Monday, November 12, 2018

Grandparent's Day

Thank you to all the grandparents who were able to join us on Friday. I have included some of the pictures of the kids and their grandparents.

Our Latest Updates

I just saw how long it's been since I last posted. I am so sorry!

Here are some updates from our classroom:

  1. We have a social studies quiz on Wednesday. It will be covering our explorers unit and the Columbian Exchange. We discussed the quiz today, and students took notes on the vocabulary words, essay questions that will be asked, and the matching questions. We will spend time in Tuesday studying for the quiz. If you want to see what needs to be studied, ask to see your child's social studies journal.
  2. Friday is our zoo trip. I will be sending out an additional email with information on the trip.
  3. Our next gathering will be the week of December 17. Yep, that is the last week before Christmas Break!
  4. Dr. Whitecotton and I are working on doing an evening trip to the Melton Observatory in lieu of a Curriculum Night. This evening should be Monday, November 26th at 7:00 pm. Once the evening is finalized I will send an additional email.

Math - You probably noticed we have moved from studying geometry to place value. Much of what we're doing builds on what your child learned in 3rd grade except the place value we are working with goes up to the millions. We are learning about writing numbers in unit form, expanded form, and standard form. 

Science - We will finish up our weather unit before Thanksgiving. Each day we watch the WIS TV weather report and use our knowledge of low and high pressure, cold fronts, high fronts, stationary fronts, and cloud types to predict the weather. After Thanksgiving we will move into our astronomy unit.

Reading - Today, a small group of students started a literature study. This will serve as an introduction into our first whole-class literature study of The Jacket by Andrew Clements. We are also reading Blood on the River. This book tells the story of Jamestown, the first successful English colony in the Americas.

Writing - Several times a year we do what's called a DBQ. It stands for Document Based Question. It's a writing assignment in which we analyze several primary documents, form an opinion, and write an essay. While writing the essay, students learn the formalities of writing an essay. This includes an introduction and conclusion, topic sentences, and using transitionary words and phrases. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Warm Air Rising

Yesterday we did a demonstration that showed how warm air rises. We placed a thin layer of dish soap of the top of a bottle. We placed the bottle in warm water so that it will warm the air. As the air rises, the thin layer of dish soap expands creating a bubble (the dish soap captures the warm air).

Friday, September 28, 2018

Curriculum Night Presentation

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend Curriculum Night. For those who were not able to make it, this is a presentation I shared outlining things like our class schedule, homework, etc.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Information for the Week

Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to Friday gathering. Because of the week off due to hurricane Florence we really had to cram to get ready for gathering. Now that gathering is over we will continue moving forward in our studies.
  • Don'g forget that this Thursday, September 27 is Curriculum Night from 7:15-8:00. I will be outlining our daily schedule and sharing a few things we are working on in class.
  • In social studies we are moving into our study of Native Americans and how the different regions of the United States effected how they survived.
  • In math we will move into geometry. I like to start with geometry to build confidence in math and to get kids thinking about using their knowledge of geometry to construct during explorations. This also gives me a chance to introduce students to computer programming through Scratch.
  • In reading we will continue to read poetry, discuss different characteristics of poetry, then use that knowledge to create our own poems.
  • In science we are moving into the water cycle. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hurricane Post

I hope all is going well as you prepare for the upcoming weather. Hopefully things will not be so bad and we can return to a normal schedule next week.

Even though we are expecting some rough weather due to Hurricane Florence, this experience will provide your child with hurricane knowledge as we dive deeper into our weather unit when we return to school. So I am asking for a few things:

1) Even though you are already doing it, please allow your child some time to watch the weather on the news. One of the things we will be studying during our weather unit is how to read weather maps and how to stay safe during hurricanes. The news will provide a good bit of this information,

2) When the bad weather hits, allow your child, in a safe manner, to take pictures or video of the weather at home. I would like to compile these pictures and videos so that we can study this weather when we return to school.

While scary, this hurricane offers us a unique opportunity to study severe weather as it occurs.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Couple of Things for this Short Week

I hope that everyone is having a restful Labor Day weekend.

1) Remember that Thursday, September 6 (6:30-8:00) is Opening Picnic. We purposely hold Opening Picnic after Labor Day so that students become acclimated to school and feel comfortable showing you around the classroom and school. After we all gather for the picnic, students and parents will head into the classroom. I'll give students the chance to show you around before I spend a few minutes talking about a few items you as parents will want to know such as homework and discipline policies. Other than that, I'm more hoping to get to know all of you so we can quickly start relationships that will benefit the academic success of your child.

2) On Friday, September 21 at 2:20 will be our first 4th grade gathering. We will most likely be sharing about current studies such as student poetry, our study of Native Americans, and weather.

3) MAP testing in math will be this Wednesday, September 5th.

4) Have students bring in their Richland Country library cards. Our first trip to the Sandhills library is this Friday, September 7th. We will leave around 9:30. You are more than welcome to join us or meet us at the library.

I wanted to share share a bit about the day's schedule.

Each day begins with explorations. Students have the opportunity to practice the skillfulness of inquiry as they explore topics of their own choosing. Students from Dr. Whitecotton and my class switch between our classes if they choose. My class typically does anything involving building (e.g., Legos, Keva blocks, robots, Lego Mindstorms, Coinstruction, Snap Circuits) or computer programming, and Dr. Whitecotton's class has drawing, math stuff, games such as chess, etc. As the year progresses, students' thinking in explorations often becomes more sophisticated as they take more chances in what they want to construct.

We are currently doing a study of mathematicians and the things that mathematicians do. For instance, we've read books on famous mathematicians such as Fibonacci, Einstein, Ada Lovelace. One website called Math Munch has interviews with mathematicians. We are gathering a list of what makes a mathematician a mathematician. I am hoping that students understand that math is not about getting answers right or wrong, but it's about exploring patterns in nature, it's about learning to problem solve, it's about dealing with frustrations, etc.

There are several thing I emphasize students do as historians: 1) history is an account of the stories of the past, 2) historians use evidence to construct a story of the past, 3) historians must be critical of the evidence they gather, and 4) a story should never be based on a single piece of evidence. This was the perfect introduction into the Landbridge Theory of how Native Americans first arrived in North and South America.

Lunch is now from 11:00 to 11:30. This gives us an extra 5 minutes for lunch.

Our recess comes directly after lunch from 11:30-12:00

I always do a read aloud after lunch. The read aloud is always connected to the curriculum in some manner. Currently I am reading Heartbeat by Sharon Creech. Since we are looking at poetry, I am reading a chapter written in prose. But most of time I love to read historical-fiction (my favorite genre)!

Our reading and writing blur into one large chunk of time. (This makes sense since reading and writing are so heavily intertwined). Currently students are independently reading while I conduct some reading assessments so that I can get to know your child as a reader.

After reading we work on writing. Here is a list poem we created as a class. It is titled "The Kind of Class We Want." Students created a goal as to how they would make that poem a reality in the class.

Most of the time our special areas time is in the afternoon except Tuesday (we have PE in the morning) and Friday (library).

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

First Day of School

I quickly wanted to get an email out about our first day. Here are a few pictures from throughout the day. Today was about everyone getting to know each, especially about me getting to know the kids. We talked about things like how I want students to choose books for independent reading and explorations and read aloud expectations. At the end of the day we also played some "Would You Rather." It was a nice way of completing the day!
Early morning before school

Early morning before school

Explorations time

Explorations time

More explorations



Morning gathering

KEVA block brain builders

KEVA block brain builders

KEVA block brain builders

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.