Philosophies, Links and Details for Fourth Grade,

Rapid Learner






  Constructivism Intrinsic Motivation Inquiry Habits of Mind




Click here for a page of links for parents




  Homework Homework and Absences Missed Homework Projects
  Homework and Assistance Editing Student Work Daily Oral Language Signature Sheets 
  Field Trips Westminster Woods Important Dates Backpacks/Water Bottles
  Bringing Books Home Class Group Email Expectations Can We Miss a School Day?
  Should we read ahead? Contacting Mr. La Marr    




Homework is generally assigned on Monday-Thursday. Usually, the work is due the day after it has been assigned. However, there are often long-term pieces of work that will need some attention each evening in order to complete it on time. Homework is assigned through the day, each day, and students are responsible to record their homework in their daily planners, which is guided in class by the teacher. The day's schedule will be on the board each morning. The work that is due the next day will have a box around it, so it is easy to know what is due the next day. The students will be told when it is due, it is on the board, and they will receive a reminder at the end of the day. Additionally, the materials that will be needed will be stated for the fourth graders. One last place to find homework is on the classroom website. The "Homework" link will have a daily listing of the homework for the week. There will also be reminders about other things to keep in mind on that webpage. Lastly, at the end of the webpage, there will be a link for downloading certain pieces of the homework. About 90% of the work is able to be downloaded. There is no reason to not know when something is due!



Homework and Absences~
When a student is absent, the number of days absent will be equivalent to the number of extra days to turn the work in for scoring. Homework is often able to be downloaded, and many students keep up with the work in that manner. It is not, however, required that sick students download and complete homework. The focus should be on getting well and back to school so more of the classroom activities are not missed.



Missed Homework~
If a student misses turning homework in on time, s/he will fill out a form in a binder that is a record for missing work. A notice will be sent home to inform the parent that an assignment was missed. It is expected that the form will be returned the next day along with the completed homework. At the beginning of each week, a form will be sent home for every student indicating the student's success in turning work in on time as well as classroom behavior. That form will need to be returned the next day. Thus, there should be two ways to find out if a student successfully completed all his or her work.



Projects are longer pieces of work that the students will need to work on with regularity after they have been assigned. Projects will often have a handout that states the requirements, but not always. Students need to learn to listen and record notes on the requirements when a sheet is not handed out. There will always be a rubric given out for projects, so it is easy to see what the expectations are for the work. Upon completing our literature books, there will always be a project. Projects usually will have one to two weeks for completion. The due dates will be posted on the "Important Dates" section of the classroom website. There will always be time in class to work on projects, but not enough to complete the entire work. Projects will be given out in nearly all subjects. Careful planning and following time guidelines will make the completion of this work easier. Pacing of the work will always be discussed in the classroom.



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Homework and Parental Assistance~
This is a commonly inquired about topic and there really is no one set answer except for the very blunt response of: homework is the work of the student and the parent's role should be that of a guide. If there is difficulty in a subject or even a topic within a particular subject, then there might be more guidance needed. However, the goal is for the student to do the work independently as much as is possible as long as learning is occurring and scores are acceptable. Sometimes, checking over the work by a parent is of benefit to a student, but don't argue with a fourth grader over it as long as the scores are acceptable. It is sometimes a good idea to give homework a random glance to check for neatness, thoroughness and accuracy. Homework is returned in a very timely manner, and there will be comments written on the work. It is highly advised that the student and parent discuss the comments together as that is where key learning toward improvement is gained. The comments are specific pieces of feedback designed to improve the quality of the work. To ignore the comments would make it difficult to improve. Thus, a bit of time spent looking at the comments and then checking to see if the subsequent work has employed those ideas would be a great way for a parent to assist with homework. Providing a good timeline and keeping students working toward the end product on a longer project would also be a great benefit. Students in fourth grade are learning to pace themselves to complete long term work. Whereas a pacing guide and reminders will be given in the classroom, it is important that the progress of the work is monitored at home.

Some parents sit over and watch their student do the homework and if an error is made, it is "jumped upon" immediately. A message of dependence is sent to the student. The student feels that she or he cannot complete anything without a parent right there. This is not the goal. Students need to feel that they can successfully accomplish their work. When assistance is needed, there is no problem, but the student should make the request for such. A quick examination of the work at the end might be necessary, depending upon the student, but the student should still be guided toward the correct response. It is a fine line for some families, but finding it is necessary in order to have a successful, independent fourth grader.



Editing Student Work~
Most of the formal rough drafts of longer writing will be edited in class by the author and at least one other student. Once the final copy has been written by the student, a parent might wish to go over the final copy. Please, if that is done, only point out errors to the student and guide the student toward finding the correction to the error. I would suggest saying things such as:

There is a spelling error in this line; can you find it?

There is a punctuation error in this line; can you find it?

There is a capitalization error in this line; can you find it?

There is a word usage error in this line; can you find it?

This sentence is difficult to understand; can you clear it up?

The goal is for the student to find and correct the work himself or herself. Giving students the tools for editing is what is sought rather than simply doing the editing for the student. Day to day work may need some editing as well. If a student has a tough time with spelling, or punctuation or sentence structure, etc. it may be necessary for the work to be examined by a parent and guidance given to assist the student in correcting those mistakes. If a problem doesn't exist, then don't worry about it.



Daily Oral Language (DOL)~
Daily Oral Language is the method in which the rules of grammar are taught. Each morning, the students are presented with two sentences which have errors in them. The errors may range from spelling mistakes, sentence structure errors, capitalization, punctuation, or word usage errors. The students are to correctly write the sentences in their spiral notebooks. We then correct the sentences as a class and discuss the reasons as to why the items are mistakes. The correct answers are written on the board for easy copying for the fourth graders. The students are to check their work and make any corrections that they may not have made on their own. When we are done correcting the work, the students should each have two perfectly written sentences in their spiral notebooks. Every two weeks, there is a DOL quiz based on six of the sentences that the students have seen. Those quizzes generally take place on Friday and will be announced in the classroom newsletter. Over the course of the two weeks, the students will have 18 - 20 sentences in their notebooks. The quiz will have six of those sentences. Thus, if the sentences are truly correct in the notebooks, studying should be relatively easy. Students are urged to examine those sentence prior to the quiz. The program begins with a fifth grade series, but by midyear, the class will be ready to move to a more challenging, sixth grade program.



Signature Sheets~
On the first day of nearly every week, the students will receive a half sheet of paper which will have their behavior score for the previous week and a homework completion score for the same week on it. There is a place for comments to be made by either the teacher, student or parent. If there is any homework still needing to be completed and submitted, it will be listed on that sheet. The sheet has a place for a parent signature on it. The expectation is that the sheet will be returned the next day, with a parent signature on it. Attached to that sheet will be any quizzes, tests or rubrics that were completed the previous week. Please look through those major assessments with your fourth grader. If you wish to keep the papers for a day or two longer to examine them more thoroughly, please simply send a note with your fourth grader so I know that the packet wasn't lost or forgotten. Look for those packets each Monday with a return date of Tuesday. If there is no school on Monday, look for those packets on the first school day of the week. Should there be no packet for the week, that will be stated on the homework page of the classroom website. It is rare that there isn't a signature sheet, however.


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Field Trips~
We average about a field trip a month. All of our trips require parent drivers, except for Del Norte. Approximately 3 weeks prior to the field trip, an email request for drivers will be sent out to the group. If you would like to drive, instructions will be in the email for you to sign up for the trip. Most of our trips are such that whoever volunteers can go. Thus, if you volunteer, please watch for a confirmation email sent back to you when the entire team of drivers is complete. There will always be an email sent to confirm your driving, and it will have specific instructions for the trip. 



Westminster Woods~
We are currently scheduled to go to Westminster Woods from Tuesday, March 7-Friday, March 10, 2017. The camp is in Occidental which is in the Bodega Bay area. We leave DPM on Tuesday morning and return to DPM on Friday afternoon. The trip is the major event of the school year. The focus is environmental education. We spend a day in Armstrong Redwood State Park which culminates our redwood report. We spend a day at the ocean in the tide pools. The actual tide pool time is a little over an hour. We hike at camp and do stream studies on Dutch Bill Creek. Each evening, there is an activity and one night during the week, we will have a night hike. The trip is well run by the camp and we are given three naturalists who are the students' teachers for the week. The fourth graders sleep in cabins of about 5-6 students with 1-2 parent chaperones. We are allowed eight chaperones. I will be asking for volunteers about the time we need a deposit, which is generally in October. The decision as to who chaperones is usually made in January. Many times, there are more volunteers than can attend this trip. Please understand that and if you volunteer but are not on the trip as a chaperone, it is simply a numbers game. My goal is to put a good team together that will work for the students. There are many combinations of volunteers to accomplish that. Again, we are allowed eight volunteers only. The cost of the trip is $285.00 per student with an additional cost for parent volunteers. That parent cost is $210.00. That may be subject to change when the contract arrives.



Important Dates~
There are many dates about which students and parents need to be aware. These range from due dates on projects, test dates, field trips, GATEPOST meetings and GATE Advisory meetings. The best way to keep up with them all is to use the "Important Date" link on the website. As soon as I know of an important date, it will be listed on that page. The page is updated each weekend.



Backpacks and Water Bottles~
If possible, try to avoid rolling backpacks; they are just really large. The students have a hook outside on which to hang their backpacks, but the rolling type will not fit on a hook and end up laying all over the back patio. If your child needs to have a rolling backpack, we can make it work. He or she will just need to find a place on the patio that is not in the way. The patio is used as an instructional setting nearly every day.

As for water bottles, it is great during hot weather for students to have a bottle of water as long as the top closes and no spills occur. Please limit the contents to water, however.


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Bringing Books Home~
Fourth graders ask me all the time if they are allowed to bring their school books home in order to assist them with their homework. The answer is a resounding YES! Homework is designed to practice skills and without the books, it is often difficult to practice. We have many assignments that require the book-like all of the reading sheets we do. Often, there will be work done in the social studies book and possibly the science book. The use of the book and knowing how to find and figure out answers is often one of the skills to practice. As for math, the students need a spiral type notebook where they will record important information and practice problems from the day's lesson. Those should be taken home as well since practice problems and solutions, that were worked and checked in class, are in those notebooks. Students will always be allowed and encouraged to bring the books home with them. In fact, as I recount the homework for the day, I always state what materials should be brought home, and the textbook will be listed when it is necessary, or even helpful.




Class Group Email~
A group email account has been established for the class for communication purposes. It has proven to be a very successful way for me to communicate with all the families with just one email. It also has been successful for organizing classroom events such as holiday celebrations, the silent auction event, field trips and so on. The newsletter is also sent out each weekend, and there are reminders for the upcoming week in that email, too. I will be collecting email addresses in order to create the email list. You may have multiple addresses on the group email system. I hope that everyone will take part as important information is given out through this system. It is each family's choice to belong or not, but by belonging to the list, you will be assured of getting all of the information that is dispensed. You may also post items as well. It is important to note that if you post anything on the group email, whether that be an original post or a reply to one sent out to the group, it will go out to everyone. Thus, keep in mind as to whether your post should be seen by everyone. The group email is designed to be a communication tool for the class and its events. It is not a tool for voicing personal opinions, unless one has been solicited. There may be times when your inbox receives a lot of messages, and you need to be certain you are willing to accept that. Should you wish to be removed from the list at any time, that is not a problem.




Students are expected to:

  Be prepared for each day with the proper books and materials at school
  Be attentive in class and work to create knowledge
  Work their hardest in order to gain the highest possible education
  Turn in homework and projects on the proper due date
  Be organized so that materials can be found in a timely manner and learning may begin on time
  Treat each other with respect and dignity
  Be helpful toward each other and create a strong team within the classroom
  Participate in the day's events and be willing to take some risks


Can we miss a school day?~
I am often asked that question when a family wishes to take a vacation during the school year. I am also asked that question when a family needs to take a longer weekend and have their fourth grader miss a Friday or a Monday, or both! The other question that goes along with that is, "Are you doing anything important on that day?" The answer is YES! We will be doing something important EVERY day. The Rapid Learner Program moves quickly, and missing a day or more will cause a student to miss important items. If a student needs to miss school for whatever reason, he or she will be missing important instruction. Many of the things we do in fourth grade are done only in the classroom. Science is hands-on, we do many simulations, there are numerous discussions. Those are things that cannot be made up. If a day or multiple days need to be missed, that is a family decision and not one on which I have input. In a perfect world, I say don't miss school. However, I know it's not a perfect world, so if your fourth grader needs to miss school for whatever reason, that is your decision. She or he will miss instruction. She or he will miss something important. Do what is needed for your family, but do know that instruction will be missed.



Should we read ahead?~

Many times, parents want their children to read ahead in the literature books or even to read an entire book prior to our reading it as a class. Please do not have your child read ahead. One of the comprehension skills is predicting. If a student has read ahead, s/he cannot take part in predicting. Sometimes, predicting is part of a homework assignment. When a student already knows what's going to happen, the prediction skills cannot be utilized. Predicting is a great assessor of whether a student is understanding a book or not. Secondly, we have discussions regularly in class. Too often, students who have read ahead give away key pieces of information to the rest of the class. That spoils the reading for the other fourth graders. Also, a student who has read ahead is asked not to take part in a discussion. That cheats that particular child out of a huge skill building exercise. Thus, reading ahead does nothing beneficial for a student.

Instead, I would recommend rereading chapters or passages. Many times students miss nuances or sometimes even major plot pieces in a first reading. In fourth grade, we begin to analyze the symbolism in books. By rereading a chapter, the student is able to cull the finer points of that chapter and be better prepared for the homework or discussion. If a child rereads after discussion, the story's details are cemented further, and the discussion may actually make better sense after a rereading. Then, the student will be better prepared in knowing what to read for in the next night's reading.



Contacting Mr. La Marr~
The easiest and most efficient way to get ahold of me is through my school email address. There is a link from the homepage of the website that will bring that up in your email program. The address is:

If you need to set up a time to meet, email would be the best way to arrange it. If you have a question, again, email would be the best way to get a prompt answer. Impromptu meetings in the morning or after school are not recommended. During the morning, I am preparing for the school day and after school, I often have commitments. Please don't try to catch me with the idea that it will be "quick" as it often isn't quick and I cannot give your concern the proper time it deserves when I am in a hurry. Thank you~



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