Wednesday, April 24, 2013

American Revolution Lapbook Part 1

I've blogged a bit about my American Revolution Lapbook, but it's taken us awhile to get started on it. We needed to read, research, and learn a lot first. But, now that we've started my class is doing a wonderful job. I am amazed by their thoroughness and the quality of their work (although some could do with less chatting and could accomplish more). Here are a few shots of some of our progress.

Some patriotic covers!

* Causes of the war petal book
* Vocabulary fan
* Accordion timeline

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Phases of the Moon

We've been studying the phases of the moon for a couple of weeks and it has been a lot of fun. The students have been keeping a moon journal for the month and will finish up a complete moon phase this week. Then we get to cut it out and make it into a flip book!

I explained the moon phases with the class and they each created a moon phase wheel in their notebooks. Anything that involves cutting, gluing, and brads seems to be much more interesting to students (and teachers!).

 Then, I blew their minds! It's difficult for students to understand that the moon always has a light side (that reflects sunlight) and a dark side, and that it doesn't rotate like the Earth does. A few weeks ago Teachingisagift serendipitously posted her moon phases board and I knew I HAD to make it. Unfortunately my Dollar Tree wasn't stocked as well as her's, so I ended up with a blue foam board and ping pong balls. I used dark blue paint to paint one half of them and then hot glued them around a circle I had cut in it (a big mixing bowl worked great for a stencil). And the result was fantastic! All you do is stick your head in and...instant moon phases!

It was difficult to get decent photos, I think the florescent light in my room is making the photos funky. But you get the idea. 

Next we found the Moon Phases Rap on YouTube and the students love it! We've played many times and a student will randomly burst out in song during the day. Needless to say it's been stuck in my head for several days. I even had a group of boys buy the song on iTunes and tell me they had it on their iPods! The class wants to sing it in our year-end talent show...we'll see if they can get it memorized! 

I'm totally behind on TpT projects (sorry to anyone waiting for the next version of Calendar Math!!! I haven't forgotten!) but I keep getting distracted by mini TpT projects. This was one of them...

Friday, April 19, 2013

We survived testing!

Testing week is always exhausting, which is strange because there is little to no teaching time that week. Just a lot of silence and walking. I'm sure I walked a lot of extra miles pacing my room. I always like to have some fun and encouraging treats for my students during testing. As you can see I try to avoid the junky stuff and go for treats that are non-edible or at least somewhat healthy.

Monday was a regular day of school but at the end of the day I reminded them to get sleep and a good breakfast and gave them these glow sticks as a fun reminder. They say "It's time to show all that you know, go forth and GLOW!"

To kick off testing I had "Test Taking First Aid Kits" at each students' seat. Normally this is all that I do during testing week, but this year I wanted to have something daily. So I made the First Aid kit a bit smaller than usual. 

Day 2 of testing I left students a bag of fruit snacks. "Stay Focused! I know you will do BERRY well on the test!"

On the third day my little monkeys each received a banana. "Don't go BANANAS! Take a deep breath and keep doing your best!"

And today, our final day of testing, I handed each of them the treat I was most excited about. Cutie oranges with a little flag that read, "ORANGE you glad testing is almost over? Finish the test with ZEST!" My kids love cuties, our classroom smelled heavenly for about an hour, and they learned a new vocabulary word! 

I'm so glad that testing is over, we still have so much to do before I send my students to 6th grade. Good luck to all the other teachers out there still administering those state tests! 

UPDATE! Interested in using these labels? All (except the first aid kid) are now available in my TpT store! I hope they bring some extra motivation to your students during testing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tried it Tuesday - Class/Yes

One of the many things that I love about teaching is that if something isn't working with your students, you can change it. Even though it is 4th quarter, and our state testing is next week, there were things in my classroom that just weren't working any more. I needed to make changes. I was worried new procedures would throw my kids off, but if the new procedures work, then...SUCCESS!

I'm excited to link up for Tried it Tuesday and share my experience dipping my toes into Whole Brain Teaching (WBT). I heard about WBT a year or two ago and watched some YouTube videos of teachers using it. At that time I didn't buy into it. It seemed gimmicky and the students seemed robotic. I have a friend who teaches at a different school and she had mentioned that she had been using some of the techniques with her 5th graders and so I figured I'd look into it some more. Watching the videos with fresh eyes I realized that not only could I use it to get the students attention and focus quickly and immediately, but it could be fun too!

The first technique of WBT is "Class Yes". This is a management technique for getting student attention and focus. It's super duper simple, but has room for creativity. Here's what I tried in class first thing yesterday morning.

Me: We are going to try something new this week. When I say "class," you say "yes." Let's try it. Class.

Class: Yes.

Me: Great! Now we are going to add a bit more to it. When I say class you also need to turn and face me, and have your hands clasped in front of you. Let's try it. Class.

Class: Yes.

Me: Wonderful. {Draws scoreboard -T-chart with a :) and a :/ - and gives a tally on the happy side} And one more thing, you need to say "yes" the same way that I say "class". {Says "class" in a high pitched voice.}

Class: Yes {in a high pitched voice, students facing me}.

Me: {Put another tally on the scoreboard}

We practiced a few times and the class got the hang of it. During the morning as I would say "class" the students did get some tallies in the :/ side of the scoreboard. That's ok. I want 100% of the students attention. If they got a frownie, I immediately tried Class-Yes again and they had a chance to get the smilie, which they usually did.

Throughout the day I threw different variations of class at them...
* using a deep voice
* robot voice
* saying class two or three times
* classity-class (yessity-yes)
* class-a-doodle-doo (yes-a-doodle-do)
* class-a-roni (yes-a-roni)
* best class (best yes)
* sing-song voice
* and more!

Their favorite was class-a-roni! The crazy thing was, we got through the day and accomplished so much! I wasn't painfully waiting and wasting precious time for 100% of my students when I used my old quiet signal, I had immediate attention. It took a second to put a tally on the scoreboard and we were right into the lesson. The only hiccup we had was when I needed to interrupt my students who were tangled up in scissors and glue and didn't have time to quickly clasp their hands together. I learned and gave them a count down before saying "class."

Today went much the same as yesterday! The students had a blast mimicking my voice and there was little/no wasted instructional time! Plus, my students earn team points and class multipliers, so at the end of the day we subtract the frownies from the smilies and use that for the class multiplier.

I'm hoping that I can keep Class-Yes fresh for my class and that the novelty doesn't wear off. There are other excellent techniques for WBT, but I'm not yet ready to try them out.

So, who out there is a Whole-Brain teacher? I'd love your tips and advice! If you are interested in trying it out for yourself there are oodles of videos to get you started. Easy-peasy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Techie Tuesday - Questionaut

I'm on a role! Two week's in a row linking up for Techie Tuesday! If you don't already follow Technology Tailgate, you need to! Excellent tech posts everyday!

The BBC has some exceptional online educational content. Several years ago I discovered the game "Questionaut" which takes students on a quest to save a hat that has been taken away by an air bubble. To get to it the main character must fill his balloon with bubbles, and to get those he has to answer questions correctly.

The first level questions are all about writing. But, to get to the questions students have to figure out how to "unlock" the them. (Hint: click the paper and unplug the lamp)

Choose the correct answer and fuel up! Choose incorrectly and you'll pop a bubble!

On level two students will need to awaken the beekeeper by mousing over the branches until they all have plusses and minuses. Guess what type of questions you'll find on this level? Math! 

The questions on this level are basic number sense, operations, and mental math. You'll notice that there may be British vocabulary or, in this case British locations. This is an especially sweet question because my mum is from the UK and went to university in Leeds! (Oh, and I'll be heading to the UK this summer!)

This next level is tricky. Here students need to unlock life science questions. Some kids will need some extra help to get to the science questions. (Pull cat's tail, click on bird, click on worm, click on plant, click on owl-PHEW)

And the fun doesn't stop there! Next is the measurement/geometry stage, followed by chemistry, then data analysis/probability, then physics questions, and finally more English questions. 

Questionaut is a fun and engaging game. In a 20 minute period many of my students made it to level 4. I have also played with the entire class by projecting the game onto the screen. Unfortunately students cannot save their progress, so if they don't finish one day, they will have to start again the next time they play. It's also a great way to sneak in a little bit of test prep for those oh-so-loved state tests! Even though the questions may not align to your state test it still helps students think about problem solving, especially when they may not know the answer already! 

BONUS! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the music on this game. A few years ago I contacted the composer to see if the music was available for purchase, unfortunately it wasn't. But, I have been known to play the game just to have some nice background music during class time. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Science Performance Assessment

Performance assessments are the ideal way to assess students. Unfortunately it isn't always practical. I know I don't do nearly enough performance assessments, but science is the perfect for this!

I think I've already mentioned before that this quarter is my favorite because we get to learn about the American Revolution in social studies and Space in science. Last week I demonstrated the Earth's rotation, revolution, axis, and explained day/night and the year. We also went over the moon's revolution around the Earth (we'll get into the phases more soon).

Today we reviewed and each group got a beach ball and ping pong ball to practice with.  These photos are intentionally blurry because they are ACTION shots!

This student was demonstrating the rotation of the Earth on it's axis. 

This student is acting as the sun with the Earth revolving around him!

Tomorrow I'll be pulling each student aside to assess them as they demonstrate each of the concepts we practiced. My rubric is pretty basic. I may spiffy it up for TpT, but regardless it'll be a freebie. So, if you want it now, here is the Google Drive linky

Do you use performance assessments in your classroom? Please share, I need more ideas!