Thursday, September 26, 2013

1-2-3 Wonder! - a Video Project

This week we finished the book Wonder, by RJ Palacio. The kids were really upset that it was ending! I really was worried about the next read aloud - I mean, how can you follow that?! But, I have something up my sleeve.

Anyhow, we did a really great culminating project! I found that many teachers who have read this book to their class participated in the activity called 1-2-3 Wonder! 

I put the kids into groups and asked them all 3 questions. Their job was to decide on an answer using only 1,2, or 3 words. They then put their answers on poster board, I took their pictures, and turned it all into a pretty cool video!

Every Friday I send out a Newsletter to parents explaining what we accomplished throughout the week. I sent the video along with what is written below. I hope you enjoy it! 

Fifth graders finished our read aloud of Wonder, written by RJ Palacio. This book is about a fifth grader named August Pullman, also known as Auggie, who was born with a facial deformity. This deformity has obviously been his challenge from the beginning of his life in all sorts of ways. Socially it has made him feel as much of an outcast as anyone could possibly feel. Physically, he was unable to attend school because of constant surgeries. Until now. When we met Auggie, he was starting school for the first time in fifth grade. He was extremely insecure and feared being in public. He especially hated being around other kids because he was never viewed as the ordinary kid that he is. When Auggie introduces himself, he doesn't describe what he looks like because, he says, "whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

Since experiencing Auggie's fifth grade year with him, we have learned so many important lessons about life, friendship, relationships, integrity, advocacy, judgement, and of course, kindness. I believe our fifth graders fell in love with this story because every kid can relate to Auggie in some way. Although Wonder is fiction, it is based off of a very realistic fact that everyone has challenges to face and overcome. There were many class discussions where fifth graders showed enormous amounts of empathy, understanding, and caring. The students expressed changes they have seen in themselves, reflected on past experiences, planned for the future with being kind in mind, and even decided it important to make a banner in the classroom to remind us to always "choose kind."

This is a book that has touched all of us in many ways, and the fifth graders wanted to share a video that they made which truly demonstrates how much of an impact a book can have on someone as well as the important life lessons Auggie has taught them. Please click below, and enjoy!

Also, if you are interested in classroom resources for this book, click on the pictures below

Friday, September 20, 2013

Over-Sized Character Map

Reading Strategy: Character Traits

For the past 2 weeks, we have been focusing on the main characters in our books. We started this by charting information. We made T-charts in our Reader's Notebooks for:
  • What does the character look like? (web)
  • What does the character say/think and what does that teach us about the character?
  • What does the character do and what does that tell us about character traits?
  • What do OTHERS say about the character and how does that make him/her feel?
  • How has the character changed from the beginning of the story to the end?

Reader's Workshop

I have been reading Wonder to my class at Read Aloud and the main character is a great for this unit. I start my mini-lesson and model with Wonder the strategy/chart I want the kids to use in their Reader's Notebooks. They then take their Independent Reading book and work independently to complete the chart. At this time, I take a small group and guide a Literature Circle. We are reading Loser and Maniac Magee. After I meet with my Literature Circle, they go to a place in the room and work independently to practice what I taught in the mini-lesson. I then bring 2-3 kids to my table and review the independent work they were completing while I was with the Literature Circle. I have some kids marking with post-its big events in their story, so we review that at this time. There is a lot going on during Reader's Workshop, but it flows nicely now. We have worked hard to get this time of the day to run smoothly - and putting the time, definitely has saved time!

This student is working on finding big events in her story. I had her read a few pages to me and then we discussed what happened that was important. She then listed the events on a post-it. After we did a couple together, she worked on her own while I went around the room to check on Character Map progress. She will work on her Character Map after about 10 mins at the table.

Students who have finished their Character Maps are silently reading.

Character Map
To really hone in on the character traits, students completed an over-sized Character Map. They took a large piece of construction paper and drew out what they think their character looks like. Each part of the body has a different question answered.
  • Head: What does your character think about?
  • Hands: What has your character done?
  • Heart: What does your character care about?
  • Feet: Where has your character been?

To help them get started, I showed them an outline of my Character Map. We discussed what we would write and draw for the main character in Wonder. They then went to their Reader's Notebooks and planned out what they would write for their character. Next, they drew our their character on the large construction paper and got to work! They did a great job of describing these things in their Character Maps with words, pictures, and symbols.

Student Work:


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Puzzle "Peaces" an activity that focuses on acceptance

I started by reading The Crayon Box that Talked, by Shane DeRolf. This is a great book for any age group. It is a rhyming story about crayons that don't like each other, but quickly realize that when they work together, the picture looks beautiful; more beautiful than if it were just one crayon that created it.

Get the Lesson and Materials!

Before the Activity: My class did a great job reflecting on good examples of when they would need each other to do something. We discussed how everyone is special and has something to offer. I really pushed the idea that rather than focusing on the negatives about a person, we should embrace the positives. Forget the negatives! Ignore them! We even touched on forgetting the past! Oh my!

Activity: I gave each student a puzzle piece. Their job was to use colors that represent them and draw pictures, symbols, and/or words that describe what they have to offer to the class, and what makes them unique. 

After the Activity: I loved this activity!! It just so happened that we had a student absent, and it worked out better than I could have imagined. After we completed and shared our puzzle pieces, we put the puzzle together. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was upset that Nicole was absent and we couldn't add her piece. They kept saying, "Our puzzle isn't complete! We need Nicole's piece!" 

*Quick back story of Nicole: She is the sweetest girl, EVER! She has a lot of learning differences, and leaves our classroom at 12pm everyday to get extra help from a local special ed school. One of my goals this year has been to help make her feel a part of our class even though she leaves half-way through each day. Eventually, she will be at our school full-time. Yay!

Nicole came back (she pulled a muscle in her neck. Ouch!) I showed her our puzzle and how HORRIBLE it looked without her piece to add. I asked her to please draw her unique and special qualities on it, and share it with the class. This request in itself is crazy because everyone in our class knows that the morning journal time is sacred and should never be interrupted - but our puzzle wasn't complete!! She was more than happy to, and shared it with the class. Afterwards, I went over to the puzzle and placed in our missing piece. The class cheered and were genuinely so happy that she completed our puzzle. It was magical. 

I got an email later that day from her mom telling me that Nicole had the best day! She explained to her all about the puzzle piece and how great she did in math. (I told her that she answered my question better than I could have!) Nicole's day started off great, and got even better!

These are the kinds of things we need to do to make sure each of our students feel accepted and happy - not just Nicole, but all of our students. It just so happened that I had someone absent to make this activity a thousand times more effective, but it would have done what I wanted it to without that amazing coincidence. 

We don't get back our first few weeks of school. This is the time we have to build up confidence, create acceptance, and practice caring. So much academic learning will be able to happen after I build a foundation for it. And that is what I am doing now. Every day I am looking for ways to make my students rely on each other, or realize their importance. I hope you are able to make things like this happen in your classroom. Every kid deserves it!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Our First Week of Social Learning - How to Advocate for Yourself

As you might know from previous posts, I am spending the first 6 weeks of school as a dedication to social learning. I want to build a classroom community full of kids who care about themselves, each other, and have a good foundation of social skills.


Day 1 We talked about what the word ADVOCATE means during Morning Circle. Most of the kids understanding about it was when someone is an advocate for "say animals, and they do want people killing them, so they go out and fight for animals' rights." Every example I got from them was about someone being an advocate for someone or something ELSE. 

We ended the discussion with talk of what it might mean to be an advocate for yourself. Some examples we got to were: when someone says something or does something you don't like, when you need more time with schoolwork, or when a Friend doesn't treat you the way you like to be treated.

Day 2  Every morning, I have the kids respond in a journal as soon as they are unpacked. It is a great way to get them started on their day with some critical thinking. On this day, the prompt asked for kids to write about a time when they did not advocate for themselves and wished that they had. 

We came to the circle and discussed what it means to stand up for yourself and what that might look like. Then kids went back to their groups and shared their journal entries. Group members gave advice to each other about what each could have done differently in the situation. One great example came from a kid whose Friend always slapped him playfully on the arm, but it hurt him, and he never said anything to the kid. His group members suggested that maybe he tell the kid that it hurts when he does that, and hopefully the kid won't do it again.

Day 3 Homework: Write a paragraph about a time you didn't advocate for yourself and what you could have done differently. Some kids really opened up and shared some great experiences while others were still not comfortable enough to share such intimate details of their life. However, after speaking with some parents, I learned that students are discussing this stuff at home. Whether they completed my assignment with the intentions I planned on or not, it got kids to reflect on how they interact socially with each other.

Day 4  Role Playing: Each group was given a scenario of a kid who was not advocating for themselves. The group came up with a solution and presented a short skit to share with the class. Although they got pretty silly with it, they definitely knew how each character should solve their problem.

Scenarios: a kid whose teacher gives way too much homework, a kid who wants to play with everyone at recess, but doesn't want to play soccer (everyone is playing soccer), someone is giving a speech to the class and the student listening is interrupted by 2 students laughing and talking, and finally, a student is trying to read her favorite book, but students near her are distracting her. 

Next Week: Making a Complaint. How to tell a Friend, teacher, parent, or family member that you are unhappy about something. 

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