Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Poems Experiment Follow-Up

Our experiment with "found poetry" went incredibly well. The students showed they have keen eyes for vivid, poetic language, even when it's hidden in unexpected places.

Just a reminder--the assignment was to find one or two sentences from a magazine or newspaper or book and rewrite it into a poem. They had to use the exact words in the exact order. I thought everyone did a terrific job. I find it fun to watch them experiment with words and lines.

Choosing four to share was, again, difficult, so I will try to feature a few different poets than I did last time...

Found Poem #18 from National Geographic
Arranged by Joshua Jewell

Take me fishing,
so we can
be together
just you
and me.

Take me fishing,
and we'll call
it a date.

Take me fishing,
and we'll have
the boat all to

Take me fishing
and make
me feel



Found Poem #III from National Geographic
Arranged by Alexander Moore

Today I visited an official
"Sculpture Studio"
where I found
Saddam Hussein

riding a horse straight
out of Arabian Nights.


Omarion from The Book of Chris Brown
Arranged by Troi Sparks

Our boy Omarion
May be a superstar
But he does not mind
Sharing the stage with
Superstars. As you know
He just toure and did the
Face off CD. We can't wait
To see whatcha do next, Big O!


The Real Story from National Geographic
Arranged by Noah Ward

Discovery of a
rare diamond in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo sparked
level intrigue.
Then the stone
only to resurface
in New York City.
Tracking the gem revealed
the world of diamonds--
a labyrinth
linking multi-million dollar
mines, bloody
wars, and timeless beauty

Count Day and More

  • Count Day is tomorrow! Please be in school and on time. Thanks so much!!!
  • Milestone 1 is due October 8. For this milestone, students must turn in a list of 6 resources that they plan to use for their interest project. I have a form that I'll send home this week, but if it's just a list of websites and/or books written on a sheet of paper, that's fine, too.
  • Book in a Bag turn-in rate isn't what I'd like it to be yet. All of the students have books. Please make sure that they are reading every night, filling out the form, and returning the form to school every Monday.
  • Speaking of less than 100 percent return rate...Slice of Life stories are due every Monday, too. Please don't forget.
  • We took a unit test in math today. Look for the graded paper to come home by the end of the week.
  • Thanks to all who took the time out of their days for Learning Team Meetings. I felt like they were a great success and that we've got some terrific, individualized learning plans in place. If you haven't met with me yet, please give a call or send an email ASAP.
  • Remember if you haven't checked out our first podcast yet, give it a listen HERE.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guided Reading

Guided Reading groups will start tomorrow. What's a guided reading group? It's a small group of 3-5 students with similar reading abilities. These groups meet with me 3 or more times per week to be guided through a book that's at their "Instructional Level."

Books at their instructional level are books that are just a little too hard for them to comprehend on their own. During our group meetings, I help them prior to reading by providing background information, defining and pronouncing words and names, etc. Then, after reading a short selection, we discuss what we read. That's when I ask comprehension questions to check for understanding.

This is just a summary of what goes on during guided reading. Teachers at UPA have spent MANY valuable hours being trained to teach reading workshop. The framework/program we use is very highly regarded and widely used in districts across the country.

Guided reading is one of my favorite parts of the day. I've never been the reading workshop teacher for any of my students, so I'm definitely looking forward to it. I think it will become one of their favorite parts of the day, too.

Be sure to let me know if you have any questions about Reading Workshop or any of our other academic programs. And speaking of reading, don't forget Book-in-a-Bag worksheets are due this and every Monday!!!

First Podcast of the Year

Sometimes I even impress myself...we've gotten a lot accomplished in just 3 short weeks. One of those things is the production of our first class podcast.

If you're not familiar with podcasts, let me fill you in--they are audio files that can be listened to through your internet browser OR downloaded and played on an MP3 player or iPod. Last year, we were able to put together about 15 of them.

This first podcast episode comes from a class book we made called "The Important Book." Each student created a page for the book. We recorded each child reading their page.

Here's how to listen:
1). Click the title of this post (First Podcast of the Year)
2). Click the LISTEN button or, to save the file, click the DOWNLOAD button.

Are you already a podcast expert? Then be sure to subscribe to our podcast via iTunes. Just search "Radio Free UPrep" in the iTunes store. (Yes, we're so famous, we're on iTunes!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Found Poems: A Poetry Experiment

In class today, we examined “found poems,” poems that are created from sentences that you find, sentences that other people write and that the writer turns into a poem.

Here are two sentences we found in a magazine:

“It’s easy to get lost in this summer scene. With a wooden bench surrounded by blooms an a birdbath, in the distance you could spend hours in this picturesque garden.”

Here’s how we turned it into a poem:

Found Poem #1

Words from Birds & Blooms

Arranged by Room 302

It’s easy

to get lost

in this summer scene

with a wooden bench

surrounded by blooms

and a birdbath. In the distance

you could spend hours in this picturesque


Write TWO found poems. You can find material anywhere. Your job is to arrange it into a poem. Think about things like line breaks, stanzas, sounds, and other poetry “moves.”

Make sure you put “Words from _____” and “Arranged by ____” at the top of your poem so we know where you got your words and who you are!

Due date: Monday, September 28

Monday, September 21, 2009

This Is Just To Say

Last weekend's poetry writing assignment was a huge success. I asked students to write a poem modeled after William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just To Say." Williams was a unique and fascinating poet. He turned observations of everyday life into works of art. If you didn't get a chance to read the original poem, you can see it by clicking here.

I wanted to share a couple of the students' poems. Every one of them did a terrific job, but here are four that stood out:

"This Is Just To Say"
By Alexander

I have eaten
your breakfast
that was on
your bed

and which you
were probably
to eat

Forgive me
it was delicious
so delicious
and not yours.


"This Is Just To Say"
By Justin

I have eaten
the cookies
that were on
the refrigerator

I knew that
I should have
them for my lunch

I was hungry
and too lazy
to make cereal
for my breakfast


"This Is Just To Say"
By Angela

I have taken
your last candy bar
that was
in your store

And which
you were probably
to sell

Forgive me
it was good
so inexpensive
so free


"This Is Just To Say"
By Ileana

I have gone
to the
amusement park that
was in the mall

and which you
were probably
to go to

Forgive me
you would have enjoyed it
so fun
and so exciting


I could go on and on. These were awesome! I look forward to reading more poems soon. Keep an eye out for announcements about future poetry assignments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to School Night and more

Just a couple of quick announcements/reminders...
  • Back to School night is tomorrow (Wednesday) from 5:00-7:00. Come see our new room and get acquainted with the fifth grade curriculum. We'll also be holding a discussion about Exhibitions & Learning Plans.
  • Book-in-a-Bag started this week. Every student has a book, a bag, and a reading log. These things need to travel back and forth every day. We'll be using those books every day during reading workshop.
  • Scholastic Book Club orders are due tomorrow. Remember, you can order online using the link in the sidebar of this blog!
  • Learning Team Meetings will be held next week. I'll start making appointments tomorrow night at Back to School Night.
  • There is no school next Friday, September 25.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Day of Remembrance

I know that my students are too young to remember 9/11/01. And soon I'll be teaching students that weren't even alive on that day. But I've still always thought that it's important to talk about it whenever the anniversary comes around.

In the past I've read some really good picture books, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers and Fireboat. These kicked off some really good discussions. But this year I decided to share a poem with them. It's called "Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100" and it is dedicated to the 43 employees working at the Windows on the World restaurant on that fateful day.

In the last two stanzas, it gets a little complex. We focused on the details in the first two stanzas, and on the change between stanzas two and three, when the poet stops talking about the people and starts talking about the attacks.

Sometimes it's good to read complicated material. I think (and hope) this was a worthwhile activity.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Free Books for the Classroom!

The first Scholastic Book Club order forms were sent home on Tuesday. Money and forms are due to me on Wednesday, the 16th (which is also Back to School night!).

BUT...did you know that the classroom is guaranteed to get free books for our library each time a book order is placed online? Yes, it's true. Ordering online is easy and convenient.

Think you want to give it a try? Click the "Scholastic Book Clubs" link in the sidebar (on the right side of the page). There you'll find the instructions for placing an order. If you have trouble or have questions, please send me an email.

There are some really good (and affordable) books in this month's catalog, including the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Lawn Boy by award winning author Gary Paulsen, No Talking by the popular Andrew Clements, and the hit series The 39 Clues. We'll be doing A LOT of reading this year...stock up now!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Poetry Revolution

As many of you know, I spent five weeks in Chicago this summer at DePaul University. I participated in a conference called "Say Something Wonderful: Teaching the Pleasures of Poetry." Poetry was not something I knew much about prior to this summer. But I learned a lot and am trying to implement as much as I can. I'm not exactly sure how this is going to happen, but we're off to a good start.

Yesterday, we read a silly poem by Dennis Lee called "Alligator Pie." The kids liked this one a lot. We spent a few minutes discussing it and then I asked students to write their own version. They've done well with this, although a number of them have yet to turn them in.

Today, we read one of my favorite poems, "Dreams," by one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes. If you aren't familiar with it, here it is:

By Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

After reading it, I asked some questions such as:
  • How many stanzas does this poem have?
  • What are the metaphors?
  • What parts are repeated? Does the repeated part change in any way?
  • What words don't you know?
  • Do any words have more than one possible meaning?
The students responded to this activity very enthusiastically. Some even noticed things about the poem that I hadn't noticed before!

My goal is to use poems regularly to teach analytic thinking, grammar, vocabulary, and other important comprehension skills. As we come across great poems, I'll pass them along through the blog so the discussion can continue at home.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Special Guest on the First Day

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, you might have heard about President Obama's speech to America's schoolchildren today. I'll spare you a rant about how silly I think all the "controversy" surrounding the speech is and just say that I thought it was wonderful timing, today being the first day of school and all.

I broadcast the speech live and I was proud to be part of a historic event. I hope the students took something from his powerful, important message.

In case you're interested in hearing the speech, here it is:

Stay tuned to the blog for more info about the start of the school year. I'll be posting more very soon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Switching Over

I've been working on combining the class website and the class blog. I think having two different sites is a bit cumbersome. It takes a lot of time to maintain both for me, and it takes too much time for parents and students to switch between the two.

So, I'm using this blog as the main classroom site this year. I've added some things to the sidebar that I think you'll find useful, such as links about homework and links about Everyday Math. And of course, you can access the class wiki, which is mainly for student use, through the link in the sidebar, too.

As always, I'll continue to add things as we go along. And I'll let you know of the changes as I make them.

If you haven't subscribed to the blog yet or if you have a second email address (or third) where you'd like blog updates to be delivered, use the form on the side.

Happy reading!