Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

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
Tags: , , , ,

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

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 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.

March 18, 2009

Body Systems and Mixed Numbers

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

Today we met in reading groups in the morning, practiced some throwing and catching in P.E., worked on vocabulary packets and then did some multiplication of mixed numbers in Math.  Wednesdays always rush by, and I can’t believe it when it is lunch and my time for the day with the students is up.  In Science the students were reviewing the different systems of the body.  The students will have a test on Monday, so in the mean time, here are a few online resources that they can check out that I think are both educational and entertaining.

kidshealth has some fun little movies about different organs and body parts.  Some of the videos may even induce some chuckles and silliness. Don’t worry, if they are laughing, they are probably learning too.  After all, who doesn’t giggle a bit when it comes to systems of the body.

All Systems Go

All Systems Go is a quick Flash game that involves identifying particular parts of different body systems and placing them onto the body of a cartoon man who sounds suspiciously like our Governor.

Here is one more link to a page that is full of links organized by system.  If your child is interested in learning more about a particular system or needs a bit of extra review, browse through the links.

Tonight for homework, students will be doing some multiplication with fractions and mixed numbers.  I made up a quick page with a detailed explanation of the strategy we used in class and sent copies home with the homework.  A similar walkthrough of the strategy can be found here.


  1. Language Arts: Lit Circle Reading and Job sheet.  (The group reading The Library Card and the group reading Wringer both have final summary sheets to complete.)
  2. Mathematics: Mixed number multiplication practice.
  3. Vocabulary: Continue to work on vocabulary packet.
  4. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Mr. Weis

March 11, 2009

Puppets and P.E.

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 9:04 pm

Today in class we began work on our puppets that will be at the center of our playwriting unit.  Students worked with a simple foam ball and sculpted facial features using sculpey clay.  We had a real wide variety of characters created including a rooster, giraffes, a young Medusa, cats, snakes, mohawked and spiky haired boys, and pigs.  Tomorrow we will work to paper mache over the clay, and then we will let the paper mache dry a bit before painting and working on costumes and accessories next week.  The puppets will be used in conjunction with a wide variety of writing tasks focusing on dramatic elements and conventions.  It should be a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see more of the creativity that I got a taste of when I read the character sheets the students already wrote.  Also, we are going to be collaborating with the Art teacher to work on landscapes and paint background scenery.

Yesterday we had our second art class.  The students created a pattern quilt out of paper, and did a great job of inventively using paper scraps and saving them from the recycling bin.  We will continue to have art for the following 10 weeks every Tuesday.  I need to go get a new card reader for my computer to upload some of the pictures I have been taking, but I hope to put some pictures up each week of what the students are working on.

In P.E. news, we will shortly be starting Physical Fitness Testing.  We did a mile today, but may do another to allow students a chance to better their times.  I will be working with Miss Klein and Coach Danielle to organize the testing, but we could use the help of a few parent volunteers to help run a testing station.  If you are available on Wednesday’s and are interested in helping out, let me know.  Also, I found out today that B.A.M. is not currently set up to receive awards through the President’s Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program.  I will be working to get the school registered so our physically active students who are consistently doing their best can get some recognition for their efforts.

In Mathematics we have been working on subtracting with mixed numbers.  The process of “renaming mixed numbers” to allow subtraction of the fraction parts has been difficult for many of the students.  Please make sure they are carefully and correctly doing their homework.  I sent home a pink quiz yesterday in the Tuesday folder in which students had to provide reasoning to back up the process that they used to find a common denominator and solve a mixed number addition problem.  As you are working with your child, ask them to explain their reasoning using equations, words, or pictures.  This will help them greatly to develop their conceptual understanding as well as to hone their communication skills in mathematics.

Here is a video on working with mixed number fractions and a video on adding and subtracting fractions brought to you by the wonderful Khan Academy (I’ll be mentioning it more in a later blog post, but feel free to check out the plethora of videos linked on his website for all kinds of mathematics tutorials.  It also might be a handy resource to bookmark if you have older children in junior high, high school or even college studying advanced mathematics.)

Mixed Numbers

Adding and Subtracting Fractions


  1. Language Arts: Vocabulary Crossword Puzzle.  You can find it and the answer key here.
  2. Mathematics: Renaming Mixed Numbers and Fractions Practice Sheet.
  3. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.
  4. Permission Slips:  Sign and return permission slips for the field trip on Friday to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and for next week Tuesday at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.


February 2, 2009

Consorting with Punxatawny Phil, Wiarton Willie, and Shubenacadie Sam

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 5:00 pm
Tags: , ,


Happy Groundhog Day everyone. Across North America some very famous shadows were seen by some furry little prognosticators. (Follow the link for a guess-the-word game that stresses using context clues to make predictions about word choice in current news articles.) Unfortunately it looks as if we are due for another 6 weeks of winter, but I guess in Berkeley that doesn’t mean a whole lot if we get more winter like today!

We finally have a 5 day week, and we will be jamming as much regularity into it as possible as we unfortunately look ahead to 2 more short ones. As we are now doing more consistently, we spent Monday’s reading block on current events. Starting next week we will have the newspaper every Monday, and students will read and respond to articles on their first day back from the weekend. Today we spent some time familiarizing ourselves with a graphic organizer to use with newspaper articles. The organizer sets up an outline for the 5 W questions (Who, What, Where, When, and Why), and also includes a map to use to identify important locations in the article.

We worked on collaboratively reading an article about Groundhog Day this morning. Here is the link to the article we read. Up until today I had no idea that there was not one, nor two, but three famous groundhogs that predict the weather in Pennsilvania, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Did you know that Groundhog Day can be traced back to a German tradition that in turn came from a European Holiday known as Candlemas day? To read more about the history of Groundhog Day, check out the official site of the Punxatawny Groundhog Club.

In Writing, the students qualitatively evaluated Response to Literature essays through identifying Mechanical/ Conventional and Content based writing goals. Tomorrow they will apply a similar level of analysis on their own essay and set goals for the remainder of the Response to Literature Unit.

In mathematics we spent some time going over converting Improper Fractions to Mixed Numbers. This was an area that many students had difficulty with on the quiz last week. Quizzes were sent home today, and for homework students are expected to correct problems they missed and bring back the quizzes and the corrections tomorrow.

We also spent a little bit of time today checking out President Obama’s weekly address and identifying what he is proposing to do with the current state of the economy. If you haven’t checked out the new Whitehouse website, I strongly recommend it. There is a great deal of information on his policy objectives, and every week he posts a video of a Weekly Address sort of reminiscent of FDR’s fireside chats. For the many people that voted him, and for those that did not, it’s a great idea to try to keep up with what policies and objectives he proposes and what he actually pursues. I’m trying to help the students to understand early on in their lives that they live in a participatory democracy that requires them to stay interested and educated about what their government is saying and doing.


  1. Language Arts: Lit Circle Groups – Read and do jobs to prepare for discussions or work on your final projects. Final projects are due tomorrow for the Witch of Blackbird Pond and 13th Floor groups.
  2. Mathematics: Redo any problems that were missed on Friday’s quiz (focus especially on 1-17). Do Improper Fraction to Mixed Numbers worksheet. Make sure to do the back too.
  3. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Mr. Weis

January 27, 2009

Fractio, Uncia, and the History of Fractions

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 5:37 pm


Today in class we spent some time in math working on gathering journals. A gathering journal is a journal made with paper folded so that it makes a book with little pockets on each page. Students worked on completing little study notecards on topics including: anatomy of a fraction, fraction equalities, improper and proper fractions, simplifying fractions, adding fractions, and converting fractions to decimals. Some students may be completing their journal pages tonight for homework. Make sure that they have a completed explanation on one side of the card and an example on the other side.

I told the students that tonight I would be updating the blog with some interesting information on the history of fractions. Did you know that the mathematical concepts and representations we use today draw from work done by the Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Babylonians, Indians, and Arabs? Follow this link to read a very interesting summary of the mathematical work that led up to modern fraction concepts and representation methods. Take special note of the ways that people represented different types of quantities. Tomorrow in class we will briefly go over the article and students who have read the information on the website will be able to help with some explanations and problem solving.

Several literature circle groups will soon be finishing their books. They will work on final projects for a few days and then will pick new books. If you are interested in reading a book along with your child and possibly coming in to sit with their group once a week, keep your eyes open for a volunteer handout this week. Reading groups most often meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in the morning from around 10:05 to 10:30.

In Social Studies today we began a current events study on the Economic Crisis in the United States. Students began working with some basic vocabulary that will help them to better understand future newspaper articles that we will be reading.

In other news, don’t forget that Longfellow Middle School is having a special event for potential students for next year. If you’d like to go check out Longfellow and all they have to offer, head on over to the Longfellow campus tonight at 7 pm.


  1. Language Arts: Lit. Circle groups – read and fill out job sheet
  2. Mathematics: Finish Gathering Journal first 6 pages.
  3. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Mr. Weis

January 21, 2009


Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 6:14 pm


Have you ever decifractated a fraction?  You probably have, but most likely you didn’t use that word to describe the process.  The Decifractator is a little web application that converts fractions into decimals.  It can be useful for playing with equivalent fractions and looking for links between fractions and decimals.  I found it along with a number of other really neat Flash based math apps on a website for a school called Ambleside across the Atlantic over in Cambria in the UK.  I’ll forgive them for referring to Mathematics as “maths” and for spelling colour with that superfluous U because they have an absolutely amazing website.  It looks like the school has a strong focus on computer work and programming, and there are many examples of both student and teacher created applications.  Take a look at their Math page here. If you have children of other ages, take a look and see what else they have to offer, it’s all pretty fun stuff.

In other news today, we elected our class representatives.  Thanks to all those that ran.  It was a very close race and all of the candidates were highly qualified.  However, there was only space for 3, so our classroom representatives will be Sachi, Shay, and Maria.  Congratulations to the three of you.  Don’t forget about the special Thursday meeting tomorrow after school from 3:30 to 4:30.

I had a parent come in this morning and ask about Middle School preference forms.  I’m still learning the ropes about the process, but I investigated the matter and found that the forms are to be submitted to the Admissions Office at 1835 Allston Way by Friday, February 6th.  If you have any questions, you can ring them at 644-6504.  Also, some students and faculty from Longfellow will be visiting BAM on Friday from 9:30 to 10:10 to present to the fifth graders at BAM.  If you’d like to come and listen parents are welcome, although the presentation will be geared towards the kids.

Homework today:

  1. Mathematics: study link 103 – decimals to mixed number fractions.  For an added component, create a corresponding column for a simplified fraction and an improper fraction to the table.
  2. Reading: read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.
  3. Other: (Some students who had been absent – finish rough draft of resolution essay)

Mr. Weis

January 13, 2009

Tuesday, January 13

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 6:45 pm

Today we reviewed the four roots for the vocabulary this week, found their definitions and associated them with some of the words.  In reading students worked in their small reading groups.  Please make sure that your child is doing their reading each night to be prepared for their group discussion.  Yesterday several students did not complete their reading and were not able to fully participate in their group discussions.

In math we discussed different types of fractions and worked on strategies for finding equivalent fractions.  We also did some review on addition with fractions.  Follow the link to a site with a virtual manipulative that visually shows equivalent fractions in squares and circles with their corresponding values on a number line.


  1. Language Arts: Lit Circle Groups – Read the assigned section for today and fill out job sheet.
  2. Mathematics: 2 sided worksheet – Fraction Stick Chart and Equivalent Fractions pages.
  3. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Mr. Weis

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