Sunday, December 9, 2012

Information for the Next Week

As we wind down towards the end of 2012 and the beginning of Christmas break, I wanted to send some pieces of information your way.

  • Passing of the Cans is this Friday, December 14. We have done a great job of bringing in items for Passing of the Cans. So far, this group has brought in more items than any other class I have been a part of. On Monday or Tuesday, we will begin taking a count of how many items we have before we begin looking at nutritional labels, servings, and so on.
  • On Wednesday and Thursday we are participating in two virtual field trips. Wednesday's virtual field trip is about the Mars rover. That is all the information I have at the moment since I'm waiting to hear back with more details. Thursday's virtual field trip is our monthly field trip involving Colonial Williamsburg. This VFT is called "Colonial Idol" and focuses on the music and dance of the colonial period. This includes the song and dance of Native Americans, the wealthy, slaves, patriots, and the British. Everyone in class in very excited about this VFT.
  • In reading, we will continue reading William Steig. Our conversations and discussions around Steig have been marvelous. Steig provides great examples, blatant examples, of various literary elements. Students have been talking about the usage of time (Steig uses the seasons as a way of passing time) and tension (there always seem to be some problem in his books). 
    • By studying Steig and studying these literary elements, we hope to include these elements into our own writing. 
  • In writing, we have been looking at grammar as way of varying our sentence structure. For instance, we have looked at what are called absolutes - two word phrases which include a noun and -ing verb such as "heart pounding." Using absolutes changes sentences such as "I ran to the store." into "Heart pounding, I ran to the store."
  • In social studies, we are finishing up our study of the explorers before moving, in January, to colonial America. Most likely we will have some kind of test on the explorers.
  • In math, we will be finishing up multiplication. So far we have been studying 1 and 2 digit multiplication, lattice multiplication, Napier's rods (another version of lattice multiplication), and Russian peasant multiplication. Before we end multiplication, we will study how the Egyptians used multiplication. On Friday, we will have some kind of test on all these versions of multiplication.
  • In science, we will begin discussing weather data collection and how to read the weather graphs which track CFI's weather station's weather data (hope that made sense). Here is a link to CFI's weather station: CFI Weather Station.
As always thanks for all your help and support. Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Information for this Week

Hi Everyone-

I wanted to send out a few pieces of information out your way:

  • Please don't forget that we are collecting non-perishable items for Passing of the Cans. Passing of the Cans is only a few weeks away (Friday, December 14). We will use the items we collect to do some work in math involving servings and calories.
  • This Tuesday at 9 pm, the History Channel is showing "Mankind: The Story of All of Us." I have been watching this series, and as a history nut, this series has been great. On Tuesday, they will be talking about the explorers, especially Christopher Columbus. While I wouldn't recommend watching all of it (the show ends at 11 pm), I think this show will be extremely informative.
  • Don't forget this Tuesday is an early dismissal.
  • This week we will continue studying the explorers by looking at explorers such as Magellan and John Cabot.
  • In math, we will continue studying multiplication. We have been working on single and two-digit multiplication and everyone has picked up on it quickly. I enjoy studying multiplication because we will study how multiplication has been solved from the Egyptians to modern day multiplication.
  • In writing, we will look at grammar and how to use grammar to write using a variety of sentence structures.
  • In science, we continue looking at weather. While we will look at different kinds of severe weather, we will also begin looking at weather data, how to collect it, and how to read it.
  • In reading, we will begin studying one of my favorite children's book authors - William Steig. You may know him as the author of "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" which was a popular book picture book in the 80's. Steig blatantly used a wide variety of literary elements in his popular picture books.

Field Trip - Camden

We had a great time in Camden and I wanted to thank our chaperons for doing a wonderful job looking after everyone. I also wanted to thank your children for being on their best behavior. Everyone learned a lot about the Camden, South Carolina, and Revolutionary War history. Besides watching the local cat eat a mouse, students loved the quill writing and colonial games. The tours through the Kershaw and Craven house were insightful and informative.
Quill Writing
Group photo at Kershaw House

Craven House

Sunday, November 25, 2012

After Thanksgiving Break . . .

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. I know I look forward to it since it gives me an opportunity to take walks in the woods behind my house with my kids, do a little yard work, and drink my coffee without hurrying out the door. During this break, our family has rekindled our love for puzzles. So the last few days, we have had a new puzzle out on our dining room table and as the day goes on, we stop every once in a while to add to the picture. I forgot just how relaxing doing a puzzle can be. As I was working on the puzzle, I realized just how gratifying it is to accomplish something as small as a puzzle especially when it is collaboratively worked on. I think it is time for our class to take a break from taking things apart and begin working on putting things together. If anyone has some old puzzles they would like to donate to the classroom, I am going to dedicate a table (the one used for taking things apart) to putting together puzzles. I think the collaborative spirit behind putting together a puzzle will do wonders for our classroom community by getting kids to work together in a capacity other than school work.

Before Thanksgiving break, you may have heard students participated in a group project in which they had to purchase a Thanksgiving meal under a budget. Students rolled dice to determine the number of people they needed to purchase food for (people ranged from 8 to 14). Then they randomly chose an amount for their budget (budgets were between $50 to $90). We used ads from various grocery stores to help determine prices which they added into a spreadsheet. Students had to stay under budget while fulfilling the requirements I set for them (at least one meat, one vegetable, two side dishes, bread, and desert). While the task wasn't too difficult for students to accomplish, they soon learned considering servings and how much of an item to purchase was something new to consider. This helped them with their multiplication knowledge. Also, the group aspect proved difficult for some students since some students were concerned more about their own needs before the group.

Here is a list of the things we'll be doing this next week:

  • We will explore new ideas for exploration in order to get kids to begin expanding their ideas of what to explore. 
  • In math, we will continue exploring multiplication by beginning 2 by 1 place multiplication. Please help your child with continued memorization of their multiplication and division facts.
  • In social studies, we will continue with the explorers by finishing up with Christopher Columbus.
  • In science, we will continue studying weather. We will also begin discussing weather data collection for some research Dr. Brian Helmuth is asking us to collect.
  • In writing, we are going to finish our Cynthia Rylant inspired pieces.
  • In reading, we are going to start moving towards individual group literature studies and discussing elements of literature (i.e., setting, character, time).
Thanks for much for your support.
Scott Johnson

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I am posting a video that I put together of our election themed Lock In. Hope you enjoy! Scott

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sharing . . .

Ella made some Native American moccasins.

Sharing . . .

Ella shared some things she learned about Native Americans. She attempted to weave together strands of grass to make a basket. She did a tremendous job.

Updates . . .

It has been a while since I have been able to send out some updates. I apologize for that but as you know, we will be sending narratives out next week. Narratives take a long time to put together but they are a labor of love.

Last week we took a math test that covered addition and subtraction, median, mode, and range. Today, we spent some time going over that test. The point of going over the test is to reflect on what we did correct and what we need to work on. When you receive the test back, please do more than just look at the number correct. Take the time to ask your child if they understand why they scored the points they did or ask them if they understand why they may have marked an answer a particular way. I find this to be the most valuable part of taking any kind of test. When children get a wrong answer, sometimes they can't get pass the fact that it's wrong. We do this as adults. I believe it's important that children reflect on   a particular incorrect answer so they understand what they did wrong in order to make adjustments the next time. This reflect and adjust is an important skill that will benefit your child in numerous ways beyond math.

When you receive the test, please take a look at it, let your child explain how they did, sign it letting me know you looked at it, and return with your child's homework on Thursday.

Scott Johnson

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Yesterday, one of our butterflies emerged from its chrysalis. This is a picture of the butterfly before we let it go.


Frogs by Breize and Madi

Football - Defensive Positions

Defensive Positions by Colby and John

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Curriculum Night

I'm sure you have all received Center Connections by now but just in case you haven't let me share a few things about Curriculum Night. Curriculum Night is this Thursday, October 11 from 6:15 pm to 7:45 pm. The structure of the evening has changed so this is important. Grades K through 2 will meet from 6:15 to 7:00. If you are attending one of these grades at this time, drop off your 4th grader in our class (Mr. Johnson). We are trying to minimize the amount of running around and noise in the gathering areas as well as cutting down on the amount of children coming into each room.

At 7:00 pm until 7:45 pm, Curriculum Night will begin in our classroom. I do not plan on having students share. Since this is our first Curriculum Night together, I view this time more as you getting to know the workings our class. I want to spend time talking with you about our classroom structure, classroom expectations, homework, my expectations for your child, etc. If there are other things you would like me to address, I am open to suggestions.

Scott Johnson

Classroom Events in Pictures

We have been using observation as a prompt for writing. This means we have been observing these plants and writing down what we notice. We have done this on several occasions and each time we observe the plant our noticings become and more sophisticated. For instance, during the last observation, students noticed that plant looked like concentric circles (a term we learned in math) and that the plant seemed to grow from the middle outward. This made us believe the largest and most outward part of the plant is the oldest. This also made us believe the smallest and middle part of the plant was the youngest.
Resurrection Plants in windowsill

Several weeks ago a couple of caterpillars were given to our class by Mr. O'Keefe's class. We have been watching the caterpillars form into a chrysalis. This one turned into a chrysalis about a week ago so we assume we may be seeing a butterfly pretty soon.

Chrysalis in net

This caterpillar escaped from the net above. We couldn't find it until someone turned our worm viewer around and discovered the caterpillar must have climbed the styrofoam and formed it's chrysalis here. We all noticed that while the above chrysalis was green, this one was brown.

Chrysalis on worm viewer

Several weeks ago I brought in some mosquito larvae I found in the backyard. I placed them in this mosquito larvae viewer and we have been watching the larvae turn from creepy looking things floating in the water to mosquito. I think everyone was just as fascinated with the viewer which have led to several discussion on old fly catchers. You never know what direction a discussion will take us and that is the beauty of our talks.

Mosquito habitat

Last year my MAT introduced me to this book called On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole. This book is about a girl who noticed a flower growing in her yard, decided to rope of an area around the flower, then noticed that as she let the area remained untouched and not mowed, animal life began to move into the protected area.
On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole

Over the last year, I have tried to protect this area outside our classroom in hope of letting the grass grow back and observing insect life coming back to this area. It hasn't been easy since the yard people continually ignore the signs I put up. So far it has been un-mowed for a week and have introduced our first big log in the hope we can observe the log decay and insect life use it for shelter. This is a long term observation we will observe and write about on a monthly basis.

Large log outside classroom

Friday, October 5, 2012

QR Codes

In preparation for next week's Curriculum Night, most students have finished what I call their "Me-Bricks." This refers to one of the bricks on the wall of the classroom acting as a palette to display information about that child. Besides the child adding items to their brick which reflects who they are as individuals, each brick contains a QR code. This QR code provides more information about the child and what is on their brick.

While some may not know what a QR code is, you have probably seen them. A QR code is a type of barcode in the shape of a square and contains a complicated pattern of blocks and squares. These blocks and squares contain information such as text, a website, phone number, or whatever you would like to add. When read with a camera and the right software, the QR code will display the information contained in the QR code. Some phones contain QR code software while others you need to download. This website has a several links to QR code software for iPhone or iPad (this one is my favorite and have found very successful). This website has several free QR code readers for Android. Any other phone and you may have to do a search online.

Scott Johnson
Here is a presentation by Miyah, Julia, and Ainsley.

Polar Bears

This presentation was created by Helen, Jasmine, and Mykaela.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Consent Form / Research

As I may have shared earlier this week, I said I would send out more specific information on some research I will be conducting in our classroom within the next few weeks. I am about to begin the second phase of my dissertation research. The first part took place during a trip to Oregon in which teachers from CFI conducted climate change research alongside Dr. Brian Helmuth, former CFI parent and leading researcher in climate studies. While working alongside Dr. Helmuth, I identified a model of learning that seemed to take place naturally as we worked in the field collecting data, conducting experiments, and learning about climate change.

This model of learning, an apprenticeship model, is when a more experienced person(s) guides the participation of less experienced persons in a variety of learning experiences such as problem solving or the use of culturally appropriate tools. This model is used much in the real world such as pairing mentor teachers with student teachers, when a parent shows their child how to cook a recipe, a new worker working alongside a more experienced worker in order to learn a trade, or a coach working alongside their players showing them drills, how to hit a ball, etc.

While teachers at CFI incorporate this model of learning into their everyday activities, I will deliberately be collecting data on how I incorporate this model of learning during a unit of study on climate change. What this means is I'll be using video and audio recordings as my primary way of documenting the apprenticeship model and student understanding. I will also be collecting samples of student work when appropriate. I am asking you, the parents, for permission to use video and audio samples your child may be in, as a part of my data collection. I also ask that I may use samples of their classroom work when appropriate.

In no way will this research interfere with your child's classroom learning. The types of learning experiences you have come to expect at CFI will continue. In fact, I'm hoping that by reflecting on this work, I will actually improve the kinds of learning experiences in order to make them more meaningful and reflect more real world experiences.

I also understand that the issue of climate change can be somewhat delicate since there are many opinions on the matter. The goal of my unit of study on climate change reflects the life of an inquirer - to take the knowledge one has gained and come to a conclusion. So during this study of climate change we will look at a variety of opinions on the matter. Some students may come to believe climate change is taking place and some may not. But as time passes they will continue altering their view. More important, do they know why they believe the way they do and can they articulate their understanding.

While I will be sending you a consent form with Monday's homework, I am also attaching a link to a pdf version of the consent form. On this form, you can type your name on the parent signature line giving me consent. There is also a line for your child's signature. Your child's signature lets me know your child understands their right as a participant in the study. Upon completion of the consent form, you may email it back or send it back to school with your child. The copy I send home can be signed and returned to school with your child. Here is the link to the pdf version.

I thank you in advance your help. My family thanks you as well since this is my last step in the process of obtaining my doctorate. I have been looking forward to this study for some time. Thanks again for all your help.

Scott Johnson

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mustang Presentation by Andrew

As a part of explorations, students are allowed to explore those things they are interested in or passionate about. Andrew was interested in finding more information on Ford Mustangs. He spent some time at home finding pictures for his presentation and time during explorations discovering how to use Google docs to present his understanding.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Observations / Writing (Part 6)

By the way, this plant is also called the "Resurrection Plant." It can lay dormant for over 50 years and return back to life. They can be found on live oaks near Charleston, Edisto, and Beaufort). 

Observations / Writing (Part 5)

Observations / Writing (Part 4)

Observations / Writing (Part 3)

Observations / Writing (Part 2)

Observation / Writing in Class

Today I am posting some pictures from class. Students are writing down their observations of this unique plant. We are writing about what we notice, writing specific observations, inferring what we think the object might be, and discussing where the object may have originated from.


I have had some questions this week about homework. I was not able to get homework out this week and with the somewhat shorter week (half-day, Zoo trip) I will not send out homework at this point.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

This Week's Update

I hate to do this but this week's update will have to be a quick one. Normally when I update the blog, I tend not to do one big blog post at the end of the week. I try to do what I believe most bloggers do and post as things come up. Now that we have finished gathering, I will go back to that format. But I do have some reminders and updates.

  • Don't forget that Thursday night at 6:30 is Opening Picnic. We will eat outside before coming into the classroom the last hour or so. This part of the evening is not a Curriculum Night. Feel free to stop by, visit, and have your child give a tour of the class.
  • This Friday (Sept. 21) we are walking to the Sandhills library. I believe I have everyone's card from last year. If not, I will try to get a reminder home.
  • Tuesday, September 25 is a half-day for the district. This is our Parent-Teacher conference day. This day is reserved for parents and students who did not score well on their Spring 2012 MAP test or did not pass a part of their PASS testing in the Spring 2012. I will contact you if your child fell into one of these categories.
  • I have also extended the Scholastic Book Order due date to Saturday, September 22th. I extended the due date because I didn't get your the Scholastic order forms and I wanted to make sure you had time to look at those. You can still order books without the order form because there is an electronic copy online. Also remember, you can still order books the traditional way using the order forms I send home. To order books, click on the Scholastic banner on the right.
  • And last, Friday, September 28th is CFI's annual school trip to the Riverbanks Zoo. Mrs. Angie would like all permission slips turned in by the end of the week (Friday, Sept. 15).
As the week progresses, I will send updates as to what we are working on in class. I always try to post pictures and video when appropriate. Thanks for all you support!

Scott Johnson

Gathering Video

You may have heard that our class put together a brief video demonstrating our understanding of early natives from Asia, about 25,000 to 14,000 years ago, traveling across a land bridge (Beringia) between what is now Russia (Asia) and Alaska (North America). These early natives were following large animals such as the mammoths. About 10,000 years ago, waters from the ocean began to rise and covered up this land bridge. These early natives could no longer travel between Russia (Asia) and Alaska (North America).  Enjoy our video!

More "Me-Brick" Picts

Each day during explorations we have time to work on putting our "Me-Bricks" together. I am almost finished with several others. I have included two pictures of finished "Me-Bricks."



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Helen's Me-Brick

This is Helen's "Me-Brick." We should be able to finish a few more in the next few weeks. Please help nudge your child to bring in things that are meaningful to them to be placed on their "brick."

Breize's Me-Brick

I wanted to begin posting a couple of the "Me-Bricks" we have been able to finish. This one was finished by Breize this morning.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Example of "Me-Brick"

While it still seems funny to say "Me-Brick," here is my example of one. I have placed some items within the confines of a brick located in our classroom. I have included my name which we are doing in class. I brought in some items that represented me such as pictures of my family, a card a former student wrote, coins from foreign countries, etc. 

Hopefully seeing an example will help you help your child think about what they can bring in. I think our classroom will look awesome when 23 bricks will be painted with memorable items from these students' lives.

Thanks again,
Scott Johnson

Scholastic Book Orders

Hi Everyone -
I have set up Scholastic Book orders for the month of September. Here is the link for ordering books:

When I do Scholastic Book orders, I usually use two different catalogs unless the book selection in one catalog is not so good. Arrow book catalog tends to be geared towards 4th - 6th grade.
Tab tends to be geared towards 7th grade and up. I choose these two catalogs because they seem to have a selection of books students are interested in at this age.

Students at CFI love to read and write! I often have readers who read well beyond what might be typical for 4th or 5th graders. Often placing a level on a child's reading stifles the reading process for a particular child because they often lack access to books that might challenge them as readers. This is why I do not believe in choosing books based on a grade level or reading level. When students are interested, really interested in a particular text, they will want to read it. This is the most powerful kind of incentive we can provide for children.

So when choosing books, allow your child to chose books they seem to be truly interested in (of course within a reasonable price). At school I'll provide support to help them read and navigate the text. Also remember, when ordering, our class receives points. I use these points to purchase more books for our classroom library. I will chose books based on what we as a class is interested in so there is always a new selection of reading material to choose from.

Thanks for all your help,
Scott Johnson

A Lot Going On . . .

Usually I don't have a lot to post but it seems this week is the exception. So I'm going to get right to it.

Our Special Areas schedule seems to be finally set in stone. The most important part of this schedule to remember is PE since your child is asked to bring their tennis shoes in order to participate.
Monday (12:30-1:20) - Art
Tuesday (12:30-1:20) - Library
Wednesday (12:30-1:20) - Music
Thursday (12:30-1:20) - PE (please bring tennis shoes)
Friday (12:30-1:20) - Technology

We should be heading out to the Richland County Library in the next few weeks. I would like students to begin bringing their library cards. The library provides a great variety of books. It also offers me a great opportunity to make book recommendations from a larger variety of literature.

Our first 4th grade gathering will be next week (Friday, September 14 @ 2:20 pm). For our parents who are new to CFI, during their week, each class comes up with a thought for the week which is usually related to what students are learning in class. On the Monday of the week that class is in charge, that class leads the rest of the school in Monday gathering, a time when the school comes together to celebrate learning. During the week, that class shares morning announcements as well as bits of their learning. On Friday, the school comes together for a final learning celebration in which that class shares what they have been learning about.

Our thought for the week is "Coming to the New World." For our classroom, this had two meanings. One, we have begun learning about how during the Ice Age, natives to Asia followed the mammoths and other large animals across Beringia (a land bridge from Asia that connected Alaska) and into North America. Over time, these natives migrated to other parts of the North American and South America continent. Second, our class felt they had migrated from 3rd grade to the last leg of their elementary journey called 4th / 5th grade. Some could call this thinking a stretch but I think it's brilliant!

I am also trying something new that I need your help. Traditionally, we have done "Me-Boxes" which is when a child brings in a box, about the size of a shoe box, and places items into it that are significant to them. This year, we are creating what I call "Me-Bricks" (when I come up with a different name I'll call is something different). Instead of placing items into a box, significant items to your child will be placed on the walls of the classroom within the confines of one of the bricks on the wall. It turns the walls of the classroom into an art installation of items we find significant.

For these "Me-Bricks," I would like students to bring in a picture of their family but small enough to fit within the size of a shoe box. If you do not have a picture of everyone in the family, several pictures is fine. In our family, we have not had time since our twins were born to have a whole family pictures so on my "Me-Brick" I have a picture of my wife and I have another picture of my kids (I'll post a picture of my "Me-Brick soon). Either send pictures to school with your child or email them to me and I can print out some small versions. Your child will also need to bring in items they find significant to them but light enough to be stuck to the wall (things they collect, a bracelet, picture, a rock). I will try to use rubber cement or double-sided 3M sticky stuff (not sure what they're called) to stick items to the wall. I can also use a glue gun for larger items. The bad thing about glue guns is the glue can sometimes be difficult to take off.

I have a few other things to share but will post those things in the next few days. Please be on the lookout for a few more update emails.

Scott Johnson

Friday, August 31, 2012

Welcome . . .

Hi Everyone -

Welcome to Mr. Johnson's class blog! Instead of sending out a paper newsletter, on this blog I will attempt to keep you informed concerning what is happening in our classroom. I will post information such as what we are studying, work samples, pictures, quotes from students, etc. Whenever I update the blog I will send an email letting you know of the update.

At some point in the school year, students will create their own blog which they will post information important to them including their work. Until then, we have a classroom writing blog ( in which students are invited to publish their writing. Thanks for stopping by!

Scott Johnson

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I have created my avatar using ClayYourself. I like it though it looks somewhat like myself.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wave Simulation

Mrs. Trina is doing a wave simulation to show how wind affects wave movement. Student are blowing onto a plate filled with water and cinnamon. With the cinnamon, you can see the how the water moves in circles. Many students said it reminded them of square dancing - when they dance down the line and come back around their original position.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Optical Illusion - Awareness Test

I shared this video/commercial with students in order to illustrate that we often don't notice things if we are not looking for things. Pretty amazing video.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Students are using their Chromebooks to inquire into mythology. By the end of the morning they are to creat their own definition if myth.

Some of the definitions included:

Shavon - "Before science people wanted to come up with reasons that we have seasons weather and other things they didn't know why we had so they came up with the gods to explain these things.Each god is in control of a different phenomena there story's explain why we have that phenomena and how we have it."

Essence: "Stories that teach a lesson and explain an event in the world."

Aaron: "A myth is a story that explains something, or teaches us something that we could not explain on our own. Now, obviously we can figure them out through new technology, but back then they wanted to have an explanation, so they made up gods, monsters, and other things that they included in their stories."

You can view our LiveBinder to view our resources for our study.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mythology and Legends

On Monday we will begin looking at myths and legends (I know a lot of you have been excited). We are going to use this link for some of our studies.