Archive for February, 2011

Feb 28 2011

Jack Gantos Visit

Published by under Writer's Workshop

Zap, Zap, Zap! Running around his house naked, putting a cockroach into his sleeping sister’s mouth…these are just some of the childhood stories author Jack Gantos deliciously told to us at our assembly this morning.

If you’ve never heard of Jack Gantos, you may be familiar with some of his books such as the Rotten Ralph series, Joey Pigza series or the Jack Henry series.

He not only is an award-winning author, but also a hilarious speaker! The audience laughed out loud with Mr. Gantos’ descriptive, animated stories.

But best of all, Mr. Gantos was teaching us about how we can be the best writers we can be. He brought along his journals from when he was an elementary student. He definitely loved to write! What really resonated with me and what was nice to hear Mr. Gantos talk about was that most of his ideas for his writing comes from himself and his life experiences! We are currently writing Realistic Fiction stories and this was a fantastic reminder of how we can use our own life’s stories to create good pieces of writing. Sometimes the best writing comes from not much farther than our own backyard.

He told us that sometimes it is daunting and scary getting your journal for the first time because there are all those blank pages staring at you! One strategy Jack Gantos uses is to draw a map of your house and the surrounding area. I’ve included a picture below of the map Mr. Gantos used in his presentation. He said to add lots of details to it…the more the better! So many stories can emerge from this map strategy.

He also spoke heavily about the writing process and the structure of our writing.He said there were 7 parts to every story…here they are below:

1. Characters

2. Setting

3. Problems/Situation

4. Action/Plot

5. Crisis

6. Resolution/Solve the Problem

7. Physical and Emotional Ending

I really liked how he mentioned several times that there were 2 parts to an ending…the physical ending and then (often the part that is missing in student writing)…the EMOTIONAL ENDING.

Finally, the drafting phase was mentioned several times. Mr. Gantos said that he sometimes does 30-40 drafts of a story!! (We sometimes complain when we have to do 2!).  We have a lot to learn from Jack Gantos and I know I took away a lot from seeing him today.

Check out the pictures below from the assembly. I’ll try to snap a few more of him signing our books!

We love Jack!

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Feb 24 2011

Who Has the Power?

Published by under Reading Workshop

Today our class is spending time learning about a reading strategy in our Social Issues unit.
The strategy is : Readers think about who has the power in the story and its affect on the other characters.

We are following 4 steps to do this:
1. Identify which character has the power.
2. Ask yourself, “How do they use this power?”
3. Think about how the other characters view this character’s actions.
4. Stop and Jot your thoughts.

When thinking about ‘who has the power’, I couldn’t help but think back to my childhood and the fabulous cartoon called He-Man. Watch this clip from the introduction of the cartoon and you’ll see what I mean…

When using this reading strategy, I am not talking about which character has a magical power like He-Man, but rather, which character has the ability to influence others–this could be in a negative way, OR positive way!

We recently read Your Move by Eve Bunting and there is definitely a character in this story that uses power in a negative way. If you haven’t read the book, be sure to check it out at your library!

Happy Reading!

Miss B.

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Feb 22 2011

Have You Heard of a Sea Monkey?

Published by under Science

If you haven’t heard of a Sea Monkey, you’re not alone. Sea Monkeys, also known as Brine Shrimp, are tiny crustaceans that need salt water to hatch and survive! We have been studying them recently in our Environments unit in class. We were trying to find out what their range of tolerance was in various concentrations of salt water, as well as their preferred environment in which to hatch. We found out that…

1. Out of 4 cups of water, ranging from 0 spoons of salt to 3 spoons of salt, the Brine Shrimp seemed to hatch the most in 2-3 spoons of salt.

2. Their range of tolerance was 1-3 spoons of salt.

3. No shrimp hatched in 0 spoons.

Something else that is interesting is the fact that Brine Shrimp do NOT like very salty water, so you won’t find them in oceans or seas, only salt water ponds and lakes.

Take a look at our video below which captures a live Brine Shrimp swimming under the microscope! Cool!


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Feb 20 2011

Top 100 Blogs!

Published by under Teacher Talk

Wow! Our classroom has been deemed to be in the top 100 blogs! Great going team! Check out the link below to see the article.

Now that’s something to smile about!

Image: markhillary

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Feb 20 2011

Sustainability Projects

Published by under Sustainability

Dear Grade 5s,

As you gather data from various sources on your topic you are most passionate about, keep in mind you must be keeping a list of where you are getting the information from.

Here are some websites below that you may find some useful information:

The link below is a “feed” from the internet that is pulling information about different sustainability topics to your G5 Netvibes page to help you look for sustainability news articles.  (It is doing the search for you, so you don’t have to!).

Science Daily:

Environmental News Network:

National Geographic:

World Wildlife:

World Wildlife International:


Plastic Problem:

Mr. Lam also posted on his class website some helpful reminders and tips of how to search effectively. Click here to see his post.

As you come across different websites that you think would be helpful to others, add them in the comment section below!

Miss B.

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Feb 13 2011

Nurseries of the Earth

Published by under Science,Sustainability

Our class trip to the Mangroves in the BangPu area of Bangkok was a real eye-opener for many of us who’ve never seen mangroves before. It was a beautiful day, not too hot by Bangkok standards, and we were paired up with Mr. Lam’s class to learn all about the mangroves.

In groups of about 8, we were led by some wonderful conservation specialists who guided us around the protected mangrove area. We played some interesting games that made it easier to understanding what is happening to the mangroves right now such as cutting them down for firewood, shrimp farming, industrialization and so on. We made a ‘mangrove in a box’ and got to see how mangroves actually protect houses and people from destructive forces such as tsunamis.

A tranquil glimpse into a bird’s life in a mangrove was another stop along the journey, complete with binoculars! I heard a few students say they could have stayed there all day. The cool breeze that blew through the building as we watched the birds in their natural habitat was very inviting and welcomed!

We also learned about food chains and how the mangroves are a critical part of maintaining certain bird and other animal species. Check out this article highlighting our need to care.

According to, mangroves perform a vital ecological role providing habitat for a wide variety of species.  Odum et al. (1982) reported 220 fish species, 24 reptile species, 18 mammal species, and 181 bird species that all utilize mangroves as habitat during some period of life.  Additionally many species, though not permanent mangrove inhabitants, make use of mangrove areas for foraging, roosting, breeding, and other activities.

And Mangroves just aren’t in Bangkok, of course. They are all over the world! Do you live in an area of the world that has mangroves?

Check out the student blogs from Room 230 and read up on their take on the mangrove field trip experience!

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