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This is the season for toys - or so I've been told by commercials and toy stores. Last week, students were introduced to our K'nex pieces. In the coming days, they will be charged with the task of creating vehicles for a variety of purposes: speed, load bearing, distance traveling, and more.
This is part of a physics unit called Motion and Design, and illustrates the concept of engineering and revising designs to reflect new specifications.
I've written about our Veterans Day. I've shared the pictures. I've even told the class that this year's Veterans Day was my favorite day we have shared so far. Now we have heard from one of the veterans who attended. This letter came to us through our school board president and principal.
I was wondering if I could have a copy of one or two of the pictures that you took at Cecil Floyd school at the wonderful performance that the 3rd grade put on. My father ( A Vietnam Vet) was moved to tears and choked up after shaking hands with so many wonderful young people as they “Thanked him for his service”. Later, when he was able to speak he said that was the best day of his life. And it made him glad that what he did wasn’t for nothing.
I’d like to have a picture for him to keep in his office.
Let me know if this is possible.
On the other side of our state sits a small suburb named Ferguson. At little more than six square miles, and at less than half the official population of Joplin, Ferguson may sound like a small town - and indeed it is - but a quick look at a map shows it as a part of the St. Louis metropolitan area. Ferguson is small in area and population, and it appears somewhat uniform with other suburbs, with similar amenities and cookie-cutter houses and store fronts that could just as easily appear in anytown, USA, but Ferguson does not boast of a small-town atmosphere.
In 1990, more than 70% of the citizens of Ferguson were white, with around 30% black. Now, 24 years later, those demographics have nearly reversed. Such a quick transition may be a contributor to the current events where a police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old. I don't pretend to know everything about the situation, and I don't need to go into details or posit any opinions, but there are some things we can learn. (Incidentally, one Hoggatteer alumna is reported to currently reside in Ferguson.)
What Do Recent Events In Ferguson Show Us?
There are times when we give up hope. Those are the times when we want to close ourselves off to anyone who is not like us, anyone who does not share our religion, our sense of humor, or our skin color. We begin to think we could be better off living alone in the wilderness, off the grid. Maybe when we see life through the prism of our televisions, we do not see as clearly as when we observe life through our own eyes and even vicariously through the eyes of others (empathy). We must not assume to know how someone else feels, acts, or reacts, but we must always be prepared to feel, act, and react appropriately for ourselves. Our classroom is just one place to learn and practice.
May Ferguson, Missouri, serve to remind us, warn us, and educate us about ourselves.
It dawns on me that my little command center may be something to behold for some people.
It is, after all, ground zero for many ideas, decisions, and edicts.
It is a DJ station, a cockpit, and general headquarters for our Hoggatteer family.
I thought it might be of use to teachers to give a "quick" tour of my "desk", so here goes:
The top shelf is home to our DVD/VCR. This is connected to the LCD projector that hangs from our ceiling. It is also connected to surround sound speakers and to our Wii system.
On the main surface of the desk, from left to right, are my laptop computer (MacBook Air). To the right is a desk lamp (for times when the classroom lights are out and I would still like to work), and our new document camera. I suspect we will attempt to use the camera for sharing student work, as well as for establishing directions for a paper of project. It may also afford us more opportunities for video chatting.
On the small shelf - not to get too tedious - is a power strip, a little fan (to cool off the teacher when I work up a sweat), a water bottle (for the teacher who tries to stay hydrated), and a 12-ounce can of Diet Dr. Pepper (for the teacher who doesn't drink coffee).
Assorted paper, pens and pencils rest on the left side of the keyboard shelf, neighbored by a menagerie of remote controls. From left to right, there is the world's largest remote which programs the digital sign on the bulletin board that sits off screen from the photo shown and a two-button remote that turns on and off the spotlights on our "stage". To the right of that is another lighting remote, this one controlling our special effects - blacklights, Christmas "mood" lighting, and our laser show for special occasions. The final three remotes control the surround sound, the DVD/VCR, and the projector.
LOWER SHELF AND FLOOR
Finally, the most important planning and data binders sit on a little shelf, while on the floor sits the drum that we use for celebrating success, and a trash can that we use to discard our failures.
I feel very fortunate to have a central area in which I can supervise and "command" the class. If only it was elevated, I would feel even more important like the DJ at a 1980s roller skating rink.
When winter hits, don't you want to scrunch up and stay under the covers until spring?
Sometimes don't you wish you could migrate to warmer climes?
"Full-time" rehearsal for the Joplin Little Theatre for the December 10-14 production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is in full swing. I bring this up here, because I am acting in this production. People say one should avoid working with animals and children, since they will inevitably upstage the adults. I sincerely hope this is the case with this sweet and ornery play.
My amazing daughter is also in the play, having been assigned the character of Gladys Herdman. The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and bite little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas Pageant. This, obviously, is the opposite of my daughter's actual demeanor, so she has the opportunity to have some fun with the role. With Gladys, she has quite the memorable part: the sniveling, clawing, naughty girl who volunteers to play the angel that announces the birth of Christ to the shepherds...in her own way, beginning her declaration with a hardy "SHAZAM!"
My own role is that of the preacher - not really a stretch for me, as I do some part-time preaching in the area in my real life. I have a small role - five lines in a single scene - but that's as it should be, since the kids are really the stars in this show. A number of Cecil Floyd students also appear.
How is this pertinent to our fourth grade class? I want everyone to understand that there are ways to remained involved in the community, that hard work is rewarding, and that reading - or acting - required enunciation and volume control. What we learn in the fourth grade transfers into the world around us. Projects like Hoggatt Cave lend themselves to advancing some of these concepts.
Finally, there is this chance to experience local history and discover treasure in our own backyard. The Joplin Little Theatre, is located in the Park Playhouse adjacent to Shifferdecker Park on the north. It is the oldest continuously-operating community theatre west of the Mississippi River, currently celebrating her 75th year. Tickets for the December performances are available now.
This is what full engagement is all about. Hoggatteers not only had the hands on the owl pellets, last week; they also had minds on and carried on conversations related to the task. As a follow-up, they completed a vole "stick" sheet, attaching every type of bone to the paper for display. Then they wrote a preliminary informative writing to outline their owl pellet experiences. It was also rejuvenating when the assistant principal visited, asked students what they were doing, and they were able to explicitly explain the task.
I try to keep the information on our website limited to our own classroom news, venturing out occasionally to comment about the news or make observations. The craft show is an event that is happening in our building, this Saturday, November 22. It is classroom news in the sense that one or more of the 100 vendors will be located inside our classroom. For that reason, we have put a rush on the Hoggatt Cave project in order to demolish it all to make room for the fund raiser. Please plan to support the school - and our class - by attending the 24th Annual Cecil Floyd Elementary Craft Show. I think you will agree: it is the best event of its type in our area.
Our average reading fluency rate has increased! At the beginning of the year, the average for our 25 students sat at 98 words per minute (wpm). As of last week, our progress monitoring indicated that our average may have increased to 118 wpm. That's around a 20% increase! The challenge still exists for this teacher, however, since students range from reading a meager 12 wpm to 200 wpm.
In math, our fluency with basic multiplication has also increased, but not without a lot of work. The class average finally climbed to 75%, indicating that we still have a lot of work to do. Parents, I can't stress this enough: your fourth grader must overlearn his/her multiplication, and s/he absolutely needs to invest time at home to study.
We've come a long way in reading and math, but we have a long and winding road ahead of us. These are exciting times.
Digging into the owl pellets, last week, students were both curious and intrigued. Soon they were separating fur from bones and identifying the owl's prey. An owl pellet is the undigested remains of the bird's prey - usually voles (field mouse). An owl swallows its small prey whole, but the bones, fur, and feathers are stopped in the gizzard and gagged back up in the form of a pellet. Some groups discovered four or five prey in their pellets.
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