Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One reason I love Christian Education...

Something special happened in my classroom today and I have to share:

This afternoon, after lunch, I started to feel quite sick.  I contemplated calling a sub for the rest of the day, but since it was 1:00 p.m., I decided to try to stick it out.  I took some medicine and tried to put on a good face for the students.  Even though I was planning to stay the rest of the school day, I knew I wouldn't be able to stay after school (like I had planned) to help a student get caught up on make-up work from last week. 

I was conferencing with students on a writing assignment and called this child over to let him know we would reschedule our afternoon appointment.  Another student (I'll call him Sam) overheard me tell the child that I wasn't feeling well and we would need to set another date. 

All of a sudden, Sam called out, "Okay, everybody!  Mrs. Bowman is not feeling well, so we need to stop and pray.  Who's our prayer leader?"  (The prayer leader sat across from Sam, looking kind of stunned).  Sam continued, "Nevermind, let's just do Popcorn Prayers...if you feel like praying, just pop up and pray."  So, he led the class by saying the first prayer and then almost all the students "popped" up and prayed for me aloud. 

It was so precious and encouraging to hear their prayers.  One student really touched my heart when he said, "Dear Lord, please help Mrs. Bowman to feel better.  I pray that she would be here tomorrow and we wouldn't have to have a substitute because no one can substitute Mrs. Bowman."  Aww!  (My husband joked that the boy was just trying to earn points with me!)  ;)

Then, another child called out, "Lord, I agree with that prayer--no one can take Mrs. Bowman's place.  Help her to feel strong and get better soon." 

The prayers continued popping up and then Sam ended with, "Lord, as we close our prayer time for Mrs. Bowman, I just want to say again that I hope you heal her and that she will not have any more pain.  In Jesus' Name, Amen."

Talk about a tear-jerking moment!  I thanked them for their prayers and praised God silently.  The care and concern they showed for me was overwhelming.  I was really surprised by Sam's boldness and initiative to get the prayers started.  That was my favorite moment of the day.  I'm so thankful I work in a place where I am free to pray with my students. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mystery Reader

Last year I began a Mystery Reader program in my classroom.  It was a success so I continued it this year. 
Parents signed up at Open House at the beginning of the year.
I keep all the clues hidden in this envelope.
Basically, Mystery Readers are people who have a connection with our class and come into our classroom each Friday to read aloud for 15 minutes.  Here's the information sheet I gave to the parents this year, which tells all about the program:  Mystery Reader Information Sheet
I email the Mystery Reader a week before they are to arrive just as a friendly reminder and also to secure the clues about their identity.  I give the class one clue each day and display them in the room.  Here's the display sheet I used last year: LIST OF CLUES.  For whatever reason, Google Docs has slightly distorted the sheet, but you get the idea. 
Finally, here is a sample SIGN UP SHEET.
This year, our Mystery Reader visits took place during snack time, which is why you see all the lunchboxes in the photos:
Most of the readers are moms, but I did have a dad sign up:
He also wrote a letter to each child about the importance of reading.  Everyone thought that was neat!
Our last Mystery Reader read two books that I now want for my classroom:  Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver and What's Smaller than a Pygmy Shrew? by Robert E. Wells. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Biography Book Report--Character Breakfast

Each month, my students are assigned a book report.  For January's report, they had to read a biography book, come to school dressed as the book's character, and then make a presentation as that person.  The presentation had to be 1-2 minutes long and meet certain criteria.  We call this event a "Character Breakfast" because everyone is dressed as a book character and we eat breakfast during the presentations.  It is a fun event for everyone!  Since we learned about the presidents in the fall semester and are currently reading about the American Revolution, I limited their biography selection to presidents, the wife of a president, or a hero from the American Revolution.
Here are a few of my boys:  (from left to right)  James Madison, John Adams, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.  (Not pictured: George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and John F. Kennedy)
Here are my girls, from left to right:  Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Abe Lincoln.
 All together:
A few moms dropped off breakfast for us: hot chocolate, orange juice, fruit cups, coffee cakes, and a variety of donuts.  Yum!
The students did a great job presenting.  They thoroughly enjoyed this assignment and I was very pleased with how serious they took it.  I've been doing this report for several years and this has been my favorite Character Breakfast so far!
This was the first year that I limited their book choices.  In previous years, I allowed them to read a biography on whomever they wanted (Disclaimer: The book still had to be approved by the teacher!).  However, this year it worked out well to require them to focus on presidents/the wife of a president. 
They learned so much from this assignment and were all eager to share!
Throughout the presentation, the students had to stay in character.  They couldn't say, "I died in the year..."  My favorite ending was Lincoln's: "I'm so glad I was able to visit with you all today!  I have to leave soon, though.  I'm going to get ready for an evening out.  My wife and I are excited about going to Ford's Theater tonight to see a play called Our American Cousin."
I also enjoyed the Q&A time.  When John Adams was asked, "Weren't you afraid to sign the Declaration of Independence?  I mean, you could have been hung for treason!" he replied, "No!  I was so mad about the taxes and all they were doing, I couldn't wait to sign it!"  ha!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital Learning Day 2013

Image from Google
This year, February 6th is National Digital Learning Day.  Digital Learning is "any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen the student learning experience.  Digital Learning Day is one day that highlights this practice, but the hope is that it will continue year round."

I signed up to take part in this event, but I didn't plan anything over-the-top for my class.  I decided to keep it simple and focus on three things.  I introduced my students to glogs, showed them how to create a word cloud through Tagxedo, and got them started on KidBlog.  I gave my students a writing assignment this morning and asked them to share how they use technology to help them with schoolwork, explain what they like about the way I use technology in the classroom, and offer one suggestion on how I can improve my teaching (with technology).  I enjoyed reading their feedback and a few of them offered good suggestions.

I informed my co-workers of DLD and let them know that you don't have to have fancy tech tools (i.e. Promethean board or iPads) to participate.  You can simply introduce your students to a new website like www.flocabulary.com, observe in a technology-rich classroom, video-tape yourself teaching a lesson (and review it to improve your practice), or just get on Twitter and connect with other educators.

Here are a few sites that I found helpful: 
Save the date for February 5, 2014--the next DLD!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Latin American Festival

Yesterday, in 5th grade, we held our annual Latin American Festival. 
Here's how this two-week, in-class-only project works:  The students are grouped by twos and choose a Latin American country to research.  They are to write essays about the country's religion, government, history, living conditions, climate, landforms, etc. and then prepare a tri-fold board with this information displayed.  Once the boards are ready, we invite the 3rd and 4th grade students to listen to the 5th graders' presentations about their countries.  Food samples are provided by each group as Latin American music plays in the background; it's like a fiesta! 
The students have to know their assigned country well because they pretend to be from that country.  They had to choose a name for themselves (they looked up popular names from their countries) and that's what everyone called them at the Latin American Festival.  I printed out cute nametags for the students that read, "Hola! Mi nombre es..." which I found HERE.
The students did a great job staying in character during their 3-minute spiel.  I overheard another teacher ask one of my students about a wooden statue that was on display at her table.  She replied, "What do you mean, 'Where did I get this?' I brought it from my home in Honduras.  I traveled a long way to visit you today and thought you might like to see some things I own."  Ha!  In reality, the girl's mom had gone on a mission trip to Honduras and brought the statue back as a souvenir:
Not a single adult helped the students with their boards and I love that you can tell that 5th graders created the displays.  FYI, we always do our projects in class.
 Costa Rica's display was so creative; they had a zip-lining frog:
The festival lasted from 9:30-11:00 a.m., with different classes rotating through.  When the festival ended, 5th grade enjoyed the leftovers--taco soup, plantains, empanadas, papas rellenas, black beans and rice, cakes, cookies, and fruity drinks.  Yum!
We had such a fun time!  One student brought in a fake parrot that stood on his shoulder.  I tried to get a picture with him, but kept getting photobombed by another child!
Goals of this project:
  • Students will research a country in Latin America
  • Students will become familiar with several different types of research materials
  • Students will take notes and write summaries of information that they find in their research
  • Students will produce something interesting, informative, and fun from their research
Here are a few of the students' essays:
That afternoon, I had my students take part in a prayer time (something we call a "Prayer Furnace") for the countries of Latin America.  I set the boards around the classroom, put the students in their groups, had them go to each board, read what was written under the "Religion" section, and pray aloud, specifically for the prayer needs that were listed.  We had music in the background and would rotate every few minutes.
I prayed with several groups and then just walked around and listened to my students pray.  I was so touched by their powerful words.  Some of them are spiritually mature beyond their years.

We ended the day with prayer as a class and then sang a couple of worship songs.  It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day.