Monday, April 29, 2013

Turning Research Inside Out

Research has turned upside down in my room this year! It was time to turn research on it's side and try something new.  For the past year, honestly, I have been thinking about how to change it so that it involved higher level thinking, allowed students better choices (not just their favorite baseball player or roller coaster) and most important integrate more reading into their project.

The picture above is the perfect introduction to this year's research project.  I gave my students choice to either write a business letter, take a "field trip" or an interview of a professional in their area. Three boys took their field trip to the zoo after school this past Thursday.   The four areas of research are listed below:

As you can see, I used the Ohio newly released Science standards and allowed students to choose their area and then they had to choose 3 indicators to focus their research on for 2 weeks.  Finally if they chose A, B, or C their final project is to present their research in a poetry book (poems they would write) or write a literary non-fiction story.  Six students chose "Thinking as a Scientist" and they are following our science book for procedures (#1-#5) and their final project will be 3 fold board and their lab report explaining their experiment. We are right in the middle of the project, and I will be grading their research this weekend. That was also important to me breaking the project into smaller parts, so I could check in with them more often.  Check back in two weeks to see their final projects. Turning research up side down is exciting for my students, but I think even more exciting for me.

See their note cards-ready to research at the zoo.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Going the Extra Mile - It's Worth It!

Today was one of the those days when you wake up early and you just know it is going to be a GREAT day!  Our fifth grade team has spent the last 10 Wednesday mornings  coming in 45 minutes early to provide extra math practice for any students who want to come early to school.  We call it "math club" on the average we have had 30-45 students for every club meeting.  We took turns leading the club and the other 3 teachers supported by walking around helping students.

Thanks to Google Images
But today was our last club meeting and we decided to keep our own classes since we knew our own students the BEST.  I had over half my class attend this morning.  We looked at previous OAA math released questions.  I was able to work with each student because the number of students were smaller. I could take the time to explain why the net would build the cylinder.  It took some time, but we worked through an algebraic equation that every student except 1 missed. We discussed AGAIN the difference between area and perimeter.  I might have mentioned 88 times the importance of labels especially with measurement of polygons and volume.  It is magical moments like this that I know my students are ready and going to do a GREAT job on their math OAA test one week from today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day 2013

We kicked off this morning with celebrating Earth Day.  I asked the students to choose one word that they thought was important when discussing Earth Day. As you can see from the list, there was a wide variety of choices.  Then during our morning meeting, I asked each student to read through the words and choose the BEST word on the list and write about why?  I am continuing to focus on how important it is to have an opinion and provide text support/evidence for their thinking. Next, we created a frequency table which connected nicely to our math lesson today.  We discussed the data and "Eco-friendly" won our class vote.  Finally, I asked the students to write 2 strong facts about the data and supporting the findings for our class.  As you can see by their sticky notes, several students had strong evidence for their word choice as well as their data interpretations. 

Tomorrow we plan on further discussing, Ways to Save the Earth connecting to our Life Science standards. On Wednesday, students will be choosing a wonder at Wonderopolis from a post my wonder partner, Barbara wrote: Earth Day Wonders.  The students will continue with Non-fiction reading along with making connections with vocabulary and new facts learned.  Several short mini lessons will make celebrating Earth Day a special time in our classroom.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Celebrating Poetry with #wonderchat

My journey in celebrating poetry Friday has been one of the areas that I am most proud of as I reflect on this school year.  I have posted several posts about my learning.  Here are a few snapshots.

Searching and finding poetry book gems!

Technology and Poetry Friday

Is your class celebrating Poetry Friday

Most of learning curve happened because I have been following Poetry Friday and several conversations with my friend, Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.  In addition, twitter has opened up new conversations and my virtual PD is the BEST community that I participate in to help me grow professionally.

I am extremely excited to announce this Tuesday, April 23 @ 8:00 Amy at Poet Farm is going to be guest hosting our #wonderhchat.  We will be combining poetry and wonder with Wonderopolis.  Please consider joining us in this exciting chat. Thanks Amy for helping us build inspiration with poetry and wonder.
Poetry Friday is hosted by Irene Latham at Live Your Poem

Monday, April 15, 2013

Priceless Read Aloud: How to Steal a Dog

Read aloud is the knockout punch in my reading block everyday.  There are several components and next to conferencing with students I think read aloud is my favorite part for several reasons.  First, read aloud is about building our class community and sharing a marvelous book and having conversations is an integral part of community.  Next, I don't kill a read aloud with worksheets. This year I committed to collecting my students reader's notebook (RNB) once a week, so I could continue a personal conversation with my students.  This has been the power punch for me.  I encourage students to write about a prompt that I provide or just write about what they are thinking about the book. I have been amazed at how honest the students are and more importantly I have learned several things about my students that I don't think they would have told me.  Reinforcing the "power of the pencil."  Finally when we complete our book, I have my students write a personal reflection. I blogged about this idea here when we finished Wonder.  

We just finished How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.  This is on my must read list every year in 5th grade.  Here is my original post from January 29, 2011. Georgina, Toby, Momma, and Mookie teach us so many important life lessons.  The woven themes of giving back, importance of family, "don't judge a book by it's cover" and never giving up are all intertwined throughout the story.  Georgina has so many decisions and the process of her thinking is saved in her writer's notebook which is just an added plus for me. Finally, I asked my students to write their responses, and to say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement. In addition, I suggested to my students to share their thoughts about this book with their parents. Several students chose this option also.  
She sure realized all the life lessons.
LOVE his opening lead!
Conversation between my student and her mom.

Finally, I tweeted out Friday night I was reading my student responses and Barbara O'Connor responded back to me and now I have some very special tweets to share with my students today.  Thanks Barbara for making my Friday night and my students Monday morning.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Poetry Friday is WONDERful!

WE celebrate Poetry Friday in our class because my students want to celebrate poetry. WE have so much fun reading poems, sharing original poems and discussing poems. Imagine my surprise when last Friday, one of my students asked me:  "Why don't we use Wonderopolis on Friday with our poetry celebration?"  I stopped, pondered and gave my student a Smartie because he is so smart.  We always look at Wonderopolis on Wednesday, but I hadn't used the site for Poetry Friday.  As I did a search, I found the wonders listed above but there are plenty more for figurative language.

As your class celebrates poetry, remember April is National Poetry Month.   I would encourage you to check out these wonders and this insightful blog: Wonders for National Poetry Month from my friend, Barbara.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Physical Science and WONDERing

Thanks to Google Images
It's always fun for me when Sarah and I start our new science unit and I spend time searching for wonders that will support our unit as well as my WONDER Wednesday homework for connecting reading and writing.  After some time searching and some help from John at NCFL, I have found the following wonders to support Physcial science.

  #72: What Does  Conductor Do? (
  #420: How Do Touchscreens Work? (
  #414: Can You See Sound? (
  #698: How Do Night Vision Goggles Work? (
  #709: Why Do Some Things Rust? (
  #161: What Makes Sounds Louder? (
  #445 When Does the Wind Chill? (

It's always fun the first week when we give the students one battery, two wires and a lightbulb and ask them to light the bulb.  For some it takes few minutes, but for others it can take 20 mins and several clues.  Exploration and inquiry are so important in science. Over the years, I have learned to allow the students time for exploration is crucial for my  scientists to become their own thinkers.  Several years ago, I would have handed my class a worksheet or told them how to to light the bulb. But no more-investigation is the key!  As you can see and hear in the video below the conversations are crucial for the students to understanding their own learning. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Overlooking the Grand Canyon-Lessons Learned

Not often do I go off the beaten path on my blog, often I write my ideas and then I ponder....occasionally I push the "post" button and wait to see if there is any feedback in the comments or on twitter. Prior to vacation, the push was on...from everyone and everywhere, now after seeing the majestic views and reflecting on strong teaching I am right where I need to be and so are my students.

Here is my photo that I took and I personally like it better than my Google pic.

I am three weeks away from our state testing (reading, math and science) I am not feeling the pressure, and I am not going to put packet upon packet in front of my students to prepare them for the test.  I am going to continue to conference with my students about their JR books, continue investigating Literary Non-fiction as a review for genre studies, and they're  going to continue to write in their notebooks especially celebrating National Poetry Month. 

Where my students are as learners is where they are.  I will continue to model for my students how to think and write around the text while working towards the goal of a higher level of understanding.  My students will be ready for the state tests. And ask anyone who knows me I constantly say, "Until I know something better or a different way to instruct, I will continue to the best I can do."  After teaching 23 years, that best is pretty good.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Greek or Latin Oh My?

Several years ago our 5th grade word study program began to focus on Greek and Latin roots to help encourage our students to think about words differently but more importantly begin to break words into small parts for understanding.  This is where my journey started with small baby steps including several anchor charts and learning along with the students. 

I just introduced our first two: aqua and hydro to my class this week, (Shh don't tell anyone I am sure I am not on the correct district timeline) but my students weren't ready yet for such higher level thinking.  I used a keynote for my introductory lesson and most students knew they both meant "water" but when I put the above image in my presentation none of them knew the name of it. Not a big deal but an opportunity for great learning to occur.

The next slide had the word: aqueduct on it.  With questions: What do you recognize about this word?  Where have you seen this word?  After that conversation, I showed them this video clip about aqueducts.  I learned an important lesson that day about Greek and Latin roots.  Students need to understand the connections with history along with understanding how so many words are interconnected. 

My goal with all word study lessons is inquiry and allowing my students time for exploration. I had opened the door to a new word learning, and the students left that day ready to explore.  Two days later, using our digital camera students shared their new words and the conversations were amazing.  I didn't know...  Did you realize.... I have the noun you have the same word used as an adjective.... What is that again?  I never heard of that word (that was said from their teacher). Here are 3 index cards with their new learning. We're on our way......