Wednesday, July 30, 2014

George Washington Carver National Monument

We've had some family friends here for the past few days, and we've enjoyed sharing some local tourist sites with them.  Today, we ventured out to George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, MO. The forecast showed rain basically all day, but it was our last full day with our friends, and we just needed to go.  It was raining when we arrived, but it was a wonderful 68 degrees when we set out to walk on the trails.

View of the fields from the Carver house.  It was a little cloudy, and cool enough for jackets in July!
For those of you who don't know, George Washington Carver was known as the "Plant Doctor" and the "Peanut Man."  He was a artist and scientist who was born in a slave cabin on the park's land.  His father was hanged by bushwackers, and George and his mother were kidnapped and taken to Arkansas to be sold.  Moses Carver, the farmer who owned the land where George was born, re-bought George, but couldn't save his mother.  George spent many of his childhood years in Diamond, but soon moved on to pursue education throughout Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa.  After graduating college in Iowa, he began a teaching career at Tuskegee University in Alabama.  Here, he began experimenting with crops that would do well in the barren southern soil.  He worked primarily with cow peas, peanuts, and sweet potatoes.  He found over 300 uses for peanuts alone!  GWC also went on to speak around the nation on segregation, and was an early Civil Rights leader.  It's amazing to think that this man was from a tiny town down the road!

Isn't the trail through the woods beautiful!
The GWC National Monument was built in 1953, and is the first national park/monument to recognize an African American.  It is a GORGEOUS park, with lots of wonderful hands-on activities for kids.  There were enough fun things to keep the two year old in our group busy the whole time we were there!  The video telling about GWC's life was a fantastic addition since my last visit.

I was really excited to find some articles for my classroom around the park.  One article is GWC's memoir, which was typed up to include spelling mistakes and all.  It's a wonderful article we'll read some time this year. They also had a list of quotes by GWC and some other things he's known for.  4th graders in our school study Missouri history, and always visit this park, as well as write biographies about GWC, but I think they'll enjoy these articles.

I asked the worker if I could find articles like this at other national parks/monuments, and she said that they should have them at many places.  I'll definitely be looking for some when I head over to the Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas!  If all parks have articles like this, I'll have a wonderful collection for close reading!

In college, I created a national parks literacy project, and I wrote to every national park in the country.  I received pamphlets from almost every one of them, but if I had known about these articles, I would have most definitely asked for those, too!
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Social Studies Notebooking Vocabulary

Every one of my notebooking units begins with vocabulary.  I include the lists of words in a definition mini-book, as well as on cards that can be used in a memory match game.  I first have my students write down the definitions of the words in their booklets, then I have them cut out the cards.  These cards can be stored in the included pocket, or in an envelope glued to the cover of the notebook.  I like for my students to keep their cards in the pocket, as they'll have many sets of vocabulary cards as the year goes on.

I DO NOT have my students cut directly on the lines when cutting apart their cards.  This would take a REALLLLLLLY long time!  I have them cut in the white space between each card.  
I show my students a quick way to cut their cards: First, cut into strips...
....then stack strips and cut into squares. 
After my students fill out their definition book, I have them partner up and play the memory match game.  Matching definition and word cards have the same icon in the bottom right hand corner.  It helps students match the words/definitions when they first play, and I find many of them use it to define words throughout the unit ("Oh, that's the triangle word...").

When everyone is finished filling out booklets, we'll play a few rounds of vocabulary Bingo.  Bingo cards are also included, but markers are not.  I have my students cut out several squares of paper, which they keep in their envelope.  I print out a copy of the words/definitions for myself to use as the calling card.  I'll choose a word/definition, read it out loud, and students find it on their personally filled-in card.  They LOVE playing this game, and usually beg for more!  We'll play it several times throughout the unit, as well, and any time we have a few extra minutes.  It really does help them remember the words!

Vocab Bingo is one of the favorite activities of each unit!  
All of my units include similar vocabulary activities.  These units, Geography, Native Americans, Explorers, Colonial America, and Revolutionary War, are available in my TPT store!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Books I Love to Read with 5th Graders (Round 2)

Yesterday I posted 4 books that I love to read with my students ("Sideways Stories of Wayside School," "Wait Till Helen Comes," "Hatchet," and "The City of Ember").  This really is the best part of my day, each and every day!  We were lucky enough to get to build our master schedules for the fall on the last day of school, so I definitely made sure to carve in some time for our daily read aloud.  Last year, we rarely had time because of a brand new reading program, and I feel really bad for that group of kids.  They only got through a couple books last year!  the year before that, we read at least 10!  Anyways, here's a few more books my kids love.

I said in the previous post that my favorite juvenile fiction book was "The City of Ember."  That may be a lie, because I love this one, too.  We'll call it a tie.  "Running Out of Time" by Margaret Peterson Haddix is an amazing story!  I use it to work on our prediction skills, which it is perfect for.  However, I've never had a student predict the big surprise in this story.  I love seeing their reactions as they find out the truth about Jessie Keyser and her town of Clifton, Indiana.  We have to pause many times in this story, as the ripple of chatter about the book goes through the room.  It's a thrilling adventure, and it constantly keeps you guessing!

Another book I read with my students is "Among the Hidden," also by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  She's probably my favorite juvenile fiction author. I love the Missing series she has written! This book I'll read only with certain groups.  Last year's group was pretty immature, and overall, a young class, so we didn't read it.  It's a bit heavy in certain points, but the story and characters quickly capture you.  This story's about Luke, who's the third child in his family.  It's bad news for him, because third children are illegal.  Luke must hide in his family's home/yard every day.  He can't be seen by anyone, or he could be killed.  It's a great read, but, like I said, parts of it can be heavy for 5th graders.

"Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume was one of my favorite books from childhood.  My mom would read this books, and the others about Fudge, to my brother and I, and we would laugh, and laugh.  Probably not great for bedtime stories...My sister gave the Fudge books to my eight year old niece for Christmas, and she's just recently started reading them.  When I was out in Wichita for her softball game, I asked her about them.  She giggled as she told about her favorite parts.  Melted my heart! Anyways, this story is the first in the series about Peter and his little brother Fudge.  I love this one because of all the trouble little Fudgie gets in.  Trying to fly, sticking stickers all over the place, and, most tragically, eating a baby turtle. My big, cool 5th graders are always a little reluctant to read this one because it mentions 4th grade in the title, but they quickly get hooked by all of Fudgies antics!

I was first introduced to "Chasing Vermeer" by Blue Balliett on a car ride.  Whenever we travel, we take a stack of audio books with us.  This year, on a trip to Disney World with my mom and sister, we listened to "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library," "Unwind," "The Giver," and "A Tale Dark and Grimm." Great books, with Lemoncello definitely being my favorite of the group, though "Unwind" was a fantastic dystopian teen novel which I loved (not sure if "love" is the right word for a story about unwinding children...").  But, back to "Chasing Vermeer..."  This story is a great interactive mystery.  I say interactive, because there are clues in the pictures, and Calder and Petra use pentominos to help them figure things out.  Make sure you have a set of pentominos on hand, because your students will want to work with them, too!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Books I Love to Read with 5th Graders (Round 1)

Reading aloud with my 5th graders is definitely my favorite thing to do at school.  I love introducing them to books I loved as a child, and books I've found since then.  I usually don't actually read these books aloud...I use audiobooks and  One of the best DonorsChoose projects I ever did was for a whole bunch of audio books.  Love them!  The narrators (usually) bring the characters to life!  For most of my read alouds, students follow along in a copy of the book while the story is read.  We talk about how this increases their fluency and comprehension, and it really does, especially fluency.  They're hearing correct flow and intonation while seeing the words in the book.  95% of my kids usually follow along, of course, there are a few kids every year that seem to be staring off into space during this, but with gentle reminders, they'll usually focus on book.

Every year, I start out reading "Sideways Stories from Wayside School."  This is a great book that students, especially 5th graders, love.  The narrator of this story is actually the author, Louis Sachar, which is pretty cool.  I alternate between reading this aloud and using my CDs.  Sometimes, Louis Sachar reads it slowly.  There's not much of a plot to this story, but I use it to introduce character traits.  Each chapter is about a different kid in the class, with a few about teachers.  These stories are cute and funny!  My kids talk about things from this book all year long!

My co-teacher always reads "Wait Till Helen Comes" by Mary Downing Hahn.  I'd never read this until last year, but I'm hooked.  5th graders are fascinated with ghost stories, and this is a good, mild, yet intense one.  It also provided one of our best memories of last year when Ms. Dianne, our secretary buzzed the room on the intercom during the climax of the story and EVERYONE in the classroom jumped (and a few even screamed).  Can you say "student engagement?"

"Hatchet" is a must read for every elementary-aged kid.  I consider it a rite of passage.  Seriously.  It's an amazing story, and the narrator is one of my favorites (with Jim Dale, narrator of "Harry Potter" definitely being #1!).  I love that this story starts out with a bang, and hooks the kids by the first few pages.  Even reluctant readers get in to this story!  If you are an elementary/middle school teacher and haven't read this story, you are missing out.  For real...go to the library and check out a copy right now. Now.

"City of Ember" by Jeanne DuPrau may be my top juvenile fiction book of all time.  I love this story and the world created in it.  The story talks about how there is no sky, only black, and only light bulbs to provide light, and I've had kids completely surprised when they find out where Lina, Doon, and Poppy really live.  Other than cheesy chick-lit set on southern beaches, dystopian stories are my favorite, and this one doesn't disappoint.  It's got action and a mystery, and the writing just grabs you.  I seriously love this book.  And so do my kids when we read it.  The only bad part of the narration is when they start to read the letter.  The letter has been chewed up by baby Poppy, and some words and letters are missing.  So the narrator reads it letter by letter and piece of a word by piece of a word.  It drives everyone crazy, and we usually skip it, since everyone has a copy to actually see the letter in the book. *Note: The only additional book in this series I enjoyed was "Diamond of Darkhold."  I was sort of disappointed by the others.

I usually don't have my students fill out big novel packets when we read these books.  I value our discussions and short notes made much more than busy work.  Once, I felt guilty about just letting my students enjoy the books and not do much work with them.  But, then I thought, "How often do I read?  How many times do I stop and summarize a chapter while I'm reading?  Gosh, wouldn't that make reading a wonderful story just plain AWFUL?"  So, that was the end of novel packets for me.  I don't want to teach my students to read just to answer a packet full of questions.  I want them to learn to read for fun.

Geography Social Studies Notebooking Unit is Finished!

I have FINALLY been able to finish my geography Social Studies notebook unit!  This one was tough for me, as it was something I never really learned in school.  We always just skipped geography and went straight to Native Americans in our textbooks. You can download this unit at TeachersPayTeachers by clicking here or on the picture below!

I had hoped to finish this over the weekend, but I had to stop and mourn the loss of my sweet kitty, Knox.  I adopted Knox (short for Mr. Obnoxious) from the humane society last fall.  He was the sweetest, fluffiest boy I knew.  He loved going outside, and I couldn't find him when I left for my grandma's before the 4th of July.  No big deal, as he would stay out for days at a time.  I left out food and water, and went on my way.  When I got home, I didn't see him.  I waited around a few days, since he wanders, and some kids had picked him up once before.  When he wasn't back Friday, I started asking around.  My next door neighbors said they had put out food for him and their cat one morning, then found him on their carport later that afternoon.  We have no idea what happened to him.  He wasn't hit by a car, and didn't have any other marks.  I figure he had eaten a bad mouse or gotten into poison left out for mice.  He was a great kitty, and I'm glad I got to give him a good home for the last part of his life!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Unit in the Works!

For the first time all summer, I've actually had a few days in a row at home!  Since June 4th, I've been to my Grandma's in rural Missouri, a road trip to Orlando for 10 days, Wichita to see my nieces play softball and t-ball (which was canceled because of rain), brought my nieces home for 4 days, went to a zoo, and went back to Grandma's farm for 4 days over the 4th of July. I've been busy, but I love it.  It's why I will never teach summer school!  And it's really not slowing down between now and August 11th (my first back-to-school meeting).  I still have another trip to Wichita to watch a softball game and the Lion King play (leaving today!), a long weekend with my cousins and aunt on my dad's side, and an annual camping trip with friends for 5-6 days. Throw in my birthday trip to the state fair (first time ever going because we're starting school later this year!), and summer will be gone. :-(

I have managed to work in a little time to begin a new Social Studies notebooking unit covering Geography.  I'm really excited about this unit!  I always start Social Studies out with a study of geography, but I had no materials for it.  I made a few small items for their notebooks, and that was it.  I've worked really hard on building this unit, and even though it's been the toughest one for me so far, I've enjoyed it and learned a lot myself!

I think this unit is going to be massive.  It's already 55 pages long, and I still have one more theme of geography to complete, as well as the end of unit activities!

Here's a sneak peek at the unit so far:

Now, if I can keep myself from becoming distracted (Again! Although, the turtle coconut cookies I made this morning are awesome!), I can probably have this unit finished by the weekend!