Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Google Maps Ready

One thing I forgot to do was create maps for the Google Map enrichment project. However, I just did that for all students. So if they want to work on this fun project, it should be all set.

If you need a reminder of the instructions for the project or help/tips, those can be found on the blog. Just scroll down below this post.

Have fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Google Map Help

If you're working on the Google Map enrichment project over the break, here is a tutorial video that might help:

Christmas Break Work

I sent home a note today about work for Christmas Break. Sometimes these things don't make it home, so here's a copy of exactly what the note contained:

Homework for Christmas Break:

Finish Book Club book and be prepared to discuss it and start a book project when you return to school. Also, continue discussing your Book Club book on Edmodo by posting questions, responses, and comments.

Here’s a great enrichment activity about the book we just finished, The Maze of Bones, using Google Maps. Google Maps is something the students are familiar with. What I want them to do is create a Google Map of the places Dan and Amy visit in the book.

The following places should be on the map:

Boston, Massachusetts
Dan and Amy’s hometown
Bristol, Massachusetts
Location of Grace’s mansion
Fairmont Copley Square Hotel, Boston
Where Irina met with the Kabras
Library Company of Philadelphia
Dan and Amy did Franklin research here
Franklin Institute, Philadelphia
Scene of the explosion
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
Dan and Amy met with Mr. McIntyre
Charles DeGaull Airport, France
Where Dan and Amy’s plane lands
Ile St. Louis, Paris
The cemetery in Paris was located here
Catcombs of Paris
The Maze of Bones!
St. Pierre Church of Montmartre
Church where Amy climbs to the lightning rod

Here’s what to do:

1.     1. Go to
2.    2.  Log in with email/username curran302 and password 302302302
3.     3. Click “My Maps”
4.     4. Click the Maze of Bones map with your initials next to it
5.    5.  Search for each of the places in the table
6.    6.  Save them to your map by clicking on them, clicking “save to” and choosing your map.
7.     7. Add the notes from the table to each of the placemarks (To do this, click “My Maps” then click the name of your map, then click the “Edit” button and then click the name of the place and type your note in the bubble).

Want to do more?  Search using Google for facts about each of the places and add those to your notes for each place. OR Change the icons to images from like we did in class or think of other ways to make your map more awesome!
If you have trouble with any of this, send me a message via email, the blog, or edmodo!

Final Maze of Bones Video

We just wrapped up reading The Maze of Bones and we'll be moving to a new read aloud next month. Here's a video we put together this week about students' favorite parts of the book:

AND if you haven't seen our Animoto movie yet that shows us working on our Ben Franklin glogs with Mrs. Martin's class, here it is:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Strange Mysteries

I hope you saw the published book that students brought home today. It's a collection of everyone's mystery stories. We worked really hard on these and I thought it would be nice if they had a way of keeping them for posterity.

They are certainly entertaining and having a nice book like this will give us all something to look back on in a year or more to see how much they've grown as writers.

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Note on Report Cards

Our school's report cards have undergone some fairly drastic changes. They still include narrative comments, but we've added skills checklists to give you some more specific feedback on your child's performance in many areas within each subject. I hope you find this helpful when you see them on Thursday of this week, and I'll be creating a survey to get some of your thoughts and impressions, too.

I did want to give you a bit of a sneak preview of one thing in particular: the rating system. In the checklists, students are rated "Needs Improvement," "Developing," and "Secure." As I'm filling them out this weekend, I'm noticing numerous students rated "Developing" in many areas (especially writing) and I want to let you know in advance that in the Fall/Winter of fourth grade, "Developing" is good. It means they're where they're supposed to be and making the proper amount of progress. 

A rating of "Secure" is not very common this early in the year. The goal is to move students from "Developing" to "Secure" during the course of the year so that their fourth grade skills are solid and they are ready for fifth grade. I feel pretty safe in saying that none of my students are ready for fifth grade yet, nor should they be. But they are well on their way and making terrific progress.

Some of this might not make sense now, but it will when you get the report cards on Thursday. If you have any questions once you see them, please let me know. I'll be available Friday of this week from 9:00-10:00 a.m. if you want to call or stop by and I'll also be checking my email fairly regularly during the Christmas break.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Social Studies Project

We're starting a new social studies project today. The students have a worksheet to fill out doing some research on the Internet. They should use this custom Google search engine for their research:


The final product will be an interactive Google Map of the Northeast United States. It should be pretty cool. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exhibition Feedback

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Book Club Meetings

Our first "Book Club in a Bag" meetings will be held Thursday for the Wayside School group and Friday for the Justin Fisher and Flying Solo groups. These meetings will be about 15-20 minutes long and will involve a simple discussion of what we've read so far.

The reading requirements have been posted to edmodo. Students know exactly what they're supposed to read. This week, the requirement is about 30 pages or so. In the future, that amount will increase. (Students are encouraged to read their books during Independent Reading time at school, too!)

By Friday, they also must have posted at least once on edmodo. Keeping up with their reading and staying involved in the online discussion is really important. Remember, participation in "Book Club in a Bag" is required, so please check with your child to make sure they are keeping up with their reading.

There is no record sheet for this. I expect them to read, post on edmodo, and participate in the discussions. They will receive credit based on these things. Students who haven't read won't be able to participate in the book club meetings.

Finally, I thought it would be fun to have light snacks during our book club meetings each week. So I'm seeking donations. If a few of you send in some light treats for me to keep on hand in the classroom (juice, crackers, mini carrots, etc.) I think that would last us for a few meetings.

I'm excited to see how this turns out. I'm hoping it encourages more of them to complete extra reading at home each week. Enjoy! And let me know if you have any questions.

Going Global Update

I haven't updated you on our "Going Global" project efforts lately, so here you go...

We are still reading The Maze of Bones as part of our Online Book Club. We should be finishing it up soon. Students have shared podcasts and a digital poster with the other members of the club. The digital posters (called "glogs") turned out really well. Students researched the life of Benjamin Franklin, who the characters in the novel must learn about, and then made something that looks like this:

(Special thanks to Chase J. for letting me share that!)

We'll be wrapping up the book shortly, but before we do, we'll be participating in a first (as far as I know) at UPA Elementary...we'll be talking to another class via Skype! On Friday afternoon, we'll be using our microphone and webcam to discuss the book with Mrs. Temske's class in Georgia. This is very exciting and should be lots of fun. I'll definitely be sharing the results with you after Friday.

Another first for us is our new connections with classes in Asia. One involves a school in Taiwan. Over the next few months we'll be learning about their school, their community, their language, their culture, etc. And they'll be learning from us. Their class sent us Christmas cards this week and we'll be returning the favor soon. We'll also be making a slideshow that shows them our school and city.

The other Asian connection is with a student in Russia named Denis. He and a couple groups of my students have been trading emails. It's going to be a great way to practice our writing and communication skills AND learn about another country and culture.

Finally, our bagel sale went really well. We now have raised over $60 for the entrepreneurial project in The Philippines. Students will now decide if we should have one more sale to support this cause or to choose another project to donate to.

Wow! That's a lot. Sometimes I don't realize how much it is until I type it out. And there's more to come, of course. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book in a Bag--Relaunched!

As promised, I have re-invented the Book-in-a-Bag homework program. I hope that this change will a). encourage more students to complete the assignment every week and b). provide a more meaningful and challenging learning experience.

Book-in-a-Bag will now be known as (cue the trumpets)...BOOK-CLUB-IN-A-BAG!

Students will select a book (and they'll get a new bag) but this time there will be groups of students reading the same book. So each student will be in a "book club." They'll still have to complete the reading log, but with this new format they'll meet every week or two with their group to discuss what they've been reading. We'll also be using edmodo to have online "conversations" about the books. Also, at the end of each book, students will have to complete a project. (Imagine a book report like we used to do when we were kids...but with a Mr. Curran technology twist!)

I'll be starting this up by having kids pick their books tomorrow and then begin their reading on Monday. We'll have a record sheet for next week for parents to sign and students will be expected to contribute to the edmodo group every week. We'll try to have our first book club meetings the week of December 13. (I think the book club meetings should involve snacks, don't you? I'll be seeking donations for those coming up soon.)

If you have any questions about this, please let me know. The main things for you to know right now are that there WILL be a book coming home every night starting Monday and there WILL be a sheet to sign every night starting Monday.

I'm pretty excited about this and I think the students will enjoy it (and learn a lot) from it, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Benjamin Franklin Project

Our class worked on a project with Mrs. Martin's class today. Both classes are reading The Maze of Bones as part of our Online Book Club.

In the book, the main characters are in a hunt for the mysterious 39 Clues. The first clue has them traveling to places Benjamin Franklin lived and they learn about Franklin along the way.

The project involved researching Benjamin Franklin's life and then creating a 'digital poster' with a website called Glogster.

Some of the students got quite a bit done, but others had some technical difficulties (a few even lost their work because Glogster does not "auto-save" like many other sites). For everyone, there's a little more left to do, and this is a website they can access from home.

Here's how:  Go to and log in with the nickname and password they were given today. Their glog will show up once they log in. They just need to click it to be able to edit it.

Lost your nickname and password? Just go to our Google Docs account and open the file called Glogster Log In.

Lost your notes and assignment sheet or need a new one? Just go to our Google Docs account and open the file called Franklin Project.

Hope you get a chance to check out this really awesome site. The kids did a great job. I'll be posting the results after this weekend.

Sample Exhibition Video

Take a look, here's the sample Exhibition I gave yesterday:

My goal was to try to show students what will be expected at their presentation next week. I'll be out of town for a couple days, but I'll be back Saturday, so be sure to email if you have any questions and I'll get back to you as quickly as I can.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yet Another Exhibition Update

So by now you're either really enjoying all my notes and blog posts about Exhibitions because you find them incredibly helpful OR you are thinking "enough already, we get it!"

Either way, just know that Exhibitions are coming up soon and you won't have to hear about them for another 3 months! Also, please know that for the first Exhibition with a class, I try to be as clear as possible. From here on out, we'll all know more about what to expect, so there will be less to talk about!

Anyway, coming home today is a note about Exhibitions and what to practice for each area. Also, please make sure your child's mystery story and poem have been typed in Google Docs. And finally, please make sure they bring their Exhibition organizer to school tomorrow.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thank You

Parents, I have so many things to thank you for, but for now I'll focus on just one...your Scholastic Book Club orders...

One of the things I love is new books. Yes, I love to read and so I love new books for myself, but even more than that I love new books for my classroom library. New books get kids so excited and when they're excited about reading it makes me happy in ways that words can't describe.

Unfortunately, I am not rich. (I know this comes as a shock.) And therefore I can't afford to constantly buy new books for either myself or my classroom library. That's why I love Scholastic Book Clubs so much. When a handful of families by a few books, I get a few for the classroom. And the more you buy, the more I get.

Because so many of you purchased books this past week, I was able to order THIRTY books...for FREE! Some of these will find a home in our classroom library so that students will be able to enjoy them for years to come. And some of them will be used for the new weekly reading assignments that will replace Book-in-a-Bag.

So a huge thank-you goes out to all of you who ordered this time around and to all of you who have ordered in the past and to those who will order in the future. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Exhibition Notes

Today we worked on creating a web for the science part of the Exhibition. A change was made to the checklist recently and students were given a choice of writing and sharing a poem about the three states of matter OR creating a web that shows the characteristics of each state of matter.

I personally think the web is the better option in this case. So I showed them a great website that's easy to use for web-making and got them started on theirs. Most of them, in fact, got pretty close to finishing. I'll probably be able to find a few more minutes to work on these in class, but if they want to work on them at home the website is . The username and password are the same as they are for Google Docs.

Another change to the checklist happened today. I added a poetry requirement! (A non-science poetry requirement). I can't believe I forgot to do this! Don't worry, it's nothing super challenging. We read a terrific poem in class today and I asked students to use it to inspire their own similar poem. It's called "You Can't Have It All." They got started on these today and they'll have to have them done AND read them aloud at their Exhibitions.

Tonight's homework will be to finish these poems and, if possible, type them using Google Docs. They should also try to finish typing their mystery stories. There is no math Study Link today.

This WILL be the last change to the checklist. You can hold me to that. :)

The Countdown is On

As Exhibition Week approaches, things always get a little crazy in my classroom. Ungraded papers pile up, waiting for attention. The room gets a little messy. I'm rarely sitting down or standing still. It's hectic, to say the least.

But that's okay. My main focus in the weeks leading up to Exhibitions is making sure students are prepared. I really want to help students give the best presentations possible. I want them to feel successful and proud of their work. So I try to put as much effort as I possibly can into getting them ready. And I think it will pay off. I can't remember which parent I said this to the other day, but it's true: I feel more prepared for these Exhibitions than any that I can remember. Usually it feels very last minute, but somehow we're getting a lot of stuff done well in advance of the presentations. I feel like we're right on schedule.

Anyway, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that Exhibitions are very important to me and if you feel confused or troubled by anything--please let me know. I definitely want to do whatever it takes to help you feel prepared. This is a team effort, for sure, and you are important parts of that team. Keep practicing at home and, if you do have any questions, be sure to stop by in the morning (I'm usually here by 8:00) or give a phone call or send an email.

By the way, my uprep email is currently down, so if you need to contact me, do so through the blog or by emailing bucurran812 at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Sad Day in Pencil-ville

Our classroom electric pencil sharpener held on for as long as it could this year. Sadly, though, I don't think it's going to be with us anymore. It led a good life; just think of all those math and writing assignments that couldn't have gotten done without it! In the end, though, sharpening all those pencils day in and day out was too much to handle. What we'll do now, how we'll carry on, I'm not quite sure. Today some of us had to resort to using pens on our math work. Yes, it's that bad.

I don't suppose anyone has an extra electric pencil sharpener laying around the house???

Book-in-a-Bag Under Review

We will not be having Book-in-a-Bag reading logs until after Exhibitions. This doesn't mean I don't want students to keep reading...of course I do. But they don't have to fill out a sheet until after Exhibition Week.

I am currently thinking of re-inventing Book-in-a-Bag in some way. I'm not having much luck getting students to turn in their sheets. I think I'm averaging about 7 turned in per week. One reason for this is because they do a lot of reading already at school. Another might be that they don't really have a need to read these books. It's just kind of extra work. Whatever the reason, I'm going to try to come up with a weekly reading assignment that will do more to improve their reading skills and one that will catch their interest a little bit more.

So, just to be clear, Book-in-a-Bag is suspended indefinitely. It will reappear in a better format in December! Please encourage your children to keep reading in the mean time. Thanks so much.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Exhibition Organizers

On Monday students will receive an "Exhibition Organizer." This handy worksheet helps them organize everything they need to present for each of the subject areas at their Exhibition:

First Trimester Exhibition Organizer
The Organizer has five sections, one for each subject. I will help students to fill in each section with the important information that they'll be sharing in their Presentations. That way, they'll have everything in one place and ready ahead of time. They will be able to use their Organizer to practice their Exhibition in its entirety at home.

Remember, I will be helping them fill out this organizer sheet. But then it is their responsibility to use it to practice. Also, please remember that now is about the time to really start rehearsing the Interest Project at home. Students should practice saying everything they've learned about their topic. This works even better if they practice while viewing their slideshow on Google Docs. 

I really feel like we'll have everything done and ready with plenty of time to spare. As long as the students are practicing what they're going to say for all parts (interest part and subject areas) at home during the next week or so, these Exhibitions will be their best ones ever!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Scholastic Book Clubs

Order forms went home yesterday. Money and forms are due Friday, November 19. Want to order online but can't remember how? Just go to and use the access code GXJ7K.

For about every two books ordered, we get a free book for the classroom!

This Week's POW Video

Here's a video we made in class today that might help you solve the POW "The Key to Success:"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Exhibition Update

Please check backpacks today for an Exhibition Update. It includes a timeline for our work here in school, explanation of students' at-home responsibilities, and an invitation to attend MY Exhibition on November 23 at 11:30 a.m.

Can't wait to hear what I have to say? Worried it will get lost on the way home? Here it is:

From the Desk of 11-10 Exhib Update

Maze of Bones Interviews

Greetings! We are about five chapters into our newest read-aloud novel, The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan. As I've mentioned before, we're reading this book at the same time as several schools in different parts of the country.

There has been some really good discussion on Edmodo, and our class wanted to do something to help contribute to the conversation. So, we created podcasts debating the question: "Should Dan and Amy Cahill take the money or take the clue?"

Want to hear them? Use this handy dandy Podbean player:

Please leave us some comments to let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

POW Help

Check out this video if you need help on the POW...(Note: there was a typo on the original POW! So I sent a corrected version home tonight)

Monday, November 1, 2010

1st Trimester Exhibition Appointments

Please use this form to select possible appointment times for your child's Exhibition. Plan on the Exhibition and the meeting afterwards to take about an hour altogether.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Week's Announcements

We have an "in-school" field trip scheduled for 11:30. We'll be going to the gym to see a science movie about the Earth and different habitats. Apparently, the company putting this on sets up a mobile "dome theater" so it will be like an IMAX kind of thing. If you haven't sent in your $5 yet, please do so. Thanks.

Also on Monday, check your child's backpack, because several things are coming home:

  • Graded quizzes, POW, and other worksheets from last week
  • A "Homework Alert" to let you know what work was missing last week
  • An Exhibition Checklist so you know what the requirements are for Exhibitions
  • An Exhibition Sign-Up sheet so you can choose a time for your child's Exhibition
  • A sheet that explains Milestone 3, which we should finish up Thursday, but that DOES require a little bit of at-home work/preparation--students need to bring their list of facts back to school on Wednesday
  • a new Book in a Bag form
  • Study Link 3-5
No School--Staff will be involved in a professional development session

Study Link 3-7 will be the night's homework. A new POW will come home also. At 4:30 the Book Fair will be held in the gym!

Information requested for Milestone 3 is due today. We worked on the PowerPoint for this milestone on Friday and will work on it again twice this week.

Fun Friday for students that complete Milestone 3 will be held in the afternoon. POW is due today. 

Happy Halloween!

First of all, a huge thanks goes out to all who made our party possible. If you donated treats or supplies, thanks very much. And a special thanks to Mrs. El-Amin, who came into help out.

I tried to snap a few photos and put them together into a little scrapbook. Take a look:

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
This free scrapbooking design customized with Smilebox

Saturday, October 30, 2010

First Trimester Exhibition Checklist

Here is the checklist for the first trimester Exhibition. If you're viewing this in an email, you'll probably have to go to the blog to see it. From here, you should be able to view, download, and/or print it. Don't worry, though, I'll provide a hard copy on Monday. I'll also be explaining it in detail throughout next week.

1st Trimester Exhibition Checklist

Thursday, October 28, 2010

POW Help

Here's a movie I made today that might help with tonight's POW. This is a recording of me showing the students a problem similar to the one on the POW...

It should help if you need more explanation or if your child can't remember exactly what to do.

Online Book Club Starts Monday!

I am very excited for our next "Going Global" project. We'll be reading another book out loud but this one is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids (the last one was kind of lame). It's called The Maze of Bones and it's the first book in the 39 Clues series which is an insanely popular series in other schools that hasn't really caught on at UPA. I'm hoping it will spark the kids' interest and that it will inspire them to read the other 9 books in the series.

Two other classrooms at our school will be reading the book, as well as classes in Flint, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Georgia. We'll be interacting with them and working with them on several activities as we read. It should be pretty cool. I'll keep you posted.

Tomorrow's Party

It is looking like it will be quite a shindig tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who has committed to bring something. If you aren't able to this time around, don't worry about it. There will be other parties to chip in for.

The tentative schedule for events tomorrow is to change into costumes from 1:00-1:30, have treats from 1:30 to 2:30 and maybe play some games, trick or treat through the halls of the school from 2:30-3:00 and then clean up to go home.

Parents and families are more than welcome to attend part or all of the afternoon. If you aren't able to make it, I'll try to remember to take pictures. In the morning, my plan is to get some work done, including a math quiz and to get started on our Exhibition Power Point presentations.

Just some reminders:

  • POW is due tomorrow (I will be blogging some tips for this later today)
  • Book in a Bag sheets and Slice of Life stories are due Monday
  • $5 is due by tomorrow for the mobile planetarium movie
  • No School Tuesday, November 2
  • Book Fair Wednesday, November 3 from 4:30-6:30 (workshops for parents start at 5:00)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Coming Soon: Return of the Book Fair

Wednesday, November 3 from 5:00-7:00, our school will be hosting a Scholastic Book Fair. There will be tons of books on sale at great prices, so it's a great chance to add to your home library or get an early start on your Christmas shopping.

Also, there will be a few reading and writing themed workshops for parents. I'm not exactly sure what all of them will be about (I'll get that info to you as soon as I can), but I do know that one will be about poetry and it will be led by me! So you definitely don't want to miss that one. It will run from 5:00 to about 5:30.

I hope to see you there!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Academic Update

I thought now would be a good time to update you on where we are with our academics...

We finished MEAP prep and have moved on to Mystery stories. Each child will write an original mystery during the next few weeks. We've read several short examples and discussed what the characteristics of a mystery are. Also, we did some collaborative writing that turned out really good.

We have continued reading and discussing 4-5 poems per week. We've been paying very close attention to the finer details of poems and have been talking about poetry techniques (which I call "moves"). When we have written poems we've been practicing those moves. The kids wrote some really interesting poems last week and they got a little annoyed with me because I pushed them to revise. They turned in a poem and then I told them to rewrite it and make 3 changes. Then, when they turned in that one, I told them to rewrite it and make 3 different changes. Finally, they picked and chose from these to create a final draft. This week, we worked on the move of surprise and wrote something I call "Two Word Poems." I know, it seems like a poem can't be two words long, but they can! Ask your child to explain it to you.

Reading & Word Study
Students will continue to meet with their reading teacher daily for Reading and Word Study. If they haven't already, they'll soon be required to write their reading teacher a letter every week that describes their thinking while they read. This is something they'll have to do 3-4 times per month. Usually it's done in school, but may end up having to be finished at home from time to time.

We are moving into Unit 3 on Monday. Unit three covers Multiplication and Division basics. We'll begin focusing on multiplication facts, something that they should have memorized (for 0-9) by the end of fourth grade. Extra practice at home always helps!

The unit on States of Matter will conclude next week. Students have enjoyed learning about solids, liquids, gases, plasma, atoms, molecules, and the periodic table of elements.

Social Studies
This course will begin Monday, November 1. Fourth Grade focuses on Regions of the U.S. We have brand new textbooks and materials for this subject this year. It should be a lot of fun.

Technology Update
We've been using some free time to work on our wiki pages lately. Students have added lots of things to their personal page. We used a thesaurus to complete the "Words that Describe Us" section and then made a pretty cool graphic using a special website called Wordle. Yesterday, we used another cool website called PicLits to create a pretty snazzy version of an original two word poem. Have your child show you, they turned out great.

Going Global Update
Our class theme, Going Global, has not moved forward much lately due to the MEAP test. But, we'll be starting back up with classroom "jobs" again next week and that will help a lot. Also, starting November 1, we'll be reading another book together and will be joined in doing so by several other classrooms from around the country. I'll update you more on that as we get closer. Yesterday, I had a Skype conversation with a school in California and a school in Kuwait (!). We are planning a bigger project for all three schools this winter that focuses on global issues and awareness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Red Ribbon Week Starts Monday

Please note the following schedule of events for Red Ribbon Week next week. Get those baby pictures in as soon as you can!!!

Red Ribbon Week is the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation reaching millions of Americans during the last week of October every year. By wearing red ribbons and participating in community anti-drug events, young people pledge to live a drug-free life.

Our school will be supporting Red Ribbon Week by participating in the following themed days from Monday, October 25 - Friday, October 29.

Monday               Born to Be Drug Free
                           Students will bring in a baby picture of themselves.        
Tuesday              Sock it to Drugs
                           Students can wear crazy socks to school with their uniform.

Wednesday         Hats off to Saying No to Violence
                           Students can wear hats to school with their uniform.

Thursday            Team Up Against Drugs
                           Students can wear a sports jersey or shirt over their uniform.
                           ALSO: Silly Bandz Day!!!

Friday                 Dress up in Good "Character"
                           Students can bring a costume to school to change into.
                           No goblins, witches, masks, or weapons
Our class will have a Fall/Harvest/Halloween party on Friday, too. More info to come on that regarding supply and donation requests. Thanks!

Poems About Poetry

As I mentioned in my last post, we're reading poems about poetry this week. I'm not sure exactly why, but a huge number of poets have written poems about poems. These are some of my favorite kinds of poems and I hope the students have been enjoying them.

There are lots of reasons I read so many poems with my students. One of them is to get them thinking like poets--to get them to realize that poetry is everywhere and can be about everything. To get them to notice things that they wouldn't have noticed before. And to get them to appreciate language as an art form. All of these are pretty good goals, I think. And still that's only a few of the reasons we study poetry in my classroom.

Anyway, I counted them up yesterday and by the end of this week, our sixth week of school (29 days, I think), we will have read and discussed 23 poems. Not too shabby. Here's a poem about poetry that we're going to read tomorrow. I think it's lovely. I hope you like it:

"A Loaf of Poetry"
By Naoshi Koriyama

you mix
the dough
of experience
the yeast
of inspiration
and knead it well
with love
and pound it
with all your might
and then
leave it
it puffs out big
with its own inner force
and then
knead it again
shape it
into a round form
and bake it
in the oven
of your heart

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekly Announcements

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are some announcements for the week ahead:

  • MEAP Testing this week on Tuesday (Math) and Wednesday (Writing Day 2)
  • New AMPT schedule starts this week: P.E.--Monday & Friday; Technology--Tuesday; Art--Wednesday; Music--Thursday
  • Milestone 2 due Thursday--20 Facts about your interest project written or typed in your own words.
  • Parents as Partners Meeting--this Wednesday 6:00
  • Silly Bandz--Go on sale this week. 50 cents each. Proceeds go to help 5th graders pay for camp.
  • No Homework until after the MEAP. Thursday they'll have a math worksheet. Slice of Life will be due again on MONDAY, OCTOBER 25.
  • Costumes will be allowed for our Harvest/Fall Fest on October 29. More info on this to come.
  • This week we're reading poems about poems. If that doesn't make sense or if you're curious, read this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So, as usual, as soon as I published our homework schedule on the blog, it was changed. The kids can thank Mrs. Martin for persuading me not to give homework during the MEAP. I'll hold off on all assignments until the end of next week. Sorry for the confusion.

This doesn't mean there isn't anything to do, though! Milestone 2 is due Thursday of next week. Milestone 2 is a list of facts about their driving question. These facts should be written in their own words. Every student should try for at least 20. There is no form for them to fill out for this Milestone. Facts can be written out on notebook paper, on index cards, or typed and printed. But please, make sure they are not just copied directly from resources and that they are not just printed directly from the Internet.

The MEAP test has been going pretty well. The kids have been working really hard to stay focused and do their best. And we've had perfect attendance this week, so thank you for that. It's pretty hard to do nothing but test all morning and the change in the afternoon and AMPT schedule is a challenge, but all in all, it's been very good. Two more testing days remain--Tuesday (Math) and Wednesday (Writing part 2) of next week.

The changes in our schedule have allowed us to do some work with technology this week. We've been working on our wiki pages a lot. Feel free to check out your child's page and let them know what you think. Today we're working on typing up some of our poems using Google Docs. Also, I've promised them some extra credit questions on our Edmodo site. Several students have responded to the first one and there will be another one available today.

As always, be sure to email or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MEAP Test Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 9:00, we'll begin taking the MEAP test. Fourth graders will be tested in the areas of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. We'll be testing Tuesday through Thursday morning this week and Tuesday and Wednesday mornings next week.

Please help out by making sure your child gets a good night sleep, a good breakfast, and that they are at school on time each day. Also, encourage them to do their absolute best.

Every teacher has their own opinions about standardized testing, and I'll spare you mine at this time. Whether it should be or not, it is important to our school and our district that students do well. That's just the way things are in the times in which we live. Thanks for doing your part to help make sure that your children are ready to do their best this week and next.

I haven't completely worked out a homework schedule for this week, but a Problem of the week will go home on Wednesday and will be due on Friday. Book in a Bag reading will continue and their new record sheet will be due next Monday, as will a new Slice of Life story.

Be on the look out for a "Homework Alert" sometime this week so that you're up to speed on your child's missing assignments, if any.

And don't forget book orders are due Friday! Thanks.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More on the Ford Field Trip

Thanks to Mrs. Stafford for giving me the heads up on this one...

Here's an article from the Detroit News in which our own Selena was quoted...

In the article, if you click the link to see "More Pictures," you'll see other UPA students featured, too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Student Poetry

I think I wrote last week about our poetry walk. The photos are still available on the blog and now some of the poems are, too. I chose a handful of them to feature on the "Student Work" page.

Here's a sample of the excellent work you'll find there:

by Tamerica B.

You are a
rusty thing
we eat on you
you get thrown out of houses 
and get replaced by your

All you've got to do is click on the "Student Work" link at the top of the blog homepage. (If you're viewing this in an email, you'll have to go to the blog to see it.)

Our First Movie!

Please take a look at this movie we made after reading the first half of the book The Little Prince. If you are a class participating in the Global Read Aloud of this book, please leave a comment below and let us know where you're from!

Scholastic Book Clubs

Orders for the October Book Club are due next Friday, October 15. Did you know that we get free books for our classroom every time we place an order? Last month, I was able to order over 15 free books. Thanks to everyone who placed an order!

Also, we earn even more free stuff when you order online with a credit card. For directions how to do this, click here. It's pretty easy and definitely secure.

There are a number of great books available this month, including The BFG by Roald Dahl (for only $1!), some spooky stories just in time for Halloween, and Wimpy Kid #5, which is available for pre-order (it will ship to the school when it's released on November 9).

So place your order online or send in your money and order form by next Friday, please.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homework Revision

Because of our shortened week, there will be no Problem of the Week. Also, there was no Study Link tonight because of the field trip.

I will assign Study Link 2-8 tomorrow. Milestone 1 is still due Thursday and Book-in-a-Bag and Slice of Life will be due Monday, October 11.

That will do it for this week, I think.

Ford Field Fun

Yes, that's me with Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. The kids got to meet him, too, and hear him talk about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. It was all part of a special wellness event organized by Blue Cross. If you remember, it was Blue Cross that awarded UPA a grant last year which brought the Hop Sports and Organ Wise programs to our school. This was kind of a celebration of that.

The kids got to take part in several physical challenges and drills on the Ford Field turf. It was pretty exciting for all of them. A few even got to shake the hand of the superstar pictured above.

Special thanks goes out to Mrs. Young and Mrs. Stafford for chaperoning the event!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My First Trimester Exhibition

In an attempt to help students and parents, I will be doing my own Interest Project this trimester. My driving question will be: "What are the different birds of prey?"

I will be completing each of the milestones so that you can see exactly what is expected of the students.

Here's my list of resources for Milestone One, which is due Thursday:

  • Wikipedia Website:
  • Exploring Birds of Prey website:
  • Birds of Prey Foundation:
  • Birds of Prey by Robin Kerrod
  • Birds of Prey (National Geographic Guide) by Amy Donovan
  • Raptor! A Kids' Guide to Birds of Prey by Christyna Laubach
Please note that for my websites, I included the complete web address. For books, I included the title AND author.

Stay tuned for my Milestone 2--a list of facts--which for students is due October 21.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This Week in Room 302--volume 2

Here's our second podcast from our Learning Documentary Production Team. Please take a listen to find out what we've been working on in the last week.

This Week in Room 302--volume 2

This Week's Homework

So, last week, we didn't exactly follow the homework schedule that I posted here. Sorry. These things happen sometimes. This week is a short week, so we'll try to stick to it better:

Monday: Study Link 2-6
Tuesday: Study Link 2-7
Wednesday: Study Link 2-8
Thursday: Study Link 2-9 (due Monday)

There is no school Friday, so the Problem of the Week will be due Thursday. Slice of Life stories and Book-in-a-Bag record sheets will be due Monday, October 11.

And, of course, don't forget Milestone 1, due this Thursday. If you don't have the form anymore, that's okay, just turn in a list of 5-6 resources ( a combination of books and/or websites) on notebook paper or something like that.

Follow the Art Class

I should have blogged about this ages ago, but it slipped my mind, so I apologize to our art teacher, Danielle Seikaly. Danielle has been blogging this year about things going on in the art room. I highly recommend that you check out her blog and subscribe by typing in your email address in the form on her blog (just like on this one).

This week, she features a video about the DIA. I love the DIA. I was just there last weekend with my family and if you haven't been there in a while, I highly recommend it. They keep making changes and improvements and every time I go, it gets better. If memory serves me right, the DIA used to offer free admission for Detroit residents on Fridays (when they're open until 10:00 p.m.). You might have to look into that and see if they still do.

So, please check out Danielle's blog at:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lots of Weekend Work

I wanted to summarize the large number of things out there that can and have to be worked on this weekend...


  • Finish Book in a Bag record sheet, including the paragraph on the back of the sheet.
  • Write Slice of Life story. Can be done on paper or on Edmodo.


  • Work on Milestone 1--find resources for your Interest Project. This is due Thursday!
  • Finish drawing for The Little Prince if you haven't done so already.
  • Join the Poetry group on Edmodo. (You'll see my instructions for how to do this on your Edmodo page)
  • On Edmodo, reply to the question I asked in the Poetry group.
  • Type the poem we wrote on our poetry walk. Use Google Docs to do this. (Look on Edmodo for instructions on how to do this.)

Announcements for Next Week

Some reminders:

Book in a Bag and Slice of Life are due Monday. The students who posted their Slice of Life story on Edmodo really enjoyed it, so I encourage them, and others, to try it again!

Our field trip to Ford Field for the BCBS Wellness and Fitness event will be Tuesday, October 5. Please try to wear a red shirt and gym shoes that day.

Milestone One is due Thursday, October 7. Paperwork went home for this yesterday. (Learning Plans came home yesterday, too.)

There is NO SCHOOL (for students) on Friday, October 8.

Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Note on Homework

My daughter started third grade this month and is getting more homework than she was used to in second grade. There have been some nights where she's been really stressed about it, too. I'm talking on-the-verge-of-tears stressed. It is hard for me as a parent but as a teacher it really gets me thinking. That's NOT what I want homework to be for my students.

I want homework to be for skill building and for practicing important things we learned in school. I try to make sure that every homework assignment I give is meaningful, not just busy-work. And I think I do a pretty good job of that. But I also try to make sure that I don't give an overwhelming amount. When homework makes a child stressed or, worse, makes them cry, then it is no longer beneficial.

So, I need to say this. If you or your child is ever feeling stressed about homework--feeling like it's too much or it's overwhelming or it's impossible or it's making them (or you) cry--please just stop doing it, write me a note, and ask for help or ask for an extra day. I absolutely don't want them feeling stressed out and upset about their school work.

And this definitely applies to exhibitions, too. As we get closer to Exhibition time, things get busy and the workload increases. The best advice is to get started now. But if you do that and are still feeling like it's too much, let me know. We can work it out together.

If you ask me to choose between a child's confidence and homework getting turned in, I'll choose confidence every time. Thanks for listening--this has been something I've been meaning to tell you for awhile.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great Day for a Poetry Walk

This week we started a new poetry unit that I call "Poems Can Be About Anything." My purpose is to show students that poems are hiding everywhere; there is beauty in all objects and all parts of life. The job of the poet, I tell them, is to find the poems and give them life.

Monday we read a famous poem about a wheelbarrow. Yesterday we read a brilliant poem about a safety pin. And today we read one about some broken glass on the ground. To the uninitiated, this might sound really dull, but the kids are really enjoying it. On top of that, we've had some great discussions about the poems, as I teach them about poetry "moves." (Ask them to define moves for you, they should be able to do that.) And on top of THAT, reading these poems about "ordinary" things will help them become better poets themselves.

So after reading today's poem, we grabbed a camera and headed out on a "poetry walk," searching for beauty in places non-poets might not notice. In the sidebar of the blog (if you're reading this in an email, you'll have to go to the blog to see them) you can check out the photos they took. And I promise I'll be sharing the poems--we are in the drafting stages right now, but they're already looking really good. You might also want to click the links above to read the poems we've shared and maybe even ask your child about them.

Now I have to go and decide which poem to read about a gas pump or socks. (I'm not kidding.)

Problem of the Week and Other Stuff

This week's POW was sent home today. It's a little tricky and it's due FRIDAY. I gave them some help with it at the end of the day, so they should be able to figure it out.

Also, the field trip to Ford Field is next week on Tuesday. We'll leave first thing in the morning and get back by lunchtime. Please have them wear a red shirt (if possible--t-shirts are okay--but no print on them unless they are UPA shirts) and gym shoes. To be honest, I am not sure exactly what we're doing, but I know it centers around physical fitness and healthy living.

I posted a challenge for students using Edmodo. Have them check  it out--I asked them to post a question to one of the people that wrote a Slice of Life story online. I'm hoping to use Edmodo to encourage thoughtful "conversations."

Speaking of Slife of Life stories, the ones turned in this week were excellent. I returned them and last week's POW and Book in a Bag sheets today. Please check them out and read my comments. Math quizzes from last week will come home tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Quick Things

If you haven't filled out the form that gives me permission to send books and materials home, please CLICK HERE.

As I mentioned last week, our Society Contribution team has picked a project to try to raise money for. They searched a website called Kiva, where entrepreneurs from around the globe post loan requests. The team selected a farmer in the Philippines who is trying expand her business so she can afford good schools for her children. Our goal is to raise $25 to contribute through the Kiva website. If you're able, please send in a little to help our cause. We're going to try to pick a different project to donate to every month as a way of making an impact in the world. Thanks in advance for your help.

Field Trip Permission Slip

A two-sided permission slip is coming home tonight. Please fill out both sides and return it to school TOMORROW. Slips must be turned in tomorrow or your child may not be able to go on the trip.

And thank yous go out to Mrs. Young and Mrs. Stafford for volunteering to chaperone! We're set on chaperones thanks to them.

Homework by the Numbers

Our first week of homework went pretty well. Room for improvement is there, though...(all numbers are out of 17.)

Number of students turning in ALL Study Link worksheets last week: 13

Number of POWs turned in Friday: 13

Number of Book-in-a-Bag record sheets turned in today: 12

Number of Book-in-a-Bag record sheets turned in WITHOUT the paragraph on the back: 3

Number of Slice of Life stories turned in today: 10

Number of Slice of Life stories turned in via Edmodo (out of 10): 6


Here's this week's schedule for homework:

Monday: Study Link 2-2
Tuesday: Study Link 2-3
Wednesday: Study Link 2-4
Thursday: Study Link 2-5
Friday: POW due

Next Monday: Book in a Bag record sheet and Slice of Life story due

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chaperone Needed

We are taking a field trip on October 5 to Ford Field for a Blue Cross Blue Shield wellness event. We are in need of one chaperone. We're leaving first thing in the morning and should be back by lunch time.

Please contact me if you are able to help out with this.

Photo Source:

Permission Slip

Please fill out the form below:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Going Even More Global

What? You're not amazed by the things going on in Room 302 yet??? You're not impressed by our work with our Going Global theme yet??? Well, how about the book we're reading for our Global Read Aloud with classes from across the country, The Little Prince, the narrator shows the readers a picture he has drawn of a boa constrictor eating an elephant. This week, I asked students to recreate this drawing or some version of it...take a look...

This Week in Room 302--Episode 1

I promised it would be released soon...and here it is. Our Learning Documentary Team's first podcast about what we've been working on at school. Chase, Alexandria, Jenna, Danielle, and Terrion did a great job...have a listen...

Today We Went Global

Earlier this week, I posted about our "digital learning farm" jobs. We are working in four different teams: Research, Social Contribution, Learning Documentary Production, and Global Collaboration.  It was a beautiful thing to see today in the classroom as the students...

...used Google Docs to collaborate on a document that lists facts they learned about different places around the world. (Research Team)

...wrote, rehearsed, and recorded a podcast about what we've been learning in school lately--stay tuned it will be released soon. (Learning Documentary Production Team)

...presented to the entire village their plan for raising money to help an entreprenuer in the Phillipines--they've already collected over $3! (Social Contribution Team)

...sent an email to five other classrooms participating in the Global Read Aloud project, asking them if they wanted to work together in some way AND typed up a list of predictions about The Little Prince in Google Docs that I recently posted to the blog. (Global Collaboration Team)

Wow. A busy day to say the least. It was really great to see every student engaged in a meaningful learning task and it was lots of fun to get going on projects that are going to connect us with other classrooms and help us meet our goal of "Going Global."