Arroyo Vista Elementary School

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Thomas Thieme » Mr. Thieme's Weekly Webslinging

Mr. Thieme's Weekly Webslinging

Dear Parents,


            Heres whats new and upcoming:

            This Thursday, we have the Great Shakeout, an earthquake drill that is held throughout the state on the same day. Every staff member has a particular duty to fulfill. (Mine is assembling the port-a-potty, lucky me.) This year, we plan to enact a simulation where we actually practice what we’d actually do in the event of this kind of emergency. On Wednesday, I’m going over all the details and expectations with the class. This way I can emphasize the seriousness of what we’re doing and minimize the anxiety that might accompany the experience.

            Tomorrow teachers are going to get some direction and insights from the textbook company as to how to use the new series.

            When ¾ of the class goes to P.E., teachers get to have small-group instruction with the other quarter. This has typically been a good opportunity to get in some intensive oral reading but this week my focus is going to be writing. I’m struck with the wide range of needs, from letter formation to using more precise language in their writing. This is also the year students like to reduce the size of their writing from double to single space. That’s not as easy as it seems. Sometimes lower case and upper case letters turn out equally sized. Then there’s the issue of letters with tails hanging down in between letters on the next line. It’s definitely a developmental thing, not just the fine motor skills needed but to actually anticipate where spacing of some letters need to make room for ones that have come before and will need to have room on the next line. When I taught second grade in the 70s and 80s, we used the Peterson handwriting system, which made high demands of fine motor skills. I had mixed feelings about it but one thing I did appreciate was that there was a very specific timeline of expectations. The first quarter was spent reviewing two-space high manuscript, the second quarter teaching two-space high cursive, the third quarter reduced to one-space high manuscript and the fourth, the same for cursive so that by third grade, everyone was writing one-space high cursive. We don’t really have a specific program at South Pasadena.

It’s something I’m interested in revisiting. First, it’s worth considering how much need there will be for this kind of skill? Will technology replace most of our handwriting needs? What if there’s no electricity? There’s been interesting research done about fifty years ago about the perceptual development of kids being determined by their artwork-attention to detail, size perspective, where the sky begins and the ground begins. Surely there’s been similar research on penmanship as well. Is there an instructional program out there based on such research? It’s a search of which I’m considering a pursuit this year.

For now, I’m going to individualize writing based on what I observe. For some, it’s going to be letter formation and legibility. Others will get some phonics/high frequency word/spelling instruction. Still others, practice in letter reduction to one space. And still others, using more sophisticated, precise vocabulary.

This week in math we are learning various strategies for adding two-digit numbers. We’ve made drawings where you can actually see the grouping of ten ones into a group of one ten. This week, we’ll do Show All Totals, where we add the ones, then the tens and then both numbers together. We’ll also do New Groups Above and New Groups Below. The New Groups are basically what we learned as regrouping, or carrying, depending on your age and youthful locale. The series has the kids carrying the ten and putting it under the other numbers, which looks messy. We’ll do it so they know what the book is talking about it but I intend to promote putting the ten at the top like we’re accustomed to seeing it.

This week we begin a new science unit, “Earth’s Past” which is mainly about fossil formation and what we learn from them. Just a reminder that the STEM project is an option, one students may choose to undertake as homework in place of the homework packet. How’s the packet working out, by the way? Do you oversee it with your child, do they struggle, and do you see good learning going on? Let me know.

Thanks again for your help in the classroom this week and thank YOU VERY MUCH for the financial contributions in the past month!

The best way to reach me is


Dear Parents,


            This week we’ll have our first unit test in math. We’ll take a practice test on Monday, go over the results on Tuesday and then take a real test. There won’t be anything to study and in fact, there won’t be math homework either day as our lessons will be all about test taking. They’ll ring home the practice test on Tuesday. I will be happy to share the results of the final test with you but I’m keeping the test as part of a portfolio of work to show you at conference time. The remainder of the week will be spent working on place value. We’ll work on using drawings to represent hundreds, tens and ones and also use expanded notation for two and three-digit numbers.

            We’ll also be wrapping up a unit in social studies this week. We’ve been studying people and places-identifying the characteristics of urban, suburban and rural areas. That is a test students can study for. Reading the first chapter in the Neighborhoods book can be part of their homework choice.

            While I’m on the subject of homework, I want to reiterate the packet is one of choices. I want everyone to read each night and there is usually math homework each night. I include suggestions for them to use the site for possible investigations on their own. This week, since there is less math homework, they might use the time to read over their Neighborhoods book, chapter 1 instead. They are not required to complete all the worksheets in the packet. They are there for enrichment purposes. Sometimes parents like to try out some of the math challenges with their kids. I include some creative writing, usually in the form of poetry. We always share our work on Fridays. I do note what they read and correct their work, sometimes commenting and they’ll get it back the following Monday.

            Something else they might work on is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math, in case you were wondering) project. About every other month, all of second grade puts out a STEM challenge. This month, it’s about creative ways of using a cardboard box. We will share projects on Friday, Oct. 27 in the courtyard after lunch.

            In language arts, we’re comparing a multitude of Cinderella stories from a multitude of cultures using Venn diagrams to compare and contrast them. This week we’re also looking for any universal character traits of Cinderella, her family and the prince. We’ll try writing our own Cinderella stories in settings of our own choice. The characters may be gender, animal vegetable or mineral, be set in outer space or anywhere else. We’re also going to increase focus on phonics-vowel digraphs for long vowel sounds in particular.

            I’m having another go at reinstating my web page on the AV school site. I’m going to try posting on it mid-week. Let me know if you can access it:

I’m also going to include links that kids can access for enrichment and research. In the meantime, I’ll continue the email blast.

            Just a reminder that there will be no school Monday, October 16. Teachers will be receiving instruction (I hope!) on the new reading series.

            Thanks again to the parents who have been showing up at the library on Wednesday and the classroom on Fridays to help. Much appreciated!