Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

April 27, 2009

Anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 6:47 pm


My emotions are swirling about right now, so much so that I don’t know what to think.  This afternoon my personal laptop was stolen from the classroom.  It is a silver 15 inch MacBookPro and was taken without a case or power supply.   There are currently 2 possibilities.

  1. While the students were in Science down the hall, I left the room for 5 minutes to make some copies and then walk down the hall to pick them up.  During these 5 minutes I left my doors unlocked and it is possible that someone wandering the upstairs hall could have stepped in and stolen it then.
  2. During the last hour and fifteen minutes of the day, the students were in my class finishing up math and then watching a video for Social Studies and taking notes.  The laptop could also have been taken by one of the students during these activities or during clean-up.

It saddens me greatly that someone would take my computer from me, and that it most likely is someone from the BAM community, possibly one of my own students.  I have given my life to this job this year, poured myself entirely into it, and worked countless late nights and weekends.  All of the work I have done is only on the computer, as I unfortunately do not have a recent backup.  I cannot begin to express the frustration that I feel about this. Not only is it a sizable monetary investment, but I also have all my work from graduate school, years of things I developed while student teaching, all the work I have done this year, my own personal creative and fiction writing and poetry, pictures of my family and friends, videos, and recordings of songs.  I’ve also lost a piece of trust I had with my students and the BAM community.

I have called all the families in my class, and a phone blast went out to all the families in the school, but if anyone hears or sees anything, please let me know.  Someone has to have seen something, or if it was a student, I’m sure someone will hear something.  You can email me at adamweis @ (just delete the spaces around the @ when you copy the email into your email program.)

If someone did make a mistake and took the laptop, I am a forgiving person.  Please just turn it back into the office and say you found it, no questions asked.  I just desperately want it back so I can get my files back.  I am also filing a police report and meeting with police, so if the perpetrator is not one to be swayed by guilt, but instead fear, please also know that if I do not get it given back to me, I will be bringing in the force of the law.

There’s not much more to say now, except that I’m feeling pretty down.  I’ll keep doing my best to keep giving my all every day to all the kids.  It’s really all I can do.



April 25, 2009

It’s a beautiful day outside…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 11:30 am

why not go buy some plants?

cal plant sale

Or, why not start getting a garden bed ready for this?

Mark your calendars. (Thanks Frieda for the flier!)


April 23, 2009

A test-taking hors d’oeurve of areas and triangles

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 7:51 pm

Our challenge vocabulary this week is made up of foreign words and phrases.  Students will research the words to determine their pronunciation, place of origin, common meaning, and literal translation.  I’m continuing to alter the way I am doing challenge vocabulary, and I’ve decided to set up several mini-project ideas for the final task.  I am also giving a bit more time to work work on the tasks so finished packets are due next Tuesday. The challenge words and phrases of the week are: carte blanche, aficianado, hors d’oeuvre, angst, and faux pas. Good luck to all those students working on the challenge words!

In Mathematics today we did some work with finding the area of rectangles, triangles, and parallelograms.  Students used what they knew about arrays and area models and then developed a formula for finding the area of a triangle and the area of a parallelogram.  Here is a video tutorial that follows pretty closely to what we did with paper rectangles.  The site I am linking to, Math Playground has some other good tutorials too, which can be found here.

Here is a neat little site with and applet that will calculate the area of a triangle by dragging the vertices.  (One note that may cause some confusion:  Although the display only shows the base and height to tenths of an inch, the area is calculated to a hundredth of an inch.  This might cause a bit of confusion when the area equation is calculated, so just keep in mind that the area is calculated with greater accuracy then it looks like it will be.)


As an interesting additional formula, Henron of Alexandria is attributed with finding a formula for the area of a triangle with only the 3 sided known.  You can read about it and do a little activity here.  This is definitely not an equation that is part of the 5th grade standards, but you are still welcome to check it out.

The other new thing we did in class today was to find the area of a parallelogram.  Here is a very neat little applet that shows how the formula for the area of a parallelogram works.  It is helpful to see how the two parts of the object can fit together to form a regular rectangle.


In writing we set the stage a bit for our persuasive writing unit by having the students write about what they think is the most important thing they can do to help the environment.  We discussed Earth Day some, and we will be using some of the ideas of the students to write a model essay.

In Social Studies we learned a little about the ways that the economy developed in the early colonies.  The emphasis in the current unit is to draw connections from colonial developments to values and laws that the USA has today.  Our discussion about the Great Awakening and the effects multiple religions helped us to draw some connections to the value of Freedom of Religion.  Our discussion about the early economic systems will help us draw connections to our modern Free Market Economy.

Don’t forget that tomorrow is the Sports Day spirit day.  Students are encouraged to wear a jersey from a team they play on, their favorite college or professional team, or their favorite team’s colors.  Please leave any sports equipment like bats, balls, cleats, helmets, or pads at home.  I look forward to seeing all the students looking sporty, and I’ll do my best to keep everything under control and make sure everyone is following the rules. That’s a hint as to what I will be wearing 🙂


  1. Language Arts:  Test Prep Packet #5
  2. Mathematics: Test Prep Packet #5
  3. Other: Finish vocabulary packet and study for the quiz.

Mr. Weis

April 21, 2009


Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:55 pm

Today we introduced the new vocabulary focus words for the week.  The words are: capital, capitol, corpse, corps, orthodontist, corporation, pedestrian, and indent. I also passed out the challenge vocab for the week, which are all foreign words and phrases, but I’ll discuss it more in depth on the blog tomorrow.

In Reading we discussed the concept of consensus and reviewed procedures for consensus making.  We then split into groups and worked through some of the test prep material.  We are making some headway on the packets, and I think the students are doing a good job of identifying types of questions and applying different types of solution strategies.  We had our CAL volunteers in the class today helping, so it was great to have an extra hand at each group.  In my group we discussed symbols, themes, synonyms, and clarifying a word by using its root.

In Writing we got back to work on the puppet plays.  Our goal is to have some quality drafts completed and have students working on the computer by the end of the week.  We will start our persuasive writing unit soon.

In Mathematics we did a quick review of decimal and fraction computation.  Students gave brief presentations on different concepts, highlighting strategies and steps used to solve actual test release problems.  Students also graded their second prep packet to identify particular areas where they need a little more help.  I’ll be using the assessment data to lead some small groups for specific groups of students.

Here are a few tutorial videos on some decimal computation.


Adding Decimals

Subtracting Decimals

Subtraction by Decimals

decimal rap

Here is a sorta hokey, but fun, decimal rap.

Multiplying Decimals

Multiplying by Decimals

dividing decimals

Division by Decimals

All of the above videos are brought to you courtesy of Although embedding them into the blog isn’t easily done, as can be with youtube,  you are able to access the videos from school and through many content filters.  Both and are both good websites to check out if you are behind a filter and are looking for either teacher or student made videos.


  1. Language Arts: Test Prep Packet 3
  2. Mathematics: Test Prep Packet 3
  3. Other: Work on Vocabulary Packet (due Friday)
  4. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log
  5. Green Folder:  Check Green Folder, sign and return (Vocab Packet, Vocab Test, 3 announcement fliers -BAM Jam Prizes, Camp Galileo, Harlem Renaissance)

One other thing I’d like to mention is that there is a group of BAM Parents meeting outside of school by the Library tomorrow evening at 5:30.  This is an informal meeting and is not being put on by the PTA or any official school groups.  I’m not going to make any specific comments on the issues the parents are concerned about, but I think it is important that if there is a discussion that is going to happen, that the word is spread throughout the school community.  I’d like all parents who want to weigh in on the issues to get a chance to listen and also make their opinions heard, whether they are supporting or not supporting the particular concerns.  The basic premise of the discussion is to talk about several concerns regarding retention of a specific teacher, communication with the district regarding complaints, and some concerns about administrative decisions at the school.  To get more of an idea what the concerns are and get involved in a discussion with other parents, I also encourage you to head over to the Yahoo group Bamnet.

April 20, 2009

(Musically) A yellow glider is going under the sea,

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 7:31 pm

from Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, Jew Jersey.


Take a look at the above picture and think about what yellow underwater vessle it might remind you of.

Anybody thinking of another bright yellow underwater vehicle?

Perhaps this one?


As I was reading this article Sunday evening, I could not help but think about the Beatles song Yellow Submarine.  Also, as I was reading the article I could not help but think of several fifth grade science standards that fit right along with it including Chemical Science standards about solutions and salt and Earth Science standards about water and weather.  (I know it may seem rather odd that I cannot help but think of standards as I go about my daily business, but such is the life of a teacher.)

So, when I went to plan the Current Events activity for today, I thought, why not combine the catchy musicality of the Beatles with the multiple scientific principles of the article?  And thus was born the new hit song in room 202, A Yellow Glider is Going Under the Sea. (Sung to the tune of A Yellow Submarine) As we read the article we focused on several specific terms and concepts including salinity, temperature, and ocean currents. The kids did a great job helping complete a fill in the blank version of the song.

In Vocabulary news, our words of the week are all based on roots that refer to parts of the body.  Our roots are cap – head, dent/dont-teeth, corp – body, and ped/pod – feet.  Tomorrow we will go over our eight focus words of the week and students will begin work on their weekly packets.

In Mathematics we did some Test Prep review, focusing on the first set of Number Sense Standards.  To get a quick look at the entire scope of 5th Grade Math Standards as well as the frequency each type of question has shown up on the STAR test, take a look at this PDF.  I think it is a handy way to look at all the standards on one page.  You will see that the questions are pretty spread over all the standards, but in looking at the standards, you should also see that we have done a pretty good job of working our way through all the content. Students began work correcting their own tests and identifying specific areas of content that they need to review.  We will continue this review throughout the week, and by the end hopefully the students will get some quality review and also be more aware of their own strengths and stretches.

We also did a little more work with the Language Arts tests.  We continued to work through some stories and questions, categorizing the types of questions and reviewing strategies to solve each one.  One area that I have noticed a lot of questions on, especially in terms of vocabulary, is in choosing what a word means based on its root.  Although we have been working with roots all year, here are a couple sites with some games that will offer some review and probably also some work with roots we have not yet gone over.

It's Greek to Me

It’s Greek to Me: Choose your country and event (archery or discus) to play and match greek roots and word meanings in 2 different difficulties.

Latin Root Jeapordy

Root Jeopardy: Play a Quiz game where you guess words based on roots and definitions.

Book Buddy

Book Buddy: Create words from prefixes and roots and figure out which sentences they will work with.

Bingo Lingo

Bingo Lingo: This is  PDF document which includes instructions, board game cards, and playing pieces.  If I can find some time, we might play this in class, but feel free to play it with your family.


  1. Language Arts: Final Draft of Spring Break Poem
  2. Mathematics: Test Prep packet 2 – Problems 20-42
  3. Other: Finish Vocabulary Sort
  4. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink log.

Mr. Weis

April 16, 2009

A very … slow … day

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 6:15 pm

One of my favorite things about teaching is that there never really is a dull moment.  There is always something new, exciting, or unexpected transpiring, and I appreciate the fact that I don’t have a lot of down time to, for instance, read through long lists of dates and names and categorize them and compare circumstances to tiny, wordy rules with far too many semi-colons from a book with incredibly thin pages.  For that very reason, I do very much appreciate lawyers.

I spent the better part of today grading papers and listening to the lawyers at the Layoff Hearings, so I’m not entirely sure how the day ended up going, but at the point when I left things had started pretty smoothly.  I did end up being called up to testify, so I’m glad I was there.  The ruling is expected to come in the first or second week of May, and from there it remains a numbers game in the state and with the Federal Stimulus money.  Nothing has really changed in terms of my prospects.  However, I’d still like to take a quick moment to thank all the parents and students who have been supportive of me through everything.  It’s still far from over, and I won’t know anything new for a long time, but I do thoroughly appreciate the nice things I have been hearing from many people.

Tomorrow BAM will have its assembly honoring Cesar Chavez.  Our class will be singing along with Ms. Wright and Ms. Thomas’ classes, and several students will read poetry that they wrote.  The assembly starts at 9:30 and shouldn’t last more than a half hour.

I’d also like to plug the BAM Open Mic Poetry Reading happening at our own Poetry Garden on Saturday.  I’ll be there and will read some of my own poetry and hope to see some students and parents reading too.  Here is the official schpeel from the flier:

The Annual Open Mic Poetry Reading is this Saturday, April 18th, from

Please come – bring your poetry to share (either yours, or another
poet’s!) and listen to selections by others. This is a wonderful
tradition, held in the Allen Ginsberg Memorial Poetry Garden at Berkeley
Arts Magnet (corner Milvia and Lincoln).

If you would like more information, contact BAM alum emeritus Steve
If you’ve never attended the poetry reading, then come this year – it is a
great time for children and adults to share poetry in the perfect setting.

The Friday News inadvertently had the previous date of April 25 – please
disregard. It is this Saturday April 18th.


  1. Mathematics: Study Links Page 203 – Coordinate Grids
  2. Social Studies:  Do one side of the Colonial Careers worksheet.
  3. Other: Vocabulary Packet – Finish Packet and prepare for the quiz tomorrow.
  4. Other: Bring back signed and completed reading and homework logs.

Mr. Weis

April 15, 2009

A sublime setting for studying science and sublimation

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 8:07 pm


We had a wonderful day today on our field trip to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Among other things, the students investigated properties of matter and phase shifts by performing experiments with dry ice.  If you’d like to know what sublimation is, scroll down and follow the link, or better yet, ask your child.  Students also explored the conductivity of different materials using a voltmeter and tested to see how quickly heat transferred through different types of metal.  The students were very engaged in the experiments and lecture parts of the day and asked a lot of good questions as we went through the program. We also took a tour of The Advanced Light Source and learned some different ways that X-rays are used to study proteins and chemical compositions of different objects. You can check out the ALS website here.

Here are a few questions that you could ask your children to learn more about what they did today. I’ve also included links to answers and some supplemental information.  Enjoy

  1. What is sublimation? Answer
  2. What is Dry Ice? Answer
  3. What solid materials and liquids conduct electricity? Find the answer in the workbook notes.
  4. What temperature Celsius does water boil and freeze? Answer. Some extra info on the history of Celsius.
  5. What happens to the air in a baloon when it is submersed in Liquid Nitrogen? Video answer
  6. What is Absolute Zero, and how come we don’t really know it exists for sure? (Instead of just a simple answer, here is a link to a website on the PBS site that supports a Nova episode on Absolute Zero.  I’m going to look into getting a copy of the video for the class, but in the mean time, there are some great information and activities on the site.)

Absolute Zero

On an entirely different subject, I will unforuntately only be at school briefly tomorrow.  I will be attending the Lay-off hearings with many other Berkeley teachers who received pink slips that have not yet been rescinded.  I will be at school to help with the music for the performance rehearsal in the morning, but will then be leaving.  I wish I didn’t have to miss school for this, but I have been strongly advised to be present at the hearings, and I want to do whatever I possibly can in order to keep my position at BAM.


  1. Other: Work on Vocabulary Packet (Due Friday)
  2. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Mr. Weis

April 14, 2009

Graph Games

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:16 pm

Yesterday I wrote quite a bit, so today I just have a quick announcement and a few games.

Tomorrow we are going on our field trip to Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
A few items to remember:
1.    Please bring a bagged lunch, as we will be departing at 9:30 and not returning until 1:30.
2.    Wear long pants.
3.    Wear close-toed shoes (no sandals).

Now, here are some game links.  These three games all involve working with ordered pairs.  Ordered pairs are sets of an X and Y coordinate that correspond to a specific point on a Coordinate Grid.  For some more information about how to use an ordered pair to name a point, follow this link.

In What’s the Point, you can choose between different difficulty levels and pick ordered pairs from multiple choice lists.  The easier version involves only positive X and Y coordinates and the higher difficulty level involves all 4 quadrants and both positive and negative X and Y values.

What's the Point?

In Graph It, there are three different difficulties to choose from.  A mole pops up at a point on the graph, and you have to identify the ordered pair to knock the mole out before it eats.

Graph Mole
In Catch the Fly, you identify points that flies land on by typing in the ordered pairs.  Once you type in the correct pair, a frog will hop out and slurp it up.  As opposed to the other games that have the player pick from a multiple choice list, Catch the Fly requires the player to type in the coordinates.



  1. Mathematics: Study Links page 201
  2. Other: Work on Vocabulary Packet (Due Friday)
  3. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.
  4. Sign and Return Unit 8 Math test.

Mr. Weis

April 13, 2009

Welcome back!

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 6:05 pm


I hope everyone had a rejuvenating vacation and is rested and ready for the final stretch.  We have a lot to do in the final months and time is going to move quickly, so please do your best to make sure all students are keeping up and staying focused.

This week in vocabulary we are focusing on Greek and Latin roots that refer to amounts.  The roots are magni (great), min (small), equ (equal), omni (all), and poly (many).   Our focus words of the week are magnitude, miniscule, mince, equilateral, equitable, omnivore,  omnipotent, and polysyllabic.   Students will get some time in class during the week to work on their packets, but they are expected to also spend time working on them at home.  As always, packets are due on Friday.

In reading we started a test-prep focus on literary analysis and response and began to examine the content that will be on the State test.  (State testing will take place April 27 – May 1).  We had a brief discussion about the test and about how we can put our preparation work and the test itself in a positive light.  While each student, parent, and teacher is entitled to their own opinion about the merits of the testing, and while I have my own personal criticisms about the process, the bottom line is that it is the system we have, and we might as well do our best to work with it to get something out of it.   I’ll be doing my best to try to keep my own optimism and the optimism of the students up, and I would dearly appreciate you attempting to do the same.

I’m focusing our test prep work on building a better understanding of connections between the work we have been doing in reading and writing and the way the test and its questions are developed.  We will be looking at the state standards, doing some self evaluation and goal setting, and then working to apply critical thinking strategies to understand the content of literature passages and the types of questions that are asked.  Students will practice creating their own questions, diagramming content, and creating proofs for their answers.   I hope the students will come away from the process with a little more self awareness about their own thinking and abilities in the area of literary response and analysis.

In Writing we worked on some musically inspired poetry as an outlet for telling about our vacations.  We thought to ourselves, if our vacations were songs, what would they sound like?  Would they be fast or slow, loud or quiet, playful or mysterious?  We then looked over some lists of Italian words that composers use to give direction about how their compositions should be played.  We looked at some lists of words used to describe Mood like animato (animated), dolce (sweetly), Con Brio (with spirit), and words that describe Dynamics like forte (strong), piano (gentle), or crescendo (growing).  We also looked at words that describe tempo like lento (slow) or allegro (joyful and fast).  After listening to some varied types of music and applying some of the Italian Composer vocabulary, we began to write poems about our vacations and incorporated the musical terms.  Students should finish their drafts as homework and the finished poems will go up on the wall to replace our homophone riddles. You can look at some terms here.  I chose the wikipedia entry since it has the nicest organization, but looks pretty good to me after I cross referenced it with some other lists.

In Mathematics we began Unit 9 with a pre-test and lesson on Coordinate Grids.  I’ll add some links on the blog with activities about coordinate grids later this week.  Our main focus to get ready for the test will be on working with grids, geometry, and algebra.  We will then do some computation review.

In other news, we exercised our singing muscles a bit today as we practiced singing the song De Colores.  On Friday, our class will sing De Colores as part of the assembly honoring Cesar Chavez.  We will also have several readers share some things that they wrote.  The assembly will be on Friday at 9:30 in the auditorium.

Here is the version we were practicing with, although I will be providing the guitar accompaniment during the assembly (gulp).

Here are the lyrics as well as sheet music if your child would like to learn the lyrics or the music.  Enjoy.

As a final note, our field trip to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is on Wednesday, April 15th.  Students are expected to bring a bag lunch as we will be on the trip from 9:30 until 1:30.  I still have one more chaperone space available, so if you would like to come join us, please let me know ASAP.


  1. Language Arts: Rough draft of Spring Break Musical Poem. (3 verses minimum)
  2. Mathematics: Page 199 – Coordinate Grids
  3. Other: Begin work on vocabulary packet (due Friday).
  4. Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.  *Some students received a new format for this, please check in to make sure they are filling out the correct form.

Mr. Weis

April 1, 2009

Bon Poisson D’avril!

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 8:25 pm


Happy April Fools Day, or as it is known in France and several other French speaking countries, April Fish Day!  (People there surreptitiously put paper fish on the back’s of others as a joke.)

We had a very busy day today that included watching a performance of Ohlone folk tales by the third grade, fitness testing, Cesar Chavez presentations, and Mathematics review work and presentations.  We also did a little reading today about the history of April Fool’s day.  Here is a link to a website with a very thorough explanation about the possible origins of April Fools.  The most widely accepted theory on the origin of the holiday takes into account that, in Europe, New Year’s used to fall on the Vernal Equinox near the end of March.  When the Gregorian calendar was instituted in the late 1500s, New Year’s Day changed to occur when many of us celebrate it today on January 1st.  In subsequent years, people who continued to celebrate in near the Vernal Equinox became known as fools.  However, there has been limited evidence to support this theory, so in all the resources I checked, it was still only listed as the most probable.

Thanks to those who came out to Math Family Games Night and the PTA meeting.  I prepared packets with game directions and game cards for seven different games and made some extra copies that I will send home with students who did not attend.

In the spirit of April Fools’ Day, I’d like to share several videos of hoaxes (a vocabulary word of the day) that I find pretty amusing.  The first is from an actual BBC broadcast about the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest from 1957.  Show it to your kids and see if they know where Spaghetti really comes from.

Here is another clip from the BBC about some rather amusing penguins.

I’m hoping that this link stays up, but here is my favorite hoax that I saw this year.  It comes to you from Qualcomm.

First, watch the video:

Then, check out the website here. As much as I don’t really advocate playing into April Fool’s Day while at school, I really appreciate the humor and creativity in the above clips and links.

In other classroom news, the students finished up preparations for their math concept presentations and we began filming them.  I’ll be putting up links to the videos soon, and we will be using them not only to study, but also as evidence for students to critique their own mathematical explanations and oral presentation skills.

In Science the students worked on correcting missed problems from the Body Systems test they took in the beginning of the week.


  1. Language Arts:  Work on projects if they are not completed (Cesar Chavez, Lit. Circles)
  2. Mathematics: Study Links: pages 191, 193 – Review and study for the test on Friday.
  3. Other: Continue work on Play plot graphic organizer and Weekly Vocab packet.
  4. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Note:  If your child is going to be absent on Friday, please make sure they have all work completed and turned in on Thursday.

Mr. Weis

Blog at