Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pet Rock Persuasive Writing

I believe that a huge part of a students learning in school is linked directly to the experiences that they have. Some of the best teachers that I had as a student still stick out in my memory today.

We recently ended a very memorable unit in our class. The students created their very own pet rock. They created a house, a name, a personality, and even a Halloween costume for their lovable friend. Let me tell you.... they had so much fun with it.

Here is a home that one of my students created... completely furnished!

Our pet rocks lived with us in our room for about two weeks. In this time, the students were working on a persuasive writing unit. I asked them to write an essay convincing their audience that a pet rock was the best pet to own. After all, they are quite easy to care for! It was easy of the students to convince others that a pet rock was the best pet because they had become quite connected to them.

We worked as a class to brainstorm ideas, learn the format, and then write our very own essay. At the end of the unit, the students were able to do a photo shoot with their pet rock to add to the published version of their final copy. 

Since the rocks lived in our rooms for so long, we were able to do a lot with them. We did journal prompts, and even wrote them letters explaining what was happening in our room. The students loved the experience of having a pet rock. I created a "pet rock daycare" so that our friends could be well cared for while we were busy learning. It was a great way to avoid distraction with the rocks. 

It was a wonderful unit and a wonderful experience. I have to admit, I was a bit sad to see them go home this week!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hamburger Paragraphs

We have been hard at work in writing this week. We have been working on our pet rock persuasive essays. I can't wait to share more about this unit with you. My student's are LOVING it.

I wanted to focus in on the creation of a "perfect paragraph"; a topic sentence, 3 details, and a clincher sentence. I really wanted them to take the time to understand how to construct this paragraph. I decided to turn it into a mini project.

We created hamburger paragraphs. What good is a hamburger without all the goodies inside of it? If you stopped by your favorite burger restaurant and they plopped down nothing but a bun on your plate, you would be pretty disappointed wouldn't you? I know I would and my students agreed. In the same respect, A burger without a bun is nearly impossible to hold together and get a good taste of. This very same idea is true in writing. I love that my smarties could relate so well to this concept. 

I had them write a sentence of their paragraph on each part of the burger. The topic sentence on the top bun, the details in the middles, and the closing sentence on the bottom bun. The results were wonderful (and adorable)!

Veterans Day

It is so important that students learn to reflect on the things that people have done to make their life what it is today. Veterans day is the perfect day to do that. 

I run Community Service Club at our school. We have students from 1st grade all the way up to 6th grade in the club. We took the day and gave back to the people who worked so hard to protect us. We read an article, wrote letters to give to a local veterans home, and then created this masterpiece!

My students were so excited to create this! My older members worked hard at cutting out everyones hands, while my littlest raced their hands and glued them on to the flag. 

I am thrilled with how this turned out and I plan to donate it to a local veterans home after it has visited our hallway wall for a bit. They are so proud of their work and so proud of the veterans' that worked so hard for our safety. 

Math Games/Centers- Jenga, Guess Who, and Ker-Plunk!

Mathematics is one of my absolute favorite subjects to teach. I love seeing my students enjoying math and saying things like, "this is so much fun! Who knew math could be fun?" It makes me smile to see them enjoying their learning. It is one of the many rewards of this wonderful job.

I like to spend some time reviewing concepts after we have completed a unit. I find that a worksheet style review is effective in many ways, however I believe that every student learns differently and many of my kiddos are kinesthetic learners, they gotta' touch, feel, and experience it to understand it. I love this.

Many times, we play review games in a "center" style rotation. This week we spent some time reflecting on percents, fractions, and decimals. I created a few games by putting a spin on some old favorites that live in my game closet. My students LOVED every second of the review. Some even stayed in for recess to "study" for their upcoming math test. 

Math Ker-plunk
I put sticky labels on the ends of Kerplunk sticks and folded them in half. The way this game works is you pull out the sticks one by one hoping that you DON'T make the marbles fall out by pulling your stick out. I had one student call out a fraction, percent, or decimal. The other student needed to find that particular stick equivalent version of what his partner called out. For example, if I called out 99%, my partner would need to find 99/100 or .99 on the sticks. (this could also work with cards that the students would flip over if you wanted this to be a bit more independent)

Math Guess Who
Who doesn't love a good ol' game of Guess Who. This game works very similarly to the original version. Students choose a card from the deck and need to give the other student clues of "what it is not" by answering questions and narrowing it down until ONLY one card remains flipped up on their board. For example, if my card was 8/10, and my partner asked "Is is a fraction?" I would reply "yes" and she would flip down everything on her board that was not a fraction. If she asked, "Is it in simplest form?" I would say, "no" and she would flip down everything that was in simplest form. In the end, my partner would only have 8/10 standing up on their board and they would win. 

 Math Jenga
Students give each other clues to direct them to which peg they need to push out of the tipping tower. They (of course) try to make it challenging by having their peers push out CHALLENGING pegs! If I saw that 9/10 was a tricky peg, I would say something like, "Push out the peg that is equivalent to 90%" (In the game I created, there was more than one!) It was so fun and stressful to watch!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Class Totem Pole

In social studies we have been learning about Native American traditions! 

One of the traditions we have spent a lot of time with is the totem pole. We talked about how each piece of a totem pole is meant to symbolize a particular person. Usually, they were place in front of a home to represent that particular family. We had a discussion about what each symbol means, and how the colors that are used also represent something about the person it is symbolic of. 

My students were so interested! This got me thinking. I wanted to know how they would represent themselves. How do they view themselves? What colors describe them and how? What are they proud of?

I decided to make a class totem pole. I took off the Michigan projects from my park sign kiosk project and I suddenly had a blank slate! 

I asked the students to represent themselves by choosing an animal. On the back of the paper I supplied, they would need to write a paragraph describing why they chose that animal and why it represented them.

They also needed to choose unique colors! In the same respect, they were asked to describe, in detail, why those colors were used on their section of the totem pole. They needed to write a paragraph explaining that as well. 

When their creations were complete, I taped them on to the totem pole! I taped them as flaps so when our kindergarden friends come by, (they are our biggest fans!) they have a chance to read about our symbols. My students LOVE to watch as the little admire their creations. It warms my heart to see them learning and my students teaching. 

Our Halloween Party!

Ok, so I am a bit late on this blog posting. It has been a crazy week full of report card preparation and end of the quarter catching up but, better late then never?

We are so lucky to have wonderful parent involvement in our room. Our parents are eager to donate their time, supplies, and anything else they can offer to help us out with anything we need.  

In our room, since we are in fifth and sixth grade, we allow the students to plan their own party. The way this works is by organizing a committee for each holiday (Valentines day, Christmas, and Halloween). These committees meet during recess and propose a theme, games, and various food choices. We, the teachers, then work to turn their ideas into a reality. It really runs quite smoothly!

So, for Halloween this year, my students chose a spooky theme. We had a variety of games and food choices that were brought in and created, some spooky and some.....not so much. But it's the thought that counts!

He are some of our our spooky treats that one of our wonderful parents made!

We spent the morning listening to spooky halloween mysteries on the computer. The students also created a polygon pumpkin at this time. It was a great way for them to come in, relax, and begin their day. They were asks to create a pumpkin using at least 8 polygon shapes, keeping in mind what we had been learning about polygons this week. 

They were also asked to write a journal prompt! In our room, we our working on a persuasive writing unit about pet rocks. Each students was asked to bring in a pet rock and they are in the process of writing to explain why pet rocks are the best pet ever (more on that in a later post). They are so thrilled about this writing experience, I can not even tell you! I believe that a lot of this writing activity is in the creation and experience. At the end of the day on the eve of Halloween, I allowed asked them to dress up their pet rocks for their very first Halloween! My little creators went straight to work. The next morning when they came in, they were asked to write explaining to their rock what was going on in the classroom today. After all, they have no idea what Halloween even is and I'm sure our pet rocks were all very confused!

One of my favorite costumes. Can you guess what it is? 

The middle of our day was filled with a Halloween parade, a morning special, and a trip to a fellow teachers classroom to see their live wax museum in action! (Whew! We were sure busy!)

When we came back to class, we had about an hour to finish off our party. I decided to set it up in centers so that all of my friends could rotate through and get a chance to experience everything together.

We had a Photo Booth!
Let me tell you this was by far the best idea I had. I had a few parents come in, set up a backdrop, bring in a few props, some big sunglasses, a camera, and BAM! Instant fun. All of my students were able to go out into the hallway and snap some pictures with their friends. They all turned out adorable and my parent volunteers even turned the photos into a CD that I was able to download and put up on our class website! Bonus: I was able to enjoy the party without having to worry about getting a picture of every single person. It was wonderful.

We also had pin the brain on Frankenstien. The students were able to play a Halloween version of pin the tale on the donkey. They loved this too! My winners we rewarded with candy.

We created cheese-cloth ghosts! (disclaimer: these take two days to make as they must dry overnight. We started this project the day before Halloween) We blew up balloons, dipped cheese-cloth into a water and Elmer's glue mixture, and laid it on top of the balloon. On Halloween morning, we popped the balloon and added the felt eyes. They turned out to be adorable!

All of my students also had the chance to participate in a pumpkin candy toss. They were asked to stand on a tape line and toss candy corn into plastic pumpkins. If they made it into the pumpkin, they got the candy that was inside. I also gave each pumpkin a point value. They then added the points up to keep track of high scores! (I had to throw some math in there somewhere!) 

Our party was a success thanks to our volunteers and my cooperative and fun-loving kiddos. They made it all worthwhile! It was ball.