Happy Last Day of School & Summer Break

Thank you for the chance to be your child’s teacher. I am thankful to be entrusted to work with your kids on a daily basis.

This has been a transitional year in many ways. We’ve gone 1:1 with technology and are refining our implementation of project based learning. We’ve been working with the Common Core State Standards and searching for best practices to teach reading, writing, spelling, grammar, math, science, history-social science, P.E., and all of the essential success skills necessary to be college, career, and life ready-skills like critical thinking, collaboration, communication, self-management, speaking and listening, leadership. And we’ve been doing all this with a 14 year old, out-of-date adopted English-Language Arts Program.

It’s interesting to think that as adults we’ve had about 13,000 hours of seat time in a K-12 educational system. That’s a big number, and it means we’ve seen a lot of teachers and styles of teaching and learning. But education is changing. Our economy is changing. The things we need to know and be able to do are changing. And yet the one thing that has shown little to no change is the manner in which education reacts to these changes.

I know that our classroom looks and runs differently than any other at this school. We are a bit of a “unicorn” so to speak. I can assure you, however, that there are other teachers and classrooms scattered throughout the country that look and feel and sound like ours, and that gives me hope for the future of my profession. And for our kids.

Want to see what a 21st Century school looks like? A school that is getting students college, career, and life ready? Look no further than Katherine Smith Elementary in San Jose. Their story is inspiring. It was taken over as a failing school and turned into a project based learning school. Read the stories of their students on their Word Press Blog.

I appreciate your trust and support to transform our class into a deep-thinking, deep-learning, innovative room. Your students are amazing, and I get the privilege to see them transform on a daily basis.

I recognize their are some things I do well and some that I struggle with. It’s hard to communicate on a daily or weekly basis the nature of the change or growth your children are making. I can hear it in their discussions and see it in their actions or read it in their writing. I’ve been working hard to learn ways to close the communication loop to provide you more timely and regular feedback. I’m learning how to use Google Classroom and Socrative, two tools I expect will help provide you more updates and info on a regular basis. I’ve been able to communicate with students via comments in Google Docs and Newsela Writes, but I know it’s not always seen by parents. These are areas I will continue to focus on for next year.

We do not do school as it’s always been done. We do it differently, and I believe for the better of education.

I’m excited to announce next year we will partner with Real World Scholars to start our own business. We’ve got $1,000 in seed money to start our capital venture, and students will be using an e-commerce platform, Classroom Wallet, to track expenditures and income.

In the Fall we’ll begin work on a trailer for Patricia Newman’s soon-to-be-released book, “Sea Otter Heroes.”

In the Fall we’ll begin a new collaboration with the City of Elk Grove’s Integrated Waste Department to create a series of films on organic waste recycling and mandatory small business recycling.

We will complete a documentary film on water. We will launch into historical investigations and produce documentary films about our learning.

We’ll be reading about ancient civilizations and the science and math they used with Joy Hakim’s Award Winning books. And we’ll be launching into novel studies as well.

Summer will be a busy time, preparing for the new learning adventures. I encourage you to encourage your students to read as much as they can…especially Newsela Articles. I’ll announce a summer reading challenge for this in a separate post.

Thank you again for the honor to work with your children. To those who are leaving our class to go to different tracks or classes, you will be missed. And to all, enjoy your time with family. The days are long. The years are short. Every moment together is one you’ll never get back, so do cherish the time off.

And see you August 8! It’s going to be the best year yet!


Movie Permission Requested

The Sandlot Movie Permission Slip

On Friday we would like to watch The Sandlot. Common Sense Media reviews the film at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/the-sandlot# It’s rating is PG. It was created in 1993 and has become a classic for many kids and adults.

Common Sense Media approves the film for children 8 and up. In my family (three daughters aged 8, 10, 13), this is a film we view several times a year.

The language is fleeting and in context so as not to be gratuitous. It’s a friendship story described as “A Field of Dreams for tweens.”

If you would prefer your child not view the film, please return the paper permission slip to school signed or email me, and I’ll find an alternative location and activity for your child. My email is jbentley@egusd.net










Sign below if you DO NOT want your child to view the film. I will find an alternative location and activity for your child during the time the film is being shown.


Parent Signature_______________________________________________________________________



Main Ideas to use for writing about Cicada article

Today we read an article about cicadas and discussed how a main idea is something we assert to be true. A main idea is something that we claim. A main idea needs to be supported by evidence.

These are the main ideas we brainstormed in class today:

  1. We shouldn’t be prejudiced toward cicadas.
  2. Cicadas can benefit us.
  3. Cicadas are relatively harmless but can cause some problems.
  4. Cicadas are strange insects.
  5. Cicadas are interesting insects.
  6. Cicadas and grasshoppers are different (This had the lease evidence.)
  7. Cicadas have caused problems throughout history.
  8. Cicadas can be disturbing to some.

School Carnival Update

It’s a crazy time of year…so why not throw a school carnival?  Carnival is this Friday, May 20 from 4:30 to 7:30

If you are able to volunteer the evening of the event, PLEASE email Jamie Schwartz ASAP at jamielschwartz@hotmail.com.

We would love to get two more volunteers to work the popcorn station which is our booth. To sign up online click the following link http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0844abac29aafc1-spring1

SEVA Results 2016

Thank you to Yulia and Ashlyn and their families for coming out to the SEVAs on May 10 at CSU Sacramento. This year was the largest SEVA ever with over 450 films entered into the contest. We entered 14 films and had finalists in the documentary and instructional categories.

Next year will be our year to shine! We’ve already got a few films “in the can” as they say in Hollywood and waiting to be submitted for next year’s SEVA.

Congratulations to all students who worked on and completed a film this year. There will be more language arts and science documentaries and more PSAs happening the end of this year and start of next.

Watch out 2017! We will be back!


Holy cow. This week arrived in the blink of an eye. Sorry for not posting a reminder about this earlier this week. Tonight at CSU Sacramento starting at 6:30 pm are the SEVA awards. We entered 14 films into instructional and documentary films this year. Next year will be an even bigger showing.

If you are able to join the fun, please feel free. If not, we will be there to represent on your behalf.

Award invitations were sent out over two weeks ago. We’ve had a poster mounted in the front of the classroom for the entire trimester, and the awards were listed in the important dates on the front of the blog. Again, I’m sorry for not sending out a post earlier this week/last week as a final reminder.

Information for SEVAs tonight is posted below. Be sure to purchase parking prior to finding a spot. The meter monitors are fast, ubiquitous, and keen-eyed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
6:30 pm – Student Producer Red Carpet
7:00 pm – Award Night Show Begins

Sacramento State University Union Ballroom
6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95819
Parking is $6

Two Voice Poems…meant to be read AND spoken.

We started crafting two-voice poems today. We’re going through a process to seek out the most interesting topics and telling details. We used a feedback protocol to get a better idea on if our details are interesting and our topics are engaging. Here’s an example of a two voice poem and the process we are going through.

We will revise our thinking and our poems and share these with you by the end of next week. Get ready for some fun and engaging writing!