PACT & Prime Time News

November 2016 - Truman Edition

From the Desk of Mrs. Anderson

Change in Prime Time for 2016-2017 School Year

Prime Time is a demanding academic program serving second and third grade students in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. Traditionally, the program has offered two semester-long units each academic year, varying in their content area and focus. Students participating in a unit are determined at the beginning of each semester based on screenings and other available data. The goal is to identify students showing the highest level of readiness for advanced work in a particular area. The small groups for Prime Time units usually meet twice a week for approximately 40 minutes.


For the 2016-2017 school year, the PACT department made the decision to use the time in the fall to explore ways to better identify and serve students who demonstrate high potential. Interventions may look different in our diverse buildings, but all will share the same goal of identifying and developing students’ talents. Second graders will, however, be screened for the Prime Time unit in the spring of 2017.

Catch the Wind

In the Engineering Class, “Catch the Wind”, students have been spending time learning about simple machines through making them and testing them out. So far in class they have worked on inclined planes with boards and toy trucks, the lever with catapults, bouncy balls, and plastic cups, and have created and tested out pulleys using string, ribbon, and buckets. Along with the pulleys we had an Engineering Design Challenge called Ghosts in the Graveyard. Students worked in small groups to design a transporter that would lift cotton balls (ghosts) from the bottom of a pulley to the top. After this, the class continued with simple machines by exploring screws through the use of an Archimedes screw.


Soon students will be moving on to the engineering design process, and will be designing and building sails and windmills.

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4th Grade Math Challenges

4th grade students have been learning different problem solving strategies for math through Math Challenges such as Guess and Check, Draw a Picture, Make a Table or Chart, and Look for a Pattern. We will be moving on soon to Make an Organized List. Once the problem solving strategies have been completed, students will learn Fermi math, which uses estimation, calculations, reasoning, and research to solve challenge problems.


Also, we will be taking a few days here and there to do Engineering Design Challenges. In fact, we had one before Halloween called “Creature Catcher”. In this challenge students worked in small teams to design a device that would catch as many creatures as possible (three different sizes of plastic arachnids). This was challenging because the device had to fit within a 12 in by 12 in square, had to be completed within 30 minutes, and students were only given string and pipe cleaners to work with. The students really enjoyed this hands-on activity and it works perfectly to celebrate their successes in this class so far.

5th Grade Math Olympiads

In 5th grade, math students have been working on Math Olympiads contests from past years to get practice in the type of problem solving needed as well as the type of math thinking needed to solve these types of non-routine math problems. Their first Math Olympiads contest is coming up on November 15th!


We have also been exploring Platonic Solids. Next week we will be diving into Geometry and moving quickly through the formulas to calculate perimeter, area, and volume of geometric shapes. This knowledge along with critical thinking skills will be used to solve story problems which call for more than one formula in order to solve the problems.

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In 4th and 5th grades students have been learning about different features that make up poetry. So far we have covered the five sound devices: rhyme, alliteration, consonance, assonance, and onomatopoeia. We have also done an activity to learn about word associations using two unusual shapes named Lolly and Varnack. Make sure to ask your child about them. Next, students wrote sensory poems using sight, touch, smell, and taste. After that, we covered simile and metaphor. Next up is personification!


We will continue putting it all together while trying different types of poetry writing and creating presentations on iPad apps and online programs. Students will share these in December!


For helpful links regarding Digital Poetry visit the following link:

Gamification in the Classroom

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I’ve just started using gamification in the classroom this year with the teacher created online game, Classcraft (www.classcraft.com). Gamification focuses on applying the principles of games to non-game situations, such as the classroom as a whole. Classcraft uses play, engagement, and collaboration to create a positive learning experience in the classroom. Check out their website for more information.