Thursday, May 17, 2012

"We're bringing ASIA back - HEP!"

no, we are not bringing sexy back in my class today, but we are bringing ASIA back!

The Story: During dress rehearsal for the Wax museum tomorrow (insert excitement!), one of the kids *Marco Polo* forgot to bring a prop - one kid exclaimed, "OH NO! We've lost Asia!". I began scrounging around in my costume/prop cupboard and suddenly remembered that I had a whole BOX of Asian inspired items given to me from my Grami when she retired AMAZING 3rd grade teacher. She comes in on Thursdays and helps me so she was here today and I exclaimed that she helped us out by bringing ASIA back! Needless to say, all of us began singing Timberlake's song - "we're bringing ASIA back - HEP!" Yes. We. Are. Awesome.

Today, we practiced even more HARD CORE for the wax museum tomorrow. I have been having the students earmuff see here, read to partners, and do our "speed dating" style sharing so we can get these lines DOWN! I have the right side say their lines to the left {who has the paper} by memory for a minute and a half {some kids speeches were longer even longer than this! YAY!} then they switch and the right says theirs .... then I say "rotate - 5,4,3,2,1" when I get to one they know to be silent and ready to begin it all over again with a new partner. Works like a charm!
::Speed speeches set up::
Today was also dress rehearsal - the kids brought what they could find/buy for their costumes, then we had an auction AKA Mrs. B decides who needs/gets what item and outfitted everyone from my classroom costume wardrobe. As many of you have noticed from my blog, I absolutely ADORE dressing up, particularly in historical clothing - always have .... actually almost all of these items are from my dress up box as a kid :) 
::Myself looking like a dork giving instructions - please pay no mind the mess of costumes behind me! 
We set the chairs up facing the carpet and practiced, and practiced, and practiced! 
THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Best group YET! They had their lines memorized *most of them* the costumes were great, acting was animated, and the content was RICH!
So. Stinkin. Proud.

Can't WAIT for tomorrow!

P.S. We did do SOME content ... today I introduced Runde's Room's  AMAZING play off of Tammy McGregor's "Reading Comprehension Salad" by creating a Reading Comprehension SUNDAE - definitely more kid friendly ;) We created an anchor chart together and went over each of the different layers and how they are a metaphor for each strategy. I would HIGHLY recommend obtaining this from Runde's TPT store. The kids really enjoyed it and it really seemed to help them remember each strategy better. The only thing that would make this lesson a tad bit better would perhaps be a real ice cream sundae celebration ... we just didn't have time or money this end of the year - maybe next year!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MISSION: Tie-dying

     Our P.E. teacher thought it would be cute for the fifth graders to have matching t-shirts for our track and field day - we agreed! The kids voted on purple tie-dye {purple and white are our school colors}. It was QUITE an epic adventure but the kids were troopers and the whole operation went surprisingly smooth!
     First, we gave the kids a brief mini-lesson on different tie-dying shape techniques then gave them a TON LOAD of rubber bands - needless to say, they went wild with them!
Next phase: Outdoors - we set things up with special helpers while the kids ran off some steam. .. .. .
FAB partner teacher giving the kiddos instructions
It looked like quite a factory production out on the front lawn - but that is what we in fifth grade strive for, making amusing scenes for the rest of the world and having a GRAND time doing it ourselves :)
We had had hot water boiling in hot chocolate makers all morning. We poured that, along with the PURPLE dye into trash cans ... ... . . ..

... . .  dropped the shirts into the cans and had kids "smoosh" them down with paint sticks ... .. .. .
.. . .. untied the rubber bands and hung them out on our recess fence with clothespins ... ... . .. .

They turned out AMAZING! 
We are going to be joggin' IN STYLE around that track ;) 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Roller Coasters and Wax Figurines

     Does anyone else's desk look like this? or am I the only one with growing "piles"?? Please say no! and Yes, that is a pot on top of that stack of papers...a COOKING POT!
I can't even begin to explain how I feel right now. 
                                yep .. .. . it's definitely the end of the year ;) 
     This emotional roller coaster prevails from about March 31st {the exact moment I realize IT IS MAY!} till 5th grade graduation - for us June 7th this year.

I felt this mixture more than ever coming down on the end of this year .. ... .

My group this year has an absolutely beautiful innocence... .  however, once in a while, their sweet immaturity is overridden by an incredible lack of common sense. For 5th grade, some of their problem solving skills are a bit lacking. It drives me BUGGY! Frustration and impatience are felt in moments when, simple YEAR long procedures cannot be remembered We are talking going to the bathroom people, instructions are repeated nearly 1,000 x's I exaggerate, puzzled looks of not knowing what to do with a sweatshirt found on the ground is this real life??, asking where they should cut on the dotted line that has a pair of SCISSORS on it, Columbus apparently set sail in 2002 Think, does this make sense!?, and so-n-so is sitting in so-in-so's chair and no one knows what to do about it ... . . . .yes, it begins making one feel like mad King Ludwig! without his KILLER castle, unfortunately. 
Mad King Ludwig's Fairy tale Castle

 On the flip side,  their immaturity also means that they LOVE EVERYTHING! For 5th grade this is quite remarkable - generally they are much "too cool" for most everything! But these kiddos are enthusiastic about ALL lessons, ALL activities, ALL trips, ALL THE TIME! Joy is felt in moments when students clamber to volunteer for activities, cheer because they get to go "Rock shopping", proudly wear their "planet" hats to the lunchroom, scream out their fluency mantra and hand motions for the whole school to hear, and tell you how much they enjoy learning from you. It is beautiful. It is exasperating. It is what I love about teaching :)
Ok, time to climb out of my head!
     The kiddos have been working on our culminating 5th grade Social studies/writing/language/speaking project this week. We do a Wax museum of early American characters that we have studied throughout the year. They present an oral biography of their person during our “Wax Museum: America’s Walk of Fame.” The students memorize the information, dress up in some way and/or use props, and are frozen,like a wax figurine, with a sticker on their hand. The sticker serves as their “on” button. Visitors will press the button to activate the students acting and dialogue. Other classes are invited to attend as well as parents, grandparents and other student relatives! I make this an "at home" project, but due to the lack of home support many of my students have, I end up giving a lot of "in class" time to work on it. I send home a Parent letter explaining what the event is, what the students are expected to prepare for it, due dates, example reports, requirements, etc. I also attach a list of characters that we have studied along with some lesser known characters during early American history that they can help their child choose. They then have their child list their top three choices and return the top three slip signed BY A PARENT. This ensures not receiving any angry/confused parent letters come the report and poster due date. You can get my wax museum packet here.
     One of the requirements was to create a poster of their character. I get these biography posters from the local teacher store. You can find them here. The kids did an amazing job of doing the research and really making these look attractive! They will hang behind the kids in the hallway during the museum.

     Another requirement was to write a biographical report on their character but change it into first person to be used as their museum "speech". We did not do these in class together this year {contemplating it being our informational writing next year ... however, they tend to get to long for a speech if it is the actual paper}but I was impressed with how well they turned out! They were due this Monday and since then we have been practicing HARD CORE. Every morning I have them pair off and read their speech, hand it to their partner, say it without the paper, vice versa, then they must "earmuff" it 3x's somewhere around the room to themselves. Does anyone else use earmuff a lot? I use it ALL THE TIME - it makes my heart feel so good when I look around and see my kiddos so focused on editing, reading, re-reading, or practicing fluency - whatever we are using it for that day. {happy heart}
Anyways .. .. .. .
Most of them have it memorized and it is only Tuesday! Yippy! Thursday we will be having a dress rehearsal where we bring out costumes {I supply kids with needed props/costumes from my costume closet who need it on this day} and perform our speeches in front of the class. It is pretty much a shot morning, but makes the performance in the hallway THAT MUCH BETTER! 

Look for more pictures coming soon on the Wax Museum ... ... . . .

Love me some tactile reading lessons

     I am absolutely, positively, head over HEELS in love with Tanny McGregor's book Comprehension Connections. After stalking Mrs. B over at Life in 4B I broke down and bought a couple of the resources she recommended and uses for reading. If you have not visited her blog you MUST! She is an absolutely FANTASTIC teacher ... you will be inspired. I promise.
So anyway, she recommended a couple of books - I bought two of them. Comprehension Connections and Strategies that Work by Stephanie Harvey. These books are an absolute godsend to someone who is wanting to do more creative, tactile, workshop related lessons.

I just love how practical and hands on these women make each reading concept and strategy.

These lesson ideas originally came from Life in 4B who told me it was from Comprehension Connections. In this activity you show the students the concept of determining importance by going through your purse and decided which things are important, not important, sort of important if you were going to go to the gym.
The other idea taken from Comprehension Connections {originally found on Life in 4B's blog again} involved the students using noodles, water and a strainer to understand how we determine importance of readers. We talked about Noodles {facts} all alone are hard, crunchy and not something we really want to sit down and eat. What writers do is add the water {interesting details} to make the noodles {facts} interesting to us as the reader. Then you show the students the container full of noodles and water explaining that this is like a book on the shelf. As you read the book, it is your job as the reader to use your brain {strainer} to sort out the noodles {important information} from the water {interesting details}.
These sorts of tactile, hands on, visual examples really help establish the concepts in the kids heads. While doing our biography reports for the Wax Museum today, I heard the students telling each other to take out the "water" in their speeches and leave the "noodles" because the waters is only adding length to their paper and isn't really needed. {heart happy!}

Please do yourself a favor and snag these books. I got Strategies that Work off Amazon used for $.01 {plus shipping and handling} and it was in great shape! I would highly recommend these books!

Duct Tape Frenzy

After reading Teaching My Friends post on the use of patterned Duct Tape in her room I had to share a fun idea that I got from 4th Grade Frolics using this apparently new phenomena that has invaded my classroom.

I am now the proud owner of 2 duct tape wallets, a couple of duct tape flowers, a duct tape robot {our theme this year} and another object of which I am still attempting to figure out it's purpose/shape.
*just smile and say thank you*

After seeing Tara's great idea of making her Word Work centers out of these, I just knew I had to get myself over to Walmart and make these for mine as well. Not only did they turn out adorable - but my kids now think I am SO HIP {I mean win win right?!?} *smile*
They are so practical and cute - very excited.

 Tara's FABULOUS set up

My attempt at being as fabulous as she is!

Notice my grOOOOvy new "Word Work" area. WOOT WOOT! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

America in Revolt - Unit Ideas

    The Revolution is finally here! I think my kiddos have been looking forward to this unit since I mentioned that it is where we end the year WAY back in September! There is just something about war that excites and fascinates us isn't there?

This is one of my favorite units to teach as well. This year, I am working very hard to integrate my social studies curriculum with my reading and writing areas as well. This unit has seemed to mesh the best so far. A war gives so much openness to analyzing, comparing and contrasting, writing, points of view, and so many other standards met in ELA. I have also found great resources and ideas from AMAZING bloggers such as Teaching in Room 6 and Life in 4B both of which do an incredible job of integrating their social studies curriculum and ELA beautifully in their classrooms.

Here are some of the things we have been working on so far.

We started out in the 13 colonies discussing what life was like for the colonists. We had a "guest visitor" named Elizabeth Higgins {Picture at right with student - aka ME!} who welcomed us to her home, provided tea and cookies for the kids, and shared about her prior life back in England, the journey over, praise for their King, importance of tea in British culture, and her current life in Williamsburg, Virginia. Then had the students practice wearing clothing from the time period and shared a bit about what life would be like for each of them.
{I wish so bad I could show you my lovely kiddo's faces, but alas, I have not gotten parental approval to put them up online so .... white circles are all you get -well and my lovely face of course ;) }
After studying the colonies for a couple of weeks, "Elizabeth Higgins" came to visit again. This time, she presented a completely different view of what her life is like in the colonies. This time, she apologized that she cannot produce tea and explains how that blasted King George has had the nerve to tax everything including their most precious tea! She produces cracker instead of cookies and explains how they are now boycotting shops. Her change in attitude helps the kids see the change in many of the colonists
Students worked together in cooperative groups to produce a time line of events we entitled "The Road to Revolution." We used our History Alive textbooks to find information for each important event.We also make personal flip books of each event with a description and drawing - the students use this to study for our "Road to Revolution" test I give before we delve into the War.

     Throughout the week we break down each event in detail. In writing, students used their VOICE to create a R.A.F.T from the point of view of a tea bag. If you are unfamiliar with what a R.A.F.T is it is a fun style of writing for students to practice the VOICE trait. The teacher chooses their Role. Audience. Format. and Topic. The student's role was to be a Tea Bag. Their audience was Patriot Colonists. The format was to be a letter. Topic was 1. Encourage the patriots to continue fighting for freedom or 2. Beg them to stop and stay loyal to the King.
We also put these on tea paper and had quite the factory going which the kids thought was great!

We also did some great activities I received on TPT from Sound and Sea. She has some really great free stuff! Check her out! One neat one we did was the Boston Massacre Police Report - the kids has great fun acting this out and filling in their reports :)

One of my most favorite simulations all year has to do with taxes and how frustrated the colonists were at King George III and Parliament. The famous cry, "No taxation without representation" comes alive as the students themselves begin shouting it in the classroom! I give each student a Dixie cup and on the bottom I have written either a K (King George), P (three members of Parliament), T (Tax collector), or C (colonist). I have the students who are King George and Parliament join me at the front of the classroom. The two tax collectors stand on either side of the room. The rest of the students remain seated and I go around placing from 10-20 M&M's in each COLONIST cup. In the tax collectors I place three and in the King and three parliament members cups I place one. I explain to the students that the M&M's in their cup represent the product of their livelihoods, whether it represents wealth in terms of money, furs, fish, lumber, crops, etc. It represents how much money they have. I also explain that though the King and Parliament only have one M&M each, it actually represents 100 M&M's because I explain that members were often part of the gentry class in England and therefore had LOTS of family wealth prior to any job they

{First Pix Above: I wish I could show you this kids 
whole face - he is making an awesome frowny face!
Second Pix Above: King George in the Middle, 
Parliment members beside him wanting money!}

currently hold. Then I explain to "Parliament" in a private huddle that they must choose something to "tax" on the students (items include students wearing blue jeans, the color red, sandals, long hair, glasses, etc.) They then must decide whether they want to tax them 1-3 M&M's for having that item. We announce the tax to the class and the tax collectors begin their rounds. Student protest begins almost immediately! After the collectors are finished they bring their full cups to the front and I distribute the "wealth" among the members of Parliament, the King and increase the tax collectors by 2 M&M's each time. Depending on the amount of M&M's you start the colonists out with, there are probably about 4-5 "taxes" passed before you begin to have people running out of money. In the end, the King, Members of Parliament, and the tax collectors all have more M&M's than the colonists and the discussion opportunity is phenomenal! I purposely do not give every colonist the same amount because it opens up discussion afterward about how some students who started out with more are not as frustrated at the end because they still have quite a bit, while others who started out with less or were unlucky enough to have every item that was taxed ended up with nothing. We talk about the different perspectives, how the "colonists" feel about the King, Parliament, and even the tax collectors (remember they tarred and feathered many of them!!) They LOVE this activity and understand, without a doubt, the complicated theory behind taxation without representation.

I have the students do an anticipation guide sheet as both a cooperative learning activity, and sharing of opinions activity, and a prior knowledge activity before we discuss WHY Britain began taxing the colonies.

Another great way to help the students understand how the colonists were feeling toward King George is to show this  parody of Timberland's song "Too late to Apologize." They absolutely LOVE it ...  
Warning: Humming of this throughout other subjects may occur!
This is actually not the original version created but I felt that the rock scene at the end of the original video was inappropriate to the tone and hurt the educational value. While this one isn't perfect, the kids still ADORE it and it keeps the tone serious (if you can call this video serious! HA!).

Here are two other GREAT videos I use from School House Rock to teach the Revolution:
Phew! that is it for now ...
For more great information and lesson ideas on the Revolution, click on the link below! 
American Revolution Linky
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