Friday, June 22, 2012

Math freak out!

I know that I should be spending my short six-week summer break relaxing, but I am in school mode. Not only am I moving down from 6th to 5th grade next year, but I will be teaching math, something I haven't taught in years! I love math and I am so excited to be teaching it again, but my mind needs to have, at the least, an outline of what I will be teaching and in what order. The Common Core State Standards are a good thing, but our state and my district are in a transition period, meaning we need to still teach the old standards but start to incorporate CCSS. A friend, who also teaches 5th in my district, reassured me that I should not freak out. Plus I know my new team will be nothing but supportive. So, I still plan on getting prepared for next year, but I will re-direct my focus to things that won't cause anxiety, like the following...

I love guiding students to be responsible and accountable for their own learning. I made these Math and ELA posters to post in my classroom (available for purchase at my TpT store).

To accompany these posters I thought it would be great for students to have something to keep in their binder to track the concepts that they have mastered, so I devised the Wheel of Math Common Core Standards. 

This fun wheel of standards includes all 26 Common Core math standards for 5th grade. Display the colorful copy in your classroom and provide each student a copy of the blackline master to keep in their math notebook. When students have mastered a concept have them color in the appropriate piece of the wheel. This will help encourage kids to be accountable for their own learning and keep them motivated to master every concept! Best of all, these are FREE!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pinterest top 10 for next school year

Pinterest is an explosion of wonderful ideas, and at times can be overwhelming. I decided to wade through my "For School" board and pick the top 10 ideas I want to implement in my classroom next year.

1. Interactive Student Notebooks - I wish I had found these sooner!

2. T-Shirt Book Project

3. Magnetic Boggle - What a fun easy game that is already differentiated!

4. Easy Dry Erase Markers with Erasers - I have dry erase markers, I have pom poms, I have a glue gun.

5. Adjectives Frame - not only would students be practicing adjectives, they would be building confidence in themselves! Plus the photos would be great on our end-of-year slide show.

6. Personalized Class Stationery - We write letters throughout the year and I know the kids would get excited about writing on their unique class stationery. Plus, I'd get to use them too!

7. Roll a Brain Break - I always forget the different Brain Gym exercises and get stuck doing the same few. This is easily posted on the wall/board and has tons of variety. Plus, it's FREE!

8. Cell Phone Pals - I'm always looking for fun ways to buddy up my kiddos.

9. Organization! I'm not an expert at it, but I get better every year. My file cabinet is not backed up to a wall this year so I'll be hanging those file pockets up this year.

10. Classbook - The Social Networking Bulletin Board!

There are so many more pins that I want (and will!) use in my classroom this year, but these are on my MUST DO list. What are your favorite pins?

Like these ideas? Follow my "For School" Board on Pinterest!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On being demoted and renewing my passion in teaching

The title is a bit misleading, I wasn't really demoted, but I am moving from 6th grade to 5th grade next year. I taught 5th grade for two years, then looped up with my class to 6th (looping is the best thing ever!) and have been there for four years. This year also marked the eighth year notch on my teaching belt, and I was feeling frustrated and feeling like my passion for teaching was waning. I absolutely love my school and the families in our community, but I just wasn't as excited as I used to be. Things were starting to get monotonous and it is doubly hard when you are not on a cohesive team. It was a scary place to be. I knew that I needed some sort of change. There wasn't going to be any movement at my school so I started to apply for non-teaching positions and look to transfer to another school in my district. And then a sudden decision by the district - they decided to make some changes at our school, which included moving around principals. I had heard wonderful things about the principal they were bringing in and was excited that change was coming to my school, so I decided to put any plans to move on hold. And then, one of the fifth grade teachers decided to tag along with our previous principal leaving a spot open and the new principal let me jump right in!

I was so darn excited (and still am)! The other three fifth grade teachers are all just lovely and I know that we will make a superb team. I packed up my old room, purged and purged, and moved into my new room. I felt like I once did, excited to teach! I'm looking forward to a renewed school, in a different grade, and in a new room! And so I have already spent much of my first few weeks of summer break thinking, planning, and refreshing for the coming year.

I also discovered something else that has me pretty excited, Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook. One of the first grade teachers at my school started selling her resources on these sites and did pretty well. Since I have TONS of materials that I created over the yearsI figured that I could offer them to teachers as well, and thought I'd put a few things out there over summer. I knew that it would require work, and time, but I didn't think that it would be so useful and addicting! When I pulled up my materials to improve for TpT I found that I made them even better than they already were. It's also pretty thrilling to see your items in your little store. I've only made one sale and have 3 followers, but that is ok. I'm going to keep on improving my materials, and I hear that things really pick up in August.
Good-bye room 21 and 6th grade, you will be missed. Hello room 37 and fabulous 5th!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lapbooking, and the American Revolution Lapbook

This past year I was introduced to Pinterest, which in turn, introduced me to lapbooks. Lapbooks started in the homeschooling community and are making their way into schools. I was immediately drawn to lapbooks because they encompass areas of creativity with the learning process and comprehending academic content. I find that lapbooks are most conducive to history/social studies. Very few materials are needed to get a lapbook started, which makes them that much better for schools in financial crunch.

As soon as I found lapbooking I knew that I had to try it out in the classroom. While studying Ancient China with my 6th graders we put together comprehensive lapbooks that included: the Silk Road, the silk process, the Great Wall, a timeline of dynasties, Confucious' teachings and sayings, Chinese writing sticks, and more! The students loved putting these together because they were constantly creating different foldables, pockets, and mini-books that they got to fill with their learning. The final product was a compact book bursting with knowledge!

This year I am moving to 5th grade and knew immediately that I wanted get those kids hooked on lapbooks too. I had heard the 5th grade team grumble many times about the dreaded social studies textbook and difficulty finding great activities. Well, I think they will be as excited as I am (and the kids will be) about the lapbooks I am designing for the 5th grade content.

So, I started with the American Revolution.....

Some lapbooks have more "pages", but I knew that I wanted to devote plenty of time to each activity, and to also leave time for other activities besides the lapbook, so I narrowed it down to 7 mini-books/foldables/pockets:
* a timeline accordion book
* causes of the revolution petal book
* life in the battlefield flapbook
* important people pocket and cards
* vocabulary fan
* Continental Army vs. British Army flapbook
* major battles tri-fold

I like that each mini-book/foldable is like a little graphic organizer, and the variety keeps things interesting. I also love that students understand that their textbook is not the sole vehicle for learning, but rather a resource that we use in the process of learning. Rather than assigning pages to read, students are searching for the needed information on their own, making learning meaningful and helping students retain information!

I hope that you will consider using lapbooks with your students too! A quick search online will reveal tons of resources (many free) and ideas! If you are interested in purchasing my American Revolution Lapbook which includes teacher directions, blackline masters for all mini-books/foldables/pockets, reflection page, and scoring rubric, please visit my TpT store.

Have you used lapbooks with your students before? What other ideas do you have for making lapbooks even more meaningful for students?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Biography of a Scientist

As a part of Arizona's Science Standards students are to learn appreciation for the scientific advances that have been made, and to recognize those important scientists. Our Harcourt Science book has a fantastic online library of biographies on many such scientists. I thought that a fun and short assignment would be for each student to learn about one of these scientists, fill out a mini-biography on him/her, and then share with their classmates. Once complete, I bound all the biographies into a class book that we keep in the non-fiction section of our classroom library.

This two-page printable and list of 35 scientists is available in my TpT store for a mere $1!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Read and Respond

I have been using Read and Respond with my students since I started teaching 8 years ago and have tweaked it every year. Every educator knows how vital it is for students to be reading daily. Daily reading boosts fluency, builds vocabulary, and increases comprehension. Good readers think about what they read and the Read and Respond Daily Journal allows students to quickly and thoughtfully respond to what they are reading. Students use thought-provoking prompts to help them analyze what they read for deeper understanding. Read and Respond goes beyond traditional summarizing, although summarization is embedded into the response.

I use Read and Respond in my classroom as an on-going daily homework assignment. I expect my students to read everyday for 20 minutes or more, and I require them to respond to their reading in their Read and Respond notebook four times a week. I like to keep the response simple because I'd rather them spend more time on reading, and I feeling that a meaningful response can be kept to around five sentences. I provide prompts for students (for both fiction and non-fiction books) that they can respond to, or they can write their own response. I ask that my students not give a summary. Usually by 5th/6th grade students are able to easily summarize what they have read. It is much more meaningful for students to actually respond to what they read by thinking about it in different ways. Typically a summary will embed itself in the response. All the students need to do is write the title of the book they are reading, the genre, the date, a five sentence response, and a parent/guardian signature. 

The Read and Respond is checked off daily and I periodically collect students' notebooks and read some of their entries. I ask that students only put one response per page so that I may write a note to them about their response on the rest of the page. Sometimes I will collect everyone's notebook at the same time, or I have also collected them on a rotational basis (this helps me not to be overwhelmed). Usually the first few weeks students are still stuck on summarizing, but once I provide some feedback in their notebooks then I start to see the really meaningful responses emerge. 

In this booklet you will get . . . 
* Teacher directions and suggestions for use
* Student directions for students to paste in their journal 
* Student rubric for students to paste in their journal
* Student worksheet (to be used instead of a composition notebook)
* Read and Respond Passes (for use as incentive/prize in your classroom)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First Post Freebie

I have decided to spend my summer updating the many resources I have created for use in my classroom so that I can share them with other teachers. I have found so many great ideas from other teacher bloggers and Pinterest pins that I'd like to contribute too! 

Please follow my store and blog as I add more throughout the summer and into the new school year. Here is a freebie to kick things off. 

100 Acts of Kindness Tickets
As a part of character education I like to have a "100 Acts of Kindness" bulletin board. I challenge the class to perform 100 acts of kindness in just one month. To recognize an act of kindness a student must be "caught" by a classmate or the teacher. When someone is caught doing a kind act the witness writes up a kindness ticket. Part of the ticket is turned into the teacher to go on the bulletin board, the other part is given to the kind person in recognition of their act. 

This activity promotes classroom community and encourages students to be kind to those around them. They get to "tattle" on each other for their good actions. 
Print out a bunch, leave them in a convenient spot, and be amazed with an explosion of kind acts!