Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gray but OK


Another rainy day … but a fairly pleasant one. The fifth graders, or at least most of them, spent a good deal of time getting ready for tomorrow’s performance of MacBeth. The rest of us started off the day in Tech Center where Mr. Seagren went over some of the things that can be done in Google Sites. We watched an animated version of “the Scottish play” so that we can understand what is happening when we watch our classmates tomorrow. We corrected and discussed our homework. I gave the students time to work on their book reports. They are doing, in case you have not yet seen them, book jackets for the books they read. We watched a movie during lunch time - some lame yet oddly entertaining Tim Allen film from the 80’s - while working on homework. With luck, they should not have much to do tonight.

Homework:  (1) Write words in cursive and do sentences for words 6-10. (2) Do the jumble. (3) Finish the book jacket. (4) Do “Adding Fractions 2.” (5) Fourth grade history:  finish the diseño. Fifth grade science:  finish creating the vocabulary crossword. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Three Day

Our day began in Tech Center. Students did some relatively interesting programming exercises as this is “national coding week” or something of that sort.

Later in the morning, Mr. Alberson worked with them to create three dimensional paper pieces. 


We finished the day with reading buddies. 


Homework:  (1) Spelling practice and words 6-10. (2) Jumble. (3) Equivalent Fractions and Simplest Form worksheet. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Toy Drive

As you can see, our contributions to the Third Street Toy Drive are off to a good start.


Making students aware of their responsibilities to the less-fortunate members of our city is as important I think as helping them to learn long division or write coherent arguments. And our students have already shown themselves to be deeply compassionate people - well, most of the time - as they work with each other and younger students.

It was a pretty ordinary Monday. The students started with Journal and writing. We went over how to locate fractions on a number line, a particular obsession of modern test makers. We read another chapter, and quite a good one, of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In our grade level blocks, fourth graders explored more about the mission era and how it ended, while fifth graders looked more about both European colonization and chemical reactions.

Homework:  (1) Write the spelling words in cursive and do sentences for words 1-5. (2) Do the Lion, Witch packet for chapter 14. (3) Do the Equivalent Fractions and Simplest Form worksheets. (4) Do the Fractions on a Number Line assignment. This is taken from supplemental Common Core materials rather than from either one of the grade-level books. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sunshine Again

It stopped raining! Yes! The students got to go to recess and lunch recess! Yes, Yes, Yes!

We had a great day today. We started off with writing, and then we read and discuss another chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Most fifth graders went to the AstroCamp assembly. Fifth graders also worked on the role of charter companies in the colonization process. Fourth graders studied both the Mexican War of Independence and completed their food webs. They look particularly great this year!


Today we started split recesses. This will give me more time to work with each grade level independently. And it’s really nice to have long stretches of time with only 12 or 18 students. That advantage makes the extra work of two grade levels worthwhile. 

Homework:  (1) Do the cursive practice as usual and write sentences for words 16-20. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do chapter 13 of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (4) Do the Dividing Money practice sheet. (5) Work on the Equivalent Fractions paper. Both groups are using the fifth grade text today in math. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Rain, Rain

I know we’re in the middle of a historic drought and all, but I frankly wish it could have rained last week instead of today. Nevertheless, we made it through rainy day schedule with only moderate teacher grumpiness and student craziness.

Most of the fifth graders were working with Mr. Pratt today on MacBeth. Parents, please make sure you can attend this performance. It promises to be amazing.

Homework: (1) Write spelling words twice in cursive. Write sentences for words 6-10. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the division of money worksheet. Pay particular attention to remainders:  should you round the penny up or down?

Monday, December 01, 2014

Welcome Back

I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving Break. I wish mine had been two weeks - I had more than a week of stuff to do around the house. But it was great to see all the students again. We had a nice day. We worked on narrative writing. We read and discussed another chapter inThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Fifth graders did studied chemical reactions and the creation of precipitate using vinegar and chalk. Fourth graders started work on a mission project. More on that later.

Homework:  (1) Write all spelling words twice in cursive. Write good sentences for words 1-5. This should also be in cursive. (2) Divide all spelling words into syllables. This should be done in printing to make it clearer. (3) Complete the Lion, Witch, Wardrobe activities for chapter 11. (4) Do Dividing Money practice sheet. Show all work. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 182-184 and 185-186. There will be a test tomorrow over chapter 7. Fifth grade math:  Do the Common Core Practice papers. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Parent conferences continue this week, and it has been a pleasure to see almost everybody so far. 

We took a break from our usual activities today to do some art. We reviewed our discussion of color, and this time we turned our attention from primary and opposing colors to a monochromatic color palate. The students did a winter scene using tempera. It was a messy project, but the results were often lovely.




Homework:  (1) Write spelling words two times each in cursive. Write a sentence for words 11-15. (2) Do the spelling word search. (3) Write a précis for a children’s holiday story. There should be one paragraph discussing the main character in the story. There should be another paragraph describing the problem and explaining how the main protagonist will solve it. (4) Do the Factors practice sheet.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2014



Today was a theatrical day! Our students performed their melodramas for Mr. Pratt. This is the culminating project of this session of theater arts. We had practiced a lot in class as well as on Wednesdays and it showed. The students were great! In fact, Mr. Pratt had some of our students come back and perform for the other classes to show them how it should be done! Unfortunately, he kept me busy too with coaching and assessing the performances. I somehow did not get a chance to even take some photographs. I’m hoping he’ll create some time before Winter Break so I can actually record the productions so we have them available for parents to see.

Otherwise … just all the usual stuff.

Homework:  (1) Write all spelling words twice in cursive. Write sentences for words 11-15. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Finish the packet for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This was handed out Tuesday. (4) Fourth grade history:  do the “Alta California” study sheet. Fifth grade history:   Read and outline pages 26-29. (5) Do the “Multiplying Money” practice sheet. (6) Fourth grade math:  do pages 165-166. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 175-176.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Positive and Negative

Today we started out in the Tech Center. Mr. Seagren spoke to the students about cyberbullying. They seemed to mostly understand what he was talking about and why it is important.

After recess, Mr. Alberson, the district art teacher, taught a lesson about positive and negative spaces in art. The students looked at a number of works including some fun ones by M. C. Escher. Then they created their own works using construction paper.



We also listened to another chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We checked and corrected homework. And we practiced our melodramas a bit. We ended the day with reading buddies.

Homework: (1) Write all spelling words twice. Do sentences for word 6-10. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Start on the reading packet for the novel. This will be due THURSDAY. (4) Do Making Change. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 162-163. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 165-166 and 168-169. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Back in California

A big thank you to Mr. Halpern for taking the class while I was back east dealing with my mother’s health problems. He said the class was great … but of course I knew they would be. Another big thank you to Sarah and Evan for spearheading the Halloween party. The decorations were so cute! If anybody has any pictures, I’d be delighted to post a few.

Homework:  (1) Write all spelling words two times each in cursive and write a sentence for each word. (2) Divide the words into syllables. (3) Do the “Multiplying Money” practice sheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 160-161. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 162-163.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Line and Color

Today we started out in Tech Center when our computer teacher, Mr. Scott Seagren, discussed “netiquette” and the students started to create a PowerPoint on what they thought good netiquette is. 

After recess, we finished up an art project with Mr. Bret Alberson, a district art specialist, about line, shape, and color. Some of these abstract pieces are really fantastic, aren’t they?

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Homework:  (1) Write all words in cursive two times. Write sentences for words 6-10. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the “Making Change” practice sheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 148-149. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 154-155.

Many fourth graders will also need to finish the “Newcomers from Mexico” study sheet. They had about a 30 minutes to start this in class. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday, Monday

Today we started a new book as we are finally finished with Holes. We will be reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe carefully to really study the elements of story construction. The students enjoyed reading it today, and some of them even tried a bit of a British accent!

Homework:  (1) Write all the spelling words two times each in cursive. Write sentences for words 1-5 only. (2) Divide all the words into syllables on a separate paper. This can be in printing. (3) Do The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe packet. It’s not quite as much work as it looks, and the students had time to start on it in class. (4) Do the Three times Three paper. (5) By some weird coincidence, both fourth and fifth grades are working on pages 146 and 147 in their respective books. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Some Scenes from Today's Field Trip

The students had a great time riding the metro. For some of them, it was their first time on the subway.


We had two amazing docents who explained the history of the founding of Los Angeles to us.


The students learned about King Carlos of Spain who sent the soldiers and Franciscan missionaries to settle Alta California.

King Carlos

We had a chance to look into the oldest house in Los Angeles, the Avila Abode.


The Day of the Dead, de dia de los muertos, is coming up, and there were already some decorations.


After an hour of learning, the students got to go shopping!


And after all that shopping, lunch was a welcome treat.


And soon it was time to go back to school with a few new treasures.


Homework:  Enjoy a free day!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We're Shakin'

Today was the big statewide earthquake drill and we observed it in room 19 by practicing our drop, cover, and hold skills.


After that, we had to go out to the yard where we waited until the staff practiced the search and rescue and request and reunion procedures. And there were a bunch of announcements, too. It was boring….


We mostly finished up the mandated reading and math tests today. That was boring, too. But tomorrow will bring music and fifth grade PE. 

Homework:  (1) Do the spelling word search in lieu of the cursive. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do the Factors worksheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 124-135. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 136-137. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mostly Dull

It was a mostly boring day. We had to work on district-mandated literacy and math tests today. These are supposedly “aligned to the Common Core standards”, but they don’t bear much resemblance to the actual materials in our text books. If you haven’t had a chance yet, look at Steve Lopez’s column in today’s Times to hear more about the mismatch of curriculum and materials in our district. 

We did have one bright spot. We worked with Mr. Pratt today in theater class doing story improvisation. The students took the classic fable of Fox and Crow and turned it into a short play. Our kids were great! Mr. Pratt asked several of them to stay behind to model it for the students in room 12. 


Homework:  (1) Do spelling words 11-15. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the Division with Remainders sheet. Some of the students also need to finish the rough draft of the narrative - check with your child. 



Monday, October 13, 2014


Sort of an uneventful Monday. We did our usual Reader’s Workshop. We corrected some math tests.We went to the library. In math, we looked at equalities and the order of operations.  Fifth graders presented some more of their Native American reports. We finished off Holes today. Everybody agreed it was great.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 fives times each and a sentence for each. All should be in cursive. (2) Do “Writing a Journal Sample” and “Recalling a Character”. Be sure to use the text of Holes for specific details. (3) Do Division with a Remainder. Show all work. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 120-121 and “Change Challenge”. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 124-126 and “Parentheses”. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Quickly Went By

Tuesdays go by quickly and today seemed to go by particularly fast. We started out the day in Tech Center where the students continued practicing their typing skills. A few of them are typing over 25 words per minutes. Impressive, isn’t it? After recess, we did math. Today we talked a lot about what it means to work effectively in a group before math time, and when the time for group work came one group agreed to be filmed so that we can evaluate their performance tomorrow. With both fourth and fifth grades, I spent time during the grade-level instructional time getting them ready for Thursday’s field trip as well as doing some specific activities related to either Native Americans or the native peoples of California. And, of course, we enjoyed our time with our reading buddies from room 2.


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 five times each plus a sentence in cursive. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Fourth grade History and Science: Read “What’s the Catch?” and do “The Coast” study sheet. Fifth grade History and Science:  Read “What’s the Catch?” and continue work on PowerPoint. (4) Do No Remainders worksheet. Show all work. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 104-105 plus “Roll Out”. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 115-116 plus “Family”. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Back on Line

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’m sorry if this caused any confusion with the homework. As many of you know, I’ve been dealing with trying to deal with getting my 91 year old mother’s finances in order in case she needs to be placed into a nursing home or becomes completely confused. It’s been overwhelming, and I still have at least one more trip back to Maine to help get things arranged.

The students did a great job with Mr. Halpern last week, and he reported that he would love to come back any time to such a delightful class. I know what he means. They are great indeed.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 five times each in cursive and write a sentence for each in cursive. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the Holes study guide. (4) Do the Four Times Two practice paper. Be sure to show all work. (5) Fourth grade history:  Do the Early peoples study sheet. Fifth grade history:  Be ready to tell your legend or folktale tomorrow. Please have the PowerPoint on your native people ready by Friday. (6) Fourth grade math:  do pages 101-102. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 112-113.

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Change

As we usually do, we went to the library today. Baseball books are a consuming interest for the boys as we get closer to the World Series. 


One of our school’s instructional focuses this year is helping students ask questions. We are using an approach that has been successful in the Boston Public Schools. This book, Make Just One Change, is about the methods that have been so successful there. We tried it out for the first time in room 19, and I must say I was impressed by the quality of the questions that the students generated. 

One Change

During our lunch time grade level blocks, the fifth graders worked on their Native Americans I-Search papers. The fourth graders painted their maps of California. Note that these are not regular relief maps:  instead the students are identifying significant regions of California instead of only elevation. 


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 in cursive and write a sentence for each word as well. (2) Do the Holes study guide for chapters 37-39. (3) Do the "Choosing Correct Meanings" skill sheet. (4) Do the Three Times Two practice paper. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 90-91 and “In the Blink of an Eye”. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 93-94 and “Dividing Avocados”. 

Friday, September 26, 2014


Goop is good! Today while the fifth graders went to Active Play with Coach Angel, the fourth graders worked on relief maps on California. We used “clay” made out of flour, salt, and water. You simply cannot understate how much they loved getting their hands all sticky and messy. 


We will be perfecting the relief maps next week. They don’t look like much now, but we will be making sure the details are perfect next week as well as painting them. 


We had barely cleaned up from this when it was time for music class with Mrs Phiri. The students are learning to sight sing using solfeggio. I must say, I am really impressed. Plus she is taking that learning and having them perform songs and other pieces growing out of the Orff Schulwerk tradition. Being trained in Orff myself, I love to see that!


During our grade-level blocks today, the fifth grader worked more on their Native American reports. The fourth graders, focusing a bit on work and social skills, had to clean up the mess they had made of the outside tables when they made their maps. And you know what the strange thing was? They enjoyed cleaning up almost as much as making the mess! Maybe that will work at home, too. Or then again maybe not….

All the students went to Physical Education. Mrs. Cha as usual is building up their fitness - but in a fun way. 


Finally we ended the day with more Hands-on Equations. It’s really starting to click now and they are eagerly solving for single variables. 


Homework:  Do the "What’s X?" and "Three Times Two" practice sheets. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Busy and Productive

Today we had theater class. Mr Pratt worked on the tableaux that the student started last week. But this time they learned to add some dialogue to their staging of classic fairy tales. Here is one group doing a bit of Snow White. The evil queen is asking, “Who is the fairest of the all?” while the smart alec mirror replies, “Snow White. You’re ugly!"


After theater, we came back to class and read a couple chapters of Holes. The students learn the concept of dramatic irony today from our reading. It’s amazing how much more they learn from real literature than from basal readers! 

We continued our work on rhythm. The students first learned to hear and feel rhythm in words in their food chants. They then learned how to express that rhythm with body percussion. Today we added unhitched percussion and encouraged them to be able to reproduce the rhythm without the words. We practice outside because otherwise the noise would have been way too much!


During the Science/Social Studies block, our fifth graders did research on a legend or myth of the North American tribe they are researching. They will learn this by heart over the next week or so and then tell the story from memory to the class. The fourth graders had less fun - they took a test.


In the afternoon, our physical education period was cut short by a lock down drill. The students were left a little restless for the afternoon and the teacher a trifle irritable as well. Nevertheless, we had our third Hands-on Equations lesson and I am pleased to say they are now learning to not only simplify by subtracting variables but also numeric values. I’m not sure I did that until eighth grade!

Homework:  (1) Do the Holes study guide. (2) Do the Pronunciation Key and Alphabetical Order skills sheets. (3) Do the (very easy) division practice sheet. 

To all of you who celebrate the holiday, l’shana tovah! For everybody, enjoy the day off and see you Friday!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


We started the day in the Tech Center. The students were given special gMail accounts that will allow them to access a special typing program. They learned how to log on today and started a lesson. This will be mostly work they do at home in technology, but it’s a great program!


In math we continued with the Hands-on Equations program. Students learned how to solve problems like 4x = 3x + 4 using the pieces and the cubes. We’ll be continuing with this through the week. 


 The fifth graders looked at crystals from the saline solutions they created the other day, observing the differences between ordinary salt and epsom salts. 


Finally, we started reading buddies with students from room 2, Mr. Ricker’s class. It was fun!


Homework:  Very light today! Sorry, homework addicts. Only the Two times Two practice paper.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hands On!

The students seem to have survived their first substitute day quite intact. He wrote a great note about them - of course - so I’m rewarding them with a week without spelling! (Of course, that relieves me of the work of putting a list together on Monday morning, but let’s not focus on that….)

We had a pretty ordinary Monday. We went to the library.


A bit later, the fifth graders reviewed the results of their kosher salt and epsom salt solutions investigation. They then decided they needed to look at the crystals left after evaporation to learn more about the difference between these two kinds of salts. So they put some of the solutions in evaporating dishes.


In the afternoon, we began working on the Hands-on-Equations program to help the students learn algebra. This is a fun way to do it. We will be working with these materials over the next few days, so you will be reading more about it.


Homework:  (1) Finish the final draft of the fairy tale. Students had about 50 minutes to edit their rough drafts and start the final drafts in class, but some did not make as much progress as others. The final draft needs to not only tell the story accurately, but also needs to have good description, dialogue, and correct paragraphing. (2) Do the storyboard to go along with the fairy tale. It should be in four sections for exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. (3)  Do the Two Times One practice sheet. (4) Fifth grade Science:  Finish reading pages 18 and 19. Define all the words in bold on pages 16-19. Copy the questions on pages 19 and answer in complete sentences. (5) Fourth grade history:  If necessary, finish the social studies review questions for the upcoming test. 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Getting Cooler

The weather cooled down today, and everybody was grateful in room nineteen - particularly the teacher! I do love the children even more when I can send them off to recess and PE! 

We had a productive day today. We started off with independent reading and journaling. The students are getting great at asking themselves good questions as they read. We checked, corrected, and discussed our homework. After our new early recess, we continued with Holes. I tried a bit of inductive literature study with them today. I asked them to find at least five references in the novel to water, and to explain on the basis of those citations what water means in the story. I had some surprisingly good answers. Several of the children were keenly aware of how water is functions as a symbol of power in the novel. I bet many undergraduates would have missed that!

In Science today the fifth graders continued looking at solutions and the limits of saturation. This time they explored how epsom salts dissolved in water and contrasted that with the solubility of regular salt. The also measured how much each kind of salt, even though invisible in the water, increases the total volume within a cylinder. There’s some pretty amazing learning going on there!



Homework: (1) Write spelling words 16-20 in cursive and write a sentence for each. Use the proper paper, please! (2) Do the spelling word search.(3) Do the Holes study sheet for chapters 31to 33. Be sure to use complete sentences. Many questions need to be answers in multiple sentences. (4)Do “Evaluating What You Read.” (5) Do the Expanded Form worksheet. (6) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 78-79 plus “Tables That Rule.” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 87-88, evn only, plus “One Digit Divisors.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Quick Post

Late update…. Sorry. I had to rush home today.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 in cursive and write a sentence for each word. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the Four Times One practice sheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 74-75. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 80-81.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Stuff

Our new recess schedule began today. This is part of the Breakfast-in-the-Classroom program our superintendent has been implementing. As we are not a Title One school, we are not obliged to have meals in the classes every day, and the loss of instructional time that goes with that, but we have to change our recess schedules so that there are two hours between “nutrition” and lunch. So our new recess is from 9:10 to 9:30. Weird.

We also had our new library time today. This was changed because of the fifth grade PE schedule so we could all use the library. Thank you, Mrs. Singh, for being so accommodating!


With our books, we started Reader’s Workshop, a period of independent reading each day. This will be a regular feature of almost every day from now on. 

Fifth graders did more with their saline solutions today. They filtered the hyper saturated solutions so that the extra salt was filtered out. Then the weighed the 50 mL of salt water against the 50 mL of fresh water and were astonished to observe just how much heavier the salt water was! They added gram pieces to the fresh water to until the two liquids balanced. This allowed them to discover the exact weight of the salt in their water.


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 in cursive and write a sentence for each word. (2) Do the Holes study guide for chapters 29-30. (3) Do Cause and Effect skill sheet for Holes. (4) Do Three times One practice paper. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 71-72 and “Babysitting.”  Fifth grade math:  Do pages 78-79 and “Using Patterns."

Do the Quick Review and Problem of the Day. Do Guided Practice on page

Friday, September 12, 2014


Today was the day the fourth graders got their bugs! In fourth grade science, our first unit is Environments. Three weeks ago, we made our terrariums to help understand how plants are part of an environment. Now with these live organisms, we are exploring how animals are also part of the environment.

While the fifth grade students went off to Active Play with Coach Angel, the fourth grade students worked in small groups with tenebrio beetles and isopods. Technically, as one of the students already knew, isopods are crustaceans and not insects. But who needs to be technical when things are crawling around in the dirt


or on your finger!


The students are exploring the environment preferences of the two species. They looked at dry and moist soil today. They will explore light and dark on Monday.

We took our spelling test next, and Miss Martha is still grading those for us. After that, we went to music with Mrs. Phiri. The students learned more about rhythmic notation and solfege as well as doing a really cool rhythm poem about the beach. 


We went to second recess today. After that, the students took their math skills test, and they did fabulously well - almost all 4’s. When the fourth graders went to lunch, the fifth graders to went to the library to pick a tribe for research project. 


In the after noon, the fourth graders went off to PE. Both grade levels are exploring problem solving in math. One of the cool things, I’m discovering, is that not only are the fourth graders exposed to the fifth grade material, but I can challenge the fifth grade students to bring an extra dimension to the fourth grade work. For example, today the fourth graders did a problem to figure out how much five people would pay for a movie and parking. I challenged the fifth graders to take the information that the fourth graders had ably put in tabular form and to turn it into an algebraic expression. It took some prompting, but we finally came up with 10 + 6x!

Homework:  (1) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 68-69 plus “What Number am I?” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 69-40, 72-73 plus “Ice Cream Parlor Sense.” (2) Fifth grade History: Read the book on the selected tribe and write a list of at least 20 facts about them. (3) Fourth grade science:  Do “Isopods and Beetles” study sheet.