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 LewisRoom20.blogspot.com, 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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Classroom Notes


We have arrived.  We are officially heading into the last week of the school year.  And what a year it has been!  Yesterday, we made a list of all the projects, activities, and trips that have taken place this year.  It was an impressive list!  We listed first grade buddies, poetry in the garden, creating eco-critters, creative dramatics, field trips around the city, Reed science, art night, and more!  We had another busy and productive week that included publishing our book of poetry, violin and Boomin’ Beats performances, lunch helpers, a visit from my daughters, field day, beginning a drumming residency, and the play we wrote as a class and are practicing together.  My final (farewell) letter of the year will be posted next Wednesday, but for now, I want to pass along some “last week of school” information.

Team 20 Theater:  Last week we wrote a play together.  It is the story of a class who plays the game FedEx tag while riding the city bus on a field trip and the intergalactic exchange that follows between the kids and the FedEx aliens, known as “FedExians.”  I won’t give away the ending.  There will be two performances of “Revenge of the FedExians” for other Lewis classes, including our first grade buddies.  Performance one will be on Tuesday, June 7th, at 9:30 and performance two will be on Wednesday, June 8th, at 9:30.  If you find yourself with some free time and want to take in a good show, please stop by!  A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

In the afternoon on Tuesday, June 7th, we will dismantle most of the decorations in the room.  A grocery sack would be very useful on Tuesday since room 20 is filled with a variety of kid-generated items.  (Extra sacks are welcomed!) 

A reminder about the Family Breakfast on Wednesday, June 8th, from 8:15 to 9:00 in room 22.  Please come by when you can.  You can stay for the whole event or just come by for a bit.  A list of breakfast items to bring and share for this buffet style breakfast was included with last week’s Classroom Notes.  I am looking forward to this celebration and hope to see you there!

Lewis Water: As you have read by now, Portland Public Schools has turned off drinking fountains in all schools because of concerns regarding lead levels in water. Students, staff, and visitors are not to use the water fountains for the remainder of the year. Bottled water is being delivered to classrooms each day. Kids know that they can drink as much as they need. Feel free to send your kid to school with a reusable water bottle already filled with water from home.

And as we head into the last week, I want to thank all of you for the support you have given to the kids of Team 20 and to me.  Education is a cooperative venture between home and school.  I am fortunate to work with such an outstanding group of families! 


Team 20 Poetry

Revenge of the FedExians

You and your class are cordially invited to an original theater production by Team 20.  Two productions of the play Revenge of the FedExians will be presented.  Performance 1 will be on Tuesday, June 7th, at 9:30 in room 20.  Performance 2 will be on Wednesday, June 8th, at 9:30 in room 20.  This show is a seasonal favorite and sells out early.  So don’t delay!  Reserve your seats today!  Please RSVP to Mark Richner in person, by email, or via mailbox.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Classroom Notes


Team 20 has had yet another busy and productive week. Our poetry project continues.  Kids are growing the seeds (poetic images that they collected in their sketchbooks through observation in the Lewis garden) into poems. We are working on poetry revision by focusing on line breaks, alliteration, similes, and repetition. We also began writing a play as a team about a class playing FedEx tag while riding the city bus on a field trip and the resulting intergalactic exchange that occurs between the kids and the FedEx aliens, known as “FedExians.” We will perform our play during the last week of school. Be sure to look for more details in next week’s letter.

We met as a team on Monday and talked about some goals for the time we have left. I shared a sports analogy about how even the strongest teams can let their guard down as the season comes to a close. The final moments can transition from being productive to lackadaisical and from being focused to unfocused. So the goal for our team during our remaining weeks is to “stay strong.” Stay strong means something slightly different in each context, whether it is coming into the room and choosing a priority during the morning routine, transitioning through the hallways to specials, being focused during writing, choosing a good spot to read during independent reading, and so on. 

During our team meeting, we also talked about how summer reading is incredibly important for kids and their academic achievement. Kids who don’t read over the summer experience learning loss and actually forget some of what they’ve learned. We talked about how this effect is cumulative, that this loss can build over multiple summers. I am happy to share that all kids at Lewis are already enrolled in Multnomah County Library’s Summer Reading. Kids will bring their game board home during the last week of school. MCL’s Summer Reading encourages kids to read whatever they want, which helps grow a love of reading. This sort of summer reading program helps to make-up for this “break” in learning and results in positive reading outcomes when kids return to school in the fall. If your kid doesn’t have a library card, here’s how to sign up for a library card.

Speaking of libraries and reading, all Lewis library books are due back by May 31st.