Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

November 30, 2009

Some Thanksgiving Wrap-up, Happy Birthday Mr. Clemens, and an Important Announcement

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:55 pm
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So I never got around to finish my Thanksgiving coverage during my vacation last week, but here are a few pieces of information I promised about the holiday.

First of all, in mathematics, we did a little work with some numbers related to Thanksgiving.  Students applied some knowledge about written and standard notation, units of measurment, and estimation to try to match up some numbers with some facts related to Thanksgiving courtesy of the US Census Bureau.  Other than simply taking the census every 10 years, the Census Bureau keeps busy with all kinds of other facts and figures, and periodically they publish figures relating to a holiday.  I took information from this press release and mixed it up so that students had to work to put it back together the best that they could.  For instance, did you know that a projected 250,000,000 turkeys will be raised in the United States in 2009 and be sold for an estimated $3,900,000,000.  Also, 1,800,000,000 pounds of sweet potatoes are forecasted to be grown in the U.S. in 2009, with 437 million of those pounds being grown in the state of California.  Additionally, we learned some other kinds of info such as the fact that there are 3 places In the U.S. called turkey, 5 called some spelling variation of Cranberry, and 28 called Plymouth, and that the average American eats 13.8 pounds of turkey a year.  For more facts like these take a look at the Thanksgiving Press Release and other holiday press releases on the US Census Beurau’s Facts for Features webpage.

As to some other info about the history of Thanksgiving, in class we looked at a timeline of events related to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Some of the important dates included in 1631 when a formal declaration of Thanksgiving was made when a ship full of supplies that was feared to be lost at sea pulled into Boston Harbor, December 18, 1775, when the Continental Congress declared December 18 to be a national day of Thanksgiving in celebration of the win at the Battle of Saratoga, November 26, 1789, when George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation by a President of the United States, and October 3, 1863, when Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation for a nationwide day of Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of November. As we discovered, Thanksgiving has roots that expand beyond just the harvest celebration in 1621.

Today, we started the week off with a quickwrite on a quote by Mark Twain.  We will revisit his words several times this week in recognition of his birthday on November 30, 1835.  Do any of you readers out there have a favorite Mark Twain quote?  I always enjoy hearing his clever wit and witticisms.

For vocabulary this week, we are focusing on the roots micro, mega, super, and hyper.  We will learn more about the words tomorrow, and then add some sentences to the wiki later on.

Several of the students did their poetry recitations today in class, and I must say I was very impressed.  The students who shared obviously put a great deal of effort into practicing and memorizing the words of their poems.  The whole class really enjoyed listening to a wide variety of poems.  I am excited to hear the rest of them over the next few days.

Speaking of poetry, our next big fundraising event is just around the corner, and it happens to involve some poetry.  I sent home some additional information and an availability sign up sheet about the book sale and poetry reading going on at Books Inc. on 4th st. on Saturday from 6pm to 9pm.  Here is a copy of the flier.  We hope to see lots of 5th Grade families and other BAM families too!


  1. Language Arts: Vocabulary Sort
  2. Mathematics:  Decimal review worksheet
  3. Other:  Return availability sheet for Books Inc. fundraiser by Wednesday.
  4. Reading:  Read for 20 minutes and write predictions in Reading Log.

Mr. Weis



November 23, 2009

An Hiftorical Perfpective on Thankfgiving

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 9:55 pm
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(Yes, the title is spelled that way on purpose in an attempt by Mr. Weis to replicate the look of a leading s in old forms of English writing.  For more info on deciphering old handwriting and that pesky s that looks like an f, follow this link to a helpful article.)

When it comes to holidays, I usually start out by having students reflect on what they really know about the substance and history of the holiday.  Today we took a quick detour from our Age of Exploration Unit, and skipped ahead to the year 1621 to a place known as the Plimoth Colony. We began by formulating lists of what we really knew about the history of Thanksgiving as well as some questions we had about what really happened.

As we do our research, we will look at both primary and secondary sources.  Whenever we look into studying history, it is important to differentiate between primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources come to us straight from the period or people we are studying, while secondary sources are responses and resources that collect primary sources together with additional commentary.  For example, a map made in the 1620s by John Smith of the Massachusets Bay is a primary source.  A map made by a modern historian that plots the locations of all the American Indian and European settlements using previous maps, archeological resources, and modern geographical knowledge is a secondary source.  Secondary sources are important because they are one of the only ways to get a broad view of complex histories.  However, secondary sources also often include some commentary and bias, not to mention the fact that they don’t allow us to independently question and connect historical events and people together.  Looking at primary sources can sometimes be a great way to formulate our own opinions and observations.  Of course, we must still be mindful that primary sources bring with them the bias and perspectives of their creators, but that can also add to the complex lens that we must apply as we look back as critical thinkers and historians.

Through some careful research, the only 2 primary sources I was able to locate about the original Thanksgiving were a letter written by a Plimoth settler named Edward Winslow and references to oral histories of the Wampanoag people that their tribal leader Massasoit attended an event.  The people who run Plimoth Plantation as a living history exhibit today put together a nice website with lots of information and a step by step method of looking back at this information to both challenge and build on popular modern-day interpretations of Thanksgiving.  We began to look at the website today and will spend a little more time tomorrow.  You can take a look at the main Plimoth website here, and you can visit their site about Investigating the First Thanksgiving here. Next week we will resume our studies about the Age of Exploration and apply some of the learning about primary and secondary sources as the students begin their work on some projects.

Here is a copy of the letter Edward Winslow wrote in 1621 that was printed in a book called Mourt’s Relation in 1622.  See what you can learn about what might have happened from the letter.  Be careful as you read it because the letter s looks a lot like how we write the letter f today. Tomorrow I will post some more information about  the history of what is now celebrated widely in the United States as Thanksgiving as well as the results to the numerical estimation matching game we did in class today.


  1. Language Arts: Complete Poetry Packet Due (Interview, Planning, Rough Draft, Final Draft, Poem Info, and Practice)
  2. Mathematics:  Review mathematical concepts for Unit 3 Test tomorrow.
  3. Vocabulary:  It’s and Its sentences with past vocabulary.
  4. Reading:  Read for 25 minutes and fill out Reading Log.

Mr. Weis

November 18, 2009

A Wiki, Techy Wednesday

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 9:45 pm

Today the students and I had a discussion about web content and specifically, user generated content.  Many of them had heard about Wikipedia, but in class we clarified what makes Wikipedia and other Wikis different from print media.  We discussed the difference between the old paper World Book Encyclopedias and Wikipedia and how they both work differently to communicate and share information.

In the Spring last year, I began using a wiki in class to provide students with a tool to record things we learned in class and work in a collaborative manner on the web.  This year, all students in the class will get opportunities to add to our own classroom wiki, creating posts or updating them with their own knowledge and contributions.  I think the process of creating, manipulating, and updating web sites is an important one for the students to get a chance to experience and know a bit about, and I’m looking forward to experimenting with the Wiki to find new ways of working collaboratively.  In Vocabulary today, we began writing our weekly vocabulary sentences on the Wiki.  As time progresses, the students will work to contribute more to the wiki with definitions, roots, and sentences connected directly to weekly vocabulary lists.

In our weekly computer time, the students continued to experiment some with the music program Garageband on the Macbooks from the laptop cart.  In our last tech time, students learned about the concept of recording music in separate tracks, and got some experience recording a vocal track.  Today, students experimented with mixing together beats and instrument sample loops to create electronic multi-track music pieces.  In the coming weeks, we will work more with using Garageband as a tool for students to record and share academic information with each other in some fun and creative ways.

In Math we continued our very tech filled day with some Power Point Presentations on finding the amount of internal angles inside a polygon.  The students took turns voicing characters from the comic Tin Tin as the characters discussed what they knew about internal angles and figured out a system to find total numbers of internal angles in a given polygon.  One PPT file that I used was based on one I found on the website Mubblemaths.  There are a number of interesting math-based activities on the Mubblemaths website that use Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint files in unique ways to mimic some well known game shows and also present mathematical information.  I encourage you to head over and check the site out if you have a version of Microsoft Office on your home computer.

Yesterday, I passed out Poetry Packets that are due back completed on Tuesday, November 24.  The packets include 3 assingments:  an interview, a poetry memoir, and pre-work for a poetry reading.  Part of this project is also giving the students a chance to set their own schedules and pace themselves to complete all the work in time.  We will have some time to work on the packets in class tomorrow and Friday, but students are expected to do a bulk of the work at home and to budget their time effectively and plan ahead.  Please help them to make a schedule and stick to it.


  1. Language Arts – Vocabulary sentences
  2. Mathematics – Points, Lines, and Angles vocabulary page
  3. Reading – Read for 25 minutes and complete clarification section in Reading Log
  4. Language Arts Project – Work on Poetry Packet assignments. Complete packet due on Tuesday, November 24.

Mr. Weis

November 16, 2009

Optimised Optical Opportunities with Op Art

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 4:56 pm

In Vocabulary this week, we are continuing some studies of Greek and Latin roots that have to do with numbers.  The roots we are looking at this week are quadr/ quar, quint/pent, oct, dec, and cent.  Today the students sorted the words by roots and tomorrow we will delve into our 8 focus words of the week with some dictionary work.

In Reading today, we began our study of Connecting as the 5th main comprehension strategy we will work with this year.  We discussed 3 different types of connections including Text to Text connections, Text to Self connections, and Text to World connections.  In discussing the process of making connections, the students identified several purposes for this comprehension strategy.  I put the ideas together to create the following overarching purpose: By comparing what we read with other stories, our own lives, and the world, we are better able to understand and make predictions about the characters, motivations, actions, and events that we read about. We also spent some time using a graphic organizer to dissect a story to its parts in order to make the information more accessible for creating connections.  Tomorrow we will take the information we gathered and create a collaborative collection of connections.

In Writing, students worked on their final personification poems to complete our Autumn scene on the wall outside the room.  So far we have wind, leaves, pumpkins, rain, clouds, snow, trees, houses in the woods, stars, and the moon.  The scene is coming together nicely.

In Mathematics, we spent a little time going over common mistakes on the last quiz.  Students also read some selections about the origin of 360 degrees, and about the mathematician Euclid.  Students made predictions prior to the reading and took notes about Euclid’s life and mathematical contributions.

We did not get a chance to do Art last week, so it was postponed until today.  We began an art unit I am designing to integrate some geometry and math with Art through the study and creation of Op Art (short for Optical Art.)  When we use the term Op Art, we refer mainly to an art movement that began in the 1960s with a focus on adding kinetic qualities to stationary pieces of art.  Op Art was defined by the use of lines and colors to create a strong visual impact that often fooled the viewer into interpreting movement or depth in the work.  Today the students learned a little bit about the history of Op Art and saw a bunch of examples from well know Op Artists.  We also began to learn about how to use compasses, and the students practiced drawing different size circles.  If you have a compass at home, I encourage you to pass it along to your child for them to practice at home.  The motion of using a compass can be a little tricky to get the hang of, so any extra art at home with compasses would be great.

Here are a few of the pieces that we looked at in class:

Victor Vasarely

Bridget Riley

Yaacov Agam

Akiyoshi Kitaoka  (These works come from a professor who studies visual perception in the Department of Psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.  If you find them interesting or perplexing to look at, I highly suggest visiting his webpage for many more pieces.  He even has some step by step directions on how he creates some of the optical illusions that make the pictures look like they are moving.  Follow this link to get to his website.)



  1. Language Arts:  Vocabulary Sort
  2. Mathematics:  Prime Factorization Review Paper
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and write predictions in the Reading Log.

Mr. Weis

November 12, 2009

Cafes and Cartography

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

Thank you so much to all the parents and families who were able to help with Cafe BAM last night.  We had an excellent turnout, sold all 70 of the cookbooks that we printed, and everyone had plenty of delicious home-cooked food to eat.  An especially huge thank you goes out to the organizing committee for formatting the cookbooks and transforming the hallway into a cafe with some cozy ambiance.

This week has been a little disjointed with no school on Wednesday, but we’ve still managed to get some quality work done.  We have been looking closely at the difference between it’s and its by using our reading books and each other’s writing.  In Reading, we delved a little further into working with clarification through practicing articulating specific patterns and context clues that better allow us to figure out the meaning of an unknown word.  In Writing we have been working on revising more personification poetry that will eventually accompany the wind poems on the wall outside the room.  In Math we have been classifying triangles by angles and sides, and the students finished up their triangle exploration posters yesterday.  We also had drama with Opera Piccolo again this week, and students created short pieces to present an important school related issue in their lives.  We then dissected the pieces through identifying and differentiating the plot and the theme.

In Social Studies, we delved into the fascinating world of the history of cartography.  We looked closely at maps with origins dating back to 150 AD, and through researching them and identifying similarities and differences, we were able to make inferences about the people and societies who made them.  Here are a few examples of some of the maps we looked at.  What do you see that is similar or different from our world maps today?

Ptolymey’s World Map 1482


The Cantino Map 1502


The Caverio Map 1505


Waldseemüller World Map 1507



  1. Reading:  Read for 25 minutes, complete reading log, and get it signed.
  2. Language Arts: It’s and Its practice sheet.

Mr. Weis

November 9, 2009

The first quarter of our week is already over

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 5:30 pm
Tags: ,

Today was the first quarter of another 4 day week. Wow, time is racing by quickly!  On Wednesday, there will be a school holiday in honor of Veterans Day.  Because we have a short week, we are not going to start a new vocabulary set.  We took the test today for last week’s words, and throughout this week, we will focus on some mini-lessons on commonly misused homophones.

In Mathematics, we are continuing to work with triangles.  Today, students began work on their triangle posters. Each student is creating a poster on which they will measure all the angles and sides of a triangle, prove that the interior angles add up to 180 degrees, and classify they triangle by both sides and angles.

For a quick review on classifying triangles by angles and sides, follow this link. You can put your mouse over one of the types of triangles, and a triangle will appear that matches that classification.  When you are finished reading and looking at them, quiz yourself by matching the given triangles to the correct classifications.

Classifying Triangles

Also, you can check out a whole set of activities about classifying triangles on the website Study Stack.  There are options to use flashcards, a study stack, a study table, a matching game, a hangman game, a crossword, a scramble, a fill in the blank, and a bug match game.  Each activity has to do with the definitions for the different types of triangle classifications.  Keep in mind that this study stack also includes equiangular triangles which are triangles with all 3 equal angles.

Study Stack

In Marin Headlands field trip fund raising news, we made another $270 this weekend at another successful bake sale.  Thanks so much to all the parents and students who helped out.  Also, we are having our BAM Cafe this Thursday, November 12th from 4:30 to 6:30.  Volunteer sign-up notices were sent out last week, and a few still need to be returned.  Make sure to bring them back tomorrow.  The event will happen in the upstairs hallway and we will be offering tastings and selling the cookbook.  Make sure to get ingredients ready to be able to make your dish for Thursday. Also, please return checks for parent contributions to the field trip fund this week.  Thanks!


  1. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out 2 predictions.  Make sure to cite evidence.
  2. Mathematics: Practice Set 21 – Naming angles, division practice, and exponent practice.

Mr. Weis

November 4, 2009

A Wednesday Post In a Jiffy

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 6:10 pm

I’m running from conferences to the PTA meeting, and I only have a few minutes to make a post, so this is going to be quick.

Tomorrow we will be walking over to Zellerbach Hal on the Cal campus to go see a performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. In class today, we used our computer time to learn a bit about how to make better internet searches using google. The students were able to locate the Cal Performances website and then navigate to a PDF study guide. They then downloaded the study guide and used information from it to fill out a graphic organizer on the play. Here is a link to the study guide if you would like to know a little more about the performance.

Love's Labour's Lost

Today we sent home fliers about the BAM Cafe. Please respond promptly and make sure your calendars are marked for the event. It will be held on Thursday, November 12 from 4:30 to 6:30 upstairs.

Now that I am about to run, I wonder if I really did type this in a jiffy? What exactly is a jiffy anyway? I was able to find the answer through a google book search. (Did you know that there are many books completely scanned in and archived in google?) Follow this link to take a look at an excerpt from the book What in the word? and learn where the word came from.


  1. Math: Explain how to find a missing angle in a triangle to someone.
  2. Vocab: Finish Packet
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out the clarification section in your reading log.

Mr. Weis

November 2, 2009

What’s delicious, informative, and linked up?

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:00 pm

Mr. Weis’ page of course. It’s delicious because that’s the name of the site.  It’s informative because there is information about lots of websites and it’s sticky because I attach lots of of links to it. Delicious is a social bookmarking service that is made to catalog and share internet bookmarks.  I created my delicious page last year and used it for a few different links for students in the class, and this year I have mainly been using it to link math games. Today I’ll give a brief description of how to use my delicious page.

First of all, you need to type the address of the page into your web browser.

If you typed it in correctly (make sure to spell out mister, my brother actually has the mrweis site) then you should see something that looks like this.


Once there, the main thing that you will see is the bookmark links.  Each bookmark has a little blurb that describes the website and how it can be used.


If you look slightly to the right you will see a list of tags.  Tags are keywords that describe the website.  They may be general like language arts or math, or they may be specific like angles or etymology.  You can use these tags to get a better idea about what the website will be all about.

tags 1

tags 2

If you keep going further across the page to the right, there is another box with a list of tags that I use.  If you click on one of those tags, it will then make it so you will only see bookmarks of websites with that tag.  If you click another tag, it will further limit the bookmarks to only websites that I used both those tags on.  This allows you to slowly narrow down your search through my bookmarks.

tags 3

I’ll continue to update the delicious website this year with resources we use in class and resources I mention on this website.  Feel free to browse around the site and visit the links.  Enjoy!

In vocabulary this week, we are studying words with the prefixes mono, bi, and tri.  The words of the week are monologue, monopoly, monotony, bilingual, bisect, triathlon, trilogy, and triangle.  We have a short week, and we will be moving quickly through the packet, so make sure your child is getting all the work done each night.

In math our focus this week is on identifying and determining the values of opposite and adjacent angles, and on finding missing angle measurements inside triangles.

On Thursday we will walk over to Zellerbach Hall to see a performance of an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.  Permission slips will be sent home tomorrow and we have a few spots for chaperons, so if you are free on Thursday from 10:15 until about 12:30 and are able to comfortably walk from BAM to Cal, let me know.


  1. Vocabulary:  Sort
  2. Math:  Finish page from class on adjacent and opposite angles, Study Link Page 59
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and make predictions in the reading log.
  4. Other:  Finish any illustrations or cover art submissions for the recipe cook book.

Mr. Weis

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