Monday, August 10, 2015

Welcome Back!

I have spent a lot of time this summer sitting at this table and reading while listening to the birds and gentle breezes.

Summer is winding down and it's nearly time to start back to school!  Yikes, it hardly seems possible.  Where did the summer go?  Our first day is August 26 but the good news is that we start off gently with a three day week.

This summer I have been busy organizing the classroom and developing problem based units of study for us to delve into this year. Although I hate to see the summer vacation come to an end I am getting excited about starting a new school year with my new class of fifth graders!

Be watching your mailbox for a newsletter outlining some of our units of study and offering an opportunity for extra credit!  I am looking forward to seeing you all soon, and in the meanwhile I hope that you will take a moment to write to me and tell me about your summer and your hopes and goals for your fifth grade year!

I have included a suggested supply list in the newsletter you will be receiving.  In the meanwhile, if you wish to check it right now, please click on the Summer Newsletter link to see an electronic copy.  Likewise, you can access a copy of the Suggested Classroom Supply List by clicking on this link.

See you soon!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

We Like Words

I couldn't resist making a word picture of some of the 
wonderful words included in this terrific letter.

Recently I came across a rather well-known letter written by Robert Pirosh in 1934. Immediately I knew that I had to introduce it to my students!  As I suspected, they loved it! We are investigating many of the words used by Mr. Pirosh in this letter and each student is preparing a short presentation on their chosen word.  They will create posters depicting the meaning of their word, the word's origin, and other interesting information.  Students asked if they could also create Google Presentations about their words.  Why not?  What fun!  

As an example, I chose to research the word "estivate".  That led to an interesting discussion of lungfish and other creatures that estivate to escape heat and dry weather.

Fifth grade Common Core Standards for writing include:
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.4.A  - Use context (e.g., cause/effect relationships and comparisons in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.4.B - Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., photograph, photosynthesis).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.5.4.C - Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation and determine or clarify the precise meaning of key words and phrases.

For more information about the letter itself, you can visit Letters of Note

Monday, September 15, 2014

Open House Handouts and More!

We are off to a wonderful start to our new fifth grade school year and are eager to meet you at Open House on Tuesday evening, September 16.

I have added another page which includes a copy of the packet I will be handing out.  You will find information about grading practices and an overview of the fifth grade curriculum.  You will also find tips for helping your fifth grader with work habits, homework, and more.  I have also included information about out Peanut/Tree Nut Safe Classroom in the packet. Later this week I will post copies of the fifth grade report cards for Math, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies.  Simply look at the tabs at the top of this page to find these helpful documents.

I also wanted to share a free and simple app, Online Voice Recorder that I recently discovered and plan to use in the classroom this year.  I thought that you might also find it useful.  All you need to do is push the record button and follow the screen prompts to "Allow" the application access to your computer's microphone.  You talk as long as you wish and then listen to the recorded playback.  You can trim and edit the length of the recording as desired and then save your finished version in mp3 format using the link.

Students might use the app to practice spelling words, practice reading fluency, practice giving a presentation, or listen to playbacks of themselves practicing their instruments.

There is one drawback, however.  The site includes advertising, but I have become accustomed to ignoring the clutter of online advertising.  Maybe you have too.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Welcome To A New School Year

Welcome to all the rising fifth graders who will be heading back to school in a few days!  It hardly seems possible that summer vacation is nearly over but I hope that you have all had an opportunity to rest up, have fun with your friends and family, and are ready for a wonderful new school year, fifth grade!

I sent each of you a welcome back newsletter with many details about what to expect this year.  Included in the newsletter is also a copy of the classroom supply list and a classroom wish list.  This newsletter can be accessed by clicking on the "Helpful Documents" tab at the top of this page, or by clicking the 2014 Summer Newsletter link.

You may access a copy of the classroom supply list by clicking on the 2014 - 2015 Classroom Supply List and a classroom schedule by clicking on this link 2014 - 2015 Classroom Schedule.

This year we will be using a new math program called Bridges in Mathematics.  I am very excited to start using this math program and will be posting more about the program as the year goes along.  In the meanwhile I would like you to know that when you look at our daily schedule you will see math listed at three different times during the day.  Each morning we will start with Number Corner, which may already be familiar to some of you.  Number Corner is a skill building program that revolves around the classroom calendar, providing daily practice as well as continual encounters with broader mathematical concepts.

I am looking forward to seeing all of you soon.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Thank You Spelling City! We LOVE you!

In our class we simply LOVE SpellingCity!  All of our spelling lists are available for students to access when they want to study their spelling words, practice science or social studies vocabulary words, or simply have some fun while reinforcing their learning.  For many years I've used this resource to help my students learn their spelling words, but recently I've also begun to add content area vocabulary words that I want students to study. 

I love that many of the activities are printable so that I can provide extra homework practice for students each night.  Each week I use the Handwriting Worksheets  to help students become more familiar with the way their words are spelled, but also to help students practice how letters are formed and joined.  We also work on the Crossword Puzzle that can be generated from each week's words as a way to help develop our vocabulary.  The Word Unscramble and the Alphabetize activities are two other options that can be printed out to provide extra practice.

But, the most fun of all - and probably the best practice activities are the interactive games. The class LOVES to play "Hangmouse" and we've had some rousing versions of the game.  I must admit that even I get a bit nervous when the cat starts opening his eyes and unsheathing his claws.  We all root for the mouse to survive each of his efforts to steal the cheese!

This fall our class discovered how much fun WordFind is.  Once a student figures out the correct word from among the scrambled letters, they then attempt to make all the small words they can create with the given letters.  It's a great challenge to see who can make the longest correctly spelled word from the letters available.

We are all changing over to the Common Core State Standards and Spelling City supports many of the CCSS in Language Arts and in the Content areas.  When I click on the standards search and search for Vermont Common Core State Standards, it opens up a printable drop down list of standards (with interactive links) that are covered by Spelling City.  Just so you know, my list is three printed pages long!  WOW!  Next week we are going to work on reviewing parts of speech.  Know what I am going to use?  Take a peek!

Among my favorite books is Brain Rules by John Medina.  One of his twelve brain rules is "Rule #4:  We don't pay attention to boring things".  Spelling City is definitely NOT BORING!  The games keep students engaged with their jazzy music and fast paced activity.  Another of the brain rules is "Rule #10:  Vision trumps all other senses".  The bright colors and moving objects make the activities appealing and memorable.

For students who have access to i Pads, there is now a Spelling City App.  There is a new Android app available through the Google Play store.  There is even a Kindle app available through the Amazon App Store! Students can get access to all the activities any place they can access their electronic devices.  It's wonderful!   

Finally, I like how I can create individual accounts for each student and then check up on their progress as they study their words each week.  It's easy to see which activities they have used and how successful they were.  If a student is not spending enough time studying it's easily evident and it's helpful to be able to show students this information too.

Thank you SpellingCity!  We LOVE you!

Disclosure: I received a year subscription in exchange for my honest thoughts. All opinions are my own.
I was provided with a premium membership free of charge for this review.  However, all opinions are mine and reflect my honest use of the product in the classroom.
I received at no cost to me, in order to complete an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Back To School

We have completed our first seven days of school and we are off to a wonderful start!  We have been learning new routines and getting used to being in a completely different part of the building.  The students say they really like the classroom, plants and all, and they really love their lockers.

Our beautiful new Chromebooks have arrived and we are in the process of setting them up so that students may begin utilizing them to enrich and enhance their learning investigations.

We started our first Reading Workshop unit, Building A Reading Life, and it is already clear that these students are voracious readers.  How wonderful that they simply love to read.  As one student put it, I don't read because I am trying to reach a goal of completing a certain number of books, but I read because I love reading!"

We have begun our first math unit, Number Puzzles and Multiple Towers in which we review and learn many different properties of number.  We have been working to develop and deepen our understanding of math vocabulary so that we can have rich, meaningful discussions about math.

In Social Studies we begin with a unit on geography and map skills.  We have been analyzing many different types of maps and learning how they convey important information.  Soon we will move on to learning how to locate places using latitude and longitude and we will review and extend our geographic vocabulary.

This week we will begin studying about cells in Science.  I am eager to introduce students to the microscopic world that exists all around them yet is invisible to the naked eye.  We have many different investigations and labs to pursue and I hope that students will find cell biology to be an exciting new world to discover.  Two wonderful websites that we will utilize are Cells Alive and Inside A Cell.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

1:1 Chromebook Classroom!!!

You will love our new 1:1 Chromebooks!

I'm so excited to be able to tell all of you that we will have 1:1 Chromebooks in the fifth grade next year!  In "kid language" the term "1:1" means that in our classroom we will have enough computers for each student to have a computer to use during the school day.  The computers will be stored in our classroom and will be available whenever we need them during the day.  We will not take the computers home with us at night, but they will be recharged and waiting here for you each morning!

What, you may ask, is a Chromebook?  A Chromebook is a bit like a laptop computer, but with some important differences.  First of all they are small.  Chromebooks are about the size of a clipboard, weigh only about two pounds, and are about 3/4" thick.  When you use one you don't save your work to the computer itself, you save your work "in the cloud".  What does "in the cloud" mean?  It means that your work is stored elsewhere and not on your computer itself.  That means that you don’t need to worry about forgetting or losing your flash drive.  It means that you will be able to access your work from any computer at school, at home, the library, or your grandmother’s house!

I have been using a Chromebook quite a bit this summer and I absolutely love working with it.  The battery holds its charge for at least 6 hours which will suit us well at school.  (I suspect we will recharge them at lunchtime and again each evening.)  The size makes them perfect to carry around and use in different areas - although not outside because our wireless connection doesn’t reach very far outside the building.  I have been using Google Apps a lot and have discovered many different activities that will enhance and enrich our learning.  The possibilities are absolutely endless! In fact, to my mind, there won’t be enough time in the school year to do all that I would like to do with you using these computers!

Chromebooks are meant to be used online and we will use them a lot this year.  We will keep Interactive Reading Logs for Reading Workshop and we’ll  use Google Docs to write and publish our work in Writing Workshop.  We will use the Chromebooks in every subject area!  In science and social studies we will use them for research and to publish our learning in all sorts of interesting ways.  We will use Chromebooks to deepen our understanding of new math concepts and to help us practice our math facts.  We will be able to practice our spelling words online too.   I’m very eager to use the computers to help us to meet the challenges of the problem-based units we will take on.  More about that later : )We will have a parent meeting very early in the school year to explain how our 1:1 program will work and to answer questions parents may have about this exciting new learning opportunity.  

In the meanwhile what can you do to get ready to start the new year with this fabulous technology?  You can practice Typing Pal Online so that you have strong keyboarding skills.  This will help you be more efficient as you work on the computer.  If you have a school G-Mail account you could also work with some Google Apps such as Google Docs so that you become more familiar with the possibilities these programs offer.

I am very grateful to our wonderfully supportive school board; our principal, Karen Prescott; and our superintendent, John Castle;  for supporting this initiative and making the 1:1 Chromebooks available to our class.  We are lucky to have such a supportive community!