Saturday, December 7, 2013

Immigration Simulation

Next week (Thursday, December 12) we will participate in a simulation of the immigration experience. In social studies, we are studying the Gilded Age as it transitioned to the Progressive Era. Studying immigration is an important part of this study so we usually take a few weeks to look at immigration and how it affected the development of the United States becoming a world power. The experience is supposed to simulate the emotions, feelings, and perspectives of the immigrants who sailed to the United States.

Each student is playing the role of either an immigrant or an Ellis Island processor; characters were drawn randomly. Your child is expected to research that particular immigrant's background (characters are fictional) and nationality in order to better portray, and understand, that particular immigrant. Processors will be doing the same thing - getting to know their character and their background. This will influence how characters interact and how decisions are made. As your child gets to know their character, my expectation is that they show up Thursday prepared to portray their character. While dressing as their character is not mandatory, it adds to the experience and helps your child better portray their character. If they decide to do some dressing as their character, I'll leave that part up to you and your child.

Just for this week, we could use cereal boxes. The cardboard makes perfect name tags for those playing immigrants and is sturdier than regular paper or card stock.

Passing of the Cans is this Friday. We ask that you bring in non-perishable items to be donated. I believe Center Connections has a nice list of items needed. We are also collecting items for The Women's Shelter in downtown Columbia. Items needed for this group are also found in the Center Connections.

The class is also looking for small, recycled containers we will use for a math project. The size of the item should fit into a brown paper bag (we don't need actual brown paper bags). Anything bigger such as liter soda bottles will not work. We are using the containers to study volume and will use the containers to compare the volume of different objects. We will put together items of similar size, fill them with rice, and compare the volume of these objects by comparing which items needed more rice to fill them.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Expert Projects

I am having a difficult time keeping up with our blog. I am so sorry about that. As a I shared at Curriculum Night, students would be engaging in their first Expert Project of the year. Their expert project is on ecosystems. Each student is in charge of researching a particular ecosystem, uncovering all they can about that ecosystem, then identify various characteristics of that ecosystem such biotic and abiotic factors, identifying herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, etc. We begun research yesterday and student expert projects will be due the week of November 11 - 14.

There are three parts to the expert project:

  • Written Portion - students are expected to type two pages, double-spaced, sharing their ecosystem
  • Slideshow Presentation - students will put together a slideshow to present to their peers. This slideshow will provide visuals and diagrams (food chains and webs) of their ecosystem
  • Verbal Portion - to go along with their slideshow, students must practice what they'll say during their slideshow. They may put together notecards but they will not read from these notecards. Students are expected to "speak from the heart" 
Most work will be done in class. We will use our normal science time and explorations for conducting research, taking our writing through the authoring cycle, putting together slide shows, etc. Their homework for this expert project will mainly comprise of continuing their work from class. To continue this work at home, students will need to access their school accounts. 

The class created a timeline of when items are due. This expert project will be a good exercise in keeping deadlines, organizing work, and staying on task. They have placed these dates into their Google Calendar and added reminders to help they stay on task.

Timeline when things are due:

Ø  Begin Expert Project – Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Ø  Most of your research completed – Wednesday, October 30
Ø  Outline for written part – Friday, November 1
Ø  Written portion completed – Wednesday, November 6
Ø  Verbal portion completed – Day of your presentation (Nov. 11 – 14)
Ø  Practice slide show with parents – Due before your presentation. Turn in parent feedback form day of your presentation. Will send this out at a later time.
Ø  Slide show completed – Day of your presentation (Nov. 11 – 14)
Ø  Curriculum Night Share Fair – Thursday, November 14
      Ø Whole school Share Fair – Friday, November 15

I an also including links to the rubric and timeline we are using the help keep students on track and the expert project outline.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

This Weeks Updates . . . and Friday Gathering

I have posted the presentation we used for our Friday gathering. This will give you a glimpse into what we have been working on over the last couple of weeks. To say the least, we have been busy!

This week, our class will be heading over to Summit Middle School to get a lesson on how to use microscopes. This is a part of our unit of study on cells. We will be using microscopes to study the various parts of animal and plant cells.

Our citizen science projects are just beginning. In a nutshell, different groups of students are engaging in various citizen science projects. Some of these projects range from documenting wildlife around our school to monitoring precipitation to transcribing ancient documents. These types of projects allow students to be included in a much larger community of scientists knowing the information they collect and document will be used by various professionals all over the world.

As many know, explorations is an important part of our day. During this time, students have the opportunity to inquire into things that are important to them. The first week of school, many students shared items they had created over the summer. Some shared items they had made through sewing while some shared duct tape creations. This inspired me to push students to learn something new. Learning new information or trying new things often brings about tension as students attempt to connect new knowledge to existing knowledge. When we feel tension, we sometimes shy away from learning new things. (This often seems evident with adult learners.) Knowing how to navigate this tension is important when it comes to learning. So I have asked students to use various resources, including the internet, to learn how to create something new. Students are using the internet as a resource to create duct tape items, how to crochet, clay art, original Lego creations, make computer games, or draw portraits. During this process, students are documenting their learning so it's neat to see where students began and how far they have pushed themselves in their learning.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

First Week of School

Welcome back to a new school year! It is so nice returning with the same group of students. We have been able to jump right in to school and classroom procedures, adjusting to new schedules, and getting used to our new roles as the "elders" of the school.

Here a few pictures from our first day of school. By far the best part was meeting our lunch / reading buddies. After meeting our lunch buddies, we headed over to the cafeteria to each lunch with them. We will start reading with our buddies in a few weeks, after Mrs. Klosterman has had some time to help the kindergarteners adjust to school life. We are definitely looking forward to these times.

Besides getting used to the classroom schedule and helping kids get back into thinking as readers, writers, and mathematicians, we have begun investigating citizen science projects all students will participate in. I have been a big proponent of citizen science because it allows students to participate in the collection of data that will be used by others. Last year, our class citizen science project was collecting phenology information. In other words, we observed two trees, recorded changes in the tree, and sent that information to the US National Phenology project ( This year, students are looking at several other projects including one helping transcribe ancient texts, precipitation collection, and ladybug counting. As we solidify this information, we'll send out a list so you have an understanding of what your child is participating in. To help you understand what citizen science is, I have included a link that defines citizen science as well as include sample citizen science projects.

As of now, the most important information to share is making sure your child signs up for carpool duties. Our class is in charge of carpool for the next nine weeks and we need every child to participate in order to fill every position and not put undue work on other students who have to fill in for those who don't sign up. As another reminder, the sign up is located at Please take time to help your child sign up by Monday since this is the official beginning of our carpool duties.

And lastly, since we are now 5th graders, we will be participating in our first 5th grade gathering in a few weeks. As we get closer I'll send out more information.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pictures from Brattonsville

First Post . . . In a Long Time

Thank you to everyone who in some way helped out with our 4th grade field trip to Brattonsville (I will post a few pictures soon). I believe everyone, children and adults, had a wonderful time on this trip. Though a little rainy, I couldn't have asked for a more well-behaved and attentive group of students. The docents in Brattonsville were awesome storytellers so you couldn't help being engulfed in their presentations. When Adam the slave was sharing his story, it took everything in me to hold back my tears. Truly, a wonderful experience. 

All this week will be PASS Testing. Please remember to make sure your child gets enough sleep and eats a good breakfast to keep their energy going. Tuesday will be the reading portions of PASS, math on Wednesday, science on Thursday, and social studies on Friday. Because of PASS Testing, I am also limiting the amount of homework going out. They will be bringing home their Everyday Math journal to work on some review in preparation of their math test. Since they are using their math journal, there will be nothing to turn in on Friday.

Scott Johnson

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Week's Happenings . . .

I didn't realize it had been so long since I posted. To say the least, our classroom has been humming along. We have been at our busiest yet with collecting data for climate change, our colonial simulation, and our student led conferences. Now that our colonial simulation has finished, we will add getting ready for gathering on February 22nd to that list.

Here are some updates as to what is going on in class:

  • Please remember that Student Led Conferences are this Friday, February 15. If you were not able to sign up for a time, I will contact you later in the week to set up an alternative time. If need a reminder as to what your time is, please send me an email. 

  • In reading, we continue studying non-fiction and non-fiction text features such as diagrams, charts, maps, headings and sub-headings, boldface, etc. Students had not realized just how important these features were in non-fiction reading. As we dive head first into lots of non-fiction reading, students are immersed in these features. It's hard not to talk about these features and what information we are supposed to gain from reading them.
  • We have also been talking about climate change for several weeks. This means lots of non-fiction reading and more exposure to those non-fiction text features I just talked about. We have uncovered that this is a pretty complicated subject to investigate. So far we have defined climate change (a change in weather temperature averages over time - 30 years) and that climate change is caused by global warming. This led us to inquire into global warming. So far we have discovered that greenhouse gases, fossil fuels, and human activity have impacted global warming. Currently we are looking into what those greenhouse gases are and where they have come from.  Down the road, we will look at other perspectives of climate change and what those perspectives believe.

  • In math, we have moved into division. So far we are writing and solving division stories in order to help us gain a conceptual image of division. These stories have really forced us to look at remainders and how to address those in our division work.
  • In social studies, we are moving away from our colonial simulation and study of Jamestown and move into studying the original 13 colonies.
  • In writing, we will be writing up our reflections of the colonial simulation using correct paragraphing, indenting, and so on. This will lead us into doing one of our first big projects - students will be putting together their own piece of non-fiction using the same text features we have been studying in reading.
  • Ms. Ruff has also been continuing art club. Various students have been working on art projects at recess on Tuesdays and Fridays. During explorations, students work independently on these art project. Currently, we are working on putting on some large, temporary art installations around the school.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Things Happening This Week

So this week we have been working diligently on our Colonial simulation. Students have been placed into groups and have completed their first assignment. Each assignment will eventually help students in the decisions they will make during the simulation. During these assignments, student learn the reasons why people left Europe to colonize, what life was like on the ships and in the colonies, and what geographical locations for best for colonizing. These assignments are important because they help determine what are called "wealth points." These wealth points are translated to money that each colony will use to supply their ships for their trip to the New World. I will try to post pictures this week.

We also worked for the first time with our reading buddies from Mrs. Klosterman's class. I can't tell you enough how proud I am of these kids. They took their job of working alongside less experienced readers very serious. They understood they were there to model good reading and to work alongside their buddy. At the end of our time together, Mrs. Klosterman or I usually do a read aloud followed by some kind of discussion of the book we read. Once again, these kids did a great job of modeling, specifically how good readers talk about books.

A couple of important things to remember:

  • Curriculum Night is Thursday, January 31 from 7:00 - 7:45 pm.
  • Friday, February 15 is Student Led Conferences for the entire school. Sign up sheets for all teachers are available inside the school beginning Monday. Make sure you sign up early so you can get a time that is convenient.

Scholastic Book Order

I put together a Scholastic Book Clubs book order for January and will be sending out order forms on Monday. To place an order, you can click on the Scholastic Book banner to the right. That should automatically take you to the Scholastic website. Order will be due on Wednesday, January 23. Our class activation code is GPY4P. Thanks!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christmas Concert

Here is another photo from the 4th grade music performance.

Christmas Concert

I forgot to post these photos of you children from their music performance.

Welcome Back

Hi everyone! I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas break. My family just got back from visiting relatives in California about a week ago and I still feel like I haven't got over the time change. It also doesn't help I caught some kind of bug the last day of my trip.

I do want to remind everyone to take a look at Center Connections. On February 15th, we are having all day Student-Led Conferences. These student-led conferences are put together by your children as they articulate what they have learned this year so far and their goals for learning for the remainder of the school year. We will begin working on preparing for these conferences in the next few weeks. At that time, I will send out sign up sheets for times.

  • In math, we have begun working on decimals. The concept of decimals has been tricky as students try to connect their new understanding of decimals to their prior knowledge of fraction. Students are beginning to learn that .3 is the same thing as 3/10 thus helping them make links between decimals and fraction. This week we are focusing on comparing decimals and ordering them.
  • In social studies, we just finished creating time lines of the information we have collected so far this year. We are using a website called Tiki-toki that lets us create beautiful time lines using photos, videos, and links. Since these are completed, we are moving into the colonization of what will eventually become the 13 colonies. I will begin reading one of my favorite read alouds called Blood on the River which is the story of the founding of Jamestown. 
  • In reading, we will take a more in-depth look at non-fiction including types of non-fiction sources and the graphic features non-fiction often uses to share information such as graphs, charts, captions, headings, etc.
  • In writing, we will continue to practice writing in paragraph form using indention, organized sentence structure, correct spelling and grammar, etc.
  • In science, we have finished looking at weather and will begin exploring how to collect weather data. This will lead us into our inquiry into climate change.
I wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful gifts you showered me at Christmas time. Your support has been so tremendous and I am very thankful to work with such a great bunch of parents.

Also, Ms. Victoria will be our new MAT this year. She will join us as a full time MAT when USC returns to school next. Next time you stop by, please introduce yourself.