Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dear Parents...We Work Hard in School!

   Tonight I decided to share a parent letter with you that I sent home. I teach 12 amazing 7th and 8th grade students in a self-contained classroom. My students are taught: science, social studies, English, math, reading and life skills in our classroom. I'm a very busy teacher as I plan, differentiate, and implement every lesson. I use the regular education curriculum as a guide then create lessons that are meaningful to my students. The amount of information that they will be responsible for knowing before graduation is staggering, so we work hard every day. We also work on skills that will prepare the students for life. There is so much to do everyday. I am fortunate and grateful to have a classroom aide and two one-on-one aides for specific students. We all care deeply about the success of each student. We support each other in our efforts and work as a team. The behavior modification program that I wrote about in my last blog, "A Win-Win Reward System", helps the students to stay focused and on task. I try to create lessons with diversity that allow for both movement and hands-on learning to keep the kids engaged and allow for deeper-learning. The letter home is to let parents know that their kids are working on real skills and academics and not just fluff! I want everyone to know that special education students work on the same academic skills as their peers. The approach may be different and the time spent on each academic topic may be longer but in the end, the curriculum and expectations  are very much the same.

                                                                                                     December 2, 2014

Dear Parents,
        What a whirlwind this year has been! It’s hard to believe that it is December already!  Your children are settling nicely back into their new/old schedules during this second marking period. They still ask questions but each of them carries a personal schedule and the daily schedule is clearly hung in our classroom.
   We have accomplished so much this year in school. We have been picking up right where we left off last year and are moving forward. No worries though for those of us who are new to our classroom, your children have fit right in academically and socially. We have learned how to write paragraphs so are now working on writing three paragraph essays from an informational text. In Social Studies we reviewed maps and landforms doing a cross-curricular lesson that was used in science and ELA as well. I love using a cross-curricular approach because it not only helps to drive deep-learning but gives the students more confidence when they go from class to class and have previous knowledge of the material being presented.

       After finishing with Map skills and landforms we returned to Jamestown in Social Studies. This gave our students a focal point to begin their year in history. We are following the 7th/8th grade textbook by Prentice-Hall “America.”  Currently we are finishing up the Plymouth Colony and will soon move into the New England Colonies. Not everyone is with us in Social Studies class but in their respective classes your child is studying similar topics in American History. We had a lovely “Feast” which once again allowed for cross-curricular learning in social studies, reading, life skills, and math. So many skills go into planning a feast. Your children read and interpreted recipes, used capacity to measure, prepared a grocery list, used a flyer to estimate prices and add the estimated total using a calculator. They had a great time going to Shaw’s Supermarket they did the shopping by breaking up into small groups and had to work as a team to find the products they needed from a list. Each group had their own list. They also learned many cooking skills. The kids worked hard on their feast but in-between cooking times they kept up with their classwork. I’m so proud of their diligence and work ethic.
     Your children have done an amazing job in math class! They have learned how to calculate equations using the order of operations using a calculator. The goal this year in math class is to learn higher level math concepts using a calculator while still incorporating the basic skills that each student needs on a regular basis. Tomorrow we will be reviewing fractions and then moving toward higher level expressions and equations using fractions and eventually learning how to assess them when they are in an equation that requires using the order of operations. 
    We have done so much in science class this year. We did a very complete unit on weather. During this unit, as in all science units we used the scientific method. We have class days and lab days. We have done some very interesting labs this year and many more are scheduled. The scientific method is something that your kids will be using from now until they graduate so we use it and use it and use it! To prove my point on the importance of the scientific method, I asked my son-in-law, Sebastian if he still uses it; his response was “of course”. Sebastian has a PH.D. and is a research physicist at the University of Hamburg in Germany.  Anyway, we have built tornadoes in bottles and anemometers. We have changed the mass of Ivory soap, this is so very cool! We have also changed the mass of an egg shell from a solid to a liquid while keeping the rest of the egg intact. Currently we are studying mass and matter. Science is fun!

        We have read many informational text passages, sight words and novels in reading. Currently one group is reading, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” by Richard and Florence Atwater. The second group is reading, “Mercy Watson to the Rescue” by Kate Dicamillo. Both groups have study guides to accompany the novel.  This year, we have a “buzz word” of the week to increase our vocabulary. Mrs. Nesbitt has also been using these words in her speech class with the students that see her to help the learning process as well.

     This brings me to the actual purpose of my letter home…HOMEWORK!!!  Again this year, your children do have weekly spelling words. If you check power school, you can see their grades. Over-all they have done well.  Just like last year, they have spelling homework Monday-Thursday. The difference is that this year we refer to it as “practice” and I haven’t been grading it for PowerSchool.  Instead, I have looked more closely at the purpose of homework, and decided that it is just practice. Students, who do their homework, tend to earn a better grade on their weekly spelling test. So, yes for those of you who are wondering, your children do have spelling homework. To keep their homework consistent, I am using the same homework packets as last year with more difficult words. Your children may also go on to Spelling City to practice their words.  I update Spelling City weekly. Students who do complete their homework are given “Railroader Tickets for doing so. If you’d like your child to receive more homework, I would be happy to send more homework home, just send me a note saying so. Also, if you have any questions please call. The phone in my classroom does not always ring so if you do not hear back from me ask the front office to write me a note for my mailbox. I will return your call.
     One last thing before I sign off! We do have a snack every day. Several students bring in their own snack, but I provide snacks for those who do not have one. So, feel free to send in a snack and/or drink for your child. I do not allow soda or energy drinks in school but water and juice are fine.  Remember, it takes all of us to educate our children. I value your input so please contact me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely Yours,
Deb Aubin
Deb Aubin, M.Ed.
WCSD 7th/8th Self-Contained and Literacy

Educator Links:
Five ways to make your classroom Fun But Not Chaotic

Myth Of the Powerful Teacher Doctrine: Excuse to keep Funding Low

Parent Links:
SpEd Tools for Parents and Teachers

Mitt Aubin's Book Review:
     Super Social Studies-By: Elizabeth Van Tine, Shirley Lee, Camille Cooper, and Barbara White is a helpful resource for educators who teach social studies in grades 4 through 8. There are three sections in this book:
1)  Map and Geography Activities
2) Timeline Activities
3) Research and Reporting Activities
    I don't know about you, but I love activities that make the learning memorable through unique activities and hands-on-learning. This book is a great resource for games, maps, timelines, foldables and one of a kind reports. Included in Super Social Studies  are templates, maps, and instructions to teach your students how to create 50 different educational projects.

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