Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Practical Algorithms

Today in Math class, I showed the kids a Ted Talks video that I posted on the blog back in July of 2010. Here's the link. Go ahead and watch it. I'll wait.

Okay, you're back? This led to some good conversation in the class. The first bit of conversation was a questioned posed by a very astute member of the class, "Are Math books really flawed?" I told them that I don't think the Math curriculum is truly flawed, and that it does teach kids all different kinds of computation. And I told them that I don't think there is anything flawed about what they've done in math class, but that they're going to need to know how to apply the information and learn how to go with the flow when it comes to unknown variables.

We had a nice discussion about the grocery cart problem. When we discussed all of the possible factors, it turns out you don't really know which one could be quicker. And while it would be hard to quantify a practical application to this problem, it did lead to a nice brainstorming session for all of the variables that could make one line better than the other.

Hopefully everyone's papers are ready to be turned in tomorrow. It's like Tax Day for kids.

We had a great day today. Of course, the awesome weather didn't hurt anything either. Let's hope tomorrow is just as beautiful, and that everyone has a great Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Need to Rush

I'm going to redact my statement made yesterday that I was going to give the kids a Math test on Wednesday (tomorrow). This chapter is such a hodgepodge of ideas that I want to flesh them out separately before testing them on anything. In fact, I may just do two different quiz-tests in the week/s following Spring Break.

And don't worry, we will review heavily not only this week, but after break before any test-quiz takes place.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Or We Could Be Part of an Accommodating Cycle

It was really great to see so many familiar faces at the carnival the other day. I wasn't out and about very much, as I was stationed in the trading post the whole time, but from what I saw, we had a good turnout. It was fun to see so many students past and present come in and say hello. Thanks to everyone for coming and supporting the Woodbrook PTO.

Now for other business: The Woodbrook Wellness Committee is in need of volunteers for the Wellness Fair on April 29th. That is a Sunday afternoon, so hope for a sunny day and get out to Woodbrook for some great wellness tips and booths and activities for the day. And if it's at all possible, we can use people to work the registration/check-in and the Amazing Race.

Also, as a part of Wellness Week, April 25th will be the Hike Bike Walk to School day. Once again, hope for good weather.

Where Many Paths and Errands Meet

Just a quick post right now, but I will try to post more later. Sorry!

The Caesar's English quiz is this Thursday. I told the kids that it would be up to them to reschedule their quiz with me, but that the last day they will be able to take it will be the Monday that they come back from break. (!) I sent home not only the list today, but also a list of better words that they can use.

Also, their final essays are due on Thursday! I told them that tomorrow in the computer lab, I want them to do their cover pages. I've made them the templates that I want them to use.

Okay, for now, that's it. I will throw some more stuff on here later. For now, just know that today was a great day, and I hope for a terrific rest of the week.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Moving the Goalpost

And the kids did NOT get those papers back! Profoundest apologies. I tried to get the rest of them finished before the end of lunch today, but it would have been impossible to do the rest of them justice. So sorry.

Tomorrow will probably be a bit crazy. We have two tests that we need to wedge in around the first grade play in the morning, and I told them that I would give them some extra time to work on their word work when they finish up their tests. And they will also have to have everything packed up before we go out for recess because when they get back from lunch, it's Math class, and at the end of Math class, we need to get everything put away and covered up for the carnival on Saturday. I suppose there are worse things than days that are too busy.

Oh, and there is a big pile of papers over by the mailboxes that I keep meaning to have someone put into the mailboxes. So you should see things come home tomorrow. I guess I could have gotten away with saying I "returned" their sloppy copies of those papers and that they just didn't get put in the mailboxes because they're in said pile, but that would be cheating.

Paper Trail

You should be getting the parent-edited copies of the kids' papers back this afternoon. I just had to check them off yesterday and make sure they had been edited, then my plan is to hand them back today and then the kids will need to have them typed up by next Thursday, or before they go on spring break. (If you are leaving early for break, I need them to be handed in beforehand.)

I told the kids that this is not an easy word list for spelling this week. I told them to study it and study hard!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wanted: You!

Our Main Event needs help! This Saturday we are in desperate need of parent volunteers! Come on! Help out! This is from Mr. Carter, but I just saw Mrs. Pergal in the hall and she was talking about how few volunteers we have this year compared to the past.

Contact her at if you think you can help out this Saturday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Out With the New; In With the Old

Here are the spelling lists for this week!

Mrs. Priser's list:
  • completely
  • clockwise
  • constantly
  • crossways
  • extremely
  • home
  • lengthwise
  • rather
  • sideways
  • suddenly
  • beautiful
  • color
  • has
  • round

Here's my list:

  • clockwise
  • completely
  • constantly
  • crossways
  • extremely
  • lengthwise
  • sideways
  • suddenly
  • gradually
  • immediately
  • repeatedly
  • typically

These are not easy lists! Make sure that you drill them each night with your child, because I understand that this one is not simple--for either list.

You will see an idioms "packet" (that's neither too think nor too taxing) come home tonight, and then on Friday we will be doing the Theme Test for chapter 12.

Today we also went into the computer lab to work out the kinks on the ISTEP computer testing before we have to actually take it come May. It went fairly well--especially when compared to the computer snafu with the scheduling for the middle school.

That's all for today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Just a Song in the Trouble and the Strife

So sorry for the lack of post both Thursday and Friday last week. No real excuse for Thursday, and Friday I was at the Orton Gillingham Conference downtown all day. Orton Gillingham is an educational program set up to teach people with dyslexia. I learned a lot of very neat exercises and things to help the kids in any classroom. Many of the things I learned that day are things that I wish I had known before we started in on this essay project, but live and learn.

Speaking of which, the students have their first edit--their parent edit--due on Wednesday. This is raw, uncut material from the kids' sloppy copies. Just go through for grammatical errors, do the paragraphs make sense, etc. Then I will edit them before Friday, and then their final edited version is due typed up by next Thursday, the day before spring break. I told them that if they are going on spring break early, it is still due on their last day.

Math class: The quizzes from the other day did not go so well. They weren't deplorable, but the kids could have done better for sure. We're going to try again tomorrow. We reviewed heavily today in class, so hopefully we will be in good shape for that one. If not, we're still ahead! There is time to make this happen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shootin' Hoops

We got a little carried away and finished The Million Dollar Shot today. It was hard when the momentum was going so strong!

Thank you to Mrs. Saam for coming in today to help out some of our students. You are a lifesaver! She even got to shoot some hoops!

In Math today, we calculated the surface area of some circles and then, to get with the spirit of the season, we spent a little time talking probability vs. Bracketology.

And in Reading, we read about a little different sport--curling. The kids have a "levels of importance" page for homework tonight. We have talked about this exhaustively in class, so they should know what to do for it. The 1's and 5's are easy, but the in-betweens take a little effort.

That's all for today. Happy Pi Day! Beware tomorrow: The Ides of March!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sometimes Life's Test Is Open Book

Today the kids will be bringing home another take-home test for Social Studies. I really like the idea behind the take-home test, because not only does it give the kids another chance to find the answers by re-reading the material, but they're re-reading the material without the intent to memorize it, which is a boon to their learning of the material. I actually had them vote on a take-home test tonight, or a closed-book test in class on Friday. I was surprised to have so many kids choose the take-home test tonight (in fact, it was pretty much unanimous).

Math class: Yes, I realize that last night's homework was a bit challenging. This is material we've been doing in class, but it takes meticulous steps nonetheless. Tonight's homework will be the study link that goes with lesson 9.5 instead of moving on to 9.6.*

*And now that it is well past Math class, I will let you know that the kids did seem much more comfortable with it and I felt good about sending those eight problems home for tomorrow. Repetition repetition repetition. It's good for you! (And yes, I know the time stamp indicates this was done during recess, but that's just when I started this post. The actual time right now is 3:43pm.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

For the Sake of Momentum

First order up for business: Spelling!

Here is Miss Priser's list for this week:

  • attitude
  • chocolate
  • exercise
  • grumble
  • island
  • nation
  • pajamas
  • reptile
  • stubborn
  • tangle
  • example
  • her
  • maybe
  • more

Here's my list:

  • attitude
  • chocolate
  • exercise
  • grumble
  • island
  • nation
  • pajamas
  • reptile
  • stubborn
  • particular
  • mammoth
  • marvelous

Definitions are due tomorrow! Test on Friday.

The next thing we have is that tonight the kids have brought home a writing assignment in their green textbooks for reading. We read the story today in class, which led to much discussion. The story about Kristi Yamaguchi reminded me about the year she won silver in the Olympics (I believe it was silver), but was outshone by the hubbub surrounding Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Ah, fond memories of mid-90's ice skating drama.

Also, they've been writing their essays one paragraph at a time. On Friday, they wrote their introduction, and today they wrote the first of their paragraphs for the body of their work. My hope is that by next week they will have a piece that they can type up in the computer lab for "publication" before Spring Break. Today we talked about "bridging words" to use at the start of a paragraph, such as "First off..." or "For starters..." I also told them that because this is an expository essay, we want to avoid the word "I". I also told them to never ever end a piece of writing with, "I hope you liked my report..." Even typing that up makes me a little bit nauseous.

For Math, we are heavy into algebra right now. I know this can be grueling for parents and students alike, but I feel really good about how the kids did today, so hopefully the homework isn't too bad. I was happy to see so many students do so well for the Puzzler of the Week. I will have the drawing tomorrow...time got away from me today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shot Clock

Hey there! Sorry for the late post, but after school, the WB internet was down, and Thursday night is the night I teach karate. So now that Purdue has beaten Nebraska, here I am doing today's post.

Today we got back into the swing of guided reading now that ISTEP is in our rear-view mirror. Well, the first part, anyway. We read up on history, with a focus on Patrick Henry (the "Liberty or Death!" guy), and we finished reading the Genius Files: Never Say Genius. It should have been called Genius Files: No Real Ending. We all felt ripped off, because it didn't really end. It just stopped with a cliffhanger. The most unfortunate thing: This book just came out on January 24th of this year. The next one is nowhere in sight. The kids seemed disappointed that they won't get to have that one read to them where they can "hear the voices." (Yeah, I do give the different characters their own voices...) Lesson learned! Dan Gutman (the author) writes in a very conversational way that is easy to read out loud. I've read Qwerty Stevens earlier this year, and maybe something else--the years blur together--and I've come to appreciate his style immensely, but this was somewhat disappointing.

That having been said, however, I am going to start reading another book by Gutman tomorrow--one that I know has an ending. I told the kids today after I finished that book that I would let them vote between two basketball books, keeping with the season. I read the beginning of an NCAA Final Four mystery by John Feinstein, but I decided while reading that first chapter that this wasn't going to flow from my mouth the way others do. So I'm going with what's comfortable. It's called The Million Dollar Shot, and it's a good one!

In Math, today we played a game of Multiplication Wrestling. It's pretty much a glorified game of War, but it was pretty fun. I told them that if we have a good start to the day tomorrow, we will play a game I learned from Dr. David Goldberg when I was in a math class at Purdue called Poison. It's remarkably easy to play, but still challenging and fun. Hopefully we will get to play it tomorrow and they will come home and challenge you to a game. Our actual lesson today was on simplifying equations, and since we did this earlier in the school year, they are having a pretty easy go of things thus far. A much-needed respite from the chapter over ratios and rates!

Remember: Tomorrow is Jersey Day! For real! And Hat Day too. Bring a dollar for the people of Henryville, Indiana, which received heavy damage last week as a result of the tornado. Remember that if you want to make a bigger donation and want to pay by check, you can make it out to Woodbrook, and put in the memo line "tornado relief".

Have a great Friday and an even better weekend!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On Being Good Neighbors

Dr. Julie Saam, mother of 5-1's Maria Saam, left this comment here at the Dojo today that I want to share with everyone here on the main board. I just thought it was too important not to post:
I just need to say thank you for the generosity of the Central Indiana communities and Carmel Clay schools. I grew up in Southern Indiana and many people in this region think the state stops at Columbus. I am touched that this community has embraced the southern counties and are working to help them rebuild. I played many basketball and volleyball games in that Henryville Gym and am truly saddened by their loss. Thank God no students, teachers, or staff including bus drivers were injured. I hope for peace in their hearts.
Thank you so much for sharing that with us. The news takes on a whole new meaning when we have a personal connection to it, doesn't it? I had a similar connection to an ugly tornado in April of last year, so it's good to know that fellow Hoosier neighbors tend to have our backs when we're in these bad situations in life.

Shedding the Chaff and Keeping the Grain

ISTEP ended and the kids came out of it in one piece.

Math class got pretty darn antsy--more so than we've had in awhile--but I forgive them because of the whole ISTEP thing. Tomorrow will be a different story.

I told all the kids to be prepared tomorrow as we start to make up for some lost time--in a panic! We have more than ten weeks worth to cram into these last ten weeks, but no more than I've had in years past.

We are now over the hump. Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mama Bear

I just saw a story online that Jan Berenstain, co-creator with her late husband Stan, of the Berenstain Bears. Anyone who loves education will know that this is a true loss to the world of children's lit. Thanks for the childhood memories, Mrs. Berenstain! Glad you're back with Stan.

Jersey Delay

I stand corrected! Tomorrow is not jersey day. It was. Up until sometime this afternoon, evidently. But at the end of the day, as I was packing the kids up to go home, I was told that jersey day has been moved to Friday, where it will coincide with hat day. Having one jersey day and one hat day was deemed "too confusing" and changed to all be on one day. (I think whoever did the deeming seriously underestimates the intelligence level of our students, but as I tell the kids to say whenever something silly happens, "Whatever. It's all good.") It's not like your children will be forced to wear another shirt if they show up in a jersey tomorrow.

Anyway, the "hat day" on Friday (which is also jersey day for those who are easily confused) is set to coincide with another fundraiser in Indiana to help our fellow Hoosiers in Henryville. Henryville is one of the towns ravaged by the tornadoes last Friday, and to help raise money for them to rebuild their schools and finish out the school year, we're going ask that the kids pay a dollar if they want to wear a hat that day. Additional check donations can be made out to Woodbrook Elementary, please write "tornado relief" in the memo.

One Percent Inspiration; Ninety-Nine Percent Perspiration

TOMORROW IS JERSEY DAY. Remember that! Tomorrow. Jersey. Wear one. Whether we're facing ISTEP on the court, the diamond, a field, or in the classroom, we need to show the IDOE that Woodbrook will dominate any opponent (namely the Indiana Department of Education).

This week we will be finishing up a prolonged unit in Science and I will be giving them an in-class assessment over it. Nothing to really study for, so don't worry about it. I'm going to use this week to wrap up some loose ends hopefully, and then it is the end of the third quarter. Hard to believe, isn't it? We will also be doing some Social Studies toward the end of the week, trying to get some work done so that we can get through to Lewis and Clark by the end of the school year.

We will also be starting a new reading chapter in reading, Theme 12, which is all about--ironically enough--the physics behind sports. Perfect for the NCAA basketball tournament season and the beginning of baseball season, a.k.a. the best time of the year. Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself on the baseball, but it comes directly after the championship game, so there you go.

Alright, that will do for today. Remember: Always be a good sport!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Eat, Sleep, and Test

The first day of ISTEP went well. The kids got through the longest part of the test today, so they're over that hump, at least.

One quick reminder right now: There WILL be the ALEKS program after school tomorrow! THERE WILL BE ALEKS!

No Spelling OR Caesar's English this week.

Remember: SLEEP tonight and EAT tomorrow morning!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Shelter From the Storm

Well, that was an exciting end to our day. All I know is that the kids did pretty darn well during that storm, kept their heads down and their necks covered. Luckily we were not attacked by a tornado here at Woodbrook, and Mrs. Stemnock did a great job of keeping the kids calm by reading to them during the "lockdown".

Next Monday is ISTEP. I told the kids that the two key words for next week are protein and sleep!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Like a Lamb

The Woodbrook Math Bowl team is competing against many many other elementary schools from across Indiana this evening! Members of my Math class in the competition are Christian Chacko, Matthew Fu, and Yosuke Yanagida. Good luck, guys! I know for a fact that the Math Bowl did really well last year, but no matter how you guys do, you're amazing mathematicians.

Jammie Day was fun today--I told the class that I wish we could do this every day.

Today we did a shared writing piece under the overhead. We discussed introductory sentences, detail sentences, and the obligatory concluding sentence. Because it was a shared reading, I took input from the kids about something I know nothing about--the XBox. I learned a lot. There were a lot of things the kids said where I thought, I know all of those words, but that doesn't make any sense. Still, it was a lot of fun writing it, and I think everyone learned how to write an introduction pretty well. I was impressed with them today yet again. Great week all around.