Friday, December 4, 2015

Pilgrim Life Diary- A SS/Writing Assignment

The last chapter in our SS book that we have covered, talks about the life of the Pilgrims. During each chapter we try to do a project of some sort that can display and apply the knowledge that we have gained from the reading. This chapter we read and learned about pilgrim life in our textbook and we took to other books to learn about what pilgrim children did.

In this unit, we completed a web hunt to learn more about the life in the colonies. PBS has a website linked below that uses the picture below as an interactive lesson. The students use that site combined with site to scavenge for information about how the pilgrims lived.

We also read a couple books, Sarah Morton's Day and Samual Eaton's Day. These books are very kid friendly and describe the daily life of a pilgrim child. My students then look up information on "How to Talk Like a Pilgrim." They really enjoy learning the new phrases and words and use them frequently for a few days.

Then it is off to the races they go creating their own Pilgrim Life Diary. They have to write in 1st person as if they were a pilgrim child. There are strict requirements that there must be great evidence of historical data and research throughout their journals. They must put it together in a book and it must be handwritten and have hand-drawn illustrations. (Insert disappoint kid faces when I said "No, you cannot type it. The pilgrims didn't type their diaries, did they?")

Some of them went above and beyond the call of duty of course. Here are some samples of the amazing work they came up with:

I love the learn book and the pages were so authentic on this one!! One of my favorites! 

Sorry this next one is sideways, but I have little time to fix it! Her cover is clever and very artistic.

Again, sorry for the short time and sideways picture. This male student did a wonderful job researching and basing his writing on research. Writing is the following picture. 

Again sideways, but look how fun and authentic this student was! I couldn't get any good pictures of her writing, but she did very well at talking like a pilgrim! Good Morrow! 

This is the neatest I have seen this student write! I was so proud of all of his effort and the amount of writing the students have me far exceeded my expectations. 

I liked this project last year, but this year I LOVED IT! The students really put more into researching and finding out historically accurate information to put into their story. I think that putting an emphasis on that really helped me out! It is amazing how much we learn as teachers as we teach the same things over and over. We are always tweaking and working to make things better and this is a good example of how I re-taught something the next year with the lessons I learned from the year before! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone and I really enjoyed my week long Thanksgiving Break!! Now as of today I only have 5 more days of school until I get an entire month off!! Woo Hoo!! That means one WHOLE month with my little monster. I absolutely cannot wait!

So what does one do when you only have 9 days of school with only 8 full days of learning time between Thanksgiving and a WHOLE MONTH OFF???

Here it goes...

Reading- We do a novel study of the book Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. As I have stated before, I am a huge fan of Donalyn Miller and all of her reading research, but I just can't help myself when it comes to this novel. (Her research doesn't favor a whole class novel study) There is so much rich history in this novel and my kids always LOVE it. I do not think that I have any students who dislike this book. It is suspenseful and they learn so much about a hard time in history from reading it.
I did change my ways of doing a whole class novel though...I threw out the WORKSHEET packets (YES the one I spent hours creating last year and even have listed on TPT). We took that packet to a different style this time around. I broke down all of the important and trick vocabulary words and broke them down by the chapters that we will be reading. I broke students into 5 groups and gave them a word list. They used their laptops to look up the definitions and recorded them on chart paper. Before we read each section we bust out the vocab poster for those chapters and go over the words. Then as we are reading we stop when we get to those words and use the context to make sure we understand exactly what they author was trying to say. The students who looked up that word are typically the ones who like to be experts and share their knowledge! They really take ownership of it!

We are also working on the plot as we go through the novel. Each student has a plot map and as we read we are recording the important events that are leading up to the climax. One other activity we will be doing tomorrow is that we will be making a poster for each main character and writing down the facts that we  have learned complete with page number/chapter references and text based evidence!! We will add to those as we continue reading. I am really challenging my kids to look deeper at character change. When asked how the characters in their previous book clubs changed, I typically received answers like "they grew older" or "the learned more." So I am hopeful that this activity and doing it together as a class will help them see this in more detail.

Later on in the year we read together the novel The Man Who Love Clowns. This one is a heart breaker and another novel that everyone loves to read. From this novel comes our very in-depth character study. So that is why I am trying to get my readers deeper into character analysis here!

Social Studies- We don't have time to start a new chapter, so instead we research Christmas!! The students are writing a compare and contrast 5 paragraph essay comparing their Christmas traditions to the traditions of another country or religion. Tis the season!

Writing- DEAR SANTA!! It wouldn't be Christmas without a Santa letter! The kids are writing a 3-5 paragraph letter to Santa explaining their #1 gift and how is would benefit them. They are super cute and very convincing! (Examples to come later this week!)

Also, Snowmen at Night...ADORABLE book to read. Check back next week for a post on this wonderful writing assignment where students are going to create their version in PPT!

Math- We are conquering dividing decimals! Wish us luck!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Operation Choose Kindness is a GO!

I saw how a teacher over at Head Over Heels For Teaching started a big Kindness movement in her classroom. We have talked a lot about kindness as we read Wonder this year. (See about that in THIS post) I challenged my kids to think about the theme of the book and their life precept just like in the book. If you have not read the book, I encourage you to read it. My 5th graders begged me to read it aloud to them. I almost couldn't wait with them and took it home, but decided to stick with them and read it at the same pace. Needless to say this will be my beginning of the year read-aloud for many years to come.

When talking about the theme and life precepts one of my kids came up with "There is no limit to kindness." While I am sure he was not the first to come up with this or something similar, I jotted it down on a sticky note and it really stuck with me. Part of my school's mission revolves around service. This means teaching kids about serving others and being an active part of society and the community around us. So when I saw the "Kind is the New Cool" I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make it play out in my own classroom.

We kicked of the pre-planning stages of our Kindness Campaign yesterday when I told the kids about our "plans" and what we need to do to get into planning mode. We started with the background assignment for the campaign. Each student had to pick a quote about kindness and write a speech about what it means to them. I did NOT create this idea on my own (see HOHFT link above), but we are using it to kickoff our campaign.

After break my students will be going to the other grade level classrooms and presenting their quotes and speeches and challenging each class to committing to one random act of kindness in the community. The ideas for our 4 week long campaign are endless. I can't speak enough of how amazing the ideas at Head Over Heels for Teaching are. We are planning on completing some of the same challenges and activities along with coming up with some more of our own!! So until then...

wonder choose kind - Google Search:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Creating 5th Graders Who LOVE to Read!!

My last post was about how I HOPE to instill a love of reading in my kids paired with my new look into Book Clubs or Lit Circles. You can read that post HERE.

My kids were so excited after completing our last round of book clubs that they BEGGED me to do it again. I was standing in front of them explaining how we won't have time to do Book Clubs again until January, because we have a week off for Thanksgiving and then only 9 days of school after that. (Yes, I am at a private school on a college campus. We follow their schedule. I get a MONTH off for Christmas. It makes this mommy's heart VERY VERY happy!) So in the midst of explaining to them that we don't have enough time they were seriously BUMMED. I then informed them that if they really REALLY wanted to do Book Clubs again that I would LOVE to do! It only meant that they would have to completely finish the book in 10 class days. This would assure that they had time to complete the book before having an entire week off of school.

I thought I would hear a definite silence or OH MAN from them at this point. WRONG!! I heard nothing, but LETS DO IT!! So I geared up and headed into my full Book Club bookshelves and picked 5 new books. They chose their picks and away we went.

One of the book I selected ended up being such a hit that over 90% of the class wanted to read it. I had to scrounge to even have 6 of this book. SO I will be adding this one to Book Clubs again until it has run out of interest from the class.

What is THE book? The Compound by SA Bodeen.
I had not read the book myself, but heard great things about it. I knew I would struggle to get through it in time and that I did not have an extra copy for myself. I lucked into an audio book copy of it at the public library and my librarian retrieved it for me! I listened to it on my long commute to and from school each day and within a day I was HOOKED! I would find a reason to be in the car or take it with me to listen to during my planning time. It is a serious page turner!!

I would not recommend this book for students younger than 5th grade. It does use some vulgar language in my opinion, but there are not any words that are out of the realm of typical. It does say He** and Pi**ed several times. BUT it is completely unpredictable and keeps you wondering and reading throughout the entire book. The suspense is just amazing!! Even my girl readers are loving it.

There is a sequel to it. I am looking for ways to order this for my kids or at least a copy for my classroom. The only copy our library has is missing!

I am still smiling from the unreal reaction my AMAZING READERS gave me!! Tune in next for an amazing and SUPER exciting service project that we will be embarking on! I am working hard to make this a student-led life-changing movement in my 5th graders lives. More to come soon!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Clubs- 5th Grade Version

We just finished up our first successful round of Book Clubs (AKA Literature Circles, Lit Clubs, Book Circles, Book Studies, etc.). It can always seem like a three-ring-circus trying to keep it all organized, but my kids always LOVE these clubs!!

So here is what it looks like in my room...I select 4 books that I hope to draw student INTEREST in!! NO, I do not base my book clubs on READING LEVEL. {Disclaimer- I do have a group of HIGH readers and I do choose books that ALL of my students are capable of reading. I DO understand that this is not always the case and will not work for everyone!}

I have spent lots of time reading and researching on reading instruction. I have struggled with book reports and my love-hate (more like I only love to hate them) relationship with them. I read the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and decided that the best thing for me to do is to "break-up" with book reports in my class. To me they were busy-work take home projects that your creative students put a lot of attention in to and end up with the same grade as the students who scrape by and put only the required minimum in to them. Also, I am not fooled into thinking that my students read their book in its entirety. I have tech-savvy 5th graders who have the same online resources that I did when I was a student who didn't want to read the entire book. OK so enough about my book report thoughts....I came to the conclusion that I NEED my students to LOVE reading! And so that is what I set out to do in my classroom this year. We set out to spend many more minutes READING for the love of READING in my classroom. MORE ABOUT THOSE THOUGHTS TO COME LATER....

Here is the book I was referring to...

Moral of that LONG paragraph was that in my classroom, students are not bound by their reading levels. Therefore, I pick books that I can hook them with. The students rank their picks in order in which they would want to read them. I select groups based on their top picks (with a small behavior consideration of course). Then they get together and READ!!

Last year I feel victim to the endless copies and the JOBS each student needed to complete in books clubs. I get creates a grade and holds each student accountable. BUT it does not encourage reading or comprehension. Instead I focus in on a skill every couple of days and allow the students to demonstrate their knowledge of that skill.

For instance, one skill we focused on was character! About 1/4 of the way into the book, I asked the students to analyze their character. I asked them to use character traits for the inside and outside to tell me about the character. I asked them to tell me about problems the character was facing and to look for solutions that may come along. I asked them to look for ways that they character has changed as a person. This took them two to three reading sessions to complete and they could add and change it as they please. The assignment took them about 5 minutes each day, but I KNEW that they were actively reading and THINKING about the character in the story.

Another skill we have focused on is DISCUSSION. I challenged my students to come up with a THICK and open-ended discussion question to share with their group. We went over good vs. bad questions and I set them on their way. They got it! It clicked! I was so proud of the effort they put into thinking this through...but the fact that I modeled until I couldn't model anymore might have had a little to do with it.

Currently they are working on SUMMARIZING and PREDICTING with this quick recording sheet.

This was meant to be a short post to share TWO books that I read with my students and fell in LOVE apologies on the short novel that led me to these points:

1. Make Book Clubs MEANINGFUL!! Don't give lengthy assignments each time that require lots of WORK from you as the teacher. Focus on allowing the students to READ!
2. Skip "follow up" assignments that resemble boring book reports. Again, make it meaningful!
3. Throw out the BOOK TESTS!!! (see #4)
4. Read THE BOOK WHISPERER by Donalyn Miller- it will change your reading instruction for the best! And for the best I mean for the students and their LOVE of reading!

Here are the two books I fell in love with:

This is a super CUTE and FUNNY read for pre-teens! It was a story that kept me and my students laughing and wondering what they outcome would be.

I am a SUCKER for Mike Lupica books. He had me hooked when I was in college and buying books for my classroom all the time. His books have a wonderful story line and are one-day readers for those with the time! This one was no exception. I had boys and girls in this group and they all LOVED this one. It talks about families in hard times and I think all of my students were able to relate to this at some point in their lives. Even my off the charts high reader (who had already read this book) told the whole group that they would not be disappointed. His books are perfect for your sports enthused boys and girls! I am considering reading this one again already...

My kids LOVED being able to pick their reading groups so much that they BEGGED me to start another round of Book Clubs even if it meant that they would have only two weeks to finish the book clubs before our Thanksgiving Break! I firmly believe that my knowledge and research from Miller's book is helping my kids grow their own LOVE for reading!

Donalyn Miller Quote
Graphic from HERE

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October Writing Projects!

We do a lot of PUBLISHED writing in my class. We go through the writing process SEVERAL times in the first quarter alone. Here are a few of the October Writing Projects that we do.

Halloween Narrative Story- Students are each given a die and an organizer. (ORGANIZER IS FREE HERE) As I flip through the PPT (Available HERE), each student rolls their die and that number corresponds with the story starter element that they will use in their story.

 Other than following those guidelines, I make it fairly limitless. They enjoy these! Some turn out funny and others are spooky! We focused on burying DULL words and buried SAID in our writing for good!

We just finished reading Wonder in class together. If you are an upper level (4th and up) and haven't exposed your students to this book- YOU MUST! It is amazing and teaches so many character lessons! I can't even explain how many standards I was able to address just from reading this aloud as a class read aloud! I will be starting all of my school years with this book from now on!
My students totally bought-in with what I referred to as the PRECEPT CHALLENGE. In the book Mr. Browne gives students a precept at the beginning of each month. These are like life lessons or quotes to live by. They have to write in his class what it means to them. At the end of the school year he challenges each of this students to write their own precept over the summer and to mail it to him on a post card. So I gave my students the precept challenge! They had to come up with a precept that represented them and write a postcard explaining why they chose the one they chose! I also had them create their own "Wonder" portrait like the one of Auggie on the front of the book! This was a quick, but VERY meaningful writing assignment!

Here are a few of my favorites! (Just the illustrations, not their post cards)

The current writing project we are doing is about POINT OF VIEW! We study the different points of view in reading and writing (1st, 2nd, 3rd- Posters Made HERE). Then we talk about taking on the roll of another person or THING... :)

Then BAM- we become a piece of candy on Halloween and we write using this story prompt: 
*Found on Pinterest*

The whole beginning of this post was going to end with AUTOBIOGRAPHIES which we are getting read to start...BUT I am going to save that one for another day! 

Look forward to August-September Writing projects AND Autobiographies SOON! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Patricia Polacco Author Study- PART 1 (Theme)

I am a HUGE fan of all things Patricia Polacco!! I am VERY fortunate to teach in a school with a HUGE selection of Polacco books and a curriculum library on campus that has even more resources that I can choose from!!

With that said, I use her books to teach just about EVERYTHING!! We have been diving into THEME and I do not think there are better books for teaching theme in the upper grades. I love that her books are picture books, but have complexity to them that still manage to challenge my 5th graders. I have a group of VERY high readers and they need that constant challenge of reading complex text! Thank you Patricia Polacco for writing (and illustrating) just what I need!!

We always start out theme by reading a Polacco book and talking about what we can take away from it. This time around we read The Keeping Quilt. Once students were able to pick the theme or message from the book we started actually classifying things as THEME.

This of course led to a discussion in the difference between THEME and TOPIC. One of my boys mentioned QUILTS as the theme...insert PERFECT teaching moment (and during an observation-yippee!) to break down the difference in a theme and a topic.

We started our theme tracking anchor chart...
We used this chart to continue throughout our theme unit and our Polacco Book Study Unit that was going on as well. 

Specifically for the study of THEME, I had my librarian and her assistant (who are AMAZING) pull several theme-rich picture books. Most of which were Polacco books (but not all). The students partnered up and read one of the books they selected. They had to find the THEME and support their claim with Text Based Evidence (something already taught-another post for another day). They also had to prepare a short and oral summary of their text to give the class. 

When all groups were finished we gathered and each group briefly presented their book and the theme or themes that they felt for with their book. I had previously printed a small picture of the cover of their book so that it could be added to an appropriate section on our theme poster. 

All of this THEME practice (coupled along with applying it to our daily read aloud of Wonder) led me to a wonderful technology rich assignment, the THEME AMAZON POSTER ASSIGNMENT. Stay tuned for some insight and a FREEBIE of this assignment. It stemmed from another assignment from another teacher blogger and therefore it shall be FREE! :)

Inferring with Pictures and MUCH More!

I love teaching inference! For my (upper level) 5th graders it really is a fun and exciting topic to cover. They latch on to it quickly and I just get the easy part of finding activities that they can apply the skill to!

So we started with an anchor chart and practicing with a picture. I made an inference PPT and we used a little YouTube video clip.

This is the YouTube clip that I have used the last two years:

It usually gets a laugh or two and then we talk inference! 

This is the picture that we use to infer from. What is blocked out at the bottom in the little blue box is the words "Sugar Free." I tried for what seemed like HOURS to get my kiddos in the direction of why the ants might be avoiding the sucker. I started out by letting them just state any inference they had from the picture. NO HELP or INSIGHT from me at all! After what seemed like HOURS of them inferring WONDERFULLY, but not heading in the direction I was hoping...I offered a "What if..." to guide them into the purpose of the picture and advertisement. 

We used this to talk about how everyone has a different SCHEMA and we related this all of the file cabinet in our heads and our different life experiences. 

Then we used pictures and graffiti posters to practice making inferences. Here are some of my lovelies working together to use their SCHEMA + the PICTURE CLUES to infer. Some of their inferences can be entertaining, but you have to admire and embrace these funnies as they are usually in relation to the different SCHEMA that each student has.

As a follow up, I read The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris VanAllsburg. We go through all of the pictures and practice writing one story together from the picture and caption. Then I print copies of each one for the students and they randomly select a picture to write from. The publish this writing activity and keep it in their Writer's Notebooks to look at throughout the school year. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just a little HAPPY note!

I feel like there has been so much negativity going on lately! And it is EVERYWHERE! I just felt like my kids needed to know (or I needed them to know) that they are loved and doing a FANTASTIC job. So I made some quick little encouraging notes for each of them and sent them home with them yesterday. Who doesn't love a little "love" note!

Here is a little preview of them...

I plan to start doing something sweet like this once a month! Just to remind them they are all special to me and that they are all doing great somewhere! 

What do you do for your kids to let them know you are proud of them??

The Writing Process

We have been actively working on and have completed our first published writing piece! I always start with a short twisted fairy tale story to go through the writing process with my kiddos. They enjoy it and we work on each step in great detail. This helps outline the process for the rest of the school year!

I always have trouble with finding posters that are Upper Elementary friendly. My kiddos are fairly advanced writers and really need to be able to dig deep and challenge themselves to become better at revising and editing. I used this chart for them to record their own notes and add to their writers notebooks.
I was not very good at using their Writer's Notebooks last year, but this year we are off to a great start of making them a useful organizational tool for writing! So we hole punched this and added it to the reference section along with this checklist:
My room is all fun chevron design so I tried to make these fit the mold. They are informational and I plan to use them as a clip chart to help track the writing stage my kids are at. This will also help the problem of "Who is ready for Peer Editing? So-and-so needs a partner!"

These posters (the full set), checklists, and graphic organizers are all available in my TPT Store HERE! I included the chart/organizer for ARMS and DARE to Revise. I personally like the DARE to Revise because I feel like it is easier to remember than ARMS. :) 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Teaching the US Regions

My students love to become the teacher, well 99% of them! Public speaking is a major emphasis at my school, so this project meets MANY of our needs! Meet the 

The students are grouped into 5 groups, one for each region. Each student is assigned a job and each group will present their information to the class. So essentially them become the teacher!! My students are combining their information into a PowerPoint and presenting it to the class. I create some organizers for each student to record their research on. (Too bad I created this after my students completed this project...oh well!) Here is an example of two of them. 

The jobs descriptions for this project are:

· Travel Agent- presents major tourist attractions in the region  (minimum of 5 locations)      
· Food Guide– researches food that are famous to the region (minimum of 5 location based foods)
· Historian- Researches interesting facts, events, and people from the region
· Geographer- studies and describes the climate, landforms, and uses of the region
· Cartographer- involved with creating a map of the region and doing a population study (map must contain all states and capitals that are in that region)

You could add or remove jobs according to the needs of your classroom. There is a research organizers page for each job! 

Next week my kiddos will present their regions to the class. They will each have to document their travels on these sheets: 

This hold the students accountable for learning about the other 4 regions. At the end of the presentations students will have a test over the 5 regions. I will make the test based on the information that was presented to the class. It will be up to the students to take good enough notes to use in studying for the test. 

There you have it!! A hands-on project that requires public speaking, research skills, reading non-fiction text, using technology to present, and all of the geography/history standards as well! You can pick up this project and all of its organizers in my TPT Store! 

Up next for these kiddos, memorizing the states, capitals, and their locations! 15 days of school left!