Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

View From the 5th Grade Trenches: Common Core Standards #3 - Break it Down - Math

The Common Core State Standards for math are sliced into two distinct halves: 
Mathematical Practices and Content Standards

Together they offer:
Explicit instruction on grade level concepts
Linking/extending previous learning and new information
Conceptual understanding/procedural skill/application

This is the kingdom of problem solving techniques. The practices are consistent across grade levels. The italics are my "translations."

Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
 Stick it out through all the steps in a mathematically sound way.

Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
Use number sense, picture sense, charts and graphs.

Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
Explain WHY and HOW you or someone else came to an answer.

Model with mathematics.
Equations, expressions, proofs  

Use appropriate tools strategically

Attend to precision.
Don't panic - be systematic

Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. Patterns/Connections

Here are the strands for fifth grade. Strands may vary at different grade levels, especially in the early grades or when you cross over into middle school and beyond. 

This is where I am doing the happy dance. Have you ever tried to teach a ten-year-old to calculate the surface area of a rectangular solid with fractions and decimals, or to subtract negative integers in several permutations? It's no picnic. With Common Core the shift in concepts (pushing more difficult ones to older grades) is more in line with my students' developmental abilities. 

Operations and Algebraic Thinking - OA
Expressions, Equations, Prime Factorization, Order of Operations, Input/Output Boxes

Number and Operations in Base Ten - NBT
Whole number and decimal operations, Place Values

Number and Operations - Fractions - NF
Fractions and Mixed Numbers

Measurement and Data - MD
Charts and Graphs, Volume

Geometry - G
Two dimensional figures, The Coordinate Plane

Freak Out Alert - 
Many of my colleagues in the primary grades are concerned about the heightened expectations, especially in problem solving for the younger kiddos. 

Double Freak Out Alert - 
During the transition to Common Core, we teachers have to figure out where to fill gaps that may occur between grade levels to make sure students are ready to tackle certain concepts. 

Yes, it is going to be boatloads of additional work for we underpaid and overworked educators as we transition to Common Core. 

Is it worth it?
I think so.

This link chats about the technology tie in to Common Core. Scroll down to Page 2 for the quick list. Digital Literacy

This week's video is a speedy fly-by of Mathematical Practices.

Keep those questions coming. Have a great week.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

View From the 5th Grade Trenches: Common Core Standards #2 - Break It Down ELA

Welcome to the second installment of wrapping our heads around the Common Core State Standards. I'm going to aim binoculars at the English Language Arts - ELA- standards this week.

Below are the 6 ELA standard strands and a few examples of what fall under each. A key factor in Common Core State Standards is added academic rigor for the students. Please know, my scant examples do not do the complexity of each strand justice.  

If you are itching for more detail - you can go to your state's Department of Education website and they will have a Common Core Standards link with a plethora of information.

And now - English Language Arts... 

Reading Literature
Structure of literary forms (fiction, drama, poetry), figurative language, themes, tone, author's purpose, comprehension, inferencing, quoting accurately from a source

Reading Informational Text
Structure of non-fiction texts, comparing sources across media for relevancy, extracting information, judging with criteria, proving with evidence, comprehension, drawing conclusions, citation of resources

Speaking and Listening 
Oral presentations, cooperative group strategies such as negotiation and task completion, academic conversations (I will be focusing on these in a future post)

Application of learning from both Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text standards, purposes for writing, writing across forms such as narrative/informational/opinion pieces, use of multi-media to express ideas and information

Conventions of language, grammar, punctuation, parts of speech, etc.

Reading Foundational Skills
Phonics, decoding, syllabication, morphology

In grade K-5, they are embedded within the ELA strands.

This weeks video is a quick overview of the purpose and benefits of national standards. And the doodler in me loves the graphic style of the presentation.

Common Core Link of the Week: Engage NY - Shifts for Students and Parents
This is the link I share with the parents in my class. Don't be put off by the length of the PDF. Each slide is a mini-poster of info. not a barrage of headache-inducing verbiage.

Question from last week:

Are standardized tests going away? 
The style of the test is changing. It will be online and include both individual and group tasks/assessments. I will focus on this topic in a future post.

Next week: Common Core Math Standards and Practices 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

View From the 5th Grade Trenches: Common Core Standards #1 - What and Why?

It's time for me to hop into the national conversation (or should I say "freak out") on the Common Core Standards.

*Dons 5th Grade Teacher Hat*

This will be first in a series of bite-sized posts that will hopefully demystify the Common Core Standards. 

There are a lot of statements and opinions flying around out there. Let me be clear that I believe the Common Core Standards are a gift to our students.

What are the Common Core Standards?

Simply stated, they are a set of learning objectives/goals that have been agreed upon by a consortium of 46 states so far to create an equity of educational focus across the country. 

A small portion of the Common Core Standards will remain state specific. Each state will decide on that piece for themselves.

Why do we need the Common Core Standards?

We need to refocus education for 21st Century learners. We not only need to teach kids what to think in order to pass an annual standardized test, but HOW to arrive at information, and judge its relevance.

Simply put: Instead of list or name something - prove with evidence your knowledge of...

Research -  Question - Judge With Criteria - Extend - Apply

(News Flash: Effective teachers have been doing this since education began.)

Higher education and the workplace have become environments of think tanks, collective problem solving, and technological savvy.

We owe it to our children to prepare them for the rigors of this reality.

Standardized testing HAS NOT been an effective measurement of the capabilities necessary for future success on the world stage.

Here's a funny commentary on why implementing the Common Core Standards is the way to go for our kids. 

I'd love to hear from you. If you have any questions about The Common Core Standards, pop them in the comments and I will do my best to address them during this series.
Common Core Link of the Week: Common Core State Standards Initiative

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sizzling Cover Reveal: THE BOY WHO LOVED FIRE by Julie Musil

I LOVE - LOVE - LOVE it when talented storytellers like Julie Musil let their stories take flight on the indie winds. You will want to stay tuned for her launch date.

THE BOY WHO LOVED FIRE is a gripping story.

A story as riveting as this one is deserves an equally riveting cover.

Mission accomplished. 

Genre: Contemporary YA with a splash of ghosts 

Manny O’Donnell revels in his status at the top of his high school food chain. He and his friends party in the mountains on a blustery night, sharing liquor and lame ghost stories around a campfire. The next morning, as a wild fire rages in those same mountains, Manny experiences doubt. He was the last of the drunken crew to leave the cave, and he’s uncertain if he extinguished the flames. Within hours, he becomes the number one arson suspect.

Santa Ana winds + matches = disaster. You’d think he would've learned that the first time he started a fire.

As he evades a determined arson investigator, Manny, a modern-day Scrooge, is visited by ghosts of the past, present, and future. He’s forced to witness the fate of his inadvertent victims, including Abigail, the scarred beauty who softens his heart. Manny must choose between turning around his callous, self-centered attitude, or protecting his own skin at the expense of anyone who gets in his way.

Julie Musil is the author of YA fiction. As the mother of three teen boys, she’s immersed in teen speak, drama, and gym socks. She loves to chat--just ask her Super Supportive Hubby, the guy with the glazed eyes. Connect with Julie on Facebook, Twitter, or her blog

Monday, October 14, 2013

View From the 5th Grade Trenches:October 2013: Supa-cool Kids Reading List

Leslie is posting? 


It is not an illusion. This is a new post.

I hope no one dropped their laptop from shock when 
they saw this post.

Don't get excited. It's a quicky.

I found this supa-cool link with supa-cool books for kids to read. Interesting to browse from both my teacher and writer perspectives.

It's from NPR - Do you think me classy and erudite?


Coming Soon:
Just what is all this Common Core hoopla?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just a Giggle or Two

I'm brain fried from 30 parent-teacher conferences. While I'm binge watching ONCE UPON A TIME and waiting to regrow cerebral cells, here's some fun.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Enough With the Heat Already

Anyone else out there melting?


Run through the sprinklers.

See if you can really fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Wear that stupid hat you can't get away with any other time of the year. You know the one. It either involves seashells or feathers.

Feign heatstroke to avoid exercise.

Put flip-flops on the dog and/or cat.

Insist alcohol does not dehydrate you.

Break out an old friend from your past

It may have given us all concussions - but dang - we had fun!

Stay cool!

Monday 9-9 and Tuesday 9-10
The Binding Stone - Book 1 in the Djinn Series by
Lisa Gail Green
is FREE on Amazon.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

View From the 5th Grade Trenches: August 2013 - The Scieszka Zone

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, 

The Scieszka Zone

Where else can a math cursed kid put two halves together and escape through a hole in the wall?

Where else can the Big Bad Wolf plead his case?

Where else can a cowboy crack up about a head of lettuce?

Where else can Chicken Licken seek an audience with Obama?

Nothing tops a roomful of giggling kids. That is why I start every school year sharing the witty and hilarious words of Jon Scieszka with my class. The crazy-perfect illustrations of Lane Smith enhance the laughter even more. Their stories are every bit as guffaw-inducing for adults as they are for the kids.

Mr. Scieszka has my undying admiration for his literacy program and website called GUYS READ. Here's the mission statement:

Welcome to Guys Read, a web-based literacy program for boys founded by author and First National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature Jon Scieszka. Our mission is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.

The GUYS READ website is a wealth of information and resources to get our boys reading. Through it I discovered middle grade gold such as the Time Warp Trio,

Guys Read Anthologies,

and the Spaceheadz online interactive series 

that have transformed some of my most reluctant male (and female) readers into potential bookworms.

Jon Scieszka has clocked time as a teacher in the elementary school trenches and he proves over and over his special magic for communicating with kids. As a teacher I appreciate everything Scieszka for the teachable moments the works provide above and beyond engaging kids with their perfectly pitched humor.

MATH CURSE – Introduces the Fibonacci sequence: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 (Have you cracked the code?) as well as empathizing with students about the mind boggling math concepts they have to conquer each new school year.

THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS – Is an approachable and entertaining example of teaching voice and point of view.

COWBOY AND OCTOPUS – Is Diversity 101. The relationship and tolerance between these two unlikely amigos exemplifies the joy of putting differences aside and being friends with someone unexpected.

THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES – Besides the perk of getting to say “stupid” for the guaranteed laugh, these quick spins on traditional tales are ripe for teaching the elements of a story.

Thank you Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith for all the lesson plan blanks you’ve filled in for me, and above all else, for making kids crave books.

SCBWI-LA 2013 Conference - Scieszka and Rose

What could be cooler than meeting one of your heroes in person and seeing they are as amazing as you always dreamed they'd be?

Answer: Nothing.

Look for the signpost up ahead – your next stop, 
The Scieszka Zone

*The Twilight Zone introduction is written by Rod Serling.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mining Vacay Gold

It's vacay season when we share collective thoughts.

How much can I jam in my suitcase?
Should I lie to the calorie tracker on my smartphone?
Do I trust the GPS or will I end up in a lake?

We writers have another subset of "on the road" musings.

If that girl falls off that balcony will that guy catch her?
Were those glowing eyes flying across the road a Chupacabra?
Is this a tasty location for my next MS?

Julie Musil recently shared her method of note-taking to recall the details of a situation here

I prefer to chronicle my vacay observations visually.

A shadow. A shoe. A tree.

Don't move. It will see you.

The face behind the bottom right pane disappeared.

What strategies do you use to cement observations into your writerly brain?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Not Cool Robert Frost" Meet Kid President

Really Leslie? Another video to watch. I'm trying to hit ten blogs today. I don't have time for this. 

Cross my heart, you will not regret clicking on this one. Inspiration shows up when you need it the most. 
Here's some for you.

Kid President's name is Robby. He was born with brittle bone condition and has endured over 70 breaks since he was born. He is on a journey through this life to get us all dancing.
To learn more about this extraordinary force in our universe, visit his website Kid President
And now -
Let's DANCE!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guest Post and the Super Moon

This week I'm over at the wonderful Julie Musil's blog chatting about writing short stories. Come say howdy.

Did anyone see the "super moon" the night of June 22nd?


I was driving by the Pacific Ocean and the moonlight made the waves glow silver. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

View From the Fifth Grade Trenches: Nazi on the School Board?

Instead of starting with warm breezes and an iced tea, summer break in my school district detonated with a community nightmare. As a writer, I constantly observe and analyze people. Last night I witnessed a character the likes of which I’ve never before encountered in my life.

School board members, community elected positions, are supposed to focus on the quality and integrity of education for the students on their watch.

A recent addition to the Saugus Union School District in California, Stephen Winkler, has proven to be a detriment, dare I say horror, rather than an advocate for the children in the district which he serves.

Recently Mr. Winkler attacked the teachers of the district in a sweeping generalization on Twitter. His tweet is as follows:

“A spirit of national socialism is encouraged by an effete core of impudent snobs, who characterize themselves as teachers of Saugus Union.”

That comment started a trickle of discontent that has become a tsunami of outrage as more about Mr. Winkler’s online life and views have come to light.

He has posted or made disturbing public statements about:

  • Pro-Nazi sympathies.
  • Bizarre statements about children riding dogs
  • Vicious cruelty to animals
  • Crazed ranting about the execution of black youth by police on the street to save taxpayer money
  • Extermination of specific religious groups

This article by Mike Devlin lays out proof and details of Winkler’s despicable pronouncements.

And here is the report from Elex Michaelson, KABC Eyewitness news where you can see and hear Mr. Winkler: 

So what’s the takeaway here?

Last night I watched as Mr. Winkler was censured by the rest of the school board. Actions are in the works to have him removed. My chest burned as I saw him sit on the dais with a smirk on his face seemingly oblivious to the barrage against him.

It was however the statement of a parent speaking at the meeting that struck me the hardest. He claimed responsibility for not knowing enough about Mr. Winkler before voting for him in the school board election.

How many of us truly investigate those who seek positions on our school boards? In this day of Google, it isn’t hard to research candidates.

Clearly Mr. Winkler misrepresented himself. As voters we must be more responsible when we elect individuals to serve on a body that is focused on the welfare of children.

This is a cautionary tale.

I salute my colleagues in the Saugus Union School District as well as members of our community who refuse to stand for another moment of Mr. Winkler’s tenure on the school board. I believe there will never be another school board election in this district where the candidates are not vetted down to the last keystroke they’ve hit on their computers.

This is a sad tale.

I came to realize I was not witnessing a deliberately malicious individual fighting bizarre accusations in a completely inappropriate way. He has no business around children, but I see Mr. Winkler as a person who needs help and is not grasping the reality of what is unfurling around him. Where is his family?

This is a call to action.

Get involved with your child’s school, not just on the site level, but also on the district and school board level.