Module Letter

Module 6 had many weather interruptions, but we made it! Here is a recap of what we did in Senior M.A.P.P.:

MATH: Everyone is working hard in math and making progress. We may add a few extra Math classes to help students maintain math pace since we lost so many days due to snow. Keep practicing those math facts at home and let me know if you have any questions!

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS: We completed our biographies for Academic Fair and have started a poetry unit. I have found many great poetry books via The Gutenberg Project and the Durham Public Library, including one of my personal favorites Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman. We are reading and writing different forms of poetry including pyramid poems (pictured below), haiku, and limericks. We are also studying the poems of Shel Silverstein and even looking at Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. We will finish our poetry unit in Module 7 before we start our drama unit.

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SOCIAL STUDIES: This module we have been studying the economy of the United States, including supply and demand, advertisements, budgets, and taxes. We have read articles about how the recession has affected the unemployment rate in the United States, and we will have a discussion about Governor Pat McCrory’s State Budget Proposal (just released this month) and how it affects the people of North Carolina. We are thinking critically about why and how individuals spend money and why taxes are so important to the community. We will carry this unit through the end of Module 7 before learning about North Carolina folklore and cultures in Module 8.

SCIENCE: After learning about rocks and soil, we started exploring the structure of Earth and how land-forms are created. Going into Module 7 we will continue our study of tectonic plates, mountains, volcanoes, valleys, rivers, canyons, and more. We will study relief maps to learn why mountain ranges formed where they are and study continental drift to learn how our planet has changed and continues to change over time. We will also take some time to learn about Marie Tharp, the geologist whose map of the ocean floor revealed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and led to the scientific community’s acceptance of the continental drift theory. Next, we will study weather and climate.

FINAL NOTE: Rather than sending student work “home” (since that’s rarely where it goes), I have started filing it in a crate in the classroom. Parents are welcome to come in and look at work before or after school. When the calendar says “Crates Out” I will move the crate upstairs to the Big Table. If you have any questions or are wondering how your child is doing in class, please send me an email or call me at school.

Thank you for everything you do at home to support the education of your children!


This update serves two purposes:

  1. I want to apologize for neglecting this journal for the past few months. During conferences I read through parent surveys (See! We do read them!) and noted that many people said they wanted me to start posting the homework again and improve parent communication.
  2. I want to share some highlights of what we’ve been doing in class, tell you what we are going to do next, and describe some changes that will (I hope!) improve communication about school to home.

What have we been up to?

For the past month we have been working on our projects for the Academic Fair portion of Pie Supper. In Reading the students studied biographies and autobiographies and we talked about what elements we needed to include in the ones they would write. In Social Studies the students read books and websites about their subjects and took notes to inform their papers. In Writing everyone created an outline and wrote a biographical essay about his or her subject. We also spent time revising and editing, writing speeches, and creating the display boards they will use during their presentations.

We studied soil in Science, but we paused that unit for a week. We have been using Science time to take some “brain breaks” from project-land by watching cute animal videos in the meantime. We’ll get back to our study of sand, silt, clay, and humus next week.

What are we doing next?

Next week students will present their biography projects in class and we will complete our soil unit. We will soon delve into our poetry unit in Reading and Writing, a study of landforms in Science, and a look at economy in Social Studies.

Changes? What changes?

First of all, I intend to post the homework on this journal consistently. I set an alarm on my phone to get me back in the habit of posting a picture of the board every day. If you ever notice that I’ve forgotten or if you have questions, please email me ( I appreciate feedback; I’m always looking for ways to improve what I’m doing so that you know what is going on at school.

During conferences I also received a lot of feedback that work is not coming home. Things like spelling tests, writing, and math fact sheets end up in the recycling bin (or smushed in the back of desks) more often than they appear in bookbags, so I am going to stop handing them to students to take home. Instead, I will show them their graded work and then file it so you can come in and look at it. I will keep a crate in the classroom (near the back door) with a hanging folder for each student. If you ever want to peruse your child’s work, please feel free to come look through his or her folder before 8:15 or after 3:00.

One last note…

There is the promise (or threat, depending on how you feel about it) of snow in the forecast for next week. As we all know, this could end up being anything from sunny skies to a blizzard. If we miss school, then I will post an update here about Pie Supper projects. The chances are that we will be able to present all of them in class in a single day if we have to, and most students are ready to present. If we need to do presentations Friday or even the following week, we will.

Okay, last thing. I promise.

I just want to add that I love each of your kids (really, truly) and that I feel very fortunate to work with such caring, involved families. Thank you for everything you do to support the education of your children and make me feel appreciated. I hope you will always feel comfortable coming to me with suggestions, questions, or critiques.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Friday, October 3 marked the end of Module 1! Below is a summary of what we’ve studied in each subject and a preview of what’s coming in Module 2.

English Language Arts:

I just finished reading Roald Dahl’s The Witches aloud; we will review the book Monday and Tuesday for a test Wednesday. Thursday I will split the students into groups and assign them novels to read in class. Each day I will meet with groups to lead a discussion about the previous day’s reading.

In Writing we are entering the final stages of the writing process with our first informational essay. We started these as a homework assignment where each paragraph was planned on an organizer sheet. They have since turned those plans into paragraphs, revised their writing with partners (a peer and me), and written second drafts of their essays. I will edit their writing for grammar, spelling, and mechanical errors. Tuesday they will confer with me and begin the publishing stage. Neatly handwritten final drafts are acceptable, but I will also give them the option to type their essays. Students are welcome to bring their own computers to school on Tuesday or use school computers. Our next writing assignment will be a fiction story. My goal for writing this year is to give students many planning tools so they can organize their thoughts before they start creating paragraphs.

As I mentioned at Back to School Night, I have started using a new program for spelling and vocabulary. Our first week of Word Study was a success; everyone passed last Friday’s test! Each Monday I will assign a new list of 20-24 words and a checklist of activities. Some activities are mandatory and some are optional, and each activity will have a point value. Students will complete activities for classwork and homework for a total of 80-100 points per week. I will collect Word Study notebooks each Friday to check their work before returning them on Monday. I will also post a copy of the checklist here with Monday’s homework.


Each student has been assigned a math book and is working at his or her own pace through the material. The goal is to complete about one chapter per week; some chapters will require more or less time depending on how challenging the material is for your child. Homework should start coming home on a regular basis. Please let me know if you have homework concerns. If your child is having trouble with a concept or particular problem, sending me an email that night will ensure that I check in with him or her the next day in class.

We have also developed a routine for testing math facts. Students working to master a fact family will be tested twice a week, usually on Wednesdays and Fridays; students maintaining mastery of their facts will be tested on Fridays only. At the end of each quarter I will test everyone’s master of all four operations.


In Module 1 we studied the properties and three main phases of matter. We also explored fluids that don’t conform to the typical properties of solids or liquids by mixing cornstarch with water and testing how it felt with different amounts of pressure. In our final experiment, the class split into partners and used foam, metal weights, and rubber bands to create an object that was heavy enough to sink below the surface of a container of water, yet light enough to only barely touch the bottom. It was a fun end to the unit!

Our next Science unit will be energy, forces, and simple machines. This is one of my favorite units because we build contraptions at the end.

Social Studies:

We started our study of United States geography and history by studying map features and learning the five themes of geography: location, place, movement, human-environment interaction, and region. After learning about longitude and latitude, we learned how to find the coordinates of a specific location. We also used different types of maps to talk about the common features and different purposes of maps. We completed our map study by creating a map of our classroom on graph paper. Each pair of students measured the furniture around the room, and we all worked together to come up with a scale that fit our graph paper. (1 square = about 8 inches). Then they drew their maps, placing objects as accurately as possible in relation to each other.

Next week we will begin studying the colonization of North America and formation of the United States. When I introduced the topic to the kids, they immediately started debating who actually “discovered” America. I think we have some interesting discussions and research ahead of us.

Wednesday marked the middle of the second semester at Camelot, leaving us with only one more quarter until the end of the year. Most of the third quarter was devoted to Pie Supper, which is the biggest academic project of the year for my class. Students spent weeks researching their topics, writing their papers, and preparing their presentation boards for the main event. I am extremely proud of how well they all did, and I feel like they all learned a lot of important research skills.

During the last quarter, we also studied animals and animal adaptations in Science class. We talked about the basic animal groups: invertebrates, mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. We also discussed how individual species have adapted to their environments, and we will revisit these adaptations when we learn about ecosystems and biomes in April and May. For the rest of March we will study the organs and systems that make up the human body.

Social Studies during the third quarter focused on South American history and geography, including the locations of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Chile. We also talked about the Inca civilization and how important storytelling was since they didn’t have a written language. We are currently studying North America, beginning with the indigenous people who lived in what is now the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The continents we will study in April and May are Australia and Africa.

In Math the students are working to complete their individual pace requirements and math facts mastery for the year. Third graders should demonstrate consistent mastery of addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts, while fourth graders should know those and their division facts. I will continue administering weekly math facts tests through the end of the year.

In the beginning of Second Semester, much of Language Arts was devoted to research and writing a nonfiction essay. Students are now working in reading groups again and are reading and discussing books appropriate to their reading level in class. I also read The Tale of Despereaux aloud to the class and then we watched the movie to practice comparison skills. In writing, the students are developing their punctuation skills by learning to write dialogue with quotation marks. Later on in the year, we will practice script writing and persuasive essays.

As always, if you have any questions about the things we’re doing in class, please send me an email. I am always happy to talk about the great things we’re doing! I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the students playing in the snow at recess after one of our many winter weather events:




Module 3 begins Monday, October 14th and ends Friday, November 1st. This is what we’ll be doing over the next three weeks:


Students will continue to work independently in their math books. Each Monday I will assign your child a math fact to practice at home during the week. Timed Mad Minute tests are given every Friday and sent home so that you can see how they are progressing. For suggestions on ways to practice math facts, please see our forum. Also, if students sign up for accounts on Khan Academy, they can take a pretest that will give them access to a tailored math tutoring program. Khan Academy is free and is a wonderful resource.

Language Arts

Reading groups will begin reading new novels this week in class. We will study the characteristics of fiction and talk about story development, characters, and setting in both reading and writing. Each student will begin writing their own creative fiction this week and will work on paragraph formation and compound sentences.


This week officially begins our unit on microbiology. During the beginning of the week we will take cultures of our own cheek cells and look at them through a microscope. We will also take samples from around the school and grow bacterial cultures in petri dishes. Later we will study microscopic organisms and how they move.

Social Studies

Module 3 will be devoted to the study of Antarctica and its exploration. We will learn about the climate, history, wildlife, and current inhabitants of the continent. We will also study expeditions to the South Pole and discuss the importance of the research stations in Antarctica.

Module 2 ended on Tuesday, right before family conferences. Here is a summary of what we did over the last few weeks:


We’ve established a routine for requesting help, assigning homework, and testing math facts. I’m also encouraging the kids to show their work in their math spirals and on tests. Please reinforce this idea at home while they work on homework. Each student is working at his or her individual pace and things are running smoothly. Everyone should continue practicing math facts for at least ten minutes each night.

Language Arts

In the beginning reading focused on research for the essays we wrote this module. Each student chose a different topic – we had papers on everything from Minecraft to the solar system. As the kids finished their research, they read books on extreme weather conditions in small groups. In writing we used our research to develop essays and work through the writing process. I was impressed with how willing the students were to rewrite their drafts and make corrections after I helped them revise and edit their papers, and I’m looking forward to revisiting these skills in January when we prepare for Pie Supper. Module 2 AR quizzes were due Tuesday and everyone should be choosing their next AR book to read at home.


This module we studied the classification of living things. The students learned the hierarchy (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species) and we talked about the different kingdoms. We learned about Carl Linnaeus, who developed the classification system that is still largely used today, but we also talked about how some scientists use slightly different systems. It was interesting to see them try to classify a platypus – it was a great example for how scientific ideas can evolve with new ideas and discoveries. I think the most exciting part of science this module was when we used a dichotomous key to classify candy.

Social Studies

In social studies we studied maps, landforms, and the names and locations of the continents. By the end of the unit, all of the students identified the names and locations of the seven continents with 100% accuracy! This will be very useful as we study the continents individually. We discussed general map features and talked about how different map projections show the world differently. Ms. Judith extended our study of map features by having the students create their own maps in art class – I can’t wait to see their finished products.

We’ve had a great start to the year! I’ll write another post in the next few days to preview what is coming in Module 3. Enjoy the weekend!