Thursday, December 15, 2011

December Math Activities

I want to share a wonderful math resource, Nrich Maths which we have been using in class this month. This website is located in the United Kingdom and is loaded with math related activities.

The five maths content stages correspond to UK Key Stages, but for international users the following gives an indication of the ages by which the mathematics involved in the problem will usually have been met as follows: Stage One uses mathematics you would normally meet before the age of 8 and Stage Two uses mathematics you would normally meet before the age of 11.

In December we have been working on a number of geometry related math activities such as making Mobius Strips, three dimensional cube puzzles, and triangular balls. These activities have been both educational and entertaining.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Divisibility Rules!

In math class we have been studying rules of divisibility. Understanding some of the rules of divisibility make math a little easier. Yes, we can astound others by simply looking at a number for a moment and telling whether or not it is divisible by 2 or 3, 5, 9, or 10. But, we can use these rules when we need to factor numbers, figure out prime numbers, or simplify fractions.

These "rules" help us determine whether or not certain numbers are factors of a target number. We have wondered how people came up with these rules, and interestingly enough, some numbers have more than one rule of divisibility that will work. There are tests to determine divisibility for 4, 7, 8, 11, etc. but some of them are quite complicated. In the fifth grade, we are learning the rules for 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, and 15.

Here are some links to help you practice the rules of divisibility. First, a video from Khan Academy to review the rules for recognizing divisibility. Then, visit this site, Math Is Fun!, to study the different "tests". Next, some websites to practice what you've learned. IXL Divisibility Rules and Vectorkids Divisibility Rules.

Can you figure out why these rules work? It's not magical, it's mathematics! Practice, learn, and have fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This and That

We have started a new unit in social studies, Native American Cultural Regions. On the left, I've posted one photograph which is also found in our social studies book. Students are quite interested in the historical photographs from our social studies book and others we have seen from the Edward S. Curtis collection. They asked if I would post a link to the Library of Congress American Memory Collection. Quoting from the Library of Congress website:

"The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis is one of the most significant and controversial representations of traditional American Indian culture ever produced. Issued in a limited edition from 1907-1930, the publication continues to exert a major influence on the image of Indians in popular culture. Curtis said he wanted to document "the old time Indian, his dress, his ceremonies, his life and manners." In over 2000 photogravure plates and narrative, Curtis portrayed the traditional customs and lifeways of eighty Indian tribes. The twenty volumes, each with an accompanying portfolio, are organized by tribes and culture areas encompassing the Great Plains, Great Basin, Plateau Region, Southwest, California, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. Featured here are all of the published photogravure images including over 1500 illustrations bound in the text volumes, along with over 700 portfolio plates."

In math, we have been studying factors, multiples, and number puzzles which can be solved by using the various properties of number. We have learned about prime factorization and have been working on making a display of factor trees for various four digit numbers. An interesting activity for practicing prime factorization is Factorization Forest and students have asked me to post a link to this site as well.

Finally, a free application that you can download and use to study multiplication facts is Timez. For many years I have recommended this site to students who needed extra practice learning their multiplication facts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A New Student Created Rubric and Upcoming Assessment

Last week students developed their own rubric for scoring a vocabulary "foldable". This week students have developed another rubric, this one is for scoring a new assignment, "Make a Map of the World."

You can access the rubric by clicking on this link, Make a Map of the World. You may print out the pdf file from the Scribd site if you lose the rubric we handed out in class. Remember that for this assignment you chose to add an optional extra credit activity! Good for you!! I'm eager to see what you chose to do for extra credit. Our classroom will look very productive when we put your work on display.

Don't forget to keep studying for the assessment by using the online tools we've discussed in class and which are accessible from this blog. For students without internet access, remember that you can take home your book and journal and practice with an adult. You can also use your vocabulary foldable as a study aid.

You are all working really hard and are engaged in your own learning! Keep up the great effort!!!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Social Studies Online Practice

We are nearing completion of our first unit in social studies. We have been studying Chapter 1 in our textbook, Geography of the United States. First we spent some time learning how to read expository text and how to use chapter headings, subheadings, the glossary, index, etc. Students have created a series of annotated maps in their "interactive" student journals and have practiced several geography skills such as determining location with lines of latitude and longitude and identifying physical features of the United States.

As we prepare for our unit test, I want to introduce you to some wonderful free websites students can access to help them review the unit and study for the test.

First, I would like to introduce you to Social Studies Alive! America's Past Internet Tutorial. This is a wonderful website that allows students to virtually take the test for each unit, corrects misunderstandings as they go through the tutorial, and finally allows students to print out their results upon completion. Students have found these activities to be educational and entertaining, often reviewing the information over and over "just for fun"! How great is that? Simply go to the website, enter a name (which is not saved but simply used when printing out results), and press submit. Then students select the chapter they wish to study and enjoy! I generally ask students to print out their results and bring them to school as an indication that they have practiced for the test. If you do not have a printer, students can simply write a sentence telling me what their score is, ask an adult to sign it, and return it to school.

The second useful website is Quizlet. I have prepared vocabulary definitions for all words
students need to understand to master the first social studies unit. Going to Quizlet via this link takes you directly to the words, flashcards, and activities for the geography unit. From this site students can study the words in several ways. They can either read or listen to the definitions of each vocabulary term, they can print out flashcards, they can work on activities such as Scatter and Space Race to practice their words and they can test themselves on the words.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Geography Vocabulary Foldable Assignment and Rubric

What are "foldables"? "Foldables" are interactive graphic organizers. I have been using them with my students for years because they are colorful, help students manipulate new information, and provide a very useful tool for learning. They can be used in many different ways and students always enjoy making and using these learning tools. One website that explains "foldables" in more detail is Dinah Zike's site, Dina-Might Adventures. Students will be making foldables in math and social studies throughout their fifth grade year.

Today students were given a vocabulary foldable assignment to work on over the next few days. Earlier this week they worked to develop a rubric for scoring their work when it is completed, and today we prepared the paper and went over the expectations for completing the assignment. I was VERY proud of the rubric the students developed. You will notice that it is in "kid friendly" language. This should help them better understand the expectation for each category of the rubric. Here is a link to a copy of the scoring rubric, Geography Foldable Rubric.

In case students lose the required vocabulary, the words are: geography, globe, latitude, longitude, geographic terms, physical features.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Multiplication Process

Some of you asked me to post a video of the multiplication process. I know that sometimes, over the summer, you can forget the process of multiplying by several digits. Sometimes, too, students have misunderstood the process, or simply "mis-remember" it. So, for your assistance while doing homework, here it is! I hope that you find it helpful.

BTW: I used the calligraphy pen!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spelling City

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite websites, Spelling City! Why do I love this site so much? Here are just some of the things I like about this web 2.0 app.

First, I have entered every spelling list that we study this year. If you click on the link above, or the link on the sidebar of this blog, you will be taken to my "home page" on Spelling City. Here are each of the spelling lists we use in the fifth grade. You will need to scroll down toward the bottom half of the list as I have also included a modified list used by some of my students. All students this year are using the regular list. Just look for the lesson of the week we are using. For example, this week you will look for "Lesson 2".

Once you have selected the appropriate list you have tons of options. You can print out the list, you can print out handwriting models (cursive practice!), or you can choose to have it teach you the spelling word by word. You can take a vocab test and learn the tricky words, and you can print out flash cards or view flash cards online.

As if this weren't enough we have a "Play a Game" option which provides activities that will be an engaging way to practice your words each week. Students really enjoy Hang Mouse, Unscramble, Word-O-Rama, and Letter Fall among others!

In class students are each given a username and password to use when signing on to this site. Students can use the site without signing in, but more options are available if they do sign in. Not only that, but I am able to see what activities students are using and their success rate. I can follow how much (or how little) time students have spent using this wonderful resource to help improve their spelling.

Please visit this site and let me know what you like best!

Monday, September 05, 2011

First Week of School!

Wow! What a wonderful and exhausting first
"week" of school! Most students were able to get to school for the first day, even some students who live in places rendered inaccessible by all of the flooding and devastation. We collected emergency supplies, food, and water and these items were collected by the Chittenden Fire Department to be delivered to those who live on the other side of all the road breaks on the mountain.

On Thursday evening the NPR national news program, All Things Considered, broadcast an uplifting story about some of our students, the "hikers" who have been hiking out to get to school each day. If you missed the story it is archived here, Amid Flooding, Vermont Kids Hike to School. As my daughter said, "Real Vermonters hike to school!".

Last week we were only in session for three days, but we put our time to good use. We learned a bit more about each other. We learned many new routines and procedures that will help make our class run smoothly. We began setting up our notebooks, planners, and journals. We all took turns using the SmartBoard. We made windsocks that will decorate our room but also helped us learn a few new things about our classmates. We spent some time reviewing place value and its importance in our number system. Our "Magic Digit" activity was fun, and we also learned how a decahedron got its name. We began discussing maps, globes, and geography. We spent a bit of time looking at Google Earth and Google Maps.

We're looking forward to a new week when the rest of our friends will be able to join us and we will finally feel like a complete class.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 15, 2011

New School Year!!!

First I must apologize if you visited the blog a few days ago and this post wasn't up yet. There was a glitch with signing in to work on it and today was the first day I have been able to work that out. Things should work smoothly from now on, however, so I hope that you come back often. I try to post information about what we are doing in class or post helpful links associated with our various studies.

I have chosen this image so that you can see one way I like to spend summer vacation. This is the water garden where the goldfish live during the summer. I like to go out and sit on the big rock that you see at the right side of the picture. I find it soothing to watch the fish and listen to the water as it trickles over the little waterfall. Mr. Dub and I feed the fish each afternoon around four o'clock and the fish become frantic when they see us coming. They quickly learned to associate our presence with dinner!

Summer vacation is gently drawing to a close, however, and we are nearly ready to begin a new school year. It's very exciting to welcome all of our new fifth grade students. Some of you are "old" friends and I've been eagerly watching you progress through the grades. Some of you are new to Barstow School and I am eager to get to know you too.

I hope that by now you've received your letter with some information about what to expect during the new school year. Don't forget to write me a letter introducing yourself! I always look forward to receiving your letters and getting to know you a bit better before school starts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Decorah Eagles and Other Webcams

<span class=Image via WikipediaRecently we have been observing the miracles of nature through a few webcams. One that we have been checking daily is the Decorah Eagles webcam in Decorah, Iowa. This webcam streams video of a pair of Bald Eagles and their three eaglets literally 24/7.

During the day you can view the eagles in color but you can also watch them at night because of an infrared light which allows you to view the nest in black and white. The nestlings were hatched about three weeks ago and it is amazing to watch them grow and change daily. We have been able to watch the adults take turns sitting on the nest and caring for their young, feeding them tidbits of fish from a nearby stream.

The website hosting the livestream gives FAQS about the pair of eagles, who have raised several other broods of eaglets, and interesting information about the nest and its location eighty feet high in a huge tree. You can visit the eagles by clicking on this link, Decorah Eagles or simply view the embedded file below.

Free Videos by Ustream.TV

Monday, April 18, 2011


Dear students,

Here is the link to Quizlet for our Facing Slavery unit.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Storybird and Math

Another Web 2.0 application we use in the classroom is called Storybird! To quote from their website, "Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories you make to share, read, and print. Read them like books, play them like games, and send them like greeting cards. They’re curiously fun."

So far, I have used it to create a story for math in which we practice comparing fractions. However, we are able to create student accounts so that students can create their own stories using this tool. I like the way that a choice of images can inspire creativity. It also looks great on the SmartBoard. I think students would really enjoy writing their own stories and sharing them with classmates using this tool!

We are learning how to compare and order fractions. This is an activity to give students practice in comparing fractions by using decimals, percents, and equivalent fractions.

1/3 Vs.1/4 or The Lost Alien! on Storybird

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Routes of Exploration to the New World and HIstory Alive Tutorial

A composed satellite photograph of North Ameri...Image via WikipediaWe have nearly completed our study of routes European explorers took to the new world. Students have completed their mini-research projects and their products. Many students have given their presentations to the class. We have learned about Spanish, English, and French sponsored explorers such as Cortes, Coronado, Cabot, Hudson, Cartier, de la Salle, Ponce de Leon, and others. This week we will wrap up the unit as students turn their research into short essays.

Students will write about why the Europeans came to the New World, how their arrival affected history, and what areas of North America were claimed. We will work on perfecting our thesis statements and adding supporting details in the body of the essay.

As we complete this unit of study students can practice for the unit test which will be given next week. Our social studies text has a wonderful online tutorial available at History Alive You will notice a link to this site listed on the sidebar to the right. Students can simply follow the link, sign in and take the "test". This is unit 5 so students should select that chapter when given the option. I urge them to use their textbooks to find answers if necessary. Using the textbook also helps when students forget the spelling of difficult words or the names of specific explorers. Finally, upon completion of the tutorial students will see a screen informing them of their grade and showing which questions were incorrect. I ask students to print these out and bring them back to school. If printing is a difficulty, students can simply copy the score and ask a parent to check and sign the paper before it is returned to school. These online tutorials are a wonderful way to "study" for the test.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Cape Cod Meeting

Cape Cod and Cape Cod Bay from space. "Pr...Image via WikipediaHere we go again! As I write, we are in the middle of a rain, freezing rain, ice storm! I earnestly hope that we do not have another snow day! Let's hope that we are able to carry on with our Cape Cod informational meeting on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. We will discuss the itinerary, costs of the trip, and the possibility of fund raising to help defray student costs of the trip.

If you are not able to attend the meeting, we will send home paperwork and information with students the following day. We will need to know soon whether or not you plan to be a chaperon for the trip. We do have chaperon guidelines and they will be handed out at the informational meeting.

One thing that is new is the need for fingerprinting and a background check for parent chaperons. We will have more information about this when we see you on Tuesday.

Interesting observation: Apparently the word "chaperon" can be spelled with, or without, the final "e". Evidently the preferred spelling is without the "e". It also is a medical term (spelled with the "e"). As I have been typing this post, the spell check keeps underlining the word spelled with the final "e" and so I finally gave in and went to the "preferred" spelling of the word.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Voice Thread - Awesome!!!

I have been learning about a wonderful "new" technology called VoiceThread. Using this web 2.0 tool, we can create digital stories, post them, and then add comments on each other's stories.

Here is my first experiment with the tool. Right now I do not have an audio component that I have recorded but that will change soon!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Cool is TripLine?

Another technology I have recently discovered is TripLine. As soon as I learned about this site I started thinking of ways we could use it in social studies. Actually, it can be used in many subject areas. But, since social studies is one of the areas I teach, that's been my focus. I am still thinking of how I might use it for math. There must be a way!

Anyway, we are just beginning a study of the routes of exploration of European explorers. After we read the corresponding chapter in the social studies text, students will choose an explorer they would like to research in a bit more depth. When their research is complete, students will present their "report" to the class. Students will be asked to represent their learning in a poster including a map of their explorer's routes, sponsors, the impact of the explorer, and other interesting information. Once students have completed this part of the assignment, they will then use their new learning to create a "TripLine" interactive map/digital story.

Here is the sample I made to introduce students to the idea. Christopher Columbus made four trips to the new world. This interactive map shows some details of his first trip.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


I seem to be posting a lot about our various uses of technology and the online extensions of our units of study. Earlier, I posted a bit of information about XtraMath. Here are some more details about this wonderful free tool.

Basically this website offers students an opportunity to become fluent with math facts. By the time students are in the fifth grade I expect them to know their addition and multiplication facts by heart. This is not only my expectation, but is also the educational standard expectation for fifth grade students. Many students, however, are weak in their recall of these facts and this hampers them greatly as we learn the processes of division and the concepts of fractions. Using XtraMath requires only 10 - 15 minutes each day (optimally) and will keep students working on specific facts that need more practice. Eventually students will master all required addition facts and will be moved on to subtraction. Mastery of multiplication is the next step, followed by division.

At first, undeveloped keyboarding skills prevent students from responding to each fact in a timely fashion. But, with practice, most students are soon able to master this hurdle. If your computer keyboard does not have a numberpad on the side, OR, if your child is a "lefty", inexpensive number pad peripherals are available at office supply stores such as Staples. These devices have a USB connection, are small and portable. Many of my lefthanded students use these with good results.

Please help your child use this website frequently so that they learn to be fluent in their math facts!