Friday, December 19, 2008

Good tidings!

It's been a very busy week and we've been having a great time engaged in "Xmasy" activities. Today we sung Christmas carols for most classes in the school, and we are looking to ambush Mrs. Clayton and Mrs. Rogers at some point in the day. Here's a picture of Mrs. Everett getting bushwhacked in the halls by our merry group of elves.

The elves-es have left the building! See you in 2009!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chous and Da Gama

Today we worked on our map skills and investigated the routes of Da Gama and Dias. These explorers opened the sea route to Asia and helped start the Age of Exploration. We took a close look at a caravel (a light sailing ship) which also helped exploration by being able to sail into the wind (tack). We took a few notes as well, and chorus students will need to update their vocabulary section in their notebooks.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Silk Road Project

(Nothing is DUE!) Yesterday we looked at the Silk Road in detail and also listened to music from the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma. We also took notes on trade in Africa and between Europe and Asia. One of the things that was traded was salt. Did you know that the word salary came from Roman soldiers that were paid partly in salt? Salt was an extremely important mineral a thousand years ago because it kept food from spoiling. It is also essential to proper health functions of the human body!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Age of Exploration

Today we dove head first into the Age of Exploration. Students copied their notes by starting with the standards.

SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.
a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish, French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Nunez Balboa, Juan Ponce de Leon, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.
b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native Americans.

We had a discussion about Pearl Harbor and most sections played a game relating to the reasons for and obstacles to exploration. Here's one of the flipcharts from a section!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wow, what a great job on the Native American Projects our students did. We had working bows, lots of "great Plains" projects and some very unique clay or salt dough projects. We still have a couple of presentations, but are mostly done with Indians and are now moving into the Age of Exploration.

Here's a KWL from one of our sections on the Age of Exploration. We'll be working hard next week and really covering a lot of material and notes, so please check the website for all the relevant information.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Semiotics and Kung Fu

Today we presented some great projects and also passed out our mini-project on semiotics/Indian symbols. I took a few sections through the process and this will be due on December 5th.
We also talked a bit about how to earn that top grade. I read some stories that students wrote on their tests, which was by far more than the minimum. Remember students, you can always earn extra credit by writing!
The PTO provided popcorn and a movie for all the hard work done raising funds, including our Ice Cream Social! Thanks again PTO, the movie was a big hit!
Happy Thanksgiving to all! Be sure to be thinking about (and working on) your Native American projects.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Testing, testing 1,2

We had a test today on Native Americans and for the most part, the scores look pretty good! Some students aren't finished with the writing component and may take their tests home over the weekend. Several students did NOT use their materials in a manner that I have emphasized since the first day of school. Students

As usual, I will give poor/failing grades a chance to redo their test for higher points. Our next couple weeks of running writing will be free writing either stories or informational reports and will be due December 5th! Hopefully students are on the way to starting (or finishing) their projects.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Freakanomics Friday

We had a heavily shortened day-our chorus went to the mall to perform and to see Santa Claus of course! We hammered through some economics notes and also did some light duty economics work with the students who weren't gone (see picture). We are still a little off schedule and will be working dilligently to get caught up on the Georgia pacing guidelines.
A few students have lost their notebooks! Please make sure they catch up. You can print out notes and cut and paste them into a notebook if you choose! Or, you can do like several parents and have your student copy the notes word for word as a consequence of not being responsible with your notes. Notes are extremely important for success in our classroom environment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning to fly

Today we covered the Plains Indians, including the Pawnee and the Comanche tribes. Remember that both were nomadic, but the Pawnee actually farmed for half the year and hunted buffalo for the other half.

Students learned what a travois (truh-VOY) was today, it was like a sled the Comanche used on land. The also learned about the Comanche's mastery of horses after the Spanish introduced horses in the New World in the 1500s.

I rewarded all the hard work with flying lessons. Here's KAT throwing a little mustard on with a loop-de-loop in the F-16. You can get this program when you download Google earth. As you can see, we are flying over the Great Plains!

Students also went over to NHM, I'm sure they are telling you all about their "field trip"!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sufferin for Suffrage!

Today we celebrated Elizabeth Cady Stanton's birthday. After a long life of fighting for women's rights, Stanton died without ever casting a vote! Wow.
We had our author visit, which was fantastic and entertaining, as well as informative on the editing and writing process. If you still want a book, it's not too late. Check your student's planner or take home folder for the important information.
Tomorrow we will go to the middle school for additional instruction in art, PE and computers! Make sure to write a short note if you didn't turn in a permission slip.
Several sections got into the Plains Indians and took notes on them. If you want to be ahead of the game, please check the following link for what we discussed or will discuss in the near future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hopi you are doing well

Today we took notes and got in depth on the Hopi Indians. We talked about the adaptations the Hopi had to make to survive in the hot and dry climate of the desert. We also looked at the slide show on our homepage and talked about how students could make projects from those ideas. Please make sure your student also is thinking about their project, it's due in a few scant weeks! I had a great project already come in. It's a tipi made in Sketchup
We did a before and after chart on the Hopi in a couple of sections (see picture). I stole this idea from another Social Studies teacher.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Project Due December 3

Hi all!

Yesterday and today we talked about the Pueblo tribes from the desert southwest. I also introduced the project every student will do.

This project is open ended and can be about ANYTHING you've learned in Social Studies this year.

Ideas could include, but are not limited to:
Pottery (clay or salt dough)
Kachina dolls (use paper towel tubes)
Fake arrowheads
Igloos (styrofoam blocks?)
Mocassins (leather?)
Drums (paper/coffee can)
Paper/clay villages
Salmon trap (Kwakiutl)-made of toothpicks or popsicle sticks(?)
Physical map (paper mache)
Longhouse or other Native American structures-(roundhouse)
Fabric (bark, cotton using a hand loom)-weaving
Mounds (Mississippian culture)-paper mache
Totem pole
Buffalo/bison and how it was used maybe(?)
3-D model using "Sketchup" program from Google (it's free! and "relatively" easy)
Model of a Native American-label tribe and region
Basket (woven out of paper or other materials)
War shield
Sand painting
Games (lacrosse, Aztec equivalent of basketball)-court?
Agriculture (for example how Pueblo Indians irrigated)
Any kind of scene from the tribes we've studied
Hunting tools (bow and arrow)
Wooden carvings
Petroglyphs/cave paintings
Flute or other instrument
Snowshoes (string/sticks?)

Here's a direct link. We'll probably add some more ideas as we have discussions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Today in several sections we went over the Preamble to the Constitution. We also had a lively debate about Election Day! Many of the students had great points for both parties and several people had issues with both candidates. Very nice to see high level thinking out of our students. Yesterday, Obama won the school election in our mock election by a very slim margin, so whoever you are voting for (even if it's Bob Barr!) be sure to cast your ballot and honor our democratic (well, Electoral College) process.

In several sections we discussed the tragic case of Sun Hudson. If your student has questions, please review the case with them. This law that allows "pulling the plug" on infants is a great concern of mine, personally!

We didn't do much in terms of notes, so just make sure everyone is caught up with the Kwakiutl and Nez Perce notes off the website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kwakiutl and more!

Today we covered the Northwest tribes in depth. Our notes are online and ALPHA students (and anyone else who was absent) needs to catch up. I will be doing a notes check tomorrow for a grade!!!

It's also Tuesday, Newsday. We looked at articles on a newly discovered set of asteroid belts and what the COROT satellite has been up to. Scientists believe that we will discover several Earthlike planets by 2012 using COROT.

I am passing out a note regarding Halloween bags, and every student will bring home their bag today or tomorrow. This is NOT mandatory, but is like our pencil policy ("take a pencil, leave a pencil"). We will not have a party on Halloween if our policy is the same from last year.

I was very pleased with the work ethic today. Most of our Indian legends are published and out in the hall, so feel free to come by and check out the great work students are doing!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Today we published our final copies of our Indian legends (most of us, anyways). Many of the published pieces are hanging outside our doors, so feel free to drop by the 4th/5th grade hall and see how they turned out!

I'm very pleased at the work flow and the better overall efforts in writing. Students are truly understanding paragraphs, strong beginnings and solid endings to their narrative writing.

Our RUNNING WRITING this week is straight out of the Social Studies standards. We are talking abut how Native Americans used their environment to obtain food, clothing and shelter. Students should think about how tribes used wood in all kinds of ways if they are stuck and need a prompt.

We also started mapping out where various tribes lived in the United States. Here's a sample of one room's work. We will continue working on this Tuesday and Wednesday!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stormy Friday

We did quite a bit today; spelling test retakes, final copies of (most) Indian Legends, and watercolors in homeroom. Students will take these home on Monday; I didn't quite have enough time to take pictures. I also posted next week's running writing topic which is basically standard SS4H1(b) to the letter. We also had counseling by Mrs. Virdin about bullying.

Above is another map from our SS4G1 (Physical and manmade features) project. Check out our class map. This, too is a work in progress.

I will be giving out a rubric for a project next week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spelling Test on Friday

SS4G1 Wrap up...we will continue to work on map skills all year (Skills Matrices on Georgia Standards). Here is a great example of a student who did a "little more" than the required work from the rubric. I always encourage my students to stretch their thinking and creativity and really feel that N.G. did in this case. It is called "Fabulous Island"....fantastic~!

I hope everyone had a restful weekend. I graded the spelling tests over the weekend and the grades were fairly poor. I will be retesting on Monday. If you haven't seen the list, it's over on the assignments page on our website, or here is another list...

Native Americans

We have a 1/2 day on Wednesday and Thursday is Art Night!!! You can buy your student's artwork for 29.95 and a portion of that money goes back to the school.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Becoming civilized

Today we talked about the beginnings of civilization. For years (perhaps centuries) archaeologists thought that people gathered in cities for warfare. Then, in the last decade, this theory was proven *technically* incorrect by the discovery of the Caral Valley.

Archaeologist Ruth Shady is the foremost expert on this site, and it just keeps getting better and better!

Archaeologists found no weapons, battlements or bodies whose evidence would indicate violence. They did find lots of fibers, no pottery, but a lot of flutes!Scientists discovered a large ceremonial ruins just this year. The fascinating thing is that these sites are 20 miles from the ocean, yet there were fish bones in nearly every place archaeologists look.

Eventually, scientists found a 5,000 year old fishing net (!) near the coast and tied the two sites together. There were cotton seeds everywhere in the Caral Valley, and even though it is desert now, it was a lush agricultural site 5,000 years ago. Wow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

SS4G1 Wrap up

Today students worked on their physical maps. We went through at guided practice with all sections, then students had time to work on their individual projects. Ideally, they will finish tonight as homework!

Here is the example we did for homeroom. The rubric for this assignment can be found over here. I am trying to get those students who are close to that upper grade an opportunity to make a better quarter grade!

We got the Spirit Stick again because 100% of the students showed up with blue or orange on (yes, I counted blue jeans). Way to go, homeroom!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SS4H1-Historical Understandings

Today we are writing standards in our notes about Paleo-Indians. Remember from vocabulary that Paleo means old. These were the first Native Americans. You can see on our notes that scientists had 2 theories on how people came over.

I also published the maps rubric and spelling list on our upcoming assignments page. We will be doing several sections in which the class develops a smartboard map. I'll try to post them this week.

Don't forget Harry Wong's sage advice, "people who work and put in effort always achieve more than those who do not!"

The standards we are working on for this chapter are:

SS4H1-The student will describe how early Native American cultures developed in North America.

a. Locate where the American Indians settled with emphasis on Arctic (Inuit), Northwest (Kwakiutl), Plateau (Nez Perce), Southwest (Hopi), Plains (Pawnee), and Southeastern (Seminole).

b. Describe how the American Indians used their environment to obtain food, clothing, and shelter.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Recent changes

Your spelling list is online...

I added a games page to our website:

I added a literacy page:

Our new podcast is up:

You can still see Schoolhouse rock videos: or

I added photos to our "working" folder and other images to our site on Picasaweb.
I updated our student work page; it contains a new slide show from our homeroom state projects!

If you still need an invite, please email me! Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Drama Friday

Drama Friday

This Friday in some sections we went into an Indian legend called Cold Wind, Chinook Wind in our Social Studies text. A more violent version of the tale can be found over here...

We are still trying to adjust to being back in from ITBS testing and everyone is pretty tired in general. Next week is Spirit Week!

One of the ways we're interacting with the textbook is to do "Sticky Note Wednesday" each week. Students write relevant comments and questions about the text on stickies, then we try to answer questions about the text. The students are coming up with some very interesting ideas and queries?

If you haven't checked out our "somewhat" weekly podcast, it's over at

Have a great weekend, don't forget to wear your favorite team shirt on Monday! I have a student bringing in a Florida shirt for me (in theory)....the travesty!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


We're finally on our last day of testing! Yes! Now if we could actually get a straight week of pure instructional time. The other 4th grade teachers and myself feel like we're caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place due to all this testing. I think we've only had one actual week of normal scheduling in eight so far.

Procedures and routines are so important for most kids. Some can roll with the punches, but I can tell you that not having well established schedules creates a lot of problems in terms of getting the curriculum done. We are behind the pacing guidelines for Georgia because we have had numerous tests and "burnt days" as I like to call them, i.e. picture day. My lead teacher always told me to watch out for behavior problems on these type of days. Was he ever right!

We'll be going headlong into our unit on Native Americans next week, even though we'll only probably have a couple of "normal" days. You can catch this week's running writing that will be due October 10.

Here's a KWL from one of our sections...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our new home

I've been disappointed in the edublogs site, it always seems to act quirky and not publish my stuff. Including a couple of posts in a row! So this will likely be the new home of our sites. You can still see our old pages at

I hope everyone had a restful weekend. We are doing ITBS testing through Thurday and will have a very shortened schedule in terms of normal classes. Our goals are to finish state reports and start our new unit.

It's also take home Monday. There should be papers to review from all subjects, except for perhaps a few late papers in Social Studies. I graded most of last week's running writing last Friday.

Here we are working on our smartboard, reviewing some ideas for this week's running writing.