Friday, August 29, 2014

Meet the Fairy Scientist

Every year, we begin our year in science by chatting about scientist stereotypes. Students illustrate a picture of the "scientist" they have envisioned in their head and we have great conversations about how we ALL are scientists.. we don't have to look like a mad man to be a scientist! Every year, I have structured the activity differently and each year yields different conversation. One year, I even dressed up like a mad scientist - now that was FUN! Read about it here.

Like year's past, students first illustrated a picture independently in their science notebook of the scientist they were imagining in their head. Then, we chatted about similarities in all of the pictures and common themes and characteriristics we noticed. 

For the most part, the illustrations looked something like this....

Then, I brought everyone to the carpet and showed them this video:

Lydia the Fairy Scientist

At the conclusion of the video I posed the following question to the class, "Why would I show you this video?"

The conversation was amazing! Students were breaking down stereotypes of scientists and talking about how scientists can be anyone and have a passion for ANYTHING. 

To wrap up the lesson, we wrote in our notebooks, "A scientist is someone who..." Then small groups filled in various characteristics based on our conversation. 

Fantastic way to kick off the year!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Breaking in our Reading Spirals - Genre Overview

Once school started, my mailbox seemed to fill up with Book Orders rather quickly. Now, I'll be the first to admit I love browsing the new selections from Scholastic, but do I need 2 bundles of the same book order... twice in one week? No... No I do not. 

Bouncing off an idea from colleagues and Pinterest, I decided to use those Book Orders to chat about genres. To start the school year, I felt it was important to have an overview of some "big" genres they will encounter as readers. 

We discussed the general characteristics of about six genres and created a chart in our spirals. Then, students searched through the Book Orders to find examples of each genre. 

While students were working, questions and conversations were centered around the books they were previewing in the Book Order. We even started talking about OTHER genres I hadn't intended on bringing up - talk about a teachable moment! For example, I was able to introduce the Dystopian genre for my class. Pretty awesome!

How do you teach genres to your students? Share with me!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Seeking Input for our Morning Procedure

There are two procedures that have caused me the most grief over the past five years (see! I have so much to learn) and those are: morning and afternoon procedures.  This year, I decided to shake things up a bit and make a change - for the better! Instead of creating a procedure for the kids to memorize and follow... we established a procedure as a class. Which, I must add, coincidentally was exactly what I wanted them to do anyway! 

Using another idea, and quality tool, presented in our district-wide kick off meetings, I asked students the following questions:
What is YOUR job in the mornings? Specifically from 7:50-8:12 AM...
What is MY (the teacher) job in the morning?
What is our job as a classroom in the morning?

Each student was given the opportunity to answer the questions on their own and stick their post-it note on the front board. 

As a class, we read through and grouped similar responses under the "Your Job, My Job, Our Job" categories. Some of the "Your Job" responses were: filling out planners, sharpening pencils, unpacking backpacks, using the restroom, etc. As for "My Job", students wanted to be greeted, wanted me to prepare for the school day, drink my coffee (hah!), give hugs, and talk to them. For "Our Job" students felt it was important to get prepared for the school day. 


We drafted our morning procedure and hung it proudly on the whiteboard for all to see. It would have been easier to iron out this procedure for me to write this on my own, but seeking input from my students was far more powerful. When students came in Friday morning, the morning ran like clockwork. It was ah-maze-ing. 

Now... let's hope they remember over the weekend! If not, we can always practice the procedure they created. :)

What tips do you have for establishing classroom procedures?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Creating a Classroom Mission Statement

Like most teachers, our first order of business in the classroom is to establish a solid foundation for the rest of the school year. This includes establishing a classroom community, getting to know one another, ironing out the procedures and routines of our room, figuring out our daily schedule... and learning on the fly. Let's just say, we had several "teachable moments" today on the second day of 5th grade. 

My district kicked off back to school meetings by introducing six different quality tools we could implement in our classrooms in the following days. Of course, I left our meetings and started rewriting my lesson plans to start adding in some of the tools introduced. If you're interested in quality tools (i.e. plus/deltas, consensograms, affinity diagrams, etc.) click on the link here.  

In previous years (four to be exact), I've used the story "The Kingdom With No Rules or Laws" to begin our conversation on classroom norms. After reading the story, students would suggest classroom norms and we would compile all of the results into a positive list, sign the document, and post it for all to see. 

This year, in place of "The Kingdom..." story, we created a classroom mission statement. I began the conversation by showing students our SOTO Mission Statement - which was a conversation in itself. I'm certain none of my students were aware this "phrase" existed. 

Disclaimer: This is how I chose to do this activity in my classroom, by no means am I saying this is the absolute way it has to happen. :)

Yes! We can!
 Next, I explained to the class how we could create a classroom mission statement to simply state who we are and our purpose for the year.  After handing out post-its to five different tables, I posed the following questions:
Who are we?
What will you need to do in order to be successful this year?
What can I, the teacher, do to help you be successful this year?
What should the students do in order for things to run smoothly?
How are we going to accomplish these tasks?

After about five minutes, groups shared out their responses from the post-it notes. As students were talking, I help form their thoughts into a cohesive paragraph. After a few minutes of collaborating, our classroom mission statement had been created!

Perhaps I'm biased, but my favorite part of the statement is where they asked for me to entertain them. Oh, my students! Ask and you shall receive. 

To polish things off, each student took turns signing our mission statement and vowed to hold one another accountable to our classroom expectations. 

It's going to be a great year!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thinking Like Scientists

 If you've followed my blog for a few years, you may remember my post "Power of the Pod" where I shared an idea about naming your tables or pods after material you wish for students to remember. Read more on that blog here.  

To kick off the year, I decided to create new table names for each of my groups. This year, we're starting our year with units of measurement. In 5th grade, we hit the metric system in science and math and this is an area where my kids struggle. They can remember the various tools we use in science (balance scales, thermometers, meter sticks, etc.), but struggle to remember the unit they are measured with. I'm hoping the repetition of the terms will help students remember the units. 

If you wish to download a copy of the posters to hang in your classroom, click here! You can access the docs via Google Drive. If you do use these posters in your classroom, I would love to see photographs! Please email me a picture and I'll post them on my blog as well. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

SPOTLIGHT Bulletin Board Idea

During my first year of teaching, and Fellows year, I conducted an action research project on using nonfiction text during read alouds and how it affected students reading nonfiction on their own. During that year, with guidance from my mentor, we created a hanging bulletin board where I would "Spotlight" the nonfiction text we were reading for the week. It was a great resource and reminder for students of the books we had read and were available to them as readers. 

Fast forward to my current 5th grade classroom. I am fortunate to have a HUUUGE wall in the back of my room. The past few years, I've bounced back and forth between what to put on that wall and this year I decided to create another spotlight!

Because I teach three sections of science, the bulk of my material posted on the wall revolves around our science content. If you're like me, I am constantly swapping out posters and materials depending on what we are studying. One of our first "spotlights" will be on the scientific method, once we move onto weather, I will change out the posters and objectives for our next unit. 

What bulletin boards do you have around your room spotlight content areas? Share your ideas with me!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Since You've Been Gone

This year, I'm switching up my system for absent students. In previous years, I've had a file folder waiting for students when they return with worksheets and notes from the school day. This process really didn't work for my class, students, or organization system. In an attempt to help students become more self-motivated and responsible, I introduce to you....
Kelly Clarkson

First, I can't help but grin like a goober when I look at this hanging file. Who wouldn't want to look at Kelly Clarkson rocking out when searching for their absent work?

Want a copy? Click here to download the file from Google Drive!

Here's my game plan: 
  • Hanging files will be labeled with the five days of the week. My Postal Clerk will add an extra copy in the absent file for students who are absent (even if we have perfect attendance, I will have an one extra copy just in case!) Say two or three students are absent? Then, my Postal Clerk will add that many copies to the basket. 
  • When the child returns to school from being out, they will ask me what they missed and I will hop on my desk and start singing, "SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GOONNNEEEEE" Just kidding. 
  • When the child returns to school from being out, I will remind them to check with Kelly (hehe) and get their work from the day they missed. 

What tricks do you have to manage absent work with multiple classes? Share with me!

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