Monday, October 22, 2012

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3.

     As we finish up THE TEST, make-up and such, I thought I would share some fun test treats I created for my kids based off of pinterest posts I found. I will try to give credit to where credit is due, but with random pins and lots of people having the same ideas posted it can be difficult to know exactly who made it first, but I'll do my BEST!
I supposed I will start with my partner teacher and I's creations {from the days before pinterest -_-}
The first day I have a kid bring in a pack of water bottles a day early so I can decorate them for encouragement "______________ will BEAT THE MEAP!"
 Cute Smarty idea from Juiceboxes and Crayolas
I created my own "KISS" card based off of pin I saw but could not find an original blog for.
     I'm sure you've all been seeing these little "Superpops" flying around cyber world. NO PUN INTENDED ;) They were the PERFECT treat for the kids since my classroom theme this year is SUPERHEROES! Awesome. Since this was so time consuming (ha!) and a LOT of sugar for pre-test. I decided to wait and have this be our END of test treat! I do not see harm in little kisses or smarties before a test, but to give kids such large doses of sugar (ex. cookie(s), suckers, etc.) can really give them a sugar rush which can wear off during the test, leaving them feeling tired, sluggish, and unfocused. All things we do NOT want them to be during any point of THE TEST! I got this AMAZING template from Zakka Life then edited it so it was personalized for OUR TEST!
     Lastly, a quick shot of our ready and sharpened #2 pencils and our pack of gum - which we let the kids chew during THE TEST to help them focus. Works well, gets the kids excited, and we haven't ever had an issue with it. Winner.
 Hope your tests have been going well if you are a FALL tester, if you are a SPRING tester, you are lucky!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin Inspiration

     To practice persuasive writing, I had my kids create Pumpkin RAFTS, a great idea I got from Caffeinated Conclusions. I use RAFTS a lot throughout the year. They are such a fun, creative way to have the kids look at something (usually historical for me - not this time though) from a different point of view.
See also my Revolutionary War Tea RAFT post for a more integrated idea.

R (role) = Pumpkin
A (audience) = little kids 
F (format) = letter 
T (topic) = 1. NO! Please do NOT carve me! 
                  2. YES! Please DO carve me! 
S (strong words) = 1. Annihilate 
                               2. Creation
These turned out AMAZING this year - I was very impressed with their creativity! 
We talked about how we need to give good, strong reasons (minimum of 3) and how we want to try and hook our readers attention to something "serious." We also discussed Point of View and how we are looking at the activity of "carving" from another "person's" Point of View and how that will change our writing as authors. The kids really enjoyed "getting inside a pumpkins head."
Here are some of our Pumpkin letters:
We have now brought FALL into the room :) 


"BEAT THE MEAP!" has been the rallying cry this last week as we buckle down to take "THE TEST"
We have actually had a lot of fun preparing and getting the kids geeked about it these last few weeks! Fun review sessions, quick quiz games, review stations, and fun treats along the way helped make it more of something to look forward to than dread. Though I'm sure we can all agree that there is still a substantial amount of stress no matter how much glits and glam we place on it - especially for us teachers! Even the 4th grade teacher got on board with us giving my kiddos a pep talk before THE TEST about how they are showing all they learned last year with him and how if 80% of them pass the Reading section (which is what he teaches) he will shave his head into a MOHAWK! Needless to say this was very inspirational to the kiddies - we now have a photoshopped poster of him on our board as a reminder! 

And because I just ADORE the fall season AND because the kids need mental breaks, I use these weeks to squeak in a few of my non-essential outdoor fall favorites! It has to be one of the coziest times of the year (besides for Christmas, which I think beats all seasons and holidays for me!). But seriously, I love all those "Fally" things - apple cider, hayrides, pumpkins, chilly enough for a light jacket but warm enough to go for a walk kind of evenings, beautiful fall colors ... mmmm ... I don't think I could ever live somewhere that didn't have the four seasons!
   My partner teacher and I took our kids out Tuesday afternoon after THE TEST and burned our initials into leaves with magnifying glasses - A HUGE HIT! I'm telling you, the easiest yet biggest crowd pleaser ever!
Another afternoon we had the kids collaborate by using ten straws and one arms length piece of masking tape to make a container to protect an egg. 
 Then we went out to the playground to test our protective packaging by tossing them from the very top of the jungle gym. It was great!
Good Luck Testers! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Leaf Poems and Scenic Fall Drives

I don't know about ya'll but this fall has been TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY BEAUTIFUL! Every day on the way home from work it is MUCH to dark on my way to work to see anything. too early i tell you! I am in awe of the beauty that surrounds me on either side of the road! I do not know if it has been the increase of constant, perpetual rain or what but it has produced some of the most fabulous colors!
Okay. So I did a bit of research. Shut up, yes I am a teacher, it is in our BLOOD! 
Annnnnd ....
I discovered that FROST is the culprit for creating a most spectacular fall. When an late frost arrives the leaves begin their "shutting down" process much later, therefore storing more "color/food" in their leaves.
I just HAD to share my drive from work with you. These are taken with a IPHONE no less - and they still look fantastic! Trust me, it is even more breathtaking in person. If you live in a seasonal state, I hope that your fall has been as incredible as ours here in the gorgeous state of Michigan.
Isn't this little Methodist church just the CUTEST!?
Love me some corn fields ... when I see them I am home. 
 I just LOVE tree lined roads, there are so many here in Michigan. Growing up in Ohio, Yes, I know, my family are all Michigan born and bred, I was the one raised in "ENEMY TERRITORY!" I can truly appreciate TREES - everywhere!
 It wouldn't be Michigan without a LAKE picture. Here is one of the SIX lakes that I pass on my way to work every morning. 
Teacher fun fact: Did you know? That if you stand anywhere in Michigan you are never more than 6 miles from a lake. Awesome. 
 How quaint is this little school house? It just needs a little tender loving care. Everyday I pass it. Everyday I want to buy it. 
I pass SO MANY barns on the way to school - reminders that "home" is in the midwest. 
They just look so perfect in the fall ... corn fields, bright trees, bursts of red. Love. 
 I even found a little fall creeping up our apartment building! 
Thanks for coming for a drive with me! 

In honor of this totally FAB season, the kiddos did LEAF RUBBINGS and created leaf poems. 
 {Teacher pride} 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tackling Government

I must admit. Teaching government to 5th graders in NOT my favorite unit. Personally, the learning and exploring of what our Founding Fathers created is incredible. However, so many of the things that they did are so above my kids that I feel like I am watering everything down to the point where it becomes "not as interesting." How can one get a child, who basically has no life experiences yet besides playground and sibling issues, who think that everyone's lives are just like their own, appreciate the system that our Country has created to protect the rights of her citizens? Well, I have been trying! and this particular group of kids is REALLY getting it!  {proud teacher dance}

A little of what we have been doing: 
Constitution day fell perfectly within this unit. I teased the kids that everyone else had to stop what they were doing and "fit" it into their schedule and that we didn't! hehe 

For reading, we discussed the preamble to the Constitution and broke down the difficult words. I read to them the cute picture book "We the Kids" and we discovered the meaning by "Reading the Pictures". They did really well with this and we used our new meanings to create a more simple/modern preamble. We also began memorizing the Preamble this week. The students have 2 weeks to work on memorizing it - they can share it with me anytime during the next 2 weeks. To see why I do memorization and get more information about it see {this} blog.

In our Social Studies notebooks we drew a "Tree of Government" (Great SS interactive notebook ideas from Second Grade with Mrs. Wade... I don't know how she gets her second graders to do this! I can barely get my fifth graders notebooks looking halfway like this!) with the Constitution as the roots and filled in the three branches along with three of their main duties. 
Some of them turned our really good....(note: we hadn't finished filling in the Judicial branch ..)
Some of them turn out, ... well ... not so great. But I thought I would put them up because it seems everyone always displays their "best" students work and make the rest of us feel like failures when our kids turn out more like this.... ha! SO here is to reality and the reminder that we all have both in our classrooms!
 I also taught the kids some hand  motions to help them remember the branches and their main jobs. I am going out of a limb for this, posting a video and all of myself. This takes guts for me, don't laugh! I would much rather do this in front of my kiddos. ugh.
The kiddos "Teaching" their partners the hand motions
We discussed the Constitution and compared it to our "Superhero Hulk" and the Bill of Rights as it's "Sidekick" To see this lesson and our characters click here
Then we watched an AMAZING movie produced by Discovery Education Streaming that shows students what life would be like if we did NOT have the Bill of Rights (watch for a couple places where there is some inappropriate language - you would THINK that an educational video for kids wouldn't have any but these days ...ugh) Here is the link for the video - Bill of Rights Fright 
This video REALLY helps kids understand the importance of our Rights and why our Founding Fathers created a Democratic Republic. 
We learned about the different types of Governments. Oligarchy, Monarchy, Dictatorship, Democracy, Republic, and Anarchy. I created hand motions for each of them ... I made a video to show you. Get that smirk off your face! 
For those of you who read my blog (the few of you! ha!) you know that I am very passionate about history! I do teach my kids the different types of government because the vocabulary is used often and it is important for them to understand each type, however, there are technically only TWO types of government that are stable in our world today. And NO, America is not a democracy. Watch this video for a in depth explanation of the types of Government (Note: this video is WAY above my kids heads ... I use it for my own teaching and plans. Better for upper middle and high school age kids)
Sticks waiting and ready for our Branches of Government mobiles ... see my post on Branches of Government to see the finished product :)
And books set out for reading. 

Memory ... what is it good for these days?

"TELL me not, in mournful numbers, 
Life is but an empty dream!  
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
And things are not what they seem."
            - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So often, we as teachers are told NOT to have the kids memorize but to understand. I am a strong advocate of this new trend, students should not mearly utilize their short term memory to regurgitate information for a test. They should have a firm understanding of each concept and be able to apply it in various situations. Sadly however, this shift from memory to comprehension has taken away a valuable asset from our students - the actual skill and creative usefulness of memorization.  

In fact, I have many 5th graders who do not even have their own addresses or telephone numbers committed to memory. This is downright SCARY people!

I still recall many of things that I grew up having to memorize throughout my elementary years, MLK's I have a Dream speech, The Gettysburg Address, the succession of Kings, Presidents, Caesars, state capitals, states, the 7 continents, The lament of Flanders Field, various poems, shakespeare sonnets, The Preamble, famous quotes including Patrick Henry's announcement that "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" and JFK "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" (a phrase many Americans need to take to heart today I believe!).  Not to mention the myriad of Bible Texts I have committed to memory through church school, family worship, and my own devotional time.

But I suppose I am the last of a dying generation. In my short/young lifetime I have seen the evolution of the personal computer, the creation of the internet, the cellphone, the smartphone, and Google - the kryponite of any need for memorization. "Google it" is this new generations motto. What is the need to learn, memorize, or sometimes even study the facts when the information you seek can be found right at your finger tips?
In this philosophy there lies a danger.  A missing piece. A critical skill.
David Shuler wrote a wonderful lament about the decline of memorization in America today. He says:
"There’s a difference between being able to find something and actually living with it, between being able to look up a picture of a Persian rug on the Internet and having one on your floor. Committing poetry or other texts to memory makes them part of the cadence and subtext of your thought and speech."

You see, we use the concepts stored in our brain to cultivate our own ideas, to critically look at the world around us, to create, to imagine, to reflect. It is our memory and the information that we have stored that gives us the prior knowledge needed to grow as learners.  If we do not add to this storage, we face the dilemma of mental emptiness. If one solely relies on something other then themselves to lay out information and create internal processes, then they have lost the ability to do this on their own. 

Professor Steve Dutch, from the University of Green-Bay 
 Memorization is not the antithesis of creativity; it is absolutely indispensable to creativity. Creative insights come at odd and unpredictable moments, not when you have all the references spread out on the table in front of you. You can’t possibly hope to have creative insights unless you have memorized all the relevant information. And you can’t hope to have really creative insights unless you have memorized a vast amount of information, because you have no way of knowing what might turn out to be useful.
For all of the above information along with fluency practice, I have the kids memorize a lot of different things throughout the year. Susan Wise Bauer shares in her Book The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had "Memorization turns on children's memory capability, teaches them to articulate English words, heightens their feel for the English language, improves their personal writing, internalize patterns and rhythms, stocks the brain with a larger, more diverse vocabulary, and each of these things help this become part of the child's "language store" that is available in their own 'mental fingertips' for their own speaking and writing."
Poetry Research Link
Abraham Lincoln one said, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain" 

Let us as teachers not forget, let us always REMEMBER what our task is. Let us give our students the priceless gift of memory input so that they may use the information they have stored up to critically look at the world around them and make it a better place! 

{Side note}
This summer I watched the movie "The Edge" with some friends. This movie, through the character played by Anthony Hopkins, emphasizes the usefulness of memorization and the application of it as a life skill. 

Interactive Notebooks ... IN LOVE!

     We have been note booking like CRAZY this week! I am really trying to incorporate interactive/thoughtful notebooks for each subject this year ... we will see how long I last! ha! So for this past week we have been decorating notebooks like nobody's business! I think they really turned out great!
{insert proud teacher dance}
Writer's notebooks - the kids take these home and use magazine clippings to decorate with things that they love/represent them as people. 
Thoughtful logs - the kids reading logs
Using the idea from Mrs. Bonger's at Life in 4b - check out the neat ELA framework they are using at her school!
Interactive Social Studies notebooks - decorating with reasons why we love the United States of America! 
Found this great idea at Second Grade with Mrs. Wade and used it as our SS cover :)
A couple more of my favorites :) 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Week in Pictures {Linky}

2nd week DOWN.
  • Completely IN LOVE with this group of kiddos - best group! {Confession: maybe I say this every year} ha! 
  • Open house went great! Pretty good turn out for 5th grade (see Open House post)
  • LOVING my theme this year - the kids are having a great time with it and the room decor makes me happy every morning {Truth: I will become very sick of it come February and will be mentally planning next year!}
Works in progress:
  • Still working on our daily 5 routines. Kids are making good progress on their stamina in each section. 
  • Sitting on the carpet is still a challenge for this group .. interesting. 
  • Setting up and practicing guided reading next week - crossing my fingers! 
Linking up with Clutter Free Classroom's Week in Pictures to show you a little more about our 2nd week at the Art of Learning. 
 Choosing a "Just Right" Book - modeled the strategy myself with books that "fit" and don't fit me. Kids LOVED when I read to them from my college copy of MacBeth. Fun book to demonstrate a "challenging" teacher book.
Side note: Had a really good time with one quote from the book: 
"And shall we lose? Stuff and nonsense!" - Shakespeare 
"Stuff and Nonsense" has become a common phrase in our room! HA! Love it. 
Playing the timeless game of 4-square with my boys at recess 
Mini-lesson on Classroom Library expectations 
Social Studies: Learned about how Government affects us by creating paper plate diagrams
Who is "in charge" and what are the "rules/laws" followed at each level 
Mini-lesson on what we CAN already do as readers ... and three ways to read a book. 
  Beginning of week 2 Stamina ... proud to say we were up to 20 minutes by Friday {notice there are two times, the B is for my class the S is for my partner teachers class - get your mind out of the gutter all ya'll who chuckled when you saw BS!}
Took notes {top squares} in our writers notebooks about what needed to be in the beginning, middle and end of a narrative. On the bottom we wrote our brainstorming bullet points that lay out our "squiggle" stories {I'll post on these later} 
Please ignore my MESSY writing ... my original charts are not always the prettiest! 
Had to share my new "teacher bag" that my dear 4th grade friend got for me! Matches my Superhero theme PERFECTLY! Thank you Linda! 
Ended the week camping at Warren Dunes State Park with dear friends. Fabulous week.
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