Nick Lodge (Room 311)

Nick Lodge
Grade 4
Room 311
Contact Information

                                                                           October 16, 2017

Parent-Teacher Conferences Sign-up Sheet

It’s that time of year when parent conferences and report cards are on the horizon (...given that it is a really clear day and you can see for over a month). Some families have already scheduled a conference at Open House, but there are many open slots.

The blank boxes are the times that are still available for parent-teacher conferences.  Please e-mail or call Janet Davis in the office to set up a time that works best for you. A reminder of conferences scheduled will be sent out shortly.

Clear The Decks

This short week has been used to clear the decks and finish units of study. Students have completed

  • Their inquiry about which earth material is the best filter. Students had to design and engineer the tests, test fairly by paying attention to variables, and  conclude by answering the testable question. Next week we will start global citizenship (social studies) by considering the difference between primary and secondary sources.

  • Their five paragraph informational essays about the importance of freshwater. This was a vehicle to teach paragraphing, use research to inform writing, drafting and revising, and the use of technology to assist in the writing process. Having written procedures (driving directions), and an informational essay, they will next turn their attention to opinion writing. The fundamentals of paragraphing will help them plan and organize this writing.

  • The post assessment in models of multiplication and division. Here students will be able to see their progress as they compare their scores with their pre-assessments. This ties in with the class’s emphasis on growth mindset. It doesn’t matter what your score was compared to another student, but rather how much you are growing as a learner.  


Spelling has now been added to the English Language Arts block. Having given a pre-assessment, it became clear where the class were as spellers and the initial direction that we should move in. In truth, about 75% of words can be spelled without studying or memorization if you understand the basic composition of words using syllables. This is where we are starting. Having completed the pre-assessment, students needed to sort the words into 3 categories with an explanation of the sort. These sorts were then themselves sorted in order to filter out any with misconceptions or errors. A few were left which we could then use to introduce vowels vs consonants, short vs long vowel sounds, and syllabication . This is a common understanding and language that we need as a class. As the first column were all closed syllables (1 vowel, short vowel sound, closed in by a consonant) we started with multisyllabic words composed of just closed syllables. At the end of class students were given a pop quiz;  

optic, publish, exit, vanquish, columnist, establishment, recommend

By spelling in syllables, students who claimed themselves to be weak spellers, found success and empowerment. Future spelling bee participants didn’t make the same error as a 6th grader did in the district competition last week with the last word, as they can now start to see why there has to be a double m.

Many thanks to Donna Griffiths and family, who are the 311 Four-Winds volunteer teachers for yet another year. They are much appreciated, and if you know them it would be great if you could also pass along your thanks too.


  Congratulations to Bean for having shown mastery of all the multiplication and division facts 0-12. The sundae was earned (and hopefully enjoyed)!


Science inquiry


Past News

October 6


   Having focused on sentence structure and procedures, the class is now working on paragraphing (indented topic sentences, detail sentences, closing sentence, all in correct sentences where only proper nouns are capitalized). To practice this we are writing a five paragraph informational essay about freshwater as a resource. Clearly they are using their knowledge and research from science class. Here are the start of a few of the pieces;

It is important to protect our freshwater streams and lakes because humans need water to survive.


It is important to care for our water because if we [the Earth] have 100 cups of water, only 1% of it is drinkable.



This week we have used the Homework Out-of-School Opportunities for Practicing Academics and Habits of Mind solutions for target number to introduce order of operations and algebra. Here are the class answers that either came close to 33 or scored a bullseye.

(3 + 3) x 5= t

(2 x 5) + (3 x 8) = t

(8 x 5) -(3 x 3) +2 = t

(8 + 3) x 3 = t

3 x (8 + 2) + 3 = t

Using this, we then looked at multistep problem solving, where students could read and summarize problems by writing a plan of action/procedure in equation form.

If you a had a 3-by-6 sheet of stamps and each stamp was 25 cents, then to calculate the cost….

(3 x 6) x 25 = c

Progress Reports

First trimester progress reports are enclosed with this parent letter. If new to the school you will notice that we are not giving “traditional” letter grades in subject areas, but rather measuring students against standards that have been discussed and criteria given for success. In the case of progress reports we look at habits of mind and skills for lifelong learning. If students can demonstrate these, then academic success will occur. At the start of each week students in 311 are given a “habit” to focus on and the criteria needed to be successful. They self-monitor this each day and I also monitor it. At the end of the week we can see if students are demonstrating this consistently or inconsistently. This the data and basis for reporting on the progress report.

This ties in with our value of promoting a growth mindset.

Students can often see school as a place where abilities are evaluated, and not as a place where abilities are developed. In the former “fixed” mindset, students can focus on trying to show that they are smart (or at least trying not to look like they don't understand.) Here, mistakes can be seen as a weakness or an indicator that they lack talent. Students chase an A, and the grade is so much more important than the learning that may be occurring. This grade-chasing to define yourself as a learner can lead to avoiding more challenging work or taking risks as ‘failure” may happen.

If we encourage students to have a growth mindset with the belief that skills and intelligence can be developed, then these students can see school as a place to develop their abilities and think of challenges as opportunities to grow. They are no longer being evaluated by a letter grade, but they, as well as the teacher, can measure their progress in a certain area against clear and prescribed criteria. They are no longer competing against other students for grades but focusing on their own learning and progression.


Our current class novel is The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. We are using this as a mentor text when we work on envisioning characters in order to make them come to life. In reading groups, they have been reading short stories across genres; realistic fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, folktales. Once we have done F and P testing next week, we can finalize groups and move onto novels.


We are concluding our water as a resource unit. Thanks to Tom Elwood and the Johnson wastewater plant for our field trip on Tuesday. Their process for cleaning water proved to be very different to the settling and filtering that the students engineered in class.

An important part of science is to design tests that can answer testable questions. As such students are currently trying to answer the following question by designing a test, conducting it fairly and using the results to answer the question.

Many homes in Vermont have a well. We drill down into the ground and pump water up from the water table. The water in the water table is surface water (lakes and rivers) and rain that sinks through the ground. This is called groundwater. How is this water cleaned? It is filtered by the ground! As it passes through sand, soil and gravel it is cleaned. Which of these is the best filter and the best earth material to have above the water table? Make a prediction and design a test to answer the question.


                                  Nick Lodge

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Field Trip (10/3)

Past News

September 22

Dear Green Mountaineers and Families,



    It is procedure writing in 311 this week and next. Acting out  the procedures for walking a dog and blowing bubbles, led into writing the procedure for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This was a learning curve as the need for detail became apparent when the procedures were tried. From here directions will be written to navigate a path through a city, and future employment at Google Maps will be tested! Procedures will also be tested in reading when the class has to follow recipes to make perfect cookies, and procedures will feature heavily in science when they design and describe fair tests to answer testable questions.They will also be figuring procedures to clean dirty water.


Multiples, problem strings  and foundations for advanced multiplication were a focus this week.

Here are class models for

2 x 2 = 4

2 x 20 = 40

20 x 20 = 400

We could say multiply the whole numbers and add the same number of zeros in the question to the end of your product. We want a deeper mathematical understanding, however.File_000.jpeg

20 x 20 =

(2 x 10) x (2 x 10)

Because it doesn’t matter the order we multiply our factors, we can change this to

(2 x 2) x (10 x 10)

As such we now have 4 x 100 = 400


    Science this week has focused on water as a natural resource. Although a renewable resource, it is also limited. The amount of fresh water available to us is a lot less than students thought, as the circle graphs they made in Google sheets demonstrated.

    The small quantity of fresh water available to us can certainly be recycled, however if we pollute it to excess it may be a short term renewable resource.

The week was rounded off with researching the types of pollution we put into our water sources and how our use of this resource affects our environment

Students next week will  use materials to try to clean muddy river water as much as possible. Settling and filtering may be an obvious choice although perhaps evaporation will also happen. From here, further investigation in filtering will occur as different  filters are tested. Here students can use their understanding that cornstarch goes black with iodine from “mystery powders”. Filtering a solution of cornstarch and iodine will allow them to see which filter is the best based on the color of the water after filtration. Alum from the start of science will also be used to see coagulation.

     From the classroom we will see how Johnson deals with waste water on Tuesday, October 3rd. The class has a tour of the Wastewater Treatment Facility at 10am. A short walk from the school, we will leave about 9:40. Not all areas will be open to us (biohazards and fourth graders aren’t the best mix), but students will learn how their investigation either mirrors or differs from the town’s system. We do need a couple of chaperones if any of you good people are free and have filled out the necessary paperwork. It’s a short tour and our thanks go out to Tom Elwood for helping us out!


Perhaps it is the time of year to dive head-first into the stormy waters of homework! Reading the local papers in recent times, the topic is making headlines and stirring debate;

“South Burlington school subtracts homework” Burlington Free Press, September 9th, 2016

“Homework is banned at this Massachusetts school”, September 6th 2016

I see two sides to the whole homework debate. For example;

For Homework

Against Homework

  • Homework allows students to practice responsibility. Two of the habits of mind are self-direction and responsible and involved citizenship. Homework is an opportunity to practice these.

  • Middle school and high school certainly will assign homework, and so by giving it in younger grades they can start to form habits that will make transitions to the older grades easier.

  • To achieve certain goals in life, practice is needed. If you don't practice your band instrument, the piece of music will never be played. If you don’t exercise frequently, your fitness level will never be where you would like it to be. So too with reading and math fluency! The more you practice these skills, the stronger you will become.

  • There is no compelling data that shows homework in elementary school leads to increased academic performance.

  • Homework is a stress on families. As a parent myself, I know how hectic the typical American family’s life is; between trying to pay the bills, take kids to extracurricular activities, maintain the house... I know the additional, conflict and stress that homework assignments can cause.  In addition, after a long day at work I would rather have quality family time rather than nag and hassle. Talking over dinner, reading a book as a family, going for a walk are surely more beneficial than a grammar worksheet.

  • Homework tends to lack equity. Not all students have the same level of support with homework, resources to do homework, and environment to do homework in. As such, grading homework as part of a grade has never sat well with me.  With the new report card there is no room for this anyway, as we are measuring observed work against Common Core expectations.

So where does that leave us? Your input is encouraged and welcome!

My proposal is that as a class community we offer Out of School Learning Opportunities. Students will not be kept in for recess if it is not completed and nor will grades reduced by 10%, as happened in my elementary school days.

The buy in is

  • The knowledge that students are becoming stronger and better readers and mathematicians because of it, and increasing their future opportunities. This ties in with our clas vision that we improve the resources we have!

  • T(eam) A(ppreciation) T(ickets) will be earned that will increase the team’s total for rewards and increase the student’s  chances of winning a prize in the Friday raffle.

  • It’s an opportunity to demonstrate evidence of self-direction and being responsible citizens, that are habits of mind that are now assessed.

To that end the first opportunity is in today’s Friday folder!


                                  Nick Lodge

Here we are on the 7th day of the new school year (8th by the time your student, hopefully, passes you the folder/you unearth the folder from the backpack). The start of school is equal measures of introducing fourth grade curriculum, establishing routines and standard operating procedures, and establishing a classroom community.

As a class we have as a community decided on a shared vision and what we should expect from ourselves and others. This was done by creating situations where students explored different social possibilities, spurred on by a bowl of candy and some philosophy of justice. Underneath is the the class’s resulting social contract

The 311 community decided that we did not want to have anarchy.

The community and its resources needed to have rules and expectations. These are expectations that we all agree on if we did not know who we would be in the class (gender, race, age, abilities). They were created behind the veil of ignorance!

One shared vision/ One expectation!    

We show  RESPECT to ourselves, others and our resources. We show that we are important, others are important and our resources are important!

      How do we show respect?

a.) We treat other people like we would like to be treated!  

b.) We keep ourselves and others safe!    

c.) We are fair, and also recognize that people (ourselves and others) should get what they need!

d.) We take care of our resources. We try to improve the resources that we have and make them better. Our knowledge,skills, and abilities  are resources, so we should be active learners and we should let others be active learners.

e.)  Things are earned through good choices (respect)!

Active Learners

We try our best! We complete assignments to the best of our ability. We stay positive, patient and persist. We understand that “not yet” will turn into you did it!

What has become apparent in the last few days is that an area we need to work on socially is group work, so greater success can be achieved in academic classes and problem solving. Indeed it can be the difference between soaring success or defeat.

We are now working on these guidelines

Working in a Group

Everyone should be involved and participate.

Take turns!

Listen to each other.

Clearly split the jobs so everyone has something to do.

Stay calm and express feelings in I statements.

If there is a disagreement about how to do something vote, and be OK if you don't get your way.

It is OK to take leadership, but true leadership encourages, involves, and makes group members feel important. Don’t be controlling!

Using these guidelines groups are functioning better. As evidence some spice drops and toothpicks (that you can ask your student about);

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      model to be made                                student results

With these results, we can tackle more involved group projects such as testing powders for properties and then analysing mystery powders.

I also wanted to give you a sense of where we are heading academically. As such I have made a curriculum map to provide an overview. It’s not set in stone as we want to be responsive to the needs of the class.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. Hopefully our new telephone system is now functional.


Nick Lodge

"Homework"- Out of School Learning Opportunities