Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

October 28, 2009

Wednesday, October 28

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 11:56 pm
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In drama news, we had our first session with Opera Piccola yesterday.  Opera Piccola, which translates literally to “small works” is an Oakland theater company that is involved with a number of exciting projects with young people around the Bay Area.  The 5th Grade is lucky to have them coming to do some theater work with us.  We will meet for weekly sessions and students will work on building dramatic skills as well as writing some of their own works.  It will all culminate in a final evening  performance in the winter.  The same group also worked with the 4th Grade last year, so the curriculum we are designing with Opera Piccola will work on building and extending on the students’ prior drama work.

Etymology Dictionary

Each week we spend time in class looking very closely at our vocabulary words.  Among other things, we look at spelling patters, affixes, and roots.  A powerful way to expand one’s vocabulary is to delve into the realm of etymology, or the study of word origins.  I strongly recommend checking out The Online Etymology Dictionary.  While there, you can read about how many words shifted in use, meaning, and construction in different languages. It is also a good way to check to see if a word either fits a similar spelling pattern or if it actually shares a common root.


  1. Language Arts: Vocabulary Sentences
  2. Mathematics: Finish Angle Estimation worksheet from class
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out clarification reading log

Mr. Weis


October 27, 2009

Personified Wind, Google Groups, and Geometry

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 9:42 pm
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a very blustery day

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky
And all around I heard you pass
Like ladies skirts across the grass
O wind, a-blowing all day long
O wind, that sings so loud a song.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

How about the weather last night and today?  What an incredibly blustery day it has been! Previously we have done jounral writing about the rain, and today I felt it fitting to do a writing activity connected to the incredible winds.  We started by discussing the concept of personification, of giving human characteristics to something nonhuman.  Together we wrote a bit about the wind, attributing emotions and human-like actions to the winds movement and the way it affects different environments.  Then students worked to create their own stanzas describing how the wind danced, howled, knocked, kicked, and screamed.  The students wrote their poems on swirling winds, and they will go up on the wall outside the room in the next few days, along with some other personified Fall items.  I’ll make sure to take some pictures when it all comes together, and if you are in the building for a conference next week, make sure to stop and take a look at the poetry work up on the walls.

Tonight I just finished going through the process of creating a google group for 5th Grade families at BAM.  A google group is a website hosted by google that is used to facilitate communication between a group of people.  I sent out invites that you should all receive some time tomorrow after google verifies that I am a real human being and not an internet spam bot.  If you do not get the invite, or you are feeling a bit impatient to join, you can go directly to the group at

In Headlands Institute field trip news, this past weekend we had our first official fundraising activity with a bake sale connected to the Cal football game parking at the school.  Thanks to all the families that donated drinks, baked goods, and snacks to sell, and to the families and students who stopped by and helped volunteer at the table.  We raised about $370!  Way to go! Lets keep up the hard work and dedication.

In reading we continued our work with clarification as we dissected different types of context clues and practiced being word detectives.  Students identified clarification strategies of linked synonyms, antonyms, appositives, causes/effects, and familiar word parts as they deduced the meaning of some highly advanced vocabulary words.

In math this week, we have transitioned to geometry and working with angles.  The goals this week are:

  • To be able to identify and define acute, obtuse, right, and reflex angles.
  • To be able to state the total number of degrees in a circle.
  • To be able to use a protractor to accurately measure an angle.


  1. Language Arts: Vocabulary – Definitions and CLOZE
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 3.4 – Angle Measures
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and write 2 predictions in reading log.

Mr. Weis

October 22, 2009

Thursday, October 21

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 11:00 pm

Today in writing, the students worked on their peer edits for their food memoirs.  They read through each other’s essays and identified strengths and areas needing improvement in both mechanics and content.  Every week or two in writing, we also focus on a specific grammar topic or mechanic.  Currently, we are working with capitalization rules.  In order to really delve deeply into the topic, we will use real text examples, collaborative investigations, and independent practice.  You may have noticed that in the past couple vocabulary tests, students have not only written sentences with the vocabulary words, but they have also had to write sentences with specific grammatical conventions.   Today, during independent reading, students searched their books for examples of different capitalization rules.  Previously this year, we focused on quotation rules and word choice with the three versions of there, their, and they’re.

In mathematics, we practiced using magnitude estimates in multiplication problems.  As we worked through Unit 2, errors in decimal placement were one of the most common mistakes.  Using a quick magnitude estimate can help to self monitor if an answer seems reasonable or not. Applying quick magnitude estimates, especially for products in multiplication problems, can greatly assist in catching errors and eliminating answers in multiple choice tests.

In non-academic news, tomorrow we will have our first assembly connected with the roll out of the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) program at BAM.  Positive Behavior Support involve targeting and positively reinforcing the behaviors we want to see at BAM.  This is a departure from most common behavior systems at schools that focus predominately on reacting to negative behavior with negative consequences.  The main idea of PBS is to recognize and reward the positive behaviors that we want to see instead of just providing negative attention to students exhibiting behaviors we don’t want to see.  You can read more about PBS at the main website.


Additionally, you can watch some videos to get an idea of how PBS has been applied at other schools.  At BAM, a committee has been formed that includes parents, teachers, administrators, and school support staff.  Together, the committee, the entire staff, and the school community will work together over this year to make steps in the direction of PBS with the ultimate goal of improving the overall school climate at BAM.  This first assembly will focus on the norm Be Respectful, and several students who have exemplified the norm will be recognized.


  1. Math:  Study Link for Lesson 2.7
  2. Vocab:  Finish packet and study for test
  3. Language Arts:  Continue working on Recipe Food Memoir for the 5th Grade Cookbook
  4. Reading:  Read for 25 minutes and fill out reading log. Make sure to get the log signed!

Mr. Weis

October 21, 2009

Wednesday, October 21

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:08 pm

This students have dubbed this week “The Week of Tests,” and thankfully we are past the halfway point.  We have been busy working on finishing up all the final assessments before the grading period ends on Friday.  Students have already completed the district math assessment and the district writing assessment.  I have greatly appreciated the dedication, effort, and work ethic displayed by the students as they have been doing the assessments.  We have just a couple more to go, including the Unit 2 math test, and a Unit 1 Social Studies test.

There were 3 important notices sent home today regarding the Marin Headlands Institute field trip.  The first was an update about the information discussed at the family meeting last week and an update on fundraising opportunities.  Please take a moment to look it over and return the fundraising volunteer sign-up on the back page.  The second notice was a brief flier about the fundraiser this weekend involving selling refreshments at the Cal parking fundraiser.  If you are able to help out with a donation or with manning the parking lot, please send back the bottom of that form.  If you can’t make it this week, there will be another opportunity on November 7.  The third notice was information about the forthcoming BAM 5th Grade Memoir Cookbook.  Each student was given a set of interview questions and a description of the assignment.   This is an important assignment that not only will help our fundraising, but that ties together some of the different curriculum we have been working with in class.  I’ll copy and paste the description here:

As our memoir unit is coming to an end, the students are each writing a Food Memoir about some memorable experience connected to food.  The topics span a range of experiences, and different students are writing about mouth-watering delicacies, unique restaurant or dining experiences, or culinary catastrophes.  In our current Social Studies unit, we are also discussing the customs, traditions and cultural practices unique to different tribes of American Indians.  Stemming from these two projects, Miss Klein and I decided to do another project, a Food Memoir Cookbook.

Students will interview a family member about a recipe that is important to them.  Students will then write up that recipe along with a short memoir.  The resulting pieces will be bound together as a compilation of recipes and memoirs from the entire 5th Grade.  The cookbook will then be sold at a Tea Party on the evening of November 12 to families from the entire school and local community.   We will use the proceeds as part of our fundraising for the Marin Headlands overnight trip.

Please take the time to help your child to complete their “Food Memoir” interview.  This is a wonderful opportunity for you to share some memories with your child and to discuss traditions and customs that are important to your whole family.

The food memoir recipe and memoir is due on Monday at the latest.  If you can get it in by Friday, that would be great!

Yesterday we did our morning work by reading a short article about the recent discovery of 32 new planets by a team of European astronomers.  Here is a link to the article we read.  The students then wrote short journal pieces about the discovery.  For more information, you can go directly to the source at the European Southern Observatory’s webpage.


You can also follow the link of the picture below to get to the press release page with more detailed information on the discovery and some links to pictures and a couple videos explaining the discovery in greater detail.  Enjoy!

New Discovery


  1. Vocabulary:  Write Sentences
  2. Language Arts:  Food Memoir Recipe Interview (Due Monday)
  3. Reading:  Read for 25 minutes and fill out Summary section on Thursday’s log section.  (Students will do the clarification section tomorrow night)

Mr. Weis

October 19, 2009

Para leer La Bamba se necesitan tres tipos de preguntas

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:05 pm


In Reading today, we began reading the short story La Bamba by the author Gary Soto.  The story comes from the book Baseball in April and Other Short Stories. As we read, we used comprehension strategies of predicting, summarizing, and questioning.  Today we also began a new activity called Pass the Question.  During the activitiy, students periodically write questions related to the text in the form of a Right There, Connect, or In Your Head question.  Right there questions have answers that can be found directly in one part of the text.  Connect questions require the reader to connect at least 2 pieces of information from the text, and In Your Head questions are thinking questions that require the reader to use information as well as their own opinion to come up with an answer.  In Pass the Question, students write questions and pass them on to each other.  When a student receives a question, it is their job to first identify what type of question it is, and then provide a clear answer.  This is meant to not only increase comprehension of the text, but to also help students to understand how to properly classify questions, and then apply that information as they come up with their answers.  By the end of this week, we will add our fourth major reading comprehension strategy of clarification.

Vocabulary this week includes four prefixes: pre-, post-, fore-, and after- The eight focus words of the week are: prepare, prefix, forethought, forefather, postpone, postdate, afterword, and afternoon.

Math this week will mostly be review and assessments including a district assessment on Tuesday and the Unit 2 assessment on Thursday.  The district assessment will cover all materials so far this year, and the Unit 2 assessment will cover decimal computation (addition, subtraction, and multiplication), rounding, and algebraic expressions with single variables.

In Writing we are continuing to work on food memoirs.  Students were busy today working on their first drafts and trying to incorporate some great sensory images, vivid literal and figurative descriptions of the food, and a cohesive plot structure with a clear beginning, middle, and end.  We had a few students share out some paragraphs from their writing and we all enjoyed listening to some wonderful compositions.  On Wednesday we will have the district writing assessment, which will be a basic memoir prompt, and by the end of next week, we will finish our memoir unit.

Have you signed up yet for your Parent/Teacher Conference?  I sent home reminders of meeting times on Friday and extra sign-up sheets today.  Please try to get forms back as soon as possible so I can do my best to accommodate everyone’s schedule.


  1. Math: Review District Study Guide Problems
  2. Vocabulary:  Complete Word Sort in weekly packet.
  3. Language Arts:  Complete at least 3 paragraphs of your Food Memoir rough draft.
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and complete 2 predictions in your reading log.

Mr. Weis

October 15, 2009

Writing Memoirs and High Tech Graphic Organizers

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:30 pm
Tags: ,

Knots in My Yo-yo StringWhat It IsChildtimesPicture 8

Throughout the year, we will spend about 6 weeks each on specific writing genres.  Our first writing genre this year is memoir.  Some memoir writing we have done so far includes our 4th Grade Memory Poems, our Mathographies, and a memoir connected to a mode of transportation.  As we have been writing memoirs, we have also been reading lots of memoirs including selections from What It Is by Lynda Barry, Knots in My Yo-Yo String by Jerry Spinelli, and Childtimes: A Three Generation Memoir by Eloise Greenfield.  Our next memoir will be a food memoir and will focus on a specific experience, either positive or negative, with food.  We’ve been doing some prewriting brainstoriming lists of foods, and today we read a piece by the poet and prose writer Naomi Shihab Nye called Mint Snowball and we identified some writing techniques used to enhance the descriptions in our writing. We highlighted the use of sensory details as well as some figurative language and similes as we read about the author’s memory of a mint ice cream treat from her childhood.

One day a week, during our literacy block, we check out the laptop mobile lab and the students use the computers.  The past few weeks we have been doing some basic computer literacy work with Mac OSX and learning about formatting and word processing using Microsoft Word.  This week the students were given a chance to experiment with a web-based graphic organizer called allows users to quickly create cluster graphic organizers, save them on the web and print them out.  The students began organizing some of their ideas about possible food memoir topics.  You can take a look and try making some bubbls yourself by following this link.


  1. Vocabulary: Finish packet and study words for test.
  2. Math: Study Link Page 33 – Open Number Sentences
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out Reading Log.  Get Reading Log signed!

Mr. Weis

October 14, 2009

Welcome to the BAM Class of 2010!

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 4:25 pm
Tags: , ,


Welcome everyone to the home of the classroom blog for Mr. Weis’ 5th grade class at Berkeley Arts Magnet.  Last year I updated this page daily with information on homework and what we were learning about in class.  I also included links to tutorials, videos, web resources, and online games that connected to the what we were learning about in class.  I received such a positive response last year that I am actually building my own new and improved website for this year.  WordPress has been a nice place to host the site, but I’d ultimately like to have some features that are not accessible here.  However, in the meantime I will continue to use this site to provide updates and information on what is going on in the classroom.  Today’s blog post will be dedicated to explaining some of the routines we are developing in class.

Each week in Vocabulary we will have a spelling pattern focus and a group of 8 or so words that incorporate the spelling pattern.  Last week, we focused on singular and plural words, and particularly on words with an (f) to (ves) change, vowel changes, and no changes.  The focus words of last week were wife/wives, leaf/leaves, wolf/wolves, loaf/loaves, mouse/mice, woman/women, sheep, deer.  In Vocabulary this week we are looking at words with the prefixes re and un, meaning again and not.  Our focus words this week are rebuild, unable, recycle, uncertain, review, unusual, reuse, and unequal.

In Math we have had a very specific goal or two for each week.  Usually, from Monday through Wednesday, instruction will focus on supporting the goal or goals.  At the end of Math on Wednesday, each student will take a 5 question quiz.  To get a passing grade on the quiz requires 4 or 5 of the questions correct.  On Thursday and Friday, we then learn games or do activities that reinforce or extend on the weekly goals.  During this time, students who have proven proficient at the weekly goals are given an opportunity for academic extensions and challenge activities along with these games.   Students with scores of 0-3 are pulled for individual or small group help to make sure they are proficient at the grade level standard.  Once they are ready, they will get a chance to do a quiz retake.  Students should bring home a graded copy of their quiz along with the goal or goals each week in their Friday Folder.

Last week our Math goal was:  Students will be able to add, subtract, and divide with numbers with decimal places up to the thousands.  Our math goals this week are: Students will be able to round a number with a decimal, and solve problems with expressions and number sentences with a single variable. (Whenever you see an underlined group of words in the blog, that means I have inserted a link, so feel free to click on it.  I have linked the words expressions and variables to definitions in an online math glossary.)  You can also follow this link to get to a little bit longer explanation complete with some examples.

That’s it for today.  I’ll update more later this week on what we are doing in reading and writing.


  1. Vocabulary: Definitions and CLOZE (fill in the blank)
  2. Math: Variables Worksheet
  3. Reading:  Read for 25 minutes and fill out reading log.  Make sure to write Questions today!

Mr. Weis

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