Friday, February 28, 2014

Valentine's Ball {Formal Dance}

I know it is a little late (oops!) but we had too much fun for me not to share a little of our celebration!
It was a wonderful mixture of pleasant awkward - as Valentine's always and forever will be in elementary school :) 
The day began with our annual Manners Breakfast starting with a lesson in Chivalry (a sadly, quickly disappearing trait), where it came from (tough, gory, medieval knights) and how ladies should react. We learned together when to place our napkin on our laps and 
what to eat/not eat with a fork during formal dinners. How to set a simple table setting, how to interact with waiters/waitresses, and how to interact with table guests and/or host/hostess. 
The room pre-kiddos
Students were asked to dress in their "finest" for our festivities! 
Then, donning aprons, our own waiters and waitresses served us our wonderful breakfast of muffins, orange juice/milk, yogurt, and fresh fruit. 
For our reflection, we completed our vintage place mats by sharing 5 things we learned from the etiquette lesson. 
For the second part of the day, we learned a combination of six dances - three with myself including SWING, WALZ, and SALSA. With my partner teacher, DISCO, the TANGO, and the CHARLESTON. Learning them with the opposite gender made for many awkward, yet rewarding, experiences as students learned how to respectfully interact with each other on a dance floor.
At the end of our practice, we learned the history of formal dances (Balls) and the practice of "Dance Cards" used by girls to organize their evenings. Each of the girls in the room were then given a dance card with the predetermined TWO dances they would be required to have a male partner for (SWING and WALZ). The ladies then walked around the room and responded to the requests of the gentlemen's "May I have the Walz/Swing?" (of course the only response could be yes, unless your card was full). It was adorable. It was awkward. It was a wonderful barrier breaker. 
The look on this guy's face says it ALL! *tehe* 
After lunch, we "got dancy!" Rockin to all styles of music, the kids really showed off their moves :) The first formal ballroom dance we had was Swing, the kiddos partnered off and did a great job of practicing their previously learned moves. Many of my students this year (more then I have ever had in the past!) stayed paired off and definitely blew me away with their skills! The second ballroom dance was the Waltz - these, mixed with inserted group dances, created a very FUN dance party!  
A delightful surprise by one of my girls, and quite possibly one of the coolest things I have had a kid do, was share her dancing, which left many of us in awe! 
(The video is not working right now sadly!)
 Cookies and punch were shared during our dance intermission, Valentine's were passed out, and boxes were admired. Below is a sneak peak at a few of the finest boxes I've ever seen come out of my room! 
and yes, my favorite, a snowboard box from the 2014 Winter Olympic games! 
Sweet Valentine's Treats from my kiddos! Love them! 
Goofing off with MY Valentine - MR. B
Also was blessed to be able to drive down to Tennessee (and SPRING!) to visit my favorite little sister! The Lord is GOOD!  
I hope you were all richly blessed by the one's you love! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Theme = the message of a story
A common, but effective, way to remember that THEME is the MESSAGE the author is trying to convey.
We have been reviewing and working on theme this last week.
In our thoughtful logs, we added some great inserts that I TPTed (wonder when this phrase will be added to the dictionary??) from The Pinspired Teacher. They are a great reminder that theme can be either stated or implied in a story. The little books did take quite a while to put together but they turned out so cute that it was worth it!
We have been working on figuring out different themes in our read alouds, independent reading, and in the world all around us (INSERT WALT DISNEY CONNECTIONS! *squeal*)
Theme can often be a confusing and complicated concept for students so I also tried to utilize what I now call the "Tanny Effect" by taking a more abstract concept and making it clearer in a kinesthetic/real world sort of way. If you are not using Tanny McGregor's book "Comprehension Connections" you are MISSING OUT! I know I have talked about this a lot, you can actually see an entire post devoted to her style HERE, but honestly, her methods are just that good! Okay, off my soap box. .. ..
Using music is one of her ways of breaking down a more abstract concept, so I gave it a try with THEME. We listened to some common older and newer songs that had STATED (obvious - usually stated clearly in the chorus) and IMPLIED (much harder to find, clues are discovered in the verses).
  • Man in the Mirror - Michael Jackson (To make the world a better place, change your self for the better) 
  • Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye (Don't give up on love) 
  • Time of Your Life - Green Day (Hold onto the good times/memories) 
  • Stronger - Kelly Clarkson (Learn from your mistakes - I love the kiddo belows definition!) 
  • Handlebars - Flobot (note: this song has some vocabulary you will want to discuss with students before listening including missal, holocaust, vaccinations - definitely for upper el/middle school listeners) 
    • This song has a powerful message that grows alongside the music - example of author's craft in music usage
    • You have the potential to do what ever you want, GOOD... OR BAD - it is YOUR choice! Especially powerful for children since their life is still all before them (love the connection to the riding of a bike ... basically, the song starts and ends with a child) 
We also have been working on looking at narratives and how the authors give us clues, just like in the music, which are both implied and stated that point toward the overall theme. 
Finally, for a smile before you leave, here is a very impromptu video that I grabbed as the lesson was occurring. 
ATTENTION: there is a ROCK STAR in my classroom ;0) 

Crunching and Munching on Multi-syllabic Words!

Recently, we have been working on using strategies to help us decode unknown and unfamiliar words. 
As we all know, decoding word sound involves lots of different things: 
  • Understanding letter sounds (phonics, letter a, b, c,)
  • Flipping sounds between their short and long vowel sounds 
  • Understanding letter sound combinations (-tion, ch, -er, ious, ism) 
  • Blending different sounds together 
  • Recognizing grade level sight words that do not match rules - you know, like Colonel and Kernel (gotta love the English language!)
By fifth grade, many students have most of these skills, however, some of our kids still need the extra support, and ALL of them need to recognize that we use these strategies everyday (usually without thinking about it) when we encounter a word that we don't know how to pronounce. 
Today, we looked at a concept I found HERE on pinterest called CRUNCH and MUNCH. In this simple, but awesome strategy, kids CRUNCH the word into syllables (paying close attention to Greek and Latin suffixes and prefixes) and then combine them to sound out the word.
The kids did a really good job of breaking down difficult words using this strategy. It was really fun to see them freak out when I placed a LONG word on the board and then watch the excitement/light bulbs go off once they realized they now had a tool to break it down and sound it out. Then they began asking for BIGGER words - this challenged me! hehe  
As always, we had a notebook insert that matched my anchor chart (please ignore my sloppy handwriting! Gotta love the GIANT "C" in echolocation - ha!), I modeled this strategy using a word from a read aloud, then we practiced it together using a couple words from our morning fluency read. Lastly, I had them look for unknown words during their independent reading that they could CRUNCH and MUNCH to decode. I cannot make this insert available since it so closely resembles the Lesson Clouds which she has on TPT. 
In small group, we practiced more of this reading a short article. I was AMAZED at how much easier it was for my kids to CRUNCH up the word parts now that I am incorporating more Greek and Latin root words into our curriculum. So many of the parts in multi-syllabic words have them and it makes it SO easy to remind students to A) look for these and B) remind them not to crunch them, and other common word parts, apart when breaking down the sounds. 
If you are looking for a FUN, easy, and effective way to incorporate Greek and Latin suffixes and prefixes into your curriculum, I HIGHLY recommend The Reading Olympians. I am hoping to do a post on it and how I use it in my room in a few days.
What are some of your favorite tricks for helping kids decode unfamiliar words? 
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