Tuesday, December 17, 2013

5th Grade's 1st Annual "State" Fair (Science Fair)

Today was the day it all came together! I know we say this all the time, but time really does fly when you are having fun! I can't believe we are wrapping up our second unit of study already!

Throughout this unit, I have been teaching students how to do research by completing a Research Essay using the curriculum I wrote for my 5th graders. I taught them how to read nonfiction in order to learn about a specific topic, and how to write about a that specific topic using the 5 paragraph structure of an essay. I modeled each of these lessons by researching about Alaska, and each student chose a state to study as well. Their final project was to work on a science experiment at home that related to the state they chose to study. The culmination of all this work was today when they presented their science experiments at the The 1st Annual "State" Fair!

It all came together exactly the way that I wanted it to! I am so, so proud of each of them! The parents were commenting that the students "really know what they are talking about!" Yes! After a month and a half of work, they now can be considered an expert on their state of study and the scientific method!

5th Grade's 1st Annual "State" Fair!

Setting Up

The Goodies!
Test-Tube Candies!
These were made especially for our class to have afterwards :)

Presenting to Family, Friends, and Staff

Certificates I Made for Each of Them
Declares him/her an OFFICIAL scientist and researcher!

Each Project

Curriculum Outline:

Writers' Workshop - How to Write a Research Paper
Science - How to Use the Scientific Method and Complete a Long Term Project
Social Studies - Integrated within the Readers' and Writers' Workshops, I taught all about Alaskan culture, land, and animals. 
Literature Circle Text: Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George 
Read Aloud: Julie, by Jean Craighead George
Math - I followed the Everyday Mathematics Units and stuck in some learning and about the Iditarod using The Iditarod Dog Sled Math Activities 

*You can find most of these materials in my Teacher Store, just click here or on the links above!*

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering Sandy Hook

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School. We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children. We honor their memory with our service. Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook. #love4SH

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Get to Have So Much FUN!!

Hi Friends,

When Teachers Pay Teachers had their sale the other week, I was so excited go to my ever-growing wishlist and get some of the things I couldn't wait to use in my classroom! I also found a lot of FREE Christmas/Holiday stuff that I was waiting until December to use. This week, a lot of it came together. I combined some of the purchases I made to create really fun and exciting projects, and I started a long-term(ish) project as well.

I am starting to really LOVE Interactive Notebooks! They just make for such fun, engaging lessons. This week, I used Creative Critters Percentages activity to teach students how to turn a fraction or a decimal into a percentage. After the "direct instruction" we had a discussion as to when or where we see percentages in our everyday lives. Then, the students colored in a hundred-square box with 6 different colors and wrote the decimal, fraction, and percentage.

What do the Holidays Mean to You? 
This was a question I posted as the morning reflection for students' Personal Journals, and at Morning Meeting we discussed it. I introduced the Stocking Stuffer activity from Susan Moran Jones which is the BEST (and don't let me forget free) holiday activity around! The students traced, cut out, and decorated a stocking. This stocking is meant to hold all of the notes each friend writes to them for the next week and a half. (Next year I hope to start this earlier, but I just found it and didn't want to pass it up)

To make sure that each student gets a note from everyone, I provided each student with a class list. They have been checking off as they write a note for a friend. As the teacher, I have to remember to write my notes! I made a stocking for myself, and like the students, I am looking forward to reading them on December 20, the day before we leave for break. I set up 2 baskets, one with blank notes and one for the completed notes. I was so excited that I already hung them up, and figure it would be a bit of a struggle if I had 5th graders try to reach the top of the windows to stuff each friend's stocking!

Here are some of the notes that put a smile on MY face (can't wait to see their reactions on the 20th!!)

Today was our Pajama Day/Polar Express Party which is why you might have noticed students in their pajamas in earlier pictures! After our Stocking Stuffers, we read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. I got an entire Polar Express unit from One Stop Teacher Shop, and I also purchased a craftivity from Runde's Room. Then, I combined them both! From the Polar Express unit, we talked about figurative language and used a great resource that asks the students to identify the type of figurative language being used. From Runde's Room, I used the snow globe craftivity to have the students write and draw 2 figurative language examples from the book, and one of their own that they made up. This was a great and fun way to assess their understanding! You know you are doing something right when a students stops, looks at his friend, and says "Isn't it cool how we are learning AND having fun?!" That felt really good to over hear!!

Finished Projects!

After the Movie and Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows
Groups completed the Venn Diagram and The Book and Movie Elements activities. Besides just generally comparing the two, students delved even deeper by discussing the rising actions, climax, and falling actions and how each differ between the book and movie. I was able to listen in on conversations and was pleasantly surprised with what they were able to pick up on. The Polar Express unit also came with discussion questions which I will use as Personal Journal reflections throughout the rest of the week.

What awesome and engaging activities did you do with your class to celebrate the holiday season? I love to hear about new ideas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Peek at My Week w/ an Alaskan Skype Date!

Hi Friends! I am linking up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughing because I love her blog and love Linky Parties!!

We had SUCH a fun week (Dec 2 - 6)! I can't believe I only get 2 more, and then it is Christmas break! That bums me out a little bit, but at least I will get a lot of time with my family and then time to plan the second half of the school year. I absolutely love when I have an entire day(s) that I can dedicate to planning!

Here is a little peek into our week:

Skype Date with Alaska!!
The Middle School History teacher's brother has lived in Alaska for 13 years! I got his information and when I asked if he would like to Skype with my class, he was more than willing. He even put together a video for me to share with the students beforehand! I love when people love to help others! This was such a great experience for my students! Each student asked a question, and Jeremy answered with TONS of information about Alaska. Some of the points we hit on were the Northern Lights, cool animals he has seen, the Blanket Toss that he saw, what his life is like there, and he even shared with us his story as to how he ended up in Alaska! Afterwards, we reflected on how great it was to talk with someone so far away about the things we are studying in our classroom. We were sure to give him a huge THANK YOU for waking up at 4:30am to talk with us!

Readers' Workshop
Students are continuing to do research on their specific state of study. At this point in the unit, I have students thinking critically about what they are learning. This week, they met with a partner (their Writing Partners in Writers' Workshop), and compared and contrasted the two states. Afterwards, they shared their findings with the class. It was great to see the deeper level thinking that went on throughout their conversations. 

Writers' Workshop
With the research papers, I focused on Revising this week. I am trying a new method where students use Post-its to revise their work. Some of the skills were to "show, not tell" your readers a fact or idea in the essay, add state specific vocabulary, and to revise for a Lead. I like the Post-it note idea better than revision slips which I have used in the past. I had students write on strips of paper their revisions and tape to the side of their papers. Post-its work so much better because you are able to move it around and it looks much more organized. 

I am having my students complete a science experiment at home, completely on their own (I say on their own as in without me. I know that parents are guiding in a very big way here!). I knew it would be a disaster if I just simply gave a due date and never spoke of it again. Who knows what would show up the day of! 
To avoid an embarrassing display of half-effort, last minute work, I am taking my students through the syllabus I gave them in my classroom with my own science experiment. I am literally doing everything they should be doing to SHOW THEM exactly how it needs to be done. Aside from coming to their houses and working with them, this is the best way. Since last week was a 2-day week due to Thanksgiving break, I completed 2 weeks of work that needs to get done: completing the experiment, graphing and analyzing the data, and planning (by sketching) how I will set up my board for display as well as how I will display my procedure and results. They saw me set up my experiment, take pictures as it was happening. We all graphed the data and made conclusions. Everyone discussed how the board should be set up, and are ready for Week 5 of the syllabus! 
The experiment: Can you insulate permafrost? We set out 3 pieces of ice. One uncovered, one with one cover, and one with 3 covers. It was great to see the excitement of learning if this was possible! (It is)

The 3 pieces of ice at the beginning. 

1 hour and 17 minutes later, one ice cube has melted. 2 remain.
3 hours and 3 minutes later, the second ice cube melted.
4 hours and 15 minutes later, the third ice cube has melted! That took waaay longer than we thought it would!

Paying Respect
We ended the week with a discussion of Nelson Mandela. I believe that as educators, we cannot ignore something like this. I think it is so very important to acknowledge, teach, analyze, brainstorm, discuss, question, and connect to the things that happen in our world especially if they are happening right now. Usually I start the day with a response written on the easel. Today, I projected a picture of Nelson Mandela, a short script of his life, and 4 quotes from him. The students read the script and quotes and we had a brief discussion of Nelson Mandela and his life. Then, the students chose a quote and reflected on it. Afterwards, we came to the carpet to discuss this man and his amazing contributions to our world. The children really connected to what was happening in their lives - challenges they have or have to overcome, never giving up on what they want, the idea that teaching love is important because humans accept that more naturally than hate. Time and time again, we have conversations like this and each time my students show me what wonderful human beings each of them are.

What was your week like? Did you do anything fun? Inspiring? Exciting?

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