Issue 36-May 13, 2016


Will John Wilkes Booth be able to succeed in his plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln? Will the decimated South be able to rise again, amidst the scourge of carpetbaggers, Jim Crow Laws, and the Ku Klux Klan? Will student biologists be able to discover the secret to learned and inherited behaviors? Will a fabled cat be able to outwit a fabled dog? The answers to these burning questions--and so much more--can be found below:

1. Math: We worked to recognize volume as an attribute of solid figures and understand concepts of volume measurement. A cube with side length 1 unit, called a “unit cube,” is said to have “one cubic unit” of volume, and can be used to measure volume. Students participated in a "3-D Shape Sort," to achieve mastery of these concepts. We also sought to understand and estimate volume, using our prowess to compute the volume of rectangular prisms.

2. Reading: We gathered up our caving gear and embarked upon a "Spelunking Adventure" as well as exploring "The Cave of Danger." Vocabulary played a huge role in these endeavors! Integrating information from several texts on the same topic was also the goal as we have immersed ourselves in literature of all kinds. "Why Cats and Dogs Fight," a Greek folk tale and Charlie Anderson, a story about a "two-timing" cat. Students also used Unhuggables, a nonfiction book chockfull of "animals that are hard to love," such as spiders, snakes, cockroaches, and slugs.

3. Writing: The question we’ll be exploring: What persuasive techniques help us address—and sway—a particular audience? We discussed that, when people are a part of a panel—when their goal is to convince an audience in some way—they rise to the occasion. They dress the part. Specifically, they stand up tall, they speak in a loud, clear voice, they don’t fidget or giggle, and they greet and engage politely with the audience. We analyzed Every Living Thing, by Cynthia Rylant, wherein some students saw Doris, the main character, as strong; and some saw her as weak. Students had the opportunity to state—and defend—their positions. We also discovered that social activists fight to make change. They get involved with things they know and care about, do their research, and then write or speak to affect the ways others see that same topic. To become social activists, you need to use all the skills you’ve learned up until today to argue for things that matter to you. We learned about propaganda techniques; each student has "Could I Interest You In?" to complete. It involves analyzing TV commercials and is due on Tuesday, May 17!

4. Social Studies: The grand and glorious conclusion of the United States Civil War featured "A Daring Escape," via Morris Foote, to learn about the life of a Union soldier who escaped from a Confederate prison. We also learned about Thomas J. Jackson's role during the United States Civil War. Student actors/actresses also discovered the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg by performing a play. We then analyzed President Lincoln's Civil War goals as expressed in the Gettysburg Address. a visit to Thomas J. Jackson, "The South's Stone Wall" and Philip Sheridan, "A Leader for the North"--and an analysis of the ending of the war. We also witnessed the cold, calculated plotting of John Wilkes Booth, as he sought to avenge the South through a heinous act of violence. The end of slavery as well as the early days of President Andrew Johnson and his plans for Reconstruction in the war-torn South. We also explored the Reconstruction Under Congress, featuring three new amendments to the Constitution: the thirteenth, fourteenth, and the fifteenth (See link below!); carpetbaggers; the Ku Klux, Klan, and Jim Crow Laws. We also debated whether or not President Andrew Johnson should have been impeached. Jigsaw Tournament, featuring "Civil War Soldiers," coming on Friday, May 13!

5. Science: Student scientists investigated “How Characteristics are Inherited” as well as differentiated between dominant and recessive traits. We also delved into The One and Only You, featuring case studies about the hereditary and environmental influences on human development. Our focus then turned toward a study of learned and inherited behaviors, as well as dominant and recessive traits. We used the nonfiction book, Wolves, by Seymour Simon, to help understand these traits in the wild. Each student also flipped coins in conjunction with learning about punnent squares, to determine the probability of inheriting certain characteristics.

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Spelling, Unit 35

On Friday, your child will take the Unit 35 spelling test--and the Unit 36 spelling pre-test. Therefore, he/she should bring home his/her Unit 36 spelling list. Here is a link to the words in the event that you need an extra copy:

Chromebook Information

Here is some information about your child's Chromebook in the coming days of school:

  • *Devices will remain in the classrooms starting Friday May, 13.
  • *Students should have a Chromebook, laptop case with strap and charger.
  • *During the last week of school, I will be checking for missing items as well as damages (dents, scratches, dents in screens, missing keys, etc.). Claims will be submitted for anything missing as well as any damage discovered.
  • *If you have a claim, you will be receiving an email from One2One stating the nature of the claim (missing item and/or damage). All claims are processed online through the One2One website.
  • *Due to the large quantity of devices being turned in it may take a few weeks to process all of the claims.
  • *Please have your child remove any stickers or decorative items from their Chromebook.
  • You can find more information about the 1 to 1 program at

    Problem: Summer Academic Loss

    From and

    Are you concerned that your kids aren't learning anything new or practicing any cognitive skills to keep their brains stimulated over the summer holidays? Dull summers take a steep toll, as researchers have been documenting for more than a century. Call it "summer learning loss," as the academics do, or "the summer slide," but by any name summer vacation is among the most pernicious, if least acknowledged causes of achievement gaps in America's schools. The problem of summer vacation, first documented in 1906, compounds year after year. What starts as a hiccup in a 6-year-old's education can be a crisis by the time that child reaches high school. After collecting a century's worth of academic studies, summer-learning expert Harris Cooper, now at Duke University, concluded that, on average, all students lose about a month of progress in math skills each summer, In other words, Summer Academic Loss is when students lose academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer holiday. When tested at the beginning and at the end of the summer holidays, students will typically score lower at the end of the summer than they did at the beginning of summer. The loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter, and family income. Family socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with the level of academic growth or decline over the summer holidays. According to Barbara Heyns, poor children and black children came close to keeping up with middle-class children in cognitive growth when school was in session. However, they lagged far behind during the summer. This is probably because of the fact that low-income families cannot afford to register their children in high quality summer programs that would help to enhance their cognitive growth.

    A recent survey was done at a place of employment on whether or not children should attend school all year with no summer break in order to prevent Summer Academic Loss. Of the 287 participants (not all were parents of school aged children) 105 said yes, 178 said no, and 4 were undecided. So it seems that most people agree that there are other ways to stimulate learning than simply replicating typical school tasks.

    Solution: How to Prevent Academic Loss in the Summer

    Here are some ways to help prevent Summer Academic Loss.

    1. Create a schedule where for a specific time period every day, your children focus on structured academics. Example, write the meanings of 5 new words, solve 10 math problems, etc. To get your kids to focus, reward them by allowing them to ride their bikes or do another preferred activity at the end of each session.

    2. Enroll your children in summer school for one month over the summer holiday.

    3. Make weekly trips to the library to get reading materials to enhance reading and comprehension skills.

    4. If you can afford it, send your kids to academic camps like Computer Camp and Science and Culture Camp.

    5. Encourage your kids to play a variety of computer games that challenge their brains. Alternate sessions with periods of physical activity.

    Conventional wisdom in psychology had said that intelligence is relatively fixed, without much potential for improvement. However, participants who completed computer-based training tasks which challenged working memory and divided attention, showed improvements in fluid intelligence that were significantly larger than those seen in the control group. The more the participants trained, the larger the improvements in fluid intelligence were.

    Middle School Days

    From the website.

    Are you on pin and needles thinking about your child starting middle school? Summer is soon approaching, after which will be the beginning of another school year. Many 5th and 6th graders are excited yet apprehensive about the transition to middle school. Plenty of worries to conquer: new facility, classes to change, teachers to interact and peer pressure. And if these factors aren't confusing enough, they have their developing bodies to stress them even further. It's a tender in between age for the kids. At this vulnerable point of their lives, let's see how parents can help them be on top of things?

    Getting Ready for Middle School: Orientation Most middle schools schedule an orientation for new students. It's a perfect time for the kids to get a feel of everything from the building, teachers, classrooms, locker and perhaps locate a couple of old friends too. For many parents it's a new experience too. I was one of them last year. Orientation was a perfect opportunity to interact with teachers who patiently discussed the concept of changing classes, homework and discipline issues. My daughter was comfortable and less stressed out on her first day.

    Getting Ready for Middle School: Talking about fears Kids are anxious and stressed. Talk to them and help them prepare mentally and physically for the challenge. In an article in, the author says that the biggest fear that the pre-teens have about starting middle school are their lockers. "Students do have limited time between classes," says Paige Swanson, a middle school counselor with Central Middle School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her advice? "Before school starts, buy your child a lock and let her play with it all summer so she's familiar with how it works."

    Getting Ready for Middle School: Buddies Many a pre-teen is worried about their first day at school alone. If that's the case, try and find common friends from elementary schools who might be joining the same middle school. It's comforting for them to locate familiar faces and perhaps ride the same bus too!

    Ten Weeks of Summer Reading Adventures for You and Your Kids

    Do you want to keep your child(ren)'s reading skills razor-sharp this summer? Consider this invigorating do-at-home program:

    Mark Twain Award Nominee Books for 2016-2017

    Summer is a FANTASTIC time for students to read--and what better books are there than those that have been nominated for the Mark Twain Award? Here's a link lists the titles as well as includes links to book covers and descriptions:

    What Are the Reconstruction Amendments?

    Here is a portal to the Reconstruction Amendments: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth (complete with video):

    Homework Hotline

    Call me, anytime, if your child is has a question about a homework assignment, or if you have an inquiry about something that occurred at school. My home phone number is (816) 415-0368. I do not mind, at all, being called in the evening!

    There's SO Much More to Come!

    Needless to say, we will be engaging in more productive academics during the next week-and-one-half of school. Some students have the mistaken notion that it is time to relax. Wrong! The organization and study skills—not to mention academics—taught this year, will prove to be invaluable at Discovery Middle School…and in life beyond school! Fifth grade will continue in full force through the very last day of school!

    My Website

    For the latest information about upcoming events and curriculum information, visit my website. It is updated regularly:

    Upcoming Events


    5/10-PTA General Meeting, 7:00 pm

    5/12 All Pro Dads 7:10 AM - LGIR

    All Pro Dads 7:00 am

    5/13 5th Grade Picnic 12:00-1:00

    Field Day

    4th Grade Egg Drop

    5/19 5th Grade Recognition Breakfast, 8:30 am – 9:30 am

    5/23-Early Release & Last Day of School, 11:50 am