Thursday, September 25, 2014

Extreme Learning: Classroom Tour

Another school year is upon us! and per usual, I am a bit behind in my blogging. 
One month down and my classroom still looks surprisingly nice *grin*

We started this year with an "Extreme Sports" theme focused on Extreme Learning. I had been wanting to do an extreme theme for a couple of years but just couldn't wrap my head around how that would look. This year, after a summer of theme contemplation, I finally decided to give it a try. 
So, I raided our garage and brought all of my husband and I's toys to school - lucky for him, I have decided this year to only have this theme for the first month of school until we start social studies heavy so yes dear, you will have your snowboard in time for boarding... no, you will not have your climbing shoes for another week, sorry. Next week, the theme will be changing to match our social studies units, beginning with Government.

Here is our EXTREME classroom tour - Enjoy!
Decided to try a pinterest idea - McDonald's cup holders as table supply holders! Thank you for visiting the virtual tour of our Learning Conservatory! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

DIY//Tissue Paper Border

I am finally back in "school" mindset. Partly because I am ready to start thinking about it, planning for it, getting excited about it ... and partly because well, it. is.
Can I get an AMEN! *smile* 
With that said, I have officially started working in my classroom. It isn't very cozy yet, but considering this was ONE Friday, I am pretty excited about my accomplishments! 
Today, I am sharing one of my favorite bulletin board borders. This idea is by no means my own, and there are quite a few tutorials floating around the internet, however, I figured it wouldn't hurt to put another one out there to encourage more people to utilize this FUN, EASY, and CHEAP boarder. 
I can do one bulletin board with a packet of colored tissue paper from Dollar Tree for ONE DOLLAR! 
PS: I do NOT use paper for my bulletin board backgrounds. I always use plastic table clothes from Dollar Tree (again, CHEAP!). At first, they do have the lines but I don't mind and they smooth out fairly quickly. Black is my favorite color to use because it goes with EVERYTHING and it really allows student work to POP! 
First: Using one sheet of tissue paper, fold it and bunch it toward to top much like a tootsie roll end. Some people like to fan it out and make the sheet longer but I like to go all the way to the end and balloon the middle to make it a bit more 3D.
Bunch at the other end as well. 
Second: Do #1 to all of your pieces (2 or more depending on your color scheme) - you should end with with a batch of tootsie rolls. I like using three to create a color POP!
Third: Gather and pinch the ends of the three together. Push pin them together onto your board. Some people use staplers but I find that push pins hold it better. Pin both ends. There should be some space between each "balloon".
Fourth: Using the same three colors, cut each color into smaller squares and create small "bunches". I like to crinkle the edges a little. 

Fifth: Pin these bunches between the "balloons" to create a finished, flowery, look.

There are so many combinations you can try with these! These are just a few I have done - the abundance of red, white, and blue is because I teach American History and Government. 
Rolled, Tulip-like, flowers in between
Using only two colors 
Two colors and a solid flower

Now you have FABULOUS and super fancy looking borders to place your kiddos work in! 
Warning: Be prepared to get many compliments ;0) 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

3 Word Weekends

Every Monday, I have my kids share what they did with all of us by playing the HIGH, LOW game. Students choose ONE HIGH and ONE LOW from the past weekend to share. If a student feels that they did not have a low then they do not need to share one, however, if they feel they did not have a high, I encourage them to think of SOMETHING that they can think of (sometimes their partners help them find it)Once they have figured out their high and low, they turn to their partner and share, then we choose a couple to share out to the whole class.  
I have found a couple positives to this system 
1) It allows me quick assessment of students situations and lives outside of the classroom (sometimes there are bigger things going on that we don't know about)  
2) Students get the chance to share their weekends under 5 minutes 
3) It allows for empathy and excitement for fellow students, and in some cases the teacher. I have even had students (and myself actually once this year) break down during this quick time in the morning based off of divorce, death, etc. and, while some may shrink from this happening in the classroom, it allows all of us to become what we are - a family. Watching students hugging each other, sharing when that has happened to them as well, getting each other tissues, high fiving for a basket ball winning score, questions about a new puppy, and sharing stories means that there is more than just academic learning going on in my classroom. It has become a favorite in our room - Woe to the teacher to forgets HIGH LOW Monday morning! (ha!) 
Another thing I really like about it, being a fifth grade teacher, when my middle schoolers come back to visit/grab a piece of candy all I have to say is "HIGH LOW?" and they share a little about their new lives with me :0)

Sometimes I like to change it up a little bit though so this week we did "Three Word Weekends". They had to share three words (no more, no less) that summed up their weekends. Then they shared their sticky note with the three words with their partners. If they had summarized and chosen their words well, their partner should be able to infer what happened - this was a little difficult for some kids but is a great review for summary!
Do you do anything fun for the kids to sum up their weekend? 

Determining Importance through Music

One way to help determine the main idea is to look at the evidence that the author is giving us. We have been working a lot on how readers need to justify their responses and the details they deem as important. Today, I shared that it isn't some sort of guessing game between the author and reader. It is more of a treasure hunt to pick up the clues/support that the author "drops" for us as to what the Main Idea is.
We recognized that the most important details always support the main idea and that when these match we are able to clearly understand the text.
Once again, Tanny brings this concept to life in an out-of-the-box way through listening to music. I shared with the kids Dolly Parton's beautiful biosong "Coat of Many Colors". I shared with the kids that we can often find out the topic/main idea from the Title. We inferred that the topic was probably going to be A Coat. We also inferred that the Main Idea would have something to do with a coat, but would go much deeper.
Then, I gave them the mission of hunting for the evidence that our author, Dolly, left for us throughout the song that helps us find the Main Idea.
I had the kids listen to the song through once just reading the lyrics so they were familiar with the song. The second time, I challenged them to underline/circle the lines, stanzas, or phrases that they felt were IMPORTANT (noodles) to understanding the Main Idea.

They did SUCH an amazing job of being able to pick out what the main idea was based off of their text evidence. We agreed that, while to topic was A coat that her mother made her, the main idea was that Money does not buy happiness and that you don't have to have money to rich in life (especially those things that money just can't buy - love, family, comfort, security, etc.)

I also shared different evidence sentence stems to help guide them in their response to the text.
We talked about how it is very difficult to express your opinion and point of view about ANYTHING really without providing valid evidence to back it up. I think it is important to always remind students of those things that apply to things outside of the subject (this applies to math, science, social studies, etc) AND out side of the classroom (including conversations with others, proving a point, standing up for yourself or someone else, sharing an opinion, offering a suggestion, etc.)
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