Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

September 28, 2011

Fourth Grade Open House

Dear Simon,

Last night you had your Fourth Grade Open House. Here’s what I learned:

1. The technology in your classroom is so cool. You showed me how you use/play with Garage Band. I thought it was cool just watching you walk over to the computer cabinet and carefully pull one out and bring it back to your desk, hugging it to your chest the whole way. I also liked seeing the  “clicker” that each kid uses to “log-in” to the main computer when they arrive in the classroom.

2. The garden right outside the window of your classroom is so beautiful. Right now there are rows and rows of sunflowers. I got to see a great photo that your teacher took of you standing out in the sunflowers on a day that your class spent some time outside sketching (and learning about Vincent Van Gogh and his sunflower paintings). I also noticed at least two very giant pumpkins growing out in the garden. The garden is one of your teachers passions and I really like that about her. She brought in this bowl of little tomatoes and your sister ate about ten of them.

3. Daddy and I got to ask your teacher about spelling homework and tests. You’ve brought home spelling homework the last couple of weeks and have been really frustrated at not immediately knowing how to spell all the words. We’ve been talking about how that’s part of the process of learning – but sometimes that’s hard to understand. She gave us some good tips, suggestions, and perspective and let me know that it was more important for you to just say the words out loud, spell them out loud and then write the words on the line vs. me just saying the word out loud and you guessing the first time. We’ll try that next week.

4. It was so awesome to see the math papers on your desk! We saw that you are learning about the Distributive Property (“The Distributive Property lets you multiply a sum by multiplying each addend separately and then add the products”). Here’s an example that I found online:

4 x 53
(4 x 50) + (4 x 3)
200 + 12

I love that you are learning this skill – I think it’s going to come in handy as you get into bigger numbers. I don’t think I learned to do arithmetic that way when I was in fourth grade so I might need to do a little practicing with you to get the hang of it.

5. We got to visit all your past teachers again. It’s always fun to see you want to see them, say hi, give them a hug as you make your way through the building.

Fourth grade seems to be off to a great start. We are so proud of you Simon! Keep up the great work.



  • 1.
    Helen said…

    Lovely Ali, its so great to take a moment to capture all these thoughts isn’t it.

  • 2.
    Nicky from Canada said…

    Such an amazing little man!!! Well not so little anymore. So wonderful to see his growth.

  • 3.
    Cheryl T. said…

    I LOVE how you document your life. You are my hero!

  • 4.
    Jacque said…

    Your love always shines through and always warms my heart!! Travel safe.

  • 5.
    Michele H. said…

    Wonderful documentation Ali! I love that they have use of the computers right in the classroom. That is so very cool!

  • 6.
    A. Sanborn said…

    Love your perspective, interpretation within your letter, Ali.

    As a past early childhood educator I L-O-V-E hearing other ideas educators are incorporating into their classrooms. Especially love the gardening… life lessons!

    Thanks for the glimpses into your everyday life.

  • 7.
    Gina Maserang said…

    Wow! School sure has changed since I went. It is truly a different world for our children. When I first started reading your blog, Simon was starting kindergarten and I was doing Discreet Trial Training in a preschool class designed specifically for children with autism. It has been a joy watching Simon’s progress through the years. I am so proud of him!

  • 8.
    Lisa W. said…

    You do document with such inspiration for us all!!! Go Simon GO!!!

  • 9.
    JenRay said…

    Does Simon go to regular public school? Looks and sounds like some really great stuff going on there! Seems like I am always worrying about sending my littles off to school. I am considering homeschooling so that we can teach through experiences like gardening, more art, more science, more music, more literature, more mental math… But this is heartening and fun! Thanks for sharing!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Hi JenRay – he does :) . It’s a really great school and this teacher seems especially grounded in stuff like technology (it’s a technology grant classroom – pretty sure that means that she applies for grants to be able to have this cool stuff included in her curriculum) and gardening. They also already had a field trip to an art museum. Good stuff.

  • 10.

    I feel so proud of Simon since from his birth I followed his growth and challenges. He is doing amazing. Praise the Lord!I thought it was precious how Anna was right in the mix of it all at Simon’s desk! I also agree I never learned math like Simon is learning, I was math challenged and if I had that process of learning it may have been easier for me. i never ahd enough fingers and toes to do my math(lol) Kudos to Simon.
    blessings and hugs,

    Sharon Dryjanski Phoenix AZ

  • 11.
    marisa said…

    Great post! Our son is HFA and with the help of his aide he was learning math that way too. Big clumped up problems were frustrating him and breaking down took a tad longer which he doesn’t like but the frustration level dropped at least :) I’m amazed at the technology in classrooms now too. He is such a visual learner and the computer is his thing so learning on there this year has helped too.

    Can’t wait to hear how 4ht is going with Simon!

  • 12.
    Paula G said…

    Way to go Simon! Spelling has been a “bad word” in our house over the years – you have good weeks & bad weeks!Good luck!

  • 13.
    rhonda said…

    Wow Simon it looks like you are getting the school year off to a great start! Keep up the good work! And Ali lots of talk at SC about the DD, I am so excited and will be glad when info can be shared as I have already started the planning and buying process of Christmas items so I will hold off for now!

  • 14.
    Carrie said…

    Heartwarming. :D

  • 15.
    Amy said…

    Hey let Simon know that spelling is really not that important anyway! Well maybe not in those words! This is coming from a high school English teacher! Practicing spelling is important because you need to learn the basic rules and major exceptions. But a lot of research suggests that being a good speller is very difficult for students (myself included) who have learning difficulties. My brain is simply not wired that way. But’s ok because I am good at lots of other things, and all those D’s in spelling (and handwriting BTW) didn’t keep me from getting a full scholarship to college!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Amy – that’s really what his teacher was saying last night too :) . I really appreciated her giving me a different way to look at it and approach it with him that’s more tailored to how he learns.

  • 16.
    Emily said…

    Thanks for sharing this bit of your life with us! And wowza- school has changes since I’ve gone…laptop cabinets? =D I don’t have kids so I have yet to encounter that, but so cool!

  • 17.
    Jennifer M said…

    Absolutely love that they have sunflowers growing in their garden and they went out to sketch them while learning about Van Gogh. So, so awesome.

  • 18.
    alida said…

    Wonderful to get a glimpse into Simon’s life at school. Sound like a really cool school.

  • 19.
    Jolynn said…

    Sounds like a wonderful school. Being in a technology field, it’s so important to have K-12 kids learn about technology and not be afraid of it. Kudos to that teacher for doing such a great job. It’s also wondeful that Simon is having the start of a good year. : 0 )

  • 20.
    Tonya said…

    It sounds like a really great school!

  • 21.
    Raylene said…

    Ali, I used to teach kindergarten/grade one and when teaching letters, I poured corn meal into a cake pan, and had the kids spell the letters with their finger in the “sand”. The visual & tactile together seems to work well. Why not get Simon to spell his words in sand or cornmeal, then copy out with pencil? Just a suggestion. . . . I’m a very visual/tactile person and this method really appealed to me!

  • 22.
    melissa said…


    I don’t know if you are familiar with this website, but check it out because it is a fun way to work with spelling words. Since Simon is such a wiz kid with technology he might really enjoy this.


    • ….
      sandy sh. said…

      we use that site too.
      LOVE IT !!!

  • 23.
    patty said…

    SIMON R*O*C*K*S!

  • 24.
    Leea said…

    Saw this on your fb page, and had to come over and say woohoo on the technology! Work in K-3 reading/computer labs love that he is “into” the technology! I also agree with Melissa on spelling city, we use it at work, just on the free version, the kids love Hangmouse! Thanks for sharing the peek into Simon’s open house!

  • 25.
    Juli said…

    As a mom of a 4th grader who hates spelling tests I feel your pain. This year the teachers have stopped giving spelling tests and instead are focusing on vocabulary and learning the root to words. Each week they get their list and the create a motion for each word, then on Monday nights they draw a picture for each word, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights she writes sentences for each word. Honestly by the end of the week she not only knows what the word means but she can also spell it because she’s developed a connection with the word. It might be another way to approach it with Simon.

    It’s really cool to see how different Simon’s classroom is compared to what we have here. He is one lucky boy to have such a loving family and a great place to learn! Thanks for sharing your love for him! It reminds me to find better ways to share my love for my children.

  • 26.
    Trisha H said…

    So happy to hear this!

  • 27.
    Suz said…

    I am a mom to a 4th grade boy as well and find it interesting the similarities and differences in what is being taught across the country. Thanks for sharing Ali!

  • 28.
    Jess said…

    For spelling, try writing the letter of each word on a sticky note and then have him physically pick out the letters needed and post them on the wall or window in the right order. Kind of like a game, and it gets the kids up and moving.

  • 29.
    Emma said…

    Wow! Distributive property, Im a teacher in Aus and we are just doing that in year 6…….definately think you are more on track over there learning it in 4th grade as it is something that is designed to make learning easier in the latter grades. Keep up your hardwork Simon! (and Ali!)

  • 30.
    Toni said…

    Hi Ali – sounds like an awesome class.
    Just thought I’d also share a few tips that I have found work for my son with spelling…

    For the trickier words, using a black or blue pen/pencil to write the word but write the letters they miss out or get mixed up in a different colour (red really stands out but even green or blue if you’ve used black). Either I do this for him so he can just ‘see’ it more clearly otherwise he writes it that way himself.

    The other main strategy I’ve used is making a story up about the words, e.g. believe (getting the letters in the correct order – I believe in Christmas Eve – the i comes before the eve in the sentence and also in the word…. Sorry only example I can think of at the moment.

    Also have you heard of letterland? Has some great stories for blends – more for younger (might be good for anna) but is still quite helpful for the olders to fall back on when working out some of the rules… If simon still likes reading to Anna it may help pick up some things as he reads that he can transfer to what he’s doing. Here’s a link you could look at if interested but it may be far too basic.

    Some other people I know have used rainbow writing i.e. writing the word over the top of itself in a different colour each time. Or jumping, hopping, shooting a hoop saying each letter if they’re more physical learners.

    anyway enough on spelling. Have a great rest of your day.

  • 31.

    How amazing that they have a garden out the window with gorgeous things to look at like sunflowers! He is such a cutie (his sister too).
    My Blog

  • 32.
    Mel said…

    Van Gogh is my favorite artist, and my favorite of his paintings are his sunflowers series. It sounds like Simon’s teacher is a definite keeper!

  • 33.
    Bec said…

    I learned the Distributive Property in my 50s (!). It has made a huge difference and improvement doing math “in my head” instead of relying on a calculator. A math whiz friend of mine taught me how to do it.

    Keep up the good work Simon!

  • 34.
    heather Prins said…

    simply awesome! Do you know I never learned that way to multiply? That is cool

  • 35.
    Jonda said…

    My own Simon is also in 4th grade and your teacher’s spelling tip is something we will also have to try! I think writing it and seeing it will be the clincher to making it stick! Thank you for sharing that!!

    “We” are also learning the distributive property and it just makes so much sense. I’m a “numbers person”, but had never seen multiplication explained like this before until he started bringing papers home. It’s definitely a skill I’ll need to grab onto and use often!

  • 36.
    Laura Melohn said…

    Wow, the technology cabinet? I remember in 3rd grading getting to use computers in school for the first time for a math program. And it was a big deal because they were the first computers the school ever had. Oh how times have changed and how old I’ve gotten. Thanks for sharing.

  • 37.
    Cindy said…

    What an awesome school! Wish my son would have had the benefit of a similar school He took speach therapy for 21 years and others can still hardly understand him (unless you’re around him alot). Simon is truly fortunate (great parents, school, teachers and loving extended family). I’m so glad you share your life on your blog. Thank you.

  • 38.
    Kimberlee said…

    I love that you do these letters. It is wonderful that you have them online. I used to write occasional letters to my daughter, but I think most of them got lost over the years. It would be great to have them online and then print them out as a book.

    Your blog is just so heartwarming. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  • 39.
    Jennifer S. said…

    I am the mother of a child with ADD and spelling was a struggle for him. We found a system that works for us. The first night with the new words, he writes them three times each by himself. We are not involved. The next couple of nights he spells them outloud. (if he has difficult words, we would break them down with a highligher like suggested above). Then we say the words to him and he only has to rewrite the words he missed. By the end of the week, he always had the words down.

    We also try to remind our children about the first time they tried to ride their bike without training wheels or play a new sport about how difficult and frustrating it was for them. Learning is the same thing. Practice makes perfect!
    Best of luck.


  • 40.
    Melanie said…

    Thanks for sharing! Isn’t it amazing how differently kids are taught these days. Just wait until he learns the lattice method of multiplication – that one still blows my mind! Spelling was and still is a challenge for my son. One of his teachers always had fun ways for them to practice there words for one day during the week. Things like taking an old cookie sheet (or turning it upside down) and spraying shaving cream – let the kids write their words in the shaving cream. Spreading sugar or flour on the inside of the sheet and letting them practice that way. Shaving cream words in the bathtub wall. Bouncing the ball back and forth as they spell their words, sitting upside down on the couch. Hopping on one foot. Silly stuff, but fun too. At least one day of fun stuff seem to help our son. Thanks again for sharing!

  • 41.
    Debbie W said…

    Ali, one of my boys always struggled with spelling, but he is a very bright kid and now a 24 year old software developer. He would always mix up things like their and there. I told him the “spell checker” would not fix that – he told me (in 3rd grade – so a long time ago) that by the time it was important to him, there would be a “there checker”. He is right, now MS Word can check grammar and sentence structure and correct it for him if he goofs…

    Another thing that made a big difference with one of my other sons was to write the words on a little white board, rather than paper – for some reason it made all the difference in the process. I think being easier to quickly erase helped?

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