Sunday, March 16, 2014

Monday Made It (Early Bird)

Happy St. Patrick's Day, friends!

Today I'm lucky enough to link up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It!

Warning: some of these are pretty random - but I'm playing catch-up from last week!

Pi Day Friday!! Our class celebrated Pi Day on Friday and I made this little "Pi Day Swag Tag" for a lucky winner! As part of their morning work, students were able to memorize the digits of pi for a competition at the end of the day. I had planned that the student who recited the most digits from memory would win bragging rights to this "Pi Day Swag Tag," but three of my kiddos successfully recited over 41 digits of Pi! How impressive! So I had to make more of these lovely tags for the winners tomorrow. 

Also, we read "Sir Comference and the Dragon of Pi" which is a cute little math adventure picture book to teach about Pi (not to be confused with pie). 

And, to top it off, we created a chain to show what the digits of Pi look line. ( Found the idea on Pinterest!) 

I finished making my #LiftPackage! It was my first teacher package exchange, and I had an absolutely fabulous time getting to know both of my partners. This month's theme was "Teachers Love Teaching" if you couldn't tell from the little writings I included. :o) If you haven't heard of LIFT packages, I'd definitely suggest signing up for the April/May package exchange. Basically, you are paired up with another teacher and you spend some time getting to know each other through blogging, instagram, email; then, you put together a little gift box to help "lift" their spirits.  It's a great way to network, meet fellow teachers, and be supportive of other teachers. Check out LIFT Packages here

Yep, that's right, those are lyrics! What happens when you spend time looking for a resource and you just can't find one good enough? You write your own song, of course! 

I spent a large chunk of time this weekend looking for more creative ways to remember capacity/measurement terms. I went through countless YouTube videos, anchor charts, and Pinterest finds. Nothing - okay, nothing that I found was up to par for me. So when I heard my ringtone, Pharrell Williams' "Happy" song, I thought it would make the perfect tune for a capacity song! I'm thinking my students are going to have fun making this music video this week - a great break from all the test prep we've been doing! Stay tuned for the mp3! Maybe educational song-writing will be in my future??

Hope you have a lucky day!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sparking Student Motivation: Social Studies Tour

Happy Saturday, friends!

Today I'm linking up for another Spark Student Motivation Saturday with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching!

If you read my last post here, I talked about my Social Studies is coming to life in my exploring the regions unit. So far, we have still been boarding our boat (I turn all the chairs and desks around each day before Social Studies into a "U" shape so that the room is our boat, and students provide me - the captain - with a ticket before they board).

On Friday, we visited Florida, where we made three important stops. First, on our riverboat, we traveled to the Everglades, to learn about the biodiversity present there. We watched a fabulous tour video to learn about how alligators and crocodiles are cohabitants together in the Everglades waters, and received a brochure to keep as a souvenir.

Then, we went upstream to Cape Canaveral to visit the JFK Nasa Space Center and take a tour to learn about the United States' exploration in space.

Don't I look great in an astronaut suit? ;o)
Then, we took a bus to Orlando to visit Disney World - what trip to Florida would be complete without a trip to Disney, right?

Students brought in their favorite Disney item as souvenirs so we took a gallery walk around the room to view all the different toys, movies, and items that students were able to share. It was a fabulous experience for students who have been there to share with those who have not visited there before.

We are continuing to explore the Southeast region of the United States this week by taking a trip to the Gulf of Mexico, where we will explore the effects of oil spills, to Jamestown, Virginia, the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, where we will explore an interactive online game called The Online Jamestown Adventure.

Students have been keeping a travel journal (with pictures, both hand-drawn, and actual photos I've taken) to include to describe their learning from each place. This interactive, authentic approach to learning has definitely gotten students excited about Social Studies unlike ever before.

Enjoy the rest of you weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Oh the Places We'll Go!

Is it just me, or is Dr. Seuss week one of the most fun weeks of all time?

To kick off our Seuss-tivities, we read, "Oh the Places You'll Go" and examined it. At first, we listened to the rhythmic quality of the story, and the richness of the pictures. Then, we listened to the richness of the words and discussed the meaning behind the story. We dug deep, and talked about the theme of the story. We hit on one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes, too...

(We used this quote to tie into Social Studies, too. See how - stay tuned - later in this post!) We talked about how our life choices take us places, literally and figuratively. We discussed what it means to "move mountains" and our dreams and aspirations. We investigated the journeys we see ourselves taking as we get older. As we looked through the images of this story, students pointed out how on one page, the character in the story has a unique hot air balloon that stands out from all the rest. 

I gave them a blank template of the drawing (I sketched it and recreated it on white paper, then copied it). They went off and created their unique balloon, without coloring in the face of the character. I used their school picture (our district provides sticker versions of the class photos, which were perfect for this) and glued the picture on top of the face, so they could soar to new heights in their own unique balloon. Next, they wrote a narrative based on what places they plan to go in the future. Some students created the story from the perspective of their future selves, while others told the story of the places they would travel to accomplish their dreams. This is our "rough draft" to prepare for the personal narratives we will be writing over the next few days. Our hallway display came out really nicely with their writing and hot air balloons. What do you think? 

Okay...maybe I went a little overboard drawing this poster, but it was sooo worth it!

Unfortunately, I can't show you the faces, but I promise they look really cute
put on those cartoon bodies!

We also tied in the "places" we can go in with Social Studies as we started our Regions of the United States Unit. Let me tell you - by far, this is my favorite subject to teach right now, and I am not a "Social Studies person." Now, I in no way can take credit for this idea, as I got it from a fabulous third grade teacher featured on Scholastic's webstite, Beth Newingham. In order to learn about the Southeast, we are taking a trip to (almost) all the states in that region to learn more about the culture, history, and places we can visit. For those of you who read my last post, I blogged about this in my March Currently. My "????" theme for March was sailor hats, Minnie Mouse ears, and Mardi Gras masks, and the question that those are the answer to is "What souvenirs will our class bring back from our trip to the Southeast Region this week?" 

Prior to our tour, we read about the Southeast. We discussed what states made up this area, the landforms that we could encounter, the climate, and the differences between the upper Southeast and lower Southeast region. After discussing the means of transportation most commonly used (historically) in the Southeast, we decided that the best way people could tour the area was by boat. So of course, we started our journey by sailing over the waters to the Southeast. Now, to make our learning a bit more authentic, I created tickets and used Beth Newingham's tour sheets so students could track their adventure throughout the unit. 

Starting on Tuesday, as the students were at art, I rearranged the room to create our boat. Using the kidney table as the bow (the front of our river boat). I aligned the desks so encompass the room, and create a "U" shape for our boat - all 24 of our chairs fit inside, in nice, neat rows. As students returned from art, I put on my captain's hat, and allowed gave them a ticket to enter the room. Students entered the boat from the stern (back of the boat) and walked along the starboard (right) side to their seat. After all students boarded, the person on the end counted the tickets, turned them into the captain, and invited their row to put on their (imaginary) life vests. We were ready to set sail along the Mississippi River to New Orleans on our Natchez Riverboat!

Captain "selfie" as we were about to set sail -
sailor hat, and all!

With our background knowledge in mind, we started our tour by venturing to New Orleans, Louisiana to celebrate "Fat Tuesday," or Mardi Gras. We listened to the sounds of the water and watched a video of how the boat works, where we travel, and the history of New Orleans. Then, we discussed the importance of Carnival or Mardi Gras, then and now. We looked at the origins of Mardi Gras came from, and why it's celebrated. If you're interested in a little information booklet I made for my kiddos, it's available for just a dollar in my TpT Store! (Yep, my store is just like the Target Dollar spot!)

After learning about the traditions, including kings cake, doubloons, and masks, we created our own masks to celebrate Mardi Gras. 

After our Mardi Gras celebration, we listened to the four different styles of jazz that originated in New Orleans: Dixieland, Bluegrass, Delta Blues, and Cajun. After learning about what differentiates each musical style, we identified them based on their instrumental qualities. They listened to all four kinds of music and had to hold up a card to show which type of music they thought was playing. 

The second day, we sailed to Tennessee, to visit Memphis. We learned about how the blues originated from slaves singing about working on the cotton plantations. We also took a tour of Graceland, to discover how Memphis is the "Home of the Blues" and "Birthplace of Rock n Roll."We learned (of course) about "the King" himself, Mr. Elvis Presley, and took a tour of his home in Graceland. We compared Elvis to popular music artists today. One of the things we found to be interesting, was the fact that Elvis purchased the large mansion for his family, since his parents were not very wealthy when he was growing up. Today, we talked about how an artist like Justin Timberlake might not be as apt to buy his family a mansion. Then, we made postcards to as souvenirs to detail about our trip. 

Today, we continued our riverboat tour as we sailed to Montgomery, Alabama and Natchez, Mississippi to discover the roots behind slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Both places are rich in African American history. We started in Natchez, where we visited a cotton plantation and learned about how cotton was a crop that changed the lives of many African Americans who were forced to work as slaves in the fields. Then, we learned about the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. We learned about a very important six-year-old girl named Ruby Bridges, who was one of the first African Americans to attend an all white school in the 1960s. Then, took a walk in an African American's shoes during the 60's, and we made posters as our souvenirs to protest for equal rights. 

So far, this unit has been a fabulous way to spark motivation in Social Studies. Yesterday, one of my dear girls was absent; today when she came in, instantly three students said "You missed so much yesterday - we took the boat to Graceland and learned about Elvis and the Blues!" This put a smile on my face to know that this authentic learning is (hopefully) something that will stay with them as they learn about the regions of the United States. Tomorrow we visit Florida - oh the places we'll go in Florida - so stay tuned for more happy sailing!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Currently March

Happy March, everyone! Now we just need Spring to be here...I think it's late on arrival, but I have faith it's on its way!

One of my favorite bloggy things in the whole wide world, is the Currently linky party with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade!

So, without further adieu, my March Currently....

Listening: No, Dixieland is not my favorite type of music. But, I am getting ready to teach the regions this week, beginning with the Southeastern states; so, of course, that means we are celebrating our trip to Louisiana by listening to different types of New Orleans music on Tuesday!

Loving: Right now, it is my school's spring break. No, I'm not going anywhere warm, but I am taking advantage of home-cooked meals all week long, and having time to plan out my activities for the month!

Thinking: I can't believe our state's testing is at the end of this month! I've been making things to review and prepare my kiddos for the test.  This week, we started with a fraction frenzy. I told them we are totally doing math differently - they are taking a teaching role by working in groups and partners, and they decide what we do each day (to some extent, of course). Yes, I'm still giving quizzes, but it's all depending on how and what we do the day before. The first day of fractions, I told them they needed to prove they could show fractional parts. So they were off searching the room for objects they could use to trace. Then, they folded their paper until they made fractional parts.

In ELA our focus was on summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting within nonfiction text. We started by having a student-created anchor chart or two. (Okay, yes, that's my writing. But, they made the post-its)

While this is NOT what I do with my students, it's too funny not to share. It shows the state, administration, and teacher view of the state testing... I LOVE how it says, "the joy of learning" hahaha - no pressure!

How I actually feel about the standardized tests...
So no, I don't worry about how they score. I tell them to not worry about how they score either. I'd rather give them the confidence that they are familiar with all the material on the test, because they are prepared, and they can achieve well if they try. Yes, common core means that things are going to change, and things may be harder. But, we are ready to take on the challenge. Anyway, enough of my rant, and back to my currently.

Wanting: That's right. Call People magazine, it's official. Winter and I have ended our relationship. After the bipolar vortex, it's him, not me. I'm so through with the snow. While I love the whole, snow-globe look, I'm ready to retire my boots for some heels or flats.

Needing: I don't know what it's been about the past few days, but I've had a hard time keeping up. Maybe I'm planning too much, or maybe it's just that time of year. Either way, I've had more than my usual amount of coffee in the week, and I'm way over my limit. However, Starbucks shareholders should love me. You're welcome, I'm sure I've contributed a decent amount to your stock this week.

?????: Any idea what a sailor hat, Minnie Mouse ears, and Mardi Gras masks have in common? Leave me a comment with your guess, and find out later this week in my next post! :)

Well, back to planning I go! Wait until you see what our class is doing for Read Across America's celebration on Monday! Have a wonderful weekend, and hopefully avoid the snowstorm!