Monday, April 30, 2012

Nonfiction Matters!

I'll let you in on a little secret about me. I absolutely love teaching nonfiction. I'll let you in on a second secret about me, I didn't really have any feelings towards nonfiction until last year. My action research project for my Masters program revolved solely around the importance of nonfiction in the elementary classroom. After reading gobs and gobs (gobs x 100) of research on nonficion, I quickly grew to love it.

After our Jaguar unit, I wanted to dip into nonfiction a bit. So, guess what? We did. Have you heard of Stephanie Harvey? Most of you probably have, you may even own this book --

Well, I used Harvey's book Nonfiction Matters to develop a little quick review on nonfiction for my kids. Here's an overview of what we did.

Day one: Anchor Chart! Woot woot. I love anchor charts too. We answered the age old question, "Why do we read nonfiction?"According to Harvey, here are some stellar reasons WHY we actually read nonfiction:

Yes, I spelled acquire wrong. Whoops!
Day Two: We tackled those pesky expository text structures. Harvey suggested using an example of "goosebumps" for each text structure. As a class, we created a foldable and labeled each type of text structure. Then, inside the flap, students wrote down and illustrated an example of the text structure with goosebumps. Make sense? Not quite? Okay, let me back up.

For example, one expository text structure is cause and effect. We wrote the follow example:
"The temperature dropped to 45 degrees. I got goosebumps." This is an example of cause and effect. Harvey lists an example of each structure relating it back to goosebumps. It was an excellent illustration of the different ways nonfiction can be written.

NEXT time, I would like to start the year off with this activity. First, we can identify WHY we read nonfiction and the various text structures. Then, the next day, compare reading nonfiction to fiction! We can answer the question of why we read fiction and compare how fiction stories are set up much differently. I'm getting all tingly on the inside just thinking about it. Stop me before I get too nerdy.

Sounds like I've got a week planned for the fall!

What exciting nonfiction lessons do you do with your kiddos?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hangin' in Brazil with Jaguars

We just wrapped up our literature study on Roland Smith's Jaguar and it was a BLAST! Not only were my students captivated by the story, but they engaged in meaningful discussions about the story. It was an awesome two weeks!

To begin our lit study, I started with a mini lesson on using post it notes. We brainstormed different ways we can use post it notes while reading chapter books. After coming up with a vast list (connections, questions, predictions, etc.), we decided (with my influence) to write a summary after each chapter.

Along with the story, I distributed a packet of comprehension questions and strategies. Each day, or every other day, had a different focus. For example, the first day we discussed questioning. As a group, we brainstormed questions prior to reading Jaguar. Then, I sent them on their merry way. The next day, I had small groups read the assigned chapters and determine story elements. After small groups had time to collaborate, we met together as a group and shared our ideas.

The discussion parts of the day were my favorite! Since I was reading the story with my kids, I was just as into the mystery and drama as they were. Some were begging to read more!! 

Throughout the two weeks, I had students read in small groups, in partners, independently, and I read chapters outloud. I definitely saved the last three chapters as a read aloud. It was so fun to participate WITH my students in the excitement. 

Thanks to my awesome high school teacher friend, Kelley, she helped me with ideas to make my kids "think outside the box". To wrap up our literature study, I gave my kids two different tasks. First, they had to dig deep into character analysis and write a haiku on Jacob, free verse poem about Taw, or create a comic strip detailing Jacob and Doc's relationship. I will admit, they struggled with the comic strip. This is something I would like to try again with a different approach.

As a final task, students were asked to create a new book jacket for Roland Smith's story, Jaguar. Inside the book jacket would contain a summary of the story and a mini bio on Roland Smith (an author my kids have grown to love!!) We can all thank my sweet friend Kelley for this idea as well. :)

I look forward to doing more literature studies similar to this one next year. Have you completed in any lit studies in your room? What types of activities and/or tasks do you assign to your students?

I posted this unit on my TpT account, but if you email me.. I'll send it to you for free! :)

Happy Monday, folks!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Life Lately Link Up

Happy Monday, friends! I can't believe it's the middle of April. April is the best month because of (my favorite season) spring and so many birthdays to celebrate.

I'm linking up with The Weekend File and giving you the scoop on my life lately.

I've become mildly obsessed with the game "Draw Something". I'm not an artist by any means, but I sure do love trying to illustrate wacky things like this here cyclops! Definitely one of my finest.

Call me Picaso.
I made my very first layered cake for a little birthday that happens to be today! I used the classic and well-loved Funfetti recipe and it was enjoyed by many this weekend! Plus, the cake got to hang out on my fancy dollar store cake stand that I blogged about here.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Over the weekend, I was invited to attend Opening Weekend of the STL Cardinals! As you may know from here, that baseball has never been my thing, but holy cow! The game was absolutely incredible. I loved every minute of it!

Plus, I got a sweet new ring. :)

Since the weather has been so beautiful, I've been taking advantage of the roads around me and going on walks everyday. Who wouldn't want to have this view everyday?

Life is just splendid. I hope yours is just as grand!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Smart Cookie!

I was feeling a little creative today and decided to make another fun motivational card for my kids. I'm always telling my students how brilliant they are (because they are!), so why not give them a little card to make them smile? You can check out my Smart Cookie printable on my brand-spankin' new TpT account! Click here to check it out. My crafting addiction got the best of me, and I knew I needed more money in the bank to support my habits.

To check out the rest of my brand neeeew profile, click below! 

2nd, 5th - Science, Reading -

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Newly Converted Baseball Fan

I've never really been a baseball fan. Now, before you throw darts at me... hear me out! Okay, I admit it, I don't have a great reason for not liking baseball. I just never really got into it. Sorry! Sorry! I've seen the light, I'm a changed woman.

Now, I've turned over a new leaf and vowed to enjoy baseball. I am pretty excited about this! Especially since I was invited to attend Opening Day festivities this weekend for the Cardinals! Lucky me, huh? I took my first step as a Cardinals fan and bought a new t-shirt and tonight I took step numero dos. I dipped a batch of oreos into almond bark and made the ugliest looking cookie baseballs, ever.

I love baking and trying out new things, but I'm certainly not a culinary artist. If a chef walked into my house right now, they would slap me silly for torturing these poor cookies. I've never preached "perfect" or "beautiful" with anything I cook, so this was just another cooking day for me! The uglier the better I say.

Keep in mind, I only photographed the decent ones.
I surrendered to the icing and failed to put the extra lace on the baseballs.

Icing you win this round! I'll conquer you next time. (Maybe. Let's be honest, probably not.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Club!

One of my favorite nights every month is Book Club. This month we've selected, "Defending Jacob" by William Landay.

We just picked the book, and I'm already 100 pages in. After HIMYM tonight, I'm headed to bed early with my book. (cough nerd alert! cough)

What books are you reading this month? Do share! I love hearing about new reads.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Happy Friday, friends! Not only have we finished MAP testing for the year, but we are on Easter break. Hallelujah! I slept in today. Then, slept some more. It was beautiful.

For a little Easter treat, I made a very simple Bunny Bark (snagged from Pinterest of course). It's delicious and hoppy, like a bunny rabbit.

Here's what I used:

  • pretzels
  • Easter M&M's
  • white chocolate chips
Make it!
  • Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper. Sprinkle pretzels and M&M's generously on top of the wax paper. 
  • Melt white chocolate chips in microwave. Melt for 30 seconds, stir. Melt for 30 seconds, stir. That way you won't burn your chocolate!
  • Pour the chocolate over your pretzels and M&M's. 
  • Stick in the fridge to let harden. 
  • Break up the bark into bite size pieces and enjoy!
Enjoy your weekend! :)

life rearranged

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Research & Marbles

Guess what we finished today? Oh yes, the MAP test. We're done! HOORAY! You better believe I gave out a big 'ol WAHOOOOOOOOOO when I collected all of the test booklets. 

Anywho, guess what is next for us in Science? Just a little research project (that I happen to be dreaming about).  I've been planning this project for almost a month now, and I'm so stinkin' excited to get started that I just can't stand it! 
Really, I'm not lying. I had a dream about researching. 

Ugh, I've lost my marbles. 
Just kidding! They're in a jar in my basement back home. 
Really, I'm not lying about that either. Okay, okay I've lost track.

Back to business...

It's taken over my classroom, too. See what I mean?

Let me explain.

My students will be completing a research project about a subject/topic that they want to research in science. I'm just providing categories to choose from. Those categories happen to be the "big ideas" studied in 5th grade: Universe, Weather, Force and Motion, Animals, and Scientific Inquiry. On the project outline, I provided a few "stems" to get their brains chugging along.

Each student is required to collect facts, use a graphic organizer to organize their fact-a-moondos, and draft an essay. Then! Here comes the fun part... each student can choose how they present and publish their information. Maybe one student will make a powerpoint, maybe one student will be making a poster. The possibilites are endless! Well, not really.

I converted one of my bulletin boards into a timeline for our research project. I wrote each student's name on a card and we tacked them up today. Not only will this board help me keep everyone organized, but students will be able to chart their own progress throughout the research project.  You can download the PDF for our project below.

What kind of research projects do your kiddos do? Do share!

5th Grade Science Research Project

Now, be warned - I haven't completed this project yet. In fact, we haven't even started. I may be bald at the end of April after yanking out my hair throughout this project. But, it's for the kids -right?

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