Thursday, January 28, 2010

January 28 “Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.”

Well, here we go... Today we made paper airplanes in class. It was pretty chaotic, as you can imagine... but in a good way. As we looked at directions on the LCD projector, we talked about the need for those directions to be clear, concise, and simply stated. We also talked about the need for basic line drawings (well crafted) to further explain the words in each step. We helped each other figure out how to make one design, then we let loose--Whew! As luck would have it, at that precise moment, who should arrive but Mr. Howe. Actually, he thought the whole thing looked like lots of fun--but reminded us we'd just have to keep a lid on it, (we ARE supposed to be setting the standard for social decorum...) which meant no flying in/on the halls, gym, or playground.

The assignment tonight is to explore some sites for designs to modify/or make up a design. I made it clear that the written directions needed to be completely their own--no copying. (This IS a writing assignment, after all.) Tomorrow there will be a substitute in here, and I am a bit concerned that their "creative chaos" may be misconstrued. Help me to remind everyone that tomorrow they should control their enthusiasm to ensure the continued mental health of my sub. Here are some links to peruse:

Model Airplane--How to Make It Fly Better--Tweaking Tips
There are tons more if you google "paper airplane".

Also, yesterday's blog had a link to a pretty sophisticated plane with TONS of help to make it.

Check out this video for another idea (It's one of many out there.):

Tomorrow we'll take our Spelling tests, turn in packets, and complete a lesson about Columbus that will include some homework (I'll give time in the afternoon to work on this). The assignment, for your information, is to draw four SMALL illustrations of Columbus's life and write a few sentences about each. They have all the necessary information and templates.

I hope you all have time to relax this evening. (It's my class night, so relaxing is pretty much out for me...) Maybe the paper airplane idea will give you some quality fun time with your son or daughter. Personally, I learned a lot from them today! (Geesh!)

Take care-

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27 "Great is the man who has not lost his childlike heart." Mencius

We finished District Writing Prompts today, and will take a few days to do one of my favorite writing activities... Are you ready for this? MAKING PAPER AIRPLANES! You must admit, this is an intensely clever way to get kids to write a procedure piece. I'll give them directions and a rubric tomorrow so that they know the expectations. Meanwhile, I don't want to leave ANYONE out, so check out these step-by-step instructions for making the what may well be the best paper airplane in the world. I'm going to use them in my classroom, but you may also want to try your hand in the privacy of your own home. (Personally, I'm a visual learner, so I'm going for the slide show instructions at the end before I ever try it with kids.) Check it out!
As for everything else? Well, we should have completed day 3 of Spelling, Vocabulary, and Grammar packets. Also, we completed a short Social Studies activity on Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco DaGama, which is now due for both groups. Tomorrow we'll get explore (no pun intended) the travels of Christopher Columbus (in 5th grade--we'll do it on Friday for 6th graders).
Have a wonderful evening! Time to get home...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 26 Leadership is action, not position." ~Donald H. McGannon


  • More than 14 billion pencils are produced in the world every year - enough to circle the globe 62 times.
  • Pencils don't really contain lead. That gray matter is graphite and clay.
  • One pencil will draw a line 70 miles long.
  • Two billion pencils are made in the United States each year.
  • The pencil was invented more than 400 years ago, in 1565.
  • Famous novelists Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck used pencils to write their books.
  • Pencils didn't have erasers on them until 100 years ago because teachers felt they would encourage children to make mistakes.
  • It would cost $50 in labor and materials for a person to make a 10-cent pencil.
  • One million pencils are used annually on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The average pencil can be sharpened 17 times, write 45,000 words, or draw a line 35 miles long.
  • A good-size tree will make about 300,000 pencils.
  • Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star Spangled Banner" in pencil.
  • An unpainted pencil inserted into the soil of a potted plant can eliminate mealy bugs on plants.
  • Plant growers mark their plant labels with pencil because it is one marking that won't fade in sunlight.
  • Dreaming that you are sharpening a pencil suggests that you need to be more flexible in your way of thinking.
  • Why are pencils yellow? Pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s. And that bright color isn't just so you can find them on your desk more easily! During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils contained Chinese graphite. In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils bright yellow to communicate this "regal" feeling and association with China. Today, 75% of the pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow! Source: 2000 Incense Cedar Institute
  • Say What? Have you ever seen a left-handed pencil? Left-handed pencils do exist. But it has nothing to do with the way it writes - it's all about the text printed on the pencil. On an ordinary pencil the text runs from the tip to the head so you can read it when you hold it. I just love trivia...

Kid Friendly Writing

Although many basic handwriting tasks, like making lists, can be done with printing, children still need to be able to read cursive. It also enables children to write faster and more efficiently, because the pencil/pen isn't lifted from the paper until the word is finished. If your child struggles with cursive writing, please provide a few minutes of practice time each day. ...Also, check your child's grasp - Make sure the thumb isn't tucked in or overlapping the other fingers. A poor grasp is usually too tight.

Source: Parents February 2001

Another late post...

Just to let you know--we're doing district writing prompts this week. My class will begin a research report project shortly that we'll work on in both Language Arts and Social Studies. (Fifth grade will have an alternate activity.) Also, we are back on track with Spelling, Vocabulary, and Grammar, Week 14.

I'll write more tomorrow...


Friday, January 22, 2010

January 22 “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Chris. Robin

Did you notice most of our links are back? Well, I didn't do that (despite my best efforts--and extraordinary angst). I am grateful to my friend and colleague, Jason, for coming to my rescue once again. As for my technology savy... make no mistake, I'm a work in progress. (The good news is that I have found lots of additional links to add--not replace, thankfully--to the list!)

Have a great weekend, everyone! And watch the weather on Sunday night; a "weather event" is upon us (though it looks like rain, mostly). I'll be in touch on Monday.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January 20 "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Awesome Explorer Movie

(Matt's great idea for a title)
Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal
and Sea Exploration in the 15th Century

Another fun day. There's so much to read about and do in this Explorers unit. The sixth grade made our compasses today, and checked out the apture links on yesterday's blog. There's a wealth of information there to peruse. For example. there are two short videos in the compass link... One explains how to find north if you're in the woods without a compass; the other one shows how to make a compass at home (or at camp...) with simple household materials. I'm having fun finding these things for the kids (and you, hopefully) to enjoy.

Oh no!! I just tried to replace an old link with one I though would be more fun in my list of links, and accidentally deleted them all! Good thing no one else was in the building... my mournful wail would have startled them. I'll try to find more, and get them up and running asap. I don't know how to retrieve the ones I lost, do any of you?? (I'll leave my blog open just in case turning it off will prove even more detrimental.) ARGHHHHH!

I'm having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad moment... Sigh.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19 "Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Tuesday! Today was a great day....
  1. For those of you who may not know, my Literacy group is reading Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli. It takes place in war-torn Warsaw, Poland during the time of the Holocaust and is an engaging and thought provoking story about a young orphan boy. It really lends itself to group analysis and the subsequent development of shared meaning. We've been enjoying it immensely and have had some pretty intense discussions so far! Ask your son or daughter about it or about ANY book they're presently reading in their Literacy groups. We try to keep the interest level high...
  2. Because I don't have everyone for Social Studies today and many didn't have the opportunity to see the Marco Polo short on the blog, we took the time to watch it today as a review, then did the map interactive activity (see yesterday's blog). For those students who watched it last night--you guys are AWESOME!!) I think everyone now gets why it's important to remember this geographic explorer/merchant/storyteller/co-author of one of the most influential books in history.
  3. Fifth grade has hopefully finished up their B.E.E. final drafts and turned them in. If not, they need to be completed for tomorrow. (Does anyone need to stay in to finish? Please make arrangements...)

Tomorrow the sixth grade will do a short compass activity in Social Studies as part of their unit. It should be fun.

(Check out the
apture links I've included on this blog to learn more about Marco Polo and/or direction finding techniques.)

Just a heads up: tomorrow the fifth grade is having a bake sale, the proceeds of which are going to the Haiti relief fund. Great food, great cause! Great kids!

Well, I guess I'm heading home now; I hope you all have a well-deserved restful evening!


Monday, January 18, 2010

January 18 "Let no man pull you low enough to hate him." ~Martin Luther King

A Tribute to Martin Luther King

Song by James Taylor

Check out the work crew! The construction site was small, but you'd never know it by the mess we created. Thanks, guys, for helping me to finish up!

Just a reminder, we don't have school on Friday. Because of the short week, we won't have Spelling/Vocabulary packets. (Yea, I know, the kids were upset too...) What I AM doing is using that time to get a jump start on an excellent book, The Lightning Thief. Read-alouds have great value; they develop comprehension skills and provide opportunities to discuss a plethora of literary elements. We predict, infer, analyze, synthesize... Besides, who doesn't like listening to a great story??

We'll complete Basic Explanatory Essay final drafts this week, and begin our research on the Explorer of our choice for a research report (one of the major portfolio pieces of the year...). I'll send home some information for you to use as we work together to support your child's efforts. Hopefully everyone handed in their three completed B.E.E. drafts last Friday for my perusal--I provided extra work time and support, so... no more extensions.

In Social Studies, we talked about the adventures of Marco Polo today. Everyone has a brief activity to complete by Wednesday. (Fifth grade will do this activity on Tuesday / due Thursday.) I'd hoped that everyone would take the time to watch the Marco Polo movie I put on last week's blog (as I requested), but most did not. Hopefully they'll still find the time to do it.

I'd also like everyone to take a minute to check out THE TRAVELS OF MARCO POLO –- INTERACTIVE MAP ACTIVITY. I keep trying to find interesting ways for the kids to learn important concepts in Social Studies--after all, the key to our future is in understanding our past...

It's late so I'll close for now; I'll be in touch tomorrow-


Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 14 “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.”

What makes an explorer an explorer? Here are some characteristics we came up with in class:
(How amazing is this?)
brave, indefatigable, independent, organized, goal-oriented, fair, strong-willed, wise, cooperative, persistent, prepared, a good planner, curious, creative, strong, robust, rational, aggressive, adaptable, resilient, responsible, and determined
We have now set the stage for discussing a number of fascinating historical figures. The first one on the list is a lifelong storyteller and author of The Description of the World , an explorer who stimulated interest in China. Christopher Columbus owned a copy of his book and studied it closely, making annotations in the margins, before beginning his journey in 1492 to what he thought would be China. Here's his story:

Marco Polo Part 2

Marco Polo Part 3

Marco Polo Part 4

Marco Polo Part 5

Marco Polo Part 6

Marco Polo Part 7

Marco Polo Part 8

Marco Polo Part 9


What's due in Social Studies at this point?

* Characteristics of an Explorer page * Rune (written on brown paper)

* Viking boat

* Viking Q & A Flip Book page

In Language Arts:

* Grammar, Vocabulary, and Spelling, Unit 13 (grade 6)

* B.E.E. 3rd draft (and all previous drafts)

Well, yet another late post; tonight was the last class for this course, but another course starts next Thursday. No rest for the weary. (You might want to check out Thursday's posts on Friday mornings...)

Sleep well-- Teri

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12 “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't.”

One of the Vikings' greatest challenges...
In addition to being fierce warriors, Vikings were master craftsmen, shrewd businessmen, and fearless explorers. Sleek longboats gave them a technological edge over other seafarers, and they opened vast trade networks in Europe and Asia. These activities stimulated political change. Their reputation probably hastened the formation of European nations as people fortified their cities and joined others to defend themselves against Viking raids. Their travels created lasting new societies in Iceland and Greenland, and led to the discovery of North America 500 years before Columbus.
Well, that's about it for our brief introduction to Viking explorers. Tomorrow we meet Marco Polo and learn about his (slightly exaggerated but nonetheless wonderful) exploits.
SOCIAL STUDIES: Viking flip books shoul be completed for tomorrow (Grade 6) and Thursday (Grade 5) In addition to that, I want everyone to visit yesterday's blog and visit the link beneath the video to learn how to write their name in runes. That independent activity is super short and interesting, and will be due Friday. Also due Friday-we're each making a Viking longboat (a short art activity--they have the directions and necessary paper). We'll create a two-class flotilla for the hallway!
The first book report for January is due by Friday. This one is simply a story map, which everyone knows how to do. Ask to see your child's "List of Books I've Read in Sixth Grade", and please continue to encourage them to read, read, read--at LEAST 20 minutes every evening.
Grammar, Spelling and Vocabulary packets, day 2
Finish draft 3 of the B.E.E. so that I can edit.
For grade 5, we did a lesson about commas (to separate introductory clauses or phrases from the rest of the sentence--and yes, we learned the difference between clauses and phrases...) We also need to get draft 3 ready for me to edit.
Hmm...this post got rather lengthy. I guess it's time to go home.
Take care,

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11 "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."

Vikings used an ancient Germanic alphabet called runes for writing, seeking advice, and magic. (the word "rune" actually means mystery, secret, or whisper) Runes could be read from left to right or from right to left, even in the same artifact. That makes translating them very difficult, especially since rune masters sometimes wrote cryptic messages. Write Your Name using this ancient Viking alphabet.

The problem with modern names is that, no matter how many you have, they don't really tell people much about you. Viking names really described the person. Want to know your Viking name?

Assignments for today:

I just added three new links--two about Vikings, and one really good one about Explorers. Check 'em out!

Spelling, Vocabulary, and Grammar--Day 1

Social Studies--Complete the Viking Q & A Flip Book (In our class discussion, we went over all the questions/answers; the kids [should] have everything they need. (This will be tomorrow's assignment for Grade 5)

Writing--Because we had Art, this class was too short to continue with our B.E.E.--everyone should have drafts 1 and 2, and 2 should be typed, ready for further revisions. Each child also should have peer conferenced and filled out a simple form for their partner with a copy to me.

Time to go home. Have a restful evening, everyone. Like I tell my students, don't forget to eat your vegetables and get to bed early.


Friday, January 8, 2010

January 8 "Happy 13th birthday, Sammy!"

We just learned about how early explorers used the North Star as a compass to guide their journeys. Students learned how to find the North Star in the night sky. As a follow-up, I thought these two short videos might be interesting to view. Enjoy!

Ursa Major--The Big Dipper

There's just so much to learn!
Stay tuned for information and links to our next activity: Viking explorers.
Goodnight, everyone!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 7 ~ "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, is the time for home." ~ Edith Sitwell

a Vermont scene by artist Mona Brown

Hi everybody - Sorry for the late post; I had class tonight. It sure makes for a long day...

Students are rallying to improve the quality and timeliness of work, and as part of that initiative, we have posted a colorful chart in our room to keep track of assignments. Something as simple as a visual reminder has proved to be a great motivator for everyone to complete and turn in work! (I think it feels good to systematically check completed work off on the chart.) I'm proud of everyone's enthusiastic response and their willingness to utilize this helpful tool.

Well, Basic Explanatory Essays are coming along nicely. This is a process piece; that is, students are made to really look at how they develop a piece of writing through multiple revisions. It's nice to see kids accept the challenge to move out of their comfort zones and trust the process as it unfolds. (That process includes opening themselves up to openly sharing their work and receiving constructive criticism...) Thank you for encouraging them as they read their first drafts to you. That's exactly what they need--our faith in their ability to be successful. Tomorrow we'll type our current drafts (2nd) in preparation for future editing and revising on the computer.

I really like the way Social Studies is going, too. Each activity is designed to actively engage students in learning particular concepts about early explorers. Mini-books are due tomorrow (they were due today for 5th graders). Next, we'll move on to a lesson about early navigation and how explorers located and used the North Star as a compass.

Grammar, Spelling and Vocabulary packets are due tomorrow, at which time we'll take our Unit 12 Spelling tests.

That's about it for tonight... It's time to close. Take care; I'll be in touch soon-


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January 6 "Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." ~Hal Borland

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY! I hope 2009 closed on a happy note. (There was a "blue moon" on the 31st; did you notice?) I must tell you that my brother, who lives in Essex, called me on Sunday evening, January 3rd, to tell me he had over three feet of snow -- and I wondered if the first storm of 2010 would provide us with one additional day of vacation. Note to self: It's not a good idea to go to bed with that mindset...

Anyway, welcome back! I'm completing the design of a fun, activity-filled Explorers unit; in a day or so, I'll provide you with a syllabus to describe each activity and an outline of the final product. Today's assignment is to complete a mini-book describing the seven basic reasons that explorers, well, EXPLORED. See if your child can remember them without looking at his/her paper. (Just so you know, they are curiosity, wealth, fame, national pride, religion, foreign goods, better trade routes) (These mini-books are due on Friday.)

In Language Arts, we've begun writing a Basic Explanatory Essay--ask your child to describe how to write one. The format, once learned, will provide them with a "recipe" for creating a good descriptive essay. Helpful information! There will be a district writing prompt at the end of the month, and this will provide much needed practice in elaboration. (Second drafts of B.E.E.s are due tomorrow--they should look for ways to expand upon/elaborate on first drafts).

We're also back to doing Grammar, Vocabulary, and Spelling, so help me help them, please. I go over Grammar here, but in the off-chance it wasn't completed... Spelling tests are always on Friday (or the last day of the week).

With the new year comes a renewed determination to work hard and stay on track. The BEST of intentions, wouldn't you say? ...With our help, I think they just might pull it off!

It's good to be back in touch. Have a great evening!