• Academic Updates for the Short Week Ahead

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 1/14/2018

    The Short Week Ahead

    I hope you have all enjoyed the long weekend with your family and friends.   

    Some of the things students will be working through during this four day week will include:


    Math Block:

    • Final Volume of Rectangular Prisms (whole #’s only for now) check in on Tuesday 1/16.  All students should have brought their math binders at home as well as their end of unit check in practice assignment that we went over as a whole class on Thursday 1/11. Students were reminded at pack up on Thursday and Friday to bring home their math binders.  Parents were reminded in my Thursday 1/11 blog post.
    • Between the many practice activities found in student’s math binder and the end of unit check in practice assignment that came home Thursday 1/11, parents have quite a lot of examples to aid in student review.  
    • Students will also be taking their fraction understanding pre-assessment on Wednesday 1/17. The mini lessons and practice for this new fraction understanding unit will begin on Thursday 1/18.  Stay tuned for further updates as this longer unit study moves forward.


    Literacy Block:

    • In Reading this week, students will be pushing towards the finish of their current literature circle book group.  There have been many lengthy discussions and practice with groups about their approach to functioning “like adults” during these group reading sessions. Many of the essential skills that students have been working on during their literature circle reading groups would be:
    1. Introduction and understanding of new vocabulary.  All groups have had experience with deciphering meaning of new (and old) vocabulary based on context of usage.  
    2. Tracking time and setting changes pertaining to how the author meaningfully crafts the story (and characters) throughout the piece of literature.
    3. Continued their independent practice of summary writing at the end of reading sessions.  Students also practiced their public speaking skills at the start of the group’s reading sessions by using their summary to review the previous day’s reading session before starting their reading for the current day.  Since students will be continuing this practice through the end of the school year, I will be making a formal announcement at the start of the second semester regarding the requirement of the At Home Weekly Reading Log and summary assignment.
    4. Making deeper, more meaningful connections to the literature read on a daily basis whether fiction or nonfiction. Students have been practicing identifying and writing in detail about text to self, text to text, and text to world connections.
    5. Illustrating from literature read.  Recognizing the author’s craft of descriptive and clear word use to “paint a picture” in the reader’s mind.  Students then practice illustrating various parts to their reading sessions to present to their peers.
    • Word study will continue with students receiving instruction and practice on the word, letter, and sound features demonstrated a need for according to the most recent diagnostic spelling assessment given the week we returned from winter break. A reminder that students are introduced to their new words and receive initial guided instruction each Monday.  Students then have the responsibility of completing a variety of independent tasks through the remainder of the week found on the weekly word study choice board also handed out each Monday after instruction.  Some of the current choice board items will go away and replaced with new activities for the second half of the school year.  Also, some of the choice board point values will change.  Students will be introduced to the new choice board next week and new activities will be modeled. A reminder that each Wednesday evening students are to be completing a pretest with a parent or adult in the home.  This pretest is handed in each Thursday morning.
    • In Writing, students will continue finding evidence in literature to “back up” their views/opinions in our current historical fiction based and character traits study.  Students will continue using the amazing set of historical fiction picture books Mrs Jablonski prepared for the class, as well as their own chapter based literature choices to practice this essential skill prior to moving into essay writing.


    Social Studies Block:

    • Students are continuing the research portion of their history, civics, geographical, and digital arts learning project.  Most students have at least 3 pieces of researched information typed into the required (5 Themes of Geography based) categories on their google classroom document. Each student will sign up for a short conference time with me this week so that we can review their work to date, provide suggestions, and talk about any further assistance in research information that I could help provide for success.  Students will then take on more of an artist and cartographer role for the second portion of the project.  Most students should be ready to start the integrated arts portion of this project by the end of this week.
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  • Reminders & Math End of Unit Updates

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 1/11/2018


    NO school on Monday January 15th for students.

    Montreal permission slips and copy of birth certificates has been due, please send them in asap.

    Montreal field trip funds due 1/10/2017.

    Math End of Unit UPDATES:
    In math block we are nearing the end of our volume of rectangular prisms unit study (whole numbers only for now).  Students have been working extremely hard and have had great success!
    Students will take a final assessment for this unit study on Tuesday January 16th so we can roll right into our fractions based unit of study.  Students are continually assessed formally and informally throughout each unit and this will be a final check in for understanding of content taught and practiced over the past few weeks.
    Students should be coming home today with a end of unit check in practice assignment they completed independently this week.  I took time to make notations for accuracy and misconceptions on student's papers.  As a whole class, we carefully went over (with teacher and student modeling) each of the questions today.  Students were tasked to make any corrections or additions to their work so that it was most complete and accurate; this should be shown in colored pencil.
    This is one piece of work that students can review with parents as well as the abundance of practice material in their mathematics binders.  Students have been reminded to bring their math binders home for review over the long weekend. This is also a great way for parents to see the depth of work that has been happening during this unit study.
    Please feel free to reply with any questions that you may have to eacanfora@ewsd.org.
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  • Happy New Year & Welcome Back !

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 1/1/2018

    Welcome Back!

    I truly hope that you all had a wonderful vacation with your friends and families.  

    Students wrapped up their social studies economy based unit study prior to winter break.  The culminating project for this unit study saw students running their own mock business with products they (or with a partner) brainstormed, designed, built, advertised, and sold in a ticket based system.  As students return from break we will pick up with our Western Hemisphere research and learning.  There will be a heavier reading & writing integration for their research and presentation of their learning at the end of this unit study.  Students have already received instruction, guided modeling, and have even had a few blocks of time to begin their research.  Be sure to ask your student to share what Canadian Province, Mexican State, Central or South American Country they have chosen to become an “expert” on to close out the first semester of learning for the year.

    In math block we will be reviewing student conceptual understanding of volume with rectangular prisms.  To date students have been working with cubic centimeter manipulatives, graph paper, and three dimensional drawings of rectangular prisms.  Through the remainder of this week students will be moving into working with the formulas V = l x w x h  &  V = b x h.

    During our regular word study block of time this first week back students will be assessed using the developmental spelling assessment.  We will be using a different form of the initial assessment used at the start of the school year for initial student skill based groupings.  Any students showing the need for group movement will be placed in their appropriate learning environment based on the assessment.  We will start back up with our word study instruction, practice, and assessment on Monday January 8th.

    During our literacy block students will be continuing their literature circle group readings and practicing how to engage with their peers via meaningful dialogue based on their understanding of the literature read.  Students will also collectively work as a learning team in planning review of read material, understanding new vocabulary, identifying character traits, conflict, resolution, foreshadowing, and movement through scenes. The literature chosen for this round of literature circles is more on par for early to mid fifth grade students as they learn and practice the valuable skills mentioned above while “talking like adults” about various literature they will be reading through the end of the school year.


    • For those students who have still not handed in their Montreal field trip permission forms and birth certificates, please do so asap.  I will again put out personal emails to those families to take care of this.
    • January 10th, full payment (or 1st of offered payment plan) for the Montreal field trip are due.  Please mail me directly should you have any questions.  eacanfora@etsd.org.
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  • Final Days of Starbase Learning

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 12/23/2017

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  • Enterprise Day Success ! ! !

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 12/16/2017

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  • IMPORTANT Reminders for Week Before Break

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 12/15/2017

    Good Evening Everyone!

    I hope you enjoyed your weekend with friends and family.  With our holiday vacation quickly approaching I wanted to just put out a couple of reminders.
    Tuesday December 19th 
    • Students will be talking to our team's 3 homerooms about their Enterprise day product(s) they will be selling on Thursday 12/21/17.  Students will need at least one of their products to be completed so that they can show the group, tell a bit about it, state how many will be available for sale, and projected cost (# of tickets) to purchase.  All students will be a part of this learning exercise regardless if they will be at school on Thursday 12/21 for our actual enterprise day learning experience.    
    • If your student will not be here for the actual Enterprise Day on Thursday December 21st, they will have the opportunity to "open up shop" on Tuesday or Wednesday to sell their products to their peers so that they are able to experience this culminating project for our economy unit of study. Please let me know if you have any questions.
    Thursday December 21st 
    • Students will be opening up their businesses in the morning to sell the products they have spent so much time planning, designing, building, and advertising for over the past month.  This will occur in the morning, so all made products for enterprise day will need to have already been brought to school or come in with students (or parent to drop off) on this morning.
    • Also, Students will be rewarded for all of their hard work with a winter holiday celebration after Enterprise Day, through the remainder of the day.  We need all of your help, just like our Harvest Celebration.  The link is posted below so that you can view the items to sign up for.  If the link is not working properly just let me know.
    • Food - Treats - ect. Sign up link  http://acanforasclassroom.pleasebringit.com/public/gToXF19R9Ak
    Friday December 22nd -
    • This is our students last day of learning @ Starbase.  We will be on the Air National Guard Base for the entire day.  Please remember to send your student in with a bagged lunch and drink (water bottle).  Please NO glass, soft drinks, or other mostly sugar based drinks.
    Montreal Field Trip:
    • A reminder that all permission slips will need to have both parents signatures on the actual permission form.  If you have sole custody, that is fine to just have your signature, however I will need documentation to show at the boarder that this is the case so that we do not get hung up with any issues while attempting to cross.  
    • The permission slips and birth certificates (color copies) should have been already returned on 12/14.  Please make every attempt to get these items in to me prior to the winter break.  There are many things that we need to have in place to ensure this trip runs as smoothly as possible and getting all of these items in at an early date is essential.
    **Please let me know if you have a question about any of the above mentioned items.**
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  • Welcome to December - Academic Updates

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 12/8/2017


    During math block this week students started learning in our new math unit of study based on Volume of Rectangular Prisms.  We needed to first spiral back and review our flexible multiplication strategies and basic facts.  Students then reviewed the differences between perimeter and area. We have now moved into understanding the difference between two and three dimensional shapes.  Some of the specific math language that students have been practicing in their speaking and writing would include:  cubic unit, layer, base, squared, cubed.  Most of our beginning work with students has been around using cubed centimeter manipulatives to build regular/irregular shapes and rectangular prisms to understand total volume in cubic units.  We also have viewed a tutorial video from flocabulary.com.  Click on the link to view together in the home. https://www.flocabulary.com/unit/prisms/

    Enterprise Day:

    Students have been working extremely hard on developing their enterprise day products.  All students have already been approved for their idea. Parents & guardians are more than welcome to help out in securing materials, shaping ideas, etc. with your student.  Please help in any way you can in order for your student to be able to make several of their approved items so they can “sell” them during our enterprise day on Thursday December 21st.  A reminder that there is a strict $10 materials budget.  Students are able to use any recycled materials as well. We will be holding a brief block of time next week where students are able to share their product(s) with all their peers in each of the three classrooms as a preview to the big day!  Please mail me with any questions you may have.  eacanfora@ewsd.org.


    All new book groups met together this week to discuss group norms and protocols in order for them to function with success moving forward.  Students talked about how they will support one another on sounding out more complex words, new vocabulary, reviewing read material, and holding conversations about each of their reading sessions during literacy block. Students then typed their group’s agreements, developed an agenda and note taking template for their reading sessions, and finally created a weekly rotating schedule for completing their assigned learning tasks after each reading session.  Please hold conversations in the home around what their literature circle group is reading and how the group is progressing.


    December 14:

    •    Montreal field trip permission slips are due back signed.
    •    Montreal field trip birth certificates are due back to class for my records and border crossing.
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  • Closing out November

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 11/28/2017

    Welcome Back!

    I hope you all had a wonderful week off to celebrate thanksgiving with your family and friends.  

    Quick REMINDERS:

    • Montreal Field Trip permission slips and student birth certificates to be in by Thursday December 14th.  The sooner, the better.  If you need me to copy the original birth certificate for you, please send it in with a note and I will return it with your student the same day.
    • Students will be working on their Enterprise Day business plan throughout this week.  Students need to get their business plan approved prior to making any of their products.  I will be working with students on example business plans, researching materials, costs, etc.  This will ensure their (or their partnership’s) success and keep their overall materials cost to under $10.00.  Our actual Enterprise Day is during the morning of Thursday December 21st. Please let me know if you have any questions.



    On Monday 11/27 our class and Mrs. Walsh’s ventured over to the Air National Guard Base for our first Starbase learning session.  Students had an amazing time using their knowledge from our first science unit on matter to navigate through a series of atom/molecule building exercises.  

    The next challenge of the day involved a STEM related safety harness design for their egg (eggbert) on a space shuttle mission.  The task challenged students to come up with a budget, “purchase” materials, design, and create the harness that would secure a real raw egg into their given space shuttle.  The shuttle was then launched down a 10 foot zipline, crashing into one of Mars’ moons named Phobos.  The goal was to have an uncracked egg come out of the shuttle and designed safety harness.

    Students had a quick lunch and recess outside before coming back into the Starbase computer lab for an introduction and mini lesson with a computer aided design software program (CAD) and their first simulated flight mission in a cessna aircraft via a Microsoft based simulator program.  

    We closed out the day with a couple of fun matter based experiments that were focused on endothermic and exothermic reactions.  Please ask your student about this amazing experience.  We will have a few more sessions over at the Starbase learning complex as well as their teaching staff coming on into our learning space!  Check out the pictures below to see the engaging place based learning our students were able to experience together.

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  • November Reminders & Updates

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 11/20/2017

    REMINDERS & Updates:

    I wanted to take the opportunity in this post to remind all families that upon returning from the Thanksgiving break (Monday 11/27), we will be heading to our first full day of learning at Starbase VT.  Everyone has handed in their permission forms and has indicated that they are either bringing their own lunch (nothing that needs heating up, NO soda, and NO glass) or have filled out the lunch selection forms from our cafeteria.  Please ensure that if you did not return lunch forms for the cafeteria, you are responsible for sending in a bagged lunch with your student for the day.  ALL students should come with a couple of small snacks for the day.  Please contact me directly (eacanfora@ewsd.org) should you have any further questions. Have a great holiday with your friends and family.

    Thanksgiving Image

    Prior to Thanksgiving break your student came home with two important informational packets.

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    The first was regarding our planned Montreal field trip.  According to the survey results, there was an overwhelming majority of you that supported such an enriching learning opportunity for our students.  I want to say thank you for all of your support!

    The first page of Montreal field trip informational packet gives you information on the who, what, where, when, why, and hows for this trip.  The second page gives the border crossing information directly from the US Department of Homeland Security. The third page is a draft of our itinerary for the day and is subject to minor changes.  The fourth page gives a list of potential items to consider bringing on this full day trip.  The fifth page is the actual field trip permission form that needs to be filled out and sent back in as soon as possible with the sixth page.  The sixth page needs to be filled out as it will allow us to only print and send home the cafeteria lunch request forms for the students who indicate this is needed.  Those forms will be sent home at a later date with the payment options forms inquired about from the survey.  

    Enterprise Day

    The second informational packet that was sent home prior to Thanksgiving break was based on our “Enterprise Day.”  This is an amazing set of learning experiences for students based on the engineering/design process, economics, and the concept of supply & demand.  Students will be brainstorming a product to design and create that will be the foundation of setting up their own business. Students will be learning how to write a business plan and adjust if needed as the engineering/design process commences.  Most work for this project will be completed in the classroom, however some of the work will need to be completed in the home with the aid of parents/guardians.  A reminder that there is a strict limit of $10.00 that can be spent in total for all supplies/materials for students to create their product(s). After reviewing the forms, please let me know if you have any questions.

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  • November Beginnings

    Posted by Erik Acanfora on 11/13/2017

    It has been a very busy in and out of the classroom over the past two weeks!

    The weather has turned even colder, students have changed their classroom seating as well as their cafeteria seating.  Academic content areas have continued to allow for teacher and student directed learning.  Below is a snapshot of what has been going on in each of our academic content areas.

    Writing -

    Students have been focusing on writing clear, detailed, and meaningful summaries that directly relate to their independent reading books in the home as well as in the classroom.  With our summaries, students have really focused on leads to grab the reader’s attention in the first sentence of their summaries, sequence of events, proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  We will be moving to a quick focus on sentence starters, transitions, and transitional phrases the week students return to school after Thanksgiving break.

    In addition to the above, students have been using their writer’s journals to explore 7-minute writing exercises.  We want students to build their independent writing stamina just as we practice building their independent reading stamina. Students are presented with a writing prompt topic, usually one or two words at the start of our 10 minute quiet time after recess.  This allows students to brainstorm independently from their own personal knowledge or experiences about the presented topic.  Students are then shown the entire prompt before their 7-minute writing time begins. I read through the prompt with the entire class to ensure student’s understanding of what the prompt is asking of them.  In some cases students ask clarifying questions then begin their 7 minutes of writing. At this point of the year most students are producing close to a full page of creative writing with each prompt presented.  They are also building a solid “file cabinet” of writing samples that will be used for additional writing strategy work or even to revisit later in the semester when focusing solely on narrative based writing.  Students can certainly bring these journals home to share overnight, but need to be at school each for the work we will be completing with them.  Also, students should not be adding to or altering their original 7 minute writing prompt entry if they should take it home.  Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this.

    Math -

    In math block students have continued to practice using all flexible and efficient computation (+, -, *, /) strategies during number talks, guided/independent practice, as well as challenge problem solving tasks.

    Practice Practice Practice

    Students were also introduced to the concept of Order of Operations and had a few days to practice accurate solving of multi-operation equations using the PEMDAS rule. Inside of student’s math binders are resources to use while practicing solving these types of equations.


    Students are currently working their way through completing an order of operations choice board menu partner project that will culminate the week after our Thanksgiving break.  The work for this order of operations choice board project will be completed solely in the classroom where student partnerships will have equal say in thoughts, planning, and work completion.

    We have also waded into a couple different preassessments to gear up for our next math unit of study. The focus will be on place value of whole numbers and decimals, the base 10 number system, exponents and a spiral back to early multiplication strategy use when understanding and calculating the volume of rectangular prisms.

    Social Studies -

    We continue our study of national, regional, and local current events in the classroom.  Remember, students and adults have access to our year long Scholastic News publication, as well as the Science & Geography inserts that come in the mail with it. Please refer to the 10/30/2017 Blog post for Scholastic News link and sign in information. The natural progression for students will be to focus on nonfiction summarizing as well as finding specific pieces of evidence from an article to support the focus of their developed opinion of the specific article chosen.

    Students have now been introduced to the 5 themes of geography (Location, Place, Region, Movement, Human-Environmental Interaction) via their notebook items, flocabulary videos, Safari Montage videos.  Students have also played 2 interactive partner games based on our first theme of geography Location, specifically latitude & longitude.

    Latitude & Longitude Battleship Game

    Latitude & Longitude Message in Bottle Game

    Students will be able to bring home paper copies of these games from the classroom to challenge family members in the home.  If you have a printer in the home, click on the links above and print anytime to play. We will be moving onto the next theme of geography Place upon returning from Thanksgiving break.

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