Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Penultimate Day

One of my favorite college words was penultimate. Once I learned that somebody had made up a word for the "the thing before the last thing" I just could not stop using it. Well, today was definitely a penultimate day, and the almosthereness (to make up a truly abominable word) of the winter break was felt by both teacher and students alike.

Still, we were fairly productive. The students worked on a social studies review exercise while I went over the rough drafts I-search papers with individual students. A few of these were excellent, but many students missed the point of the paper completely. Tomorrow I will be copying and distributing some of the best papers (with permission of the authors, of course) so that students who need serious work on their paper have a model to help them. The final drafts here will not be due until after break. More on that tomorrow. We also bound our holiday books. Many of them look really great!!!

We did the math test after recess and the results are already on the gradebook. After lunch, we corrected the math test and went over the history review. We went out to PE - brisk by pleasant after all the rains - and then when we returned we took our history test. It will take a few days to record this.

Tomorrow I look forward to seeing many of you at the party. Students will be sharing their holiday stories before we start eating, so it should be fun.

Homework: They're way too excited for homework tonight. Enjoy a day off.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Poems

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Reading, Writing, and Raining

Another rainy day! And I remember how much I wanted winter to come when it was so unseasonably hot in October. Be careful for you wish for, I guess. But we sure need the precipitation. At least it we did not have an ice storm. My mother in Maine was without power for 26 hours early this month.

More time on the test today. We took the Vocabulary and Spelling sections, and all the review work that students had done on this worked out well. It may have been the best showing ever on the notoriously difficult vocabulary section. We also did the final drafts of the business plan. I'll be looking at these more carefully soon, but we

On more festive notes, students finished off the acrostic poems they started as homework earlier in the week. I'll scan and post some of these soon. They were good! Students also went to Tech Center where Ms. Richards worked with them on the concept of creating perspective in art. She mentioned that when the students return from break they will be combining some of these Tux Paint pictures to create animated movies in iMovie. It sounds like fun!

Many of our students spent the afternoon with Mr. Lawton getting ready for this evening's performance, so we postponed the math test until tomorrow. The rainy day, of course, did not make our usual Wednesday PE possible. The students did not seem heartbroken to miss running laps, however....

Homework: Tonight students will finish the final drafts of their holiday stories. Most have elected to type their story, though a few chose to hand write it. They should have a front cover with title, name, and illustration. The back cover - that's the green paper - should be blank. We will bind these tomorrow and we will read them on Friday at the party.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Testing, Testing

Today was mostly devoted to beginning the Open Court Unit Two test. Parts of this test frustrate me. For example, one of the items in the Checking Skills section is identifying prepositional phrases. That's a good skill, of course, except that the book itself does not actually cover prepositional phrases until Unit 6. So we started the day discussing that skill in an effort to not lose some easy points. We then went over yesterday's homework - also preparation for the vocabulary and spelling sections of the test. We took, corrected, and discussed the comprehension section of the test.

We then started on the writing section. This one is a bit difficult. It calls for the students to create a business plan, something not many of us have even done in real life. The writing prompt asked the students to develop a business which would make enough money so they could go on a field trip. In the past, I have become painfully aware of how little they grasp how much things cost. It shocks some students to learn that they cannot pay for a trip to Paris with all their friends on the proceeds of a lemonade stand! Really, I am not making that one up! So I provided a bit more framework for the students, and we discussed how much money they might reasonably make and need. We settled on earning about 250 - 300 dollars to pay for a school bus for a day.

Writing the rough draft took longer than I initially expected. Students worked in the time between recess and lunch, and most needed about a half hour after lunch, too. But I was pleased that so many wrote very elaborate compositions full of interesting details.

We finished the day by discussing and correcting yesterday's homework in math and social studies.

Homework: (1) Write a holiday acrostic poem. Each letter of the celebration begins a different phrase which describes some aspect of the holiday. (2) Do vocabulary review sheet. Use the crossword puzzle as needed to help with the meaning of the words. (3) Do Chapter 13 review in Math, pages 256-257.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dreams to Jobs Culmination

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Wet Monday

Wet, wet, wet! But still a productive day.

We spent much of the day today reviewing what we had learned in our Dreams to Jobs Open Court unit. Over the weekend, students did some research on most of the questions on the Concept-Question board. They wrote short reports answering these. Today we took those answers, and the concepts already posted on the board and we put them into four different categories: Business Basics, Starting a Business, Products & Services, and Problems & Possibilities. I then put the students into four groups, and assigned each group to one of these topics. Each group reviewed the concepts and the answered questions in their category. They then put these into a tree map. You can see those tree maps above. Each group also wrote a summary in paragraph form of what they learned, and a couple people from each group also presented their findings to the class.

We did a few other things besides this. We checked and correct homework. We read another chapter of Island. We attended a performance of The Grinch who Stole Christmas starring students from room 17. (A few of room 17's alumni in our class opined that it was better last year.) We read a chapter from the history book and discussed it. We also discussed how to use rounding and estimation in division. And, probably best of all from the students' perspective, we watched The Princess Bride during lunch.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling jumble. This is preparation for the Unit 2 test. (2) Do the crossword puzzle. Again, review for the unit test. (3) Do the history study sheet. (4) Do "Estimating Quotients," Math, pages 254-255.

More Holiday Art

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Staying Busy

Well, there's only a week left before winter break and so much stuff to get done At school, too!

We finishing up our Dreams to Jobs unit, and we will be doing the culminating activities next week. We took the quiz over "Salt" today, as well as a reading skills test. These are graded - they were overall quite good - and I will have them in the gradebook shortly. I collected the rough drafts of the "I-Search" paper, and I will review them over the weekend. We will do the final drafts next week. We started writing holiday picture books. Students will be working on these next week as well. The last week before vacation is a great time for a lot of writing. Helps keep everybody focused and productive.

After recess we took our spelling tests. We also corrected and discussed the math homeowork. After lunch, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins, corrected yesterday's history homework, and went over and discussed the math test. Again, the grades here were really pretty good overall. Thank you parents for all the help you have given out students with multiplication skills. We had a short PE period, but it was a good one. I have been tracking the students during exercises and laps and they are really working harder at their cardiovascular exercises. Coming back to the room, students selected a question from the Concept/Question board to research further over the weekend, and they received their homework.

Homework: (1) Research and answer the question selected from the Concept/Question board. The answer should be at least one paragraph long. Students should also indicate where and how they found the answer. (2) Finish the rough draft of the holiday story. (3) Do "Predict," Math, pages 250-251. (4) Do "Mental Math," pages 252-253. (5) Do the San Miguel Map exercise. This is a handout.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

School Logos

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Busy Thursday

We started out today with our last regularly-scheduled class with Mr. Lawton. The students had worked in pairs to compose songs and song lyrics. Some of these were near perfect, while others needed more work. Mr. Lawton collected these last week, and from all these he chose a couple of the best. The students started learning these songs. It is a pity that they do not have more time to work on them, and Mr. Lawton may give the students an extra period next week so he can record their performances.

Back in the room we finished the final step in our "I-Search" paper. I started to write about this last Friday, but never had an opportunity to finish it. An I-Search paper is an alternative to the traditional research paper. Unlike the usual "research-and-write-about-this-topic" paper, students recount how they learned what they learned. The paper is written in three stages. First students write down what they already know about a topic and why it interests them. Second, students consult a variety of sources - books, magazines, personal interviews, and so forth - to find out more. They write about this in the first person. For example, "I read a book called Being a Pilot. I learned that most pilots get their training in the Air Force...." Third, after doing some research, students write a summary of what they know now and what they would like to learn about the topic in the future.

Our students have already done the first and second steps in this project. We started on the third stage today in class, and they will finish this for homework tonight. We'll review a couple of really good rough drafts in class next week, and we will also do the final draft of the paper next week. For tonight we are just finishing the rough draft.

After recess, we went to an assembly in the auditorium. This featured some man who gave an inspirational talk, sort of a Tony Robbins for nine-year-olds, and did a bunch of yo-yo tricks. It was entertaining, though I am not sure how deeply the message penetrated. I think they will remember the yo-yo tricks more. Apparently part of this program is selling yo-yos and DVDs of yo-yo tricks in case one of our students starts asking for some cash. Mrs. Lee, our coordinator, is in charge of the merchandise for this show.

After lunch we plowed through another chapter of Island. We discussed and read about the rancho period in California history. I demonstrated how to do long division, and we did a whole bunch of problems together in class. We did a simple art project. This was about the color wheel and complementary colors, and the students were supposed to design some kind of emblem or logo for the school using complementary colors. A number of these, such as the ones above, we pretty good. After they finished the art, they got to start on homework.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling scramble. (2) Complete the final part of the I-Search paper about the job or profession. That's the activity I was writing about in the second and third paragraphs of this post. (3) Do "Division," Math, pages 246-249. It is a fair number of problems, but they need to really get comfortable with division procedures fast for us to go on. (4) Do the "Growth of Ranchos" study sheet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Grumpy (and maybe Sneezy, too)

Boo hiss. This was our first Wednesday without Mr. Pratt and our drama class, and our dance program has been put on indefinite hold because of the budget crisis. It just is not the same without a dose of world-class arts instruction first thing on Wednesdays. Plus, I'm not feeling quite up to snuff right now - maybe a touch of the flu or a cold - so the students had a grumpy teacher today. Ask them. They'll agree.

But we still learned some stuff. We did our independent reading and wrote in our journals. We checked, corrected, and discussed our homework. We finished reading the "Salt" story and we discussed it a bit. We had a few extra minutes here, so the students were able to get a head start on a couple homework assignments.

After recess we went to Tech Center. Ms. Richards did more holiday related assignments with the students on the Tux Paint program. This is really a nice little open source program, and it is a free download for both Windows and Mac. Check it out at the program's website. After lunch we took our math test. A few students need to finish this tomorrow morning, so results should be on the gradebook by Friday. We went out to PE. Coming back, we read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We are starting division, and we discussed the idea of remainders and how to make models to illustrate division concepts.

Homework: (1) Do the post-it note page for the "Salt" story. (2) Do the study questions for the same OCR selection. (3) Do "Remainders," Math, pages 232-233. Be sure to make models for numbers 2-9. The rest of the problems can be mental math.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Return to Normalcy

Ah, back to normal for a while. No special schedules, no interrupts. "Normalcy," as Warren Harding put it.

We are pushing to finish the second Open Court unit, Dreams to Jobs, before break. We reviewed the previous stories and added to the Concept/Question board. We also went over the Word Study and Vocabulary for this story. We began reading and discussing "Salt", but we only went about halfway through before we went off to our scheduled book fair time.

After recess, we read another chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins. We also read about and discussed Mexico's war of independence from Spain and how that affected the people in Alta California. We practiced our "Cloud Maiden" play. We will be working on performing that - at least for video - soon.

After lunch, I gave the students another chance to look at the melodrama video. Many of the students saw it yesterday, but a number were at orchestra practice and they wanted to see it, too. (I will need to reedit this for YouTube since it is over 10 minutes. Rats. But the DVD looks great.) We corrected and discussed our math homework. A significant number of the students are still having problems with the multiplication. Please double check their work here.

Homework: (1) Do the spelling sort. We discussed what to do in class. (2) Do the "Prefixes and Suffixes" worksheet. (3) Do the study questions of "Mexican War of Independence". (4) Do the chapter reviews, pages 232-233 in Math.

Monday, December 08, 2008


When parents ask "What did you do in school today?" students usually answer, "Nothing." That's what it sort of felt like for me today.

Today was the orchestra concert day, so close to 40 percent of the class was gone most of the day. It's really hard to start a new story, teach a new skill, or really do anything when so many people are not there. So we had a lot of independent work and free choice kind of activities.

We did correct Friday's math homework, and do a three pages in the OCR workbook. I showed them their melodrama performances which I put on a DVD. We did read a chapter of Island of the Blue Dolphins and we had a short PE. And then in the afternoon we went to an orchestra dress rehearsal. But compared to most days, it felt like nothing.

Of course, the students who went to orchestra probably felt like they were working nonstop! I suppose it's all a matter of perspective.

We did not do anything with the research findings about the job/profession. We'll take the next step with those tomorrow when everybody is back.

Homework: (1) Do the three OCR packet papers -- "Cause and Effect", "Compound Sentences" and "Word Knowledge" "Vocabulary from Context". (2) Do Multiplication Practice, Math, pages 228-229. Do all problems and show all work. (3) Also do "Multi-step Problems, Math, pages 230-231. Problem 1 on 231 does not make any sense unless you read page 230.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Holiday Cards

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The Funnest Day

Today had to be just the best day of the year. I mean, to begin with it was a minimum day. We spent our morning at theater class with Mr. Pratt. Not only did we do our melodramas, but he brought along all kinds of costumes so make it even more fun. All of the groups were videotaped, but I'll need a couple days to get the film edited and posted. Returning to our room, the students made the last entries in their theater journals, and then made colorful covers. I bound them into booklets. I'll be grading these, and sending them home soon. By and large, they're great! (for those of you old enough to remember the voice of Tony the Tiger....)

After lunch we went to Tech Center. The always-wonderful Ms. Richards had the students explore the Tux Paint program today. She gave them the assignment to create some kind of holiday card. The results were amazing! I scanned a couple of them as you can see above. I'll post some more in the next few days.

We had lunch, and then we went over the homework. Many students are still struggling with the multiplication by 2 digits, so they may need a bit a assistance with this at home. Once they get the hang of it, they'll be fine. But they do get a bit confused at this point about the order in which to multiply the numbers.

Homework: (1) Write a sentence for each spelling word. (2) Do "Multiply," Math, pages 224-225. (3) Continue researching the job or profession. Students should have some notes to bring in for this on Friday.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


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Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I was rushing out of here to deal with a sick dog. She went to the vet, and seems to be doing much better now.

We had a very productive day. We did some review work on different types of adjectives for Independent Work Time. We finished reading and discussing "Business is Looking Up." Since this story deal with two children who make nontraditional greeting cards, we also made some cards of our own. Some were normal cards for unexpected categories of people (such as "Happy Holidays" to grandmother's boyfriend) while others were for less common situations (for example, "Glad You're on Parole Now.") You can see some examples above.

After recess we finished this project, and we correct homework. This helped us get ready for the math test, and we took that after lunch. We'll correct that tomorrow and it should be on the gradebook soon. We finished the day by practicing our melodramas. This will be the culmination of our theater sessions with Mr. Pratt. We will get those filmed soon and on the blog.

Also, congratulations to Ricardo for finishing the Marathon reading challenge. We now have four finishers in room 19. We hope to have several more soon!

Homework: (1) Do the Reading Strategies page. This is the one with the post-it notes. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do "Multiply by Two Digits," pages 220-223. We discussed this skill a little yesterday, but some students may need a lot of help here. If they have trouble, concentrate on getting them correct instead of all finished. (4) Continue to research the job or profession they chose last week.