Building a Learning Community in Language Arts

One main difference between learning in school and learning outside of school is that in most schools, students are consistently grouped with their same-aged peers. Imagine having the same eighteen people come to your house every weekday! The opportunity to learn together extends beyond academic subjects and into developing the important life skills necessary to be a positive member of a community. Building a foundation for social learning is one of my main teaching goals for the first weeks of school.

To this end, we did many activities this week including introducing classroom norms, mentor sentence of the week and “read to self” which is the first component of the Daily 3.

I intend to have the students take ownership of documenting and sharing the learning each week. It is also a great way for them to reflect on the week in language arts and for me to see what they learned and how they express it, as opposed to what I think they learned. Today we all practiced doing the job of documentarian.

by Isaac

by Isaac

by Ava

by Av


by Saylor

josh norms


A Sneak Peek…

It has been an amazing year of reading, writing, word work and community building in 4th grade. Students have used the iPads to create, communicate, connect and collaborate. They are becoming critical thinkers!

At MJGDS, we strive for student-centered or “student-owned” learning. Blogfolios and student-led conferences are two steps on the path of reflective learning. What does it really mean for students to own the learning?

I want to share a wonderful example.
Our last read aloud was Chris Grabenstein’s new book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. We enjoyed this book a LOT (many students said it was their favorite or one of their favorite books ever).  With all of the puzzles and games, it was an especially fun book to read together as a class.
A few days after we finished the book, Allie, came to me to tell me that she was checking out Chris Grabenstein’s website and, “LOOK what I found! Chris Grabenstein Skypes with classes for free!” She asked if she could email his assistant to set up a Skype for our class.

Let me repeat that.

And that is what she did. She wrote a beautiful email. I love how her voice, personality and enthusiasm shine through her words.


As a language arts teacher, I also happen to notice how much Allie’s writing has improved over the year. But what delights me is her choice to include information like “Our class loves to read books and write.” If you ever wondered what is meant by students “owning their own learning” this is it.

I don’t quite know how to thank amazing authors such as Chris Grabenstein who care about helping to create the next generation of readers and give generously of their time.We have  scheduled our Skype visit for early September, and we are excited. Thank you, Allie, for giving us something to anticipate!


Parashat Tazria and Metzora-Allie

Allie explained that there were three kinds of Tzarat:  on clothes, on the walls of your house and on your body.  All were warnings from God because a person gossiped (spoke Lashon HaRah). Her life lesson was to “tie your tounge” – don’t gossip and don’t lie.  Allie’s activity was to act out different scenarios from the Parasha.

St. Augustine & Sea Turtles

We had a really fun field trip on Wednesday. The Old Florida Museum was a hands-on, experiential learning experience that included an archeological dig (with billion year-old dinosaur poop), dipping candles, playing antique games and crewing a Spanish sea vessel. The narrated trolley ride around town was a relaxing and interesting way to end the day.



We are wrapping up the year with a research and informational writing unit. Students are creating sea turtles in art, so we are researching sea turtles. There is a lot to learn about these fascinating creatures!

Parashat Emor-Abigail

Abigail explained that the Parasha was about the Jewish holidays from the Torah:  Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Her life lesson was that time is important and we need to observe the holidays that God commanded us.  Abigail’s activity was to create a picture which incorporates the symbols from each of the holidays and hide them within the picture.  The students had to find the hidden symbols and connect them to each holiday.