Monday, September 29, 2014


Worms have arrived in room 306.  It took them a few days, but they are now doing their best to escape.  It isn't going well.  The worms that arrived are pretty small, so we have night crawlers from a bait shop to check out.  They are bigger and easier to see the anatomy of our worms.  So cool.  Check out our worms!

 What are earthworms?  Worms are invertebrates.  They don’t have any bones or teeth.  The body of an earthworm is made up of segments, which look like rings wrapped around their bodies.  Most adult earthworms have between 150 to 170 segments.  To find the head of an earthworm, look for the saddle.  The saddle is a smooth band around an adult earthworm’s body.  Watching the kids use flashlights to find body partspriceless.  They were amazing scientists!  We took notes, illustrated our findings and shared what we discovered with one another.

The McGee Gazette
September 2014
Whew!  Time flies when you’re having funand we are having FUN!  We have had a terrific start to our year and I am having a ball getting to know your kids.

Reading and Writing is a TON of FUN!
We are reading The BFG by Roald Dahl and enjoying every single moment.  I hope that your kids have talked about the book, the characters, and the wonderful story.  They are always eager to hear another chapter!
Character Traits are an important part of any good book.  The characters we meet are an important part of any good book.  The characters we meet in The BFG are no exception.  As we read, we will keep track of our thoughts and take notes about questions we may have, things we want to share, or connections we have to characters or events in a story.  In order to learn more about the characters we encounter, we talk about them a lot!  We also learn about the character traits they have.  In The BFG, we began by starting a list of character traits for the two main characters Sophie and The BFG.  We later expanded the list for general character traits.  Kids picked either Sophie or The BFG and wrote about character traits they have noticed.  They also illustrated a character in their Reader’s Notebooks.  Using what we had discussed and the traits we had brainstormed, they then created their own  character.  An illustration surrounded by descriptions and sentences about the character is a wonderful place to collect your thoughts about characters you are reading or writing about.  I was wildly impressed with their ideas, illustrations and interesting charactersit’s going to be fun reading the stories they write using these new characters.  YahooooOoOO!  J

I took a class last year that asked “Who is your favorite nonfiction writer?” and it was a question I didn’t have a very good answer for.  I do now.  I have spent the last several months investigating nonfiction books that will grab a young reader’s attention even if, in the past, they haven’t been a huge fan of nonfiction.  Steve Jenkins is one of those writers.  He writes books that are informative, beautifully illustrated, and chocked full of fascinating information about a myriad of crazy cool animals.  For example:  Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth, and one of every four will be a beetle.  Seriously, that’s amazing and crazy information to learn, isn’t it?  It’s ONE of the spectacular facts you will learn by reading the book The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins.  Another great nonfiction option is a series of books which explore the more grisly aspects of life during various moments in our history.  Some titles include:  You Wouldn’t Want to be An Egyptian Mummy, YWWTBA Roman Gladiator, YWWTBA Slave in Ancient Greece, YWWTBA Viking Explorer, YWWTBA American Colonist, YWWTBA Victorian Schoolchild, and You Wouldn’t Want to Sail On A 19th-Century Whaling Ship.  To name only a few. 

We will also spend time reading our subscription to National Geographic Explorer.  So much to learn from nonfiction this year!

Morning Messages
Every morning, your kids are greeted with a new Morning Message.  This message can be found on the white board, written on construction paper or the easel, or displayed with the Elmo (a projection device).  These messages are a fun way to connect with the kids while giving them something to do, or information to process.  Often, it tells them to do something before they line up for specials.
I LOVE THESE MESSAGES!  This is an example of one of our messages from last week.

Question for the Answer

This is a GREAT activity.  The ANSWER is written on the white board and the QUESTION is written in a special section of their Writer’s Notebooks.  This week, the answer is Lewis and Clark.  In order to help them come up with questions, I supplied a helpful toolthe book You Wouldn’t Want to Explore with Lewis and Clark.  I encourage you to try this at home.  It can be a tricky thing for kids to write, but practicing helps a lot!  I use people we are learning about (Steve Jenkins), people they need to know about (Jesse Owens), things we learn in science (carrion beetles), things for books we are reading (The BFG), math vocabulary (perpendicular), and seemingly random bits of information (often found on the class calendar: Car Free Day (9/22) in Europe).  Writing answers are SUPER fun and we learn a lot while doing it!

Poly Spot Pair Share!

We learned a new game last week called Poly Spot Pair Share.  It’s a combination of a game I learned a long time ago called Mix Pair Share.  Using my new POLY SPOTS, we created a fun way to learn, dance, chat and share ideas about things we are learning about.  
Here’s how it works:
The music starts and everyone dances around the classroom.  When the music stops, they must find a spot and a friend on the spot.  The two friends answer the question I pose and go back to back when they are done discussing it with each other.  Once they are back to back, they can no longer talk.  Gradually, the room gets quieter and finally, they are all back to back and waiting to shareforcing them to really listen to one another!  Kids may not be partners with the same person within one game.  I love playing this game.  It’s a wonderful way to review items for a test (list a characteristic of a polygon.), chat about a book we are currently reading (tell your partner a few character traits of Sophie from The BFG.), compare data collected during a science experiment (tell your partner why the two pieces of bread in your mold experiment look alike or different), or just getting to know one another (tell your partner your favorite place to visit.). 

Field Trips
826michigan!  YahoOOo!  We will visit 826 on Friday, October 10th.  We will take the city bus downtown and attend the Strange Mysteries! Workshop.  The workshop is from 10-12.  Permission slips will be coming home soon!
826michigan presentsStrange Mysteries!
Skills taught: Overview of mystery genre, including alibi, conflict/problem (what does the character want, what will he or she do to get it), motive, clues, antagonist/protagonist, writing persuasive argument based on evidence collected during the field trip.
Description: Students arrive for the Storytelling and Bookmaking workshop only to be interrupted by an emergency from the mysterious Dr. Blotch, crotchety editor and head of Blotch Books. Students work with 826 volunteers to uncover a mystery and interrogate suspects. Students collectively write the story of Dr. Blotch’s stolen_________, and once the story reaches a climax point, students write individual arguments (in the form of a letter) explaining why they think a certain suspect is guilty.
Students share their letters with the group for Dr. Blotch’s approval.
End product: Each student leaves with a bound book containing the group’s mystery and his or her individual solution.

King Arthur Flour is coming to Haisley!
King Arthur Flour will be here in January.  YahOoOOO!  This is an amazing opportunity for our kids.  This presentation will be for all 4th and 5th graders.  From their website: bake for good: kids programBread baking is a fun way to apply math, science, and reading comprehension to a real-life experience just as the more than 120,000 students we’ve taught through our Bake for Good: Kids program.  In this FREE Program, Kids in grades 4-7 LEARN to make bread from scratch.  We provide the ingredients and the know-how to get baking.  Kids BAKE bread at home, and take pride in both their new skills and the delicious results.  Kids give back to the community and SHARE a loaf of bread with a local organization, experiencing the joy and satisfaction that come from helping others in their community. 

Important Dates to Remember
Wednesday, October 1st:  Picture Day and Count Day
Friday, October 10th:  Field Trip to 826michigan
Thursday, October 16th: Conference Night #1
Tuesday, November 4th: No School (report card writing/PD for teachers)
Thursday, November 6th: Conference Night #2
Monday, November 10th: Conference Night #3
Tuesday, November 11th: Conference Night #4
Wednesday, November 12th: Report Cards Go Home
Saturday, November 15th: Haisley Auction! 

Recipesyup, recipes!
I love to cook and I love sharing good food with people.  I thought I’d share a recipe in my newsletters.  Sharing good food helps make the world a better place.  Your kids learn better when they eat well.  That’s one of the many reasons I bring new and unique food for them to eat throughout the year.  I think it’s important for them to learn about good food and understand that eating well doesn’t have to be scary or taste yucky.  They LOVE cherry tomatoes.  They ate two large baskets of RAW green beans too!  The first recipe I’d like to share with you is one my Grandma used to make when I was growing up.  It’s an easy and delicious way to enjoy BBQ sauce, chicken and spaghetti!  Enjoy!

serve with chicken (or ribs!) and spaghetti
12 T Worcestershire sauce
12 T vinegar
12 T brown sugar
1  t black pepper
2 t paprika
2 t mustard
1  t salt
3  cup ketchup
3 small onions, sliced
1 green or red pepper, sliced  (optional)
small amount of water if needed

  Bring above to a boil, pour over chicken or ribs. 
  2-3 pounds of chicken (I use skinless/boneless).  Use your favorite chicken!
  Bake in covered dish for 1 ½ hours at  350˚.  I use my Le Creusét which is really deep, so
   there is no risk of anything leaking!
  Remove chicken from sauce and brown chicken under broiler.
  Serve over spaghetti. 


Ellen McGee   Haisley Elementary School    734-994-1937

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Poly Spot Pair Share!
Today we played a game that is a great way for them to interact with one another while discussing things we are learning about in class.  I have played a version of this game in the past, but today's game was a bit different as I tried out my cool new POLY SPOTS.  They are floppy pieces of rubber that I put around the room.  Once the music begins, they move and dance around the classroom.  Once the music stops, they must find a spot and a friend on the spot.  I ask a question and have them tell their answers to their spot friend.  Some questions I asked today were:  "What is your favorite part of The BFG?", "Tell your partner a character trait Sophie (from The BFG) has.", "Talk to your partner about your favorite food." and "Talk to each other about your favorite book."  When they have finished talking with one another, they go back to back without talking.  When I ask them to share, I ask them what their partner each of them has to report out what someone else told them.  They had a ball.  I use this game when I'm reviewing for a test, or wanting them to discuss things that are happening in a book we are reading.  It's a great activity and gets them up and moving their bodies while exercising their brains too!