Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We're Jumping!

Once again, we had a wonderful theater class with Mr. Pratt. He was really impressed with how smart and creative our room nineteen students are. Of course, I was hardly surprised….


The students worked quite a bit on group pantomime today. These require pretty intense concentration. For example, in the jump rope pantomime, the two students holding the “rope” had to be working completely in tandem, and the person jumping had to know where the imaginary rope was at all times. Not easy! But our students did it beautifully. 


Fifth graders explored more with mixtures and solutions. They knew that a solution is a special kind of mixture and that the the material in a solution cannot be separated from water by any kind of normal filtration. They knew that that when a material - like kosher salt - is dissolved in water it seems to simply disappear. But what impact does this have on mass? Is the mass of a solution any greater than the mass of the liquid? Since the salt seems to completely disappear, it might seem like the mass of the solution would be the same as the mass of the water. The students were checking this out today.


In the afternoon, we also worked on rhythm activities, particularly doing some fun stuff with meter!

Homework:  (1) Write sentences for spelling words 11-15. (2) Do the spelling word search. (3) Fourth grade math: Do pages 34-35 and Bird Houses on the back of the answer sheet. Note that for Bird Houses some of the answers may be algebraic expressions like “s + 56”. Fifth grade math: Do pages 40-41 and "Find Those Numbers" on the back of the answer sheet. (4) Do Subtraction with Zeros. (5) Fourth grade only:  California Bodies of Water study sheet. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Students will have the opportunity soon to become involved in the orchestra program. It is a great opportunity, but it is a decision that students and parents need to consider carefully. Orchestra is not only a commitment of 30-45 minutes on Tuesdays for class, but also a commitment to practice daily for 15-30 minutes. That may not seem like a lot, but for many students it is just one thing too many. But, for the students who can make that commitment, the ability to play an orchestral instrument and to start playing in an ensemble is just fantastic. 

Our students went to an assembly today where Mr. Mason, our district instrumental music teacher, explained all of this. 


Other than that, a pretty normal Tuesday. Fourth graders continue to be excited by how quickly their plants are growing, and they are getting pretty skilled with metric measurement, too!



Homework:  (1) Write sentences for spelling words 6-10. Cursive is optional this week. (2) Do the spelling crossword puzzle. (3) Do the Holes study sheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 32-33, odd numbers only, plus “Canyon Trip”. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 35-36, odd numbers only, plus “Find a Rule”. (5) Do the Subtraction with Zeros practice paper. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Further Science Adventures

First of all, let me again thank you for the great turn out on Thursday. Parental support is key to educational success. And one of the easiest ways you can support our program is by joining the PTA. Right now room 19 has one of the highest numbers of PTA signups in the school. But if we are number one we can get a cupcake party. I think it’s doable. Look at how far we’ve come. 


Today we continued our Science adventures. Fifth graders are starting on chemistry, particularly looking at mixtures and solutions. Today we mixed various things with water, and then used both a mesh filter and a paper filter to try to separate them. 



Fourth graders measured the growth of the plants in their terrariums. It was not all that much today, but in a couple days you’ll see a lot!


Homework:  (1) Write sentences for spelling words 1-5. Cursive is optional this week. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the Holes study questions for chapters 17-19. (4) Do the “Making Inferences” study sheet. (5) Subtraction worksheet. (6) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 29-31. Just find the exact answer and do not worry about the different and often incomprehensible strategies. Also do “Mental Puzzles” on the back of the answer sheet. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 30-32 and “A Good Cause”. (7) Fifth graders also need to do the questions on page 7 of the Science book. They should copy the questions as well as answering them. This should be done in their Science notebook. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Science and More

Today we had a number of new things. Our fifth graders went to Physical Education with Mrs. Skagg’s class this morning, and apparently Coach Angel gave them a really good workout! Way to go, Coach! While they were doing that, I was working with the fourth graders to help them get ready for their Science class later in the morning. 

We also had our first music class today. Our new music teacher is Mrs. Ashley Phiri. The “h” in her last name is silently, so it sounds like “PEER-ee.” She hails originally from Louisiana, and she taught the students a Cajun song this morning. This helped them learn the Curwen hand signs for “doh”, “me”, and “soh”. I have a feeling this song may also turn into a round or canon later on, too. 


She worked with the students to help them hear and reproduce some pretty complicated rhythmic patterns. I have a feeling that our 12 weeks of music this year are going to be kind of amazing. 


We also started Science today with both grade levels. Fifth grade students are going to be studying mixtures and solutions first. They started today by observing gravel, sand, a diatomaceous earth. Monday we will be adding water to it and straining these substances.


In fourth grade science, we started on our Environments unit. As part of this, the students will be making terrariums. In a couple weeks, they will be adding isopods and beetles to these environments. 


We also checked, corrected, and discussed all our homework. We took the math quiz and the spelling test. In fact, we were so busy we actually ran out of time to do math.

Homework:  Fifth grade has nothing. Fourth graders have a few Science study questions that we did not quite finish in class. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Today we had our first theater class with Mr. Pratt. It was a lot of fun, and the students who were here last year remembered the concepts and vocabulary well!


They worked on pantomime skills today. They told stories through movement. First, they decided what gesture and other movements would convey the story. 


They then “told” their story to a partner, and selected students performed for the whole class.


Other than that, a pretty normal day. We checked, corrected, and discuss homework. We talked about how to round numbers, and why rounding is such an important skill. I am astonished right now at how closely the fifth and fourth grade math work together! Fourth graders learned about latitude and longitude, and fifth graders explored the ideas of customs and traditions in societies. 

Homework:  (1) Do spelling words 11-15. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do "Sequencing Events" and "Matching Antonyms” skill sheets.  (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 24-25 and “Animal Speeds.” Fifth grade math:  Do page 25-27 and “Puzzle Squares.” (5) Do Addition with Regrouping practice Sheets. (6) Fourth grade social studies:  Finish “Regions of California” and "Latitude and Longitude.” Fifth grade social studies:  Finish two paragraph essay on modern American and Native American Customs. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quick Post

Today was the first day for teacher meetings, so it was a short day. We started on a poem writing project, read a couple chapters in Holes, and took math tests. Tomorrow we have theater class!

Homework:  Write spelling words 1-5 either five (fourth grade) or ten (fifth grade) times each in cursive. Write a sentence for each word. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the Holes study guide for chapters 11-13. (4) Do “Classifying Word Groups” and “Syllables” work sheets. (5) Do the final draft of the “I Used To” poem. This should be in cursive. (6) Do Subtraction without Regrouping practice sheet.

Monday, August 18, 2014

First Monday

It’s still hard getting up on these summer mornings, isn’t it? But our first Monday back in school went nicely. We checked and corrected homework and we read and discussed three chapters of Holes. Fourth graders worked on the four areas of California in History, and fifth graders worked on how native peoples adapted to the resources readily available in their regions. Both grades worked on patterns and problem solving in math. And we finished our line art project. 



Homework:  Write spelling words 1-5 either five (fourth grade) or ten (fifth grade) times each in cursive. Write a sentence for each word. (2) Do the Holes study guide for chapters 8-10. (3) Do “Using Long Vowels” and “Finding Base Words” work sheets. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 16-19 and “Separate the Dots.” Fifth grade math:  Do page 15-16, 18-19 and “Gridlock.” (5) Do Addition with Regrouping practice sheet. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quick Post

As our first week comes to an end, let me just say that I think this may be my best class ever. 

We’re doing some work with different types of lines in art. Some of the student work is fabulous. We’ll have more to post on Monday.


I hope to see all of you on Thursday for our orientation. Have a great weekend!

Homework: (1) Do Holes chapter 7 study guide. (2) Fourth grade math:  do pages 14-15 and "The Number Game.” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 12-13 and "Digit Detection."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Talking About Math

There are some good things about the new Common Core State State Standards. One of them is the emphasis on having students not only reason mathematically, but also be able to articulate and defend their mathematical reasoning. Here in room 19 we’re working hard on this. Every day, the students begin math with a reasonably challenging problem designed to help them learn a new concept or skill. They work on the problem with their groups, and then I choose a group at random to come up and explain the problem and how they solved it. Fourth graders, of course, work on fourth grade problem, and fifth graders on fifth grade problem, but  they all find exposure to the other’s grade’s work interesting. Here are some fifth graders explaining different ways of representing rational numbers - as decimals, fractions, and visually.


Homework:  (1) Do Holes study guide for chapters 5 and 6. (2) Do the two skills sheets for Holes. (3) Finish the final draft of the descriptive paragraph. (4) Do the Addition with Regrouping practice sheet. (5) In the fourth grade math book, do pages 11-13 and “Follow the Leader”; in the fifth grade math book, do pages 10-11 and “Relay Races”.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Day, Part II

I think that the second day of school is really the first day of school. It’s the day that the introductions and the pretesting and the discussion about rules and procedures are done … and we really start teaching and learning. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. 

We started in earnest on our language arts activities. When I volunteered to take the split class this year, one of my conditions was that I could skip the Treasures anthologies and work with both grade levels at the same time on challenging and interesting literature. We will be doing both independent reading, or Reader’s Workshop, and whole-class reading, or Core Literature, as part of our balanced literacy program. Our first selection for the latter is Louis Sacher’s Holes. It is a not only a good story, but it offers a great way to explore what the Common Core Standards called “text structures.” 

We continued our work in number theory with both grade levels. In history, fourth graders explored California geography while fifth graders did the same with U.S. geography. We finished off yesterday’s portraits, and most of them were absolutely splendid!





Teaching two grade levels is not as easy as teaching one, but it sometimes forces a teacher to actually teach better. This year we will be doing a great deal of group work. This is often, I have to admit, a bit noisier than I like, but the student-to-student interaction can make for a much richer learning experience. It allows me to also be the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage” as the popular saying has it. 



Homework: (1) Finish the descriptive paragraph. (2) Do the Holes study guide for chapter 1-4. (3) Fourth grade math:  pages 8-9 and “Puzzling Place Values”. (4) Fifth grade math:  pages 7-8 and “Competing Corporations”. (4) Addition with regrouping practice sheet. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Welcome students and families to the 2014-2015 school year. I am delighted to have such a wonderful class this year, and I can tell that this will be both fun and productive. 

As you know, this is a combination class. Working with Dr. Oh and the other fourth and fifth grade teachers, we are making sure that students in both grade levels have the full opportunities to work on grade-level work. My colleagues have made it possible for me to adjust the schedule so that I can have blocks of time to work with only fourth or only fifth grades. We will make sure that fifth graders attend all fifth grade field trips, and I will be coming with them to Astrocamp. 

We worked on a bunch of different things today. We took reading and math pretests. They told me about themselves and their interests. They interviewed each other. We began work on numeration in math. We learned A LOT about class procedures. They had PE. We started doing portraits. 

Please remember that we are having a special class orientation on Thursday, August 21 at 5:00 pm. Older students will be supervised on the yard during that time; feel free to bring the youngest ones to the meeting with you.

Homework:  (1) Finish the letter of introduction. This should be neat and preferably in cursive. (2) Do the Addition without Regrouping worksheet. (3) Fourth grade math:  pages 5-7 and “Changing Places”. (4) Fifth grade math:  do pages 4-5 and “Find the Number”. (5) Please fill out the emergency card and get it in right away. This is essential for ensuring student safety.