Thursday, September 24, 2015

Losing the Bill of Rights::Gaining a Teachable Moment

Today, we did one of my FAVORITE U.S. Government lessons! With all of the issues in the Middle East, it turned into an even more  POWERFUL lesson than usual about what people do when their rights are being violated. 

If you teach Government, and if you teach 4th - 5th grade or middle school, you MUST show your students "Future Fright - Losing the Bill of Rights". It is a bit on the mature side due to some language I actually skip the interrogation section because it isn't terribly necessary to the story and there is a pretty heavy swear word. However, the response and respect, that this video provides kids for the Bill of Rights, and the other protections we have built into our government, is unmatched!! There is such a deep appreciation and reflection that is so mature for fifth grade students. The video follows a family who have been physicians, for 7 years, in another country. While they were gone, America was taken over by a dictator who did away with the Bill of Rights. You can find the video in sections, FOR FREE, either on Discovery Education or Youtube. Viewing Guide available HERE.
While watching the video, I have the students keep an eye out for Right violations important vocabulary word. I provide a laminated copy of the Bill of Rights as a reference, for each table. They then keep track of a minimum of 3 violations. We then share out afterward and discuss what rights were violated. I also have them self reflect and answer a short exit slip, at the end of the lesson. 

In the video, the family realize how "different" America has become and they decide they don't want to be there any more so they start planning their escape. This year, that led to a POWERFUL discussion, due to the recent news coverage on the Syrian refugees. An impromptu learning opportunity opened up and I pulled out this weeks TIME for Kids magazine where the FIRST article was about the refugees, why they were fleeing, who was taking them, how they are escaping, what America is doing to help. etc. 
It. Was. So. COOL! 
The kids have made so many connections with this! We are currently reading Number the Stars during our read aloud because I love all the connections there are between what the Nazi Regime did and what our Government protects us from. 
We added to our classroom "Brain" that President Collins, in the movie, is acting like Hitler and how the Bill of Rights protects us from violations which the Jewish people were subjected to.
 I also believe in having a constantly VISIBLE not just "available" world map in the classroom to encourage geography connections. 
There was totally a moment today where the whole class was crowded around the map figuring out where the refugees were coming from and where they were headed. Later, someone asked, "Why don't they just come to America" and without my input or direction, another student pointed on the map and explained, "Because, look how far they would have to travel in their little boats, it would be just too far!" I love that this kind of critical thinking is possible when students have an available resource in the classroom. 

Don't you just LOVE it when connections are so fluidly made through curriculum and student brains!?!
On. Educator. Cloud. Nine. 

Here are more Government Activities: 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Behavior Clip Chart AH HA moment

 Like many teachers, our school utilizes the "clip" system for individual student behavior management. I also use pom poms for a collaborative table group incentive, but I will have to blog about that another time. 
My chart looks like many others I am sure. There is a space (green) where students start every day. They are able to move up or down depending on their behavior ... yada, yada, yada. NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with the clip system, just pinterest it :0) 
However, there were a few draw backs to this system in my classroom: 
     1. In our fifth grade, we team teach so my students go to my    
         partner teacher for 2 1/2 hours for math and science while     
         hers visit my room for reading, writing, and social studies. 
         This caused lots of problems with the clip chart. We tried   
         EVERYTHING. We would rely on us verbally reminding   
         students to move their clips up or down when they entered 
         and reentered the class room yeah right! Are we idiots?! 
         Maybe. Writing down who had moved on the clip chart on a 
         mini white board and passing that between us during 
         switching time. and more! Inevitably, there was confusion, 
         frustration, miscommunication, and always some kid who got 
         a way with something because the system was so inefficient. 
     2. When we traveled in the hallway, went to an assembly, the  
         library, activity outdoors, etc. Students would misbehave and 
         yet, because the "clip chart" was not there, it seemed 
         obsolete for both student and teacher. There is something 
         ridiculous about punishing an in the moment situation with 
         "When we get back to the classroom in 20 minutes, move your 
         clip" That is if you or I remember...
     3. At the end of the day, I would have a student bring me the 
         clips from the chart and write down where everyone had 
         been. This seemed a bit like remaking the wheel. .. 

Brought to our attention by our new fourth grade teacher, we decided to make our chart MOBILE! Oh the joy it has brought us! Yes, I now know, it has been on pinterest, however, I had never seen it before and give all the credit to my fabulous 4th grade teacher! And, if your like me and have not seen EVERYTHING there is to see on pinterest (with the amount of time I spend, you would think I would have seen this) this post may change your world ;0) 

It. is. this. simple. 
     1. Paint a yard stick according to your behavior chart. We still      
          have ours posted for students to reference the colors, 
          although you could write it on the stick itself as well. 
      2. Put their clothespins on. 
      3. Take it with you EVERYWHERE!!! 
Problems it eliminates: 
     1. The student in charge of clips brings the yard stick between 
         the classrooms when we switch, students move it when          
         necessary and that exact stick goes back with them at the end    
         of their time with me. no more keeping track of each others students 
     2. We simply BRING IT WITH US to the library, assemblies,  
         computer lab, even outside! It is amazing. 
     3. At the end of the day, the clip student simply lays it on my 
         desk and I can take care of which students earned rewards 
         and which need a note home, etc. 

I hope this inspires you as much as it did me. Perhaps you are thinking of something in your classroom that could become a little more mobile. It's the little things in management like this that can TOTALLY make a difference in a school day isn't it? 
Sincerely, a VERY Happy Teacher. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Classroom Tour 2015

School started pretty late for us this year since we cannot start till after Labor Day thank you, Michigan!. Two weeks in, I think it is about time I put up my annual classroom tour pictures. To see my other classroom themes go HERE, HERE, HERE, or HERE

Since I focus so heavily on Social Studies throughout the year, I decided not to start with an actual "theme" but started out with our first social studies unit which is Government. You could call my classroom theme this year "black and white" since that is the only part of the room that will stay as I change it to match each social studies unit. Because of our first unit, we are looking very PATRIOTIC as of right now :) 

Please enjoy a picture tour of my 2015 classroom. 
Left side of the Room
Front of the room
Back of the room
Right side of the room

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Walking Classroom: Teacher Feature!

I had the privilege of being The Walking Classroom's Teacher Feature for the Month of March! My students and I have truly been blessed by this incredible classroom resource! 
For more information on the Walking Classroom and how you can apply for this amazing grant, check out THIS post. 

March 2015 Newsletter

This month's newsletter shares ways to get connected to TWC and other fabulous adopters, strategies to help students become better listeners, how to get involved in Every Kid Healthy Week coming up in April.

Teacher Feature
Brittany Bermingham
Hoppin Elementary
Three Rivers, Michigan

A quick glance at Brittany's blog "The Art of Learning" will give you an idea of just what an incredible teacher she is.  It's clear she goes above and beyond to engage her students and to make learning meaningful -- just look at the picture above! She incorporates The Walking Classroom into her teaching to reinforce what she is teaching and graciously shares her ideas with others. We are grateful there are such dedicated educators, like Brittany, working hard everyday to ensure their students succeed! 

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Mount Vernon, Ohio, however, my family is originally from Michigan so I returned as soon as I could and have now lived in this great state for eleven years. 

How long have you been teaching and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I have been teaching for five years. I have always been a part of an education world. I am a third generation teacher and grew up immersed in lesson planning, curriculum, and, of course, long family summer vacations.  My mother is a high school English teacher and my father, a high school history teacher and I knew at a very early age that I wanted to follow in their footsteps, much to the chagrin of my little sister whom I "taught" with teddy bears in the basement. 

When have you been your "best self" as a teacher?
I feel that I am "the best" teacher when my students are engaged in content and creating projects without my assistance -- when I am truly a facilitator. It is such a rewarding feeling to watch a classroom of students eager and focused, digging deeper in their learning independently. When I am able to provide a foundation where students can use their OWN knowledge and information to analyze, evaluate, and create, I feel like I am on top of the world! 

As a teacher, for what are you most grateful?
I am most grateful for the professional learning community I work in. My fellow teachers and partner fifth grade teacher, maintain the same moral/family values, they care deeply about all of "our" kids, and they are eager to learn, listen, and community and I know that it has made me a better teacher! 

What are some educational resources that you utilize to help cover the curriculum?
Obviously, Teacher Pay Teacher, a myriad of AMAZING classroom blogs, Teachertube, I LOVE using manipulatives to teach (especially in social studies) so I utilize a LOT of stuff form Good Will/garage sales/flee markets to help bring the content to life! The Walking Classroom, Pinterest, and so many more! 

Please describe an experience that you and/or your students have had with The Walking Classroom.
I use The Walking Classroom to help me integrate and solidify my student learning. I teach reading, writing and social studies for fifth grade and blend these three subjects as much as possible to allow for cross-curricular connections. The Walking Classroom helps me do this and is so easy to tie into their learning. While learning about the different explorers, for example, we researched the different technological advances which aided in exploration.  During one of our podcasts, they discussed these as well.  So after our walk, we went inside and created "astrolabes/quadrants" then we bundled back up and tested them out finding the distance of objects outside. I absolutely LOVE when The Walking Classroom reiterates what we are learning in the classroom and gets the kids even more pumped about the information.  It is like they are thinking "Whoa, Mrs. Bermingham must know what she is talking about because we just heard it from the kids over at The Walking Classroom!" and they take the content so much more seriously! HA! 

Warmer Weather and the Walking Classroom

With the weather getting warmer here in Michigan, we are back OUTSIDE enjoying the Walking Classroom! 

 This last week, we traveled down the street to a local park and enjoyed some brisk, but VERY fresh air while learning about our nation's first president - George Washington. 
We learned the Washington had lots of important decisions to make not only as the first president, but also in his personal life, as a general for the French and Indian War as well as for the Revolution, and in creating our very new nation.
We utilized a great summary worksheet created by Stephanie at TeachinginRoom6 I swear it seems like I must stalk the woman ... okay, I might. Shamelessly. But I didn't even get this sheet from her, honestly, I got it from the Walking Classroom Newsletter. It isn't my fault she is so fabulous and everyone uses her stuff ;0) You can get a copy of the sheet HERE
For more information on the Walking Classroom, visit THIS post 

Monday, April 6, 2015


So this is how if feels, eh? Prep, Review, Practice, Freak out, REPEAT.

...this marks the first year that we will be taking our standardized test in the SPRING. It only makes sense, test the kids on what they learned at the end of the when they learned it. However, with this very logical notion, comes an incredible amount of stress that never existed back in the age of Fall testing. After having students for barely more than a month, they were tested on some mythical grade called "fourth". Of course, I reviewed key concepts, we learned test strategies, identified test vocabulary and got amped up for the big TEST. 

BUT. now it is a whole different ballpark! 
 What is being tested is no longer a mystery, not for me as their teacher and not for the students. Collectively, we can be engaged in authentic reviewing of what WE have learned, HOW we have learned it, and apply OUR strategies to THE TEST. This places so much more responsibility upon everyone.

It also produces a sense of urgency and drive for students during the year because they know it is looming ahead - The place at the end of the journey where they can show their learning off.

And so, fellow bloggers, as you post about test review and baggie your cute Easter egg and marshmallow peep test treats never could use those candies since my test was always in the fall I join you in the ranks!

Enjoy your Spring Break if you are on it! We started our break yesterday and begin the test the day after we get back - yippee.  
Good luck all of you Spring Testers!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sequence and the Slave Trade

In reading, our text structure focus skill has been sequencing, so I blended this with our study of the African Slave Trade. I introduced the lesson by presenting the students with 5 picture cards illustrating events pertaining to the slave trade available HERE on my TPT. I asked them to place these events, starting in West Africa, in the order they thought each happened.
 After that, I gave each pair three, more challenging, pictures to put in their line up. This activity is available HERE on my TPT. 

 We than discussed that what we just did was called "Sequencing" and that when we read text, authors give us clue words to help us see the sequence of events. These we posted on our chart. Then we CLOSE read our texts looking for these key words and close reading to find out the different stages of the Slave Trade. You can find the text I used HERE. Note: I did not use the whole chapter, just sections 8.3, 8.5, and 8.7 to sequence the three major stages. After identifying the stages, we then underlined the key ideas for each stage making sure we get the main idea out along with important key details. We then took notes utilizing the I DO, WE DO, YOU DO** instructional format on our sequence thinking maps about the main idea of each stage. 
**I DO, YOU DO, WE DO method: I model how to take notes and summarize the first stage, they take notes and summarize the second stage with a partner, and finally they take notes and summarize the third stage independently. 
Using our notes, I wrote a summary of the first stage (getting captured and traveling to the coast) as a model, then they wrote a paragraph summary of the second stage (traveling across the Atlantic in the "Middle Passage") with their partner, and finally, they wrote the last paragraph summary of the third stage (being sold to colonial plantation owners) on their own. Students took some time to illustrate each stage as well. 
The kids did a great job of being respectful and thoughtful of this very sensitive subject and their learning showed through on their summaries. How do you teach this subject? Do you have any unique ways of helping students understand the Slave Trade, I would love to hear them! 

Akwaaba se West Africa!

(Twi Language) 
Welcome to WEST AFRICA! 
Recently, we traveled back to the continent of Africa to experience what life was like in 15th century West Africa. Like many of the Native American Tribes, Africa was a mixture of many different cultures and civilizations, some massive and incredibly powerful (like the Inca and Aztec) and many smaller villages and tribes. 

To discover this, we close read our text looking for the text feature of description. 
After identifying what life was like, we took notes inside our African outline and then participated in some traditional crafts that celebrate West African culture. We also listened to traditional music and played some fun games including Mancala and Queah. 
West African Necklaces 

Do any of you do anything unique to help students understand life in 15th century West Africa? 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Columbian Exchange

After our unit on Early Explorers, I introduce the Columbian Exchange with a short film addressing the different causes and effects of it. We discuss which thinking map we would utilize for taking notes on Cause and Effect and then I set a purpose for them and have them take notes of causes and effects during the film.                                                                              We also identified KEY words for cause and effect that can help us identify them in texts. Using two different crayons, we underlined the causes and the effects of the Columbian Exchange in a short non-fiction passage.  
LOOK at the text FOCUS going on here! *Teacher Heart Happy*
We then read the text features closely, with the purpose of identifying which products were traded where, either on purpose or accidently. Students worked with a partner to create a T-chart of old and new world products. 
Using our notes, we map these products and their routes on large world maps. 

Working with their partner, each student writes a short paragraph about either the effects the exchange had on the old or new world and add them to their maps. 
Later during the week, we act out my Columbian Exchange simulation which you can check out HERE. 
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