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ABOUT CLASSWORK
In many ways, my classroom is a typical DPS classroom, utilizing many of the same programs as the other Denver elementary schools. Here are brief descriptions of the curriculum.
Spelling and Grammar
Our spelling program has three components. First, there's the weekly spelling list. I present a new spelling list every week, and the students are tested on these words every Friday. Our classroom spelling activities are derived from a district-approved textbook byHoughton Mifflin titled Spelling and Vocabulary for Readers and Writers. Some weeks I will ask the students to work exclusively from this book, but at other times I ask them to work with supplemental materials from other sources. I also assign online spelling games each week through SpellingCity.com. The games use the words from my spelling list. I rotate the games from a wide-ranging menu to keep them fresh and challenging.
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The second component is grammar (also known as DLI or Daily Language Instruction). These lessons encompass grammar and punctuation. I give student nightly homework in this subject and then a short quiz on grammar and punctuation every week on Friday.
The third component is homework. Each night, students should review their spelling words, play the assigned online spelling games, and complete their nightly grammar assignment. I offer supplemental homework for both spelling and homework for advanced students who would like an extra challenge, and also for struggling students who need further review and support.


Writing Workshop
Denver Public Schools uses the Writing Workshop model for daily writing. I begin our writing sessions with a mini-lesson, where I share examples or "master texts." These examples may be taken from published books, or from exemplary student work. Sometimes I even share my own writing. The mini-lesson uses examples to review writing techniques and to spark discussions about the craft of writing.
After the mini-lesson, students begin their independent writing time. During this time that students will confer with me about their writing, or with each other.
We usually conclude each workshop session by having students share their writing with other students or the class. My writing units - personal narratives, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and so on - usually last about a month, sometimes a little longer. These units conclude with the publication of a finished piece that is shared with the class and often displayed in the classroom or the hallway.
The most importCompbook.jpgant tool for Writing Workshop is the Composition Book. Each student uses this book for his or her Writer's Notebook. The notebook is a diary, a source of story ideas, a place for rough drafts. It also holds lists, quotes, sketches, and doodles. If there were only one artifact a parent could keep and treasure from the student's fourth grade year, I would suggest the child's Writer's Notebook. The Writer's Notebook is best explained in a brief, easy-to-read, and wonderfully helpful book, A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher. Fletcher is also the author (with JoAnn Portalupi) of a well-known volume titled Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide. It's another great book, and a valuable manual for writing teachers everywhere. Fletcher has written even more books about writing, and he has a great website at www.ralphfletcher.com that is full of tips for parents and teachers alike.
Reading Workshop
The Reading Workshop model is another mainstay throughout DPS. Sessions usually begin with a mini-lesson about reading skills, followed by a work period. Students work independently or in small groups for guided reading or literature circles. These groups are flexible, which means they change membership regularly, based on student reading levels, areas of interest, or related academic work. Students demonstrate success by writing responses or by making presentations.
Four Units of Study
The new curriculum adopted by DPS blends the Reading and Writing Workshop practices detailed above with four study units or modules over the course of the school year. These modules are intended to give us an overall direction as we work on writing and reading skills. The four modules are:

1. Fiction and Poetry - inspired by the novel "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech
2. Scientific Reading and Writing - centered upon researching unique animals and their special characteristics
3. Scientific Reading and Writing - related to applied force and simple machines
4. Biography and Historical Fiction - related to the Suffragette movement




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ABOUT HOMEWORK
Research results and public opinions about homework vary, and I feel that I am constantly learning about homework myself! My homework program is designed to:

  • Provide appropriate activities that supplement and support the instruction at school.
  • Nurture both creativity and discipline through enrichment projects, extended assignments, or research.
  • Train students to work independently and to accept responsibility for finishing a task.

I assign nightly homework that is turned in at the end of each week. In the past, I sometimes even assigned monthly homework. These were at-home projects which would take several weeks or about a month to complete. I no longer require monthly projects, but I still offer them as enrichment activities that earn extra credit.

In fourth grade, we have followed DPS guidelines in the amount of homework we assign - mostly. Current district guidelines encourage 30-45 minutes of homework for two or three nights a week for fourth graders. At Bromwell, we took that guideline and increased it a bit. My program aims for 30-45 minutes of homework four nights a week, Monday through Thursday. Please note that this time period did not include the thirty minutes of reading that I also required from students every night.

You'll notice that I do not give homework on Fridays or on the weekend. Sometimes students may have had make-up work to complete on the weekend, but no new assignments then, not ever!
Here's the schedule, in detail...

Nightly
  • I ask students to review the spelling list for the week. I send these home as a "Refrigerator List." That is, it's a the list that could be posted on the refrigerator, so that students will pause and review it whenever they go the refrigerator for a glass of milk!
  • I ask students to practice spelling by playing online spelling games.
  • I ask them to complete one page or assignment of grammar each night.
  • I also ask students to read thirty minutes (or more) every night. I do not ask them to keep a reading record.

Weekly
  • On Monday, I send home a Homework Packet. This is the spelling list and the grammar pages The packet is usually four to six pages long.
  • The grammar homework is due on Friday, but may be turned in earlier.
  • And sometimes... I will send home a ReadWorks assignment - usually 4 pages, 1 page of text with 3 pages of multiple choice and short response questions.
  • And... also sometimes... a Front Row assignment - online text with multiple choice and short response questions.
  • And there are occasional other reading or writing assignments, too!

Occasional Monthly Homework
  • Special Projects are occasional multidisciplinary presentations, often based in literacy activities and completed at home. These projects may be assigned three or four times over the course of the school year. The projects themselves change from year to year, but some favorites have been: Fantasy Island, Mythological Masterpieces, Science Newspapers, Poet Biographies, Historical Fiction Timelines. There is a separate link for projects listed on my site menu, at left, or here.




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School-Home Communications
Each one of my students is asked to use a Take-Home Folder. It holds homework assignments, returned and graded work, or other papers. This folder should go home every afternoon and come back to school every morning. It can also convey personal parent-teacher notes, although I prefer to communicate by e-mail.
Every Monday, we will send home the weekly homework assignments, as well as graded or scored work, announcements and flyers, and anything else that is supposed to go to parents. We will not send home any materials any other day of the week, unless there is some kind of emergency notice that must be distributed.
On most Mondays, we will send out a general e-mail with classroom updates, general fourth grade news, and other information. There is also a school-wide e-mail that is sent out every week on Tuesday or Wednesday. This is e-mail is sent out by our Room Moms and combines general school news with items specific to the fourth grade. Our fourth-grade parents, then, can count on receiving two or three e-mails a week about school matters.

On Fridays, we will clean out the Take-Home Folders and throw away anything that is left in them. We do not use an Agenda Book (also called a planner), that written logbook that is carried in backpacks between school and home.
The best way to reach me is by e-mail. The worst way is to use the classroom phone and leave a voice mail. I check my e-mail constantly. My voice mail says (or should say): "Hello, you've reached Steve Replogle. I do not check my voice mail, so please send me an e-mail... or call the Front Desk and leave a message with the staff there."