A Letter from a Fourth Grade Teacher

Dear Parents,

This letter is for you.

You have my undying admiration. Yours is the most meaningful, most important job in the world. I thank you all for trusting me to work with your children. Foremost, they bring me great joy.

The events in Connecticut, USA, these past few days are a reminder of all that is family, compassion, empathy and kindness. I find myself more than a bit angry. Overall, I guess I am just sad.

I have spent a good part of this weekend talking to my wife, family and friends. Still, I cannot fathom what parents are feeling. Understand that I am trying to “get it. ”

I have no grand advice to give you or your children. I only can tell you that I will listen to your kids and try my best to send them in the right direction. I will continue to push them to write, to read good books, and to think. I will continue to smile and make them laugh. We will have as normal a school day as possible. I will make sure that I am a comforting, peaceful presence in your child’s day.

The last week before school lets out for Winter Break is traditionally hectic. Rest assured that I have already scheduled routine, low-key lessons. That said I expect anxiety levels will raise up a notch. I am proud to say that our entire faculty is ready.

Online there are many articles, podcasts and blog postings offering tips on how to talk to your children about tragedy. They help.

However you choose to talk to your child, please help them remember that regardless of what they see on television, school is a safe place. Extremely caring people fill schools worldwide.


Please allow me to close this letter with a haiku from Izumi Shikibu:

“Although the wind

blows terribly here,

the moonlight also leaks

between the roof planks

of this ruined house.”


Take care,

 Barry Mernin



Shibiku, I. (n.d.). “although the wind .”. Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178441















How to Teach Fourth Grade: The Math Test

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Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics. 

Simeon Poisson 

My students recently just finished their Everyday Math Written Assessment for Unit 4 and I thought that I would share some of my ideas on issuing the typical fourth grade math test. I hope some of these ideas help.

First of all, my students enjoy math class for they are highly motivated and obviously supported. I view the parents as partners in learning. They play an important and irreplaceable role in math comprehension. I am fully aware that for a good many of my students, my role in their math learning is middling, at best. That said: we have a lot of fun exploring the subject.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I pre-assess each student before the start of each unit. From there, I heap a great amount of responsibility on the students to take charge of their own math understanding. They learn with partners and speak in conversational tones throughout most lessons. My job is to pair up the students with similar ability partners. Next, I steer the conversations so that each student becomes a little stronger in their understanding. Soon I will have the students write daily reflections on their new learning.

At the start of each math test, the students sit in “test mode” seating. Each kid is responsible for setting up dividers and each table group’s “go getter” are responsible for distributing the tests. Students look over the test and one or two students proactively volunteers to pass out needed math tools such as rulers, calculators or protractors.

Each test  an assessment for learning. Therefore, I routinely help out students as they learn. I pat the kids on their backs and compliment them throughout. For this specific test, the kids asked me to define terms like “withdraw” or “deposit. ” Both terms were not on my word wall so I happily explained what the words meant.

I review before each test on my interactive whiteboard. I am a pretty demanding teacher but I stop coaching in while the kids are taking their assessments. Rather, I celebrate their learning and cheer them on and do whatever else I can to boost their confidence.

I assign the first student to complete the test to collect the remaining tests and to alphabetize the tests according to last names. This helps me grade and input data on an excel spreadsheet.

Each grade-level focuses on a different algorithm throughout the year. This helps the student develop mastery with the four operations while the teachers develop mastery in routinely teaching a particular method.

I accommodate the students with graph paper and hands-on learning tools, such as base-ten blocks. All are welcome to use the tools regardless of their learning needs.

This helps all develop confidence in mathematics, my only goal during testing days throughout the year.


Poisson, S. (n.d.). Mathematics quotes. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/mathematics_5.html