Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

April 12, 2010

Monday, April 12

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 6:42 pm
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I didn’t get blog posts in for Wednesday or Thursday last week, so I’d like to start by giving a few links related to the math that we did.  In Mathematics last week, our focus was on the Order of Operations.  Order of Operations refers to which step to do first in a math problem.  The basic steps include Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction.  Students are first introduced to parentheses in 3rd Grade Everyday Math, and they are a required Grade 4 Standard, but in 5th Grade the complexity and length of problems begins to increase and add on to simple 2 step number sentences with parentheses.  In order to help remember the order and names of the steps, students first learned the mnemonic Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  Later, students developed their own Order Of Operations mnemonics and added an illustration to them.  They will appear soon on the wall outside the room.

As part of our work in Mathematics last week, the students also worked with some websites with activities using Order of Operations.  In class, every student got a chance to first direct the computer which operation to do first in a singular equation.

After correctly solving 10 questions, students bank time and are given a chance to zap the correct operation first as multiple operations fall from the top to the bottom of the screen.  Make sure to click them quick, but stay using P.E.D.M.A.S.

Some other games I found include a simple Flashcard Problem Quiz, a Connect 4 Game in which you must first do an Order of Operations question correctly, and a puzzling game called Speedmath in which you must correctly identify what operations to add to an equation to get the correct given final answer.

In Vocabulary this week, the roots are cess/ces/cede (to go), ten (to hold), and lit (letter).

In Reading, we will finish up the book Sign of the Beaver this week.  Students will be given final project guidelines on Wednesday and will have a week and a half to complete their project and turn in all completed chapter worksheets.  Today students worked on finishing up their own first set of questions that they will pass on to each other to answer.  Students were directed to write a variety of questions based on their reading including Word Analysis, In-Your-Head, In-the-Text, Major Conflict/Resolution, and Character Development/Trait questions.  As students transition into literature circle groups, they will be called upon to use many of the active reading strategies we have used in class and their discussions will be primarily drawn from their own unique questions.

In Writing, we are continuing our work with Musical Metaphors.  Students used a graphic organizer today to clarify the Tenor, Vehicle, and Ground of their metaphor and then began to brainstorm some lyrical words, phrases, and sentences to support their metaphors in their Spring Break poems.


  1. Vocabulary:  Sort
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 5-10.  BOTH SIDES
  3. Language Arts: Finish Sign of the Beaver Chapters 21 and 22 page.
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out Reading Log.

Mr. Weis

P.S. Math homework today involves a review of pie charts.  Follow this link for an interactive digital pie chart.

April 5, 2010

Welcome Back

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:15 pm
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I hope everyone had a rejuvinating Spring Break and is ready to get back into the swing of things.  I had a really nice first day back and was very pleased with how smoothly the transition back into school routines went for everyone.  We were able to get a lot done in the classroom today.

In Vocabulary this week, the roots are Pur/ Purg (cleanse), Fus (pour), Press (press or push), and Pend (hang).  We did our usual pretest and sort and then worked on making hypotheses for the root meanings.  The students were very close to all of the literal translations in their guesses and used the sort words as excellent evidence to support their assertions.

In Reading we spent the day doing some recap and review of Sign of the Beaver after not having read a new chapter in about a week and a half.  We broke up so that each student practiced skimming a chapter and then wrote a short, dramatic summary.  The students then took turns reciting their summaries as we did somewhat of an old-fashioned radio drama retelling.  Tomorrow we will get back on track with Chapter 19 and students will continue to take a more active role in constructing their own questions on the information in the chapters.

In Writing we began a short writing project with the underlying goal of analyzing the makeup of a metaphor.  We began today by actually listening to various samples of different pieces of music spanning many genres.  Students wrote about the different qualities of the music and then we did a little work working with Italian musical composition terminology as a common vocabulary to use to talk about the musical pieces.  How is this all going to lead to metaphors you may ask, well, you’ll have to wait and see to how we develop our musical descriptions and then connect them to events and personal experiences over Spring Break.  We will work specifically with constructing metaphors with a clearly defined tenor, vehicle, and ground.  Music will be the vehicle, our personal experiences will be the elements of the tenor, and the ground will be based in Italian music terminology.  It should be a fun few days, and if all turns out well, the students will exit the project with a greater understanding of both how to construct a metaphor and how to analyze one too.  For a little basic information on the makeup of a metaphor, you can follow this link or this link .


  1. Vocabulary: Sort
  2. Mathematics: Order of Operations “Parentheses First” worksheet, both sides.  Write 2 word problems based on the given number sentences, keeping in mind the effects of the parentheses.
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out Prediction section in Reading Log.

Mr. Weis

March 25, 2010

Pondering Prisms

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:45 pm
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Lately in Math we have continued to explore geometrical figures.  This week we focused on finding volumes of different types of prisms.  The basic formula we have used for finding the volume of a prism is to find the area of the base (B) and multiply it by the height (h).  Our standard formula for finding the volume of a prism is therefor V = B x h.  When working with rectangular prisms, we just multiply the length, width, and height together to get the volume, but when working with a triangular prisms, we make sure to figure out what the correct area of the triangular base is first. Here is a link to a page that tells a little more about prisms and offers a visual basis for the volume formula we have been using.  Our next step in our geometry unit will be to discuss the concept of surface area.

Even as we have moved on to volume, some students are still having a little difficulty properly finding the area of the bases of prisms and are getting confused between finding area and perimeter.  Here are a couple tutorials that come with some activities for differentiating between finding area and perimeter.

In Writing we have been working on constructing conclusions and on building in transition words and phrases into our essays.  We will continue writing in the Response to Literature genre after the Spring Break, but we will shift from narratives to poetry as the subject matter from which we will write.

In Reading we are continuing to read The Sign of the Beaver.  The major focus has been on building active reading engagement skills and strategies.  After starting to move into group work earlier this year, I realized the students first needed a more robust foundation on building reading and discussion strategies in order to help let them get the most possible out of their discussions.  Lately we have been working on creating, classifying, and supporting answers to different types of questions.  I am gradually giving the students more and more control over the specific questions they are to answer after reading each chapter.  The students are now correctly developing many types of questions including in-the-text detail, in-the-text summary, character trait, minor and major conflicts/ resolutions, in-your-head, and word analysis questions about both vocabulary clarification and figurative language use.  It’s exciting to see the many types of questions they create and where they will take our future discussions.


  1. Vocabulary: Finish packet and study
  2. Mathematics: Volume of prisms Study Link 9-9
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out summary section in Reading Log, get Reading Log signed

Mr. Weis

March 22, 2010

Y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mí

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 5:54 pm
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Today we began our week of learning about Cesar Chavez to coincide with the Cesar Chavez Day of Service and Learning coming up.  Each day we will spend some time learning about the life and work of Cesar Chavez as we lead up to our Friday assembly when several classes will educate about and pay tribute to the life and legacy of Chavez.  Our class will be singing and telling about the song De Colores.  De Colores is a traditional song originally from Spain that has been adopted by the United Farm Workers as a common anthem sung at their meetings and rallies. You can find the tune and the lyrics to the song, in both Spanish and English at this website.  Today, the students read short biographies about Cesar Chavez, categorized some of the information we learned about him, and had a discussion about his work with migrant farm workers. Tomorrow we will spend some time reading some autobiographical passages from people who were involved with the UFW and their memories of singing De Colores.

In vocabulary this week, the roots are bene- good, mal- bad, ante- before, and post- after.  We did our sort today and learned about some of the words with the roots.  An interesting fact I learned today was about the etymology of the disease name, malaria.  Malaria literally comes from roots meaning “bad air,” because when it was initially diagnosed it was thought to be spread through the air. What interesting words do you know with the roots of the week?  Take a look over at the online Etymology Dictionary to learn more about their creation.

In Mathematics we finished up our work with finding the area of triangles, rectangles, and parallelograms.  We practiced accurately measuring heights and bases and applying the formulas.

Here is an online activity for practicing finding the area of a triangle that is plotted on a coordinate grid.  Level 1 will give only right triangles, level 2 will give different types of triangles where you might have to turn the triangle to get the base and you will have to be careful when identifying the height.


  1. Vocabulary: Sort
  2. Mathematics: Areas of triangles and parallelograms worksheet
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out prediction section in reading log
  4. Mathematics (Due Wednesday): Bring in an empty can or box from your house.  We will be using these things for an activity finding volume and surface area.

Mr. Weis

March 15, 2010

Monday March 15

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:19 pm
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This week in vocabulary we are focusing on the roots inter-, intra-, intro-, and circum-.  Today we did our word sort and the students made predictions about the meanings of each of the roots.  We discovered that the term intramural comes from the roots intra- meaning within, and mural meaning wall.  Literally the term translates to within the walls, which makes sense as a intramural sport league is composed entirely of members from within the same school building.  The students also looked for some other words that share the roots and probably my favorite of the group was circumambulate which means to walk around the perimeter of something.  I’ll have to find a way to incorporate that one into the day sometime this week.

In math we wrapped up coordinate grids and ordered pairs and are moving on to finding the area of 2 dimensional shapes.

The students did quite well on the last quiz, but here is a bit of background on ordered pairs.  Ordered pairs are sets of an X and Y coordinates 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.Also, here are a few games that involve graphing ordered pairs.

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. Vocabulary: Sort
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 9-4 – Find the area
  3. Language Arts: Finish Sign of the Beaver Chapter 15 page if not already finished in class.
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and complete predictions in reading log.

Mr. Weis

March 2, 2010

Conflicting Conflicts Create Clarity

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 7:26 pm
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Vocabulary words this week focus on the roots ling/lang (language), psych (Greek – mind), mem (Latin – mind), and voc (voice).  The focus words of the week are advocate, commemorate, linguist, memento, provoke, psyche, psychology, and vocation.

In Reading we are continuing along with Sign of the Beaver.  The students had a pop-quiz last week Friday where they were given a variety of questions including explicit or in-the-text questions requiring specific information in the book as well as inferential or in-your-head questions that require higher order thinking skills with info drawn from the book.  Students were also asked about big picture questions about things like what they thought the major conflict of the story was.  A common theme in both our reading and writing this year has been a focus on conflicts.  The students were all able to pull conflicts from the book, but some wrote about relatively minor conflicts.

So, in response to the assessment, we did a little activity yesterday where students wrote 4 different conflicts from the book so far and then met in groups to do some work sorting and evaluating those conflicts.  Students were asked to sort conflicts by who actually owned the problem.  We discussed how conflicts may connect to minor or major characters and how sometimes the people involved in the actual action are not the ones who really suffer the consequences of the conflict.  The groups also sorted conflicts that were resolved or unresolved.  This lead to some good discussion on differences between between minor and major conflicts and how we can surmise the importance of some conflicts to the main plot arc by looking for conflicts that appear early and persist throughout much of the text.  Today the students spent some of the time reading, and we also had a brief discussion on how authors can explore time in a story with descriptions of the setting and in turn show the passing of time rather then tell the reader directly about it.


  1. Vocabulary: Definitions and CLOZE
  2. Math: Study Link 7-8 pg 159 Adding negative and positive numbers
  3. Language Arts:  Book report due on Thursday
  4. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out questioning section in reading log

Mr. Weis

March 1, 2010

Lewis Carroll is Climbing Up and Down Words

Today we started out the week with a word ladder that started with the word march.  Word ladders are a type of word puzzle in which each level requires the player to change the word to a different word by adding, subtracting or mixing around letters in the previous level.  The word ladders we do in class require students to think about the similar spelling patterns in each word as they are given hints on how to make little changes to arrive at a new word.

Word ladders actually have a history connected to the author Lewis Carroll who is coincidentally enjoying a bit of popularity in the classroom due to the new Alice in Wonderland movie coming out this weekend.  Lewis Carroll played a game involving moving from a word to its antonym by changing one letter at a time to make a new word in each step.  You can read a bit about them in this article from a collection of articles from a publication called Math Horizons.  Follow these links for some more word ladder puzzles, or better yet, try making one of your own. Doublet Puzzles

Word Ladder Race

Logicville Doublets


  1. Vocabulary: Sort
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 7-7, pg 157
  3. Language Arts: Finish draft of Tiny Bear Response to Lit essay if not completed in class
  4. Language Arts: Book Report due Thursday March 5
  5. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out predictions in reading log.

Mr. Weis

February 22, 2010


Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:23 pm

A delicate sense of it, that is.

Being a teacher has taught me a great many things, but most commonly I’m privy to new revelations about what can actually happen when all the variables are factored in.  There are only so many hours a week, so many pages, words, equations, discussions, and times for reflecting when I ultimately realize that not all the ideas always fit on every page, every time, in the way I originally imagined them to turn out.  Editing is a constant process, and so here I am, writing a rather cryptic apology for not updating the blog so much as I have wanted to lately.  Besides the endless hours I spend on preparing lessons, evaluating student work, and researching new educational methods and ideas, the blog has remained an important possibility in my mind. I see it as a great communication tool, and I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback on it in the past.  Surprisingly to me, I get about 300 hits a day, many through google searches on topics I have done previous posts on.   I did a better job at updating it almost everyday last year, but especially with the multitude of additional commitments I have taken up this year, it has become unrealistic to put quite so much time into it right now.  So, for the upcoming few weeks I will be doing things a little differently.  You can expect brief daily updates on homework assignments and maybe 1 or 2 more in depth posts a week about what is going on in the classroom along with some links to web resources. I’ll see if that works out, and then reevaluate after a bit.

I still have some exciting ideas about a better web interface, but that will have to wait a bit until I can manage to translate some of those ideas to html.  In the mean time, I hope the blog still provides a helpful resource for my students and their families.


  1. Vocabulary: Sort – Leg, Mod, Biblio, Jud
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 8.2 – Adding fractions and mixed numbers (like and unlike denominators)
  3. Language Arts: Sign of the Beaver Chapter 10 worksheet  – Due Wednesday
  4. Reading Log: Read for 25 minutes and write predictions in Reading Log

Mr. Weis

February 8, 2010

Facilitating Credible Fraction Maneuvers

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

Prepare yourselves for a barrage of new materials and review of some old materials this week as we start looking ahead to the looming end of the trimester.  We will have the district Math Assessment on Thursday, and the District Writing assignment in another couple weeks.  Students will also be given updated Qualitative Reading Assessments and spelling assessments if they did not cap out for the year in September.

In vocabulary this week, the focus roots are scrib/script, man-, fac-, and cred-. The words of the week are: credible, facsimile, maneuver, scribe, incredulous, facilitate, manufacture, and prescribe. Please make sure that your child is doing his or her best to keep up with the vocabulary packet since we have another short week.

In mathematics, we did some work finishing up our current work on percents and then shifted gears back to fractions.  In working with percents, the students used ratio tables and their knowledge of how to find 1 or 10 percent of a number by shifting the decimal place.  In order to find a value like 4% of a number, the students simply found 1% and then multiplied it by 4, and to solve problems like 30%, they found 10% first and then multiplied it by 3.  In working with fractions, we used the strategy of finding a lowest common multiple to find a common denominator for addition and subtraction problems.  You can read a tutorial on the strategy we used at this website.

Here are a few fraction games that involve finding a common denominator to do the problems.

Action Fraction – Add fractions with like and unlike denominators.  Each round the difficulty will ramp up.

Math Splat – Add the fractions and convert the answers to mixed numbers.  Again, this game starts out easier with fractions with like denominators, and then it becomes more difficult each round.

In writing we worked on finishing up our collaborative Response to Literature Essay.  The students will begin their first independent essay tomorrow, and we will do our best to get about one essay completed each week.

In reading we did a fishbowl activity with the class looking on and observing a small group book discussion about Sign of the Beaver.  We discussed answers to some questions about the latest chapters and then as a whole class we reflected on what went well and what could have been improved in the discussion.  I appreciated how attentive the students were and what a great job the students involved in the discussion did.


  1. Vocabulary: Sort
  2. Mathematics: Study Link 6.9  Adding and Subtracting Fractions
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and complete predictions in Reading Log.

Mr. Weis

February 2, 2010

Prognosticating with Punxsutawney

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 10:02 pm
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Happy Groundhog Day everyone!  Unfortunately, if you are the kind of person who takes meteorological advice from large rodents, we are in for 6 more weeks of winter.  Today, the most famous, and supposedly immortal (there’s a vocab word from last week!), groundhog around made his weather predictions.  The students did a quickwrite this morning and then read an article in class about the tradition of Groundhog Day.  We learned about several old Roman and Celtic  holidays that were blended together and eventually brought over and modified by some German immigrants in the late 19th century.  If you’re interested in learning a little more about the holiday, you can check out the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club here, or you can read the article we read in class on the National Geographic website.

In vocabulary this week, the focus is on the roots mis/mit, flex/flect, fract, and ject.  Today in class we did our usual sort and then had a discussion about the roots, their meanings, and how the meanings come across in words with those roots.

In writing, we are fully exploring the Response to Literature genre, and we began writing a collaborative essay today.  We focused primarily on the introduction paragraph and on how a thesis statement captures the argument that the writer is making to answer the prompt and convince the reader of a point of view throughout the essay.  We read a folk tale and the students gathered together some ideas on a possible thesis.  By the end of the week, we will try to complete the entire essay so that next week each student can begin work on their own essay.

In mathematics this week, our goals are to be able to find percent, decimal, and fraction equivalents and to be able to find the percent of a number.  Students practiced making conversions back and forth between these three ways of representing a part of a whole.  Here are a couple games and a modeling app involving percent, fraction, decimal equivalence.

Mission Magnetite

Compare All Three

And here is a tool to visually model the connection between fracitons, decimals, and percents

If you didn’t send in your slip letting us know whether or not you will be able to attend the drama performance at 6:30pm on Thursday, please send it in as soon as possible.  Thanks.


  1. Vocabulary: Sort
  2. Mathematics: It All Makes Cents worksheet
  3. Reading: Read for 25 minutes and fill out questioning section in reading log
  4. Other:  Tell a family member one thing you learned about Groundhog Day and its history

Mr. Weis

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