Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mentor Text: Social Studies - Civil War

 During Social Studies this week we have been preparing to move in to the Civil War era. I taught about the government, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to help students understand how state rights were a crucial part of the disagreement over slavery. We had some amazing conversations about people, the definition of men in the Constitution, and the atrocity of selling people as part of the trade economy.
This week, at the closing of my reading block, I read Light in the Darkness as a read-aloud to start the conversation and plant the seeds to get them to think about the treatment of slaves. We will dive in to the Civil War era next week and this book was a great text to discuss the value of education, value of people, and the horrific history of slavery.
Image is borrowed from Amazon website.
What I really like about this book is it is not too graphic, but is thought-provoking. The text resulted in gasping, and wonderful questions from my thoroughly engaged audience.
The book is very well-written and I will refer back to it, pulling sentences, when we study sentence structure as part of  language arts. It will make a great text to use during small group work to find samples of vivid verbs and compound/complex, and compound-complex statements.  
What are your favorite books to use as mentor text in Social Studies?
If you are looking for more great texts to use in Social Studies check out Collaboration Cuties

Sparking Student Motivation Through a Book

Month 1 is done!
1 of my precious kiddos said, "You made it through the first month. Can you believe it is Labor Day weekend?" Such insight, wisdom, and cuteness in him.
It has been a long month, but towards the end of the week I started to feel more like all of it will be doable. This long weekend will be for me to catch up on lots of things, including cleaning the house. When we start school, lots of things at home gets put on hold. Laundry gets washed and dried but unfortunately it does not always make it to the drawers or closets. Slowly we will all adapt and get back in to all the responsibilities of our home and school life. I mean seriously, after a long day folding laundry is just not on my to do list.
Making dinner and helping the boys complete homework is at the top of my list. Since my youngest is Pre-K, it means Mommy has lots of homework too. Did they really expect him to write up the story behind his name, make the family collage, and complete the journaling activity when they sent the class mascot home for the week? I am all for being involved, but let's send home projects he can do, instead of homework for me! (phew, off my soap box!)
This week culminated in a visit from an author to kick off our school-wide Reading Stampede. We had the pleasure of visiting with Michelle Nelson-Schmidt. She is the author and illustrator of Cats, Cats, Dogs, Dogs, Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, and Bob is a Unicorn. Her books are great and she comes to the school with the purpose of inspiring the children to strive to find their passion and discover who they are. Even though I teach 5th, her stories are inspiring for my students.
Last year she talked about the Whatif Monster and how we need to take risks because we won't know what we are capable of if we always heed to the "Whatifs." Although the "whatif" statements we hear can be scary, trying results in amazing things. This message struck with me. I was a worrying, and even though I don't want my kids to be anxious. worriers, or self-doubters, they unfortunately can be. So we own and read the Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster book and plush, using it as a way to avoid succumbing to those doubts. If you have worriers or super shy children, check out the book as a way to get the conversation started.

This year Michelle came back to talk about her newest book, Bob is the Unicorn.
Although it may seem to be a little too young for my students, we read it and I was amazed at the connections the kids made to the story. Her book sparked my students' interest and imaginations. After discussing why others doubted that Bob was a unicorn and how come they could not see it, one student came up with the most amazing idea. We ran with her idea. She suggested we show up to the author visit as unicorns. Wow! Brilliant idea! A secret that was hard to keep from others, but they kept it a complete surprise.
That seed idea led to girls dressing as princess fairies with wings, and other kids dressing as unicorns, sporting their favorite mustaches, and 1 rabbit with a tail and ears. I also did something my son said was embarrassing to him, but something many will never forget. It was out of my typical straight-laced approach, and I am so thankful I did it. I dressed up along side them. I sported a tutu and wand during our author visit, lunch, and recess. I even got my co-teacher to dress in a tutu with a wand.
In the end, I discovered a lot about my students and they learned that I will support them as they take risks exploring their creative sides.  The kids loved it. My principal was surprised, but praised me for joining in the fun. Our media center specialist praised us for embracing the spirit of the book. And we made the author's day!
Michelle's message this year was about discovering yourself and accepting those who look and see things differently. An amazing acceptance message hidden in a story about an elephant dressed as a unicorn. She reiterated that it was ok for people to see themselves differently. Our dress-up ended up having an even more powerful impact, probably more than I expected.
At first we earned some weird looks and whispers. But, through Michelle's inspirational speech we ended up being widely accepted and perhaps envied for having courage to be ourselves.

The author really was touched by our costumes and support. The kids got to talk to her for a few minutes after the presentation and got their special "Hi, My name is Bob!" nametags autographed. I know that brief visit will never be forgotten and I learned that this group of kids will strive to excel the more I let them embrace their creative side. So this year we will complete more creative projects and I plan to add more dress up days to our plans.
I absolutely love this picture and this will be the theme of this school year, Discover You!

The inside of the book cover of the Harback copy of Michelle Nelson-Schmidt's book,  Bob is a Unicorn

Like I mentioned earlier, it has been a rough start to the year, but I know that my hard work is paying off. I had tons of participation in our dress up time (they initiated it and brought in items on their own - for those without dress up items I had items they could use and they jumped that opportunity). I also overheard these comments that helped me keep going, "I have decided 5th grade is just as much fun as kindergarten, I love 5th grade!" and "This is the best class!" Those little comments made my heart smile! That is enough to keep me motivated to keep offering authentic opportunities to discover our potential!
How are you sparking your students' learning this year? How are you motivating them to love school? Need some ideas of how to Spark Students' Motivation, check out the links at Head Over Heels for Teaching

Disclaimer: This post is my own opinion and I did not receive any reimbursements for sharing Michelle's books. The images are from Michelle's website and our her products.

Check out Hunter's Tales from Teaching : Five for Friday-First Week Down and a Giveaway!

Unfortunately I am very far from the minimum number of followers to host my own Quietest Pencil Sharpener giveaway, but check out Hunter's Tales from Teaching for the quietest Classroom Sharpener giveaway.
Hunter's Tales from Teaching : Five for Friday-First Week Down and a Giveaway!: It is Friday, we made it! For some reason every year I forget how exhausting the first week of school is. I can't believe my last post ...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Little Pick Me Up via August SLANT

I get giddy when it is time to check the mail. I love receiving mail and adore packages. If you didn't know it based on my reaction, then watching my kids rush to the mailbox to retrieve the mail and hearing them shout, "There is a package!" might clue one in to the value of mail at our house.
At the beginning of August, I signed up to participate in the SLANT program hosted by Jameson at Lessons with Coffee. The concept was intriguing. Jameson partnered interested parties with 2 virtual friends. During the month you exchanged emails to get to know each other. Then at the end of the month you send a package of things to your new friend and then your other friend would receive a package from you. The idea was to fill a small package with some things to brighten their day, things along a theme of favorites.
Jameson did a fantastic job of coordinating this project. I am so thankful I participated because I made 2 new friends, Bethany at Hunter's Tales from Teaching and Mechelle at Barrow's Hodgepodge. Both teachers are amazing and I really had fun chatting and exploring their blogs.
Mechelle wowed me with a precious package. It arrived on the perfect day. I had a very long day at school, started at 7 am and I was the last teacher out of the building at 8 pm. We had a parent teacher presentation that evening, and let's just say I learned a lot that evening. Unfortunately it was not my best evening and I walked away confused. I had some things said to me that were ugly and hurtful, and even though know I need to look at the source, it still stings. Based on that evening I know this is going to be a long year! It was not all bad though, and I do know that I have many teacher friends supporting me. Best of all I have an understanding administration ready to help and they are 100% on my side.
So, that small box waiting for me on the counter, was the perfect medicine. My sons had been dying to open the box and were beyond excited when I finally got home, and they could see the treasures inside.
Mechelle delighted me and the boys thoroughly enjoyed the little treats inside the box. I loved getting the mail, but most of all love that I have made some friends and have some great teachers to learn with!
Here are some pictures of the package and the treats inside. The pictures aren't perfect because of the excitement surrounding me, I had to really hold the boys back to snap a few shots!
Drumroll please! 

My youngest loved this card so much he claimed it as his own!

Each gift was wrapped and had precious labels. 
She made this adorable mug to help with my coffee addiction, that heart is where I live, so impressed!
All of the items from my package, look at the love! A cute pin cushion for my hobby, sewing. A mug for my love of coffee, creamy vanilla body wash (so uplifting at the crack of dawn!), sweet Twizzlers (the boys devoured those with me), and a huge package of colored pens to feed my obsession in the classroom. 

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mechele and Bethany and look forward to making more friends!

Check out Jameson's blog to see more reveals and sign up for September's SLANT exchange.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Share the Wealth Saturday! Freebies for the classroom!

Educators are always looking for great items for the classroom and who doesn't love items that are teacher created and free? I know I do! So I am joining MrHughes' An Educator's Life Share the Wealth Saturday. If you are looking for some great freebies check out the links on his blog.

I have not ventured in to posting freebies on my blog yet, instead I am going to share some freebies available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I would love for you to download, and if you do please consider leaving feedback for me. 
I recently included this in one of my posts, but it is a freebie so why not post again? 

My Cursive Handwriting Practice Sheets packet. I used the first lesson from Wordly Wise 5 as my words and combined 3 words in to sample sentences. I really like the new cursive font I bought and I will be creating more, so watch for more freebies and packets. Click here to go to the product in my store. 

Do you need a way to organize bus numbers, car riders, and walkers. Check out my How are you going home? packet. 

I have this posted in my room and also have a copy in my sub binder for an easier dismissal. If you would like a copy click here.

And last but not least is a new freebie. Who does not love homework passes? I created a  free homework pass using a cute mustache and chevron background. Click here to download. 

Hope you can use some of my freebies, but don't forget to check out the links all the other great bloggers have shared on An Educator's Life. Thanks for stopping by and thanks to An Educator's Life for hosting the Share The Wealth Saturday! Collaboration and sharing is a crucial piece in an educator's success! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Pencil Pouch and Snack Bags and Some More Classroom Projects with Power Point

So excited to link up again with Fourth Grade Flipper on the Tried It Tuesday. I learn so much from the projects people share and already feel like my students are benefiting from what I am learning from other bloggers. Isn't collaboration great?
Saturday I decided to dust off my sewing machine and create a little gift. I love to sew and love that when I am done I have something that I created with my own hands.
I am still new at sewing, and am a self-taught sewer. Of course, I had some training in 7th grade, but I am not sure that really made the difference since I can't remember anything from that class except arguing with a boy about the difference between a spatula and a flipper. Ah, the joys of puberty!
Extra long Pencil pouch with zipper. Matches the snack bags I made. 
Thanks to Pinterest and sewing blogs, I like to tinker with projects here and there. So without further adieu here are some pictures....
Reusable snack bags lined with a BPA-free liner, they close with Velcro.
I made two in coordinating fabric.
If you like to sew and want to give these projects a try check out these links I found on Pinterest. Fly Away Home snack pouch tutorial and Me? A Mom? blog zipper pouch tutorial.
I also tried out some more Power Point projects with fonts and making foldables, creating some more activities for my TPT store, just in time for the big Back to School Sale.
I am currently teaching animal classification and decided to get my packet for bacteria, protists, and fungi ready to go. I made some graphic organizers, a foldable and a quiz. Since learning how to really use PowerPoint, duplicating slides I included answer keys and a teacher version of the graphic organizers too.

I decided to try to make handwriting sheets to go along with my vocabulary lessons. After shopping during the Back to School sale I made some cursive handwriting sheets to go along with my wordly wise units. Check it out if you teach upper elementary, this packet is a freebie. I will be adding more sheets and will add that to the store, but that will be further down the road! 

And last but not least, I finally created a calendar for August. The month is almost over, but hey it isn't too late and was a perfect excuse to use some of the great items I purchased at the sale!
Hope you had a wonderful Tuesday!
Check out the other Tuesday Tried Its on Fourth Grade Flipper's blog and read the great QR Adventure she shared. I really need a QR device for my classroom! Check out Hunter's Tales from Teaching's blog for a great writing lesson she has posted as a Fan Freebie.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Must Read Mentor Text: Why am I a... series by Greg Pyers

We have a phenomenal library system where I live and I am excited about the 22 books I just picked up from the library. I was able to put 22 books on reserve; they had them neatly waiting for me, and I was able to zip out of the library in under 5 minutes! A wonderful resource I am thankful to have so close to my home!
Another thing I love is teaching science, particularly Biology, and animal classification.
I have tons to share with the kids and would be content teaching it all year long. I almost get giddy when it is time to start the lessons and have a bad habit of running over my allotted time when we are working on this subject.
I especially love that I can integrate reading and writing in to my science time too. "The Why am I a/an..." series by Greg Pyers is a perfect companion for this unit. Last year I had to hunt around for titles, so this time I was prepared and  made my request with plenty of time to introduce the unit. Tomorrow we will dig in to the books.
I love the structure of the books, it makes it accessible to my 5th graders and they have little pointers to show them where the key classifying characteristics are. (They have a check mark right next to the text.) So as the students read they fill out their graphic organizers and can complete the charts for their notebooks. 
Many examples of animals from each class are shown and they have fast facts to keep the reader's interest. 
At the end of the book is a checklist reviewing key details about the highlighted animal and why it is considered to be part of that class. 
I plan to have my students read each book in the series in small groups or with a partner. While reading they will complete the graphic organizers from my animal classification unit in their interactive notebooks. Once all have rotated through the series we will review and discuss what we learned. I will also have them pick another non-fiction animal book to complete a graphic organizer on the topic of the book. 

If you teach animal classification I highly recommend this series. They are the perfect reading level for upper elementary students, full of interesting facts, engaging pictures, and have the exact details needed to help students understand the difference between the animal groups. If you participate in Accelerated Reader, there are tests to go along with the series as well. 
If you are looking for more science mentor text ideas, check out the Mentor Text Links on Collaboration Cuties
Thanks to Collaboration Cuties for the linky!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday night, already?

It seems like the weekend flies away so quickly. Of course, it was another busy weekend as I tried to catch up on sleep, school projects, and laundry. I am up late trying to finish the laundry.
I know I should be in bed, but today was not very productive at home, and I need to get another load through the dryer.
We spent most of our day getting rained upon. It was the opening day for Flag Football and as has been the story with every lacrosse game from our summer, it rained again! It really seems like it rains every time the boys have a sporting event. Actually this summer, it has rained almost every day. I suppose it is better than being in a drought.
Today was a new event for our family, Flag Football. My 2 oldest both played baseball a few summers ago, my oldest played a total of 5 seasons. Then he moved on to instructional lacrosse and this fall we are giving flag football a try. My poor hubby was stuck answering all of my football questions, and I know between the rain and my curiosity it was a little too much. Add to the picture, 3 boys soaking wet and bored out of their minds waiting for the rain to stop.
Sticking with my theme of trying new things, it was time for Sean to join a team and try something new. He was excited until it was time to meet new people. He suddenly got stage fright and wanted us on the field with him. We tried to encourage and help, but he was just adamant about not touching the ball today. Go figure, that kid loves playing ball and has always wanted every ball he encounters! But for being 4 and this being his first organized sport, I think he did great. We will keep going and cheering him on regardless of how involved he decides to be.
The Rookies doing their running warm -ups. 
Big brother did great, even though it was his first time ever playing. I loved hearing the coach call out his name and say,"W ow that was just awesome!" He struggles in school but really shines on the field. I am hoping his perseverance on the field will help him keep trying in school. I am always ready with sports metaphors to help him practice his reading and school lessons. 
In hot pursuit of his teammate's belt during their practice of sharks and minnows. 
As for my middle son, he told me today he has retired from sports at the mere ago of 6. It requires too much running. Ah, retired? Well, I don't worry about him because while his brothers practiced he scooted around the park, made a new friend, and ran around after whichever brother wasn't playing on the field. As much as I would love to watch him play, I appreciate his desire to do other things. like hunt for reptiles and hike in the woods. When he is ready, we will be on the sidelines cheering him on.
A lesson I learned from my kids is they are their own entities and they will emerge when they are ready. In the meantime, I will be ready with my applause, my support, and hugs encouraging them to try new things and discover what they love.I am thankful to be able to offer them the opportunities to try new things and the chance to be there with them. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

What's On your Wishlist?

The huge Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School sale is on its way! Shop on August 18 - 19th and use Promo Code BTS13 and receive up to 28% off.
I am linking up with Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road for the Wish list Promotion. Thanks for the link up party and the great graphics! 
The most wish listed item from my store is My 5th Grade Science Glossary and Word Wall Cards. I love this product. The word wall cards were one of the first things I laminated. First science activity?  Students added to their interactive notebooks. It took a little time but once it was glued in we were off and running. My heart skipped a little beat when one of my sweeties asked if they could look up the word we were studying in their glossary. "Oh yes, dear, and mu ah I love you!" They have truly taken ownership of it! 
Word Wall Cards in use, so much cuter than the boring SS cards from our text book!

My best seller and 2nd most wished for item is my Get to Know You/Goal Setting Banner set. I will update it each year and at only $1.00 is a a total bargain! I love looking at it each morning when I round the corner to my classroom and I keep overhearing the kids talking about their goals. I am looking forward to sharing them with the parents at our upcoming curriculum night, next week. 

My store will be on sale August 18th - 19th for 20% off. If you use the promo code you can receive up to 28% total. Promo code BTS13.

I have had the Morphology Dictionary on my wish list for a while and with a big sale, I might just spoil myself with a purchase. There are lots of great items but I am  in need of some extra supplements with regards to word root work. Yikes, not my forte, although I diligently squeeze in as many prefix/suffix/root word teachable moments as I can . This item from Kristen at Ladybug’s Teacher Files is right up my alley. 

Morphology Dictionary: A Student Reference Book of Prefixe
Another item on my wish list is the Historical Fiction Writing Unit by Bethany at Hunter's Teaching Tales. 
Historical Fiction Writing Unit
Check out Bethany's blog post on how she introduces the unit here on her blog, Hunter's Teaching Tales.

Happy Back to School shopping and may you all have a great start to your school year!