Friday, May 4, 2018

Class Stuff

I thought I would send out a quick update as to some of the things going on in class. Yesterday, we discussed Newton's Second Law of Motion which states that the acceleration of an object is determined by two variables - the amount of force placed upon the object and the mass of the object. In other words, if an object has lots of mass, it takes more energy to move the object than a less massive object. And if you want an object to move farther, you need to use more energy to move it. To demonstrate this law we played shuffleboard using different coins. Depending on the mass of the coin, students had to change how much force they used to move the coin.
Blending shuffleboard with music from the 70s proved a good time by all! 😁

5th grade Passion Projects are moving along well. Several students already completed parts of their project. A large group of students spent time composing emails to various organizations so they can get more information on their projects. One way you can help at home is to help your child edit their projects. As they work on various parts of their project, please help your child with any spelling, capitalization, and sentence structure as you see fit.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Classroom Updates

Since we are expecting some big storms to come through, seems like a good time to update everyone on things going on in class.

  • I have updated our class calendar with important time for the remainder of the school year. You can check these dates by going the class blog and taking a look at the calendar located on the right of the blog.
5th grade "Passion" projects are going well. Everyone has a Future topic. In class we are working on getting contacts, either email or phone number, so students can contact any organizations they are working with to get more information. I'm hoping that by the end of the week, students will know the Past portion of their project. For instance, one student plans on working at an animal shelter so she wants to do the Past portion of her project on Jane Goodall. Another students is raising money for foster families who take in DACA children who are displaced from their families. That student is creating a questions & answer presentation on immigration.

Remember, this is a new project CFI wants to implement as a final project which asks students to utilize everything they have learned at CFI. Remember back in kindergarten when your child did their Passion Expert Project? We view this project in the same way as student's kindergarten Passion Projects. Except, this passion project asks students to combine their passions and their interests in doing something good for their community.

So this is all new to us as well. If you ever have any questions, please contact myself or Dr. Whitecotton!

Some additional info:

  • Math - We are finishing up working on multiplication and division of fractions. We will be moving into addition and subtraction of fractions by the end of the week.
  • Science - On Friday we collected some data by recording times as we walked around the track. We will graph the data and create motion graphs.
  • Social Studies - We just finished looking at various events of the Cold War including the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Cuban Missle Crisis. We will be moving into the Civil Rights Era.
  • Reading - We are using our reading time to work on our project.
  • Writing  - During writing we are looking at different aspects of grammar such as prepositions.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

5th Grade Projects / Impact Projects

Impact Projects

You may have heard your 5th grader talking about a major project that we will be using to cap off our experience at the Center for Inquiry. The teachers have envisioned this as a project that will be rooted in your child's personal interests presently and the future they wish to build as they grow older. As we prepare for this project, we have asked them to consider the ways in which they seek to have an impact on their community, school, family, and self.

Over the past several weeks, your fifth grader has been meeting with their teacher developing potential topics for these projects. Many of these topics are related to a service they find to be of interest like pet abuse or homelessness, but some of these topics are personal interests like plastics, Mexico, or children with special needs. Dr. Whitecotton and I are currently in the process of helping them narrow down their topics.

Once a topic is chosen each fifth grader will develop a Past, Present, and Future component of the project. For each of these three components, students will create a different physical product. Then each student will present their products and process in a Share Fair Symposium, to which we will invite family and community members.

In this blog post, I have listed the Content of each of the components of the project and a short description of the product they will create for that component. I am also adding information about your role as a family member and a timeline for the project.

The project is designed to be completed primarily at school with some home support. Any research will be completed during readers' workshop or explorations. Any written portions will be completed during writers' workshop, and any numerical planning, during math workshop, and so on.

Content:  There will be a component of demonstrating understanding of the past in that each student identifies one historical change agent figure or event to research and teach about during the writing and presentation of their project. This historical figure or event should relate to their topic of interest somehow and may or may not be someone that we have studied this year in our work as historians.  For example, there is a student who has expressed an interest in origami as a mindfulness practice, for his PAST component, he might research the history of origami and a history of mindfulness practice in the US in the past several years.

Product: For this part of the project, students will create a product to teach others about the historical figure or event, making sure to very clearly state how the historical figure or event relates to your topic of interest, some background about the person's life or how the event came to be, and specifically how this figure or event impacted history.

Content: This component of the project will involve your fifth grader delving deeply into a topic to research a specific organization, process, or aspect of the topic of interest for them. Because many of these interests are related to the surrounding community, the teachers at CFI will be doing our best to connect them with organizations or experts outside of the school in order to understand their topics most fully. For example, there is a student interested in working against euthanizing shelter pets in Columbia. He plans to research shelters in the area to find out their policies and what they are currently doing to make Columbia a No-Kill Shelter city. Students will thoroughly research using print, video, and human resources in order to teach about their topic.

Product: This product will feature the student's research timeline, any interviews, visits, reading, or interacting they've done to better understand their topic. The product will share what interested them about this topic, what they wondered, what they discovered, and what they currently think about the topic.

Content: This is the piece where we really focus in on the impact we want to have on the world. In the Future component, students will take what they've learned from the past, what they are learning about the topic as it stands today, and what they might do to involve themselves in that topic as they move forward. For example, the student doing the project against euthanizing shelter pets might seek to volunteer at a shelter that believes what he believes. To revisit the first example, the student who is interested in origami as a mindfulness practice might create a YouTube channel where he leads his followers through an origami pattern while emphasizing a certain mindfulness trait (breath, attention to senses, emotions, etc.).

Product: This product is simply the documentation of what they actually did to impact the world or a plan for what they seek to do in order to have an impact. For instance, documentation could include photographs or video.

The students will present each component of this project together as one Past, Present, and Future whole in May. They will be required to plan out what they will say as Share Fair Symposium attendees visit their projects (similar to an expert projects).

As the teachers, we realize this project could appear daunting and vague, but we hope to make it a very doable and enriching experience for everyone involved as we move through the next several weeks. Your support could range from being as involved as helping them set up contacts with different organizations to simply providing materials (or asking Dr. Whitecotton or myself for any materials you do not have access to). We ask that you do as much as you can to allow the student to be the one doing the primary work on the project.

You will be hearing from both Dr. Whitecotton and myself periodically over the next several weeks (please see the schedule below). We will be working in class on these as much as possible, but we will need your support and communication on what you are doing at home in order to best use all of our time. She and I plan to send GoogleForms through email for you to complete alongside your child as part of their homework assignment that week. These forms will simply have questions like: What components have you been working on lately at home? What components are you planning to work on soon? What resources might you need? What materials might you need? What are you most concerned about in the project? They are designed to help us best support your child through this journey.

All sections of their projects that are accessible through GoogleDrive should be shared with both the teachers and you all so that we can all provide feedback on their work. Like I mentioned above, there are other CFI teachers who have connections in the community to experts and organizations that relate to our topics. You may also be hearing from them in order to support your child in researching as deeply as possible.

(please pick a different one for each component: PAST, PRESENT, or FUTURE)
- PowerPoint/GoogleSlides       - illustrated picture book       - artwork with an explanatory paragraph 
- video                                       - timeline                                - any product approved by a teacher
- essay                                       - Prezi
- brochure                                 - Podcast style audio recording

March 20 - Sharing Basic Overview of the Project with All Fifth Grade Families
March 27 - Sharing Rubrics for Impact Project with Families
March 30 -  Sharing All Project Topics with All Fifth Grade Families 
**Note: We are sharing all topics with all families because as you read over the topics, we invite you to share any contacts or connections that might be helpful in completing these projects. We will pass those along to the students who need them. **
-Spring Break-
Tuesday, April 10 - First GoogleForm Check In 
Tuesday, April 24 - Second GoogleForm Check In
Tuesday, May 8 - Third Google Form Check In
Thursday, May 24 - All Components Due (including any documents from interviews or other research)
May 25 - Last Fifth Grade Gathering Parents Invited (will share previews for projects)
Wednesday, May 30 - Share Fair Symposium (Family & Community Invited)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Camp Kanuga

Thank you to everyone who was supportive of our Camp Kanuga trip. I believe the trip was a success and lots of memories were created. On Wednesday, we spent our outdoors activities while it lightly snowed. Thursday was windy, but no one complained about being cold. And Friday, no one will forget our bus break down.

This was just a delightful trip. I believe everyone had a great time, challenged themselves in some way, and learned a little bit about ponds and streams, and mountain ecology.

I have uploaded a few photos from my camera here. I think I have a few more photos that did not upload. I will also try to get more photos from the other groups and upload them here.

Have a restful weekend. See everyone on Monday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

More "Balanced / Unbalanced" Activities

Today we continued playing around with balanced and unbalanced forces. So today we an activity in which students sat laid down on chairs with their heads on another person's lap. The chairs were pulled out. If forces were balanced, students should be able to stay up (not for long). 

Here are some pictures of students laying down in chairs then having the chairs pulled out while balancing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


This morning we were looking at balanced and unbalanced forces. We decided to engage in this activity which we felt illustrated both balanced forces (when it works right) and a group challenge.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Updated Information

Some new information has come up so I wanted to write a new blog post about some of our upcoming events.

Thursday, March 15 (7:15-8:00) - Instead of having a traditional Curriculum Night, we will have our Camp Kanuga informational meeting. While this is a parents only meeting (we'll have a separate meeting for students), we will have room available for students.

Monday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 20 - On these dates we will be MAP testing. Monday will be reading and Tuesday will be math.

Wednesday, March 21 - Friday, March 23 - Camp Kanuga trip

Science - We are just beginning our last unit on Forces & Motion. We spent the day building on what we already knew about force and motion and relating this knowledge to balanced and unbalanced forces.

Math - We are playing a game called "In Between." This game helps students order fractions and get a better sense of converting fractions to percentages.

Social Studies - We have finished our study of WWII and we are now moving into the Cold War by studying key events through the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Reading - We are looking at 1st and 3rd person perspectives in the books we are reading.

Writing - We are doing an extended study on sentence construction. We started by looking at sentences in terms of having a subject and predicate. Now we are looking at different conjunctions and how they connect sentences and clauses.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust

Making Lemonade ...

Today, students made their own version of lemonade out of water, lemon juice, and sugar. They had to come up with their own recipe for lemonade before using that recipe to make lemonade. Unfortunately, students could not drink their own lemonade recipe. Student were randomly chosen to drink someone else's lemonade and rate it on a scale of 1 to 3. Tomorrow we will use language such as solution, concentration, dissolve, solute, and solvent to describe the lemonade they drank.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

New Updates

Here is some new information about what we are working on in class:

1) Math - We will be having a test on adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying decimals. We have been working on this for quite some time. Once we complete the test, we will be working quite a bit on fractions.

2) Science - We have done quite a bit of experiments during our mixtures & solutions unit. We did some work with chromatography (separating mixtures using water) and creating super saturated solutions. For our super saturated solutions, we are waiting for some evaporation to take place before we discover what will happen!

3) Reading - We started our whole class literature study of Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. This book gives a detailed portrait of what life was like during the Great Depression. Students have a literature log and have been answering particular questions pertaining to the book such as questions on setting, the characters, main idea, how the book made the reader feel, etc. Along with studying idioms, adages, nuance, etc., students are developing more reading vocabulary.

4) Writing - Students are completing their DBQs on the Dust Bowl. Students have come a long way in writing in this manner which includes an introduction and conclusion, a body that contains a thesis statement, and evidence for their opinion which backs up their argument. Their evidence mush be pulled direction from the text using quotes or paraphrasing. This is not easy stuff for 5th graders but it's the type of writing that will be expected of them as they move through junior high and high school.

Once we complete the DBQ, we will be working on a fictional writing piece which students integrate metaphor, idiom, adages, proverbs, etc., into their writing.

5) Social Studies - We have been extremely busy in this area. First, we are going to start each day highlighting an important African-American in honor of Black History Month (thanks Mr. Dixon for the suggestion). Currently we are looking at the Holocaust. This week we will be looking at the unsung heroes of the Holocaust. If you have suggestions about people we should research, please let me know. We are moving into areas where my experience is limited.

Once we conclude the Holocaust, we will start looking at important people and events which led to our victory in WWII.

6) Student-led Conferences - Students have been hard at work on their student-led conferences. I am really trying to push. This is going well for some, while some students are having more difficulty focusing on strengths and weaknesses besides what they "like" and "do not like."

Please remember that you can still sign up for Student-led Conferences using this link:

Also remember that Friday is a half-day.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Blog Update

I am so sorry it took this long to get a class update to have  you. I want to keep you updated on what we have been working on class, including some information that is important for you to know.

1.     Explorations – I have signed up our class to share the things they have made over the last two years at the EdVenture Maker’s Faire. While I don’t have the exact date right now, it will be on a Saturday in May. The Maker’s Faire is like a giant share fair – the attendance on that day is about 1000. Two years ago, my class won an award for being the youngest sharers at the fair! As we get closer I will get more information to you.

2.     Science – Our share fair in December was an absolute success. I had many compliments from the other teachers, especially sharing along their undergraduate science buddies. Right now, we are working on matter and mixtures. We spent a good time studying the differences between the three states of matter. We did some experiments uncovering the mass of solids, liquids, and gases, including creating a wall of matter! Currently we are looking at the difference between mixtures and solutions. This has led us to do experiments on how to separate mixtures and solutions. (Mixtures and solutions can be separated through flotation, magnetism, evaporation, sifting, and chromatography.)

3.     Math – We are finishing our study of decimals such as how to order decimals (number sense). Next week we will review adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals before moving into a large unit on fractions.

4.     Read aloud – We are finishing Tuck Everlasting (more about this book when I share reading) and moving into a whole class literature discussion of Out of the Dust. This is a classic, 5th grade text dealing with the Dust Bowl. The book is written in prose and won the Newberry Award about 20 years ago.

5.     Social Studies – We have just moved into the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. This will eventually lead to Roosevelt and the New Deal. We are moving quite quickly through this unit because students are really excited about studying WWII!

6.     Reading – We have engaged in a very in-depth study of Tuck Everlasting. We spent a great deal of time looking for different examples of metaphor and we looked at how the element of time was used throughout the book (controlling metaphor). Students are currently going back into the text to find examples of what three of the settings look like (e.g., the woods, the cottage, and Tuck’s house). They are using these examples from the text to draw a picture of what they believe that setting looks like.

7.     Writing – We are currently writing a DBQ on the Dust Bowl. Based on the primary documents we analyzed, as a class we came to know that the Dust Bowl was caused by three things: the shortgrass prairie, mechanization, and drought. Students will be writing an essay using information from the primary documents to support the three causes of the Dust Bowl.

Here is some other important information you need to know:

1.     We are going to be working on Student-led Conferences next week. I will be sending out a SignUp Genius very soon so you can begin signing up for conferences.

2.     There will be no Curriculum Night on Thursday, February 15th. Instead, we will be using that time for Student-led Conferences. The next Curriculum Night, Thursday, March 15th, will be concerning our 5th grade Kanuga Trip.