Saturday, October 29, 2011

Harvest Party Success

We had an absolutely fabulous time Friday. Our morning was heavy on work--we had math, writing AND reading to do. But we got it done and moved on to our harvest party. It was great fun. I think this picture says it all:

That's me and Mr. Kefgen, my partner in costumed crime. Can't wait to see what idea we come up with next year!

Back to the kids, though...all their costumes were awesome and we gorged on treats, too. Thanks so much to all who sent in treats. We put them to good use.

Please remember, Monday is a full regular day of school (without costumes!). This weekend's homework is to finish a poem from class and to show the poems they wrote this week to you so you can check them out. See you Monday!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Red Ribbon Week...Say Boo to Drugs!

During Red Ribbon Week, we dedicate some time to talking about the dangers of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use. An officer from the Detroit Police Department is coming in today to talk to the kids and we'll be discussing it during morning meeting tomorrow. Another thing we're doing school-wide is a door decorating contest. Ours turned out pretty cool. The students did all the work...another example of their ability to cooperate and collaborate on projects. Have I mentioned lately how awesome they are??? Take a look:

Problem of the Week Vodcast #2

This week's problem is pretty tricky. In case you missed it, here's what it says:

On a game show, seven large disks are brought on stage. The numbers 0 to 6 were written on them. The host pointed to a large board and said "You have one minute to attach some or all of the disks next to each other on this board so that a number with more than one digit is made. This number will be the amount of money you won. BUT, the number you create must be divisible by 6, which is the number of people on your team."

Question one: What number did they create so they can win as much as possible?
Question two: How much does each player get?

This is tricky and requires that students know what "divisible" means--it can be divided by without any remainder.

I didn't do the exact same problem, but a similar one for this week's vodcast:

If you can't view the video in your email, please go directly to the blog:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poems Coming Home

Tonight (just like last night), students are bringing home a poem to share with you. We're writing and reading poems about autumn this week. Their work is turning out really well and I want them to share it with you each night this week. So I'm requiring them to FINISH their poems at home AND share them with you.

I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Note Home

Check backpacks for a note home with information about upcoming events, including next Friday's fall party!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Problem of the Week Vodcast #1

I got out of the habit of making a Problem of the Week video to help with each week's problem. Not sure why. I love the videos and I think they're really helpful. I'm going to try to be more regular with them and I'll call them "vodcasts," I think. Mainly because I love that word.

This week's problem of the week is essentially a division problem, but it also gives good practice for the "guess and check" strategy.

Here's me solving a similar problem. I hope it helps!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Math Test Coming Home

We took a math test Friday. It has been graded and is being sent home today. I need two things:

1. Students MUST redo the problems they got incorrect.

2. Parents must sign it.

Please help them make sure that both things happen and then return it to school tomorrow.

2 Things I Don't Do Well

The original title of this post was simply "Things I Don't Do Well." But that would have been a pretty long list! So I cut it to two. You might not have heard of a teacher writing about something like this before; I guess I'm just different like that! :) I will say that I realized I needed to write this post when I saw that I had 3 voicemails on my phone I hadn't even listened to and when a parent (you know who you are!) had to ask me about 45 times to send an extra worksheet home.

We all have things we struggle with and things we're working to improve. As a teacher, NOT trying to get better in these areas would be a disservice to you and your children. So, I try to continually figure out what I could do a better job of...and then try to do a better job with that.

Here's 2...

1. Setting stuff down and forgetting where I put it.
What the heck? Why does this keep happening? I really need a better system. Until then, I'm blaming the new classroom. I'm just not used to it yet. In the old room, there was one spot where everything went. That way, I always knew where everything was. I guess I need that in this room, too. And if I stopped blaming my new classroom that might help, too. If I've ever been late sending notes home or returning papers, this is probably the reason. I set it somewhere and then forgot where it went. I'll work on it, I promise.

2. Returning phone calls.
Ummm...yea. One VERY patient parent (you know who you are! In fact you're the same person I mentioned above!!!) called twice and I never called her back. Not cool, Mr. Curran! (She's such a nice person, she never even gave me grief about it. Bless her heart.) I've GOT to do a better job, and I will, I promise. Call me anytime you have a question. Test me out, just to see if I'm doing what I said I would! If I've ever not returned your phone call in a timely manner, please accept my apology. It's not a very good thing to do, I realize that. I WILL do a better job in the future.

That's enough for now. Thanks for listening! And thanks for reading.


Some things to keep on the radar:

  • Milestone One is due tomorrow. This is a list of resources. Should be 5 or more books and/or websites on this list. The more, the better. The list can be typed or handwritten. There isn't a form for this, just write it on a sheet of paper or (even better) type it up in Google Docs (then you can copy/paste the web addresses!)
  • There is NO SCHOOL Monday the 24th!
  • All 5th graders will take a quarterly Reading test on Thursday, the 27th of October. This test will cover everything we've discussed so far in Reading Workshop.
  • Our Fall Celebration will be held October 28th. Students are allowed to bring costumes to school to change into. We'll have a small-ish party in the room that day, too. Look for a note soon about sending in supplies.
  • There is a music field trip to a jazz concert at the University of Michigan coming up. Cost is $10 per student. (Shaking fist at sky..."Gas prices!")
  • Stay tuned for announcements about camp fundraiser and a fifth grade camp informational meeting. Camp will cost $150 dollars this year, but you can reduce your fee by selling candy. Details soon!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Milestone One due next Thursday

Tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday, I'll be discussing Interest Project topics with students. They should have an idea picked out for what they want to explore in the first trimester.

Milestone One consists of resources for their project. They should find 5-10 resources that they'll use to research facts about their topic. Resources can be books, articles, or websites. All they need to do is write these down and then turn them in Thursday, October 18.

Exhibitions are the second week of December. Milestones are used to help students stay on track and to help them create amazing presentations.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Collaborative Poetry Writing

As a teacher, when you find a technology tool that helps students learn, it can lead to awesome things. Now, just using technology to be fancy doesn't work. You've got to use technology to improve teaching and learning. Let me explain...

We've been working on our first poems of the year, Circle Poems. The goal of the Circle Poem is to surprise the reader, to come up with something that makes them think, "Wow, I never would have thought of that." Our first few drafts weren't really big on the surprise element. I wanted the students to be more creative.

Enter technology. So, I set them up on the laptops so that pairs of students were working on the same Google Document. (That way they can both type on it at the same time. Awesome, right?) Then I had them take turns writing a line for their shared poem. I challenged them to surprise their partner. I kept it anonymous, so that they didn't know who they were working with.  It turned out really well. They wrote some really surprising poems.

Take a look at this one:



















Jada and Tamerica wrote that together! Also notice the other feature of the Circle Poem--they "circle" around so that the last word of the poem connects to the title. Pretty cool. 

Want to see a few others? Take a look at our Student Work section!

Exhibition Meeting Tonight!

Tonight's Parents As Partners meeting features the topic of Exhibitions. If you're new to the school and want to know what to expect, please join me and several other UPAE teachers from 5:30 - 6:30 tonight. Or if you just want a refresher/reminder of what Exhibitions are all about, including milestones, please join us, too.

OR if you just want to see my world famous "Birds of Prey" interest project presentation one more time, you should come, too!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book of the Month Update

As you know, our theme for our first ever Book of the Month was "Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover." Students were asked to read a book with a cover that ranged anywhere from weird to hideous. Books were to have been read by Friday. A story mapping worksheet was assigned over the weekend. Students that completed it (in that it was clear that they read the book) were invited to eat lunch talk about books in my room Monday.

Congrats and thanks to the following students:

Kayla, Kaylen, Keturah, Renard, Danielle, Suhmer, Alexandria, Jenna, Tamerica, and Selena!

Now we'll be moving on to a couple of wrap-up activities with these books, one of which is to design a new digital cover for the book.

Even if students didn't get their story map form completed by Monday, they can still participate in future meetings and the activities. They just have to complete the form first!

Stay tuned for more updates, and for the announcement of the November/December book theme!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Supply Request

I warned you that sooner or later we would need something in the classroom and I'd have to come begging  asking for it. Well, that time is now! :)

We are seeking blue sticky notes for an art project. It's actually for a 3rd floor competition called The Sticky Note Challenge. It's a window decoration competition. The only catch is that they can only use sticky notes to decorate the window!

I'm not going to give away our idea yet, but we do need quite a few pads of blue sticky notes. (Maybe, like, 4?)

Here's an example of a window decoration using only sticky notes. Apparently Post It Wars are going on all over Paris, France in windows all over the city!

If you are able to send some in, we need them ASAP, please! (The winner gets a trophy!) Thanks.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Leaving Our Mark With Video Story Problems

This year, our classroom theme is "Leave Your Mark." What we mean by this is that we are working to create artifacts of our learning that we can share with others, even after we've moved on to middle school.

Our first project for our theme wrapped up this week.The idea: bring math story problems to life by creating "Video Story Problems."

Here's how it worked: students wrote a story problem involving addition and subtraction. I encouraged them to make them rigorous--not just simple, one-step problems. They tested their problems and traded with partners to make sure the problems worked. Then they "traveled" to Curranwood Studios to create their movies. Students added images, recorded audio, and added music soundtracks. Voila, they're ready for the world!

There were a lot of hidden lessons in this project. But one of the biggest ones was about being mindful of your work and paying close attention. Several students made videos in which the story problem didn't make complete sense. In most cases, they left out just one or two words that were needed to understand the problem. But, you learn from mistakes, and we definitely are turning these into "teachable moments."

My overall goal, of course, is to get them to improve when working with word problems. I told them to "picture the situation in their mind, like you're reading a book." A light bulb went off, and I thought of this project, which I had seen done by another teacher whose blog I follow.

I'm working my way through uploading and processing them, but here are two of the first I've got done. Can you solve the problems they're asking?

Kaylen's Video Story Problem: Skittles from Engaging Educators on Vimeo.

Alexandria Video Story Problem: Candy from Engaging Educators on Vimeo.

They sure put a lot of work into videos that are just a few minutes long! It was definitely worth it, and I'm very proud of them. I'll let you know when I have the rest ready and I'll provide a link to them.