Cultivating Minds Without Losing My Own

Join me on my Adventures in Elementary Education






This morning my students were visited by Mrs. Mackall and Mrs. Daigle, two of our districts technology instructors, to introduce our class to NJ’s new assessment system the PARCC.

What is the PARCC?

Each year students are given a standardized test in 4th grade.  Prior to this year, the tests were called the NJASK and students took them using pencil and paper.  The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), however, will be taken strictly online.  Students will read passages, answer math problems, and write essays all on the computer.  This is more than a little intimidating.  To help students prepare, they were introduced to the different types of questions and buttons that they will see when they take the assessment in the spring.

What types of questions will they see?

Multiple choice- students will see questions that have multiply choices.  Students who are used to being able to cross off wrong answer choices will still be able to use this strategy.   They will be able to eliminate answers that they know are incorrect using the answer eliminator button on the test screen.  They will then click on the circle of the correct answer to fill it in. (Just like we do each week on our comprehension tests already)

Drag and Drop Questions- for these test questions, students students will select information from one area and slide it into the answer area.  While our weekly tests do not use these types of questions, they are exposed to this through instructional games and websites that we use.

Short Response Questions- for these test questions, students will need to type in responses.  There will be short response questions in both math and language arts test areas.   Students do type essays in class now, but they will definitely need to work on this skill in the coming months.  Students need to remember not to bold, underline, or highlight the text.  This will result in the answer being scored incorrectly.  There is no spell check on PARCC.  Also, NO TEXT TYPING!  Spell out the words!  (no lol, u, r, brb).  For the math short response questions, students will be given a set of icons to click on to show division symbols and whatnot.

Multiple Answer Questions- Some questions require students to select more than one correct answer.  (For example:  Select two of the details from the article from those below.)  Students must click on more than one correct choice for these questions.  These questions do look slightly different.  They have square answer choices instead of circle answer choices.  Students MUST follow the directions and select the number they are asked to find.

Drop Down Menu Questions- students will select the correct answer from choices in a drop down menu.

Shade in the Area Questions- students will select the areas to be shaded and the box or shape will change color

What tools will they be given to use?

In the math section there will be online rulers, protractors, and calculators that students can use in designated sections.

Students are also given scrap paper in both sections of the test- to plan out work in language arts and to use as scrap paper in the math sections.

At the end of each section, students are encouraged to click the review button to ensure that they have completed all of the questions in that section.  Once they hit the submit button, they will not be able to go back to make any changes.  As students take the test, they can also “flag” questions that they would like to remember to go back to and finish later.  These flagged questions will also appear in the review section.

Students will not be able to open other websites or tools on the computer as they take the test.  If they do they will be kicked out of the test site.  This would not be good!!!!!!

How am I preparing your child in class?

Thankfully, our text books offer an online test option for both math and language arts tests.  While this will help familiarize the kids with reading texts and questions online as well as answering the multiple choice questions, it does not help with the other questions types.  To help prepare my students in class we will be utilizing practice tests and games to help us practice answering the other questions types.  We also type frequently in class.  All of our essays are typed before they are submitted for a final grade.  We will be increasing our typing opportunities through the use of some typing websites.  Our social studies  tests do require some on line short response questions to help them prepare as well.

How can YOU help prepare your child?

Visit the district PARCC informational website and review the material with your child at as well as visit the new PARCC resources page on our blog.

Offer your child the opportunity to log in to custom typing at home to practice typing skills.   They can also practice typing on your tablet or computer for fun.  They can even type homework if they want!  Encourage your child to text you in complete words so that they get out of the “text talk” habit.  Call me if you have questions!

This is new for all of us.  I got a TON of useful information from today’s session.  The website above gives games that will help students prepare as well as sample test questions for both you and your child to review.

Veteran’s Day Project Plans and Weekly Objectives November 10-14


I can very honestly say that I can’t wait to return to work with my kiddos tomorrow and get away from the germs that plagued my home THE ENTIRE LONG WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!  At last count 4 out of 5 people in my home have been sick in the last week with a very unfun virus that left us stranded on the couch vegging out and watching movies.  Hopefully the return to routine will mean the return to health for me and my poor kids!

Last week we had a very short, very productive week.  We learned about the election process, became “registered voters” and elected a class president in a mock election.  Take a peek at what the kids learned as they reflected on the lesson below:



This week we will continue on our project filled November by learning about Veteran’s Day and Remembrance Day.  Students will be taking a virtual field trip to the Tower of London in England on Monday as they celebrate its 100th anniversary.  We will be analyzing memorials from our country as well as England, poetry, and non fiction text to learn more about why people create memorials.  We will be taking a second virtual field trip on Tuesday to visit the war memorials in Washington D.C.   After we explore the different memorials and compare their symbols, students will work cooperatively in groups to create their own memorial for our veterans.  Stay tuned for pictures next week of our hallway display.  Links to the twp virtual trips are below.  The first is offered through Discovery Education UK and the second is a video I shot on a trip to D.C. with my daughter, Madison, a few years ago.

Discovery Education Website

Mrs. Sinone’s Veterans Day short video:

We will also be participating in World Run Day on Tuesday afternoon.  Be sure to wear your sneakers!

world run day



This week we will be completing our 1st marking period benchmark assessment on Monday.  Later this week we will be working on using arrays and expanded algorithms (ways) to multiply 2 digit numbers.  See below for some video resources to help you at home.  This is a new way to do this and it is easier to help your child if you “see” it.

Please check out our Important Dates Page as this month is PACKED with important dates to remember.  I will be sending home conference reminder sheets on Monday of this week.   I will be out of the building on Wednesday as I work with the principals at the Senior High and Lakeside to gain some experience and interview them for my NJEXCEL principal program.  As always, I know my class will be in good hands with one of our substitutes.

Weekly Learning Goals and Tools Oct. 6-9




Brrrrrrrr!  I am sitting in front of a fire as I type this!  Fall is definitely making its presence felt today!  Don’t worry, however, because we will be learning so much this week we will work up a sweat!  This week we begin our month of Respect.  Over the weekend, you had a chance to review our school’s bullying information and sign our anti-bullying contract with your child.  We take this very seriously at RM Bacon!  Ms. Spanbauer will be in this week to speak with the class about respect and get us started on an activity that we will complete as a whole 4th grade class.   There is NO SCHOOL ON FRIDAY due to a teacher inservice day.  Enjoy your day off!


This week we will be working with determining main idea and supporting details.  We will also be starting our first novel for the year, The Chocolate Touch.

Vocab words for the week:  glacier, impressive, naturalist, preserve, slopes, species, wilderness

The Chocolate Touch Chapters 1-3 will be covered this week.



This week we will be working with Multiplying by Multiples of 10 and 100 as well as breaking apart 2 digit numbers to find the product.  The prezi below may be helpful to reinforce what we are doing in class.


We are working on our first book this week.  By the end of next week all of my students will be published authors!  We used the model text The Diary of a Fly as a guide and we all came up with our own versions of “The Diary of a Spider.”  Be sure to stop by the third floor hallway and read our creations next week!


We are finishing our study of ecosystems by creating poster representations of the 5 major ecosystems in the USA.



Welcome October- Learning Goals and Tools for Sept. 29th-Oct. 3rd




Wow!  Where did September go?  This week begins October and as the image above states, we are going to make it AWESOME!!!!!!!  Last week, I spent some time in the evenings learning about the website and taking some tutorials online to become Flip Classroom Certified.

flipped classroom 2

What is a flipped classroom?  Does that mean I am now teaching gymnastics?  No gymnastics lessons (although back in the day I had a killer back handspring- just saying), but rather a way to have students learn the lesson for homework so that when they are in class with me they can apply the skills rather than sit through a lecture.  Starting Monday, I will be assigning a flipped assignment each night.  Students will need access to a computer, tablet, ipod touch, smart phone, or any other device that has internet connectivity.  If you do not have internet access at home, don’t fret!  Students can also look at the lesson in class if necessary.  They will watch a short video or view a website or presentation about a concept.  Once they are done, they will take a short quiz online.  I will look at the quiz results first thing in the morning or as soon as they finish for those who don’t have internet at home (they are graded on completion not how they scored as they can retake the quiz as many times as necessary to pass it- so it’s either a 100 or a 0).

flipped classroom


For students who got the concept quickly and are ready to move on, I will assign them the practice sheet to complete independently and then they will work on an enrichment lesson.  For those, who got it but still have a few questions, we will meet in a small group to clarify what needs working on and then they will move on to the independent practice sheet.  For those students who are really struggling, we will meet and I will reteach the lesson and we will complete a guided practice sheet together before they move on to working independently.  I am really excited to see how this works!  All students have their Sophia log-in information and we have practiced in class a number of times last week.  If you have any questions or encounter problems, please do not hesitate to email me at

This weeks learning goals and tools:


This week will be reviewing author’s purpose.  This is a concept we covered a few weeks ago, so at the end of this week we will be having a short quiz to check for mastery.  We are also working on combining simple sentences into compound sentences.  For example:

The dog was very tired.  It had been running all  morning.  = The dog was very tired because it had been running all morning.

Vocabulary  Words for the Week: bargain, favor, lassoed, offended, prairie, riverbed, shrieked



This week we are wrapping up our review of addition and subtraction.

Examples of regrouping when adding three digit numbers:

Regrouping twice when subtracting three digit numbers:


Last week we learned about the elements of an ecosystem.  This week we are going to focus on the ecosystems in the United States.  Students will learn about them via a Sophia tutorial and then use the information they’ve gained through taking notes to create a Ecosystems of the USA poster.  Check back next week to see our work!


Easing Test Anxiety- Tips to Help Your Child Feel Prepared and Stress Free on Test Days


It’s that time of year again- NJASK time.  We will be testing from Monday, May 12th to Friday, May 16th.  The first two days will be focused on Language Arts, the second two days on Math, and the final day on Science.  While this one week out of the entire year really shouldn’t get the fanfare that it does as it is only one of MANY ways students are assessed each year, it still manages to cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for many (teachers too!).  There are many things you can do at home to help prepare your child for the test each day.  Below are a few easy tips to help make next week less stressful!

Tip #1- Get a Good Night’s Sleep!

good sleep


As if testing and sitting still for the morning isn’t hard enough, imagine doing that while tired!  Try to get between 7-8 hours of sleep the night before the test.  Wake up on time so that you don’t feel rushed or panicked as you start your day.

Tip #2- Eat a Healthy Breakfast!

healthy breakfast

Try to avoid sugary cereals or treats in the morning.  The sugar may give you energy initially, but it will cause you to tire out quickly!  Also, try not to eat too large of a breakfast if you are not used to that.  We don’t want to have to worry about a sore stomach while we are giving our brain a workout!

Tip #3- Wear Comfortable Clothes!

comfy clothes

Make sure you keep an eye on the weather report and dress appropriately.  You don’t want to be too hot or too cold.  You can bring a lightweight hoodie to wear if you think you will be chilly, but you will not be permitted to wear heavy coats.  Also, remember you will be sitting for the majority of the morning.  Wear clothes that will be comfortable around the waist.  I suggest sweats or elastic waist bottoms and loose, comfortable fitting tops.

Tip #4- Don’t Spend Too Much Time on Any One Problem

time management

Pace yourself!  If you begin to get frustrated with a question, skip it and come back to it if time allows.

Tip #5- Use ALL of the Time Given!

keep writing

Remember if you finish early to go back and check your work.  Did you use the Writer’s Checklist?  Did you answer every question?  Did you record your answers in the correct spot?  Can you add anything to your written responses or open ended questions?


try your best

Remember this is just one test!  You’ve learned everything you need to complete this throughout the year.  Your teachers are rooting for you!  WE KNOW YOU CAN DO THIS!

As parents we often feel helpless during test week.  Please keep a positive attitude and encourage your child to try their best as that’s all they can do!  Also, when your child comes home,  if the weather  and your schedule allow, please give them some down time to decompress!  Let them play!  I will not be assigning homework at all next week as we are working super hard all day.  We will be working a fun science activity in the afternoons- dissecting owl pellets!  If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your child’s teacher!


Fabulous Fables, Particular Patterns, Much Ado About Matter- Weekly Objectives January 13-17


the horned toad prince  This week is going to be spectacular, I just know it!  We are going to have good weather (fingers crossed), work hard, and great attitudes.  I am so excited to start our next unit in Language Arts- Fables, Folktales, Tall Tales, and Mythology.  It is definitely one of my favorite each year because we can get VERY creative.  We will be writing our own fables, acting out fables we read, and looking for common threads among all of the stories in this unit.  We will also be starting a new weekly assignment for Language Arts homework.  Instead of a worksheet assignment each night, students will be assigned a short story, play, or article to read all week and given a packet of worksheets on Monday that are do back to me completed by Friday.  Don’t fret however if your child loses his or her magazine or packet, I will post a link that will allow you to print out the article to read (or in some cases you will be able to listen to it on line) as well as the worksheets he or she will need to complete.  This week we are reading “Yeh Shen.”  The link to the Play and the worksheets is here:  Yeh Shen Homework Due Friday!  Below are our learning objectives and video links for this week.


We will be completing our unit on Patterns this week.  We are working with patterns in tables as well as geometric patterns.  We will be having a test on Friday covering all of Topic 2.  Your child can review for this test by logging into the PearsonSuccessNet website and reviewing the week’s lessons as well as play some review games.  Click on the link below for another review site.

 Pattern Review Website


As mentioned above we will be beginning our study of fables this week.  One of the most famous author of fables was Aesop.  Below is a link to help you identify key elements of fables.



This week we will be wrapping up our unit on matter.  We will be writing our own non fiction books about matter to help us review prior to our test on Friday.  Here is a video to help reinforce the three states of matter.


Holy Icicles, Batman!


BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!  It is cold out there!  I was happy to see all my little snowboys and girls made it in today and were nicely bundled up.  Welcome back to school after our slightly extended winter break.  I hope everyone enjoyed their time off.  I know I did!  This week we will be saying good by to the old by wrapping up our Model Curriculum Unit 2 Assessments and hello to the new by welcoming a new student and a new science unit!  Please take a peek at our weekly goals and lesson reviews below:


This week we will be exploring patterns in numbers, shapes, and pictures.  We will be getting a bit crafty and creating patterns out of pictures called tessellations as well to help brighten our dreary winter hallways.  Learn more about tessellations below:



Since we do not have a full week of reading time to work with due to Unit 2 Testing, we will be using the Storyworks magazine to help us learn how to find information in short articles, use the pictures, and deal with new vocabulary words.  Click on the link below to view copies of the articles, listen to the audio versions of the stories, and access selected videos that help to develop the concepts.

Storyworks Magazine


This week we will begin our investigation into the States of Matter.  We will be conducting a number of short experiments to help demonstrate each of the states of matter as well as working with our groups to complete some activities to help us with our understanding of this concept.  We will all be the authors of our first Non-Fiction books by the end of next week.  Be on the lookout for more information about that.  In the meantime, here is a short video to help you review the states of matter:


The Weather Outside is Frightful, but the Learning in Room 11 is So Delightful!


blog pic snowI hope you all enjoyed our first snowfall of the season!  I know my kids did!  We even got to go horseback riding in the snow!  While that was a pretty cool way to end the weekend, I’m afraid I may be suffering for the next few days with a nasty cold.  Don’t worry though, I will be here for the awesome activities planned this week!  For a preview of what we are going to be learning this week take a peek at our objectives below!




This week we will be continuing our work with fractions by comparing and ordering them on a number line.  Please take a peek at the video below to help preview or review this topic as it can be a bit tricky.


Ordering fractions: Finding common denominators of multiple fractions to order them


We will be continuing our novel study of The Chocolate Touch this week.  In centers we will be defining new words, answering open ended questions, and comparing and contrasting the plot in The Chocolate Touch to that of King Midas and the Golden Touch.

Monday- Chapter 6  (Quiz Monday afternoon on Chapters 4-6)


Tuesday- Chapter 7


Wednesday- Chapter 8


Thursday- Chapter 9 ( I will upload this chapter when I get my voice back!  By the end of Chapter 8 I was barely whispering!)  Quiz Thursday afternoon on Chapters 7-9

Friday- Chapter 10 ( I will upload this chapter when I get my voice back!)

Also on Thursday and Friday I have built time into our schedule for students to work on their projects in class if necessary in the afternoons.

Finally we are going to sneak in some writing into a creative project this week!  Students will be applying to be elves in Santa’s workshop.  As part of the process they will need to fill out an application, prove creativity by designing a new toy, pass a math test by calculating the 12 Days of Christmas costs, and persuade Santa with a letter.  The Prezi below will help students to write a good perusasive letter.


Unit 1 is Complete!!!!! Moving on to Unit 2. Weekly Objectives 10/21-10/25


We survived our first round of Model Assessments.  My students were assessed on both math and language arts skills that we have covered from the first week of school until last Friday.  I have to say they worked very hard and the data I received will help to guide my instruction for the coming unit.  We do have some areas that we will continue to review from Unit 1, but we need to shift our focus forward to Unit 2.  Please see our learning goals and lessons to support learning below:


This week we will be extending on our multiplication knowledge and working with multiples of 10 and 100.  Students will be looking for patterns and simpler problems to solve to help them with this concept.  For example:  5 x 200= 5 x 2 first and then add 2 zeros to the end of the answer  5 x 2= 10   add 2 zeros= 1000. 

Multiplying by multiples of 10:



We will be wrapping up our investigation with magnets this week.  So far we have experimented with what magnets stick to, whether magnets work underwater, whether magnets work through other materials such as a box, and researched industrial uses for magnets.  Students will have an oportunity to revisit these experiments this week and will be quizzed on magnets and their properties on Friday.  Please review the video below.



We will be combining reading and social studies for the next few weeks as we begin our study of the genre (type), Historical Non-Fiction.  Throughout our study of this genre we will be looking at identifying cause and effect, working with first and second hand accounts of historical events, and comparing and contrasting  life in the past to life today.

This website offers a great explanation and practice with Cause and Effect.

Another great tutorial with practice, this time for Compare and Contrast.

Here is a Prezi on First and Second Hand Accounts.


Weekly Objectives for 10/15-10/18


Columbus DayI hope you all had a nice, relaxing long weekend!  We were off to celebrate the birthday of the man credited with “discovering” our country.  While America was not his intended destination, I think we can all agree that his landing here was a happy mistake for us!  This week is jam packed with both new learning experiences as well as a review session for what we have learned already this year in preparation for our first Model Assessment.  We will take an assessment every 5-6 weeks this year to help me better analyze where we are, where we are going, and what we need to review.  While I’m sure the kids as well as myself are not looking forward to all this testing, it will give me valuable information as to what is working and what we can improve on.  It will also be useful to you as parents to guage how well your child is progressing throughout the year.  I will send home a detailed report once all tests have been scored and analyzed.  Look for a reading level report this week.  I have completed our first round of Fountas and Pinnell testing (the benchmark assessment we use to assess a child’s reading level) and have created personalized graphs and suggestion sheets for each child.  Use this information when selecting books from our class book orders, school book fairs, or when selecting books from the library to help you child build reading and vocabulary mileage. 


This week we will be focusing our efforts on learning the basics of division.  In addition to division we will be reviewing all of the math concepts we have encountered so far.  Please feel free to go back through previous posts to find areas your child seemed to struggle with and review the videos and lessons.  This video is a great introduction to division.


Introduction to Division

More math videos on Division at  



This week we will be continuing our work with comparing and contrasting characters and elements of stories.  In addition to that we will be reviewing the types of sentences as well as subjects and predicates.  Instead of starting a whole new story in this short week and rushing things, we will be studying a few poems.  The first is “The Landlord’s Tale; Paul Revere’s Ride” and the second is “The Village Blacksmith.”  Both poems are by the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  We will be studying how poems are organized differently then prose stories as well as the rhyme patterns within each poem.   Below are readings of each of the poems. 

“The Landlord’s Tale: Paul Revere’s Ride”


“The Village Blacksmith”


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