster of paris!

Please be sure to ask your child about his/her possible Quest questions to research.
 Enjoy the upcoming sunny, warm weekend!
 Be well,

April 6, 2015

Dear Families,
 It was such a pleasure talking with you last week about your child's progress this year. I am always saddened by  this April conference since it is the last time I speak with many parents of 4th graders - it is hard to believe how quickly the last 2 years have passed. 

In Literacy, we are beginning new book groups, focusing on specific skills which include inferencing, summarizing, and visualizing to help with deeper comprehension. Students are reading one of the following books: The Leanin' Dog by K.A. Nuzum, Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater, Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary and Dolphins Before Daybreak by Mary Pope Osborne. Students are tracking their thinking with sticky notes and writing detailed thoughts about their books in weekly assignments.

Our Persuasive Essays are coming along. Don't be surprised to get a letter from your child trying to persuade you to purchase him/her a computer, new pet,  or agree to go on an exciting vacation.  Students are also writing to our principal, kitchen staff and one hopeful letter to be published in a newspaper editorial. This is an important genre for students to learn how to write skillfully.

Finally, we are taking class time to focus on preparing 4th graders for the Science NECAP, which will be administered during the first week of May. As a class, we are reviewing various science concepts (force and motion, magnetism, erosion, electricity, weather, etc) and will be performing previous years' NECAP experiments. The NECAP requires  succinctly written responses which I plan to model in class - it really is a writing assessment with a science focus. We are also preparing all students for the SBAC  - the assessment that replaces the NECAPS for all 3-6th graders, also to be administered in May. Since these assessments are completely taken on a computer,we have been working on our keyboarding skills, as well as practicing the online sample tests. Students are learning how to use specific technology tools which they will need during the SBACs. 

I suppose the only good thing about the continued snowy, blowy spring weather is that it  is not distracting us from our studies - but it sure is getting tedious!

I hope warm sunshine finds you soon!
 Be well,

March 14, 2015

Dear Families,
Spring IS coming - just not as quickly as we might wish. Last week, my class visited Rumney's sugarbush to tap trees. We walked in soft, slippery snow, and trudged back in goopy mud - a sure sign of the changing weather. Many students tasted the sap as it dripped from the spouts, anxiously anticipating the sweet syrup to come. Hopefully, we will be emptying sap buckets soon.

Back in the building, we have been investigating a unit on Light. We have conducted several experiments to understand this important energy source, using flashlights, mirrors, prisms, etc. to answer questions on how light travels, what causes shadows, what is the color of light, and how our eyes and light are connected. These young scientists love to conduct experiments, but are less inclined to write about their findings. However, we will be writing about our experiments and analyses. Vermont still assess students' science knowledge using  the Science NECAP - we will be getting ready for this written assessment which will happen in May.

Our mystery literacy groups are coming to an end. Students enjoyed reading and discussing their mystery books in small groups. The books we read were: Bunniculla by James Howe,  Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett and  a Cam Jansen mystery. I encourage students to include mystery books in their home reading. This genre forces young readers to slow down and think deeply about the text, while searching for clues and analyzing characters' motives. All three books are part of a series/author study and can easily be continued. I will be introducing a new skill in the coming weeks: inferencing. This is a higher level thinking skill which requires readers to " read between the lines" and understand the text through the description of setting, characters' actions, or thoughts. Students will again be put into book groups - I find that oral discussion aides in learning new concepts.

We have also begun a lengthy writing unit on opinion/persuasive writing. We are reading and analyzing several examples of opinion pieces, noting what elements help persuade the reader. Students already want to convince me to get a class pet - you might be getting similar letters of request in the coming weeks! 

Finally, I will be walking my students through the new assessment expectations of the S-BAC, the standardized test that replaces the NECAP. These assessments will be taken ALL on a computer! Although we have been practicing keyboarding skills in school, I am worried that my 3rd graders aren't as proficient at keyboarding as they could be. It would help tremendously if they could practice typing at home. Here is the address to our keyboarding program: Students have been typing personal narratives in their free time as another means of practicing these skills.

Parent conferences will be held during the week of March 30th. Julie Smart and I are offering a day of evening conferences on Tuesday, March 31st, and a half day of after school conferences on Thursday, April 2nd. We strongly encourage separated families to attend one conference . You can sign up for a time here:

I am sure you have heard about our biggest surprise yet - a swallowtail butterfly emerged from her cocoon while we were on vacation! "Sugar" is surprisingly resilient and has lived longer than we anticipated, despite her confinement to our classroom. Here are pictures of this beauty:

 We recently read this poem in class - enjoy the thawing of March!



The sun is nervous 
as a kite
that can't quite keep 
its own string tight.

Some days are fair,
and some are raw.
The timid earth
decides to thaw.

Shy budlets peep
from twigs on trees,
 and robins join
 the chickadees.

Pale crocuses 
poke through the ground
 like noses come
 to sniff around.

The mud smells happy 
on our shoes.
We still wear mittens,
 which we lose.

John Updike

February 20, 2015
Dear Families,
 As I write this letter from school, I am hearing the sounds of laughter, cooperating language, and the occasional " Yatzee!", "Uno!" and " You sunk my battleship!". We are having a board game afternoon since our Winter Carnival was cancelled due to the extreme wind chill. Today was a fabulous day.
We had a productive writing session finishing our Porquoi stories,, followed by the sweetest exchange of "thank yous" when students read their kind words from their friendship buckets.   Last week, we read a book called, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  It is a story that tells readers that we can bring happiness to others by simply saying kind words to them. Each child has his/her own  "bucket" in class. We spend some morning time each day writing kind words about each other and placing them in our buckets. I plan on continuing this activity for the rest of the year.
Due to the many interruptions during our days, we are still reading mystery books during literacy. Students are taking notes and finding clues in their books and then sharing  our thoughts during group discussion time. We will continue these groups after the break.
A new addition to our curriculum is Spanish! We are so fortunate to have two high school students from Montpelier join us every Thursday morning for a Spanish lesson. Here is a bio from the girls:

Dear parents,

Hi! My name is Willow Forbes.  Sara Sanchez and I have recently started teaching Spanish on Thursdays to the lovely 3/4 graders in Ms. Costello's class. Sara and I are both juniors at Montpelier High School, and I just recently got back from a semester abroad in Central America while Sara is actually an exchange student from Spain! We have loved getting to know the kiddos in Ms. Costello's class and so far have learned about animals and are starting to get into  a unit on Spain (we've got a great source of real life experience!). We are so grateful for this opportunity to practice both our Spanish and English and to spend time learning with the 3/4 graders, we only wish we had enough time in our schedules to teach Spanish to every class! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, ideas, comments, or just want to introduce yourselves. My email is

When we return from the long, needed vacation, we will begin sugaring and a unit on Light. I hope you can take some time off to spend with your child next week - snow, warm sun and no wind would make it perfect!
February 1, 2015

Dear Families,
 It is so good to be back full time working with my students, although I feel like we haven't had many full weeks in January with two inservice days and half days each Wednesday. Last week, our class participated in a Cartooning Residency.  Everyone had a blast learning how to create an individualized comic strip which will be compiled into a class book for all to take home later this week. I have been busy assessing students' reading levels and skills and writing report cards which you should have received on Friday. Kathy left many pieces of  evidence that helped me when reflecting on each child's progress. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

In literacy, we will begin Mystery Book groups this week. Students will be analyzing the elements of the mystery genre and taking notes on character's actions to try to solve the mystery themselves. Reading mysteries encourages slower, more thoughtful reading.While there will be three book groups,  a smaller group of students will be working with Mrs. Smart on a comprehension strategy that improves visualization skills. Picturing what you read is a necessary skill  that aids in remembering the details of a book. These students will read a mystery book later in the month.

In writing, all students are beginning rough drafts of a Porquoi/Why story. Students read many examples of these stories which explain how or why something came to be. Each child chose a Vermont animal and is explaining how a certain feature of the animal was created. For example, one student is writing about how a chipmunk got its stripes. These narrative writing pieces reinforce the use of writing to an audience, sequencing and organizing thoughts, and incorporating descriptive language. Fourth graders are typing their stories.

We are finishing a long Social Studies unit on Abenaki and Early Vermont Settlers by visiting the Vermont Historic Museum this Thursday, February 5th. Permission slips went home last week. If you haven't been, I encourage you to visit this local gem. The museum is set up as a timeline of Vermont's history. We will only experience a third of the museum on our trip.  For the second half of the morning, we will have a guided tour of the State House. Students have been learning about the three branches of government and how a bill becomes a law (do any of you remember " School House Rock?"). Next week begins a lengthy Science investigation on energy, first focusing on light.

The following week is Valentine's Day - we celebrate by writing friendship notes/Valentines and mail them in class during an extended snack time. If anyone is willing, we would love one gluten free snack to celebrate this friendship holiday. As a reminder, if a child wants to write Valentine cards, s/he has to include one for every student in the class. I will send home a list of student names. As I finish typing this, I am hearing about a possible snowstorm for tomorrow. I am happy for more snow, but truly hope we can be in school  as we have had so many interruptions to our curriculum ( another inservice day this Friday). 

I hope you have a chance to enjoy the outdoors, especially when the sun is out.
Be well,

January 2, 2015

Dear Families,
Happy, Joyful New Year! I hope you celebrated the start of this new year with your families and, like me, are looking forward to a fresh beginning. My wish for everyone, now more than ever, is for good health and to be more mindful to appreciate all that is right in our lives.

Thank you for the many kind words and thoughts during my healing. It has been challenging for me to be away from school and your children for so long. If you know me even a little bit, you will know that I am a check list, goal  setter and live within timelines. I have learned, however, that healing does not always follow a neat, tight schedule. My goal has been to return to work on Monday, January 5th, however, I have had a slight setback in my healing.  Sadly, I will not be in school during this first week in January. Kathy Wheeler will greet my class on Monday morning and continue to be my long term sub until I return. She and I have planned lessons to continue our regular curriculum. I am hoping to return for half days on January 12th. Here is a brief synopsis of what we will be learning in school:

 Reading- Students will be "performing" Abenaki reader's theater scripts. This will be an enjoyable way to analyze a text while practicing skills in fluency, voice, and speaking publicly.

Writing/ Social Studies: - We will be finishing our Abenaki books.  For the first time, some students are typing their research! Our next big writing project will be a narrative piece modeled after Abenaki " porquoi" or "why" tales. I plan to begin this unit when I return.

Math - Third grade math students are in a  multiplication/division unit that will last for most of the winter. Memorizing a few math facts   each evening should be a daily occurrence.

Winter Wednesdays -  Beginning this first week back, students will be skating, x-country skiing, or swimming every Wednesday for the next five weeks. Remind your child to bring in their gear - not sure what happens when the temperature is freezing...

Please tell your child about my delayed beginning and that I miss everyone.  
I hope to see you soon.
 Be well,

November 2, 2014
Dear Families,

I hope you had a great time celebrating Halloween with your children this past weekend. On Friday, we celebrated the holiday by combining all the 3/4 students into one room, turning off the lights, and reading a few somewhat spooky stories to the group.  We commented how lucky that this children's holiday was on a weekend, as it always should be!  Here is an update on what we are working on in class:

Reading: We are continuing our unit on identifying character traits in self-selected books. Our new focus is on how characters change and what causes them to change. Students are getting proficient at finding supporting evidence in the text to prove their theories on character. We have talked about the different catalysts that cause characters to change. I am modeling this reading skill in several picture books, as well as using our read aloud to show how characters can change. Cave of Falling Water by Janice Ovecka is the story of three young girls growing up in Vermont at different time periods. It dovetails perfectly with our  Social Studies unit on Abenaki and then early Vermont settlers.

Writing: Students wrote two focused sandwich paragraphs while Mrs. Wheeler was here. They showed improvement in their organization, as well as having a better understanding of how elaborations add specific details to their writing. This week, we will be learning how to write an opinion piece. Again, I have several picture books which I will use as mentor texts to show the class how to write a clear argument to persuade an audience of your opinion. We will also read and analyze articles on opposing opinions to show how to support our thoughts. Opinion writing is a Common Core standard.

Social Studies: Our Abenaki unit continues. I am hopeful that we will have a visit from an Abenaki expert who makes baskets similar to those of the early Abenaki. Students will be researching how the Abenaki lived in all four seasons and making fact books with this information. Kathy Wheeler will continue this project when I leave again.

I look forward to sharing more specifics about your child during Parent Conferences in a week. If you haven't signed up for a time, the link is posted in the 10/23 letter below.

Be well,

October 23, 2014
Dear Families,

Yesterday, I stopped into school to say a quick hello to my students. After spending two and a half weeks mostly alone,  there is nothing better than receiving 17 hugs and many welcome back greetings! Today, I spent the afternoon in school getting ready for my full time return on Monday. Kathy Wheeler has done a wonderful job of maintaining a positive classroom environment while following all the curricula as I would have done. We will make sure that the transition back to my teaching will be smooth and seamless.  

Parent Conferences are fast approaching.  This year, there are two half days for conferences However, Julie and I decided to offer evening conference times  to accommodate working parents. Please remember that conferences last for twenty minutes and are back to back. If one conference goes late, they all will be late. Our conference dates are:

Monday, November 10 - 1:00 - 6:00
Wednesday, November 12 - 8:20 and 3:45
Friday, November 14 - 8:20

** We strongly encourage one conference time per each student **

You can sign up for a time slot at the the following link:

We look forward to meeting with you to talk about your child's progress.
Be well,

September 29, 2014

Dear Families,

It was so lovely meeting with you last week during Open House. Your children were excited to share our room with you and explain how they spend their days in school. I am also glad you were able to meet with Kathy Wheeler, my long term substitute who will begin teaching this Friday until my return on Monday, October 29th. I plan on teaching from then until November 14th when my second leave will begin. I will return after the holiday break on January 5th.  Julie, Kathy and I will be in contact throughout my absence; you can reach them at the school at any time if you need to talk about your child. Julie and I will meet with you during Parent Conferences in mid November.

I appreciate  your support during this time and thank you for the many well wishes during my recovery. The hardest part for me will be leaving your children - I already miss them!

Be well,


September 22, 2014

Dear Families,

Happy Autumn!  I do believe we are quickly heading toward peak foliage - perfect timing for our All School Hike this Friday. I look forward to seeing some of you on the trail, as well as at our Open House tomorrow which begins at 6:30 - 7:30. Today, I shared with my students that I will be taking a three week leave of absence beginning on Friday, October 3rd. You will have an opportunity to meet my long term substitute, Kathy Wheeler, at Open house, as well as Randi Lowe, a para-educator who is working in our room this year. Julie Smart and I will spend  time preparing Mrs. Wheeler for the transition to make it is as seamless as possible. I will be in contact with both of them during my absence. You will be able to contact either of them through school email - Kathy's email is forthcoming.

Today, students received a Writer's Notebook and a vocabulary/spelling journal. Our first lessons in writing will focus on learning/reviewing parts of speech, (nouns, adjectives, verbs,..) and learning about Author's Craft - using better language to improve our writing. We generate "juicy" words for our vocabulary journals from our reading, science/social studies units, class discussions, and inquiries. Our goal is to get students excited about incorporating descriptive, specific language into their daily speaking and writing.

During Literacy Block, we have been learning how to "jot" our thoughts about our reading. Sticky notes help us track our thoughts, record interesting vocabulary words, mark spots that are entertaining/confusing/scary/suspenseful etc.. When students are able to take short notes while reading, it shows that they are thinking about their reading. Later this week, we will be writing our first reading responses in a reading journal. Please remind your child of Homework to read for at least 20 minutes, 5 mights a week.I am asking parents to sign nightly reading logs so we both know the amount of reading your child is doing. When students have a successful month of signed logs, you won't have to sign them anymore. I tell them daily, the only way to improve as a reader is to read!

Our Science unit on River Study continues. Last week, students learned about producers and consumers in a food chain. They created visual drawings of a river food web showing the flow of energy from the sun to plants to animals. I hope to have one more visit to the stream and finish the unit with a writing piece which will assess what the students learned from this study. Mrs. Wheeler will introduce our first Social Studies unit on the Abenaki in Vermont.

I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow. 

Be well!


“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile."

[Indian Summer]” 
― William Cullen Bryant

September 12, 2014

Dear Families,
Here are a few pictures from a perfect day exploring the Shady Rill. We found many B.M.I.'s which confirmed that this stream is very healthy and clean. The stream's Ph was 7.0 and the average temperature was 53 degrees. These young scientists were enthusiastic researchers! Our next steps are to research all the branches of a stream food web. 
                                                              What a perfect outdoor classroom!

                                                            Students identify and count Benthic Macro Invertebrates.

                                                     We recorded our data on charts to analyze back in our classroom.

                                                            Students took the temperature and Ph of the Shady Rill.
                                                            We compared our findings with other groups and determined that the Rill
                                                             is a healthy water system.

September 3, 2014

Dear Families,

Welcome to a new year. I just love your children!!! As a group, they are cooperative, respectful, and industrious. We are having a fun - HOT - first two weeks back. I am sure you heard about paper making and perhaps about the many team games we played outside during our reintroduction to school. Julie and I are following the Responsive Classroom approach to active learning while building a cooperative community of learners. Next week, we will begin our academic units.

Our first unit of study in Science will be focusing on the interdependence of a river ecosystem. This Friday, we will have a guest visitor from the North Branch Nature Center speaking to us about " benthic macro invertebrates" and their importance to the health of a river. In the afternoon, we will visit the Shady Rill to collect data on the water quality. Students will be recording the ph of the water, the temperature, oxygen levels and searching for river "bugs" to determine if the Rill is a healthy ecosystem. Our goal is to collect data on the Rill for the next three months to show students change over time. On Friday, please send your child in with close-toed shoes since we will be walking through the woods to get to the stream.

This week, we are learning to write sandwich paragraphs with many descriptive details. Fourth graders are encouraged to add elaborations to their writing. Students are stating their hopes and dreams for the year in a friendly letter to themselves which they will open on the last day of school.There are many writing expectations in 3/4 grade- we are starting off slowly. Next week, we will begin Spelling groups, as well as introduce our vocabulary journals.

Thank you for sending in pictures of your child reading in his/her favorite spot at home. Students are creating posters of their reading life which we will display around the room. A big focus of 3/4 grade is for students to become critical readers. Over the next few weeks, we will be talking about book genres, how to read deeper into the text, how to use sticky notes to track our thinking and how to write reading responses that reflect new insights.Look for reading contracts, to be signed every night, beginning on Monday.I specifically chose the first read aloud book, The Wheel on the School, to excite students' desire to learn about things they know nothing about. As the book says over and over again," When you wonder, things begin to happen." This is also the story of a group of children working together to solve a large problem. It is one of my favorite books to read to children.

Finally, I'd like you to know that there are many ways you can reach me if you have any questions or concerns about your child's learning. I will respond to school emails the day I receive them. I will also do my best to return phone calls, typically at the end of the school day. I can be reached at home until 9pm at 496 - 2032. I look forward to speaking with you at our Open House on September 23rd. I am looking forward to a wonderful year of learning!

Be well,


                                                    Mrs. Smart plays an engaging game of Yatzee with students.

                                                                We love building with wooden blocks and architectural shapes.

                                                            Dylan shows his math thinking to solve a complicated word problem.

                                                              That's one healthy, local snack!!

June 15th. 2014

Dear Families, 

I hope you had a Happy Father's Day on this beautiful Sunday. Here are a few reminders for our last week of school:

Monday, June 16th -  Our class play   10:30  and 2:45

Tuesday, June 17th  - Picnic at Shady Rill -please send sunscreen,lunch/water,field games - No Flip Flops please - we are walking

Wednesday, June 18th - School picnic - Volunteers should arrive by 12:30 to set up food - Please call the school if you want to order a hamburger/hot dog/veggie burger for lunch.

Below are some pictures from the fabulous Quest Projects that were presented last week. We all learned so much from these independent research projects.Thank you for helping your child rehearse their presentations at home. They spoke with confidence and knowledge about their topics.

Wow - that's that! This has been quite a year - longer than most, it seems. I am proud of the many successes of this class. I am also sad I won't be sharing another year with some of my 3rd graders, but I do tell them that they are always my students and are welcome to stop by for a hug and a chat.

I look forward to seeing many of you in the fall. Be sure to encourage lots of summer reading.
Have a restful, enjoyable summer.
Be well,

Cal explains how Legos began.

Abby demonstrated how gases get trapped in our atmosphere causing Global Warming.

Ellie made a model of the eye, which opened up to reveal the inside parts.
Avery hand-sewed her Sacagawea costume and even beaded the slippers! 

Asher demonstrates how to filter water in order to survive in the woods for a week.

Jane shows a model of the Sun and Moon Pyramids in Mexico.

Tzevi made a timeline of how chocolate is made and also treated us to an entertaining video of making chocolate at home - we tasted some too!

May 25, 2014
Dear Families,

I hope you are enjoying this Memorial Day Weekend - I am wishing for more sun to break through today. We have a busy 3 1/2 weeks ahead of us. I wanted to let you know of a few important dates to keep on your calendars.

Thursday, June 5 - Trip to Montshire - Leaving school as close to 9:00 am as possible and returning at 3:30

Monday  June 9th - Quest Projects are due!
Your child should be working on a visual presentation of his/her research project at HOME. This can be an informative poster, a demonstration, an artifact, a model, etc... Students will present their projects on Monday and Tuesday of the last full week of school. Please ask your child to rehearse what he/she plans to say about their research in front of you. Students can use notecards to help them remember their facts about their research.

Monday, June 16th - "Sir Bookworm, the play" 10:30 and 2:45 - our classroom
I am sure you have heard about your child's part in this entertaining play. We will be organizing costumes and props this week. Parts should be memorized by this Thursday.

Tuesday, June 17th - Weather Permitting - Lunch Picnic at Shady Rill. Linda and I like to walk our classes down to the Shady Rill Park for a picnic lunch and extended outdoor play time.Students can bring soccer balls, frisbees,kites etc. and allowed to wade in the Shady Rill if it is warm enough. Parents are invited to join us for this end of school celebration. Permission slips will be coming for this closer to the event. 

In school, students continue writing rough drafts of their Quest research projects. We are learning how to write a 4/5  paragraph essay with a strong, introductory paragraph. This week ends our Junior Great Books unit.We are also finishing our literary unit on Legends and beginning a short unit on Poetry.  During the academic day, Julie and I will begin assessing students in reading and spelling skills.

I hope I will be able to see many of you over the next three weeks to thank you in person for supporting me this year. My final treatment was last week and I am excited to get my life back to a normal schedule. I greatly appreciate your understanding and patience while I took some time off from school. I truly am blessed to be part of this caring Rumney Family.

Be well,

May 4, 2014

Dear Families,

We had a perfect ending to a busy week last week. Friday morning, our class visited Kimberly Hagen's farm and learned about the process of making yarn which included shearing sheep, washing and carding wool, spinning and dying the wool, and finally ending up with yarn. Students loved her ginormous dog, Monty, feeding the sheep hay, watching the lambs get milk from a bottle and stomping in a huge mud puddle. Thank you to the parent volunteers who drove us to this sweet field trip. Later that day,the sun came out after heavy rains which allowed us to sail our Yoohoo boats, which we made in class. We just finished reading a fabulous book called, The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis where we learned how to make boats out of Yoohoo drink containers. Here are some pictures from our day:

School Updates:

Literacy: Last week, students were introduced to Junior Great Books - a series of short stories that are read multiple times with a different focus for each reading. These stories are assigned by grade level and work on skills such as inferencing, finding evidence to support thinking, searching for problem and solutions, and analyzing characters' actions. It takes a week to read and analyze each story; we will be working on these for the next two weeks. I am also reading and talking about Legends during Read Aloud time. This week, we are learning about the legend of King Arthur. I plan to read several legends to the students to help us better understand this genre.

Writing: Students have selected their individual research topic for their Quest Project. This week, we will be gathering information from various sources. I plan to teach a lesson on paraphrasing to help learn how to put information into our own words. After students have enough information, they will begin writing five paragraph essays. This writing piece will take another four weeks to complete. More information will be sent home about the projects that will be created at home and presented at the end of the research.

Science: We have one more investigation to do on electricity and creating circuits. We are also reviewing Science NECAP questions and 
preparing fourth graders for this assessment which will take place on Tuesday May 13 - Thursday, May 15.

I know the next six weeks will fly by - we have so much to do in such a short time! 

Be well, 

Dear Families,                                                                                                                                    April 6, 2014
I just returned from a goopy,messy walk on my road and I am so thankful for the mud! It is a sure sign that this winter is over and spring is slowly emerging. Let's hope the mud season is short. Thank you for our recent conversations about your child's progress during conferences.I heard the third grade parents' concerns about next year's placement and assure you it will be a thorough, thoughtful process.
 Here is an update on our school learning:

 Reading: Last week, students were introduced to a new reading skill called "Questioning the Author". While reading their self-selected books, students are asked to think about their books and ask questions directly to the author like why the author portrayed a character in a certain way or why the author chose to write about some event, etc. It is a higher level thinking skill and a hard one to master - we will be working on this skill until vacation.

Writing: Most students have finished writing their creative change story narrative and are now enjoying the task of sewing a stuffed creature to represent their writing piece. As stories are finished, we will send them home for you to enjoy. Students are excited that we will be working on Quest Projects after the vacation. These are self-selected research topics that will be written in school while projects are worked on at home. More specific details about this will be sent home after the break.

Science: Two weeks ago, students enjoyed exploring the attributes of magnets. We are learning about energy- specifically electrical energy. Last Thursday, the class made a model of an atom by using clay and pipe cleaners. We will learn about how electricity is created by the flow of electrons. Student will conduct two experiments involving static electricity and electrical circuits. I will send home pictures in my next newsletter.

Sugaring: We had a blast collecting and recording totals of sap and smelling/watching our first boil of the season. I believe we made a gallon of syrup already! I plan on at least one more visit to the sugarbush before the season ends.

After the break, we will be visiting Kimberly Hagen's farm. I will need drivers to get us to her home in North Middlesex. As soon as I know the date, I will send out a call for volunteers. Enjoy your spring vacation -  I hope there will be lots of sun and perhaps even some dry roads for biking.
Be well,

March 28,2014
Lambs in school? On Friday, we were visited by Kimberly Hagen and two of her newborn lambs. Mrs. D's class joined us for the visit - both classes have been writing to Kimberly about her farm, which we plan to visit this spring. I heard it was an exciting event!

Reminder: Parent Conferences are this week - look below to sign up!

March 23, 2014
Dear Families,

Parent Conferences will be held during the week of April 1st.I just wanted to let you know that Julie and I have set up available time slots on the conference website that work for both our schedules. We are offering three days to meet with you: Tuesday, April 1, Wed., April 2, and Friday, April 4. We hope you can find a convenient time to conference about your child's progress. We look forward to chatting with you then.

March 5, 2014

Dear Families,
Just before our February break, I spent some time uploading pictures to this Newsletter to show you some of the joyful learning experiences we had been involved in. Sadly, and more than a bit frustrating, my school computer crashed and I lost all the photos! Mr. Hedler came to my rescue and, after a lengthy session, managed to retrieve my lost work. Here are the photos of our first visit to the Rumney Sugarbush putting in taps and hanging buckets in anticipation of our  sweet maple sugar season. I also included a photo of students enjoying their home made anemometers - a weather instrument that measures wind speed.

During this short week back to school, we are wrapping up a few units of study. In reading, students researched "wild weather" using library books, encyclopedias, and student friendly web sites to obtain information about  their topic: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wind, droughts, or thunder/lightning storms. Students then created posters to showcase their learning and presented to the class on the Friday before the vacation. This week, Chelsea is teaching us how to make a web designed poster using the web site InfoGram. We are learning how to download images, create graphs, change font, and make a web designed presentation. A final activity will be writing a comparison essay on two different types of weather using the information from the posters. I will send you a link of our web posters when they are completed; here are a few examples of the class made posters.


Students are still writing "Change Stories" during writing time, although a few students are now revising and editing their work. We are learning to use quotation marks around dialogue and indenting many paragraphs. I plan to move us along at a quicker pace so we can finish these creative narratives by the end of the month.

Our next Science unit will be an investigative unit on magnets and electricity - a class favorite.  
Finally, on a personal note,I will continue to work every seven days out of ten as long as I am able to - Scottie Brower is doing an amazing job of filling in between my absences.

I am hopeful for warmer days ahead - enough of this frigid winter!
Be well,

January 19th, 2014
Dear Families,

So much happens when you miss a day of school, let alone a week! I have been told by 22 excited students that our new Winter Sports program is a great success! I am sure you have heard many wonderful stories about skiing around Rumney, swimming with friends, and playing "safe tag" while skating. Our x-country skiers have been very flexible with this snow-less winter - we are anxiously awaiting a huge dump of powder any day now.   After a heart-warming return to school, it was obvious to me that all students were focused and on task during my short absence. Students have been busy in reading, writing, and finishing a US Geography unit, as well learning/practicing cursive.

    We began a non-fiction unit focusing on Biographies. Lynne Woodard brought in a cart of picture book biographies for us to read. We also have a few bins with chapter book biographies in our room. Reading non-fiction books requires the use of different reading skills than reading fictional stories. We have been learning about inferencing skills and drawing conclusions from the text. Students also practiced Blogging about the characters they read about. We are learning how to respond to a post and how to leave open ended questions to promote an on-line dialogue. The "blogs" are NOT on the internet - they have been created by Mr. Hedler and are only accessible on our school's network. Students took notes while reading each biography and used them to create Biocubes, a 3-d form that has pertinent information about a character written on each face of a cube. We are even reading a biography on Roald Dahl during our class read-aloud. We will continue this unit until the end of January.

    Before I left, we began writing narrative stories that are called "change stories". These are stories about a character who is not happy with his life. The character finds a magical person and wishes to be different. However, the wishes come with problems and the main character wants to change back to his original form, realizing that "you should be happy for who you are" and to "be careful what you wish for". We used the book,  The Whingdingdilly by Bill Peet as a mentor text. Fourth graders, who are in their second year of keyboarding, are typing their stories. Students are doing a great job remembering to include the language of authors to make their writing descriptive and detailed. Stories will be close to seven paragraphs long - this will take us awhile!

US Geography: 
     We have finished our unit on reading about the regions of the United States. We are now working on mapping skills and memorizing the location of the continents and oceans. Look for a continent sheet to come home this week - your child should ask you to quiz him/her on the location of these. Our next Science unit will be on researching extreme weather - an exciting unit on wild, severe, destructive weather patterns that is always a hit with students!

Reminder: We are gong to the Flynn this Wednesday - please pack a "neat,nut-free" lunch and drink (there will be no spoons or napkins available as we eat on the floor of the Flynn). 

Speaking of wild weather, the temps should dip close to zero again this week;it might help to send in a fleece or sweater to school since our north 
facing classroom tends to get chilly during these frigid days.

I plan to lead my students in a snow dance this week - shouting to the heavens to send us a thick blanket of powder. Hope it works!
Be well,

December 22, 2013
Dear Families,

December was a crazy whirlwind of non-stop activities! For the three weeks leading up to the vacation, my students were surprisingly calm and focused on their school work. Alright, maybe a few days were chaotic, but we ended with a sweet, heartfelt party day. The climax of Friday was opening the Secret Snowflake gifts.I told my students that we were celebrating our friendship with each other; we truly are a classroom family. 
The homemade gifts were lovingly made and simply amazing. Here is a list of some of the gifts the students made for each other:

-personalized, duck taped robot     - duct taped hockey stick and puck    - pot holder purse and scarf    - hand-cut snowflake    -hand-sewn pillows
- a pet rock    - hand-made necklaces, ornaments, and t-shirts    -wooden car garage    -3-d football and soccer game boards    -clay animals
- a ski hill complete with tow rope and skier    

Your children are very creative and thoughtful - thank you for the support you gave them with these gifts.

For my fourth year, we are participating in a Farmer Correspondence Program. We recently received a letter form our farmer, Kim Hagen. Students wrote lengthy letters to her telling about themselves and asking questions about farm life. After a few more letters, we will set up a trip to visit Kim's farm in Putnamville, hopefully in time for lambing season. 

We recently added a wonderful new resource to our room. Chelsea Henderson is a full time para-educator working in our classroom offering individual and small group support to students. She has a Master's degree in teaching Reading and is already a favorite helper among all students. I hope you get a chance to meet her sometime soon. 

I hope you have time off to spend with your family over the break. I wish you joy and peace.

November 24, 2013

Dear Families,

I apologize for only writing one newsletter this month, however,I feel that we covered a lot of information during our recent parent conference. Thank for for taking the time to meet with me and Julie to discuss your child's progress. I feel that  it takes a dedicated team to educate our 
students and we appreciate all that you do at home to help us with this vital task.

We are well into our second semester of learning. In Literacy, students are reading their second book in their book groups, focusing on tracking character traits and noticing how other characters affect each other. I am reading aloud one of my favorite books,  Matilda by Roald Dahl. We are all enjoying the strong characters portrayed in this fantasy novel. This unit of study will lead us into our next Writing unit which will be creating a narrative. We will be using several picture books as model texts to help us organize a story. We will be learning how to write captivating introductions, descriptive settings, and clear story lines, while also learning how to use quotation marks to show speech in a narrative. Unlike writing stories in the primary grades,this writing piece will take a long time to develop. My goal is have each child type their own stories  - a huge undertaking for 3rd graders! (It would help if keyboarding practice happened at home once in awhile...)

Our students recently finished writing  creative poems about insects that will be displayed with their beautiful, 3-d diorama which was created during an integrated arts time with Jen Campbell. Every year, Jen works with us to incorporate art with our units of study. Last year, we made hand-dipped candles to enhance our history study of early Vermont life. I find that this multi-collaborative approach enhances student learning by exploring a topic in verbal, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic ways. We were so fortunate to have Jon Gailmore's song writing residency further enhance our study of insects - the students' self-written song was fabulous!

In Social Studies, we began a unit of study focusing on the regions of the United States. We are fortunate to have a series of National Geographic books at our grade level which discuss the topography, climate, culture and traditions of the five regions of our country. Students are partner reading each book and then discussing their new learning as a class. This unit will continue into the new year.

I am writing this as the whipping wind howls outside my window - the weather channel claims that it feels like -10 right now! This is a reminder to please send in gloves, hats, boots, and a winter coat to school everyday, (snow pants if there is snow on the ground). A few students have had raw, red hands and ears recently from the bitter, cold wind. Here it comes, ready or not!

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with your family - may it be relaxing and healthy for all!
Be well,

October 27, 2013
Dear Families,
The big news from last week was that there was SNOW on the ground and all my students started talking about snowsuits, snow forts, and sledding! You have to love Vermont children and their enthusiasm for the long winter ahead! The NECAP testing days are but a vague memory - I was so impressed with my third graders who put in tremendous effort into each assessment. They persevered and even said that the tests got easier each day. Results will be received in late February. We'll talk more about their implications then. It is wonderful to be back to regularly scheduled school days.

In literacy, students finished reading several friendship books. As a class, we have been analyzing  the qualities of being a friend. In their texts, students were looking for evidence to support friendship among the book characters. We learned how to use sticky notes to track our thinking while reading and then turn those notes into a well written reading response. Our next unit of study begins tomorrow. There will be four book groups reading teacher selected texts. Our focus will be analyzing personality traits of main characters. Fourth graders will also be looking for evidence of how characters change in a story. Students should still be reading five nights a week at home ~ some choose to read on the weekends since their school week is busy with other activities. Many students no longer need parent signatures to show that they are reading. Talk to your child if you wonder about signing their logs.

We also began a short unit on Middlesex History as our first social studies unit. Last week, Sarah Seidman came into our class to talk about the history of the location of our school. She has been presenting to my class for the past nine years! We will be using excerpts from her book,Middlesex in the Making to learn more about the early years of our town. All students will create a timeline of Middlesex history as a final project in this unit.

Finally,I wanted to mention that Julie and I are eager to meet with you during the upcoming Parent Conferences to talk about your child. Julie will not be at the conferences on Monday, November 11th from 9 -10:30, but will be there for the other times. We are offering conference times on Wednesday, Nov. 6, Monday, Nov. 11, and Tuesday, Nov. 12. If you can't make any of those times, please contact me and I will try to accommodate another time. Here is the link to sign up for a time online:

 I look forward to meeting with you during our conference,
Be well,

October 7, 2013
Dear Families,

It was so lovely seeing many of you during last week's Open House. At times, I felt like I was at a family reunion! It is really wonderful to have two, and sometimes three siblings, in my class over a span of years. Each child is unique and I enjoy the continued relationship with the entire family. I look forward to our collaborative year supporting your child's growth. 

The word for the week is: NECAP! Beginning tomorrow, students will have one NECAP test every morning for the next two weeks. Testing will be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week (all reading) and Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (all math) of next week. Julie and I have been reviewing skills and using older NECAP tests to prepare students for these assessments. In a conscious effort to ease any anxieties, we are downplaying the impact of these assessments. NECAPs assess our academic program, as well as individual student achievement. Still, we want all children to be well-rested and "fueled" for the long-term focused sitting time. It would help if your child gets plenty of rest and has a healthy snack each day. We will spend more time outside this week to compensate for the rigors of testing. Results usually come out at the end of February. This is our last NECAP assessment. It is being replaced by a national assessment called the S-BAC in the spring of 2015.

Julie and I just wanted to let you know that we did begin our Spelling program. Students have been placed in one of four different groups based on their spelling ability. Spelling lists went home a few weeks ago. We hope that students and parents review the word lists and talk about the spelling patterns that are being focused on. You can access the lists through an online website called Ask your child to show you the interactive site - the link can be found on our Word Study page of this website.

Call or email us if you have any questions or concerns-
Enjoy the last few days this spectacular foliage,

Students truly enjoy learning how to keyboard!

September 18, 2013

Dear Families,

We are slowly filling our days with more curricular content while still getting used to the new routines of the year. This year, for the first time in 8 years, we have Math right after lunch. In my 3rd grade class, we begin with Brain Gym movement to get our bodies and minds ready for focused instruction. Many students "crash" in the afternoons, so it has been a challenge keeping everyone alert and ready for new learning. Many afternoons are filled with writing and Science/Social Studies instruction. Some parents believe that we have "easier" Friday afternoons and have taken students out of school early to begin the weekend.On the contrary, we only have two sessions for hands-on science and social studies during the last period of Thursday and Friday. Missing many Friday afternoons impacts a student's learning in these important subject areas. We fill every possible moment of optimal instruction!

Thank you for continuing to sign or monitor your child's nightly reading. He/She should be reading at least 20 pages of a school book during a reading session. Students need to read for a minimum of five nights a week - Monday through Sunday. Children who have busy after school schedules choose to read on the weekends to be sure to read for 5 nights.Today, our class decided that you could read even if you had a soccer game after school. Some students read in the mornings before school, since they are up early.  Many students read other books/magazines for pleasure. This reading does not have to be recorded on their reading logs. Julie and I have daily discussions with each child about their reading habits. We are trying to get each student to become independent readers. This week, I introduced the use of sticky notes when reading to keep "tracks" of our  thinking while reading. In school, students must record their thoughts as they read. At home, this is not an expectation. However, I was surprised when many students asked if they could bring these sticky notes home so they could record their thoughts about the text during nightly reading. If you see your child recording while reading, ask him/her what they were thinking about. I am very impressed with the students' desire to read. There are many proven studies that link reading with higher success rates in school.

We introduced our Word Study class this week. Julie and I are teaching four different Spelling groups, which are determined by a school-wide spelling assessment.The focus of word study is NOT to memorize a list of words; instead, students focus on discovering patterns in a list of words and creating a rule for the spelling patterns. Our word work is social and active. Students also practice writing skills (dictionary use, sentence writing, learning about parts of speech) through  their word discovery. Please ask your child what spelling rules they are working on. We will change rules/words every two weeks.

We are investigating why Meadows are important in the ecosystem. We have learned about food chains/webs, the role of various insects/arachnids, and the purpose of wild flowers. After researching and taking notes from non-fiction books and internet resources, students are creating individual Insect Fact Booklets. We will be dissecting flowers this week to learn about the parts of a flower needed for pollination. We will use this unit of study to inspire our next writing piece. Through the use of a poetry picture book,Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow ,students will be writing a poem about a chosen Meadow topic while incorporating many writing elements. More about this later.... 

Hopefully, there are a few photos of our day attached to this post... I just got a new camera for classroom use. I look forward to seeing you at our Open House on October 1st. 
Enjoy the approaching fall,

First Day Feast

"Fresh" is a word I hear about food,
like "crisp" and "juicy" and "ripe."
But things feel fresh on the first day of school:
my new clothes are crisp, 
my markers are juicy,
my brain feels ready and ripe.
All the stuff I learned last year 
has sunk in deep and wet,
like feet in the sand and me in the pool.
Now I'm hungry!  Now I'm set
for a feast of the first-day type!

by Heidi Mordhorst

September 2, 2013
Dear Families,

Welcome to a new year in 3/4! We had a fabulous, but exhausting first week back (the high humidity and heat didn't help). There are 22 students in my room, 11 new and 11 returning. Julie Smart was with us for most of the week as a full time co-teacher; she works half days on Thursday and Friday. The fourth graders wanted to pick up where we left off last June, wondering why we didn't begin reading, write in our journals, and start our first science/social studies unit of study. The third graders were rather quiet and a bit overwhelmed, which is to be expected.

 Rumney has many changes this year and we've adopted the slogan, "The New and Improved Rumney". For the first time, the 2/3/4 students will have a separate recess and lunch time. Students will be allowed to travel between both playground areas, which are monitored by four staff members. The biggest change is an updated school-wide Rumney Cares Curriculum. We will be spending the next few weeks discussing the vocabulary of CARES, as well as learning what types of behaviors are expected to be followed everywhere - school, playground, cafeteria, and bus. In class, students are also thinking about their personal goals for the year.

 Our first formal lesson will be on writing friendly letters to ourselves using sandwich paragraphs about our hopes and dreams for the school year. These letters get sealed and put away until the last day of school. Nightly reading contracts will be sent home this week - most students will need to have a parent's signature showing that they are reading at home each night. We will discuss how to choose a "just right" book in class; books will travel between home and school allowing students to finish reading one book per week. There is more information about our reading program on the Reading Web page to the left. Word study groups will begin as soon as we administer the Spelling Assessment. Julie and I will be teaching multiple spelling groups this year. More about that on the Word Study page.

I will send home Newsletters bi-monthly, usually on Mondays. My contact information is found on the Home page of this blog. I look forward to reuniting with old parents and meeting new ones during our Open House on October 1st. Hope your child had one positive thing to say after the first week of school!

Enjoy the continued warm weather,

June, 2013

Dear Families and students,

This last month truly zipped right by - the last day of school surprised me with its arrival! I am sure you enjoyed reading the fairy tale book your child brought home. The writing was very impressive, showing the month long efforts of these young writers. We had a very sweet last week of school. Our picnic at Shady Rill was a huge success, despite the hour long rain storm. All students played so happily in the down pour. The sun finally came out and dried everyone off for the bus ride back. On Wednesday, we had a lovely step-up day, meeting our new classmates. There will be 22 in our room, with Mrs. Smart joining me as a co-teacher. You should have received a class list last Friday. Our final day was also great - students shared memories from this past year during a final class meeting. The day ended with a giant group hug goodbye, with me in the center. I've had a wonderful year teaching this class of bright, kind exuberant children. Thank you for your support throughout the year. Please be sure to encourage lots of summer reading!
Enjoy the time with your children,

1048 Moretown Mtn Rd.
Moretown, VT 05660

May 29, 2013

Dear Families,
We have been working diligently during our days that the weeks seem to be zipping by!  Students know that the "Big SV - summer vacation" is just around the corner, but no one is talking about it - yet. Here is a glimpse of our days:
Writing: Most students have finished writing their creative fairy tales and are now in the editing phase. For the first time in my career, all students typed their rough drafts directly into a Google Document. Editing and rewriting is a breeze! I can view their drafts on my computer and actually see their editing skills.  Our next step is to turn these gems into books. Some students have already begun to illustrate their stories. Jen Campbell will help us organize the final products into hand sewn books. My goal is that each student brings a self written and illustrated book home on the last day of school. If time permits, we might even turn a few stories into a dramatic performance. I'll let you know if there will be a play or puppet show in our near future.

Reading: Our reciprocal reading groups, which focused on dogs as our friends, turned into a poetry writing unit. Students wrote  poems inspired by  poems written by famous authors. After I read aloud, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, we practiced writing our own version of a poem by studying  the language, craft, and meter of a specific poem. Here is my example that greeted the students one morning:

    Red Wheel Barrow by William Carlos Williams                                            Morning Message Board by Mrs. Costello

 So much depends upon the red wheel barrow,                                            So much depends upon the white message board,
Glazed with rain water,                                                                                      Covered with sincere greetings
Beside the white chickens                                                                                  Inside the blue classroom

Our poems can be found on the bulletin board outside the Art room in the main hallway. I hope you get a chance to read some during your next visit to school.

Social Studies:  Our last unit of study this year is on Vermont Geography. Last week, we learned where Vermont actually is in reference to the rest of the world. This week, we will focus on our state's physiographic regions, as well as learn about our topography including mountains, rivers, and lakes. Students will be creating their own topographical maps out of flour/salt water dough and then playing a "Travel in VT" game using state maps and tourism guides to explore our state. There will be a TEST on this unit - more to come on that next week. 

Thank you to the volunteers who were able to join us for our Shelburne Museum trip - the gods smiled down on us as the torrential rains were replaced by a gentle breeze ( no bugs!) and actual sun! I am sure you heard a lot about the Ticonderoga, the jailhouse, the general store, the circus building, and many other fabulous places that were explored. I never get tired of visiting this special museum - if you are ever at a loss for something to do over vacation, visit the Shelburne Museum.

Well, three and a half weeks left and I have "miles to go before I sleep!"
Enjoy the sunny days and greenness of the world.

May 14, 2013

Dear Families,
I just wanted to share a few pictures from the group presentations students worked on last week. These presentations were the culminating activities from the reciprocal reading groups. Students decided how to creatively tell the rest of the class about their books. We all enjoyed the presentations.

May 5, 2013
Dear Families,
Oh this glorious spring weather is just what we needed after that long, cold March/April! We have been spending more time outside this past week to get the Vitamin D we have been lacking. Students enjoy hearing our  read-alouds on the giant boulders in the Rock Garden. We have also been taking a few minutes during snack time to get some fresh air. I will plan for more outdoor activities over the coming weeks. 

We are in field trip mode! Last week's Flynn performance of Momix was spectacular. I am sure you heard about the creative costumes and dances that we saw. This Friday, we will be traveling to U-32 for a biology lesson on  human body systems. I believe we have enough chaperones that are driving. Our next trip will be on Thursday, May 23rd to the Shelburne Museum for a day exploring life in 19th century Vermont. We will need many chaperones for this trip - permission slips will be coming home on Monday. Finally, Linda and I always enjoy finishing the year with a picnic to the Shady Rill park.We will be walking there during the last week of school.  

In between all of this fun, the fourth graders will be taking the Science NECAP exams on May 20th and 21st. We have been preparing for these by doing several  experimental labs in class. Last week, students worked with partners to test five Mystery Powders. The variables included adding water, vinegar, iodine and heat while observing and recording the reactions. Students will determine what each mystery powder is on Monday. We will also do a real NECAP experiment this week. Students are realizing that there is a lot of specific writing involved in Science. 

Fairy Tale writing continues during our writing blocks. We had some frustrating technical glitches that Chip seems to have resolved - our server couldn't handle all the laptops requesting internet service at the same time. Many students are now adding more descriptive language to their work. All seem to be enjoying this creative writing assignment. We just finished our Reciprocal Reading groups based on a dog theme. All groups will be presenting  their book's main idea to the class in a creative format: a puppet show, an acted scene, illustrated important events and a reader's theater presentation. This should be an active, exciting week!
Here are a few pictures from our Mystery Powder experiments - enjoy!

Students touch the powders to assess their physical properties.

Students record their findings on data sheets. They write their hypotheses, procedures, results and conclusions for each experiment.

Students add water, vinegar, and iodine to each powder and observe the results.

April 19, 2013
Dear Families,
Thank you to all of you who could join us today for our Famous Vermonter Speeches. I was immensely impressed with all of my students and their ability to speak clearly and confidently when presenting in front of an audience. Our next unit of study will be in Science, focusing on investigative procedures. Fourth graders will be taking a Science NECAP at the end of May. We will practice a few released items and perform a few experiments in class to get them prepared for this assessment.
Reminder: We are going to the Flynn on Thursday, May 2nd.
Here are a few pictures from today's presentation. Have a healthy, restful vacation.

                                                Sasha is Senator Patrick Leahy, and thanked us for our vote!

                                                            Snowflake Bentley visited us as well.

                                                        President Calvin Coolidge ( aka Austin)
                                                Abby did a wonderful job representing Alexander Twilight.

March 27th, 2013
Our final time to meet and discuss your child's progress is fast approaching. Here is a link for the on-line sign up tool. My parent conferences will be on Monday, April 8, Tues. 9th, Wed. 10th and Friday 13th. If you need a different time, I am available most mornings and afternoons right after school. I look forward to seeing you then!

March 23, 2013
Dear Families,
I wanted to share with you what we have been working on in school.
     During Literature block, students have been very busy analyzing the elements of fairy tale writing. Both the Vermont Framework of Standards and the new Common Core Standards expect students to be able to read deeply in one genre and critically analyze for common themes, language, and patterns among several stories. We have created charts of our findings which will aide us when writing our own versions of a classic fairy tale. Students will begin their re-writes later this week.  I have begun reading the first book in the enjoyable Sister's Grimm series, where many fairy tale characters appear as "normal people". I hope it will inspire some students to continue to read the entire series.
       For the first time this year, all students will type their fairy tale rough drafts into a google document. I will have instant access to their writing and be able to add comments to help guide the writing. This on-line conferencing will save some time during the writing process. The entire class is currently finishing a procedure writing piece on how maple syrup is made. Procedure piece writing is also a standard-based writing piece that is assessed on the report card. Hopefully, we will be collecting more sap this week as the temperature warms up.
        Our Vermont History unit continues as we explore what was happening in VT during the 19th century. We have been learning about immigration. Our class has visited the VT Historical Society website many times to view pictures from our past, as well as read first hand diary accounts of immigrants that came to our state. We also looked at the Ellis Island website. Students inquired about their ancestry and created family trees which should be coming home this week, if not already at home. Over the coming weeks, we will be learning about the many ingenious Vermonters who contributed to our nation's culture through their inventions, writings, art, and politics. Students will chose one famous Vermonter to research, write a speech about the person in first person narrative, memorize the speech, and then perform it for you on a soon to be announced afternoon. In the past, students have enjoyed dressing up as their character, often creating props to add to their "performance". It is always an entertaining afternoon.
        This is a reminder to continue sending in winter clothes - we will be visiting the sugar bush often and there is more snow down by the river than up in the sun exposed playgrounds. Please spot check if your child is reading nightly - it should be a well established habit by now.
Enjoy the melting snow and continuing signs of the approaching Spring ( although the skiing is still great!)
Be well,
Here is a famous poem we will be discussing this week:

[in Just-]

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan          whistles

March 5, 2013

Dear Families,
We are back from our long winter break - everyone a bit tired but healthy and happy to be reunited. We had a pleasant surprise today. Julia Chafets, community connections director, honored us with a sing along concert in our class today. It seems we had the most students represented at the Talent Show, and this was the prize. I wish you could have heard my class heartily singing the words to "Yellow Submarine" while holding onto each others shoulders and swaying- priceless! I am also including a few pictures of our tapping experience in the sugar bush before the break. We will be collecting sap on Friday afternoon and sometime next week. You are welcome to join us if you have time. More about academics later....

                                                    Using a hand drill to tap a tree.

                                                    Hanging the bucket and roof with a partner.

Feb. 15, 2013
Dear Families,
Yesterday, a small group of students demonstrated a "fish bowl" technique when discussing a character in a story. Students used evidence from the story "Stray" by Cynthia Rylant to debate if they felt the main character, Doris, was a strong person or a timid/weak person. The rest of the class stood around the debaters listening to their arguments. I was so impressed with the caliber of the conversation, as well as the respectful debating style of these six students. As a class, we will write a persuasive essay about our thoughts on Doris. This will serve as a mentor writing piece for students to reference when they are asked to write a persuasive essay on their own. I am so excited by the growth of these young readers and writers!

February 12, 2013

Dear Families,
Please beware of the very contagious illnesses that are running rampant in our building - I am at home with a head cold, cough and sore throat as I write this! Students have been going home with a fever and stomach ache that seems to linger. We are covering our mouths when we sneeze, washing desks and hands frequently and doing our best to stay healthy. I open the outside door whenever possible to let in clean, fresh air. Please remember that children who have a fever one day shouldn't come to school the next day. 

It was lovely seeing so many of you last week during the magical Lantern Parade. Community celebrations such as this one help make our school so special. We have another celebration this week ( I almost forgot!) Valentine's Day is this Thursday. In 3/4 we celebrate this Friendship Holiday by bringing in a Valentine for every child in the class and then sharing a snack together. Any volunteers for bringing in a gluten free snack ( fresh fruit, rice crispy treats, gluten free cookies...)? All we need is ONE.( email me) If not, I will provide a treat.

In school, we have been talking a lot about Point of View - being aware of another's perspective: who is writing a story, understanding a character from another's point of view, and how others might see our actions. Many 3/4 graders are emerging out of an egocentric phase and are just able to understand another perspective. We have had many interesting conversations about this topic. In literacy, we are enjoying reading Wheel on the School, where we are exposed to many characters' points of view. Students are working on writing a personal essay about a fond memory in first person narrative. And in Social Studies, we are learning about what life was like in Vermont during the 19th century. Students will be coming home with homework about their family trees. We will be talking about immigration and the contributions that immigrants brought to this state. 

Stay healthy - just two weeks until our Winter break. 
Enjoy the new snow,

January 24, 2013

Dear Families,
Last week, Adam talked about our upcoming residency on Lantern Making which will be followed by the "Stars Over Hunger Mountain Parade" on February 7th at 6:30 pm. Our class will be making lanterns next week in 2 - two hour sessions. They are on Tuesday, Jan. 29th 1:30 -3:30 and Wed., Jan. 30th 10:00-12:00. We could use one or two parent volunteers to help us with this project. Also, we need two families to bake 24 star or moon shaped cookies for the Feb. 7th celebration after the parade. Please let me know ASAP if you can volunteer for one of these assignments. We are very eager to begin making these keepsake luminaries. 

I also wanted to mention that we truly enjoyed hearing about all the Quest Projects that students researched. We saw many posters, sampled chocolate, homemade gum and ice cream, and watched a few demonstrations, including an exploding volcano and a floating ship confused by the magnetic pull of the Bermuda Triangle. Thank you for the support you gave your child in getting ready to present their projects. Here is a list of the Quest Project questions:
- parts of a musket        - how a GPS works    - how a remote control toy works    - how computers work
- how salt water taffy is made    - how gum is made    - how ice cream is made    - what causes an earthquake
- what's up with the Bermuda Triangle     - why and how do squids shoot ink    - how do birds fly
- what is electricity    - what caused continental drift    - who began Lindt Chocolate    - what is life like in Mumbai    
- what is life like on a floating village in Cambodia    - why was William Wallace important
- why is Pompeii important    - how are rainbows made    - what is diabetes    - how do rockets lift off 

I LOVE these researched questions. I learn so much from my students and am in awe of their passions for many different topics. Enjoy a few pictures from our Quest presentations.
Stay warm!
Diana                                            Some Quest Project images:

                       A 3/4 science experiment isn't complete without an exploding volcano!
An explanation of how an electric circuit works.

January 16, 2012

We recently had an afternoon of science experiments learning about light energy. Here are a few pictures showing students working cooperatively to solve some investigations.

                                        Students use mirrors to decipher a code - they learned about light reflecting off objects.

Partners learned that light acts differently in water - it magnifies!
                  Students conducted experiments to see what objects are  transparent, translucent, and opaque.

                                                    This pencil looks bent - light is refracted in water.

Happy 2013!
Dear Families,
Thank you for the thoughtful holiday gifts I received - your children truly are a gift to me! From the many stories I heard today, I am confident that you had an exciting and busy holiday break. Many students arrived with eager minds raring to get back into our school routine. We all love the snow (except for Anna) and are anxious to get out and play in it. For the next seven weeks, students will be x-country skiing during PE time. Please send in winter clothing so your child can participate in this enjoyable sport.

Quest Project writing is almost completed! Many students will be finished with their rough drafts this week leaving  editing and final drafts for next week. Home made Quest projects should be in school by Monday, January 14th.  The projects should be a fun representation of your child's learning.  Here is a list of possible projects your child can create to show what they learned:

- a mobile, diorama, or model 
- a demonstration, experiment, or simulation
- a visual poster that is easy to read (minimal writing)
- artifacts or handmade artifacts  (homemade food items that were researched)
- a poem, a song, or a dance
- whatever pleases your child to show what s/he learned

Our next unit of study in literacy will be learning about and improving our inferencing skills. This is new territory for many 3rd graders since it is understanding abstract thoughts and actions of characters and drawing conclusions from them. Please remember that students are expected to read nightly from the same book they are reading in school.

We are taking a break from studying about VT's history and will be exploring a few science units, beginning with light and sound. We will also explore a mini-unit focusing on stars, planets and constellations to prepare us for a visit from the Montshire traveling Planetarium. If you have any knowledge about constellations, please email me. I know only a handful, but am eager to learn alongside with my students. 

Here is a Winter Haiku inspired by the scenery:

Cloud Dust

by Aunt Mollie™

Clouds shake white dust down –
All the trees turned to snowmen,
The eyes made of ice.

Enjoy the deep, powdery snow!

December 2, 2012

Well, here it comes! These next three weeks are sure to be full of energy and eagerness. It was exciting to see the snow covered world again, even for just a few days. As Adam mentioned in the weekly Rumney Notes, please remember to send warm coats, gloves, hats and boots for our many winter days of outdoor fun. Students in my class are encouraged to leave a pair of inside shoes at school and just wear boots to and from home. Feet sure get sweaty and smelly when boots are worn all day long due to forgotten sneakers.....

Thank you to the many parents who joined us for the Native American plays - I thought the kids did a wonderful job! Just a reminder that we have a field trip this Friday, December 7th to the Historical Museum and State House.  We are now learning about daily life for early Vermont settlers and the time period leading up to our nationhood. We will be making hand-dipped wax candles with Ms. Campbell later this week to demonstrate a typical, 18th century craft. Students have read historical fiction texts about Ethan Allen, Ann Story, The Green Mountain Boys, and Vermont's involvement in the Revolutionary War. Book groups will share their specific book information with the class this week. We are also creating a visual, VT historical timeline of events as we study our evolution throughout the decades.

By now, you should be aware of your child's Quest Topic. Students are very excited to begin researching the topic of their choosing. All research and writing will be done in school. If you have any resources available on your child's topic, please send them in. For many students, this is the first experience of how to take notes from an encyclopedia or internet website. Mrs. Woodard and I will be teaching students this valuable skill during literacy and library times. I also want to closely monitor and control which websites students will be viewing - a whole new worry in this age of multimedia. As the purple packet stated, student are required to create a visual presentation at home. More information about possible projects and due dates will be coming home shortly. 

Finally, in this season of giving, we will be choosing names for our Secret Snowflakes. In 3/4 grades, we discuss the importance of MAKING a thoughtful gift for a friend. In the past, students have created drawings, written a poem, sewn stuffed animals, made puzzles and stationary, woven friendship bracelets, decorated treasure boxes, etc. and have put in great effort to creating a special, original gift for their chosen classmate. We will have a class party and gift exchange on the last day before vacation - Dec. 21st. Please support your child in sending in their finished gift by 
Wed. December 19th, in case of inclement weather. 

Thank you, again, for all your support from home. I am confident that we can remain fairly calm and focused for the few weeks leading up to our holiday break.
Merry, merry!

November 12,2012
Thea Schwartz joined us on Monday to talk about the Native people who live in Alaska. She read stories, showed us many artifacts, and had her son model a beautiful, fur jacket that was hand sewn by a native. We were able to compare the information to our studies of the Abenaki.

November 10, 2012
Dear Families,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me about your child during last week's parent conferences. I value our team effort to support each individual child. It is great to be back, surrounded by the energy and enthusiasm of my students. I greatly appreciate the calm and continuity that Scottie Brower provided during my absence.

In literacy, we continued to analyze text at a deeper level by focusing on one character's traits. From their self-selected books, students identified one character and a personality trait. Then, using sticky notes, they searched for evidence in the text to support their thoughts. Finally, all students wrote a reading response siting the text in an organized paragraph. I was very impressed with the quality of writing and the effort that 3rd graders put into this very focused assignment.

During our writing block, students are learning about specific writer's craft. Using a mentor text as a guide, students were able to write descriptive "three word phrases" ( two adjectives and a noun) just like real writers do. This week, we will create lists of stronger verbs to make our writing more specific and visual. Learning about writer's craft will help us during our next big writing assignment, which will be a research paper to support our Quest Projects. More on this next week.

Finally, our year long study of Vermont History continues as we move away from studying about the Abenaki in VT and focus on the influence of European settlers in this region. Our class read aloud, Cave of Falling Water by Janice Ovecka supports the continuing timeline of the settlement of Vermont. We will briefly discuss the life of a settler, and learn about VT's role during the Revolutionary War. In December, I will be looking for parents to drive us to the VT Historical Museum and State House for a field trip which supports our learning about Vt History and our government.

Last week, students also learned about our government and voting process. After a class discussion, we viewed a student friendly website created for this age group which introduces children to our government. The website can be accessed from the Reading page on this website.

Here is a poem that we discussed this week. We especially liked the writer's sensory language.


By Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese

It was time to go,

Though the fields lay golden

Something whispered, "snow."

Leaves were green and stirring,

Berries, luster-glossed,

But beneath warm feathers

Something cautioned, "frost."

All the sagging orchards

Steamed with amber spice,

But each wild breast stiffened

At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese

It was time to fly,

Summer sun was on their wings,

Winter in their cry.


October 22, 2012
Dear Families,

Just one more week for my recovery and then I will be joyfully reunited with your children. I miss them and our classroom learning. Last week, I asked Scottie to send home a letter explaining how to sign up for Parent Conferences on line. The link is listed below. If you need a different time, send me a note and we can work out a convenient time when I return on Monday. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss your child's progress.

October 9 ,2012
Dear Families,
I just wanted to share some NECAP news with you before my 2 week departure on Thursday. Scottie Brower is excited to be reunited with many of her former students. She will be my long term sub as I recover from surgery. Your children are in great hands! While she is teaching, students will begin a new unit of study on the Abenaki in VT. 

NECAPS begin this Thursday the 11th until Thursday the 18th. Students will be tested only in the mornings after Specials, snack, and time to run outside to fill up on fresh air. Please send a healthy snack during testing and be sure your child gets to bed on time. Also, it would be a good time to send in Gum - chewing it has been proven to help with concentration.  There will be no Math homework for the next two weeks, but students are expected to keep up on their reading, as this should be a habit by now. We have been going over many NECAP questions in school and I feel that my kids are well prepared for this assessment. Expect to get results sometime in February. If you need to get in touch with me, please email my school address. I will be checking it often. 
                                We zoomed in on the details of this mammoth sunflower using our new Digital Microscope.

October 3, 2012

Dear Families,

I t was such a pleasure speaking with you at Open House. Thank you for the kind words about my upcoming surgery - I hope to be back better than ever on October 25th.

Some of you might have heard your child talking about the smells coming from my classroom. Mr. Rosen has responded to some of you about this issue - I am reprinting his message here:

"The air quality issue in this classroom is the same as it has always been, but it seems stronger this year.  The room has a bad smell, and, through a process of elimination and consulting various experts and specialists, it is likely caused by rodent nesting material in the walls that gets wet.  Mold spores and mildew exist, but are within industry acceptable levels.  Doesn't appear to be related to the septic or the building drainage system.  Diana thinks it smells like the musk of a mole or vole, which is possible as well.  Again, that would be in the wall cavity.  The ceiling area is free of rodents both live and dead...
I called S R services for consultation/services and their service man came yesterday.  An all natural odor eliminating jell is being used to mask/eliminate odors--it has a sharp cedar/ginger smell.

We are renting a commercial ozone generator such as S R services would use to rehab a smoke damaged building or hotels use to get the cigarette smell out of rooms.  We turn it on when Diana leaves and Woody unplugs it at 6 AM, so there is no lingering ozone in the room.  It leaves the room smelling a bit like a swimming pool, but, from one day's use, masks or eliminates the odor completely.  We will keep the O3 generator for a few days and see where we are at.

Historically,  wind dissipates
the smell in that room  by mid-November" Mr. Rosen.

September 24, 2012 

Dear Families,

We have a busy week ahead of us. Today, we created a "Fungus chair" for the live auction during the Harvest dinner. Students worked diligently on illustrating mushrooms and, with Ms. Campbell's help, decorated a chair.  This Thursday, I look forward to seeing you at our Open House. In an effort to help families attend both primary and upper level classrooms, our Open House won't begin until 6:30. At 7:15, I will be hosting a brief presentation on the  differences in math instruction in 3rd grade. On Friday, we will be going on our all school hike to Mount Elmore. Please be sure your child is dressed in layers, has a water bottle and lunch, and is wearing appropriate hiking shoes ( with socks - I have had 3 student in recent years get terrible blisters only to discover that they chose not to wear socks with rubber boots!).

*****Sadly, this year, for hopefully the only time, I will not be hiking with my class. I am scheduled to have knee surgery on October 11th to reconstruct my ACL and can't risk injuring my knee. I will be out of school for two weeks. Luckily, Scottie Brower will be my substitute. Scottie and I are collaborating to provide a seamless transition while I am gone. She knows some of my students better than I do! Scottie will be administering the NECAP test to 3rd graders while I am recovering. NECAP testing will begin on Thursday, October 11th  until Thursday, October 18th. Students will be tested only in the mornings. I will send more NECAP news as it approaches. 

I look forward to speaking with you on Thursday. 



Pictures of our Discoveries:

                                                Testing Turbidity ( water clarity) with a salamander

                                                            Using Kick nets to search for Benthic  Macro invertebrates

                                                        Making Pulp from recycled paper

September 16, 2012

Dear Families,

To say we are in the full swing of things at school is a bit of an understatement. I have an amazing class of eager, curious, and hard working students. In just two weeks time, we have...

- discussed and created our classroom rules

-  written our first writing pieces (friendly letters to ourselves listing our hopes and dreams for the year)

-learned to read and record our daily reading ( many students have already finished one chapter book)

- learned about making predictions and writing thoughts about our reading

- researched mushrooms and fungi, as well as took amazing photos of mushrooms from our Nature Trail which we will be turning into a book

- dissected mushrooms and identified their parts

- began 4 different spelling groups

-learned about the process of paper making, weaving, and puppet making

-created  beautiful Discovery Journals where we will record our science and social studies notes

- and reviewed many essential mathematical concepts that will be the basis of our future learning.

Your child should be sleeping as well as I have been at night!

This week, we have a field trip with Linda's class to the Audubon Society to begin our aquatic study unit. Right now, it looks like rain, so please be sure to send your child with a RAINCOAT and MUDBOOTS on Wednesday. 

Important News: There seems to be  some confusion about reading expectations at home. Students are to be reading their school chapter book at home and recording their nightly reading with your signature. The expectation is that students will read 5 out of 7 nights. Even if your child doesn't read, you still have to sign the reading log to show me that you are aware that he/she didn't read. PLEASE help your child remember to bring the book back to school each day. Our goal is to read one book a week, unless it is a lengthy, above grade level book. Students will begin working with their reading partners and need their books during these conferencing times.

Just a reminder: Picture Day is is this Thursday and Open House is on September 27 at 6:30 pm. I look forward to meeting with all of you! Enjoy this poem we will be discussing in class this week -


Mushrooms by

Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly
Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

                                            Nobody sees us,
                                            Stops us, betrays us;
                                            The small grains make room.
                                            Soft fists insist on
                                            Heaving the needles,
                                            The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,
Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes.  

                                           We diet on water,
                                           On crumbs of shadow,
                                            Bland-mannered, asking
                                            Little or nothing.
                                            So many of us!
                                            So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

                                        We shall by morning
                                        Inherit the earth.
                                        Our foot's in the door.

September 3, 2012

Dear Families,

I admit it... I was absolutely exhausted at the end of our first week of school! I have a group of sweet, kind, and very chatty students who all had many wonderful stories to share about their summer adventures. We spent the first four days exploring the classroom, getting to know each other better, discussing rules, learning how to take detailed notes while observing the outdoor classroom, and taking a spelling assessment. There was very little academic rigor involved in the first week of school as I plan to gradually introduce the core subject areas over the next few weeks. Mrs. Emmons and I planned many outdoor sessions to help transition us from the freedoms of summer to the structure of classroom routines. We both follow the Responsive Classroom approach to creating  a cohesive classroom community based on  respect and  responsibility which fosters ownerships of learning. 

Last week, I sent home our tentative weekly schedule. I had a few queries about GUM. This stand for grammar, usage and mechanics, a time to work on handwriting/keyboarding skills, sentence writing, learning about parts of speech and general spelling rules. Also, Fridays will be devoted to Discovery time - a longer, uninterrupted time for studying science theories and social studies topics. Our first investigations begin this week with an introduction to paper making, as well as researching the difference between mushrooms and fungi. I welcome any mushroom experts out there to send in information about this topic. 

This post appears on our class website found on the Rumney Website. If you send me your email address, I will send notification whenever there is a new post.

Enjoy the continuing beautiful weather!


Mrs. Ratazzi is teaching us how to weave on her tapestry loom - we began this project last year and hope to finish a tapestry this year.

August 27, 2012

The eve of the new year.... I am so tired after spending almost 11 hours in school today! I feel like a large events planner, getting everything ready for one big, year-long party! I'm sure I will wake in the middle of the night remembering something I forgot to do!  I want the environment to be fresh and exciting for all my students.

I am thrilled to begin this new year, especially for trying out a different approach to teaching science and social studies. I am planning on having every Friday be our "Discovery" day. We will spend long periods of time researching, exploring, creating, investigating, building, etc., following the students' lead of inquiry. I really want my kids to have ownership of their learning... to be free to question and explore a topic in depth and to follow where their discoveries take them. I envision more project based learning to occur this year. I'll keep you posted on our journey! More posts and pictures to come.



Here is a link to watch our class play on YouTube!

If I Ran the Zoo play

Dear Families,                                                                                June 5th, 2012

We are finishing this busy year with a play!  I am sure you know all about it since your child has memorized his/her part by now. The play is based on a Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran the Zoo.  It lasts only about 20 minutes. We will have two performances:

Tuesday, June12 at 10 am     and

Tuesday, June 12 at 2:45

We hope you can join us!



Dear Families,                                                                                                        May 29, 2012

Gracious! Time is simply slipping away too quickly! We have been oh-so-busy in school. Our field trip to the Montshire Museum was fabulous and full of hands-on explorations. I hope your child enthusiastically shared about his/her favorite exhibit.We also had a wonderful visit to the Callahan Farm last Friday. It was such a joy to finally meet our farmer pen pal.  Linda and I have one more field trip planned for the end of the year - a walk down to Shady Rill for an end of the year picnic. More to come on that....

We are almost finished with many academic units of study. Students are wrapping up their study of a mystery book, using Reciprocal Teaching strategies for group discussions. We are also memorizing and acting out a Dr. Seuss book as a play. Invitations will be arriving soon. Finally, our Tall Tale narratives are in the final stages of editing. Students have been working diligently to add descriptive language and exaggerations to their creative stories.

Our last unit of study in Social Studies has been focused on Middlesex History and Vermont's Economy. Each child has created a Middlesex History booklet filled with facts from our early history. Sarah Siedman, Middlesex historian, visited our class today to talk about schools in the olden days. Did you know there were 13 small schoolhouses at one time in our town? We will end this unit by discussing how we make money; buying and selling goods, starting a small business, and what products VT has to offer to the world. Alec's dad will be joining us for a discussion on renewable energies ( wind turbines), a new industry in VT.

As a teacher, I believe that the last few weeks of school are the most challenging for me - keeping kids on task, finishing many curricular needs ( assessments!), balancing time indoors and out and dealing with the many emotions that change brings. I can't even imagine not seeing my 4th graders on a daily basis after June 15th... they have all grown so much!

I hope to connect with you before the year ends - enjoy the blissful sun!


The Swing

by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Dear Families,                                                     May 7, 2012

We have been invited to visit the Callahan Farm in Northfield next week. Students have been writing to the Callahans all year long and we are now eager to visit their farm. We need drivers to bring us there and back again. Please let me know if you can drive and how many students you can bring (no students in the front seat, please). We hope to go on Tuesday, May 15th in the morning – 9:30 –11:30. You can email me at


Diana and Julie

May 2, 2012

It was a perfect day to fly a school-made, Haiku kite, to be interviewed by a photographer about our new Word Garden, and to explore the largest and smallest particles in our universe!  See pictures and links below.....

Cool Universe website:

 A Haiku for May 2nd:           Cheap, paper bag kites,
                                                    Soaring poems, laughing kids
                                                    Learning can be fun!

April 29, 2012

Hello Families,

Thank you for the time spent discussing your child during parent conferences - I value your support at home and depend on our commitment to work collaboratively for the benefit of your child. Please feel free to contact me at any time about questions or concerns you might have.

I hope you all enjoyed the April break, despite the snow, hail and rain..... I read many books and enjoyed spending time with my family. Before the break, we had a lovely last day of school  listening to students' memorized poems, hearing dramatic Reader's Theater scripts, flying a few Haiku Kites and celebrating with fruit kabobs, Alex's birthday treats, and Rumney fruit muffins. There are only seven weeks of school remaining and I feel that the time will fly by.

This week, Julie and I will be grouping students by reading levels to introduce a new genre, mystery books. There will be three book groups focused on reading and identifying the elements of a mystery book. Students will be using a reading protocol known as Reciprocal Teaching - focusing on predicting, summarizing, finding rich vocabulary, and forming deeper questions of the author's intent. This protocol requires readers to to read slowly, think deeply about the text, and to write their thoughts down as they read. Please ask your child what book he/she is reading for the next two weeks.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

Our writing time is completely immersed in creating tall tales. Students are adding similes, metaphors and hyperbole to add descriptive details to their narratives. It is a slow, but satisfying process. Ask you child about the name of their tall tale hero and what details they might include in their stories.

Speaking about creating descriptive language, we will be finalizing our outside Word Garden this week. Last fall, our class painted many words on paving stones, similar to Poetry Magnet Words. We will place these word rocks in our "Reading Rock Garden" just outside our classroom windows. I hope you will visit the word garden with your child to create a message of inspiration for others to read. I will send pictures of our creation later this week.

Finally, we will be beginning a new social studies unit on Middlesex History and Vermont's economy. There will be a local field trip coming up, as well as a visit from a Middlesex historian - more on that later.

I am yearning for a stretch of warm, sunny days - keep your fingers crossed!
Fondly, Diana


I fell in love –
Taken by the innocence of
Child-face daffodils:

Their perky April fanfares –
Clarion calls from yellow-ochre brass bands
Presaging, rejoicing, calling us:

‘Here we are! Here we are! ’

Copyright © Mark R Slaughter 2010

April 10, 2012

Here is the latest craze in our room - building tops out of unifix cubes! There is a great design technology center that has emerged from a box of cubes.Students create tops and vary the design to improve the spin - they also battle the tops to see whose design is more durable. What fun!

A top construction

Boys designing and building tops

April 2, 2012

Hi Students!

Here is the website for the funny poems. I hope you read many of them and are inspired to write one or two of your own. Have Fun!
Mrs. Costello

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket
By Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.

So - -
Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.

March 27, 2012

Dear Families,

I hope you heard an earful about the fabulous Flynn presentation we went to yesterday. "The Spirit of Uganda" was a cultural song and dance performance put on entirely by orphaned Ugandan children aged 11 -20. The costumes, drumming, and enthusiastic dancing had us all mesmerized. Here is a link to a Flynn student guide:

We continue to read and analyze Tall Tales during Literacy time. We will begin writing drafts of out own Tall tales next week. Ask your child about hyperboles and to give at least one example from our reading.

We were so fortunate to have Jenna's dad, Randy Brown, visit us for an afternoon of magnet exploration. Randy had groups of kids make a motor out of  a battery, a magnet and a coil of wire. We talked about the Earth's magnetic field and watched a demonstration of a floating top called a levitron - very cool!

We will begin to explore Electricity on Friday.

Reminder: Parent Conferences are in April - you can sign up for a conference using the link below.
Parent Conference sign up tool:

Copy this link into the address bar for the Gopher Magic game!

March 10, 2012

Hurray for sunny, warm days that make the maple sap flow! We returned from our winter break ready to begin the sugaring process at our school. We are fortunate to have U-32 students from the VYCC help us in the sugar bush. Here are a few pictures from our first visit; we tapped the trees using hand drills and, for the first time ever, we attached laminated recording sheets to each tree that will help us record the amount of sap collected.

Gabe shows Sam how to drill a whole into the maple tree.

Zoey is an expert at hand drilling!

The sweet sap drips instantly out of the tap - we had to try some!

Dominick pours the sap into a measuring container - one bucket had a full gallon of sap in just one day of collecting.

Next week, we will collect more sap, record our data, and hopefully smell the first boil of the season. Rumney kids are so lucky to have this resource available to them.

In other class news, we will be continuing our Science study on electricity. Students conducted three experiments on static electricity before the break. Here, Anna learns why a charged balloon attracts paper bits (it has to do with the electrons and unbalanced atoms). Students were asked to conduct their own experiments based on a question they had. Their data results went home this week. We will continue our study of electricity by learning about magnetism next week.

Ask your child about their personal experiment and the results.

Finally, Julie and I will begin a new reading unit on Tall Tales. Students will be reading many tall tales and analyzing the common elements of this genre. Then, they will be writing their own, creative tall tales which will be published on our class website.

Ask your child about what  Grandma Dowdel has been up to in our read aloud book - she is not a gentle, frail woman.

As the weather warms up, please remember to send in mud/rain boots to get us through the soggy, slushy season. If there is snow on the ground, students must still wear snow gear outside.
Daylight savings already! Spring is truly just around the corner - enjoy the warming trend.

February 13,2012
Dear Families,

We have been very busy in school, which helps to keep our mind off of this dud of a winter! The ice on the playground has been perfect for skating, but not great for sledding or fort building. Let's hope for a pile of snow over the winter vacation.

Students have recently completed two writing pieces, required by the VT Standards. We all wrote procedure pieces on how to build a snowman or snow fort. Our intention was to have students actually build from another student's procedure piece. All pieces have gone home, and were scored using  a rubric. Students use rubrics and checklists to help them organize their writing. Most students are now writing their final drafts of their Quest research paper. We have had an exciting time in school searching for information on a myriad of topics including the following:

- how do boats float, planes fly, and stars light up
- what are the northern lights, a coral reef, and the differences between sharks and dolphins
 - how do snowflakes/volcanoes form, how the pyramids were built, how to get caner,
- what is hemophilia, why are dolphins smart, how do you make chocolate,
-how do you do sign language, how  and why do cobras open their hood,what's an avalanche
-what's life like in Australia, what were the First Olympics like, 

- how did FIFA form and what was the first snowplow

Our kids have varied interests and are oh-so-curious about the world around them. Final HOME projects are due in school on Monday, Feb. 20th. Students will be presenting their projects sometime that week.

Julie and I began a new reading program that is geared specifically to each grade level. We are reading short stories from the Junior Great Book program. Students read, discuss, and analyze the same story over a five day period. Students have multiple contacts with the text which increases their reading fluency and comprehension of these sophisticated short stories. Ask your child what story they read last week, and what they are reading this week. For our newest read aloud, we are reading a comical, realistic fiction story written by Richard Peck, A Long Way from Chicago. Be sure to ask your child to describe Grandma Dowdell and to give specific examples of her eccentricities!

We just began a new science unit on magnetism and electricity. Students will be actively engaged in conducting a series of investigations and recording their findings using the scientific writing process which includes stating a  hypothesis, recording materials, writing a detailed procedure, and analyzing their results in a conclusion. Our first experiment is a familiar one on static 
electricity - it causes "hair raising" results!

Enjoy the additional sun that we have been getting.

January 22, 2012
Dear Families,

Despite the turbulent winter weather, we continue to stay on track in our daily studies. Students are truly enjoying our non-fiction unit. Julie and I recently read two captivating, true stories from history. We read about Anastasia Romanov, a Russian '"tzarina" who lead a very colorful life until she and her family were killed during the Russian revolution. Then, we heard the story of a wealthy boy who survived the sinking of the Titanic, as told by his bear, Polar. Both stories happened at the same time period, the early 20th century. We were able to compare the lives of both young protagonists. We are currently doing an author study on Jan Reynolds, an author from Stowe, VT. We are learning about the Masai culture in Kenya, Africa. We were so delighted to learn that Mrs. Smart visited a Masai village and enjoyed listening to her stories while viewing her photo album.

Students have begun researching their individual Quest questions in school. We will be conducting all the research and writing in class, but students may certainly look for more resources at home. In the past, students have gone on field trips to get more information about their topic, and have even interviewed experts if they found one. Final projects, which show what was learned, will be worked on at home. I am hoping to have final presentations due the week before our winter break at the end of February. Your child will be talking to you about their project once they have more research completed.

Students are enjoying writing directions for a procedure piece on how to build a snowman or snow fort. We hope to follow each others directions on a sticky, snowy afternoon sometime soon. Word study, grammar  and vocabulary lessons are continuing. We recently cleaned out our work folders of finished assignments. I hope your child shows you some of the lessons we have been working on.

Our geography unit will soon be ending. Students will have their first "real" test on the content we have been learning. Review sheets will be coming home this week. Please quiz your child by asking them to identify the continents, oceans, names of the fifty states, and characteristics of the five regions in the US. We will be reviewing this daily in school.

Here is a great geography website with many games to play while learning about geography:

Purpose Games

We are eagerly awaiting a huge snowstorm! Until then, please continue to send in snow gear every day. Students may leave a pair of inside shoes in our classroom - wearing snow boots all day long causes sweaty, uncomfortable feet.

Report cards will be arriving in two weeks - please call or contact me if you have any questions or concerns about your child's progress.
Enjoy the winter!

                                                "The twelve months...
                                                 Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
                                                 Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
                                                Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
                                                Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy."
                                                -  George Ellis 

January 11, 2011 - Please go to our writing page for a link to students' most recent writing pieces.

January 3, 2012

A quick classroom view - Julie and I began a non-fiction reading unit. The class was totally immersed in their new learning! Here are some pictures of the first day back to school!

What are you reading?
Lots of discussion on giant snakes.
A very cool dragon book!
Our new student, Sam.
Non-fiction with 3-D glasses!

December 11, 2011

Happy Holidays! Ready or not, here they come. Students are already abuzz with holiday plans, decoration stories, and extreme excitement in the anticipation of the coming celebrations. On Friday, students chose the name of their "Secret Snowflake" and were sent home with a list of ideas for creating a home made gift for a classmate. They know that these gifts should be small, but thoughtful, and completely hand made. Of course, paper, beads, and other art materials can be bought to help create a gift. Julie Smart and I wanted to add that if your child was considering buying a "teacher gift", we would like to share a list of classroom gifts that would benefit all of us:

- pencil top erasers
- a board game to play at recess
- a puzzle for the class to work on
- craft materials (pom poems, feathers, wiggle eyes,...)
- a used book etc.

For the past few years,  my classes have participated in the Farmer Correspondence program. We are anxiously awaiting the name of a local farmer who we will write to and visit in the spring. As a continuation of last year's visit to Kimberly Hagen's sheep farm, Robin Ratazzi has agreed to lend us her standing loom and teach us all how to weave. We are learning many new vocabulary words associated with weaving and are already mesmerized by the beauty of a strung loom.
Robin shows us how to warp the loom.

Students enjoy touching the loom; it is like a harp!

As a culmination of our writing piece on "A Walk in the Fall Woods", Chip Hedler will be working with our kids to teach them how to record their voices while reading their Sensory writing pieces. Julie and I are astounded by the beautiful, visual language each child put into their writing. I know you will be impressed as well. There will be a link created in this web site to view and hear all the stories.

In Literacy, we continue to read biographies and in Geography, we are now studying the states in the Southeast region of our country. We are doing our best to maintain a daily, structured schedule in this frenzied, emotional time. Enjoy this magical season through your child's eyes.


I Heard a Bird Sing

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December

A magical thing

And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring

Than we were in September,"

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

by Oliver Herford

November 21,2011

Dear Families,

It was a pleasure chatting with you about your child during our recent parent conferences. Learning  about home life, schedules, and routines helps me to better understand each child as they walk through the door in the morning. Thank you for your commitment to working together as a team to best support your child.

When we return from the Thanksgiving break, students will be learning about a new reading genre, biographies and autobiographies. We will be reading many picture books about famous people while continuing our focus on understanding character development in written text and identifying with personality traits. Students will also explore web pages of their favorite authors.
We are immensely enjoying Matilda by Roald Dahl as our class read aloud. Click on the title  to see an author page. Please ask your child about the personality traits of:

        - Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood
        - Matilda
        - Miss Honey

Students are now typing their sensory personal essays focusing on walking in the Vermont woods on a fall day. They are very proud of their writing. I hope to use this web page to share their stories with you when they are complete.

Word study groups are now on their second focus lesson; all words can be found at Your child knows how to get to his/her list.

We  briefly began a new geography unit by looking through an Atlas and studying various maps of the world. Students are learning the names and locations of continents and oceans. Did you know that some geographic societies are replacing the continent of Australia, which is really only a country, with Oceania? It includes Australia and many islands and atolls in the South Pacific. With Pluto no longer a planet and Australia losing its continent status, I feel like the world has shifted quite a bit since I was in eighth grade.... We will explore the regions of the United States, learning about land forms, various cultures and customs, using fabulous National Geographic reference books.Here is a great website to practice knowing where the continents, oceans and states are:

Again, thank you for sharing your joyful, enthusiastic children with me. I laugh everyday, and only sometimes breathe deep, heavy sighs before redirecting their energies..... My husband and I will be driving to Halifax over the Thanksgiving break (14 long hours one way). I haven't seen my youngest daughter in three months and am missing her terribly. Thank goodness for books on tape! I hope you have a relaxing, peaceful holiday and enjoy the added time with your families.


October 31, 2011

Dear Families,

Happy Halloween! I'm sure your homes are filled with costume excitement ( or perhaps frenzy) on this chilly, last day of October. In school, we will be celebrating this children's holiday by reading "spooky" stories with Mrs. Emmons' students. Just a reminder, candy and sweets are not allowed for snacks or in lunches.

This past week felt almost too busy, after our sedentary week of NECAP testing. During Literacy block, students worked on finding connections to their text by identifying feelings or strong emotions of the main characters. Each child used sticky notes to identify a connection, then they jotted their thoughts on a bookmark, and finally, wrote a detailed response in their reading journals. Our new read aloud book, Donovan's Word Jar, is used as a mentor text to show how to make deeper connections to characters. Ask your child to share Donovan's problem and how he might solve it.

Students also began meeting in one of four Word Study Groups. During these short, 20 minute sessions, students work in small groups to analyze a set of words, looking for common spelling patterns. Then, they try to discover a pattern, or rule, for the words. This inquiry based method of instruction has a lasting impact on students' awareness of spelling patterns. During a two week period, students will be asked to find more words that fit their focused pattern in their reading and writing. We also sort our words by grammar rules, arrange them in abc order, create sentences with them, and play word games to solidify the patterns. Word lists have gone home - please ask your child what rule or pattern they are working on. Assessment of understanding the spelling patterns will be given in the form of a dictated paragraph.

Our Meadow Study Science unit is coming to a close. We visited Robin Ratazzi's bee hives last week and watched her get the hives ready for winter. Students learned that  bees can keep the inside of the hive at 95 degrees during the coldest months by fanning their wings. After studying about the special attributes of many pollinators, students are creating their own super pollinators out of balloons and paper mache. These imaginative pollinators will be hanging in our room, hopefully in time for conferences.

Speaking of which, thank you for signing up for conferences using our new, online tool. I am very flexible about meeting with families before or after school. If you don't see a time that works for you, please call or write to me to let me know what time of day works best for you.

I look forward to meeting with you soon. One final reminder: Please send warm clothing to school each day. Some students have arrived unprepared for the chillier fall temperatures. Students may leave a pair of shoes in the classroom if they want to start wearing boots to and from home. Also, our room temperature  is on the cooler side - a sweater or fleece layer might make a child's day more comfortable.

Enjoy any left over Halloween treats!

Dear Families,
Now that  it is October, we have definitely settled into a daily and weekly routine. We have begun lessons in reading, writing, spelling, math and science.  Students organize their class work in different folders and have  several journals to write their reflections and record their learning in, including a vocabulary/spelling journal, a reading response journal, and a new writing journal.

Reading in 3/4 is very different than reading in the primary unit. Mrs. Smart and I begin each reading workshop with an all-class mini-lesson on a specific reading skill. In the past three weeks, we have discussed making predictions while we read, how to clarify unknown vocabulary, and using summarizing skills. Students spend at least 2o minutes each day engaged in silent reading a self-selected, leveled book. Students then record their connections and thoughts to the text in their journals. We also provide small group instruction to students based on skills that need to be taught or practiced. Each reading session ends with an all-class read aloud text, which is used to model good reading habits. Students have a Home/School Reading Log where they record what they are reading, where they are reading, and how long they read for. This log travels between school and home. Please look at your child's log - you might notice patterns in your child's reading!

Our science unit on Meadow study began with researching insects. We are now learning about pollination. Last week, students dissected a flower and were able to identify the male and female parts. Connecting to this study, Robin Rattazzi impressed all of us with her presentation about bees and how they make honey.  We learned that bees can only walk by turning to the right, cannot see the color white, and pollinate flowers while collecting nectar. Later this week, we will be visiting her bee hives across the street to watch her prepare them for winter. And, to enhance this science study, we were fortunate that our first Four Winds unit was on insect life cycles!

Here is a link to an AMAZING video we watched on pollination. It is from a TED Talk. The video starts at about 3:16, if you want to fast forward to it. The talk was also interesting, though.

NECAP testing begins this week. I am reassuring my new third graders that these assessments are not about their performance, but test the school's curriculum. They are to do their best, but they shouldn't be anxious about the testing.Please be sure that your child has a good night's sleep and breakfast during the testing (and always, for that matter).  We will be testing on Thursday, 10/13, Tuesday, 10/18, and Wednesday, 10/19. If your child is absent, there are make-up days following the testing.

I hope you have the time to enjoy this warm, brilliant autumn with your family. Ask your child about our leaf collection in class.

We begin to lay the foundation...

posted Sep 11, 2011, 6:55 AM by Diana Costello   [ updated Sep 17, 2011, 7:18 AM ]

Dear Families,

I have had the most wonderful eight days with your children! I feel this class is a group of bright, hard working, caring individuals and we are off to having a great year. Last year's students, current 4th graders, have been asking me, "When do we start Spelling groups?" and "When will we be reading our first chapter books?" I respond to them that the beginning of a new school year takes time - time to learn the classroom rules and culture, time to feel comfortable in a new setting, and time for assessments of skills.

During the first two weeks of school, students have been engaged in many activities including playing cooperative games to build classroom community, writing letters to themselves about their hopes and dreams for the coming year, creating a list of classrooms rules and inspirational words that will help all of us achieve our goals, and settling into the daily routines of their new schedules. Third graders begin the day with a brief  instructional lesson on keyboarding with Mr. Hedler. Fourth graders work with Mrs. Emmons on reviewing math skills. My students have begun to list new vocabulary in their journals, which will be a year long  study. We find "juicy words" in all curriculum areas, but especially from our read aloud books. We are currently reading Tucker's Countryside. Be sure to ask your child if they are famished before dinner and what a philtrum is. Both classes are learning about plant and animal life in a meadow habitat. We have been focusing on insects and their role in  the food chain. As you can see, we are slowly adding more academics into our day.

In the coming two weeks, Mrs. Smart and I will be conducting individual reading assessments, as well as Spelling skills assessments, to begin placing students in appropriate instructional groups.
We also will begin writing in our Writer's Journals, and starting Word Study groups.
Open House in on Tuesday, September 27th - I look forward to meeting you then!

First Week of School

posted Aug 5, 2011, 11:21 AM by Diana Costello   [ updated Aug 28, 2011, 6:57 AM ]

Welcome new families and alumni! I hope your summer was filled long, lazy sunny days, as well as exciting, new adventures. I'm not sure if the kids are ready to get back into the routine of school, but I know most parents are. I am always reminded of the old Staples commercial where a dad is joyfully shopping for his kids' return to school, while the holiday tune plays in the background, "It's the most wonderful time of the year...". I am looking forward to a year of learning along with your child and am confident that all students will adjust to the school schedule quickly.

 This year, I will be using this website as my formal means of communication. We are in a digital world where communication has become instantaneous.  At Rumney, we are evaluating the amount of paper waste we have and are looking at ways to reduce spending on consumables. Also, our district has recently adopted new technology standards for all students. I hope to teach my students to incorporate videos, pictures, web links, and their class work in this digital newsletter. If you need to speak to me, you can email me at school, call the classroom to leave a message, write a note, or call me at home.
class phone - 223-5429 ext. 315
home phone until 9pm -496-2032

* I will not be in school after 12 pm on Thursday, 9/1 and all day Friday, 9/2 as I will be bringing my daughter to college ( it is a 14 hour drive one way!)

Over the next two weeks, we will be gradually getting back into our school routines.  Students will be working in partnerships, creating our classroom rules, exploring the inside and outside environments, and playing educational games.  Mrs. Smart and I will begin performing  assessments to determine reading and spelling abilities.  This information will help establish instructional groups.  Transitioning from the freedom of summer to the structure of school takes time - I plan on incorporating many exciting activities to aide us in this change. I truly believe that we need to work as collaborative partners to offer the best support for your child.  I look forward to a wonderful, enriching school year.

Homework News:

  Linda Emmons and I have had many meaningful conversations about the purpose of homework and the  importance of play time for our students after a long day of studying at school. Therefore, our homework expectations for 3rd/4th graders are minimal - nightly reading and weekly math homework.
     We will be sending home 2 to 3 Math assignments on Mondays which will be due each Friday.   Students who have midweek commitments can do their Math homework on the evening that works best for them. Sometimes, a Math Game will be sent home to help students practice their addition or multiplication facts. I do have a policy that students must stay in for recess on Friday if their Math homework isn't turned in - even if they forgot it at home.            
    Secondly, it is a school wide expectation that students read at home for at least twenty minutes every night.   We know that students who read on a regular basis are stronger in verbal, cognitive, and writing skills.  Students will have a stapled Reading Log in their Home/School Folder to record their reading at school and at home. Students know that reading at home is an expectation; please model and encourage it as best you can.  The only other homework will be Quest Projects, which will be discussed later in the year.       

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