Cultivating Minds Without Losing My Own

Join me on my Adventures in Elementary Education

Extra! Extra! Winning Sugarless Day Poster from Room 11!


Today we celebrated Sugarless Day to Prevent Tooth Decay.  Our 4th grade classes entered posters created in art class in February.  We were visited by members from the Cumberland Dental Association to learn about proper dental hygiene as well as how our nutritional choices play a role in our dental health.  We were all shocked to learn how many teaspoons of sugar an average kid takes in each day- 27 teaspoons!  We will be brainstorming ways to cut that number down and make healthier choices. 

Here is our winning poster by none other than our own Julianna!  We also had the Honorable Mention artist in our class as well.  Congratulations also go out to Cam! 



This afternoon we began looking into our next science experiment.  We will be dissecting owl pellets to learn about food chains, the digestive, and skeletal systems.  After learning that owl pellets are actually the equivalent of owl hair balls, many students were slightly grossed out.  That was quickly remedied, however when we took a listen to the Owl Pellet Song! We also practiced our dissection using the Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection Website.  I’m warning you the song is catchy!


Click on the Owl to find the Virtual Owl Pellet link!

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Weekly Objectives February 25-March 1


Did I really just type March 1st?  Where is the time going?!  This week is going to be filled with experimentation and learning.  We will be having an explosive time with our volcanic vocabulary words, discovering what makes our planet so “magnetsficant”, and using our new learning tools (iPad minis!) to ensure that we are excited and busy all week through.  On a sad note, I will be out one day this week due to a death in the family.  I’m not quite sure which day that will be.  Please review proper substitute behavior and remind your child that we have all agreed to our substitute behavior contract and don’t want to miss out on end of the year activities.

Here are our goals for this week:

Reading:   This week we will be reading about our 2nd inventor, Ben Franklin.  Our focus skills will include summarizing, multiple meaning words, and graphic organizers.  We will also be using our new iPad mini’s to read the novel, Who Was Ben Franklin? and answering embedded questions. 

Vocabulary: Our words this week are about volcanoes.  We will be learning about how they erupt throughout the week.  As a culminating activity on Thursday we will create and eruption!

Grammar:  On Monday we will be taking our unit 3 test on confusing words.  After that we will be starting Unit 4 focusing on subject and object pronouns.

Subject Pronouns: Used as the subject of the sentence- I, you , he, she, it, we, they

Object Pronouns: Pronouns that follow action verbs or prepositions (to, at, for, of, with)- me, you, him, , her, it, us, them

Writing:  We will be conferencing to begin the editing process on our latest portfolios piece about a hobby or activity that we enjoy.

Math: After our Topic 10 test on Monday, we will begin our work with fractions.  Our first step in that process will be to identify multiples and factors of numbers.  This will be our focus for this week. 

Factors- numbers that can be divided evenly into a number.  Example:  The factors of 18 are 1,2,3,6,9,18.  1×18=18 , 2×9=18, 3×6=18

Multiples- numbers that are answers when you multiple the given number.  Example:  The first 5 multiples  of 3 are- 3,6,9,12, and 15

Science: We will be wrapping up our unit on magnets this week.  Our culminating experiment is to discover the largest magnet- Earth!


100th Day, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day (oh my!)


We were very busy little critters last week and it has taken me until today to recover!  Last week we celebrated our 100th day of school with a very special math lesson based on fractions using lots of fun (often edible) manipulatives.   In a ill timed twist of fate, the 100th day also fell on Valentine’s Day.  In order to do both holidays justice, we celebrated Valentine’s day on Friday to coinside with our Jump Rope for Heart fund raiser. 

In addition to all of this fun stuff, we learned about what it is like to be a president.  We spent a day envisioning ourselves in the oval office making some big changes.  Students made executive orders to ban smoking, repair roadways, end littering, end bullying, and create harsher laws for violent crimes.  They earned my votes!



This week’s objectives:

Reading: Students will work on summarizing informational texts.  Be on the lookout for our new book-bags.  This week they will be reading about Thomas Edison each night an completing a reading strategy worksheet.

Grammar: We will be wrapping up our unit on confusing words with the verbs throw and catch (appropriate since this is the start of Phillies preseason 🙂 ).  Test on Friday!

Vocabulary:   Students will be working with science words this week! 

Math: Students will be wrapping up long division this week.  We will be moving up to 4 digit numbers as well as multi-stop word problems.

Science:  We will be making predictions about magnets and testing them out throughout the week.

Social Studies: We will be continuing our work on economics and starting chapter 6 this week.

Weekly Objectives February 11-15


We have a very busy week ahead of us!  If we work hard Monday-Thursday, Friday will be a lot of fun!  We will be participating in Jump Rope For Heart on Friday.  To participate each child must bring in a $5 donation.  Please think about donating to this worthy cause.  Those who are not able to donate fear not!  We will be getting our Yoga on in class to help keep our hearts healthy too.

Friday will also be our Valentine’s Party.  Please check your child’s homework folder on Monday for snack ideas and a list of classmate names.

Thursday is our 100th day of school.  We will be doing a special math lesson and I need your help!  Please fill the baggie that comes home Monday with 100 items that are different.  Examples of items are coins, fruit loops, M and M’s, confetti, etc.  These items will be used to make fractions.

Our learning goals for this week:

Reading:  We will be focusing on cause and effect this week.

Grammar:   We are still working with confusing words!  This week we are focusing on whose and who’s and also articles (a, an, the).

Vocabulary:   This week’s vocab list is VERY short!  There are 5 math terms we will be working with and that’s it!

Writing:  We will be working on beginning our research project on inventors this week.

Math:  We are continuing with division this week.

Science:   Magnets are on the agenda for science.  We will be testing items in the room to see what has magnetic properties.


The Hibschman’s Hedgehogs Visit!


Today we were host to a preschool class from our district who’s mascot happens to be a hedgehog.  They came to meet the other district famous hedgehog, Sophie and learn about how to care for her. 


We had so much fun with our pint-sized friends!  In honor of their visit we had hedgehog donut holes. (thanks Pinterest!)


We made hedgehog take away crafts with our new friends. 


Mrs. Hibschman also shared a hedgehog story with our class to help explain how they came to be known as the hedgehogs. 


Sophie enjoyed meeting her new little friends and was very cooperative.  She let everyone feel her spiky quills and her soft little belly.

My fourth graders did an awesome job helping their new little buddies get to know more about hedgehogs today!  I am so proud of them!


Weekly Objectives February 4-8


Wow!  What a game!  I’m sorry I did not post these objectives last night, but I was loving watching the football game and commercials with my family!  We will be talking about and working with the commercials throughout this week.  Our goal is to take a look at how the advertisers used their power of persuasion to make the ads both entertaining and sell their products at the same time. 

We will also be invaded by some little people on Thursday!  Our preschool names each classroom after an animal.  When I went to the board meeting to accept my Math and Science Mini Grant, the principal of the preschool asked if the hedgehog class could come meet Sophie our new class pet.  We are so looking forward to their visit!  We will be having special hedgehog snacks, working on a hedgehog craft, and of course playing with Sophie!

Reading:This week we are focusing on using information from the text to support our answers to questions.  This skill is difficult and requires a lot of practice.  Each night as your child reads the next chapter in their novel, they will need to answer an open ended question about that chapter.  Please encourage them to give details from the book to support their answers.  I am expecting 3-5 sentence answers for each questions.  The answer should restate the question and answer it, provide details supporting their answer, and relate it to themselves somehow.

Here is an example of a good answer for the question, make a prediction about the next chapter:

I predict that in the next chapter Molly will find her brother.  I think this will happen because in this chapter she learned 3 new clues about where he is hiding.  When she found the last clue, the author said that she heard giggling.  I think the giggling was her brother because when I play hide and seek with my sister, she giggles when I get close to finding her.

Vocabulary:   All of our words this week revolve around the root word care.  We will be looking at how adding prefixes and suffixes change the meaning of the word care.  Our definitions will all be pretty close this week, which means we will need to really study them to find the differences.

Grammar: This week we will be working with the confusing words good/well and doesn’t/don’t.  These words are very often used incorrectly.

Good is an adjective and describes nouns:  That was a good book.  (good describes the book)

Well is an adverb and describes verbs:  I am feeling well, thank you. (well describes how I feel)

Doesn’t is the contraction for does + not.  It is used with singular nouns:  The dog doesn’t know where its home is. (1 dog- use doesn’t)

Don’t is the contraction for do + not.  It is used for plural nouns.   The dogs don’t know how to get home.  (more than one dog- use don’t)

Writing: We will be working on writing figurative language and poetry this week.

Math: This week we will be wrapping up division with remainders.  We will have a test on Thursday.  Please review basic facts (multiplication and division) with your child each night.  There are plenty of free apps that can help with this or you can make your own flashcards!

Science: This week will be wrapping up research on hurricanes and working on our final projects.  We will be making power points, prezis, videos and websites in class based on our research.  We will be sharing our work with the Mr. Krakower’s class in North Jersey.

Social Studies:  We will be taking the week off of Social Studies to focus on our Hurricane project.

Weekly Objectives January 7-11


This week is going to be a very exciting one in room 11.  Monday begins our adventure in hedgehog care!  Sophie was picked up this weekend and is all ready to come in and visit Monday morning.  We are going on our field trip to Drumthwacket, the governor’s residence, next Wednesday.  Please remember to turn in permission slips ASAP!  Below are our learning goals for this week:

Reading: This week we will be focusing on comparing and contrasting different view points as well as topics.  Comparing is telling how 2 things are similar.  Contrasting is telling how they are different.  We will be using a variety of different materials for these lessons including texts and physical objects.

Also during reading centers, I will be finishing up our Fountas and Pinnell Benchmarking.  We do this 3 times a year to check your child’s reading level.  It consists of students reading aloud to me (so I can hear where they are making errors), reading quietly to themselves, and then discussing the information or story they read (so I can check for comprehension.  Once everyone is done, I will be sending home a detailed graph of your child’s progress for this year (or the last 2 years for my friends that looped with me) as well as an explanation of what their level means and how you can help me help them at home.

Grammar: We will be picking up where we left off before break this week and reviewing adjectives and adverbs this week as well as working with prepositions that tell where.  There will be an edmodo quiz on Friday.

Vocabulary: This week our words all begin with the prefixes dis-, fore-, sub-, and under-.  We will be working to both understand what these prefixes mean as well as how they change the definition of the root word.  Check out our Powerful Vocabulary page for a list of the words as well as their definitions.  Our test on Friday focuses on using the words in context, not spelling.

Writing: We will be working on editing and publishing our second portfolio piece this week.  Last week we worked on writing a rough draft of a story about a wish a genie granted us that had to benefit someone other than ourselves.  This week we will peer edit, discuss rough draft score with me, and begin the revising/typing process.

Math: We are working with 2 by 2 multiplication this week.  We will begin using tables and charts to help us organize our work, but by the end of the week the work your child will be doing will look very familiar!

Social Studies: Students will be learning about the history of Drumthwacket this week leading up to our trip next week.  We will be creating time-lines, dissecting the state seal, creating calling cards, and learning about what our governor does each day.

Science: This week we will be working on tweaking our hedgehog habitat as needed and monitoring her health and behavior.  Each day a different students will be reporting in our our blog page about Sophie and what she has been up to that day.  Check out our Hedgie Home Page Link!

Creating A Home for Hedgie


Tomorrow is the day!!!!!  My mother, may daughters, and I are driving to North Jersey to pick up our class pet hedgehog.  Everyone is so excited!  OK, so how did I decide on a hedgehog as a class pet?  Well, we have been spending the bulk of the second marking period learning about animals, life cycles, habitats, and food chains.  Each year our district offers classroom teachers the opportunity to apply for Math and Science mini grants for up to $300.  On a lark, I put together a proposal for the purchase of a hedgehog and supplies to create a habitat for it as a culminating activity for our animal unit.  I never really believed they would actually approve this CRAZY idea.  They did. 

What followed next was a lot of research on our part.  Students researched habitat, feeding, and care needs.  I researched breeders.  We settled on purchasing our hoglet from Jersey Hedgehogs in Union, NJ.  (  My students created the following shopping list for me to build our habitat:

Habitat Shopping List:

Large clear Tupperware container with a lid

Exercise wheel

Hiding Dome

Water Bottle

Food Dish- heavy enough not to be tipped over

Cat toys

Bedding material- fleece so we don’t have to keep buying it,  just wash it

Once I purchased all our materials, we set out about making our habitat for the classroom (I made a separate vacation home for our hedgie at our house for evenings, weekends, and summers).  

 First we needed to drill ventilation holes to keep the cage well ventilated and smelling relatively fresh.  To do this, we heated the plastic using my hair dryer before drilling to prevent cracking and make the drilling a little easier.

 Then we measured two inches from the top and made a series of dots four inches apart where we would drill our holes.

We drilled the holes and smoothed out the surfaces.

Then we drilled four holes in the top of the container to use to help us cut out a top ventilation area that we covered with screen material securing it with hot glue.

Once we  were done, we measured and cut fleece to line the bottom of the cage.  We made 2 coverings to we would always have a clean one to replace the dirty one. 

Finally we positioned the water bottle, food bowl, sleeping dome, wheel, and toys in our habitat to make sure it would all fit nicely.  We even added out current Hedgie mascot to test it out.




Cooperative Learning for Successful Work Stations


Cooperative grouping is a wonderful way to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students. It allows stronger students the opportunity to apply their knowledge by helping others, it provides support for weaker students, and organizes and provides roles so everyone is involved at all times.

In our class we work in small groups daily. Sometimes they are just that. Small groups of students working independently on their own assignments using common materials. For example when we go to our computer center to work on the sum dog website we are all working alone but on the same site in the same area.

At other times we work in small groups that are more collaborative in nature. These groups consist of students working as a team to complete a common task. Each student is assigned a role such as time keeper, recorder, reporter, facilitator, or material handler. All of the roles need to work in tandem to achieve success. This skill is hard to grasp in the beginning if the year therefore it is not often used in our room until the second marking period when classroom rules and expectations are firmly in place.

Each type of grouping has its place in the classroom and provides valuable learning experiences.

An Absolutely Amazing Day


If you asked me how I thought today would turn out at 8:30 this morning, I probably would have told you not too well. It started off as one of those days that less than an hour in you wish you had stayed in bed. Let me give you a picture. I woke up late (ever notice that all bad day stories start with waking up late?). I began making my coffee, loaded the keurig machine, hit start, then realized (as hot coffee hit my toes) that I neglected to put a cup under it to catch my brew! This led to an impromptu kitchen cleaning session. My morning routine (and I am a person whole needs routines in the morning since I am a zombie until at least my third cup of coffee) was shot. We missed my daughters bus and I was 5 minutes late to work. I truly felt like I was going to be in for a pretty crummy day.
And then the greatness began! Upon a check of my mail box I found the normal paperwork along with an inner office envelope. The envelope contained a copy of a mini grant I had applied for with no real hopes if getting. Surprise! I got it! Woo hoo! Our class will be focusing or science habitat study on our new hedgehog! Each year teachers on our district can apply for $300 math and science mini grants. The only real requirement is it has to tie into the math of science curriculum. I proposed purchasing a hoglet and setting up and maintaining its habitat for our class. I really felt we’d be laughed out and told nice try, but they believed in our project. In the very near future you will be meeting our newest classmate.
The day was improving. But it still wasn’t great yet. We started our lessons buzzing with inquiry about hedgehogs and blogging about name choices. Then I got the call. I had applied for a second grant offered by our district to implement technology into the classroom. My proposal was to purchase 5 iPad minis to use as ereaders and for classroom blogging. Once again I never really thought we’d get them. We did! So in our class has gained a class pet and new technology!
If you know me and my luck (or lack there of) today was extraordinary. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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