Sunday, March 12, 2017

Learning in a Winter Wonderland

I have loved classroom transformations ever since I got back from my training at the Ron Clark Academy last February. I love how the transformation of a space can promote student engagement and excitement. Afterall, that is my main goal everyday. This classroom transformation has been in the works for a while, and it wouldn't of been as amazing if it weren't for my amazing teammates.

Since we didn't have much of a winter this year in Atlanta, we decided to bring winter to our classroom. Our classroom became a winter wonderland filled with excitement, engagement, learning and fun! The winter "learning land" consisted of four different stations.

1. STEM- Snowball Catapult

This station was the students favorite! With thier small group, they had to create a catapult that could launch their "snowball" the furthest. They were given supplies and a limit on the amount of supplies they could use. The supplies were popsicle sticks, bottle caps, glue, string, tape, rubber bands, and pencils. At the end of the two day transformation, we launched the catapults!

2. Virtual Fieldtrip and Simulation to Alaska

At this station, the students got to take a virtual field trip to Alaska and learn all about the 1925 Serum run that brought vaccines to children in need. After learning about the serum run, the students got to complete a simulation activity about this.

3. Really Cold Research

At this station, the students were given a variety of winter topics to reserach using our school's online research such as, Antarctica, Polar Bears, Snowy Owls, Icebergs, and Mt. Everest. After reading this information, the students had to write a nonfiction summary and put their summary on an online

poster with pictures and "fun" facts they discovered.

We used to make our multimedia posters.

4. Wintery Descriptive Writing

This station was another crowd favorite! The students were given an ominous wintery picture and in partners or indivudually, they wrote stories about this picture. They really put their descriptive writing skills to work, and used figurative language, strong word choice, show not tell, and sentence vareity to make their writing come to life.

Each of the four stations were about 40 minutes long and the students were engaged the WHOLE time! It was amazing to see. We even had some special wintery drinks to share with the students- hot chocolate! My favorite part of the day was the reflection when I asked the students about what they liked and learned, and only one said that the hot chocolate was their favorite part! I consider that a win!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Mini Metric Olympics

This week we have been working hard on learning how to convert different measurements. We started the week exploring liquid capacity and making predictions about how many pints are in a gallon, how many cups are in a gallon etc.  Then, we got to see if our predictions were correct. The students LOVED when their predictions were right! After mastering liquid capacity, we move onto metric measurements, and I don't just teach them to move the decimal. I don't even introduce this, until they understand the why.

When converting measurments I like to teach the students two sayings to help them remember if they need to multiply or divide. They are "Silly Babies Dancing" (Small to Big Divide) and "Best Soccer Moms" (Big to Small Multiply) This is extremely helpful! When teaching how to convert, I always use the phrase, "multiply or divide by the 'magic number,' when refering to what conversion the students need to use.

To culminate our learning, we played an activity I saw on Pinterest and changed it to make it work for my classroom, and this activity is the Mini Metric Olympics. The events that the students participated in were:

  • Cotton Ball Shot Put
  • Paper Plate Discus
  • Plastic Straw Javelin 
  • Long Jump 
  • Paper Plane Glide (yes, it's not an Olympic, but what kid doesn't like making paper planes)
At each station, the students had to participate in the event, measure the distance in meters, and then convert the distance from meters to centimeters, and then convert the distance from meters to millimeters. 

Not only was this great practice, but the students had so much fun! They got to get up and move, and throw different objects across the room. It didn't even feel like work to them! I love seeing them practice so many different sills, while being super engaged, while having fun!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Summary Smackdown-Phantom Tollbooth Style

We are reading The Phantom Tollbooth in class, and the kids are loving it! I try to bring it to life and have differnet voices for all of the different characters. If you haven't read this book, it's very challenging for students becuase it has TONS of different characters and the language is very literal. So, we spend a lot of time discussing, answering questions, and practicing our SUMMARZING skills. 

Before we read a new chapter, we take some time together to summarize the previous one. I love doing this becuase it helps us remember what we read before, and it's a strong model for the students of what a fiction summary should look like. Since we had done five summaries together, it was now time for the students to try it on thier own! (well kind of!)

My studnets this year love nothing more than a little bit of competition! Today, they were given the task of summarizing the previous chapter, but with a twist. They were put in partners (randomly), given twenty minutes to write a summary, then had to compete against another group to see which summary was the best. (The students voted on the winner of each round.) After the winners were voted on in the first "heat" the four winners went on to compete against each other in the second "heat" and then the two finalists competed agaisnt each other to get our winner. 

This is something that seems so simple, but the students loved it! They loved the idea of sharing thier summaries with the class, they loved the competition, and they loved that there was a winner! I love implementing little things in the classroom that spice up our regular day to day routine! 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Making Inferences- Murder Mystery

Making inferences is always such a challenging skill for my fifth graders. They have to use what they know and clues from the text to read between the lines. We do lots of practice and mini lessons in class to practice this difficult skill, but the most fun and engaging one we've done so far this year, is an inferencing MURDER MYSTERY, thanks to my wonderful coworker, Debbie!

The students are given a news story that explains that our beloved science teacher has been killed, and there are multiple suspects on the case. The suspects are all the fifth grade teachers. (Obviously, we got persmission from the teachers to use them in this activity!) The students get a "rap" sheet that has a description of all the suspects and a copy of the news story.

Around the room, we set up the seven different clues. (all sectioned off by police tape- do not cross) In order to get a clue, the students have to solve an inferenceing task correctly. These tasks are small passages with inferential questions. They have to identify the text evidence that helped them find the answers, so it's not that easy! :)

Once they have gotten a clue, they have to take notes on it and write down any helpful information. This is repeated until they recieve all seven clues. Once they have gathered all the clues, they have to put their heads together and INFER based on the clues and the "rap" sheets, who they believe "killed" their science teacher. On their final answer page, they have to write the killer, the motive, and a detailed description of the day that led upto the "murder."

The students absolutely LOVED this activity! They were engaged, learning, and having fun all at the same time. We, the teachers, were also having fun becuase we dressed for the part wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat and spoke in our best British accents. Throughout the activity, the students had to refer to us as Sherlock and Watson!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fifth Grade Olympics

Yes, I know the Olympics were a few months ago, but we wanted to make the last two days before Thanksgiving break engaging, educational and fun. So, we figured, what better way to do that then add a little friendly competition in an Olympic games format.

We divided the entire grade into four teams, which were countries, and throughout the days they worked as their countries to earn as many points as possible. At the end of the days, we will tell the students the winner, and the winner will receive a prize. Most likely the  most popular prize of all to fifth graders, a homework pass!

At each station we reviewed different skills and concepts we have learned during the year so far. Each station involved an Olympic sport or potential Olympic sport and a ton of review of the skills. Also, each station also had the potential to earn the team points.

The stations were as follows: Grammar Golf, Shooting (basketball) for Context Clues, Diving for Details, Aiming for Accuracy (three branches of government), Pinning a Cause for a Striking Effect (bowling-cause and effect), and a Sequencing Relay. The students had a task they had to complete at each station and an activity they had to complete which helped them earn points. The stations lasted about 25 minutes a piece and the students were engaged throughout each one.

The favorite station of all was Grammar Golf. At this station the students had to choose a sentence to diagram from three different levels of difficulty. They really had to think through some of the sentences, if they got it correct, they got to putt to ball for points. They earned points for the sentences they got correct and if they got the putt in. If they didn't get the sentence right, they didn't get any points, and they didn't get to putt.

When reflecting with the students, they expressed how they enjoyed the team work and the activity like basketball, golf, and bowling they got to do at each station. They expressed they loved how "it was like they were learning, but not really learning" and that they had so much fun! Some kiddos even said it was their favorite day ever. I know us teachers had so much fun watching them engage in a variety of activities, and I am so thankful to have two educationally, engaging, and enjoying days for the kids before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Fraction Bake Sale

In class we have been learning how to simplify fractions, make improper fractions mixed numbers and vise versa. I was trying to think of a fun way to practice these skills that involved real life application, and the idea of a bake sale came to me! I knew the students loved to bake, so I found some simple recipes and mixed them up a little bit. I made them include improper fractions and fractions that needed to be simplified, in order for the students to prepare the recipe with ease. In order for us to have our "bake sale" the students had to work together to fix the recipes. They loved the real life application, working together, and getting to wear aprons and chef hats while working to to complete some real life math.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Editing Relay!

I don't know about y'all, but editing is so hard for my kiddies! We work on it daily during morning work, we have visits from Dr. Edit, to help us learn strategies like using CUPS and reading our work aloud. We work as a group, in partners, and individually to practice our skills, but it's so hard to find all of our mistakes! Editing can be very DRY, and I don't like to keep things dry in my classroom, so we came up with an editing relay race! Here's how it works:

1. Divide your class into 3-4 equal teams (depending on the class size)
2. Think of different exercises they can do at each station. For example, we had the students doing squats, mountain climbers, push-ups ect. The number of stations should match the number of students on each team.
3. Line the students up next to a station, and hand out an editing passage face down to each student. Each student should receive a different passage. *There should be a pencil and clipboard at each station, so students can fix the mistakes*
4. Say, "GO!"
5. The first student works on editing their passage, while the rest of the team is cheering him/her on. When they are done, a teacher checks. If they still have mistakes, teacher can guide them if necessary, and then they go back and fix them.
6. When they have gotten checked, and have no mistakes they do the exercise at their station- then they run and tag the next team member. Then the next teammate goes!
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6, until each team member is finished!

Variations- have other students in the group give one hint each to help with the passage. Have them work as a team at each station, but a different person be the "captain" in charge of writing and doing that exercise.

The students LOVED this activity!! They told me they loved the competition, the fast pace, the fact they were learning, but didn't realize it, they loved how the teamwork, and they LOVED how no one got upset if a team member was struggling.

Next time I do this activity, I have to tweak a few things such as, what should the other students be doing when it's not their turn, and how can I make this more fun for the few who don't love the competition. Any thoughts on these two things would be much appreciated!