Figurative Language

Our class published our first book using Book Creator!  Click on the link to view our   Figurative Language Comic Book

Begin with the End in Mind

This is the typical time many fifth graders begin to run out of steam.  The weather has been dreary, the work is getting more difficult, and sometimes boredom strikes.  While we have been setting monthly WIGS (Wildly Important Goals), it is most important to reflect on the what/how and the who– what are we doing to reach that goal?  Who is helping us?  The action plan is the most important part.

That action plan is what Habit 2 is all about– begin with the end in mind.  We will be focusing on this for the next two weeks.  While reviewing this habit yesterday, I gave several students time to adjust their WIGS.  As the year goes on, many students are showing improvements in goal setting.  The next step is to look towards the finish line and envision themselves meeting that goal.


Besides completing homework, your child has many opportunities to meet academic goals. For example, students will be taking an assessment on triangles and angles. What can he/she do to prepare?

1) Homework is given to help students review the concepts they are learning about in class.

2) Schoology! By going to his/her Clever account at https://clever.com/in/henrico , from there, students can go to the Schoology math course for extra practice. There are sorts and links to online games. Many students have expressed that they’re not able to get onto Clever at home.

3) If not, they can go to my Portaportal account at https://guest.portaportal.com//dwjohns.

4) Another great tool for review is graded papers.

5) Finally, your child has every morning from 7:20-7:40 to get extra help from me.  It’s up to him/her to request that assistance though.

In a way, one must be Proactive in order to Begin with the End in Mind.  Those overlaps make sense as these are all habits to become more happy and effective in life.  Take the time to ask your child about the 7 Habits.  Here’s a great question you may want to ask is, “What does it mean to choose your own weather?”

The Latest in F-30

I apologize for not updating the blog lately. We recently wrote new WIGS (Wildly Important Goals) and my goal for the 9 weeks is to better manage my time so that I can complete all of the tasks on my to-do lists. Please ask your child about his/her WIG! Learning how to write SMART goals can be very difficult. The students have worked really hard with reflecting and writing relevant goals.

Time has certainly flown by as we are officially more than half-way through our school year! While we continue to be a couple of weeks behind in both math and science, we are taking the time to dive deep in the new curriculum. One thing students are still struggling with is the idea of learning from mistakes. Like the wise Ms. Frizzle, often states, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” I would like for our classroom to be a safe place where students feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes. While this is a common conversation we have in class, I’d like for students to discuss this idea with family. Growth can only occur when we identify our areas of need. Graded papers and assessments can be excellent tools for learning. Please encourage your child to go through graded papers and identify where mistakes were made. In order to prepare students for their ROAR time they’ll have at QMS, I am now taking time before the announcements to work with students. From 7:20-7:40 each day, students can ask for homework help or any help in general.

Students are also stepping up and acting as leaders in F-30. Every student has a leadership role in class. Students have also stepped up as leaders when helping each other out. This classroom is truly a community in every sense of the word. Pinchbeck is in the process of becoming a Leader in Me school. The 7 Habits should be evident in everything we do, from playing at recess to conducting experiments in class. While students discuss the habits during Shine time every Friday, we also do quite a bit of writing and conversing about the habits. Students recently reflected and wrote about the habits they use regularly and the habits that may need more attention. For example, for me I am good at Thinking Win-Win, both at home and at school. There are two habits I’m working on improving- Being Proactive and Putting First Things First. I plan on being proactive and making sure to put first things first next month when I update the class blog post! Ask your child about the 7 Habits! Better yet, have your child teach you and your family about the 7 Habits.

Our reader leaders, Elise and Hailee, read a story about similes.


Rachel led an experiment on determining what types of tasters we are! Ask your child about this fun experiment.

Cinderella Around the World

Cinderella is a universal story told through the centuries.  Several students have taken on an independent project of reading a Cinderella story that may be different than the original story many of us grew up with.  The students then created Flipgrids to discuss the Cinderella story they read and how it differs from the traditional story.

Check out the first Flipgrid created by Maya:  Korean Cinderella

Here’s another created by Audrey: Cindy Ellen

More soon to come…

The Chromebooks Have Arrived!

The timing could not have been more perfect… We arrived back to school this past Thursday, all bushy tailed and bright-eyed.  And then I attempt to display the Bell Ringers on the Promethean Board, but alas, the bulb is slowly dying and nothing can be displayed.  No worries, I’ve got a white board!

Later that day…  science had been planned as a whole group lesson in which I’d introduce students to vascular and non-vascular plants using a video from YouTube.  Of course, knowing that my beam wasn’t working, I had students pair up and use their Chromebooks.  We quickly realized the video was blocked on their end, but just as quickly problem solved.  Discovery Science to the rescue!  Even though some time had been wasted on technical difficulties, all students had access to the information.  They watched videos and read articles on the Discovery Science as they took notes.

Unintentionally, the availability of the Chromebooks aided me in flipping the class.

Check out Luke and Joseph taking charge of their learning!

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.  https://pernillesripp.com/2018/10/27/on-writing-and-spelling/ 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