Blizzard Bag Day Two – Dr. Seuss Version

Good morning!

Hope this blog post finds you all safe and working well on your blizzard bags!  I wanted to share a video with you that includes a read-aloud, a bunny eating her breakfast, a Dr. Seuss discussion and more!

See you soon,

Mr. Smith

Snowball Slam Champions!!!

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What a MAGNIFICENT job our class did by coming in first place in this year’s Snowball Slam!  The final total was 186 snowballs earned – that is equivalent to 1,860 chapters read!!!  AMAZING.

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I was so proud of all of the students – they saw a goal, worked hard both as individuals and as a group, and came out on top.  The students were reminded before the winners were announced, that no matter the result, though, that the most important thing was being aware of whether or not they tried their best.  They knew they had, so they were glad.  🙂

Unknown to us during the competition, the winner is to receive a free book from MainStreet Bookends of Warner…how cool is that?!  I went there yesterday and chose three books for our class to vote on:

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry

Animal Planet Atlas of Animals

DK Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

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I also wanted to mention, in case you are in Warner this afternoon from 3-4 pm, I will be conducting a poetry workshop for kids in grades 2-5 at MainStreet Bookends of Warner (I think all student participants receive a 20% off coupon, too).

Lastly, there are always opportunities for me to get books through Scholastic or book fairs, so if you have a book or book set you want in the class library, let me know and I can see what I can do.

Hope you have a FANTASTIC February break!

The Amaryllis Moment

I received an amaryllis for Christmas from my father.  Since it was winter time I figured it would be a cool experience to have our students watch it grow.  After taking the bulb, soil, and plastic pot out of the little cardboard box I set it on my desk for all to see.

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Well, we didn’t see much for awhile.  But eventually, out of the dirt slowly grew a small, pale stem.  I watered the plant according to directions, kept it out of direct sunlight, turned it every so often, but still no flower.  Gradually the small green stalk started heading for the ceiling.  Some time after that a bud began to form.  Then one Monday morning, several weeks after it was planted, a bright red, pink, and white flower welcomed us to school in a glorious way.

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One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching is the “amaryllis moment”.  Sure, it is an incredible thing to behold when students are bursting at the seams to answer questions to concepts they only learned days, or even minutes ago.  But what is much more amazing and satisfying to both teacher and student is that amaryllis moment – that moment in time when a student who has been struggling with a concept for days, weeks, and perhaps even months finally understands.  Finally “gets it”.  Finally has conquered the matter that has troubled their brain, their time, and even challenged their self-esteem.

When the amaryllis blossoms it is a sight to behold – like a firework exploding then freezing in time.  When children display grit failure after failure, watching the timid or even shocked smiles that spread across their faces and then freezes in that moment of understanding and satisfaction at the realization that they have just overcome that difficult concept – it is SO much more amazing than any flower blossoming or firework exploding.

And I’m just the soil in this analogy.  Or perhaps the water?  Or I suppose the gardener.  It is the amaryllis itself that truly has to do all the work.  It is the young student who has to block out all of the discouragements and distractions to finally break through the soil and prevail.

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The amaryllis moment requires time, patience, endurance, and a brave determination that says, “Yes, I will succeed no matter how long it takes me and no matter how discouraging my failures become.”

CONGRATULATIONS and CREDIT are due to all the kids out there who stick with “it” every day no matter the trial so they can grow – so they can learn, and know more, and be more.  And when the next challenge wields its ugly face, they will be prepared to rise even higher than before…

Mrs. Guerrette

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Our school is full of talented, hard-working individuals.  Our third grade class is no exception.  We have had the privilege of having three paraprofessionals working with our class this year, as well as with Mrs. Scarpa’s students.

One of these skilled educators is Mrs. Carrie Guerrette.  This year is her first year working as a teacher in our classrooms, but she is no stranger to our school and community.

Carrie recently graduated from NHTI with an associate degree in Early Childhood Education.  Prior to going to college she worked in the health field as a medical assistant, licensed nurse’s assistant and a phlebotomist.  She is also currently our school’s ChiPS (Children, Parents and Staff) organization president.

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Mrs. Guerrette is a wife, mother of two girls in first and fifth grade, and owner of a dog named Toby.  She enjoys coaching soccer, reading, traveling, spending time at the beach and she always enjoys time with family near and far.  The thing she is most passionate about is volunteering in her children’s school and in the community.

We are proud to have Carrie as a staff member now, and the third grade students and teachers are particularly grateful to have the opportunity to work with Carrie on a daily basis.  Thank you Carrie for all that you do in helping make our students’ learning experience great!

To Squeeze or Not to Squeeze (an object lesson)

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In our first week of school our third grade students participated in an engaging object lesson.  The Free Dictionary defines an object lesson as “a concrete illustration of a moral or principle,” as well as “a lesson taught by using a material object.”  Our object lesson focused on the words we use to speak to each other, along with some squishy items.

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Pairs of students were given the option to choose a container of toothpaste, hair gel, or lotion.  They were also given a plate and a spoon.  Students were encouraged to squeeze out as much “stuff” as possible onto the plate in five minutes.  Their plates were instantly covered with a sticky or oozy mess.

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Next, all partners were given five minutes to put their “goo” back into their tubes.  Despite working hard, students became quickly discouraged with the seemingly impossible task.  Some students did come up with some clever ways to attempt to put their mess back in its place, but alas, the plates remained full of glop.

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After a much needed cleanup time, students were asked, “What was the point of wasting some perfectly good Dollar Tree toothpaste, hair gel, and lotion?”  A few came up with some good, yet incorrect suggestions.  One student came up with a reason that was not intended but made a lot of sense – “Keep trying until you figure out a way to solve a problem.”  We had to take the time to discuss the merits of this wisdom!

I then revealed then main purpose of the object lesson:

  1. When words are quickly squeezed out of our mouths they often create a mess.
  2. When we speak a mess of words it is difficult to take back what was said.

For the rest of this year our students will be reminded to be careful not to squeeze their words out too quickly, and that what we say to each other should be encouraging, not discouraging.

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More Than One Way to Pick Apples (and Solve Math Problems)

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The other day I was picking apples with my children in our backyard. We are very privileged to have four apple trees that produce a lot of delicious fruit. Unfortunately it was taking an awfully long time to pick all of them.

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As the minutes turned into hours I couldn’t help but think that there must be a better way to pick these apples! I will often tell my students that there is more than one way to solve a problem, so I thought of my problem and current strategy:

Problem: It takes too long to pick apples with several distracted children.
Strategy: Pick apples one-by-one and place them in a basket. (no good)

After brainstorming I came up with a New Strategy: Shake the tree like crazy to knock the apples down, and then use a snow shovel to scoop them into the baskets.

It worked! Some apples were bruised, but I could live with that…

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It is important for students (and all of us) to realize that there is often more than one way to solve a problem. Sir David Attenborough, an accomplished naturalist once said, “There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive.”

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Although there may not be four million, there are many math strategies to solve a variety of math problems. I can come up with three main reasons why there are multiple strategies to solve math problems:

1) The strategies work.
2) Some strategies can help people better understand the context of a math problem and its solution.
3) Different strategies work better for different people.

Once in awhile a math problem-solving strategy will find its way to social media because someone found it to be disagreeable and needs to share their discouragement. I have no problem with someone voicing their opinion. But the fact is some strategies do work for others more than they work for you, and vice versa. And sometimes strategies can help assist people with understanding why something occurs – for instance, why you put a one in front of a number after you have “borrowed” from the number beside it.

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A discouragement of mine as a professional educator is that not all math word problems are created equal. What I mean is that not are all worded in the most understandable way for youth (or adults for that matter). But please trust that I will do what I can to either reword a problem for your child in a way that makes sense for him or her, or I will provide an entirely different word problem that is appropriate for your child (if they face a word problem of the most disagreeable nature). After all, as stated by inventor and engineer Charles Kettering, “A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.”

And well-stated problems often have a variety of effective strategies that can assist with finding the correct solution.

The Voters Have Spoken!

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Our third grade classes started off the year learning about citizenship, and what it means to be a good citizen.  We also discussed our rights and responsibilities as American citizens.  We focused on one major right and responsibility, voting, and our students voted to participate in a community service project.

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One book we read, “Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio, talked about a class voting for a class president and how they used the electoral college as their format.  Each student in our classes was a representative of a state or multiple states, and voted between two admirable service projects: helping to collect or donate items to a local food pantry or the Concord – Merrimack County SPCA.  The SPCA won by a landslide!  I made sure to commend the students that voted to help out the food pantry, and for caring for those who need help to get the food they need.  Our school does help out a local food pantry, so they will be able to participate in that service project if they wish in the near future.

We look forward to seeing the energy and hard work we KNOW our students will put into getting the word out and collecting donations for this organization.

The Official Results (Blue: SPCA, Red: Food Pantry):

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