Friday, June 22, 2012

Final Updates

I hope summer is going well for all of you! I wanted to inform you of a couple of developments that may have a huge impact on my professional life...

First of all, I made a little video about the work we did concerning the country of Syria and submitted it to a contest. The contest asked for teachers to submit videos and lesson plans about activities from their classrooms that inspired "passion" in their students. I thought our work with Steve Goldberg skyping into our class to teach us about Syria fit this perfectly. So I created a 2 minute video placed in the top six! As a result, it will be featured several times at the International Society for Technology in Education conference next week in San Diego. I'm lucky enough to be going to this conference, so I'll be there to see our class become "famous!" I'll let you know how it goes. If you want to watch the video yourself, here it is:

Educators from around the world will be watching it. Pretty awesome, huh?

Also, wanted to let you know that I'll be leaving the classroom next year. I've accepted a job at our school as an instructional coach. Instead of teaching kids, I'll be teaching teachers, helping them improve their work and helping our school to become even more awesome than it already is! 

You and your children, and anyone whose child I've been lucky enough to teach, played a big part in this. I learn about teaching from the children I teach, and from the families I work with. Thank you so much for helping me. Every day I work in this new position, I'll be drawing from my experiences with your children. 

Thank you, once again, for a great's a little sad for me to think about the fact that this blog won't exist anymore, but I'm excited about what lays ahead!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Learning!

A couple of things to let you know about...

Coming home today will be two Everyday Math journals. We didn't get to these very often this year, so there are lots of blank pages. These would be great for summer practice. 

Also, I've added a Summer Learning page to the blog. You can access it all summer by clicking the link at the top of the blog homepage. It has math games (I especially like Calculation Nation), spelling practice, and more. 

Also coming home today is a list of books that I recommend for summer reading and a list of technology tools we've used (or that students could use by figuring them out on their own). Save this list and use it when you need ideas for projects in sixth grade.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Important Note Home

An important note came home today...lots of Exhibition info. If you didn't get it or haven't seen it yet, I'm pasting it in its entirety here...

Ummm, I’m spent. And so are the students. We spent the entire day preparing for Exhibitions. And I’m not exaggerating. The…entire…day. They worked really hard, and if they followed along, they got the help they need and their work is complete (or very close to complete).

We are putting together a wiki page that will serve as a digital portfolio of many of their awesome fifth (and some fourth) grade projects.

This note today covers some of the last minute stuff, particularly the answer to this question: What should students talk about at their exhibition?

Here’s a short response to that.

·       INTEREST PROJECT—discuss everything you learned and show your visual aids.
·       POETRY RECITATION—Student must recite the poem they chose from memory! NO NOTES! Be sure to stand tall and talk loudly.
·       10 PLACES PROJECT—Show us your ten places page. Choose 2 to tell us about (where they are and why you chose them). Don’t read it off the board, just talk!
·       POEMS TYPED—Their poetry collection will have 15 poems. All of these must be typed. They should pick 3 of their favorites to share and talk about what’s good about them.
·       COLLEGE PROJECT—Facts and Figures and notes must be done. Article about the college must be typed. Talk about the facts that you learned and why you think it’s a good school.
·       CURRENT EVENTS/SOCIAL JUSTICE—The essay final draft must be typed. Discuss your essay…what was your thesis and what are your reasons?
·       MYTHOLOGY—Newspaper must be done. (all reading classes except Ms. Dinning) Show your newspaper and discuss what you wrote about.
·       AUTHOR STUDY—My reading class only…author study must be typed. Talk about the books you read and how they were alike and different.
·       VIDEOS & PODCASTS—You must show your Langston Hughes poetry video and talk about why you chose the pictures that you did. Hopefully you will choose another video to share and discuss, too.
·       READING WORKSHOP PROJECTS—ONLY if you are in my class…choose 1-2 projects and talk about what you learned.
·       OTHER PROJECTS IN YOUR PORTFOLIO—Are there other things you’ve done that you want to share and discuss? Feel free!

PLEASE NOTE: The stock market project isn’t going to get done! I am removing it from the requirements list. We will finish it in the remaining weeks of school and add it to their portfolios.

ALSO: Check on their progress by looking at their portfolio page on this website: .

FINALLY…I sent home checklists that will help you make sure that they have all the required parts of the biggest pieces of the exhibition (10 Places, Current Events, College Project, Mythology Newspaper).

PLEASE email any questions

See you soon!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Milestones Passed!

So, we had a huge milestone due yesterday...5 huge items all due on one day: Interest Project, 10 Places, 15 poems, a Current Events essay, and an article about a college.

Here are the folks who had it all turned in on time yesterday:


Thanks to all of them. I can't wait until Exhibitions!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Now?

I am checking in milestones at 11:00 this morning. I'm giving students the first couple hours of the day to put the finishing touches on these projects:

  • 10 Places typing
  • Poetry collection typing
  • Current events essay (rough draft)
  • College Project article (rough draft)
  • Mythology Newspaper (all reading classes EXCEPT Ms. Dinning)
  • Author Study (rough draft) (ONLY my reading class)
So what's next? With just under a week to go before Exhibitions start, there's still plenty of things to do! Here's what should be worked on at home, starting as soon as possible:
  • Finishing and rehearsing Interest Project
  • Memorizing and rehearsing the poem they chose to recite
  • Finishing any and all typing (not everyone got done!)
  • Creating an agenda so they know the order they will present things (they do NOT need to have an agenda to pass out, though. Just one for themselves.)
As for us here at school, starting tomorrow, we'll be doing several things to get ready. Including:
  • Finishing the 10 Places project (adding links, images, and video)
  • Building the wiki page that will hold all of our projects
  • Finishing the stock market project (we will get to this, I promise!)
  • Checking over all of our work using scoring rubrics to make sure we've met all requirements
  • Tying up all other loose ends (I'm sure there will be a few)
Wow. Deep breath. We can do it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Important Note Coming Home Today

Today coming home you will find a list of ALL Milestone 3 requirements explained in detail. Milestone 3 is next Thursday, the 17th. There is a lot of work to be done. Things should get worked on every night at home. The note explains exactly what to do for each part.

Also coming home is an update of how your child is doing on the 10 places and poetry projects. Both are a big part of the Exhibition.

Also, here's a tip for the 10 Places project, have your child show you the SAMPLE paragraph I wrote. It includes all the parts we taught in class. Your child's 10 paragraphs should look & sound similar to that one!

Don't want to wait for them to show you? Here it is:

Want to check your child's progress yourself? Head to this page:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Free Dress for $1 or More Tomorrow

Please read the note coming home today about Sean, a kindergarten student at UPA Mark Murray Elementary. Sean suffers from a rare disorder called ALD that leads to progressive brain damage and failure of the adrenal glands. All free dress money will go to Sean’s family to help with medical expenses. $1 is the required amount, but feel free to give more, if you are able.

I don't think I've ever gotten choked up in front of students...before today when I was talking to the class about Sean. The money we're raising will eventually help his family pay for a funeral, which is tough to think about. Sean has siblings in second and fifth grade, and as a father of 3 myself this really hits home.

So if you're able, please send in a donation for Sean's family. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, and hug your kids extra tight tonight. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mythology Unit Almost Done!

We've been working on Mythology in all reading classes (except Ms. Dinning's) and it's been a lot of fun. Students are learning a lot about Greek Myths by reading stories and watching videos like this one:

Now we're starting the final project for this unit. Students will be creating a Greek "newspaper" that tells 5 myths as if they were current events. These newspapers are due at their Exhibitions. Most work will be done in class BUT some may need to get done at home!

So ask your child what myths they've read. There have been about 12 we've covered so far.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is Your Child In My Reading Class?

If so, please check out today's post on the reading class blog:


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Forms, Dates, and Such

If you haven't turned in your Exhibition sign up sheet, please do so ASAP! Exhibitions begin May 23.

Also, here are some important end-of-the-year dates:

June 11--Bowling Party @ the Garden Bowl. 12:00 PM-2:00 PM (Bowling, pizza, and pop)

June 13--Field Day at WSU (including cook-out lunch)

June 14--No School for Fifth Grade ONLY

June 15--Promotion Breakfast 8 AM (for parents & student only), Promotion Ceremony 9 PM (students dismissed following ceremony!)

To cover costs for all this, we are seeking $25 per family.

Please mark your calendars! And stay tuned for more info.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some things I'm noticing

We are working very, very hard to get the 10 Places Project typed up this week. I've been giving time each day, but some students are still moving slowly. I'm trying to "get on their case" in a nice way, to keep moving. This whole exhibition is a test of their ability to use time ultimately it's up to them to work hard. I think it will be okay, but I'm worried it could get "ugly" if they don't use their time a little more intelligently. In other words, they'll be trying to type 10 paragraphs the night before their Exhibition if they don't start working a little harder.

One thing you can do to help is to have them work on it at home. They know what to do. Also, please make sure they're bringing their 10 Places worksheets to school every day. It's impossible to get any typing done without them.

If possible, you can also make sure they come up to my room at 8:00 each morning to get their typing done.

Finally, please take some time to look over their work. I know these are their first drafts, but we're really looking for this to be an example of their best writing. I'm seeing a lot of paragraphs that are NOT written in students' own words, so please be on the look out for that. NOTHING should be copied and pasted for this assignment (or any other). I'm also seeing some errors that are easily fixed such as starting every sentence in the paragraph the same way. If you take some time to look at their work, you may be able to provide some extra help.


Exhibition Announcements

First, starting tomorrow, students who arrive early can come up to my room to work on Exhibition projects. I'll be available at 8:00 most mornings (except April 23 and 30) so that students can come in and get some typing done.

Also, coming home today is a memo that details every project that's required for the Exhibition and what students need to be doing at home. Please note, some projects have been removed/combined, so this new list becomes THE official list of Exhibition requirements.

Finally, attached to the list will be a sign up form for Exhibitions. Please pick 3 times that work for you (number them in order of preference) and send the sheet back to school ASAP.

Of course, if you have any questions, let me know.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Menu for Thursday

For our field trip to the University of Michigan on Thursday (if you haven't sent your $5 and permission slip yet, please do so by tomorrow!), we'll be eating lunch in the West Quad dormitory cafeteria.

Here's a link to the Dining Services page, if you want to check out a menu:

Also during our trip, we'll be taking a walking tour to see classrooms, libraries, the recreation center, and the football stadium. It should be pretty awesome. Stay tuned for photos and more after the break.

Next Phase of 10 Places

Our 10 Places project continues...students are now working on typing their paragraphs onto a page in the class wiki. This could take some time, and is something that can be worked on at home.

We will be working on it all week in school, but if more time is needed, please encourage your child to work on it in the evenings and during Spring Break.

After everything is typed, I will guide them through adding images, videos, maps, and hyperlinks.

Here is a link to the wiki, if you need it:

This is another example of me trying to help students develop independent work skills. Given the time, many of the students are doing a much better job of making every minute count. Their study habits are improving! Of course, there's still work to be done. Want to check up on your child and see what they got done today? Go to THIS PAGE and click on their name. You'll see how much they got typed up in about an hour of work time. :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

What We're Up To This Week

We have started our Digital Poetry project today (National Poetry Month started yesterday...yay!). Students are "translating" poems by Langston Hughes into digital movies. It should be pretty cool. This is one of the Gateway Exhibition requirements. Hopefully, videos will be done by the end of this week.

We've also done some exploration of the Trayvon Martin case. We talked about it with our returning Skype guest, Mr. Steve Goldberg, last week, and we're continuing to explore it as part of our ongoing Current Events Project (also a Gateway assignment).

Coming up, students in the reading classes of me, Mr. Robinson, and Mrs. Martin will be starting a Mythology project. Students in Ms. Dinning's class won't be held responsible for this. It's going to be totally awesome, and I can't wait to start it after Easter break.

Also, starting after break, we'll be starting a Geometry unit for math. We've been lagging on math homework for awhile here because we've been working on our Stock Market project. Don't worry, expect much more homework after the break.

Finally, please don't forget to send in permission slips and $5 for the field trip THURSDAY!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Current Events Project

For our Current Events project, we've started by studying Syria, as you probably know. We've created a blog to share some of our learning.

Please check out some of the amazing stuff students are learning. Many of them just posted vodcasts and podcasts that they've made.

Click HERE to go the the Current Events blog.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coming home today...

Today was a milestone check in day. We expanded the milestone because of the Gateway Exhibition to include FIVE things.

Coming home today is a note that shows what your child had done today. Please sign it and return it tomorrow. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Detroit Institute of Arts FREE in March

You know I love the DIA, right? Well, this month is "DIA Fan Appreciation Month." The DIA is giving free admission all month to people who "Like" them on facebook.

Go to this page: to "like" them. And enjoy a free trip or two this month. Maybe I'll see you there!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Milestone 2 is coming soon: March 22!

Milestone 2 is due March 22! Because we have the Gateway Exhibitions this time, the requirements will be more!

On the 22nd, students must have:

*All 10 "10 Places" paragraphs written on the forms I have provided.

*A list of resources for their Interest Project

*College letters written and mailed

*2 different types of poems written and typed: their odes and their "If I was in charge of the world" poem

*2 weeks of stock market project worksheets complete

These things are basically the homework for the next week and a half. Some students are done with their college letters, but there are a few who are not. Most of them can be accessed and printed from Google Docs, but I need to see them before they are sealed and mailed.

The poems are being written in class. If they run out of time, they may have to type them at hom.

The stock market work WILL get done in class. The only way they might not get done would be if a student wasn't using time wisely.

If you have questions, of course, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

10 Places Project

Please make sure all 10 Places materials (notes, drafts, etc.) come to school every day from now on. We'll be writing paragraphs every day in our writing workshop and all 10 paragraphs MUST be done by March 22.

Furthermore, all paragraphs must be written out as rough drafts on the forms that I have provided the students with. These forms will help them write quality paragraphs.

So, please continue working on writing these at home using the forms that the kids have. And please send them to school every day. Thanks!

Stock Market Project Launches Today

Yet another Gateway Exhibition project started today, The Stock Market Project!

Students learned the basics about the stock market today. For the next few weeks we'll be using stocks as a way of teaching percents, decimals, fractions, money story problems, and more. Kids will be paired and each pair will receive 10,000 "dollars" to invest. We'll track the stocks over time to see who makes the most money!

It should be fun and quite educational.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Skype Session #2

We're going Skype crazy this week! Today we Skyped with Steve Goldberg again to discuss Syria. There've been more developments and we had another great discussion.

We are starting a blog to share our writing about this topic. This will be part of the CURRENT EVENTS project for our Gateway Exhibition. Everything we do on this topic will be, in fact.

Also, my reading students will by Skyping with students in Salem, Massachusetts to discuss A Wrinkle in Time, which we just finished reading!

Good fun all around. I'll be sharing the results of both things soon!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Interesting Article

Suhmer did an Exhibition about Lady Gaga, who is someone I think is worth looking up to in many ways. In her presentation, she talked about how Lady Gaga is a role model.

Check out this article and discuss it with your child..."Can Kindness Become Cool?"

Syria update and more

Our exploration of the events unfolding in Syria has continued. The discussions have been great and the information has helped us work on writing with detail. Tonight's homework is to write a paragraph about Syria's president. We watched an interview with him from December. In it, he made some startling statements. The students need to write a paragraph about their impression of him.

I'm also asking them to talk to you about what's going on there and what we've learned and why they think it's important for Americans to know about what's going on in country so far away.

That paragraph is due Monday. I'll also be asking them to share with the class what they talked about with you. (Also due Monday is the POW....two different versions of this went home. If your child has the one without scores in the table, here's a hint: the 17 scores have to add up to 119.)

Also, PLEASE make sure students are finishing up 10 Places research at home this weekend. I want to have all 10 rough drafts written by the end of next week. BUT without notes and research, the paragraphs are impossible to write!

In other GATEWAY Exhibition updates...the Stock Market Project starts Wednesday. The Mythology Project will start the week of March 12.

In other news, there is NO SCHOOL on March 16. There's also another after school event, Family Literacy Night, scheduled for March 28 at 5:00 p.m. Stay tuned for details.

In other OTHER news, our class was mentioned in a blog post about video story problems. Check it out HERE:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Keep Working!

Keep working on 10 Places research at home! We've started planning the paragraphs at school during Writing Workshop. I'm pretty sure lots of kids have more research to do, though.

Also, POW didn't come home until it will be due Monday. We'll work on it again in class tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning About Syria

If you follow the news, you know that there are huge problems in the country of Syria.

Since we're studying current events this semester and completing a project for our Gateway Exhibitions, Syria is a place I'd like students to learn more about. Specifically, though, I'd like to help them build a sense of global empathy, a feeling that it's important to care about what goes on in other countries.

So, as you know, we had a guest in our classroom via Skype last Tuesday and it went great. Steve Goldberg, a terrific educator from North Carolina, was kind enough to spend his morning discussing Syria with us. 

The students learned a great deal about the unrest there, including the fact that Syria's president is ordering attacks on his own people. Lots of good questions were asked and the students made some very insightful comments.

We're going to continue to explore this story as it develops. We'll also be working with Mr. Goldberg again next week to start creating an online guide for other students so that they can learn about Syria, too. Here are some pictures from Tuesday:

Stay tuned for more updates!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Over the long weekend

Today I am giving students about a half an hour for researching their 10 Places for the 10 Places Project. This will be the last class time I've giving for research. The rest of the research will have to be done at home. This would be a good thing to work on over the long weekend.

All students have notetaking sheets to do this work on. I'll be telling them to take them home to finish today. Please send them back to school on Monday.

How much information do they need about each place? A lot! They'll be writing paragraphs about each one that are 10 sentences long. The more info they have, the better. We'll be writing these paragraphs in school starting Monday. But if any of them want to get a head start, they can type them on Google Docs for easy copying and pasting.

Also, sorry about not sending home a form for Driving Questions yesterday. Totally forgot. It will come home tonight. Thanks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Current Events and a Special Guest

We've been exploring current events more often lately. We're gearing up for another Gateway Exhibition project, the brilliantly titled "Current Events Project." I think it needs a better name.

Regardless, we've been watching a few episodes of CNN Student News, a daily internet broadcast of news designed for students. We've also read an article about a country named Uzbekistan, which recently "cancelled" Valentine's Day.

My goal is for students to learn more about the world in which they live, and to get them asking good questions. I want them to be thinkers and learners, not just readers and writers. Current events are a great way to help build these skills.

Today we'll be discussing a country that's in a state of unrest, to say the least, Syria. A reporter for the New York Times died there recently and it's got me wondering what the students think of journalists who risk their lives to cover stories. I bet they've never heard of Syria, so it should be an interesting discussion. I want to let you know in advance that we will be talking about the violent uprisings and the brutal government in Syria. Nothing graphic, though, so don't worry. But we will be discussing it. It's going to lead to discussions of violence in the African countries of Sudan and South Sudan as well. I just wanted to let you know.

Helping me out with this will be my friend Steve Goldberg. Steve lives in North Carolina and he's opening a middle school there in 2013. He's got some great ideas about teaching kids using current events and I've been learning a lot from him. Steve's going to be Skyping into our class tomorrow (Tuesday) to help us understand more about Syria and Sudan. It should be pretty awesome. I'll keep you posted.

Look for more details soon about our Current Events Project.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Interest Projects

Students WILL have to complete an interest project this semester and I'll be blogging about it regularly. However, I do want to encourage students to do two things:

  • Make this their best interest project yet! It's their last one of elementary school, and it should be the best one they've ever put together.
  • Push themselves to explore a deep and meaningful topic. Something scientific or related to geography or history, maybe. Something that will involve some good non-fiction reading and research. For a driving question, ask something they're really curious about, something that they have no clue what the answer is, but that they're really interested in figuring out.
I would like to have all students' driving questions chosen by Tuesday. I will send a form home tomorrow for you to sign.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekend Work

This weekend...

--A math quiz is coming home. We took this today. Please sign it and return it to school on Monday. Also, have them redo ANY problems they got wrong.

--A writing quiz is coming home. We took this today. They had to correct 10 errors in a paragraph. Any student who got less than 8 correct HAS to do another paragraph this weekend.

--Driving questions are due Tuesday!

--Tuesday will be our last day to take notes in school for the 10 Places project. They can work on finishing their notes at home this weekend. See the blog post from earlier this month for information. can be used for math practice. I've put some new assignments there. See yesterday's blog post for instructions.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interest Project Update

Before their Gateway Exhibition, students must complete their final elementary school interest project! I'd love for this one to be their best one ever.

As always, this is something that students are completely in charge of and that should be completed at home. There will be NO time in technology class to work on presentations this time.

The first step is a driving question...what will they be learning about?

I'd like all driving questions ready to report to me by Tuesday, February 21. Please push your child to

  1. think of something they are VERY interested in
  2. think of something they will learn a lot from
If you have any questions, let me know. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Math Practice

By now, you've seen your child's score on their January Math Test. There's a lot of work yet to be done, obviously. BUT...we are up to the task.

Here are some great ways to get some extra math practice at home:

This page has a ton of links to some great interactive online games. The best ones for what we're working on can be found by scrolling down to the sections titled "Fractions Games" or "Fractions, Decimals, and Percents Games." Almost of the games will help, though. Want an extra challenge? Try the Algebra section.

MAP-Based Games
This collection of games is tied to MAP test score. For each section, there are different score ranges. 5th graders should be somewhere between 200 and 220. That's a great place to start.

Make your own practice worksheets on a number of topics!

I've blogged about this before, and we're going to get back into using it at school. I encourage you to use it at home, too. Here's a little rundown of how it works...

Once they've logged in, they'll see their dashboard:

In the middle, they can scroll through their assignments and click Start Practice to begin them. Once they pass a certain number of assignment, they can go to the Reward Zone to play games.

If they've done all their assignments, they can still access practice problems. Just scroll down on the home page to the PRACTICE section and choose from the topics listed in the menu. Any of them will provide good practice:


Of course, you can always let me know if you have specific questions and concerns. I recommend making math practice a regular thing 2-3 times per week. Or 5!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Read Aloud

I like reading a book aloud about 3 days a week after recess. We just finished a fun book called Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. The kids enjoyed it. It was spooky, suspenseful, and it had some online videos that went along with it, making it kind of a unique experience. If you're at a bookstore or library, you might want to pick up the next books in the series: Ghost in Machine, Crossroads, and The Raven.

Now, for the first time ever I think, I'm reading a non-fiction book aloud. It's called Witches: The Absolute True Tale of Disaster in Salem. It's about the Salem witch trials in the 1600s in the small Puritan colony in Massachusetts. It's a gripping supernatural story about prejudice and the dangers of making assumptions. I hope the kids enjoy it and learn a lot from it.

This is Going to Be Good

If you were with UPA in fourth grade, you remember our awesome "human wax museum" that we held to celebrate and honor African American History Month.

This year, the entire school is getting in on the act. A Black History Month program will be held February 29th at 5:00 p.m. in the gymnasium. Each grade will be making a short presentation to honor some aspect of African American History.

Our grade is studying the African American experience in Social Studies. We are going to put this information into a series of readings from a wide range of poems and speeches by important Americans ranging from Langston Hughes to Maya Angelou to President Obama.

It will be a powerful performance. And every child will have a part. You'll be impressed and proud!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gateway Exhibition Work

By now, you've seen the massive list of Gateway Exhibition Requirements. I wanted to let you know what we'll be working on first...the 10 Places Project!

For this project, students will learn about 10 Places in the world that they would like to visit. They will then write paragraphs (10 sentences minimum EACH) about each one and why they would like to visit them.

We are working on the research right now. Students can definitely work on it at home using the links I've provided on the class wiki page. Soon, we'll start writing and typing the paragraphs. They can work on that at home, too! (From this point forward, there's never a night "without homework!")

It's very similar to our 10 Things project from last year. The final product will be similar, too. Students will publish their final work on the class wiki and will include maps, hyperlinks, images, and maybe even videos, too.

Here's a sample page from last year:

And here's a full description:

Friday, February 10, 2012

A New Challenge

Today was a challenging day. My goal this semester is to help my students become more independent. It is obvious that they depend on me for many things. A lot of these things, however, are things I need to stop helping them with. It's time to "cut the cord" in some ways.

As a former middle school teacher, I know that their 6th grade teachers, whereever they go to school, will answer a lot fewer easy questions and tolerate a lot fewer interruptions. I need to get the kids doing things on their own, thinking for themselves, and feeling like they don't need me at every moment of the learning day.

That's where the Gateway Exhibition comes in. By the end of today, all of you will have seen the requirements. It' do I say this...A LOT. I'm not going to be able to hold their hands. That doesn't mean I'm going to abandon and make them do it all by themselves. But it's time to set them loose as independent thinkers and learners.

This is going to be a challenge for some of them. Today we were finishing up letters to colleges. Normally, I would work with each student to help them make sure theirs was formatted correctly. Normally, I'd take any and all questions to make sure they got everything right. Not today. Today I gave them a sample letter and made them figure it out on their own. I didn't allow interruptions. I made them wait to speak with me. It was frustrating for some of them. It's going to continue to be frustrating.

But I believe it's worth it. It's time for these baby birds to leave the nest and fly. I just wanted to give you a heads up when they come home talking about how "mean" I've become. :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coming Home Tonight

Tonight, your child is bringing home a packet that contains...

*REPORT CARDS! These include comments and scores (out of 100) for all subjects.

*MEAP Scores

*MAP Test Scores This shows results from every MAP test they've ever taken! If you have questions about it, see me OR check out this online parent toolkit

*GATEWAY EXHIBITION Requirement--This is a list of all the projects we'll be doing in the second semester, along with short descriptions of each. Students will present 10 of them at their final Exhibition in May. MUCH more on this to come.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Writing and Math Tonight

There's no POW this week...BUT there is homework tonight due tomorrow. In fact there are two assignments. Here they are:

*Write and solve two story problems that are at FIFTH GRADE LEVEL. (Not just addition or subtraction) Please have your child share these with you. We're going to turn them into VIDEO STORY PROBLEMS tomorrow.

*Write TWO in favor and one answer this question: Should students be allowed to go to school completely online?

Monday, January 30, 2012

From the Classroom: Science Podcasts

Finally getting around to sharing the podcasts students finished last month...they had to research a topic about space and astronomy and then create a podcast about what they learned.

I thought they turned out pretty well. Have a listen to a couple:

Keturah & Selena:

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Shauntia & Tamerica:

Podcast Powered By Podbean

To hear the others, visit the home of our podcasts, Radio Free UPrep. I thought they turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Camp Money is Due Friday!

All camp money is due Friday and so is the emergency contact form. Don't have a contact form? Not sure how much you owe? I'm sending one home today with your balance written on it (if you sold candy).

Still don't have what you need? Shoot me an email and we'll take care of it.

Next week, we'll be sending home teacher contact info so you have everyone's phone number. Be on the look out for that.

In just two weeks, we'll be back won't be long now!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Middle School Orientation

You probably got an invite in the mail, but wanted to remind you about orientation night at University Prep Middle School January 26th at 6:00!

This will be a great chance to get an idea about what to expect in middle school. The principal, Nigena Livingston, and several teachers will be on hand to answer questions and give you the scoop on all UPAMS has to offer.

Homework this weekend

We've been studying odes during writing workshop. Odes are poems written in praise of someone or something. They're usually long, detailed, and they feature lots of comparisons and flowery, exaggerated language.

Odes often are written to PEOPLE, especially romantic interests. You may know the line, "How do I love thee. Let me count the ways." It's from an ode by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

This week, we read odes by the master of odes, Pablo Neruda. You've got to read the one we read today: "Ode to My Socks." It proves that odes can be about anything.

This weekend's homework is to write 3 odes! Be detailed. Be over-the-top. Be flattering.

Have a great weekend...see you Tuesday.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

List of Dates

With so much going on and so much coming up, I needed to put all the important dates that I can think of (for now) into a blog post. I'll also be sending them home in a memo tomorrow:

Friday Jan 20: End of 1st Semester
Monday Jan 23: NO SCHOOL
Tuesday Jan 24: Reading Interim Test
Wednesday Jan 25: Math Interim Test
Friday Jan 27: CAMP MONEY DUE

Friday Feb 3: NO SCHOOL
Monday Feb 6 8:00 am - Wednesday Feb 8 2:00 pm FIFTH GRADE CAMP

Friday, January 13, 2012

Out Until Thursday

Unfortunately, due to a death in my wife's family, I will be out until Thursday. I just wanted to let you know. Please encourage your child to do their best on the MAP test Tuesday and to be helpful to the substitute, Ms. Williams.

Thank you.

I'll still be available by email if there's anything you need.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Problem of the Week Vodcast

This weeks problem involves finding the total of 5 different fractions. Adding can be tricky when there are so many fractions. Also, don't forget that the answer should be written as a MIXED NUMBER.

I made a vodcast to help you with the problem. In the vodcast, I add 5 fractions together. I didn't pick the easiest fractions, but I think you'll get the idea..

NOTE: If you can't see the video, you'll have to visit the blog homepage.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Math Experiemnt

In an effort to deepen understanding about the fraction concepts we're studying, the fifth grade teachers are trying something new...we're switching classes during math time this week with the goal of mastering fractions.

Here's how it's working...

We gave a quiz before the holiday break. Based on those results, we've grouped the kids by area of need. The kids who need to work on the same concepts are grouped together and then sent to a teacher who has had success in that area.

I'm working with students on equivalent fractions. Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Martin are working on adding and subtracting fractions and mixed numbers.

There is also a large group of kids who showed on the quiz that they have mastered these ideas already. This group is working with Ms. Dinning this week on some enrichment activities involving multiplication and division of fractions.

We'll give a quiz on Friday to see how this turns out. I know that in my class things have been awesome so far. I think it will help them understand this tough concept a little better. And it's also nice to hear a fresh voice and different approach from a new teacher sometimes. Ask you child and see how it's going!

Deadline Clarifications

I hope the first week back has been going well for you. Here at school it's been terrific! Kids are working hard...they really hit the ground running.

I wanted to clarify some deadlines so you're aware of what needs to be worked on:

* Fantasy stories are due FRIDAY. These must be finished and typed in Google Docs. We've been working on them in school for a loooong time, and it's time to finish up.

*ALL slice of life stories must be done by FRIDAY! The minimum number of stories is 25.

*POW will be due Friday. It will come home today.

*CAMP MONEY (cash or money order only) is due January 27. That's 2 weeks from Friday!

Also, I want to remind all chaperones that we need your money on that day, too and we need all your paperwork and background checks ASAP!!!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Great prizes! Take time to vote!

Can you spare 5 minutes? If so, our school could win a ton of technology. Here's what to do...

1. Go to:

2. Choose our state, district (University Preparatory Academy) and school (Just choose the first elementary option) from the lists.

3. Choose a wonderful teacher at UPA to nominate for the award

4. Skip the referral part if you want and choose "no" when asked to subscribe

5. Submit and then share this link with as many people as possible. We might win ipods or ipads for our school! Seriouly just email the link to this blog post to everyone you know, or post it on facebook and ask them to vote for the teacher that you did. We might win!!!!

Here are the contest details, it's all legit:

Thanks so much for taking the time to vote and send this to EVERYONE, you know!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone enjoyed the first week of their break! I wanted to write and say Happy New Year and also to recognize students who've been working hard during the break.

The following students have posted MULTIPLE Slice of Life stories this past week:

Danielle, Alexandria, Romance, Keturah, Suhmer, and Kaylen...between them, they've posted over 20 stories!

Please keep writing and remember to comment on other people's stories, too!

I am hoping that everyone keeps writing and posting to edmodo. If you don't have a computer handy this week, just write them on paper and type them in when you get the chance.

See you January 9!