January 1, 2018

Dear Third Grade Families:

Happy New Year! We loved seeing you during our recent publishing party. Thank you for being partners in your child’s learning and growing. Working together, we can make a difference!

Third graders embraced December’s Lower Lab Value of Patience. We examined patience from a character’s point of view through a beloved Aesop Fable, The Tortoise and The Hare. Students began learning about the theme, the lesson and the moral of a story. We also set morals for ourselves regarding patience, as we enter this New Year. Ask your child about the marshmallow test, that we watched and discussed. You can access those videos here: https://vimeo.com/246414391, https://vimeo.com/246414391

 Some Celebratory Moments in December…

  • Our Class Anthologies: Students culminated their ten-week creative writing intensive with teaching author, Ms. Suzanne La Fleur.
  • Social Studies: “Let the good times roll! “Students culminated a month long study of New Orleans, by creating their own brochure on canva,com, which displayed the culture, landmarks, sights, sounds and foods of NOLA.
  • Writing: The Art of Information Writing-Unit 3 Students showed all that they learned in informational writing by crafting a text on a topic of personal expertise. As we edit these for final publication, we look forward to visiting a first grade class to “teach” our friends five facts on our topics and share the terrific text features we implemented.
  • Reading to Learn: Grasping Main Ideas and Text Structures-Unit 3 students learned to read long stretches of nonfiction with fluency, in such a way that they can determine importance and ascertain main ideas.
  • Our Math Unit: Graphs and Line Plots Students displayed their skills for collecting, representing, analyzing, and measuring data by creating a survey, collecting data and displaying it on a graph in their informational books. Bravo!

Looking Forward To The Month Ahead… January

Reading Character Studies-Unit 4

In this unit, children move from a close study of character, to a study of the predictable journeys that all characters take, to a cross book comparison study of characters who have something important in common (similar traits, problems, lessons learned). This unit builds in sophistication from literal comprehension work to interpretive/analytic work and directly supports the work of our writing “Baby Literary Essay unit” taught in tandem. Although Baby Literary Essay is a writing unit, it requires students to read closely, studying character traits, change, and lessons learned.

 Goals for this unit include:

  • Make careful, close observations of characters
  • Craft theories and predictions about characters
  • Understand the ways in which all stories are structured: a character faces trouble that grows bigger and reacts to it, eventually finding a way to resolve the trouble and learn lessons
  • Think comparatively about characters in different books, noticing similarities and differences between these characters’ struggles, motivations, reactions, and the lessons they learn.

 Writing: “Baby” Literary Essay -Unit 4

Essential Question: How can I write an essay that states a strong opinion about a text and supports it clearly with evidence from the text?

Structuring Essays About Stories: Students become accustomed to making a big, bold opinion about a character, including evidence from the text, and elaborating on that evidence. They’ll also include a brief introduction and conclusion. Know that the key to mastering any new skill, whether 3-point basketball shots or writing an essay, is repetition. Therefore, this unit offers students ample opportunity to write a few quick essays. The goal is to give students the opportunity to have repeated practice with this new skill set, drafting quickly and often during the first few days of each of our three “bends,” then selecting their best draft to revise and edit.

By mid January, children will begin book clubs in our new reading unit, Character Studies. Students will gather with their book club and begin to think about some big, bold opinions about characters in those books. We will also revisit a variety of familiar short texts, allowing students to form groups around the texts they want to write essays about.

Goals for this unit include:

  • Write a minimum of three literary essays
  • Students will  write literary essays about a picture book, short story or a book club text, and finally one from a non-fiction text where they read it as a story.
  • Deepen student’s work with character study, as they defend a claim with a variety of evidence cited from the text.


  • Reader’s Notebooks continue to be a place to record and track thinking about our reading. Responses now include synthesizing different parts of the texts, noticing themes, deep thinking about characters traits and motives and wonderings about why the author included that information. As we move into the character studies in early January, we hope to see that rich thinking reflected in students Reader’s Notebooks. Students may want to refer to the common themes sheet introduced in class.


  • Our Math Unit: Travel Stories and Collections

This unit develops students’ ideas about counting and quantity, place value and the structure of the base-10 number system, the meaning of operations with whole numbers, the development of computational fluency, and generalizations about numbers and operations. This strand focuses on understanding and extending knowledge of place value and the number system to 1,000, and adding and subtracting accurately and efficiently. Students will benefit from math fact fluency and effortless automaticity with their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts through 12. This level of mastery will serve students well moving forward.


Social Studies: Learning About A Far Away Country: Brazil

Essential Questions: What factors influence how people in Brazil live their lives? How do geography, culture, and economic needs shape the way people live in Brazil? How is this similar to and different from life in the U.S.?

In this unit, students will continue working in their research clubs to pursue the essential question:’ What shapes how people in a place far from me live?’ This time the place that students are studying is a more remote one than the United States, making everything about the unit more challenging. As children pursue the question, “What factors influence how people in Brazil live their lives?” they will utilize World Book On line, and numerous other texts and be able to answer “How do geography, culture, and economic needs shape the way people live in Brazil? How is this similar to and different from life in the US?”

Students will discover that when studying another place, a researcher often asks, ‘What is turning out to be especially interesting to me as I learn about this place?’ and then that researcher is off and running, pursuing this topic of interest.’ As students identify these interests, they will deepen their research in inquiry groups, with each group focused on a subtopic such as the rainforest.

An interdisciplinary culminating project will show off their research. Our work with the teaching artists from Symphony Space will further enrich this process.

Symphony Space: This program will span from January through May and cover our social studies topics during that time frame.

Third graders will experience the cultures of Brazil and China with Symphony Space teaching artists. Specifically, students will learn songs in Portuguese; partake in Maracatu northeastern Brazil music and ceremony of the crowning of the King and Queen Parade. They will learn about all of the dimensions of the Afro Brazilian Martial arts form called Capoeira originated in Bahia, Brazil over 500 years ago. In addition, students will examine visual art primary source documents followed by rich discussions about the images and symbols. Selected students will partake in Maracatu and Capoeira when they visit Symphony Space for the Latin America performance in March.

The students will engage in the Chinese Opera and Martial Arts by experiencing the five elements of Chinese Opera. Again, learning words in Mandarin they will partake in acting, singing, talking, sword fighting and observe artists skills in tumbling. Chinese Ribbon Dance will be taught to all and a few students will be selected to represent our class and partake in the Asia performance at Symphony Space in May.

Technology: Students will be researching about Brazil using World Book Online. We hope to arrange a Skype session with a Brazilian school. Students will be developing a final project, showcased during our February publishing party. Stay tuned for more details!

Until Soon,

Leslie And Kevin