November Events

November brought in lots of fun, exploration, and learning, along with some chilly, wintry weather. Fifth graders took charge of their learning this month. We had peer teaching and coaching sessions in math. Students have verbalized that they need to hear it in different ways, from different people. Luckily, there are so many smart cookies in F-30, that we have lots of leaders for all different topics/concepts.

Here is a picture of Maya, our teacher for the day:

And here is Rachel, teaching us all about Hanukkah:

While our RiverWalks field trip had been rescheduled, we were able to make it there on a sunny, chilly day:

While it was super cold, not one student complained.  This is a group I am proud to take on field trips!

Attempting to Flip the Classroom

During our last professional development day (when students were off), the teachers learned more about inquiry based lessons. We even spent time creating a lesson, a lesson involving weather exploration. Students enjoyed reading, researching, and collaborating to determine what weather event they were assigned.

I’ve been attempting to integrate more of these student led lessons into the classroom. It has not been easy. Two challenges have pulled me back and forth. One challenge has been time. If I had more time, students would be able to sufficiently plan, research, and create products that demonstrate their knowledge on the topic. The other challenge has been the state standards. While I’m able to allow students to research all of their curiosities, I must make sure they are also finding information that they need for the SOL tests.

This past Thursday and Friday, I attempted (not feeling too confident yet) to flip the classroom. Students began by brainstorming questions about ocean waves. After the brainstorming session, I edited their questions so that we stuck with the science standards. This part was a bit painful, because the students had some really outstanding questions. Next, students researched. They used ocean trade books and selected websites. The final step was the most painful to a sometimes very controlling teacher. Students worked to create a skit or lesson to be taped on Flipgrid. This is when I have to take a HUGE step back. I’m there to give technological assistance and tips on taping.

Now here’s the part when I struggle again… Only two groups finished in the allotted time. The two groups that finished felt rushed and were not happy with their final product. Every group worked well together. No one was playing or wasting time. Do I give them more time? Of course, I have to. We’ll have to push back our lessons this week, but they must finish.

Monday is the last day of the first quarter. My fifth grade students will be reflecting on their first nine weeks in school. They will be monitoring their pluses and deltas (or glows and grows). They will be setting new WIGS (Wildly Important Goals). I will be setting my own WIGS alongside of them. I’m positive that flipping the classroom will be one of my goals. Please have a talk with your child about his/her goals. If your child sees you as a stakeholder and a support system, he or she is more likely to meet those goals.

Leaving you with this video clip– students worked together on multiplying decimals. Watch and listen. This is our future.

On Being a Good Writer

As I work through my National Boards, I have been writing up a storm.  I’ve also been reflecting on what it means to be a good writer- for me and for my students.  Several things have come across my path during this process, some purposefully and some by pure coincidence.

Thank you to Caden’s mom, Mrs. Swenson, and Maya’s mom, Mrs. Ayers, for coming in and talking with the students about how literacy is used in their fields of work.  Mrs. Ayers spoke on how she helps and teaches immigrants and refugees about how to use literacy for the basic things in daily life.  Mrs. Swenson spoke on the process of making a book from start to finish, and what specifically makes for good writing.  I’m hoping that my students can really understand the importance of balanced literacy, not only in school but connecting to life in general.

I subscribe to many blogs, but one of my favorite’s is written by Pernille Ripp, a middle school language arts teacher.  Her recent blog posts speaks to the misconception many of my students have. Just like Ms. Ripp’s students, mine seem to share this misconception that they are not good writers if they don’t spell words correctly. While working with a student this week, he said to me, “Mrs. Johns, I’m a bad writer. Look how messy it is!” That really resonated with me. I told him that his writing is indeed messy but it’s far from bad.

I found this image (below) and plan on sharing it with my class this week.  I want them to understand that handwriting is no where to be found in what makes good writing.  When it comes to spelling, this is a growing skill, and not something that can be learned overnight.  I’ve emphasized so many times that good writing is good because the ideas and thoughts are creative and interesting.  Even though I have much more schema than my young writers, I have far less imagination than they do.  That imagination is what makes their writing good.

On a final note, I’m appalled at how many times I’ve used the word “good” in this post.  Time to work on “On Being a Great Writer.”

30 Days in the Books!

Each day when we begin math, we start with the number of the day we are on. We talk about the number, we make it into a fraction and a decimal, we factorize it, we also decide if it’s even or odd. These number talks are so valuable. Reflection in general is a good thing. Students are often encouraged to reflect on their learning, but aren’t usually given a voice to have their thoughts heard. This week, my students were given a chance to reflect on themselves as learners, their learning environment, and their teacher. I found it interesting that many students relate being a good student with grades and/or behavior. Only one child said she was a good student because she was a hard worker. I was hoping that someone would say he/she was a good student because he/she learned from mistakes! Much of the feedback was mixed– more reading time, less reading time, more brain breaks, less brain breaks. Some feedback was consistent– less writing time (this class apparently doesn’t like to write!) and how I call on students isn’t fair. While I don’t plan on decreasing writing time, I will work on how I select students to participate in class. One piece of advice I did see a few times is that I must continue to talk in wacky accents! I agree! This reflection and feedback is so valuable. Your children are wonderful leaders in our class.

Look who won the Redskins Read contest for September!

Math in Fifth Grade

The Math Standards of Learning have changed this year. Many of the changes are very small, however, there are some changes that students and families need to be aware of. One change is that students may now use a calculator on word problems. This will help those students who make careless mistakes in computation. However, students still will need to know how to solve multi-step word problems. While these type of problems directly link to the real world, they are the most difficult problems for our students. In the classroom, we blend real world, hands-on problems, with some paper practice sprinkled in. This week, our class took a trip to a dream destination, given parameters such as a budget and cards that included the number of people going on the trip and days on the trip. Students quickly learned that $2000 is not enough for many vacation goers! Along with this valuable lesson, students practiced daily with word problems, using their four-square graphic organizer that helps organize thoughts.

Along with word problems, Math SOL 5.4 includes some basic computation that students were introduced to in fourth grade. Fifth graders will be responsible for problems such as 4,654 divided by 42 and 364 x 823.

At home, students should be completing their weekly homework. If your child has access to a tablet or a computer, please encourage daily practice on my portaportal: Mrs. Johns’ Portaportal Fifth graders will be taking a unit test on 5.4- whole number computation on Wednesday.

Form more information on the Math SOL changes, click on the link below:
VA Dept. of Education Math SOL Changes

An Earthquake Shook Up F30!

In our class last week, we learned all about our changing earth.  We read and explored information about the layers of the Earth and how our crust is broken up into large plates.  Those plates are always moving and sometimes the movements can create a bit of chaos!  Students in F30 had to engineer structures that could withstand the shaking ground of the Johns Earthquake (8.0 on the Richter Scale).  Students synergized in small groups and created buildings using toothpicks and marshmallows.  Some succeeded and some needed more time to rebuild, but all came out of this simulation realizing one thing– engineers have a tough job when it comes to designing buildings that can withstand the shock of an earthquake.

Please check out Wonderopolis’s articles on Earthquakes for more interesting information! Whose Fault is an Earthquake?

First Week Done!

As we sharpen the saw and prepare for the second week of school, it’s important to reflect on the week we are leaving behind.  In years past, I have written this blog post to keep families informed of what was going on in the classroom.  This year, I’d like to write it to my students, as well as their families.  As you read this blog post, encourage your child to join you.  He/she can elaborate on some of the topics.

Now, let’s reflect on what was the best first week I have experienced in all of my years of teaching!  We spent much time getting to know one another, collaborating, and discussing what we want our classroom community to be like.  We dove into the first four habits (from the Leader in Me program) headfirst.  We talked about the habits and we planned how we will use the habits.  This next week, we will finish up with Habits 5-8.  Yes, there is an eighth habit!  If you are unfamiliar with the habits, I encourage you to read up and discuss with your family.  My daughters sure do get tired of me talking about big rocks and little rocks, but they are learning how to put first things first so that we have time for fun! Our focus as a class and as a school is to use these habits to help us become better individuals and to help with finding our strengths of leadership.

Image result for 7 habits of happy kids tree image

Thank you for entrusting me with your children.  I’m so fortunate to be able to work with an amazing group of young leaders.

Welcome, Families!

I am so thrilled about being your child’s fifth grade teacher!  There are many adventures in learning ahead of us.  As we venture into your child’s last year of elementary school, my goal is this:  Through engaging instruction and a safe learning environment, I want to make sure your child has the most positive learning experiences.

Through the Leader in Me program, your child will be immersed in using the 7 Habits to become a healthy and happy person.  We will be focusing on our strengths as individuals and as a community.  Every single person in our classroom community will be a leader.

I’d like to know a bit more about your fifth grader.  Please take the survey here.

Lastly, please consider subscribing to this blog.  I will strive to update it weekly with information about happenings in our classroom.

End of Year Survey

It’s that time of year… time to give your input! Your input is valuable to me. Please click on the following link and complete the survey: click here for survey

Thanks so much!

Book Club for Kids

Last Friday, three fifth graders participated in a taping for the podcast Book Club for Kids. Kitty Felde visited our school and spoke with Aidan, Matthew, and Desirae about the book, A Long Walk to Water, written by Linda Sue Park. They did a fabulous job chatting about the book. This edition of the podcast will be released this summer. Please consider subscribing to this podcast as it is a good one!

In addition to a podcast, Book Club for Kids also has a terrific blog. Here’s the link to this week’s blog post: Tip #56