Friday, June 6, 2008

End of Year!

Dearest Families,
We can't believe the year has come to an end! It seems like we were just starting! Thank you for a wonderful year. This is really a fun group of kids. We enjoyed working with them and are so proud of their hard work this year. Thank you for all of your help and support this year. It makes Normandale such an incredible place to teach.
Finally, thanks for the very generous class gifts! We really appreciate it! WOW!
We just wanted to give you a couple of notes on report cards, as we usually do. This trimester was assessed at a true end-of-third-grade level. That is amazing progress, given that first trimester is assessed at a mid-second grade level!
* The students read aloud a benchmark text for fluency and accuracy. It is a text on the Native American chief, Sequoyah, and there are many unfamiliar words. We were looking for 90 words per minute for fluency, as opposed to the usual 100. If your child scored a 2 in this area and you didn't hear from me, he/she was in the 70-80 word per minute range and will be in great shape with some summer reading for pleasure.
* The comprehension score came from a variety of sources throughout the trimester and included literal and inferential reasoning.
* The writing scores are a combination of their narrative projects, a narrative assessment piece and the descriptive writing for Washington, D.C. We have to deactivate the blog for the summer. Please print anything your child would like to keep. We had printer and paper issues this week that kept us from printing at school. Sorry!
* The daily spelling score was based on the use of high frequency words in a variety of writing samples.
* The score for “chooses appropriate independent reading material” indicates a student’s ability to engage in meaningful silent reading, rather than socializing.
We hope this helps answer any questions about your child's report card. Amby will be at school on Monday. Lynnea will be on the Back to Back trip with the fifth graders in France. Please call or e-mail if you have any other questions. Also, there are a couple of monument projects here if you would like those back.
Have a wonderful summer! They have worked so hard and are ready for a break!
Amby and Lynnea

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May Update

Hello Families!

This is a long update. We have put action items at the top. Please keep reading for more details!

We have finished Word Study! We decided to end a week early to gain more time for our Washington, D.C. projects. Thank you very much for your support and flexibility. Thank you so much to those who came to help! We couldn’t have done it without you! Feel free to recycle the last set of words. Students thought our suggestion of saving them for summer review was hilarious! (If you are signed up for next week, consider next Friday instead, more details below!)

We are kicking off our Washington, D.C. unit! Those of you with older siblings will probably remember this one! There is a lot of detail below, but here are the “must know” pieces of information:

Students are not required to do ANY work outside of school! All bonus projects are purely voluntary.
Students will be giving VERY short speeches on their projects May 27-30. We will send out a schedule next week so you know when your child is presenting. We would love to have you join us if you can make it!
We would love volunteers to help kids practice their speeches on FRIDAY, MAY 23rd. We need help from *9:00-9:30* for the Amerindiens group and *10:00-10:30* for the “Voyageurs” group. Please e-mail if you would like to help. If you are unsure of which group your child is in, check the “wiki” website: and click on West English Groups.

Students will be choosing their monuments this Friday.

Okay- now for the details! Part of the Social Studies curriculum in third grade is government. Homeroom teachers cover the state and local governments in class, but the federal government has always been covered in English. As you can imagine, it is hard to find good materials in French! This is always one of the high points of the year! The state standards changed recently from a focus on the city of Washington, D.C. to the three branches of government and the Constitution. The monuments are still part of the standard, but are no longer the focus, therefore we are not doing the huge research project we have done in the past. We have covered a brief history of the city. We have been working on text mapping and brace mapping to organize the information on the branches of government. We have tried to do interactive reading to highlight main ideas and new vocabulary. It’s a great way to really delve into the way non-fiction is organized. They are also looking at the way the branches of government work together. On Friday, we will select monuments to research and begin looking at information. They will be writing a short descriptive piece on the monument, with an emphasis on sensory language. Because these are short pieces, they will be able to polish and complete the project in about a week. They will give a very short (some may be 30 seconds!) speech about their monument. Our main goals here are to speak loudly and clearly and try to make eye contact. These are the required elements to the project and they will all be completed during the regular school day. No homework is required....however...

Over the years students have LOVED the idea of doing extra projects around this theme! It is a great topic with so many potential projects! Students may complete all kinds of projects outside of school. Some popular ideas are:

Build a model of the monument they are writing about. They could also make a poster with pictures.
Do a report about a famous American, such as George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc. A few students asked if they could do a report on a current presidential candidate. I think this is fine as long as it is a factual report and not a political speech. It also would have to be about the candidate and not contain negative information about opponents.
We will study the White House, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Building and Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial. Students could select another monument to research. A model could be part of it. Some ideas include the new World War II Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian, or Library of Congress. You may have other great ideas!
Students could research a monument outside of Washington, D.C., such as the Statue of Liberty. I had an excellent project on the American flag one year.
Students could read Where Were You When They Wrote the Constitution by Jean Fritz. They could write a letter to the authors of the Constitution saying what should be included or summarize what happened.
If your child has a passion, let’s try to find a project that could work! Let me know if you have questions!

If your child does a bonus project, we would love to have it here for the speech. Students are welcome to do their speeches on their bonus topic, if it is different from their monument.

As students finish, we will squeeze in one more novel study at the end of the year. It’s going to be an action-packed few weeks! Please let us know if you have any questions! We will get the speech schedule out as soon as we can! Please let us know if you have questions!


Lynnea West and Amby Takekawa

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Word Study Again!

Dear Families,

Thank you first of all for helping us make this pilot year of our ameliorated word study for spelling and phonics instruction program work! All your volunteering and patience has made the effort worthwhile. Plus, our students are making tremendous leaps and gains in their understanding of the conventions and structure of the English language!

Second, we have been working on experimenting with schedule shift and constantly reassessing the model. We tried to break up the Word Study groups into two sections (one on Wednesday and one on Thursday) and found that it was not as time efficient as we had hoped. *So, we are back to ALL the word study groups on Wednesdays.*

That said, our volunteer schedule on our web page “wiki” has been updated to reflect this shift. If you have signed up to volunteer, can you check your times and dates to make sure you are not a casualty of the changes? Or, if you notice a missing slot or two and have some time to offer, feel free to join us for a rousing adventure of words and their spellings, meanings and oddballs.

Here is the link:

Thank you for your time and consideration!!!

Lynnea and Amby

Monday, March 17, 2008

English Update

Dear Families,

The new word study wiki to volunteer has been updated. You can access it through the Please note that we are splitting up the testing between Wednesday and Thursday. We are finding that as the lists get more complicated, the kids need more time for instruction on their new sorts. You can see which group your child is in and volunteer for that group. We are hoping this will allow more people to help. Thanks for your continued support! The kids brought just one take-home list home on Wednesday. Look for word list packets to come home this week.

* The blog is back on for our students! We talked a lot about only using the blog for Language Arts work. They can respond to questions using complete sentences and they can respond to stories. We are practicing the "two c" rule: they can compliment or make a connection! Not many stories are up yet, but they will be finished next week. Students are also welcome to start a new story at home for the blog. Again, this project is completely optional.

* We kicked off theme 5 in our reading series. It is an exciting collection of stories about people who make life-changing voyages. We have also started practicing for the MCA test in April. Students are taking the practice test is small parts. Between each part, we go over the answers and look both at test taking skills and reading strategy skills that will help them be successful. A lot of the most difficult items are inferential or read-between-the-lines questions. It is a great opportunity for students to share strategies about what good readers think about as they read. So much of what you take away from a story is your implicit understanding. We are really looking for application of strategies and improvement between sections. We know that you are doing a lot of math review at home for this test, so we have planned enough class time to review the reading material in school. This time of year always raises the question, "should you teach to the test"? The prep work we are doing is, in large part, to help the kids become familiar with the format of the test so it feels comfortable on test days. The reading and writing components are all part of the Edina curriculum: fact and opinion, retelling, summarizing the main idea, compare and contrast, and giving supporting facts from the reading. The format is driven largely by the test, but the skills would be covered anyway. We'll give you more specifics as we get closer to the test dates: April 15th and 16th.

As always, please be in touch if you have questions. Enjoy the "warm" weather and see you at Poisson d'Avril!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blog and Report Card

Dear Families,

It is hard to believe another trimester has come to end! Where does the time go? We apologize in advance for the length of this e-mail. Please keep it to help you interpret your child’s English scores on the report card. We put the “action items” at the top. The rest is report card information.

Next week we will start looking at the blog. Kids will first view the blog as a whole group. We will go through the procedures and learn how it works. We will be assisted by our district technology specialist on different options of the blog. On Friday, they will get a chance to log on with their passwords themselves and practice making comments about what we, the teachers, have already posted. This will give us time to process why/how we make positive, specific comments on writing and be good internet citizens. If you are planning to return the permission slip and haven’t done so, please try to get it in by next Thursday. Please let us know if you need an extra copy!

We just took a new inventory list and will be forming new groups. The homeroom teachers will also be forming new “Amerindiens/Voyaguers” groups. Of course the many layers of changes do not allow for much time for volunteer sign-ups! We will get the new groups and wiki sign-up page up as soon as we can. If you would be willing to be an “at large” volunteer for one of the groups on March 5th, please let us know. You may not end up with your child, but we will do our best to make that work. Thanks, in advance, for you flexibility! New to the sign-up this time around will be a box to add your name if you would sometimes be available to sub for someone on short notice. Thanks for considering adding your name to this list is your schedule might allow you the flexibility to come if someone has a sick child, broken water pipe, or whatever craziness life throws our way!

In reading, our benchmark has jumped from an early second grade level to an early-mid third grade level. This is quite a jump, but most immersion students manage it!

For fluency and accuracy, the students read an early third grade level passage. We are looking for 100 words per minute and 97% accuracy.

The comprehension score comes from a mix of stories in our reading curriculum. Most were read silently by the student, one was listened to as a group.

Vocabulary is an on-going part of our reading curriculum. All students practice new words weekly. A formal assessment is not given in this trimester. Students are graded on their participation.

The score for “chooses appropriate independent reading material” indicates a student’s ability to engage in meaningful silent reading, rather than socializing.

In spelling, the benchmark for weekly tests was 93%, which allowed for a couple of errors per test. The grade for spelling in daily work comes from high frequency words in their writer’s workshop journals.

In writing, the scores come from the poem the students wrote early in trimester, along with the personal narrative they are working on now.

For grammar and conventions, we are looking for complete sentences that begin with a capital letter and end with correct punctuation.

The grade for “process” measures a student’s ability to engage in the writing process or task, instead of socializing.

The “ideas” grade measures a child’s ability to generate ideas related to the topic of the assignment, as well as the clarity of the message in a final product.

The “other traits” grade this trimester comes from the poems. We spent a great deal of time on word choice and sentence fluency (line breaks in a poem).

The grade for legible writing is for the final copy of the poem.

We hope this helps shine some light on the scores you see on the report card. Remember that there is a huge skill jump this trimester. Even if a grade stays the same, a lot of growth has happened to keep that score because the work is so much more demanding.

As always, please don’t hesitate to be in touch if we can answer any questions. We are looking forward to meeting with families who have not yet had an English conference this year on Friday, February 29th.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Writing and Blogging Information

Dear Parents and Families,

We hope your child has kept you informed about the details of life in our classroom. Be sure to ask your child for stories about our fun at school and most of all, retelling stories of time with each other. Research has shown that one of the most important things you, as a parent, can do to support your child’s reading and writing is to encourage your child to tell you stories of his or her day. Ask the questions that set children up to tell these stories in *great* detail: “How, exactly, did it start?” “Then what happened?” “Help me picture it. What happened next?” “What did she say?” “What did you do?”

Every day that we are writing, we always begin with teaching children some of the skills they need to know to become better writers. Recently, we have been teaching children how to write stories about the little events of their lives (their personal narratives). We are hoping that instead of writing “all about my dog,” a child will write the story of losing her shoe and finding it in the dog’s bed, and that instead of writing all about a friend who is moving, a child will zoom in and chronicle the step-by-step story of saying good-bye and seeing the moving van pull away. Every child learns to add details to his or her story, and the children return to their drafts to add details both to their pictures and to their words. Those details make a world of difference in the writing.

The children will be writing lots and lots of stories, and before long it will be time for them to choose one story to fix up and fancy up for publication. For our publication, we will be piloting a new way to ameliorate our writing program by sharing our interests and sharing our writing with a real audience, you! We will be posting their writing to our weblog.A weblog, or blog as they are commonly called, is a special type of web page that can be created and easily updated using a web browser. Each new entry has its own date stamp. Each entry has a comments section where visitors to the blog may leave comments to the author. When we teach a writing lesson, students will have an opportunity to make an entry for the blog. The students usually choose the topic, but they need to make use of the skills taught in our lesson to help craft their writing. The emphasis is on the quality, not the quantity of what they write. When a student is ready for publishing, students will word process their work. Students may also work from home! We will then post the blog entry.Having a real audience is one of the key components to this pilot program. In addition to receiving comments from the teachers, they are also able to receive comments from parents, grandparents, family, friends and classmates. Parents are encouraged to visit the blog and respond to the writing. Potentially, anyone on the internet could respond to our blogs, however, it is not likely that the world at large will stumble across the blog.This blogging project is designed to minimize any security risk to your child. The only personally identifying information included in the blog will be their first names. There will be no mention of our school name or our location. Students are allowed to post their interests and opinions, but not their age, e-mail addresses photographs of themselves, or other sensitive information. We will be using a district endorsed site for blogging, Each child will receive a user name and password. After we have posted something on our blog, we will invite you to comment on their writing.

We will be sending home a district required permission packet that is mandatory for all families to sign before we may begin. Please read and sign and return to school. Away we blog!

Warmest Regards,

Lynnea West and Amby Takekawa

Friday, January 25, 2008

Making Connections Game Word Study Practice Pages

Hello! Several people have asked how to find the word study practice pages. They are available through the "Conferences" link below. You can also find it from clicking this link: That is also where you can sign up to help on Wednesdays. We did remind the kids that they don't need to use those exact pages. They know how to do the activities and can use a white board or scrap paper. Whatever works best for your family is fine with us. Thanks for taking the time to help them practice. Thanks again to all the volunteers. We so appreciate your help!

We have been reading in our book clubs again this week. Judy Scanlon is a literacy coach for the district. We work closely with her on a variety of topics from writing to assessments to enhancing comprehension. She came in to model a great game on making connections in reading. The kids really enjoyed it! We promised them we would give you the link. We played the "connections" part of the game, but Judy said the games are all of high quality. Check it out as you have time!

Have a great weekend! Enjoy the warm-up! We know all the kids are anxious to get outside!!!!
As always, let us know how we can help! Thanks!

Amby and Lynnea
3rd Grade English Language Arts
Normandale French Immersion School
Newsletter <
Conferences and Word Study: <

Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Club Literature Circles

Dear Families,

This week we will start a literature circle style of a book club. We are reading books in the Humor genre as selected by the district language arts committee as an addition to our language arts curriculum. These books are books to be enjoyed in a social setting and add an authentic literature experience to the 3rd Grade language arts program. Each student will be reading different books based on the lexile level of the book and the students’ different English times.

Humor Genre Books
Giggler Treatment
The Kid in the Red Jacket
The Chocolate Touch

District level Criteria for genre selection:
Incorporate curriculum Focus On Genre whenever possible
Provide for good variety each year
Reduce repetition across three years (and into middle school)
Enough other appropriate titles at that level for students to continue reading on their own

District level Criteria for book selection:
Cited for excellence by an independent source
Developmentally appropriate content and themes
Written at an appropriate reading level
Not required or assigned to any other grade level
Appealing to both boys and girls
Available in paperback

You can help by asking questions about the book (read below). All information is stored in their reading folders at school. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Book Group Discussion Questions:

1. What did you enjoy about this book?

2. What have you read that is similar to this book?

3. What are some of the major themes of this book?

4. What do you think the author was trying to accomplish with this novel?

5. Who was your favorite character? What did you appreciate about him/her?

6. Consider the main character: What does he or she believe in? What is he or she willing to fight for?

7. At the end of the book, do you feel hope for the characters?

8. What is stronger in the book: plot or character development? Why? Do you think this was intentional on the part of the author?

9. Have you ever experienced anything similar to the action of this novel?

10. Did you find this book a quick read? Why or why not?

11. What are your concerns about this book?

12. How did you feel about the main character?

13. What are the most important relationships in the book?

14. What makes a minor character memorable?

15. What are the most revealing scenes?

16. Are any of the events in the book relevant to your own life?

17. What did you think of the style of the writer?

18. Was the story believable? The characters believable?

19. Did you find any flaws in the book?

20. Compare the hardcover and paperback covers. Which one do you like better? Why?

Thanks and Happy Reading!

Lynnea and Amby

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Word Study Packets of Lists

Happy New Year!

Instead of bringing home a single word study list today, your child is bringing a packet that contains his/her lists through the middle of March. Thank you for the many kind suggestions and offers of help as we continue to adapt and adjust the program. Each page is marked at the bottom with the date of the test. On Wednesdays, you can simply take the top copy and start the routine. We would like to phase out the work packet, in which they do the pictures and sentences, etc. Each child brought one home today to complete as homework, like we were doing in December. Next week, we would like to send just the “Cut, Sort, Write” page, completed in school, to help you follow the sorting rule. The pages are linked on the newsletter/website. You can print them to complete or simply do the work on scratch paper, white board, etc. Whatever works well for you family is great! As always, please let us know if you have questions. It is always a work in progress!

Next week we will start a novel study on humorous books. This was an absolute favorite last year! Kids will be working in book clubs as they read, meet and discuss their novels. The district adopted these studies last year as a way to really boost children’s love of reading.

We hope their love for reading can equal our love for teaching these precious students!

Amby and Lynnea