Friday, September 30, 2011

We Are Famous!

Okay, maybe not famous, but believe it or not there are people out there in the world besides you and me who read this blog. Crazy, right? But true.

Our blog recently appeared on a list of "100 Seriously Cool Classroom Blogs for Teaching Ideas and Inspiration". (We're #25 on the list and we're listed under our old title "Room 302," but the link still works.)  THAT is epic.

Can you imagine? People use our blog for ideas and inspiration? It blows my mind. I have trouble explaining to the kids that we're part of a global community, that we're part of something bigger than just our school. But I get it, so that's good. And you probably do, too. It's little things like this that remind me that we're doing great things in Room 316, and at UPA in general. I'm glad to be a part of it, and I'm glad you are part of it with me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Weekend's Homework

I wanted to send a clarification about the homework this weekend. I think this will make sense. Here's what they should be working on:

1. Problem of the Week--titled "Bridge Over Troubled Water"  DUE MONDAY

2. Work on reading their book club book (Don't Judge a Book by its Cover project). All books must be finished by October 7.

3. Finally, they have an option...both are due Monday. They can either write a Slice of Life story OR write 3 story problems that could be turned into video story problems. (Problems must be written at first and second grade level --adding and subtracting only. Two steps maximum.)

I explained this to them in class, so they should understand completely! If you have any questions, just shoot me an email.

New This Year: Ten Marks

Ten Marks is a pretty awesome website I learned about recently. It's a way for students to practice math concepts, but it's interactive!

Here's how it works: I create an assignment for them and then they complete it. But it's a little more interesting than that, because Ten Marks provides hints along the way if they need them and video tutorials, too!

I think this will be a great way to support their learning, and I'm working it into our math sessions every day. My goal is to have students using it at least 3 times per week.

For right now, it's just for using at school. If they start using it at home, they'll get to the point where they run out of assignments to do and I don't want that yet. If you want to work on something extra at home, practice math facts! (They are all a little rusty especially in multiplication and division, but addition and subtraction need help, too!!!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

News and Notes

Just some short updates...

*Guided Reading groups begin Monday! You should have gotten a note indicating your child's teacher. You'll hear more from that teacher next week. If you have any questions, let me know.

*Pancake Dinner Thursday! From 5-7 we'll be hosting our annual Pancake Dinner. Tickets are $6 per person in advance and $7 at the door. And it's all you can eat!

*No School Friday, September 30!

*Our first technology mini-project will start Monday. The students are making "video story problems." Some of them said they need to bring props in from home. Please remind them.

Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book of the Month: Books Due in 2 Weeks

Our Book of the Month Club is in full swing. Students all have chosen a book. They should be bringing their books home every night to read. They must have their book completed by Friday, October 7!!!

Lots of students are kind of dragging their feet on these books. Please turn the heat up and press/remind them that they should be reading every night.

There is a reading check-in assignment on Edmodo that most students completed in class. If they got it done early, I invited them to eat lunch in my room today to talk about their books.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 19, 2011

New This Year: Test & Quiz Corrections

This year, in an effort to help students examine the errors they've made on tests and quizzes, I am requiring all students to correct all the problems they've gotten wrong. Also, corrected tests and quizzes must be signed by a parent.

Our first quiz, which we took on Friday, is coming home graded tonight (Tuesday). Please take a look and have your child make the necessary corrections. (Feel free to help and discuss!)

Return the signed paper to school the next day, please. Thanks so much, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

Getting Caught Up

In all the excitement and busy-ness that is the start of fifth grade--and all the new things I'm trying to roll out--I have fallen behind in my grading already. How bad is that?!?

To make up for this, expect a large amount of homework that I've checked in to come home tomorrow.

By the way, the number of students turning in homework has been very high. Thanks for all your help in that.

New This Year: Literacy Stations

In an effort to try to make English and Language Arts instruction more engaging for students, there's been a school-wide change to the way we structure our classes. We'll be using "stations" during Reading and Writing Workshops (and hopefully also during Math, too).

A station is a place a student works for a short time on an assigned task, usually with a partner. In my class we've been rotating among 8 different stations. They include: Independent Reading, responding to prompts on edmodo, editing skills, reading comprehension skills, book making (students read a book and then make a page for a class book), and non-fiction reading.

We're still getting into the swing of things, and kids are learning how to manage their time effectively, but I think it's going very well. As we move forward and start switching teachers for reading workshop, the stations will become more challenging...and this will help boost literacy skills, I am sure. (That switch, by the way, will happen NEXT Monday, not this Monday as previously reported).

Math stations and Writing stations will be taking place, too. Stay tuned for further updates. Station time, by the way, is a great time to come volunteer in the classroom. Let me know if you'd like to do that and we can set something up!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekend Fun!

Having fun stuff to do on the weekends is really important for me and my family. Last weekend, I found out about something I was very excited about...Second Sundays at the DIA.

Every second Sunday of the month, admission to the DIA is free! On top of that, they have special activities and music going on, too. So mark your calendars for October and go check it out. (Oh, and Fridays are always free for Detroit residents. They're open late Friday nights, too!)

Also in the weekend fun category is the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's being held in the 9 Mile and Woodward area on the east side of Woodward, south of 9 mile. Here's their webpage: I go to this one every year with the has good music, kids' stuff, great local artists and merchants, and food. Check it out, if you're looking for something to do!

Have a great weekend! (Slice of Life and Reading Club Assignment due Monday)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Back to School Night Wednesday

I would like to invite you to school on Wednesday night at 6:00 for our seventh annual "Back to School Night."

At this meeting, I'll be discussing pretty much everything you need to know about 5th grade and my classroom. This will include, among other things, my project and technology plans for this year, and an overview of the 5th grade curriculum. You'll also get to see some of the things students have been working on already.

I hope to see you there. Again...this Wednesday beginning at 6:00 in the gymnasium.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Delivering Awesomeness

Our first ever "Fed Ex Project" wrapped up today. What's a Fed Ex Project? It's an assignment where a team is given a short amount of time to accomplish a challenging task. They have just a few hours to deliver a finished product. Get it? Deliver a product? Fed Ex? NOW it makes sense!

This week, student's chose teams and were assigned a theme and a bulletin board or wall. They then were given until today at 2:30 to deliver a well-designed board.

There were a lot of lessons to learn about collaboration. That's one of the reasons I assigned this. Some had more trouble with this than others, but that's okay. Just like learning how to write a story or how to add, I want to help my students learn how to work together--how to collaborate effectively. We talked  A LOT about how to do this. And we'll continue to do so throughout the year.

Another reason I assigned this challenge is that it fit's with our theme, "Leave Your Mark." The students got to leave their mark on their new classroom. These boards will stay up for the next few weeks (come see them at Back to School night!) so we'll get to show them off to all who come to visit.

I think it was a valuable learning experience. Want photos of the finished products? We posted them to our twitter profile!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's Your Sentence?

As I wrote yesterday, our theme this year will be "Leave Your Mark." As a way of kicking this off, our first activity of the year was called "What's Your Sentence?"

We started by watching this video, a trailer for a book I happened to read this summer called Drive:

We discussed it and then students were asked to write a sentence that describes them at this moment and a sentence that describes how they want to be remembered after they move on to 6th grade next year.

We'll be polishing them tomorrow and I'll share them later this week. I have asked students to be prepared to share their first sentence (the sentence for this moment) on Friday. They are encouraged to bring in visual aids, photos, etc to help "enhance" their sentence. For example my sentence is: "I am a husband and father to 3 wonderful children," so I'll be bringing in photos and mementos to share on Friday. Hopefully everyone will be able to bring something in.

All in all, it was a great day. Stay tuned for more posts about the beginning of fifth grade.

P.S. I had note all set to go home today, but I had trouble printing it. I'll send it home tomorrow instead.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Leave Your Mark

Dear Parents,

Some teachers have a new theme every year. Sometimes the theme is centered around classroom decorations and bulletin boards. Sometimes it involves a project or two. Whether it's a nautical theme, a cooking theme, a Hollywood theme, a travel theme, etc, it can be a nice way of decorating a room and creating an engaging, exciting classroom environment.

I tried the theme thing last year for the first time ever, and I think it was a huge success. In typical Mr. Curran fashion, though, my theme didn't really involve a lot of cute decorations. Last year's theme, "Going Global," was more about a mission...a mission to connect with as many classrooms across the globe as possible. And we did it. We worked with students as close as Flint and Anchor Bay and as far away as Turkey, Taiwan, Russia, and Kuwait. It was awesome.

If something works once, I believe you should try it again. So I've chosen a new theme for the 2011-12 school year. Take a look at some pictures of my room and see if you can figure out the theme:

What? You can't tell? You don't see anything? Don't worry. It's not your eyes. You don't see anything because there's nothing to see. The room is completely bare. That's because our theme this year will be...drum roll please... "Leave Your Mark."

What I mean by this is that because this is their last year of elementary school, I want to spend the entire year with their legacies in mind. Much like a President in the last year of his or her term, I want my students to look to the future. How will they be remembered? How can they be sure to make a lasting impression on their classroom, their floor, their school, and their community? What will they leave behind? What will their legacy be?

We'll start with goal setting. I'll be asking the students "What's Your Sentence?" In other words, "What's one sentence that captures who you are? What's one sentence that captures all that you want to accomplish this year?" (Check out the video I'll be showing them as a model by clicking HERE.)

After that, we'll be leaving our mark on the classroom. We'll begin right away to leave our marks by decorating it together. From there, we'll move forward quickly, keeping in mind how special the fifth grade year is (for both students and teacher alike). And as we accomplish great things, we'll share our progress with you and with the world.

Stay tuned for an amazing year. I'm glad to be a part of it. And I'm glad you're here with me.

All my best,