Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Addition and Subtraction

One of the fourth grade benchmark understandings for math states that students will be ale to "fluently add and subtract multi-digit numbers with a standard algorithm by applying place value understanding and properties of operations."

This is really fancy way of saying that kids will be able to solve addition and subtraction computation problems using the U.S. standard algorithm.  The U.S. standard algorithm is probably the way you were taught to add and subtract when you were in elementary school.  It was definitely how I was taught to calculate large sums and differences!  For those of you who wondered when we were going to teach your kids about "crossing out zeros," "borrowing" and "carrying the one," now is the time!

There are a few notable differences in the way we as adults were probably taught addition and subtraction and the way your students have been shown to think about it.  First of all, we don't say "borrow" or "carry."  To borrow something indicates that it will be given back, and we never give back a ten that is regrouped into the ones.  We also don't carry anything.  We name these steps by calling them regroupings of place values.  The value of the starting number never changes, but the way we group the number by place values does.

A second important difference to note is that students are taught to call the digits by their values, not just as single digits.  If I get to the final step in solving 957-345, I don't say, "Nine minus three is six."  Instead I say, "Nine hundreds minus three hundreds is six hundreds, so 6 goes in the hundreds place for my solution."  This may seem like an insignificant distinction, but it really helps kids keep in mind the magnitude of the numbers and the reasonableness of their solutions.

Lastly, by teaching the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction after kids have developed other flexible strategies, we hope that they will be able to continue to pull from a variety of strategies when problem solving.  We don't want to see a student start crossing out zeros to solve 1000-345.  They have much more efficient mental math strategies to use to solve this problem.  Gone are the days of rote computation.  We are growing thoughtful, flexible, efficient mathematicians who can pull from a variety of strategies to solve problems!

Here are some helpful video lessons to watch if you're interested in seeing how the addition and subtraction algorithms are taught at the fourth grade level.  Although the videos are a bit dry, they do a nice job of modeling some of the thinking we want our mathematicians to exhibit. 



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fudge for Funds

       Please note that our fourth grade fundraiser, Fudge for Funds, ends on Friday, January 19th.  Snowflakes Chocolates has generously partnered with us to bring you "Awesome Fudge" at $10 per box.  This local business will generously donate 40% of the money received to support our fourth grade team's fundraising efforts.
       All of the money raised will go directly towards paying for fourth grade Vermont field trips.  The more successful this fundraising campaign, the less money fourth grade families will have to pay out-of-pocket for trips to the Vermont Statehouse, the Vermont Historical Society Museum, the Shelburne Museum, Ben & Jerry's, and the Fort Ticonderoga Museum.  Please consider sharing your Fudge for Funds order form with family, friends, and co-workers. 
       Remember, all order forms, cash, and checks (payable to RES) should be returned to school no later than Friday, January 19th!  We need to be sure to get our order forms to Snowflake Chocolates in time for them to make and distribute the fudge before Valentine's Day.  All orders will go home with students on February 9th, leaving plenty of time for distribution before the holiday.
       Thank you for your ongoing support!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Students Explore Matter!

We have started our new science unit about matter!  So far, we have learned:

  1. All matter is made up of tiny particles called atoms or molecules.
  2. All matter takes up space.
  3. All matter has mass.
  4. Matter comes in three basic states: solids, liquids, and gases.
We used the scientific method to develop an experiment to test a solid's mass in comparison to the mass of its individual parts.  We learned that the mass of a Lego structure weighs the same as the sum of all of its individual pieces.  No matter is added or removed when a Lego structure is broken into pieces; therefore the mass remains the same.

We also investigated some properties of the gas that surrounds us--air!  Even though we can't see it, air takes up space and has mass.  We observed this by "pouring" air under water, trying to submerge objects while keeping them dry, experimenting with using air to do work and lift objects, and observing how air affects the rate at which objects of the same mass fall.  Scientists recorded their thinking and learning in their science notebooks.

Thank you Jack, our class photographer, for taking such great pictures of our science time!

A note from our music teacher, Mrs. D.


It’s the time of year that we begin playing recorders again in music class, using a program that I put together using the ‘Recorder Express’ recorder method book.

Each year, students request to take recorders home and to borrow copies of the music. But without extras to spare I consistently have had to say no to that option. But playing at home would greatly encourage their musical growth. And so, this year, in an effort to encourage practice at home, and to raise some funding for the music program, I am offering this opportunity.

Please fill out and return the lower portion of this page along with a check made out to RES, for $15.00, to receive a recorder and a method book. I will place the order by mid-January.

Thank you!
Mrs D, Music Teacher
_________________________      _________________________
(Student’s Name)                          (Student’s Grade and Homeroom)

I have enclosed a check for $15.00 to purchase a recorder and method book.

                       (Parent or Guardian Signature)

Thursday, January 11, 2018


       Fourth graders love the snow!  Here are a few pictures of kiddos enjoying the winter weather before tomorrow's predicted rain.  Please remember that winter weather attire is important, even on warm-ish days.  Our playground gets wet, but we go outside everyday if we can!  Coats, snow pants, boots, hats, and mittens are all necessities for Vermont winters.  Thank you for helping your fourth grader be prepared!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The National Geographic School Bee
       Next week, all RES fourth graders will participate in the National Geographic School Bee!  This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to experience a low-stakes, fun competition and to receive exposure to a variety of questions about the world we live in.  Students in grades 4-8 across the country will participate in the competition in their own schools.  Our school winner will have the opportunity to compete at the statewide level!
       The questions cover U.S. and world geography, climate, history, and culture.   Some of the questions are multiple choice, while others require students to generate the correct answer without any options.  Some of the questions are very challenging!  Here are some examples from last year's preliminary round:
  • The barrier islands of the Outer Banks lie off the coast of which Atlantic state--Maine or North Carolina?
  • Connecticut is home to a museum honoring P.T. Barnum, who is famous for which type of entertainment--motion pictures or circus?
  • The island of Mauritius, a former British colony, is surrounded by which Ocean?
  • Watermelon seeds were found in King Tut's tomb.  King Tut was an Egyptian pharaoh who was buried in the Valley of the Kings on which continent?
  • What is the term for the vertical distance above sea level--altitude or atmosphere?
  • Which country is NOT a major producer of coffee--Brazil, Saudi Arabia, or Ethiopia?
  • The coastal city of Monrovia, settled in the 1820s by freed American slaves, is located in which present-day African country?
       As you can probably tell from the variety of questions, there is no one right way to study for this competition.  In fact, studying is not required or necessarily beneficial to kids.  A lot of the questions call on kids to access world knowledge they've accumulated through school lessons, reading books, watching movies and T.V., traveling, and talking with parents.  However, if your fourth grader is interested in brushing up on some geography before the Geo Bee next week, here are a few resources.
       Please remember that this is a FUN activity.  Although it is okay for fourth graders to be excited and even a little nervous for this event, it not something to stress or worry about.  Relax and be open to learning something new as global citizens!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Energy Projects

      We wrapped up our science unit about energy with independent projects and presentations.  Students researched an energy source and put together a presentation to teach the rest of the class about it.  Some students chose to work together, while others opted to work individually.  They also chose how they wanted to present their learning.  We have Google slideshows, posters, models, and an iMovie.
In their presentation, students had to explain whether the energy source they researched is renewable or nonrenewable, how the energy source is obtained, how people use it in their everyday lives, and the pros and cons of the energy source.  Of course, as fourth graders, they also had to be sure to cite all of the resources they used to research and create their projects.  They did a fantastic job!

Ellie and Steven researched geothermal energy.  Ellie made a Google slideshow and Steven made a model and a poster.

John and Josslyn researched biomass energy.  They created a Google slideshow with pictures and read from a script.

Brady, Allie, and Megan researched solar energy.  They made two Google slideshows.

Ella, Pierson, and Zeb researched hydropower.  They all chose to work on posters.

Kingston researched natural gas and created a Google slideshow.

Cameron and Jack researched petroleum and made a Google slideshow.

Jake and Caleb researched propane and made an iMovie