Newsletter 23 – 3/9/18

Weekly Highlights

We had a great week – we started working on a community project, a classroom almanac.

We had our final geography quiz, and were amazed with kids’ reaching their goals! Most kids were able to take a photo of their quiz and put it on Fresh Grade, and we will follow up with a post after break.

We also spent a tremendous amount of time writing two perspective poems. These poems were focused on bullying-related situations that have come up in our classroom as well as some from other schools. Considering that two distinct characters with unique & empathetic perspectives needed to be heard, students spent 2 workshop sessions crafting their poetry.

Lastly, we worked on a timeline related to Black History. Students read through a timeline with some teacher support and reflected on 6-10 events using the words: justice, power, empowerment, and access. We used a clip from Cars 3 to frame some ideas related to oppression and privilege.


You can find the James and the Giant Peach music here. We are going to ask that for “homework” over spring break, kids finish memorizing their lines & lyrics – we will have about 3 weeks until show time when we get back.

5/6 show, “James and the Giant Peach”- Tuesday, April 17 at 6pm (Hopes line) and 7:15pm (Dreams line) at the Ivy-Tech Waldron stage.

Snack schedule:

Last names Allen-Crouch – 4/16, 5/14
Last names Daniels-Lawson – 3/26, 4/23
Last names Leinenbach-Port – 4/2, 4/30
Last names Pulley-Wright  4/9, 5/7

Please remember that you can order from scholastic to support our next round of book clubs!!!

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home

  • How did you feel about the process and your progress on the Africa country quiz?
  • What can you share with me about Black History?
  • What was the poem you wrote that you felt most proud of?
  • What did your peers & classmates say your strengths were? What do you think your strengths are?

Newsletter 22 – 3/3/18

Weekly Highlights

Families… THANK YOU!! Our students were showered with gum, mints, and snacks this week. It helped them (and us) make the most of our testing experience. Most students have finished this first round of tests, which focused on writing responses to reading, math, and social studies (5th) or science (6th) prompts. While these tests changed our normal schedule this week, students were focused and did their best. We are excited to return to a more normal schedule next week. Students who still have to finish a test will do so early next week.

Poetry has been our other big focus. We are so amazed by the poetry that your children are creating! Early in the week we talked about emotions and how they guide us in poetry. Kids were asked to write a poem about an emotion without naming the emotion. We talked about four styles that they can use during this unit – free verse, narrative poetry, haiku, and odes. On Thursday, students were given a photo from 2016-2018 tied to movements/justice. They were asked to write two poems from two perspectives (or a two perspective poem) each with different emotional qualities. On Friday, kids posted their favorite poem so far to Fresh Grade. All of their poems are in a google doc attached to their profile in google classroom if you hope to read more.


Africa Country Quiz – This Wednesday!
Our final quiz of all the African countries is this Wednesday.  After two trial quizzes, students worked with a teacher to set a CHALLENGING goal. They’ve been working hard in class to stretch their brains.  Memorizing isn’t something we ask students to do often, but we think it’s an important skill and, more importantly, it’s helping them be better citizens of the world. While not all students will memorize where every African country is, they DO know what those countries are, so when they hear about them elsewhere, will know what part of the world to add to their thinking.
Please consider ordering through Scholastic Clubs for our class. Even though other online retailers take a lot less time, when you order from Scholastic, our class gets points and we are able to spend them on new books. While we rely on our local library and individual grants to supply our classroom with diverse and relevant texts, sometimes we need to get a whole bunch of the same thing and that’s when Scholastic comes in handy. We will be placing an order over Spring Break, and you can check out our wish list too! Our online ordering code is: LVRCJ
This week for homework, we are going to ask that students read for two hours and write a summary (on Fresh Grade or on paper) that shares the gist of what they read.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home:

  • Which ISTEP+ was your most/least favorite?
  • What hobby did you you share with the class last week in CPR (morning meeting)?
  • Who was Audrey Faye Hendricks? (She was one of the children arrested during the Birmingham Children’s March. She was only 9! We learned about her this week from one of our Black History Month Read Alouds.)
  • How are you feeling about the poetry unit so far?

Newsletter 21 – 2/23/18

Weekly Highlights

This week we did some work getting ready for ISTEP+ testing. We took most of our practice tests as a big group as well as students that test individually & in smaller groups. We will begin actual ISTEP testing on Monday. Here are a few things to keep in mind with testing:

  • Establish an early bedtime routine, to ensure your child/children receives at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Remove distractions from their bedroom to ensure they have an uninterrupted sleep.
  • We are completing the “constructed response” section of ISTEP.  This section of the exam will ask students to respond to open-ended questions.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast before school.
  • Be positive about the test! Don’t put undue pressure on your child’s performance.
  • Reassure your child, let them know that they just need to do their best.
  • Any appointments that are scheduled in the mornings are likely to impact student testing and makeups. If you have an appointment that you are unable to cancel, please let us know as soon as possible.
  • There are 3 subjects tested per each grade and 4 sections -ELA (2 sections), Math, and Social Studies/Science (5th/6th)

We used the image of a pie chart to talk about how to plan out the testing sessions. All of our testing this year is online, so we familiarized ourselves with the testing screen, buttons, etc.

To balance the structure of ISTEP, we worked on our Invitations topics during our P3 time. We also worked on a launching experience for our new writing unit.


We are in need of gum (sugar free), mints (lifesavers, preferably) and pencils. The mints/gum are for ISTEP testing sessions. Pencils, we have somehow run out of! If you are able to bring any of these items in, please let Ms. Kalei know!

We sent homework bingo home with kids on Monday. We are hoping they will bring it back by March 2. We also have a geography quiz scheduled for the week of March 5th. Your child has set their own goals for this quiz, and most have their first quiz grades posted on Fresh Grade.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home:

  • On Friday, you completed a challenge during your Fresh Grade time – what was it? [cuing words: drawing a picture, robots]
  • How did you feel about the pie-chart structure for ISTEP – do you think you’ll use it? How will it be helpful?
  • What is an injustice you’ve found in your Invitations study? How was power involved?


Newsletter 20 – 2/17/18

Weekly Highlights

Sorry for our delays in posting – all three of us have been struck down by varying illnesses…hoping you and your kiddos are feeling happy & healthy.
Last week – students completed their biography projects! They have adorned their cubbies outside our classroom with “busts” of Change-Makers – people who saw an injustice and worked to make our world more just and better for everyone.
This week – students began another round of Invitations. The invitations have continued to focus on social justice movements that have sought to increase access to power and opportunity to those who have been kept from it. This round, students chose one of the following groups:
  • Anti-War Movements
  • Zero Tolerance & Violence at School
  • Civil Rights & Racial Stereotypes
  • Land, Sea, Air – Environmental Movements
  • LGBTQ+
  • #metoo & Women’s Rights
Last week – students studied and wrote about how the setting of the story impacts the mood of a story.
This week – students studied and wrote about how authors develop characters through various ways in a story.
Last week – students continued to push themselves to memorize more African countries with the hopes they see Africa as a place that is MORE than just a continent.
This week – students took another quiz to see how much they improved. We will have them set a new goal based on how they did and do one final push to memorize more countries than they ever thought they could!!
Last week – most students started a new spelling group.
This week – students continued work in their spelling groups to recognize spelling patterns that continue to give them (or their teachers and parents…) headaches.


We have no school on Monday (Feb 19th). If you did not get a request for a winter conference and would like to have one, please email us. We are more than willing to meet with you to discuss the progress of your child.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home:

  • What have you learned about linking evidence to text?
  • What invitations did you choose and why?
  • How are justice and power connected?
  • How have your classroom “habits” changed throughout the year [we did a survey about this on Friday]? What do you think are strengths and goals for you in the classroom?

Newsletter 19 – 2/4/18

Weekly Highlights

We dug into analysis of our short stories (that students read for homework) this week. We did some work around theme – the lesson of a story. We studied how to find textual evidence to support the themes we generated. In small groups, students met to discuss themes of their stories after trying it out on their own. We also had a really lovely discussion of our favorite childhood books (The Hungry Caterpillar was very popular!).


This week we worked to finish the illustrations that we created for our Books and Beyond project. We are in our final stages of publishing these pieces and sending them off to be compiled in a book! We will be sending home a release form for your child’s name and photograph to be in the book. Since most of the work is done as a group, your child’s group’s work will appear in the book, but details related to them do not have to. Please return this permission slip by Friday this week!

We are also tying up our biography projects, which you may have started to see in the cubbies right outside our classroom. The projects that haven’t been completed yet will get sent home as a part of homework this week.

Mr. Chris gave out roles for our play James and the Giant Peach. Our play will be April 17th – so we have a few months to rehearse and learn the lines, lyrics & choreography. We will be practicing whole class numbers throughout the school day – the songs are so good!

We’ve been studying the countries of Africa, and students are setting their own goals for learning the names of these countries. We are doing a “quiz” type piece on Fridays, and students try and add to their goals. You can find out how many countries your child hopes to learn on Fresh Grade.


  • If your child has completed their biography, they will have two short stories and a writing piece for homework this week.
  • If your child has not completed their biography, they will have one short story and their biography project to finish at home.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home:

  • How did your Africa Country Challenge Quiz go this week?
  • What social risks did you take this week? How did the “big circle” for morning meeting go?
  • What was the short story work like? Did you feel prepared after reading the stories for homework?
  • What did you do to help your Books & Beyond team?

Newsletter 18 – 1/26/18

Weekly Highlights

This week we worked on three major projects and focused a lot on turning in work. Make sure you are able to access your child’s Fresh Grade portfolio (we can re-send invitations if you need them) so that you can track what they are/aren’t turning in as well.

Many students got to work on the drafts for their Books & Beyond stories. We have a variety of pieces all following the theme of “firsts:” loosing a tooth, making a friend, going to the playground, etc. Students identified themselves as primary authors or illustrators and the authors focused on drafting.

Primary illustrators worked to finish their biography busts, which you will start to see in the hallways toward the end of the week. Students used a graphic organizer to collect facts, quotes, and a symbol to represent their biography subject. Next week, we’ll reverse roles, so the illustrators will be working on creating the drawings that go with their stories and authors will complete biography projects.

Our last big piece this week was working on our invitations. We’ve been studying a variety of topics through invitations, all connected to the theme of “movements.” Invitations is an inquiry-based model, where students are given a variety of resources to deepen their context, foster their curiosity through conversations with their peers. Since this experience is so much based on the groups discussions, it’s really difficult to summarize all the incredible work that has been going on. Here are a few things that were shared with the whole class:

  • “As we were studying [women’s rights], it was sad to see how protesting has happened but there are still issues and every time there is change there is still so much that has to change…”
  • “I wondered about what people would think if they traveled from the past. I wonder what people in the future think about us right now.”
  • “We read about child labor. There was a kid who worked in a coal mine all day and made something like 75 cents a week. He was five.”
  • “There was an AIDS crisis. The government didn’t respond at first but I am not sure why.”
  • “There is so much plastic floating in the ocean.”
  • “We didn’t realize how much genocide is still happening. It seemed like something that had happened in the past but it is still going on today.”
  • “We looked at maps and found that the closer a country is to the equator, the more likely they are to have child labor happening.”


We have updated our virtual learning plans. In the case that we have more snow days, ice days, inclement weather days, etc., you can find our plans here. We will send home paper copies this week.

Our homework structure will be the same as last week. On Monday, your child will be assigned two short stories and a writing assignment to complete about one. The reading and writing pieces will be due on Friday.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home:

  •  What invitations have you been participating in?
  • What is a thick question you have been pursuing during invitations time? What is something you’ve learned?
  • What role do you have for your Books & Beyond story? What work did you do this week?

Newsletter 17 – 1/21/18

Weekly Highlights

This week we wrapped up editing on our persuasive narratives. If you are curious to see these pieces, you can check them out with your child by asking them to log into Google Classroom – we have been using this platform to organize all the student work that is produced digitally in our class.

We also started a quick turnaround project that we intended to complete over MLK day. We are making busts (think of the brass sculptures of famous and/or celebrated figures in history) of people that have made lasting social change. We assigned students a person to read about (a lot of biographies were pulled from the two books pictured below) and they are going to be creating a visual piece that you’ll be able to see in our hallways in the next week or so!

We also started our work with Books and Beyond. Books & Beyond is an IU foundation that works to promote English literacy in a primary school in Rwanda. Our class is writing stories that will be published in a volume that will be sent over the summer to this school. We started brainstorming ideas this week for what our stories will be.


-This week, students will bring home short stories to read as homework. They will have hard copies and we will try to make them digitally accessible through Google Classroom if possible. We will use these stories the following week in our next literacy unit (which will focus on short story analysis).

-We are seeking donations for any bar-stool type seats that you may have lingering around in your basement or garage. We are trying to increase the diversity of types of power spots available in our classroom. Please let me, John, & Rebecca know if you have any that you’re willing to donate.

Questions to Ask Your Child at Home

  • What invitations did you choose for your study in P3? Why did you pick that invitations?
  • What story is your group going to write for Books and Beyond?
  • Who are you reading a biography about? What have you learned about them?