Michael J. Allen

Class of 2017 - 2018

Home | Teacher Plans | News | Calendar | Information | Homework | Projects | Contact | Archive

Teacher Plans

January 9th - 13th


What an excellent first week back. It’s amazing how quickly one falls back into the routine. It already feels like we have been back at school for a month, and it’s only been one week!

We got off to a flying start last week.  'The Eyes of Kid Midas 3.0' had passed into history with only a single mural left to show it had ever existed in the classroom.

The students seemed ready to be back and fell back into school smoothly and with excellent energy and focus across the first week back. With me, the class has been excellent and joyous to be around! They have also continued to pick up rave-reviews from other teachers.

Pretty great start as well as a flying one!

The students have started work on the new Writing Workshop project, though we didn’t get quite as far along as I had planned in this work. Some of the earlier lessons were allowed to go longer than planned because it was exactly what needed to happen at the time!

The students have responded with a broad level of enthusiasm to the new project on Minerals and Rocks, the return to Math lessons, the new focus book for our literacy lessons, Witness by Karen Hesse, and the new Invention challenge to build a wind-driven land-sail vehicle.

It’s been a satisfying and exciting week filled with laughter and fun as well as focus and effort as we return to the challenge of making progress in our school lives!


This week

We push onto week two of our Minerals and Rocks project. This week the focus will turn to rocks! Witness, Karen Hess' amazing novel, moves into Act 2. The Writing Workshop project on essays pushes on. The students get to work on making their Land-sail vehicles.

It's another fun-packed, authentic and academic week of endeavor coming up!


Morning meeting

As part of the whole-school philosophy each class begins each day with a thirty-minute long class meeting.

The meeting is structured into four phases:

  • Message - topic of the day, often with academic angle.

  • Greetings

  • Sharing - short news items from members of the class

  • Activities - short, fun community building activities



Writing Workshop

I will be using lessons based on, 'Breathing Life into Essays' by Lucy Calkins for this phase of our year, blending them into the appropriate Journeys lessons structures.

The main lessons are to be found here. Pardon my obtuse simplifications Ms. Calkins!

The focus of this unit is developing the ability to powerfully and effectively write an persuasive/opinion essay.

In the introductory phase, I will approached tackle this by using the following basic structural plan:

  • The rule of threes – always have three strong reasons for the choice.

  • List using bullet points: for example:

    • Favorite animal - falcon

      • Elegant and Beautiful

      • Fastest creature on Earth

      • Great predator

  • Introduction – use style and descriptive vocabulary. 1-3 sentences.

  • Transition 1: 'The first reason I chose the falcon was....'

Use 'Fact, detail, detail'! (The students need to add two extra thoughts to the basic fact expressed.)

  • Transition 2: ' The second reason for choosing the falcon was...'

          Use 'Fact, detail, detail'!

  • Transition 3: ' The final reason I decided to write about the falcon was...'

          Use 'Fact, detail, detail'!

  • Conclusion – the mirror image of the intro. The main points raised are restated in a summary sentence.

We will be doing much more of this sort of structured writing throughout this phase of the year as we work on reports and persuasive writing. I'm hoping for some excellent results across the class during this next week as the majority of the students understand and adopt the structure in their writing.

Eventually the students will select one or more of these pieces to post to their Writing Workshop page.


Monday, January 9th:

Introductions - practice writing introductions.


Tuesday, January 10th:

Conclusions - practice the structure. Start work on writing a full short essay.


Wednesday, January 11th:

Analyze model student essays to highlight structure. Introduce 'Pushing our Thinking chart. Do practice exercise using four conversational prompts.

Pushing Our Thinking

  • For example…

  • Another example is…

  • In addition…

  • The thing that surprises me...

  • This makes me realize…

  • This is important because…

  • This is giving me the idea that…

  • I am getting the idea that..

  • The reason for this is…

  • Another reason is…

  • This connects with…

  • On the other hand…

  • I partly disagree but…because…

  • This is similar to…

  • This is different from….

  • This might not be true, but could it be that…

  • I used to think…but now I realize…

  • What I think this says about me is that…

  • Many people think…but I think…

  • Because

  • To add on


Thursday, January 12th:

Lesson 1 and 2 - Making observations then thinking about them. Then practice planning and writing introductions on opinion subjects.


Friday, January 13th:

Analyze model student essays to highlight structure. More work with 'Pushing our Thinking' chart.



We have finished Act 1 of the amazing new read-aloud/Reader's Theater book, 'Witness' by Karen Hesse.

We're going to be reading and analyzing the spectacular, 'Witness' by Karen Hesse. This is a shift into a new genre for us: realistic/historical fiction. The book is truly original, powerful and a fantastic reading experience for the class. The book is arranged into five Acts. Each Act is a series of monologues from a sample of the characters resident in Burlington, Vermont in 1924.

This week we will be introduced to the main characters and the town. We will reresad Act 1 with the students taking the parts. In Act 2, we start into the heart of the story.


Reading Research Guidelines:

Research by Dick Allington suggests:

  • Students should read about 15 pages in 20 minutes, as a rough guideline, when reading a 'just right' book (a book the student can read with 96% accuracy or better).
  • Students reading rate should be somewhere between 100 and 200 words per minute.
  • Examples:
    • Hatchet - Gary Paulson 192 pages - level R - should take between four and eight hours to read.
    • Stone Fox - level P - 82 pages should take one and a half hours to read.




We will finish Unit 13: Measurement. The main focus of the Measurement Unit is converting between the various units in both Customary and Metric systems. As is seemingly typical of the Envisions program, there is little practical or real 'hands-on' work, even in a subject area as rife with potential as Measurement.

Go figure! We have 'built in' some practical measurement activities for students who finish practice materials early - trying to measure then calculate averages to find the typical fifth-grader's dimensions...

The lessons for the week look like this:


Monday, January 9th:

Unit 13.3 Measurement: conversion - converting customary units of weight

(Homework: P13.3)


Tuesday, January 10th:

Unit 13.4 Measurement: conversion - converting metric units of length

(Homework: P13.4)


Wednesday, January 11th:

Unit 13.5 Measurement: conversion - converting metric units of capacity

Unit 13 Measurement: multi-step problems

(Homework: P13.5)


Thursday, January 12th:

Unit 13.6 Measurement: conversion - converting metric units of mass

(Homework: P13.6)


Friday, January 13th:

Practical measurement exercises - actually do some measuring!

(No Homework)




Rocks, minerals and fossils

We continue this new science unit this week.

We will conduct a series of tests of twelve mineral samples in an attempt to identify them by using their observed and tested properties and a key.

The students will continue reading about minerals and ores. They will focus on diamonds and quartz.

After this, we will be reading about the three types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. We will examine, classify and investigate mystery rock samples. After examining samples, the students will use a key or chart to establish the identity of the mysterious rock samples.

We will also find out about and make diagrams of the 'rock cycle'.

In the final week, we will find out about the structure of the Earth:

  • Core, mantle and crust.

  • Plate tectonics

  • Earthquakes

  • Volcanoes

  • Fault lines

We will visit the UCMP ( University of California Museum of Paleontology) website for a tour of geologic time and some classic cheesy animations on how fossils form and how we date rocks and fossils.


Rocks and Minerals Links



Technology Challenge 2

Wind Vehicle Challenge

Design a vehicle to enter a road race powered only by the wind. The top five race winners will enter into a 'crash-derby' competition. The top five will be reduced to last vehicle rolling by a series of head-on crashes!
Can you design the winner - not only one of the fastest, but also the strongest vehicle?

This week we will start to make our vehicles. We will make decisions about sails, size, materials and shape.



They will receive their next full homework project on Friday, January 13th.

Students will usually receive their homework jobs for the whole week each Friday. Look for it in the student's backpack. I am helping the students to plan when they will complete each homework job. You should review the homework plan with the students and help them stick to the final plan as you agree on it as a family!

Good luck!

Each project will be up on the 'Homework' page here at the site each Friday evening.

Check out the 'News’ page for the 'Parent's Guide to Homework', as well as other delicious treats for the start of the year!

See you back here next week!


Science-class teacher plan

This is the route to the 'Specialist Class' page.

This page is for the students and parents of Ms. O'Donnell to find out about what happens during the Science class!