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!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Classroom Reveal 2014

This year marks my 7th year of 7th first day of 7th time of setting up my classroom and preparing for new students.  This year, I finally got smart about preparing my classroom and enlisted the help of last year's students:
These girls worked so hard--helping me clean, move furniture, align desks, complete bulletin boards, label books/workbooks, etc.  What we accomplished together in 1 hour would have taken me at least 5 hours on my own.  I treated them to milkshakes afterwards!
Here are the before and after pics:
Before:  Clean carpet, but all my stuff is piled in one corner of the room.
This year, I traded my "Cranium Club" cabinet in for a "Woot Wall."  I got the idea from fellow teacher blogger, Melissa, over at Teach, Bake, Love. 
This is how the Woot Wall works in my classroom:
  • When you earn a 95 or higher on a test or quiz (Exception: a 100 or higher must be earned on a spelling test), you will then be allowed to sign the Woot Wall and select a decorative sticker.  (FYI:  The stickers can be used to decorate binders, journals, "cubicles," etc.)
  • At the end of the 9 weeks, you will count up your signatures on the wall and receive that number of raffle tickets to go into a drawing.
  • I will draw three different people and award them with a special surprise!
  • Rewards will vary, but could include individual privileges such as Popcorn Party, Soda Day, Gum Day, Homework Pass, iPad Dibs, Treasure Chest, or Extra Computer Time.  You never know which awesome prize it will be! 
Our school held Orientation on Thursday, the day before school started.  I put all the paperwork in a folder labeled with each child's name and number.  Inside, one side was labeled "Take home and Read," and the other side was labeled "Fill out and Return."
I also left a treat for my students (a Pinterest find):
Finally, I had a volunteer table set up where parents could sign up to lend a helping hand in the classroom.  I didn't have to plead for volunteers; these parents are ready and willing to help out this year!  I'm so thankful!