What did you learn? (See-Through Science)
Mar 20th, 2013 by jonmoss

xray_app_article_0001In class, we have started to learn about expository writing.  Our first step was to compare expository (non-fiction) writing to the more familiar narrative (story) kind of writing.  We looked at the many common traits that both styles share, but (perhaps more importantly), we looked at how the two styles of writing are different.

Today, your assignment is to read the passage “See through science.”  (If your “Reads with Fluency” report card grade wasn’t what you wanted, consider reading the article aloud to someone at home.)  Afterwards, please login to the website and post a comment in which you tell us what you learned.  Each sentence should begin with “I learned…”  Focus on the KIND of information you learned, not on what specific facts you learned.  This is one of those funny situations where I do NOT want you to be specific.  Being general is better, as long as you aren’t TOO general.  For example:

TOO SPECIFIC:  I learned that the app Hugh Turvey made shows you objects for each letter of the alphabet and will show you x-ray views that you can rotate by swiping the screen.

TOO GENERAL:  I learned about the app.

JUST RIGHT:  I learned how Hugh Turvey’s x-ray app works.

Don’t just put down one thing you learned.  Instead, list (DON’T EXPLAIN – yes, I DON’T want you to explain) all the different kinds of information that you learned.  (Hint: Consider going paragraph-by-paragraph.)  Yes, you may reuse my sample “I learned…” sentence!

We’ll work on this tomorrow or Friday!  Need a copy of the article?  Click HERE to download it!

Comparing and Contrasting Teachers
Mar 11th, 2013 by jonmoss

Mickey Mouse loves this kind of graphic organizer!

Over the past few weeks, we have worked on comparing and contrasting.  Venn diagrams are hardly new for students, and the skill of classifying ideas, details, objects, or properties into categories is something that the kids will need throughout their lives.

Our focus today was on creating an organized venn diagram.  We broke the process down into five steps.

ONE – List all your ideas in the venn diagram.  All of ’em!

TWO – Look for matching types of information on both sections, such as favorite foods, professions, character traits, etc.  By organizing your information into these pairs, it is easier for to write a clear paragraph later on!

THREE – Look for information that gives valuable insight into the two things being compared.  For example, when comparing two people, skip the basic things like “boy” or “girl” in favor of more thoughtful details, like “honest” and “deceitful.”

These first three steps are helpful because you will have your content carefully organized.  When you begin to synthesize the information in a written response…

FOUR – Keep your writing organized.  Start with differences and then explain the similarities, or vice versa.  But don’t jump back and forth as ideas come to mind.  Be organized!

FIVE – Be sure to use plenty of supportive evidence.  Don’t just say Character A is honest and Character B is deceitful.  Rather, explain WHY each character deserves those traits.

With all this in mind, here is your homework for tonight.  It can be printed and returned, or, if you don’t have access to a printer, you can email the file to me to print.


Checking Work Carefully
Mar 6th, 2013 by jonmoss

In class today, we had a rather serious conversation about checking work CAREFULLY.  Since third grade (and perhaps even earlier), students have been expected to check over their work after completing it.  At different times during the school year, we discuss what “checking your work” actually means.  It isn’t quickly flipping through a packet to make sure it “looks good” and “nice” and “pretty.”  Checking over your work is an active process where you do many things.  Here are some (not all) of the elements of checking over work, listed in order from most basic to more advanced:


Do I see any huge problems that “jump out” and grab my attention?

Is my name on the paper?  Did I complete ALL parts of the task?

Is my work neat and easy to understand?

(After rereading directions) Did I do what I was supposed to do?

Do I agree with my answers?  (Yes, this involves rereading the questions and your answers, not just LOOKING at what you put down!)

Can I somehow improve my answers?  (Usually limited to open-ended responses, not multiple choice questions.)

Am I proud to hand this in?


How deeply a student checks their work can often make the difference between catching errors and improving responses vs leaving sloppy mistakes that make a student look less skilled than they actually are.  Today, all kids who took CMTs with us in Room 209 completed with at least 10 minutes to spare, meaning that most students had ample time to check over their work.

Unfortunately, we have recently had a lot of problems in class with students submitting work with SKIPPED items!  I found this in a few mastery tests today (that students were able to fix during the testing period, fortunately) and have also seen it in plenty of recent assignments, including math assessments and other major work samples.  In each instance, I ask the child if they checked their work, and they tell me that they did.  Clearly, they only made it through the first part of checking work over.

I hope, this evening, that parents can take a few moments to review with their students the importance of carefully checking work over.  I’ve spoken at length with the kids about how CMTs (and other assessments) help us to see what they do and do not know, and that I only expect them to do their very best (rather than expecting a specific score).  When items are skipped and marked wrong, the student appears to know less and perform worse than is actually the case.  I hope we can, together, help the kids to improve their attention to detail when checking their work.  This is an important life skill (stretching well beyond the reach of the Connecticut Mastery Tests) and is a habit that kids must develop.

Kids: Log in and post a comment to this article.  Write a few sentences explaining how YOU will make sure that you are carefully checking over your work.  Try to think of a way that you will REMEMBER to carefully review your work (whether it’s a CMT, a unit test, or just regular classwork or homework).  Perhaps we can all share our ideas and help each other to find ways to remember to carefully examine their work to make sure it’s well done!

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