Smith shares trip to Mars

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Mr. Strommen
There are so many amazing things happening at Smith Elementary this month. Fifth grade students continue to research the Earth, moon and the Sun while comparing and contrasting to the planet of Mars. Our computer lab will assist our students with their research using . We will share our new acquired knowledge on Skype with JPL worker Dellon Strommen to learn more about his job supporting the Mars Rover program. Next our physical education teacher Coach Teri Lucky will excite our students with a Texas line dance getting them ready for the Houston Rodeo. We will share our dance with our ePal friends in the Czech Republic to support our Multi-cultural Day in May. Fifth grade classes at Smith are excitedly exploring probability using sweet treats and Google forms to collaborate with other schools on Twitter. We will be finishing the project with a histograph. Our Purple Martins have returned to Smith Elementary from Brazil and we already have 6 birds happily building nests. Fifth grade students will start their egg and bird counts to continue helping scientists working along with the Purple Martin Conservation Society. Students continue to amaze us at Smith with their writing skills. Currently we have students preparing their first articles for the Fort Bend Herald. Students are almost finished with the draft of the class book to be published on bats. We continue to enjoy our novel, Bridge to Terabithia, and we will soon learn how to use our geometry skills to create the strongest bridges in our annual bridge competition. Today teachers had an amazing time with Principal Mark Melendez. We were so excited to learn about more available iPad apps and we can’t wait to use them on our new math measurement unit.


Fibonacci is worth the confusion and inspires inquisitve students

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For the last 2 years I have focused only on math in the fifth grade classroom, and although I loved my school math program and all of the tools available to me, I missed bringing in literature into many of my lessons. Teaching in a self-contained room this year will allow me this opporutunity.

Check out the ALA notable book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell. Learning about Fibonacci numbers gives students confidence with the “play” of numbers. Perhaps the theory is a bit confusing because Fibonacci occurs throughout nature but there are some exceptions to the rules. Some of these exceptions cannot be explained. And of course there is always the question: What is the point of learning about Fibonacci numbers and how will it help me later in life?

My fifth graders have problems recognizing patterns and when we arrive at algebraic expressions, many students are completely lost. They have had many experiences before they have arrived in fifth grade, and I believe that some of my students just lack a bit of confidence.

After learning about the Fibonacci sequence, I would allow my small cooperative groups to generate new Fibonacci numbers using paper and pencil and then try it with their iPads. Use the iPad app Fibonacci Sequence Generator to allow students to check their work and explore bigger numbers.

In a computer literacy center, allow students to use the Fibonacci Series Thinkquest Students can use the Thinkquest to draw and create their own Fibonacci spirals. Think of the experience that get from using their rulers.

Students may also use the Fibonacci iPad app at This also allows a hands-on expereince to create the spiral.

Make this into a science writing project. My intention this year to encourage students to complete one science blog experiment every 9 weeks with pictures and videos. At, there is an guide for students to create an experiment at I would place a selection of nature materials in this center and allow students to work at their own pace.

Create your own fairy tales with iPad Book Creator

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There are so many ways to teach fairy tales and folk tales. One way to get started this year is with the new nominated Bluebonnet book, Clever Jack Takes the Cake.

In a center for iPads, students can use a ThinkQuest to learn about the characterics of a fairy tale found at the Bluebonnet committee site at

In another center with iPads, students can use the app Book Creator at to create wonderful original fairy tale books that can be displayed at the iBookstore. I realize that this app is not free but I think that I will get a lot of use out of the advanced technology. Stay tuned for student examples in the fall.

At a computer center your students can create interactive fairy tale story maps at Read Write Think located at If your students need more time, they can take a screen shot of their maps and save them on the computer.

On another day, your students may record their maps in their journals or create a draft of their story. They can work in an iPod center using the Story Kit app and create original art directly in the iPad using stories with complete sentences. You can e-mail the finished book to an e-mail account, but you can only attach a link. I much prefer the Puppet Pals with the inexpensive purchase of the director’s pass, and create your own characters and settings to upload at An example of using Puppet Pals on at The example is half way down the page.

Don’t forget to vary your instruction. Use Readers Theatre at (credit also to Bluebonnet committee site). Students can record their presentations and play them back to critique their fluency.

Join Smith on the Oregon Trail

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Another novel we read each year is “Bound for Oregon”. Games and sites have changed over the past couple of years and I have found two activities that are appropriate for our centers. I played the free American Settler iPod app and think that our students would enjoy it.

For the computers, I used the Oregon Trail Thinkquest

If you teach “History Alive”, I would continue with the Westward Expansion unit. The students love to fill out the big checks to buy the land with the American presidents’ signatures (and you can review decimals and fractions). It also helps them remember the events because they are on the floor moving across the the United States to participate in the westward movement.