Saturday, November 8, 2014

Grandparents' Day Program 2014

Yesterday, we held our annual Grandparents' Day Program, and I wanted to share with you the skit that my 5th graders performed.

To read more about Grandparents' Day and view last year's skit, click HERE.

While my students set up their props on stage, I greeted the audience and introduced the skit.  I reminded the crowd, "If you have come to our Grandparents' Day Program in the past, you know that 5th grade usually performs some type of skit.  What you may not realize is that each skit is unique and different and reflects my current group of students' grandparents.  I gather my students together each year and ask them to share with me what they love most about their grandparents, what makes you all special, etc.  They answer my questions and tell stories about you, and based on that information, I write a script.  So today, as my students portray grandparents and grandchildren in this lighthearted skit, be aware that you may recognize yourself on stage!"
I must say, writing skits is not my forte, and I had a few stressful moments as we prepared for this event.  We had sound/microphone issues during rehearsals, and on the morning of the program, I learned that two students would be out sick.  Panic!  Thankfully, one of my students came up to me and said, "I know ______ isn't here today, but I memorized her lines last night and am ready to step in and play her part."  Relief!  I was SO impressed that this child had taken the initiative to memorize her friend's lines.  She saved the skit!!  We also rearranged a few more students in order to make up for the other child's absence.  I learned, "The show must go on!"     

Considering all we went through, the students did a fabulous job, and I am so proud of their flexibility, perseverance, and hard work.  I hope the grandparents were blessed! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

1st Mystery Skype of 2014

On Tuesday, my class participated in their first Mystery Skype of the school year.  If you are unfamiliar with Mystery Skype, the concept is simple: two classes Skype with each other and try to figure out each other's location by asking only yes/no questions and using maps.  Students must keep up with "clues" they are given, narrow down possible locations, and guess the correct state and city (and sometimes the correct school--although we didn't get that far this time).  This geography activity is perfect for helping my students master their map skills and usually takes around 20 minutes to complete.

Here are the jobs I gave my students:
Greeter--This student greeted the other class politely and got the "game" up and running.  He/she then joined the Think Tank.
Inquirers--These two students asked yes/no questions of the other class and answered questions from the other class.  They sat in front of the computer camera the entire Skype call. 
Clue Keepers--These two students kept up with information from the other class and wrote clues down on the dry erase board.
Think Tank--A group of students who studied maps and worked together to create questions for the Inquirers. 
Runner--This student kept communication going between the Think Tank and the Inquirers.
Photographer--This student took pictures and video of all the groups/happenings.  He/she eventually joined the Think Tank.
Computer Mappers--These two students used the classroom computer to search maps online.  They worked closely with the Think Tank.
For their first Mystery Skype, the students did a wonderful job!  After the Skype session, we had a time of reflection.  I asked the students two questions: "What went well?" and "What can be improved?"  
I have to say, I agree with their assessment:
What went well?
  • We knew our cardinal/intermediate directions.
  • We were good sports.
  • We were cooperative.
  • We communicated well.
  • We tried to create good/effective questions.
  • Clue Keepers worked very well together and did a great job.
What can be improved?
  • We need to stay in our assigned spots.
  • Our volume needs to be lower.
  • We need to get better at using Google Earth and online maps to find locations.
To see a brief video of this session, click here:  1st Mystery Skype of 2014-2015

For more info, see my posts about previous Mystery Skype sessions: CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grammar ER Activity 2014

A couple of years ago, I transformed my classroom into an Emergency Room for a grammar lesson, and the students operated on "sick" sentences.  I decided to bring this activity back, and it was a huge success!  The students took it seriously and were so engaged!  This was a culminating activity for what we've been learning about in grammar, and I used it as a formative assessment.  The students had to identify vocabulary; use correct punctuation for various types of sentences; recognize synonyms/antonyms, types of analogies, nouns, etc.  They did this using their own unique "patient."  Click the link above for more info on this activity. 

This assessment was fun for the children, and I now have a better idea of what the students are understanding and what I need to reteach.

Without further ado, here are the pictures from today's "surgery:"
I set up the classroom while the students were at P.E.
Prepping for surgery: 
I had "hospital sounds" playing in the background while the students prepped.  I had the sound of a beating heart playing while they worked.
This year, I had the students use tape instead of glue.  This seemed to work a little better, though some of the students had a tough time with the tape.  The glue, however, was very sticky and made the papers soggy last time.  If/when I do the activity again, I'll stick with tape.
The children even stayed focused when we had a friendly visit from the administrators.
These kids were completely engaged!
"Is he going to make it?!" 
Whew!  We were all so happy that the surgeries were successful! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Landform Projects 2014

In geography, we recently finished our unit on landforms.  Last week, the students completed their in-class landform project.  I paired the children up, assigned each pair a landform to research, and then they had to construct the landform in class and give a 2-minute presentation on it.  The students researched information for homework, using THIS HANDOUT.  The project was graded using THIS GRADE SHEET. 
This year, I decided to have the students build their landforms inside pizza boxes.  Last year, we used cookie sheets.  While the cookie sheets worked okay, the pizza boxes allowed more depth and could easily be moved around.  A local pizzeria near our school generously donated the boxes for us to use. 
Construction time:

Okay, so I know that the grade sheet says, "A paragraph should be written in cursive with the following included..." but we typed the information instead using the iPads.  Then, we just printed the documents from the iPads.
Presentation time:
Peninsula (Baja Peninsula, to be exact)
My friends from New Mexico corrected me--"Mesa."
No matter the name, they did a fantastic job!
This creative duo decided that their glacier should move!  Of course, right?  They cut a line in the pizza box and built their glacier around a popsicle stick.  They somehow used wax paper and Mod Podge as well.  When they pulled on the popsicle stick beneath the box, the glacier moved slightly.  So cool!
I was so impressed with this year's landform projects!
P.S.  On the lid of the box, the students were required to have a picture of their assigned landform and a map--showing where their "famous" landform example is located.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Class Dojo

This is my second year to use Class Dojo, a free online behavior management tool.  I love that it is easy to set up, engaging for the students, and customizable.  There have also been some neat little features added recently, which makes it even more awesome!  Since Class Dojo can be used in a variety of ways, I thought I'd share how I use it in my classroom.  

If you've never heard of Class Dojo, check out the Student Introduction Video that I showed my class during the first days of school. 

After registering my class, I was able to customize behaviors that I wanted to award points for.  Here are the ones I chose:

Positive Behaviors:
-Following Rules/Procedures
-Good Behavior in Special Areas (I always ask about how the students behave in other classes, but Class Dojo recently added the feature to allow special area teachers access to your class.  These teachers can join and award/take points as necessary.)
-Helping Others
-Listening Well/Attentive
-On Task/Does Not Waste Time
-Sets a Positive Example
-Working Hard
-Model Safety Patrol Student

Needs Work Behaviors:
-Not following instructions/procedures
-Negative Behavior in Special Areas
-Negative attitude
-Disrespectful to other students
-Disrespectful to teacher
-Does not keep hands to self
-Inattentive/Lack of focus
-Excessive talking
-Inappropriate playground behavior
-Negative behavior at car pick-up
-Calling Out/Does not raise hand to speak

I award more positive points than negative, and this class is so well-behaved that I didn't have to check a single "Needs Work" behavior until the end of the 3rd week of school!  I think that's a record!  As of now, my students have around 40-50 points each.  At the end of the nine weeks, we will turn our dojo point values into Dojo Dollars and hold a Class Auction (similar to past years).  When students reach 50 points, I give them their "Secret Code" and they are allowed to change their avatar. 
Every nine weeks, our point values start over (Although, you don't have to; it's just my preference).   I think I'll eventually change the auction system and use a reward system similar to the following:
Click here to check out other Class Dojo ideas from my Pinterest board.

Parents are able to check their child's progress at any time, but each Friday, Class Dojo emails the parents reminders to view their child's behavior progress report.  Also, if you need to share information with a parent via Class Dojo, there is a messenger feature that's been added recently. 

I feel that Class Dojo holds my students more accountable for their behavior.  Parents are able to see, in real-time, their child's progress, and it's been so much easier to discuss behavior with the parents.  Last year, when I started using Class Dojo, I had a parent ask me at dismissal, "Why, exactly, did my child lose a behavior point today?"  I honestly couldn't remember, and I admitted that!  I turned to the child and said, "Tell your mom why you lost a point."  He was able to say, "Well, I did..."  This took the burden off of me and put it onto the student (where it belongs).  My students are old enough to be able to explain their actions.  And they can remember situations better than I can at times!

Class Dojo has made it easier for me to manage behaviors in my classroom and report to parents.  It is fun for the kids and simple for me to use.  Because this system is web-based, I can use it on my laptop, phone, or tablet; it's so versatile.  I would definitely recommend Class Dojo to any K-6th grade teacher.

Friday, August 29, 2014

First Days of School 2014

We've been in school for two weeks now, and I'm having a wonderful time with my sweet, easy group!  Seriously, this is the easiest group I've ever had.  I have yet to take a behavior point from anyone (we're using Class Dojo), and this class is catching on super fast to the material I'm teaching.  It's so exciting!  These students are engaged, creative, obedient, and kind.
Here are some highlights from our first couple of weeks together:   
On the first day of school, I gave the students a pair of sunglasses with a note that reads, "My Future is so Bright, I've Got to Wear Shades."
We took our first day pictures:
 And again, with the shades:
After getting to know one another, learning new procedures, and taking a couple of pretests, we had our first geography lesson on the first day.  The students learned about map projections and that a globe is more accurate than a map. 

To illustrate that it is impossible to take something round and make it flat without there being any distortion, we used oranges with a slit in them.  We carefully peeled the oranges, trying to keep the peels intact.  Finally, we flattened them out, and the students were able to see the rips and tears in the peels. 
This activity helped the students understand the difficulty cartographers have in creating an accurate representation of the earth.  At the end of the lesson, the students realized that there are many map projections of the earth, and each is distorted in some way.
At the end of week 1, the children took part in their first 5th grade cooperative, problem-solving activity called "Save Dave."
They were so focused during this activity! 
Most groups were able to "save" Dave.  Unfortunately, he did drown in a couple of groups!
During the second week, we learned about longitude and latitude.  5th graders usually have a tough time with this concept, so I tried something different this year.  We created a grid system (using yarn) on the floor, labeled the "lines of latitude/longitude," and plotted various coordinates.
Just an FYI, the Tropic of Capricorn isn't located at 20 degrees.  I tried to place it around 23.5 degrees.
This method was very effective!  The students were able to quickly and easily transfer this skill to plotting points on paper maps.

The students have also been making great progress in writing.  They have been learning about Target Skills (from Melissa Forney's Razzle Dazzle Writing), writing poetry and journal entries, and reviewing the different traits of writing.  We completed a group activity so I could assess their understanding of the various "Write Traits":   
Each group was assigned a trait and had to address two questions: "What does this trait mean?" and "Why is this trait important?"
Finally, each group presented their work to the class:
As you can probably tell, I like to encourage my students to learn through collaborative work.  I also engage my students by incorporating hands-on activities into the various subject areas I teach--even spelling!  Yesterday, the children practiced their spelling words by writing them in shaving cream on their desks.  
I've seen this used in younger grades, but what kid doesn't enjoy getting their hands a little messy?  These 10-year-olds loved it!
The children were so impressive to me--they were actually able to maintain self-control while taking part in this fun activity!  I had no spills nor messes (and each child neatly cleaned up their area afterwards), and every person was on-task and obedient.  Now, you teachers know that you can't do an activity like this with all groups.  What have I done to deserve these angels?!   
Is this just a "honeymoon" period, or are they really this amazing?!
I choose to believe they are really this amazing.  I'm looking forward to an awesome year!