New and Improved in 2015: Journals!


My Writers Notebooks! The first one dates back to August, 2005! If I counted right, I think I’m working on #13 or #14 right now….:)

One of my VERY favorite thing to do with 5th graders (ok, anyone!) is teach them how to write.  It starts from the very first time I show them my own notebooks and talk about my writing journey, and continues through when they get their own (which is a very special occasion, indeed!), and then on through everything else they do (which for the last 4 classes has included blogging, too!).  I have a passion for the written word (well, and the spoken one, too; I talk WAY too much!), and want my students to see the power they have to change the world with their words!

So…as you probably know, I’ve done many of the same kinds of things with my first graders that I did with my 5th graders (the list-group-label, for instance, that I wrote about last week), and in writing, this continues to be true.  So…since one of the biggest things I miss with younger writers is the whole Writers’ Notebook thing, I had to figure out a way to do something similar (both for them and for me!).

When we came back after Winter Break, it was time to start some new things.  This is my FAVORITE time of year because of the fresh feeling there is all around–it’s cold outside, the year has just started, your kiddos are more than half-way to the next grade (so they’ve grown up a ton since Day 1!), and there’s a renewed energy because of the well-deserved rest you’ve just had.  One of the first “new and improved” things for 2015 for my kiddos was journals.

Ok, now the idea of a journal wasn’t new–they had them in kindergarten.  But they hadn’t yet had a journal with ME and learned MY definition of how to use them (which I was hoping would take on some first-grade version of the Writers’ Notebooks I love!).  I let them get really excited on our first day by reminding them of that big ‘ole zebra-print box of my notebooks.  We looked at them and read through some entries, and admired all the pictures that tell about my life over the years.  And just as I heard them say how much they wanted to have a notebook like that–VOILA!–I gave them their very own 1st grade version!  Now they knew (because I explained) that they’d be using these in a little bit different way then when they were in WNBs in future years, but they were excited nonetheless.  It was theirs, it was new and it was…ready to be decorated!  Check out what our journals look like now, all spiffied up!



After the cover was taken care of, we talked about what should go inside.  Like with many new adventures, I asked them what they thought writers put in their journals.  We talked about why people keep journals.  We brainstormed a list of possibilities.  I have to admit–I was impressed!  They had many of the things I’d hoped they’d say, or that I was thinking of teaching them about, and heck–they mentioned many of the things 5th GRADERS put in their notebooks. Geniuses, I tell ya!


Our brainstorming list of ideas for how we could use our journals. This is a GREAT list already, and we’re just getting started!

Before they left to officially write on their first page, I modeled what an entry would like, with the date and their thinking.  Then they were off!


My hope in sharing this particular story was that, even at 6-7YO, they’d see how “journal-worthy” things happen to them all the time. A story doesn’t have to be spectacular, or big, or even special to be remembered. Even a trip to Target can give you material for your writing!

They have had a chance to write in them many times over the last couple of weeks and I LOVE how enthusiastic they are about filling them up with their thoughts!  There are times when we have official “journal writing” time, but often kiddos will get them out during a break or at choice time, which I love!  The best part was when a friend asked me the other day if he could take it home to write in it there!  He didn’t know how BIG of a deal it is to learn that writing takes place EVERYWHERE–not just at school–nor did he know how he’ll be the subject of a lesson soon when yes, indeed, they are allowed to take these babies home to work on their writing lives outside our classroom!


Finishing Strong

Every year the last weeks of school come and life starts going CRAZY FAST!!  It seems that I have time to take pictures of things, but not to write about the things I take pictures of (wait, do I say that at the end of every year?  I should go back and look….)!

So…since I hate to leave things all messy and untied, I’ll end the year the way I began it–with a highlights reel.  Here’s to the last few BUSY weeks of 5th grade with some of the BEST kids around.  Have a great summer, friends of Rm. 202!

Check it out. 🙂


In April we had a whole school Outdoor Learning Day, with the focus being on how to get kids outside more often.  I had to take Ms. Turken’s lead and  try math outside.  On this particular day, we were working on division problems with a little bit of a “scavenger hunt” around the playground.  Funny how just a change of environment can make for so much less whining about long division!!



Ok, so granted, this picture TOTALLY doesn’t do this day justice, but imagine our whole school with All Children Exercising Simultaneously to some really great music, with really cool routines created by our 5th graders, and that’s ACES Day.  Always a fun one!


This year, as with the previous few years, our class (along with the other 5th grades) adopted a pilot through a program with Southwest Airlines.  He is our own First Commander Marcus Smith, whose kiddos go to Robinson and who is a beloved Kirkwood resident.  Here are some pics from our culminating activity–a paper airplane flying contest!!

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Ok, so I admit it, these are not The 20somethingkids that you were expecting to see, but they are pics of my kids nonetheless!  This was a great night of fun at the Cards game, where our Honor Choir–along with the choir from Tillman–got to sing the National Anthem!  SO fun to see Cardinal and Kirkwood red everywhere you look!  Go Cards!


This year Mrs. Kesler helped every grade level get something ready for our first ever Robinson Spring Sing!  While I expected greatness because of what I know about both Mrs. Kesler and our Robinson kiddos, I was BLOWN AWAY by how amazing it was!  (And like the ACES Day section, I feel REALLY bad about not posting a video, but I couldn’t get a good quality one!!  I know, bummer….don’t be mad, ok? 🙂 )  Can’t wait for Spring Sing Take 2 next year!


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Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the parents who made this night of food, friends and fun possible for us!  What a touching way to say Goodbye to 5th Grade!  Those shirts are perhaps the best part–we can take our memories with us!  And they looked really great when we all wore them on our last-day field trip!


One thing I hadn’t yet tried, but was SO EXCITED to do this year was 20% time.  Some schools call it Genius Hour, and it’s not really equated to 20% of our time, but you hopefully get the idea that it’s a project that kiddos could do that was completely of their interest.  Some friends had some extra time in the last few weeks to investigate something of their choosing, and MAN WERE THEY EXCITED!!  We had so many fabulous projects, and spent our afternoon after Field Day presenting our new learning.  It is so cool how interested they all were in the new expertise their friends had to share!

Ok, so apparently the theme of this post is “I don’t have pictures or videos of everything I want to tell you about”–and somehow that happened here, too.  I wish I could show you the smoothies that Owen made for us, the posters that Max made about radio waves and how they transmit music, the dance that Cate and Mia choreographed and then taught the class, the Keynote the Grace created to show how she learned to do makeup (including a before and after picture of how she tried it out on her sister!) or the demonstration Tom did about the most effective jump shot in basketball, but I don’t have them.  Just know that THIS IS ONE TALENTED GROUP OF KIDDOS WHO DIDN’T DISAPPOINT WITH WHAT THEY SHARED WITH US!!

Well, as they say in the movies (or at least Looney Tunes, right?)–that’s all folks!  It’s been a wild ride since our first Fifth Grade and Fearless post, and I wouldn’t have changed a minute!  Here’s to a great year in middle school and MANY more years of changing the world after that!  Remember your GRIT and all that you learned about respecting yourself and others at Robinson and GO GET ‘EM!  I MISS YOU ALREADY!!


Remember how I told you about how lucky we were to be able to Adopt-a-Pilot?

Well, since that first visit, he’s come back two other times, teaching us all sorts of awesome things about geography and flight, as well as life-lessons related to doing our best and working to achieve our goals.

During this second-to-last visit with Mr. Smith, we got to Skype with him while he was out-of-town!  We got to guess “Where in the USA was Mr. Smith?” using clues he gave us.  We used our big map to mark where we thought he might be:

Molli guessed on the FIRST CLUE that it was Birmingham!  Way to go, kiddo!

Check out a clip of our Skype session:

This was only the second time I’d ever Skype’d (and the first was the end of Adopt-a-Pilot last year!), and it was so great!  I know lots of teachers use it in really creative ways in their classrooms for mystery read-alouds, conversations with authors and for class-to-class chats.  I can’t wait to see what else is out there that I might try next year!

How do you use Skype? I’d love to hear about it! 🙂

We’re Adopting!

Hey–now that I have your attention, let me take a minute to tell you all about something new and great that started in our room today:



We are now officially a part of Southwest Airline’s Adopt-a-Pilot program!  Marcus Smith, a pilot and a 5th grade parent, came to visit us for the first time today.  Over the next few weeks, he is going to work with us, both in person and via Skype as we learn about all sorts of topics related to math, science, and communication arts.

The purpose of today’s visit was really just for us to meet him and build a foundation for the program.  First up, meet Mr. Smith:


He told us about his journey to his current job, and we found out about how he had wanted to fly since he was in high school.  He told us about his time in the military, and even showed us some uniforms he’s worn in his past “lives.”

After the introduction, he asked us a question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  We went around the room and told our names and the answer to that question.  I heard answers ranging from teacher and veterinarian to dermatologist and architect.  Stay tuned this week for more on this topic–I hope to share videos or blog posts later!

Throughout the rest of the lesson, we watched a video or two about flight (he was a pilot, after all!) and talked about goal setting.  He shared a great acronym with us to remember as we work toward those goals.  It’s based on the word FLIGHT (which makes sense, right?):

As we go through this program (and beyond that, I hope), we’ll keep coming back to these qualities.


We really enjoyed today and are looking forward to next week when he comes back to teach us more!  A few more pics before I’m done:

One of the things we’ll do each week in between visits is figure out how many miles he’s flying.  We’re hoping to find out if he can fly the equivalent of the distance around the world before we’re done with our program–that’s almost 25,000 miles!

We’re excited to see what’s to come! 🙂