Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Thank You Spelling City! We LOVE you!

We LOVE SpellingCity.com
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 VocabularySpellingCity.com 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!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

To My New Fifth Grade Class and A Supply List

Welcome! I am looking forward to having you in class!  I have heard many lovely things about each of you and am eager to get to know all of you better.  We will work hard, but I know that we will learn a lot and that we will become a supportive classroom community.

In order to prepare for fifth grade you will need to complete some summer reading.  I would like you to read at least TWO different books.  One of these books should be written by an author on the attached list; the other author can be your choice.  You will receive extra credit if you read more than two books.  Remember to choose a book that is “just right” for you - not too easy, not too hard.

You need to be an active reader, even in the summer. Since we will be continuing Reading Workshop in the fifth grade, I am asking you to identify characters, describe the setting, summarize each book you read, and make some connections - Text to Text, Text to Self, or Text to World.  Then draw a picture of your favorite scene from the book.   On the first day of school, you will need to turn in your completed Summer Reading Logs.  We will be using these in class.  

On the back of this letter is information about personal school supplies for next year AND a classroom wish list in case any of you would like to make donations.

If you have lost your copy of the Summer Reading Journal please go to my Helpful Documents to Download page. You will see the tab for my Helpful Documents page displayed at the top of this page.


Grade 5 Suggested Student Supplies 2013 - 2014

The school will provide general classroom supplies such as pens, pencils, erasers, scissors, rulers, paper, glue, markers, and colored pencils.   You are welcome to bring in your own personal supplies if you wish.

Personal student supplies needed:

1 - 2½ “ binder with dividers
An assignment book
A  LOT of sticky notes for Reading Workshop
Pencil box or pouch
Flash drive
Optional locker organizer

Classroom Wish List

Duct tape
Sticky notes for Readers’ Workshop
Colored Flair felt tipped markers
Wausau Paper Astrobrights Colored Paper, 24lb, 8-1/2 x 11, 500 Sheets/Ream
Washi tape in any color or print
Bean Bag “chairs” for our Reading Nook

Friday, May 31, 2013

Skivinger Hunt - What Fun!

Today completes the school-wide Reading Challenge!  What fun it's been!  The students had many opportunities to hear book talks, see book trailers, read genres that were new to them, and otherwise revel in the splendors and joys of reading!

We did a wonderful mini-unit on Robert Frost's poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay.  We went outside on a beautiful spring day in early May and sketched the newly emerging foliage of trees and bushes as well as the blooms of the shad (service berry) trees.  Then we discussed change before our first reading of the poem.  The students had some very impressive insights as we explored the rich images the poem evokes.  Then we had an "Aha" moment a couple of weeks later when one student came across the same poem quoted in the book she was reading.

For the final day of the book challenge some of the staff members dressed up as book characters.  What fun!  Above is a picture of me with my friend Mrs. Gallagher.  Can you tell who we are?  She is dressed as Piper from the Percy Jackson series.  See her Camp Half Blood T-shirt?  I am dressed as Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series.  I find it interesting that several years ago students couldn't get enough of the Harry Potter books even though they become more difficult to read as you go through the series.  It was wonderful that students were stretching their reading muscles to learn new words and concepts because they were so motivated to read the books.  In recent years, student interest has been more focused on the Percy Jackson series of books, the Warriors series, and The Hunger Games.  But, again, all of these series of exciting and interesting books has caused students to push themselves and exercise those reading muscles.

So thank you to all of these authors, J.K. Rowling, Erin Hunter, Rick Riordan, and Suzanne Collins for sharing their gift of writing and adventure with the rest of us.  You have enriched our lives and taken us to places we would never have imagined.  And thank you to our wonderful librarian, Stacy Holbrook for providing us with this year's reading challenge, the Skivinger Hunt!

We love to read!!!!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Reading Challenge Skivenger Hunt

Time to drop everything and read! DEAR!


Today we started the 2013 Reading Challenge, a "Skivinger Hunt"!  The challenge starts today, April 8 and runs until May 31.  Students are asked to do a number of different activities in order to earn points. Of course the main objective of the reading challenge is to get students motivated about reading but there are prizes for participation too!  The top three student winners will get a chance to go to breakfast with Mrs. Prescott and the top winning class will earn a special treat party later in the year.

We had several Reading Challenge Kickoff Events today.  We made duct tape bookmarks, stopped everything to read (DEAR) a couple times during the day, and went outside to the outdoor classroom this afternoon to read for awhile.

All students have a packet of activities, their point values, and ways to document that they have completed different activities.  Here are some details about ways students can earn points.As you can see, there are lots of opportunities to get involved with books and the printed page!

  • Students can earn points for such activities as visiting a public library, reading an article from the Rutland Herald or the New York Times, visiting an author's website, recommending a book to a friend, asking adults about a favorite book, choosing to read instead of watching TV, reading to others, etc.
  • Students also earn points for reading different genres such as fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, poetry, graphic novels, nonfiction, etc.
  • Students can earn points for listening to an audio book  creating a soundtrack for a book, or making a book trailer video.
  • Students can earn points for hosting or attending a book club, writing to an author, or creating a Google presentation about a favorite book.
Staff members are also competing in their own version of the Skivinger Hunt.  In fact, I am earning 10 points for promoting the student reading challenge on my blog right now!  Staff points will be added to the student points and count toward our classroom total.

There is a parent version of the Skivinger Hunt too!  So, be on the lookout for your fifth grader to bring home a handout with a list of activities you can participate in!  Your points will also be added to the student points and count toward out classroom total!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Greek Week! (and-a-half)

We've just completed a wonderful multi-grade interdisciplinary unit on ancient Greece.  We worked with the sixth grade to study the literature, language, mathematics, and culture of the ancient Greeks.  Students met daily to discuss and review Greek allusions that they began to notice as they became more aware of all the gifts the ancient Greeks have given us.

Students noticed that there is an Atlas moving company, both Goodyear Tires and FTD florists use the winged sandals of Hermes as a logo, Mobile gas uses Pegasus as a logo, Nike was the goddess of victory and close companion of Athena, an arachnid is so called after Arachne - the vainglorious girl who refused to give Athena her due, the Castleton Spartans are well named, the Titanic was not well named, and the Barre Montpelier Times Argus has lots of eyes so as to better see and report all the news!

We studied myths, legends, and fables.  We ate pomegranates.  We learned to recognize the letters of the Greek alphabet and can now sing the alphabet song in Greek.  ("I've got to have more cowbell!")  We studied many of the English words we use which have Greek roots.  We learned that "logo" is actually a Greek word.  We learned about Pythagoras and his famous Pythagorean Theorem.  Did you know that he was a vegetarian but he did not like beans or eat them?  He certainly was an amazing mathematician though!

We studied several of Aesop's fables and learned that many of the morals found in these fables have found their way into our everyday language.  One student went skiing over the weekend and recognized the moral of "The Fox and the Goat" on a warning sign along one of the trails which warned, "Look before you leap!"  We discovered a wonderful website - or app if you prefer - from the Library of Congress, Aesop's Fables Interactive Book.

We learned the difference between a myth and a legend and we studied several of the legendary heroes including Heracles and Theseus.  Did you know that although there are not too many female heroes, there is at least one, Atalanta?

Small groups of students closely studied specific myths and learned them well enough to re-enact their myths for their classmates at our felicitous finale, the Greek Feast and Drama Festival.

We would like to thank the many parents who came in to help serve and clean up or who cooked, sent in cheese, olives, beverages, and paper products.  You all are wonderful cooks and helped make our Greek Feast a glorious event.  Yummy!  Spanikopita!  Melopita!  Baklava!  Moussaka!  Keftedes!  Tzatziki!

Please visit our downstairs hallway which is now decorated with twenty-four life-sized Greek gods and goddesses.  They are quite a sight to behold!