Room 231

The work, rants, and ideas from room 231!

Category: Blog

The Chase


Room 231 watching the premier of “The Chase”.

Some of my awesome students wrote, performed, and edited a silent movie.  They read the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and watched the silent movies mentioned in the book.  The book is written as a silent movie, a detail I kept hidden from them until the end of the book.  The book follows Hugo through a train station in Paris as he tries to rebuild an automaton that his father was working on at the time of his death.  Hugo, an orphan, is forced to steal the parts he needs from a toy shop owner that turns out to be the famous (and real) filmmaker George Melies.  During the book my students came across the names of some of the earliest silent movies.  I had my students watch the movies that were mentioned in the story to gain background knowledge about the time period in which this story was set.  The movies are quite different from the movies that they see now.

The best find this year was the video about Buster Keaton.  The video highlights his career in silent movies.  He was definitely the master of the “gag”.  My students’s final video was definitely influenced by how Buster Keaton made movies.   I have included the videos that we watched while reading the book below.

I always try to end the novels we read with a creative challenge.  For Hugo, I challenged my students to create a silent movie that told a story in the style of the movies that we watched and the book we read.   Below is their final product.  Enjoy THE CHASE!

The Chase from Frank Fitzpatrick on Vimeo.

Video about Buster Keaton:
Buster Keaton – The Art of the Gag from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.The Train Arrives:

A Trip to the Moon

A Trip to the Moon from Dr. Meeuf on Vimeo.

Safety Last:

Force, Motion, and Roller Coasters

The 5th graders at Daly studied force, motion, friction, gravity, and the relationships between these terms. They also went through the RFP (Request For Proposal) process. Their goal was to sell an original roller coaster to Daly Elementary. This roller coaster needed to be powered by an alternative energy source. The video below shows some of the activities we did during this process.

2015 Coasters from Frank Fitzpatrick on Vimeo.

Gut Reaction?

Ok, I found this video online today at lunch.  I’m not lying when I say I watched it 4 times in a row. Even on the 4th view, I still found something new.  It makes me wonder what else I’m missing.  I know this is a video, but it all started out with a idea.  Someone took that and wrote out the story.  These are the same steps we should be using with our writing.  So….. I want you to watch the video, maybe even watch it twice.  I don’t want you to discuss it with anyone in the class.  I want you to leave a comment below on just your gut reaction, your first thoughts on watching the video.  Once your classmates start to post, then you can discuss on their comments.



INPUT/OUTPUT from Terri Timely on Vimeo.

Charlie 4 Icon Challenge

Fitz Charlie 4 Icon Challenge (1)

Another 4 Icon Challenge….

This is my interpretation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 4 icons.  I chose the shack to represent the home Charlie shared with his 4 grandparents and parents. I chose the golden ticket to represent the 5 golden tickets that Mr. Wonka. spread around the world as invitations to his factory.  The 3rd icon is meant to show Wonka giving the golden ticket holders a tour of his factory.  The chocolate is there to represent the pile of chocolate that Charlie will get to eat everyday now that he is in control of the factory.

Check out other 4 Icon Challenges here:




The Adventures of Fitz and Leandra

Our first writing project is an original adventure story. I enjoy writing my own essays as my kids are writing.  It helps me model the lesson and the focus for the day.  This is my adventure story for this year.  I kept the ending of my story off of my graphic organizer so it would be a surprise for them.

Adventure Image

Back in 2015 there were 2 classmates, Fitz and Leandra.  They were in the 5th grade together at Daly Elementary.  They both loved adventure and had dreams of being rich!

One day at recess a strangely dressed man appeared on the slide.  He passed Leandra a map and walked away.  He was definitely a strange dude. Leandra called Fitz over and they looked at it together out of site from their classmates and teacher, Ms. Gracie.

Fitz immediately realized that it was a treasure map and that the treasure was hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest. Leandra and Fitz decided to leave school (without permission) and head to Brazil.

Since Fitz and Leandra left home so quickly they realized they weren’t ready for the climate of Brazil.  The weather was hot and super muggy.  They started to sweat immediately.  Leandra was fussing already and they had only been in the country for three and half minutes.  Their first stop was an outdoors store where they would buy the correct clothing.  They both picked out tan “adventurer” outfits.  Leandra picked out a funny looking hat that had a fan built in to it and a net that covered her face to keep the bugs away.  Apparently she and bugs don’t get along.  Fitz picked out a less dorky version of the same hat.

Now that they are dressed correctly they needed to find a guide.  Leandra was good with maps, but Fitz would prefer to just bush whack his way through the jungle with his machete.  Leandra asked about finding a guide at the clothing store and they were on their way to meet Cleatus their guide.

When they walked up to Cleatus they were a little shocked.  He was 8 feet tall and weighed about 450 pounds.  Needless to say, dude was big and was going to really help cutting through the jungle.  Plus, he would scare the biggest predators away just by looking at them.

Leandra and Fitz and their new guide Cleatus came up with a plan.  They were going to head into the jungle immediately.  Since Leandra hates bugs, they didn’t want to stay overnight. They rushed into the jungle after quickly looking at their map. Cleatus led the way.  He cleared a trail just by pushing the trees that were in his way to the ground.  Fitz came behind him with the machete to clear the smaller branches away from the new trail.  Leandra, meanwhile, just walked and looked around and didn’t have to do any work.

Leandra stopped the group because she believed they were getting closer to the “X” on the map.  The group looked around and suddenly Leandra noticed a dark spot in the jungle about 200 yards away.  Fitz and Leandra knew that it was a cave and also knew that Cleatus needed to go first in case there were any predators around that were hungry for kids from Maryland.

As they approached the cave entrance they started to get really nervous.  The cave was very dark and looked wet and slippery from the outside.  Cleatus lit a torch made out of palm fronds and led the way.  After just a few steps into the cave they knew this was where they were going to become rich!

After about 1 hour of exploring the cave, Leandra found a long narrow passage in the rock.  She had to crawl on all fours to get through the passage.  She yelled louder than we ever thought she could.  Fitz crawled through quickly but poor Cleatus wouldn’t fit in the passage.  He sat outside the passage and cried a little.  

Once Fitz made it to Leandra he found her standing next to a wooden box that looked like it came from a pirate movie.  Maybe it was Jack Sparrow’s box…. I doubt it.  

This was the moment that they had risked getting expelled from school for.  Leandra unlocked the lock with a pin from her hair and slowly opened the box.  

Fitz’s jaw dropped to the floor.  Leandra stood there shocked and silently.  In front was millions of dollars of Incan gold.  They were rich, filthy rich!  They swear they heard the stereotypical angel’s “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.

Now, how do they get their millions home without losing it or losing their lives?  It took 3 hours to pass the money through the narrow passage.  It was a good thing that Cleatus was a strong dude.  He carried most of the gold back through the jungle for Fitz and Leandra.  

The goal was to get back safely, but the jungle was a dangerous place.  They had seen some shadows that were made by some large predators on their way to the cave. The group came to a stop and the end of a calm river.  The river’s surface was covered with lily pads.  The lily pads prevented them from being able to see the bottom.  They had no idea what was lurking beneath the surface.  

Cleatus went first, of course, and made it to the other side of the river.  Fitz went second and also made it across the river.  So far, most of the gold was still safe.  

Fitz and Cleatus turned to watch Leandra cross.  She was freaking out big time.  She took a couple of worried steps into the river. She was starting to get more comfortable until she saw a swirl of water next to her leg.  Suddenly, Leandra was nowhere to be seen.

Fitz and Cleatus stood on the shore stunned.  Then they saw that tell tale markings on an Anaconda.  They knew that Leandra was gone.  And even worse, the gold she was carrying was also gone.

Fitz and Cleatus decided to carry on the mission and return to city where they started.  Neither one of them talked while walking back.  They were still in shock that Leandra was gone.  

Once the guys made it back they counted the treasure.  They carried back approximately $47.5 million dollars of gold back to where they started. Because Cleatus carried most of the treasure and did most of the bush whacking, Fitz gave him $5 million in gold.  Cleatus was very happy and wouldn’t stop thanking Fitz.  

Fitz was ready to return to Daly Elementary to share his story and to let Leandra’s family know about her demise.  He also knew that he was going to be in big trouble for skipping school.  He boarded the plane sitting on the runway bound for Maryland.  He found a seat next to the window so he could look at the jungle one last time.  

The plane taxied down the runway and lifted off into the sky.  Once the plane was in the air the cabin crew came around to serve drinks.  The stewardess asked the passenger behind Fitz what she would like to drink.  She asked politely for a Coke.  Suddenly Fitz stood up on his chair and turned around.  He was amazed to see Leandra sitting behind smiling.  

He asked her how she made it out alive.  She said that Anacondas are apparently allergic to gold.  As soon as she and the gold she was carrying made into the snake’s stomach it threw them up.  She was slimy and a little disgusted, but she was alive.  She said the snake died immediately and pointed to her shoes.  Fitz looked down and noticed that she had on different shoes than the ones she purchased at the store.  She said they were made out of Anaconda skin.

They flew home, got suspended for 10 days, grounded for 3 months, and had their passports destroyed.  However, they were rich.  Of course Fitz divided the gold evenly and they lived happily ever after!


Cow Gas

My 5th graders are writing informational pieces on energy sources.  They will eventually choose an energy source
to power a roller coaster that they will design in small groups.  This is model for writing this piece.  I chose the topic of cow gas. Yup, cow gas.


Cow gas is an abundant resource that the people of earth can use to provide energy to their homes and schools.  With just a little effort, the world can be powered by cow gas.

Production and DistributionCow Gas Art

Cow gas is naturally produced by cows of course.  Cows are naturally gassy because of their raw diet of grass and grains.
We do not need to change their diets to produce this clean, but smelly, energy source.  Inventors have created a collection system that makes it look like the cows are wearing dresses.  The gas that escapes the cow is collected in the system and the farmer, or poorly paid farm hand, collects the “dresses” and bottles the gas that is trapped in them.  The bottles are then sold to people for their homes and schools.  It is not recommended to use cow gas for cooking.  Your food will taste a little funny.

Here are the simple steps for creating and using Cow Gas:

  1. Get a cow
  2. Let it eat grass, lots of grass
  3. Let the cow digest the grass naturally.
  4. Cow Gas will be provided naturally. Wink wink.
  5. Cover cow with gas collection device.
  6. Collect collection devices daily.
  7. Empty Cow Gas into bottles.
  8. Attach bottle to home.
  9. Light Cow Gas. (May want to plug nose.)

Environmental Impacts

Since cows already found here in Maryland there won’t be any additional environmental impacts.  Collecting and using Cow Gas will actually help improve the air quality around us.  By burning Cow Gas you actually remove methane gas from our atmosphere.  Cow Gas is naturally occuring due to a cow’s bodily functions so we are just using an energy supply that is already found in our environment. We could also call Cow Gas a renewable resource because if you feed your cow grass everyday it will continue to produce Cow Gas.

Cost and Materials

The costs and materials needed are both easy to find and use.  All you really need is a herd of cattle and enough land for them to feed on.  The collection devices would be a one time purchase because they can be re-used. If you live in a climate that has harsh winters, you will need to provide a grass substitute for your cows to feed on, hay will do just fine.

In conclusion, Cow Gas is renewable resource that is already being produced by millions of cows everyday.  This resource can be used to power our homes and schools.




Jumanji 4 Icon Challenge

Fitz Jumanji 4 Icon Challenge


This is my version of the 4 Icon Challenge for the adventure story “Jumanji”.  The first image represents the game board the kids found at the park near their house.  The rhino represents the animals that came into their home during the game.  The fog (cloud) represents the event that happened as soon as Judy landed on the final square on the board and yelled “JUMANJI!”  The final picture represents the house that was magically cleaned up as the fog cleared.

Check out other 4 Icon Challenges from my students here:


Reflection Lab

Room 661 took their best shot with lasers and the study of reflection and refraction.  We are working on how light interacts with the world around us.  We defined reflection and refraction and talked about how we use reflections every day.  The students were split into collaborative groups that were challenged with hitting targets that were placed around the room, including on the ceiling.  The placement of the targets and the direction that the students had to aim their lasers (see directional arrows under the stools) forced them to use mirrors to reflect the light around the room in order to hit the targets.  A dark room + laser pointers + mirrors + awesome teamwork + targets with bullseyes = Science fun!

Electricity Lab Day #2

Students were asked to predict what it would take to illuminate a light bulb.  They didn’t know the materials that they had available when they drew their prediction.  Each pair of students was asked to light bulb at first and then had additional challenges given to them.

Static Electricity

We had a great day in Room 661 playing with electricity, static electricity.  The students were documenting what happened when a charge balloon came close to various objects in the classroom.  Some of the objects that were tested were paper dots, the walls, chairs, hair, and soda cans.

We will be building circuits in the next few days as well.  We watched a couple of videos about static electricity.  Some of the videos involved some seriously crazy contraptions….. I think they want to build them.   :-\


Here are some of the pictures from today:

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