Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Break Post

Thank you to everyone who came out to our Thanksgiving gathering. Students had a great time putting everything together. I have included some pictures from gathering.

I still have pictures and video from our Immigration Simulation. I'm still working on putting these together.

Science / Expert Projects - Just as a reminder, expert projects are due Tuesday, December 5th. We will have a share fair sometime in the afternoon. As soon as I have more details such as time, I'll let you know (it will most likely be in the afternoon). Our share fair will most likely also have our undergraduate science buddies who are also participating in the same expert project.

When we return from Thanksgiving break, we will begin feverishly working on our expert projects. Starting Monday, we will spend the mornings gathering information while the afternoons will be about putting our posters and writing together. Remember, the dioramas are to be done at home.

Reading / Writing - We are working on how to summarize pieces of fiction. Summarizing a story can be difficult so I use format to help in this area. During reading, we are reading picture books and summarizing the story using a "Somebody - wanted - but - so - then" format. Somebody represents the main character. Wanted represents what the main character wanted to do or their goal. But represents the problem in the story that keeps the main character from their goal. So represents the solution to the problem or how the main character reaches their goal. Then represents the ending of the story. The format is good for helping students narrow down the information that should be in a summary.

Social Studies - We are finishing up the Gilded Age / Progressive Era and moving into WWI. Students usually enjoy this period because students are curious about this period in time (kids seem to know more about WWII).

Math - We are moving away from long division (though students will practice this at home) and start moving into decimals and fractions.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Immigration Simulation / Ecosystem Expert Project

The immigration simulation will take place next Monday, November 13. We will probably start around 12:00 or 12:30. This will run to about the end of school.

Students have chosen their identities for the simulation. Students are either an Ellis Island processor or immigrant. This week students will do some research about their character, make their name tags, look up some words to help them get into character, and study the characteristics of their character.

We have also started discussing our Ecosystem Expert Project. Today we spent time going over the requirements for the expert project and putting in important dates into their agenda books. There are three components to the expert project: students must make a diorama of their ecosystem, then they must make a poster explaining their diorama, then students will write a short narrative about their ecosystem. All parts of the Ecosystem Expert Project are due Tuesday, December 5th.

Students have due dates in their agenda books and will use these books to keep track of their assignment. I will also be sending home the requirements for each part of the expert project.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Information for the Week...

Here are a few announcements for the week:
  • Remember that Thursday, November 2 is our annual Zoo Trip. Students will ride the bus to the zoo with their kindergarten buddies. Once at the zoo, we will spend some time viewing the animals before heading to one of the buildings for a class.
  • Next week you will get information about two big projects coming up. One project will be our Ellis Island simulation in which students will take on the role of either an Ellis Island processor or an immigrant. Our other big project will be an ecosystem expert project. This project will have three parts. Once part is a the creation of a diorama which will be done primarily at home. The second part will be the creation of a poster. And the third part will be a short paper.
  • The Book Fair starts next week. More information will come home towards the end of the week.
In science, we have completed our terrariums / aquariums. The terrariums / aquariums have been a point of excitement as students quickly come into the room to see any changes that took place over night. For instance, when students came into the class on Monday, their terrariums sprouted a lot of grass. We are looking at biotic and abiotic factors in this environment, and how these factors help each other out. As these factors have time to equalize, we will start adding more life into the aquariums. On Wednesday we will add pond snails to see how they effect the aquarium.

In social studies, we are having a wonderful discussion of the Gilded Age / Progressive Era. These two periods mark a time when great wealth dominated the country at the expense of the large immigration work force, and through the Progressive Era, change happened in the workplace including improved working conditions in the factories and the abolition of child labor. One of best ways to get a feeling of this period in time is watching the History Channel's "The Men Who Built America." The series does an excellent job of presenting the good and bad side of some of the wealthiest and most influential Americans such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Edison, and Henry Ford. For more information on the series, here is a link. We will complete this unit with our simulation of Ellis Island. Students will simulate the Ellis Island experience. Some students will play the role of Ellis Island processors, and the rest will play the role of immigrants. Students will get an identity to research. They will then play that character during the simulation, including dressing up for their role (they can choose not to but it adds to the authenticity). Processors must do their job to determine who should stay in America or who should be sent back. Once I have an exact date parents are invited to this event.

Well ... I'm going to try to get back to Halloween so I'll add more later.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Science . . .

Thanks to everyone who was able to come out to Curriculum Night. We did quite a bit of work with science. For those who were not able to make it, I'll share a few of things we are doing in science.

First of all, whenever conducting science investigations, we usually begin with some kind of probing question - a question that will get kids thinking in the general area we are studying. For instance, I showed students the following picture and asked students why the ground is not level.

Students made comments such as the grass and roots pushed the ground up. Some thought water was causing the ground to look like that. These questions start the inquiring into the topic.

At this point, we use water tables to simulate erosion. Students set their water tables with several pounds of sand, a ruler, and a cup of water. We fill the cups with water as it drips water onto the sand causing erosion. Not using the word erosion, I ask students what is happening. They make comments such as "the water is drilling into the sand" or "the water is cutting into the sand." These words are in a sense synonyms for erosion. It's at this point that I begin to introduce particular vocabulary such as erosion, deposition, constructive and destructive processes so that students have some kind of experience to relate the language to.

Students also noticed that sand has moved down father down the table. This becomes deposition. Students made connections with deltas such as the Mississippi delta or the Colorado River delta. To describe the movement of the water on their tables, we discuss terms such as meandering and oxbows and find examples on the internet.

Next, we use a different cup which simulates flood. Students made many connections because of their experience with our big flood two years ago. They came to understand that the speed and amount of water causes much more erosion. They connected this to why so many dams and roads washed out during our big flood.

After using the tables a second time, each group was allowed to develop their own experiment to simulate real-world experiences. Student built dams, some built levees, some built small hills with homes on them.

To extend the concepts of constructive and destructive processes, we will spend some time talking about landslides and volcanoes.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Things Have Been Busy!!!

In science, we have started our study of continental and oceanic landforms. Students started off by building oceanic landform models out of Legos. Once these models were completed, we built oceanic landforms using dough. These were built inside of a container. We placed skewers through the lid of the container to mimic how oceanographers map the bottom of the ocean using sonar. Each skewer was measured and graphed.

Students building their dough landform model

Completed Lego model

You have probably heard your students talking about their kindergarten buddies. Students are thoroughly enjoying their time working with them. We have spent the last few weeks talking about the reading strategies good readers use when reading texts. During independent reading, students are spending time reflecting on their own strategies. Being cognizant of these reading strategies helps 5th graders better work with their kindergarten buddies during reading. As 5th graders read with their buddies they demonstrate reading habits that foster good reading strategies. We have also spent time discussing how to read with their kindergarten buddies (i.e., tracking the words, book placement). The 5th graders are doing a terrific job of being buddies. They are dearly loved by their kindergarten buddies.

In math we are working on factors, multiples, prime numbers, and square numbers. Students are solving number puzzles using their understanding of these math terms. This is a fun way of coming to understand these terms while further demonstrating their knowledge of multiplication and problem solving.

In writing, students are working on personal pieces of writing. Students must have their writing completed by next week.

As a side note, Ethan and Mark created a Rubik's Cube solver. We will keep this machine up and running for a while so they can show off their work. Here is a video of a Rubik's Cube being solved

Saturday, September 2, 2017

First Few Weeks of School

The first couple of weeks are off and running, and it has been quite busy! 5th graders have quite a few responsibilities. The two big ones are being a Kindergarten Buddy and safety patrol. Our class teams up with Mrs. Klosterman's class for Kindergarten Buddies. Each 5th grader is teamed up with a kindergartener. They are responsible for being a good role model, helping the kindergartener adjust to school life, reading alongside them, and demonstrating how to live and learn at CFI. Over the next several weeks I will talk with students on how to read with their kindergarten buddy including reflecting on the reading strategies good readers use when they make sense of text. This is similar to young ones apprenticing under more experienced members of a family.

Safety patrol is also another new and exciting opportunity for 5th graders. As you may know by now, we have revamped safety patrol so 5th graders are getting used to the new procedures. For now, 5th graders are enjoying their new responsibilities.

Last week, and this coming week, we are collaborating with Ms. Whitecotton's classroom for Friday Gathering. Last week the focus was CFI's Rights & Responsibilities. Both classroom created a videos highlighting these rights. It was also suggested we include of Kindergarten Buddies. Here is our classroom's part with the videos:

Next week, both classrooms will also host Friday Gathering (September 8 @ 2:20). This time we will be emphasizing what CFI is referring to as the "Book of the Month." This is a book from our Harvey Allen collection that all classrooms will read and discuss. For Friday Gathering we will be talking about this book and showing different ways classrooms can share about the book at gathering.

With many of these extra responsibilities, we have slowly getting back into the routines of class. In the 9 days we have been in class we have organized two shelves for folk and fairy tales before we begin a unit into these book, jumped head first in multiplication by looking at factors, multiples, and prime numbers, taped and edited our portion of Friday Gathering (this took much time), introduced our first unit of Social Studies by doing some introductory discussing of the Reconstruction Period, looked at how scientists use evidence to find patterns, and used some free time to write.

Also, please consider following CFI and our classroom on Twitter.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

First Day Back (2017-2018)

Dear Families,

Welcome back to a new school year! I know the next couple of days are going to be hectic so I'm going to share a few things before we head back to school on Tuesday.

The first week of school is going to be a busy one for all the kids. Since 5th graders have many more responsibilities, we spend this week going over those expectations. Our two main responsibilities are kindergarten buddies and carpool, both will start on the first day of school (I will be sending out a carpool schedule on Tuesday that will need to be returned by the end of the week Friday). 

Ms. Whitecotton and our classroom will be sharing gathering duties. September 1, our classrooms will be doing a gathering on CFI's Rights & Responsibilities, and September 8th, our classes will be talking about the Book of the Month (a new CFI tradition we hope to start this year).

I also wanted to remind you of my communication plan. My primary way of communicating is through email ( I am pretty good about checking my email throughout the day, though I will probably only respond during my special areas time (10:00 - 10:50) or after school. I will also communicate through our classroom blog ( I try to publish on the blog at least once a week. When I do publish, I will send out an email letting you know I have updated the blog. I have links to everything in the signature portion of my email. I also have a class Twitter account ( I use this account to tweet out pictures of projects, especially the "maker" stuff. I am going to try to Tweet more often. If you use Twitter, feel free to follow that account.

This year we are implementing some new carpool procedures. I am attaching the email Ms. Whitecotton sent to her class regarding carpool:

In Dr. Mueller's welcome email to everyone she shared about pick up procedures. Remember to please email me (and Angie) or send a note in if someone other than yourself is picking up your child. Pick up procedures will be a little different with students waiting for their rides, just like rainy day dismissal, so we will be relying heavily on the pick up cards to be on the dashboard or hanging from the mirror when you pick up to make sure things move quickly and smoothly.

Safety Patrol
You all know that fifth grade is a very important time in the life of a CFI student because of all of the leadership opportunities available for them. One of those rites of passage at CFI is being responsible for Safety Patrol in the mornings and afternoons. On the first day of school, we will be sending home Safety Patrol forms that are due back to school with your family's preferences for which times and posts (front cars, back cars, inside the building, etc.) your child covers for the First Quarter. For the first week, we will be covering Safety Patrol by inviting those students who are attending morning care and after care to take care of the Safety Patrol posts. This gives Dr. Johnson and I time to gather your responses and develop a standard schedule for the First Quarter. We will send that schedule home with the students who are responsible for the First Quarter's Safety Patrol Posts, so that everyone is aware of their specific responsibilities. 

I am really looking forward to seeing everyone. Can't wait to see you all!

Dr. Johnson