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. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Sometimes we have to teach more than just language arts and math, science and history. There’s that “other side of the report card” that deals with social skills and work habits. So one of the things we worked on today was learning to organize our materials. The students sorted out and turned in the completed math units, and the fourth graders received special folders for Science and History. Fifth graders already have Science notebooks. It took a little longer than I’d have liked, but the desks no longer look so much like Florida trailer parks after the latest hurricane.


In Math today the fourth graded focused on the distributive property of multiplication while fifth graders learned about exponents. In fifth science today we explored the concept of saturation. The students took 50 mL of water and placed it in a small bottle. They added salt 5 cc at a time until the the salt would no longer dissolve. They took careful notes of this, and tomorrow they will be filtering and weighing the saline solutions. 


Fourth graders will be doing one of my favorite investigations of the year tomorrow - isopods and darkling beetles. They will be exploring the environmental preferences of the creatures, and to get ready for that activity they made “runways” today. This was also a remarkably good activity for learning to follow written directions. 


In music today - our classroom music, that is, - we studied body percussion. This is a standard technique in Orff Schulwerk for teaching rhythm. The children use their bodies as musical instruments with four major movements:  the snap,


the clap


the “patsch" or pat,


and the stomp.


The students practiced these to a jump rope rhyme, and then started adding body percussion to their food chants. They will be performing these for the other students in the class soon!

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 16-20 in cursive and write a sentence for each word. (2) Do the spelling word search. (3) Do the Three Times One practice sheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 65-67 plus “Moonbeam Multiplication” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 66-67 plus “Writing Large Numbers” (5) Fourth grade history:  Do Natural Resources study sheet. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


We missed Tech Center yesterday because of Back-to-School Breakfast, but Mr. Seagren was kind enough to give us a chance to make it up today. After reviewing all the important stuff about the Internet and searching, the students did an Internet treasure hunt. They had a lot of fun with this, as you can see!


Almost right after this, we went to the auditorium for theater class with Mr. Pratt. He is working with the students not only on their acting skills, but also with their ability to provide each other with positive and constructive feedback. Here two students are getting ready to positively critique their peers after the pantomime warm-up. 


The big lesson for the day was learning to create “machines,” a classic theater game. This group was assigned to create a machine based on the Cinderella story. 


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 11-15 in cursive plus sentences for each one. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 62-63 plus “How Does Your Garden Grow?” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 64-65 plus “Store Smarts.” (4) Do Expanded Form worksheet. (5) Fourth grade history:  Do Natural Resources study sheet. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Back to School Breakfast

It was fantastic to have such a great turn out at Back-to-School Breakfast this morning. I enjoyed talking to so many parents and sharing what a great class we have this year in room 19.

As typical of these kinds of days, the students were more than a little hyper. So we did mostly pretty focused activities in language arts, math, and social studies. The students illustrated a favorite scene from Holes. We focused on multiplication concepts and skills. Fifth graders learned to outline a text as a way to identify how nonfiction texts are put together in Social Studies and other content areas. Fourth graders studied California’s natural resources. 

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 in cursive and write a sentence for each word. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Complete the illustration for the selected scene of Holes. (4) Do the Three Times One practice sheet. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 60-61 and “Patterns, Patterns” on the back of the answer sheet. Fifth grade math:  Do pages 61-62, odd only, and “Zoo Trivia” on the back of the answer sheet. 

Monday, September 08, 2014


We spent the morning reviewing the first part of Holes. The students worked in partners to create Jeopardy™ questions over the story. We will be playing the games tomorrow after Back-to-School Breakfast.


Both grades are working - at slightly different conceptual levels, of course - on multiplication. Fifth graders spent some time discussing the experiments we have done and reading some review material about mixtures in the Science book. Fourth graders make maps of California’s different regions.


In music the students are developing their rhythmic awareness through word chants. They will be using these later to learn body percussion as well. 


Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 in cursive plus sentences for each one. (2) Do Synonyms and Determining Feelings worksheets. (3) Do Two Times One practice sheet. (4) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 57-59 plus Hurray Array on the back of the answer sheet.  Fifth grade math:  Do pages 52 and 53 as "Rival Restaurants" on the back of the answer sheet. 

Friday, September 05, 2014


Today was a pretty active day, and by the end of it the teacher was definitely ready for everybody to go home to their loving parents. We started out with our first trip to the library. We have a new librarian who seems quite efficient. Students looked for free reading books


and most checked out a couple volumes.


We returned briefly to the room to check some homework, then headed off to music. Mrs. Phiri is working with the students to help them develop pitch awareness and solfege skills. She is also working on developing an understanding of beat and rhythm, often combining it with creative movement. 


Today in Science the fifth graders were separating mixtures. 


Thanks to Mrs. Cha, Mrs. Choi, Mr. Kitiyama, and, of course, the fabulous Coach Angel, our fourth grade students have an amazing Physical Education program. It’s so great than many of our fifth grade students have chosen to participate in it as well. The students receive an superb mix of games and fitness activities like hula hoop


and sit ups.


The day ended with a fire drill - a monthly legal requirement even if it was way too hot out there to be hearing announcements.

Homework:  Fourth grade math:  Do pages 44-46 and 48-49 plus “Flying High.” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 54-55 plus “Dog Wash.” Some fourth grade students may still need to finish the desert questions from Science. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Quick, Late Entry

Sorry for the late posting. Some friends invited me to their box at the Bowl, and I had to leave early. Along the way I neglected to post the blog, at least the homework.

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 11-15 ten times each in cursive and write a sentence for each word. (2) Do spelling word search. (3) Write final draft of story. (4) Do Holes study questions. (5) Do the Two Times One practice sheet. (6) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 42-43 plus “Transportation.” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 52-53 plus “Which Property.”

Some students also need to finish their class work in History. Fourth graders were doing the Weather and Climate questions. Fifth graders were writing their “Winter Count” stories.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


It was a bit of an artsy day today in room 19. After checking, correcting, and discussing homework, we went over to the auditorium for theater class with Mr. Pratt. As usual, he was great and our students were outstanding. Theater class always begins with a warm up routine set to “Be Our Guest.” The students love it, and each week they compete to see who will lead the warm up the following week. Starting this week, instead of having the teacher provide positive feedback to the class for exemplary work in pantomime, he asked the students to do this. And, no surprise, they were both perceptive and articulate in their evaluations. 


A little later in the class, Mr. Pratt led them through another classic theater game, the “walk about.” 


Our fifth grade students worked more on their "Winter Counts” that we talked about yesterday. 


Last week, we started on an art project where the students could only use polygons and straight lines. Most of the students finished it today. Again, we had some outstanding work. 



Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 6-10 in cursive and write sentences for each. (2) Do the spelling crossword. (3) Do the Holes reading skill sheet. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 40-41 plus “So Many Decisions.” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 43-44, 46-47 and “Zoo Clues.” (5) Do the Two Times One practice sheet.  

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Winter Counts

Today was our first day of Tech Center this year. As many of you know, we have a new company called Planet Bravo running the Tech Center this year. The new teacher is Scott Seagren. He likes to be called Mr. Scott even if that does sort of makes him sound like he cuts hair. He is quite personable and very, very smart, and I am sure we are going to have a fantastic year in Tech Center.


Our interested fourth graders and fifth graders went off to orchestra today to talk with Mr. Mason about which instruments they would like to play. It was not completely easy to be teaching with students coming and going all day, but I think orchestra is a very valuable experience for the students who can fit the time to practice into their busy schedules. 

Our fifth graders were studying a bit about the Yanktonai peoples of the Great Plains and the “winter count” designs they made on buffalo hides to chronicle important moments in their tribal life.

Winter Count

The students will be making their own “winter counts” over the next couple days - happily using paper instead of hides. We’ll be featuring those on the blog soon!

Homework:  (1) Write spelling words 1-5 in cursive and write sentences for each. (2) Do the spelling jumble. (3) Do the Holes study questions. (4) Do the Classifying Words and Cloze Reading skill sheets. (5) Fourth grade math:  Do pages 38-39 plus “Use Your Head.” Fifth grade math:  Do pages 40-41 and “Find those Numbers.” (6) Subtraction with Zeros practice sheet.