Welcome Letter 2013-14

Dear Wolves Families,
There are only a couple of weeks left before our first day of school, and I can’t wait to see your children!  Hopefully this letter will start you thinking about our new year together.  Read on and please call if you have any questions.
What Your Child Should Bring From Home the First Day of School:

  • Backpack
  • Shoes for physical education that stay at school
  • Lunch/snack/drink
  • Optional, but Greatly-Appreciated Contributions to Wolves’ Classroom:
  • liquid hand soap
  • boxes of tissue

Year-Long Theme:  Keepers of the Earth
This exciting integrated theme is based on learning American history with an emphasis on Native American culture.  The goals are for students to understand history through different perspectives and to learn to think critically about the Earth’s environments, its people and the creatures that inhabit our planet.  Below are some of the highlights of the theme through January:
  • Who am I as a learner and a member of a community?Setting goals, learning how the brain works, understanding different ways of learning (multiple intelligences)
  • Introduction to Native AmericansGeography, myths, legends, storytelling, culture, stereotypes, rethinking Columbus
  • Northeast Forest DwellersGeography, adopting trees, forests as habitats, animal research, The Sign of the Beaver
  • Southeast Farming TribesGeography, rivers, the Trail of Tears, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Paddle to the Sea at North House Folk School
Language Arts: This summer I have been deeply engrossed in discovering what research says most benefits students as they become readers, writers and lifelong learners.  As a result, the structure of my literacy block may look and sound a little different and I am EXCITED! 
          It won’t be long until you hear your child talking about “The Daily Five.”  The Daily Five is a way of structuring the reading block so every student is independently engaged in meaningful literacy tasks. These research based tasks are ones that will have the biggest impact on student reading and writing achievement, as well as help foster children who love to read and write. Students receive explicit whole group instruction and then are given independent practice time to read and write independently while I provide focused, intense instruction to individuals and small groups of students.
          When it is up and running smoothly, students will be engaged in the Daily Five, which are comprised of:
  • Read to Self
  • Work on Writing
  • Read to Someone
  • Work with Suzy
  • Word Work (spelling, vocabulary, language usage)There are very specific behavior expectations that go with each Daily 5 component.  We will spend our first weeks working intensely on building our reading and writing stamina, learning the behaviors of the Daily 5 and fostering our classroom community.  I will also spend time learning about your child’s strengths and greatest needs as a reader in order to best plan for each student’s instruction.
As you can see, I am excited about giving your child the opportunity to be involved in a structure that will have a positive effect on their education.
Math:  3rd and 4th grade math experiences are typically about mastery of foundational skills and beginning to use those skills to solve problems.  My goal is to help your child be a confident mathematician.  GES uses the internationally acclaimed math curriculum “Singapore Math.”  I also use many supplementary resources to teach that I’ve found to be highly effective and engaging.  The GES staff is working on implementing a Daily Five-type format for math as well as language arts, so be listening for those details soon. 
Homework Expectations:   The Wolves receive homework each Monday through Thursday.  It is given before lunch/recess and expected to be returned the next day unless otherwise noted.  It will consist of writing, math practice, and reading.  Often, students have the opportunity to do some of their homework during the day.  However, this is typically not enough time to complete all of their homework if it is to be done thoughtfully and thoroughly.
You can expect homework to take your child approximately 30-45 minutes.   I recommend your family take some time before school begins to decide when and where homework will be completed each night.  You may need to establish a new quiet space for your child to work independently and without interruptions.  As this may be a new routine for some, you may want to be available during homework time, but creating an exit plan (for you) that helps your child build confidence and independence is really important. 
If homework is a struggle, seems too difficult or too easy, or your child is having trouble remembering to bring it home/return it to school, please let me know right away.  I can help you problem solve so homework is a positive time to build skills rather than torture for your family! 
Communication:  You can always call school if you have a message for me and I will return your call when I am free. 
Thanks in advance for sharing your children with me!
Suzy Schweig

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