Update: Facebook Fun

I realized that I never gave an update to our Number the Stars Facebook character analysis!

The students LOVED this project and I can’t wait to implement it for other novels we read 🙂

To finish up the Facebook page, each group decided on something their character would write on each of the other characters’ “wall”. They typed this up and we attached them to the page, so each character has a wall post from the other three. They were so creative!

They also typed up their list of character traits and support (a quote/phrase from the book) and we included this under “Analysis” on the back of the page, under the wall posts.

After the Facebook pages were done, each group created a life size cut-out of their character, adding physical features as described in the book. We hung these up in the hallway, along with the Facebook pages. The students also wrote poems about characters from the book, so we hung these up as well. The display looks awesome!  Unfortunately, our classroom is on the top floor – it is only 4th and 5th up that high, so not too many people ever venture up to see it. But we have gotten many compliments from parents and others who have passed by.

Check out the finished products!

In case you are interested, here is the link to my TpT store where I have my Facebook Profile Page for sale: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Facebook-Profile-Page-Character-Analysis

Can you think of other fun ways to incorporate this into your classroom? I was thinking that it would be fun to do when learning about famous people from history, such as presidents or inventors. Any other ideas??

March Madness!

Growing up, I was never really into basketball. I was terrible at playing it, my city doesn’t have a team (Pittsburgh has everything else, but no basketball!), and the only college in Pittsburgh that could have been good (Pitt) wasn’t.

That all changed when I went to college and saw the hype over March Madness every year!

Many of my new friends came from tried and true college towns, such as Columbus, Lexington, or Charlotte, whose teams consistently made it into the tournament. I thought it was crazy that they treated their college teams like Pittsburgh does with the Steelers – and if you’re from Pittsburgh, you know exactly what I mean! The thought of basketball being so huge was foreign to me, but after watching the games and getting caught up in all of the excitement, I am now hooked.

It became even more exciting last year when Pitt was a #1 seed! In addition to being a Pitt fan, my BFF got me rooting for Kentucky – the #1 overall seed this year and an amazing team. We attended a game last month at Rupp Arena and it was UNREAL. Seriously. If you have never been to a college basketball game at a large school with a good team, I highly suggest you go. The players ran into the arena with fireworks shooting overhead – in an indoor arena! Crazy.

Anyways, all that being said, I am now a huge college basketball fan and love this time of year, so I really wanted to do something fun with March Madness in my classroom. During the month of March, our whole school studies one country – this year we’re learning about China – so rather than each individual teacher planning her own unit, we each teach a lesson to the whole school. This leaves many afternoons open for other activities. I was excited to do some March Madness activities because it would tie in math, geography, reading, writing, and research skills!

To start our our March Madness unit, I explained what March Madness was and how seeding worked. Each student was given a bracket to fill out in order to predict who would win each game, all the way to the championship. They also predicted a score for the championship game, just in case of a tie 🙂 We mounted their brackets on construction paper and hung them up in the room. Every day after games are played, I update their bracket by either crossing out the team if they guessed incorrectly or drawing a star if it was correct. Each round is also worth 32 points – for example, in the first round when there were a possible of 32 predictions, each game guessed correctly was worth 1 point. In the second round with only 16 possible predictions, each game was worth 2 points. The third round games were worth 4 points, and so on, each time totaling 32. I write their totals on the board so that they can keep track of who is in the lead. I also include their totals for each round on a chart that is posted above our brackets.

Whew – sorry that was a long paragraph! Here is one of my student’s brackets right now:

Here are all 14 brackets:

After we filled out our brackets, each student was given a list of all 64 teams in the tournament, their wins-losses for the season, and a blank. They paired up with a friend to calculate the winning percentages of each team. We then looked at which teams had the highest and the lowest. They were allowed to make changes to their bracket based on this information – and several of them wanted to 🙂

Here’s my copy (it’s a mess b/c we wrote lots of other stuff on it too!):

Once all of the students had done this, we next discussed what state each team comes from. They wrote the state name or abbreviation next to the team on their percentages page. Next they determine how many teams were from each state. We found out that the state with the most teams in the tourney (5) was North Carolina! (One thing I emphasized was the fact that the teams in the tournament are not the states’ only teams! They seemed to think that because Hawaii has no teams in the tournament, it means they have no teams at all…so we talked about how these are the best of the best!)

Each student received a map of the U.S. while I had a larger one hung on the board. We then filled in each state with a different color based on how many teams that state has in the tournament. For example, NC has 5 teams so we colored it orange; KY, OH, NY, and CA each have 4 teams so we colored them purple; etc, creating a key in the corner of the map.

Here is a student-colored map…

…and mine on the board:

Once we colored our whole map, we determined the fraction and percentage of states with 5 teams, 4 teams, and so on. We also looked at the distribution of teams, noticing that the majority of states with teams are in the eastern part of the country. We discussed why this might be.

Our next task involved each student choosing a team they were interested in learning more about. I created an information page for the students to fill out while doing research about their team. It involves everything from basic information, such as the team’s mascot, colors, and coach, to more detailed, such as the heights of each player and their field goal percentages (and looking to see if there is a correlation between the 2!). I found some websites for the students to use while conducting their research and set them off on their own.

Update: I have since uploaded the team research fact page I created to TpT – check it out! http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/NCAA-March-Madness-Basketball-Tournament-Team-Research

Now, I only have access to 6 or 7 computers in my room and the 4th grade room next door, so I created something for the rest of the students to work on while the other half was doing their research. I compiled a list of all of the Rounds 1 and 2 games that had been played and recorded the final score, as well as in what city the game was played. The students answered 13 questions about these games, including what games had the highest and lowest total points scored, what games had the highest and lowest points scored by a winning team, how many upsets there had been, which teams traveled the farthest/least far to play their first round game, and which two teams that played each other are farthest from/closest to each other geographically. They were allowed to use a calculator and an atlas to help with these questions.

So what do you think?! This is what we have done so far; I am hoping to have each student present the information learned about their researched team, but I am trying to figure out a creative yet simple way to do so. Maybe a poster?

There will also be a prize for the student who receives the most points based on his/her bracket. Right now one of my three girls is in first place! I think the boys were a bit shocked by that…haha. I was quite proud 🙂

It’s been fun to see the students come in each day to check out their updated brackets and see how they did. I think many of them are watching the games at home too, because they like to ask if I watched a particular game and if I “can believe that they won?!” or some comment like it.

This has been an exciting way to keep our March busy and fun, and thankfully the students are enjoying it too!!

Facebook Fun!

As I mentioned in my last post, we are currently reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. The kids are SO into this book – every day, they beg to read “just one more chapter”!

In order to help my students get a better look at the characters in the novel, they are doing a character analysis in groups. Each group chose a character from the novel to focus on.

Their first task was to create a list of 5-10 personality traits as well as quotes/sentences that supported each trait. They next made a list of physical traits, describing what their character looks like. If it wasn’t talked about much, I had them describe what they THINK their character would look like.

I then explained that they would be creating a mock Facebook profile page for their character – and let me just say, they got SO excited! Most of them know what Facebook is due to a parent or relative having an account, and they thought it was so cool that they would get to make one for someone!

I created a mock Facebook profile page for each group to fill out about their character, which includes information such as birthday/age, relationship status, hometown, favorite tv show/book/movie, about me, and “likes”. It also has spots for two “friends” at the bottom, including their picture, name, and relationship to the character. On the back, there is room for “wall posts” from other characters – I plan to have my students write on each other’s “walls” as their characters. There is also an analysis section, where I will ask the students to write their list of character traits and support from the book.

My students started working on this today and were having so much fun! They were asked to create a rough draft of sorts, so that they knew what they were going to write on the actual page and could copy it neatly. They used what they knew about their character from the book to create the page, and they are looking great so far!

This group is almost done – they just have to go over their words in black pen:

Image

You can check out the page on my TpT site: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Facebook-Profile-Page-Character-Analysis

Do you do anything like this with your class?? I’d love to hear about it!!

Number the Stars

One of my all-time favorite books to read with my class is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.

I love the drama, the foreshadowing, the cliff hangers, the character development, the chapter titles, the plot, the ending, and so much  more. It is always one of my students’ favorites when we discuss the best books at the end of the year.

My only issue with teaching it was the lack of background information I was giving my students on what was happening in the world at the time of this novel.

It is SO incredibly important for the students to understand who the Nazis were and why there were controlling the Jews. This is not developed in the book, except for random facts here and there, so I knew I needed to do something to help my students get a grasp on the events that were happening in the world at the time.

So of course, I went to trusty PowerPoint 🙂 After doing a bit of research on my own, I created a PowerPoint presentation on World War II, Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. I think that it does a good job of presenting the information in a “kid-friendly” way, with photographs and important details.

Last week, I went through the presentation with my kiddos, and I swear they have never been so quiet, interested, and attentive! I’m not sure if it was because they were interested in the material or were horrified at what actually happened in our world not that long ago, but whatever it was, they now understand what was happening to the Jews in the 1940s. We talked about how we can learn from the past and pray that something so terrible is never repeated. We thanked God for His grace and mercy to us!

If you are interested in using this in your classroom, check it out on my TpT store: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Introduction-to-Number-the-Stars-by-Lois-Lowry

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this wonderful novel. What kinds of activities do you do with your class to enrich the story??

A Day in My Shoes

Today I’m linking up with “Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher” so that you can learn about a day in my shoes!

Now, as is the case with most of you, each day is a little different due to specials and other fun activities. But here’s a glimpse into a normal day:

*6:00 – alarm goes off on my clock. SNOOZE!

*6:07 – alarm goes off on my phone. SNOOZE! (continue snoozing both alarms until 6:30…I do not enjoy getting out of bed in the mornings…haha)

*6:30-7:00 – get ready.

I shower, get dressed (I always pick out my outfit the night before – this saves me SO much time in the mornings!), do makeup, sometimes hair (sometimes I spend time on this, though lately with my hair getting so long, I have been sticking up in a ponytail or messy bun), make sure I have everything (keys, cellphone, laptop, etc.), and get out the door!

*7:00-7:25ish – drive to school.

It used to take between 15-20 minutes to get to work, however they are doing construction on the main route, so I am going a different way that is longer and has more traffic. Oh well – I enjoy listening to the morning radio shows and thinking about what I need to do when I get to school.

*7:25ish-7:40 – relax.

I usually spend the first 10-15 minutes at school checking my email, Google Reader, and Facebook (we don’t actually have to be at school until 8:00) while eating breakfast at my desk – usually cereal.

*7:40-8:30 – prepare for the day.

This involves writing their morning work on the board (usually a review worksheet, cursive practice, silent reading, reciting Memory Marathon verses, or re-reading a story with a partner), making copies that are needed, and mentally preparing for the day! Every Tuesday morning, the staff meets for prayer before the students arrive.

*8:30-9:00 – students arrive.

The students begin arriving at 8:30 and come anytime between then and 8:45. They do a great job of coming in quietly and getting their morning work done, although sometimes it takes a bit of prompting 🙂 I send a student around with our attendance clipboard at 8:45, and morning announcements over the walkie-talkies happen around 9:00.

*9:00-9:30 – devotions

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, my students and I journey through the Old Testament together. We learn about the Godly men and women and talk about how we can apply what we learn to our lives today. We also do prayer requests and I have a student pray for the class. On Thursdays, the whole school comes together for All School Worship. We sing a song or two, then one of my student’s dads does a short devotion for the school.

*9:30-10:15 – math

Four of my students go to 6th grade for math, one student takes 7th grade math later in the day (taught by the 6th grade teacher since we only go up to 6th grade), so I am left with 8 out of my 13 for math.  We start every math class by going over the previous night’s HW and answering any questions they may have. During the lesson for the day, the students take notes in their math notebook. We do lots of examples problems together, then the students do some independent work, either in their notebook or on a mini white board. Homework gets passed out at the end of class which students must write down in their HW planner.

*10:15-10:30 – snack

The students bring a healthy snack every day to enjoy during this time. They can socialize, play games, and just hang out for these 15 minutes.

*10:30-11:30 – Language Arts

This is my first year teaching English, writing, and spelling, so it has been interesting trying to work out a fairly consistent schedule. We usually do an English lesson until around 10:50, then work on our writing assignment until 11:30. This often changes based on the day; for example, spelling pretests/final tests are given every Monday/Friday at 10:30. Sometimes I do a writing mini-lesson before they begin to work. We are about to begin our next writing assignment on persuasive essays, so tomorrow I will spend a good bit of writing workshop time introducing this to the class and reading some samples together. I also throw in some computer instruction during this time every once in a while.

*11:30-12:15 – reading

We use Harcourt Story Town for our reading curriculum. Every day’s reading instruction is different! On Mondays, I introduce the vocabulary words and we discuss some background information needed for the story. On Tuesdays, the students do Literacy Centers which I created. There are 12 centers to choose from and they must pick a different one each week. Maybe I’ll do a post on these in the near future 🙂 On Wednesdays, we read the story for the week and discuss. On Thursdays, we discuss the literary element (theme, conflicts, point of view, or whatever I am focusing on with that story). On Fridays, the students complete a quiz on comprehension of the story, its vocabulary, and the literary element we discussed. We also read a novel each month relating to the unit we study (ex: Sign of the Beaver was our novel for Colonial America), so we spend some of this time reading and discussing the novel.

*12:20-1:00 – lunch/recess

The students have lunch for 20 mins and recess in the gym for 20 mins. I am thankful to teach at a school where teachers are not required to do lunch/recess duty! We have parent volunteers in those positions 🙂 This time always FLIES by…

*1:00-1:30 – silent reading

This is the time of day devoted to silent reading. We use Accelerated Reader so the kids are encouraged to complete quizzes for each book they read. I have given them each a goal of points they must acquire by reading books and taking quizzes. There is no punishment for not reaching their goal, however they will be rewarded if they do so 🙂

*1:30-3:00 – unit

We spend the majority of the afternoon on unit instruction. Every month each grade focuses on a different topic. This month, we are studying electricity and magnetism. Therefore, the bulk of our afternoon is learning about this topic. I love using PowerPoint, so most of my instruction is through PP presentations. Sometimes I have the students fill out a notes page I have created while we are going through the PowerPoint. Sometimes we read books together that teach us more about the topic. Two of the months we create a lapbook – one of my favorite teaching tools! This month involves a lot of experiments involving static electricity, batteries, magnetism, circuits, and other electricity-related topics. Each month the students complete a project that correlates to the unit. For example, this month they are each planning an electricity experiment to present to the class. They will fill out a form that talks us through their experiment; they will also type up a summary of what they learned, and then present the experiment and their findings to the class. Next month, we will be studying Western Europe, so each student will be assigned a different country that they must research and teach the class about. This allows for a lot of creativity because they can teach the class however they would like – through PowerPoint, brochures, posters, books, etc. This is my favorite time of day – the students are always excited about what we are learning! Several days a week we have specials (gym and Spanish) in the afternoon but we always work around those.

*3:00-3:10 – pack up

The students make sure they have all HW assignments written in their planners, they pack up, and I walk them down to bus dismissal.

*3:10-4:00 – lesson plan/prep work

We are allowed to leave around 4:00, so until then I usually prepare for the next day. I try and leave right around 4:00 to avoid traffic on the way home, although I tutor on Mondays until 4:15 and we have staff meetings on Thursdays until 4:15 or 4:30.

*4:00-10:00 – enjoy being home!

I spend this time with the hubs (who is currently preparing to start his LAST clinical before he graduates as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in May! Yahoo!) just hanging out, watching shows we missed the night before, playing volleyball at a local church on Tuesdays, hanging out with my BFFL who lives upstairs from us, eating dinner that one of us (or both of us!) has prepared, reading, and just relaxing! This is my absolute favorite part of my day…as much as I love my kiddos at school, I love being home with my husband even more 🙂

*10:00ish – bedtime

I try and go to bed around 10, although I’m often not very tired so I usually end up reading for a while in bed.

 

So that’s what my days are usually like! Busy busy busy but there is always something fun going on. I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone else’s days too!

Post #20

[This post was written way back in the middle of December and I am just now getting around to publishing it…sorry for the absence!]

I have finally made it to post #20! Yippee!

We are reading the book The Family Under the Bridge throughout the month of December. Because we usually take a break from our Harcourt stories this month, I wanted to make sure we were still covering comprehension skills, literary elements, and vocabulary.

After each chapter that we read, the students answer comprehension questions that I found on this website. Each student has a copy of the questions and they record their answers in their reading journal. In addition to the questions, they also must go through each chapter and find at least THREE vocabulary words whose meanings they may not know. Now, several of my students have great vocabulary, but there are some toughies in this book, so my kiddos have not really had trouble with this at all. I require them to write down the word and its definition after looking it up. At the end of the book, I will compile a list of all of their vocabulary words and we will study these as a class and take a short quiz on their definitions.

One literary element that is easy to discuss with this book is characterization. Armand, the main character, is the perfect character for this! We talked about why authors include so much information about certain characters. We looked at the main ways that authors reveal the personality of the characters – through words, thoughts, and actions.

I then split my kids into groups to dive further into this topic. Each group was given the task of creating a life size portrait of Armand…

All 4 groups traced a group member but added a little extra “flub” around the middle, because Armand is portrayed as a rather large hobo. They turned out GREAT! After sketching and illustrating their portrait of Armand, they had to find examples from the book that reveal his character through his thoughts, words, and actions (2 of each). They typed these up and glued them on their portrait – some were super clever and attached his thoughts in a thought bubble, his words in a speech bubble, and his actions near his hands or feet! They are so creative 🙂

Finally, they had to type a short summary of Armand’s character, bringing in what they learned from his thoughts, words, and actions.

Overall, I was really impressed with their work. They did a great job of finding examples and creating a summary.

    Here are the final portraits!

 – Here is a sample summary.

There are so many good characters in the novels we read this year; I think I will continue this activity for others because they enjoyed it so much and learned from it as well!

*Now that we are done with the book, we looked back at their character descriptions and saw how much Armand changed throughout the story! It was neat to have the concrete evidence from the beginning right in front of us so we could really observe the changes in the protagonist*

Foreshadowing

One of my favorite reading lessons comes around this time every year. We are going through the novel The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare as a read-aloud. It ties in with our October/November units, as it takes place around the time of the French & Indian War. This is a great story full of adventure, friendship, and suspense.

 

At the end of chapter two, we read, “So [Matt] was not so quick-witted as he should have been when unexpectedly someone arrived.” I ask the kids what this makes them think. Usually they say things like, “Something bad is going to happen” or “Matt is caught off guard” or “Maybe it’s Indians and he doesn’t now how to react”. I then explain the author’s use of foreshadowing. I explain that foreshadowing is using clues or hints to suggest events that happen later on in the story. We talk about why authors use foreshadowing and how it helps build suspense and makes the reader want to continue with the story to learn what happens next!

 

In order to discuss this even further, we pause from our read-aloud and spend time reading the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl. While quite creepy, this is an awesome example of how foreshadowing can be used to create that feeling of suspense in the reader. I found a copy of this online at this website: http://mysite.verizon.net/zila84/_llady.pdf This is what I use as my teacher’s guide, as it includes questions to ask or things to think about during the story. I personally like reading this story out loud to the class. I think it’s fun to make the landlady’s voice sort of creepy, and I know right where to pause to build that suspense. The students like to just sit back and listen too.

So, we read through “The Landlady”, pausing to discuss the story every once in a while just to make sure the students are on track with what is happening. It is amazing to see how into the story they are – every single one of my kiddos was on the edge of their desk (I allow them to sit on their desk during read-alouds) waiting to see what would happen next!

The end of the story is somewhat….open-ended. It doesn’t really say what happens, but using clues from the story, the students are able to make guesses. I give them a little bit of background information, such as what the bitter almond taste in in Billy’s tea might have come from, or why the landlady sort of smells like pickled walnuts or a hospital. We then talk about how the author’s use of foreshadowing helped make this story so interesting. We discuss how it wouldn’t be the same if the author had right away stated what the landlady planned to do.

After reading and discussing the story, I allow the students to create their own endings. Since Roald Dahl left the ending open, it lets the students be incredibly creative when writing their own endings. This is always one of my favorite parts of the lesson – hearing what my kiddos think will happen next!

I also found “The Landlady” is on Youtube! I’m not sure if I’m going to show this to my class, as I like for them to paint their own pictures, not see someone else’s interpretation. But if you like it, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEz39MfsLXQ

This is a fun activity that my 5th graders always love and still talk about, even those that I taught a few years ago! How do you teach foreshadowing??

 

 

 

 

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