writing and spelling

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					As the 1998-1999 school year comes to a close, please let me thank you for the honor of being able to
teach Brendan the last part of this year. This class has been one of the most joyous of my teaching
career. I’m sure there were many factors that influenced this outcome but mostly I believe it was
because of the interplay and sense of goofy fun that characterized our total class dynamic. Yes, we
worked hard. We also played hard. It was a pleasure to come to work each day. The letter format of
this last report card serves a couple of purposes. First of all, it is used as a self-reflection tool.
Brendan had to look over his portfolio, such as it was, and do a detailed study of his accumulated
work. Then, he had to respond to that analysis in writing. My job was to provide the sentence stems
to trigger his thinking and do some clean-up editing of his final product. I checked for correct
mechanics but left the content and sentence structure as he wrote it. If there were any changes to
make the meaning clearer, in what he wrote, I added that in italics. Finally, I responded to his
comments. You will see my reply added in italics in the body of the letter.
                                                                                                 June, 11 1999

Dear Mrs. Fincher

           As a fourth grader, I think that I have done a really great job. I think this because I came in the
middle of the year and I think I adapted quickly to the new system for me. Yes, you did. Not only were you
extremely flexible but you fit in so very well. That was a major testament to your adaptability. I think I do
well in most of the subjects. The three best things about fourth grade have been having Mrs. Fincher for a
teacher and doing the units I did and understanding most of what we did. I loved the units we did and Mrs.
Fincher helped a lot. I would not have learned as much as I did if I did not understand what we did. I am
proud that I adapted quickly to the new system and learned all the stuff I did. I had not adapted quickly then
I would not have gotten it and I think I learned a whole lot. I am glad that you enjoyed the teaching method
in class, Brendan. The integrated approach seems to suit the way you think. The rest of the letter will tell
you how I feel I have done in school.
           I was new this year so it was hard to adjust but now I feel like A. S. I. J is my school, too. Cool!
When I worked in my quint on a project, I was a leader and a follower. I feel like I was both because it
depends on the subject that we are working on what I would do. When I had to plan a project and have
other people follow it, I was able to tell them what I wanted to do with them and tell them my reason for
thinking this way. Out at recess, I was able to play well with my friends, but sometimes we had conflicts.
Well, I will admit there were times that the class did get into wrangles at recess. When we held the class
conversations after a major blow up, I started to see that they happened sometimes because of the
competitive nature of some of the games and how the rules were applied. There are some athletically
competitive kids in class who were determined to win. Most of the problems happened when they butted
heads. You, however, seemed to take a mediator role. This means a person who looks at both sides and
tries to figure out a solution where all the people feel comfortable. Overall, I got on well with the class
because I made friends quickly I tried my best at learning different things.
           I liked all my buddies including Yumi (Fuchu Dai-Itchi) and Oliver (1-Y).The most important
thing I learned from being with my Fuchu Dia-Ichi buddy was you can learn a lot even if you cannot
understand each other because I could not speak Japanese so we could only communicate with actions. The
most important thing I learned with working with my 1–Y buddy was that if you work hard with someone
younger than you then you will achieve your goal. True. It is not a brainpower issue but one of experience
and age.
           Overall, in reading I think I did well and felt good about my reading skills because I like to read
and I thought I did a good job with summaries and reflections. When I have to read a fiction book, I feel
that a book might be interesting and hard to read because some books are interesting but can be hard to read
and complicated. When I have to read informational books, I feel that it can be hard to look up information
from books and the Internet because when I read an educational story I want to learn about what the book is
about. When I had to organize information I did ok because sometimes I missed something important and
that made my facts wrong. Informational reading is different than fictional reading. It is harder to get the
meaning of words from the sentences, the organization of ideas can sometimes be confusing and often
there are many concepts introduced at one time. This is why we did so much work on key words and topic
sentences in class. The two things I am most proud about my reading are my ability to read a complicated
book and my ability to read quickly because I don’t like to be the last person in most things and I like a
complicated but hard to read story. The thing that I want to work on in fifth grade, in reading, is my ability
to do summaries because sometimes my summaries will be too long and sometimes too short. I suspect that
will be a skill that will be emphasized. At least it was when I taught fifth grade three years ago.
          I think I improved in my spelling and writing and I owe a lot to Mrs. Fincher. At the start of the
year, my spelling was not great. I had trouble with confusing words with silent letters. Now, my spelling is
a lot better than how I would spell at the beginning of the year . I think this is because my old teacher
taught me silent sounds and that if you knew what the silent sounds were than confusing words would be a
whole lot easier. When I look at my writing, over the year I am most proud of My House Has Stars. I
thought I did a good job with describing words, I thought it was fun using the thesaurus, and putting
graphics on my house (It gave me a lot of old memories.). I think I can make my writing creative if it is
something I am into like sports. Sometimes I cannot think of something to write about. That is a big block I
have. The thing that I have to work on in fifth grade will be creative writing because, like I said, I still have
writer’s block and that is the biggest block I have. Actually, Brendan, I think the more you are exposed to
various models and methods you can use to write the less block you will have. One of the problems with
writing is that, like any art, you have to build steadily on what you have learned before. Think of it this
way. You wouldn’t expect that a five year old could go out and paint like Da Vinci, would you? It is the
same with writing.
          Overall, in social studies, I think that I did pretty good because I did a good job on the building
packet but I think social studies can become boring if we go too deep. Interesting use of the word boring. I
wonder what you really are describing. The five parts of geography are region, movement, location, place
and human interaction. This year we learned that they meant– Movement: How a person or thing moves
from place to place Region: A group of countries united in some way. Location: The exact location where
someone or something is or will be. Place: A place taken by something or someone. Human Interaction:
How the people interact with the Earth and how the Earth interacts with people. Most of them we studied
when I was not here but I was here for Buildings, Cities and Human Interaction and the Middle East unit.
Having how I studied this year based on these five things changed how I learned in these two ways 1. It
changed the way I take notes because we did a lot of note taking on the units I have been here for. 2. It
changed the way I learn because now I know that if I put my mind to social studies I can go all the way.
True.You have done a great job of finding how all the information is interconnected in each unit. I could
count on you to see new patterns within the facts. Good for you!
          I thought that the technology was pretty easy but it could get very confusing if you followed
wrong steps. The hardest thing that I had to learn was the graphics for My House has Stars because my
computer was not working and so I could not bring up graphics. I felt it was hard to express myself. The
easiest thing I learned was how to use the Internet because I just needed the basic steps as I have used a
different program so I almost knew how to use it. The project that I feel most proud of was the My House
Has Stars because I felt it was fun bringing memories from the past, and it was hard doing the work, but
they all came out beautifully. It was lovely.
          In science, I thought it was hard to observe the things we did but I liked it. The hardest thing that I
had to learn was the crystals because it was hard for me to look at it from the view my group had. The
easiest thing I learned was the crystals unit because I thought it was easy to observe the crystals and draw
them and tell what I think about it. The experiment that I feel most proud of was the experiment where we
had to look at the crystals because it was easy for my group to look at them and draw them. When I had to
think scientifically, it means that I have to use scientific language and think that I was a scientist and think
          When I first got here I did not get D. O. M at all but my multiplication facts were pretty good. My
D.O.Ms do tend to make people think. But, then, that is the function of the activity. At the start of the year,
my math facts were pretty good because my Dad bought me flash cards so I could practice. Now, my math
facts are excellent. I can do 1-12 facts in less than 3 minutes because that was a goal I had and I finally
reached it. Cool! When I look at my math, over the year, I am most proud of my ability to draw alg and my
multiplication alg because those were two new things for me and I do them well now. Yes, you do. You did
it quickly as well given that you had not been introduced to the rules and applying mathematics that way in
your old school. You are a very quick study! The thing that I have to work on in fifth grade will be to work
on semi–alg because I have a tendency to mess up one partial product and then that causes me to get the
problem wrong.
          Brendan, I feel very fortunate to have had you in class this last section of the year. As a teacher,
getting a student late in the year is an iffy thing. Either they adapt very well or the never seem to find their
place within the classroom. With you, it was like you were here the whole year. Fantastic! The thing that I
will remember most about you is your willingness to put your thoughts and beliefs into action. There are a
many people who say one thing but then, when it comes to actually put themselves out there, they don’t. I
have seen you do this within a social context. When you thought something was unfair, then you said so and
tried to find a solution to the problem. I saw this more and more often academically, where you were
willing to not go with the crowd and try a divergent track of thinking because you thought it was right.
Good for you! I know that you are going to have a very successful year as a fifth grader. I hope that you
have a wonderful summer and that you will check in with me next year. I am going to end the year with an
adapted Kallie Dakos parting poem and some kissy kissies.

                                            I Left My Book in Hawaii

                                            I left my book in Hawaii,
                                            On a beach in the sand somewhere,
                                            I was supposed to practice my writing,
                                            But I just couldn’t concentrate there.

                                            The oceans whispered, “Come surfing,”
                                            The beaches beckoned, “Come play.”
                                            I followed the sounds of their voices,
                                            And I threw my writing away.

                                            For a week I road the free winds,
                                            As I surfed a wide blue sea;
                                            And the sound of the ocean breathing
                                            Became a part of me.

                                            “I’m sorry, Mrs. Fincher, I forgot it,
                                            On a beach in the sand somewhere.”
                                            “That’s okay, Brendan, it’s now summer
                                            We can just go together and play there!”