Tuesday, December 15, 2015

3rd Annual "State" Fair

I am proud to say that my students ROCKED the "State" Fair today! This presentation was a culmination of the work they completed throughout the second unit of study. During this unit, I taught students how to do research on a U.S. state of their choice as well as how to complete an experiment using the Scientific Method. In math, I taught about graphs and data. Throughout Reading, students were challenged to think critically about how someone's environment effects their lifestyle. 

In school, students worked to complete their Research Paper. We used the Steps to Research and followed a unit I wrote which teaches how to write a 5-paragraph research essay. For the Science Experiment, I set students up for success at home by creating a syllabus to follow. I mapped out the tasks that needed to be completed over a month's time in order to have their project ready for today. I also modeled following the syllabus and completed each task in the classroom with my own science experiment.

Today, we set up my classroom as an exhibit of all of their projects. At each of their "stations", students had their tri-fold board to show their experiment and their research paper. Guests were invited to walk around and speak with students about their projects and talk about what they learned. 

Getting feedback from staff about how well my students did today was amazing! One teacher thought that I had told the kids to talk about the data they collected and their graphs, but I had not! I definitely spent a lot of time teaching about data - how to collect it, which graph would be best to use and how to actually make each type of graph, but I hadn't told students what part of their experiment to focus on during their discussions with guests. I was so proud to hear that they were able to speak intelligently (and by choice!) about their data from their experiment (among other things)! I was also super proud of the research they did while completing their experiment. One of my students was telling me about how Newtons 2nd Law was the reason her hypothesis was proven wrong! That was so inspiring! 

Every year, this is a lot of work, but totally worth it! I am so happy to be ending our first half of the school year on this note! The kids are proud of themselves. They feel accomplished in knowing that they completed a long-term project on their own and a big project at school. Students are much more knowledgeable on a certain U.S. state, they definitely know how to complete an experiment and they published a research paper complete with text features and a self-designed cover. What more could a teacher ask for three days before a long winter break!?

Each Project

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Integrating Math, Writing, Reading, Science and Social Studies!

Things are starting to come together now! During this unit, I am teaching students so many things!! Every time I try to talk about this unit, I end up a blundering mess because I have so much I want to say. To make a long story short though, this unit I taught students how to complete research while also teaching them about Alaska. I was able to incorporate all subjects and especially proud of myself this year because I included math in there as well!

Here is the outline of the objectives in each subject:

Reading: How to read nonfiction text, specifically Informational Books

Writing: How to complete research and write a Research Paper

Science: How to use the Scientific Method, beginning with how to create a question that can be answered with an experiment

Social Studies: Answer the question, how does the environment influence ones way of life

Math: How to organize data using various graphs

Everything is coming together so well! Part one of two was completed today - Students finished their Research Papers!

Here is a small look into how it was done.

Completing the research by asking questions....

Then organizing the questions into categories.....

Then answering each question.

Students then decided on which category had a substantial amount of information to create into body paragraphs for their research paper

Next, students created Pie Chart to show the population of their state

This was great because I was able to teach about how to find percentage, how to read Pie Charts and then how to make a Pie Chart 

Finally, students were able to put everything together! Some created more text features including side bars, pictures with captions and maps!

Next up! The BIG DAY! Next Tuesday, students will present their research papers and science experiments at our "State" Fair. A really awesome ending to a very FUN quarter! Stay tuned!

If you are interested in replicating this project in any way, you can purchase these ideas and more at my Teacher Store!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dollar Difference Activity

I am always looking for more ways to integrate kindness, caring and love into my curriculum. Now that the first quarter (where this is the main focus) is over, I have been on the lookout for what awesome things other teachers are doing.

Last week, I saw a post by a friend on Facebook. Students were given a dollar and asked to go out and make a difference. I was so excited by this idea and just had to do it!

The following Monday, I presented this idea to my students. They were giddy with excitement at all the possibilities. Today, they reported back what they had done. Below is a video we made to help spread the word and hope that others will also join in on Making a Difference with a Dollar.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mock Caldecott in my Classroom

This year, I am doing  Mock Caldecott with my 5th graders. It is the first time I am doing this and it is something my Head of School suggested to me. I am so glad that she did! This has been so much fun and we only just got started!

The objective of this long-term project is to have students decide, as a class, which newly published book should be awarded the Caldecott Award. It is great because students get to really investigate and analyze picture book illustrations while following a certain criteria that the Caldecott judges use when they decide on a winner.

To start out, I told my students what we were doing and shared with them a website called Calling Caldecott. This is a website where people are discussing books and determining which books they think should win and why. It is a really great resource and we keep referring back to it. I emailed this link to students and for homework, they were to reply to me with three books they think should be in the running.

The next day, I made a list of seven books that we are going to study and eventually choose one winner from. It turns out that the students all seemed to pick similar books. There were only 1 or 2 books that didn't make our list of seven. Unfortunately, I must keep our seven nominations confidential, so I cannot share that list with you here.

After we made the list of seven and put it on a big piece of chart paper, we looked at past winners. I had a few in my classroom library and found others in the public library. The librarian was able to give me a pamphlet with the list of winners from 1938-2011!

We read the article, "Can We Get These Folks a Sticker, Please?" and discussed exactly why illustrators like Eric Carle, Tomie DePaola and Dr. Suess never won a Caldecott. It helped us to determine our first set of criteria: The illustrations must be original and unique. Because those illustrators mentioned have their own style, all of their illustrations essentially look the same and therefore, do not qualify as "unique" and "original". Isn't that interesting?! It was a really great discussion!

My plan for the next lesson is to look at the range of winners, from earlier years to more recent, and discuss the changes in time and how that might influence who wins. I will ask questions like, "What do you think impressed people in 1942 when Make Way for Ducklings was awarded?" "Why would that not impress people now, in 2015?" "What advantages do illustrators have now as opposed to those who were illustrating books in the 1950's?" "Do you think it would be more of a challenge to win the 2015 Caldecott or the 1938 Caldecott and why? 

Next, we will look at our nominations and decide who we think is most unique. I plan on making a chart that lists the books and then the criteria we are judging them on. I will make a check mark for each and then that will help us when we have to decide on one. We will be using a 4 point scale and the criteria is: Technique is original and unique, Pictorial interpretation of the story, theme or concept, Appropriate style to the story, Illustrations help set the mood and tone & Excellence in appealing to child audience. 

Another aspect of this is read aloud and Guest Readers - which I absolutely LOVE! We will be reading each of these books to help bring the illustrations to life. My Head of School will be a guest reader as well as some parents. I might even have their 4th grade teacher come in as well!

There is so much you can do with this project! I hope you will consider doing this in your classroom. 

Caldecott Winner for 2015 will be announced on February 2, 2016 at the McCormick Place in Chicago. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Halloween Math Activities!

October 2nd, I broke out the Halloween decorations in my classroom. Today, I decided it was time for the Halloween Math Activities that I created. Some ideas were borrowed from the AWESOME 5th grade teacher, Shelly Rees at Appletastic: Blossoming in 5th Grade and others I created myself.

This is my third year teaching math with Everyday Math and it's also the third year that, as a whole, my class did not do well on the Unit 2 assessment. It is the unit that teaches a bunch of different strategies for addition, subtraction and multiplication. It was even hard for me to keep up with each strategy during my first year! So, I decided that this year, when we review the concepts it would be with some Spooky Halloween Math Games!

Eyeball Bonanza!
This game requires students to practice 2 and 3-digit multiplication. A group member picks an eyeball with a math fact on it. The group completes the problem and the student who picked the eyeball can place it in the hole of the correct answer! They LOVED the idea of playing with eyeballs!

Tricks & Treats and The Dead Man's Saloon
I found the amazing boxes that hold the task cards at the Dollar Tree. In fact, I found all of these Halloween materials there! This activity practices a variety of Math Word Problems using task cards that have fun names and silly scenarios written on them. The kids told me afterwards that it was so much fun to read the story and then do the math that went along with it. Score!

Pumpkin Patch Sorting
This game also practices multiplying with 2 and 3-digit numbers. Students spread out the pumpkins with the products on them and make a pile with the pumpkins that have math facts on them. One group member chooses a math fact, the group answers it separately in their notebook and then if the person who chose the pumpkin gets the correct answer, they make a pair with the product and the math fact. Students said they liked how they were trying to collect as many pumpkins as they could!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Finishing up Wonder, by RJ Palacio

Today we finished reading Wonder, by RJ Palacio. Not surprising, I'm sure, when I tell you this is one of my favorite books to read to kids. We had an amazing time reading it and connecting with a class in Chicago through Edmodo and sharing our thoughts, questions and concerns about the book.

One of the culminating projects I did with kids today was create a CHOOSE KIND sign to keep up in our classroom for years to come!

To create the sign, I printed out each letter on cardstock paper. I paired students together and had each pair design a different letter. They were asked to find a synonym of the word 'kind' that started with the letter they were given. Here is what they came up with:

C - Caring
H - Honesty
O - Optimistic
O - Open-Handed
S - Sympathetic
E - Empathy

K - Kind-Hearted
I - Integrity
N - Nice
D - Decency

If you are interested in more resources for Wonder, please click on the link below!

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