Medieval Wrap Up

We finally wrapped up our unit on the Middle Ages! The students did a phenomenal job on their unit test. I find that this is always the best test of the year and I truly believe it is because of the lap books that we create. It is constant reinforcement of the material that we learn – we discover information through a PowerPoint, we create a mini book based on that information, and we review the information again when we put our lap book together. They love it and it creates a wonderful keepsake for this fun unit.

Last week a parent came in to help me spray paint the castles the students built. We opened up all of the windows, put tarps under the castles, and draped sheets over the computers to keep them spray paint free. They turned out GREAT! It took us 10 cans – way more than we originally thought – but they look awesome and the class was so excited about them. The next day the students brought in Lego and Playmobile figures to “decorate” their castles with – we have lots of knights, dragons, and kings and queens.

Check them out!

Another exciting activity we did was one that a classroom parent came up with – banana jousting! The class was split into two teams and the current “jouster” on each team was given a poncho as armor, a shield made out of thick foam core, and a banana. The students would take turns making a pass at the other knight, trying to touch their poncho with the banana. One point was awarded for banana being smeared on the poncho and one point was awarded to whichever knight had the longer banana after the round was over. It was an enjoyable activity that the kids had a blast with!!

To close out our unit, we enjoyed a fun medieval party. I set up three stations throughout the room – coloring, computers, and Wii. For the Wii station, I brought in my Wii and borrowed Medieval Games (http://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Games-Nintendo-Wii/dp/B001S86ISG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337188714&sr=8-1_) for the Wii from a parent. This is a fun game, especially with four players, that allows the students to joust, sword fight, compete in archery tournaments, and much more. The kids of course loved it and did really well! For the computer station, I created an internet scavenger hunt based on a website I found with interesting facts about medieval times. The students had to answer questions based on what they found on the website. Finally I copied pictures of religious stained glass windows from a coloring book I have. The students used marker to color the stained glass and we rubbed vegetable oil on the other side to make it transparent – they looked awesome! I also had parents send in some yummy food to enjoy, such as cheese and pepperoni, grapes and watermelons on sword-shaped toothpicks, and pretzels. One parent even made some mead for the kids to try!

Overall, our medieval unit was tons of fun and it’s always sad to see it draw to a close. My goal was for the class to come away with a deeper understanding of this time period, including the role religion played, the importance of feudalism, and how our world has changed since then. I am already looking forward to next year!!

The Middle Ages

Based on this picture, and knowing that we are studying the Middle Ages, can you guess what our latest classroom endeavor is??

 

If you guessed building cardboard castles, you were RIGHT!!

About the middle of March, I began collecting cardboard boxes of all sizes, as well as egg cartons, pop bottles, applesauce cups, and other good “building” supplies. The above picture is the pile as of the middle of April! Good thing I can handle clutter – if I was a neat freak, this would be a major problem 🙂 The closet to the right of this picture was completely full of boxes too! Needless to say, we have more than enough boxes.

Last week I split the kids into 4 groups. Each group was given 2 rolls of duck tape, a large cardboard box flattened out to use as the base, and a few guidelines of parts of a castle that must be included (ex: wall, drawbridge, keep, towers). We went around group by group picking boxes from the pile until they had a good amount to start with. Once they began working, they were allowed to send one person from their group at a time back to the pile of boxes to get any more that they needed. Our pile has been about cut in half, but we still have quite a few left!

Here are a few castles at the beginning stages:

Once they are completely done, I will spray paint them gray/silver to look more polished and more castle-like, and then they will be permitted to bring in “medieval-type” characters, such as Lego people or Playmobile figures, to finish it off.

They always turn out great and I am excited to see this year’s finished products!

Just so you have an idea, here are a few castles from previous years:

Don’t they look awesome?!

Do you study the Middle Ages? I’d love to hear about some of the fun things you do with your class!!

I have a few more posts about our medieval unit planned, so check back soon 🙂

Currently April…

Is it really that time again?? March seriously flew by…

Today I was busy setting up my classroom for our medieval unit. Thankfully I saved my moat/drawbridge/castle wall from last year, which made it much easier! I’ll definitely post pictures soon 🙂

For now I’m linking up with Farley over at http://ohboy3rdgrade.blogspot.com/ – be sure to check out everyone’s blogs. There are SO many to go through – I wish I had a free day to do so! Oh wait…I won’t until Thursday because our break doesn’t start until then. Boo.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just push a button and have all of your papers graded? And I mean, all papers – not just math worksheets or English pages, but writing assignments and journaling work! This consumes so much time, I can only imagine how wonderful an instant paper grader button would be!

I can’t wait to show off everything we are doing this month for our study of the Middle Ages! Be sure to check back soon for updates 🙂

It’s Electric!

I’m thinking about teaching my students the electric slide to go along with our current unit…hmmm… 🙂

So January is all about electricity and magnetism. We spend the month learning what electricity is, how it relates to magnetism, and other important topics in this area of science. This is a really fun unit that I enjoyed revamping when I got hired at JCS! One of my favorite parts is all of the fun experiments that the kids get to do with their lab partner. These are beneficial in so many ways. For instance, the students learn how to work together on a task, follow directions (or else something could go majorly wrong!), and treat materials appropriately.

Anyways, to start the unit, each student decorated a light bulb for our “electrifying” classroom bulletin board:

We start out the instructional material by learning about important inventors related to the field of electricity, such as Edison, Bell, and Faraday. I send the students on an “Inventor Scavenger Hunt” around the classroom. Each student receives a list of questions about the 5 inventors we focus on and must match an inventor with each question by searching for the facts around the room:

One of their first homework assignments for the unit is to make a list of every item they use from the time they leave school until the time they arrive back at school the next morning that involves electricity in some way. It is always fascinating to see what these kids use! Of course they all listed things like “my Wii”, “my iPod touch”, and “the car”, but I enjoyed the ones that said “the crockpot for dinner” or “the digital picture frame on our bookshelf”!

The next day, we talk about the four functions of electricity – light, heat, motion, and sound. We then classify the objects on their lists. This year, each student received several post-it notes on which they wrote a few items from their list. They placed them on the board in the correct section based on its function. Some of them were quite difficult to classify, such as a lava lamp – isn’t its main purpose BOTH light and motion?? Tricky…

We then move on to learn what exactly electricity is, starting with static. The kids enjoyed several static-related experiments and eventually came to the conclusion that like charges repel and opposite charges attract – it’s always so exciting when they discover this!!

  

 

We move on to talk about lightning and Ben Franklin’s famous experiment. The cool thing we do with this lesson is watch for sparks from a student eating a mint in a dark closet. Have you ever tried it? If you chew a lifesaver peppermint, sometimes you can see sparks! It is really cool.

We then learn about cells and batteries, and why what we refer to as batteries should really be called cells. The students do several experiments for this, including making their own battery out of zinc washers, copper pennies, and salt-water soaked paper towel, and measuring the voltage in different fruits and vegetables using a multimeter.

 

One of my favorite parts of this unit is the lesson and experiments on circuits. We learn about series and parallel circuits and how they work. We also talk about why certain things are wired the way that they are. For example, Christmas lights – everyone hates to find a string of lights that doesn’t work anymore! Now, most manufacturers of Christmas lights are wiring them in parallel so that if one light burns out, the rest will stay lit – brilliant! My kiddos absolutely LOVED the circuits experiments because I simply gave them a bag of materials to make circuits with (such as batteries and battery holders, light bulbs and light bulb holders, wires, alligator clips, etc.) and let them have at it! They attempted to make both series and parallel circuits, and all of them did a great job! They kept asking if they could “play” longer 🙂

 

On a side note, I ordered some awesome wires at the beginning of the year – they are magnetic, so the ends attach to the bulb holders magnetically, instead of having to use alligator clips to clip them on! They are so easy to use and made it much less of a struggle for the kids. I wish I remembered where they came from or what they are called!

So that is what we have done so far this month. I am looking forward to getting into magnetism next! The students’ project for the month is to complete a science experiment relating to electricity to present to the class. They will be presenting next week, so hopefully the class will get to see some pretty cool experiments from each student.

Do you teach electricity? What is your favorite part of the topic? I am looking for field trip ideas – any suggestions?!

 

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!

Love that American Revolution!

I apologize for my lack of writing lately! I think you know how it is. Things are so busy. I mean, SO busy.

I am currently trying to finish our unit on the Revolutionary War – I absolutely love this unit and I’m always sad to see it end! We always start the unit by talking about cause and effect, and how every event led to something else, and it all worked together to lead to the war, which led to the start of our country!

One of the things that we do to help keep track of the events leading up to the war is create a domino chart that allows the students to see the events in order. Setting up some dominoes and showing how they all knock each other down helps the students visualize how one event led to the next. We then cut out pictures of 12 dominoes and glue them on a piece of card stock. As we discuss certain events, such as the Stamp Act, Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and 1st Continental Congress, we write them under the dominoes so the students have a flow chart of sorts.

Once the war starts and as we discuss each major battle and event of the war, we add it to a soldier and add the soldier to our timeline. We post these in the front of the classroom so that the students can refer to them throughout the month and really get a good idea of the order in which the events happened.

This was last year’s timeline. This year, they are colorful and posted above my white board. I got this pattern from a book about the Revolutionary War.

In order to teach each battle of the war, I present a PowerPoint that gives a brief overview of the 5W’s of each battle – who, what, where, when, and why – as well as the result of the battle. This is the most engaging way I have found to teach my kiddos and they always ask if we are doing another PP!

Every once in a while, I change it up and instead use more of a “story telling” technique by describing the battle or reading a story book about it. One of my favorites is “When Washington Crossed the Delaware” by Lynn Cheney. This is a beautifully-illustrated, well-written book that gives a tremendous overview of the Christmas Day battles of Trenton and Princeton.

My students really enjoyed this book. Afterwards, they had a really good grasp on what happened at these battles.

In order to keep track of each battle, we create “Battle Books” – using a piece of card stock folded into a book. Directions can be found on several websites, such as this one: http://library.thinkquest.org/J001156/makingbooks/minibook/index.htm. We actually end up making two and attaching them because there is so much to cover!

On each page of the book we write the name of the battle, the date, the people involved, and a 1 or 2 sentence overview of what happened, as well as the result. Halfway through the unit, I have them take their battle book home and teach their parents about the first half of the war. I send home a parent signature slip to verify that they were taught by their child. Of course I include a section for comments, and most parents write a comment about how impressed they are with their child’s knowledge and how much they learned! This is valuable for the kiddos because they are reviewing the information as well as describing it out loud. One parent even said that her child was able to answer all of the tough questions she asked him! Yeah!

I am proud of how hard my students have worked throughout this unit. It’s usually a favorite in 5th grade, despite the work involved. The students take their big unit test on the material on Thursday of next week – this is when I’ll truly be able to see how much they grasped from the unit! I feel like there is not necessarily a lot of memorization for this, but simply understanding of what happened! I know they will do well 🙂

Do you teach the American Revolution? What is your favorite activity to do with your kiddos for this topic?

November Happenings

So this weekend was K, my 4-month old niece’s baptism at church. I also have a 2-year-old niece, A. They are wonderful and I love them dearly! However they are growing up WAY too fast. It feels like we just had A’s baptism, yet it was a year and a half ago! Here is me and my sweet niece K:

Isn’t she the cutest??

And I had to include a picture with my niece A who is SO fun! I love watching her grow and develop and change – she is incredibly bright for her age!

Ok enough about my two favorite kiddos. I have a class full of 10 and 11 year olds who I love dearly as well, all of whom I am extremely proud of!! Know why??

Out of my class of 13, nine of them got an A+ on their huge Colonial America unit test, and several othr! This was a big sucker at 95 points with lots of matching, fill in the blank, multiple choice, map labeling, and four essay questions. I really thought I had made the test more challenging this year, but they proved to me how well they knew their stuff. Yay for a successful unit!! Doesn’t that make you feel so good?? 🙂

Every month, all the students at JCS do a project relating to the unit topic for the month. This month is one of my favorites. In October, students researched and wrote a report on a famous person in history from colonial/Revolutionary War times. All sorts of historical figures were chosen, from Ben Franklin and George Washington, to Sybil Ludington and Nathan Hale. After reading their reports (which were SO well done!), I learned quite a bit! PS: Interesting fact – can you guess which famous person from early American history I am related to? She is a famous female from the 16th/17th century…

Anyways, for November, the students turn their report into a first person monologue and present a Living Wax Museum! Family members, friends, and all of the other classes walk around the school to the different stations where the kids are set up. Once someone taps a “wax figure” on the should, he/she comes to life and tells the audience about his/her life. This is such a fun thing for the 5th graders to do and is always a highlight of their year. I am super excited to see my current students in action. Some of them wore costumes to present their report to the class, as I offered that option for bonus points, and BOY are their costumes awesome! They look GREAT!

So this year our LWM is on Friday, November 18th. The students have another week and a half to finish preparing their monologue and memorize it. Their monologue must be two to three minutes long – they all complain when they first hear this length, but once they start speaking they realize that time goes by much quicker than they first imagined!

Here are some [edited for privacy] pictures of my kiddos from two years ago:

If you can’t see it on their poster, can you guess who their historical figure is??

I am always so impressed with how well my 5th graders do with this project. It takes a lot of practice, hard work, courage, and diligence to prepare, but they blow me away every year; I have no doubt that this year will be the same 🙂 And…it brings these kids so much confidence! Another plus!

I’m sure I’ll post lots of pictures after the event is over this year. Right now I have been busy getting reports/papers/tests graded as we prepare for report cards and conferences…ohhhh the joy!

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