Permission slips are coming home today for our field trip on Monday' we will be visiting TFMS.  We are leaving after lunch and will be back before afternoon recess. The trip is designed to both add some excitement and quell some fears. We usually get a tour of the school by one of the 6th grade teachers and also have some time to ask questions.  PTA is picking up the cost of the bus, so the trip is free. I'd like permission slips back by Thursday, and Friday at the latest.

Also on the same topic, the Mrs. Moen and Mr. Barber from TFMS will be here for about 45 minutes on Friday. They will explain a lot about schedules and choices and answer some questions. I believe the kids will come home on Friday with their exploratory paper. outlining their choices for next year.  I will let you know more about that after Friday.

Exciting times! Mr. Bates is also doing some lessons with the kids about middle school and being ready. When he was in last week, none of the kids indicated they were nervous; I doubt that is truly the case.  Now is a good time to start asking questions of your kids and find out what their worries really are; we can answer some of the questions or we can find out the answer. It's also a good time for middle school stories from you -- the kind that end well, not the crying in the bathroom, someone stole my gym shoes ones. :)

As we get more paperwork and transition dates, I will let you know!
Thank you so much for all the flowers and coffee and chocolate last week - you are all so sweet! I feel lucky to be doing this job, and especially lucky this job to have such a great class. Thank you for your kindness!
This year's MSP schedule is coming home with students today.   Here is the schedule for our class:

Monday, April 29  Reading
Thursday, May 9  Math
Wednesday, May 15 Science

Make-ups are possible, but complicated.  If at all possible, please make sure your students are here on testing days.  Also, kids in a good breakfast and a nutritous lunch.  Our tests will be after lunch, so the first two meals are extremely important.

The other thing that's important is our collective attitudes about the test. I know some of you are excited to see how your child progresses on these tests each year, and others don't put a lot of stock in them. As a school we are trying to be positive with the kids and look at the testing as a great opportunity to see what they learned.   Attitude makes a difference on these things, so all of the "You can do it!" messages are greatly appreciated!!

In previous years we have arranged to have snacks brought in, but things will work differently this year because we are testing, mostly, in the computer lab. I thought instead of daily snacks we might have a small celebration party at the end of testing -- more details to follow.



Oops! And it's a big oops. I mean to hand out class pictures with the math papers, but...I forgot. I just put them on desks, so your kids will bring them home tomorrow.
We had the best time in Social Studies today. I wish I had taken some pictures or filmed it, but I honestly didn't know how the activity would work out. I recently purchased a teacher resource book called "American History Simulations". The activity we did today modeled the Stamp Act. We used starburst candies as money, and drew cards for roles. Most kids were colonists, but there were also three tax collectors, three members of parliament and a king (actually a queen!).  I was a little skeptical of how the activity would go, but it unfolded just like the book said! The king gave tax cards to parliament, who read them to the tax collectors. Colonists were taxed between one and three starburst for things like having a mechanical pencil, wearing jeans, having a library book etc. The kids turned on the tax collectors just like the colonists did in Colonial America -- it was fascinating. At the end of the activity, the king had 66 starburst, the parliament members had 33, tax collectors had 13 and the colonists were left with an average of three. It was a fun activity that perfectly captured the high emotion of the Stamp Act. Too fun!
Hopefully you have been seeing math minute pages come home and have an idea of where your student is performing in regards to timed tests.  There are 34 tests to complete (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). We do the tests four times a week, and my hope is that everyone will pass all the tests before the end of the school year. Five students have passed so far, and two more are not far behind. Please take a look at the charts below. If your student is still working on addition or subtraction, they could use some practice. 
Oops! I was just finishing up planning for next week and realized we aren't going to get as far as I thought in math next week. I assigned three IXL skills for next week, but we won't get to one of them. Please tell your kiddos that we are not doing B17. Skills due on April 5th are B15 and B16. Thanks!
I think I have mentioned to some of you before that it's like a scene from Ferris Bueller  in here, although I really hope I'm not as boring as Ben Stein. :)  We have talked at length about participating (okay, I have talked), but there has only been slight improvement. It's a little bit my fault because as a child I hated being called on when I wasn't ready.  My hope has been that as kids get more comfortable with the class, they will come out of their shells a little.  That hasn't happened, so today we set some goals as a class. Each student created a goal that included a subject (math, ss, reading etc.), and activity (raising hand, reading aloud, table discussions etc.) and a measurable number. For instance,  a goal could be:

I will raise my hand two times next week during Social Studies. 

Monday morning I will show them how to keep track of their goal. I encouraged them to pick a small number so they are sure to meet their goal for next week. I'm hoping that by everyone trying one more thing, they might learn that it's not quite as frightening as they think it is. At the end of the week they will turn in their paper to me with their goal and notes.  

I'm hoping for great results!  This would be a great time to share with your kids about your own school experience.  I think most of the kids were surprised to hear some of the things I shared about my own experience in school. 

Have a great weekend!
This is one of these rare moments where I get to be an observer in the classroom. As I'm typing, the scientist volunteers are walking around talking with your kids about their science projects. It's so fun to do a little eavesdropping! They have a comfort level with me and explain things casually, as you would to someone you have known for several months. Listening to them explain to the scientists is so much fun. They are being very professional and studious! Your kids did great work, and are so proud to talk about it. Thanks for all the help at home -- I know they couldn't have pulled it together without your support!
Hopefully you have been seeing the information about report cards in the Opstad Weekly Update and know what to expect on Monday in regards to report cards.  Report cards will not be coming home with your students, but will be available online through Family Access.  If you don't yet have a username/password (or have forgotten!), please call Opstad and Cheryl or Tina can help get you going. 

Since I don't get to talk with you all face to face this time, there are a couple of things I'd like to highlight for everyone. 

Changing Expectations:  As the year moves forward, expectations go up.  Usually students grow and change with that, but there are some exceptions. One place that a bulk of the class is struggling in is conventions in writing.  In the beginning of the year it was okay to be missing a capital here or there, or have incomplete sentences occasionally. We've spent a lot of time on this, and the expectations is that 5th graders use capital letters and complete sentences in all subject areas.  They all know how to do this (we worked on it so much this trimester!), but often don't  --  kids hurry or they don't check their work.  A lot of students did not make changes in their writing, and those scores have gone down. Kids have to have those things taken care of for middle school. 

Math: You may see some scores go down in math, especially if you have a student who is performing higher in math. One place this happened frequently was in the area of division. At the time of the first report card, it was the expectation that students could divide 4 numbers by 1 number. Students that were dividing by double digits and decimals received 4s.  For a lot of those kids, the instruction has now caught up with their prior knowledge -- the whole class has been dividing with double digits and decimals. If your student has gone down from a 4 to a 3, they haven't necessarily lost ground, the rest of the class (and my instruction!) has caught up with them.

Cross-Content: Middle School requires students to apply their skills in all areas, and so we are starting to hold the kids accountable for that in 5th grade.  For instance, this trimester, "learns and applies vocabulary" in the section of reading accounts for vocabulary that was learned in reading, science and social studies.  Other examples of areas that were assessed in several areas: conventions/punctuation and reading comprehension.  

Math Problem Solving: In the first trimester, we worked with simple word problems and students had only to identify the correct operation to perform. This trimester we have been working with more complex problems, where one operation will not solve the problem. Often the problems are multi-step, or require the student to employ a strategy (guess and check, make a table etc.). This is, of course, harder, and we will keep at it!

Yikes -- that was a lot! Please let me know if you have questions about the report card.