'Twas the Day Before Christmas Break and All Through the Classroom...

My break is officially here! Well, it actually arrived at 12:30 on Friday, but I'm a tad late in posting. I thought that the last week before break was going to be rough, with students jumping out of their skin knowing that break was just a few short days away, but I worked very hard to make sure that we stayed busy, and I kept them engaged by being more entertaining than usual. My biggest concern was the last day, as it was a half day and we had a sing-along mid-morning. I gathered an arsenal of activities thanks to my own creations, TpT, and a couple of great finds via Pinterest.

The first thing that we worked on was my Christmas Wish Assignment. Students enjoyed acknowledging special friends, teachers, and staff and of course, the fact that they were able to decorate their Christmas wishes didn't hurt either, since we don't do a whole lot of coloring in fifth grade.

After we finished these up, we had fun with Rachel Lynette's Christmas Would You Rather Questions. These always make for great discussions and I pretty much love anything that Rachel creates! 

I also found a super fun game at Happy Home Fairy. The link to the game can be reached by clicking here: A Super Fun Christmas Game. The students put a paper plate on top of their heads and follow directions (don't we always need practice with that?) to create a holiday picture. It was hilarious and so fun. In fact, my students asked if we could please do it again, so I'll be thinking of some ways to incorporate this in for a brain break. I'll be sure to share when I come up with some different descriptions. I am also thinking that we could tie it in to visualizing somehow. I've got lots of ideas now that I've seen how much fun this was for my class! 

To wrap things up right before our holiday sing-along, we played Christmas I Have, Who Has. What I love about this set from Jason's Online Classroom is that it has great descriptions so students really had to pay attention to determine what the clue was talking about. I love all I Have, Who Has games, and this was the perfect activity to wrap up our time together before the break.

So now I'm on break. I've got a to-do list a mile long but a lot of it simply includes relaxing. It's been a fantastic, but long first four months, and I have been in need of a break for awhile so while there's 1,000 things I could be doing for the classroom, I'm actually going to be sure to enjoy some me time too. I've already started my first read of the break and it's not even a book for the classroom, it's a John Grisham just for me! 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a relaxing break filled with fantastic memories. My biggest wish has already come true. My husband is home for Christmas. Last year he was deployed to Afghanistan, so I'm thrilled to have him home with me for the holidays. That is surely the greatest gift of all. 

Merry Christmas and thanks for following! 



Undercover Santa

Well, it's official! I've created another fun inference resource! Since my Turkey in Disguise was a HUGE hit with over 2,000 downloads in less than a month, I decided to keep the fun going with Undercover Santa. I could not have created this resource without the help of Michael Rawls, over at
Monster Wrangler Mike on TpT. I have had a ton of pleasant experiences with him and I just adore his clip art! I've requested two items from him, including these Santas in Disguise and he not only created them, but did it in less than 8 hours! The man is awesome! He's also got a blog over at Crunchy With Ketchup.

This activity was created to support a focus on making inferences in the intermediate grades. If you were to do a web search for "inference riddles", you would see that there are many resources available. One of my favorite ways to teach making an inference is to use riddles to model connecting text to background knowledge or schema. This holiday-themed activity will be a great  reinforcement after a lesson using this riddles.

This activity includes a background story on the "Undercover Santa", which includes the assignment to create a disguise for Santa, who needs to save Christmas from an evil impersonator. There is a brainstorm page, a Santa disguise page (one in boxers and one in long johns, in case you have a preference), and a page to create a letter with clues so that students in the class will be able to read their classmates riddles and infer what Santa's disguise will be BEFORE they see it. An example is included for students who need a visual. I've also included suggestions for use for this resource. 

I'm super excited to do another one of these with my students. As I talked about in my last post, making inferences is a great challenge for my students, and anytime I can make it fun, I'm thrilled! Maybe I should start thinking about other holiday characters that I can disguise! I see more of these in my future.



Wanted: Turkeys in Disguise

Goodness, gracious! The time certainly does fly. I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus and I have so much to share, that I am truly not sure where to begin. I hope that you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Are you, like me, already on the countdown to Christmas break?

We've been working hard to understand how to infer as we read. This is my sixth year with fifth grade and I always find this to be such a hard strategy for students to use. I've been focusing on it in both science and reading, but my students are still building their way to a solid understanding of this important strategy. They've been working so hard that I really wanted to give them a bit of a break for the short week. I wanted to find something fun to do that would reinforce making inferences. I have always loved all of the wonderful Turkey in Disguise ideas, but none of them were very appropriate for the fifth grade classroom, so decided to take that idea and turn it in to a fifth grade activity by making it an inference riddle. My oh my, what a fantastic time the students had with this! They are already asking if we can do a Santa one (and yes, one is in the works).

Shout out to Monster Wrangler Mike, who makes some fantastic clip art. He posted turkey in disguise clip art which made my creation 1,000 times easier! I used his clip art to decorate the bulletin board outside the classroom and let the students begin to wonder what our assignment would be.

Then it was time to introduce the assignment to the students. They were so excited to disguise the turkey that they took the riddle creation quite seriously and produced some fantastic work. I will take pictures when I return to school on Monday and share the board with all of their fantastic work on it! They loved creating the riddles, disguising their turkeys, and keeping it all top secret from friends. When all were finally displayed, they shared their riddles and guessed what they were before viewing the picture. We had a great discussion about how they had made inferences based on the clues that they read. I think we are finally getting there, and having some fun along the way! Hooray!

I have great news! This whole thing is a freebie on TpT! Get it here: Turkey in Disguise Inference Activity

I wonder if any students will disguise Santa as a turkey when I create the Santa one? Heehee!

Enjoy your last couple of days of break! Keep an eye out for a Santa inference activity soon!



Geography, Science, Math, and Pumpkins...OH, MY!

You know how little ideas get started in your head?

As I was browsing for ideas in the classroom, I found this idea on Pinterest: Pumpkin Globe. I immediately shared it with my teammate, who loves all things social studies and he really wanted to do it! I suggested that he ask a local vendor if they could offer pumpkins at a reduced price. He pitched it to our principal, who was able to get them for the social studies classes. Each of our seven 5th grade classes got 5 pumpkins so that those teachers that teach social studies (not me) could have students paint the pumpkins in groups. I was so excited to see the finished product! Here's a shot of a few:

Acrylic paint turned out to work best. 

So, to go backwards for a moment, I teach science. When I found out that our school was going to get the pumpkins, my wheels started turning. Sitting next to my husband one evening, I said, "We should launch pumpkins." Of course, my husband looked at me like I was crazy and I knew the idea was at least half crazy and would probably never get approved. It was at that point that I shared my idea with my colleagues and at least two of my colleagues thought I wasn't crazy. In fact, my one teammate took it as a challenge and asked her husband if he could build a catapult. Two of us went to the principal to pitch the idea, pretty much thinking that we were going to be told no. Perhaps it was the idea that we would be taking a geography project and turning it in to a math and science project, but, guess what? Our idea was approved! Three weeks later, we were ready for launching! 

Here's our catapult. As you can see, we have a colander on one end, and the other end has a handle on each side so that students can each grab one side of the other end, and then use their strength to launch the pumpkin. 

My teammates did a practice launch in the morning, just to be sure all was well. 

Back in the classroom, we told the students about this lab, as we had kept it a secret up until that day. As you can see, I bought a few additional pumpkins so that we could compare different sizes and the distances that they would each travel.

"No, don't chuck them! They are too young to die!" one of my students said about the baby pumpkins. 

We weighed each pumpkin by having a student stand on a scale and get his weight, then get back on the scale with the pumpkin. Great review of finding the difference! The data sheet that I created had room for data for five pumpkins, so after weighing all of our pumpkins, we chose 5 that were different in weight, and decided that we would use those for our data, but still launch the rest for fun.

Students had to form a hypothesis by telling which pumpkin they believed would go the farthest distance and which they believed would go the shortest distance. We launched the heaviest and the lightest first, recorded the distance, and then students estimated the distance of the remaining pumpkins before we launched any more. When the five pumpkins that they were recording data for had been launched, I allowed the students to launch the remaining ones for fun. The farthest distance we had was 41 feet! Here's some action shots:

Preparing for launching

My co-teacher and I decided to give it a try! 

Here's one from start to finish:

Yup, this one smashed!

Laying tarps down made for easy clean-up! 

We did talk about how our data could not be completely reliable because each group did not necessarily use the same force and we were changing the sizes, which violates the rule of having just one variable per experiment. However, students had great discussions about that alone as they talked about how they could do this lab differently in the future. 

I was thrilled with this whole lab for so many reasons, but mostly because my amazing team and I worked together to make this happen for our students. I'm blessed to have colleagues who helped to make this happen, and even more blessed that I have a colleague with a handy husband! I know that this is an activity that the students will never, ever forget and that a great time was had by all! 

If you are feeling brave and want to try this in the future, I have placed my 4 page lab on Teachers Pay Teachers at Pumpkin Launching Science & Math Exploration. It does not include directions for building the catapult, as that is not even remotely my field of knowledge, but you can google it and find zillions of ideas for creating a catapult that works for you! 



Questioning Ideas & Resources

We just wrapped up a two week focus on questioning. I've been using The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman as my read aloud and my students love it. They are so curious about "Milner" and the book has naturally lended itself to questioning. As a class, we've created five chart papers full of questions! We spent the first week of questioning focused on becoming aware of questions that we have before, during, and after reading. I made question mark cards for them to hold over their heads when they wanted to share a question, and those cards just kept popping up! It was awesome!

These will be a part of a set that I plan to post later this week.

The next week, I worked on thin and thick questions. I gave them a "skinny" question mark card on a different color of card stock. Then, when they had a question to think-aloud, they had to hold up the right card. This was challenging at first, but after talking through a lot of examples and modeling daily, I can say with confidence that my students are now questioning wizards!

To follow up after whole group practice, the students used "Roll a Question" cards that I printed on card stock I made 5 different cards, with thin and thick questions in 3, and a mix of both on the other two. My students used them during buddy reading, guided reading, and even for independent reading. They are so easy to use...all you have to do is add some dice and you've got students excited about questioning!

Don't these look fun to use? Well, I've got great news? I am posting them on TpT as a freebie for a limited time! Get it Here: Roll A Question

Get them while the getting is good! 

Oh, and don't forget to enter the giveaway and share it with others! I'm choosing not one, but two lucky winners!



The Power of the Sticky Note

It's the little things that make our students happy, isn't it? When I taught in Washington I was sitting in one of those "we're all so happy to be here" meetings and noticed that one teacher had a stack of post-it notes, and was filling out one after the other. Since I was engaged in learning easily distracted, I asked her what on Earth she was doing. She passed the notes my way. She was writing a note to each of her students to acknowledge something positive that they had done that day. She told me that she leaves them on their desks to find in the morning and some of them keep it on their desk day after day. I thought that this was a fantastic idea and began to implement it shortly after. Well, I must say, that it truly did make a difference to my students! It's funny that something so small could have such a positive impression on students, but I speak from experience when I say that it does. Now, I know what you are thinking, "When am I supposed to find the time to fill out sticky notes every day?" I don't do them every day. What I do is keep a pack of stickies on me. If I am walking around the classroom and notice that Johnny is doing a great job at __________, then I write the note as I am walking around the room and keep it with me until the students leave, then leave it on his desk to find the next morning. I don't leave one for every student every day, because I am afraid it wouldn't be as special anymore. I do keep a tally next to each student's name so that I'm sure that they are being equally distributed as well. I have one student who received two sticky notes in the first month and he proudly displays them on his desk. He's not the only one. It's amazing when little things make a big difference, isn't it?

And hey, I think my colleague was on to something. Sit in the back of the room for those meetings that are less than the most fun you've ever had, and multi-task away!

I hope that you aren't all as tired as I am at the end of a very long September. Wowzers! I think I'm really starting to feel my age these days! On that note, it's 11pm and Monday is just around the corner. Time to say goodbye for now, friends! Grab some sticky notes and make a child's day this week! You'll be glad you did!



Official Classroom Reveal

Now that the PD is over and open house is complete, I'm ready for my complete classroom reveal. I worked incredibly hard to change things up so that it wasn't the same old set up and I am extremely pleased with my outcome. Here's the official classroom reveal pics:

Outside. I had to move the owls over because we got mailboxes this year. 

My name tag from Kasefazem. Love it!

What a student will see upon entry to my classroom!

A wonderful and very crafty colleague of mine created a curtain to go over this bookshelf that holds multiple copies of guided reading books. This way I can access them for groups but the students won't get in to them before hand.

This is very similar to last year. Organized bins, lots of Peanuts posters, and my board that I got a couple of weeks in to last school year.

This is my student work board. I use sheet protectors so that I can slip their work in and out each week without stapling it up and ruining the paper each time. Because of this, I didn't even have to change my bulletin board paper this year, just the border to change things up!

My main bulletin boards and classroom library and reading area. Students love the "Opening Soon" signs. It makes them very curious about when this marvelous library will open!

Side view of the reading area. 

Side view of my desk area. I am obsessed with the idea that I will keep the space behind my desk neat and organized this year! 

Front view of my desk area. Hate those cords but that's about as ruly as I can get them to be. 

View of the front from the back. 

Last year's end of year book reports became this year's open house book preview! 

One of my favorite areas. My behavior chart, daily schedule, objectives, my clock with awesome hands (bye, bye digital clock), a Snoopy poster given to me by a very sweet colleague, and a peek the place value owls that I created!

My cubbies! I bought little containers for their extras for each cubby and put a sticker on the front with their number on it. I'm going to put photos that I take throughout the year on the decorative squares on the cupboards. Again, I have my crafty colleague to thank for the awesome curtains!

We've come full circle: my mailbox and supplies area. 

When the students came in for open house they were excited about everything that they saw, which made me feel really awesome and told me that my hard work will definitely be worth it. I can't wait to get started with them on Tuesday! 


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