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Everybody Needs A Goal

*Our finished garden photo added 1/10/09.


Maybe it was Byrd Baylor's book, I'm in Charge of Celebrations, where the character says we should celebrate the new year in spring when things feel like they are changing and blooming, but I've never cared much for the whole New Year's Resolution "thing". I agree that it is just another cold winter day to me.  All this said, this year brings new excitement, and I would like to share a quick, cheap twist to writing out New Year's Resolutions with your class.



~Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor

~free rocks around your school

~a small box

~some sand

~sharpies and/or paint


1) Read Byrd Baylor's book to your class.

2) Talk about the process of selecting the perfect rock and give your students time to go outside to find one (size regulations may be needed, depending).

3) When students have quietly selected a "just right" rock, they bring it back into class.

4) Show pictures of rock garden examples and inform the class that they will be making a rock garden together.

5) Ask students to think about some realistic goals for the year or grading period. Using the book, you can spin the concept with everyone needs a goal. Then share that research studies show a direct link between goals and enhanced performance in both sports and academics. You can also talk about accountability with making goals known to others.

6) Share your goals.

7) Invite students to decorate, then write their goals and names on their special rock.

8) Create a class rock garden.

9) Find a special location for your shared rock garden.

10) At the end of the grading period, allow students to take their rocks as a symbol of accomplishing their goal. If it is a six week goal like my class, this can become a new six week routine for your class. As you hand the rock to each student, proudly say, "'CUZ YOU ROCK!". Oh, I am too funny.


Our rock garden rests happily on a bookshelf. Goals range from becoming a better reader or writer, earning higher grades, and listening more carefully.


Continue sharing Byrd Baylor's wonderful books with your class. If you haven't read I'm in Charge of Celebrations, it is one of my all-time favorite picture books. It just might make you think differently about the New Year as well. For me, I'll create my larger goals in the spring when things really are blooming, life is happening, and I can lay in the grass and look at the clouds with my son. That sounds about right to me.

I wish the best to you this 2009 school year. My next post will be on incorporating some government lessons and activities this month.   


To learn more about our class, visit us at:



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Angela Bunyi

Hello Angie!

It's such a fine balance isn't it? I've taught 5th and 6th grade, so I am constantly telling my students and parents, "Get this now. You don't want to struggle with this in the 5th grade." The expectations really grow in 5th, especially with possible class changes and an increase in homework.

So, one of the things I try to think about is the concentration and routine necessary for establishing time to read every night. If this habit and routine is in place, it should only benefit students when they have to sit down and perhaps read a textbook and answer questions. I think the habit itself will benefit students. I really encourage my students to get "lost" in their homework. Many of my students read well beyond the normal 30 minutes usually delegated to 4th graders.

Also, another thing to consider is that if students are struggling with a concept, homework can be a friend. With topics becoming a little tougher now, I have found myself sending little bits of extra support where needed. I think the key is when it is needed. My example is division. My class is REALLY struggling with the concept, when last year it was a breeze for my class. So, this entire week, I am going to send home division problems for homework review. On one side it will have the answers with work showing. On the other side will be blank problems. To me, the time spent just practicing the procedures will help. The benefit is that the focus is on understanding it rather than just turning a worksheet in.

Another thing I do- I have routinely sent out additional resources for parents that do not need to be returned. Ex- science experiments at home (ex- conductors vs. inductors during dinner cooking). This is again, done from time to time, and is more helpful to me and my students than any worksheet can provide.

Above all, I just want my kids to be away from the video games and TV. I think that is the greatest culprit to great thinking and creativity...time away from the TV installs a natural desire to learn and use time well.

Now I am rambling....keep up the great work. Great question. I wish you the best of luck this year. :)


Angela St. George

I have a question not related to this post, but another one on your homework expectations. I agree with the research and your ideas posted, however, teaching fourth grade also means that I have to prepare the students for expectations of middle school. At my particular middle school, I happen to know that homework is often from "old school" thinking, where it is worksheets and plenty of them. How do I instill what I think is appropriate without doing a disservice to my students? They will not be prepared for the amount of independent homework to be completed.




And you have inspired me to start posting more. I have some catching up to do and plan on posting twice a week (like you).

Your ideas are great and kudos to a special ed. teacher in the Bronx. I have enjoyed reading what you have posted and appreciate your "shout outs" to this blog. You've done that a few times, and it makes me want to work a little harder.

Rock on,


Alyssa Zelkowitz

Hi, Angela,

I just incorporated some of your ideas on expectations into my recent post on multimodal ideas for linking expectations in your classroom to expectations for our upcoming presidential administration. I am really enjoying seeing all of these great resources for how to teach about New Years from a team-based, social goals perspective rather than the same tired resolutions. Thanks for continuing to share such great ideas!


Angela Bunyi

Hey Joe,

My husband's family lived in Greenback, TN for a while before moving to Vegas, so I know where Lenoir City is.

Okay, here are your answers:

1) My site is hosted under the district using Dreamweaver. My entry page of www.mrsbunyi.com serves only as a link in as my county does not support outside sources. An interesting note for all creating websites...I started the site from scratch late September 2007. I learned from scratch. The Internet and trial taught me, and my passion lead to 60,000 visitors from over 100 international cities in the first year. If I can make a site, anyone can!

2) No one believes me until they come into my room. Our room is much smaller than an average classroom. The most common statement (usually within 5 seconds) is, "Oh, this room is smaller than I thought....but it's REALLY cozy." Cozy is often replaced with homey (sp?). Removing my teacher desk, bringing in real shelves, lights, and real couches makes it seem larger than it is.

3) No, but I have had a few ask me about it a little bit. I think the more teachers like you show interest, the more likely teachers will begin to incorporate this into the classroom setting. I think it is fun and easy now that students do most to all of the work.

4) I'm not sure understand your question. If you mean my computer set-up, I have 5 computers all lined up on one wall. My teacher computer is loaded with so many things that I suspect I am the culprit to killing 3 teacher computers within 1.5 years. I use Interwrite and an Interwrite Pad with a projector instead of a Smart Board because I am in a portable.

5) I downloaded the program on my personal laptop, so I brought that in for the work. You can see the laptop in some of the blog posts on the cell videos. I didn't have the school pay for it, but I could have.

Feel free to ask me anything else. I'd be happy to answer...

Joe Pendleton

You have the most incredible class website I have ever seen. I teach on a 5th grade team and one of my teamies found your site at Scholastic and emailed it to me.

I know you must be extremely busy. If you could scratch out a few minutes I have some questions. By the way I was born in Lenoir City, Tennessee. I teach in Michigan.

1. Where is your website hosted?
2. Your room looks so spacious...how many learners are in your class.
3. I loved your use of Green Screen technology. Is that typical of other teachers in your building?
4. Is it possible to get a diagram of your technology set-up?
5. When you down loaded the animation program did that go on a personal computer or were you
allowed to load it on a school computer? Did you have to pay for the program or do you have school

Thank you so much for doing such a great job!

Joe Pendleton

Angela Bunyi

Great to hear! I will be adding photos of our completed rock garden by this weekend.



Hi Angela,

Great suggestion! I am going to pass this along to some of the other teachers in my school.

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Angela's 4th Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.