Saturday, September 27, 2014

Halloween Decorations Up in the Classroom!

I absolutely love Halloween! Last year, was my first year at my new school and I spent A LOT of time on building the curriculum, gathering materials and writing and preparing lessons. This year, I get to put my energy towards more fun stuff! I.e. HALLOWEEN! I just love the different things I found and all from Dollar Tree! Go there now before everything is gone if you are planning on doing this to your classroom :)

I love fake spider webs!

 Spooky teacher's desk!

 I already had the student tables decorated. This is the before.

This is the after! Spooky stuff! I got the Halloween erasers at the dollar store as well! The spider web was being sold as a wall decoration, but I think they look great on the tables!

 Classroom Library with skeleton, pumpkin and giant spider!

Love this! "Be Afraid. Be VERY Afraid!" hehe

 I got the lanterns that are hanging from the ceiling. They take batteries and glow, but I didn't put batteries in (yet). 

 Door mat and some window clings for our front door. I also put some window clings on the classroom windows!

 The front of the room.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Teaching How to Resist Negative Peer Pressure

This week's social curriculum objective is Resisting Negative Peer Pressure. It's not something I taught last year, but when I saw it in my resource book (More Tools for Teaching Social Skills in School), I thought it was really important to include because so many kids don't necessarily understand what peer pressure is completely or can always recognize it.

I started the lesson out by sharing a video I found on YouTube. It is a narrative explaining to students the different types of peer pressure that they might find themselves experiencing. The link to the video is here. Afterwards, I asked students: What did you notice about what peer pressure can look like? What surprised you? What did you not know before?

Next, I shared with them this anchor chart and explained that YES! Peer pressure can come in many forms! There is Spoken and Unspoken. After the overview of this anchor chart, students shared their own experiences with peer pressure that, at the time, they did not recognize as someone pressuring them to do something they did not want to do or someone having power over them. For example, one student in my class realized that he was being peer pressured to play only the games that his friend wants to play. He told us that he never gets to choose the game or if he does say what he wants to play, his friend doesn't agree to play that game. As a class, we helped this student come up with ideas as to what to do and say to his friend. We also talked about how confidence is key, whether you are "popular" or not, people will see your confidence and want to follow your example. I used an example from Wonder,  by RJ Palacio. The character Summer is very confident and people wanted to be her friend because she was always confident in her choices of choosing kind.

Put Down: Insulting or calling someone names to make him or her feel bad
Reasoning: Giving reasons to do something or saying why it is OK to do
Rejection: Telling someone you will not be their friend if they don't do what you want them to do 

The Huddle: A group stands together talking or laughing and leaving someone out
The Example: The "popular" kid does something, wears something, or purchases something to set the example and everyone else follows 
The Look: Giving a look to someone that tells them they are "so not cool" right now

After our discussion, I read The Juice Box Bully, by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy. While reading the book, I stopped and checked to see if students were recognizing the type of peer pressure the characters were demonstrating throughout the story. Earlier this month, we also read Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson and My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig. It was great to hear the connections students were making with these books as well during our discussion. Throughout the week and throughout the school year, I will keep coming back to the social skills I teach in Unit 1. I think it is extremely important to give children the "tools to survive" so that they can be successful in the classroom and outside of it.

Do you teach about Negative Peer Pressure? What resources do you use? 
You might be interested in also teaching How to Build a Classroom Community with the resources below

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to do an Author Study with Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli has always been my favorite author. I love the way his stories keep me interested and make me laugh out loud! I fell in love with his books when I was in fourth grade and read Maniac Magee. I remember when I lived with my grandmother, I would have her read me that book while I ate breakfast before school every morning. During my first year of teaching, I was co-teaching with another teacher and was assigned to work with a guided reading group. I was asked to teach the 6th and 7th graders, Stargirl. Another favorite and I was so excited to share my love for the story with the students.

For the past two years, I have started the fifth grade school year off with an author study of Jerry Spinelli. It works so well with my curriculum and is integrated into the social, reading and writing curricula.

Here's how to goes:

Over the Summer

During the summer, students are asked to read Knots in my Yo-Yo String which is Jerry Spinelli's autobiography, It discusses his trials and tribulations through boyhood and depicts very specific places and events that are important to his life. While students read, they made a T-chart of data. "Important Places" and Pg. Number and "Important Events" and Pg. Number. This is due at the beginning of the second week of school.

Reading Groups

I divide the class up into 4 groups, with two books: Loser and Maniac Magee. I chose these books because I focus on the first six weeks of school as time when we are building the fifth grade community and learning about kindness, equality, community, and peace. The themes throughout both of these books fits in well with our Unit 1.

While we are in Reading Groups, students discuss the story. Along side them are their notes from when they read Knots in my Yo-Yo String. We talk a lot about how Jerry uses his real life events and places in his fictional stories. We connect real people in his life with made-up characters in his books and Jerry's real interests with his characters' interests. It is so much fun to look for these connections while reading his books!

*Students are also putting together an Interactive Reading Notebook at this time, but I will explain how that will be used in Unit 2 in a future post :)*

Writers' Workshop

I am teaching students how to write a fictional narrative and use their life to influence their writing - just like Jerry does! It was so much fun the other week when I told my class about how I met Jerry a few times at book signings. He is from PA and I am, too! I shared a picture of myself with him (above) and even read an email he wrote to me with advice on writing! Students thought his advice was really helpful when they began writing their own stories.

*I created a unit plan that helps me guide my students through the writing process. It can be found in my teacher store by clicking on the picture below. 

Social Curriculum

In Loser, the main character is an outcast and definitely lives in his own little world. In Maniac Magee, the main character ends up on a side of town where he is the only white kid and doesn't realize this is a problem until he is faced with a conflict/challenge. Both of these books really lend themselves to discussions that tie into the social curriculum (kindness, equality, community and peace).

Have you ever done an Author Study in your classroom? How did it go? What author did you use?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The GOLDEN Rule & Personal Commitments

As part of using Responsive Classroom, I like to come up with a set of classroom rules that the students and I essentially create together. However, the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize that by fifth grade, students already know what the rules are for school (following them is a whole other story!). I wanted to empower my class with the idea that they are EXPERT students; they have been in school for more than half their lives and know what is expected as far as behavior. They could teach Kindergartners how to be students! Don't talk while someone else is talking. Treat your materials with care and respect. Walk in the classroom, don't run. And more!

So today, when I gathered their lists of rules they came up a couple of weeks ago, I lead our conversation with the idea that even though we know these rules and agree they don't need to be listed one by one in our classroom, we may still need a reminder somewhere in the room. But how could we consolidate the list? When continuing to discuss this question, it was decided that all of the rules really can fall under one rule, the GOLDEN rule!

I presented the beautiful, glittery-gold poster I made to my class (it's like I can read their minds!)\ They loved it!!

While agreeing that this rule should be followed by everyone, I told my students that I also want them to make a personal commitment to the rule. I am hoping that this idea will help hold them accountable for their actions.

I asked: What can you bring to the classroom in order to personally commit yourself to this rule? What is something that you are able to contribute that is unique to the rest of us? How can you commit yourself to this rule in a way that helps make our classroom function in an even more successful way? 

I shared with my students my example of a letter I wrote:

Here are examples of what some students wrote:

This student is making the commitment to help his classmates if I am busy helping others!

This student wants to advocate for her classmates if she sees them being treated unfairly!

This students wants to answer others' questions because she realized that already, her classmates often come to her for help!

I think this is a great way to start the year off right with rules. I am thinking about doing this every year! We shall see how it goes! How do you teach rules?