Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Do Kilimanjaro, Otter Creek, and the FBI Have in Common?

This afternoon we had a very nice visit from the Frenzel family. Maria and her father, Eric, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last month on an expedition. Maria is one of my students from a couple years ago, and when I saw news of their trip in Africa, I pulled a couple of strings and asked them to come in and speak to the class. Because of Maria's schedule, this had to happen during Math (sorry, Nick! sorry, Tess!), but it was well worth it. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your stories of your safari as well as your cautionary tales of altitude sickness!

So I realize now that I sent the kids home with no homework. If your child tells you there's no homework tonight, they're not lying! Oddly enough, it has happened. Don't worry, tomorrow they will have some for certain. They do have two open-book tests on Friday (Social Studies and Reading).

See below for a little bit of news on the research papers. We're a bit behind the other classes, but I want these to be pretty high quality works, so I'm taking my sweet time. I've approved of some of the outlines and given them the green flag to work on their sloppy copies. Some of them need to do a bit more research, so I've been helping them out by printing some stuff off of the internet.

We didn't do any proper Math lesson today, as much as we need to keep up with our current pace, but we did work on our recently-neglected Otter Creek math materials. These kids are going to know their Math facts if it kills me!

Oh, man, I almost forgot that the FBI came this morning (yes, the real Federal Bureau of Investigation). They presented the third, fourth, and fifth grades all an award for being the top class to take the test on the national level. Us: #1 in the USA! Woohooo! We had the spy camera--er, whoops, I mean the trophy--in our classroom throughout the day, but now I've given it over to Mrs. Melchi, because she's the one who really earned it along with the kids. All I did was walk up and smile awkwardly as they took our picture.

And THAT, my friends, is a day! Over and out!


Right now the kids are working on their outlines or their rough drafts for their papers, depending on where they are in the process. Here are the guidelines for the final draft of the paper, which NO ONE is ready for yet. This does not mean the paper is due now. Do not think that it is. If your child is panicking right now, they were not paying attention in class! (I'm typing this as they watch on the overhead right now...)

  • 14 point font: Times New Roman only! Not bold.
  • There will be a title page on their final draft. The first page of text should begin at the very top, and should not have a separate area for the title.
  • Do NOT put an extra space between the paragraphs.
  • Do NOT put "little titles," or subtitles, throughout your paper.
  • Minimum three pages of text, and I will stop reading the paper at 20 pages.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Parts of a Whole

Today in Math, we did some stuff that the kids seemed to either really get, or didn't get at all. There didn't seem to be much in between as far as the kids' understanding goes. Make sure they take out their homework tonight and explain it to you! I want them to understand this, and I'm afraid some of them rush to get it done on the bus. PLEASE have them show you what they learned!

That's all for now.

Middle Schooled

Middle School Scheduling
Dates and Information

Clay Middle School administration and counseling staff has planned an evening to review 6th grade course offerings. We hope you can join us to learn about the curriculum and scheduling process.

Scheduling 101 - A Meeting for Parents of 5th Grade Students Regarding the Scheduling Process

March 8, 2011
7:00 p.m.
Clay Middle School Auditorium

Activity Night

All current 5th grade students are invited to Clay Middle School on March 24 from 4:00 – 5:30 for an evening of orientation activities. This will be a time to tour the building and learn all about Clay. We hope you can join us!

Elementary Visits

Middle School Counselors will visit each elementary building during the week of March 14 - 18. During these visits, we will assist students in making preliminary course selections using our online course request system. Please expect paperwork regarding course offerings and selections as well as instructions for logging into the online course request system to follow this meeting.

Visit Clay Middle School’s counseling webpage for a copy of our 6th grade orientation presentation as well as a frequently asked questions document. We hope that this information will help to ease any anxiety related to the transition process and answer questions related to middle school. We look forward to working with you and welcoming your children to Clay Middle School!

Friday, February 18, 2011

That's the Spirit!

Next week is ISTEP Spirit Week. We're going to get ready for ISTEP by celebrating with spirit days all next week, and here's how we're going to do it:

Tuesday (2/22) – Be an ISTEP MVP – Wear a shirt/jersey/ sweatshirt from your favorite sports team

Wednesday (2/23) – Keep a lid on the goods – Wear a hat so your ISTEP info stays in your brain

Thursday (2/24) – Be an ISTEP soldier – wear camo: Wow, I'm going to have to dig around a little bit. Not sure what I still have these days...

Friday (2/25) – Wear Red, White, and Blue!

Please remember that on Monday there is no school because of President's Day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Duly Noted

Today the kids went through a somewhat tedious process of using their notecards to create a preliminary outline for their papers. I'm going to give them some more time to work on this tomorrow, and then over the weekend I'll take a look at them, give suggestions on what to switch around, and then we'll go from there next week.

Beautiful day! Don't pay attention to the weekend forecasts and just enjoy today for what it is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

High Aspirations

We got a lot done today, but as a result it felt like a whirlwind. And here at the end, I'm realizing that I didn't even have them take out their notecards to work on their outline. TOMORROW! That will take place of the Science work time tomorrow, so please make sure they bring their notecards in, because they won't be allowed to call home for them!

And Math today...Math class was a lot of fun, actually. I think the kids are going to do better with fractions (yes, those again) this time around.

Hope your Wednesday finds everyone happy on this side of the hump!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting Things in Order

We put our notecards in proper order today. Tomorrow they will make preliminary outlines for their research papers. By now we have kids at various points because of absences and illnesses, so if your child has been either/or, then they may be at a different stage, but we're all aiming at dovetailing at the end.

Today the kids' homework is page 245 in their Math Journals, plus tomorrow is the Math Test. Topics covered: Order of Operations, adding integers, and scientific notation.

The kids did spend some time getting started on their Rube Goldberg machines today. I'm filled with hope.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart of a Champion

  • I'm giving the kids until Wednesday for their Math test. I gave them a two-page study guide which is due tomorrow (it should have come home tonight--ask for it!). They should be in pretty good shape.
  • We were very honored to have a visit from Josh Bleill today. He was introduced by our very own Colonel Lieutenant Spencer. He spoke to the kids about having a good attitude toward all that they do, and the power of having a positive outlook despite any troubles that come their way. It was a powerful message. They had a lot of questions, mostly about his very cool legs.
  • Happy Valentine's Day! The kids should come home with a sugar high from the end of the day, but hopefully they will have the big sugar crash at about 5:00.

Friday, February 11, 2011

After the Fact

The kids were to take their notecards home today if they didn't have forty to fifty yet. Each card is to have one fact on it. Even though I stressed this from day one, I know some of the kids have been putting more than one, which could be why some of them still don't have enough. I think some of them are making it harder than it needs to be!

I gave the kids their groups for the science project today. I tried to be nice and hook them up with people I think they will like working with, so it shouldn't be too bad. I think they're going to have a lot of fun with it.

Also, I did hand out the book report yesterday. They have a MONTH to do it, so I told them I didn't want them to try to do them all in one night.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting All Scientific

We'll be doing this in class. Soon. Maybe not quite this elaborate.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Got Served

It was a fun night at Cool River this evening. At least during the hour that I was there, classroom 5-1 did seem to be dominating. I saw representation from the following clans tonight: the Ackermans, the Blocks, the Chens (who took the picture to the left--thanks!), the Gonzalezes, the Gripps, the Langstons, the Pattersons, the Schipps, and the Spencers. That's a lot for one hour. Twins (and 2/3rds of a group of triplets) included, that accounts for eleven of my twenty-one students. That's a pretty profound percentage, so it looks like we could have another pizza party around the bend. Also, I ordered one before I left and made sure it counted for my classroom, so the percentage is slightly higher after that.

You know, I've had a lot of jobs since I was sixteen: video store clerk, gas station worker, camp counselor, reader to the blind, worked food service in the dorm, after school (and before-school) care, factory worker, summer camp counselor, camp administrator, advertising agent, teacher, tutor, karate instructor...heck, I even used to work as a guy who would go to people's houses and hook up hospital beds when they were critically ill. But one thing I've never done is waiting tables. I got to bus and serve tonight, and I want to thank you all for making sure it was fun. Thanks also to Mrs. Larson who pulled a double-shift just to make sure I wouldn't be alone. Anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of having had Mrs. Larson as either their teacher or their child's teacher doesn't know what kind of sunshine they're missing out on. And Mrs. Fadel showed me the ropes before she left, so thanks to her also.

Thanks for all the support all of you show to the Woodbrook PTO. It's pretty astounding, and much-appreciated. Thanks also to Cool River Pizza for doing this fundraiser! Not only do you make excellent pizza, but you're also stand-up members of the community.

Love Day

I am sending home a class list if your child wants to make Valentines for the class. We're making our bags later in the week so that everyone will have one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

With the Clarity of Mud

Oh man did I ever have to eat crow today. One of the middle school teachers insists on the students turning all of their integer problems into addition problems, like this...

4 - 8 =

and then they would have to turn that into this...

4 + (-8) =

and then they would have to solve it...

4 + (-8) = -4

This used to make me so mad, until I found that I had to explain it to my students using different colored dice. In class today, for the above problem, I took four green dice and eight white dice (green was positive, white was negative) and showed them that the white outnumbered the green by four, and therefore the answer was negative (white) four.

In order to do it this way, it really helps if you turn all of the problems into addition problems like I did above.

More for instances:

(-5) + 6 = 1

3 + (-9) = -6

(-7) + (-6) = -13

Here's a kind of a tricky one to turn into addition, because the two negatives in a row actually transform them both into positives...

4 - (-16) =

Which becomes 4 + (+16) = which of course is equal to 20.

I told the kids for their homework tonight to take pennies and dimes, little pieces of construction paper, or whatever you have around the house and use them the way I did the dice this afternoon, to see what balances out to what.

The homework tonight (there are 54 problems, but I think the repetition will be good for them, plus they're all fairly simple) already has all of the problems converted to addition problems. Hopefully any problems have been wrinkled out!

SO SORRY that the book report STILL hasn't been given out! It's on its way! It just seems to be on the slow train here!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Positives and the Negatives

The good news from today is that your kids (that I have for Math, that is) seem to have a really nice grasp on integers. Integers, in case you had forgotten, are whole numbers (although fractions and decimals are often called integers too, for some reason) or the opposite of whole numbers. In other words, positive and negative numbers.

I tried explaining it to them using a number line, and they seemed to get that really well. I realize that this is much more than just a one-lesson idea to learn, but it's something that they have a jump start on already. They're going to get it. I was so happy today while we were doing it...I have to admit that I was nervous before we started, but that now I'm feeling very confident that they will eventually have it--and most likely soon.

We also took a look at our writing and responding to journal topics and prompts, like they will have to do with the ISTEP test. I showed them some responses that have been graded from the past, and the grades they received on them (we were given these to share with the kids last week). We looked at what did the best and what did the worst, and what they could do to make sure they do well on this test.

Hearts and Minds

Tomorrow is also Jump Rope for Heart! Remember any of you who did fundraising for this, make sure you bring your money in to school tomorrow. It's the big day where the teams will jump rope for heart for the whole hour! Those hearts will be pounding by the time that one's over.

Valentine/Colonial Days Update

Many of you and your children have asked when we will be exchanging our Valentines. The day that we do this is Monday, February 14.

There you go!

UPDATE! Colonial Days has now been re-updated, and NOW it's on March 18th! Before, it had been upated to March 4. Not sure what's up, but I'm going to guess that they don't want to run the risk of yet another snowstorm. Maybe we'd be better off having it in July!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Like a Red Rubber Ball

Wow, well, that was quite a little whirlwind of a day.

Let's hope next week we'll be back in working order as we...
  • continue to learn about positive and negative numbers.
  • explore reading voice vs. thinking voice, and when each is appropriate (and neither actually involves talking).
  • learn tips for constructed responses.
  • discuss "The Lady in Your Lives" (this isn't what it sounds like).
  • decode writing prompts.
  • learn to develop details.
  • continue researching for the research projects.
  • begin a special Science project.
  • learn about the beginning of the American Revolution.
  • do spelling and Caesar's English.
  • keep the kids so busy that they don't have time to bounce off the walls!
Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

But At Least He Didn't See His Shadow

First things first, guys:

Colonial Days has been postponed. After talking about it with Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Jackson decided it would be best to put it off for many reasons. Most of those reasons are that we're not sure what's going to happen on Friday, and an awful lot of the Colonial Days stuff has to do with food. If there was a two-hour delay by some chance, it would be impossible to fit in, and it just will make life easier--well, as easy as you can get with all this ice and snow. Here's word from Mrs. Clark:

This weather is really becoming annoying! After much talking and discussing our options (thanks, Mrs. Jackson!), we decided we had to reschedule Colonial Days from this Friday. Due to set up considerations and also prep work (batter, wax, etc) we concluded people could not wait until Friday morning to find out whether the event was going to happen or not. We are considering either Friday February 18 or 25, depending on the 2nd grade musical.

Thank you for your continued support!
Mrs. Clark

As for the Caesar's English quiz, consider that postponed as well.

The Lever Quiz...ehhh, we'll see. I think I'll probably review it with you guys, gauge who wants to take it then (I figure it will be most if not all), and go from there. There are only three lever classes. You would have to actively be not paying attention to not get it, but I'll probably allow you the optional night of studying.

The book report: This is a guided response sheet that you will have a week to do starting from the day I give it to you. It's not hard, but it's not something that should be able to be done on the bus ride home from school either. About fifteen minutes a night will knock it out at worst.

On Friday we will keep taking notes from your reference materials. The date to have your notecards finished (having only notes on them, not put in any particular order yet, you can just keep them color coded) will most likely, barring any more winter catastrophes or otherwise, be next Friday.

Shew. Alright, we'll just play everything else by ear. Who know what's going on with the weather? At first I thought, "What? These roads are fine!" Then I went out there last night and realized that's not exactly the case. But still, I figured 2-hour delay. Ah well, such is life! Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Think Warm Thoughts

Hope everyone is keeping warm.

This is one nasty storm! I tried to clear my driveway this morning and had to use a spade to chop up the thick coat of ice. I think it's best just to stay inside and drink coffee.

However you're staying warm, please keep at it!