“The Nature of Life is to Grow” (6)-4th Grade at Chamberlain

This morning, we visited 4th grade classes at Chamberlain to observe the ways in which students are growing and changing from 3rd grade to 4th grade.

Chamberlain Elementary School is an Expeditionary Learning (EL) Education School.  EL Education is a whole school transformation model that emphasizes project-based learning, student engagement, character development, and high-quality, authentic student work.

We (Chamberlain) embrace the EL Education Vision:  When students and teachers are engaged in work that is challenging, adventurous and meaningful, learning and achievement flourish.  As we journey into EL Education we will be working at:

  • Building a positive school culture: We are working to ensure that our school has safe and respectful learning environments. The motto “we are crew, not passengers” guides our school as we build cultures of respect, responsibility, courage, and kindness — where students and educators are committed to quality work and citizenship. We will work with students to take responsibility for each other and for their learning and build leadership skills that help them excel.
  • Learning with a purpose: We seek to have highly engaged learners, motivated to master academic content and produce high quality work.

We started in Mrs. Melissa Chupp’s room, where the Crew theme was quickly evident with the sign shown below. In addition to the sign, there was a large piece of paper on which the students had shared ideas about the “Crew Agreement” they are working on for their classroom. Their ideas included: Respect one another, no interrupting, don’t be rude, stay on task, respect chair assignments, be nice/kind to others, no bullying, respect all crew, include everyone, and be prepared.

The students were doing their morning procedures when we arrived, which included such things as: Eat breakfast, sharpen pencils, use restroom, turn in homework, put on name tag, and get a book ready.They also listened to Principal Blaha give the morning announcements and then lead them in a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.

When they met on the carpet as a crew, Mrs. Chupp said “we are going to do the motorcycle greeting this morning”. This meant that one person would hold out their hands like motorcycle handlebars, and the person next to them would “rev” the first person’s hands. As they did this, they greeted each other by name. The greeting went around the circle until each child had been greeted.

Then Mrs. Chupp asked the group about one of their Habits of Scholarship, craftsmanship, and asked them what it means. The students said things like “try your best”, “be stubborn about keeping your mind on your work”, and “to work fully through”. There was a quote on the board that said “Ignore the noise, focus on your work.” To  demonstrate, Mrs. Chupp said that they were going to play a little game with a string. After she had arranged the string on the floor, she stood back and asked the students what number they saw. The students took turns guessing, and guessed numbers like 4, 8, and 6. Mrs. Chupp reset the string several times, but nobody could ever guess the right number. Finally she started tapping her hips with her hands, and one by one students started to notice that she held the numbers on her fingers. (True confession, we also got totally fooled, and could not figure out how that string looked like any number!)

When the students understood that the number had nothing to do with the string, and everything to do with her hands, Mrs. Chupp asked “Why didn’t you notice the numbers on my hips?” The students said “we were focusing on the string”.  Mrs. Chupp said “yes, you were focusing on the string because it was “louder” and it was your focus, the numbers on my fingers were “quieter” and you didn’t notice them. How does this fit in with our quote? Is the louder, distracting thing what we should be focusing on?” She then asked if anyone could think of a time when something or someone took their attention away from what they were working on or doing?

Next, the students did a timed exercise on their multiplication facts. There were 44 problems, and the students were given 2 minutes to complete as many of the problems as they were able. (Except for one girl, in the pink shirt below. She was given 15 seconds less time because she had completed it early yesterday with a perfect score.) After everyone was done, Mrs. Chupp read the answers and everyone graded their own papers. Mrs. Chupp asked the students if they knew what all of the problems had in common, and the students said “they all had 3s”. Mrs. Chupp said “yes, those are the 3 facts. If you feel you still need help with the 3 facts, then please use the flashcards that you have been given at home tonight to practice”.

The next part of their morning was “Success” time. This is a time for students to “work on standards and take quizzes” until they have mastered the current set of standards on which they are working. There was a chart on the board for all of the students to check and see what they needed to do, but the list did not have their proper names on it. Instead, each child was given an animal name and they checked the chart by referencing the animal name assigned to them, thus ensuring their confidentiality.

During the “Success” period, we transitioned over to Mr. Joel Klase’s classroom. The first thing one notices when walking into the room is the many class portraits/drawings hanging from a wire in the room. When asked if the pictures were the students, Mr. Klase said “Yes, I drew all of them at the beginning of the year.”

Another thing that was quickly visible was that there was one student who sat at a desk that was decorated and different from all of the other student desks. On the chair back, it says “Super Star of the Day”.  And today, the student pictured below apparently earned the honor of the desk for the day!

The students were all working on math during Success, and working on the iPads allowed them to work on math problems at different levels so that each student’s work was challenging for them. The students showed great habits of scholarship, as they worked quietly and stayed focused.

Then Mr. Klase said “it is time for our “fluency race”. He explained that each student would have two minutes to work on the same multiplication problems as the day before. However, some of the students (and he named at least 1/3 of the class) were only going to be given one minute and thirty seconds because they had gotten all of them correct in two minutes. He said, “I’ll tell you what, if you can finish in one minute and thirty seconds, I will race you tomorrow. But I have to tell you, I did the problems the other day in 56 seconds.” Then he asked students to write their name on the back of their papers, and to also include their goals for today’s timed exercise. At the end of the exercise, approximately 3/4 of the class had met their goal, with many finishing before one minute and thirty seconds. Well done, students!


The class continued with math as a student started them off by reading the math learning target: I can round whole numbers and decimals to any given place up to thousandths. Their other learning targets included Crew: I am honest with myself and others; Expeditions: I can identify the events that were caused by “TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION”. I can identify idioms in a text.; Whole group reading: I can discover how a piece of literature is connected to history; and Small group reading: I can describe the term “setting”.

Just before starting the next activity a student said “Hey, my tooth just came out!” which served as a reminder that we were still observing students young enough that they still lose baby teeth.

Mr. Klase reviewed the clues and reminders that they had previously discussed in regards to rounding numbers:

Underline the number you are being asked to round to, and then circle the number directly to the right of the number underlined.

If it’s 5 or more, add one more. If it’s 4 or less, let it rest (stay the same).

Then Mr. Klase led the class as they worked on rounding numbers like 4.1553 to the nearest whole number, the tenths place, the hundredths place, and the thousandths place.

Mr. Klase transitioned the rounding lesson by saying “Okay, I just did an “I do” and now you are going to do a “we do”, let’s have some volunteers!”

Well once again, GCS students have done even more impressive work, after moving up just one grade level. Thank you to Mrs. Chupp and Mr. Klase for allowing us to get a glimpse into their classrooms. And thank you to the students who continued to focus on their work even though there was someone in the classroom walking around taking pictures and notes. You have shown that you have great habits of scholarship, which will serve you well into the future!

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