Thursday, January 30, 2014


Hi Friends!

I am living in North Carolina, on the coast, and today marks the 3rd snow day this week! Even though teachers had off on Monday and Tuesday to write our narrative report cards, the school was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday (we offer day care when teachers have off to do work)! Then, last night I got a call that we would be closed today as well!

We went out to get chicken to cook for dinner yesterday, and it was C-R-A-Z-Y! The roads were literally a sheet of ice! There are only a few plow trucks in the area and apparently no salt trucks! This town is just not equipped for this type of weather at all, so everyone is pretty much on their own until the ice melts. Our apartment complex didn't even attempt to hire people to shovel our sidewalks. Pretty funny! A big difference since we moved down here from up north! So I am stuck inside again, and was so excited to get my Bloglovin' email that said teachers were linking up with Ideas by Jivey to discuss Historical Fiction in Readers' Workshop!

Since I like to integrate pretty much my entire day to create a thematic approach to the learning that goes on, I am teaching with Historical Fiction in Readers' and Writers' Workshop while I teach my students about 3 different time periods in U.S. History. The first part of this unit deals with segregation. I start the day with discussing a specific event and using a nonfiction mentor text. We have already spent 3 weeks learning about The Montgomery Bus Boycott, The Greensboro Four and the Sit-ins, and last week we learned about desegregating the schools and The Little Rock Nine.

In a whole class discussion, the students talk about what they learned from the lecture and reading of the nonfiction mentor text Then they move to their Literature Circles to discuss and work with The Watsons go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Click here 
The Novel Study I use with this book!

Throughout the week, I will share with them some really great Historical Fiction books that relate to the specific event or struggle from The Civil Rights Movement and the students will compare the book to the facts from history.

I also push my students to choose a Historical Fiction novel to read for their Independent Reading time in my classroom. I present these books with a short summary and how it relates to history. Then I leave a box of "Theme Books" in the library for them to look through. Most of them "reserve" the book while I am in the middle of my book talk! It is so great to see them get excited about reading!

Our Read Aloud is Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, by Mildred Taylor

Here are the other books I share with my class during this unit:

To integrate Writers' Workshop into this theme, I am using these Historical picture books (and others) to teach my students how to write their own Historical Fiction Picture book!! I created this unit of study with three distinct sections. During this section, the idea is to expose the students to as many Historical Fiction books as I possibly can so that they understand how the books are written and how real facts are woven into a story. 

 The Writers' Workshop Unit I use to teach how to write a Historical Fiction picture book!

If you are teaching with Historical Fiction or know of any great books, please link up with us and share! I love to learn about new books that I can add to my classroom library!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How I Used Apples to Teach about Equality

Every Wednesday, our school holds an all-campus Meeting For Worship. This is a time during the day that all of the students gather in a room, sit in a circle, and "center" themselves in silence. It is amazing to me that most of the students do just that.

Before each Meeting for Worship, I like to teach a lesson that directly relates to a Quaker testimony (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship). Today, I would like to share with you a lesson that teaches about equality. I also really like this lesson because our unit of study is about segregation, so this ties nicely into what has been at the forefront of their learning each day these past 2 weeks and will be for the next 2 months. Therefore, this lesson would work well for anyone teaching about any topic that relates to equality, tolerance, or acceptance

First, gather enough apples so that each student can have his or her own apple plus 2 or 3 extra. Have the students sit in a circle and pass an apple out to each. Students should study their apple very closely, looking for bruises, distinguishing marks, odd shape, etc. with the intention of being able to pick their apple out of a bunch.

Next, collect all of the apples and place them back into the bowl. At this moment, I asked students, "How can apples represent people?" We discussed how the apples are different colors, have different marks, are even different types, but in the end, they are all apples. It was very easy for them to make the connection of apples being like people, we are all different, but we are all human. 

After this part of the conversation, I called each student separately to find their apple. It was amazing at how easily ALL of them picked theirs right out! After a student found his or her apple, I asked how he/she knew it was the one. The student would then point to a bruise or a darker red splotch or some other distinguishing trait the apple had and proudly say, "This is how I knew it was my apple!" I think they really started to connect with their apple and how it belonged to them. Maybe it was because some of them were petting their apple or even holding it like a baby - I don't know :)

Once all of the students had found their apple, we discussed the Quaker belief that there is the light of God in everyone. We talked about what that meant and how even that relates to our idea of apples being able to represent people. Some students were relating this to the segregation unit and said, "Some apples are darker, lighter, and almost a different color altogether, it doesn't mean that there wouldn't be the light inside of that apple (person) just because it looks different on the outside!" I was really impressed with the excitement and joy over being able to connect these ideas between each other. 

Finally, I cut the apple in half (in the way that a star shows up in the middle) and showed the students that this star represents the light inside all of us. Then, I cut each of their apples to show them "the light of God within them". Afterwards, they ate their apples and we headed into Meeting For Worship.

I don't know that they will ever look at an apple the same again, and if I am really lucky, when this entire unit of study is over, they will never look at someone that's different from them and judge based on what is seen on the outside.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Valentine's Math Activity to Teach Stem & Leaf Plots

Candy Hearts! A teaching manipulative that can be found in any drug store during January and February and can be so much fun in the classroom! In the past, I've used these with writing, math, and word study. Today, I decided to use the candy hearts with a math lesson in conjunction with the Interactive Notebooks.

Materials: candy hearts, notebook, pencil, document camera
Extension Sheet: Valentine Candy Heart Math

Time: About 45 minutes

Objective: Students will know how to use Stem and Leaf Plots to organize and analyze a set of data

I started the lesson by modeling for students how to organize the candy hearts in data form. I counted all of the candy hearts and sorted them according to color. (Make sure you have at least one set of hearts that are more than 10) I love to use the document camera pretty much every time I teach an Interactive Notebook lesson because it gives the students the opportunity to see exactly what I am doing as I explain to them exactly what I am thinking and why I am doing what it is that I am doing. 

Next, I listed the data for each color. I modeled how to use a Stem and Leaf Plot for the data by listing it on the chart and thinking out loud about plotting the numbers in order from least to greatest. The students then guided me as I found the Mode, Median, and Mean.

After my direct instruction of the lesson, I handed out the candy hearts. (Please notice that I said after I taught the lesson) I gave the students a few minutes to laugh and talk about what was written on each heart. They got a kick out of the "love" phrases! Then, it was down to business. Students sorted the hearts, plotted the data, and found the mode, median, and mean. 

For those who finished early, I handed out a review of our last chapter. This review (the Extension Activity) asked to find the fraction, decimal, and percentage of each color. I am so glad that I did this because most of my students did not remember these skills! I noted to myself that tomorrow I will reteach this skill.

The inspiration for this activity and the review sheet came from Patteach's teacher store! This is a free activity that she offers to anyone who visits her store :)

I had a great time with this lesson, and the students were happy to "play" with their candy! I think there are so many options for what can be done with Candy Hearts!

  What do you plan on using to incorporate Valentine's Day in your classroom lessons?

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Montgomery Bus Boycott & A Letter to Dr. King

At my school, classes are in session on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The reason for this is because we take the kids to the MLK Day parade downtown and our school is a part of it! Everyone walks in the parade, sings freedom songs, and carries props that the students made during art class. Since this is my first year here, this will be my first experience with it. I am so excited!

We are holding a presentation at a church down the street. (We are a very small school and do not have an auditorium for things such as presentations) Each class was asked to prepare something to share that is a sort of tribute to Dr. King. 

Quick Background: Right now, I am teaching Unit 3 which is entitled American History and the Struggle for Freedom. I focus on 3 groups that have struggled for freedom throughout our history and even through to today. I start with Segregation (so I can coordinate with the MLK Day parade in January), then we learn about Japanese-Americans from 1941-45, and we end with people with learning disabilities during the 1970's to today.

To get the students to feel connected to Dr. King, and to introduce them to his contribution to The Civil Rights Movement, I started with teaching about the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I have some really amazing books that tell the story in a way that is perfect for 5th graders! One of the books has MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech written with pictures from that time period in the South, and notes on the side that describe what he was speaking about for each section of the speech. (pictured below)

Throughout the reading of the speech I had volunteers read for the class and we watched the last part of his speech on YouTube. The students couldn't believe how many people were there, and they seemed to get a lot out of reading and discussing the speech before watching a part of it. 

Afterwards, we discussed what it might have felt like to be there, and what kind of hope Dr. King instilled in people from his powerful words. Students were then asked to write a letter to Dr. King as if he were still alive. They could thank him for something he did, or tell him something they think he would like to know. 

I took one line from each of their letters to create one big, classroom letter. We will present this at the MLK Day presentation before the school heads downtown to the parade.

09 10