Friday, February 20, 2015

The Day Dolls Came to School ...

During the long weekend, I  visited my parents in Ohio who are in the process of moving. Because of this, I grabbed all of my old toys and storage items from their basement. One of these treasured pieces was my American Girl doll and her trunk of accessories. Upon hearing that one of my girls had visited American Girl Place over the weekend, I mentioned that the trunk was in the back of my car still. So, during indoor recess, the girls and I had a grand time going through all of my old Kirstin clothing and accessories felt old since my doll is now retired!
 This, of course, led naturally into an optional "Bring your Doll to school day" the next day. It was a lot of fun! and definitely not something that happens every day! The boys did a good job of keeping their teasing to a minimum, some even created their own "dolls" to join in the fun :) 
 All in all, it was a very unique day in fifth grade full of hair brushing, clothing changes, and lots of smiles! They won't be forgetting this day for some time :) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Quadrant Craft

While studying explorers, we have been looking at many of the different pieces of technology that helped them navigate across 
oceans. One of these pieces of technology includes the Astrolabe. Originally invented by the Greeks, the Astrolabe measured the altitude of objects, determined the elevation of the Sun and stars, and also give the time and date. 

The quadrant,  a contemporary of the earlier "Astrolabe," utilized it's location components and helped determine one's position using longitude and latitude degrees. The sexton was yet another, even more modern, version of the astrolabe, utilizing the component of altitude and elevation readings making it popular among aviators during WWII. Here is a great teacher resource sharing the history of these difference technologies along with an classroom activity. 

We have been walking through our winter wonderland listening to the WALKING CLASSROOM's Explorer podcasts which have talked about them using "tools" to navigate. After one particular walk, we created our own "astrolabe/quadrants" using THIS template. Then, went outside to test them out yet another great excuse to get some fresh air.  We used them to determine the altitude of a myriad of objects including church steeples, playground equipment, trees, and even each other's heads :) 
The craft and activity went well with our previous longitude and latitude project, found HERE, where we plotted the coordinates of Early Explorer's Routes. 
Here are more Explorer Activities: 

Longitude, Latitude, and Exploration!

Before I explain what we did and how AMAZING this project was,  I must give a MAJOR shout out to Stephanie over at Teaching in Room 6 for this incredible idea! I know that she has inspired many and I have seen this particular lesson all over pinterest, so understand that I simply utilized this awesome lesson and was awed by the learning results. 

Longitude (y axis) and latitude (x axis) are extremely similar to a coordinate grid, so this lesson works great during an Exploration unit. I did a small pre lesson on plotting points which just happens to be a fifth grade math standard! What, WHAT! before diving into our major activity. After some quick teaching, we played the classic game of battleship (which I found HERE on TPT) to help reinforce the new skill. 
 After an evening of plotting while I watched the great new history channel mini-series "Sons of Liberty" a must watch, I created my own estimated plot points for the particular Explorer's travels. These I put on individual cards and placed in envelops for partner groups. Partners then had to plot the coordinates on their blank world map, found HERE, changing the colors for each coordinate set. 
The coolest part of the whole learning project was the day we matched the Explorers to their coordinates. Partners worked together to identify which Explorer matched the coordinates by reading short biographies. They then matched the correct Explorer with their travel route and color. This part was FULL of independent learning discovery! Students were utilizing so many resources including maps, globes, and their own knowledge to identify and locate countries, continents, oceans, directions, and exact locations. It was definitely one of those awesome teacher moments as I watched my kiddos focused and independently learning all around me! 
Finally, students used the information from the biography cards to write non-fiction summaries of the Explorer's travels making sure to include who, what, where, when, why, and how. 
I was so impressed with their final products! This is definitely a project that I will do again! 

Here are more Explorer Activities: 

Friday, January 16, 2015

WHY did People Explore?

I have done a lot of different activities to introduce the motives for early exploration, however, this year I really wanted to incorporate some Close reading, note taking, and summary. My theory is that if I sneak reading and writing skills into social studies I can get away with teaching it more ;0) 
 I always try to have some sort of hands-on, tangible item for the kiddos to feel, smell, use, etc. to help them stimulate their thinking. I kept those items the same which included a flag, a Bible, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cumin), gold pieces, and a question mark.
This time though, I added different informational paragraphs that I found here and there that share the reasons for exploration. With a partner, the kids shared the packet of articles and used the clue item at their table to figure out which motive it matched. For example: the flag represented lands to conquer. Spices represented their desire to acquire spices and other trade items from Asia. A Bible represented the push to spread Christianity. The gold pieces represented the quest for gold and riches. Finally, I couldn't really think of an object for "adventure" so I just had a question mark - it worked :) 
Once partners had identified their object and its importance to the reason for Exploration, they then had to work on highlighting key words that answered summary questions including who, what, where, when, why, and how. These five words also were to show their evidence on why they matched their item to that reason. 
I was so impressed with how engaged and focused they all were! It definitely helped instill the 5 reasons as well as give great practice at summary, note taking, partner agreement, and reading fluency/comprehension of more challenging text. 

Here are more Explorer Activities: 

Monday, January 12, 2015

WHO were the Explorers?

We have jumped into the Age of Exploration with both feet! In the three days we have been in school thus far since Christmas break, yes, you read that right - we have had THREE snow days since getting back on the 5th!  we have gone back in time to Europe during the time of the Renaissance! 
We review that at this time in history, Native Americans are continuing to live their unique lifestyles as previously studied having no idea of what is to come. However, before discussing this eventual collision between the Old World and the New, it is important for students to understand what life in Renaissance Europe was like at this time. WHO were these men that came to the New World? This will help us understand (NOT EXCUSE!) their motives, their beliefs, and regretfully, their actions toward many Native American cultures.
I give the kids a Renaissance name and character bio card - they study their character and practice name pronunciations ;0) before sharing the bios with the class. 
Characters include Soldiers, Noblemen and women, peasant workers, tradesmen, merchants, traders, cartographers, craftsmen, sailors, captains, wives, mothers, youngest and oldest sons, Bishops, monks, nuns, Christians, Muslims, and more! 

Very quickly, we notice a pattern among our characters. Life was NOT the same as it is today! Plague and diseases ran rampant due to lack of hygiene and knowledge of germs. Women lived with fear of childbirth and men and children often lost wives and mothers. Noblemen owned and inherited lands (well, oldest sons that is) which poor peasant families worked. The majority of the population was uneducated, there were no hospitals or homeless shelters. Practicing other religions was punishable by death - even reading the Bible was illegal in many parts of Europe. Women had little to say about their lives and were often used through marriage to increase their family's wealth and influence. Many people were burned for their beliefs and hundreds of Muslim and Jewish people were persecuted and kicked out of Spain and other European countries. If you somehow managed to make it through all of this, warring between European countries to acquire more land affected almost every group of people.  
All of this we experienced through our characters and charted on our graphs. Our discovery is that most people experienced death in a very personal way, some died, and a few were extremely against groups of people they did not like or felt were not as good.
What does this mean for the Native Americans? These were HARD men, accustomed to poverty, death, war, prejudices, and persecution. Their number one goal = survival. and nothing is going to stand in the way of what they want...

Here are more Explorer Activities: 

Cultural Heritage Project Recap 2014

Before Thanksgiving every year, I explain our big Christmas Heritage Project to the kiddos. I introduce the project and encourage them to talk to their parents/grandparents over break to find out about their family's heritage and roots. THIS post has more information on the early explanation, research, and ornament presentation.
Researching how our countries celebrate Christmas or a winter holiday
 Reading LOTS of books on our countries 
 Presenting our Ornaments
This year, I incorporated a more in depth essay that utilized our research more. We still did the research and presentation of our "tradition" ornament, however I added an additional step - students wrote a compare and contrast text structure informational essayparagraph depending on

Incorporating geography, we also researched where our cultural country was located using maps, globes, and atlases. It was very interesting listening to the kids as they discover the SIZE comparison of other countries to our own. Many of them were shocked by how small their country was and at how BIG others were. Geography can be very eye opening for one's world view in many ways. 
This works perfect to introduce our next unit that we start in January - Early European Explorers! 
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