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!