Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 16th, 2007

Report Cards

You will receive an information sheet to help you interpret the 1-4 grading scale. We wanted to provide you with a little more insight into the English Language Arts portion of your child’s report card. We hope this helps you get a good sense for your child’s progress, especially since we won’t see all of you at conferences. As always, please feel free to get in touch if you have questions. We still have conference times available. Please use the link at the end of the letter to sign up.

Beginning to mid-grade 2 is our reading benchmark for this trimester. It would not be fair to assume immersion students would start the first year of English at grade level. Second trimester we assess at a beginning to mid third grade level and by the end of the year we assess at grade level. The fluency and accuracy grades are calculated by listening to a student read a passage aloud one-on-one. We time the reading to calculate correct words per minute, listen for appropriate expression and count decoding errors to arrive at the accuracy rate.

Comprehension questions are also a part of this assessment. These, in addition to work from our Houghton Mifflin curriculum, were used to calculate the comprehension grade. Again, mid- grade 2 is the benchmark. The grade on selecting appropriate independent reading materials reflects the work habit of settling in with a book and using this time well for reading practice.
Our main focus in writing has been to establish the routines and expectations of Writer’s Workshop. Students have been introduced to all elements you see on the report card, but have not had adequate practice to measure for an assessment. The one grade you will see in writing reflects a student’s ability to embrace the task and generate writing on that topic. All elements will be graded next trimester.

The weekly spelling test grade comes directly from their word study post tests. We tried to take into account working out the kinks in the system and any time constraints that a particular group may have had on a given week. Because students are taking such a wide range of tests and because our focus in writing has been “brave spelling” to share their ideas, we did not want to penalize students who were embracing that idea. Again, next trimester, as students have worked with a wider range of patterns, have spent more time with a dictionary and have edited work to a final copy, this element will be graded.

Look for good “How to help at home” hints on the blog next week!

Word Study

Thanks to all the volunteers who make the differentiated tests possible! We couldn’t do it without you. There is no test for the week following Thanksgiving. We will be conducting a new spelling inventory to determine new groups. Homeroom teachers are also making new large English groups. We will post the new groups and word study volunteer opportunities on a wiki next week. If you are interested in helping, we would love to see you! We’ll send a quick note with the link when it’s ready! Let us know if you have questions or have trouble signing up. Thanks!


We will wrap up our unit on Celebrating Traditions and transition to a really fun unit on Incredible Stories! These are always favorites. We will also do some first language reading about Native Americans to support the learning in their French homerooms.

Writer’s Workshop

We will continue to work on poetry, polishing at least one piece to publish. We will be in the computer lab on Friday, November 30th to type and format these final pieces. If you would like to help students with basic word processing, please let us know! Many hands will make this a productive time for all! We will include more details with the wiki link, as we do not have the new groups yet. Thanks!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families. We are certainly thankful for such a great group of kids and all of your support. As always, please be in touch with questions!

Amby and Lynnea

Friday, November 2, 2007

November 3rd 2007

Dear Families,

This week in the writing workshop we begin our unit of study on poetry. It’s hard to imagine our children on a learning trajectory toward to becoming the next William Shakespeares, Emily Dickinsons and Maya Angelous, isn’t it? But you will be amazed, as we plan to be, by the writing they can do in this unit—they are able to create poems with so much more weight and power than the rhyming jingles we often imagine young children’s poetry to be! We will start by looking at the world through the eyes of a poet—examining objects closely, and trying to see them in fresh, interesting ways. We hope you will join your child in patiently studying and putting words to the details and moments of life the two of you notice together. This is the work that will most support your child in becoming a poet. Throughout the unit, we will study many ways poets work and some of the tools and strategies poets use. We’ll work with the structure of poetry, learning how poets use line breaks and white space. We’ll talk about and practice locating a big, universal feeling or idea in a small, personal object or moment. We’ll discuss and try ways to find the precise words that convey our intended meaning. We’ll experiment with rhythms and patterns, repetition and musicality. We’ll build analogies, metaphors and similes, and extend those bits of figurative language throughout the bodies of our verses. Of course, as always, we’ll revise and edit and publish our poems. We are all looking forward to sharing our poetry work with you, throughout the unit and at the celebration!

As time allows, we are also continuing work on our stories based on the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris VanAllsburg. The author shares 15 unusual illustrations with a title and caption. Harris Burdick never shared the rest of the story. In true VanAllsburg style (he’s the author of Jumanji, among others), students are left to guess whether Harris Burdick was a real person or if the whole thing is fiction. Students have been stretching their imaginations to tell the rest of the story. Ask your child to tell you which story he/she is writing! Our main focus has been building students’ confidence and sense of identity as a writer. We are working hard to make writing a joy right now. We will slowly raise the expectations for grammar, spelling and style. Visit for great author and book information! He is currently sponsoring a writing contest on this book! See the site for details! We will not have time to polish all pieces for entry, however your child may like to take on this challenge at home! It’s a really exciting opportunity to share writing with a larger audience! Let us know if your child enters! The site also offers some fun games and book information.

We have started our theme on Celebrating Traditions with several stories on traditions passed down over many generations. One of these stories was The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, in which a Russian immigrant family makes a quilt to remember their relatives. The quilt is used in celebrations through out the generations as a way to link the family with its past. Students enjoyed comparing the families in these stories to their own. It might be a fun time to remind them of traditions you observe and how they started. Visit for more background information and activities. We are also reading a lot of great poetry right now!

Word Study is progressing nicely. Thank you so much to our many volunteers who make it possible to offer so many lists: Judy Chirpich, Margaret Joas, Gary Judson, Kate Kromer, Jenny Corniea, Susan Ebner, Ellen Dahlquist, Alex Christianson, Cheryl Behling, Sheerin El-Ghazzawy, Michelle Schuveiller, Sandra Thomas, Mary Tadich, Polly Mitchell, Joanne Henry and so many more! We really wouldn’t be able to do it without you! We also need to thank Peggy Mercer, our paraprofessional, who helps on Wednesdays. Please know there will be opportunities to help with word study all year! The homeroom teachers will mix our large groups after Thanksgiving, so we will request volunteers again once you know if your child will come during the Amérindien or Voyageur timeslot.

We will send a detailed newsletter the week of conferences to help you interpret your child’s report card. Conference times are available through:

If you have trouble accessing this site or you need to find an alternate time, please let us know! Conference times will also be available in March.

Please let us know if you have any questions!

Amby and Lynnea