Category Archives: English Language Arts

Writing about texts.

Our class has been working to develop ideas about what they are reading to write a one page written essay.

Readers read the passage two times.  The first time is to get an idea about what the text is about and what the author is trying to tell us.  The second time is to underline important information (key ideas), to circle challenging and confusing words, to write any questions, and to write your thinking (annotate).

Students have been writing responses based on one text AND responses based on two texts that are related (paired texts).

Below are the steps students take to answer a paired text question, and the success criteria for the written essay.

Steps I take to answer a paired text question:

  1. Analyze the question.  What is it asking?
  2. Look at the first text and my annotations.  Find clues to answer the question.
  3. Look at the second text and my annotations.  Find clues to answer the question.
  4. Develop a central idea.  This is the center of the writing.
  5. Answer the question using evidence from the texts.  Use your box and bullets organizer (see below) to plan your response.  Then write your response.



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Box and Bullets Organizers


I know I am successful when:

  1. I answered all parts of the question.
  2. I stated my central idea at the beginning of the essay.
  3. I gave evidence from the text or texts.
  4. I gave an explanation (say more) sentence for each piece of evidence. (Be sure to connect back to central idea)
  5. I wrote a conclusion sentence (so what).
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Students share their essays.  They offer positive feedback and suggestions to improve writing based on the success criteria.


After students are finished with the essay they use a checklist to critique their writing.  This checklist allows them to analyze their writing for the central idea, evidence, explanation, and conclusion.  Perhaps the most important component is identifying what they need to work on so that they can continue to improve their writing.

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Below you can see students hard at work.  They are reading essays and evaluating the essays based on the “Writing about Reading Checklist”.


The entire class has made significant progress and we will continue to work on writing about texts.




Thanksgiving week.

It’s been a busy Thanksgiving-themed week!  Our class has been having conversations about all of the things we are grateful for.  We filled out feathers to add to the school turkey and we wore tags displaying our gratitude.


In math we have been working in groups to solve our turkey problems.  It has proved to be fun and engaging.  Check out our hard work below!


Suggested Interview Questions” for the Molly’s Pilgrim Project are due Monday, December 5th.  Students should interview their “pilgrim” (or relative/friend of a pilgrim) and record their answers on a separate piece of paper.

What is your full name? Are you a pilgrim? If not, who is the pilgrim you will tell me about?

What country and city did you come from?

Was it a difficult decision to come to America?

Tell me about your life in your home country, such as friends and things you did in your spare time.

What city and state did you arrive in (U.S.)?

What year did you leave your country to come to the United States?

Tell me about the journey from your country. Did you come on a boat, plane, or car to the U.S.? How long did it take? Explain in detail.

How old were you when you came to the U.S.?

Why did you leave your country?

Did you come to the U.S. with anyone else? If so, who?

Tell me about your family.

What was your job in your first country? What was your job in the U.S.?

When you came to the U.S. what did you do first?

What do you miss about your home town?

What do you love about the U.S.?

Do you ever travel back to your old country? Why or why not?

Are you happy with your decision to come to the U.S.?

If the person is no longer alive, when did they die?

*Feel free to write your own questions!


I hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends.


Pilgrim project.

Where in the world do we come from?

Before Thanksgiving break, our class read Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen.  Molly was born in Russia. Her pilgrim doll looked like a Russian doll. Which country were you born in? Where did your birth parents, adoptive parents, or grandparents come from? Maybe you left a country and came to the United States of America, or maybe your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents left their original countries. Think about why you or your ancestors came to the United States.

By now, each student has interviewed a family member or friend about someone who was a “pilgrim”. Share any information, pictures, memories, etc. Write a narrative story from the perspective of the “pilgrim” you interviewed.  Then, like Molly, make a doll that represents the family member (or friend) you interviewed. Be creative!  The project (the writing AND the doll) is due Friday, December 18, 2015. Students will be presenting their dolls and their stories the week of December 21st.

We have already started working on our writing in class, and we will continue working on the writing in class this week (the week of December 7th).  Students should come to school prepared with their project materials.

Please use common materials found around your home to make the doll (paper towel rolls, old clothing, paper, etc.). There is no need to spend a lot of money at Michael’s. Our best dolls have always been made with recycled materials!

Gratitude week and curriculum.

gratitude week turkey

Students at the Kennedy School have completed a week of “Gratitude” activities.  Students shared the things they are grateful for in classroom discussions, on a turkey in the cafe, and on a sticker that they wore for an entire school day.  Many students also participated in a canned food drive and they met with their fifth grade buddies to write a letter to someone they are grateful to have in their lives.

In mathematics, the children have been practicing their multiplication facts on daily timed tests.  Some students are still trying to beat the two facts, while others have moved onto the three and four tables.  Students should be practicing their multiplication facts at home to increase their fact fluency.  Also, since we are focusing our time on multiplication in school, please review addition and subtraction on the number line in order to maintain and improve these skills.

In English Language Arts, students have been learning and practicing the roles of clarifier, questioner, and predictor as part of the Reciprocal Teaching model.  Reciprocal teaching refers to an instructional activity where students become the teacher in small groups.  The students are learning these roles so that they can learn to guide group discussions about the texts they have been reading.  After the Thanksgiving break students will be learning about the summarizing role and how to identify the main idea and details about what they’ve read.  Below you can see the cards students use to guide their discussions in their groups.

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The students have been learning many new things about nonfiction texts, such as how to identify nonfiction text features and how to use strategies to figure out what new vocabulary words mean.  The children have also been using “stems” to write about their predictions, to share what they’ve learned, and to tell how they know what a new vocabulary word means.  Below are a few of the anchor charts students use in the classroom to assist their learning.

anchor chart nonfiction text featuresanchor chart meanings vocab wordsanchor chart prediction stems

anchor chart what i've learned

The children have been working together in their groups and they are continually self-assessing what is working well in their group discussions and the things that they need to work on.  Here are some photographs of the students in their groups from this past week.


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In the upcoming week we will be reading Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen,  developing interview questions for our pilgrim interview project, and solving a challenging Thanksgiving turkey math problem.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

Spirit week and other updates.

Last week our school enjoyed spirit week.  Monday we dressed in our school colors, orange and black.  Tuesday we decorated our door to show our Kennedy School pride (please come by to read the reasons why we love the Kennedy School), and on Thursday we were joined by our fifth grade buddies from Ms. Bougas’s class to participate in some Kennedy School Trivia.  We finished up the week by wearing Patriots clothing to celebrate our New England Patriots.  It was a fun and exciting week!

school spirit door 2school spirit door 1

In math, we have been continuing to sharpen our skills with addition and subtraction by using the number line and bar model.  We have also been finding the perimeter of squares and rectangles by using the formula perimeter equals length plus width plus length plus width.  Some children have even written books about “Peri the Perimeter Pet”!  The students have been using variables in equations to solve for the unknown.  We will be reviewing money, time, and rounding to the nearest ten and nearest hundred before our district assessment at the beginning of November.  Reminder: Always remember to show work (two different ways if possible), write equations, and write a sentence with your answer for word problems!

number line and bar model

peri the perimeter pet peri the perimeter pet 2

In English Language Arts we have been continuing our study of fiction.  The last two weeks we have been reading My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada and we have been learning how to ask questions to further our understanding of what we have been reading so that we can have engaging conversations about the text.  Students have focused on asking a balance of “Right There” questions and “Author and Me” questions.  They have had clear behavior expectations when asking and answering questions with their groups and they have made significant progress over the last few weeks.  Group expectations include speaking and listening to my partner about my work, staying focused on my work for the entire time, and having the materials I need to complete my task.

asking questions

In Social Studies each student has chosen a New England State to learn more about.  Each child will research their state, write a report, and do a presentation.  Much of the research will be completed in school.  Students will be receiving more information in the coming weeks.  We started our maps in class on Friday and the map is due Wednesday, October 21st.

Pool with resume this Monday and Wednesday is a noon dismissal for students.

I’ll leave you with a photograph from Friday.  The students participated in their first session of Playworks on the front school yard. We had a lot of fun, despite the chilly weather and everyone is already looking forward to our next session.


Classroom update.

We’ve had a busy first few weeks of school getting to know each other and our new third grade rules and routines.  Now that each student has returned his or her paperwork I can now start posting some photographs.  I’m very excited because each and every student has permission to appear on our classroom blog and website!

The first week of school everyone enjoyed participating in a puzzle team building challenge.  Groups were randomly selected using popsicle sticks and the students had to work together to assemble their puzzles without talking.  Every group developed different strategies for communicating without using their voices.  Each group successfully participated and three of the four groups completed their puzzles.  The only reason that one group did not finish was that the puzzle had many more, smaller pieces.  It was a successful team building activity and I’ve had many requests to do another puzzle activity!

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We have also been spending time learning how to solve addition and subtraction using a number line.  This method is quite different from the conventional method that students have been using.  Here are a few examples to illustrate the method we’ve been working on in class:


There are many more word problems in third grade and we have been practicing doing three things in third grade: Showing our work (two different ways if possible), showing equations, and writing a sentence with our answer.  This is essential for all word problems solved in class and for homework assignments.  We have this chart on display in class to remind us:


We’ve also started learning about rounding to the nearest ten.  Here’s a video illustrating how we round a number to the nearest ten.

In English Language Arts we have been talking about common elements of fiction, such as characters, setting, plot, problem, and solution.  The class has enjoyed reading Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco.  Towards the end of the week the students identified the character traits of the sister in My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (see chart below) and they are currently working on developing a paragraph explaining her character traits.

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One thing I remember most about my own elementary school experience is my teachers reading to me.  I can vividly recall which teacher read which book and I am continuing this read aloud transition in our classroom.  The students love listening to George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl because it makes them laugh.

Students have also been reading about Massachusetts and soon they will have their Massachusetts maps on display in the hallway outside our classroom.

Come by and visit any time!

MCAS prep.

Students in grade 3 have been learning many test-taking strategies.  Over the last few weeks you have probably noticed many MCAS practice selections coming home in your child’s yellow homework folder.  Please review these selections with your child.  Ask your child to tell you about the different strategies he or she has been learning about and practicing in school.

We have also been trying out a new writing technique for open response questions called Writing With Color.  Click here to learn more about it.  Here are some seventh grade writing samples to show you how it’s used.

Our students will be taking the Reading MCAS on March 31 and April 1.

Valentine’s Day.

I Love You More Than Applesauce

by Jack Prelutsky

I love you more than applesauce,
Than peaches and a plum,
Than chocolate hearts,
And cherry tarts,
And berry bubble-gum.

I love you more than lemonade,
And seven-layer cake,
Than lollipops,
And candy drops,
And thick vanilla shake.

I love you more than marzipan,
Than marmalade on toast;
For I love pies
Of any size,

But I love you the most.


Do you want to let your mother, father, or loved one know how much you love them? 

If you answered YES, keep reading.

Create your own “I love you more than…” poem!

Click here for the template: I love you more than applesauce

Sometimes it helps to see an example.  Read Ms. Larson’s students’ poems by clicking here.

Have fun!

Happy Valentine’s Day!