Category: 4th Grade

4th Grade: Snow

IMG_8796I’ve been very excited about what 4th grade has been working on!  I found these awesome books from the Scholastic book order:

  • Snow Science by Scott Westgard
  • The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino

IMG_0131IMG_0132I started out the session by reading Snow by Marion Dane Bauer and Snow Science.  We talked about the 4 factors that determine what causes the shape and sizes of snowflakes (temperature, cloud height, dirt and dust, wind speed and humidity) and the geometry and symmetry behind the snow flakes.

We then grew our own crystal (which I did wrong and it failed horribly! Ha!) and learned that packet to grow snow was actually what I put in the crystal growing container.  Once we moved that over the snow growing powder was actually very cool.  It was essentially the stuff they put in a diaper, but hey! It was fun!

IMG_8728The kids then read The Story of Snow, which was extremely fascinating.  One of the things my colleague pointed out was a lot of non-fiction stories don’t lend well to think students have a lot of first hand knowledge about, but this book was the opposite–all of our students have had first hand experience with snow.  If you don’t have this book, it’s an EXCELLENT book and all of the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.  It had real microscope enlarged photos of snowflakes, the different types of snowflakes, how and why they are formed that way, and why and what happens when there is mutations in the snowflakes.

IMG_0138After that students had to write about the different types of snowflakes (star, plate, bumps, twins, columns, etc.)  They needed to write what type it was, draw a picture of what it looked like, and tell me about how it was formed and other characteristics about that type of snowflake.

After that students were then able to make their own snowflake.  They cut one out of paper and then were asked to write which snowflake they had cut and why they thought it was that type of snowflake pointing out different characteristics we learned about in the book. (Picture at the top of this post).  This proved IMG_8727to be much more difficult than we had planned for. It was still a lot of fun, but a lot more difficult than we thought.  Symmetry is hard! Haha!

This was an excellent week of learning.  This was probably the most interesting book I’ve personally read all year long.

IMG_8730After break, my 4th graders started some work on deadly animals!  I started out by reading Fangs by Heather Dakota and read about deadly animals and how they use their fangs.  It’s a long book, so I picked out the pages that included the animals that would be in the student book.  We talked about how animals use their fangs and make them deadly.

The 4th graders then read Deadliest Animals by Melissa Stewart.  As they read, they had to take notes about how each animal was deadly in their own way.  When they were finished they needed to select one animal from the book and write about what made it deadly and other information about that animal.  They had to put it in a “Wanted” type poster.



4th grade is working on timelines in their classrooms.  I found A to Z’s book Mount Rushmore and thought it would be a perfect book to use especially since it had a timeline in the book.

I broke the book up into three sections, as it’s a meaty book with a lot of IMG_0121tricky vocabulary.    The kids were asked as they read to do a few things: highlight important parts, highlight unknown words, and take notes of anything they wanted to talk about in the margin.  (This is the beauty of the A to Z books–the kids can write, highlight, mark up the books as they want and then take them home.)

As they read they were to find an event they thought was important and then write why that was important.  This was a little difficult for them as they either thought almost everything was important or nothing was important–both are incorrect.  This gave us a good opportunity to talk through all the things they found important (and bring up things they didn’t think was important) and then together we were able to decide was REALLY need to be on the graphic organizer.

IMG_0119When they were finished reading the book and filling out their event graphic organizer, it paved the groundwork for filling out a timeline.  The timeline they gave us in the book contained a lot of information, but all of it wasn’t completely pertinent to our focus.

Together we went back through the highlighted areas in our book and our first graphic organizer to figure out which were the important dates for the timeline.  This provided us with an opportunity to go over how we would need to go through our timeline in order.  They wanted to just throw dates they remembered, but we had to make sure our timeline was in order.

I’m so proud of the 4th graders.  This Mount Rushmore session of learning took us nearly 2 weeks and they did a lot of great learning and thinking.  They came up with some really great questions that had us looking back in our books and also doing internet research to find the information we wanted to know.

Also, we learned Gutzon Borglum is a hard name to say. 😉

Fractured Fairy Tales For Days!

IMG_0419My 4th graders just did a mini genre study on fractured fairy tales (my favorite!)  I read 4 versions of The Three Little Pigs (Three Samurai Cats by Eric Kimmel, A Wolf at the Door by Nick Ward, Wolf’s Coming by Joe Kulka, The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz) and then they had to read their own version. (A Surprise For Big Bad Wolf)

IMG_0420The students were able to go through all of my fractured fairy tales for inspiration and then come up with their own ideas for their own fractured fairy tales.

We got kind of carried away with enjoying reading all the different fairy tales that we didn’t get a chance to spend too much time on the writing, but I can’t be mad at the kids for being so engulfed in good literature.

4th grade fluency: THAT WAS EASY!

IMG_8376My 4th graders have been doing some different work than what I’ve been doing with my other grade levels.  I just started working with 4th grade this semester and just a couple of weeks ago.  When I looked at the reason they weren’t accelerating in their learning within the classroom when looking at their reading tests, it was because of their fluency.

We have been doing some work on fluency.  We’ve been going over tricky word parts/patterns to decode more quickly.  We’ve been going over trickier words we don’t often come across.  We’ve also been practicing how to be more fluent and phrased readers and heeding punctuation.

And it hasn’t been easy.  This has been a struggle with some of these kiddos for a couple of years.  Today when I had them come to group they were feeling a little deflated.  “This is so hard.  When will it get easy?  I’m never going to get better.”  I stopped them right there.  We weren’t going to talk negative about ourselves in my room.  At. All.  We had to use the power of positive thinking.  I made them right then and there say, “I’m awesome.  I’m a great reader.  I have the ability to read phrased and fluently and heed punctuation.  I will rock this.”

I timed them again on their current reading passage and they all shaved almost a full minute (one of them shaved a minute and a half off) and increased their words per minute by 25-50 WPM which is AWESOME.  They were beaming from ear to ear and I couldn’t have been more proud.  Their accuracy also shot through the roof.  One of them went from 88% accuracy to 99% accuracy.

We always graph our progress.  When I showed them their growth over the week they were so proud of themselves.  Today they ALL had personal bests as well.

I pulled out my Staples Easy Button and they all pushed it after we talked about their progress.  When we put our minds to something and we work hard then what was once difficult is now easy (or easier!)

Happy Friday

IMG_7886Some days it’s just a little harder than others for us to keep the sillies away!  Happy Friday everyone!

I had to say good-bye to my 4th graders as they all made such wonderful progress that they are all on grade level (yay!)  We were lucky enough to have a generous donation of 5 Kindles to my room, which has definitely made learning more fun and engaging.  I sat the kids down on our last day and had them tell me about how the Kindles have impacted their learning over these last 3 months.  Please enjoy!

IMG_9116Well hello there 2014 and all my fabulous readers!  It’s been over a month since I last posted and I apologize.  With my student teacher here I wasn’t very good about posting since she was doing most of the work with the kiddos.

4th and 5th graders had been reading new novels on the Kindles, but after doing their DRA reading tests before break almost all of them were on grade level so are being ready to exit Title 1 services (YAY!!)  Yesterday and today we worked on reading poetry to practice fluency as this is something all of them continue to need practice with.  I taught a mini lesson on fluency and then we put it right into practice.  We used the poems from Jeff Foxworthy’s book Dirt on My Shirt.

After we finished reading through the book of poetry we wrote silly poems and then shared them with each other.  My 5th graders created an acrostic poem along with me using “5th grade” as their title.  Enjoy below:

5-5 classmates ran across the room

T-to get the monkey with the spoon

H-having deep fried monkey meat in the afternoon

G-girls were grossed out by what they had to eat

R-realizing it all smelled like monkey feet

A-accepting that this wasn’t a treat

D-deciding to go sit back in their own seat

E-eventually accepting the inevitable defeat

IMG_91185th graders then wrote their own poems and I unfortunately didn’t save them/take photos of the finished poems and I let them take them home with them.

I only had two out of my four 4th graders here this week, but they had a lot of fun reading poems and each wanted to read all of the poems.  We brain stormed rhyming words to help them make their acrostic poem rhyme.

Here is Kendal’s completed poem titled 4th grade:

4-4 silly monkeys going in the street

G-getting out of the ridiculous heat.

R-running back to Dairy Queen to get a treat

A-away they go to get their seat

D-down the road they go to meet

E-eating their delicious Dairy Queen treats

Brian wasn’t completely finished with his poem titled Gorilla, but he had a great start:

G-gorillas are climbing in a tree

O-on the branch to drink their tea

R-realizing they had only 2 feet

The kids were able to take their poems home to finish or to help inspire them to create new poems.  I’m excited to see what they come back with.

Caroline ComputerToday a very fun package arrived at Lowell: our new laptop!  One of my 1st graders was able to open the box and be the first to look at it.  The kids in Ms. Acuff’s room would like to send out a giant THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our Donor’s Choose project to help us get a lap top.  As many of you know, Lowell is so amazing that we just keep growing and growing.  We’re proud of all the word we’re doing in this school.  In fact, Lowell is the first school in the district history to meet ALL 5 AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) GOALS FOR NCLB IOWA ASSESSMENTS!!!!  Isn’t that amazing?

But since we’ve been growing we’ve needed more space and unfortunately we just don’t have the space. This year we lost our computer lab to make room for additional staff in our building.  Lowell no longer has a computer lab and the laptops were distributed to the classroom teachers.  Since I am not a classroom teacher, I did not get a student lap top.  Last year I let the kids go to the computer lab to type up final copies of stories they wrote.  This year it wasn’t an option with our Caroline Computer 2computer lab no longer available.  I wrote a Donors Choose project so my kiddos could have their own laptop to use while in my classroom.  So many people were generous and donated to us.

Thank you to:

  • Gretchen Peterson-Kobriger
  • Leanna Frericks
  • Erin Rosburg
  • US Cellular
  • Yellow Chair Foundation
  • Doonsebury matching donation

We are excited to be able to use the laptop to type up some of our stories and also as research.  My 4th and 5th graders have been using the iPad for a dictionary and thesaurus and now they’ll have access to the laptop for this work as well.

IMG_8461Also, a thank you to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier for recognizing the projects in the paper.  We were REALLY excited to see our project had been posted in the paper.  It means so much to have support from so many people.

If you’d like to help our current project please visit:

We are badly in need of some new supplies to help us in the classroom.  We have loved our supplies to the point where we need some new materials.  If you feel inspired to help us, we’d be thankful!

IMG_8400We had another Donor’s Choose project fulfilled within the last month and our items are just not starting to finish arriving after being back ordered and then needing to be replaced.

IMG_8401Ms. Acuff’s class wants to thank…

  • Dr. Jim and Jody Mueller
  • Nicole Earle
  • The Yellow Chair Foundation

Thank you for donating money for us to have comfortable furniture to read in AND for donating money for us to have books to read in those comfortable places.

We’ve had to learn some very good skills on how to share and take turns since all of the items to use are hot commodities in my room, but we are extremely blessed and spoiled to have such a wonderfully cozy place to call ours and work to become better readers.

IMG_8402Students have been very eager to get reading since the furniture has come.  It’s much more fun to curl up with a book when you aren’t sitting in the hard, plastic, blue chairs we sit on when we first come to class.

One of my 1st graders got to open the box with the big red rocker and the box was nearly as big as he was. (Photo to left).  It was exciting to get to open up new things.  We’ve had several days which have felt like an early Christmas gift.

IMG_8404So again I want to thank everyone everyone who has donated to this project and to our other projects to help inspire literacy learning to be much more fun and comfortable.  So many opportunities have been opened up to us because of the gracious gifts we keep getting.

IMG_8391And as I close we need to say a little RIP to the yoga ball.  The yoga ball has faithfully served Ms. Acuff’s room for the last 5 years and yesterday it finally breathed its last breath.  The kids were very sad, so it’s a good thing the red rocker arrived today.  The rocker will be a nice new addition to our room in lieu of the yoga ball.

We do have a current project posted on Donors Choose for us to get some new writing supplies for small group instruction and also some new take home book bags so the kids can take books home to read and practice with their families.  Our current book bags are ripped and falling apart after over 5 years of use and being held together with duct tape.  If you want to help us with our newest project please visit our link: (Enter code MALL20 to match up to $20 or INSPIRE to match up to $100–code INSPIRE only will work for our project until Friday, October 18th.  After that please use match code MALL20.)