A picture is worth a thousand words!

Nina, Chloe, and Vivi meet a snake.

Itamar, Brennan and Eli D. at Tree Hill Nature Center






Third graders creating a robotic rainstick. Thank you Mrs. Gutterman!

Some students in 4th grade weren’t quite as excited to touch an alligator!

What is Aaron thinking? “I’m glad you’re holding that snake and I’m not!”

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Celebrating Tu B’Shevat טו בשבט

We celebrated Tu B’shevat today with a tasting of the seven species of Israel (שבעת המינים) and a  fun recycle game with Shelly the Jacksonville Sh’licha.  This week we also created a tree from recycled items for the school door competition.

In Jewish Studies we learned about all of the cycles in nature, specifically the growth & water cycle.  Check out our blogfolios to see our water cycle artwork with Hebrew vocabulary.

Thank you to the PTA for the yummy dried fruit.  Thank you to all the parents who sent in recycled material for our tree.

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Jaguars in Jacksonville and beyond

Go Jaguars!  I haven’t watched football with any enthusiasm, well, ever.  This past Sunday I was glued to my couch though, as the Jags played the Steelers.  My sister lives in Pittsburgh, so there was a little friendly rivalry.  In addition to feeling an allegiance to our local team, I have found myself becoming more interested in football because so many of my darling third graders are exuberant football fans.  I actually recognized some of the players’ names because several students have been writing about football in their non-fiction pieces.  It’s important to me to find multiple ways to connect with students and to show them that their interests matter to me.  Building relationships with students and families is one of my great pleasures in life.

Jaguars are an interest on the football field, and also in the Amazon rainforest.  Students have just begin learning about this incredible ecosystem and some of the exotic animals that live there.  This unit of study is really exciting because I am able to combine so many different areas – science, language arts, art, music, technology, and even math.  I am so fortunate to work with our amazing team who make this content come alive for students.  Mrs. Hallett is leading the way teaching students the research process, and they will eventually publish their research using an app called Book Creator.  Mrs. Jaffa is teaching students to create a terrarium and they can see the water cycle.  Mrs. Gutterman has art projects going and students will create a robotic rainstick.  Our study incorporates TuB’Shevat  as well, and you will see that on Tuesday, 1/23 at 6:30p.m.   There are standards that are taught from each content area, and combining them under the umbrella (canopy, if you’d like to learn a rainforest vocabulary word) makes learning relevant and interesting for students.

I’m looking forward to seeing my students tomorrow!  I love starting the day with smiles and hugs.




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Saying Shema at Bedtime

Today we learned from Parashat Vayechi (next week’s Torah portion) that Jacob blessed his grandchildren Efrayim and Menashe a special blessing which included the phrase “May you have as many children as the fish over the land”.

This phrase is part of the prayers said at bedtime, specifically the prayer “HaMalach HaGoel.”  In addition to the Shema and the V’ahavta paragraph that follows it, the complete “Bedtime Shema” includes additional prayers that focus on asking for God’s protection during the hours of sleep. One of the best known of these prayers is Hamalach Hago’el:

“May the angel who redeems me from all evil, bless the youths, and may my name be declared upon them–and the names of my forefathers, Abraham and Isaac–and may they proliferate like fish within the land” (Genesis 48:16).

We listened & danced to this prayer which in class.  It is a beautiful song.

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Torah in 3D printing

What does the Torah portion have to do with 3D printing?


In the 3rd grade Parashat HaShavua curriculum (TaL AM),  each Parasha features a symbol presented as a riddle; through the study of the Parasha the students discover the link between this symbol (which is the central message of the portion) and the Parasha.  At the end of each Parasha lesson the students illustrate a coloring page with the Parasha symbol.   At the end of each Chumash unit, the coloring pages become a booklet.

This year the students are also creating a 3D printout of the Parasha symbol/shape.  All of the shapes are placed on a ring and the students have a visual representation of the central messages from each Torah Portion.


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And that’s a fact!

What’s new in third grade general studies?  So so much!  Students are learning to multiply and regroup, about the branches and levels of government, and how to read and write non-fiction.  I could write pages and pages about everything we are doing, but for this blog post I am going to focus on non-fiction reading.  Why is non-fiction reading important?  Think about the kinds of things you read throughout the day (news, things related to your work, sales and coupons etc.) and you’ll see.

“Allowing students to explore and pursue their interests within a broad array of informational texts can help them to see that the real world can often be just as surprising and intriguing as make-believe.” (Goodwin, B. and Miller, K. 2012)

In the beginning of the year, the reading curriculum focused on fiction, which students loved.  This quarter I have been teaching them how to read non-fiction, and it is a very different skill set than reading fiction.  Reading non-fiction successfully begins with previewing the text features, and thinking about what you already know about the topic.  Is the book narrative non-fiction that follows a familiar path?  When students read non-fiction they are reading to learn, so I teach them to pause after a chunk of text and to note the main idea and supporting details.  They teach their peers what they are learning and have conversations about the content.  They are learning both content and social skills as they interact with one another.

Non-fiction reading and writing will continue throughout the year and you will see tremendous growth in these areas.  I’m excited to show you their writing and the various ways they are learning to write non-fiction.

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Tornado in science lab causes NO damage!

Did you hear the news about several tornadoes that were seen in The Martin J. Gottlieb School science lab?  Fortunately no one was hurt and there was no damage.  Our fearless teacher, Mrs. Jaffa, taught students how to create their very own tornado last week!  Students worked together and learned about the scientific process in order to create their tornado.  There were several groups that did not create a tornado the first time they tried.  Imagine that!  Students had to persevere and try again, just like true scientists.  One of our core values is teaching students that learning involves taking risks.  It’s OK to have to work through problems.  We all love to see the final product (in this case, a tornado), but the valuable part is the process of learning.  Look at the excitement in the video below!

Students are continuing to learn about weather, what the difference is between weather and climate, what causes changes in climate, why we need to understand about weather, and severe weather.  They are learning that reading non-fiction is different than reading fiction.  We get ready for that kind of reading in a unique way.  I am teaching them about previewing the text, reading text features like headings, sub-headings, looking at photos and captions, and accessing prior knowledge.  It’s wonderful to have such an engaging curriculum that is motivating to students and teachers.

I hope you all had a terrific weekend.  If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to contact Liat or me.


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4 out of 3 people struggle with math :)

“Pure mathematics is, in it’s way, the poetry of logical ideas.”  Albert Einstein

I’m learning to love math, but it has taken me a long time.  I haven’t always had a happy relationship with numbers, and struggled with math in school.  You might wonder what changed.  How did this tumultuous relationship with numbers turn into a friendship?  Singapore Math is the game changer.  Seriously.

I went to a couple days of staff development last year and now I have a much deeper understanding of how the program works.  The more I teach in this manner – using models to help with word problems, breaking numbers into parts to add and subtract, and using a part / whole model – the more I like it.  I see students mastering the concepts and developing a genuine understanding about numbers and how to solve word problems.  I’ll give you an example.  When I taught math before, I used to teach that when the word “more” was used it meant that the problem was asking students to add.  And then this problem came up:  “Suzie had 15 pencils and Sam had 25 pencils.  How many more did Sam have?”  My instruction to add didn’t work in that instance and I was stuck.  Singapore math shows students how to draw a model of the problem using a part / whole system, and it works every time.  It’s logical.  And for someone who struggled with math, the pictures make the concepts relatable.

The video clip below is an example of Joey M. using cubes to solve a math problem.  Students made 3D clouds with Mrs. Gutterman and they wanted to know when they would be ready.  The clouds are pencil toppers and they are so cool!  So she said it would be a while because they take about a half hour to print.  Students were pressing me to answer how long it would take.  So I seized a teachable moment and turned the problem over to them!  Several students worked on the problem, however I videotaped only one.  Watch Joey explain how he solved this!

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on Tuesday evening for open house.  It is from 7:00 – 8:30.

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When I was a little girl I thought that North was always straight ahead of me. If I turned, then North was still straight ahead. Your third graders won’t have that misconception! We have been learning all about maps lately, and when you come into the classroom you will see some of their work. They have compared maps and globes, learned about symbols on maps, identified regions in the U.S., and labeled states where they have visited.  Mrs. Gutterman taught them about analogous colors, and they painted maps. Then they took a photo of their map and imported it into pic collage, and they are working on adding text about states, landmarks, and landforms. Mrs. Hallett has been teaching students how to do research using various databases and web-sites (Google Earth, Kiddle.Co, World Book On-Line etc.)  They’ve been learning about landmarks in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and The Caribbean. They will be using an app called Book Creator to create a project about what they learned, and they will post that to their blog. It’s incredible to see nine year olds examine a variety of sources, read, take notes, use software to publish, and reflect on their learning.  When I tell my daughters in high school about all the fun the students have while they learn, they always say, “I wish we could learn like that.”

Exciting science in the lab is coming this week, along with 3D printing!

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We’ve been in school. Then out of school. In. Then out. In. Out. These transitions can make life difficult for anyone, and your children might be experiencing some anxiety about the change of schedule. Simply managing a regular bed-time can be tricky! I remember when my daughters were young and small changes to their routine caused lots of emotional ups and downs. The less sleep they got the more chocolate I ate.

You might also be hearing about how third grade is harder than second grade. It is! When your children were in the early elementary years they were learning to read, and now they are reading to learn. It sounds fairly simple, but it is a major shift in cognitive focus. I am teaching students to think deeply about what they read, to monitor their comprehension strategies, compare and contrast texts, and to write like real authors. And that’s just the beginning! I am going to share more about the curriculum at open house (10/24 6:00 – 7:30). I know that students are working hard and they will begin to see their own growth soon and feel pride in their work. There are cross-curricular projects they will do to enhance their learning, and they will have such a great time creating and exploring.

Below are a couple of students working hard during our writing workshop. Writing long and strong is a focus during this time.   Eli D. is writing in his writer’s notebook and there is a rubric on his desk that shows him what the end result should look like. Writing is a process and it’s important for students to see what the goals are. Chloe has the same rubric, and an organizer to help her select topics for her writing. The first quarter writing is all about personal narratives. I can’t wait to show you the wonderful work your children have been doing, and by the end of the quarter they will post to their blog and reflect on their learning.


Don’t worry! I haven’t forgotten about social studies and science! The students have been learning about maps and regions of the U.S., and they are just starting to explore about landmarks. Mrs. Hallett is teaching students how to research and present information.  Mrs. Gutterman is teaching students about watercolors and analogous colors in relation to maps. Later in October, students will be learning about weather and will be in the science lab with Mrs. Jaffa. Mrs. Gutterman found something amazing to coordinate with that, but I want you and the students to be surprised so I’m not telling you yet! Let’s just say, GO STEAM!

I love teaching your children, and working with the team here at school.

Here are some dates to keep in mind:

First Quarter Ends 10/30

Parent Teacher Conferences, Wednesday, 11/1 (details about times will be shared soon!)




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