Cultivating Minds Without Losing My Own

Join me on my Adventures in Elementary Education

Weekly Objective September 8-12


This week starts our first full week of the school year!  I hope you are as ready as I am to jump in and learn!  Every Sunday I will post our learning objectives for each subject for the week as well as helpful and informative videos, Power Point presentations, Prezis, or other helpful links to ensure that you have as many resources as possible to help your child be successful.  Before I jump into our objectives for this week, I want to let you know that Thursday, September 11th, we will be wearing red, white, and blue in honor of Patriot Day.  Any student who wears all 3 colors will earn 5 extra credit points on the social studies quiz this week!

patriot day

Language Arts:

This week we will be reading and excerpt from Because of Winn Dixie.  Our vocabulary words for the week are as follows:

Grand, memorial, peculiar, positive, prideful, recall, selecting

Our reading strategy of the week is identifying the sequence, or order of events, in a story.

We will also be using sequencing in our writing lessons this week as we begin writing our first personal narrative.  In grammar we will be working to identify the different types of sentences.

In math this week, we will be spending quite a bit of time reviewing our multiplication tables as well as the properties of multiplication.  In addition we will be beginning to link multiplication to division and working with patterns.

Social Studies:

This week we will be working to learn about the counties of NJ as well as where we are located in our region of the country.  We will also be working on understanding the difference between weather and climate.


We will be reviewing Science Safety this week and creating posters to hang around the room to remind us how to be safe while we conduct experiments!

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy week!  Expect homework assignments for Monday- Thursday nights in the form of a short math worksheet (10 problems covering many areas of math) and a short reading passage with 4-5 comprehension questions.  Also, any classwork that is not completed in class is the student’s responsibility to complete for homework.

No April Fools in Room 11! We are All About Education!


Finally some weather that is somewhat like spring!  This means three things- our schedules are getting busier, our allergies are becoming an issue, and spring fever is on its way!  I am asking for donations of hand sanitizer and soft tissues to help us through the allergy season.  Due to the increase in sneeze related disinfecting our hand sanitizer supplies are dwindling and our poor noses would greatly appreciate softer tissues than our nurse supplies!  I’ll even toss in extra credit points on your child’s lowest test grade to sweeten the deal!  This week’s learning objectives are listed below!  Also please check our our upcoming events on the Important Dates page to the right. Check out our new laptops!  Woo Hoo!



Math:  This week we are reviewing skills to prepare for the next RAC test.  We will be focusing on converting fractions to decimals, line plots, multiplying fractions by a whole number, and solving word problems. 

Language Arts:  We are reading “Encantado” this week, which is a non fiction story about the Amazon River Dolphin.  We will be researching both Amazon River Dolphins and Bottle Nose Dolphins and writing a compare and contrast essay.  The prezi below is one that we will be using to introduce this essay format.

 growth chartScience:  We are learning about plants.  We have studied their life cyles,seedlings photosyntheis, and parts.  We will be reviewing this week along with charting the progress of the seedlings we planted last week.  We were surprised to see seedlings when we came in on Monday!

The Prezi below will help to review for our Plant quiz on Friday!



African American History Month Project


We will be completing an African American History Month research  project this week and next week in class during our afternoons.  Each student will be responsible for researching an African American Inventor, gathering information and creating an info-graphic poster about the inventor and the importance of the invention.  Details about the project can be found in the Powerpoint  presentation below.  Students will be viewing the presentation in class this week, but will have access to review it as necessary. 


We Have Olympics Fever!


 bulletin board The Sochi Olympics are underway and we couldn’t be more excited!  What a wonderful learning opportunity across so many different subjects!  Prior to the Opening Ceremonies, we created a bulletin board to help us keep track of the United States Athletes medals.  Each day we visit the website to update our medal count.  My students are loving adding medals each day!


Another project we have worked on in cooperative groups was to research oneski mt bacon of the countries competing for gold in Sochi.  Each group chose a country from the Sochi2014 website.  Once they had their country, they researched its flag, where it is located in the world, it’s population, what education is like in that country, what they eat there, the climate, and what events they had athletes competing in this year.  Students spent 3 afternoons researching information on our classroom computers and iPads.  Once they gathered their information they created info-graphic posters to display next to our medal count bulletin board.  Students had a blast learning about different countries.  In fact, they had so much fun they didn’t realize they were writing non fiction!

country projectsOne of the things I realized as we were doing our research was that my students lacked background knowledge of many winter sports.  We live in Southern New Jersey which means that mountains and hockey rinks are not very close by.  To help provide some background knowledge of my favorite Winter sport, skiing, I brought my ski equipment in and had the class “ski Mt. Bacon.”  We conducted a photo shoot in which every student put on all the equipment needed for a successful ski run, watched a short instructional ski video, and then took an imaginary run down the mountain.  Students then wrote about their feelings as they took their imaginary run down the slopes. I’m pretty sure I have some future skiers in this group!

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.


Virtual Field Trip to the Plimoth Plantation to Attend the First Thanksgiving


This week we will be taking a trip way back in time to the first Thanksgiving. Ok, I did not develop a time machine (though that would be AMAZING and I would so take a year off to re-examine life choices and visit places I’ve read about ), rather we will be using the amazing site put together by one of my favorite publishers, Scholastic. We will be visiting the settlers and the Wampanoag Native American tribe to learn about life for children at the beginning of our country’s exisistance. Students will be using the information they gather to write their next full length writing piece comparing and contrasting Thanksgiving now with the First Thanksgiving.

Take a peek at the website we will be using curtesy of

Thanksgiving Historical Investigation

In addition to this investigation we will be wrapping up out math topic 10 with a quiz on Tuesday.
Also a reminder that our Attitude of Gratitude journals are due on Wednesday for a Social Studies test grade!


Owl Pellet Day!


Nothing says Monday morning like digging through owl vomit!  Today is the day!  We are finally done virtually dissecting our owl pellets and ready to really dissect one.  We spent the first part of the morning learning how to take proper lab notes.  After expectations were set, we moved on to the dirty stuff! 


We began by simply observing our owl pellet, taking some basic measurements, recording our observations, and sketching in our lab report.

Once that was done, we began pulling the bones out and separating the fur and trash from them.  While we were pulling them apart we matched them to our bone identification chart to begin making a prediction as to what this particular owl meal happened to be.


Finally, once all of our bones were identified, we put our skeletons together and made a decision as to what animal the owl last ate.  In completing this lab, we learned about food chains, ecosystems, skeletal systems, the experimental process, and how to create lab reports.  To quote a student, “This was the coolest experiment all year!”  That’s going to be a tough one to top (good thing I have another eggsperimentallly awesome idea for next week)!

App Spotlight- Splash Math, Nook, C.Collins Interactive Books


Back in November, I wrote a grant for my class to receive 5 iPad Minis.  It was approved and we were ridiculously happy when they were delivered!  We love technology in our classroom, but I am a stickler for ensuring that it is used as an educational toy and not an expensive hi-tech busy work option.  That being said, when our iPads were delivered I carefully selected some apps to get us started.  Many were apps we were already familiar with from the days when I would gather my own personal tablets from our home and bring them in to share with my class.  A few were new and required some learning and getting used to before we could successfully navigate them. 


By far my favorite new app is Splash Math, specifically Grade 4 Splash Math.  While this app is pricey for the iPad at $9.99 it is well worth it for all it delivers.  There is also an iPhone version slightly less expensive at $4.99.  Splash Math allows students to create an avatar, save, track, and email work results to parents/teachers, and work on skills that need remediation based on parent or teacher recommendations. 


 Set up is easy.  Once the student selected their avatar, I input my email address to have weekly progress reports sent to me.  After that was done students are given the option to practice or play games.  Here is the kicker though- they have to practice before they can get to a game level. 



Parents and teachers can assign homework assignments through this app that require the student to work on specific skills before allowing them to work on other areas.  In addition to this all of the skills are also linked to the Common Core State Standards.




This app provides a large amount of data and meaningful practice for students both at home and during school hours.  I use it during math centers to either remediate skills that we have moved on from but still need work or for my advanced students as a way to challenge them with current or new material.  At any time by pressing on the Control Center button, you can get a graph to show the areas the student has been working on, recommendations for areas needing work, and number of problems answered correctly vs. number attempted.  In addition to this information, you can also get an idea as to what grade level the student is currently working at by switching to the grade level screen at the top. 

Overall, I’d have to give this app an overwhelming A++++ for ease of use, student engagement, academic content, and data generated.  Way to go StudyPad!

Another app we use on a daily basis is the Barnes and Noble Nook app.  This app is free to install.  Once installed you can purchase books through the Barnes and Noble website and have them downloaded to the iPads or iPhones.  While time spent reading alone is a great benefit for this app, the real treasure lies in the ability to embed questions into the text.  For any given text, teachers can highlight a keyword and then add a note, questions, prompt, etc for the student to respond to.  This is a wonderful way to model and encourage active reading skills.  Often I will post a note that is just an insight I picked up on while reading that section and encourage students to journal about insights they have had.  Other times, I may highlight a vocabulary word or pose an open ended question I would like answered for that section of the novel. 

Finally, the last app for this spotlight is actually a collection of apps created by Harper Collins Publishers entitled C.Collins Big Cat Story Creators.  These apps provide a model text that students can either read themselves or listen to along with an opportunity to create their own versions of the story using rich graphics and text options.  Once done, they can record themselves reading their new book they’ve written and play it back for others to hear.  This hits so many standards it’s unreal!  In addition to hitting standards, students love listening to and then creating their own stories using this modeled text.

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!


Inspirational People Remind Us to Be Kind To All


Our current read aloud novel is a biography of the amazing Helen Keller.  She has inspired so many by overcoming odds stacked steeply against her to not only live life but live life well.  Helen Keller was born “normal.”  She was born a child with perfect vision and hearing.  Very early in life she became ill and a fever caused brain swelling that took away her sense of sight and hearing.  For a long time she was trapped in a dark, scary, tricky world.  Her parents were able to secure a teacher for her, Annie Sullivan, who unlocked the door to Helen’s world and the rest as they say is history.  Her story has so inspired a few of my students that they wrote the rest of my blog entry for me!  Meet our guest bloggers!

Julianna  is very intrigued by Helen Keller’s story and infact has begun reading her own Helen Keller book at home.

I like the book about Helen Keller because I like learning how she learned how to speak.  I like to see how Annie came up with ways to teach Helen.  I have read about 5 books about Helen Keller.  I have always loved learning about how she learned to do everything she could do.


Tykia shares Julianna’s admiration for Helen Keller and composed the following blog entry:

I like Helen Keller because she’s amazing!  She was deaf and blind.  I feel so bad for her.  Then she learned to speak.  Helen Keller is an awesome girl.  She was blind and deaf and couldn’t talk, but then she learned how to talk.  She is amazing!


Angelita agrees with the other ladies that Helen is simply amazing!

I like Helen Keller because she is interesting to me.  Helen amazes me how she learned to speak.  When she speaks it is not clear, but you can understand her.  She uses her hand to feel what the other person is talking about.  She smiles and makes feelings with her face.  Helen is a great and famous person to learn about. 


We watched the following clip today when we reached the part in her biography where she has learned to speak:


We have had many discussions in class about acceptance of others.  One of my cousins posted a link to an amazing video about the power our words have.  Please take a minute to watch it and speak to your kids about acceptance, bullying, and thoughtful words. 


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