Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Step, You Step, We All Step for ISTEP

This week is ISTEP. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the kids should be eating breakfast every day, wearing loose and comfortable clothing (please no bathrobes and slippers), and to make sure the kids get about fourteen hours of sleep each night. Okay, so maybe I was a little overboard on that last one, but you get the idea.

The kids' thrice-edited rough drafts were due on Thursday, and they're still not completely graded by me. I like to do them thoroughly, and it's not like the kids are going to need to work on them until Thursday at the earliest. Still, I'll make sure they get them back ASAP and that they all have plenty of time to get their second rough drafts done. Some of them are going to need to gather a bit more information than others, but that's a-okay with me.

Math Bowl practice tomorrow after school until promptly 3:30. I have to tutor at 3:45, so please have kids picked up by 3:35!

Be good, everyone, and have a great week!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Low-Hanging Clouds

Tomorrow the kids have a DOL due (they had very little time to do it in class), a Spelling test, pages 67-69, and a book report on Monday. My Math class has pages 265-266 due tomorrow.

Next week: ISTEP!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scheduled Lives

We learned tons of Social Studies today! I love the American Revolution! Some of the most interesting stuff comes from this time in history.

Gave the kids a book report today that is due on Monday. It's not a big project--don't panic. The meaning exercise is due tomorrow.

The remainder of the Math Bowl schedule is as follows. I'll give out a hard copy of this to the kids tomorrow, but I just got the rest of it finalized today. We've been working on this in class since my class is just the right size for an entire Math Bowl team. There is only one boy who wanted to be counted out, so that makes twenty even.

First off, if we have any time in class during ISTEP week, this is what we're going to focus on. I would really like it if on some of those days we would just be able to work straight through after school until 3:30. Math is at the end of the day, and I think it would really help to be able to work for two straight hours at least four or five times between now and the Math Bowl.

In case you didn't know, Math Bowl itself is Thursday afternoon, March 11 at Forest Dale, beginning at 5:00. I'd like for all the kids to be there by 4:30. It's always over by 7:00 at the latest.

Even though it's kind of a small-scale short-term deal, I always like for my teams to be as good as they can possibly be, and I like for them to have a good time. It's impossible to know what is going to be on each Math Bowl test, but we're going to give it a go.

Here's the schedule (subject to alteration...just make as many as you can):

Monday, March 1 Practice after school until 3:30
Tuesday, March 2 Practice after school until 3:30
Wednesday, March 3 Practice after school until 3:30
Thursday, March 4 Practice after school until 3:30

Monday, March 8 Practice after school until 3:30
Tuesday, March 9 Practice after school until 3:30
Wednesday, March 10 Practice after school until 3:30

Thursday, March 11 Math Bowl competition at Forest Dale, arrive at 4:30

We'll also be practicing during class!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


We have been wedging every square inch of worktime into our days lately, and today was no exception.

Now you all have an assignment. The kids have edited each other's rough drafts twice now. I haven't looked at them except to tell a few of the kids that they need a bit their papers. (A couple of them looked awfully anemic.) So it's your turn now to edit them, look through them and tell them where they could add some more information, awkward wording, and when something is unclear.

Don't worry! I'm not going to grade your editing. I will make the final edits after they've done their revisions over the weekend. I just want a grown-up pair of eyes to look at them and let them know what you think.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Loyalists, Patriots, and Other Countrymen

Everybody Counts took place on Friday, and I can't tell you how awesomely it went. The kids learned about dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, and even anomia as a part of the program this year. A huge thank you goes out to Carol Fleitz, Kelley Alford, Wendy Franklin, and also to Sara Cox, who coordinated all of Everybody Counts for this year! Thanks, ladies!

The kids did a nice job on their rough drafts for the most part, and today the peer edited them. Tomorrow we're going to do a second peer edit, and then we'll do a grown-up edit, where they'll have to have someone over the age of eighteen look through the paper and pick apart anything that does not make sense, or point out where you could use some more information. Then I'll edit them after that--so don't worry; your final word won't be responsible for your child's score. :)

We've also been learning about Loyalists and Patriots in Social Studies, Sacagawea in Reading, and in my Math class, we've been learning about probability.

Happy Week, everyone!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brand New Day

We have accomplished a lot this morning. We talked through a lot of the Social Studies chapter and the kids seemed to really understand the lesson--they like it better when I just lecture them like a college professor. Go figure. I hope they stay that interested by the time they're in college.

I also had the kids write peer evaluations for the Rube Goldberg project and write quotes up for the quote board outside my room. It's been a pretty even-keeled day.

A few recent bits of business:

Hanna brought in an article yesterday (the day before? sometime recently) about a local girl by the name of Lauren Miller, who is doing a project for Haiti relief through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. She's gathering up supplies to make medical kits. The supplies she will need include combs, finger nail clippers, toothbrushes, Ziploc bags, bath soap, band-aids, hand towels, and bandages appropriate for covering up wounds. If anyone would like to donate any of these supplies, please send them in to the school. We'll get a box started, and Mrs. Houck said she would take the donated supplies to CUMC for us. Here's a link for the cause. I think this would be a really neat 5-1 project through which everyone can help.

In more 5-1 Dojo-related news, Carter G.'s grandpa is volunteering up in Canada right now for the Olympics. It sounds like he's having a really fun time, which we can see through his blog. Carter's mom sent me a link about a week ago and I never got it put up here, but click here to take a peek!

That's all from the now-less-stressful world of 5-1! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The Rube Goldberg was a big success! I told the kids that they did a wonderful job. Some of them needed a couple of pushes to get them to finally work, but hey, that's what happens when you have simple machines that are made up of pipe cleaners, dominoes, and masking tape.

That was just about all we got finished this morning. No, that was all we did. Thank you to all the parents who came through to look at the projects, and for all of you who put up with the frustrations on the home front. The kids really liked this in the end, and I hope it was worthwhile.

This afternoon the junior high guidance counselors came to talk to the kids about scheduling for next year. Those forms are due back on Friday, February 26. Let me know if you have any questions about those!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Complexity of Simple Machines

Hello there!

Well, tomorrow is the Rube Goldberg event. The parents are welcome to come in a little before 10:30 to watch the projects. Unfortunately, it's going to be in the classroom and it's going to be pretty fairly cramped. I'm going to do my best to video record it so that they can be preserved. I've been so impressed with these, but I will admit I'm ready to have them finished up.

Also, the kids do have Social Studies homework (two pages with a handout to cut and paste into the workbook, as well as questions starting with #9 on page 88).

Hope all is well with all of you!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Final Date is Finally Finalized

This next week will hopefully be Last Week Part 2, or Last Week, now featuring 75% more productivity. You'll have to understand that last week's schedule was very segmented and without much continuity. This next week will be a four-day, and then we get another full week.

The Rube Goldberg contest is now on Wednesday. And it WILL be on Wednesday. No programs, no mid-morning Math tests, not even wild horses will be able to stop the mechanical maneuverings of the groups in 5-1. For one thing, I'm anxious to see what the kids have done. For another thing, I'm really ready to have all the junk out of the classroom!

A huge thank-you goes out to Natalie Skarbeck, Jill Pitz, Kelly Alford, Beth King, and Carol Fleitz for coming to put on the Valentine's party! It's such a relief that we have such great room parents. The kids had fun, and hopefully their sugar buzzes have subsided come Tuesday morning.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Domino Effect

Okay, big changes. One of the other teachers needs to have Math class on Friday, which I just found out today. This will take a big chunk out of our already-emaciated morning, due to the second grade program. Therefore, our already-delayed date of Friday for the Rube Goldberg projects is now next Wednesday, because we have no class on Monday and I want to give the kids one day before the project to practice. One little thing and it's like dominoes.

The outline is due tomorrow. I was really happy with the amount of kids who came in and already had it done today, but of course, it's not due until it's due.

Thanks for all the flexibility and understanding!

Feels Like It Was Just Yesterday I Said It

As I'm sitting here today before the kids arrive, wondering how best to use our now-limited time today, I began to browse the blog, and noticed this from yesterday:

"If your child ever feels overwhelmed, please shoot me an e-mail. I'm somewhat flexible, but also understandingly stern."

But you know what would be about ten times better than that? Have your child come in and talk to me! I promise I have never bitten any child, ever. (Well, except probably when I was about four years old myself.)

Onward with the day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Keeps On Falling

Hope everyone had a happy snow day! I got a lot done today, but no school work. Now I'm off to grade some journals.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Days of Colonial Madness

Can't believe I didn't mention this yet, but Colonial Days was a huge, raving success. While it snowed like crazy on the outside, we inside kicked it old school and made all kinds of things like candles, games, tin punches, corn cakes, butter, applesauce, cookies, wreathes, baskets... not to mention an awesome square dance at the end of the day.

On behalf of all the fifth grade teachers and Mrs. Davis, I would really like to thank Nancy Miller, Heather Blankenship, Christy Hawkins, Mary Kaehr, Jill Pitz, Kate Roberts, Margie Cornwell, Lisa Stevens, Lisa McGinnis, Chris Moss, Laura Moriarity, Mirey Comes, Sarah Palmer, Mary Hatton, Amy Sengstock, Jennifer Mann, Becky Helgeland, Betsy LaBell, Jennifer Raver, Xenia Verhelst, Carol Fleitz, Abby Breedlove, Wendy Franklin, Sara Cox, Andrea Habeck, Anne Goetz, Stacey Harrington, Mary Bopp, Sheri Snow, Beth King, Monica Henderson, Linda Firenze, Kari Gans, Jill Elshire, Leah Bedford, Terri Burgess, Sally Houck, Natalie Skarbeck, Amy Scott, Naomi Anderson and Becca Hunter. Without each of you guys, this day would not have been possible. I love Colonial Days, and I really appreciate you guys' efforts to make it happen.

I told the kids today that our schedule coming up is going to be like Swiss cheese. During those horribly detached and sparse times during which we're trying to cram in more than is humanly possible, please know I'm doing my best to keep things sane. If your child ever feels overwhelmed, please shoot me an e-mail. I'm somewhat flexible, but also understandingly stern. Hey, it's worth a shot! (I can be bribed. Ha.)

The Rube Goldberg contest looks like it will be on Friday of this week, barring any weather-related disasters. Looking out my window, no snow yet.

It's Like Anything Else

Okay, we're in the middle of the gigantic sticky quagmire that is this spring semester. I told the kids today to relax and everything would be okay. I told them that they would probably have more homework than normal, but still not an overly huge amount. I also told them that if they are ever individually overwhelmed to make sure and let me know. I will normally work something out with your child, provided they have been working hard during their class time and been making the best use of what they've been given.

We're all going to make it! As Red Green says, "Remember I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bring Out Your Cans

Send in your soup cans! Tomorrow! Or any cans! Any kind of cans, just send them right in! We don't have enough for Colonial Days! And kids, don't overuse exclamation marks! Because it cheapens them!

Oh, and my Math class had a homework sheet that I didn't tell you about in the last post. One sheet. They don't have to do the bottom section.

The Beastie Boys

We did a lot of Social Studies and a fair amount of Science today. Little else has really been done today, with the exception of their journal entries and DOLs, of course. If they didn't finish it in class, they need to finish up pages 52-53 in their Social Studies book as well as their DOL.

And a few of the boys cleaned out Barton's tank. The brave few, that is. (Joosh, Ike, Nick Snow, and Michael.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Definitions Not Found in the Dictionary

On my sister's blog, she was talking about her work at Wabash College and how she's co-editing the monthly magazine this month and the theme is "Wellness". I imagine it's about exercise and eating right and all that, but I have no idea. It hasn't been published yet. But the guy my sister is working with on this magazine wrote in to Garrison Keillor, who always ends his Writer's Almanac segments with "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch," and asked him this:

Dear Mr. Keillor,
As longtime fan of A Prairie Home Companion and a daily listener to The Writer's Almanac, I find both comfort and encouragement in your fatherly sign-off for the latter program: Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

But I've often wondered what you mean when you say, "Be well." How do you define well-being? What do you do to achieve it?

Steve C.
Wabash College

I love Mr. Keillor's response here:

You're a college guy and I'm an old writer, Steve, so we're looking at this from different angles. I'm more aware of decline and decrepitude than you possibly could be. I'm at the age when people tell me, "You're looking good" in that tone of voice that says "for a guy your age." For me, well-being has a lot to do with forward motion. I need to have deadlines, a list of projects, people who rely on me, some ambition on my back like an outboard motor. Good health is good, of course, and you don't want big black splotches showing up on the CAT scan, but my sense of well-being comes from waking up each day with work to do. It was different when I was in college: the work was imposed by teachers and so much of it seemed irrelevant, make-work, a lot of pointless exercises. What you hope for in life is a sense of a calling, a vocation, which simply means that one goes to one's work gratefully, not out of fear or habit but with a whole heart. It's the whole-heartedness that makes for well-being. Everyone has to live with a degree of doubt and restlessness, but there's nothing like enthusiasm, especially when you're 67. I have a plumber in my house right now, working to repair a pipe that broke when it froze and rebuild part of a jerry-rigged heating system, and it is so clear to me that this man loves his work. So does my internist. So do the women who care for my ancient mother. So do the musicians on the radio show and the writers of the Almanac. Thanks for your note.

One of the comments left by a reader was particularly moving:

Thanks for defining something that was nudging the edges of my consciousness but had previously refused to enter. My own 67-year-old being is grateful to look forward to activities that need doing, and I have timidly crept into public writing as part of that expanding being. I take my lead from my 94-year-old dad who is still alive, alert and curious about the world. He embodies your definition of well-being.

I try my hardest to be that plumber. And I really do get up out of bed each day with a sense of duty, and for that I am eternally grateful. I've told the kids that I never have a day where I don't want to come in to work, and this isn't because I'm afraid of what would happen if I didn't. It's because of the things the kids say that make me bite my lip to keep from laughing. The look in their eyes when they finally understand something, and the amount of growth I see in each of them throughout the ten months we spent together.

I still remember my high school Health teacher's definition of health: "The state of complete physical, emotional, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." By that definition, Mrs. Craft was one of the healthiest people I know. (Or is. I hope she's still alive!)

The other night after karate competition practice, which was here at Woodbrook, I was walking back to my classroom with a few of my former students and one of the other Senseis. We ran into Mr. Vahle, a fellow teacher who was and is my mentor, who was there with his family. He had a huge smile on his face to see the boys (all of whom are in high school right now and were his students as well) and gave them big hugs and looking them in the eye and asking them how they're doing. The youngest of the boys, Matt, a freshman who has been a "little old man" since he was in the second grade, came into my classroom, smiled, and said about Jay, "That's the ultimate success--to be happy with your lot in life."

I hope each of my students grows up to be happy with his or her lot in life--that's the kind of success I want for each of them.

Swept Away

Tomorrow might just be our last Rube Goldberg work time. I'm not totally sure, but I think everyone might be just about finished. We may be looking at a Wednesday presentation day. This project is a lot of fun, but it's also a big time leech. When the kids aren't working so hard on it, it means it's time to wrap it up.

We're also getting a visit from a broom maker tomorrow. I've never seen one, but it sounds like an interesting way two hours. I'm sure the kids will like it, and who doesn't love brooms?

The Days Are on the Way

Hi everyone,

Our new tin punch project for Colonial Day was practiced over the weekend with actual fifth graders. There were some major kinks. I thought a bigger can would be sturdier for the kids and easier. Of course, I thought wrong! They couldn't nail a hole through it! So, we emptied some small condensed soup size and they could nail through them much easier. So, if you don't mind mentioning to the children (I emailed all of the Colonial Day volunteers already) that we need small, condensed soup cans for Colonial Day that would be great! Tell them to run them through the dishwasher and bring them in and give to Claire Hatton. Maybe put a collection bag in the hallway for her? If you want to forward this email to your classes that would be great too. We need 70 more by this Friday!

Corinna Ottinger