Thursday, January 29, 2015

Out of Breath

The gray skies outside didn't stop anything going on under the roof of 5-1 today. We worked hard today. The kids have been much more willing to write, read, and work with each other than they ever have been before. Not that it has ever been a problem, but it has gotten even better than before since winter break.

Almost immediately after coming to school this morning, they had to do their PACER Test. They came back smelling like roses, of course, and then we pretty much got right to work.

Don't forget the social studies test is due tomorrow, and that the kids have a spelling test and my math class has a test as well. We've been working on these all week (with the exception of the spelling test). I'm ready to move on to new units!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We Achieved Murphy's Eye

My math class has a study guide due tomorrow, and my homeroom has a social studies test (take-home) that is due on Friday.

Today we did a lot: hunted the room for nouns left by the Riddler (and then applied adjectives to those nouns), we read a story in our book about the legend of Juan de Oso, played a quick game of silent ball (much to my chagrin, but it wasn't too bad), reviewed our unit in Math, made billboards for Social Studies, and wrote compare and contrast papers. Oh, and Mrs. Ratner gave my class the highest of compliments after music today.

I would say, as far as achieving our goals today, we did a darn good job. Well done, students!

Tomorrow, don't forget to wear some good running shoes! It's the Pacer test in gym.

Border Song

Congratulations, Nick Katsis! This 5-1 student from two years ago won Clay Middle School's Geography Bowl outright, propelling him to the regional competition. Last year--as a sixth grader--he came in second place, so this was no biggie for Nick. Hardly surprising, as he is always in the know with all things Social Studies-related, from geopolitical history to the capital of Saskatchewan to the name of Pearl Jam's third drummer. Nick is an old soul, always interesting to talk to. Plus, he's just a great guy.

I couldn't be prouder, Nick.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Am a Breathing Time Machine

We played some catch-up today, which included a quick review on adjectives. Here are the three kinds I talked about today:
  • regular old run-of-the-mill adjectives (My fuzzy kitten purred on my lap. Jerry borrowed the red shirt from Joe. The soft-shell crab ran under a rock.)
  • possessive adjectives (That is my toaster! Could you please calm your monkey? They brought their dog with them.)
  • article adjectives (There is a cat in our yard. Look at the hot air balloon! I got knocked over by an elephant.)
Some of the kids had their Social Studies tests handed back to them yesterday and were asked to fix them up because they were answered without complete sentences. We learned today that just because a sentence has a capital letter on the front end and a punctuation on the back end, it does not make it a sentence. We reviewed that a little bit today as well.

Tomorrow I will give the kids their Social Studies take-home test. I told them to take their books home with them and take their time looking for the answers--no reason not to get an A on this one. Some of them may be finishing up their letters tonight. They wrote letters back to England from their colony here in America in the year 1740.

Lastly, for Math, I have decided that Everyday Math takes too long of a jump from just starting out with algebra problems and diving right into the ones that are multi-stepped and have a lot of negative numbers and fractions and stuff. I am going to go easier on them than this today for sure. We are going to learn a couple of basic algebra lessons today and I will send home some homework with them tonight.

Oh! And the Genius Files part five arrived today! To say it starts off crazy is a bit of an understatement. Talk about bizarre. The kids didn't want me to stop reading, though. We really love these books.

More to come.

Monday, January 26, 2015

When the Sunshine Don't Work

We went to the planetarium at CHS today, and the students watched a presentation by Mr. Keith Turner. He always does a nice job. The kids learned about the different seasons, why we have them, and where the sun's path changes throughout the year.

I guess the next big news is that one week from this Friday is Colonial Days. This dovetails right in with what we will be studying in Social Studies right at that time. I will send home some hand-outs tomorrow so that you can make the most of your child's Colonial Days experience. The email I received today from Mrs. Brink (5-1 Math mom in charge of Colonial Days, bless her soul) said they are still looking for more volunteers for that day. You don't want to miss this day.

Stars My Destination

Today my Math class did not have any homework.

Spelling definitions and 20 minutes of reading are all that are due tomorrow.

I spoke with the kids today regarding the altered research projects, so minor disappointment announced and accepted.

I will type more later. Until then!

The Long Now

This will be a busy week as always.

We will start our week by heading to the Planetarium, but that will provide little rest for the wicked. This week, as a necessity, we have a spelling test, a Math test (my Math class only), and what I have decided will be a take-home test for Social Studies. The take-home test will be given out on Wednesday (unless it's requested earlier than that) and will be due on Friday.

We are going to have to bring Unit Four in Reading to a close this week, and next week we will be starting off on our research papers. Yes, I know we started those last week--false alarm. We will be starting them in earnest next week, and they will bear little resemblance to what we got started last week. It's our writing program, but it should be for the best in the end.

There is an organization called The Long Now, which is based around long-term thinking (in the longest terms you can imagine). I always see this stretch of weeks--between January and Spring Break--as The Long Now. We will make it through this. It's the period where we all know each other just fine, there is nothing really novel during this time, and we have yet to really see the end of the tunnel.

Of course, I say "the end of the tunnel" as though it's an anticipated and desired destination. I know it is for the kids. But for me, it's the opposite of that. I do not want to lose this class any more than I have wanted to lose any of the ones before them.

For me, this is the time I cherish. This is the (mostly) uninterrupted time where I can just plain teach the kids, where they know my style and can work with it, where the most learning is done. I know them and they know me; this is the meat of the school year, if ever it existed.

So I hope you are all willing to endure (and enjoy?) the Long Now this year. It's an interesting time, to be sure. But I hope to make it worthwhile.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Planet Woodbrook

Don't forget that Monday is our little field trip over to the Planetarium over at the high school. I have everyone's permission slips, so we don't need to worry about that anymore. Just be aware--no need to pack a sack lunch, we will be there for an hour and then come back to school for a normal rest of the school day.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Still Waters

Homework tonight is Math Boxes on pages 224, 225, and 229 (they had a big head start yesterday and today on this), plus a study link. They did really well on their pan balance lesson today.

We got some things nailed down as far as the kids' research projects are going to go. No worries; this will be almost entirely in class.

Permission Slip To Go To Outer Space

Good morning, everyone! Sorry for not post yesterday; I'm just here with a quick reminder that we are going on a trip to the Planetarium on Monday of next week. I will go over with the kids today who has their permission slips turned in and who doesn't. Remember, if your child does not have it turned in, they will not be allowed to go over there. It's only for about an hour, so it's not that big of a deal to you and me, but I don't think anyone wants their child to feel left out on going over there. More later!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Brain Candy Generation

Hopefully everyone had a great weekend. The kids have worked pretty hard today. It seems like the more we accomplish, the more behind we get--just like with anything, I suppose.

This week we do have a couple things you should probably know about. Tomorrow, we will take a quiz on adjectives. You may want to quiz your kids tonight on what these are. We have been talking about them in class, and every day we do word of the day, where parts of speech come up. This is one of those things that all fifth graders need to know.

On Friday, we will take a reading comprehension test and a Caesar's English quiz. See the sidebar for the Caesar's English roots this week.

Very soon, the kids will be starting their research projects. I will let you know at home if there is anything the kids need to be doing--going to the library, bringing in resources, etc. It should be pretty cool. I just gave the kids an interest survey, and will work with them on coming up with a topic individually.

Lastly, the kids have pages 40-41 in their white pages tonight (they should have brought home their red hardback books as well), ONLY Rhode Island and New York. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This Is Where the Strings Come In

Tomorrow we will have a test in Social Studies We studied it inside out today, but I wrote in big bold letters at the top of the assignment notebook "STUDY"--both the Social Studies as well as the Spelling test.

The other biggie tonight is that the kids' bookmarks are due tomorrow. I am going to be really strict on these for the second semester.

I will see everyone tomorrow! I am just hoping I get my good class back tomorrow after they've been at the middle school.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bright Sunshiny Day

I was really happy to see so many Social Studies study guides handed in already today. If those are not yet finished up, those are due tomorrow.

Also due tomorrow: the meaning exercise for Spelling, 20 minutes of reading, and my Math class also has a page of Order of Operations problems (10 in all).

I'm glad to see the sun shining outside. Let's hope that sometime soon we will be able to have outdoor recess!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Engines Can't Take the Strain, Captain

Hello, everyone! I want to say really quickly that I am hammering home the reading log bookmarks this semester. These kids seem to think they're ready for middle school (and don't get me started on how early in the school year this Clay Night is), and so we need to start getting them more ready. I told them yesterday that I was going to take off points if they didn't have it turned in today, and you will see that reflected in their Work Habits grade for reading. I told them to make sure it is turned in tomorrow, otherwise they will lose more points.

I told them it's not going to do them any good to read and not turn in their bookmarks--and when they find themselves in a hole, the first thing they need to do is stop digging!

Ugh, update... We took the computer bandwidth stress test. Turns out either the computer system isn't quite ready, or McGraw Hill wasn't quite ready. The computers were doing hilarious things, such as skipping ahead about five problems, or freezing up altogether. Fun times!

Monday, January 12, 2015


Happy Birthday to Olivia! Olivia is very well-read, highly knowledgeable in all things "geek culture" (and I mean that in the coolest way possible), and she is my favorite Jedi/Batgirl. I remember that Olivia brought me a comic book on her first day of school--someone had told her that this was a good idea (and it was Daredevil #194, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Klaus Janson...pretty sweet if you know what you're talking about).  We all hope you had a great time shopping tonight, and that your next year of living is the best you've ever had.

Quadratic Thought

We have a staff meeting after school today, so I won't be able to post as normal.

Homework for today:
  • Spelling definitions are due tomorrow. Easier list this week!
  • The Social Studies study guide is due on THURSDAY. Test will be on FRIDAY.
  • Math class has Study Link 6.4 tonight. The quiz on Friday will be over 6.1-6.6.
  • I hope Olivia has a great birthday--I will do a proper birthday post tonight!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Mean Season

I'm hoping that this week we will have a normal schedule. I don't mind a 2-hour delay or two (or three), because we actually manage to get just as much done on those days as we would any other day--as hard as that is to admit. I guess it's something about having to buckle down and get through everything we have to get finished.

While I'm not sure what the actual schedule will be, I'm going to go ahead with the plan that everything will go as planned. This week should be a normal, full, spelling test week. My plan right now is to have not only a spelling test this week, but also a Social Studies test on Friday. In Social Studies, we've been talking about the beginnings of the various colonies--long before they decided to become "United" with a capital U. We have been taking notes in the kids' new Social Studies notebooks, which they should be bringing home along with their study guide by Wednesday at the latest.

This week we will also be continuing our Language Arts unit on water--both the ecological side as well as the scientific side. I think I have at least one student talked into pursuing a college degree in fluid dynamics engineering (at least the fifth grade version of said student).

We will have a Math Quiz on 6.1-6.7 on Friday. This will be more of a "Quest", as chapter 6 is a long chapter. The jury is still out on whether we will have one big test at the end of chapter 6, or just two quests. More than likely, we will be having one big test at the end of chapter 6 before heading into the much shorter chapter 7.

That's all for now. Hope you all had a great weekend and here's to a great week.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Show Me the Money!


The cafeteria needs your help. Would you please put a note in your classroom newsletter for us? We have a lot of students who owe money. Please remind parents to check their student lunch account. You can word it the way you want to. Thank you so much we appreciate all you help.

Bev Allen   

In Good Health and Good Times

In an effort to prevent the spread of flu, please remind teachers, students, and parents to:

Wash hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth;

Avoid close contact with those who are already sick;

Get plenty of sleep;

Eat healthy food and drink plenty of fluids;

Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or into the crook of your arm;

Clean commonly touched surfaces; and

Stay home if ill for at least 24 hours after fever is gone.

Also, please remember that there is still time to obtain a flu shot. Even though the flu vaccine does not protect against all flu strains, it may still reduce the severity of flu-related complications.
This message has been sent to you from Nurse Barb. Thanks, Nurse Barb!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Well, the kids are full of energy today, but I wouldn't say it's the bad kind. Everyone was in a generally positive state of mind, I would have to say. We also got a lot of work completed today. I'm not sure how, but we manage to get just as much if not more finished when the day is shortened like this. Of course, I've had to sacrifice things like read-aloud this week, but still, it's been good.

Yesterday I sent home some permission slips for the trip to the high school planetarium on January 26. Thanks to those who have already sent those back in. If you could get those back as soon as possible, it will take one more thing off my list.

Tonight's homework is a meaning exercise for Spelling, math study link 6.3 (only #s 1-2), and reading for 20 minutes.

Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Pretty Good Shape For the Shape We're In

I am so happy to report that today went so much better than yesterday. The kids came in, worked hard, had fun (well, I hope so at least), and hopefully left here a little smarter than when they arrived.

Today we did get to have our specials, which was gym. I was really surprised when I got to school and found out that fifth grade had our specials class because of the two-hour delay. I knew the kids would be disappointed because they always give the younger grades their specials on the first two-hour delay, and then we get ours on the second one. Turns out Mr. Z manipulated the schedule with Mrs. Davis so that we would have ours first, because he didn't want my class to miss gym class for the umpteenth time in a row. Props to Mr. Z for taking care of my class!

Reminder: If we have a two-hour delay tomorrow because of the polar temperatures, there will be NO STUDENT COUNCIL MEETING!

For tomorrow: 3x each, study link (my class does not have to do #9-11), and read for 20 minutes.

Stay warm!

Monday, January 5, 2015

On Being Well

The following post is a re-post from a few years ago, which I've been thinking about since yesterday. For some reason, it has crept back into my consciousness as one of my all-time favorites to write. If you've been in a Walgreens in the past year or so, you will notice they say "Be Well" as they hand you your change. I like that, even though it's obviously been handed down to them from on high. It is somehow so much better than "Have a good day." This post is directly related to that, and I think it is perfect for the beginning of the new year.

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, the longtime host of A Prairie Home Companion, who always ends his public radio program The 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, Mrs. Craft, making the first question on every test, what was the true definition of health? Of course, we all knew the correct answer: "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 have ever known. She was an Army nurse during the Korean War, and often told us stories from her time in service, of getting in trouble for laughing while at attention on Coco Beach and of some of the unfortunate things she saw in life during wartime. She was about five feet two inches, had a smoke-addled voice that she used at full capacity, and she had the respect of everyone. She had lived a full life--and seemed to have loved and embraced every minute of it.

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, now a freshman at Purdue who has been a "little old man" since he was in the second grade, came into my classroom, smiled, and said about Mr. Vahle, "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.