First Quarter Goal

Note: This is an example of the student’s goal setting post.


At the end of the first quarter, I will score a ??? on the star test. Also, I will … (anything reading related)


  1. What actions will help you achieve your goal?


My mom will support me by…

My teacher will support me by…

Grading, Homework and Instruction

Dear Parents,

This blog post explains how I approach instruction and grading so you can better understand how your child earn grades! Students in my class usually have less graded assignment and more opportunities to practice. I hope this blog will clarify why you don’t see daily grades in Sycamore for Reading and English/LA.


Instruction in literacy is often called gradual release. The steps are explained below.

  • Model (direct instruction)
  • Guided Practice (guided instruction)
  • Independent Practice (student working independently with teacher feedback)

An example of this is an upcoming assignment for writing a paragraph. I always start by sharing the learning target with students. 

I can write a paragraph with a topic sentence followed by supporting details. 

The next step is to show the students a model and explain the success criteria. We write and practice together until I feel they are ready to practice the skill on their own. All of this is not graded! This is simply practice. Students are still assesses and feedback is given, but a grade will not be given until they have had the opportunity to practice the skill.


Students work is graded once they have had the opportunity to independently practice the skill. They will always be told when an assignment is graded and what they need to do to earn an A. This is usually communicated to them as criteria for an A, not by a specific number or percentage. In addition, I only communicate criteria for an A. 

Working for anything less is unacceptable. 

Grades are entered into Sycamore as a percentage, so students are told how many points the criteria is worth. I put an example for the paragraph below.

Topic Sentence = 5 points

Big idea details = 5 points

“Tell me More” details = 5 points

Conclusion = 5 points

Conventions (capitals, proper punctuation, accurate spelling, complete sentences) = 5 points

Total = 25 points

Unlike traditional percentage points, with this model, students will always know why they earned a given grade, and what needs improved to earn an A.

Redo Opportunities

Students are allowed one redo for each major assignment or test. The teacher will coordinate remedial instruction/plan of action with the student/parent as needed prior to the redo. The remediated grade will be the average of the original and redo grade or 80%, whichever is higher.


Students will be asked to read for 20 minutes EVERY night. Homework in other subjects are assigned when needed, or if the student does not complete the classwork. Some student will be assigned an independent homework assignment based on their interest ion a topic and desire to learn.

I hope this helps! As always, please reach out with questions or concerns.

First Week!


The first week of school was a success! The kids were amazing and all conducted themselves like model students. We are going to have an amazing year!

I’m not sending out a newsletter this week, but I am adding a couple updates along with pictures below.

The Most Important Assignment of the Year!

You may have noticed the bulletin board with curtains drawn and a sign posted that said, “The Most Important Assignment of the Year!”

Disclaimer: I built this up a little bit bigger than it actually is, just for fun!

Pay it Forward is inspired from the book, Pay it Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hyde. In the book, the social studies teacher gives this assignment to his class. Trevor, one of his students, does the assignment and actually changes the world!
In the book, Trevor gives his paper-route money to a homeless man, who uses the money to buy new clothes for a job interview. He gets the job and then ends up paying it forward by giving to others himself. As a class, we have been talking about random acts of kindness, and how they might attempt this assignment. I did tell the kids to choose something that DOES NOT require giving money away, but if they needed money, they must get permission from a parent. 
They have the entire year to complete this assignment! And, like the picture says, whether or not the world actually changes is NOT part of the assignment. They already have a bunch of great ideas.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about this assignment.

As Mr. Saint Clair, the social studies teacher says in the book, “What I want is for the students to reexamine their role in the world and think of ways one person can make a difference.”

Classroom Expectations

We had fun going over classroom expectations, getting to know each other and our new students better, and discussing how we are going to interact with each other this year. Pics below show the headband game and the rock, paper, scissors challenge. Ask your child to explain the pictures!

Mr. Brown Introduction

Hello Parents!

Welcome to the class blog. I’ll use this first post to introduce myself!

This will be my 25th year in education and second year at Saint Cecilia. I’m honored to be here! The mission of the school fits perfectly with my values and beliefs about education.

I’ve taught multiple grades from Kindergarten through 8th grade. I’ve spent most of those years as an Instructional Coach and teacher in 5th grade. I also teach professional development classes for teachers called Trait-Based Writing. This year, I have the honor of leading this work with teachers at Saint Cecilia!

I received my Bachelors of Education from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and my Masters of Science in Educational Leadership from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m currently enrolled in The University of Nebraska at Omaha to continue my education.

In addition to teaching, I coach club softball through the Lady Cougars in Papillion, Nebraska.

My youngest, Emily

My family lives in Council Bluffs. We have six children. Four have graduated. The picture you see is Isabel and Emily. My wife works for Creighton University.

I’m very happy to be part of the St. Cecilia family!

Class Blogs

The blog you are reading now was built using Edublogs. I will sometimes use this to communicate with parents. Linked to this blog on the right side is any link students will need if they are home and able to distance learn.

Eventually, students will build their own blog. The blogs will be used as a portfolio and tool to post responses and reply to other students responses. Students will be allowed to change backgrounds, colors, and fonts according to a rubric, so they should enjoy building the blogs and using them as a collaborative tool in the classroom. Right now, last years students are still linked on the right if you want to see an example.

The setting of student blogs will be private. The blogs will NOT be searchable on the web, and can only be accessed with the student’s own URL. Links to student blogs will be shared with Mrs. Pick and parents. I will let you know once the blogs are built so you can ask your students to see their blog! Right now, you can view the blogs from last year’s students to see examples.

Thanks for reading my post! As always, email or call me if you have any questions or concerns! 

Books for Students Entering 5th Grade

Many reading levels exist among students in the same grade. This list includes suggested authors and titles to assist parents in choosing books that reflect their child’s reading level, interests, and family values.
Other book lists are widely available on the internet. Check these sites for titles that may interest your student:

Nebraska Golden Sower 2021-2022 Chapter Book Nominees

Nebraska Golden Sower 2021-20211 YA Novel Nominees

Children’s Book Council 2020 Children’s Choice Awards

On May 31, 2021, your children can access the Virtual Summer Camp Adventure at with no special username and password. Capstone Virtual Camp

Happy Summer Reading! – Mr. Brown