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
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