Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday Schedule

Since Friday is our last day before the Christmas Break, I have allowed students to plan the day however they want. While many wanted recess for 6 hours, they came to realize that wasn't possible. You would think they wanted to watch movies but they didn't. Here is our schedule for the day:

8:00 - 8:45 Explorations
8:45 - 9:00 Sharing
9:00 - 10:00 Simulation (Exploration Simulation)
10:00 - 10:50 Videos (Popcorn/pretzels - small snacks)
10:50 - 11:30 Lunch
11:30 - 12:00 Fun Science Stuff (Students are planning and taking care of supplies)
12:00 - 12:30 Reading / Writing
12:30 - 1:15 Recess
1:15 - 1:30 Clean Up
1:30 - 2:20 Special Areas
2:20 - 2:50 Gathering

We are not sure what the videos entail from 10:00 to 10:50, but I have a collection of small videos they would like to watch from a website called GoNoodle and my YouTube page, especially the Rube Goldberg videos. They would also like to have quick and easy snacks during this time. They mentioned popcorn and pretzels because they are easy to clean (I told them any messes they were responsible for). I have already notified our homeroom mom and she should be contacting you soon for help.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Though for the Week . . .

In honor of all the different things we have been learning, we decided our thought for the week would be . . . KEEP CALM AND LEARN ON Poster

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Color Run 2014

Color Run 2014

I have uploaded my pictures from your Color Run. Feel free to check them out and download.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Class Writing Blog

On the left side of the blog you will see a link to our classroom publishing blog. Here, I will have students, on occasion, share pieces of writing we are working on. It gives them another forum to publish their writing.


Students have been practice using various grammatical structures to create more descriptive and detailed sentences by going beyond using traditional sentence structures. I think after you read some of their sentences, you can get a sense of what we are working on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zoo Pictures

Sorry I'm just getting these posted but here are some pictures from our zoo trip.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Information for the Week

The next few weeks are going to be busy. I try to keep my calendar on the blog updated but it helps to list things out:

Thursday, October 9 - Curriculum Night (7:00 - 7:45)
Friday, October 10 - All School Field Trip to the Zoo
Thursday, October 16 & Friday, October 17 - Student Holidays
Friday, October 31 - Half Day for Students

Now that our Friday gathering finished last week, we are slowly moving forward in many of our studies.

This week I am going to teach students how to play Yahtzee. When it comes to teaching probability, I prefer to do it within the context of games so that students can strategize based on their understanding of probability.

This week we continue to work on creating tables and constructing charts to match our findings. Included in this are mental math strategies for multiplying large numbers.

This week we wrap up our study of weather before we move onto animals, adaptions, and their habitats. Our zoo trip will get this study going.

We are combining punctuation, grammar, and vivid word usage to enhance our writing. By learning various grammatical structures, we are hoping to make our writing more interesting. For instance, this week we learned about participles (-ing verbs placed at the beginning of a sentence). By using participles, we can take a sentence such as "I went to the store." and change it to "Running fast and breathing hard, I went to the store." Many authors use this structure to enhance their writing such as the two authors we have been reading - Scott O'Dell and Lois Lowry.

Social Studies
We have been learning about the different regions of Native Americans and how the natural environment influenced their culture and daily living. We are currently studying the Eastern Woodland's tribes such as the mound builders, Iroquois, and Cherokee. From Native Americans, we will move into the Age of Explorations.

We finished reading Island of the Blue Dolphins. We are moving from historical fiction to the The Willoughby's. This book is hilarious and we are intentionally listening to the language as a means of enhancing our writing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Gathering

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it out to Friday Gathering. The kids did a wonderful job of presenting what we have learned the last few weeks. I have included a link to the presentation here. The videos will not show but you can view them at our blog.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Clouds - Part 8

We have worked on several more time lapse videos before our next gathering. We will be spending the week observing these videos, making observations of what we notice about evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Clouds - Part 4

This is an HD version of our time lapse videos. Not as dramatic as some of our other videos.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Clouds - Part 3

This video is not a long one but it is pretty. This time lapse was taken Friday morning until it rained in the afternoon. You can see the sun rising, an airplane passing by, and some rainbows surrounding the sun as it passes behind some clouds.

We have purchased the professional version of this app so this week we should be able to see some enhancements to our time lapse videos.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Time Lapse - Clouds Part 2

This is a beautiful and dramatic time lapse of clouds forming and disappearing over our school.

Time Lapse of Evaporation

 This is another time lapse video of water evaporating on a concrete area outside our classroom. We filled a cookie sheet with water and poured water on the concrete. Notice that the water doesn't begin evaporating until the sun hits it. This demonstrates that sun energy is needed to aid in evaporation.

Time Lapse of Clouds

Here is a quick time lapse video we took of the clouds yesterday. Since we are studying weather, we decided to try using time lapse so we can observe cloud formation (and condensation) over a quicker period of time. We will posting more of these videos in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Blog Update

  • Tomorrow, we will begin MAP testing in reading. As in the past, testing will take place on their Chromebooks. Please make sure your child has a good night's rest before testing. Students will also do their MAP testing in math, next week Thursday.
  • Today we are taking time lapse photos. Time lapse speeds up events which normally happend over a slow period. We have one camera set towards the clouds so we can see how clouds are formed. We also have an experiment going on. We have one bowl of water outside and bowl inside. We have observing these bowls of water evaporate. We have time lapse cameras set up on these bowls so we can see evaporation over time.
  • Students are also taking kickball data that we will graph and create visuals. We plan on sharing this information at our gathering.
  • Speaking of gathering, our first gathering is the week of September 22-26. Our learning celebration will still be that Friday, Sept. 26 at 2:20 pm.
  • Next week, Friday, Sept. 19, we are heading to the Sandhills library. Please make sure your child has their library card turned into me by then.
  • Don't forget tomorrow is Opening Picnic. Following Opening Picnic, your child will bring you to our room to show you around. We will spend that time getting to know each other so feel free to drop in and out as you need.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Scholastic Book Orders

Just a reminder that if you are interested in ordering book from Scholastic, orders are due Thursday, September 11. Please see one of the previous blog posts for more information.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


On Tuesday I will be sending out homework. Since this is the first homework, let me spend a minute explaining how homework works in my classroom.

  1. At the beginning of the week, most likely Monday, I will send home a clear, plastic folder with your child's name on it. In that folder contains a packet of homework.
  2. The first page of the homework says which homework to do on a particular day (see below). 
  3. Homework packets are not due to me until Friday. Homework packets should be turned into me with the plastic folder. Really . . . I don't want to see them until that day! On Friday, we will go through the homework so that I can provide feedback to your child.
  4. Once your child has completed their homework, please sign your name at the bottom of the homework packet, letting me know you have made sure your child completed their work before turning it in. I don't give much homework but I have high expectations that what I hand out will be completed and returned.
  5. If your child does not finish a piece of homework one night, they can complete it the next night. For instance, if your child had late baseball practice and got home late, they can work on it the next day.
  6. Children should NOT finish their homework early. I do not want your child to finish all their work in one night.
I will share with you my professional view of homework so you have some background concerning my expectations towards homework. First and foremost I believe that I am your child's second teacher. You, as parents, are your child's primary teacher. While I have your child for eight hours a day, and am responsible for helping your child explore the world through math, science, reading, writing, and social studies, you are responsible for your child the other 16 hours. In that time, you teach your child so much such. As parents, I think we underestimate how much we teach our children because it doesn't look a certain way. If your child is participating in after school sports, helping you in the kitchen, playing with siblings or friends, making a craft, or watching a relative fix the car, they are learning alongside others and you have created the environment for learning to take place. I don't believe in privileging homework over the teaching you do at home and the precious little time you have with your child during the school year.

The homework I send home is usually review of work in class so it is something your child should be able to independently complete. Of course you can always support them if they have difficulty. If a piece of homework becomes too stressful, your child can receive homework help the next day during explorations. Send a sticky note or have your child let me know they need some extra help.

Scholastic Book Orders

Shop Online: scholastic.com/readingclub
One-Time Class Activation Code: GPY4P
DUE DATE: 9/11/14

Dear Families,

Next week I will begin sending out homework packets and I'll explain more about those in my next post. In those packets I will be sending out Scholastic Book Orders. One of the ways I collect books for our classroom is through these book orders.

I will be including a 4th grade and 5th grade order form in your child's homework packet. I always include multiple order forms to provide a wider range of material for your child to choose from. This class is full of phenomenal readers so it's important for them to choose from a wide range of books. 

To order books, you have several options. On the right side of the classroom blog you will see a green banner. If you click on this it will automatically take you to Scholastic. You can type into any browser scholastic.com/readingclub and type in the class activation code (GPY4P). Or you can order directly on the order form and send in a check. I don't send order forms every month since there are months when the selection of books just isn't worth the time. Based on what I know of your children so far, I think there are many books that are worth the read.

If you decide to order, just note that when you click on the link the Scholastic page will ask you if you want to order from the 5th grade order form. Just go to the top of the page and click on the 4th grade link. There is also a pink box towards the left that says "Shop by Flyer." Clicking on the link will make ordering easier since you can order using the flyer.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

First Week of School

We made it and everyone is in one piece! We got our first week of school and our first week of the new loop is out of the way. During this time we accomplished quite a bit:

  • We started discussing our expectations for the new loop,
  • We immediately began moving into new routines and schedules,
  • As issues came up in class students began the task of taking on classroom jobs,
  • We are reviewing math while I'm getting to know your child as a mathematician,
  • Students are creating a presentation of things they think I should know about them,
  • Students got to meet our new MAT Mrs. Meredith,
  • We are getting back into the flow of reading and writing by doing real reading and writing. This helps me get to know them as readers and writers,
  • Our Chromebooks are all set up and accounts have been created.
Really, this list is simply about getting procedures down and setting up expectations for the next two year. This is a critical part of the class because it's these expectations that help facilitate the kind of community we want to create for ourselves. 

As next week progresses, we will slowly move into other procedures such as social studies and science. This week we will spend time studying geography before we move into our study of pre-America and Native Americans. We will look at the continents, inching our way towards European and Asian countries, before moving towards South America, the Caribbean, and North America. Since much of our Social Studies involves Native Americans, the Age of Explorations, and the colonization of the Americas, I like students to have a sense of where many of the countries we are discussing are located, or at the very least, have some exposure to countries beyond our borders. I love this part of social studies!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to 4th Grade!

Welcome to CFI for another wonderful year! The classroom is all put together and now it needs kids to feel complete. I am looking forward to a new school year and a new group of kids.

I know we will have plenty of time to get to know each other but this will be my 18th year of teaching. Even though I have been at the Center for only 7 years, I have been reading about the Center since it first opened. In fact, the Center is one of the reasons why my family moved from California to South Carolina! I am also getting towards the end of my dissertation. All summer I sat at the computer and typed, typed, typed! 

I have one child at the Center (Emily) who will be in Ms. Breland's classroom and my twins who begin kindergarten at my wife's school in Richland/Lexington Five school district. 

Since your child will be adjusting to a new classroom with new procedures, I will be sending out periodic emails to let you know what's happening in class. Up until Labor Day, my main goal is to get to know your child, help them get to know expectations and procedures, and acclimate back into school life after being on Summer Break. 

I have a classroom blog that I will update. The class blog is found at http://inquiryforlife.blogspot.com/. Under my signature, at the bottom of all emails, are picture links to the classroom blog, I have a class writing blog students can publish to, link to the CFI weather station, my Pinterest page (contains links to websites I occasionally use in class), and my LinkedIn page that contains professional information.

I look forward to seeing everyone soon! 

Scott Johnson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mrs. Bolte's First Kindergarten Classroom

Mrs. Bolte wanted me to share this video with all of you. This is a Photo Story she put together. We spent some time watching it today and it is absolutely lovely. I hope you all enjoy it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Final 5th Grade Gathering

It is easy to say that yesterday's gathering probably had to be one of the best I have been a part of so far. With the combination of some videos we made, demonstrations, and speaking, it was evident how much students have learned. Everyone was amazed by the student's Rube Goldberg machines. When I envisioned this unit of study, I wasn't sure what to make of it or how it would go. Your kids taught me quite a bit and what I can do to make it better next time.

Your kids received nothing but compliments concerning their machines. The amount of hard work they invested into the project is evident.

I am going to post each groups video to our class You Tube page. From there I will link or embed those videos into the blog.

The Domino Trio
The Domino Trio in Slo Mo
The Rube Racers
The Rube Racers in Slo Mo
The Yank's Rube Goldberg
The Yank in Slo Mo
The Pink Paris Pastries
The Pink Paris Pastries in Slo Mo
The Beach Beauties
The Beach Beauties in Slo Mo

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Another Trial Run (Rube Goldberg)

Trial and Error (Rube Goldberg)

Here is a quick video of one group working on their Rube Goldberg.

More on Rube Goldberg

Friday afternoon, we had another opportunity to Skype. This time, we had a Skype session with David Fox, the maker of an app called Rube Works. We often used this app in preparation of building our Rube Goldberg inventions. David Fox talked about what goes into building an app. We were amazed at the amount of post-work that goes into an app such as revising the app as bugs become apparent. 

We also took some time to reflect on what we have been accomplishing the last couple of days with each group's Rube Goldberg invention. I have to admit that not much had gone on the last few days but Friday seemed to be the day where every group hit their stride. Each group was to focus on getting two of their steps built, when in fact, each group probably built 3 or 4 of their steps. I have included a couple of pictures and will post a few clips of students running their invention. 

One of the things students are really focusing on is NOT get frustrated when their machines don't work out the way they want them to. While some frustration can often push your thinking, too much frustration can cause a filter in which information has difficulty reaching the brain. And at this point, not much is going to make sense. This project has really demonstrated the importance of trial and error, observing what works and making adjustments when things don't quite work.

Here is another one of our favorite Rube Goldberg videos.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Latest News . . .

Mrs. Brutto wanted to let parents know that next week, Wednesday, May 21 at 8:30 am, will be the 4th and 5th grade music show. All parents are invited to attend this special event.

We have been coming along with our Rube Goldberg study and today we have begun hashing out the specifics for our project. All Rube Goldberg machines must have a minimum of 10 steps, must contain at least 5 simple machines (3 different simple machines), and will be no bigger than one of our classroom tables. Each group will also be expected to discuss the directions for their machine and explain the force and motion behind the various steps. Each Rube Goldberg should be made of everyday items and have some element of humor. Several groups are using a theme for their machine.

Students have begun planning and sketching out their designs; a few students have begun bringing in supplies. Each group has created a materials list of what is available in the classroom (Legos, Tinker Toys, CoinStruction, Snap Circuits, etc.). But students can bring in any items from home as long as they have your approval. As we work through these projects, I'll post pictures of student's progress. In the meantime, here is a picture of our Skype session with Rube Goldberg's grand daughter.

The date this project is due is by the end of the day, Wednesday, May 28th. We hope to have a share fair of their project the next day, Thursday, May 29th. We don't have a time yet. Then Friday, May 30th, we will have our final 5th grade gathering.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Rube Goldberg Project

Now that the end of the year is quickly approaching, I wanted to share with you our last project. Instead of doing the house project, we decided to begin a project that would be meaningful to us. You may have heard from your child by now but we have been studying Rube Goldberg. Rube Goldberg is a person and an adjective. Let me explain. Rube Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist who wrote in a variety of genres between the early 1900's until his death in 1970. He wrote songs, wrote the screenplay for the Three Stooges first movie, drew political cartoons, and comic strips. It was the comic strips of his inventions which made him well known (see this website for examples of his cartoons). It is for this reason, Rube Goldberg is also an adjective in the dictionary used to describe any complex machine used to solve a simple problem. One of the best examples is this OK Go's Rube Goldberg video for their song "This Too Shall Pass."

As part of our study of Rube Goldberg, we have been studying who Rube Goldberg was. This will include a Skype session with Rube Goldberg's grand daughter on Tuesday. She will share with us information about her grandfather, his art, and his comic inventions. We will also be looking at his political cartoons since many of these cartoons deal with WWII and post-WWII. We have also been playing with a Rube Goldberg app on our iPads which have introduced us to a variety of Rube Goldberg inventions, comics, and various trivia. Student have been absolutely addicted to this app - it is very well designed and provides a mix of information and entertainment. On Friday, we will be Skyping with the creator of this app. Later this week, each group will begin sketching out and planning to build their Rube Goldberg invention. Our task is to shoot a rubber band. As a class we will begin hashing out the specific details of the inventions before we begin building our actual Rube Goldberg inventions. If we discover we need some additional assistance, we will let everyone know.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crazy Week . . .

This is already turning out to be a crazy week. Because of the half day today and our day off tomorrow, I thought I better get some information out.

We are still scheduled to have student-led conferences on Thursday and Friday. With our weather, I can be definite we'll return to school on Thursday but I feel fairly confident we will be back Friday. If we do not return to school for Thursday, we will have to cancel student-led conferences on that date and reschedule them for another. I have asked students to complete their student-led conferences at home in order to be prepared to share their presentations during their scheduled time.

We also had a math test scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday). Each child created their own personalized list of items they needed to study. Then in class, we were going to gather in special interest groups to help each other with problem items. Since there is no school - there is no test. I would rather have students in class for at least a day before I gave any test (imagine coming back from a snow day to take a test). That way we can go over items in class.

As for Valentine cards for Friday, this is definitely NOT mandatory. You do not have to bring in anything. If you want to bring some in, please make sure your child has enough to pass around to everyone.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Student-Led Conferences

Because of the two-day weather break we had this week, CFI has had to do some rescheduling of our Student-Led Conferences. I will be conducting student-led conferences on the afternoon of Thursday, February 13 from 12:00 to 5:00 and all day Friday, February 14 (8:00 to 5:00). Since this gives everyone a few weeks to plan and schedule, I have created a sign up through Sign Up Genius. I think this will be the fastest and most efficient way to sign up instead of sending out a sign up, placing your top three choices, sending them back to school, and then sending you back a time.

I have sent invites and will post the link to the sign up on our blog right here.

On Thursday, we will meet in our classroom for conferences. On Friday, during the school day, we will meet in the library; after school we will meet back in the classroom.

Also, remember that next Thursday, February 6 at 6:30 there will be an informational meeting about the 5th grade overnight trip to Camp Kanuga. Mrs. Debeaugrine would like a final count of who is going so if you haven't brought in your yellow forms, please get those to her ASAP.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Continental / Ocean Landforms

For several months we have been studying continental and ocean landforms and how these landforms were created. As one form of assessment, students were asked to create a model of the continental and ocean landforms we have been studying. Next, we used an app called Educreations in which we can record and create video lessons. Students recorded themselves discussing the various continental and ocean landforms. Here are student examples from the four groups. Since I am unable to embed these videos, the links will take you the website.

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4