Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I Am Thankful For

As I ask the students to write their thanks to you (hopefully you got that card!) I also wanted to express my own gratitude.

I get to come in and spend my entire day with 27 incredible students, who are not afraid to show me what they can or cannot do.  We have grown to be a community of learners that like to challenge each other and that are not afraid to tell each other the truth in a kind manner.  These kids are pushing themselves every day because I ask them to and I am so grateful for that.

However, my job does not just depend on the attitude of the children, but also of the parents.  Thank you so much for your unwavering support of me and the things I try to do in this classroom.  I could not do this without parents, so I am thankful that you trust me with your child every day.  

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

All my best,

Monday, November 25, 2013

Citing Sources Info

I introduced the students to Easybib today, a great tool they can use to cite sources.  We did run into a few problems: some students had not written down the full address or the website or book, others didn't have anything written down, and then the site was not working as smoothly as we wanted it to.  So, in the light of all of this, while the non-fiction picture books are still due tomorrow afternoon, the sources page is not due until Friday evening.

The link to the site is here

Friday, November 22, 2013

Exploration Research Assignment

The students have been immersed in the world of North American exploration during reading so this frees up our social studies time to create projects.  I have asked the students t become experts over the next two week in something under the theme of "Exploration."  They will therefore have 5 sessions in class to research whichever topic they choose and then create a presentation showing off all of their knowledge.  Presentations will be December 9th.

Students may choose to pick a topic that falls under what we have discussed in school (North American exploration in the 1400 and 1500s) or they may go completely outside of this time, think space exploration, exploration of Africa etc.  This is their chance to become experts on something they are curious abut.  They will get time in school to work but may choose to work on it outside of school as well.

Newsletter November 22, 2013

MathWe will finish all lessons for unit 4 today with the test on Tuesday.  This test is one the most laborious test with plenty of opportunities for the students to have silly mistakes so I always encourage them to slow down and check their work. 
Science We have finished variables with Team Canada claiming victory in the flipstick Olympics.  It was a close competition and a great way to end the unit.  Students have been working on their first assessment in the unit as well.  The first time through the test they use just their memory, the second time through it they use their notes. 
Social Studies – We are busy thinking of what we each want to know about exploration.  Since we have combined reading and social studies we have been able to go through the background information and thus have freed up the time during social studies to work on projects. I cannot wait to see what the students create the next few weeks.  Our simulation ended this week with many students perishing through shipwrecks and sharks. I think this is the deadliest year we have had on record.  I was very impressed with the level of character understanding the students showed in their personal logs. 
Reading We continue working on note-taking skills as well as how to infer main idea amongst other non-fiction reading strategies.  Already I am seeing growth in the way students disseminate information and present it.  We have also started our second read aloud of the year “The False Prince” by Jenifer Nielsen, an action filled fantasy story. 
Writing We are almost done with our non-fiction picture books with the deadline being Tuesday afternoon.  I encourage students to work on them over the weekend if they are not close to being done.  Our next unit brings us back to realistic fiction writing just in time for the Yahara River Writers Contest.
Special Notes
*  Thank you for the great discussions and sharing at conferences.  It always a thrill for me to meet with you and share your child’s successes. 
*  Thank you for box tops brought in, the contest ends December 6th.
*  No newsletter next week so have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
*  Thank you so much for the great books donated to our library through the book fair.  I will be introducing them all to the students today, we are so spoiled.
*  More great book news:  J.C.Penney donated $100 worth of books to our classroom library through the Adopt A Classroom website, what a wonderful surprise. 
*  Snow gear is getting to be a necessity at this time of the year.  Please help your child bring in everything they need to stay warm.  If students need help acquiring gear please let mw know or contact Mrs. Simms-Mormino.
*  I run EdcampMadWI on January 25th, a free “un-conference” for anyone who wants to discuss things related to education.  You are all invited!  For more information see www.edcampmadwi.com
*  Our winter break celebration is scheduled for the 20th of December so far.  It will start at 2 PM.
*  We are going to “The Nutcracker” at the Overture on December 13th!  More details to come on this great field trip.
*  Report cards will be sent home the week of December 13th.  We will also include a breakdown of how we assess the literacy portion. 
*  We started creating our holiday cards this week for the holiday card exchange we participate in.  Students asked if they could make extra ones to send to others which I think we will try to find time for.

* I have some dates for you to put on your calendars: Swimming is November 25th and December 2nd and 4th,   No school (Happy Thanksgiving) November 27th, 28th, and 29th, Winter Tea Wednesday, December 4th at 11:35 AM, Mrs. Ripp out for a conference December 10th and 11th, Nutcracker field trip Friday, December 13th, and winter break is from December 21st through January 1st.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How To Presentations Assignment

How To Presentations

One of the goals in 5th grade is to get students ready to present on topics, which definitely counts as a lifelong needed skill.  We have therefore decided that the students need to teach each other something through their presentation.

Here are some guidelines:
  • The presentations can be either filmed and shown to the class or done live in class.
  • All of the presentations will start Monday, December 16th
  • Presentations must be between 2 and  4 minutes
  • Students will be evaluated on how loud and clear they spoke to their audience, how they presented, and whether they kept it interesting (rubrics will be provided).  This will be a combination of peer evaluation and teacher evaluation.
  • Topic is student's choice, as long as we learn how to do something.
  • Past presentations have been on how to score a hockey goal, how to ice a cupcake, how to fold origami etc.
Here is the rubric we will use to evaluate.

How To Presentations


Facial expressions and body language generate a strong interest and enthusiasm about the topic in others.
Facial expressions and body language sometimes generate a strong interest and enthusiasm about the topic in others.
Facial expressions and body language are used to try to generate enthusiasm, but seem somewhat faked.
Very little use of facial expressions or body language. Did not generate much interest in topic being presented.
Student is completely prepared and has obviously rehearsed.
Student seems pretty prepared but might have needed a couple more rehearsals.

The student is somewhat prepared, but it is clear that rehearsal was lacking.
Student does not seem at all prepared to present.
Speaks Clearly
Speaks clearly and distinctly all (100-95%) the time, and mispronounces no words.
Speaks clearly and distinctly all (100-95%) the time, but mispronounces some words.
Speaks clearly and distinctly most (94-85%) of the time. Mispronounces several words
Often mumbles or can not be understood.
Body Language
Stands up straight, looks relaxed and confident. Establishes eye contact with everyone in the room during the presentation.
Stands up straight and establishes eye contact with everyone in the room during the presentation.
Sometimes stands up straight and establishes eye contact.
Slouches, fidgets, and/or does not look at  people during the presentation.

Volume is loud enough to be heard by all audience members throughout the presentation.
Volume is loud enough to be heard by all audience members at least 90% of the time.
Volume is loud enough to be heard by all audience members at least 80% of the time.
Volume often too soft to be heard by all audience members.
Shows a full understanding of the topic.
Shows a good understanding of the topic.
Shows a good understanding of parts of the topic.
Does not seem to understand the topic very well.
Successfully taught the class a skill or showed them how to do something
Mostly successful at teaching or showing the skill to the class.
Somewhat successful at teaching or showing the skill to the class.
Limited success in teaching or showing the class the skill.

Peer Score:   _____/28 Teacher Score: _____ /28

Overall score: _____ /56 Comments:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Epic Spaghetti and Marshmallow Tower Challenge

Friday afternoon the students finally had their next challenge.  The goal was simple: build the biggest tower you can using only pieces of uncooked spaghetti and a cup of mini marshmallows.  After 30 minutes of building time and 1 minute of free standing time, I would measure the towers.  The tower with the marshmallow up the highest would win.  Students had been given 10 minutes on a previous day to discuss and sketch their designs and I had forewarned them that more than likely their designs would collapse at some point during the challenge and to have a back up plan.

I wish you could have been in the classroom with me.  The team work and excitement was incredible to see.  Students laughed, didn't give up, and focused so intently on the process.  In the end 3 students' tower won with a height of 60 cm.  Their prize?  Why marshmallows of course!

What a great way to end our week.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Non-Fiction Picture Book Assignment

We have been busy at work in the classroom on our non-fiction picture books, so I thought I would give a little more detail on what it entails.

Purpose:  To create a non-fiction picture book aimed at a 1st grade audience.

Timeline:  We are hoping to have these done before Thanksgiving.

Format:  All finished books will be created in Google Presentations for more creative flexibility.  We have not decided if these will be printed or not - it would be a lot of paper!


  • Finished product should be a 30 to 50 page book that not only includes 5 or so "chapters" but also has a glossary, index, table of contents, sources, and front and back cover.
  • Students are busy working on their "blurbs" at the moment.  These consist of 2 or 3 facts re-written in their language to make a page in the book.
  • Most students have at least 20 blurbs which roughly translates to 20 pages.  
  • By Tuesday this week most students should start typing up their books and searching for images to put on the pages.
  • Font size of text should be at least 20.
  • We will use the website Easybib.com to cite all of our sources, this will be taught in class.
  • In the coming week, I will be teaching how to set up pages, how to create fun layouts, how to add images, how to cite sources, and any other small things we still need to cover.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Newsletter November 15, 2013

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have much to be thankful for.  The incredible students that are so eager to share their learning, the support of parents for all of our adventures, a team that meets every day and puts the kids first, and a school where we feel like a family.  Thank you for everything that you do for me and for us.
Special Notes
* We finally have another challenge today, the spaghetti and marshmallow tower challenge.  Teams were selected by me and I will take pictures throughout.
* The students are creating mitten holiday cards to send around the world.  We have 29 cards we have to make and send to other classrooms before December 7th
*  We have our flipstick Olympics coming up on Monday.  I cannot wait to see which teams succeed.
*  Conferences continue next week, please remember to bring your child with you.
* I encourage students to bring in their swimming gear before on Monday since their first time is Tuesday.  They will be gone from WM from 9:30 to 11 AM.
*  The book fair is next week; students may bring money and shop during lunch.
*  Congratulations to our quiz bowl competitors: Rose, Alex, Zach and Syd.  They will compete on the 20th.
* Thea thinks Santa is coming every day and is waiting eagerly for the snow to come since that means her birthday is next.  With the recent snow fall we have had one disappointed little girl when the next day is not her birthday (she is a New Year’s Eve baby).
* I have some dates for you to put on your calendars: Swimming is November 19th, 21st, 25th, and December 2nd and 4th,   No school (Happy Thanksgiving) November 27th, 28th, and 29th, Winter Tea Wednesday, December 4th at 11:35 AM, and winter break is from December 21st through January 1st.
MathWe are working our way through unit 4 with the test now on Tuesday, November 26th.  This unit is all about division and those math facts are important.  The next unit is my favorite topic; fractions!
Social Studies – The students have been busy in the explorer simulation.  Several students have died in the simulation from dysentery and typhoid.  We have also found a great way to get background knowledge by weaving social studies into our reading time, since we are studying non-fiction texts.  This way we can reserve our actual social studies time for hands-on explorations.
Reading We started our nonfiction unit this week and I love the honesty of the children and their thoughts on what happens when they read nonfiction.  We have been exploring strategies on note taking as well as how to figure out what the main idea is in a text.  We have also started our next read aloud, The False Prince, and have loved it so far.

Writing Writing has been focused on taking our facts and making them into blurbs this week as we get one step closer to our completed nonfiction picture books.  I love seeing how much thought the students are putting into their audience and whether a 1st grader will really like their book or not.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spelling Lists

Group 1 Spelling List 1
Name:  __________________________

Pattern:  Short -u versus Long -u (u-sound)


Group 2 Spelling List 2
Name:  __________________________

Pattern: Plural of Y-words (+s or y = i +es)


Root Words Exploration Week 6
Name:  _______________________________________


Newsletter November 8, 2013

Special Notes
*  There have been so many moments this week that have made me laugh out loud, made me cry, and just made me so proud.  This class is pretty spectacular in my opinion.
*  In-class spelling bee starts next week for those who want to participate, I will send all scores to Ms. Weber and then she will let us know if any students have made it into the school spelling bee.
* The students were exemplarary yesterday during the live event with Sharon Draper.  They say behind me quietly on the back channel discussing the event with students around the world, while providing me with thoughtful questions.  They got many shout-outs on twitter for how awesome they were and even from Sharon herself.
*  Our Donorschoose books have started to come in.  It is such a thrill to see the students snatch up new books eagerly wanting to read them.
*  Quiz bowl screening was last week; I will get results next week.
*  Conferences start next week, your child has to be present for us to do the conference since they are leading it.
*Box Tops start next week so send them in if you have any.
*  Swimming starts on the 19th, students should bring their gear in next week so that they don’t forget it on the actual day.
*  As part of our global awareness, I play holiday music from around the world in my classroom starting after Thanksgiving.  If this concerns you, please let me know.
* I have some dates for you to put on your calendars: No school on Monday, November 11th, Conferences start the week of November 11th swimming is November 19th, 21st, 25th, and December 2nd and 4th,   No school (Happy Thanksgiving) November 27th, 28th, and 29th

MathWe finished unit 3 yesterday with good results and will be starting unit 4 on Thursday due to WKCE.  The next unit is all about division, math fact tests are vital for success in this unit so please keep encouraging practicing of these.  The test for unit 4 is so far scheduled for Tuesday, November 26th.
Science We started our flipsticks and have been trying to find the optimal set up for achieving maximum height with our foil balls.  I have posted pictures from science on our website.
Social Studies – Next week we will finish our simulation and then start to learn more about all of the explorers.  The simulation is getting kind of brutal with our first drowning victim, Kevin.  A few other students are close to dying from scurvy as well.  I have been excited to see the deep level of thinking about their character that has been happening in their personal logs.    
Reading We finished the Global Read Aloud with a live author chat with Sharon Draper.  I wish you could be here to listen in on the conversations these students are having about symbolism, author’s purpose, and deeper meaning in the text.  Mr.  Macklem sat in on reading today and even he was impressed with the discussion.    
Writing I love seeing the excitement for our current writing project, the non-fiction picture books.  Students have been eagerly researching their topic and figuring out what they will write about.  We will continue to work on this up until Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Deep Understanding of Character Assessment

As I have been preparing for conferences, I have been assessing the great paragraphs written by the students about their independent book character.  In an effort to save paper, and for easier parent understanding, here is how the assignment was assessed:
  1. The response is incomplete.  There are few details to support the thinking presented, or the story is mostly retold.  There is little to no text evidence backing up thoughts.  Some ideas may even suggest a misunderstanding of the character or the assignment.
    • What to work on:
      • Figure out difference between retelling and coming up with theories about a character
      • Create a theory about the character and search for text clues to support it
      • Include text evidence in future work, explicitly sharing how you know something
  2. The written response indicates some understanding of the chosen character.  Feelings, rather than traits, may be used to describe the character.  Opinions and interpretations are minimally supported with text evidence.  There is still a lot of retelling present rather than original thought.
    • What to work on:
      • Completely eliminate retelling portion of work.
      • Expand on the theory about the character and search for text clues to support it.
      • Trust your theories of the character and ask yourself whether they make sense.
  3. The written response indicates a good understanding of the chosen character.  The traits selected to describe the character are adequately supported with accurate, relevant details from the story.  Student has clearly given this character a great deal of thought and worked on expanding their understanding from simple theories to more complex ideas.  
    • What to work on:
      • Selecting more precise language in character description
      • Continue to push thinking by not just reporting the first few things that come to mind but focusing on being specific and courageous in theories developed.
  4. The written response is fully developed and shows a sophisticated deep understanding of the chosen character.  The traits discussed are fully supported with meaningful, relevant inferences and details from the story.  The student uses specific language to convey complex meaning and shift in perspective for the chosen character.
    • What to work on:
      • Applying this level of thinking to all work in reading
      • Pushing beyond just one book or one character and doing cross book/character comparisons

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Bookfair is Coming!

One of our favorite time's of the year is near; the annual book fair!  Times are as follows:
Our West Middleton Book Fair will take place on the following dates/times:
Tues. Nov. 19 - 10:00 am -7:30 pm
Wed. Nov. 20 - 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Thurs. Nov. 21 - 10:00 am - 7:30 pm

We will do a walk through as a class on Tuesday at 10:30 to check out all of the goodies.  Students may bring money to purchase books any day and they can go during lunch recess.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

We Go Ga-GA for Wimpy Kid #8

I had some pretty excited boys this week as Nathan celebrated his birthday and Diary of a Wimpy Kid #8 was released.

We Investigate Flipsticks

Students have been busy with the final variables unit; Flipsticks.  Here they are trying to figure out the optimal setting for maximum height.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We Chatted with Sharon Draper Today!

As the culminating event for our Global read Aloud we got to speak to Sharon Draper while kids around the world tuned in.  I was so very proud of the kids as they spoke on a backchannel during the event, gave me questions and just listened in.

Here is a video of the whole interview, you can see the kids in the background and hear Sharon answer some of our questions as well.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Following and Idea Through a Story Assignment

Following an Idea Through the Story

As a class we have been moving past simple ideas about a character or a story into complex ideas.  The focus has been part of an effort to have students think deeper about the book they are reading and what the author is trying to tell us.

The assignment is to have the students think about one of the books they are reading or have just finished and create an idea about what the author is trying to show in the book.   Please write 1 or 2 paragraphs discussing the main idea of your story, using text evidence to back up your thoughts,  

Examples from Out of My Mind and in-class discussion include:
  • Not judging a person based on their appearance
  • Perseverance and how to prove others wrong

This assignment will be due Tuesday, November 12th and can be either typed or handwritten.