Monday, January 28, 2013

Mrs. Ripp Reviews Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

I had heard about this book and seen it mentioned around various blogs as they discussed possible contenders for many prestigious book awards including the National Book Awards.  Yet, how exciting could a book be that explained how the atomic bomb was built?  Well, it turns out that the book could be incredibly exciting!  I received this book on a Saturday morning and had finished it by the next morning, eager to bring it into the hands of several of my students.  The author, Steve Sheinkin, has done an incredible amount of research but also then spent the same amount of time making sure that this text is exciting and fun to read.  Not just a dull retelling of how the atomic bomb came to be but a story that reveals just what the stakes were and the innermost thoughts of those involved.  I could not believe how well written this book is and am happy to recommend it to any reader.

From Amazon:

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.
Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature.
Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Book trailer:

Mrs. Ripp Reviews The Maze Runner Trilogy

I have Michael to thank for this incredible trilogy to make it into our classroom.  This year seems to have been all about the dystopian youth novel and this trilogy does not disappoint   The story is action packed, easy to read, and the author James Dashner ends every chapter with a cliffhanger.  While this story is also for more mature readers because of its violence, I had a hard time stopping once I started, unfazed by the length of the books.   The trilogy has an original story, and it is wrapped up nicely in the end.  I was truly sad to finish the final book and hope many of my students will enjoy it as well aslong as their parents approve.

The three books are as follows:
The Maze Runner
The Scorch Trials
The Death Cure
and a Prequel:  The Kill Order

Book trailer:

From Amazon:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. 

Parental FYI:
This book contains violence but is rated for 6th grade and up.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Newsletter January 25, 2013

MathWe finished unit 6 with flying colors and started unit 7 yesterday.  So far the test is scheduled for February 12th before the CRT.  Students continue to improve in their math facts, which show in their math work.  We will be relying heavily on our common sense this unit as we start to discuss positive and negative integers, as well as expanded notation.
Science Students had their flip stick Olympics and we start the test tomorrow.  The first go through will be with no notes, then I correct it, and students then get to go through it again with their notes.  We will start landforms and do our bubble gum research paper in the next couple of weeks.
Social Studies – Students were introduced to Prezi this week as we start our 13 colonies project.  Students will have a couple of weeks to research their colony and place all of their information into a 3-5 minute long Prezi presentation.  We are also busy doing Mystery Skype with another one scheduled today; I also had an article published about Mystery Skype in “Learning & Leading” magazine.
Reading We did our very first speed book recommendations, which the students seemed to enjoy immensely.  We have also discussed point of view and I am having informal reading conferences with many students.  I am also sending home another book order today simply because it is had the sequel to the False Prince for order.  For many students this is the must read book at the moment.  The book order will be due Feb. 1st or next Friday.        
Writing Writing has been a great deal of fun as students continue drafting their fiction stories.  We will continue to edit our stories and hopefully get them wrapped up and published within the next two weeks.  I cannot wait for them to share their stories.
Special Notes
* Doodle for Google is back with the theme this year being The Best Day. This annual contest is one the kids look forward to!  The grand prize winner will get a $30,000 scholarship, their school will receive a $50,000 scholarship and their Doodle will be featured on Google’s homepage for a day.  Students were given contest rules last week and have until March 15th to submit to me, their submissions do require parent signatures so be aware of that. 
* The Carnival is coming; Thea and I will be there for sure on February 16th as this is one of our favorite events that happen at West Middleton. 
* The sledding party was a brilliant success.  Thank you to those who donated items to make the party a success.  I loved how the students came together and just had a lot of fun; they deserved it.
*  What a week for the kids in the room; Graham took second in the district spelling bee as well as first in the WM geo bee.  Noah E took 16th in the district spelling bee and 2nd in the geo bee, Buddy took 27th in the district spelling bee and his poem has been selected as a finalist in the Yahara River Writers Contest.  Joining him as finalists are Cece, Ethan and Noah E.  What talent!
* Middle school election slips go home today to be returned ASAP to me.  Your child can choose between band, chorus, orchestra, or 5-day PE.
* Many students found out yesterday that our incredible librarian Mr. Powers is retiring at the end of the year.  He will be so hard to replace...
* I have some dates for you to put on your calendars: No school Monday, January 28th, WM PTO meeting Thursday, January 24th 7 PM, Book orders due Friday February 1st, Special surprise January 30th 1 PM, Read-In Party all day except for specials Friday February 1st, Early Release February 12th, Valentine’s Day Party 1:30 PM February 14th, Carnival February 16th.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ida Rolled Over

Ida has decided it is time to get mobile like her brother Oskar 

Battle of the Butler's

Not only were there 3 of our kids in the district spelling bee, they also all got really far!  Congratulations to Buddy, Noah E and Graham.  Way to go all three of you!

Graham ended up battling it out with his brother and got an amazing second place in the district.  He now moves on to the county spelling bee held in Stoughton on February 14th.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Flipstick Olympics

To finish our exploration of variables we celebrated with the Flipstick Olympics; 5 challenges all meant to test the knowledge of the students. The challenges were:
  1. How far can you go?
  2. How high can you go?
  3. Bullseye
  4. Bucket Drop
  5. Who can go the shortest?
After 45 minutes of competition a clear winner stood out; Team England with 17 points.  Congratulations Amber, Viv, Alicia and Megan!

The countries were ranked as follows;
  1. England - Amber, Viv, Alicia, and Megan
  2. Germany - Aimee, Jolie, Noah E,  and Katelyn
  3. Austria - Graham, Max, Michael and Sam
  4. Iceland - Jadin, Noah H, Cole, and Billy
  5. Japan - Buddy, Ethan and Marquez

Friday, January 18, 2013

District Cold Weather Guidelines

What are the cold weather guidelines when school is in session?
When the air temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder and/or the wind child factor is -10 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, all students shall be permitted to enter the building upon arrival to school, and will be kept indoors during recess periods in grades K-8.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Magnificent Students

Just some random pictures from our latest round of Mystery Skype, these kids are knocking my socks off.

Sign Up for Spring Conferences!

It is time to sign up for spring conferences, which will be held March 7th and 12th.  Please click the button below to sign up for the time that works for you.  Just remember; your child MUST be present for the conference.  We will discuss progress as well as middle school readiness and transition.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Spelling Morning Routine Starting

We are starting a different spelling routine this week using the Words Their Way program.  I will model how to do these new routines throughout the week and next week students will be doing in on their own with my help.  Their spelling notebooks with their work will be due to me every Friday morning.  The spelling test will be 10 randomly selected words every Friday during resource time.

What follows is an explanation of the daily work:

Weekly Spelling Morning Work Routine

Monday Morning: Word Sort with your group or alone.
  1. Read the words from your sheet.
  2. Sort all of the words into categories.
  3. Write each spelling category in a different column in your notebook.
  4. Copy your spelling words in the appropriate columns in your notebook.           
  5. At the bottom of the sheet, explain what you learned about the words during this sort.
Example of a Correct Explanation
Example of an Incorrect Explanation
“I noticed that there are two ways to make the /ow/ sound. It can be spelled “ow” and “ou.”
“I noticed that there were a lot of long words on our spelling list.”

Tuesday Morning: Making Connections
  1. Choose 4 of your spelling words. For each word, make a connection to four NEW words (that are NOT your spelling words) based on sound, spelling pattern, etc.
  2. The connection can be about beginning sounds, ending sounds, how many syllables, short vowels, long vowels, or words that rhyme with your spelling word.  See the sheets in this packet for examples of good connections you can make with spelling patterns!
  3. Staple the sheet to your notebook.

Wednesday Morning: Writing Choice
All work should be in your spelling notebook.
Choice #1: Sentences
Write five sentences using at least 1 spelling word per sentence. Underline your spelling word in each sentence.  Make these sentences good quality! 
Choice #2: Story
Write a short story using at least 5 of your spelling words. Underline your spelling words in the story. Make this story at least five sentences long.
Choice #3: Definitions
Choose five spelling words to define. Underline your spelling word in each sentence.  Make these sentences good quality!  (Correct example: A smock is a type of shirt you wear over your clothes to protect them from getting messy during an art project.) (Incorrect example: A smock is a shirt.)

Thursday Morning: Buddy Check
1. Find a buddy at school
2. Tell your buddy to read each word to you. As your buddy reads each word, write it down in your notebook – see template for how it should be set up.
3. After your buddy has read all the words, YOU check them over.  If the word is correct, put a star next to it.  If a word is spelled incorrectly, circle it. Have your buddy read the incorrect words to you again. Write those words in the second column labeled “Try Again.”
5. For any words you misspelled on the first try, write them correctly (you can look at your word list) in the third column labeled “Correct Spelling”.  Circle the parts of the word you need to remember.  Write your scores at the bottom of each column.

Ideas adapted from Mrs. Broski

Friday, January 11, 2013

Newsletter January 11, 2013

MathWe are getting through unit 6 with flying colors and the test has been moved to Friday January 18th.  I like how the first part is heavily focused on working with data and then the second half is all about adding and subtracting fractions.  To make fractions more tangible please point them out outside of school such as in cooking or shopping. 
Science We flew our planes and tangled a few lines.  We also evaluated each other science response, becoming reflective scientists, and now prepare for flipsticks.  We started today with a brief free time exploration of them and then decided which variables we could change to effect the distance of the launched item.  Our supertube challenge was a blast with students focused on their build for 45 minutes.  The videos will soon be uploaded to our website.
Social Studies – The focus has been main idea and details; learning the tricks for figuring out how to tell someone else the main idea.  Today’s culminating activity was for the students to jigsaw a page or two, figure out the main idea and details and then present them in note form to the class.  I was excited to hear the conversations taking place and the thoughtful approaches to discerning details from larger points.
Reading We are getting close to the end of Harry Potter and will then pick up “Wonder.”  We have been heavily focused on setting weekly reading goals, conferring with me on plans of how to meet them, and focusing in on our independent reading.  I have started assessments in class as well.  Biblionasium has been a huge hit and I love seeing the students recommend books to each other, and to me.
Writing Our fiction writing unit has been a lot of fun so far and I am intrigued by the imagination of many of the students.  We have focused on developing characters and setting up our story ideas.  Next comes developing struggles and wants.   
Special Notes
* What a wonderful week of learning.  I am thrilled every day with the way these students work together and how eager they are to explore.
* Congratulations to Graham, Michael, and Noah E. for representing the class in the geo bee next week.
* Our reading challenge is well under way and half of our bulletin board is filled with book covers.  How many books we have read!  We are hoping to reach our goal by January 30th, if we do a very special surprise awaits.
*  Thank you for party donations for the sledding party.  While it is bit wet, the kids and I are all excited to get this community building time.
* We have participated in 2 Mystery Skype’s this week, we did one with new Hampshire Wednesday and one with Wisconsin today.  The questioning ability of the students has greatly improved with a laser-like focus on figuring out the state – way to go!
* Book orders are due this afternoon.  I have 15 books ordered for our library; I cannot wait to get them into the hands of students.  Some current favorites are “The False Prince,”  “Out of My Mind,” and “A Tale Dark and Grimm.”
*  Snow shoeing is next week; if there is snow left, students must bring snow boots to participate.  I will let you know when I know.
* We got our tech tools that I was awarded in a grant; 3 Bloggie video cameras, 2 Canon Powershots, and a Livescribe pen.  Students are becoming experts and then teaching each other about the tools.
* The first map test; reading, will be this coming Thursday at 1 PM.
* I have some dates for you to put on your calendars: MAPS testing January 17th and 24th, No school Monday, January 21st and Monday, January 28th, WM PTO meeting Thursday, January 24th 7 PM, Valentine’s Day Party 1:30 PM February 14th, Early Release February 12th.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Max Featured on Comments4Kids

As a class, we use the hashtag Comments4kids when we ask for comments on our student blogs.  Bill Chamberlain, the founder of this hashtag and website asked if he could report Max's post on commenting on student blogs.  Max graciously gave permission and his post can be found here:

Way to go Max!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We Are on Biblionaisum!

Dear Parent,

I am pleased to tell you that I have enrolled our classroom on a website called BiblioNasium, Where kids
flex their reading muscles. BiblioNasium connects teachers, parents, and the kids to create a reading
community that will encourage your child to read more.  If you are a member of Goodreads, this is much the same.
Kids can keep track of their favorite books, log their daily reading, and share recommendations with each other.  I can also setup recommended and favorite books and add any kind of reading challenges we may come up with.

Although you do not need to join as a parent, there is also a parent component and you and your child can access BilioNasium from home. As a parent you will then be able to see our classroom’s reading lists, monitor your child's independent reading and even set up family reading challenges. If you wish, you may also want to give your child permission to connect online with friends and classmates to see what others are reading, to read book reviews, and to receive and recommend books.

To help your child login from a home computer
1. Go to
2. From the top right-hand corner, select “Members sign in”, Kid’s Sign in
Their username is the same as they use here in school and their password is the same as well.  (Please email me if your child does not remember it).

To join as a parent
1. Go to
2. From the top right-hand corner, select “Join Us” and follow the instructions. You will first be asked
to provide your child’s username and password (see above). That will connect your account to your
child and to our classroom.

Together, with the stimulation of this website, I believe we can motivate your child to read something
different, something new, and to see just how much they are reading. I am excited to provide this forum for the students to share their love of reading.



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mrs. Ripp Reviews The False Prince

I had heard from many teachers that The False Prince was one of those books I should make sure I read, and yet it sat in our classroom library for over a year tucked away in one of those bins.  The January reading challenge though made me want to read it finally and I am so glad I did.  I zipped through this book in two days because it is that good.  Brandon even commented on how good it must be since I read it during breakfast at Hubbard Avenue Diner rather than speak to him, which was not very nice of me.  There is some violence in it but not graphic and it fits in with the story of Sage and the other orphan boys.  I feel completely comfortable placing it in my classroom library and have a feeling it will be a popular book..  The only drawback there is to this story is that the next one in the trilogy does not come out until March, but yes, i have already pre-ordered.  I cannot wait to get this into the hands of the students.

 From Amazon:

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end. In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together. An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Trouble in Jamestown

Students have been practicing expression and fluency in their reading, what better way to do it than through reader's theatre.

Fishheads & Snakeskins

The students have been working on fluency and expression; here is the final result.

Super Tube Challenge Planning

We finally got started on our super tube challenge with our planning stage today.  Students are very excited to see who can build the strongest tube next week and I am too.

Flying Planes

Newsletter January 4, 2013

MathWe finished unit 5 yesterday and I was very pleased overall with how much math knowledge the students had gained even with the break in between our lessons.  Today we start unit 6 which is about data collection and further work with fractions.  Students are still expected to be secure in math facts and although great leaps have been seen some students are not making enough gains.  I cannot stress how much it slows down a child in math when they do not know their facts.  The test for this unit will be somewhere around the 22nd.
Science We are flying our planes at the moment and messing around with variables; I love when the students get creative in science.  Our final investigation will be flipsticks and then our bubble gum research paper.  We also have to have the flipstick Olympics at some point!
Social Studies – We have discussed the history of slavery and how it pertains to the settlements of the New World.  This unit will be focusing on figuring out the main idea and supporting details of the text as we head towards the first 13 colonies.
Reading We have worked on our fluency and expression this week as we engage in reader’s theatre.  I love seeing the students work on their word delivery and cannot wait to see their performances this afternoon.  I will be taping them and putting on our website.  How to presentations are in full swing, what great skills the students have, we are a little bit behind on them but should have them all wrapped up by next week.  Also, we have started our super awesome January reading challenge; please see the website for more details! 
Writing I have handed in all of Yahara submissions to Ms. Weber and the judging team, there were some stellar submissions.  I do not know when results will be made public.  We have started our next writing unit; Writing Fiction, and started with a story map of our homes yesterday.  I love seeing the students get so excited about writing and cannot wait to see what they create in this unit.
Special Notes
* I hope you all had a wonderful break; it was a definitely an odd start to it and we are still trying to catch up the lost time.  I have no doubt though that the students relished the time with family even if many were sick over break.
* Book orders are coming home today and due next Friday.  I am ordering 6 books myself from the Tab catalog that all come highly recommended; Ungifted, ChickenHare, Middle school: Get Me Out of Here, All the Wrong Questions #1, Legend, and The Secret of The Fortune Wookie.  We love books!
* I came across a neat reading incentive for the students from Six Flags.  If they read 6 hours recreationally between now and March 1st they will get one free admission to Six Flags in Illinois.  The form for parents and students to fill out is coming home today and is due back to me by March 4th.
* Literacy assessments will not require a sub this time since I only have to meet with 4 students.  They will be happening in January.
*Geography bee
* MAPS testing for us has been moved to Thursday the 17th and Thursday the 24th of January at 1 PM.  All students will be taking these computerized tests as part of our assessments.
* I am part of the planning team for a great conference coming to Sun Prairie February 23rd called EdCampMadWI.  This is a free conference and parents or anyone interested in discussing education are welcome to attend.  See for more information. 
* Thank you so much for all of the holiday goodies and gifts for my family and me.  I already feel blessed having all of these incredible students.
* I have some dates for you to put on your calendars: MAPS testing January 17th and 24th, No school Monday, January 21st and Monday, January 28th, WM PTO meeting Thursday, January 24th 7 PM.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's a Reading Challenge!

We have really become quite passionate readers in here and have been devouring books every chance we get.  So we thought it would be fun to challenge ourselves for the month of January.  The challenge is very simple:
  • Each student reported to me how many chapter books and picture books they will read in the month of January.
  • I tallied them up and our classroom goal is 220 books!
  • Whenever a student finishes a book they write it down on their reading log and also report it to me.  I print out the cover and put it up on our "We Are Readers" bulletin board.  I cannot wait to see it all filled up!
  • Finally, if we meet or exceed our goal we will be having a special read in day where we do all reading all day in our sleeping bags.  
I cannot wait to see if we can meet our goal!