Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Dam Project

We have these Land and Water kits that EVERY 5th grade class HAS to do.  They're basically plastic tubs filled with dirt, sand, gravel, and red clay, and the kids experiment with different flows of water and slope and such to see the effects of erosion and weathering.  They're a big mess, but they're actually pretty fun.

So, we've been working away at our kits for almost 2 months.  This week, my technology instructor came in for a class visit to see the kids using all of our technology.  She had told me about a teacher who used to be in our district who had put most of the kit online and added some things to make it more technologically advanced.

Thanks, Mrs. Ghumm, for your great resources!  It's a great site, and I think I'll use it a lot more next year!  We were ready to begin the portion of our kits where students experiment with how humans affect the flow of water.

After doing a Wall Wisher activity where the kids posted what they already knew about how we affect water, we moved on to researching different types of dams.  Amazingly, there were only a couple students who giggled at the word "dam."

Students were put into groups of 4 and each person had a different type of dam to research.  After researching, they had to share and decide as a team which type of dam to build.  Then, they had to create a project proposal that included a diagram of their dam, then they presented these to the class.  After all that, they were able to build their dams.

They turned out pretty well!  Out of 2 classes, 8 total groups, we had only 3 dams fail and flood their town!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Buffalo Hide Art

We've been studying the Native American in Social Studies and we're currently working on the tribes of the Great Plains.

I used a great site about buffalo hide stories found on the Smithsonian's website.  It was about Winter Counts (calendars).  I also found video of an artist painting on the buffalo hide and describing his technique and symbols.

 Found the video on this great site:  Prairie Edge

After looking at these, I gave my kids a list of Native American symbols and had them "write" a story using only pictures.  This was tough for them at first, but they quickly got the hang of it.  After drawing their symbols on brown construction paper blobs (cut in the shape of a buffalo hide, of course), the mounted it on construction paper, and wrote our their stories in words.  These were great to display in the halls during parent-teacher conferences!  The kids did a great job with this project, and I've received many compliments from parents and teachers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Schedule...Again!

Well, we're on our 3rd or 4th schedule this year...yep.  We had one schedule that had to change due to times that our special ed and resource room teachers had plan times.  We started Read 180 3 or 4 weeks in to the school year, so had to rearrange the day again.  And just last week, we had System 44 begin, and yes, another new schedule.  Our poor kids!  The poor teachers!  It's ridiculous!  We'll get our schedule down and be going along pretty well when we find out it's time to switch it up again!  But, the good thing is that this is the best schedule yet, and we are all REALLY happy with it.  It's all chopped up, but it's much better than the other schedules we've had this year!

7:35-7:55: Arrival, Morning Routine, Journal
7:55-8:00: School-wide Rise and Shine
8:00-8:40: Writing
8:40-9:30: Specials
9:30-10:30: Math #1 OR Science/Social Studies #1 (Read 180 kids leave)
10:30-11:00: RTI
11:00-11:40: Reading Instruction (sort of like a mini-Reading Workshop) (Read 180 kids back)
11:40-12:20: Lunch/Recess
12:20-1:20: Math #2 OR Science/Social Studies #2
1:20-1:40: Free Choice Reading
1:40-2:00: Recess
2:00-2:35: Shared Reading
2:35-2:45: Pack-up/Dismissal

I really, really like having reading chopped up.  It keeps the kids engaged so much better.

During Reading Instruction, I spend the 1st 10 minutes on a mini-lesson, then send the kids to their books to look for examples of the lesson (cause and effect, character traits, predictions, etc.).  We spend the last 10 minutes reviewing what the kids found in their books and compiling them into a list/chart.

My kids love Free Choice Reading and beg for more time to read their books.  I absolutely LOVE this!  I love guiding my kids to books and I love when they start to laugh about or get mad at something they read. 

During our Shared Reading, I play an audiobook and everyone follows along in a paper copy of the book.  We've already read Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (kids still talk about the characters!) and we're working our way through Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.  I think I'll be the coolest teacher ever because of reading Hatchet with them!  They love it and can't stop talking about it! 

I use a Read Aloud Log daily during our Shared Reading.  My students follow along in a book as I read aloud or as an audiobook plays.  I'll stop reading at different points to discuss what is going on or to predict what will happen next.  At the end the of the Shared Reading time, my students stop and fill our one of these boxes per day.  Each day focuses on a different reading strategy, like making predictions, making connections, describing setting or characters, etc.

There are several different reading strategies I listed on the response pages.  We'll take a few minutes to discuss the responses and I make a list of them on SmartNotebook.  I have a different SmartNotebook page for each reading strategy listed.  We'll look back at previous days and mark off incorrect predictions, discuss the answers to questions, and so on.

Students keep all of these pages in a folder and then turn it in once a week to be checked.  I don't really check for correct or incorrect answers, I mainly check for completion and effort. 

It really keeps the kids accountable AND talking about the book!

My Read Aloud Response Sheet is available for FREE on TeachersPayTeachers.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I apologize for neglecting my blog! I feel so bad! It's been a crazy start to the school year, with lots of scheduling changes, and moving kids around.  I feel like we're a quarter in and just now getting started.  Parent-teacher conferences will be in 2 weeks and grade cards are due then, too!  Holy cow!  What happened to the school year??

I have been reading up on some reading strategies.  Right now, we have a 60 minute reading block, and are including our 30 minutes of social studies as reading to make it a 90 minute reading block.  But, we switch classes, so I have one class of 5th graders for science and social studies while the others are at math.  So, social studies is social studies (and not just reading), but we incorporate a lot of non-fiction reading and reading strategies into social studies...which works well with interactive notebooking!

I've been reading a book that was recommended to me by a friend and fellow 5th grade teacher in my district.  You've probably heard/read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, but if you haven't here's your first introduction to it! If you know me, you know that I have NEVER read an instructional book EVER, not even in college!  They don't interest me and I find them boring.  I would much rather read a blog written by a teacher who is experiencing the idea right now.  So much more appealing to me!

So I was more than hesitant to pay for another book to sit on my "teacher shelf" in my classroom.  But I did fork over the dough and buy the book.  BEST TEACHING INVESTMENT EVER!  I was hooked after the first sentence.  This book is written by a teacher for teachers, and it's really like reading a blog.  It seems personal and interactive.  And there are so many "duh!" moments where you think, "Gosh, I know that..."  What I really enjoyed is that here is a published book that's all the rage and AGREES with many of my ideas for reading education!

The premise of the book is to get kids excited about reading.  For a 2nd year teacher, I have a pretty huge library (thank you, St. Louis Book Fair and garage sales!).  I love to read and I want to pass that love on to my students.  This book tells me how to do it.  It's really pretty simple-- give them access to books and time to read those books.  I started to use this with my kids last week and can already see/hear the results!  When I say it is time for "Free Choice Reading," I hear kids make joyous exclamations!  I've had several students finish 2 or 3 books already!  Amazing!

On top of The Book Whisperer, I've been reading Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop, which is absolutely PERFECT for my short, 1 hour reading block.  It's exactly what I wanted to do, but wasn't sure how to fit it in.

My students come back from math/social studies at 10:10.  I have 4 students gone to Read 180 until 11:00, but we have a 30 minute RTI time that happens first.  So 10:10-10:40 is RTI.  Then, I needed something to do for 20 minutes that the Read 180 kids could miss, but would be beneficial for the kids still in the classroom.  Enter Power Reading Workshop!  Now, here is our new schedule:

10:10-10:40- RTI (free choice reading/study hall for students not in RTI group)
10:40-11:00- Read Aloud and Mini-lesson
11:00-11:30- Reading Workshop (free choice reading while working on a skill from the mini-lesson)
11:30-11:40- Reading Response
11:40 Lunch

Whew!  Makes me tired just reading it!  This makes reading fly by (for me and the kids...teaching reading used to be my least favorite part of teaching, but not anymore!).  I can't wait to see the results of the Power Reading Workshop! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Social Studies Notebooking- Unit 1: Geography

I've been meaning to get these pictures posted, but we're STILL trying to figure out pull-out schedules and reading schedules!  It's been a crazy year already!

ANYWAY, I was inspired by Eve Heaton at Science Notebooking to start using interactive notebooking in Social Studies.  We've gone really, really slowly as this is something completely new to my students and to me.  I've never taught with this much creativity!  This is the PERFECT year to try this out...I have 3 or 4 awesome artists and the most of the rest of my class loves nothing more than getting a blank piece of paper and drawing during their limited free time.  Also, we did many lessons on how to glue papers into the notebooks.  I have them put 1 small drop of glue in each corner.  Drizzling glue and putting lots of dots wrinkles up the pages.  1 small drop of glue in each corner will hold everything. 

I decided to start out with a Geography unit. I've included a study of the five themes of geography, regions, states/capitols, directions of a compass, continents, and state abbreviations. Each activity has an informative reading passage to go with it.  These items are available as a whole unit in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Social Studies Cover Page

Divide the page into enough sections, so that each topic you cover can be in it's own section.  I listed our topics (Geography/Maps, Native Americans, Explorers, Colonies, Revolutionary War, Government, Westward Expansion, and Civil War).  Then we discussed these as a group.  My kids had never heard of many of these topics, so I did some quick little overviews.  Then we brainstormed some symbols or pictures that could represent each topic.  These are what they placed in the sections on their cover page. 

This was my favorite cover page.  This guy is always drawing comics, and is really enjoying notebooking.  But don't worry, most of mine don't look this great.  I only picked the best examples to share on here!

I did require that they color in the page- little or no white space.  It makes them look really good!

 Standards and Geography Title Page
I typed up a list of geography standards that students would learn during this mini-unit.  I used the Missouri GLEs to get these standards.  (Note- I put the Word Doc on landscape, then made 2 columns and pasted the same thing on each column.  When they print, just cut the page in half and you're ready to glue them into the notebooks.) I passed out the standards, and we read them as a group.  Then we brainstormed a list of questions about the standards.  I used the list of questions to create 4 focus questions for the unit.

On the title page, they divided it into 4 sections, and wrote and illustrated each question.  As you can see, these aren't quite as exciting when they aren't fully colored!

(Anyone know why this picture turned sideways?  The original is horizontal and it shows it as horizontal outside of blogger...)

Mnemonic Devices and Compass

We did a quick review of the directions on a compass, then listed some mnemonic devices (memory tricks) to remember the directions.  Most of them were: "Never Eat Sour Waffles," "Never Eat Soggy Watermelon," etc, so I challenged them to come up with new ones with out using the words Never and Eat.  We had "New Elephants Stand Wobbly," and "Next Exit: Sea World."

They listed these mnemonic devices in their notebook, then created a movable compass.  The moveable compass template is available in the Geography unit in my TeachersPayTeachers. On the compass, they had to list N,S,E,W as well as NE, NW, SE, SW.  We used a brass paper brad to attach the arrow and allow it to spin.

This one has the brad in upside down, but oh well, it still works!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Water Cycle Collages

We've started a "Missing Work Center" on Friday afternoons.  My co-worker takes every kid with missing work and has them work on it.  If they finish, they can read a book until Fun Friday is over.  While the kids with missing work are in the center, I get to hold Fun Friday activities with all the others!  I'm excited for this and I think it will help motivate the kids with perpetual missing work get their work done on time.

On Fun Fridays, we can do just about anything fun, as long as it ties in with curriculum we're teaching that week.  Today, we did Water Cycle Collages.  As I was explaining this, a couple of the kids groaned, and asked if there was another option.  I told them nope, and kept on explaining.  What made this activity really fun was that they could not use any writing utensils on their posters.  That meant no markers, pencils, crayons, pens, color pencils, etc!  I had gone through my house picking up scraps of fabric and tissue paper, and then scrounged around my classroom for other craft items- construction paper, buttons, foam stickers, string, ribbons, and cotton balls.  They loved this time to express their creativity, and they loved using all these craft supplies and making a big mess!

The results were great, and we had some fabulous posters created!  I did let them use a writing utensil to label the parts of the Water Cycle, but that was it!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Scholastic $1 Ebooks

Scholastic's Teacher Express runs a great $1 ebook sale several times per year.  I usually hit it up, and I've collected many of their books for 5th graders.  I recommend you WAIT for the sales!  There's usually one before Labor Day and Memorial Day and one around the beginning of January.  Sometimes there are more!

Here are some of my favorites, click on the picture to be taken to the page:

All of the Scholastic Success ebooks (Spelling, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Grammar (6th grade))

 All of the Hands-On History ebooks.  These are GREAT for Social Studies notebooking, which you'll see many posts about in the future!  (Available: American Revolution, Colonial America, Civil War, Explorers, and Pioneers)

Great States Quilt Math- a fun math facts and concepts review

Grammar Cop- silly stories to read and then check for grammar

Any of the Literature Circle Guides  and Literature Guides (lots of books available: The Cay, Shiloh, Bud Not Buddy, Bridge to Terabithia, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Giver, Maniac Magee, The View from Saturday, Hatchet, and MORE!)

Standardized Test Skill Builders: Reading- quick read and respond pages.  I use these for morning work a few days each week.

Cursive Writing Practice with Inspiring Quotes- another great thing for morning work

Kaleidoscope Math

I've found several more great books during the $1 sales, and they put some new ones up during each sale, so keep checking their site!  I print the really good ones out and put them into folders.  You get 3 downloads when you purchase the ebook, so make sure you save it after you open it the first time!

Classroom 2012-2013

I meant to get these up much earlier, but the first few weeks of school is always chaotic and all I want to do when I get home is lay on the couch and watch tv.

I love to search blogs and see classroom pictures.  I like to see what other people are using, how they set things up, and what classrooms across the country look like.

Here are some pictures from my room.  As you'll see, I work in a district that really values the use of technology in the classroom (our district got our first SmartBoard when I was a student in 5th grade!).  I am in an eMINTS type program, so I have 1 computer for every 2 students. 

I've also been lucky to receive many, many, many wonderful items from Donors Choose.  If you don't yet know about this site, check out some of my previous posts.  Donors Choose requires a little bit of work, but you get a huge return on your investment.  Try it, and if you have ANY questions, just ask, and I will try my best to help!

Here's our Reading Zone.  Bean bags, blue ottoman, little tables, book tubs ansd books (on the shelf under the Morning Work basket), and supply cubbies ALL FROM DONORS CHOOSE!

Mail boxes from Donors Choose.  Notice the 3 huge stacks of notebook paper!  I love the built in, room-length shelves, and the wall of windows! Although, the windows do make it hard to see the SmartBoard in the afternoon.

Rolling easel/chart stand, book boxes, books, and big blue tubs all from Donors Choose!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having this divider in the room.  It provides LOTS of storage and blocks the view of the coat hooks behind it.  Messy coats and back packs hanging up aren't seen when people walk into the classroom. 

The Writing Center with all types of materials available for student use. Blue tubs, electric stapler, electric pencil sharpeners, and electric hole punch all from Donors Choose!  Plus, if I opened up both sets of cabinets, you would find LOTS of reading and art materials from Donors Choose! The parts of speech posters will come down when we start putting up anchor charts made during Writing Workshop.  Scout is our class guinea pig.  We bought her last year with Box Tops money! 

Front of the room.  SmartBoard, computer cart, my desk and shelf cubby/closet (to the right of my desk, but not in the picture).  That big gold box is our treasure box.  One of my best garage sale finds ever!

Following Directions is Important!

This is by far, my most absolute favorite beginning of the year activity!  You've probably done this in school before, but many kids have never done it!  It's the "Following Directions Test."

I begin by having students completely clear off their desks, except for a pencil.  Then I tell them that today in science, they will be taking a test.  After all the groans, I go on to tell them that this test will let me know what they can do.  I repeat this a few times as I pass out the papers, face down.  I tell students that they may not turn the paper over until I say "begin."  I make a big deal of the test being only 15 minutes long and 1 page long.  A few ask about directions, and I tell them that everything they need to know about the test is on the other side of the paper.  When they flip it over, they will see what to do.

Then, we shake off some nerves and I tell them to get started. You see, the very first number on the paper says, "Read everything first."  Students SHOULD read all steps 1-20 before doing anything else, but of course, you don't tell them this, and of course, most of them don't.  Students then proceed through the steps, making fools of themselves.  IF they had read everything else, they would not have to do anything silly.  Since the majority don't read all the directions, most of them are working on hard math problems, writing the alphabet 3 times, flapping their arms like a bird, crumpling up their papers, etc.

This is where acting skills come in to play.  YOU must walk around the room, as you would during a real test, and try not to laugh at your students making fools of themselves!  This is so hard to do, and I find myself staring intently out the windows, trying to suppress my giggles.  It's hilarious.  It's a lot of fun.  It makes an impact.

At the end of 15 minutes, some students are finished making fools of themselves, some are bored from drawing pictures for 15 minutes, and some are still trying to make it through the strangest test ever.  But, call time and tell students that you are ready to grade the test.  Ask for a student to read the directions.  Then ask for a student to read #1.  This is where kids groan and can't believe they fell for it!  Then, proceed to talk about what would happen during a science experiment if you didn't read all the directions, and why it is ALWAYS important to know what to do before you do it.  Like I said before, this test makes an impact.  During any following lesson throughout the entire year, you can bring it back up. "Remember how important it is to READ EVERYTHING FIRST?"

I wish I had pictures from this, but I forgot to take them.  Maybe next year!

I am posting the "Following Directions Test" in my TPT store as a freebie for you to use and adapt to your class.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Save Fred!

The link to the Prezi SHOULD be working now! 

Save Fred! is one of my favorite beginning of the year activities.  I like to use it as our first "real" science activity.  We did this today after spending the beginning part of the week going over procedures and the importance of following directions (using the wonderfully hilarious "Follow the Directions Test," I'll make a blog post of this next!).

I found Save Fred somewhere a few years ago and used it as a lesson I had to teach in my college "Science for Elementary Teachers" class.  It's fun, builds community, gets kids to work together, and reviews the Scientific Method.

Basically, Fred is a gummy worm who was on his boat (a cup) when it started to sink.  Fortunately, Fred had a life preserver (gummy Lifesaver) in his boat!  Unfortunately, it was still in the boat (under the cup).  The goal is to get Fred into the Lifesaver without touching him, the boat, or the life preserver with your hands.  Each person in the group gets a paper clip, though.

I created a worksheet to guide my students through the Scientific Method.  This sheet will be on my TPT site.  I also made a Prezi that explains this in greater detail.  It's not fancy, but it works!

I introduce the worksheet after the Prezi.  We go through each number on the worksheet, talking about the Scientific Method and how it applies to this activity.  I then put students into random groups of 3 and pass out the papers.  I tell each group that they have to fill out #1-4 on the sheet before they can get their materials.  This requires them to plan what they will do before actually doing it.

Once groups get their materials, the classroom can get a little loud!  Each group is so excited to save Fred, and they have lots of great ideas.  There is also a lot of laughter and cheering!  Get your camera ready if you plan on doing this, because you get some great pictures!

Fred is SAVED!

After saving Fred...the groups got to eat him and his family members!  With this activity, you just HAVE to let them eat some gummy worms!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Day Back!

Today was our first day back to school!  It went AMAZINGLY well, and all of 5th grade got tons of compliments for line procedures and hallway procedures!  Our school has really pushed the school-wide procedure this year, and as of Day 1, it has already paid off!

The first day of school is my LEAST favorite day of the year.  It's always so boring, and my throat always hurts from all the talking.  Procedures, procedures, procedures...all day a few ice breaker games thrown in.  Luckily, our day is really chopped up with specials, RTI, lunch, and recesses.  So we only have one long chunk of time to fill, and our counselor is coming in this week to work on a project with the kids. Awesome!

We spent most of our morning working on morning routine.  I introduced the morning routine, then we practiced it step by step, adding the next step, and then starting over to add the next step.  They thought it was hilarious to repack their backpack and go back into the hall over and over.  But, I think they have it down and will do a great job tomorrow.  I also had my class log in to edmodo, something new I'm trying this year.  We're using edmodo for communication and for morning work/daily question.  They all successfully logged in and got morning work completed! My principal was so amazed!

Games and ice breakers were the best part of the day.  Lots of talking, smiling, and laughing go on!  We played "Would You Rather..." (school appropriate ones!), People Bingo (I think everyone's played this game at some point in their lives...), and "Teeth, Teeth."  This was a super silly, funny game that my kids loved.  The premise of the game is to introduce names.  I started the game by saying my name twice.  Then it passed on to the person on my right.  He repeated my name twice and then added his name.  The third person said my name, 2nd person's name, and then added her own name, and so on and so on.  The trick, and the silly part, was that you couldn't let your teeth show when you said the names!  You had to look like an old man who lost his dentures!  Kids LOVED this!  If the speaker showed their teeth when speaking or smiling, the others called out "Teeth, Teeth" (sounded like "Teef, teef!) and we started all over again!  We did eventually make it all around the circle, after many, many, many tries, but I think everyone knows everyone's name now!
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where did the Summer Go???

Well, my first meeting is tomorrow morning, then Thursday and Friday.  Next week, it's only Thursday, then my BIRTHDAY!  We start school on the 15th!

I've been working on Open House stuff this week.  This is my first Open House, since I missed it last year!  I made a powerpoint that I'm going to loop during the open house.  It has some slides about me and then it goes into info that parents need to know, like my email, school phone, class website, etc.  I also include info about DonorsChoose, Book Orders, school policies, and some of our classroom procedures.  I'm just going to play it on the Smartboard and loop it for an hour.  If parents want to watch it, it will be available, and it will save me from making the speech over and over!

I've also been scrounging around the internet for ideas.  I found this on pinterest and thought it would be a great little gift to give out to those that come in.

Sadly, the pinterest link didn't lead anywhere, so I can't give credit to the original poster (Ms. Cary?).  But, thanks for the great idea!  And popcorn sort of goes with our schoolwide theme of sports!  I did find the printable, but it's a little different from the picture above.  Click below to be taken to the full site.

I also found a great page that showed a list of things to include in the file folder that parents take home.  Unfortunately, I didn't pin it to my boards...oops!  It did have a little card for parents to write a note to their child on the first day.  I thought this was a great idea!  I'm going to give them the note on the first day, then collect it to put in their time capsules (more to come on time capsules!!!!).  If a parent doesn't write a note, I'll write one for the student.

Oh, man.  I can't believe the summer has gone by so incredibly quickly!  The next 2 weeks will be gone in a flash!  I'm hoping to take at least one day and go to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO.  I've only been once this year, and I'm craving their skillet potatoes!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Great Giveaway!

If you are a public school teacher, you MUST SIGN UP FOR DONORSCHOOSE!  You can get materials that you need for your classroom, all through donations from strangers around the world.  The best way to get your funding started is to sign up for monthly automatic donations, and as a reward for doing so, you get a $50 gift card!  You can sign up for a $10 automatic donation, and then you can put that $10 on your project.  Donors like to see the teacher supporting his/her project.  Also, make sure you comment and thank EVERY donor after you receive their donation.  A great thank you message goes a long way in raising funds.  With a little work, your classroom and students will greatly benefit from DonorsChoose!

Last year was my first year teaching in a public school, and I had almost nothing when I started.  I had so many projects funded that my principal still jokes about using the bond issue to add on to my classroom!  What I have received has ranged from construction paper and paint to books and audio books to storage containers to furniture to Sony Bloggie camcorders, and beyond!  Don't let the project proposal steps scare you.  Write a few paragraphs and receive amazing things for your classroom!  But, be careful, Donors Choose is quite addicting!

Now, I'm posting this link to a giveaway held by Herding Kats in Kindergarten.  She is offering 3 Donors Choose gift cards for the winners!  Head over and sign up!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bringing the World into Our Classroom

I love, love, love using current events in the classroom, even though I know I didn't do them justice last year.  I love to hear my kids talking about things that are happening in the world, and I love when they say, "I saw on the news that..."  Of course, I'm always saying, "I saw on the news that...," so they're picking up the habit from me, but they are VOLUNTARILY watching the news!

Last year, my co-teacher stumbled upon a fantastic news site for kids-- Youngzine.

You can sign up as a teacher, then create easily create accounts for your students. Then, you can select articles for students to view and create an assignment.  I did these on Fun Fridays last year, and my kids loved it!  There are several categories to choose from, and I would switch it up from week to week.  Some of the favorites were the article about the Toy Fair, one about bats, and one about the Titanic.  All of the articles have a video to go along with it, but most of them are Youtube videos, and Youtube is blocked at my school.  To circumvent this problem, I would download the video through Zamzar ahead of time and then either show it to the whole class or post it on the school's server page for students to view on their own.  The videos are great and add a lot to the article.

For the assignment, I used non-fiction questions or statements, like (say we're working on the Toy Fair article) "What new toy would you most like to have and why?" or "How will these new toys effect today's kids?" or "Would you rather play with these new tech toys or simple toys?" or "Who created..." I would usually throw in 3-4 "right there" questions (answers can be found right in the article) and then some questions that would actually make the kids think.

Each student would post their responses, and then, the fun part-- students can comment on each other's posts!  And the great thing is that all of these comments are public, so no private messages!  We spent several days on blogging etiquette- how to reply to someone, how to state a different opinion, replying with at least a complete sentence.  I had one or two problems with people posting silly comments, so I put those people on probation for a week.  If they posted silly comments again, they would only be allowed to handwrite comments for the rest of the quarter.  Mean, I know!  Like I said, though I only had a few problems with this and I nipped them right in the bud.

Youngzine also has games for kids.  I think there are now teacher controls, so you can turn on and off the access to the games.  This is a nice feature, because I had some darlings rush through the work to get to the games...

Anyway, I love Youngzine and my kids love Youngzine.  It's super easy to use and opens up a lot of interesting discussions!

Another cool site I found today is called DOGO News.

I haven't played around too much on DOGO News, but I think it's really cool.  Much like Youngzine, there are kid-friendly articles that are interesting!  I do like that Youngzine features political and world issues, not just human interest stories, though, I like all of the categories available on DOGO.  

Just like with Youngzine, you can create a teacher account and then student accounts, and you can create lesson plans for various articles you select. You can also turn off the comments, so if you don't want your kids posting to the world, you can control that.  Great feature!  

That big yellow box on the right-hand site takes you to my favorite features-- book and movie reviews by kids and for kids.  You, as the teacher, can even create a bookshelf with books you recommend for your kids.  I think my kids would love writing book and movie reviews!  

Another neat feature is the Maps tab.  This shows you where in the world an news story happened.  Love that you can bring in more geography with this!

The Sites tab takes you to a huge list of websites just for kids.  There are lots of great ones that I've bookmarked to look at later!  

This site has videos with the articles, too, but their also mostly on Youtube.  Boo.

I downloaded some great worksheets from TeachersPayTeachers that go along with any article!  My plans for next year are to include Current Events as a daily station.  I'd pick one article each week and do something like this: (keep in mind that our stations are about 18 minutes each!)

Read the article and take notes on your note sheet.

Re-read the article and complete a Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? sheet.  

Review the article and complete an Article Analysis or Article Speculation page.

Review the article and complete a 10 Facts, Article Vocabulary, or You Made the News sheet.  

Choose a different article on this site and compare and contrast it with this one.  You can create a T-Chart, a Venn Diagram, or a Compare & Contrast sheet.

I'd like to add additional "fun" activities for this, I just have to think of something. 

Many of my teacher friends have recommended that I use CNN Student News, but I just don't love it like I do Youngzine!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pinterest on Parade

I've been spending some time on Pinterest, and have found tons and tons of amazing ideas!  There's everything you could ever need- writing anchor charts, classroom management tips, math centers, science experiments-- if you teach it, it's on there!

Here are some of the boards I've created:

Feel free to follow one, or all, of these boards.  I'm constantly adding new finds, so they'll change frequently!