Be Prepared- PARCC is coming

parcc is coming



In what is feeling like the dregs of a never-ending winter, we find ourselves faced with another formidable opponent- PARCC.  I am a huge Game of Thrones fan and can’t help but at times feel like we are the residents of The Land of the Long Summer preparing ourselves for the winter that is coming according to those who reign in the North.  PARCC is our winter.  Just as in Game of Thrones, however, we can look at this as an opportunity to realign ourselves with new opportunities rather than feel doomed.


What exactly is PARCC?

parcc defined

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.  When stated like that it doesn’t sound so bad right?  We all want our kids to be ready for college and careers don’t we?  I personally think that the government should look into firing whoever shortened that lovely mouthful of a statement that most of us would readily embrace to the acronym PARCC.  I don’t know about you but anything that rhymes with the real word park causes me anxiety (have you ever tried to parallel park 10 times with a screaming child in the backseat?  The word park caused flashbacks for me!).   Had it been shortened to something like PACCS (partnership for assessment of college and career skills) I’d be able to correlate this to pleasant experiences like packing for trips or packing for college…..I digress.


What does PARCC test?

parcc breakdown by grade


PARCC is given at every grade level from 3-11.  In our elementary schools,  students will focus on Language Arts and Math.  The math section will focus on using math skills gained at each grade level in problem solving scenarios rather than straight forward math problems.  Visit for more information and sample math problems.  Students in grades 3-5 will participate in 2 days worth of math during this first administration of the test.

The language arts section is broken into 3 days, with each day consisting of one section.  Students will both read for comprehension as well as read to gain information so that they can complete a short research based essay.  All sections contain a variety of question types. (see the graphic below for more information on question types)

question types


How are my child’s teachers preparing him/her for this?


Our way of teaching has been undergoing drastic changes over that last few years to prepare our students for these assessments.  First of all, we have implemented the Common Core State Standards which are the standards that these assessments are based on.  Secondly, our district has been focusing our efforts on increasing rigor in our classrooms by having students delve deeper into subject matter.  We have also incorporated technology into our lessons for years not only to prepare students for this assessment but also to help them develop skills that will help them throughout the rest of their school careers and into their adult lives.  This year, as PARCC is being implemented for the first time, we have been reviewing how to answer each type of question through lessons incorporated in our classes as well as workshops given to the students by the librarian and technology coordinators.  Classroom teachers have been reviewing how to read the questions thoroughly as well as strategies to eliminate known wrong answers.


What can I do to prepare my child?

First and foremost encourage your child to



While this might seem impossible, if  we adults can present ourselves as relaxed and calm, the kids will pick up on these cues and relax.  Listen, I’m a busy mom, wife, full time teacher, part-time student- I know that this isn’t always easy!  If you could limit stressful extras the week your child tests that would help everyone relax a bit.  In fact that is everyone’s homework that week-  GO HOME AND RELAX!

Encourage a good night’s sleep.  The chart below shows the suggested amount of sleep for the children in grades 3-5.  If possible encourage lights out and electronics off at a reasonable time to ensure that they are well rested for the coming day.



Have your child eat a HEALTHY breakfast.  While Frosted Flakes happen to be my favorite cereal, I know that they aren’t the best option when I need to sit and focus for any period of time.  A good breakfast doesn’t have to mean a restaurant quality spread.  It could be a bagel and cream cheese, toast and jelly, Cheerios or other cereals low in added sugar, yogurt, oatmeal, or fruit.

eat healthy

Dress your child comfortably.  I always encourage my students to wear a light weight sweatshirt (preferably a zip up) in case they get chilly.  Sweats or loose comfortable jeans and comfortable shoes will make sitting for extended periods more bearable.

dress right

Make sure they come to school prepared!  If they need glasses for reading or computer use, please make sure that they have them!   There is nothing worse than ending the test with a headache because your eyes ache!

We will provide your child with paper, erasers, and pencils!

Please feel free to  contact your child’s teacher or school if you have further questions.  All we ask is that every student TRY HIS OR HER BEST!  That’s the best anyone can ever do!

Relax Testing Poster final

Learning Goals for Feb 15-19

Last week was amazing!  We turned in our first novel projects which were awesome, had our Valentine’s day party and dance, and participated in Jump Rope for Heart.  Check it all out below in our Storify:


This week we are going to work on the following goals:
Story- “Rocks in His Head”
Genre:  Biography
Vocabulary words:  Stamps, chores, labeled, board, spare, attic, customer
Reading Strategy:  Determining fact from opinion


We are continuing our work with fractions this week.  More specifically, we are looking to identify and form equivalent fractions.

Learning Goals for Feb. 8-11

valentines day

Wow!  What a week we had last week!  Our school had our school spirit week leading up to today’s Super Bowl with themed days all week.  Our class really got into the spirit!  We also were contacted by a school in Canada that challenged us to complete their one week fitness challenge called Burp-it-On.  We gladly completed the challenge and made sure to pass the challenge along to all of the other awesome schools in the Millville School District.  Click on the Storify video below for a recap of our week:


This week is a shortened week due to a teacher in-service on Friday.  In addition to our academic goals this week, we also have the opportunity to participate in a very worth while cause, Jump Rope for Heart on Wednesday after school.  In order to participate, students need to have raised at least $5 in donations and have a signed permission slip.  Jump Rope for Heart will take place Wednesday starting at 4:00.
We are also having our 2nd annual Valentine’s Day dance on Thursday, February 11th from 4-5:30.  Cost is $3 per student and must be paid by Wednesday.  ALL students must have someone to pick them up by 5:30!  I hope to see many of my students come and enjoy the fun in the gym!  During the afternoon on the 11th, we will be having our class Valentine’s Day celebration.  Students will be making Heart Healthy berry smoothies and sharing the love with classmates.  Please be sure that if you are sending in Valentine’s Day cards that you include all students!  A list with names and correct spellings was sent home last week.  If you need another, please let me know!
class dojo
On to the not so fun stuff… we have been having a hard time getting along in class these days.  I’m not sure of the cause, but I do know that being stuck indoors all the time due to the weather is not helping!  I have begun using Class Dojo to help students be more aware of their behaviors, both positive and negative.  On Friday, I sent home an information sheet for you to use to set up a parent account.  With the parent account, you will have the ability to keep tabs on how your child is behaving throughout the day.  You will also have the capability to message me with any concerns or questions.  Please be aware that I did activate a privacy setting that shuts messaging off between 10 PM and 7 AM, any messages sent during those hours will not be received until the following day.  All messages go straight to my cell phone Class Dojo App and I will respond as soon as possible.  So far, I have found that this is working very well and students are excited to know how they are doing each day.
Learning Goals for this week:
We will be reading a story about record holders in nature entitles, “Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest.”  We will be focusing on use graphic images such as maps, pictures, captions, and graphs to gain information that will better help us understand the information.  Our vocabulary words are:  average, depth, deserts, erupted, outrun, peak, tides, and waterfalls.  We will be having a vocab quiz on Thursday.
We are continuing our study of fractions this week.  We will be using fractions strips to help us compare fractions with unlike denominators.  Fractions are always a tough concept for kids to get.  Here are some ways that you can help your child better understand their usefulness in real life:
1.  Include your child in cooking and baking recipes that use fractions.
2.  Have your child help you measure things around the house.
3.  Use common terms like half, third, fourths when having your child fill things around the house
Social Studies:
We are starting a mini unit this week learning about famous African Americans and their contributions to our lives.  Each day students will learn about a different famous African American.  At the end of the unit, students will have a book that they have made documenting the contributions of these important people.
We are beginning a mini unit on the water cycle this week.  The video below gives an overview of the complete water cycle:

As you can see though this week may be short it is PACKED with opportunities for learning and fun!  We are definitely earning that 4 day weekend!  Please remember there is NO SCHOOL on Friday the 12th or Monday the 15th.  Enjoy the extra time with your kiddos!  I know that I will miss them!


Weekly Goals January 11-15


Last week was an AWESOME start to 2016! I can tell that we are on the way to making huge strides as we work through the end of the 2nd marking period.  I want to say thank you to may students and their families as they adapted so easily to our new homework format.  I had 98% completion of all flipped math lessons on  and 100% completion of all literature circle questions posted on Edmodo.  I found that having time in class to practice applying skills has been very beneficial.  We will continue with this format this week as well.

Makerspaces update:  All supplies have been bought and bins have been put together!


Each box contains a challenge, puzzle, or creative activity to help students extend upon their learning and think creatively.  Students are SUPER excited to get their hands on these!  I have an even bigger surprise for them this week!  I wrote a  grant for Sphero 2.0’s and the grant was accepted by the Millville Board of Education.  These Spheros will give students the opportunity to try out coding in a real world challenge as they code the robotic balls to complete a maze.


Weekly Learning Goals:


This week we will be reading “Seeing Stars” in class.  Our focus skill will be using graphic sources.

graphic sources

Vocabulary words are:  dim, gas, gigantic, ladle, patterns, shine, and temperature.

We will also be reading a chapter a night in our novels and responding to an open ended question on Edmodo.


We will be wrapping up topic 8 this week which was our intro into the concept of Division.  Students will have a test on Friday.



We will beginning our unit on systems this week.  Systems exist all around and even within us!  We will start our by exploring different ecosystems this week focusing on identifying producers, consumers.


Social Studies:

We will be looking at graphic sources in Social Studies as well as Language arts this week.  In addition, we will be wrapping up chapter 2 reviewing types and purposes for communities.

New Year, New Goals!


Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had an amazing time with family and friends over break.  I must say that I really enjoyed the time off that allowed me to slow down and focus on recharging my creative juices.  I love the start of a new year to take a look at goals I have set for myself evaluate the progress made and set goals for new challenges.  Last year I vowed to run a 5K.  I ran 3 of them!  This year my goal is to connect more with other educators to ensure that I am presenting the best opportunities available for my students.   Over break I spent many hours researching a few new ideas that will help re-energize our learning environment.  Starting this week we will be reworking our concept of homework.


For language arts, students will be reading pages in a novel at their level.  They will also have a question to respond to on Edmodo each night.  Edmodo is an online educational tool that will help us to have discussions about school work from our homes.  I like to equate it to Facebook only the focus is on education not selfies!  There are rules to using this format, which we will go over in class on Monday. An appropriate use contract will be sent home as well for both parents and students to sign.  If you do not have internet access at home, don’t panic!  All sites that we will be using can be accessed through cell phones as well.  If that is still an issue, I will provide a paper copy of the night’s question for students if necessary.  They will be able to record their answer on paper and then transfer onto the computer in the morning in class.  Since the novel that your child will be reading is based on his or her current reading level, the assigned reading should take no more than 15-20 minutes each night.



We will also be using an online component for math starting this week.  For math, students will access the website  They will watch a short tutorial about the math concepts we will be covering the next day.  This is called Flipped Instruction.  In Flipped instruction lessons, the viewing the lesson becomes the homework and applying the skills becomes the classwork.  A typical lesson will include a short 5 minute or less video or presentation that students will view followed by a 3-5 question “quiz” that they will complete.  Based on the results of the “quiz” I will group students in class the next day to accommodate their individual needs.  Students who grasp the concept will have the opportunity to apply it in a variety of ways including paper and pencil, computer based activities, and extension activities. Students who seem to be close to grasping the concept will talk through what is confusing them with me then move on to the application activities.  Students who are truly confused about the concept will still get a traditional lesson with me to ensure they understand.  Since I need to group kids by their comprehension of the skills it is very important that they receive NO HELP on the “quiz”.  Everyone will receive a 100 for homework regardless of the “quiz” results just for viewing the lesson and trying the questions.  Please note that I am able to see how long each student spent on each lesson, so skipping the video and jumping to the questions will be noted.  Again if internet access is an issue, students may complete this during homeroom/morning work time as well.


Finally the last major change I am going to be implementing this month is the addition of Makerspaces to our classroom.  I am SO EXCITED about this!  What are makerspaces?  They are bins full of challenges, puzzles, supplies, and opportunities for students to create, invent, discover, and tinker.  So much of what we do in class requires everyone to come to the same result.  They may approach it differently, but the end result is the same.  Makerspaces allow for students to tackle a problem or challenge their own way and create their own unique solution.  This will teach students to problem solve in a no risk environment.  They will be required to complete a makerspace form to demonstrate what they have learned, but the end result is all theirs.  Some students are going to love this!  Full creativity!  Woo hoo!  Others may hate it- they, like many adults, want to know how it should look in the end.  This concept teaches all students that failure is a completely ok end result as long as they learned something along the way.  I have a TON of materials ordered for this so as soon as they come in be ready for an amazing update!!!!!

It’s Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Chaos!


It’s the most wonderful time of the year- until you break out the glitter that is!  We have finally finished our mid marking period assessments which leaves us with a little time to get crafty and creative to make some festive gifts for our families.  While most of the year we are working hard on curriculum and data driven instruction, I like to spend our last days before break pretending to be elves!  We sing carols, make gifts and cards, and generally just enjoy being together.  This year it is even more special as we have just completed our unit on how holidays are celebrated around the world.  It is so rewarding to see my students discussing the illustrations they are using on cards and how they relate to something that they do in another country.

For those of you new to our blog, we have been virtually traveling around the world over the last 2 weeks learning about how Christmas is celebrated in many different countries.  We journeyed to Sweden, Finland, Poland, Germany, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy, and the United States.   For each country we located it on the map, learned how to say Merry Christmas, watched a short video showing how families decorate and celebrate, read an informational article, answered some questions related to our research, created a small poster, and listened to each countries holiday music.  Below is our interactive bulletin board we created for this unit as well as a word cloud of all of our new holiday greetings.


holday shape



On Monday night, our third, fourth, and fifth grade students participated in our annual Holiday Concert.  It was a wonderful evening of music, artwork, and community.

FullSizeRender (23)


Another exciting event for our classroom was being nominated for an Eddie (Edublog Award) for best class blog.  I can’t tell you how humbling it is to know that people actually read what we put out on this site!  Thank you to those who nominated us and voted for us!  We will keep you updated as the results come in!




We are Creating Great Things in Room 11!

The month of December is often one that is crazy busy for most people.  It is no different here in Room 11!  The only difference is instead of hitting the crowds and shopping, we are creating, writing, crafting, coding, and working hard each day.  We started off this month by publishing our first official writing piece.  Students worked hard to write about a time they lent a helping hand to someone.  They then met with other students to peer edit their work, met with me to finalize changes that needed to be made, and finally used Microsoft OneDrive to type and share their documents with me.  We are officially authors!

Peer editing notes, Microsoft OneDrive

Peer editing notes, Microsoft OneDrive

After we finished publishing, we set out to travel the world and learn about how holidays are celebrated in other countries.  We are learning about their traditions, foods, songs, and languages.  For each country we visit, we locate it on our map, learn how to say Merry Christmas (or other holiday greetings), and listen to holiday music in their native language.  We were fortunate enough to have a FaceTime with my sister-in-law, Mrs. Phifer, who shared how Christmas is celebrated in Germany.  She read us a story in German, answered our questions, and shared many of her favorite German holiday traditions with us.  Check out the video she made for us to remember our chat:


Our Christmas Around the World Map

Our Christmas Around the World Map

We also did some creative writing and crafting to help decorate our classroom and hallway for the holidays.  While it may all look like fun and games, there was a lot of measuring, writing, proof-reading, and cooperative work going on to create our own Holiday wonderland!


On December 8th, we participated in the Hour of Code.  This yearly coding challenge was created to have students experience working with code (the language of the computer) and learn about careers in the field of computer sciences.  This year my students worked on coding Starwars, Minecraft, Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Disney Infinity, and Flappy Birds.  Students had to use code to create a pattern for their character to move through a maze or complete a task.  They worked on all forms of devices- laptops, desktops, and Ipads.  Check out the link and try it yourself!  It really is a lot of fun and can be modified to challenge even the most experienced coders I know!  Hour of Code


FullSizeRender (20)

FullSizeRender (19)

To finish out our week we will be visiting Spain, Mexico, Sweden, France, Ireland, Poland, and Finland to learn about their traditions.  We will be wrapping up Unit 2 in our Reading series on Friday.  In math we will beginning to explore the idea of division.  We are also preparing for our Holiday Concert on December 14th.

Happy Thanksgiving!


While many are planning their shopping strategies already for the weekend, I’m a firm believer in taking time instead to give thanks for what I have already in my life.  This week is always one of my favorite as a teacher.  Not only do I get to help my students develop an attitude of gratitude through reflection activities and webquests about the first Thanksgiving, but I also get to spend time with parents during our annual parent/teacher conferences.  I really enjoy getting to meet and share the awesome things my students are doing with their parents!

In preparation for our conferences this year I did something a little different.  I found an amazing freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers that helped to make sure that our time in conferences was purposeful. The first image below is a questionnaire I sent home the week before conferences for parents to reflect on how they are seeing their child progress so far this year.  I was very happy to have the majority of my class return these!  This allowed me to have time prior to our assigned conferences to gather resources and materials to best be prepared for our meetings.  The second image below is another freebie find that I used to help me be more focused with my concerns (I tend to be easily distracted during conferences telling parents how awesome their kids are!) :) )  This form is a take away that parents can take home and share with their child.  It breaks down their grades and areas of success and concern in classroom behaviors.  I must say that I did not create either of these forms, so please join me in thanking the lovely ladies who did create them and posted them on TPT for all of us to use!  Thank you!  Clicking on the picture will take you to each of their TPT stores to enjoy these FREE downloads!

Parent Questionnaire

Parent Questionnaire From Zanah McCauley

Teacher Forms to Help with Conference Preparation from More Time 2 teach

Teacher Forms to Help with Conference Preparation from More Time 2 teach

teacher form 2


This week we will be taking a virtual field trip back to the first Thanksgiving courtesy of  This webquest is very well put together and a wonderful resource full of videos and text resources to share with students.  Students love seeing how the pilgrims lived and hearing how they spoke.  As a culminating activity each year, I make hardtack with my class.  Hardtack was a food staple during the passage over on the Mayflower as well as when they first were setting up their settlement here.  The image below is a link to the Scholastic site.

First Thanksgiving Webquest from

First Thanksgiving Webquest from

Hardtack Recipe

Hardtack Recipe

Finally, I would like to leave you with a heart felt thanks for being a part of our classroom!  Below is a link to my annual Thanksgiving video.  Each year I choose a song that has a message of thanks and have students compose visuals to express their gratitude.  This year we worked with hashtags to develop a concept of how hashtags are useful in grouping ideas and concepts.  Please enjoy!  Our song this year is the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Theme.


One Marking Period Down!


We have officially completed our first marking period!  The kids have worked very hard and I am extremely proud of them!  Many times report card distribution day can cause anxiety.  Please don’t panic!  What is especially nice about the first marking period is that report card distribution is in the same week as parent teacher conferences.  I look forward to meeting with each of you and discussing your child’s progress thus far.  I am using a few new forms this year to help make our conference time more focused and better answer any questions or concerns you may have.  Most of you have returned the parent input form that I attached to your conference time letter.  This will better help me to be prepared to answer any questions you have as well as gather any resources that you may need to help your child at home.  When you come to conferences, you will receive a detailed report with your child’s current levels, areas of strength, and areas needing improvement.  I will also keep a copy of this form as I will be updating it every marking period and sending it home with each report card.

This week our school will be participating in our annual Thanksgiving Feast.  This happens to be my FAVORITE school activity!  I love getting the chance to sit down and have “dinner” with my students and share what we are grateful for.  Stay tuned as I will be posting a video of our feast later this week.  Our cafeteria will be preparing all food for this event.  If you would like to help out you may send in canned food items that we will be donating to local families in need.

Due to conferences, all students will have a half day on Friday.  Our dismissal time is 1:45.  Below is our learning goals for this week:


This week we will be working on becoming reading detectives.  We will be reading to find information and draw conclusions.  We will also be working on a fun writing piece this week.  Students will take on the point of view of a turkey and try to persuade us not to eat them.  Below is a presentation reviewing how persuasive writing differs from the writing we have done so far this year.



We will be continuing to learn our multiplication math facts this week.   We will be taking a test on Topic 5 on Tuesday which will cover 0, 1, 2, 5, and 10 times tables.  We will be learning 3’s and 4’s this week.  We will also be making flash cards to take home to practice.  Here is a really neat trick to multiply by 3’s:

Here is a short video to help review 4’s:

Election Day!


This (short) week we will be learning about the election process.  Students will be working in cooperative groups to research different types of leadership around the world as well as the voting process for different countries.  We will spend all morning Monday gathering information and creating a visual to share with the class during presentations on Tuesday.  Be prepared, your kids may be nagging you to go vote on Tuesday (part of my evil plan muhahahahahaha)!

Soap box moment- Please remember to take a few minutes out of your day on Tuesday and vote.  This year we are voting for school board and local elections only.  Voter turn out has been very low in recent years.  These elections are critical to our community as they directly impact our schools, communities, and state.  I take my kids with me each year so that they can see the process.  You are allowed to do this!  There are so many people who have fought so hard for ALL of us to have the RIGHT to VOTE!  It is only right that we honor their struggle by voting.

We have off on Thursday and Friday so that teachers around the state can attend the NJEA conference.  Since it is a shortened week, we will not be starting a new story.  We will also be wrapping up our Topic 4 in math with a test on Tuesday.