Friday, March 29, 2013

Thankful for Easter Blessings!!

I know it is bad blogging form to post twice in one day, but after I posted my Five for Friday post today something amazing happened and I couldn't resist.

I work at a Title I school in which over 90% of the students at my school receive free or reduced lunch. This means that the majority of our families live below the poverty line. Many of our families struggle to effectively feed and clothe their children.

Well, most of our students eat both breakfast and lunch at school, but once some of them leave the school building at 2:45 they don't eat another meal until they return to school the next morning. Usually this is because their families just can't afford to buy food to feed them. This becomes a huge issue over extended breaks like spring break.

As a teacher at this type of school I am always concerned about what my students will be eating when they aren't at school. I worry about some students whose families I know struggle with this issue.

Well, today I was able to help out with this situation. We had a teacher workday today. While I was at school, my principal made an announcement that someone had donated 4 meals complete with a ham, veggies, dinner rolls, other sides, and an apple pie. (The perfect Easter meal.) She asked if there were any families that we knew of that would benefit from these meals. I headed straight to the office because I had the perfect family in mind.

This family has been struggling all school year. There are four children in the family; a fifth grader, second grader, and 2 more that aren't yet in school. Grandma lives with the family to help with the younger kids while mom is at work. Unfortunately, dad is in the process of being deported. (The kids are struggling with this issue as well.). Mom is bringing in the only income to take care of this large family. Despite all of these difficulties, the two school aged children are the sweetest kids you will ever meet.

After I referred this family to my principal, she called mom and asked if she would like the donated food. She said yes and I volunteered to deliver the food. I was then led to het office and told to pick up as much food as I wanted to take. Not only was there the ham dinner but tons of canned foods as well. I grabbed two box and a shopping bag worth of canned goods and headed over to their house.

What I loved most about delivering the food was how gracious they were about receiving it. I know that this food is truly a blessing for them and they appreciated it greatly. I am so fortunate to be able to experience this. I only wish that I was able to give this gift to more of my families.

Five for Friday

Do you know how excited I am about not hearing my last name for over a week? Super excited!!!! More excited than I've been in a very long time. Why will I not be hearing "Ms. Cade" for a week? Because SPRING BREAK is finally here. And I'm so excited. No alarm clocks, no fifth grade attitudes, no lessons to prepare, no parent phone calls. The best part is that I have no plans for next week, which means sleeping as long as I want to, staying in my pjs all day if I choose to, watching some trashy tv talk shows, ("You are NOT the father!"), and relaxing. I'm really not sure about how I will spend my week of freedom, but whatever I do I know I will enjoy it.

Well, I guess I'll start my spring break by reviewing my week with Doodlebug's weekly linky party Five for Friday. This was a pretty good week with lots of highlights so its hard to choose, but here we go.

1. Behavior
I have the class this year that every adult in my building knows about. That's right the class with the most behavior issues. While I love every one of my students, this year has been a struggle. I have tried everything in my power to fix the numerous behavior issues, but nothing has worked long term. I just have a room full of boys who make a lot of bad choices. Luckily, my girls are the complete opposite. (For the most part) They are so sweet and loving. They have definitely been my saving grace this year. Well, the behavior in my class was amazing this week. (with the exception of 2 boys). Usually when there is a full moon behavior gets worse, but I guess the full moon had the opposite effect on my class this week. Or maybe it was our behavior inventive program. Or maybe it was the looming spring break that had them behaving. Whatever it was, I will just take the time to be appreciative and hope this behavior continues after spring break.

2. Fifth Grade Olympics
It's spring and kids always start getting restless and excited for summer. Because of this, my assistant principal encouraged the fifth grade team to develop some type of behavior incentive to encourage appropriate behavior for the rest of the school year. Therefore, the Fifth Grade Olympics was born.

This is how it works. Each of the five fifth grade classes is a team. Each class will compete against each other in a series of events. The chart below will be kept in the fifth grade hall to track how well each class does in each event.

The catch is that individuals can only participate if they have appropriate behavior. Our first event was about 3 weeks ago. We played tug of war. Each class competed in a match against all the other classes. (My class only won one match, but they had fun, which is what's most important.)
The second event occured on Wednesday in the form of three legged races. One pair from each class competed in each heat. As they crossed the finish line, they were given points. Five points for first place and one point for last. After all the heats, points were totalled and places announced. Two teams tied for third place, two teams tied for second, and one winning team. Unfortunately, my class was third overall and we needed to have a conversation about sportsmanship because my scholars hate losing.

The good thing is that out of the 102 students only 5 of them needed to sit out because of behavior. (3 of them were from my class). But pretty good odds for the entire grade level.

3. Living Wax Museum
After we spent the last 6 weeks researching and writing an essay about an influential African American, it was time to invite the school to the Second Annual Fifth Grade Wax Museum on Thursday. All the fifth grade students were asked to portray the African American that they researched and prepare a brief speech to explain who they were and why they were influential. Each student created a prop and dressed similar to their subject. Once inside the "wax museum" they became wax and had to stay frozen. When a guest stopped in front of them, they had to recite your prepared speech. They did an amazing job. They were so proud of themselves. All students and staff members were invited to the wax museum and they enjoyed learning about the various historical figures.

Here are a couple of figures from my class.

Madame C.J. Walker - This student created the apron and place hair care products in it. She also brought in the doll to pretend like she was doing her hair. She also brought in money because she was the first African American self made millionaire.

Joe Louis - This student made a title belt to wear out of construction paper. Great creativity!!

After the wax museum, my scholars were extremely thirsty and exhausted. They kind of passed out in the hall as we were waiting for dismissal.

The wax museum was a huge success. I can't wait until we hold the wax museum next year!

4. Intent forms
Every year around this time we are asked to turn in intent forms explaining our plans for next year. I'll definitely be at the same school next year, but I think it is time for a change, so I asked to be moved to a different grade level. I'm currently in fifth grade, but I'd love to move back down to second or third grade. I loved teaching those grades. We were also asked if we would be interested in team teaching. That has been something that I have been interested in trying for years. So hopefully, I'll be team teaching in second or third grade next year. Fingers crossed!!

5. Teacher Workday
I love teacher workdays. Yesterday was the last day of the quarter, so today we had a teacher workday. Although I haven't completed everything on my to do list, I am happy I had the time to work in my classroom today.

Time for Spring Break!! I can't wait to get some much needed sleep.

Don't forget to stop by and link up to Doodlebug's linky party.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's Get Acquainted Linky Party

Today I'm linking up with Flying into First for the first time for her Let's Get Acquainted Linky Party. This time we're playing the Noun Game and naming our favorite person, place, thing, and animal

1. Person: my mom
My favorite person in the whole world is my mom. I would not be where I am without her. She was a single parent and raised me to be a strong and independent woman. She sacrificed a lot for me and made sure I had many opportunities in my life. She is pictured below with my grandmother, who is my second favorite person in the world. This picture was taken last October at my granny's 90th birthday party. (Doesnt she look great!!)

I am very fortunate to have these two amazing women in my life.

2. Place: my house
My favorite place is my house. It is where I am most comfortable. I love coming home after a crazy day at work and enjoying the silence and solitude of my house. As an introvert, the solitude helps me refuel so that I'm ready for all the craziness of work the next day.

3. Things: sports and puzzles
I know I'm cheating here by naming two favorite things, but I couldn't pick one over the other. I love the competition and excitement of sports. (I'm watching the NCAA tourney right now.) And I love the calmness and reasoning of puzzles. I love all types of puzzles; word puzzles, number puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles. I actually glue and frame my puzzles and hang them in my house. Here is one of my favorite puzzles.

4. Animal: tarantula
Well to be honest I have never really had a favorite animal. I'm not really an animal person. So I'll take this opportunity to introduce you to Theresa. About 4 years ago I went to a science conference. One of the booths was selling tarantulas and scorpions. I decided to buy a tarantula for a class pet. I was teaching 3rd grade at the time and my scholars named her Theresa. I keep her at home now because our school building gets too cold for her.

Meet Theresa the Tarantula!

Don't forget to stop by Flying into First and join the linky party.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five for Friday

Only 4 more days before spring break. (Well actually there are five but next Friday is a teacher workday so I'm not counting that.) To wrap up this week, I'm linking up with Doodlebug Teaching for her Five for Friday linky party.

1. Geometry
We finally finished our fraction unit last Friday with a monsterous post assessment. My scholars did better than I expected, but we still have a lot of work to do with fractions. Why are fractions so hard to understand? Anyway, we had to move on and geometry was our next unit. Geometry is one of my favorite math disciplines. I loved geometry when I was in school. I think I am one of a limited number of people to actually love doing geometry proofs. We started by learning what polygons were and reviewing the names and number of sides of the different polygons. Then I had my scholars draw a picture using only polygons. That means no circles, no crossing lines, and no lines not a part of a shape. They struggled a bit, but most of the pictures turned out amazing. After drawing, I had them write a narrative about their image. (I forgot to take pictures, so I will have to add the pictures later.)

2. Skeeball
I've been playing in a skeeball league for about 5 years. Usually when I tell people this, they react in the same way. First they ask, "What is that?" I explain what it is and then they say, "They have a league for that?" Yes, there is a skeeball league. There are actually numerous leagues popping up throughout the country. The Charlotte Skeeball League is under the umbrella. I love the competition and after a few seasons of playing awfully, I became pretty good. A few years ago, I was the first female to win the high rollers tournament.
Well I tell all of this because we had a free skee event on Wednesday for the first night of registration for the upcoming season. At these events we always do a luck of the draw two on two tourney. I was lucky and was paired with the best player in the league and we won the tournament. I love winning. It's always nice to take a break in the middle of the week and have a good time with some great friends.

3. Field Trip
Fifth grade went on a field trip on Thursday to the Charlotte Symphony. It was a required trip for all fifth graders in the district. There was a focus on the arts: symphony, dance, opera, visual arts. The goal was to have the kids think about their many possibilities in the arts. As they head to middle school, they will have the opportunity to choose their electives so the program included interviews of middle school students who were involved in the various arts in middle school. The kids really enjoyed the field trip.

4. Innocence
While riding on the bus to the field trip we passed a bar with a sign that said Draft Beer. One of my students said, "Ooh, look. Can we go there. They sale root beer." He was so excited about getting root beer and no clue about what the sign really meant. It's always nice to see that some kids are still kids and aren't as exposed to the outside world. His innocence was radiating from him. I love moments like that.

5. Innovation Institute
About a month ago, I received an email from our Deputy Superintendent inviting me to the Innovation Institute. The email described the institute as a way to explore oneself. I was instantly interested, but upon further reading, it said that I would be missing 4 and a half days in order to attend. I hate missing days and missing 4 days prior to end of grade testing, was unthinkable. Therefore I was torn. After talking to my principal and her encouragement to attend, I signed up. Today was the first day of the institute. And I am so happy that I chose to attend. As teachers, we are always being pulled in so many directions, so it was nice to slow down for a day and be able to reflect on myself and explore my creative self, which I don't do very often.

These are some of the paintings from today. I won't use this forum to explain what they mean in great detail, but all if these paintings reveal something about who I am and where I want to be at this moment in my life.

I can't wait until part 2 in a few weeks

Well, that was my week. I'm looking forward to the weekend. Baby shower and friends birthday party on Saturday and reconnecting with a friend on Sunday.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jerry Spinelli Author Study

Don't you love when a student makes the connections you want them to before you think they will? This happened in my classroom today.

During the last 50 minutes of the day, we have added an extra reading block. We have our five classes split by reading ability and focus on skills and strategies needed within that group. During this time of the day, I have the highest group of fifth graders readers. My goal during this time of the day is to work on word study, test taking strategies, and we are also doing novel studies. I will post on the test taking strategies in a later post, but I want to focus on the novel study for now.

To introduce the expectations of the novel study, I started with a whole group book. I decided to have them read Knots in My YoYo String by Jerry Spinelli. This book is an autobiography of his life. The premise is that Jerry Spinelli was having all of these life experiences and unknowingly becoming a writer. I knew that my students would enjoy this book because they would be able to make some connections about his early life. I also selected that book because I want to follow it up by having my students read some of his books to see if they could make some connetions between his life and his writing.

We finished that book last week and I selected four of his books for us to read: Maniac Magee, Wringer, The Library Card, and Who Ran My Underwear up the Flagpole. I did a quick book talk about each of the books and then they wrote down their first 3 choices. I sorted through their requests that night. Luckily, most of the 23 students were able to get their first choice. I had 9 people choose Maniac Magee, so three students got their second choice.

They started reading the book today. Whole talking to the Maniac Magee group, one of the students shocked me. Without any prompting, she said, "There's a lot of things in this book that were on Knots in My YoYo String.". She and the rest of the group proceeded to list multiple things in Maniac Magee that were also in his autobiography. This was the entire point of reading the second novel: to show my students that authors use their life experiences in their writing. I didn't have to any prompting to lead them to this point, but they got it anyone. Now I just hope that some of the other students pick up on this concept as well.

My ultimate goal is to have them read at least one more of his books and start comparing the themes within his books. This is what I'm doing with my homeroom students. Two of my reading groups are currently in the midst of author studies. One group is currently reading Pam Munoz Ryan novels: Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon, Paint the Wind, and Riding Freedom. They are in the middle of the third book right now and have been able to connect many themes between the books. My other group is reading Andrew Clements books. They have read The Report Card and The Jacket and are currently readingone of the Jake Drake books. There are so many similarities between these books. This group will be reading Frindle next.

I have never really done any author studies like this before, but I'm seeing the value in it and look forward to doing many more in the future. My goal this summer is to prepare some author study units to use next year.

What author studies have you done?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five for Friday

I'm linking up with the Five for Friday linky party from Doodle Bug Teaching for the first time.

This was a pretty slow week, but I thought I'd give it a try.

1. On Tuesday evening, the school orchestra had their second concert. This orchestra is sponsored by the Charlotte Symphony and provides students in grades 2-5 to learn to play an instrument. They can select from violin, cello, clarinet, flute, or trumpet. They also participate in chorus and bucket band. Students meet for practice three days a week. The amount of volunteers from the Charlotte Symphony is amazing. They really invest a lot of time into the program and our students are extremely fortunate to have this opportunity. (I recorded the grand finale, but I'm having trouble uploading it. I'll attach it as soon as I figure it out.)

2. Buckeyes - When I was a little girl, my grandmother would make buckeyes for Christmas. Buckeyes is the state symbol of Ohio, which is where I'm from. They are poisonous, however, the edible ones are delicious. You basically just mix peanut butter with powdered sugar and butter, roll them into small balls, place them into the freezer to harden, and finally dip the balls into melted chocolate. Amazing!!!! Well, these are my go to snack to make when I have to take something to share with my co workers. Wednesday was fifth grade's turn to bring snacks for the staff meeting, so I made a batch of buckeyes to share. They were a hit as always.

3. Is it spring break yet? My students definitely have spring fever. This is always the time of the year when fifth graders feel like they are too big to be in elementary and think they are already ready for middle school. That is definitely where my scholars are right now. We have implemented a behavior incentive program to help manage behavior. We had our first activity last Friday. We had a tug of war challenge between the different classes. Even though my class only won 1 out of their four matches they had a blast. The best part was the final competition. Four of the five fifth grade teachers vs one student in each class. Of course we won. We had to or they wouldn't have let us forget about it.

4. Cut and Grow - In writing this week we have been working on revising. Students are revising their Influential African American essays. This has consumed our week because the essays are due next Friday and we are running behind. I wrote a blog about revising here.

5. And finally, this week ends on a sad note. I realized that the man I was dating was not who I thought he was. While I still love him, I know its time to move on. I'm still struggling with the decision, but I know it is the right one for me right now. Now I just need to stay strong and keep busy this weekend so that I'm not spending all my time thinking about him. Wish me luck!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing in Math

How do you integrate writing throughout the curriculum?

I try to have my scholars do some type of writing during each subject each day.

One way I do this in math is by requiring my students to complete a math journal each day. For the math journal students are required to copy the problem of the day off the board, solve the problem, and provide a written explanation explaining how they solved the problem and why they solved it that way. We have been studying fractions for the past three months. (About half of the fifth grade End of Grade test will be fractions so it was definitely necessary to spend so much time with it.)

For the last few weeks we have only focused on solving fraction word problems. After spending a lot of time looking at different types of word problems, I wanted my scholars to create their own story problems and then model how to solve it. Of course, the final step was to write an explanation.

My students love creating posters that they know will be displayed in the hall.

Here are a few of their work products.

I think they did a pretty good job with their posters.

I also love these type of activities because I can assess my students in more than one subject. With this activity, I was able to test their understanding of a math concept as well as assess where they are in writing. There are definitely some writing skills that we need to review.

How do integrate writing throughout the curriculum?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Slavery Tear Ups

Last summer, I attended a workshop presented by Margarita Calderon. The focus of the workshop was teaching English Language Learners. During the workshop we did an activity called Tear Up. The focus of the activity is writing. Students are asked to create an image using construction paper, however they can only tear the paper. (No scissors allowed.). After the image is created, they must then write a story about the image. The image serves as the brainstorming and helps them gather their thoughts. I posted about this workshop here.

My scholars have been learning about slavery in social studies. They learned about how Africans were traded to Europeans for guns, shipped across the Atlantic on slave ships, sold and bought at slave auctions, and forced to work against their will. As a wrap up for the unit, I decided to introduce the tear up activity. (I have a pretty creative bunch of students this year so I knew they would come up with great images.)

I placed them into random groups. Their instructions were to create a tear up image based on something they learned during the slavery unit. After the images I instructed them to take the perspective of the slaves in their picture and write a story from their point of view. This is what they came up with.

Slaves taken from slave ships to slave auction

Slaves chained together on slave ship

Slaves working on plantation

Africans being traded for guns

Slave auction

I love how each group naturally came up with a different scene. And their images turned out great. I will definitely be using the tear up activity again.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Discovery Education

Have you ever heard of or used Discovery Education

I am very fortunate that my district has purchased the rights for all teachers and students to have access to this amazing site. 

On the surface Discovery Education appears to be a streaming site where one can stream videos for viewing.  At least this is what I believed for several years, however, I was completely wrong.  I have learned over the past year or so that Discovery ed has so much more to offer than just videos. 

There are images, ebooks, reading passages, interactive activities, virtual science labs, songs, audio clips, a world atlas, encyclopedia pages, and so much more.  I really can't name them all. 

One of my favorite aspects of Discovery ed is the portion dedicated specifically to elementary science.  In this section, all of the science materials are sorted by category: life science, earth science, and physical science.  I love the glossary aspect of this section.  For each science term, there is an animation, definition, short video clip, and image.  These really help students gain a firm understanding of the vocabulary words. 

I also really enjoy the activity builder portion of the site.  This portion allows the teacher to assign specific activities for students to complete.  Each student in my district also has a log in to Discovery Ed so once an assignment has been assigned by the teacher, it will appear on their student page.  For example, my scholars are currently doing research projects.  If I come across a video clip that might be beneficial for one of my students, I could assign that video to her to watch.  I could also assign activities to the whole class. 

What I like most about Discovery Education is that by using it I can take my students anywhere without leaving the classroom.  Many of my students have a very limited view of the world outside of their neighborhood, so teachers at my school have to help them make a lot of connections and provide them with experiences that they don't get with their families.  Discovery ed is a resource that allows me to provide them with the visuals that can help them make connections to what they are reading or what we are learning in science or social studies.  I am extremely grateful for this amazing site because of this.

This site has been a life saver for me at times and I always refer to it when I am creating my lesson plans to see if there are any materials that would fit what I'm teaching.  I can almost always find something that matches. 

I would like to add that I was not asked to do any kind of review for Discovery Education.  Last Friday, I went to a professional development on challenge based learning that was hosted by Discovery Ed.  (I will post about challenge based learning at a later date.).

After the training, I started to think about the various resources that I am fortunate to have access to. Discovery education is a site that I'm not sure that I could do without.

What are some resources that you could not do without?