Saturday, September 13, 2014

Moving Right Along in Weeks 4 and 5

There's lots to share and I suggest getting comfortable! Grab a snack... I'll wait.


The Gagner Gang has accepted a lofty--but attainable--homework challenge in Reading this trimester. Because of the size of our recent book order (thanks to the families who ordered!), we were sent a pile of free book coupons as a thank you gift from Scholastic. I have offered a free book coupon to everyone who has a perfect track record for reading homework this trimester. The coupons expire on November 30th, which is perfect timing. Please help your student as s/he works toward this goal of reading for at least two hours outside of class every week. Goal setting and follow-through will become a mission-critical skill for us this year.

The sixth graders are also working toward a perfect homework record in Math, meaning that every student does her/his assignments on time for the trimester. At the end of the trimester, if 100% of the class has turned in homework 100% of the time, I will spring for some sort of treat. I haven't decided what 20, 11-year-olds would enjoy as a reward for a job well done in Math; it certainly wouldn't be anything like pizza...

I learned that every student actually needs two for the terrarium/aquarium project, so we are still in need of two-liter soda bottles for our Ecology project in Science. Please feel free to keep sending them in. We are also asking families to contribute $5 per student for materials for the project (fish, plants, gravel, nets, etc.). Don't be surprised if your junior naturalist is caught hollowing out potatoes this weekend or sneaking a spud from the pantry. We are making pill bug traps for our terrarium project next week!

Last up is Humanities, during which time we have been learning about the massive waves of immigrants who came to the United States from the 1840s to early 1900s. I have mentioned to the students that we will be embarking on a family genealogy research project and want to be sure that you all know that we have talked at length about the variety of different families and circumstances that create families. No one should feel like their family tree is missing branches if information cannot be obtained about certain biological relatives. I would much rather the students create a family tree that helps them understand their actual family, rather than their technical one. More details about that project will emerge in the fall, but it's never too early to start poking around the photo albums to get a sense of not just where, but who we come from.

Class Elections

At our Community Council meeting on Wednesday afternoon, we moved forward on the students' plan to hold class elections and set up a representative democracy to help facilitate community projects. Students interested in running for a class office must return signed petitions by Tuesday afternoon to get on the ballot for Wednesday's elections. Elections will be held in the classroom on Wednesday afternoon at about 2:30pm and each candidate will be required to make a one-minute (minimum) speech to the community before ballots are distributed and voting occurs. I am always so pleased at the number of students who are willing to take this risk, especially so early in the year. It means that we really know how to build community here in Room 110.


The versatile and musical Miss Carina has offered to host Chorus practice in her room on Fridays from 12:25-1pm for any interested fifth and sixth graders. We had a large percentage of kids try Chorus on Friday and the small group who decided that a singer's life wasn't for them engaged in a productive Study Hall, working mostly on writing projects. Once Chorus attendance is consistent, I will be using Chorus time (and Band time on Thursday afternoons, once that is up and running) for skill and/or study groups with students who do not participate in these electives. Participation in musical endeavors will always be strongly encouraged by this former band geek and madrigal, but please know that the time will be well-spent back in the classroom for students who don't have the fever for more cowbell.

Getting in Touch

Over the summer, a new phone system was installed at MCS. The system has enhanced safety features, which is awesome, but it is taking some time for me to learn it, including how to check my voicemail. I can see that red light blinking (and have connected by email with the caller), but I'm having trouble figuring out how to get in there and retrieve my messages. As I work through this, I encourage you to use email (kgagner at anesu dot org) to get in touch with me. You can also call or text me on my mobile phone. My number will be revealed when you solve this equation: 

[(900-123) - (5,638-4,567) + 7,771,365]

Do you remember your order of operations? You'll need it so, please excuse my dear Aunt Sally and look it up if you need to.

Truck Driving Volunteer Needed

We have ordered a cabinet from Home Depot and I have a purchase order to go pick it up. The trouble is that my husband is in peak season for work (we own a pest control business and it's cluster fly time!), so he is using his truck in the southern and eastern parts of the state all week long and most of the weekends until about the first of October. If you are going to be in Williston with a truck in the next week or so and could possibly swing by to pick up the box (the furniture is not assembled), I would be very grateful. I can give you the purchase order and a note if it sounds like something you could help me with.

What's Up For the Week Ahead

This week, I have some last lingering literacy assessments to get done so that I can begin working with students to set Common Core aligned goals for reading and writing. These goals will act as a sort of personalized learning plan so that each student is focusing her/his literacy work time on mastering relevant skills at a developmentally appropriate place.

We are going to take a quick break from our American History scholarship for the next two weeks so that we can use Humanities time strictly for Science. On Friday, we went into the woods and meadows to gather crickets, snails, and pill bugs for the ecosystems that we will be setting up in soda bottles and rotisserie chicken containers. Thankfully, Ms. Pierpont has offered to keep the menagerie of creepy crawlies in her classroom for now (Biology is wonderful, but I prefer Physics!) and soon the students will be putting together their own little worlds as we learn what natural systems need in order to flourish. This is such fun work to do before the snow flies. I am working with our Four Winds volunteers to connect some more dots, including a way to link our makerspace with this Ecology unit. Fun, fun, fun!

We concluded our read aloud of Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice In Wonderland early last week and will be watching the 1951 Disney classic with our Study Buddies this Friday afternoon (they have also read a version of the story, one by kid-lit superstar Jon Scieszka). Last week, we went outside to do some partner reading in the sun with our little friends in Ms. Primo's class. I absolutely adore watching the olders work with the youngers and they seem to understand quite quickly that working with children can be as fun as it is exhausting!

Our new Math program is falling into shape in both the fifth and sixth grade classes. I can report from sixth grade that students are LOVING "Prime Time," the first unit of Connected Math. We have been exploring factors, multiples, and products this week as we begin to learn about the operational relationships (combining, deconstructing) that connect real numbers. We have also been messing around with patterns on the side, including factor patterns on a 100 square and watching this fun Vi Hart video about prime numbers:

I think that's all for now. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, input, or ideas. I have enjoyed chatting with some of you by way of your student's planner--let's keep up the open communication!

Have a great weekend.


  1. Tristan and I agree, that you are out of control hilarious. That video was head shaking!

    1. Glad to hear you're both enjoying the blog! We watch a lot of Vi Hart videos in Math; they are definitely wild!