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Kristen McLaughlin's Classroom: All About Team 15

Partnering with Parents to Enrich the Student Learning Experience

All About Team 15

Grade 4 ~ Mrs. McLaughlin


Welcome to fourth grade! I would like to thank you for allowing me the privilege to teach your child this year. I look forward to a productive and exciting year working with you and your child.  This page will provide you with all of the necessary information you need to know regarding classroom expectations, policies, and procedures. I hope you find it helpful.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Philosophy of Teaching:  Teaching begins with a belief, a belief that all children can learn and succeed; a philosophy that diversity in the classroom strengthens and allows all members greater opportunities for learning.

A teacher must possess a positive attitude and be committed to meeting the needs of all students. In my classroom, I work hard at creating a community of learners; a community where learning expectations are high, yet students feel comfortable taking risks, and where every student feels a sense of belonging.  Learning differences are celebrated by a variety of instructional approaches including cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and other learning experiences that foster positive relationships among peers and their teacher.

Literacy: Reading and writing form the basis of the fourth grade curriculum, and are inextricably linked. Good readers are good writers, and good writers are good readers.  This year we will be following the Reader’s Workshop model.  This model of reading encourages students to take responsibility for their learning.  Students choose books that appeal to them and that are at their instructional reading level.  Throughout the workshop, students read and respond to text and share their thoughts and ideas in small groups.  The Reader’s Workshop allows the teacher to differentiate and personalize instruction to meet the learning needs of all learners.  A typical Reading Workshop block would look something like this:

Mini-lesson (10-15 minutes): Students gather on the rug for a short, focused lesson directed by the teacher.  Mini-lessons focus on workshop procedures, reading comprehension strategies, and other literary skills.  The teacher models for the students and then students are given time to practice the skill either individually or with a partner.

Independent Reading (40 minutes): Students work independently on the skill taught in the mini-lesson or reading independently.  They are also responding to what they have read in their Reading Response Journal.  Students will also work with the teacher in small, guided reading groups for direct instruction in a small group setting.

Reader’s Share (5-10 minutes): Students return to the rug to share something that they learned that day or how they responded to their reading.

Reader’s Workshop will expose students to a variety of genres of literature including non-fiction, historical fiction, biographies, and more.

Spelling and vocabulary skills are also emphasized in fourth grade. Students are encouraged to incorporate learned spelling strategies into everyday writing and acquired vocabulary into everyday speech.  Spelling words will vary from week to week, but will generally follow a pattern or spelling rule. Fourth grade will continue Word Study patterns this year. Below is an excerpt from the authors that explains study.

“The authors of the professional development book Words Their Way™: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction define word study as the integration of phonics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction. Word study teaches students how to look closely at words to discover the regularities and conventions of English orthography, or spelling. It takes the place of traditional spelling and vocabulary approaches, such as skill instruction, scope and sequence, or repeated practice.”

We will continue to incorporate Lucy Calkins' Units of Study  while following the Writer’s Workshop model.  The Writer’s Workshop model is structured in the same way as Reader’s Workshop.  Students will work through the writing process to develop, expand, revise, and publish several pieces throughout the year.  Students will be exposed to a variety of writing activities including narrative, opinion, and informational writing, and a literary essay.

Math:  This year, the Salem School District will continue to use Envision Math, to align with our new Common Core Standards. The program was first introduced last year after several teachers in the district piloted it the year before. That said, it is still a learning curve for students and teachers. Envisions is a rigorous program that we will all be learning from together.

 As the year progresses, we will be using a workshop model for our math lessons. The structure of the workshop is similar to that of Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. Lessons will begin with a whole class focus lesson, students will have time to work on the skill introduced, either independently or with a partner, small group work with the teacher, and then a closing in which students will share their findings and what they have learned.

This year, students will continue to work on ST Math (which stands for Spatial Temporal Math). We will continue to integrate ST Math as a station during Math Workshop, doing some whole class sessions, independent sessions during Intervention, and students will also have ST Math for homework. More info. to follow!

Social Studies: By its very definition, Social Studies comprised of many components.  It includes the study of economics, political science, geography, anthropology, and history.  The fourth grade curriculum, therefore, attempts to combine these areas through the development of map skills, the Five Themes of Geography, History of New Hampshire, The Revolutionary War, and our government.

Students are encouraged to be critical thinkers and participate in a variety of activities related to these units.  Throughout the year, our text will be used as a reference rather than a primary source.  The text will be supplemented with non-fiction text and trade books related to the current topic of study, primary sources, and student research.

Science:This year fourth graders will also participate in three STEM modules. These activities will be facilitated by both classroom teachers and our STEM integrators. Projects are inquiry-based and hands on activities designed to be introduced to students in a structured way, with a gradual release of responsibility by the teacher as the students move through the project. Stay tuned for more information as we begin our STEM modules in the next several weeks.

Organization:  Fourth grade is an important year to become better organized in an effort to prepare for fifth grade and middle school.  To help with this, your child has put together a homework folder.  These folders will be used every single day.  It is the student’s responsibility to take care of the folder; not the parents. In addition to their homework folder, will have folders in their desk to help with their organization within the classroom.  These folders are divided organized into content areas and will be checked frequently for organization. Students also have an interactive math and reading notebooks.

Homework:  Homework is assigned consistently, Monday through Thursday, where it serves to enhance the work in the classroom.  For the most part, when homework is assigned on the weekends, it will be reserved for long-range assignments or make up work. 

Students have received a homework planner that they keep in their FROG binder at all times.  Students are responsible for recording their homework assignments each day in their planners. 

I check that homework has been turned in daily and that students have had their planner signed by an adult each night.  I ask that you sign your child’s homework planner only after looking at the assignments that were completed.

Parents are encouraged to discuss homework assignments with your children, as this will foster a deeper understanding of the material.  However, a student’s mistakes will alert me that your child may need further instruction in that area.

Time spent on homework will vary according to student. At times, assignments will be assigned at the beginning of the week and due either two days later or at the end of the week. This will enable students to learn time management skills. I also realize that after-school schedules are busy.  By assigning work due at the end of the week, or a few days out, students can complete assignments on nights that are more convenient to their schedule.

Students are expected to read for a minimum of 20 minutes a night.  In addition, students will be required to complete one reading comprehension activity per week. Reading comprehension activities are also due on Friday, and will be given to the students every Friday.

Students are also responsible for having a parent sign their planner each night. If a child is consistently missing assignments, they will be asked to stay in for recess to complete the missing assignments. Unfinished assignments may also be sent home on Friday to be completed over the weekend.

I do my best to grade and return all assignments in a timely manner.  I encourage you to review and discuss your child’s work and if you have any questions regarding an assignment, do not hesitate to contact me.

Absences: When a student is absent, our administrative assistants will put together a “Sick Folder” packet.  This packet will include any of the day’s activities that may be made up at home.  If your child is absent and you would like to pick up their work, please let me know by noon, and I will have the packet ready for you to pick up in the office by 2:00.  Students have approximately five days upon returning from an absence to make up the work missed.  Full credit will be given for work that is turned in within that time frame.

Parent/Teacher Communication: My preferred method of communication is email as I check it throughout the day.  My email address is  I also have a Notes bin in the classroom that the children have learned to put any notes from you to me or the office regarding transportation, a homework assignments, etc.  I check the bin first thing in the morning and send any notes that need to go to the office, at that time. I can also be reached by phone at 893-7059.

You can also follow our class on Twitter @kmacgrade4 for daily updates and pictures of what we are doing in class. 

Classroom Management:  I follow the philosophy of The Responsive Classroom as a management system.  The Responsive Classroom approach is built around six central components that integrate teaching, learning, and caring in the daily program.  These components are set in the context of commonly shared values, such as honesty, fairness, and respect, and are implemented through the development and strengthening of social skills, such as cooperation, responsibility, and self-control.  The development of a Social Contract at the beginning involves the students to know that this is not my classroom, but our classroom.  Expectations and logical consequences are generated, modeled, and role-played with the children, and become the cornerstone of classroom life.

Students can earn frogs as an entire class for on-task behavior and following our Social Contract.  When ten frogs are earned, students will vote on a class reward. Students also have the opportunity to earn tickets for individual, on-task behavior and participation. Tickets may be exchanged for various rewards. Failure to complete homework or getting a planner signed will result in loss of tickets.

Volunteering:  Volunteers are an important part of any classroom community and I encourage you to volunteer.  If you would like to volunteer this year, please send me an email and we can arrange something.

If you are unable to volunteer, but would still like to be an active participant in your child’s year, please let me know.  There are many things I can have you do at home as well. If you are interested in chaperoning a field trip this year, please note that priority will be given to those parents/guardians that have been fingerprinted.

Birthday Celebrations/Snacks: Birthdays are an exciting time for a child and they love celebrating with their class. Please be mindful of allergies when sending in treats. If you prefer, in lieu of edible treats, many children like to donate a book or indoor recess game to the classroom in their name, as a way to recognize their birthday.

Finally, I would like to say that I couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming school year.  I look forward to working with you and your child in making this year a productive and rewarding one. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.