Thursday, April 28, 2016

End of School Year Activity that also Acts as a Student Gift!

Each year, I like to come up with a special something that students can take with them as a memory of 5th grade. I have done pictures on CDs, my picture with a special note, etc. But each of these activities were never something that the students necessarily took part in creating.

Last year, Scholastic offered an opportunity for teachers to create a collaborative class book with their students and the company would officially publish it with a hardback cover and all! Because that  year, I had a group of students that were such avid writers and LOVED books, I thought this was an excellent idea. Scholastic provides a free copy of the book to the teacher and the students have to purchase a copy if they would like one. Each one of my students ended up choosing to buy a copy. (If this were not the case, I would have bought them one on my own, but because of the culture of my school, I sort of knew they all would get their own). 

We decided that the topic of the book would be all about 5th grade. The plan became that I would read the book on the first day of school the following year as an introduction to 5th grade to my new students! It ended up being a really fantastic activity in a lot of different ways!

The Activity
Each student was given one page to illustrate and one page to write their story. Students chose something they might always remember from 5th grade (a field trip, project, etc) and some students chose to write about something that is special and unique to 5th grade (weekly newscasts, creating a magazine or the "State" Fair). The pages were collected and sent off to Scholastic (postage included) and within a couple of weeks, the books were sent back to us in hardback, published form! I couldn't wait until the last day of school to give them to the students, but we read it as a class on the last day and it was really touching!

I think this is a great end-of-school year activity because it allows the students to create something that is special and will last forever. The only drawback is that they have to pay for the book if they want it. In some schools, that isn't an issue, in others, that might not be ideal. However, even if you can't give students their own copy of the book, you (as the teacher) get a free copy whether students purchase them or not, so it could be a special book that stays in your room and the students have to visit you the following years if they want to read it - wink, wink.

If you are interested in doing this with your class, you can go to the website Scholastic Student Treasures for more information!

What kind of fun activities do you do with students as a "parting gift"?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Students Created BONES!!

To culminate the Skeletal System part of our unit, I simply assigned students to create a structure that depicted certain parts of the bone (hard bone, spongy bone and red & yellow marrow). I left it up to them to decide on what materials to use and how to label and describe each "job" of the layers. 

This was so much fun to see! Today, I had students place their bones on the tables and we did a quiet museum walk. I set my phone for 5 minutes and when the timer went off, we came back to the carpet and I told them all what a great job they did!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Maniac Magee Book Project!! Lots of FUN & LEARNING!

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is one of the best books I've ever taught my fifth graders. There are themes of friendship, family, racism, courage and love. At the beginning of the book, readers are introduced to Jeffery Magee, an orphan made to live with his aunt and uncle who hate each other. They fight about everything, even Jeffery! One day, Jeffery, also known as Maniac has had enough and runs away to the other side of town. The side where no one from his side goes. There, he is faced with many different challenges and adventures. 

Because of the way the book is written, setting and characters play a big part. This hands-on and engaging activity is brilliant because it asks students to think deeply about how setting is important to the story as well as the different characters whom Maniac meets along the way. 

When thinking about setting, students choose a place Maniac went to and describe why it is important to the story and how the story might change if that place didn't exist. 

When thinking about the characters in the story, students are asked to choose 3 important characters and tell their character traits and why he/she was important to the story and how he/she changed during the story. Finally, students draw how they visualized the characters while reading, 

There is a separate page dedicated to Maniac Magee and it is a character map that gets pasted on the side of the soda carrier. Students also label the soda carrier with the theme of the story, their rating of the story and a picture and explanation of their favorite part.

Teachers can decide whether this is an on-going activity that students complete while reading Maniac Magee or something that is done after students have finished reading the book. 

I would love to hear your feedback if you choose to use this activity in your classroom!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Keeping Students Engaged During the Last Month of School - It's Possible!!

Students are required to draw and create all of their text features. They are not to print any pictures, graphs, etc. from the internet. 

When I first started teaching, I was in a different school each year for about the first 5 years of my career. I never had a set curriculum and at this point every school year (April/May-ish), my task always was to think of a way to keep my students engaged until June.

This year, I am about to end my third year at the same school (yay!) and have found that my unit which teaches students how to write and create a magazine continues to keep them happy, excited, engaged and working to meet their goals! It also happens to be one of my favorite writing units to teach. It is my own little spin-off of Lucy Calkins mixed with some art and hands-on spacial and visual construction of a magazine. Doesn't that sound fun?!

Launching the Magazine

I save this unit for the end of the school year because students write an Informational, Editorial and Interview article. By this point, I have already taught them how to write an Informational and Editorial essay, so I am able to focus on teaching how to write an Interview article and also spend time on the actual construction of the magazine. They learn about advertisements, text features and entertainment type writing. 
Students first type their articles then cut around them to make it easier to place on the "layout pages".

Throughout the Unit

Throughout this unit, students are writing about a topic that interests them! They are able to choose whatever they want and each article is related to the topic. For example, I have a student making a magazine on dogs and she interviewed a vet, wrote about how to choose a dog and which kind of dog makes the best pet. Another student has a magazine all about Taylor Swift and since she couldn't get Ms. Swift to do an interview, she spoke with a friend who has been to many of her concerts, wrote an article about her life and constructed an editorial about why Taylor Swift is such a wonderful person and entertainer. This unit allows students to get creative and have fun with their writing! I absolutely love it!

End of the Unit

By the time we finish this unit, the school year will almost be over. I plan on having students share these magazines with the 4th graders in hopes of getting those kids excited about next school year! 

I purchase report covers and glossy paper to print the magazines. I think this makes them a little more special and fun for the kids! 
Students practice which text features make sense to use for their articles. 

They practice layout and the importance of visual aesthetics when determining where to place the written article and text features.

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More Fun End of the Year Activities!



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