Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Must Remember This

The daily e-mail from yesterday had a pretty good quote that I wanted to pass on to everyone. Hope you are all enjoying your break.

“As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.”

Donald Westlake (1933-2008);

American writer

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recursive Sequencing

After a dizzying week full of testing, creating gifts for the parents (thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for all your help!...honestly, I have no idea what I'd do without my classroom aids: Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Appelsies, and Mrs. Somers), and on the personal side, grading, entering the scores for all of the data that is required, finishing all of the pictures for the kids, and getting the required papers to all of the required people, I'm one tired guy. And I'm sure your children are ready for the break as well.

I want to thank everyone for showering me with awesome gifts over the past week. Thank you cards are coming to you all, but I wanted to make sure you all know you are thanked. You are wonderful people to teach for, and there is no way I can thank you enough.

Right now, I have to take the opportunity to let my Math class (and their parents) know that I cannot believe how smart this class is. After teaching fifth grade math last year for the first time in a decade, I was honestly reluctant to turn back to Sixth Grade Math. No offense is meant toward any former sixth grade math class I've taught, but these kids are by far the smartest math class I have ever taught. Including when I taught Challenge. You read that right. And this class is made up of people without a single Challenge kid in it. I have told them this time and again, which is met with complacency. I teach them something one time; they get it. When I start to review something with them, I'm met with, "Haven't we already done this?" I'll say, "Well, yeah, but we're just reviewing." That normally receives an easy-going shrug as they await moving onto the next thing. They actually enjoy things like logic puzzles, like converting repeating decimals into fractions, like tackling multiplying mixed numbers, and like my bad drawings of multiplication signs with faces. I have bored the other teachers with talking about this Math class. I have bored the Math class itself telling them how great they are. But it's true. It's a very gratifying class to teach. Your kids make me not mind not having only my homeroom every day.

More later. Have a great break!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

There Is Always Hope

Wow, are the kids ever getting fidgety. I'm sure you're seeing it at home too! I told them I almost don't feel bad about all of the testing we have to do here at the end. (In all honesty, I do find it a bit ridiculous.) I told the kids that I was at least going to spare them the mid-year Rigby test. No one has told us (yet...I'm sure it's coming) that we have to give it.

There is a quiz tomorrow in Caesar's English. This afternoon, tomorrow, and Thursday, I will be giving the mid-year Math test to my sixth grade math class. Theme Test 7 is on Thursday as well as their open-note Science test.

When I was in college, we had what they called "Dead Week", the week before finals in which there were no tests of any kind, nor any big projects due, etc. At the end of the school year, I really hope to be able to hold a Dead Week around here, and get all that testing done before that last week before what are essentially "finals" arrives here in the Woodbrook fifth grade.

I told the kids today that at least we're almost there! I'm not sure whether or not they believe me when I tell them that I'm ready also.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Storm Before the Calm

Well, here's the lowdown on this week, guys:
  1. Over the course of tomorrow and Wednesday during the day, I will be giving the mid-year Math test. This is only if you're in my Math class, but other classes are probably either doing this already or very soon.
  2. The Caesar's English quiz is on Wednesday. They all have been given lists! (And they don't have to know an example for "sangui-").
  3. The theme test for chapter 7 in Rigby will be on Thursday, as well as their open-note astronomy quiz.
  4. I'm trying to finish up reading Qwerty Stevens before break! Not an easy task.

Busy busy times, guys. Hope all is well at home. I realize I am normally more verbose, but for now you will have to make due with the bare bones. Sorry!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

They're So Cute When They're Asleep

Say hello to Brady Judson Wampler! Mrs. Emily Wampler, the upper grades resource teacher--many of you know her as well as I do--gave birth to Brady earlier today at 11:17 am. 7 pounds, 10 ounces. 21 inches long. Everyone is healthy and doing well.

Great news for a great day!

Credit Where It's Overdue

A really big thank you goes out to Mrs. Hurdle and Mrs. Alexander for volunteering to come into my classroom until I could arrive tonight. Luckily I was able to get there earlier than I thought. My buddy was able to come in early and take over my final karate class for me earlier than expected. These ladies didn't know that when they volunteered, though! You guys are great.

The kids did a really nice job tonight. I apologize if I missed any of you--I left pretty hastily after it was over. Long day!

Catching the Cold

Hope to see everyone at the show tonight! It looked great today. We have some real talent in the fifth grade for sure.

Just a reminder that there is a spelling test tomorrow! The rest of 2011 will be laid out in front of the kids before they go home tomorrow, I hope. The schedule is going to get pretty wonky for a few days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Six Hundred Light Years Away

Wow, did your kids ever have a lot of questions about outer space after we finished watching that show today! We finished it up in about twenty minutes, and then that led to discussing the new planet that was just found within that last couple of days. That brought out many good (and some humorous) ideas for living in outer space. I also told them all about the Space Shuttle Challenger, which went down over twenty-five (!) years ago. Here's the video we watched about the new planet. The sound wasn't very good when we watched it in class, so just in case anyone wants to hear it again:

We also read a tale of undersea horror in the reading books, and after that, the students each wrote either a prequel or a sequel to it. Can't wait to read those in the kids' journals as they hand them in over the next week.

Tonight, the kids will bring home their green reading books again for a writing assignment of a different kind based on that story. They also have a helping verb sheet for homework tonight, as well as their meaning exercise for spelling.

See you all tomorrow night for the fifth grade musical!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stranger Than Fiction

Apologies for the late update tonight. The last couple weeks of a given semester are really busy for a teacher who tutors, has papers to grade, and also tries to keep up on his karate. And it is at this time that I need karate! But I digress...

Today we did our DAZE (I have no idea what DAZE stands for, but it's a horrible acronym for a test which focuses on fluency in reading, no?) testing for reading, which is the second part of our winter benchmark testing. It only lasted three minutes, and I haven't graded them yet, but at least that part is done.

We've been doing our best to get caught up on Reading so that we can get this last test in before next week is over. Right now the plan is to have the theme test for chapter 7 next Thursday. Tomorrow we will be talking about helping verbs and reading a story about a squid attack. Today was quite an odd little story in the reading book about a girl who dreamed of swimming with a blue whale.

And speaking of reading reading reading, I've been reading to the kids a book cumbersomely titled Qwerty Stevens Back in Time with Benjamin Franklin. It's by Dan Gutman, whose work I love because it's so easy to read out loud. Not sure why some authors' work flows more fluently out of the mouth than others, but I've tried to read the work of two of my favorite authors (Gary Paulsen and C.S. Lewis), but it's horribly difficult to read out loud. Gutman, works for me. And I really like this book. It's really funny, and it very accurately represents Benjamin Franklin, despite being a work of science fiction. You'll have to ask your child about Ben Franklin's "air baths", which is actually a fact about him.

Look out for a take-home writing assignment going home tomorrow night (Wednesday). They will also have their green reading books with them, so that they can do these up the right way.

Okay, I'm fading fast. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns. We're zeroing in on the end of this semester! Hard to believe we're almost halfway done...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Like Something That Seeks Its Level

Okay, everybody, here is the round-up for the vital-est of vital information you will need to know for this week:
  1. Thursday night is the fifth grade musical! The kids have been working hard on it for a long time now. The bits and pieces that I've seen have been pretty great, so I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing myself. It begins at 7:00, but please don't come much before that, because they won't open the doors to the fifth grade area until 6:45ish!
  2. Speaking of which, I am looking for some brave and bold fifth grade parents to help out that night before the show. Thursday is the night on which I teach karate. I will get someone to teach my last class so that I can get to the school by 6:45 if I really hustle to get my clothes changed (lest everyone think the school is being attacked by a 210 pound ninja). What I need is a parent or two (or eight) who can come be in my room while the kids are in there in case I'm a little bit late. Don't worry; I won't leave you hanging, but I will likely need some eyes to keep the kids calm. Every year, the kids get really excited to be in the school at night (the thrill!), and tend to be running around unless there is an adult standing there. If ANY of you can help out, please do! E-mail me!
  3. See the post below! They should have that done tomorrow!
  4. And piggy-backing on item #2 on the list, I will be happily taking parent volunteers again starting in January! This is not a one-man show. I do have the support of the Woodbrook teachers' aids for a portion of the day, but there is much to be done. If you want to come at some point, please do. We can use you! Just a little advance notice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  5. At some point this week, students will be given another one-question writing assignment from the Reading book. The kids normally do a really great job on these, so I can't wait to see the results.
  6. There will be another Math quiz on Friday. I told the kids that this chapter is kind of a hodgepodge of ideas for Math (and then we talked about what hodgepodge means), so I wanted to give them quizzes on the like ideas before a chapter test, which will be next week in some form. Right now we've been working on positive and negative numbers. This didn't go as smoothly as I had assumed it would. I told the Math class that I finally found their Achilles Heel! (Actually, I must not have used that exact term, because I don't recall explaining the story of Achilles being dipped in the River Styx by his heel.) We will revisit the positives and negatives tomorrow some more, but I hope that they can work their best through that page I gave them for homework.

Today we also got the kids' winter benchmark reading test (I was so excited that so many went way up!) and, among other things, we watched the second part of one of my favorite outer space documentaries, To the Moon. This is a two-hour Nova episode, and it's really really good. Today we saw the sad part detailing what happened to Gus Grissom and the other astronauts on the launchpad in 1967.

Here's this week's Spelling list:

  1. appear
  2. become
  3. continue
  4. convey
  5. dungeon
  6. encyclopedia (this one's a doozy!)
  7. flicker
  8. plantation
  9. pressure
  10. remain
  11. describe
  12. process

Hope you all have a fantastic week. See you Thursday!


I'm sending home the kids' theme tests from chapter 6 in the reading book. I am also sending home a second, blank copy for them to do at home with their book. They didn't do well on that test as a whole. I'm going to give them another chance to do this one at home, open book. I will then average out the two grades.

Because of this, I did give them a chance to get their definitions done for their spelling list this week, but if they didn't get that finished in class, then that is also due tomorrow.

Thank you so much for your cooperation with the new initializing of the weekly bookmarks. It is important for your child to read at home--make sure you set some time aside for the kids to be reading in a room without a TV or computer games going on. Twenty minutes is all I ask!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Been There; Done That; Doing It Tomorrow

Wow, folks, I'm not going to lie. We're going to have a busy busy busy time before break. It's not too much to handle, but it may be pretty close. Just going by my lesson plans right now, we have the following: one spelling test, one Caesar's English quiz, one math quiz (my math class only), one math test (again, only my math class), one Theme Test (7--and the kids didn't fare well on this last one...), a book report, an Astronomy quiz, commas to learn, Rigby Reads to learn, and a 5th grade musical to perfect and perform.

Now, relax. I will spend a lot of time in class working with the kids, talking them through these things, and at least the Astronomy will be open-note. I also plan for one or two of those tests to be take-home in variety, so be on the look-out for those over the next couple weeks.

Don't worry--I am going to be sensible when it comes to these things; I will be making sure not to give stuff like this on the night of the musical, for example. And I won't bog the kids down too much. However, the amount of homework they have over the next two weeks may start to get closer to what they will have next year.

Just telling you to brace yourselves for a crazy, maddening couple of weeks around 5-1. Don't worry; you won't feel most of it on your end, but you will feel something. I told the kids that we were in for some big changes last Monday, but the truth is that this craziness is the way we would be with or without our reboot a week ago. This is fifth grade as normal.

To quote Shakespeare, "What's past is prologue." Here's the rest. Hang on for the ride!

Outside Time Without Extension

You should have seen some fliers come home on Friday regarding the Woodbrook Elementary-to-Clay Middle School transitional information for the 2012-2013 school year. Wow, that sounds crazy when I type it up. In case you didn't get it, here are the main points. You can also request another one if your child didn't bring it home (they were put in each kid's mailbox, and yes, your child did indeed receive one as well).

First off, on January 18, 2012, from 4:00-5:30pm, is the Student Activity Night. This is at Clay, and is for students only (they can be dropped off and picked up at the front entrance). They will take a tour of the school, have pizza, get a Clay t-shirt, meet with current Clay students, and get to watch a Clay basketball game. That night's game is of the Clay girls' basketball team. The kids can watch former 5-1 student of mine, Olivia "Viva" Christy, who just made Clay's team, play that night.

Next, there is a parent informational meeting on January 24, 2012, at 7pm at Clay Middle in the auditorium. At the same time, the students will have a meeting in the gymnasium. The performing arts department will also be giving a presentation for the students in the gym for an overview of the band, orchestra, and choir.

Parents and students can go to CMS at 9am on February 9, 2012 for coffee and to have any other questions answered and so that you can meet the counselors and the administration at Clay.

The week of February 13-17 (exact date will be given later), Clay counselors will be coming to Woodbrook to speak with the kids about scheduling their classes for 6th grade. Some of your children will have already done this by that time. There should be no reason to re-do this for them, but they will still be a part of this presentation. Either way, they should be bringing home information regarding course offering that week. All course selections must be made by February 24.

April 25 from 6:30-8:30pm: An informal open house at Clay will offer guided tours, learn about school clubs, and have the opportunity to ask questions about life at Clay.

You can't say they don't go out of their way at Clay to bring you in for an easy landing so that you can hit the ground running, mixaphorically speaking. They are true pros over there, which makes me very comfortable in sending my students there at the end of the year.

If you do have questions about this process, you can call Clay Middle School at 317.844.7251.