Sunday, March 31, 2013

Jamestown: A Horror Film

We have been studying Jamestown recently and have been having great discussion about the trials and hardships that were faced by the men who made the treacherous journey toward the official, first English settlement. 
In order to analyze the different experiences the men went through, I took the kids through an activity called "Keep it OR Junk it!" I discovered this phenomenal lesson on the Teaching Channel (if you have never checked their videos out, you are missing a FABULOUS resource!). Here is the original video of a class performing this activity (the activity could be used with any content, but this particular lesson happens to be on Jamestown - SCORE!) The activity works like this: 
First, the students read the passage alone. Then they reread the passage, circling or underlining words or short phrases that help them answer the focus question. My focus question was different then the one in the video. Our focus question was: What was life like during the early years of the Jamestown settlement? 
After they have done that, I had them pick their top ten words or phrases and write them on a sticky note. 
They they worked together as groups, seeing who had similar words. If two or more people in the group had the word then it went on their group paper. 
Once groups had gone through all their words, they choose two people from their group to perform the Keep it OR Junk it activity. The students then proceed down their list asking the whole class whether the words they have on their paper should be #1 KEPT #2 JUNKED #3 CLOUDED
The students in the room communicate with they through hand motions:
1 finger means KEEP 
2 fingeres mean JUNK 
A fist means CLOUD (which means that they are not sure and that we will come back to it) 
This activity went really well, and it was a great way to get the kids narrowed down and focused on what life was actually like in the early years of Jamestown using their own facts that they had discovered by determining importance (another reading skill integrated!) 
We have all decided that if today, one were to make an accurate video portraying the trials and hardships endured, it would easily be a first class horror film (that I quickly reminded that kids I WOULD NOT SEE. I do not do horrors - and I am quick to remind them, in my motherly fashion, neither should they!) 
Unfarmable swamp land, drought, famine, dirty drinking water, mosquitoes, diseases, inter fighting, blistering summer heat followed by an severe, icy winter, unfriendly local natives, shiploads of "gentlemen" who had never really worked a day in their life, and then there was the "Starving Time" (with even a couple of cases of cannibalism!) ... the statistics show just how forsaken and terrible it really was. By June 1610, of the possibly six hundred men left by Smith, only sixty survived... 
To demonstrate the vast difference between what the English were dreaming of when they set off for the "New World" paralleled with the reality they faced upon arrival, the kids created Jamestown Metaphors using the word and phrases we had discovered. We had been looking at figurative speech in reading so it fit in perfectly (whoo hoo integration!). I found this great anchor chart on pinterest which many of you have seen, however, I was especially excited because it goes PERFECTLY with my Jamestown metaphor because it has to do with weather and nature ... and that is what I chose my Jamestown metaphor to be as an example. 
I cannot find the original post for this chart ... only the picture pops up if I click on it. If you know where the original came from please let me know so I can give them credit!
My Jamestown Metaphor example
Here are some of the kids metaphors - they turned out super cute and I feel that the kids really understood the concept! Some of them were really creative! {proud teacher heart}
This was one of my personal favorites! This kid paralleled Jamestown DREAM vs. REALITY with Minecraft - I loved the added touches of sticking the items down in the boxes as the "building items" 
I really enjoy showing history from a different perspective - I think that often were are taught history through rose colored glasses and forget to truly do justice to the people who lived. Many times our history books glaze over tragic stories, embarrassing moments, or areas of history we, as a nation, are not proud of. However, this kind of teaching is wrong. Not only is it disrespectful to the multitudes of people it affected, it gives kids a utopia picture that does not allow for the opportunity to truly do what history is intended to do - remind us of mistakes in the past, so that they will not be made again in the future! I'll get down off of my soapbox ;) All that to say, I love showing my kids appropriate (some content is too deep for younger students) Horrible Histories. A British based series that blends fact, reality, and morbid humor, as only the Brits can do! The kids absolutely ADORE them.
I just had to share the one I use for Jamestown.

Horrible Histories Colonisation from Rebeca Millam on Vimeo.
For more Colonial lessons and activities, visit the link below!
13 Colonies

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Glory hallelujah! 

... and what a great last day we had to welcome the break!

We have specials classes right away everyday - literally minutes after the kids have walked in the door, inhaled their breakfast, and said the pledge with the school. This morning was their culminating P.E. class gymnastic routine performance that they have been working on all month. They were SO STINKIN CUTE! The kiddos had been put into groups of 4-5 and had had to come up with their own music, routine, and theme. Definitely brought me back to my gynmastic/cheerleading days!
Yesterday, we had our fabulous Career Day, so today I had the kids connect to it and write a paragraph about what they want to do when they grow up - good time to put to test their paragraph skills we have been working on thanks to Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. More on that in a later post! Perhaps I'll get to that over the break! 
Anyhoo, (flashback phrase from my high school years) we also wrote thank you notes to the presenters and created these absolutely FAB flowers with them that I found over at Hillside School Library. I did not get a picture of ours but here is theirs to show you an example.

Aren't they just the cutest?!
We also wrapped up our persuasive advertisement technique discussion and I challenged the kiddos to find and tally as many techniques they find while watching TV over break. They were excited - which made my teacher heart happy! I will post the handout I created on TPT as soon as I find time since it's at school! After break we will be diving head first into our own persuasive writing! One of my most favorite writing genres!
Our school collects box tops pretty religiously, giving prizes and awards to different classrooms or to the whole school each month based on meeting a specific goal (example: our Dean of students had to dress up as a Leperachaun for March and our principal, a gentleman, had to dress up as a ballerina!). Well, our class won "MOST box tops as a class" for February and so we finally enjoyed our "prize"  which was an afternoon trip to a local kidszone in town. They had FREE arcade games, carnival games, foosball, air hockey, etc. along with a massive, monstrous, AWESOME BLOW UP SLIDE! It really was a great bonding opportunity for the class and me. Playing with kids is one of the greatest way to share with them - I know it isn't always the most "educational" but it gives you the ability to relate with them on a different level and if you get involved with their play - they will love you for it! I had a great time, especially with my boys, competing on the slide for "highest jump" "longest slide without falling down face planting" "most spins" "furthest jump" "most complicated move" and my favorite, "most awkward fall!"
So ... bouncy slide = lots of fun. HOWEVER, if you weren't wearing long sleeves, it gives pretty crazy carpet/rubber burns on your elbows! They were burning and stinging on the bus ride home. As soon as we got back, we all were holding wet paper towels on our elbows! ha!
To wrap up our "beginning of break day" I had created little Spring Break treats for the kids ...
All in all, today was a fun memory to make with the kids and send them off on break with fresh in their minds!
To all of you who are on break - enjoy! To all of you who rubbed it in my face were on it already ... HA! My time has come! ;)

UPDATE: The next day my elbows looked like THIS! Ugh. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Potato chips, fidget toys, and Career Day!

Today, we held our first, annual (well at least we would like it to be after today!) parent led Career Day!  While thinking about ways to get parents more involved in the classroom, my partner teacher and I decided that since our school really doesn't do a Career Day, we would do one for fifth grade. We had a great parent response and turn out for the event. The kids were all given a sheet of paper with a chart on it that labeled the major subjects (reading, math, writing, social studies, and science) in school as well as personal management areas including staying on task, getting assignments turned in on time, respecting others, etc. Before hand, we had emailed this list to parents and encouraged them to include in their presentations ways that they utilize these classroom skills in the real world work experience.
The student sheet, as well the the student chart check list, is available in my TPT store. 

The kids were given a sheet with their four stations that they had chosen and a checklist of the items mentioned above for each station. As the presenter gave their speech, the students were to be checking off the different classroom skills they use. They also had to note whether the job required a college education or special training.
Here is a sneak peak at our different occupations: 
Cosmetologist/Hair Stylist:
A mother and two assistants came and gave a great demonstration of how to put in an extensions, how to curl hair, how they mix colors (science and math!) and how they color. They even put a fun little piece of tinsel type material in the girl's hair!

Postal Worker/Mail Man: 
Presented the different types of material that he delivers. Discussed his training that he had to do. Showed the kids how mail gets sorted within the post office.

Veterinarian Technician: 
Shows the kids lots of different REAL parasites that are found in animals! Even brought in an X-ray box and X-ray to show how they look at the animals they are working on.

He is actually a farmer who produces potatoes for Lay's Potato Chips! So he brought in snack bags of Lay's for the kids! Awesome. He discussed different types of potatoes, how farms work, and how the potatoes are turned into chips.
Discussed emotions with the kids and gave them all stickers. Discussed how she helps people and shared with they tips on controlling anger, sharing their emotions correctly, and how to handle stress - she even let the kids pick out a "fidget" toy that they could use in class to help them focus! So cool!


She shared information about the body with the kids along with lots of different tools that she uses - the kids enjoyed the stethoscope! She also had pens for each of them to take from the hospital.

Corporate worker at our local factory:
He shared with the kids about his schooling (had them shouting GO STATE a couple of times - ha!) and really encouraged them to be already thinking about going to college. You GO DUDE! He discussed with them his job of looking at the history of product sales (social studies!) in different countries and states. He also shared with them the different packagings that his company creates including Capri Sun - which he generously brought for the kids!

Clothing Designer/Local Shop Owner: 
She shared with the kids the different inspirations she gets to make her clothes (she takes used clothes, tears them apart and sews them back together in funky designs with crazy stitching) and about running her own business. She even let each of the kids pick out one item from her "store" including headbands, earrings, keychains, and hair clips!

Thank goodness for such great parent support! I was so greatly impressed with the parent presentations and little "extras" they added to really make this not only an educational experience, but also a very fun and memorable afternoon!

Some of the fun items the kids recieved
On a side note: While down in Florida on Spring Break, good friends of ours "bumped into" DuJuan Harris, our new Packer running back, and got me this autographed picture! So do well for me Harris ... make me rich ;) 

Saturday, March 23, 2013


I promised you a lesson on Plot and here it is!
Here is our PLOT DIAGRAM inspired by That Teaching Blog! If you have not checked this great ELA blog out, DO IT!
Notice the Plotasaurus Dino - he will come in later ...
I aspire, in each of my lessons, to utilize the I,WE,YOU model of teaching. Sometimes this occurs all together in one mini lesson with a brief teacher model, group practice, and independent work. Other times, this gradual release of responsibility occurs over the course of a few days. For this particular skill,  I opted for the "few days" since PLOT can be a tricky skill for students as well as the reading of books necessary for practice takes up a lot of additional time. 
     The first day, we reviewed the different elements of plot (4th grade standard). I had the students work together with their partner to create our plot diagram on their own using flash cards - don't forget to cover up the group chart during this activity!  
I also shared with the kids a fun way to remember that good plots are not always an even triangle (when you think about it, good books have a HUGE rising action section, strong climax, and a rather short falling action. This helps keep the reader engaged and satisfied).  Remember the Plotasaurus in the diagram? I found this cute way to remember it from a fun high school writer's blot The Epic, The Awesome, The Random. She gives some unique and inspiring "student" insight in her post "Not Your Teacher's Plot Diagram" (love it when kids think outside of the box!) 
The students also drew one in their NB as a reminder :) 
(I) The second day we read a story together - I read to them the Legend of the Hummingbird (A Mayan Legend) since we were studying early explorers and the South American Indians - I try to integrate SS and ELA as MUCH as possible! After reading the story, I modeled how to fill in the different sections of the plot using sticky notes.
(WE) The third day, I had the kids work with their partner and choose a preselected book to read together. Then they worked cooperatively to decide the different parts of plot and fill in the sticky notes, placing them on a poster board. STudents then shared these with the class. 
(YOU) The fourth day, students worked independently, choosing a book from the preselected picture books that they did NOT read already with their partner. They worked on their own smaller placemat chart which they filled in with mini sticky notes with the plot information. We then shared these with our partners.
Our reading work area - notice the kids character vs. conflict posters from my Conflict Post . Having these up and visible really helped with this lesson since the kids had to find the conflict of their stories in the plot and identify which type of conflict was occurring. 
(ASSESS) Our final day of our PLOT skills unit, I gave them a short story with the plot items listed below. After reading the story, they simply filled in the plot elements at the bottom of the page instead of the sticky notes. The kids did really good on this assessment! This last week (about 3 weeks after this actual Plot Unit - yes, I am that behind in blogging!) we reviewed elements of plot during one of our reading centers and they still have it so I am feeling good :) 
 Do you have any unique ways of teaching plot in your room? 
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