Thursday, March 29, 2012

Test Prep

This week has been full of "super fun" test prep...yeehaw.  It's mandated by our district, but shouldn't we be prepping our kids all year long?

I've tried to make it as enjoyable for the kids as possible.  I've found some videos from youtube and some fun activities online.

I'll just list all of the links I've found:

MAP Math Review- 5th Grade
Math Maven's Mysteries- logic and word problems
Mr. Nussbaum's Probability Fair- I love Mr. Nussbaum's site!  I use it for almost every subject!
Johnnie's Math Page- probability spinners, dice, cards, games
Mr. Anker's Ordered Pairs Test- graphing coordinates
River Riding- ordered pair mystery picture via connect-the-dots
Line Plots- worksheet, not super exciting, but is an awesome site, sadly, you have to pay for most of it, but it's one site that's worth it.  Great for substitute activities.
Adding Fractions- good review of adding fractions with unlike denominators

Author's Purpose- Hoops Shoot game
Author's Purpose Review Quiz
Text Features- Fling the Teacher game
Grammar Blast- reviews and quizzes
Grammar Practice Park- games

Similes and Metaphors in Pop Songs


Moon Phases Song- to the tune of "Forget You" by Ceelo Green

I converted all the youtube videos through, so there aren't any other videos suggested and no comments!  It's a great way to use youtube videos safely in the classroom.

I would love to know what test prep you use!  Worksheets, sites, or videos would be great.  We have practice test books that we have been using, too.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our "Eggs"periment

Instead of doing a science fair this year, each grade level has decided on something smaller.  5th grade decided to do a class experiment and have small groups present the information using Prezi, PowerPoint, or iMovie.

Since I am the 5th grade science department, I chose an easy experiment that clearly goes through all of the steps of the scientific method-- the effects of various liquids on eggshells.  I'm sure you've heard of the rubber egg experiment, but I am taking it a step further.  I had each class brainstorm a list of liquids that we could use in our experiments.  The morning class came up with vinegar, lemon juice, pickle juice, bathroom cleaner, cola, and citric acid water.  The afternoon group was surprisingly similar, but added powdered drink mix.

I have the science class divided into 5 groups.  Each small group chose a liquid to test.  We measured out the same amount of each liquid and put it into a clear jar.  Then we measured the length and girth of each egg and recorded that in our notebooks.  We then put the eggs into the jars and made any immediate observations (i.e. bubbles, fizz, floating...).  Our control will be an egg in plain water.  We will measure, weigh, and observe the eggs every day for a week.

We have done some research and found that eggshells and tooth enamel are similar.  So, our overall question is about the effects of these liquids on teeth.  It will be interesting to see the results!

Morning group's eggs.
Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome Back!

It was a pretty good day back at school...although I was surprised with not 1, but TWO new students!  This puts my total up to 17, so I'm almost caught up to the other 5th grade class.  I lucked out, too, as one of the girls is REALLY smart!  The other one came in late in the day, so I don't know much about her yet.  The math teacher was very impressed with the math skills of the first girl.  Our math program (enVision) is very fast-paced and does some things in weird ways, so it's good that she already has the knowledge.

This was the first time I've had new students.  Most of the area surrounding our school had to be rebuilt after the tornado, so now we are getting lots of new families moving into the newly rebuilt homes.  What do you do to welcome new students???  Do you have someone give them a tour of the school?  Do you have a packet of information to give them?  Do you take some time to do "get-to-know-you" games?  I gave them planners, notebooks, a reading workbook, and a DonorsChoose permission slip.  I need to find my Welcome letter from the beginning of the year to send home with them.  What else do you do when a new student walks through the door?

And, here are some pictures of my latest DonorsChoose supplies.  The picture of the boxes doesn't really do it justice... 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Break was Nice...

I always have a love/hate relationship with Spring Break.  I love it because I don't have to wake up to an alarm clock, I can sit at home and watch talk shows and TLC shows, and, best of all, I can wear sweatpants and t-shirts everyday (or even pajamas!).  I hate it because it puts me into "Summer Mode," but only for a week, even if there are only 39 school days left until S-U-M-M-E-R!

Anyway, I might head in to school tomorrow afternoon.  If I don't, I know I will have a mountain of boxes from DonorsChoose to open on Monday morning.  I had 4 projects fund in the last 2 weeks!  And each one was for a lot of items.  My secretary already teases me, asking if I'm building a city in my classroom, or if I'm stockpiling for a war!  This time, it will be very bad!  I'm getting a whole order of vocabulary games, activities, and notebooks, a large cubby system to keep everyone's school supplies in, all of my organizational items (those giant rubbermaid tubs and other boxes to keep things in), and a whole bunch of books on CD and 4 copies of each book to read along with.  All of that has shipped and should be sitting in my classroom.  See why I need to go in on a Sunday?  My kids, and other teachers, would flip out because of all that stuff!

I'll take a picture of my mountain of boxes before I open them so you can see all of the wonderful things DonorsChoose has sent me!
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Decluttered! The After Pictures

If you read the post, "Ready for a Challenge!?" you'll remember seeing the "Before" pictures of my classroom.  Well, I've gotten some "After" pictures to show you now!  I'm not completely finished, but I'm much further along than where I started.  ALSO-- I just had an organization project funded on DonorsChoose!  I asked for big storage tubs, small storage tubs, tabletop storage tubs, and more! That should come in in a week or so, and then I will PROBABLY be finished.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Parent-Teacher Conferences are FINISHED!

Finished up parent-teacher conferences this morning with a grand total of 2...out of 4.  I had 10 scheduled for yesterday evening.  Two canceled before school was out, and of the remaining 8, only 5 showed up.  It has been an easy two days of conferences for me!  But when you only have 15 kids to start with...

When I do my conferences, I start out with a self-evaluation sheet that each kid has filled out.  I change the sheet a little from the fall conference to the spring conference.  I basically ask each kid to describe their strengths and areas they need to improve on.  This time, I added in what they are proud of themselves for, what they have enjoyed most this year, and what they are looking forward to.

It's a great way to start off conferences and the areas that they think they need to improve on are usually exactly the problems I need to bring up with parents.  It makes those difficult conferences much easier.  And, if a student comes with, they can have a semi-student-led-conference, because they can tell their parents why they chose what they did. 

This was one of my difficult conferences, and it went really well.  Having the kids tell what they need to improve on makes it a lot easier for the parents to accept.  This one needed to work on accountable talk, playing around in class, and following directions.  It flowed perfectly into other behavior problems he's been having.

I really enjoy reading each of these self-evaluations.  It gives me a lot of insight into how the kids are feeling, too.  I LOVE that most of them wrote that Science and Social Studies were things they enjoyed most!  In the fall, I had most of them say that they hated Social Studies because of all the facts you have to learn.  That's not the way I teach Social Studies, and I'm glad to see them enjoying it more!  And, almost everyone is looking forward to middle school.  They had an Open House/Enrollment night this week, and it's all anyone could talk about. 
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Heading West!

In social studies, we've been working on a Westward Expansion unit.  It's been a lot of fun already!  I based our unit on a webquest I found on  Zunal is the BEST place to find webquests!  You can search for any topic, browse by subject, or view by grade level.  It's great, and all of the webquests are easy to follow.

Here's the webquest we've been using: What Life Was Like for a Pioneer

I mixed up the order a little bit.  We did Step 1 (choosing a wagon and drawing a picture of your "family" with your wagon and animals) first, then went on to Step 3 (packing your wagon).  My students have loved Step 3!  I set up a folder on my PortaPortal site for Westward Expansion, which included a wagon PowerPoint and a link to lots of Pioneer Pictures.  The students had to visit the General Store in Step 3 and select items to take with them on the trail.  Each group had a weight limit of 1500lbs, so there were some math skills involved, too!  They had the most trouble selecting enough food.  I had a group with 3 feather mattresses, 6 lanterns, and 4 coffee grinders, but only 100 lbs of bacon and some fresh fruit. We talked in length about HOW LONG the journey was and HOW LITTLE they could get from the trail.  It's hard for them to imagine a world with no Walmart.  They also thought they could just hunt for all their food, so we had some discussions about nutrition and geography (they'd have to travel through prairie, desert, and mountains).

Once their lists were approved, they had to find pictures of EVERY item on their list and add it to their "wagon" on PowerPoint.  Several of them had trouble fitting everything in, which was sort of the point.  That wagon with 3 feather mattresses didn't have a lot of room, but it would be a nice, comfy journey to the West!

I'll post some pictures tomorrow of their wagon presentations.


Wanted to mention that I've joined the upper elementary linky party over at Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thank You, Donors!

I'm so excited to write that I've had 2 DonorsChoose projects funded!  That makes the total 17 since September.  Holy cow, that's amazing!  Our district has had several match offers this year because of everything that's happened here, so that's how I've gotten so many funded.

One I had funded was "Books, Books, and MORE Books on CD!"  It consists of 13 stories on CD and 4 copies of each book.  I've had a listening station in my room this year, and my 5th graders have LOVED it!  While they listen, they have to fill out a reading log about the story.  They have to talk about characters, events that happened, favorite parts of the book, connections they make, and questions they have.  Using this chart holds them much more accountable for what they are listening to.  I started out without this reading log, and kids would say they were done with a book in 3 or 4 days...I think they would put in a new disc every day.  Yeah...we had to have some lessons on how to work a CD player...crazy.  This project was funded through, which has had a voting contest going since December.  Teachers have gone crazy voting for technology projects!  This is my second OO project to fund, but some teachers have had 19 or 20.

The other project I had funded was "A Very Vivacious Vocabulary."  This was for a huge variety of vocabulary games and materials.  I also asked for some vocabulary journals, which are awesome!  I saw these in use in a classroom I had to observe earlier this year.  I want to start incorporating a vocabulary station into our daily reading schedule.  Now I have all the materials I need!
Friday, March 9, 2012

Kicked to the Curb

 -------------Updated 3/13/12 with pictures!--------------
I started working on the Week 3 challenge from Clutter-Free Classroom.  Sadly, I forgot to take the pictures of my overflowing trashcans and my loaded up cart (which I also got rid of!).  If I went back tomorrow, our wonderful maintenance crew would have already disposed of the evidence.  But don't worry!  I'm sure there will be much, much more!

I cleaned out my desk and two cabinets today.  I still have the coat closet, my closet, 2 cabinets at the front of the room, the cabinet and cubby by my desk, bookshelves, and the shelves under the windows.  Whew...

Here's some of the junk I got rid of:

  • Broken, cheap brass curtain rods.
  • The curtains that went on the broken, cheap curtain rods.
  • 40+ protractors...and I still kept enough for my class to use.  Why would anyone need 60+ protractors?
  • A box of math manipulatives from the old series.
  • Stacking cups
  • Student grammar guides with a copyright date from 1992.
  • Student writing guides with a copyright date from 1992.
  • Reading workbooks that I remember using in 5th grade. Wow, at least 3 reading series have been used since then.
  • Puzzles (put them into my prize box, and had some picked already)
  • Random games that I have no idea how to play, so my kids probably wouldn't have any idea how to play.
  • Lots of random, really old books
  • A metal cart that was kind of leaning to one side

I also cleared out my desk drawers and found I was able to fully re-stock the supply center with glue sticks, scissors, pens, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, dry erase markers, markers, and rulers...yep...all of that was in the 5 desk drawers I have and they weren't even THAT messy.

I threw away so much trash and filled up the recycle bin.  It was a wonderfully productive day!  

Next, I'm going to tackle the cabinet of 100+ reading work books.  I tried to get rid of them earlier in the year, but they came back to me...along with a box of MORE.  We won't have to order workbooks for at least 5 years...I seriously have that many.
Thursday, March 8, 2012

If I Ran the Zoo...

We've been working on classifying plants and animals in science.  I wanted to come up with a creative project that both classes could work on that would focus on classifying animals into groups.  I decided on having the kids create a zoo.  I made up a mini-webquest, which can be found on my classroom website.  I asked the kids to come up with six different groups of animals for their zoo, and then tell why they grouped the animals that way.  You should have heard the amount of excitement and chatter during this lesson!  It's a good thing that I don't mind kids talking, as long as they are on task.

It also happened to be an IPI Data Collection day, so we had teachers coming in and out at random times to see what was happening in the classroom.  They should have heard a LOT of discussions about whether or not a dolphin is a fish, where owls should go (with birds, or with forest animals), and so on.

Each group then had to draw a map of their zoo.  They LOVED this activity.  Here are some pictures of their zoos.  Nobody got completely finished today, but they've got the layout down.  They really just need to add color and then they'll be finished.

I like this one because they didn't make it just a rectangle.  

This is one of my favorites.  They have a teenager room for kids who don't want to go the zoo with their families.  And yes, they also have a honeymoon room, because it's a great zoo and people will want to spend their time there.  Yep. A honeymoon room.  They're still quite innocent at 5th grade!

This guy had to work on it by himself because he was causing problems in his group.  It turned out to be really great.  All of the roads are actually moving sidewalks, so people won't get tired of walking.  I love how he divided the groups of animals into individual exhibits.  I can tell this kid's spent some time at the zoo.
Overall, it's a fun, engaging project about classifying animals! Here's an added bonus:  this is a great activity to practice map skills!  We talked about how to read a map, what the parts of a map are, and how to make a map! An exciting, Q4 lesson!!!!
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Making a Plan

I'm sort of speeding through the Clutter-Free Challenge, since I'm 10 weeks behind.  Week 2's challenge was to make a plan to declutter the classroom.  I inherited my classroom in September (2 weeks after school had started) from a teacher who was moving.  She took a lot of her stuff with her, but left quite a bit, too.   I didn't have a chance to go through cabinets and things until Christmas, and I didn't have a whole lot of time to go through it then.  So, there are still filing cabinets I haven't touched and cabinets I've only opened once or twice.

Here are my purging rules:

1.  If I don't know what it is, throw it away/get rid of it/recycle it.
2.  If it is broken, throw it away.
3.  If there are a bazillion extra copies, recycle them!  I really only need 1 original copy.

I'll be using these purging rules to attack these areas of my classroom:

1. The filing cabinets
2. The cabinets
3. The closets
4. The bookshelves
5. My desk drawers

As I've said before, I hate clutter.  It makes me nervous.  I'm just a first year teacher, so I need to start out right!  If I can keep the clutter down this year, I'll be already ahead for next year!
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ready for a Challenge!?

I've decided to take the Clutter-Free Classroom Challenge!  I hate clutter!  I hate having papers piled up on my desk so much that I clean it off EVERY DAY.  I  will not leave until my desk is cleaned off.  I did ONE TIME and when I came in the next morning, I was disgusted.  It really made a difference in my mood the entire day.  There's just something about seeing a clean desk when I walk in in the morning that puts me in a good mood!

So, the clutter-free challenge is perfect for me!  I didn't have a clutter-free classroom...but I have gotten a lot of things from DonorsChoose and I just stack it up until I can use it.

Here are 3 walls of my room (I didn't get one of the back wall):

Here are some "Before" pictures from my classroom: 

I don't know how my desk gets so messy every day!

The small closet drives me insane.  It's become a catchall for things, because I can just close the closet door.

This top shelf is way too high for me to reach, and I tend to just stick things up there.  Only the brown box is full of things.

I had not opened this cabinet until Christmas...then I shoved some books and reference books into it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What is a Dichotomous Key?

Today, we started working on classifying plants and animals.  I found a great activity on the Science Spot.  It's called "Silly Science"and the kiddos get a bag full of junk to classify.  They have to find out the "silly scientific" name of each object.  For example, a white marble is really called a "Whatnot."  Who would have guessed that?   Ha! 

 Items Needed:
sharpened pencil, unsharpened pencil, 1 dice, large paper clip,
small paper clip, white chalk, colored marble, white (I used clear) marble,
piece of wood (over 10 cm long), eraser

 This was a great way to introduce classification.  My kids said the dichotomous key was sort of like the Choose Your Own Adventure books we have gotten from DonorsChoose!  I thought that was a great connection!  This activity was also a great team builder, as they had to work together and figure out in their teams if an eraser is or is not a writing instrument.  We had a lot of really good conversations about little difference in things.

This was also a great review about measurement and how to read centimeters on a ruler with both inches and centimeters.  We also discussed why our rulers are marked as millimeters and how many millimeters it takes to make 1 centimeter. 

You can find the work sheet, instructions, and more dichotomous key ideas on Science Spot
Sunday, March 4, 2012

Simple Machines Scavenger Hunt and iMovie

To wrap up our unit on Simple Machines, my classes divided into groups to go on a simple machines scavenger hunt.  To begin, they had to come up with a list of 3 examples of each type of simple machine (screw, wedge, wheel and axle, lever, pulley, inclined plane) and 3 examples of compound machines, all of which could be found at school.

Once they checked their list with me, they took a digital camera, a timer, and a hall pass, and headed out to take pictures of each type of simple machine/compound machine.  We had talked extensively about what their expectations were.  If they a teacher thought they were being too loud, they would be sent back to class and they would not get another chance to take pictures for their scavenger hunt.  I had each group check in with me every 10 minutes, and I only had two digital cameras, so two groups out at a time.

Once they got their pictures taken, they downloaded them to the computer and began making an iMovie presentation. Here's the criteria that I told them I was looking for...the rest was up to them:

  1. 3 pictures of each type of simple machine (18 pictures)
  2. 3 pictures of compound machines (total of 21 pictures)
  3. Introduction
  4. Organized by type of machine
  5. Closing statement
Most groups added transitions and songs, and some included voice overs or even video recordings of themselves.  

All of my students had a great time working on this project, and I was amazed at some of the simple machines they thought of!  

Shaylyn, Sean, and Katie's Simple Machines iMovie