Ahhhhh! Smells Like a Science Fair!

The first smell to fill the room this morning was that of spilled vinegar.  But by the end of the day (and by that I mean 7:00 p.m.) there was a mixture of science related smells filling the room.  They included candles burning, flowers, vinegar, vegetable oil and alka-seltzer, propane, lemon and grapefruit, grass, and gas from the leaf blower-powered hoverboard! (The hoverboard was operating in the hallway for brief periods of time so that the smell never became overpowering).  But what a wonderful wonderful time for everyone!

I know that many people think Science Fairs are the scourge of the earth, but you can’t convince me of that this evening.  My students are tired, their feet hurt from standing, and their throats are dry from talking so much.  But the smile on each face and the sparkle in each eye and the confidence as each spoke is why this is a valuable thing to do!  These students were so enthusiastic about sharing the work they have done in the past five weeks.  What I don’t think they were expecting were the truly sincere comments, smiles and compliments they received from our visitors — and we had close to 300 visitors!

By tomorrow I expect the smells will have disappeared.  But I expect the pride will remain for a very long time.

Making Sense of Sentences

While some were discovering new things about familiar words this afternoon, one group introduced us to a brand new word.  Zoe found it in a book she is reading.  The word is sycophant.  It is defined as a self server; one who uses flattery to win favor with one who yields influence.  We might call such a person a “yes-man”.  It was decided that this person would not be considered sincere and should not be believed.  In Zoe’s book, the sycophant is not a person but a creature.

When it was time to practice our grammar, it felt right to incorporate our new word!  Here is another example of how we use knowledge, logic, and reason to analyze and better understand the structure of a sentence.

If You Could Choose Any Word to Investigate ….

The other day we read Skot Caldwell’s blog.  His 4th and 5th grade students had been on an investigation similar to one we had been on  —  that of collecting evidence to prove whether or not <tion> and/or <sion> were suffixes.  His students worked in partners, each investigating a word that had either <tion> or <sion> as the last four letters.

Neither of our classes could find a word in which <tion> or <sion> was the suffix.  Until we do, we must rely on the data we have collected.  And the data that Mr. Caldwell’s class and our class has gathered suggests that <tion> and <sion> are syllables and NOT suffixes.  In every case investigated we found the suffix to be <ion>.

We decided to create the following video to share with others what we have learned about the <tion> and <sion> suffixes.  It is presented as a game show.  Prepare to be entertained and educated!

In presenting their findings, Mr. Caldwell’s students created some colorful and interesting posters.  My students enjoyed them and are looking to create similar ones with the investigations we started today.  One might consider what we did today similar to a “free day” in art.  Students could work alone or in pairs and could choose any word they wanted to investigate!  It was a charged environment!  Several students ran over to the “Wonder Wall” (where students list words they wonder about but don’t have time to investigate) to choose a word.  Others had words in mind.  I don’t remember all of the words investigated today, but a few of them were platypus, hallelujah, containment, yesterday, forensic, and sycophant.  We’re hoping to conclude these investigations tomorrow and to begin posters similar to those in Mr. Caldwell’s class.


“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” Mattie Stepanek

Today the students put on an awesome Valentine’s Day party.  The Valentines boxes were so creatively done!  It was such fun just to walk around and see what everyone made.  We had fun decorations everywhere, and enjoyable games.  The food committee brought in heart-shaped pizzas, Shirley Temple drinks, fruit and cheese, cookies, and strawberries to dip in warm chocolate.  What fun.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”     Winnie the Pooh

Celebrating Our Thousandth Day of School!

If our school year is approximately 180 days long, and we multiply that by the five years my students have been in school (kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and fourth grade), at the end of fourth grade they’ve been in school for 900 days.  So that means that on the 100th day of fifth grade they are celebrating their 1000th day of school!

I decided to center our celebration around the number 1000.  Mid-morning I mixed up a snack stew.  In the stew were 100 each of 10 different ingredients.  There were things like animal crackers, marshmallows, cheese crackers, pretzels, and conversation hearts.  Yum.  Throughout the day we jumped for joy in ten sets of 100 jumps.  Whew!  Students answered questions such as, “How old will you be in 1000 days?  1000 months?  What are the factors of 1000?”

Take a peek and just see how much fun we had!

Involve Me and I Learn…


Today my students sounded confident, knowledgeable, and patient.  You see, we were invited to teach a class of 2nd graders about suffixes.  No one shied away from this challenge.  The students were excited to share what they knew and to teach valuable information to these younger students.

We talked last week and decided what it would be important to say.  We decided to begin by defining a suffix.  The students described it as a morpheme that is fixed to the end of the base or stem of a word.  Eric, one of my students, saw that the second grade teacher had written the word <boxes> on the board.  He took his partner up there and with his hand covered the <es> suffix so the second grader could read the word <box>.  Then he moved his hand so it now covered the base <box>, and his partner could see just the <es> suffix.  His partner immediately smiled and said, ” Oh!  I see!”

They each began with the word <play>.  The fifth grader demonstrated for the second grader how to write out and read a word sum.  As I walked around I was pleased with what I was hearing.  The fifth graders were teaching the second graders to read the suffixes they were using as units rather than individual letters.

After creating a matrix and writing out word sums for the base <play>, everyone practiced further with the base <help>.  I specifically chose two free bases that ended with a consonant.  I wanted the second graders to get used to the practice of writing out (and reading aloud as they write) word sums.

The third word they looked at was <love>.  My students were going to have to teach their partners about dropping the single silent e when adding vowel suffixes.  It was interesting to hear the words my students were using to explain these things.  It was a great way to assess whether or not my students really understand suffixes, word sums, and “checking the joins” before writing a word with the affix.

There are two more second grade rooms to visit.  There is some tweaking I would like to do with my students to improve the lesson overall.  Mostly, though, I am extremely proud of my students.  Their enthusiasm is evident in their voices.   Here’s a little bit of what I heard today.