Do You Remember It All?

Of course, not, silly, but I can help you pull some of it out of the depths of your memory!  Wait–let me back up a little bit.  Remember when I mentioned the other day about how we are going to be starting MAP testing in a couple of weeks? Well, one thing that we have been doing to help us prepare for the Science section of that test is to review concepts that they have learned about previously.  Because, of course, they probably wouldn’t remember all of it without a few reminders.  And pretty much anything they’ve ever learned about (yep, since 1st grade!) is fair game on this test.  So we had some work to do.

This week we went back to an activity we’d done with past units in Social Studies in our classroom.  Since I knew that it worked to help us remember big ideas and I knew they had fun doing it, I figured it was perfect to pull out again.  Plus, unfortunately, the last few units we’d been doing in Social Studies had been more of the sit-and-read-from-this-book-and-tell-me-what-you-learned type units, so they were ready for a change.

We have access to Safari Montage through our school district, which is an amazing resource for videos to supplement your curriculum.  There is a great series by Schlessinger Science Library that presents concepts in a fun and informative way with short, interesting videos.  This week we watched several videos and then created window murals to help us remember the big ideas.  We worked with a partner or in a group of 3, and created representations for each big idea on the mural.

Here’s what we’ve been working on this week–

This one was after a video called All About Plant Life:

Can you see the big ideas of leaves, roots, what plants need, how plants are different from animals, photosynthesis, and how they give us oxygen?

Next we watched a video called All About Animal Adaptations:

I wish the picture had turned out better, but this one had big ideas about how animals have to adapt to their environments to help them survive.

On Thursday, the topic was animals again, but this time Life Cycles:

And then Friday we moved on to Electricity:

It is always great to see what my students do when they are given a challenge, and how much fun they have doing it.  I loved how so many kiddos mentioned this activity when they shared in our closing circle on Friday.  The Friday question is almost always “What did you like or what did you learn?” and a majority of kiddos mentioned that they liked going back to this again.  And any time we can learn in a fun way, I’m all game.  We have more window space and more science to review, so there are surely more of these in our future next week!  I am sure my class will be just fine with that. 🙂

Stray Rescue

What a day Friday was for us!  We were so busy with so many fun opportunities!  One of them was a visit from a representative from Stray Rescue of St. Louis.  I mentioned here about how one of the great things we’ll be doing this quarter is participating in a service-learning project related to helping animals in our community.  And last year, I explained in a little more detail all about the background of service-learning in our school, and a smaller project we’ve already been a part of (check it out here).

So the visit for Friday’s goal was for us to learn more about both Stray Rescue in general, but also how we can most effectively help them.

We were visited by a volunteer, Constance Davie, who came along with her friend Sheri.


She gave us so very useful information about the work that Stray Rescue does, and how they are different from other animal agencies in our area.  The biggest difference–they are a no-kill shelter.  She told us about how they have a newly built facility on Pine St. that can house around 150-200 dogs at a time!  That’s a lot of pooches to take care of!  Part of the great work that Constance does when she volunteers is walk and wash and play with all of those dogs every day.

Ms. Davie shared with us about all of the programs that Stray Rescue has, using a big display board she brought with her.

We learned a lot from this part of the presentation.  Ms. Davie told us about how it cost only $75 to get a pet from Stray Rescue, which is much less than any of the other places around town.  Then, through their Post Adoption Program, they will provide training for you and your dog, if they need help adjusting to your family, or if they need to learn better doggie manners.  She told us about the Rent-a-Pet program (which I think is now called TAP–Temporary Adoption Program) where you are allowed to “try-out” a potential pet first, to see if they get along with your family and any other pets you already have.  What a great idea!

She also shared with us about many of the success stories of Stray Rescue; about animals that were in terrible conditions that were then rescued and are now living in forever homes with loving families!  She told us about how Sheri, her dog, and Sheri’s brother, Eddie, were once Stray Rescue dogs that now live with her!

The visit was short, but we were left with some very useful information to help guide us in our next steps.  When we asked Constance about how we could best help Stray Rescue, she was able to give us a long wishlist of things that the organiziation always needs, things that enable them to take care of all of those dogs they help.  The most surprising thing she mentioned was peanut butter, which is used as an easy way to help the dogs take their medicine.  I’d never heard of that before!  In the end, though, she said what they need the most is money.  Most of the money they spend is in veterinary care for all of the animals they rescue, and that can get pretty expensive.  Helping to offset the cost of those bills would do wonders to help them rescue and save even more animals in our city!

So what does that mean for us?  Since the whole idea behind a service-learning project is to learn while you’re helping others, we decided it’s probably not the best idea to just collect money.  We want to add more to our project and really “plus” the amount that we can get out of it.  So we’re going to go with our original idea of creating things that we can sell, and then we’ll donate the money to Stray Rescue when we’re finished.  I’m excited about all of the ideas we’ve thrown around, and how much we will learn through that process.  As we get into it, I’ll be sure to update on our progress.

Until then, have you ever heard of Stray Rescue?  Have you ever rescued an animal?  What suggestions do you have for us as we go further in our project?  We’d love to hear what you’re thinking!


Squeaky Clean!

Ok, so this post is actually a jump ahead in my Spring Break story that I started here and here.  But it is quick, so I thought I’d insert it here and explain the bigger story of how it all started later.

First a few quick pictures:

What is all that, you ask?  It’s table cleaner, that we use now at the end of our day!  You should also see water in the picture, but I figured I could just mention it.  I found a recipe for healthier household cleaner here and have been using it at home for a few weeks and LOVE IT!  So once I got back to school after break, I figured we could use it there, too!  We were already in the routine of wiping down the tables daily anyway, but now we’re doing it in a safer way.  Plus it smells really good because of the pomegranate soap I used.

All of those wholesome things went from there to here:

I also picked up some cleaning cloths, so that we don’t use paper towels and have to throw them away every time.  We’re so much “greener” this way as we wash out our cloths and reuse them!

Then when they’re done with the cleaning, the goodies now live here:

I LOVE how organized and clean this cabinet is now.  Unfortunately I always forget to take “before” pictures so you can appreciate that, but believe me–this cabinet was fill with at least 10 years (or more!) of cleaning and science supply junk.  I even found things with the name of a teacher-friend of mine on them who taught at least that long ago.  Apparently I don’t open this cabinet very often.  But I sure will now.  🙂  The only thing that it’s missing is labels.  I hope to get those on there soon.

I mentioned at the beginning that this is a sneak peek of another part of my Spring Break fun, and that’s true.  Can you tell what else I may have been doing around my house during my time off?  Stay tuned to find out!

The Windy City

Or “Spring Break–part 2.”

So hopefully you caught the first part of the Chicago adventure story here.

After we got back from the museum day, we rested in our hotel (or at least we wanted to–but we have two small, active kiddos, so not really sure how much resting happened…) and then headed out to Big Bowl for dinner.  We love Asian food, and this was especially yummy.  If you’ve been to Pei Wei or Stir Crazy in St. Louis, it was kind of like that.  While the meal was great and the time was enjoyable, the best part for me was when we got up to leave and we heard “Are you Mr. Bearden?” from a table as we walked past.  Turns out that there was a family from my husband’s school eating there, too, and they had been having a whole conversation over dinner about whether or not it was indeed Mr. Bearden.  They were right, and we were able to chat for a few minutes with them.  They were on pretty much the same trip as we were: they had taken the train, were staying downtown, were eating Big Bowl for dinner and had visited the museum that day.  Love it when things like that happen.  Small world, I tell ya.  Small world.  🙂

The next morning we had planned on visiting the other museum in town, but honestly the price scared us away and we opted for more free entertainment around town instead.  We enjoyed breakfast at Xoco that morning, which is one of Rick Bayless‘ restaurants.  Do you know who he is?  Pretty famous chef who makes pretty great food in my opinion.  I highly recommend the churros and the empanadas there.  And my boys would say that you should dip your churros in the hot chocolate they have.  Double yummy.

After breakfast we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  That’s one thing we love to do:  not head to anywhere in particular, just walk and see where we end up.  This day we walked all around Clark St. and saw what there was to be seen.  We found a grocery store at one point whose sign said something about it being the “most European market in the city.”  That was our kind of place, so we wandered in.  It was really just a supermarket, but fun nonetheless.  We’re weird like that and can have fun looking at food.

Eventually we ended up back on Michigan Ave., and found another mall to visit.  What’s next is what happened when Riley asked for the camera.  Here’s what he wanted to remember from there.  Pretty funny how the mind of a 4YO works:





Later that night we ended up back on Clark Street again, and at Xoco again.  I told you it was good, right?  This time we had tortas (like Mexican sandwiches), and they were amazing.  Can’t you tell by how happy we look?


I know many people would say it’s a little strange to go to the same restaurant twice in the same day.  But I say it’s just how we roll.  We know what we like, and we stick with it.  It’s kind of the same thinking behind why we vacation at Disney World every year.  It’s just kind of like home. 🙂

Here are two more bits of cuteness and then I’ll finish the story:


That night we enjoyed a Cable Car sundae at Ghiradelli (another family favorite, both in Chicago and at Disney World.  We went here twice, too!) and then headed to bed since it was our last night.  We had to get up early (although not quite 3 o’clock this time) to catch our train home.

The train ride home was much easier because of an amazingly nice woman who let us have her first-row seat, which meant extra leg room and baby-can-crawl-around-here space.  Plus it was right next to the door to the snack car, which made for quick escapes if we needed a break.  Also the fact that it was daytime and we’d done it before made this ride a tad more relaxing than on the way up.  At least for me. 🙂  Riley didn’t notice and enjoyed it all.  Just look at that smiling face! (Although I’m not sure if it’s the train or the iPad game that made him smile like that….)

Overall, we had a great time and definitely enjoyed ourselves.  Perhaps my favorite part of the trip, though, can be summed up in this picture (which hopefully is clear enough to see):

It’s the last few moments before we arrived home again in StL–see the Arch out the window?  And it’s also right when Allie decided to finally…fall…asleep.  Pretty funny. 🙂

Chicago is For Learners

Or “Spring Break–part 1.”

I have to let you in on a little secret.  Promise you won’t tell anyone, but teachers look forward to Spring Break as much (or maybe even more!) than students.  Yep, we love the time off to play and recharge and do all the things we might not have time for when we’re busy with school work.

So this year, like most others, we started planning what our Spring Break would look like.  My husband, who is also a teacher, had the same week off as me (which thankfully happens most years), so we looked at going somewhere together as a family.  This time around it was Chicago.

The idea for this trip really started back in November.  Grant and I were lucky enough to take a weekend-getaway there right before Thanksgiving, to celebrate my birthday and just enjoy the city.  We’d been the once before, but it had been quite a while and it was time to go back.  The kids stayed with their Mimi and Pop, but all the while we kept thinking that many of the things we did would be a big hit with our son, Riley, who is 4 1/2.  He LOVES to travel (and has since he was a baby) and so he was a little sad when we got to go away without him.  Needless to say, he was as excited for this Chicago trip as we were.

When we went to Chicago in the fall, we drove to a train station near O’Hare Airport and then took the El into the city.  Then, during our stay, we either rode the train or walked where we wanted to go.  This time rather than driving, we decide to take Amtrak, because of both its ease and cost-effectiveness, but also because we have a 4YO son.  I mean what 4YO boy wouldn’t LOVE to take a trip on a train.  He had been studying transportation at school, and so this fit in perfectly with that, too.

I was excited about the train ride, but I have to be honest that I wasn’t excited about this:

What’s that, you ask?  That’s what time I had to get up to get to the train on time.  And yes, that’s AM.  Our train left at 4:35 in the morning!!  (Sorry about the quality of that photo.  Guess my camera was a little groggy at that time of day, too!)

Here’s my seatmate for our ride:

See how tired she looks?  That’s because she woke up at 3:20, too, and never…went…back…to…sleep.  Bummer.  That made for a hard ride for her, but luckily Amtrak was spacious enough that we could walk around if we wanted, and it had a snack car that we could escape to if baby needed a change of scenery or something to eat.  That made the trip a little more manageable with a 15MO.  🙂

We got into town around 10, and headed across town to our hotel (we found a great place just off Michigan Ave.), hoping to leave our luggage and head out for lunch, but luckily our room was already ready for us!  What a nice surprise.  The rest of Sunday we spent walking around the Magnificent Mile and checking out the sites.  Riley really liked the mall at Water Tower Place that was right next to where we were staying.  For dinner we headed to Gino’s East for deep dish pizza.  Legendary place, really, and lots of fun.

The next day we headed to the Field Museum.  It’s the Museum of Natural History, and we were most excited about seeing Sue, the big T-Rex in the first part, but we also experienced many other fun and informative things.

I love this picture.  It pretty much encompasses our trip.  Family fun in the city. 🙂


Eventually we had to stop and look at the map, because other than “south,” we didn’t really know where we were going.  That’s another thing Riley loves–looking at maps and trying to figure out where we’re going.  I don’t think he really understands how they work just yet, but some day he will totally be our navigator.


Thanks to my friend, Johanna, and the Beco baby carrier she lent us, this was how Allie and I spent the walk to the museum.  This was so amazing, because we didn’t have to worry about a stroller around town, and baby girl got in a little rest–this made all the difference in her mood during the second part of our journey. 🙂  Ignore my angry face–it’s just what happens when I try to take pictures of myself.  Somehow I figure it’d look silly if I smiled at myself and said “cheese.”  I really was having a great time. 🙂


I love how tiny my littles look in these pictures.  That really is a big place!  The last one is especially funny to me, too, because Allie was so determined.  She was going to crawl all the way up those steps to get her Bubba.  Well if I let her.  Which I didn’t, in case you were wondering.

Ok, so this picture is totally staged.  But after all that walking (it took us at least an hour to walk from our hotel to the museum), we needed a break.  This was Riley showing me how tired he was.  After this we sat for a while and had a snack before heading out into the museum.


That first picture up there is from the 3D movie all about how they found the T-Rex, Sue.  But we’re not watching it.  Baby lasted about 1 minute, and after the first dinosaur roar she started screaming.  So we just played in the lobby with the glasses instead.  The second one is a picture of Riley inside a giant cicada shell in the Underground exhibit.  You go through a shrinking machine and get to experience what it would be like to live in the world of dirt.  The last one is a little snapshot of Daddy taking his turn with Allie in the Beco.  After carrying that little girl all the way there, my shoulders and back needed a break.  For being so little, she sure is heavy.  Pretty cute, right? She seems to be loving it. 🙂

There’s the family with Sue.   Riley really was excited about the dinosaur, just not the picture.

Another picture with a dinosaur.  Hopefully you can see it–we couldn’t really get any closer to it than this, but he really wanted a “long-neck” picture to show his friends. 🙂


After the museum, baby took a ride on my back, and then we took a ride on the train.   Obviously he loved it.

Ok, so I realize this is becoming a really lengthy post.  I’ll finish in another one next, to give you a break from all this Spring Break goodness.  Don’t forget to come back and read it, though!

You Asked For It!

So while only 11 people responded to my poll about my next post, many of you wanted to read about what’s coming up in the curriculum for 4th quarter.  Well, then a couple of you also voted for Spring Break related topics.  Maybe I’ll just post about it all, then.   So here you go, friends–here’s what’s coming up in 5th grade this quarter!

WRITING:  This quarter starts with us finishing up our expository nonfiction pieces that we started last month.  We’re at the point of proofreading/editing, which we began today.  After we finish conferring with our partners and tweaking the mechanics to make sure our readers understand our message, we’ll publish!  I’m so excited to see what we end up with, as writers in our room will have a choice of presenting the final draft as a poster, feature article or essay, including the text features we studied and the bibliographies we learned about recently.  I am sure to post pictures of that amazingness when we’re finished!  Following this unit, we will also tackle persuasive nonfiction (probably based on either a colonization unit in Social Studies that’s coming up, or a science topic related to our Weather unit) as well as poetry.  As usual in our classroom, this quarter will also bring lots and lots of blogging and Writer’s Notebook writing, as well, since that’s just how we roll in Rm. 201!  I’m excited about what’s coming up with writing.  But then, I generally am excited about anything in writing. 🙂

MATH:  Since we figured out that math rotations work so well for us, we’ll continue with this structure as we finish out the year.  I have loved how I’ve gotten to know each and every mathematician so much better by meeting them in small groups, and also how much more confident so many kiddos are in math now; more specifically meeting needs and checking in more frequently has helped many to better understand concepts and feel more comfortable asking questions when they need to!  We have two units left to work on this quarter: one called Growth Patterns (about patterns, functions and change) and another called How Long Can You Stand on One Foot? ( about data analysis and probability).  We took the pretest on both of these today, as the plan is to combine them.   Another big idea we’ll tackle during the beginning of this quarter is math test prep, since we take our Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test in mid-April.  Right now I’m thinking the plan will be to combine some whole group lessons with our regular rotations.  There will be some paper/pencil test practice added into the skill practice station, and I will address needs in this area in our small groups, as well.  I’m excited about how this quarter will go, and the continued success we’ll see as we delve into some really active units with fun concepts.  I loved how interested most students were today when I mentioned the topics we would be covering.  Maybe my kiddos just love math now….:)

READ ALOUD:  We are in the middle of an amazing nonfiction book called Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson.  While it’s the first nonfiction chapter book I’ve chosen for read aloud, I am sure it will not be the last.  Well at least not the last time I read this book.  The story is so amazingly written, and the way that Swanson incorporates firsthand accounts of the action into his writing has kept us on the edge of our seat.  I am sure that this will be a favorite with many kids this year!  After this one, I have plans to read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (one of my all-time favorite authors!), as well as I Am David by Anne Holm.  If there’s any time after that, I may throw in a couple of other shorter reads (again probably by Sharon Creech, like Pleasing the Ghost or Granny Torelli Makes Soup).  Do you have a favorite read aloud that you would suggest to us?

READING: Like in Writing, our first plan is to finish up the expository nonfiction unit we started in 3rd quarter. We’re already spent some time reading articles and using a variety of strategies to understand and discuss them, and we’ll move on now to reading and analyzing functional texts and textbooks.  What great timing, since this is just the kind of text we’ll encounter on our big test next month!  We will also have a unit on determining important ideas/summarizing, as well as synthesizing information as a strategy to comprehend.  This quarter everyone will also be involved in another round of literature circles, as well, with each group choosing their own text this time.  I’m excited about the groups that have formed: The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, A Friendship for Today, and Closed For the Season.  There are still a few kiddos who have not joined a group yet, and I’m excited to see what books they end up choosing.  If you have a suggestion for a good read for some amazing 5th graders, please suggest it in a comment after this post!

SCIENCE/SOCIAL STUDIES:  This is one of our favorite times of the day, although I know that most kids in our class would tell you that they HATE that it’s at the very end of our schedule.  I’m excited about the units that we’ll be doing next, though: Earth Systems–Weather and Three Worlds Meet–Colonization.  The weather unit we’re going to do has just been revamped, and is taken from the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson in her book Differentiated Instruction in Practice: Grades 5-9.  It’s an amazing collection of activities, experiments, discussions and writing opportunities (which you know we’ll be blogging about!) that will give EVERY learner in our room a chance to engage at their level of understanding.  I like to think that everything we do is organized this way, but with science and social studies, it can be harder to achieve.  This unit brings exciting promise of making it happen.  Then in our colonies unit, we’ll see how what we’ve learned about Native Americans, Ancient West Africans and Europeans comes together when they all end up here and try to create a world together.  I’m excited to see the light bulb moments in that unit as connections are made to past learning.  Definitely exciting stuff on the horizon here!

There is sure to be much, much more happening in our room during this quarter, but here are the foundations on which all the rest will be built.  We have a service-learning project that we’ll be completing with Stray Rescue of St. Louis (more on that later!), fun with our learning buddies, dance routines that we’ll be performing for A.C.E.S. Day in May, a trip to Nipher Middle School to visit, our 5th Grade Celebration and many other still unknown projects or conversations that will develop based on somebody’s great idea or suggestion.  I know that whatever else we do, we’ll enjoy ourselves and learn a lot together!  Can’t wait to share the rest of this ride with you as we go along!

100! Can You Believe It?!

In honor of the 100th post on our blog (yahoo!), I’m going to ask you to celebrate some amazing work my 5th grade friends have been doing. Check our blogs to see what we’ve written lately! Today we posted about proud moments, math, Spring Break, getting braces and much, much more. Don’t forget to comment to let my friends know you visited. They usually ask really good questions, so answer a few! 🙂

Also, I feel like it’s an ok time to remind you of our class connections project. If you haven’t yet commented, or commented and didn’t tell us where you are from, please do so! We haven’t added a new pin in a while, and would love to see our map connections grow!

Thanks, readers, for all the time you spend here.  We appreciate you!!

We’re off to Spring Break after one more school day tomorrow.  Do you have any exciting Spring Break plans to share?