A New Website

Hello and welcome to this blog! I’m really looking forward to a great 2017-2018 school year! One of my goals is better communication of our school day with family and friends. To that end – I have started working on a brand new website that includes information about our schedule, policies, curriculum, and eventually, student work. This is a year long goal and some areas of the site will be updated throughout the year. Please check it out!

–Link to my website–

5th to 6th Grade Summer Homework

Our fifth graders are very much looking forward to visiting Marie Murphy next week and I hope you are also looking forward to the parent night that evening. Students will be able to learn more about the day to day workings of Marie Murphy and hear more about all the classes, sports, and activities that take place there.

Part of their preparation for entering sixth grade will be some summer homework. As Mrs. Stotz, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Bialk explained to students yesterday, they will read one book for Social Studies and one for English class. All students read the same book for Social Studies and Mr. Cook, sixth grade Social Studies teacher, will have more information as well as copies of the book for students before the end of the year.

For English students must read one book from the Rebecca Caudill 2018 nominee list. This list is full of excellent books from a variety of reading levels and genres including historical fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, informational text, and graphic novels. We have been reading A Night Divided in our class, which is on the list, and students are LOVING IT! Please know that the books are selected for students in grades 4 through 8 so some books might have content geared towards older students. The list (linked here) does provide interest levels, based on grade level, to help guide you. I would encourage you to look these books up on Amazon or another online book seller to read through summaries.

Students are of course, always encouraged to read, read, read and are not limited to one book from the list! The Marie Murphy teachers do recommend that the selected book be read closer to the start of school as students will be working with that book during the first few weeks of school. I might even recommend reading it once at the beginning of summer and once at the end of summer as a refresher!

When students visit Marie Murphy next week, they will have the opportunity to visit the Marie Murphy book fair which will have many of the Rebecca Caudill titles as well as a selection of other fun reads for summer. Students may bring money to shop at the book fair.

If you have questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment or send me an e-mail!

What We’ve Been Up To!

It has been a while and in room 11 we have done a lot!


First, we have been adding plants and critters to our ecocolumns. I put together all the photos and videos into a slideshow to avoid “overgramming” our newest additions to room 11.

This is always an exciting project and we’ve been fortunate enough to have seen babies in our ecocolumns this year. Our next step in the process is to continue observing our ecocolumns and also experiment with pollutants in some uninhabited terrariums and aquariums.


Field Trip to the Grove

We took a field trip to the Grove last week and persevered through the bad weather. We were able to learn about some Illinois specific habitats, sample pond water, and observe critters from the pond. We also went on a hike to observe plants in the forest. It was a great trip!

5th Grade Olympics

The fifth grade Olympics were held on Monday, May 22. All students had a fun time and competed for their team. The results will be announced on Friday in PE classes. Thanks to Mr. Webster and Mr. Brennan as well as Mrs. Chun for organizing the Olympics.

Classroom Life

In addition to all the fun things happening, we’ve continued our routines and practices in the room that have made us successful this year. Here are some shots!


Its hard to imagine that the year is soon over as we are still full steam ahead here! However we are looking forward to a visit from the Marie Murphy English teachers and librarian to learn about summer homework, traveling to Marie Murphy for transition day and our fifth grade party!

May 1-5

This week marked the first week of our student photographers. Students work during the week to earn table points. The highest point earners are the “Table of the Week” the following week with a special caddy full of pencils, pencil grips, erasers, goofy glasses, and now two iPhones that function as cameras only. The Magical Awkward Dogs (their table name) did a fantastic job catching bits of learning throughout the week! You’ll see students working on their “Best Part of Me” writing, independent reading, and a lot of photos marking the start of our Ecosystems science unit. We started by making brainstorming webs and then created biome specific charts of living and non-living things. We played a food chain card game and started planting our terrariums that will make the top part of our eco-column. Can’t wait to see what moments are captured next week!

Thank You!!

Thank You!!

We are overwhelmed with gratitude after receiving all the thoughtful tokens and gifts this week. The numerous treats and snacks, as well as the beautiful flowers have brightened our spirits and our classrooms. We especially love the class crafted cookbook and enjoy reading through the personal notes as well as the delicious recipes. We can’t wait to get cooking! Your kindness and generosity is greatly appreciated this week. We are so blessed and thankful to be a part of this classroom community!

Ms. Cross and Mrs. Gieseke


April 24 – 28

What another busy week here in room 11! The beautiful weather has allowed us to use our outdoor spaces at Avoca while still continuing to make progress with our learning. Here is what we’ve been up to!

Decimal Practice

On Monday we reviewed decimal operations outside on the blacktop. Students enjoyed using sidewalk chalk to solve problems from task cards. It was wonderful to see them using new strategies and working together to solve problems. A change in writing tools can always reinvigorate learning and this was a great activity to complete after PARCC testing last week.

New Furniture!

We’ve added a new coffee table and bookcase to our classroom. This led to rearranging furniture to add more space for standing and sitting at the high table and allows for more small group meeting spaces around our two low tables. This variety of seating allows students to work in different spaces and meet with different people throughout the day and helps to increase engagement and focus. We love these spaces in our classroom. As a side note – if you are thinking of purchasing new outdoor cushions this season and have old cushions that are in relatively good condition we would love to have them in our classroom! They fit well under our low tables and provide more cushion than our carpet.

Kindness Ninjas!

Avoca West had the joy of welcoming Mr. Brian Williams from Think Kindness to our school this afternoon to inspire us to be Kindness Ninjas in our school and in our lives. His humor was engaging and his message was inspiring! Thank you to Mrs. Geidner for orchestrating this great event. Students received Kindness Journals this afternoon to document their Kindness Ninja actions and are encouraged to donate shoes beginning on Monday.

Outdoor Classroom

Finally, I’ll leave you with this short video I posted on ClassDojo of the students enjoying our outdoor classroom this morning while reading or writing. They started drafting several descriptive paragraphs about what they think is the “Best Part of Me” (them) for a writing project that will kick off our memoir unit next week. Look for them on student blogs by the end of next week!


Have a great week!

Dust Bowl Perspectives Projects

For this project students took on the perspective of one of four family situations in the Dust Bowl – a healthy family, a family with a sick child, a family who lost all their possessions, and a family who was part of the Last Man Club. They worked in pairs to develop a back story, discuss the pros and cons of staying and leaving, and determine if they would stay or leave. They prepared a presentation with their findings and presented to a small group. Here are their presentations, enjoy!

Will and Justin K.

Ethan and Ellie

Catherine and Dylan

Conor and Sophia

Jack and Jeram

Justin M. and Joshua

Nora and Briana

Sara and Alex

Insung and Nalin

Ozzie and Zoie

Myra and Talie


April 17 – 21

Wowza! What a busy week in room 11! Students dug holes, performed poetry, and rocked the PARCC!

The Big Dig

On Tuesday, students worked their upper body in P.E. by digging holes for trees that were planted on Friday. The effort was coordinated by Mrs. Rosenthal, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Brennan and Mrs. Hutchison. Here are some photos of our happy diggers!

Poetry Cafe

After a month of hard work and three days of rehearsals, our Poetry Cafe was a wonderful celebration on Wednesday. I am very proud of all students for all their hard work, thought, and effort that they put into their writing and performances.

Each student wrote many, many poems and selected their favorite to put into a poetry anthology e-book. Their e-books are now published on their personal student blogs. We used a template in GoogleSlides and many students modified their templates to meet their own personal design choices.

Here are some photos from the Poetry Cafe. All the students looked so nice and had wonderful stage presence. I hope you enjoyed the Cafe!

Odds and Ends

Bottles for Science

Please remember that each student needs to bring in TWO 2 liter bottles on Monday so that we can be prepared to plant on Friday. Each bottle should be clear, have straight sides, be rinsed out, and have the label removed. You can find more information and directions by clicking on the link. Two Liter Bottle Information and Preparation

Book Orders Due Friday!

We have renewed and refreshed our reading goals for the end of fifth grade! Students took a look at their “reading plate” on Friday to make sure it was balanced and created a “current reading” post for our classroom bulletin board. You can ask your child about their reading by asking:

  • What are your reading goals?
  • What genres are you looking to read more of?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What are you looking forward to reading next?

We are also encouraging students to stick with one book so please encourage your child to be responsible to ensure that independent reading books are traveling between home and school!

Having a choice in what they read is a huge motivation for getting children to read more. Consider letting your child pick out one or two books from the current Scholastic Reading Club offerings. Your purchases also help to add more books to our classroom library which students love to browse and shop for books! Shop by clicking on the image below!

Have a great week!

Thanks for reading!