Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

January 28, 2010

Bye Bye Love + Bio, Gen, Mort + Twilight = Good Times

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

Today in class we had a little fun with our vocabulary time since we finished with all our sentences yesterday.  I taught the students the old Everly Brothers song Bye Bye Love and presented them with some extra verses incorporating some of the vocabulary words from this week.  While I was thinking about what angle to take the song, I realized that all the teenagey, lovesick pining leant a nice connection to the Twilight books that many students in the class are familiar with.  I provided a few verses and the students completed a CLOZE activity with the lyrics by inserting the weekly voabulary words.  We then came together to collaborate on a final verse incorporating the last of the vocabulary words. We may not have been the most in tune bunch, but plenty of smiles surfaced, and we got to flex our lexical muscles incorporating such words as mortgage, amphibious, biodegradable, immortal, and mortician into a love song from the perspective of a heartbroken vampire.

In reading we read the first chapter of the book Sign of the Beaver.  The students did a nice job recording some of their active reading skills on post-its while they read, filling in a comprehension graphic organizer, answering some comprehension questions, and working through a quick discussion.  I stayed at school pretty late tonight grading and providing a lot of feedback on their Chapter 1 pages, and I look forward to seeing some more positive progress on the response to literature front over the next couple weeks.  We will be kicking things into high gear as we reach the halfway point of the year and expectations continue to rise in terms of what I expect from all students’ work.  Let’s keep up the positive encouragement and the constructive feedback on both the home and school fronts.

In social studies we began our new unit with a lesson on conflicts that arose in North America between the Spanish, British, Dutch, France, and the American Indians over natural resources and raw materials, land, and trading. Students then took turns adding to a digital outline to bring together some notes from our reading.


  1. Vocabulary: Study words and finish packet
  2. Mathematics: Quick fractions to decimals worksheet
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out reading log

Mr. Weis


January 27, 2010

Outlining Outlines

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 7:47 pm

On Wednesdays we have our regularly scheduled computer time, and today we did some work learning an outlining strategy using Microsoft Word.  As we move further into the year, we will increase both the frequency and depth of our note-taking using a variety of different strategies and tools.  Today the students practiced writing and formatting an outline by using numbering and bullets in a word processor.  In some ways composing an outline on the computer is helpful for the students because it allows them to consistently update, add to, and edit what they have previously written.  Next week the students will apply the same outlining strategy to some articles from online publications.  Below you will see a screen capture of the Formatting Palette, the panel from which the students have learned several formatting and organizational skills.  The important area today was the Bullets and Numbering section.

In reading we are transisitioning our reading block to work with novels.  While the students have been consistently reading novels for their independent reading, so far this year the focus during group reading instruction has been on explicitly teaching the reading comprehension strategies of predicting, questioning, clarifying, summarizing, and connecting.  We have worked with short stories and excerpts to articulate and make our thinking visible.  As we transition to novels, we will read the book Sign of the Beaver together in the class.  Recently we have been working on articulating some of our thinking while we read by using little post-it notes to cite evidence that prompts us to use one of the comprehension strategies.  If you start getting requests for post-it notes or seeing them popping out of the pages of your child’s books, take a moment to ask about them.  These activities are also setting the groundwork preparing the students for discussion groups and literature circles.


  1. Vocabulary: Sentences
  2. Language Arts: Finish Final Draft of New Years Resolution Essay
  3. Mathematics: Study Link 5.5 page 101
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and complete reading log

Mr. Weis

January 25, 2010

Further Functions of Fractions

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:45 pm

Well, it is almost a week since my last post, and it is still raining!  We can only hope that all this rain and the snow in the mountains will serve us well into the next summer and maybe eek us out of the drought we have recently been living in here in California.  I apologize for not getting in any more posts last week, but I had a very busy week with a PTA Executive Board meeting on Wednesday and a presentation at the Incoming Kindergarten Night on Thursday.  On another note, I am still collecting pictures from the Marin Headlands trip, so if you haven’t sent them in yet, please try to do it soon.

This week our vocabulary is based around the three roots geo, mort, and bio.  The focus words of the week are mortal, progeny, generic, genre, mortician, mortgage, amphibious, and biodegradable.  Please make sure your child is practicing writing and using the words throughout the week, especially if he or she has been getting low score on the vocabulary tests recently.

In mathematics we are continuing our work with fractions.  Last week we worked on simplifying fractions and ordering fractions through making a common denominator for two different fractions and then comparing the numerator.  In Math on Thursday, we used the computers and students used a really neat online fraction game that you can find here. The program requires the student to create three equal fractions through modeling those fractions on squares.  The models visually represent both the numerator and the denominator as well as put the fraction on a number line.

This week we will continue on with fractions and equalities while we add another dimension of setting fractions and decimals equal to each other.  Today students practiced getting a denominator to 10, 100, or 1000 in order to easily change a fraction to a decimal value.  Later this week we will bring percents into the mix as another concept related to ratios that can be represented with a fraction and a decimal value.

In writing we are finishing up the New Year’s Resolution essays.  We worked with a basic 5 paragraph essay format including an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.  We further broke down the paragraphs into parts and stressed the importance of a clear thesis and defined topic sentences.  We will have a Response to Literature pre-assessment later this week and will continue to work with a 5 paragraph format with our Response to Literature essays.


  1. Vocab: Sort
  2. Language Arts: If not completed in class – Finish New Year’s Essay draft and complete peer edit.
  3. Math: Fractions and Decimals worksheet
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and complete predictions.
  5. Drama: Bring props in and work on memorizing lines.

Mr. Weis

January 19, 2010

A Torrential Tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 7:47 pm

What a storm we have moving through our state this week!  I’ve been reading some meteorologist reports that have been painting the scenario as potentially pretty dire.  On my way riding home today I passed two downed power lines due to the heavy winds.  Let’s all hope for the best. I often take a look at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s website for my weather forecast and find some of their images and animations to be pretty fascinating.  If you follow this link, you will be lead to a page with lots of different options for viewing satellite imagery across the western United States.  You can click on and follow the image below to get an animation of what’s going on up there with the clouds right now.

Today in class we had another practice with Opera Piccola, and the 4 different pieces the students will be performing are coming along.  Some students went home with small lists of potential props to look for.  If you send in any props, we will be sure to mark them and ensure you get them back.

This week in vocabulary, we are using words from a list that the students developed of terms that they had learned or used while at camp in the Marin Headlands.  All together we collaborated to form a list of 60 potential words and phrases!  I couldn’t believe how many different types of sciences the students had been exposed to in just a few short days.  The words of the week are nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular, zooplankton, phytoplankton, bioluminescence, bioaccumulation, and noctiluca. Take a moment to ask your kids about some of these words to hear about some of their experiences at the camp.  Additionally, each student will add to more words to their list of their own choice.

In Social Studies today we finished up the video “At the River I Stand.” The video chronicles the Memphis sanitation worker strike up through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.  For some more information on the Memphis sanitation worker strike and King’s involvement, check out this video.  On Friday we watched half the video and discussed some connections between King’s vision of civil rights, labor movements, and worker’s rights.  As we finished the video, we also reflected briefly on the meaning of King’s Mountaintop speech.  It’s really quite a remarkable speech.  Check out the full text and video of it here.


  1. Vocabulary: CLOZE and choice of either crossword or word searches
  2. Math:  Fraction Equalities – Study Links page 99
  3. Reading: read for 25 minutes and fill out the prediction reading log entry

Mr. Weis

January 13, 2010

Back home

Filed under: Announcements — mrweis @ 9:30 pm

After three incredibly lucky days with the weather, we are back from the Marin Headlands.  Despite forecasts of up to a 90% chance of rain, we somehow avoided all but a few sprinkles, and all the heavier rain came while we were sleeping.  The students had an amazing time hiking, learning, playing, doing experiments, and spending time with each other in a beautiful natural setting.

A couple requests as you are unpacking:

  1. Please return any unused ponchos.  We would like to save them for next year if possible.
  2. Please send dvd or cd copies of any digital pictures.  We would like to put together a few projects and the more media we can gather, the better.  I will send a note about this home too.  Alternatively, you could have your child bring the camera to school with the full memory card.  I can hold on to the camera in the morning and keep it safe, use a memory card reader to pull off the pictures, and return the camera at the end of the day.

Thanks again to all the parents for helping to make the trip possible.  Also, thanks to the kids for such a wonderful few days together.

Mr. Weis

January 10, 2010

Ready, Set….

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 1:48 pm

Tomorrow is the big day, and I hope everyone is all ready for the trip.  The forecast is looking like we are definitely going to get some rain, so please pack accordingly.  Rain gear, if you have it, and an extra pair of tennis shoes would be a good thing to bring.  We purchased 53 cheap rain parkas.  If you would like to get a nicer one, they can be had for just a few bucks, but at the least, we can provide something for each child.

My students wrote me letters about some things they were looking forward to and some concerns, so I will take a moment to address a few of the concerns.

Flash Lights:  Students will not need flashlights.  At lights out time, they should not have a flashlight on.  If they do bring a flashlight, just make sure they know it will need to be off while others are sleeping, and kept away from shining at other people’s faces.

Morning wake up: From my own camp experience, I don’t think there will be many problems with waking up by 6:45.  In fact, the most common thing I experienced with 7 summers of camp work is that kids get up even earlier than required.  There will be a lot of anticipation for the day, and they will be in a new place, so the 6:45 wake up should not be too much of a stretch.  I would encourage students to wear a watch so they can check the time in the morning if they wake up.  It might only be 5:30 or 6:00, so leave the waking up to the adults.  I will set an alarm for 6:45 and will wake people up then.

Breakfast: We have the early breakfast slot, so there will be time for showering or getting ready for the day after we eat.  We will make sure everyone is up and ready to go for breakfast.  We won’t leave anyone in the cabin when we leave.

Food allergies and dietary restrictions:  I communicated all allergies and dietary restrictions to the camp.  If your child does not eat pork, is a vegetarian, is allergic to peanuts, is allergic to strawberries or has any other dietary preference that was written on your registration form, it has been noted, and I filled out a form for the camp kitchen to use.

Rain/ mud/ weather:  I’m not sure exactly how the weather will be dealt with.  The camp assured me that they have contingency plans for all kinds of weather.  Depending on the severity of the rain, certain hikes or outdoor activities may not occur on each day.  The staff will make sure safety is a priority in planning and will not lead any dangerous hikes.

School Work/ supplies:  Please bring a writing utensil and a book.  We will not have regular school work, so all your notebooks and school books are not required.  Just bring a chapter book to read and a ideally a pen or mechanical pencil in your backpack.  If you would like to do additional journaling, writing, or drawing during activity time, pack accordingly.

Lights out/ bed time:  9:15 is the scheduled lights out time.  All students are expected to go to sleep at this time.  That means all reading, talking, card playing, etc, should be done.  This is important so that everyone can get the sleep they need.  I imagine we will all be pretty tired at that point, but please encourage your children that it is important for them and the other children that they all follow the schedule.

Bunk arrangements:  There has been one slight change in the bunk arrangements that I thought some of the kids would want to know.  I called and talked to the camp, and we are going to move to a different bunk building that is smaller and that we will just Berkeley Arts Magnet it.  The original bunk buildings we were scheduled for are composed of different rooms, but would have put us with other schools.  I know some students were concerned about this, so you can let them know it has been changed and it will just be BAM in our building.

Other schools:  There will be two other schools at the camp during our stay although we will be the first to arrive and I think at least one of the groups gets there on a different day.  They have their own schedule, groups, and staff.  There may be some overlap in afternoon activity time, but otherwise, there will not be a whole lot of interaction. Our hiking groups and bunk arrangements will be just BAM students.

Sleeping bags, blankets:  As I have not been to the camp before, I’m not sure how cool it will be in the cabin at night.  I do know that they are heated.  I think a set of warm pajamas and pretty much any sleeping bag will do. If your sleeping bag is very lightweight, I would suggest to roll up a fleece blanket along with it.  Also, make sure that you do roll up or bag up the sleeping bag and have a system to keep it rolled up nice and tight.

That’s all I can think of right now. Here is a link to the packing list if you need to refer to it again.  Let me know if you have any final questions.  I’m heading out to do some errands, but I should be back on the computer in the evening.  Thanks,
Mr. Weis

January 5, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:30 pm

This week we shifted from Greek to Latin roots for our vocabulary words.  The three focus roots are port (carry), form (shape), and spect (to look). Today the students made predictions about the 8 focus words’ meanings using roots, and then looked up the words to check their meanings.

In Opera Piccola news, today we began rehearsals of the 4 short pieces that the students will perform in the beginning of February.  We have set a tentative plan for the evening of Feb. 4, so mark your calendars, and keep listening for more information. Today in rehearsals, the students learned about blocking and movement about the stage and got some practice using their voices and body language to better convey emotions and feelings.

In math, we continued work with fractions and investigated unit fractions more.  We will continue building fraction number sense through the week, and we will have our quiz tomorrow.  Fractions can be a difficult subject to teach because the levels of differentiation necessary for instruction is quite high in the classroom.  Some of the students are very comfortable and have developed a strong sense of the values of different fractions and are confident with manipulating them in equations.  Other students are still struggling with some basic ideas about fractions.  Thursday and Friday will be a good chance to pull some small groups to focus on some specific concepts and strategies for working with fractions, and to provide some students with some challenge problems and extensions.

In social studies, we continued our review of our Age of Exploration unit by doing a final runthrough of some videos and some notetaking.  We will have an open book unit test on Thursday.


  1. Language Arts:  Finish New Year’s Resolution graphic organizer.
  2. Vocabulary: Definitions and CLOZE sentences.
  3. Math: Fractions worksheet (both sides)
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and complete questioning section in reading log.

Mr. Weis

January 4, 2010

So I broke one of my resolutions already…

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

and wrote 2009 on the daily schedule today!  Whoopsy.  Luckily, I have very observent students and they promptly alerted me of the error, some of them even before they took their seats!  At least I am comforted to know they really are paying close attention to the schedule.  I figure that I’ll be writing 2010 consistently come March or so.  I always seem to take a while to make the transition.

Today we learned a little about New Years celebrations and the history of New Year’s Resolutions.  The students read a selection about New Year’s celebrations going back to the Babylonian calendars which recognized New Year’s Day in what we now call March at the start of Spring. We read about how the calendar was changed over time by the Roman Emperors, until Julius Caesar shifted it the final time.  We then read a short selection on Janus, a mythological character believed by the Romans to have 2 faces on opposite sides of his head.  Partially in recognition of looking both forward and backward at this time in the year, and partially in honor of Janus as a symbol of gates and beginnings, people began to make resolutions in January.  We will carry on this tradition ourselves, as we write our own essays on New Year’s Resolutions.  We will begin the writing process tomorrow, and we will spend a little time delving into 5 paragraph expository essay formats as we write.

Today we began our new unit on fractions.  We had some discussions about the parts of fractions, definitions of fractions, and real world applications of fractions.  We then spent a little time modeling fractions with arrays.  Tomorrow we will take a closer look at something called Unit Fractions, and the students will learn some strategies for utilizing Unit Fractions to solve a variety of types of mathematical problems.  You can learn a little more about Unit Fractions and why they are so important for building number sense around fractions at this website.

Today marks our 1 week point until the big field trip to the Marin Headlands.  Come this time next week, your children will be miles away, hiking, exploring, and having a great time!  I passed out more copies of the equipment list, so please start gathering together any supplies that you need.  Today I was able to get into the emergency container out back and pull out some of the boxes of donated gear from North Face.  Wow!  We have a ton of fleeces, and a handful of rain jackets, down jackets, hats, gloves, 2 sleeping bags, and 2 extra backpacks.  We will send home a notice tomorrow asking if you need supplies, or if you have extra supplies you would like to loan out.  I will be available most days this week after school, and will stick around for extended hours on Wednesday prior to the PTA meeting to loan out items.  I’m hoping the weather will remain like it is today, but we will also want to be prepared.


  1. Vocabulary: Complete Sort
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 5-1
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out predictions in Reading Log.

Create a free website or blog at