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Thursday, January 29, 2015

This Made My Day!

I recently received a b-day card from one of my students that absolutly made my day.

I'm a  Math Superhero!

How awesome is it that this 10 year old spent their time making me a card, and said I was their hero!  

My students know I love math, I am always giving them math puzzles and riddles.
So I especially love the math facts that are shooting like lightning bolts out of my hands!

I think I have an idea for next years Halloween costume......

Friday, January 23, 2015

American Revolution- Student Engagement and Note-Taking

Right now in social studies I am teaching about the many events that led up to the American Revolution.  In previous years my class has always loved learning American History, but this year....not so much. I had to do something extra to get them hooked.

As an introduction, and to grab the kids attention, I asked them to brainstorm things their parents have asked them to do.  They responded with typical things like "be quiet", "clean your room", "eat your vegetables"... We talked  about why parents give directions, and they all agreed that parents are trying to help their kids, teach them important lessons, show them the right way to do things. We talked about how as kids get older and show they are responsible parents usually give them more freedom.  I compared this to the colonists and Britain.

Ok...now they are getting interested.  My next scenario asked them how they would feel if they were 20 or 25, had a job, and living on their own and their parents were giving them the same directions.  This got a major response!  The kids were outraged by this fictional scenario and even the thought of it happening to them.

Perfect!  I got them hooked!

I moved into the content covering the French and Indian War, the Proclamation of 1763, the stamp act, the quartering act, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and the Intolerable/Coercive Acts.  I kept relating the events to the kids lives and made connections between the colonists wanting freedom and not needing/wanting Britain's rule and guidance anymore.  I think this series of lessons finally got them interested in learning more about history!

As I planned this series of lessons I realized that this was a perfect example of cause and effect, and also a great opportunity to teach my kids some note-taking skills.
I created this cause and effect note-taking sheet for the kids and it really helped my class organize their learning and make connections between the events and the growing frustration of the colonists.

You can download a copy of this note-taking sheet by clicking the link above.

How do you get your kids excited to learn about history?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Non-Fiction Reading

Last week I started a new unit on reading non-fiction. My students love listening to me read nonfiction to them, but I rarely see them pick up a nonfiction book and read it themselves.

I am hoping that  exposing them to many different topics and types of nonfiction will pique their interest and encourage them to pick up a nonfiction book.

We started by charting the characteristics of both fiction and nonfiction.  At first they were kind of stuck on real/non real, so it took a bit of prompting to get them to think beyond that.  Once they got going they were able to come up with many characteristics.

The following day we brainstormed different forms of non-fiction texts.  Again, they got stuck on the basics, and kept naming different types of books (a book about whales, a book about Texas....) .  It took some prompting to get them to realize that nonfiction writing is found in so many things we see everyday, not just books.  

We made this chart listing different types of nonfiction texts, and I added some visuals so they could see examples of the different items we brainstormed.

My class is now more excited to read nonfiction, after seeing all the different types of nonfiction there is.

Next we will be talking about nonfiction text features and then moving into main idea and details.

Do you have any favorite resources for teaching nonfiction reading?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Scoop

Today I am linking up with Teaching Trio for their "Sunday Scoop".

Here is the scoop on my week:
Laundry- does it ever end?  As soon as I think I have it all done another basket full magical appears.  

Greek and Latin-  I created a Greek and Latin spelling and vocabulary program to use with my 5th graders and this week I am going to give them a review quiz.  Which I haven't created yet.....  The quiz will cover the last 5 weeks of word roots and spelling/vocab words.  I have really seen awesome improvement in my kids abilities to figure out word meanings using word roots since I started focusing on Greek and Latin roots.  If you care interested, you can check out all of my Greek and Latin materials in my TpT shop.

Vacuum-  with a dog and a cat vacuuming is constant.  Add on top of that the fact that my dog loves to play with this puzzle toy filled with treats, that he crushes into little bits (all over the carpet) and I am really in need of a good vacuuming today!

I am reading the book Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim.  It is about a journalist who joins a group of missionaries to teach at a university in North Korea.  Getting an inside glimpse of North Korea and part of its education system is eerie.

Orange is the New Black- Just started season 1 this week and I am almost done. I love finding new shows I have not seen and binge watching them on DVD.

Who doesn't love a 3 day weekend!?!?  We have school off tomorrow so I am happy to have an extra day to relax!

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

15 Favorite Read Aloud Books for 5th Grade

There are so many great books available, how do you decide which ones to use as your class read aloud books?  Here is a list of 15 of my favorite read aloud books that my class has loved!

1. 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson-  This book brings together a little fantasy, some mystery and just the right amount of spookiness. Henry discovers a wall full of odd cupboards hidden behind the plaster in his bedroom.  As he uncovers them he discovers hidden worlds, good and bad, and meets many interesting characters, good and bad, along the way.  Everything is fine until his cousin Henrietta goes missing.

2. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis- this is a wonderful piece of historical/current event fiction.  11 year old Parvana is a girl living in Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban.  To help her family survive, and do things as basic as going to the market to buy food, she has to dress like a boy so she is allowed out on the streets without an escort.  The kids really love this book and are surprised and furious about how Parvana has to live her day to day life.

3. The Candymakers by Wendy Maas- this is a fun book told from four different perspectives.  Four children gather together to prepare for a candymaking competition and they all have their secrets.  An important candy secret is stolen and bit by bit each of the four characters reveal a little more about themselves.  I like how this book tells the story from four perspectives.  It shows how different people experience and perceive the same situation differently.

4. The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull- a fantasy/suspense book that follows four kids as they discover the good and bad sides of local candy and ice cream makers.  Magic candy, and a little danger draw the kids into this story.  There is now a second book “The Candy Shop War-  Arcade Catastrophe” that your kids will want to read once you finish!

5. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson- LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book for historical fiction when we are studying the American Revolution.  The book follows Isabel who thought she was about to get freedom only to be sold off to a horrible family.  My kiddos beg me to keep reading every day!  I especially like that each chapter starts with a snippet from a primary source from that time period that somehow connects to the events in the chapter.  It is a fun way for kids to hear pieces of real letters and documents from that time. Continue Isabels story in the book Forge.

6. Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher- The teacher is sick, the sub is sick, and no one knows there is no teacher in the 6th grade classroom.  The book rotates being told from several classmates perspectives and includes a well rounded group of students (characters) that the kids in your class will be able to connect with. 

7. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Maas- When Jeremy’s dad died he left a box for him to open on his 13th birthday.  But…they keys have been lost.  Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy go on an adventure around town trying to find the missing keys and learning a lot about life in the process.

8. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper- great book for students to see life through the eyes of a student with a disability, but also many abilities that they have not noticed because they only see she is a wheelchair and cannot talk.  Melody is the main character whose story teaches kids to have empathy for others and to not judge people based on what you see. The boys and giirls enjoyed this book.

9. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart- this is a long book, but it doesn’t seem long as you read it.  4 intelligent kids are sent on an adventure that takes all of their personal strengths to complete. 

10. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster classic fantasy book that encourages kids to see the fun in life and that you can make your own adventure in life.

11. Rules by Cynthia Lord- this is another book that helps students see life through the eyes of a family that includes 12 year old Catherine and her younger brother David who has autism.

12. Skinnybones by Barbara Park-  I love to read this at the beginning of the year.  This is a short book packed with humor and relatable characters. 

13. Stolen Children by Peg Kehret-  If your class is in the mood for a book with suspense and a little fear, they will enjoy this book.  Babysitter Amy, and 3 year old Kendra are kidnapped and brought to a cabin in the woods.  This book does a good job of portraying the kidnapping without being too scary. 

14. A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup- SO funny!  This book includes so many memorable characters and such a fantastic story line your class will not want you to stop reading.  There are 2 or 3 books that continue the adventures of the Cheeseman family that your students are sure to be eager to read.

15. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle- another classis book that is always a favorite with the kids.  Has a strong female protagonist in Meg and is part of a five book series.

What are your favorite read aloud books?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Informational Text Online Resources

This week I started a unit on non-fiction (informational) reading and writing. 

I was searching for articles for my students to read and came across some great (free) online resources that I wanted to share!

This site is a jackpot of wonderful articles on a wide variety of topics.  I especially love that this site allows you to change the Lexile level of the article so you are able to differentiate for students at different reading levels.  I like that I can have all kids working on the same topic/article together and am also able to adjust the reading level to challenge all my kiddos!

Time for Kids always has great, current, informational articles.  The categories of news articles on TFK are similar to those found in a newspaper:  world, nation, science, entertainment, health...)

this is a great site to find articles about historical events.  Many of the articles that I have found/used include quotes or excerpts from primary sources, which the kids love!  They also have a "Photo of the Week" that I like to use when analyzing historical images.  Sometimes I just show the image and have the kids look for clues in the picture to try to determine when/where the photo was taken and what is taking place in the photo.

Readworks has a collection of articles on many topics.  You will need to sign up for a free account to access the articles.  I like that you can search by topic and then narrow your search by grade level, Lexile level, text type and skill or strategy if needed.

You will need to sign up for a free account, but once you do this site has a lot of great resources.  Once signed up you can assign articles for students to read online or you can print materials out.  What I really like is that there is a vocabulary section for each article and a set of comprehension questions.  I have only explored this site a bit, so I am sure there are many great features I haven't even discovered yet.

I hope you find these resources to be useful when teaching informational text in your classroom.

Do you have any other online resources to share?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Scoop

Today I am linking up with the Teaching Trio for their weekly Sunday Scoop!

Here is the scoop on my week:

I have an observation this week, so I have to finish planning my lesson and typing up answers to the many reflection questions that go along with the observation.  I am excited for the activity/lesson I will be doing.  The kids will be creating an Angle City where they have to draw a city map and include a variety of different angles and place buildings at specific angle locations.  It should be fun!

I am starting to focus non-fiction reading tomorrow, and I don't really have any specific plans yet....  I have some great articles for the kids to read, but I need to plan out exactly what I am going to do with each article.

Over winter break I got the first season DVD set of Orange is the New Black.  I keep running out of time to watch it!  I hope to watch the first episode tonight!

I love to cook, but sometimes find it so much easier to just grab a bowl of cereal, especially after a long day at school.  I hope that this week I can actually take the time to make some real meals.

I am happy that it was nice outside today (a whopping 11 degrees, but nice compared to the -15 it has been!).  I was able to get outside and play with my dog a lot today.  He loves to get outside and run around and play in the snow.  

Have a great week!

20 Book Reading Challenge

Winter break is over.
We are in the middle of a cold spell.
It has been cloudy almost every day.

My kids need some MOTIVATION!

I altered an idea I found in the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  She has a plan where she requires her students to read a certain number of books, and a certain number of each genre.

I thought about my class, and the fact that the year is half over, and I came up with....

Each student is challenged to read 20 book between now and the end of the year.  Within that 20, they need to read 2 historical fiction, 2 fantasy, 2 science fiction, 2 realistic fiction, 2 mystery, 
2 biography/autobiography and 8 additional books of their choice.

Let me tell you, there is nothing like giving kids a challenge to get them pumped up about doing something.  

My class immediatly started asking questions:
"When can we start?"
"Can I read....?"
"Can I read more than 20 books?"

To add to the excitement, I announced that everyone who completes the challenge will be invited to my reading pizza party at the end of the year.  Whoa!  A challenge + a pizza reward = motivated kiddos!

If you would like to try this challenge in your classroom, head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers shop to download a free copy of the book recording sheet with all the requirements.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What Do the Kids Say- Volume 1

Anyone who works with kids, of any age, knows that they can say the most interesting and humorous things!  I like to keep a little notebook in my desk where I can write down the cute/silly snippets of conversations I overhear or comments my students make.

Here are some of the most memorable remarks I have heard recently- What Do the Kids Say- Volume 1

Boy 1-  "Wouldn't it be funny if you were bald and you went to get a haircut?"
Boy 2-  "It would be even funnier if you were bald, but had a beard and asked for a haircut- would they cut your beard?"

During a project where kids were using Mr. Sketch markers I overheard this gem as one of my boys was doodling with multiple colors at once:
     "You could use these if you were going on your first date and you didn't have any deodorant.  Just      take a bunch of different colors and color your armpits with them.  Then you wouldn't stink on your date."

During morning meeting sharing:
     Boy:  "I just realized I have been wearing the same clothes for over 24 hours"
     Me:  "did you sleep in your clothes or something?"
     Boy:  "Yep, and I didn't even change my underwear".
     Me:  "hmmmm"

"If you smelled me after a whole weekend, you would probably die"

At this point of the year the hormones are starting to appear in 5th grade.  During snack break I overheard four of my boys chatting about girls....
     Boy #1 "Have you ever kissed a girl?"
     Boy #2 "yeah"
     Boy #1- "No, I mean a real girl, not a girl like your mom or your dog."
     Boy #2 "Well....then no"

Our yearbook committee recently gave all the kids in the school a survey to use as part of the yearbook.
One question was "What is your favorite mode of transportation?"  Answers included:
     a pegasus
     a zombie dragon
     a teleporter
     a phoenix
Another question was "What is one important lesson you have learned at school?"  My favorite answer?
     I learned that they will never be a zombie apocalypse.

There you have it folks- What Do the Kids Say- Volume 1.
I hope you enjoyed reading these tidbits as much as I enjoyed hearing them!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Math Challenge- Four Fours

My kids LOVE a good math challenge, and this one is always a hit! Four Fours!

Four Fours requires the students to create an equation for each number, 0-30, by using the digit 4 four times.  (4, 4, 4, 4)  (yes, they need to use all four of the fours in each equation- they will ask!)

For example:

0 = 4 + 4 - 4 - 4

Some of the numbers are easier to solve than others, but others are quite tricky.  My students enjoy the friendly competition with their classmates to see who can discover an equation for the different numbers.

If you are interested in doing this activity with your class, you can get a free copy of the Four Fours recording sheet in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop!



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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Math on Monday

It is back to school tomorrow after a nice two week winter break!  It was great to have the time off, lots of relaxing, sleeping in, reading, and down time.

I am excited to start a new math unit on angles.  I teach a group of gifted math learners, so even though I am teaching 5th graders we are often working on math topics/skills at the 6th-8th grade level.

I created this Power Point presentation to review the parts of an angle, how to label angles and the different. types of angles.

After the review,  the slides move into some new material like complementary and supplementary angles, angles formed when parallel lines are cut by a transversal, and angles around a point.

The kids will be learning how to use geometric reasoning to figure out angle measures using what they know about the properties of different types of angles and putting the pieces together to figure out the unknown.  Some of these problems can get quite challenging, involving multiple steps, which is great for deeper thinking and encouraging perseverance!

I am also working on putting together some exit slips to use at the end of class to quickly assess what the kids know and what we need more review and practice with.

I have the angles slides in my Teachers Pay Teachers store if you are interested in using them with your class too!

Friday, January 2, 2015

What I am Reading

One thing I love about winter break is the free time I have to read, read, read!
Here is what I am reading right now:

2nd Chance by James Patterson - My hairstylist recommended this series the last time I saw her, so I downloaded the first book onto my Nook to check it out.  This is a series of crime/mystery books that take place in San Francisco and the lead characters are four female friends who come together to create the Women's Murder Club where they work together to solve crimes.  I was hesitant at first, but so far I like the series.  It is an easy read, short chapters, the plot keeps moving and holds my interest.

Without You There Is No Us by Suki Kim - This is a memoir written by a journalist who temporarily taught at a North Korean university.  This book is VERY interesting,  I find everything about North Korea to be mind boggling.  It is hard to imagine day to day life in that environment.  As a teacher it is also interesting to see North Koreas education system (university) and how vastly different it is from what I experienced.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson -  I am not currently reading this, but I have read it three times in the past and it is going to be my read aloud when school starts up after winter break.  This book is amazing, and if you teach American History it is a great story that will have your students begging you to read more!  It follows the story of Isabel, a slave who was promised freedom, but it doesn't happen.  You get to see her day to day life, struggles, thoughts...as she lives through the Revolutionary War time period.  There is a second book- Forge- that contuse that story.

What are you reading right now?  Do you have any suggestions to add to my personal or school book list?

Hello Project

My class loves to do projects, and the time right before winter break is a great time to get crafty!

One project that I love, and that is always a hit with the kids, is my tinfoil/Sharpie art project.  It is really easy and only requires card stock, tinfoil, yarn, glue and Sharpies.

First I have the kids draw a design on their card stock.  I show them some examples and let them know they can make a random design, a holiday themed design, or a design showing something they like.

Once they have finished drawing the design, they go over the pencil lines with glue, and cover the glue lines with yarn.

Once the glue has dried ( let them sit a few hours, or even overnight) I have them cover the design with tinfoil and wrap the foil around to the back of the card stock.  I have them tape down the edges to hold the tinfoil in place.  Next, they use their palm/hand/fingers to smooth the tinfoil over the years design and will see their design pop up in the tinfoil.

Now for the fun part- coloring with Sharpies!  I stocked up on colorful Sharpies by using 40% and 50% off coupons to Michaels and Joann Fabric.  I don't know what it is about Sharpies, but kids LOVE them!

Here are some examples of a work in progress and a finished project.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hello Thankful

I posted this "I am thankful for..." prompt on our class whiteboard recently, and had the kids add something to it as they arrived for the day.  I was so impressed to see the things the kids wrote.  They asked "Can I write more than one thing?" uh....YES!  As you can see, they are thankful for everything from bacon to no segregation!

Hello Greek and Latin Roots

 Spelling has always been a frustrating subject for me, as so little of it seemed to transfer over into writing and oftentimes the spelling list was a random hodgepodge of unrelated words.

So, last year I began teaching my spelling and vocabulary through Greek and Latin roots.  My students were so excited to learn "Greek and Latin", I think it made them feel very mature and studious!

I created differentiated word lists for each week of study.  Each week focuses of 2-3  related roots (for example- uni, mono, bi, du).  There are two list of 10 words, a basic list and a challenge list.  Both lists use the same roots, but the challenge list increases the spelling difficulty and uses words that will challenge students to learn more difficult vocabulary.  I introduce the roots and words on Mondays and I let the kids choose between the basic list and the challenge list.  I was worried that the kids would take the easy route and always choose the basic list, but they surprised me and most kids chose the challenge list.

I love teaching spelling and vocabulary now because I have seen a real transfer of knowledge from the Greek and Latin roots to the students spelling and figuring out meanings of unknown words.  I love it when I hear a kid say "Well, I know mal means bad, so the word must mean ....".

If you are interested in learning more about the resources I created to teach Greek and Latin roots in my classroom, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers shop.