Newsletter 35- 5/31/14


Newsletter thinking for next year: Please email Ms. Kalei and let her know how the newsletter has been helpful for you this year. You can also think about any changes you’d make in terms of length, writing style, information given, etc.

Next Tuesday, we will have our last NWEA test (Math) for the school year. Some students will still be doing small group testing up through next Friday when the testing window closes.

Our next two weeks will be heavily slated with MAW prep (The MAW stands for museum of authentic work. It is a time when we look at everything we’ve done for the year and represent it through the lens of our Origins questions). We will be doing a lot of thinking of how to reflect and show the big ideas that have emerged from this years work. You can help us at home by asking about big projects students would like to represent and how.

Be sure to read the updates on curriculum this week as well as some info on a possible summer opportunity.



IU Learning Sciences came into 4/5 this week for several days to teach us how to do work with circuits. Using five different circuitry kits, students explored how positives and negatives make a circuit run. Here is a rundown of the five kits.

  • Little bits  is a kit of magnetic pieces that work together to make a circuit function. By snapping the pieces into place you can make buttons function, a toggle switch, a light turn on and grow in dimness, a sound, a motor run, and much more. Students had fun making “hand buzzers.”


  • Electrical circuits was a group that used alligator clips to attach a battery to a lightbulb, motor, and a switch. Students made masks, massive circuits that lit up 3 or more lightbulbs, and houses


  • Snap circuits is a kit that has a plastic board with snap on pieces. These pieces can make an alarm clock run, a saucer spin, a lightbulb turn on, and they all are connected by hard plastic pieces that must be snapped in the correct way.


  • E-textiles was a work intensive project where you could sew an LED light into fabric as well as a battery pack and on/off switch using metallic thread. Students had to make sure their stitching connected the right parts of the circuit, which was certainly a challenge for many.
  • Squishy circuits (an easy one to make at home) was a circuitry kit where playdough helped the circuit run. Connecting a battery pack to two balls of playdough, students stuck an LED light into the two balls to test if it could light up. We had marvelous projects come out of this kit.IMG_4216IMG_4187

Math Workshop

In math this week, Ms. Kalei and Ms. Pam’s groups joined to continue work on height data. Students are converting their height measurements in the fall into feet and inches and collecting new data from their spring height to measure the difference. We have a handful of students who were not in the math group in the fall, so we will have to calculate the average height growth and work backwards from their spring measure. In Mr. Jim’s group, we spent this week learning how to do the box method for multiplication. Take 477 x 32. In this method you take a number and break it into expanded notation – i.e. 477 becomes 400 + 70 + 7 and 32 becomes 30 + 2. Then you create a box, each place value has a cell (this looks much like a punnett square) and multiply each place value by each place value. You can find a parent explanation from Bridges in this family letter.  In Mr. Bryan’s group we are working on least common multiple, and using a multiplication table to navigate how two numbers can be related.

Read Aloud

We started a new book for read aloud last week: Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage. It’s possible we will not finish this book by the end of the year, and there is a sequel, so get on the hold list at the library now. It’s an excellent mystery story set in Tupelo Landing, NC (Ms. Kalei has enjoyed reading it in her North Carolinian accent).


Field Day

Field day was a success! Check out our pictures to infer all the fun that happened!

IMG_4227 IMG_4230 IMG_4231 IMG_4228 IMG_4229 IMG_4232


A Summer Choice

Please take a look at the info for the summer camp DramatiCATS recommended by Ivan Kreilkamp.

DramatiCATS (Comedy and Tragedy Stars)
June 16-27
M-F 9am – 4pm

In DramatiCATS (Comedy and Tragedy Stars), students are challenged with brainstorming characters and writing monologues, eventually culminating in their own two-character plays that the students will perform side-by-side with adult actors. DramatiCATS camper’s imaginations are challenged constantly while they create one of a kind new theatre. Over the course of a two-week day camp, students work with theatre professionals to develop and perform in their own original plays. A virtual playground for young imaginations, DramatiCATS is directly in line with the BPP’s mission to be a leading artistic force in the production and encouragement of new plays and encourage promising young writers of tomorrow. Visit for more information.


Jessica Reed 

Managing Director
Bloomington Playwrights Project
107 W 9th St
Bloomington, IN 47404

Newsletter 34 – 5/22/14


This week we did NWEA testing as a whole class. Many students took the reading and writing tests. Some students also tested in small groups throughout this time frame. We will not be doing the math assessment until the first week of June. We are so proud of all the growth on the test this year!

Next week we’ll be working with faculty/students from IU to facilitate some learning around circuitry. We look forward to this hands-on engineering experience. We’ll have plenty of pictures to show you exactly what the kids will be doing, but feel great about this opportunity to explore, play, and “do” science.


In readers workshop this week, students finished out their book clubs. We met and discussed social action and defined what the “greater good” was in each of our stories. Some powerful topics have come up in these discussions. 

  • In the group reading the Hunger Games, students likened the relationship between government and citizens to be one of incentive (like training a dog) only to realize that this was the society created in the books and that it did not work. We discussed what can motivate people beyond material reward. 
  • In Twenty One Balloons, we discussed the presence or absence of diversity. We talked about the (likely) intentional choices made by the writer to include only white major characters. We also talked about how the book’s publication date affected/impacted the diversity included. 


In writers workshop this week we’ve started our last unit of the semester. Using the mentor text “Partly Cloudy” (a pixar short movie), we will be writing small moment fiction stories using characters we know of from our read alouds. This organizer  was the planning page we did this week. Students were to select one of the following characters: Ivan or Ruby (One and Only Ivan), Nicodemus & Mrs. Frisby (Rats of Nimh), Harriet & Old Golly (Harriet the Spy), Elmer or The Dragon (My Father’s Dragon trilogy). We will get into writing these the first week of June. 

A secondary writing component of our week was another round of picture books. Because of the middle school play Fiddler on the Roof, Mr. Chris & Ms. Sara spent the week working with the 678 students. In 4/5 we used the mentor text Journey as an idea of how to write a wordless picture book. In continuing our discussion on diversity in books, students had to include some aspect of diversity in their pieces. We’ll be scanning these books and putting them into a google folder, so keep looking out for our almost-complete picture books!

photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 1 photo 2photo 1


In Ms. Kalei’s math group we are staring a project comparing our heights from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014. With these data points we will calculate mean, median, mode range, average difference, greatest difference and smallest difference. We’ll graph the data as well. Ms. Pam’s group is finishing up their work packets and joining Ms. Kalei’s group for this. In Mr. Jim’s group we did some games: variable (you pick a value of x and then build an equation), I’ll Buy This (you pick an ‘item’ and then have to buy it, you make change and if the change is correct you add it to your score), and AM/PM (elapsed time: you pick a card with a start time, decide whether it’s AM or PM and then pick multiple cards with time values to add to your original time). 


In P3 this week we took a final assessment on engineering. Students were asked to reflect on the habits of an engineer and when they used those habits. The habits are listed on the charts in the pictures below, but in case you can’t read our pink marker: Persistence, stamina, focus, self-regulation, patience, flexibility, excitement, hope, taking risks, knowledge, planning, organization, learning, overcoming frustration, creativity & imagination. 

photo 3 photo 4

Questions to Ask Your Child

  • What was your picture book about? How did you include diversity? (What is diversity?)
  • How did you choose your character for your story? What will your story be about?
  • What class issues came up this week (sharing food & appropriate behavior on the playground)?
  • Why do you think engineers have to have ____ ? (look at the habits list above)

Newsletter 33- 5/18/14


Coming up, on the 23rd (Friday) and 26th (Monday), of May, we will have no school. Also prepare your children for NWEA!! Next week. Some people in 4/5 are going to be going around the school to talk about little bullying.

IMG_3972 IMG_3978 IMG_3979


In math, Ms. Pam’s group is drawing big version of a little dragon. Each students is asind a little section of the dragon. You draw it on graph paper. We will soon hang the finished dragon on the wall. Students have just finished their unit on positive and negative integers and has begun working on ratios. In Ms. Kalei’s group we have been working in two groups. Group one has been practicing least common multiple, adding and subtracting fractions, and switching between mixed numbers and improper fractions. In Mr. Jim’s group, kids have been working on some time and currency fluency skills. They have been doing group games to practice these skills.


This week we have had another meeting for “Hunger Games”, “ 24 Balloons” and “Artemis fowl”. We haven’t had much time after read out loud, so we have just been going into meetings for book clubs. We have had little conversations about what the book ment and who has the power right after read out loud. We have had no teaching points. So thats all for readers workshop, by readers!


This week on Wednesday we finished our writing pieces. On Friday we had our publishing party! Many people have created beautiful maps and covers in Visual Arts class. On Wednesday we had people finishing up stories. Also, when they finished they could get a special “Editors Badge” and go around and help other edit their stories before they got printed out. Lots of honorable editors typed for other people while the authors dictated. What great cooperation!IMG_4033 IMG_4035 IMG_4037 IMG_4040 IMG_4042 IMG_4044


In P3 this week we worked on learning about how bones and muscles protect organs. Using our background knowledge from P3 last week, we moved into an experiment where students had to design a structure that mimicked the musculoskeletal structure in the protection of a vital organ – a raw egg. Groups had to identify what parts of their structures worked as bones and what worked as muscles. Using a variety of materials, we had groups that survived one, two, and three textbooks dropped on their structure. As our “project” and assessment for this unit, we will be working with IU to do some circuitry work. Permission slips went home last week for the IU folks to use student work in their research. Please let us know if you need a new permission slip.


IMG_4009IMG_3981 IMG_3991 IMG_3992 IMG_4004 IMG_4016

Newsletter 32 – 5/10/14


Istep is over and school still isn’t back to normal. We are all doing math together due to the fact that Ms.Pam and Mr.Bryan are helping with make up tests. If you want to hear what we did for math, read the math section! This week we had two major discussions, the first on the difference in ‘big bullying’ and ‘little bullying.’ We discussed the fairly consistent presence of ‘little bullying’ behaviors (and relational aggression) in our community. Using the book My Secret Bully as a guide to our conversation, we talked about what little bullying looks like and how we can change it. We had a class meeting about this problem and students considered how they would change their individual actions to not be a perpetrator, victim, or bystander when it comes to little bullying. 

Another piece to our community this week was our discussion of diversity in books. Inspired by the #weneediversebooks campaign, we’ve looked into our own personal bibliographies and libraries and discussed how and why we represent diversity. Students pointed out different kind of diversity: disability/ability, lesbian & gay, race, religion, appearance, age, and gender. Please look at the ‘questions to ask your child’ to help support this discussion at home. If you are interested in helping our classroom library diversify, Ms. Kalei has started a list on google docs of books we’d like to buy for our library. We also want to know what books you and your child have read and consider to represent diversity of experience. This discussion will continue throughout our last few weeks together.

Readers Workshop

In readers workshop, we have started our book clubs. Book club schedules can be found here.  If you are not sure what book club your child is in or your child is in LLI, you can email Ms. Kalei to find out what their specific requirements are. We are employing critical literacy work in this round of book clubs. Our first meeting centered around multiple perspectives. Our next meetings will center around power dynamics. We’ve been using The Sneetches as a mentor text to discuss power and perspective. 

Writers Workshop

In writers this week we are working on publishing our fantasy pieces. We are finishing rough drafts in our notebooks, and sometimes reading them with a partner. Don’t forget to check in with a teacher and maybe even a student to proofread before moving on to loose leaf! In visual arts class we are also making covers and maps for our stories. Many of the covers are very interesting and make you want to read the book. We have very artistic students. The covers are very unique, colorful, and carefully done. Some students may be working on these writing pieces over the weekend. Any student working on typing or looseleaf as homework needs to be sure to check in a teacher first – we want to give any revisions before final copies are started. To review the expectations of the piece, please consult our rubric.  Our deadline for these pieces is WEDNESDAY MAY 14, 2014!

Math Workshop

In math this week, we had four whole class sessions and one session in math groups. Mr. Jim presented students with the problem: How many blades of grass are in an acre? With some information (like square feet in an acre), students had to come up with a plan and set of calculations to determine their solution. We spent time in the park, counting square inches and square feet of grass. Students that counted blades of grass in a square inch averaged around 60 blades of grass, those that counted square feet found about 200. We considered that the square inch was more representative of actual measurement because it was so specific. We also played a word problem game. We’ll have regular math updates for you starting next week!


In P3, 4/5 has been continuing with their science unit. We started doing little section on bones and why we and other animals need them. We also watched a Brainpop  and a Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Questions to Ask Your Child

  • What is diversity?
  • Why do we need diverse books?
  • What are ‘little bullying’ and ‘big bullying’? How do they impact your schoolday?
  • What is an event from (your week/your book/today) that we can consider from multiple perspectives?
  • In __ situation, who has power?

Newsletter 31 – 5/2/14

Our newsletter this week has been totally written by adults!

This week we did a LOT of ISTEP testing and practicing on Monday-Thursday. Some highlights included:

  • Using the “No” and “Maybe” strategy when dealing with multiple choice questions in a test setting.
  • Using the skills of map/chart reading and vocabulary inference making when taking a social studies or science test.
  • Building a LOT of independent reading stamina (before and after the ISTEP) each day this week.
  • Eating some delicious snacks, mints, and gum, a BIG THANK YOU to our families who were able to donate extra supplies this week.
  • Continuing to write in our fantasy pieces when there was time.
  • Talking about and discussing the community, trying new strategies to make morning meeting a time where all children feel they can be heard and respected by their peers.
  • Playing new activities (ESP, Screaming Eyes) during morning meeting time; trying the game Mouse Trap outside. Running laps and doing sit-ups as a stand-in “P.E.” class after many days of sitting and testing.

On Thursday, students got their book club books. If your child has questions about their book club schedule, you can find them here.  We will start meetings next Tuesday.

On Friday we had two very different days.

The fourth graders stayed back at school and wrote to a fantasy writing prompt that started “The day the 5th graders disappeared…” We used mentor texts Tuesday and June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner and Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg. In partners (and independently) students wrote a piece…everything from the spirit world to disappearance & saving popped up in this fun partner writing activity. The fourth graders also continued the tradition of building Rube Goldberg machines for science. Pinpointing specific (and purposeful) classroom functions such as ringing the chime, turning the lights off, turning the projector screen on, etc. were talked about and over-complicated in our fun engineering process. Several machines were off to a success and many were just a few hours short of amazing.

The fifth graders went to Sycamore Land Trust. Learning specifically about environmental concerns, they engaged in a variety of nature-based activities. Students went “fishing” in a pond, looking for macro-invertebrates, and found a newt they lovingly named. They also looked at eagles nests through a telescope. Some questions they wondered: Should the beaver population be controlled – if so, are they trapped or eliminated? Should they build a boardwalk so eagles are more visible? Should the natural succession of plants managed or stopped or should the natural prairie to scrub to forest be able to proceed unhindered?