Saturday, January 28, 2012


We finally have another brave student willing to try her hand at blog writing. E.L. would like to share with all of you what she has worked on lately in her favorite subject. Without further adieu here she is...

I love writing. It is my favorite subject. Right now we are learning about descriptive words. We did an activity where we made riddles about mystery bags. We also have written letters from our Colonial Boston characters back to family members in Britain.

My favorite thing is writing in Writer's Workshop!!! It allows us to free write. I'm working on a story about a girl who gets turned into a fairy. Well goodby for now and back to my teacher.

E.L. mentioned about our descriptive memory bags. I wanted to share more about that to our parents and teacher friends. I put six items in brown lunch sacks (green apple, blue mitten, yellow highlighter, red color pencil, blue rubber ducky, and a frog stuffed animal . Sitting a circle students had about 10 seconds to stick their hands in the back and guess the item without looking.Many guess correctly with things like the rubber ducky and apple. However, what is their mental image of those items. We discussed that our jobs as good writers is to help good readers make mental images. To do that we need to write descriptively. We need to put items into context, add details, and invoke the senses. We then brainstormed different sensory words we could use as writers. I had groups break off and write a paragraph or riddle to "show not tell" exactly what was in their bag. This was hard for students because they didn't want to have students guess what it was too easily. I had to keep reminding them that the whole point is that they will guess it. We want everyone who reads our papers to have a clear mental image. Then the groups read their paragraphs and the students guessed again. They all guessed exactly write, down to the color. It was a fabulous lesson!
Our before and after guesses
Sensory Word Anchor Chart

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kid-Directed Art & Free Time

We had science homework due last week. I would love to say that all our kiddos complete and turn in their homework. Unfortunately, that is far from true. For daily work that is unfinished we keep our students in during recess to complete it. This is true for weekly homework too. However, for our monthly calender and monthly science/math project the students miss out on some wonderful free time. Our science experiment write-up last week fell into the free time category.

During free time students had the choice to make foam snowmen, draw winter scenes on black paper with chalk, or play board games. Some free times we allow students to play computer games, board games, or draw on whiteboards. We try to limit the choices just for crowd control.

Normally for art projects I try to control the outcome by doing a focus and art lesson. Allowing kid-directed art goes against my natural inclination and it is something I am working on (especially with little ones at home). When the host teacher wanted to hand out black paper and chalk I was a little nervous. How would it turn out? Would they just write messages or letters to their friends? Would they think it is boring? I felt beyond foolish when I saw the art work they produced. It is simply beautiful. It was a shame some friends had to miss out and write about science instead.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Root of it All

Wow, I can't believe it's been a week since my last post! I wanted to share the Word Work we do daily. Most mornings I introduce a new prefix, root, or suffix to the students. Each student has a word work book that I made them. We fill it out together with me telling them the definition and two examples. They students tell me what word segment it is and we discuss as a group a picture to represent that word into our memory. Drawing words when it comes to vocabulary study has shown to help in the aid of recall.

Part of morning work the following morning students have a leaf on their desk. They are to write a word that has the word segment we had learned the previous day. The student's goal is to think of a word that wasn't an example I gave or a word a classmate would think of. At times this can be tricky because they need to make sure that a) the word matches the definition of the word we learned and b) they aren't making up words. The leafs get added to our interactive bulletin board. I got the idea of the bulletin board from the pin of Dandelion and Dragonflies blog. It has been great teaching these to my 5th graders, and tying it into our reading and writing!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's a Snow Day

We don't get a lot of snow here in the Pacific Northwest, so when we do it is a BIG deal! Having lived in Alaska, and moving there later this year, it is laughable what we call a "snowstorm". I think my hubby said they have over 8 feet of snow this year and it is -5 degrees. Yikes! However, in in the Pacific Northwest I will get giddy over some snowflakes and get wrapped up in the excitement like the rest of us.

Today was a half day and since the district closed school I wonder if we will have to make up a full day or a half. Hmmm? It was starting to rain when we woke up so I got the boys dressed and we played in the snow before the sunrise. Last year I learned my lesson. I promised my son we would play later on in the morning (when I was properly awake), and then the snow melted. He was heartbroken! So now we have gotten snow fun out of our system and it is time to cuddle and get warm inside. Here are some pics of my snow day:
My baby enjoying the snow (for a short while at least)
My Boys
With the little one. Did I mention I wasn't fully awake yet and it was before sunrise!
Attempts at snowman building
With the oldest warming up with hot chocolate!
Students-if you happen to check the blog today. I would love to read a comment of what you did on your snow day! I will see you all tomorrow at school as we try to get rid of our snow madness!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


We have been plugging away with our large landform unit. As we wait for the Foss Kits to show up I have been busy teaching weathering. As we move away from weathering onto erosion I wanted to show what we have done so far. Here is what we have done in science in the past two weeks (not including the GLAD component which I will make a separate post on later):

Weathering Experiment: I took some different rocks from my yard (pebbles and decorative rocks bought at Home Depot) and placed them in a glass baby food jar. Then I had the students fill the jars with water and shake at 15 second intervals. Over time the decorative rock broke away and what looked like sand sediment appeared. We were able to weather our own rocks!
The murky water is actually weathered sediment
A student's experiment write up
Sand Observation: My son has a sand collection from different beaches around the world. We have sand from Japan, Thailand, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean, and local beaches as well. You would be amazed how all sand looks different! In pairs students got two samples to compare. Then I had students infer why the two samples would look so differently. They had more difficulty with this than I expected. However, after some discussion we realized that different rocks could be one reason for the difference in appearance, and also the how long they had been weathered may also be a factor.
Looking at differences
Sand Samples
Students comparison notes and inferences

Chemical/Physical Weathering Picture Sort: After watching my PowerPoint on the different types of both physical and chemical weathering, that highlight some characteristics to watch for, we inferred from pictures what type of weathering each image was.  For example, honeycomb appearance tells us salt-wedging has occurred. It was fun to guess which type of weathering each image was. To take it a step further, if a student could tell me the EXACT name of weathering that was happening they got a Super Scientist award (more on that in another post).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Day in My Shoes

Over at Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher she is having a Linky Party. That is where other blogs do a similar post or idea and they link it to the blog hosting the party. That way you have one area full of ideas! This was a look at the life of a teacher, and I thought it would be here it goes~
5:50- I ask my 5 year old why he is waking up so early. Then begrudgingly crawl out of bed. I make the boy get dressed immediately because he tends to dawdle! L Check Facebook & let the dogs out.

6:00- The movement has woken up the toddler so we are all up. Change Diaper. Kiddos are crying for food. I make the boys breakfast (premade and frozen mini pancakes, 1/2 banana and Gogurt).

6:15- My alarm goes off. While the baby is secure in his chair I run to take a 5 minute shower. This 5 minutes of alone time is only if I am super lucky!

6:30- Get little one dressed because he most likely got breakfast all over himself. Change another diaper.

7:15- Grab packed lunch, work bag, tot's diaper back (checked to make sure I didn't forget wipes or diapers), and tell the oldest to grab his backpack and coat

7:20-Wondering why oldest hasn't gotten ready to walk out the door

7:32- Finally in the car and driving to in-laws,who watch the boys. They live two minutes away.

7:45-Arrive at school. Begin putting morning work papers on student desks, write daily schedule and learning targets on the board, check that I have everything ready for today's lessons.

8:20-Open the door for students. They begin morning work.

8:40 Specialist (PE/Music/Library). I make copies. Prep experiment materials for the week. Cut paper. Make Bulletin boards. Have a Diet Dr. Pepper (early I know-but it's my morning cup of coffee)

9:10-Check morning work. Work Word (Introduce new Root Word) Students read about Amazing Americans (their choice of book). They record it in their log and write a reader's response. May have a guided reading group during this time.

10:20-Colonial Boston Storypath or Writer's Workshop

11:20-Students have 30 min. recess and I get lunch. Except students are in to complete work so I discreetly eat a peanut butter banana sandwich and drink a diet soda. Students leave 5 minutes before my lunch is over. I try to fit a restroom break in.

11:50- I pick up the students from outside the cafeteria. We walk back to the classroom with lunch in hand. They need to eat lunch in the classroom since we don't have space at our school. This is instructional time so I normally do a read-aloud (science or math based) or the GLAD Big Book for whatever unit we are on at the moment (Landforms currently)

12:10 Students do daily math work (like morning work but math related since morning was literacy focused)

12:30 Science (observation, chants, experiments weekly, etc) Yes, I teach it most days!


2:05 Recess. Which I go to the computer lab to help students with IXL math work.

2:35 Students come back and we do end-of-day routine (partner read) or compliment ball.

2:50 Dismissal. After watching students leave on the bus I walk back to room. Adjust plan-book for what ever surprises the day has brought. Grade work and get supplies ready for the next day.

4:00 Leave the school (if lucky). Go and pick up my boys. Lots of hugs and hear all about Kindergartners day.

 5:00 Dinner (normally slow cooker or something prepped on the weekend).

6:00 Tuesday-parenting class, Wednesday-College Class, All other days I play with the boys, check my email, work on son's homework, put dishes away from dishwasher, clean up the multitude of toys and pots and pans strewn around the house, let the dogs go out about a twenty times,  keep the baby from climbing on the table or eating the dog food, change diapers, take garbage out, etc.

7:00  Skype with hubs/daddy since he is in Alaska working. Give boys quick bath. Read books with oldest- I read two and he reads one) Hugs and Kisses and lights out!

8:00 Watch a TV show. Feel guilty so plan and prep for students as I watch TV (cutting, pasting, creating quizzes or worksheets, do my own homework, blog, check Facebook and Pinterest, and clean the straggling toys on the floor.

9:45 Fall asleep in my chair.

11:00 Wake up in my chair. If I have second wind work on school prep until midnight. Normally the second wind never appears so I crawl into bed and fall asleep the second the head hits the pillow!

Nuts & Bolts for Students and Parents

To my amazing students, who are most likely looking for new posts, I forgot my camera at school! With the craziness on Friday and the excitement of the three day weekend my camera spaced my mind. I have some wonderful pictures of some students looking at our sand samples. I want to do a large post of all the work we have done on weathering, including our rock experiment. Until the new post you can read our two fabulous student posts. I also updated homework and important dates to the left.

To my supportive parents, thank you for the those that attended Colonial Night. It was such a joy to meet and talk with each of you. Also, I wanted to let you know that we are starting a large decimal unit. Your child already already know how to add and subtract decimals. However, this week we will look at converting fractions to decimals! Last week we worked on ordering and comparing (which they did great at). Rounding decimals to the nearest tenth was a little more difficult for them (another skill we worked on last week). One way to support this at home is have your child round to the nearest tenth if they go grocery shopping with you. This unit is what I will be videotaped for my schooling. Videotaping will happen for the next 2-3 weeks during math. If you haven't returned the permission slip please remember to do so. It is a new Washington State standard for all student teachers.
Look for more fun and creative posts next week-when I have my camera with me!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


It's that time again...we have another student that wants to share with you. A.R. came back from Winter Break to find that he had a substitute. I kept trying to build the suspense of where Mrs. London may be. The mysteriousness helped us with our creative writing during Writer's Workshop. I asked the students if they wanted to write about what may have happened to Mrs. London. Here is what are extremely creative A.R. came up with...

Chorus: Miss London got ran over by a reindeer
walking home from our class Winter Break.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
but as for me and the classroom we believe.

She'd been drinkin to much coffee
and we begged her not to go,
but she left her work papers
so she stumbled out the door into the parking lot. 
What we found the day after school
there were hoof prints on her forehead
and incriminating claw marks on her back.

Repeat Chorus

Now we're all so proud of Ellie.
She'd been taking it so well.
She'd been drinking juice playing hide and seek with her dad.
It's not school with out Miss London
all the class is dressed in red.
And we just can't help but wonder
if we should save a compliment or give it to someone else.

Repeat Chorus

Now homework is not on our desks
and the math not corrected.
And the blue and red team are sad.
That would have just of made her sad as well
I've warned all my classmates and neighbors
they better watch out for yourselves.
They should never give a license
to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.

Repeat Chorus(2x)

A.R. is super talented and creative-I told you. I wonder what he will come up with next Writer's Workshop!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oregon Food Bank Field Trip

Every Tuesday and Friday I hope to have our students participate as authors on the blog. Today we are featuring our first student blogger, A.W. This very bright and talented student wants to share about her favorite learning experience this year. Here she is...

This year my favorite thing we did was go on our field trip to the Oregon Food Bank. There we packaged pasta into two- pound bags to be redistributed to people in Oregon and SE Washington. It was fun because we all must have laughed trying to tape the boxes with the awkward tape gun. I remember how scared everyone was because we had to wear hair nets.Also, going to the food bank was a easy way to help people. I think a lot of us will agree that the best part was meeting the Trailblazers' coach.He was so tall-I think he was 6'4". I remember that someone asked for a basketball the Trailblazers had practiced with. Sadly, the coach did not have any with him. That day was full of new experiences and one I will never forget.
Packing pasta with glamorous hair nets!
Getting a lot of food ready for the community
5th grade with Portland Trailblazer Coach- highlight of the day!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Digging through Dirt

As we began our landform science unit we took a closer look at soil. Soil can be surprisingly fascinating! We spent some time discussing everything that is soil with the help of my super-duper soil anchor chart.
Key points I wanted students to focus on ( soil layers and types of weathered rocks by particle sizes)
Last Thursday I brought in soil samples from my yard and some awesome 5th grade scientist did the same. I had the students look at the soil up close and personal with magnifying glasses and microscopes. They recorded the smell, feel, images, and organic materials. I had them also pull out rocks (anything over 2mm-which they measured). I so wish I had pictures of them  playing the dirt! They really got into it. When they found worms and dead bugs (humus) things got very exciting.
 An excellent read aloud is Jump Into Science:Dirt. By first glance you may think it would be too babyish for 5th graders, but the content is fabulous! I swear it is written to teach all the state science standards. The children were engaged and it was very relevant to what we are learning. It is a must own if you have to teach soil to your students.
We then took our soil and put them in glass jars (filling them up half way). We add water and shook! After 2 mins layers started appearing. By examining the jars of the last couple of days we were able to label the different layers (sand, silt, clay) and see organic material floating on the top. I loved how the experiments tied in so nice to our lecture that first day! After final observations we could give evidence if our soil was good for growing plants or not.
I just love the worm bobbing in the water pic ;0)

Word Problems Strategies

Today we finished a short unit on multi-step word problems and strategies/tools to help us solve them. I am always amazed at how much kiddos struggle with multi-step word problems (I was the same way in elementary school). It's hard to dig through all the words and figure out what we need to do exactly to solve the problems. I am hoping that after the last couple of days students will have so skills to help them in this area.

After taking a pre-test we brainstormed different words that are keywords for math operations. For example, when ever we see the word per we know to divide. We also took a look at a problem solving video at Studyjams. I love, love, LOVE this website for videos geared towards math and science. The characters appeal to upper elementary so well. They have a great list of operation keywords!

The following day we talked about different ways to solve math problems. We looked at numerous word problems that had us draw pictures, find patterns, make lists, make charts, write an equation, and think logically. We talked about what style works best for them and how they learn.

Then came the step-by-step strategy to help students work through a word problem. I got the idea from Oh Boy 4th Grade Blog. This amazingly, creative teacher has created a pencil strategy using colors of the rainbow. For each color students have a different task. Students now have colored pencils in their math boxes. With red they underline the question, orange-box keywords, yellow-circle numbers, green-solve, blue-show all work, and purple-check answers. I made an anchor chart to remind students the steps and they recorded it in their math journal. The teacher at Oh Boy 4th Grade has laminated cards for all her students for sell, and I hope to purchase them when I have a class of my own.
Now that we have strategies we have practiced different multi-step word problems using the above pencil strategy numerous times. Students even took a turn writing their own problems. We will keep using this strategy and then as they get confident I will take away the colored pencils. The colors at this point are such a great way to organize their thinking. Hopefully, we see some growth after using the strategy on their post test.
Colored Pencils in Action!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Look Back at Matter

I was really hoping to post about soil this weekend, but we didn't get to finish it on Friday. The class had a great time taking a closer look at soil samples. At first some people didn't want to get their hands dirty, but once some worms were found the true kids hidden inside came out. It was great to see and I wish I had pictures of it. We then put that same soil sample into jars with water. Layers started to appear after our 2 minute and 10 minute observations. We need to finish with our 24 hour observation (that has now turned into 72 hours). We will then see if the students can predict what each layer is. So look for a post on soil to come soon!

I thought since I could post about soil I will post about a previous science lesson-one on Matter! Earlier this year, Mrs. Judd had a sub so I got to come in and teach a lesson on Matter. I read some books to the class to teach them specifically how molecules act in solids, liquids, and gas. The first was a Max Axiom Graphic Novel (I love this science series-the graphics are so engaging) and a book from a Foss Kit. Then we went over some key vocabulary: matter, molecules, mass, volume, boiling point, melting point, condense, and evaporate. I typed these out to place on the bulletin board so they can be reminded of the terminology, along with a cycle of how the states of matter change.
There are some great Non-Fiction Graphic Novels out there. I love this series!
 Then came project time (Yay!): students made a tri-fold and labeled each column one of the three states of matter. Then under that they needed to write the definition of that particular state of matter. Under that they needed to draw a representation of that type of matter, in which they would glue Fruit Loops (are molecules) in that drawing the proper way they would act. For example, in the solid they may draw a box and the fruit loops would be tight together looking they are locked in place. For gas they may draw a balloon and inside fruit loops would be dispersed everywhere and spread out. Under the drawing they had to list a minimum of three examples of each type of matter. When they were done I put their finished product on a bulletin board. I am really proud of how it turned out and the level of engagment from the students. Extra bonus they got to snack on the leftover Fruit Loops.