November #NoOfficeDay – 4th Grade

November is my favorite month of the year! Fall temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes, Thanksgiving and of course, another opportunity to participate in a #NoOfficeDay.

My November #NoOfficeDay destination was 4th grade and the teachers and students did not disappoint. The day started with an extra buzz in the grade level hall as the stubble on my face for #NoShaveNovember led students to wonder what in the world was on my face. Questions like, “Is that a mustache?” or “Is that real?” and “Is that a wig?” (which was my favorite) led me to wonder if I should really be participating in #NoShaveNovember, but it’s for a good cause and it gives the students something to wonder about.

Purposeful Note Taking and Revisit Notes to Solve Problems

As we moved past the wonder of what was on my face, I was able to get my #NoOfficeDay underway with some math and specifically some long division. The teacher, Mrs. Boyd had it set up nicely for me as students were going to collaborate on long division problems (chosen by me) on the white board. 360 degree math is something you may not be familiar with and if that is the case, check it out here: http://www.360degreemath.com/. If you are, you would be impressed with the attempt at 225 degree math I saw today. The class is not set up with white boards completely around the room, so 225 is a rough estimate. Regardless, the students worked so well together and with use of their notes and the problem solving skills, students successfully completed various long division problems with and without remainders.

225 degree math

Students added up the cost of their Cattle Drive 

4th grade is well known for several things, but in Texas it is synonymous for Texas History and Writing. The next stop on my schedule was Mrs. Beck’s classroom and I arrived in the middle of a Texas History lesson focusing on the importance of the cattle drive and how the development of the railroad ended the historical cross country cattle drives. After watching a video to acquire some background knowledge, students got to collaborate in a cattle drive simulation. Student groups were given a specific number of dollars ($3,000) and a city they needed to lead their cattle drive to. Students had to work together to determine how many cattle they wanted on their drive, how many ranch hands it would take to facilitate the cattle drive, horses required for their ranch hands and the amount of food they would need for their journey. Once they determined who and what they would need, they needed to put a price tag on it and determine just how much of a profit they would make IF they arrived safely at their final destination. I say IF, because they also had to come up with three “experiences” they endured during their trek. The experiences were pulled from the experiences they were exposed to in the video clip they viewed prior to their simulation. The students were challenged, forced to connect their knowledge of Texas History to math and real life problem solving and ultimately figured out it was a lot of work for a little bit of money.

Interpret Art – What will happen next? 

The specials rotation was next on the #NoOfficeDay schedule and this is a part of the day I struggle with in trying to rotate through each of the special rotations (PE, music & art) in just 50 minutes. I continued my struggle on this day, when I started in art class and didn’t make it to PE or music. While I disappointed a couple of kiddos who were looking forward to my popping into music, I made up for it at recess when they were able to showcase their musical talents. With my extended stay in art class, I was able to really spend some time with students and see just how artistic and creative our students are. Students begin their lesson with an art critique of a famous art piece. Students use a beach ball to facilitate answering specific questions that challenge their thinking and showcase their ability to interpret a piece of art.

Students were able to spend time in art class catching up on past lessons and finishing up their specific works of art. I always do my best to participate in the art lesson and create what the students are creating. The students had been working on holiday illustrations, which according to the student I was sitting next to, “needed to tell a story.” Here is my holiday illustration:

“A Quiet Winter Day” by Mr. Arend

The next hour of my day is always a popular one with students as it is the lunch/recess block of the day. The students love eating with the principal and love eating with the principal when the principal is in the cafeteria. I love connecting with the students on their turf! Recess follows lunch and I am convinced we have some future soccer stars in our 4th grade. Contrary to the moves captured in the image below, I am NOT one of the soccer stars in 4th grade. 

Want to know what students are up to? Ask them during lunch.

“GOAL”

I had survived recess with no major injuries and made my way back into the grade level hallway, just in time for some intense work with suffixes. As I mentioned before, one of the things 4th grade is famous for is writing. In order to be a great writer, students have to have a strong understanding of vocabulary and understanding suffixes supports vocabulary development.  The students in Ms. Stewart’s class blew my mind with their understanding of suffixes, the definition of suffixes and how using a suffix can change the meaning of a word. We worked together to complete a foldable, we worked in partners to match definitions of specific suffixes with appropriate examples and then spent a little time trying to see if students could stump Mr. Arend as they shared the definition of a word with a suffix and I had to figure out what the word was, with the appropriate suffix. I did a decent job in deciphering the clues students shared, but I missed one or two which cost me some starbucks. 

Student collaboration to complete the Suffix Match

I ended the day in Mr. S’s class where students spend the final hour of their Friday’s participating in “Genius Hour”. Not familiar, learn more about “Genius Hour” here: http://www.geniushour.com/. In a nut shell, if students meet classroom expectations throughout the week, turn in their classwork and are responsible for completing their homework, the final hour of the week is theirs to use, researching a topic of their choosing and will be able to present their research to the class in a couple of weeks. Genius Hour is a great way to get students invested in their learning and motivating them to be responsible for their learning throughout the week. I am looking forward to seeing some of the students present what they have learned. 

Genius Hour – Students at Work

With that, another #NoOfficeDay is in the books! If I can summarize my #NoOfficeDay in 4th grade with one word, I would use “collaboration”. In each of the classrooms I was in, I experienced the power of collaboration and how much learning can occur when students collaborate together. These days, spent with students and working alongside teachers continues to be one of the highlights of each month. I hope those of you reading this, encourage your principal to schedule #NoOfficeDays so he or she can see just how valuable this time spent with students and teachers is.