Thursday, October 27, 2011

Map and Compass - Science Room News

Why does the needle point north?  What is a direction of travel arrow?  What are the brown squiggly line that are close together and far apart?  Why is the highway symbol red?  These are just some of the questions the students have been asking as we begin our map and compass exploration.  "Map and compass" is a fun and exciting way to teach all kinds of skills, including geometry, geography, reading and interpreting.  The pictures you are seeing are the students learning how to follow a particular direction by using a compass.  Later, during an integration period, these skills will be used in a compass "adventure course", in which the students will follow a course and then make up another course for other students.  And, just in case you were wondering if all the teachers were skilled in compass use, check out the last two photos!  To prepare for our integration, we had a lot of fun having a faculty compass lesson in the science room.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Community Service Project

On Friday, October 21st, the entire lower school spent some of their day working on community service projects. The fifth grade was lucky enough to have their community service project relate to reading. There is a website,, where when you read a story to someone, the website donates a book to someone who can't afford to purchase a book. The fifth graders previewed their choices then went into both PreK rooms to read to the PreK children. What a delight. To watch fifth graders being leaders, sharing stories and then doing something wonderful for the community. The 5th graders and PreK children were having such a good time together, that after reading time was over, the fifth graders asked if they could stay and play with their PreK partner. Then it was time for blocks and dress ups. The 5th graders wanted to go to recess with their new PreK friends, but the schedule intervened.

For me, it was one of those moments, when I wish all of you could be "flies on the wall." When 5th graders are being their best selves. When they're not worrying about what other people think, and when they can enjoy being a big kid and a little kid all at the same time. It's such a gift when time is given for children to enjoy being children.

Don't tell me that math isn't hilarious!

During a recent trip to two Brooklyn Middle Schools that include fifth grade, Anne, Kristan, Mark, Rachel and I talked with the directors about the element of play and whether it continued to be present for fifth graders in their schools. One director told us that he wished there was more play in his school. He meant, not only more recess time, but also more of a sense of play in the classroom. I thought of this conversation last Friday during our math lesson. Here’s Aidan, during math class.

Aidan, Bela, Ben and Celine had counted out twenty green tiles, twenty-five red tiles, and thirty brown before putting them into a paper bag.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s the problem that your fifth grade took home last week: How many tiles do you need to pick out of the bag to be absolutely sure you will get three brown tiles?

Most of your children thought this must be a probability problem, since that’s what we’ve been studying.

Unfortunately, the problem had the words “absolutely sure,”… a concept we labeled “absolutability,” although “certainty” is probably the correct term.

Anne explained that it was very unlikely that you would have to pick forty-eight tiles in order to pick three brown tiles out of the bag, but that “it could happen.”

The children reproduced the problem using three different colored tiles hidden in a paper bag.

Aidan reached into the bag three times, and each time, he picked out a brown. Talk about improbable. He howled with laughter each time he picked out a tile. I was there. I caught it.

We’re determined that delight is something we will protect as fifth grade moves to Middle School. Our mission: to make certain that the odds of delight increase throughout Middle School, not just in fifth grade. We want it to be beyond probable. We want to make “absolutely certain” that this is the case. Jane

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Physical Education G-O-O-O-A-L setting!

We are well into our unit on soccer and we have played some very fun lead up games in this very fun sport! As we develop our skills in dribbling, trapping, and passing the soccer ball with accuracy; our chances for success increase.

We have learned that our passing with the instep/inside of our foot is critical in dribbling/passing accuracy. The topside of our sneakers/shoelaces is the perfect spot for distance kicking of the soccer ball. And if we don't line ourselves up in the direction that we want the ball to go, we know now that our accuracy is not so, well, accurate.

A great game of 2 v 2 soccer was introduced to us in our last class. What fun we had!

Mr. C and Lisa always ask that we just try our best. With that said, we are well on the way to success!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Group Talk

The first round of book groups in fifth grade are well under way with the reading, writing and discussing of three books: Maniac Magee, Sahara Special and Eleven. Anne, Jane, Karolye and myself choose books to lead that we feel a deep connection to and ones that we know will lead to close investigation of literary aspects of a book such as character, theme and setting. In addition we utilize various reading strategies such as questioning, envisioning, connections and noting descriptive writing to elicit deep thinking, lively conversation and ultimately a transfer of skills not only to one's own reading and writing but also to thinking about ways characters deal with challenges in their own lives, that we as readers can think about applying to obstacles we might encounter. The main characters in each of these three books face personal challenges that lend themselves to thinking deeply about identity, family and friendships. We are all off to a great start in connecting our ideas about these characters to examples from the texts. An example of this is from a writing selection from a student reading Eleven. The topic to think and write about was to think about the perspective of one of the characters in the book.
She writes, "On page 102, I sort of understand how Caroline feels about only staying for a few weeks. In my opinion, Caroline has a soft side and a tough side. I can tell by the way tears come into her eyes. I feel sorry for her, because moving around a lot must be a real pain. If this were to happen to me, I would miss my friends and my house. I also think it might be interesting for me the first few times. ..."
This student not only wrote about the perspective of Caroline but also drew connections to her own life. I will continue to write about book groups at various times during the year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Science Opportunities

There is a brand-new exhibit at the Franklin Institute!  CSI:The Experience is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in hand-on science while solving a mystery.  Also check out their exciting Mummies of the World exhibit (Now in it's final weeks) And did you know that 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry?  This year was designated by the United Nations as a global collaboration to celebrate the past, present and future of chemistry.  The Franklin Institute has chemistry experiments and activities to try on their website.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twins. Candy and Water. New Jersey.

What do these things have in common? Wendy Mass, of course!

The 5th grade has been eagerly preparing for Wendy Mass’s upcoming visit (this Friday) by finding information about her on the Internet and reading several of her books (some students got a head start on this last year, when the library was inundated with requests for 11 Birthdays). Today, students pooled their knowledge with teammates in a rousing, raucous, and reader-friendly game of Author Jeopardy. Although some scoring irregularities (cough – sorry!) made it unclear which team “won,” students had a blast, confidently and imaginatively posing questions to match our mysterious and not-so-mysterious answers.

Can’t wait ‘til Friday!

For more information about Wendy Mass (including information about her books, and her own blog), check out her website:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Community Care Contract

We just completed our Community Care Contract for fifth grade this year. Much discussion and thought went into the crafting of this years contract. The sentences, "Is it kind?" and "Does it help build community?" created the largest discussion and debate. It was finally decided that the simplicity of those sentences really did encompass everything we all cared about and everybody's concerns were addressed. So with Quaker-like simplicity we completed our contracts, and they are now hung in our classrooms.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Learning from Writers

Our first read aloud of the year is the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It's the story of a young boy's survival in the Canadian wilderness. Paulsen builds tension through flashback, minute details of Brian's daily life, and sentence fragments. Here's an example of his writing:

Recently children used their weekend sharing to inspire notebook entries. Libby clearly understood the lesson that even the smallest details of everyday life can generate powerful writing. Here's what she wrote.

When I asked her if she could think of anyone whose writing also sounded like this, Libby thought for a while. "It's sort of like Hatchet," she said.

"It is. Can you see how you've used sentence fragments." She didn't realize she'd done that so I asked her about the difference between her words and the way she'd written them: "Hoping to get it out, I twist a little. Nothing except for the side I just loosened. Blood.

and this sentence: I wanted to get my tooth out but there was just blood after I loosened it.

"It's more intense the way I wrote it."


In fifth grade we often encourage children to read "like writers," to think consciously about the choices a writer makes. For many children, the process occurs unconsciously. This is the reason we insist that reading is often the most important work aspiring writers can do. Enjoy your children's writing, and pay attention to the many ways in which their reading is influencing the way they write.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Art News
In fifth grade we jumped right into the art of ancient Greece. For our first project we looked at the “Mask of Agamemnon,” a beautiful gold embossed mask that was discovered in a Mycenaean tomb in 1876. Agamemnon was thought to be the commander of the Greeks in the Trojan War. In order to recreate this look we thought we would do an Aluminum Embossing of our face.We began by placing a photograph of ourselves on top of a piece of aluminum sheet metal and trace it, this left behind an imprint of our face. After which, we placed the piece of metal on a spongy surface and started to push out our different features. We had some funny outcomes in this process, especially if we embossed an area a little too much.

Our next project is going to be a lot of fun; we are creating theatre masks of the different Greek characters..... Stay tuned…