Cultivating Minds Without Losing My Own

Join me on my adventures in elementary education

2015-2016 3rd Grade School Supply List

August3

It’s that time again!  School supply shopping!  As a parent, I realize that this can be both overwhelming and expensive.  I have tried to bargain shop for you and have put together the list below to help guide your search:

5 1-subject spiral notebooks (Staples has them for $0.25 each)

1 Index card box (Target has them for $1.14)

1 pack of index cards (Target has them for $0.64)

Glue sticks (Target had a pack of 6 for $0.99- this would allow for some at home for crafts some at school)

Pencils- any variety will do!  My kids prefer the mechanical ones that’s why they are in the picture below.  (Target had a box of 24 mechanical pencils for $1.99)

BLUE or BLACK pens- PLEASE be kind to my poor eyes and don’t get the crazy colored ones!

Hi Lighters- any color is fine

5 pocket folders

All of the items needed (except the folders- oops!) are in the picture below.  I was able to purchase everything for less than $10.00.  I’m sure that you may even be able to do better with coupons or by shopping around more, but this was a last minute trip with 3 kids!  I look forward to meeting all of my new students in September!

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Preparation is the Best Remedy for Anxiety

July11

Panic-index

I received an email from a former student this morning.  Yes, it is July.  Ye,s it is Saturday.  Yes, I realize that as a teacher most of my friends and family think I am off duty for the summer.  I was to happy to realize that my students know better!  This child was with me for 4th grade and a frequent visitor to my class during her 5th grade year as well.  It dawned on her this morning (sometime after midnight but be for  I checked my email at 7:30) that she was growing up and that that is scary.  In addition to growing up, she like many students her age is freaking out about transitioning to middle school.  In particular she was scared that others would make fun of her because she forgot how to do long division already.  Well, I am not going to allow one of “my kids” to enter a new school year feeling overwhelmed or unprepared!  I know for a fact she is not alone in these fears.  My own daughter and her friends are also  making this leap this year.  It is a constant conversation in our house as to how she can handle her stress about this change.

I have always felt the best way to conquer anxiety is to be as best prepared for the anxiety-causing situation as possible.  As a response to my former students concerns, as well as my own concerns for my daughter and her friends, I have created a group on Sophia.org for 5th graders transitioning to 6th grade.  Starting Monday, I will post some interactive online review sessions for students to complete to brush up on Math and Language Arts skills to help build their confidence heading into middle school.  Any concepts presented would be beneficial to any 5th grader nation wide so feel free to share with your friends.  This opportunity is FREE and SECURE for students to participate in.  To sign up follow these steps:

1. If you don not have an account already, register for a free account on Sophia.org

2. Once you have an account, you will need the group code 88fc5f4 to join the Middle School Prep for 5th Graders group

3.  Please introduce yourself on our group wall and let me know of any specific skills you would like to review (I will try to accommodate as many requests as possible)

4.  Please remember that the group wall is to ask questions or provide support and although we are not in school, good cyber etiquette is still expected.  Anyone caught being inappropriate or mean will be removed from the group  without hesitation.

As I told my former student and repeatedly tell my daughter.  Growing up is scary, but you don’t have to do it yet!  Enjoy this next stage in life and, in the words of Bob Marley, “Don’t worry about a thing! ‘Cause every little thing’s gonna be alright!”  Enjoy the rest of your summer break and I look forward to working online with my “class” of students!

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Farewell and Good Luck to the Class of 2023

June22

Today may be our last day officially together, but it is in no way a good bye.  Regardless of where you end up in life, you have a life-long fan in me!  The hardest part in teaching, as in parenting, is learning to let go and trust that I’ve prepared you as much as possible for your future.  So to my Class of 2023 4th grade graduates I wish the following for you:

1.  Never grow up!  (I know we all tell you to grow up all the time, but we really don’t mean it!)

2.  Continue to see the wonder in the world!

3.  Stay innocent and joyful!

4.  Life is hard sometimes, but only sometimes- the good DOES outweigh the bad!

5.  Be the change we need to make this world better!  Discover things!  Create things!  Develop cures!  Write books!

6.  Be awesome!

7.  I am always here for you!  Regardless of how old you get, I am here to help if you need it!  Once a student, always a friend!

Below is the link to the end of the year video.  I create a video at the beginning of each year to set the tone for our future together and another at the end of the year to celebrate our successes.  This year, I chose the song, “Never Grow Up.”  As a teacher and parent, I love seeing the innocence and wonder and amazement of kids at this age.  They are right between stages- not quite a kid and not quite a teen.  Remember these times and try not to grow up too fast!!!!!!!  I love each of you and hope to see you visit next year!

Love,

Mrs. Sinone

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The Struggle is Real- End of the Year Blues

June4

 

teaching

It’s that time again.  The time of year when on one hand you are counting the days to fun in the sun and on the other hand you are dreading saying good bye to your students.  As the year ends, there are so many things to look forward to!  Awards ceremonies, concerts, fun days, and getting to all the crafty stuff we haven’t had time to do during the year are just a few of the perks the end of the school year provides.  Mixed in with those, however, are the creeping thoughts that these are the last smiles and laughs you’ll hear from these students for the summer.  Hopefully they come back to visit on their way to 5th grade next year, but for some they won’t.  They may be moving or transferring schools.  As a teacher I am often asked towards this point in June, “so how many days do you have left?”  Some days I know the number, but most days I respond, “not enough.”

To the parents of my students this year:  Thank you!!!!!!  Thank you for sharing your children with me.  Thank you for trusting me to guide them academically.  Thank you for getting them to school each day so I could hear all their stories.  Thank you for letting me share in their triumphs at concerts and sporting events.  Thank you for all the supplies and goodies sent in throughout the year (and for sticking to my healthy snacks only rule!).

To my students:  We aren’t done yet!  Thank you for coming and still being eager to learn.  Thank you for all the encouraging pictures and notes you leave me daily.  Thank you for your smiles and hugs.  Thank you for your funny stories.  Thank you for trying your best each day.  Thank you for being you. Thank you for challenging me to be the best me I can be and to learn better ways to teach you what you need to know!  Thank you for putting up with substitutes when I needed to attend trainings or care for my own kids when they were sick.  Thank you for the last 100+ days of laughter and learning.

To my husband and kids:  Thank you for sharing me with my students.  Thank you for understanding when I needed to spend hours grading or planning. Thank you for being my guinea pigs for many of my teaching ideas.  Thank you for coming to give me hugs at the end of some of the longer days throughout the year.  Thank you for adopting my class as part of our extended family and asking about them by name each night.

Our school’s motto is “Then, Now, Always Family.”  I can honestly say my family grows by 18-20 kids each year.  We laugh together, cry together, get mad at each other, get frustrated by each other, and learn from each other every day.  At the end of the day though, I can honestly say my heart grows exponentially each year to add “my kids” to my family.  You may leave, I may have a hard time placing a name in a few years when you are 2 feet taller than me and grown, but you’ll always be welcome in our school, in my class, or in what ever office I end up in some day as my career evolves.  I am always and email or a tweet away.  I cherish these final days and our final memories of this 4th grade year.  Each year I start off with a theme song and end with a farewell song and video.  Stay tuned for our farewell video the last day of school (it takes me a while to get through it!  Choosing pictures is hard when you are either cracking up or tearing up!).

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Spring is in the Air!

March18

This week we are wrapping up our first PARCC test for the year. To celebrate our students hard work we made paleo shamrock shakes. Why paleo? Well, we are a healthy schools school and are adhering to our mission to teach students about healthy food choices. This recipe results in a yummy, minty treat that is good for you too! Don’t let the list of ingredients fool you, they are amazing!
Just check out this shake-stache!

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Paleo Shamrock Shakes
Ingredients:
13 oz coconut milk (we used coconut dream)
1 avocado
1cup ice
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 tsp (depending on your mint preference) peppermint extract
3-4 tbsp honey

Blend and enjoy!

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They loved it so much they even forgot that we were practicing our math skills by measuring!

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After we had our yummy snack, we tested out our green thumbs by starting our windowsill herb garden and prepping our small growing trays for seeds we will plant tomorrow! We are studying plant life cycles, ecosystems, and learning responsibility as we prepare for earth day and spring!

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Be Prepared- PARCC is coming

February22

parcc is coming

 

 

In what is feeling like the dregs of a never-ending winter, we find ourselves faced with another formidable opponent- PARCC.  I am a huge Game of Thrones fan and can’t help but at times feel like we are the residents of The Land of the Long Summer preparing ourselves for the winter that is coming according to those who reign in the North.  PARCC is our winter.  Just as in Game of Thrones, however, we can look at this as an opportunity to realign ourselves with new opportunities rather than feel doomed.

 

What exactly is PARCC?

parcc defined

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.  When stated like that it doesn’t sound so bad right?  We all want our kids to be ready for college and careers don’t we?  I personally think that the government should look into firing whoever shortened that lovely mouthful of a statement that most of us would readily embrace to the acronym PARCC.  I don’t know about you but anything that rhymes with the real word park causes me anxiety (have you ever tried to parallel park 10 times with a screaming child in the backseat?  The word park caused flashbacks for me!).   Had it been shortened to something like PACCS (partnership for assessment of college and career skills) I’d be able to correlate this to pleasant experiences like packing for trips or packing for college…..I digress.

 

What does PARCC test?

parcc breakdown by grade

 

PARCC is given at every grade level from 3-11.  In our elementary schools,  students will focus on Language Arts and Math.  The math section will focus on using math skills gained at each grade level in problem solving scenarios rather than straight forward math problems.  Visit http://parcc.pearson.com/practice-tests/math/ for more information and sample math problems.  Students in grades 3-5 will participate in 2 days worth of math during this first administration of the test.

The language arts section is broken into 3 days, with each day consisting of one section.  Students will both read for comprehension as well as read to gain information so that they can complete a short research based essay.  All sections contain a variety of question types. (see the graphic below for more information on question types)

question types

 

How are my child’s teachers preparing him/her for this?

 

Our way of teaching has been undergoing drastic changes over that last few years to prepare our students for these assessments.  First of all, we have implemented the Common Core State Standards which are the standards that these assessments are based on.  Secondly, our district has been focusing our efforts on increasing rigor in our classrooms by having students delve deeper into subject matter.  We have also incorporated technology into our lessons for years not only to prepare students for this assessment but also to help them develop skills that will help them throughout the rest of their school careers and into their adult lives.  This year, as PARCC is being implemented for the first time, we have been reviewing how to answer each type of question through lessons incorporated in our classes as well as workshops given to the students by the librarian and technology coordinators.  Classroom teachers have been reviewing how to read the questions thoroughly as well as strategies to eliminate known wrong answers.

 

What can I do to prepare my child?

First and foremost encourage your child to

relax

 

While this might seem impossible, if  we adults can present ourselves as relaxed and calm, the kids will pick up on these cues and relax.  Listen, I’m a busy mom, wife, full time teacher, part-time student- I know that this isn’t always easy!  If you could limit stressful extras the week your child tests that would help everyone relax a bit.  In fact that is everyone’s homework that week-  GO HOME AND RELAX!

Encourage a good night’s sleep.  The chart below shows the suggested amount of sleep for the children in grades 3-5.  If possible encourage lights out and electronics off at a reasonable time to ensure that they are well rested for the coming day.

sleep

 

Have your child eat a HEALTHY breakfast.  While Frosted Flakes happen to be my favorite cereal, I know that they aren’t the best option when I need to sit and focus for any period of time.  A good breakfast doesn’t have to mean a restaurant quality spread.  It could be a bagel and cream cheese, toast and jelly, Cheerios or other cereals low in added sugar, yogurt, oatmeal, or fruit.

eat healthy

Dress your child comfortably.  I always encourage my students to wear a light weight sweatshirt (preferably a zip up) in case they get chilly.  Sweats or loose comfortable jeans and comfortable shoes will make sitting for extended periods more bearable.

dress right

Make sure they come to school prepared!  If they need glasses for reading or computer use, please make sure that they have them!   There is nothing worse than ending the test with a headache because your eyes ache!

We will provide your child with paper, erasers, and pencils!

The Millville Public School District is hosting a PARCC parent information night tomorrow, Monday, February 23rd at the Board of Education offices at the Culver Center,  beginning at 6:00.  Please feel free to also contact your child’s teacher or school if you have further questions.  All we ask is that every student TRY HIS OR HER BEST!  That’s the best anyone can ever do!

Relax Testing Poster final

Pay it Forward- A Lesson in the Gift of Kindness

February4

pay it forward

 

February, albeit a short month, is one that is jam-packed with activities.  Many of our activities this month are focused around Valentine’s Day and our hearts.  We are going to take this to “heart” this month and begin a 2 week family project.  Many of us have seen the movie “Pay it Forward” which came out in the late 90’s. The premise of the movie is that if one person does an act of kindness for another it can start a chain reaction of events that can change the lives of thousands of people for the better.  We will be reading the novel, Pay it Forward  in class beginning next week as a read aloud.  The author of the original book recently released a child-friendly version this past August.  It is a beautifully written book that I hope will encourage my students to begin to look for ways to be kind and do kind things for others on a regular basis.  

Beginning the weekend of Valentine’s Day, February 14th, students will be given a kindness journal to keep track of acts of kindness they either see,  do for others, or have done for them.   The notebook will be divided in to three sections- things I have done for others, things I saw someone do for someone else, and things someone has done for me.   In addition to recording the act that was done or seen, they will also write a sentence or two or draw a picture to describe how they felt.  For example, my daughters made me a special snack and hid it in my lunch box the other day.  When I found it at lunch, it touched me and made me feel good that my girls were thoughtful enough to make me a healthy snack knowing that I had been rushing around that morning and hadn’t packed much of a lunch for myself.   If I were recording this in my kindness journal I would have recorded in the “Someone did Something Nice for Me” section.    I am asking students to write one act of kindness for each day.  The goal is that students will develop a sense of community through this activity and become more aware of the way we make others feel when we are kind.  This assignment will be due on February 27th.  I am requiring students to do this EVERY DAY- even weekends!

Please feel free to comment in your child’s journal as well or better yet, start a family kindness journal and have everyone participate!   Just like in the book and movie, I would love to see everyone “Pay it Forward” and cultivate a community where kindness grows and thrives!

kindnesskindness

Happy New Year! The Impact of Mindset on Goals

January4

mindset 1

New Years is a time when many people reflect back on the past year and analyze their choices in life and begin to think about how to make the next year better.  I usually set goals for myself rather than resolutions.  Resolutions are defined as the answer to a problem.  I think we can all admit that there are problems in our lives we’d like the answers to, but just making a resolution is not the answer.  I’ve made what I thought were resolutions in the past (to go to the gym more, to eat healthier, to not procrastinate on assignments, to get the laundry done quicker, etc).  These are not answers to a problem though.  Technically they are goals I’d like to achieve.  I’d like to go to the gym more and in order to do that, I will have to take steps to make it happen such as schedule time, arrange childcare, and pack my gym supplies.  I’d like to eat healthier and in order to do that I will need to shop with purpose for healthier ingredients, prepare food at home instead of getting take out, and skip out on some of those not so healthy snacks.  

This week, we will be spending some time learning about setting goals for ourselves.  We will work to set goals for both school and home.  We will think about the steps we will need to take to ensure that we can follow through on these goals and be successful.  While we are doing this we will also examine a theory in a book that I read last year, Mindset.  In this book the author, Carol Dweck, identifies 2 different ways of thinking, or mindsets.

mindset 2

 

 

 The first is a fixed mindset.  Those with a fixed mindset believe that they are who they are, can do what they can do, and think the way the think because they are born that way.  For example if you always struggled with math that is because you were born with a limited knowledge of math and once you hit that point you couldn’t learn any more.  Those with a fixed mindset believe that they are the way they are and that is that.  They will continue to prove that they are what they believe until they experience a failure.  For example, if you always believed you were the fastest person and then you were beat by someone else you would be crushed.  Your beliefs were ruined!  You would start to feel horrible about yourself.  This mindset is not wrong- but it can be detrimental to learning.  If you immediately think that you are a failure because you fail one test think of how that can impact your willingness to learn more or different ways in the future!

The Second mindset is the growth mindset.  In this mindset, people believe that they can be and do anything that they want.  It may not be easy.  They may not be able to do it right off the bat.  It may require failing a few times before getting it, but with hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to try new and different ways to achieve their goal they will eventually get it.  I have been working very hard to develop my growth mindset.  

Let me give you an example from my life.  Many years ago, I had a teacher that told me I was not good at math.  I would never be able to be good at math because I just couldn’t get it.  I started to really believe this about myself.  I thought I was dumb.  She was right, I would never get it.  This impacted my career choices.  I had hoped to be an engineer like my grandfather.  If I wasn’t any good at math though, I could never do that.  I believed this until I was an adult.  I did very well in college math classes and could do all the math I needed in real life with no problem, but I still thought of myself as a failure.  When I was hired as a teacher in Millville, I was hired to teach 7th grade math- this was a nightmare for me!  How could I teach kids if I was a failure?!  Fortunately, I was working with an amazing team of math teachers at Lakeside.  They helped me to see that there are many ways to teach concepts and that not every student gets it the first time around.  Through teaching and working hard to ensure that all of my students were given the tools and strategies they needed to be successful in math class, I changed my mindset from fixed to growth.  I watched kids struggle but not give up and cheered with them when they finally got it.  If these kids could try and try and try until they were successful, then so could I.  I decided I would never limit or label myself as one thing again.  Now I look forward to someone telling me I can’t do something so that I can prove them wrong!  I never thought I’d achieve my master’s degree (neither did some other people) but I did.  I never thought I’d be getting certified to be a principal, yet by July I will be.  Next up on my challenge list- earning my doctorate degree.  I’m not a person who is going to be limited by others opinions of myself or limitations I used to believe about myself anymore.  MINDSETS CAN BE CHANGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We will be learning about the mindsets in class this week as we set goals for ourselves for this year.  We will be signing a contract as a class to promise to aim for growth and not become fixed in any one area.  The TEDX video below explains the powerful impact of mindsets on our lives.  It is a little long, but very much worth it!

So, will you join us and grow?

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December17
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PARCC Prep

December10

images

 

 

This morning my students were visited by Mrs. Mackall and Mrs. Daigle, two of our districts technology instructors, to introduce our class to NJ’s new assessment system the PARCC.

What is the PARCC?

Each year students are given a standardized test in 4th grade.  Prior to this year, the tests were called the NJASK and students took them using pencil and paper.  The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), however, will be taken strictly online.  Students will read passages, answer math problems, and write essays all on the computer.  This is more than a little intimidating.  To help students prepare, they were introduced to the different types of questions and buttons that they will see when they take the assessment in the spring.

What types of questions will they see?

Multiple choice- students will see questions that have multiply choices.  Students who are used to being able to cross off wrong answer choices will still be able to use this strategy.   They will be able to eliminate answers that they know are incorrect using the answer eliminator button on the test screen.  They will then click on the circle of the correct answer to fill it in. (Just like we do each week on our comprehension tests already)

Drag and Drop Questions- for these test questions, students students will select information from one area and slide it into the answer area.  While our weekly tests do not use these types of questions, they are exposed to this through instructional games and websites that we use.

Short Response Questions- for these test questions, students will need to type in responses.  There will be short response questions in both math and language arts test areas.   Students do type essays in class now, but they will definitely need to work on this skill in the coming months.  Students need to remember not to bold, underline, or highlight the text.  This will result in the answer being scored incorrectly.  There is no spell check on PARCC.  Also, NO TEXT TYPING!  Spell out the words!  (no lol, u, r, brb).  For the math short response questions, students will be given a set of icons to click on to show division symbols and whatnot.

Multiple Answer Questions- Some questions require students to select more than one correct answer.  (For example:  Select two of the details from the article from those below.)  Students must click on more than one correct choice for these questions.  These questions do look slightly different.  They have square answer choices instead of circle answer choices.  Students MUST follow the directions and select the number they are asked to find.

Drop Down Menu Questions- students will select the correct answer from choices in a drop down menu.

Shade in the Area Questions- students will select the areas to be shaded and the box or shape will change color

What tools will they be given to use?

In the math section there will be online rulers, protractors, and calculators that students can use in designated sections.

Students are also given scrap paper in both sections of the test- to plan out work in language arts and to use as scrap paper in the math sections.

At the end of each section, students are encouraged to click the review button to ensure that they have completed all of the questions in that section.  Once they hit the submit button, they will not be able to go back to make any changes.  As students take the test, they can also “flag” questions that they would like to remember to go back to and finish later.  These flagged questions will also appear in the review section.

Students will not be able to open other websites or tools on the computer as they take the test.  If they do they will be kicked out of the test site.  This would not be good!!!!!!

How am I preparing your child in class?

Thankfully, our text books offer an online test option for both math and language arts tests.  While this will help familiarize the kids with reading texts and questions online as well as answering the multiple choice questions, it does not help with the other questions types.  To help prepare my students in class we will be utilizing practice tests and games to help us practice answering the other questions types.  We also type frequently in class.  All of our essays are typed before they are submitted for a final grade.  We will be increasing our typing opportunities through the use of some typing websites.  Our social studies  tests do require some on line short response questions to help them prepare as well.

How can YOU help prepare your child?

Visit the district PARCC informational website and review the material with your child at www.parccmillville.weebly.com as well as visit the new PARCC resources page on our blog.

Offer your child the opportunity to log in to custom typing at home to practice typing skills.   They can also practice typing on your tablet or computer for fun.  They can even type homework if they want!  Encourage your child to text you in complete words so that they get out of the “text talk” habit.  Call me if you have questions!

This is new for all of us.  I got a TON of useful information from today’s session.  The website above gives games that will help students prepare as well as sample test questions for both you and your child to review.

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Welcome to 4th Grade

Welcome to our class. Please feel free to visit often as we update weekly with learning goals, helpful videos and tutorials to review at home, and celebrations of our learning.

Carrie Sinone

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