Monday, March 23, 2015

Publishing Hardcover Books with 5th Graders!

I love this part of the third unit (Civil Rights)! Throughout it, I've been teaching about WWII and segregation. While teaching WWII, I focused mostly on Japanese Americans on our west coast and their horrible and unfair treatment during that time. It relates very much to how African Americans were treated during the times of segregation.

As part of their demonstration of understanding, students were assigned to write historical fiction picture books. We studied the elements and characteristics of MANY historical fiction picture books; mostly discussing and identifying the fictional elements and the historical facts. Students became very familiar with this structure of writing in order to be prepared to write their own book! The only restriction I put on them was that they needed to choose between the two time periods: Segregation and WWII. This year, every student chose WWII!

To celebrate all of their hard work (it took them over a month to complete!), I ordered chipboard and turned their stories into real hardcover books! We are sharing their stories with the fourth graders and the sixth graders! I am so proud of them!! It was amazing to see how accurate and precise they were with facts and fictional elements. They worked together to discuss ideas and fact-checked each other's work. This feels like one of the most successful writing units I've had! I am so proud of them!

Students chose to either bring in fabric or use construction paper to cover the chipboard. I used painter's tape for the bind. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Buddies in 5th Grade

Reader's Workshop with my class has been structured pretty much the same everyday since we started small group Literature Circles. I tend to start Reading with a lesson that pertains to the theme, topic or book the students are reading. For example, right now students are reading My Thirteenth Winter by Samantha Abeel. This is a memoir about a girl who struggled with a math learning disability her entire life. The other day, I read The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco which is a picture book about the author's struggles with school and specifically her experience in a special education classroom. (A book that I absolutely love to read to children and makes me tear up every time I read it). While I read the picture book to students, we discussed how the characters from both the books were similar and different. Afterwards, students met with their Literature Circles, discussed their homework and then independently answered comprehension questions. Sometimes my reading lessons will include an activity, hands-on project or simply a discussion. My main objective is to give students a well-rounded education on the main topic of the quarter, so having them work with a bunch of different types of activities seems to be how I make that happen.

*To learn more about how I typically run Literature Circles, click here

This week, I added in a new element that I thought would be fun and my students loved it! I call it Book Buddies. This is where students each have a journal, and in it, they write a letter to their Book Buddy about what they read the night before. I save this activity for when something really amazing, sad, scary or surprising happens in the story. That way, students will typically have a lot to write about. After the initial letter is written, students switch journals and write a letter back to their buddy. 

I set them up for success by first discussing what they could write about. On the board, I wrote:

Steps for Writing to Your Book Buddy

1. Find a section in what you read last night that really struck you. What made you angry? What made you confused? What made you sad? (These are all reactions that I knew they would have while reading the assigned chapters the night before. I make these questions based on what they read.)

2. Reread that section and think about: 

a. Do you agree with the characters' actions? Why or why not?
b. What don't you understand or what do you want to know?
c. What predictions to do you have?

3. Write a quick summary of the section you are writing about and then respond using prompts from #2. 

After I reviewed the steps, students felt really excited about the section they were going to write about and spent a good 15 minutes writing. Afterwards, they switched and read each other's letters and then responded.

This was really successful in my classroom! I hope you are able to use this in yours as well! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hands-On with Rectangular Prisms!

Today, I wanted students to get a "real feel" for the volume of rectangular prisms. We learned the formula yesterday and I felt as if they understood how to complete the formula, but I wasn't convinced that they were convinced that there really were 36 cubic centimeters in the rectangular prism they calculated on paper ;)

Whenever possible, I like to bring in some hands-on activities so that students can grasp a concept and truly see how a formula, fractions, etc work. I find that in math it is very easy to do!

Materials Needed: 

  • cardstock or construction paper
  • marshmallows (sugar cubes work best, but no one sells them anymore!)
  • glue
I first modeled EXACTLY what I wanted students to do with the materials. I have the luxury of a document camera, but you can also gather them on the floor/carpet to demonstrate. I made sure they set up the paper with both equations (V=B*h & V=l*w*h) and told them that they could decide whether to use a certain amount of marshmallows or build and then count as they built. The idea is to have them see that the total can really be found by using the formula, so they need to know what the total is before they complete the formulas. I built my rectangular prism using 18 marshmallows and we labeled the base and the height together and filled in the formula as a class. 

Next, I let students go to town on building their rectangular prism models. Some chose to make two models, others chose to make irregular prisms. This is a great activity that allows for differentiation and for me to see exactly what level each child is understanding this concept.