Thursday, May 31, 2012

May OLW Reflection: Lessons Learned from Balloons

Today is our last day of school! Last week, I read an idea on twitter that I decided to try for the first time to close our school year. I asked my class to write down one thing they would like to do before they leave our school to go to middle school.  I collected all the little pieces of paper divided them into groups and put them in the seven balloons above.  Every day and even today, we will pop a balloon and celebrate the event in it.  Our schedule is on the board each day, and the blue balloon shows the time of day we celebrated by popping our class balloon. This helped with the inevitable question, "Where are we going to pop the balloon?" 

Last week, we popped the balloon and inside were the three sheets that told us to go play soccer as a class.  First, I have never played soccer, and my own children did not play soccer, but I still played and I am really bad. I cheated I guess: I touched the ball with my hands, I accidentally pushed someone to save me from getting kicked in the shin, and finally I screamed really loud when I went to kick the ball to scare the student. I guess I wasn't being very mature but my class LOVED me playing with them. Finally we had a wonderful moment when one student who never plays sports had to play, but the amazing thing is 2-3 friends helped him learn to play and as a class everyone came together to help him score his first goal ever in eleven years!!  I never saw that coming when the first balloon popped.

After we completed the activity, I shared our new read aloud:  Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.  I found this book with my friend, Mary Lee, on our  Blogger's visit to Cover to Cover.  I was excited just by the cover and then to learn about the story of how the balloons are made for the Macy's Day Parade it was so much fun. But the hook for me purchasing the book came when Mary Lee showed my how to use use the QR code in the back of the book.  Very cool!!! In addition, I shared Wonder #603 with my class this week, Do you Love a Parade?

Other blogging friends are posting their OLW end of the month reflection. Thanks for cross posting with me.  Enjoy reading Tracy's post about listening @ A Teaching Life.

This morning I found Ruth's post @ Two Writing Teachers about her reflection on the end of the school year. Tara @ A Teaching Life posted her May reflections also. Happy summer to those who are finished and for those who haven't the finish line is right around the corner.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Students are the BEST Teachers in Math

Our last math unit is focused on Transformations, Congruence and Symmetry.  All of these concepts were introduced in 3rd and 4th grade so this is a review unit.  I believe the best learning comes from those who teach others. So I  wrote the five vocabulary words on an index card and counted my class out into groups of 5.  I gave them a rubric and we discussed what each section meant and how did I model that concept all year.  I then gave them their plan time-they were so excited.  

Most groups wanted to use a lap top to have me log into the Pearson Teacher website, so they could preview and use the introduction video.  Next they wanted my teacher's guide for the answers.  I did not give them it, and I explained to them that they would need to solve the problems on their own first and then use the teacher's guide.  Their practice would help them be better teachers.  Another group found a website for symmetry that had a game on it, so they taught their lesson around a game.  In addition another group found a transformation rap.  What a great way to spend our last week in math class.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Poetry Friday: Magic!

Poetry Friday this year was magic! The students looked forward to celebrating poetry. We started every Friday with a poem and this message on the board:
-Read around the poem
-Think around the poem
-Share a poem & Love a poem
The students learned through constant modeling first trimester what those 4 phrases meant.  What 5th grader doesn't love breaking the rules of grammar which is what poetry can be about?  What 5th grader doesn't love reading the poem "Boogers" and laughing hysterically?  We built our community of poets and finally by winter we had a few students writing original poems and sharing them each week. We responded with all of us clicking our fingers loudly. The class actually decided original poems clicking and poems shared from books clapping. 

We celebrated poetry third trimester with students writing their first poem of the year with teacher directions. My all time favorite poetry book is When Riddles Come Rumbling Poems to Ponder. A perfect subtitle for this book. The word ponder allows students time to think. I used the book as a mentor text all year. I first introduced it to my class with context clues. Next I used it for strong description (adjectives). Then I used it in our Earth and Space science class. We used it for defining the word: attributes before we started discussing characterization in reading. Finally I had the students write their own poems and that is when Love a poem came alive this year!  Poetry Friday is magic!

Our celebration of class poems for graduation to share with parents.

Hidden title:  Apples

Thank you Linda for hosting Poetry Friday at TeacherDance 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Social Studies Wednesday

Every year,  Sarah and I teach the following Social Studies indicator for 5th grade students in Ohio.  The students need to be able to describe the experiences of African Americans under the institution of slavery.  Through past years of experience, we know the idea of slavery is a very grown up idea for 10 and 11 year olds.  Most of our students have limited knowledge on this topic.  Our History Alive text that our district adopted has a thoughtful and insightful opening for this indicator.  We have had students come back from middle school and even high school and tell us this was one of the most memorable events for them.

We accomplish this activity by having students lie their heads under their desk and face up with the lights out.  The area is small, and our purpose is to have the students have the feeling of that tight space. The students lay there as we read an excerpt from a SHIP OF HORRORS by Olaudah Equiano which is his autobiography written in 1789. which is a primary source (another indicator).  After this experience,  the students write about their thoughts and finally we share as a class.  In addition, the students will read from their text book and complete a dilemma worksheet about what choices they would make. 

To connect with Wonderopolis:  #138 What Was the Underground Railroad?  Many of the students had background knowledge about this topic, so we connected our new learning with this wonder.  In addition, there are some very thoughtful and supportive picture books that we read aloud to the class. 

The list included:  Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad which is a 2008 Caldecott Award.  The summary of the book is Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom

In addition, I share different poems from Bronzeville: Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks. The summary includes in 1956, Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks created a collection of poems that celebrated the joy, beauty, imagination, and freedom of childhood. She reminded us that whether we live in the Bronzeville section of Chicago or any other neighborhood, childhood is universal in its richness of emotions and experiences. And now a brand-new generation of readers will savor Ms. Brooks's poems in this stunning reillustrated edition that features vibrant paintings by Caldecott Honor artist Faith Ringgold.

Also along with making connections, I found a new book last year called A Taste of Colored Water by : Matt Faulkner.  The summary of the book is about a complex tale is set in a small town in the rural South in 1960, the beginning of the active civil rights struggles. Two cousins named Jelly and Lulu are anxious to go into town and see the colored water their friend Abby has told them about. She said she saw a water fountain in town with a sign above it that read “Colored.” Lulu and Jelly get their chance when Uncle Jack needs to go into town for a tractor part. When they get there, they witness a disturbance surrounding a civil rights march. Plenty of shouting and meanness is going on so Uncle Jack insists they stay in the truck, but they have other ideas. When they find the water fountain with the odd sign, they attempt to take a drink, but an angry policeman with a dog yells at them to get away from the fountain for coloreds. The whole scene is confusing and frightening to them, plus Uncle Jack is mad at them for leaving the truck. The issues are not resolved in the story, so teachers and parents who read this story to youngsters must be knowledgeable and prepared to explain this challenging time in American history. Excellent book for beginning conversations.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Finding Time in Math

Celebrating "Thinking Puzzles" on Friday has been a huge part of my students math class this year.  I have a box of thinking puzzles.  They are puzzles that typically have 6-8 pieces and when placed together correctly form a square or triangle.  I originally purchased these for "back in the day" when I used to do centers in the morning.  However, I needed to find time on Friday especially for small group reteaching.  Finding "time" is so hard for me in math class because we switch students, and I only have my students for an hour a day.  Not that I want more time to teach math, but I have had a difficult time finding time for both ends of the spectrum-reteaching and enrichment.

I have pulled out my bag of tricks for math for third trimester and every Friday we have spent 20-30 minutes allowing students to choose from the math tub.  An unexpected surprise for me was that students wanted the time to choose a math activity, so I noticed some improvements on their math papers. I typically had 2-3 small groups that needed a review of a specific skill that week or I would enrich students who had been extremely successful during the week.  The two pictures on this page are students who continued week after week working on their thinking puzzle and finally completed it!  Here are some additional items that they can choose from:

*Phase 10 ( a card game involving sequenced patterns. I just found out there is an app that  will be getting for class iPad)

*24 Game (an order of operation game - students have to make different equations that = 24)

On our class iPad, some students review past math concepts at Wonderopolis including:
#190 What is a Prime Number?
#162 What is Pi?
How do you find time in math class?  Leave me a comment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Social Studies Wonder Wednesday

This is my #200 post - it's hard to believe. Thanks for traveling along my journey with me.

Tara @ A Teaching Life has started blogging on Wednesdays about Social Studies.  Here is her blurb encouraging other bloggers to join her.   Welcome to Social Studies Wednesday!  I hope you will stop by to share ideas and resources for teaching Social Studies. Please comment and  leave a link to your post, I'll check in and  round up contributions throughout the day.  If you don't have a link to share, please leave a comment about the posts in the round up. It's always good to hear your feedback! I am very excited about this opportunity to cross post with her because I have been posting about Wonder Wednesday, and I plan on making connections with Wonderopolis as well as Social Studies.

Wonderopolis is a wealth of information for all subjects, but I have found the most support in Social Studies and Science. I am constantly searching for strong non fiction that I can share with my class and also have them be able to access the same text at home for homework.  I also share the hot links and interactive websites that each wonder has in support of the topic.  This year I focused on Native Americans on a Wonder Wednesday blog post.  In addition, I also used the following wonders: #45 What is a Totem Pole?  and #53 Why Do Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving?

In addition, I share one of my favorite pictures books:  When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger.  This book is beautifully illustrated with before/after pictures to allow the reader to go on a visual discovery which is how I introduce the book.  The next day, I read the story aloud and have students listen and take notes on a T Chart finally ending with a compare/contrast lesson. While searching for the cover, I found this You Tube I will definitely be using this video next year. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

iPad Celebrations

We have been using technology all year in our classroom because we have a class set of iPods. When I received my grant from NCFL and purchased an iPad , I was comfortable with using it in small group situations.  We used it in guided reading to look at different non fiction articles. Our #1 favorite site is Wonderopolis. We also used articles from Scholastic News which was wonderful because we have a class "paper" subscription, but we could access the articles which the students listened to on headphones. In addition, students viewed links including watching videos which helped students clarify the article. Also, we use National Geographic for Kids for articles, links and videos typically to enrich students learning.  

Last month, I began to use the iPad on my Smart board which was amazing. Why I didn't use it this way sooner I don't' know?  I was able to use the iPad to teach my students about a new app that I had purchased while they used their iPods at their desk.  I purchased A Life Cycle App for the iPad.  We needed to review 3rd/4th grade indicators and it included most of the state indicators.  I used the iPad as the introduction and then the students composed their ideas on their iPad answering questions in addition to extended responses.  

Next after reading Franki's blog post about the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore I download it to the iPad.  We needed a break from testing preparation, so I decided to show the class this story.  WOW! I never imagined the comments that I would receive. Here are several from our class.

Kevin:  to see illustrations go from black and white helped me understand the story better
Olivia:  Morris took care of the books first then the books took care of him. She made the life connection to the phrase:  treat others the way you want to be treated
Haley:  the background music supports the mood of the text and the story teller changes his voice to show expression (great mini lesson in fluency)
Betty: helped me to understand fantasy better-many textual supports
Harshitha:  always carry a diary with you and write about your feelings
Mukund:  Great vocabulary: engulfed, scattered, humungous
Eric:  I liked the line, "You always carry books in your heart."
Wyatt:  graphics helped me to understand the story better
Matthew: I felt like I was inside the book-that's cool!
Leah:  I just LOVED the whole thing!

Proof is in the iPad integration of technology and an amazing story.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Answering "How Will I Grade Research?"

I have been blogging about our research journey and the importance of choice and collaboration with all the students. Last week my students started to create their WIKI page for their wonder.  We are modeling again this year from Wonderopolis.  For any teacher who has to do research projects, I believe that the worst part is the grading of the projects.  After 20 years, I have finally found a solution to not reading the entire project at one time or better yet not having to read 24 projects at one sitting.  This year my students are working on their projects in sections; therefore I am grading sections at the time.  I just completed grading their introduction. Here is that section of my rubric:

It was so much easier and actually I believe I graded them more fairly because I was looking for the same criteria on all 24 pages.  The students also liked it because I gave them instant feedback if there was an error I went on their page and made a comment to them.  They were in control of correcting their own mistakes.  I have found this very powerful.  

On a side note, once again my class has impressed me with their topic choices and the amazing connections they have made to their own life or to our classroom.  I am so proud of their "hooks", strong vocabulary as well as their higher level questions.  I can't wait to grade more-bet you've never heard a teacher say that before about research?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Remember When?

Today our daughter is graduating from Bowling Green State University. To begin our journey, I want to start with remembering when?

*I remember when my husband and I graduated from BGSU and now our daughter is graduating.
*I remember when she was little, and we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? a million times and the Napping House a zillion times.
*I remember when she copied the entire Brown Bear book and told me proudly she had written her own story all by herself.
*I remember dropping her off at pre-school, and she told me it was the BEST day ever and turned away and walked into her classroom as I stood there with a few tears in my eyes.
*I remember when she set up her own classroom in our basement and begged me to bring "school stuff" home for her.  She was also mad when she did not have a chalkboard or an overhead because it would made her teaching better.
*I remember being in my basement that I grew up in and having her tell us she wanted my chalkboard from when I use to play school. We brought home my chalkboard from my parents house.
*I remember our first trip to Chicago to American Doll store for our tea time.
*I remember our second trip to Chicago for our girls' trip her junior year.
*I remember when she was accepted into Teacher's Academy her senior year of high school and said," FINALLY I have my own classroom."
*I remember when she would not say she was going to BG until 1 week prior to having to be there.
*I remember when she called at 2:00 am and told us she found her sorority and that it is perfect-Thanks Chi Omega for her home away from home. 
*I remember when she told us she would be going to Germany for the summer to be a camp counselor. Then she shared that she was going hang gliding while in Germany. 
*I remember when she completed her methods in the same district I did mine.
*I remember just last week when she called us and told us that she is finished with her student teaching. She said, "Im' sad, scared and excited." Just like it should be.

But today, we are creating new memories as we watch her graduate with her degree as an Intervenion Specialist. She is extremely prepared to begin her new journey. Anna, thanks for all the memories.  We'll continue to build many more. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guest Blog: Coming Full Circle

One of the best parts of being part of the blogging and twitter community are the conversations that I have had after doing a presentation in addition to the friendships that I have made.  My colleague, Melanie, teaches 5th grade in my district and has her own blog: Organized Inspirations. After our conversation at the Dublin Lit Conference, I asked her if she would be interested in writing a guest post.  Luckily for me she took me up on my offer.  Thanks Melanie for sharing your thinking! 

I had the privilege of attending the Dublin Literacy Conference a couple of months ago. I was excited to attend due to the many great authors presenting this year. As I sat in each session, I took many notes, feeling energized and grateful to be able to hear such great presenters talk of subjects about which they (and I) am so passionate: Reading and Writing.

As I sat in the Keynote session audience at the start of the day, presented by Donalyn Miller (the wonderful author of The Book Whisperer), I thought about myself as a reading teacher. I became quiet and pensive during her talk. I found myself reflecting, planning, and evaluating my teaching life. Some questions surfaced:

*What am I doing on a daily basis to help kids love to read?
*What behaviors do I need to change in order to guide students to increase their desire to read and write for a variety of purposes?
*What messages do I send every day to my students in talking about books, sharing about life experiences, and coaching them in their own reading and writing lives? Do I even do that enough?

My priority and vision for reading and writing workshop became a bit more clear that day. I will continue to function in much the same way. I will continue to apply workshop elements within daily lessons. But the power to support children in loving to read and write even more lies in a simple principle:  Make every day about promoting the love of literature, and in honoring and supporting growth in as many ways as possible.

Being able to honor reading meaningfully in many different ways is imperative for kids. We cannot forget this critical piece to the Reading workshop. Allowing kids to have lots of chances to be thoughtful about reading and about books is so key toward helping them gain momentum in learning about themselves as readers.

When we nurture this quality in our students, we are effectively putting the responsibility of "meaning making" back on the child, using the strategies and skills we have taught them along the way.

Some days, we don't know the true impact of our work with students. But on days when my kids:

exclaim when it's time to read,
groan when it's time to stop,
beg for more reading time,
share their love of books,
become excited to recommend titles,
and embrace being a total "book nerd,"

Then I know that even in the midst of all of the changes in education today, kids are still getting the right message. On these days, I can hardly contain my joy.