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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

:Open House and Our First Writing:

     Yesterday we had our back to school "Open House" for parents. I can still remember dragging my mom around my 5th grade room showing her all the places where magic happened for me! It is always so cute to listen in as my kiddos share with their parents a little about our room and the cute things they have pin pointed as important from these first couple of weeks together.
Some of my favorites included:
     "Look mom, here is our stamina time ... you aren't allowed to look up at ANYONE, you just keep        
           your eyes stuck on your book so you can get LOST in it!" (YES! insert proud teacher smile)
     "These are our paper plates, we did something with them in social studies" (well, they didn't  
           connect well with THAT lesson! HA!)
     "We don't use our desks in preparation for lockers in middle school so my desk can't even get messy
            if I wanted it too!" (this made me laugh!)
      Our school gives us business cards and I like to make them into laminated magnets so parents can take them for communication purposes. They are always a HUGE hit!
     I also try and get each parent a curriculum guide so they can see what we will be learning throughout the year and remind them to look in our newsletters for updates on where we are in the "What We Are Learning This Week" section. The art teacher had us lay out the kids art portfolios and parents really liked being able to take a peek at what they have already been up to!
     Overall, I had a pretty good turn out. We just do a walkthrough at our school. I feel that there are pros and cons to either a quick meet and greet or a sit down function, but our parents feel that this is the easiest for them and we accommodate.  I have been seeing the CUTEST things on here that people do for Open Houses/Back to School Nights ... next year I will have to get my little butt in gear and create some of these gems:
Awesome popcorn parent favor bags:

 If you want this ADORABLE! template for your own parent night stop over at Fun In First to pick it up for FREE!
CUTE Batman Cookie Medal's that I discovered at Coaching Chronicles (their theme was Superheroes as well! Great ideas!):
A few more neat open house ideas from Coaching Chronicles ... volunteer sign up sheet, email sheet, "needed" supplies written on a star that parents can take to help out, etc.
In other classroom news, the first week and a half of school have been FANTASTIC! I have to be quick to remind myself that there are going to be procedures and routines that I expect {since my brain and body are still accustomed to how student behavior was at the end of LAST year} but I have been extremely impressed with how quick these kiddos are catching on!
For writing I combined my own summer memories writing lesson with 4th Grade Frolic's "Glasses" writing activity. First I read them the book "Wilfrid Gorden McDonald Partridge" (a cute story about a little boy who lives by an old person's home and helps a lady "remember" her past) to help them get into the mindset of "memories". After some discussion and comprehension questions, I had the kids share with their partner their two favorite memories from their summer. Then we went back to our seats and created big sunglasses frames and drew the two memories we had in them. This was a great lesson to teach them my coloring rules:
  • Marker CANNOT be used to color in the background!
  • ONLY crayon and colored pencil are to be used for coloring background
  • When creating a picture, make sure you fill the ENTIRE page (no white showing!)
They turned out REALLY cute! And they were a nice thing to already have to show off for Open House!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Superheroes UNITE! A Classroom Tour

Following this summer's consecutive blockbuster theme, I chose SUPERHEROES {through History} as my classroom theme! Since I teach American history with a focus on the INCREDIBLE people who made up our country, I thought it would be a great theme to have the students compare SUPER qualities of real life heroes to their own lives.

So I will end this FABULOUS first week with a quick picture tour of my 2012 "learning conservatory".
Entrance - I decided to utilize ALL of the space I could in the room to display student work. Our district fire code is VERY strict and only allows us to cover 20% of our walls, and even this MUST be on a cork strip. We aren't even allowed to hang student work in the hallway {insert crying} SO, I have been turing anything and everything into a bulletin board, including my filing cabinet! {sneaky laugh}
 Entrance bulletin board - Superhero voice levels above 
View of the back of the Classroom - back wall appears sparse at the top but it will soon be filled with anchor charts! 
History Corner - we begin the year with Government. 
I decided to use Teaching in Room 6's tissue paper boarder idea ... FELL IN LOVE! 
 Guided reading corner - this year I have made it one of my goals to really incorporate guided reading!  I must admit, I am still a bit lost as to how to do this {the perfectionist in me is DYING!} but through my constant research and INCREDIBLE advice from many of you, my blogging inspirations, I feel I shall be successful this year! 
 Summary of learning chart idea I got from Runde's Room. Check her out! She has the most stellar ideas! I will definitely be using this to have students summarize what they learned during our guided reading time. 
 AMAZING comic book modge podged bookshelf that my partner teacher made for me! LOVE IT! Here I'm storing my guided reading group materials and Daily5 word work games. I found these absolutely ADORABLE Superhero CAFE Labels on TPT for FREE! and I again utilized the tissue paper. A-MAZING!
Guided Reading Group Posters
 LOVE these Superhero Daily 5 signs that I also found on TPT.
 View of the front of the classroom. Superhero colorings done by the kiddos
 Reading/Writing mini-lesson corner
 The City is probably my FAVORITE part of the classroom! Thank you mom for adding the windows :) It also houses some of the SUPERHEROES through history we will be discussing throughout the year. Also a perfect place for my comic letters! The mailboxes look lonely and empty as they await student work, notebooks, and folders. 
My planning corner
 Word Work Center for Daily 5 along with Spiderman's Web
 Supply corner as well as our homework board, daily schedule changes, rules and expectations, along with our daily learning goals.
Looking forward to a SUPER year!

So after I made this post I found this fun linky party over at Swimming into Second so I thought I would add that since it is all about showing your classroom :)
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