Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Day of School!

Today was another great first day of school! The students came in feeling excited and a little nervous, but they quickly settled in. Below are some of the activities we did throughout the day!

Locker Name Tags - Students made name tags to hang from their lockers. In each corner of the name tag, they were to write, draw, or describe with a symbol 1) someone who taught them something 2) a time when they spent 3 wonderful days 3) something they love to do 4) a favorite place
After school, I laminated the name tags and hung them from each student's locker. 

My Life in Numbers - Students were to come up with eight interesting facts about themselves that can be described in numbers. When students shared, the class was allowed to ask 2 follow-up questions to get to know the presenter even better! This was a great conversation starter!

Lunch Challenge: We eat lunch in our classroom and right now, I have students assigned where to sit (with their table groups) during lunch. Each day I will give them a Lunch Challenge in an effort to help break the ice and get to know each other better (This is from Teaching Children to Care, by Ruth Charney). Today, students needed to find 10 things that they all have in common. I had to add that not everyone would have in common because one group's list had things such as "We all breathe." 

Reflection: I LOVE asking students about their thoughts on the first day of school. I posted this prompt on the board and each of them responded in their personal journals. (Personal Journals a special back and forth communication I have with the kids through writing)

Some of my favorite things I read:
"Today was the best first day of anything, especially school! I have a framed Great Owl picture hanging in my room to remind me of our class."
"The whole day was a surprise! The interior design was welcoming and not very distracting. And the room looked like an open book."
"I love that we have a certain amount of time to write instead of a certain amount to be written."

What did you do on your first day back?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's a New School Year, so What's New?

Another year at the best school I have ever worked at - I am so excited!! I have my room set up and ready for the fifth graders to come in with curiosity, excitement, trepidation, and joy. I kept the same "welcome packet" as last year (WELCOME card, owl pencil, Personal Journal, and the cute snack). I am sticking with the owl theme as I should because fifth grade is known as The Great Horned Owls at our school.

Social Studies
This first unit of study is all about building our classroom community, recognizing and choosing kindness, peace, and equality as well as teaching students how to become advocates for themselves and others. Last year, I focused on this within the social curriculum and Readers' Workshop. 

This year, I am adding in a Social Studies unit of World Religions. I think this fits in perfectly as we are learning about doing the right thing and becoming better versions of ourselves. Teaching about religions allows me to dig deep into the reasons WHY people might do what is right and hopefully my students will start to think about why they choose to be good people. I am hoping to compare and contrast each of the five major religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). I don't have the entire unit planned out just yet, but I am going to start with two questions: What is religion? & How to all five religions compare similarly to each other?

I found these awesome resources to utilize within the classroom and for my planning.

Guided Reading
I start the year with small Guided Reading groups as a way to informally asses the students' reading abilities, levels, comfort level with reading, and general skills with discussing literature. Over the summer, students read Jerry Spinelli's autobiography and took notes on important events and important places in his life. While reading Maniac Magee and Loser, I will have the students notice how his life has influenced and inspired his fictional stories. Consequently and perfect, both of these books also tie into the theme of kindness, equality and peace. So it is really nice to see students make those connections as well.
Last year, I had students practice the six basic comprehension skills and mostly within a note-taking style. This year, I am using an Interactive Reading Notebook. This will be more of a hands-on approach to demonstrating their understanding and will go along nicely with the things I did last year. 

What are you changing this school year?
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