Newsletter 30 – 4/25/14


The 5th graders are so excited about the trip to the Sycamore Land Trust. The 5th graders will be out for 3 hours, not including travelling. The 4th graders will be staying at the school and having fun with Ms. Kalei! Parents of 5th graders,you MUST REMEMBER TO SIGN THE PERMISSION SLIP, so that they can go and learn about nature. We sent an email home earlier this week. Please let us know if you need another permissions slip!


In P3 we are doing ENGINEERING SCIENCE! (As you know.) We made…

  • Marshmallow and toothpick towers. (Monday, last week)
  • Paper columns made to hold up 7-14 composition notebooks.    (Tuesday, last week)
  • Structures that hold marbles for 15 sec. They are made of limited materials and have requirements. We were able to get 10 different materials (Tuesday/Wednesday, this week)
  • Structures re-designed based on what we noticed in our weighing (Wednesday/Friday)

We have been relating the words “capacity,” “weight,” and “balance” to discuss how structures were supportive. See the pictures below to check out what we made (in our initial trial).

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In Ms. Kalei’s group this week we split into two subgroups. One group reviewed common denominators, adding/subtracting fractions, and learned about the area model for multiplying fractions. The other group worked on finding equivalent fractions and the least common multiple. We also did some brief ISTEP work. 

In Mr. Jims math group are doing prep for multiple choice ISTEP. We discussed how many times an answer looks related or tempting in a question, but is not the answer to what is being asked. We practiced this strategy individually and onlineIn Ms. Pam’s math group, the kids are making board games. The board games are based off of one of the units about negative and positive graphing, absolute value, and graphing on a x and y axis; the board games also have to tie to the origins.


In readers workshop this week we are getting ready for the English & Language Arts ISTEP tests. We discussed the strategy of saying either ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ to every answer choice. After you have all the answer choices with a ‘maybe’ or ‘no,’ you go back into the paragraph to prove the maybes. We also talked about (and applied) our understanding that we need to pick the BEST answer by reading the whole answer choice carefully, not just looking at the key words. 


In writers we are now working on mood and character purposes. We have previously worked on detail and continue to work on improving our details. We have also worked on setting and problem. Many great details, moods, characters, and setting have been shared during writers.

Teaching Points:

  • Monday: SettingWriters think about the land, sky, weather, people, transportation, homes, and other buildings.
  • Wednesday: CharacterWriters make sure every character has a purpose: Allies, Antagonists, Bystanders.
  • Thursday: Problem
  • Friday: Solution

On Friday we collected a mid-unit formative assessment to coordinate where our teaching needs to go next. 

Questions to Ask Your Child:

  • How did you choose materials to make your structure in science?
  • What was a passage you read in readers workshop to prepare for the ISTEP?
  • What did you do at BAM on Friday?
  • Did you have a reading or writing conference this week? What was it about?
  • Let’s make up a story problem based on a math concept you learned or reviewed this week.

Fantasy Unit in Writers Workshop


The fantasy fiction unit in Writer’s Workshop will ask students to use the workshop format to draft multiple story ideas, choose one draft for further development, revise, conference, edit and publish a finished piece of fantasy fiction.  Students will learn about sub-genres of fantasy fiction including science fiction, sword & sorcery, magical worlds, horror, dystopian, and anthropomorphic. The focus of the writing is develop rich detail in characters, settings, problems and solutions.  We ask students to incorporate the Origins throughlines in their stories to fully explore the origins of their fiction world and characters.

Teaching points in this lesson will include, but are not limited to:

  • Writers use tools to generate ideas.
  • Story starters help us get the origin of character, setting and plot.
  • All elements follow the rules of the fantastic world/origins are the author’s choice.
  • Writers create fantasy characters that are a mix of realistic and fantasy characteristics.
  • Writers create fantasy settings and problems that are a mix of realistic and fantasy characteristics.
  • While collecting entries, writers need to play with describing this place, including details about the setting.
  • Writers make sure that by the end of the story you know about the character, flaws and strengths.
  • Writers choose one possibility and list out all the possible problems and solutions in regards to this larger context.
  • Writers may solve one problem but the big enemies are still undefeated to be dealt with another day.
  • Writers think about the land and sky, weather, people, transportation, and homes and other buildings.
  • Writers make sure every character has a purpose: Allies, Antagonist, Bystander
  • Writers ask: Does my reader know exactly what the character has to accomplish in order for the problem to be solved?
  • Writers are reminded that solutions do not come out of nowhere.  They need to fit with the  rest of story.


The Indiana Academic Standards include expectations that students write clear sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea.  Students should create interesting sentences by using words that describe, explain, or provide additional details and connections.  Students need to make varied word choices to make writing interesting. Students should be able to write narratives that establish a plot, point of view, setting, and conflict and those stories show, rather than tell, the events of the story. Students should be able to progress through the stages of the writing process, including prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing multiple drafts. That students review, evaluate, and revise writing for meaning and clarity.

Student stories will be evaluated on the following rubric:

Level 4 Level 3 Level 2 Level 1
Characters Clear protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). Motivations, appearances, personalities fully described. Characters are described briefly.  Motivations, thoughts, or personality not described fully. Characters exist but are not described in detail. Protagonist and/or antagonist characters are missing.
Elements of Fantasy The world created has clear,vivid, elements of fantasy writing that are consistent within that world.  The elements are central to the story. The world has some elements of fantasy but they are secondary to the story. The world has few elements of fantasy writing.  The elements are inconsistent.  The story would be unchanged if elements were missing. The world does not include elements of fantasy writing.


The problems/conflict is central to the story. The problem/conflict the main characters face and why it is a problem is clear. The problems/conflict is secondary to the story or not fully developed. The problem does not drive the story. It is difficult for the reader to understand the problem the main characters face and it is not clear why it is a problem. There is no problem or It is unclear what problem the main character faces.
Solution/ Resolution The solution to the character’s problem is easy to understand, and is logical. There are no loose ends. The solution to the character’s problem is easy to understand, and is somewhat logical. The solution to the character’s problem is a little hard to understand. No solution is attempted or it is impossible to understand.
Setting Many vivid, descriptive words are used to tell when and where the story took place. Some vivid, descriptive words are used to tell the audience when and where the story took place. The reader can figure out when and where the story took place, but the author didn’t supply much detail. The reader has trouble figuring out when and where the story took place.
Organization The story is very well organized. One idea or scene follows another in a logical sequence with clear transitions. The story is pretty well organized. One idea or scene may seem out of place. Clear transitions are used. The story is a little hard to follow. The transitions are sometimes not clear. Ideas and scenes seem to be randomly arranged.
Mechanics Writing contains correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, complete complex sentences and correct use of capitalization. Writing contains few spelling and grammar errors; and has correct punctuation and complete sentences. Writing contains some spelling and grammar errors; most sentences have correct punctuation and are complete.  I used simple sentences. Writing is hard to read and contains many spelling and grammatical errors.

Newsletter 29 – 4/18/14

**teachers notes in italics


Our spring conferences are coming up very soon. Us students are preparing portfolios for our conferences that have work we have chosen to present to our parents. Students spent several days this week working on portfolios in math, reading, writing, and p3. They have compiled a piece of work that best represents their learning in each area and done some written reflection work as well. We sent home a letter to families via email and mail (with student) to schedule these conferences. They are starting next week.

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Math Workshop

In Mr. Jim’s math group this week in  math we are putting our  portfolio and we did an assessment so that sums it up. We did some problem solving – making sure we know the operation needed to solve any given problem. We drew pictures of story problems. Reflecting on our math work, we wrote goals for our future math lives. In Ms. Kalei’s group we went through an extensive study of decimals- quickly! We talked about the relationship between decimal values (where does 0.2 fall on a number line that goes from 0 to 1?). We worked on adding and subtracting decimals and placing these values in order from least to greatest. We read decimals aloud and practiced representing them as fractions. Toward the end of our week, we started to represent percent. 

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Writers Workshop

This week in writers workshop we continued writing fantasy fiction stories. We thought of multiple problems a character could face and how we would string those together. Our writers workshop time is becoming significantly more balanced and we are now having kids share everyday. It’s been lovely to hear vivid imagery related to the setting of our stories.  Students have been working of creating rich descriptions of characters, settings and problems. We have been using a variety of model texts but our favorite has been The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg.

Readers Workshop

In readers workshop this week, we closed up the first part of our fantasy unit. We spent our last day focusing on symbols and talked about the book The Giving Tree. To close off the independently paced part of our unit, we did a partner assessment of the concepts we’ve learned so far. Students learned about upcoming book club choices and will be assigned to book clubs the week of April 28th! 

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In P3, 4/5 started an engineering unit. First we read a book called Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. We have made towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows, and on Wednesday we tried to make  columns that would hold up notebooks and post-its. They could only be made out of one sheet of paper, tape, and a paper clip. On Friday we put weight on the structures – initially up to 7 composition books. Then the students had 10 minutes to grab new materials and try again! In our second trial we measured weight up to 14 notebooks and most of the towers had improvements that allowed them to balance and support the weight. We discussed what habits came up in this experiment and those are listed below. 


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Questions to Ask Your Child

  • Describe the setting of where we are right now.
  • What was the reflection process like for you? How are you feeling about the school year overall?
  • What book club are you interested in joining? Why?
  • What have the morning meeting math problems been about this week?
  • Tell me about a share you heard this week.
  • What science lab helped you gain the most knowledge?

Engineering & Science Unit

Dear Families, We are starting a unit on Engineering and Science. The origin of this unit comes from both a need of students to engage in some habits of a scientist and engineer, and the very real scientific concepts that both fourth and fifth graders need to learn. This unit of study will be focused on making prototypes, coming up with problem solving strategies, and learning content about the human musculoskeletal system. 61qEmnn-MCL The major objective of the unit is for students to understand that engineers work through a process of revision and redesign to meet a need or desire. Some of our essential questions for the unit are:

  • What are the habits of an engineer/scientist?
  • How do you solve problems you are presented with?
  • How do parts of a system relate to the function of a whole system?

We began with a pre-assessment which you can see here. 

Next we’ll move into a series of experiments that require students to design an initial structure and then re-design it depending on the degree to which they met the stated goal.

Then, we’ll move toward a focus of presenting problems and asking students to model prototypes for how to solve these problems. The second section of our unit will focus specifically on the relationship engineers have to solving problems – specifically within the human body. We will start with the major functions of the skeletal systems and where problems can happen (i.e. broken bones). We’ll have students build structures to support these problems – designing prototypes just like engineers do. As we work through these lessons, inevitably, like an engineer, what we work to do will change with student need and input. We’ll keep you updated with our changes.

Newsletter 28 – 4/13/14


We have had two big things going on: 1, we finished our play HONK! Jr. (which you probably already know)  and we just finished our Mini MAW!

On Tuesday, April 8th, students in the 4/5 class participated in their annual school play – HONK! After hours of rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday, we put on quite the show at the Ivy Tech Waldron for an audience of over a hundred. We really pulled together the production with so much help from Mr. Chris and Ms. Sara. Students are still humming and singing the HONK songs each day, and we’ll be sure to reflect and revisit their efforts throughout the rest of the year. 

For the Mini-MAW, every person in the class chose a group, and we made smallish presentations about the topics. Here are some of them: Sharon Creech books, HONK, Visual Arts, Invitations. We had many families come to celebrate our work from the first part of our second semester. It gave students a taste of what the end of year MAW will be like. 

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Readers Workshop

This week in readers workshop we continued our study on fantasy. Students zoomed into their texts focusing on imagery after we did a read aloud of the book Shrek by William Steig. We talked about how imagery s the name for the words that help to create our mental movies as readers. Students began to cite evidence from independent reading of imagery. We also discussed personifcation, and how it impacts a story. After reading through some pages of Shrek again, we discussed why personification influences our reading. One student pointed out that in Shrek, personification emphasizes that every thing in nature opposes Shrek. On Friday, we re-visited our conversations about theme. Someone cited that the theme of Shrek is “someone will love you warts and all” – a reference to one of our HONK songs. Tying all these literary concepts together helps readers engage with the writing of their text, noting the intentionality of all these elements. 

Writers Workshop

In writers workshop this week we compared and contrasted real and fantasical elements in our pieces. Students have started drafting, meaning they are actually writing multiple stories and plots in their writers notebooks. We discussed how most fantasy based characters have many “real” character traits – it’s the role of the author to slowly reveal the fantasical traits over time. We never want to rush into a description of everything magical in our pieces because then the reader is not able to understand the character as a character, and identify with them. Our next lesson was similar – when we consider setting, how do we make some elements fantasical, but not everything. We want to imply that our setting is central to our story, it should not over take our reader with all of the fantasy elements. Students are very excited to move into story writing. 


Our P3 time over the next few weeks will be spent doing science! On Friday, we took a pre-assessment for this unit – which you can view here. If you are interested in coming in and talking about engineering or bones with our students, we’re hopeful for some community members to come in and teach!

Math Workshop

In Ms. Kalei’s math group this week, we reviewed long division. If you have any extra time at home, we’d love to have you practice this algorithm with your student. We are starting a unit on fractions, decimals, and percents. On Friday, we discussed how to represent tenths and hundreths if we view a hundreds grid as a whole (and single) unit. In Mr. Jim’s math group this week we are working on tightening our computation. We’re continuing our work with decimals, and working on making change. 

Questions to Ask Your Child:

  • How did HONK go for you – the rehearsal and the performance? 
  • What story are you writing in writers workshop? 
  • How does the fantasy book you are reading (or any fantasy book you have read) have imagery, personification, metaphor? What is the theme of a book you have finished? What about a movie? 
  • What was your station at the mini-MAW? What was the origin of the project you were representing? 
  • How are you feeling about the upcoming science unit? 




Newsletter 27 – 4/5/14

**All teachers notes are in italics. 


On Wednesday (of next week), we are going to be having a Mini-MAW.It will be at 11:00. We will be letting all the parents & families come in to see what we have done since January. Students are presenting work from Invitations, Gender in the Media, HONK!, Sharon Creech Book Clubs, Readers Workshop, etc. They are practicing tying these projects to our throughline questions. We have sent out an invitation, so be sure to come! Also our play HONK! jr. is on Tuesday of next week (April 8)! Students should arrive at the Ivy Tech John Waldren no later than 6:10pm on Tuesday. We spent much of our week preparing for both of these events. Please rehearse your songs and lines and have them memorized by our rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday. 

Math Workshop

In Ms. Kalei’s math group this week we finished up our study of geometry by going over surface area and volume of figures. We also talked about similarity in figures and how to determine all three of these concepts. We took a post-assessment on our geometry unit, which we will review next week. You can support from home by pointing out reflective and rotational symmetry and perpendicular/parallel lines – these remained tricky concepts after much review. In Mr. Jim’s math group we are beginning a study of decimals and parts of a whole. This week students thought of ways to represent one decimal, i.e. how to write one tenth, or ten hundreths, one hundred thousanths, etc. We’re also looking at equivalence in decimals.

Writers Workshop

In Writer’s workshop we are finally starting fantasy-fiction! Lately we have been using Scholastic Story-Starters®. They are these very helpful little little mini-websites that give you fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure story prompts. Everyone writes them down, and then writes 1-2 paragraphs about that prompt. We also discussed sub-genres of fantasy fiction: magic, anthropomorphic, sword and sorcery, dystopian, and sci-fi. Students came up with typical criteria of each of these genres. We also discussed that the origin of a piece can start with a character, problem, or setting, and used some excerpts from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick to generate new ideas. 

The prompts:

  1. A fiery shaman who steals a holy book

  2. A shrill hermit whose magical shield blocks every weapon

  3. A quest to find a courageous elder who has hypnotic eyes

  4. Eating lunch with a dishonest genius who skateboards on craters

Readers Workshop

We are continuing our study of Fantasy. We have had many talks about mental movies inside our head. When we came back from recess one day Ms.Kalei has read “My Father’s Dragon” and she asked us to lay down or close our eyes and imagine what she was reading. I imagined the alligators all scaly green and have dark brown eyes but since it was dark there eyes were red. Well here are the teaching points! TEACHING POINTS:

3/24/14 – There are many kind and qualities or fantasy books.

3/25/14 – Readers think about how the book they are reading connects to the genre of the book.

3/27/14 – Readers play mental movies.

3/31/14 – Readers figure out the setting of their story.

4/1/14 – Readers organize the details in their books.

Students were prompted to select a way to organize their notes this week. Many have note taking systems they already prefer, but we introduced some new models: question/answer, problem/solution, sequence organizers, character analysis, and elements of fantasy. We’re also encouraging readers to start searching for meaning in their books, digging deeper into importance of setting. 

Questions to Ask Your Child

  • What is your part in HONK? Do you know your lines yet? Let me practice with you. Can you please practice these songs for me: A Poultry Tale, Look at Him, The Blizzard, Wild Goose Chase, and Warts & All? (You can find these songs here).
  • What part of the mini-MAW did you work on this week? Why did you chose this project/unit (students were given full choice to pick what they would like to be a part of)?
  • What are some common fractions you know of?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for the last 10 weeks of school? Have you achieved the hope/dream you set at the beginning of the school year (if your child forgets what their hope/dream is, they can read it outside the cubbies on Monday)?
  • How did the weather impact your week?
  • How is the fantasy story you have started related to character, problem, or setting?
  • Have you had reading or writing conferences this week? What were they about?