Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Westward and Onward


Lewis and Clark
The California Gold Rush - 49'ers
Oregon Trail
War of 1812
Trail of Tears (Indian Removal Act) 
Mexican American War
Manifest Destiny 
Life in the WEST
and the Transcontinental Railroad ... these were all the exciting topics we covered over the last half of the school year. 

     This was SUCH a fun unit to do with the kids! While our history book carried us on to the Civil War, I stopped at Westward Expansion (as much as it BROKE my heart) simply because the CW is not one of our benchmarks, and I felt it would conflict with the Revolutionary War (which is something they WILL be tested on come fall).

In this unit WE ...
  • participated in the online Lewis and Clark Junior Ranger activity and each student received a patch from the national park. 
  • created railroad advertisements to encourage travelers on the Transcontinental Railroad 
  • created individual lapbooks (or flapjacks as I call them) 
  • we researched a modern "extreme adventure" and compared it the Lewis and Clark expedition
  • we "mined" for gold (in chocolate chip cookies!) and compared the cookie's soil and the different methods people used for mining 
  • we learned many "western survival" techniques including how to sew on a button and how to sew a pillow (and yes, my boys LOVED it!) 
  • we simulated the journey that the pioneers took the Oregon Trail - students were placed in "family" groups, picked and bought their supplies at the General Store, and proceeded to read papers and use dice to determined their fate! 
  • Explored the trials faced by Native American Tribes and created "Indian Story Bags" to tell the tale of the Trail of Tears
  • "built" mini log cabins
  • Created their own monument for the Mexican/American War
  • Published newspapers for the "Westward Weekly Newspaper" about recent happenings 

And, OF COURSE, the display back table display changed yet again!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Revolutionary War

     It is difficult for one to be a historian (whether self proclaimed or professionally acclaimed) and not have strong twinges of Patriotism. I will be the first to admit that our government has flaws, our nation is not perfect, and our citizens do not always make us proud ... but one cannot look through the portholes of our nations history and not feel an overwhelming sense of pride at what our founders created!
     I LOVE teaching the Revolution. What a profound opportunity to teach our children the doctrines of democracy, the standards of our Constitution, and the liberty lavished on our land.
In the words of one of these such men ... 
"Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom."
John Adams, In Defense of the Constitution, 1787
     Sadly, I did not take as many pictures of my Revolutionary Unit as I had intended. Being that this unit fell after Christmas, this means it was during the "drag" months where moments of coherent thoughts seem to be few and far between and thoughts of Spring Break seem to dominate! *grin* 
 We ...
practiced being drummer boys (and girls) 
researched an important Revolutionary war character, created power points and presented them to the class
made Revolutionary war Lapbooks 
created flip books on the different causes of the war
simulated the war by having a "Paper Wad" war in the gym
examinded primary documents (spy letters) and created invisable ink
dissectedthe Declaration of Independence and created our own (from adults! *grin*)
wrote a RAFT about the Boston Tea party from the point of view of a "Tea bag" 
watched the fabulous t.v. series "Liberty's Kids" 
(we actually only watched a couple episodes during class, but the kids loved them so much we finished them all - 42 - during lunch for the rest of the year!) 

     However, I did manage to get a fun video of a lesson we did on drummer boys during the war. Two of my boys had a "bad habit" of drumming on EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME! Grant it, one of them inparticular is actually very good, but you can imagine the frustration when these talents demonstrate themselves during silent reading, computer time, direct teaching, etc. As I was planning my drummer boy lesson, I thought about how it would be really great to highlight these boy's talents in front of the whole class and really let them shine at something they, so obviously, LOVE to do. 
They had practiced with the music, but I think their nerves got to them (imagine that! *grin*) and it doesn't quite match but still was lots of fun :)
P.S. Don't mind me ... I didn't turn the silly camera off in time! *blush* 

Welcome to Colonial America

     Colonial America: The foundation of our Nation. 
What a great time the kids and I had during this unit! There was SO much more I wanted to do, but as usual, the year caught up with me and I had to rush through to the Revolution quicker than I had anticipated. 
I introduced the unit with a bang by dressing up for them :) They got a kick out of it. As a child I was an avid costume collector and have a myriad of different period clothes. They have been stuffed away for years, that is until I pulled them out, de-wrinkled them, and now have them hanging in my classroom closet eager for years of wear!
We ... 
experienced colonial school
played colonial children's games
made three cornered hats 
had a colonial tea party - and YES they ALL had to drink tea
(don't worry there was PLENTY of cream and sugar *grin*) 
watched the movie "Felicity"
chose colonial jobs and practiced them 
toured (through centers) Colonial Williamsburg and what life would have been like 
and dressed up in colonial garb
 and, of course, the back display changed again :) 


Friendly Super Bowl Rivalry

Coming from an avid football family, I always look forward with anticipation to February and the Super Bowl, reguardless of the team, I will still choose a side, marker a t-shirt with their logo, and sit down for an evening of fun with friends. But this year, the word {anticipation} would have been and UNDERSTATEMENT because it was my {PACKERS} that were heading as regional champions to Arlington Texas. However ... I was not the only one with my eye on the football horizon. My fellow 5th grade partner teacher happened to be a die hard Steelers Fan, and she was not about to let me forget it! And so it was that on the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday we both showed up to school sporting our Jerseys and the {WAR} was on...
   I walked out of my classroom during my planning time to find THIS waiting for me across my name tag ...
and as any warm-blooded American football fan would do, I retaliated ... 
The kids -- who had already joined sides (many showed up in uniforms or team colors) -- wanted to join the fight and thus ensued the following "friendly attacks" 
My Door

Her Door

However, we all know how the end of this story went ... and it was a very {PROUD} day Monday morning when I was the ONLY person sporting a colorful green and gold jersey through the halls of Hoppin Elementary School :) GO PACK!

Christmas Around the World

     Christmas is my favorite time of year. I feel like all people bond in some way around the holidays. Houses I pass every day on my way to work usually look empty and people-less until suddenly they turn into personal greeting cards, decorated with twinkling lights and Jolly ol’ St. Nick out front. I may not know the people inside, but I’m celebrating with them just the same.  But right in my own classroom, I began to realize that many of my students were celebrating different holidays around this same time of year.  My student from India celebrated his 5-day holiday of Diwali.  My Muslim students completed their 3-day commemoration of Eid Al-Adah.  My Christian students were happily anticipating Christmas, my Jewish student shared with me his special gifts he had received each night of Hanuka, while my Chinese pupils were already talking about their New Year Celebrations. As I talked to my kids, we began to realize these holiday celebrations were all centered around the same theme: light. And so began a lesson plan that answered the question, "Why do so many people around the world celebrate light during the darkest part of the calendar year?”
     During the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21st or 22nd) earth experiences the shortest days and the longest nights of the year. Following this, days start to lengthen again and nights get shorter. Throughout history, humans have had to survive winter. While some folks think winter has a magical feel---beautiful snow, warm fires and hot cocoa---to others it symbolizes death, bitter cold and ice, unforgiving darkness and long nights.  No wonder during these dark, dismal months, many cultures have evolved celebrations around the idea of light returning, bringing hope of spring back to the people. 
      The Hindu winter festival of Diwali, which translates "row of lamps" involves the lighting of oil lamps to signify the triumph of good over evil.  In November on the first morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims around the world attend prayers followed by visits with family and friends and the exchange of greetings and gifts to commemorate the triumphs of the Prophet Abraham.  For Christians, Christmas is the celebration of the “light of the world” coming to earth.  Dec 13th, Santa Lucia Day is celebrated in places with Scandinavian populations, plus Italy, Bosnia and Croatia.  In this celebration of light, a procession is headed by a girl wearing a crown of candles...Saint Lucy bringing lights and sweets to her people.  The Chinese Lunar New Year, which ends with The Lantern Festival, is a celebration of light and the hope of a prosperous, fruitful new year to come.  Hanukkah--The Festival of Lights--is the 8-day Jewish holiday commemorating the Maccabees’ re dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the second century.
     In my classroom, we learned about each of these unique celebrations through traditional dress, customary foods, and time-honored activities. It was exciting to see the students get genuinely interested in other people’s customs, and to watch as my ethic students shared something important to them...telling their peers who they are. In the end, we realized that we’re not only connected to the people that share our own customs, but in some ways we are often interconnected to people of all different cultures around the world! 
 Our "Christmas Around the World" display - many of the items were donated for the display from the different kids in my classroom. Also posted were the different ways people say "Merry Christmas" or other holiday greeting.
(Students dressed in Muslim attire for Eid Al-Adah)
The week before Christmas break, Social Studies was devoted to celebrating and learning about the celebrations of different cultures. I was blessed with having 6 different cultures represented in my room. I created a power point to present the holidays and celebrations and then the child in the class that participated in the holiday came up front (often in costume) and shared about how they celebrate it.
 (Students dressed in Hindu attire for Diwali) 

 (Student dressed in the Scandinavian attire of St. Lucia )
Almost every student brought a treat to share with the class from their culture :)

Note: Please be aware that that as a social studies educator, my purpose is to get students excited about learning other cultures as well as their own. I am not perfect in my education of this, though I do try and do a lot of research before teachings cultures and history. Concerning the activities done in my room, I try to make them as authentic as possible from my findings and research but do not claim to be an expert. Using tangible items helps spur students passion for the cultures and history we study and creates in them a desire to learn and discover more. If there is something that bothers you or have questions on my instruction concerning your culture or any other topic I may teach in my room, please feel free to email me personally to help me gain more understanding. I love learning about others and am always striving to educate my students better. 

Learning Strategies

As a beginning teacher there is SO MUCH you have to create! You don't have lessons, activities, and books that you need. Luckily, I was blessed with the opportunity to do my student teaching in 5th grade, however there was still so much additional ideas I still needed. And so, as any 21st century person would do, I turned to the internet. I don't know how teachers LIVED before this incredible device?!?! Hours of searching later, produced many great lessons, some borrowed from other great teachers, some created off of others ideas, and some coming from my own imagination. Here are a few I enjoyed ...

 A great idea I found in Mailbox Magazine for making text connections
Students create their connection on a piece of paper and connect them under the correct category to create a paper chain.
 A follow up to the previous activity found at readwritethink.org that allows the students to make the connection in their own reading journals during independent reading.

 My own personal creation (due to the improper grammar of my room *grin*) - I made "calling them out" a game and the kids had fun with this ALL year. We added MANY more improper words and combination throughout the year. The kids always got a thrill when they would read things and it would be wrong or people in a video would say one of our "NO WORDS" :)
 Also found in a Mailbox Magazine we created this poster so students could share good titles of different genre's they'd read throughout the year.
 A collaboration of different writing techniques I found during my internet searches, as well as some of my own in our writing workshop corner.
 A VERY neat and VERY easy way to help kids write fun poetry (great for hesitant writers). I actually found this particular piece - and the idea - at an art show. Instead of writing your own poem, you take pages from old books (preferably descriptive literature) and find words that create a poem all on their own, then you use white out and cover all the other words creating a {POEM} The kids LOVED this :)
 Our school hallway St. Patty's day display - the students made collages from magazine pictures of the word "LUCK". Turned our really cute!
During each of my social studies units, I have the students read books on the topic as either a SS center or a literacy center. I have them use di-cuts (preferably matching the subject) to write down interesting facts, tidbits, or important information on. I found these particular ones at Dollar Tree in the teacher section.
For purposes of learning history, time lines are a MUST!  If you teach any type of sequential history (American, State, World, Country, etc.) You MUST have a way in which your students can create a flowing story in their minds of the jumble of events you are throwing their direction. This particular time line hung above our whiteboard throughout the whole year. It was a "class" time line and we added information to it as we went along. However, I also have my students keep their own time line in their notebooks which we update periodically.
A display of Information Text during our "informational genre" study. I believe it is important to have a classroom library as well as a school library - when we change gene's I always change the genre display where students can "check" the special genre books out to read.

School SPIRIT Week

Spirit weeks have always been a favorite of mine since I was in elementary school. I LOVE to dress up!
We had very unique themes for spirit week and I enjoyed participating in all of them with my kids.
Day 1: Dress like your favorite ERA - ours was obviously the 50's

Day 2: Dress like a character from one of your favorite books - Miss Nelson from "Miss Nelson is Missing" 
Day 3: Dress like an animal - "Peacock"

Day 4: Dress like "winter" - I just picked winter colors and went with snowflakes, there is one on my sweater and actually a bling sticker snowflake on my cheek by my eye :)

P.S. To those teachers who do not participate in these kinds of "fun" activities with your children ... shame on you! They absolutely ADORE it when you dress up with them, look ridiculous, and are willing to goof off. If you are worried about not appearing professional #1: there are ways to "dress up" while still in professional clothes (check out my "peacock" look or my "winter" look) #2: IT IS SPIRIT WEEK! The only thing that a parent/principal/person walking on the street will think of you is that you are an AWESOME teacher! :)

School Year Happenings

     Being it was my first year teaching, I did not have a moment to breathe for myself! It is only now, during these already relaxing weeks of summer that I have been able to do things FOR ME! However, even with all this {ME} time, only two weeks into my summer break my mind is back on teaching, my classroom, the kids, and mental preparations for all the fun stuff ahead of us. And so it is with teaching forward on my mind, and lots of extra free time, that this blog has come into existence.
     This past year I had a wonderful group of students for my first year. We do SO many fun activities and I built such an amazing bond with all of them. It truly was a most memorably year. I feel that, although I know it is summer, bear with me, I must share some of the learning adventures that took place in my classroom this year...

Autumn is such a fun time to be in a classroom. There are so many fun fall activities, donuts and cider always hit the spot at school functions, and the chilliness of the weather makes everything about the classroom so much cozier. Plus, the year has begun and there are just so many possibilities ... everyone is happy!

In 5th grade Social Studies is American History and so we began our year with the Native Americans and then to the Age of Exploration (sadly, the photos from these units were lost). From there we scouted out Jamestown with John Smith and landed with the Pilgrims at Plymouth just in time for Thanksgiving.
(I have a back table that changes with our Social Studies unit theme)
Here is a view of my classroom early in the year. My classroom theme was {PIRATES} which is evident in some of the decoration around the room (flags/palm tree/signs). It was not quite as "flashy" as I had intended ... currently working the mental gears for next years theme ...

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