Genre Pic Collages

Sunday, December 3, 2017
Bringing technology into your lessons is a great way to build engagement! My students were learning about genres of fiction, so I chose to show them how to use the Pic Collage app for our content. Pic Collage is a great tool to use to quickly show learning. Pic Collage Kids is our go-to option though - filtered ads, but does cost money!
Each student was given a genre on a card. It was a secret and they were to keep it to themselves. Then each student had to find 4-5 pictures to put into a collage that represented their genre. Students could take pictures around the classroom, pull from the internet, etc. However my rules were NO words and NO book covers! You can see an example of fantasy in the image above.

After they submitted their collages to me, I displayed them on the board and we all guessed each other's genre. They had a lot of fun and came up with some great ideas!

Pic Collage Kids is a great app to use in any content area! I encourage you to try it with kids. They love it, plus it's an added quick assessment tool you can use to see if students understand the content you're teaching!




Teaching the Columbian Exchange

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
American history in 5th grade is one of my favorite things to teach! We don't always have a ton of time to dive deep into our social studies and science, so I put together some resources I use every year to teach the Columbian Exchange and the New World Explorers. Check them out below!
1. Encounter by Jane Yolen
Encounter is a great read aloud to do with your class at any point during the unit. It is a picture book that tells a story about an explorer coming to the New World and the exchanges he had with the native people. It's a very powerful book that kids get really into! Grab it on Amazon HERE.

2. Brain Pop: Columbian Exchange
Brain Pop has a great, short video about the Columbian Exchange.

3. Flocabulary: Discovering America
Do you have a Flocabulary account? It's $99 for a year subscription, which can definitely be pricey and some of the videos can be found on YouTube, but my students and I absolutely love it. We watch the videos for almost every content area and it has really good, catchy tunes that stick with the kids. Discovering America is a great Flocabulary video we play a number of times throughout the unit.

4. New World Explorer Research
I created some research pages for 10 well-known explorers of the New World. In the research, students are looking for information related to where they're from, where they explored, what they were looking for and if their journey was successful. You can find those research pages HERE.

5. European Explorers Dice Simulation
Have you checked out the dice simulations from Teaching in the Fast Lane? I have bought more than 5 for various content areas. My students absolutely love them! She created a great one for the explorers and their journey to the New World. Grab it HERE.

6. New World Explorers Reader's Theater
I also wrote a reader's theater for the interaction between the explorers and the indigenous people of the New World. The students get really into it and make props, costumes, and scenes. It's such a great way for students to get a better understanding of how it all took place. You can check that out HERE. I usually spend 3-4 days on this activity with practice and performances. It's a great tool to incorporate into your literacy block as well.

7. "I Will Fight No More Forever" Speech
The speech by Chief Joseph is really powerful and depicts a strong message from the Native American perspective. You can find the speech HERE. You can use it for whole group, close reading, or small group instruction.

8. Crop Exchange Simulation
The Columbian Exchange did create some positive exchanges of crops and goods. Students can see where some of the common crops and goods that we use and eat every day came from by using the crop exchange simulation found HERE.

9. Writing Prompt/Project
To wrap up the unit, I ask the question: What impact did the explorers have on the New World? With this project, students are directed to create some sort of project that depicts the answer to this question. They also are required to write a minimum of one paragraph that explains their project and what they learned. The project guidelines and rubrics I use are linked up HERE.

Upper Elementary Snapshots also has a great list of resources and activities you can use to teach the Columbian Exchange. Check it out HERE!

How do you teach the Columbian Exchange and New World Explorers in your classroom?



The BEST Planning Move I Made!

Friday, November 17, 2017
It was the end of the first quarter and the other 5th grade teacher and I sat down to do some planning. Both of us sat there overwhelmed, a bit frustrated and tired. Just straight up tired. We wanted to be innovative, we wanted to try new things, we wanted to enhance our curriculum, but we just couldn't find the time. Then we said, wouldn't it be nice if we could just take one thing off our plate? Well, we did. And it is amazing!



We immediately called down our administrator (who is so supportive) and asked her - what did she think about me taking over reading and my partner taking over math? We would align our schedules to make it work, give the 5th graders a middle school feel and divide and conquer. Of course, she said yes!

We took about a week to get ready. I organized my room to be more reading focused and she designed hers to be more math focused. I gave her all my math materials and she gave me all her reading materials. We prepped the kids, told them the routine and procedures for how it was going to look and feel, then dove in! We teach our own classrooms every morning our respective subjects. Before leaving for recess/lunch, all the 5th graders put their materials on the top shelf of their lockers for their afternoon class. After lunch, the students gather their materials then travel to the opposite classroom - they don't even have to stop in their own classroom at all. It's seamless and smooth. And the best part...the kids LOVE it!

Since starting, I cannot express enough how much better I feel! We both still teach writing, language and content (however, I try to incorporate content into our literacy as much as possible), but just taking math off my plate has been incredible. I feel focused, excited, innovative and I am feeling the results after just a few short weeks! I am on my game, I can focus my energy and my students are making gains! I had some hesitations in the beginning because I do really enjoy teaching math. However, after just a few weeks of this schedule switch, I'm wondering why we didn't think of this sooner!



Rights of a Reader

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
After reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer (which I HIGHLY recommend), I wanted to start the year off fostering a love of reading. I really wanted my students to take ownership of their reading, choose their own books and fall in love with our independent reading time. I used some of what Donalyn shared in her book and chose 10 Rights of a Reader. 
At the beginning of the year, I share these rights with the students and we briefly discuss them. Then throughout the year, I revisit and discuss the different elements so students are very aware of what they are able to do during our independent reading time. You can find the posters HERE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! The blank letters are also available, as well as white background versions for easier printing.

I love having these displayed in my classroom above my classroom library for students to reference so they know they are readers and have rights in their reading habits!



Displaying Student Work + FREEBIE

Monday, October 16, 2017
I always make sure I'm displaying student work in my classroom, as does about every teacher, right? We are really focusing on building grit and growth mindset in my classroom, so I wanted to tie a quote with the student work display. I created the quote Grit + Growth = Success on my board to make sure that students understand how important grit and growth are! You can find the words for FREE HERE.

The options for work to display are completely up to you! On this board below, I post my students' Moby Max badges they have earned throughout the school year. You could post writing samples, math achievements, reading goals, etc!
You can print however works best for your classroom. I printed each word on different colored card stock. You could also laminate if you plan on keeping them for the long haul. Hope you find them useful for your classroom :)



Student Autobiographies + FREEBIE

Sunday, October 1, 2017
My favorite beginning of the year writing project is student autobiographies! It builds community in my classroom, builds writing stamina and is high interest.
Before my students write their autobiography, I give them a planning page to start writing ideas. You can find the planning page for FREE HERE! I make sure to tell them to include more if they want! Also, some students don't want to include all the information on the planning page and that is okay, too! The planning page just gets them to start thinking about what to include and organize their writing.

Now, after the planning page is completed, I make sure to tell them that I expect an organized 5 paragraph autobiography. Most of my students use the headings from the planning page to help them, while others are able to change theirs to make it their own. The planning page really just helps them get started and stay organized in their piece!

Once we're done editing their autobiography, I trace their silhouette on a blank white piece of paper. You can easily do this by turning on your projector, have them stand in front of your board to make a shadow, tell them to stand very still (hard for some :)) and trace away. I chose to cut my students' silhouettes out to prevent noses being cut off, etc. Then I gave them stacks of magazines and told them to find pictures to create a collage that represented them. They had so much fun with this! Students started recommending ideas to other people or would ask the whole group if someone liked pizza because they found a picture of a pizza - it was super fun! Once students finished, I cut off the extra edges (turn the silhouette over and you can easily see if any of the pictures are overlapping) and then I had them use their favorite color to color in the white spaces if there were any.

The finished products are perfect for right outside my classroom for the first quarter! So many teachers, parents and students have walked by to take a look! Such a great start to the school year!




Mindfulness in the Classroom

Saturday, September 30, 2017
Do you use mindfulness in your classroom? This is one of my favorite times of the day. We switch it up, try new things and it's still a work in progress, but I'm learning more each time. Here is how I got started and a few resources you can use in your classroom!
First, we talked about what mindfulness is and why we should practice it. I found this great YouTube video you can find HERE that has kids explaining mindfulness. I thought this was really engaging for them. We spent some time talking about how it calms your body and rebuilds your brain. We also talked about how it takes time to practice and get really good at it.

Now, the first time was hard - for me and for them. I felt uncomfortable leading their mindfulness the first time, so I found this great website that plays recordings for your students. Check it out HERE! It is honestly a lifesaver and really helpful. There are a lot of different options!

I also purchased a few books on mindfulness for kids! My first recommendation would be Cultivating Mindfulness in the Classroom. Find it HERE on Amazon! It gives you TONS of options and lessons you can quickly implement in your classroom! My second recommendation would be the Mind Up Curriculum you can find HERE. Make sure to check for your grade level because they have different texts for different grades. This resource really teaches students how their brain works and how we can rewire our brain.

Another resource I use is Go Noodle! They have some amazing mindfulness videos that show up right in the categories to practice breathing techniques.

Finally, we have a mindfulness bell that I like to use with students when we only have a few minutes to practice. I ring the bell (in the picture above) and students spend time listening and being mindful of the sound. I usually ring it 3-4 times depending on how much time we have. I grabbed mine off Amazon HERE.

I have loved implementing mindfulness into my classroom and the kids love it too. It doesn't need to take 20 minutes a day and doesn't need to be scheduled lessons. You get to decide how often to bring it into the classroom! Even 1-2 minutes a day can make an impact! It's a really great way to help students regulate their emotions and feelings, as well as helps them refocus on our content and my teaching. Truthfully, it's been really great for me to practice as well!

I encourage you to try it and know there is no wrong way to practice mindfulness!



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