Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Classroom Notes


We’ve had another busy and productive week in room 20! Can you believe that this weekend is already October?

During Language Workshop this week, Monday’s routine was as usual: telling stories and practicing communication skills. Kids have been planning a letter to their pen pal in Mrs. McCollister’s fourth grade at Marquette Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. They conferenced on their plan with another kid and with me. Now they are typing their rough draft in a Google Doc on their Chromebook.

During Outdoor Classroom, we’ve been using a conversation about form and function to make observations in our garden about nature’s design. The kids practiced observational drawing strategies with some flowers and leaves. They used these strategies as they collected data in the garden. 

During math, kids have been working on modeling division and on reviewing previous concepts such as larger addition and subtraction, telling time, and counting money. This week, kids drew and assembled a symmetry quilt during art. Kids are also beginning to choose and practice books to record for our first grade buddies.

Reed Science will begin on Thursday, October 6th. During Reed Science, three Reed College students take the lead in teaching the kids of Team 20 through a variety of hands on, inquiry-based experiences in science. If you would like to help out during Reed Science on Thursday afternoons from 1:15 to 2:15, that would be great! Please send me an email ( or drop me a note.

Please follow us on Twitter @LewisRoom20 and at for regular updates and photos!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Classroom Notes


Team 20 has had another very productive and busy week. We wore our Team 20 t-shirts on Monday, creating a blanket of blue and orange in our room, down the hallways, and around the school. A big thank you to parent helpers!

We had our second meet-up with our buddies in Mrs. Logue’s first grade. We continued our Outdoor Classroom study, observing the world around us. We began technology class with Mr. Jamesbarry. We also had a visit from my wife and twin daughters. During math, we are continuing to learn about area and are moving into learning about an area model for multiplication. Photos of buddies and Outdoor Classroom and more can be found on our Twitter feed @LewisRoom20.

During Language Workshop, kids are planning a letter to their pen pal in Mrs. McCollister’s fourth grade at Marquette Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. They have been working with a partner to revise and edit their plans. Alphabet posters for our walls and independent reading are going strong. Many kids are opting for audiobooks…listening while reading the words in the book. The Multnomah County Library has a tremendous selection of downloadable and streaming audiobooks. Again, reading the words while listening to the audio is key for this reading approach.

We also had many conversations about “self-control” this week. Perhaps the kids are starting to understand the advantages associated with self-control! 

Lastly, does anyone have a 10 or 20 gallon fish tank that we could borrow for a science activity that is a couple of weeks away?

Please follow us on Twitter @LewisRoom20 and at for regular updates and photos!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Classroom Notes


It was great to see so many of you at Open House.  Thank you for coming out.  The kids were excellent tour guides!  We had another outstanding week in room 20.  It was only the second week of school and the first week that we were able to run a more regular schedule.  Each day I have been adding new “layers” of activities.  This week saw the beginnings of language and math workshops added to the routine.  I should take some time to explain several aspects of the workshop format.

Language Workshop:  Monday’s routine includes several different activities.   Kids tell stories about their weekends.  This is one of the many ways we practice our communication skills.  After stories, everyone spends 20 minutes free writing.  Kids can write about anything they choose and many choose to write about their weekend.  Also during language workshop this week, kids finished their their bio poem.  After brainstorming to create a plan, kids used their plans to write a rough draft. They conferenced with a teacher on their drafts and then revised their drafts as they typed up final copies on their Chromebooks.  Kids began working on alphabet posters for our walls and have 30 minutes of DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) during which they read independently each afternoon.  Kids are into books during DEAR!  My goal for them right now is to find books that they are interested in and that are a good fit for independent reading time each day.  We have a pretty good classroom library to pull from.  We also finished our first read aloud, Ned Feldman – Space Pirate by Daniel Pinkwater, and we began reading Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  Ask your kid about mean ol' Judd Travers.

Math:  For math this week, we began our first math unit on geometry and multiplication.  We will be reviewing geometry vocabulary and discussing relationships between shapes.

Outdoor Classroom:  This week, we were able to spend some time in the garden doing what we are calling Outdoor Classroom.  This outdoor learning component helps set the context for science learning for the year as we use observation to collect data.  Our conversations have been about how community is made of built and natural environments and the garden is a combination of both. 

In other news, we will make Team T-Shirts this Friday.  Thank you for sending the money and t-shirt size information.  Thank you for continuing to send a full water bottle each day.  That is so helpful!  Last Tuesday was our first library day with Ms. Cyndi.  She asks that kids talk with family to come up with a usual spot where books are kept at home and a system for remembering that books will be due every Tuesday.  Kids have the option to renew books that they are still reading.

Please follow us on Twitter @LewisRoom20 and at for regular updates and photos!


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Classroom Notes


I am happy to report that we had an excellent first week.  The kids did an outstanding job making the transition from summer to the beginning of school.  Everyone arrived with a smile on their face and an abundant supply of energy.  And we got a lot done!

This week we began developing the idea of working together as a team.  The kids decided to call themselves Team 20.  They also decided on blue and orange as our official team colors.  Most of the first day was spent getting organized, putting away supplies, establishing notebooks and folders.  The kids assigned themselves seats using the systems and standards I wanted them to use.  As a matter of fact, we’ve spent a good deal of time this week talking about systems, as well as other words and concepts that will be important to our work all year long.  On Tuesday, we began to talk about being a team, using the homework sheet that I sent home on Monday.  I am very happy to report that every sheet was returned completed the next morning.  Outstanding!

Besides the business of setting up a classroom, several projects got underway.  We’ve started taking photographs with our digital camera to document the life of our classroom.  Each week two kids will have a turn as team photographers.  Their photos, along with mine, will be included in daily tweets and on our blog.  If you are not already, please be sure to follow us on Twitter @LewisRoom20 for daily photos

Another early project of the school year has focused on decorating our classroom.  Our Hallway Name Card project has been a vehicle for teaching the same process that kids will use for their writing...that writing goes from "private" to "public."  Private work is for the “self” and includes creating a plan, conferencing on that plan, then creating a rough draft, conferencing on that rough draft, and making some revisions/edits.  We say that public is for “others” and that audience helps to determine the standards of quality and acceptance.  The kids' work is on the wall near our door and looks good.  They are applying that same process to making other classroom d├ęcor, including a welcome sign, lunch tub sign, number line, and more. 

At the end of a few days so far, kids have been filling out a Homework Helper, which a piece of paper that resides in the left pocket of their green Take Home Folder and is designed to help them get organized.  They use their green Take Home Folder to transport any work between home and school.  Homework at this point of the school year is for kids to read at least 30 minutes each night. 

Thank you for sending a full water bottle each day…that helps the kids so much!  Thank you, too, for all of the school supplies and for signing and returning the papers in the info packet from the office.  I am glad that so many families have signed up for classroom messages with Remind.  If you haven’t yet done so, please consider signing up for Remind using these directions.  We will be making team t-shirts soon. Please return the bottom half of the flyer with t-shirt money by this Friday.  Also, please know that Friday will be school picture day for Team 20.

Please join us for the Back-to-School Night next Tuesday, September 13 at 6:00 p.m.  I would love to meet everybody and give your kid a chance to show you around the room.  Have your calendar handy when you come so you can mark down your time for parent-teacher conferences, which are scheduled for November 9th and 10th.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Welcome Letter


As the saying goes, “Allow me to introduce myself.”  My name is Mark Richner and I will be your child’s teacher for the upcoming fourth grade school year.  I wanted to take a few minutes to say “hello” and to give you a brief overview of some of the projects that await us. 

I love teaching at Lewis Elementary School!  I am originally from Madison, Wisconsin, where I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with an elementary teaching degree and then taught in the Madison public schools.  Evie, my wonderful wife, got into grad school to pursue an art degree at the University of Florida and we moved south.  During this time, I got my masters in elementary education while working at a school with elementary students and teacher candidates in the University of Florida elementary teacher preparation program.  So I have taught students from age five through 23!

Evie and I have two daughters who are now fifteen months old named Norah Lee and Twyla.  They are the loves of our lives and keep us busy these days by running around and going down the slide at the park and by making us laugh.  This summer we took time to visit with friends and family, including my parents and Evie’s parents, Evie’s sister and brother-in-law here in Portland, and my brother who lives in Seattle.  We made it out into the woods and took care of a few projects around the home.  I worked on some projects connecting to the classroom curriculum and read a number of fantastic books.  I’m excited for this new school year!

While projects and activities will vary over the year, the main emphasis of the room will be on helping the kids become strategic learners.  You will hear the word “strategy” and “system” often over the year.  It is my goal as a teacher to not only help kids understand and master the prescribed curriculum, but I want them to be independent, curious learners as well.  One way to achieve this is to help them initiate, plan, and carry out projects, paying attention to the strategies they use along the way. 

We will have many classroom projects this year.  We will participate in Lewis’s Outdoor Classroom.  The garden will be a springboard into several studies of our local, natural world.  We will also attend a number of field trips, learn about the great state of Oregon, have weekly art activities, coordinate the school’s food drive, and meet up with our first grade buddies.  So, as you can see, we already have several major projects and events planned.

It’s going to be an exciting school year.  Be sure to follow us on Twitter
@LewisRoom20 for daily photos and look for regular updates at, including our weekly newsletter called Classroom Notes.  Please consider signing up for Remind, which allows me to share messages with classroom families.  I look forward to seeing everyone soon.  See you on the 29th!

Mr. Mark

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Classroom Notes


Well…we have arrived.  It is the last day of school.  We, of course, had a very busy and productive week.  We dismantled and cleaned our room.  We Skyped with our pen pals in Madison, Wisconsin, and shared favorite book recommendations for summer.  We practiced Ghanaian drumming with Alex from the Obo Addy Legacy Project and performed for the school.  We met with our first grade buddies and enjoyed a Popsicle snack.  We put on two fantastic performances of our play, Revenge of the FedExians.  A very busy week indeed!

Our play performance is perhaps emblematic of our year together.  We started by brainstorming plot ideas.  Kids worked with their table buddies to justify and narrow the choices.  We voted.  We planned together by creating a story map to sequence scenes, incorporate details, and develop characters.  We wrote the script by using the metaphor that ideas are like chains—we can link our ideas together.  We practiced.  We prepared.  We shared with eight other Lewis classes!  This is the way the kids have worked for much of the second semester.  They brainstorm together, feeding off of each other’s ideas.  They communicate and listen. They accept their roles.  They follow directions.  This was true when we organized the food drive. This was true when meeting with our first grade buddies.  It was true during our poetry project.  It was true during drumming class.  The kids have much of which to be proud!

And, once again, thank you for all the support you have provided over the year.  We couldn’t have done all that we have done without that support.

I wish everyone a very enjoyable summer!  As for me, spending time with Evie and our girls is at the top of my list.  I am sure we’ll take plenty of walks to the park for swinging.  I’ll visit with my folks and Evie’s folks, siblings, and friends.  I have projects I want to get done.  There’s that stack of books I still need to read.  Then there’s…

See you later!


Revenge of the FedExians - Performance

Book Recommendations From Our Pen Pals in Madison, WI

Rashawn recommends…
The Adventures of Daniel Boom, a.k.a Loud Boy, by David Steinburg
Makayla recommends…
Counting by 7’s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Lin recommends…
Pegasus: The Flame of Olympus, by Kate O’Hearn
Maia and Penelope recommends…
Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
Shane recommends…
Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine
Jaime recommends…
Warriors: Into the Wild, by Eric Hunter
Aydin and Marek recommends…
Warriors: The New Prophecy, Midnight, by Eric Hunter
Kjuan recommends…
Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!, by Stephen McCranie
Marley recommends…
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
Dameon and Anthony recommend…
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, by Jeff Kinney
Stella recommends…
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
Anders recommends…
Scorpia, by Anthony Horowitz
Noah recommends…
Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series, by Rick Riordan
Jackson and Estella recommend…
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan
Theo and Desmine recommend…
Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy, by Tui Sutherland
Kathryn recommends…
Almost Home, by Joan Bauer
Julian recommends…
Bone, by Jeff Smith
Mrs. McCollister recommends…
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Mr. Peterson recommends…
Holes, by Louis Sachar