Pray, Fast, Give

After the big celebrations of Catholic Schools Week and Valentines Day (albeit a day early), it is the time of year where we slow down and reflect on our Catholic faith and traditions.  Lent begins this week.  As a class, we will be considering ways to live the three pillars of Lent through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We will be praying St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen (a  technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence) at the conclusion of each day and will increase our prayer for those in our community this Lenten season.  Though children aren’t asked to fast from food, thinking of small sacrifices or ways to put others ahead of ourselves is a good way to keep our focus in the right place throughout Lent.  Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowls will be coming home on Wednesday and students can support their work by collecting change from now until Easter.

Upcoming Dates to Note:

  • Tuesday, 2/13 – Valentine’s Day Celebration & Power of One anti-bulling assembly
  • Wednesday, 2/14 – Ash Wednesday liturgy.  Dress Uniform.
  • Thursday, 2/15- Spelling Bee (Go Zola and Claire!)
  • Friday, 2/16-Tuesday, 2/20-No School

Curriculum Update

Math: We wrapped up our Hands-On Algebra unit and are beginning Chapter 6, Adding and Subtracting Fractions with Unlike Denominators.

Writing: We’ve been working on SUPERPOWER essays!  Students chose a superpower they wish they had and are  revising and editing an essay what they would do with their gift.  Also, we have been reviewing various forms of figurative language and will have a quiz on Thursday. 

Science: In honor of the Winter Olympics, we have been participating in our own STEM skiing, bobsled, and curling events.  Students are working on engineering the best possible competitors for each event and graphing the results.

Reading: Students will finish The Watson’s Go to Birmingham- 1963 this week. After our break, we will work on a summary project to show our learning.

Social Studies:  Along with learning about life in 1963 through our novel study, we have been learning about issues in the Civil Rights Era.  This week we learned about segregation in schools and Ruby Bridges’ story.

Religion: We will have covered the meaning of sacraments, the Church, and Jesus’ role in our everyday lives. Students will make Lenten Lapbooks to record their faith journey.

Welcoming 2018

We kicked off the new year by thinking about ways to focus on our school-wide learning expectations.  Our “Toast to the New Year” project included choosing a goal and writing a paragraph reflecting on how we can meet it.  The thoughtful “toasts” are on display in the classroom so we can get good ideas from each other about how to strive for growth in 2018.


  • January 15th – No school in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday
  • January 17th – All school Geography Bee @1pm.
  • January 26th- Hot Lunch Portal Closes
  • January 28th – Catholic Schools Sunday Mass at 10:30 am followed by Open House at the school.
  • January 29th-February 2nd – Catholic Schools Week
  • February 2nd – PURPLE AND GOLD DAY!
  • February 14th – Ash Wednesday & Valentine’s Day
  • February 15th – All school Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee: School Bee Study Guide


Math: Our new unit will cover chapter 5- dividing decimals. We will start with division of decimals by whole numbers. A key component to this unit will be mastering division facts. Xtramath is a great online resource to help! Students should be practicing division facts at home weekly.

Science: Our variables unit is underway! Last week students were introduced to the scientific method. Next week, we will begin investigations of variables. Students will be conducting experiments, analyzing and compiling results into function tables, and working collaboratively with one another.

Reading: We will begin our new novel, The Watson’s Go to Birmingham- 1963, next week. Each week, students will be reading roughly 3-4 chapters, some being in class and some assigned for homework. They will be required to track their reading via a chart and will also be meeting in literature circles to discuss characters, plot, setting, and answer comprehension questions. Each Friday there will be a short comprehension quiz from the chapters assigned that week.

Religion/Writing: Students will have the opportunity to read several Achieve 3000 articles this week about several historical figures who promoted peace. This will tie into our writing piece comparing different ways to achieve and promote peace in our world.

In addition, students will be learning about the life of St. Francis of Assisi. We will compare his life to that of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.  Students will begin their rough draft this week on the Peacemakers (St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, and MLK) essay.

St. Vincent de Paul

St. John 5th graders packed up food and distributed it to neighbors in need with kindness, grace, compassion.  As we bagged onions, tomatoes, coffee, creamer, and pastries, the students sang Christmas carols, much to the delight of the staff at St. Vincent de Paul.  Later, as people walked through the food line, I was so touched to hear the students chatting and wishing everyone happy holidays.  Both staff and food line visitors complimented their hard work, excellent behavior, and warm smiles.  I couldn’t be prouder!

Here are some pictures from the day:

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Fifth graders helping their buddies with the basics of coding.

Advent has begun and with it, we are thinking even more about ways to make our world a better place.  Leading the liturgy for the Immaculate Conception of Mary was a lovely way to let our lights shine in the service of our parish.  We met with our buddies on Thursday to engage in Hour of Code activities and were proud to serve fellow students.  This week we will be focused on reaching out to the broader community with a service field trip to St. Vincent de Paul and by creating healing baskets for the ill and homebound in our community.  We are definitely paving the way for Jesus!


Social Studies – Next week we will wrap up our Galleon social studies unit.  We have created a study guide and have been reviewing content for the past week.  The unit final test will be on Thursday, December 14th.

Religion – We focus our attention in the coming weeks on service.  On Tuesday we head off to St. Vincent de Paul to serve their community.  On Friday we will serve the ill and homebound in our own parish by creating and delivering healing baskets.  Students can donate any of the items on the list or anything else they believe will be comforting to those who could use extra cheer!  We will be assembling our baskets after school on Friday and are asking for as many parents and students volunteers as we can get–if you can come with your child, that would be ideal.  If you can help deliver a basket or two, that would be most appreciated.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

Math – Having designed our own gingerbread dream houses and calculated the associated costs (the price of icing roofs has sky-rocketed these days:))We have moved on to multiplying and dividing decimals.

Reading & Writing–  We are analyzing narrative structure in short fiction reading passages and creating our own stories using the elements of narrative writing.

Giving Thanks

I hope you enjoyed a lovely day of thanks with your family and friends.  I count your children and the St. John community as some of my very best blessings and pray in thanksgiving for both!

We also want to express our gratitude to those who contributed to our classroom Thanksgiving breakfast feast.  Students set a lovely table with Gratitude Rocks they painted & place cards describing what they are most thankful for.  It was a wonderful celebration of friendship!


Social Studies – Students finished presenting their explorer reports and we all took notes, learning much from each other.  This week we have begun Phase 2 of our Galleon unit.  Students are taking 5 question quizzes on social studies content to earn points to race their ships back to the Spain. Meanwhile, the privateers are on the prowl trying to track down and defeat the treasure laden galleons.  The quizzes help students review for our upcoming unit test (date TBD).

Religion – Fifth and Second grade buddy classes will be leading the Liturgy for the Immaculate Conception of Mary on Friday, December 8th.  We are learning about this important day in the liturgical calendar, writing prayers of intercessions, and preparing the homily.  Students will lead all parts of the mass from serving as greeters at the door to doing the all the readings.  We hope you can join us for this Holy Day of Obligation mass.

Math – We are wrapping up our unit on adding and subtracting decimals and will be moving on to Chapter 4-muliplying and dividing decimals.

Reading –  As advent approaches, we are comparing and contrasting versions of the Nativity story as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Writing – This week, students will discuss the elements of narrative writing, analyze stories to identify the elements, and plan a story to write.


Fall Fun

It’s been a fabulously FUN FALL!  I always enjoy sitting down with students and their families to talk about learning successes and goals during conferences.  Since that time, I’ve seen strong evidence that students are feeling pride in their accomplishments and focusing on areas of growth.

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos was a powerful way to honor family and friends who have passed away.  Student’s presentations were heartfelt…sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always touching.  Thanks to all those who sent in food for the fabulous feast.

It was a pleasure meeting so many grandparents and special friends yesterday.  The students were so proud to show their guests our school and couldn’t have been more exited about the cookies at lunch.  It was sweet hearing that a couple of the kids got teary eyed singing “You Are My Sunshine.”  I have to admit I was misting up, too.

Another fun fall highlight was the STEM project students engineered on Halloween.  They worked in teams to create a pumpkin elevator out of cardboard, string and a few other odds and ends.  I leave you with some photos from the day…


Social Studies – Students are finishing the rough draft of their Explorer Reports.  Next week we will revise, edit, and put all the pieces together.  On Thursday and Friday, students will share what they learned with the class.

Religion – We are putting our faith into action in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  We will learn more about how we are called to service; be it through food drives, candy donations, supporting our local homeless population, or praying for veterans.

Math – Next week we will begin a unit on decimals.  Students will be adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying numbers with place values to the thousandths.

Reading –  This week we will be comparing and contrasting two characters from our two recently read novels: Morning Girl and Pedro.  We will examine their perspectives on four different situations and will analyze how Native and European world views influenced the history of the Americas.

Writing – This week we will spend time talking about how to revise and edit work.  Students will analyze their own explorer essays for organizational structure, cohesive ideas, and clarity of expression and will make revisions as they go.   In addition, we will edit for punctuation, spelling and grammar.

Genius Hour – Last week we began working on a “genius hour” project to enrich our thinking.  Mrs. Ocampo joined our class and led us through the process of thinking deeply about complex ideas such as prayer, God, love, and hope.  In the coming week, students will work in teams to design a project to show their thinking. I showed the students a short segment of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk on “Your elusive creative genius” and highly recommend it if you would like to learn more:

Explorer Reports

Last week, students selected a European explorer to research and write about.  We will primarily be working on this project at school but some note taking, a map-making assignment, and a final edit of the finished report will be assigned for homework.  Currently, we are in the gathering sources and note taking phase.  Students have a handout describing the project in full (including deadlines) and note-taking sheets for recording important information.  (Note:  I have uploaded links to both, as well as a powerpoint/project overview I shared with the students in the Important Links tab.)

On Friday in Library, Mrs. Bodmer helped students find vetted, age-appropriate online resources for their reports by using Webpath Express and WorldBook online, both of which are accessible from her teacher page. In addition, St. John’s library is well stocked with books about explorers and we also have a large selection of books on loan from the Seattle Public Library for students to use as well.  Since next week is a short one, I’ll make sure students have a book and note taking sheets so they can do some research over the long break.

Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences

I look forward to meeting with you and your 5th grader at conferences next week.  Students will lead the conference so please make sure your child attends with you.


Social Studies – It’s research week!

Religion – Preparations for our Dios de la Muertos celebration on November 1st will continue with mask painting and thinking about family or friends to honor with a photo, ofrenda and memorial sharing.

Math –  We will continue working on dividing whole numbers; this week’s focus is estimating with compatible numbers.

Reading –  During this short week, we will be reading 2 achieve articles related to current events.

Writing – We will start learning how to write 5 paragraph essays; this week we will talk about body paragraphs.

Science – No science this week.

Explorer Report Names

Dear Sweet Students,

If you want to explore:) the list of explorers, here they are!

St. John Fifth Grade Research Report Explorers Names

  • Hudson, Henry
  • Coronado, Francisco Vazquez de
  • Magellan, Ferdinand
  • Vespucci, Amerigo
  • Polo, Marco
  • Da Gama, Vasco
  • Drake, Sir Francis
  • Raleigh, Sir Walter
  • da Verrazzano, Giovanni
  • LaSalle, Rene – Robert Cavalier
  • Dias, Bartholomeu
  • Cabot, John
  • Cartier, Jacques
  • Cortes, Hernando
  • Pizarro, Francisco
  • Desoto, Hernando
  • de Leon, Ponce
  • Champlain, Samuel de
  • Frobisher, Martin
  • Balboa, Vasco Nunez de
  • Prince Henry the Navigator
  • Cabral, Pedro Alvares
  • Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar Nunez
  • Columbus, Christopher



It will be hard to top the fun we had last week!  Our Pajama Day was a blast–the students started the day with a read-in, earned points to move their ships in Galleon, and saw part of the movie The Road to El Dorado, a DreamWorks animation in which two friends wind up in the mythical city of gold, with Spanish conquistadors hot on their heels.  We’ll compare and contrast the movie version to actual legends of the time as we learn more about individual explorers of North American and their motivations.  On Friday we began the day with our final Jog-A-Thon assembly and  5th graders were officially declared the winners of the Silly-String Show-down.  We mosied on over to the playground for the epic battle of 5th graders against anything that moved.  I’m not sure who won but I do know I am still picking pink blobs out of my hair!


Social Studies –In Galleon, we will begin learning about the adventures and contributions of specific European explorers of North America.  At the end of the week, students will choose an explorer to research further and will be introduced to our first research report of the year.

Religion – As October is the month of the Rosary, we will reflect on the prayers, the mysteries and Mary’s love and compassion for us all.

Math –  Students will begin a unit of study on dividing whole numbers.

Reading –  We are nearing the end of the book Pedro’s Journal.  Students have read about Columbus’ voyage from the Spanish perspective and will begin the short novel entitled Morning Girl by Michael Dorris to read the same story from a Native American’s point of view.  These readings will provide rich opportunities to compare and contrast historical events.

Writing – We have begun learning about parts of speech…this week we will focus on conjunctions.

Science – Additional practice on navigating longitude and latitude will come in the form of a mapping activity this week.

Bringing it Home!


Dear families, I am so appreciative of your continued support of St. John School through your generous donations to our Jog-A-Thon fundraiser.  Today we’re bringing it home!  We re-took the lead in class contributions and if we maintain our position until midnight tonight, will earn our most coveted award: PAJAMA DAY!


More excitement came today with the completion of our CARDBOARD CHALLENGE.  The unique and creative games students created for our day of play were a big hit with our 2nd grade buddies.  I hope you enjoyed seeing the spirit of innovation come alive in your child as they engineered a game and experienced “technology” without the use of an electronic device!

In other news, we have finished the MAP test (Huzzah!).  The students did a wonderful job stretching themselves to answer challenging questions, persevering, and staying positive through it all.  I know the students are as proud as I am of their effort this week!


Social Studies –We will set sail on our study of European Exploration of the Americas next week.  Our unit is called GALLEON and is named for the Spanish treasure ships used by many 15th century explorers.  In this unit, crews of students will simulate either the Spanish quest for gold from the New World or the English Privateers determined to capture the ships and steal the treasure for their sovereign.  Throughout the simulation, students will take learn about this period of history and how it ultimately shaped our current world.

Religion – Next week we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. John Parish!  We will learn about the history of our parish, life at St. John back in 1917, and participate in a special liturgy celebrating this auspicious occasion!  Our liturgy is on Wednesday, October 4th and 9am–join us if you can!

Math –  Students will practice the order of operations next week and learn how to write numerical expressions to describe mathematical situations.

Reading –  Our first novel study begins next week.  We will read the short novel, Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad about Columbus’ voyage to San Salvador told in the perspective of a young apprentice.  The following week we will read another short novel entitled Morning Girl by Michael Dorris about the Columbus’ impact on the Taino tribe from the perspective of a young girl.  These readings will provide rich opportunities to compare and contrast historical events.

Writing – We will have one more week focusing on the structure of expository paragraph writing as we solidify the effective use of topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences.

Science – We have started learning about longitude and latitude and navigation techniques that involve reading the night sky.  Students made an astrolabe and will attempt to use them this week to determine our own latitude.  Get ready for some fun star gazing with your child!