Friday, April 27, 2012


If you know me or have read ANY of my blog posts, it should be no surprise that I'm a fan of Spirit Days... a BIG fan! They bring so much excitement and energy (usually good energy!) to school and make the week so much more exciting. We've reached SOL-prep mode at school, and with it comes the mental-prep, also. To try and incite some motivation and enthusiasm for the upcoming tests, we have 2 Spirit Days planned and a Pep Rally next Friday. Last year, Danielle and I were responsible for all of this (and it turned out AWESOME! See for yourself here...). This year, someone else took the reigns (perfectly fine by us! It was stressful! Although, we did have some good ideas lined up!).

We had our first spirit day on Wednesday. The motto was "Sock it to the SOLs" or "Let's knock the socks off the SOLs"... aka, Crazy Sock Day. Now, some of you are probably like my sister who asked, " How crazy can socks REALLY be?" True, true. Valid point.... for a stiff old adult who doesn't know how to have fun, I guess. ;) But, in the eyes of a 9-year-old, they can be PRETTY darn crazy! Danielle found 2 pair of knee-high striped socks for us at Target, so we split them and each wore one blue and one purple. To make it all the better, we also matched our entire outfit (jeans and a black shirt!). I can't even count the number of kids that were laughing hysterically or said "NICE SOCKS!" as they walked past my room in the morning at the sight (seriously!). Peter actually surprised all of us and participated with some mismatching, knee-high soccer socks! About 1/2 of my students wore crazy socks (some crazier than others!) but it's the participation and spirit that we're going for!
I love that they're willing to be ridiculous with me!
Tuesday afternoon I had one girl come up to me and say, "I don't have any crazy socks." I replied, "That's ok. Just wear socks that don't match." She looked at me, kind of confused, and said, "But I do that everyday...." Ummm. Wear socks that match? :)

Some of the CRAZINESS from my students!
 At the end of the day when we were packing up to go home, I had one girl come up to me and ask me, "When are we going to sock it?" Ok, let me clarify, I'VE BEEN WEARING KNEE-HIGH STRIPED SOCKS ALL DAY. Not sure EXACTLY what she thought this whole spirit day was about, but next time I'll have to be more clear, I guess.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eating Virginia

We've officially finished learning all the new material in the 4th Grade Social Studies curriculum, which means one thing.. REVIEW TIME! It's always an exciting and nerve-wracking time of year when we start to review for the SOL tests. Exciting because it means the year is almost over, tests and summer are right around the corner, and we get to do more 'fun' stuff because the information should be the second time around and not in as much detail. It's nerve-wracking for those same reasons... the tests are RIGHT around the corner and the information is not as well remembered as we would hope! So, stress-mode has begun! I'm sure the little whipper-snappers will impress us with their scores, but until they sit down to take it, it's all we can do to keep from freaking out when they 'forget' how to do a long division problem! Review time has hit full force!

To try and bring some of the said excitement and energy to the review, Danielle and I decided to make egg-free-sugar-cookie-dough maps with our kids to review the first unit of Virginia Studies. It turned out to be an INCREDIBLE, very comprehensive project as we were able to tie in rivers, cities, bordering states, products and industries, and landforms. Since we're in the midst of our Measurement unit in Math, we were able to tie that in to make it cross-curricular!

I started the day with this on the tables. They were confused. They were excited.
Students were broken into groups and each group was given the recipe and directions. I called them over to the table one at a time to mix up their dough. It was such a neat experience to mix the dough with the kids because it was so clear that most of them had spent minimal time doing these sort of things at home with parents. They had such joy just measuring a packing down a cup of brown sugar, smelling the Vanilla extract, seeing the melted butter, etc. It was a very hands-on learning activity for math. We talked briefly about how 2 cups of flour is the same as 1 pint of flour (who knew, right?) and the differences between a Tablespoon and a teaspoon.

After they mixed up their dough, the group had to take it back to their table and shape it into Virginia (following a map underneath the wax paper!). Then they had to add M&Ms to symbolize the rolling hills of the Piedmont and chocolate chips for the Blue Ridge Mountains. They used blue frosting to draw the 4 major rivers of Virginia and Skittles to represent the 5 major cities. Each group made toothpick flags with the different products and industries of each region listed. I was VERY relieved to see how accurately they placed everything. With Sharpie markers they labeled the 5 bordering states.
They say teaching teamwork, problem-solving, and cooperative skills are the best ways we can prepare these students for the unknowns of the future. I LOVE watching them work nicely in groups... it doesn't happen often or naturally!
While they worked on the other parts of the project, I was left cleaning up the aftermath. This is after I'd already wiped down all the stray flour and sugar. They're lucky I love them. :)
 When they were all together and checked for accuracy and after another whole class review, they were given the opportunities to eat the maps. I handed out Ziploc bags beforehand and told them they were to divide up their map into equal parts for the members of their group. Then, each student needed to put his or her portion in the bag and only eat a LITTLE of it because we were headed to lunch and I didn't need any bellyaches or ruined appetites. They listened surprisingly well and I only had 2 kids come up to me in the lunch line complaining of a sore stomach. I warned you! :)

We made sure to rearrange our schedule so recess was right after lunch because taking 26 sugar-filled students back into a room to attempt a math lesson sounded like torture to me. It was definitely a good choice as what we saw on the playground was pure sugar-rush. Kids running every which way with no direction or reason and lots of loud, loud voices.

My favorite line of the day came when we were lined up to head back in for recess. One of my boys came up to me and said, "Mrs. Bozung's student went crazy with sugar. He was just running around in circles. HE ATE THE WHOLE PIEDMONT!"
They turned out SO fantastic!
According to this group, Virginia is an island.... after a little clarifying, they remembered that West Virginia and North Carolina are not bodies of water, but rather bordering states.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Never a Dull Moment

As we were finishing up Reading yesterday, the nurse casually opened my classroom door and said, "We're in lock down mode." Thankfully, we'd run this drill twice already this year, so I had some idea of what to do, but it's always a different story when they don't warn you it's coming or review the procedure! But anyway, not knowing what was happening, I quickly herded my kids to the corner, locked the door, turned off the lights and we sat waiting. They were a little giggly/chatty, but overall, I was very impressed with how they handled things. They make me so proud. :)

After we'd been sitting like this for about 5 (felt like 30) minutes, the principal came over the speaker and announced that this was, in fact, an official lock down. She said everyone in Palmer was safe, but there was a situation right outside that was "being handled." She said we needed to get any of our kids who were in Resource or the cafeteria and bring them back to the classroom. She also insisted that we close our shades.

The kids freaked out a little at the realization this wasn't a drill. I had a few hold each others hands, which was adorable. After confirming I had all my kids (or at least knew they were in whichever room they were supposed to be in), I sat and waited. The kids had some questions about what was going on and I was as honest as I could be, but honestly had no idea what was going on. One student complained about his leg hurting from being cramped up in the corner... I assured him it was the better alternative to getting shot.... :) I kept reassuring them that we were in the safest place possible (behind locked doors, in a corner, out of reach), and they seemed to be somewhat comforted by that fact. We continued to sit in silence in the dark for about 20 more minutes. It was quite an experience. It really got me thinking about my role in these students' lives and what I do to protect them, etc. (20 minutes of silence is too long! haha)

When they finally lifted the lockdown, my students went to lunch and I was able to talk to a few people to see what was going on. No one really knew the REAL story, but everyone seemed to have their own rendition of a similar happening. Apparently, it involved a stolen car, a car chase, the car turning into Palmer (a dead end), crashing into a teacher's car, and the drivers running away or getting arrested.

There was no recess because of the unknown whereabouts of one or more of the perpetrators, and between that and the craziness of the morning, they were quite hyped by dismissal! Just another day in the life, I guess! :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


For the past few weeks in Social Studies, we've been studying the Civil Rights Movement. While there's potential for it to be a difficult unit to teach with all the 'political correctness' and what not in our world today, I actually really enjoy it. My kids are always very engaged in the unit and really get riled up about the social injustices that prevailed. We've even read a few picture books that use the word 'negro' and it's opened up some really good discussion about the use of that word and others.

Incorporated in the unit is a lot of new vocabulary for the kids. They have to learn 'segregation,' 'desegregation', 'integration,' 'discrimination,' and 'prejudice,' to name a few! To start out the unit, I chose 5 students and had them each get a dictionary and go to the back table. I gave them the vocabulary words and told them to look up each word, write down the definition, use it in a sentence, and draw a picture for it. At first they were excited about it and thought they were the 'chosen few.' Once they had started, I pulled out some jelly beans, opened up a Jeopardy review game and started playing that with the rest of the students. When the Dictionary kids started to complain about not being able to play or get jelly beans, I kept reminding them they needed to do their work. When one kid finally asked WHY they couldn't play, I said, "because you're wearing a red shirt." He looked around and realized that all 5 students at the table were wearing red shirts and said, "So?! It's just the color!" This led into a good discussion about segregation, how it felt (from both perspectives), and whether it was wrong or right. They definitely got the idea. :)

A few days later, we were reviewing some of the vocabulary and I brought up the word discrimination. I said, "Remember how I treated everyone in a red shirt differently?" In unison, about 15 kids shouted out, "You're wearing a red shirt today! You have to go copy out of the dictionary!!" So, to quickly avoid that, I said, "Ok. Let's use a different example. Let's say that I have a prejudice against.... (thinking... thinking...) people who drive trucks." In unison again, "My mom/dad drives a truck!! Do you hate them?"

...and that lesson was over. For the next 5 minutes I had to stand and explain that it was simply an example, a lot of my close friends drive trucks and I really have NOTHING against them. As soon as I was done, I asked if anyone had any questions about the vocabulary. One student raises her hand and says, "My mom drives a truck."

I give up. :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Metric Measurement: Mass Edition

So, don't ask me why, but my students are required to learn both customary AND metric units of measurement.. at the same time. I understand that it's important to learn them both (especially since Americans are the only silly people to use the messed up Customary system!), but seriously? At the same time? In 4th grade? But anyway, they did pretty well with it. It kind of works because if they master one system, they can use it as a comparison for the other. For example, they really understood ounces, pounds, and tons (well, most of them understood tons... see previous post for the story about the kids that didn't!), so I was able to refer to that when introducing grams and kilograms. Even though there are 28 grams in an ounce, they were able to grasp that both are very tiny units of measure and used for little objects. Similarly, kilograms are comparable to pounds for bigger items.

The lesson was pretty flawless and they were really getting the hang of it. We spent some time discussing the prefix 'kilo' and how it means 1,000. Then, I set them loose on their independent work. I began walking around to check work and almost lost it when I walked over to one student and discovered we needed another talk about 'kilo.' All over his paper was written, "killergrams." Haha. Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Customary Measurement: Weight Edition

We started our month long unit on measurement today. It's one of my 'lesser favorite' topics that we cover in the 4th grade curriculum. I can understand students needing to have a concept of an inch vs. a yard, an ounce vs. a pound, etc... I can NOT understand a 4th grade student needing to be able to convert grams to ounces (unless we plan on them all being future drug dealers?), pints to milliliters, and other RIDICULOUSness they have to learn. Thankfully, it's mostly just memorization and not a lot of processing, so it can be a relatively easy topic (a LOT better than fractions, that's for sure!), but it's still not super fun. Until today...

Day one of the unit we did Customary Weight measurements (ounces, pounds, and tons). I spent a few minutes explaining and providing examples of each of the different weights. A key weighs about an ounce. 5 quarters weighs about an ounce. A peach weighs about 7 ounces. A water bottle weighs about a pound. A loaf of bread weighs about a pound. A stuffed panda bear weighs about a pound. A giraffe weighs about a ton. A car weighs about a ton. (I know you're all SO jealous of my job right now....!) And then it was their turn. I had them take 30 seconds to talk to their neighbor and find or think of something to represent each of the weight measurements. When the timer went off, we went around and started sharing. It was all going well until one of my beloved little tykes held up a pencil and said, "This is about an ounce." Then she held up a textbook and said, "This is about a pound." Then, she said, "Ms. Wacek, come over here. You weigh about a ton." Looks like I'll be going to the gym double time from now on! I DID just get done explaining that dump trucks and elephants are measured in tons, didn't I??