Friday, December 16, 2011

Passing on Gratitude in 2011

I woke up really tired this morning and not ready for the last Friday of 2011 in my classroom, but then I realized why I was tired, and I was thankful for being tired. Typically every morning I log onto the computer and read my favorite blogs and check out twitter before I leave for school.  I read Mary Lee's post at A Year of Readin A wonderful reminder during the busy time of year. Sorry friend for linking to the wrong blog first-guess I did need a blogging break :)

Yesterday all the fifth graders in my school spent the afternoon on our annual "5th Graders Give Back." They had earned money over the past two weeks doing family chores which helped them give back to their families. After we collected the money, we purchased enough peanut butter & jelly to make sandwiches, bags of chips and cookies. The students made 100 brown bag dinners.  In addition, we collected toiletries and made 100 bags including soap, shampoo, cream rinse, toothpaste/toothbrush and deodorant.  We took all the bags to the Mid Ohio Food Bank to help our community.

 To help the students reach beyond our community, with the additional money, we collected we supported the Heifer Organization.  Here is a small excerpt from their website. Our goal is to  work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope. With gifts of livestock and training, Heifer projects help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as "living loans" because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need. This year we were able to purchase a water buffalo and a flock of chicks.  The students were very excited to reach out and help others. 

It was a very busy afternoon, the final two rotations included practicing singing holiday carols. A group of students with my marvelous teaching partner, Sarah, leading them went after school to a nursing home to sing carols during their dinner time. The last rotation, the students made cards for children who are patients at Children's Hospital. Our goal is to have the students spend 2 hours --giving back and paying it forward. This is a good tired-

Finally and most important I am thankful for my family: Tom, Anna and Marcus without their support and all our special family memories I would not be where I am today. I am excited to have a "full house" again now that they are home from college.  I am taking a blogging break until after New Years. Thanks for being on my journey and reading the blog and leaving comments-I am very thankful for my blogging community. Best wishes for a marvelous holiday season
and an amazing New Year-check back in 2012.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wonder Wednesday: Connecting Wonder with Families

Anytime I can extend the school day into the evenings, (I learned at today's PD that it is called 24/7 school) I am very excited.  I continue to discuss the importance of STRONG comments on Wonderopolis. Those comments are so important because it extends my students learning beyond our classroom.  Every Wednesday, we discuss a wonder that connects to our standards but as important to me are the conversations that continue at home with the wonder.  As a parent, I often remember asking my own kids, "What's new?" and both of them would have the preverbal answer of "Nothing."  I was never sure what to ask besides what did you do in math, reading, writing? Even as a teacher, it was difficult for me have a conversation about their school day.  

With that said, getting back to Wonder comments.  Leah is in my class this year, and I suggested to the students to connect WONDER #428 Who Was St. Nick? with our class read aloud, Family Under the Bridge. Leah not only took me up on my suggestion and wrote an amazing comment. She took the suggestion of the WONDER and left her shoe out just in case St.Nick might visit that night.  Imagine the conversations with her family and what fun it was for them to start a new family tradition from reading the wonder as a family. Read her post below which she posted the next morning.     
Success = connecting family + school!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You Have to Laugh!

Some days as teachers you just have to sit down or stand up and laugh at yourself.  Today was the day!  I officially "lost it" during math class.  We are in the middle of our hardest math unit for the whole year-every year I know this is going to one of the most difficult days in math.  The focus of the lesson was teaching 5th graders to measure and draw angles using protractors. This is where the humor comes into play.  (At least I hope you see the humor)  Every year I give the OAA 5th grade math test, every year the state requires us to use a certain size protractors, so of course we use those golden protractors to teach the lesson.  I passed out the golden protractors on Monday and told my class do not lose your protractor-begged them to not leave them at home also.  Well today, three students forgot their protractors so I had to give them another one out of the golden bag of protractors. In order to remember to get them back, I collected a shoe/boot for the math class.  Before my students left for specials, I got back their golden protractor back, and they got their shoe/boot.  Alright I officially lost it but on a side note the kids LOVED giving me their shoe.  Maybe I will have 16 shoes tomorrow :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WONDERful Word Wednesday: Check out Wonderopolis

As a class we focused on Wonder  #407 What Does it Mean To Be a Native American?  I posed this question to the class prior to showing them the WONDER on the smart board.  It was interesting to me because the students really struggled with this question.  I only had one hand raised and his response was that Native Americans speak a different language. This connected with last week's Scholastic News article "Why Are These Kids so Excited?" After a little prompting, our list grew in this order.

#1 homes are different based on climate and location, location location
#2  grow their own food (realized that NA don't just hunt)
#3  cultural differences
#4 different tribes-celebrate different events, religions, ceremonies
#5 clothing is different-deerskin-use animals (natural resources)

I believe this conversation hit every 5th grade state indicator from one WONDER question, but we kept on learning.  Next we watched the video which is amazing because the video totally broke the stereotype of my class when the caption stated:  2011 World Champion Hoop Dancer.  What an amazing way to discuss how we need to celebrate our cultural differences especially in today's world.

Finally, if anyone reads my blog regularly you know I LOVE words so we looked at the vocabulary words.  This activity also caught me off guard I asked the class to highlight the words they were not familiar with or better yet would not want to take on a test?  Here is our class results. The numbers represent the number of students who did not know that the word!!

So next the students went off with their paper copy of the wonder and located the words that they did not know in the article-highlighted them and used context clues to figure out the meaning.  They listed the new words in their social studies spiral with their best definition from using context.  Finally for homework, they left a SUPER comment to share with the world about their learning.  It was a WONDERFUL Wednesday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meeting My Students Right There

I am so thankful when I have a Saturday morning that I can just live on my computer.  During the school week, I try hard to keep up with my twitter and blog feeds but this year honestly it has been difficult.  I read my favorites, but I don't always have time to read everything that "perks" my interest.  Today was one of those mornings, I read this entry off a twitter feed "Cheating the Gifted" I don't agree with most of the article from this site however it did make me stop, think and reflect.  Not about gifted students and not about average students and not about special education students but about students.  The 23 students in my class this year-the 23 students that I am lucky enough to spend 6 1/2 hours a day with although not 6 1/2 hours teaching which is another whole blog post.  The 23 students who I want to teach about how a book can take them anywhere when you are having a bad day. I want them to think about how to do a science experiment differently so that they can learn about variables.   I want my students to learn that a writer's notebook is something treasured that can hold all of their personal thoughts and will never be graded. I want them to learn in math how to solve a problem 3 different ways and not just how to get the correct answer for our state test in May. In addition,  I want them to learn how to be problem solvers, high level thinkers and collaborators where their ideas and dreams matter and are valued.  Sometimes I just need to stop and realize why I am teaching----it's all about my students and where ever they fall on the spectrum of learning--- I will meet them right there.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Stop Clicking

During this busy time of year not only am I trying to do some of my shopping on line, but I am also trying to enhance my social studies unit on Native Americans. My goal is to integrate 21 Century skills along with extending the school day for my students.  This was easy for me--one stop shopping:  Wonderopolis. Let me show you, it's as easy as 1-2-3.

#1 Go the website and click on the Wonder of the Day

#2 Type in the right hand corner your topic in the box that says "search" From that you will get a list of Wonders that has something to do with your topic. For my topic, there were 9 Wonders that I can preview and choose which is most appropriate for my 5th grade indicators. 

#3 Book mark the wonders and watch your students get excited about the Wonder. 

The best success I have had with my class is to preview/hook the Wonder at school. This would include:  students making a prediction, watching the video and writing down new facts, and previewing the vocabulary list along with the links. Sometimes I give them 1-2 focus questions for their HW, and they go home to read the wonder, "play" with the links and focus on the specific assignment. However this time I asked them to leave a STRONG comment just read below everything they learned.  One stop clicking -priceless!