Back to School Night Handout

Margaret Harte
Tremont Elementary School
Fourth Grade Room 23

Dear Parents and Guardians,

    Welcome to fourth grade at Tremont Elementary School.  The first few days have been very exciting.  We have already completed our first essay, as well as our first two art lessons.  The students have shown themselves to be very creative.  The following is a list of adjectives chosen in their Bio Poems to describe themselves:

mathematical    smart        funny    sweet        strong        awesome    healthy    friendly    colorful    loyal    athletic    kind        musical    excited
artistic        energetic    bright    sporty    intelligent    scientific    curious

    As I am sure you would all agree, I am very lucky to have such a bright and positive class. I have a feeling that this is a small fraction of what is yet to come.  I hope that tonight will give you a better idea of how our day, class, and year will be structured so that you can better help your child have a wonderful school year.

The following is an overview of programs/routines in our classroom:

    Fourth grade students will participate in grade level whole class language arts lessons, where they will be working on reading comprehension and vocabulary, grammar and writing development.  This will take place using the newly adopted state curriculum, published by MacMillan/McGraw Hill.  This new adoption has wonderful resources for parents and students online, whether it is a lost spelling list, a rereading of a story or worksheets and games to reinforce skills, you can find it all there.

In the afternoons, we will also be doing rotations by grade level during Academy time to reinforce these skills.

    I believe that children learn best when they are challenged, but not frustrated.  When it comes to independent reading, we try to remember the Golden Book Rule:  Never choose a book that is too hard or too easy.  Choose one that is just right.  Our class will be working with leveled books based on comprehension, accuracy, fluency and vocabulary skills.  During this time of independent reading, done either at home or in class, students will be reading at their instructional level, and will be required to complete a Reading Counts computer based assessment at the end of each book.  With their books now getting longer, they will be given three weeks to complete at least one book.  Once they have passed their Reading Counts test, they can always choose a book from our class library to take home.

    Reading and/or library books can be taken home on a nightly basis, Monday through Wednesday.  Depending on your child’s reading strengths, this can be done independently, or with an adult.  20-30 minutes of nightly practice is usually sufficient.  Remember that reading fluently and with expression should be practiced along with comprehension.  Please make sure that these class and school library books are treated with great care.  If you would like to have your child participate in this optional program, please sign the attached form.


    Along with high utility words and phonemic instruction, our new curriculum has a leveled program that is designed to help students recognize spelling patterns through word study/word sorts, as well as an introduction to Greek and Latin roots.  I will send home a word sort on Monday with their homework.  These sorts give you and your child a chance to practice sorting, play games, as well as practice identifying the spelling pattern.  High utility words  may also be included in their homework. They are words that do not necessarily match a pattern, but are used frequently in writing, and should be memorized.  There will be a test on Friday that will include words from the sort,  as well as high utility words (20 words total). 


    The teachers at Tremont have been trained in the supplemental writing program “Step Up To Writing”.  It is a structured writing program intended to teach students the various frames for writing with different purposes.  The key vocabulary is then continued throughout the grade levels, making for very fluid transitions from grade level to grade level.  Some key words you may hear about writing are topic sentences, transition words or transitional phrases, detail sentences, and conclusions.  Fourth grade will be focusing on turning those detailed paragraphs learned third grade into essays.  In addition to expository essay writing, we will also be working on letter writing, how to essays, personal narratives, persuasive essays, creative writing, story writing as well as various types of poetry in preparation for the fourth grade state writing assessment.


    Math will be taught through whole class instruction and in small groups using the Houghton-Mifflin Mathematics program as well as a variety of games and manipulative materials to reinforce skills and concepts.  In addition to state standards, our school-wide fourth grade goal is for students to master their multiplication facts 1-12.  Second grade math facts to 20 (addition and subtraction), as well as third grade multiplication will be reviewed. I have students work at their own pace while working towards passing “Mr. Banuelos’s Math Facts”.  When looking at the essential standards, you will notice that much of the fourth grade  curriculum was introduced in third grade, and is then applied to larger digits in fourth grade. (see handout)   Please be sure to begin practicing those math facts that may have been tricky in third grade now.  No need to wait on division review either.
Social Studies

    We will be using the Scott Forestman materials to teach the fourth grade social studies units: ”The Land of California”, “Early People in California”, “Early History to Statehood”, “Growth and Development Since 1850”, and “California Government”. We will also be focusing more deeply on California's Missions as well as regional tribes. 

    The Harcourt  materials for science cover the following units:  “Electricity and Magnetism”, “Energy for Life and Growth”, “Ecosystems”, “Rocks and Minerals”, and “Waves, Wind, Water and Ice”.  A variety of other science concepts will also be explored during our Language Arts units, as well as tied into our Social Studies units to show how the environment affects human as well as animal activity.

Music and Art

    Students will participate in whole class singing, using a variety of materials relevant to our classroom themes.  Students will learn the Elements of Art as well as the Principles of Design.  They will learn how to use watercolor paint, drawing pencils, water color pencils, tempera paint, chalk, as well as specific  vocabulary (often while learning about other artists).    If there is ever a special project or program you would like to share with our class, please feel free to volunteer as a visiting professor.


    Your child will be bringing home homework nightly Monday through Thursday (unless otherwise notified).  Please review the homework with your child as soon as possible to detect any potential problems your child may face in doing the assignments.  If there is any confusion, or you are unable to assist your child with their homework (if help is needed), please have as much of the homework completed as possible, and return items needing assistance with a note so that we may assist them during homework club (lunch time).  Remember that homework is a way to review concepts from previous units as well as grades, but may still require clarification.  I understand that often the confusion is in the translation of directions, not just content.  It is very important that you review and check your child’s homework each night.  It does not help to reinforce mistakes or bad habits.  Homework is meant to be a review for your child to master skills needed for fourth grade, as well as a way to reinforce those skills that may be a bit rusty.  Students not returning homework on time will have it noted in their planner and may be required to attend Lunch Study on Thursdays.

Class work

    All class work that is completed by the end of the day on Thursday will be sent home each Friday to keep you informed of your child’s progress. Please sign the folder after you and your child have reviewed their work, and return the folder/log only on Monday.  The weekly folders are  a way for us to keep you informed about your child’s school progress on an ongoing basis, as well as allow for good communication.  Only work that states “please return”  needs to be returned in the Friday folder.  Your child does have the opportunity to redo any in-class assignments to improve their grade (below a B).


    It is important for many children to have nutritious snacks throughout the day.  There will be time for snack each day at first recess. Please provide a healthy snack such as crackers, fruit, etc. for your child to eat during that time. 


    Our classroom is a community of learners, where every member must be ensured a safe environment where learning can take place.  It is my intention to help students monitor their own behavior for appropriateness, and have developed our classroom management style with this goal in mind.  Students should be rewarded for doing the right thing, going out of their way for others, or working extra hard.  As a way to recognize those students, I send home Good Deed Awards that can be saved and exchanged for a homework pass.  Our school also rewards good behavior with  “Tremont Bucks”, which will be used to purchase items at our Tremont Buck Store.  Students who behave inappropriately will be reminded privately of the behavior expectation and, if necessary, redirected to another choice or activity.  If a student continues to choose an inappropriate behavior, he/she may be directed to an area where they will not be disruptive to other students for a few minutes, and the teacher may choose to make choices for the student for a while.

    If discipline becomes a problem for your child, I will contact you for a conference to determine, together, a plan to help your child become a working part of our learning community.

    Please reinforce our new school motto- Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful.

Birthdays and Celebrations

    If you would like to help your child celebrate his/her birthday at school with a special snack, please let me know ahead of time so that I may arrange our schedule accordingly.  This will not be a birthday party, just a special snack.  Due to the number of children with food allergies, please make sure your special snack is nut free.  If you are planning a party for your child that will not include the whole class, please mail birthday party invitations separately.  This way, no one’s feelings get hurt.  If you do not celebrate birthdays in your family, or have another special event or holiday that your family celebrates, please let me know.

Parent Participation

    I strongly encourage you to be involved in your child’s education.  That involvement can take many forms.  Of course I welcome parent volunteers in the classroom, but also understand that it is not always possible.  If you are able to come in, and would like to volunteer, please let me know what times you are available.  If you would like to volunteer in some other manor, please let me know.  I always welcome the “visiting professor” if you have an interesting skill or activity you would like to share with the class.

Web site

    Our classroom has its own web site!  I will try to update it about every other week.  There are often reminders, celebrations, fun activities, as well as assignments posted.  You may view our web site by going to and scrolling down to Mrs. Harte’s class.  There are links set up through our language arts and science programs that can be very fun.  You can also e-mail me from the web site.  I check my e-mail often.

Mrs. Harte’s Wish List
green ball point pens (for students to correct)    antibacterial wipes                baby wipes   
spiral notebooks                    white board pens (for student use)

Special thanks to those parents who have been kind enough to donate already.

Please donate what is readily available to you.  Don’t feel pressure to go shopping.  

If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know by calling, writing a note, e-mailing me, or simply stopping by after class.

Thank you very much for coming!  Together, we will make this a great year.

Mrs. Harte