Five for Friday on Saturday - Sept 20, 2014

It seems that my goal of being ready for Five for Friday on Friday isn't quite working now that the school year has begun, but thankfully my favorite linky is still open on Saturdays!

We have been really busy in the classroom, getting in to the flow of everything. I refer to myself as "September Swamped" because I'm still doing work from sun up to sun down every day, though today I am actually going to take some time for myself! It's a good busy though, I'm really enjoying my year so far and my students are super awesome, so no complaints here. I'm just not blogging and creating items as quickly as I had hoped to.

Ok, now on to my favorite weekly linky:

We've begun to work on personal narrative essays in my class and I've finally embraced what is turning out to be a really fabulous resource, The Trait Crate! I don't know why I didn't open this box up sooner. I love the resources that are included! If I know one thing, it's that I will be using everything in this box this year! If you have never used The Trait Crate, it is an awesome way to break down the traits of writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions) for students using picture books. 

Our first essay is a personal narrative. This week, I started with a discussion about ideas as I prepared my students for their brainstorm. Some of you know that I read Lucky Calkins over the summer. I loved all of her ideas, so I am pulling as much as I can in to my writing instruction. I already love writing, so teaching it is a blast for me and my students are always excited to write because I pass my love of writing on to them (or at least, that's what I tell myself). I haven't been great about consistently pulling mentor books in to my writing instruction, so it's one of my goals this year. The Trait Crate includes a few goodies, so when it came time to talk about ideas, Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street was my go-to for a read-aloud. We had a wonderful discussion about seeing stories in everything we do. When I read the story aloud, I asked students to consider the advice that Eva receives about her writing.  They quickly saw how the advice she receives could help them as well. We talked about how Eva takes matters in to her own hands to fully create the story. I explained that I want them to be just like Eva, starting with small idea (a seed) and growing the story from there. After our discussion, they were excited to return to their seats and get started with their brainstorm. Happy writers = happy teacher!

My students received their first pen pal letters this week. I am so thrilled to be paired with Aimee from Ms. Fifth Grade. My students are so excited about their pen pals and it makes them want to write even more. Woohoo! I'm sensing a theme here…are we going to be excited for writing all year? Yes! Yes!

A huge shout-out to Kelley from Teacher Idea Factory for the hours that she put in to matching up bloggers for this wonderful pen pal experience. We are already loving it and we've only swapped one letter. Thank you, Kelley, for a wonderful pen pal match-up! 

I MUST shout out this awesome resource that I found this week. Deb Hanson has tons of wonderful resources in her TpT store. This week, as I began to think about reading groups, I was looking for something for our "buddy read" or "book talk" time that would be great for fluency too. We have lots of reader's theater, but when I want two students reading together, there are far too many characters for them to handle. Last week, I bought Types of Sentences Task Cards from Deb so I thought I'd head back to her store and see what she had. I swear a did a little celebration dance when I found these awesome partner plays, which are PERFECT for my buddy read time. My students will read the play, switch parts, and then read it again. I also have Voice Cards that I purchased so that they reread the same parts using different voices.  We practiced with these on Thursday and my students LOVE them already! I couldn't be happier with this fantastic find! 

I worked out my reading groups! It took me about 4 hours, but they are done, just in time for me to have found out that I need to change them again due to pull out form our reading specialist! But you know, I'm just laughing it off right now, because I know I'm still swimming in the September seas so I'm ready and willing to be flexible! I plan to do a full post about these in just a couple of days! Of course, you know I made all of my groups based on Snoopy! My groups are Joe Cool, Snooperman (Snoopy as a superhero), Red Baron, and Snoopy. My students love these groupings! 

We've been deep in discussion about The Scientific Method and I love to wrap our week up with a hands-on activity f, so I was super excited when I found this activity from Mixing it up in Middle:

I prepped everything and spent a bit of time talking to students about how they should consider the steps to the scientific method. I presented them with a question: How can you build the tallest tower in the classroom? Then I asked them to research it by having a discussion about what they all know (schema) and putting their brains together to draw out a plan and  come up with a hypothesis. After about 10 minutes of planning, I set them off to experiment, and they worked for about 30 minutes, with a lot of trial and error. They worked so well together, though! They were encouraging, patient, and had great communication. I am so proud of them! We had varying levels of success with some standing on their own for my measurement, but falling down just a few seconds later, but our highest one was 35.56 cm! 

Here's some pictures from our lab:

Here were some of the plans: 

I love this one because it shows that each lab group member got to share their idea!

Work in progress:

It was great fun for all. On Monday, we will debrief and connect our work to the scientific method. Then we'll start to discuss variables! I'm sure that the students will have ideas for what they might want to change on this experiment! I'm all for trying it again and changing a variable because I have 5 boxes of pasta and 3 bags of marshmallows left. To say that I overbought would be a bit of an understatement! :-)

Wishing you all a wonderful, relaxing weekend!



Lego Back to School Bulletin Board

So I'm swimming in back to school stuff, but I'm not complaining, it's kind of nice being back to busy. We had our back to school night last week and it was a great success. I really think it's going to be a great year!

I'm also celebrating having 1,500 likes and growing on Mrs. O "Knows" Facebook Page! I'm giving away my top 10, not all to one person, but over the course of 2 days with 10 totally random trivia questions. Keep an eye out for these fun giveaways all weekend!

I also realized that I had failed to share our Back to School Lego bulletin board that we put up in our hallway. My partner teacher and I really wanted to create something different and Legos are so big right now that we decided this would be a fun and original way to welcome students back! Students give it two thumbs up! Now to think about our October board...

I hope that you are having a relaxing weekend or are at least in the comfort of your sweatpants and hoodie as you work on your many teacher to-do's!



See, Run, Do - A Communication Focused Team Building Activity for Back to School

A few years ago, during one of our professional development sessions, we did an activity called "See, Run, Do". It was an excellent team-building activity to reinforce the idea of how important it is to work together and  effectively communicate. I remember thinking that it would be perfect as a back to school activity. As I was cleaning out some old files in preparation for a new year, I came across my notes from this activity. I decided this was the year to try "See, Run, Do" in my classroom. 

I put students in groups of 3 or 4. Each student received an index card (or printable card included below) that said see, run, or do. I asked the group to consider who might be strong in drawing so I could give that person the do card. For those students that had 4 in their group, two students received a "do" card. Each group received one piece of white construction paper and a set (one of each color) of crayons, markers, or colored pencils (their choice).

I then explained the activity to students:
"Today, we are going to need to work as a team. I have placed a picture in the hallway. In a moment, the person in each group with the "see" card is going to be allowed to look at that picture. They will need to think about what they see in that picture carefully because they will be the only person who will see it."
Cue the gasps!

I went on to tell students that the "run" person will have to meet the "see" person at a designated area. The "run" person is not allowed to be anywhere in the view of the picture. When the "run" person meets the "see" person, it will be their job to tell them what they see. The "run" person will then take that information back to the "do" person, who will be waiting in the classroom with the supplies, ready to draw what the runner tells them. The "runner" will be allowed to go back and forth between the "see" person and the "do" person as many times as they can in a 10 minute period. I did not let my students actually run, so I was explicit in telling them that even though they are called the "run" person, they would be walking briskly instead. 

I did give one piece of advice: I told the "see" students that they should think about delivering a small piece of information each time so that it's easy for the "run" student to remember.

After 10-15 minutes, all students came back to their groups and the "see" students shared the picture with their group. They compared their drawings to the pictures that were drawn by the "do" students. Here's what they came up with: 

Some students were disappointed that their drawings weren't closer to the actual picture. I made my way around to each group and asked if each could identify at least five details that they had correct and each one was able to. We had a discussion about why communication and teamwork were important to the success of this activity.I told them that they needed to be proud of their communication and that five was a great accomplishment and the direct result of awesome teamwork! 

In all honesty, my 27 students did a really fantastic job! I heard zero arguments and saw a display of teamwork that was truly impressive for a group of children who had only been together for 3 days. I made it a point to compliment them on their communication and teamwork. I think we've set a really great tone for the school year! 

I found the cartoon picture here: Cartoon Classroom

If you'd like to grab the printable see, run, do cards, click on the image below. Print on colored paper to make them colorful.


Five for Friday on Saturday - First Friday of the 2014-2015 School Year

Ok, so it's Saturday and I'm a little late to the party, but hey, better late than never, right?  It's time to link up with:

for another fabulous: 

Lots of back to school goodness going on this week! I have officially begun my tenth year of teaching! 

Seriously, I think I was awake every hour on the hour! The night before the first day of school never gets any easier! So many unknowns, so many what-ifs, too many checklists running through my mind! By the time I "woke up", I was a nervous wreck! 

We started off the week with this awesome Getting to Know My Teacher Powerpoint Activity from The Techie Teacher where students predicted the answers to different questions about me. It was a great way to share a bit about myself. The students were engaged because they wanted to know if their predictions were right and I loved hearing their guesses for each one! This will now be a staple back to school activity for me!

Students participated in an activity called Toothpaste Words. In this activity, students work in groups and are first given a tube of toothpaste and told to squeeze out as much as they can. After about 5 minutes, they are given toothpicks and told that they need to put all of that toothpaste back in! After we clean up our mess, students return to their seats. We then have a very honest discussion about words that are hurtful and I put them all on the board (except the really bad ones). This year, my students shared more than 50 words that had hurt their feelings at one time or another. Once we had our list, I labeled them "Toothpaste Words" and asked students to consider if they had used one before. I asked what happened when we tried to put all of the toothpaste back in. Students quickly realized how this represents that once we have said something negative, it is hard to take it back, just as it was hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube. We talked about how our words can really make a difference and that we want to be remembered for positive actions. This has always been a powerful activity during the first week. It really gets students thinking about their words and actions.

This summer I stocked up on new books. By the time students are in fifth grade, they've already heard First Day Jitters and How I've Spent My Summer Vacation, so I wanted something else that would get us off to a good start. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is perfect for a first read-aloud because it's about knowing that it's ok to make a mistake. I always tell students that they are human, they will make mistakes. I also tell them that I am human, and I make at least one mistake a day (I must get tongue-tied at least 5 times a day). Reading this aloud naturally led to a discussion about how our classroom needs to be a place where we feel like it's acceptable to make mistakes. We talked about how important it is to never make anyone feel uncomfortable because they've made a mistake. Another win! 

When students needed a break from my talking about rules, expectations, and all that jazz, I let them color. But I didn't let them color just anything. I found these wonderful Quotes Coloring Sheets at Doodle Art Alley. I love to display as much student-created work as possible because I want students to feel like it is their classroom, not MY classroom. This gave me an easy way to decorate my cupboards with positive messages that are personalized by each student! I could not be happier with the outcome!

I'm happy to report that it was a wonderful first week and that my group is AWESOME! I just know we're going to have a fantastic year!



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