Mentor Texts for Ecosystems and Human Impact on the Earth

Thursday, October 29, 2015
We are just finishing up our unit on ecosystems in 5th grade, so I wanted to share a few great mentor texts I used. These texts really talk about the effect humans have on ecosystems and the environment.

Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg: You can find it on Amazon here. The book tells the story of a boy who travels to different places in his dream noticing how badly humans have ruined the planet. He learns a lesson throughout the book that we need to take care of the earth or else our future will be in trouble.

A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry: You can find it on Amazon here. This book talks about a beautiful and resourceful river the Nashua Indians used. After excessive human impact, the river became severely polluted and ruined the surrounding ecosystem. The story also tells about how people came together and chose to clean up the river to renew its resources to the surrounding community.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry: You can find it on Amazon here. This books begins with a man going into the forest to cut down a tree. The animals of the forest try to convince him not to cut down the tree and give several reasons why.

These mentor texts have great extending lessons that can be used as well!

Organizing Your Classroom Library: WITH A FREEBIE!

Friday, October 23, 2015
Happy Friday everyone!

Organizing your classroom library can be a huge task! When I moved into my new classroom this year in a new grade, I did what I could to make it work for the time being knowing I would tackle it when I had more time.

Teaching 5th grade, I knew my students could help! I had the students go through the books (sooooooooo many of them) and find some common themes. They would put those books into a pile with a Post-It labeling what the pile was about. It could be a genre we've been discussing, a topic, an author, etc. They did all the work which was really fun and engaging for the kids! Now they have so much ownership over the library and were able to touch so many more books.

Because I had so many books and love having a lot of space for my students to move around in the classroom, I had a great idea! My principal was on board and my amazing custodial staff made it happen.

I have extra storage under my windows (I am an ANTI pack rat), so we took the sliding doors off and it's a perfect spot for the books! It opens up my classroom so much!

Here are a couple of the bin labels my students came up with.

They also chose to make bins with books on topics that we'll be studying this year, such as ecosystems.

The kids had a great time with this project. I wish I had a before picture to show the thousands of books laid across my room.

Now for the FREEBIE, here are the labels I used for my classroom library. I also brainstormed label ideas with a coworker for her classroom library as well so you have more to choose from if you'd like! Enjoy!

Exploration Station

Sunday, October 11, 2015
Playing is learning!

Teachers have so much content to teach and curriculum to follow, but allowing students time to play is so worth it!

This year, I have implemented a new time we call Exploration Station. I am not able to fit it in every day, but we try to schedule it in as much as possible. Also, if my students get through some required work early, as a class, we dive into our play! The only rule we have is no technology! My students are on technology all day, so I want them to experience some play without screen time.

Students build such amazing skills through this time. They're able to build imagination and creativity. They work collaboratively with peers. Students are building relationships and working on speaking to one another appropriately. These are just a few of the amazing reasons why we play in the classroom.

Here are some examples of things we do during our Exploration Station.

Board games are a great way for students to build strategic skills. Instead of playing Connect Four, sometimes students just want to build patterns with the pieces.

Kids LOVE Legos! They're able to build and work on that creativity and imagination.

I found this connectors at Target in the Dollar Spot! I bought 3-4 packs of them and the students build creations through patterns. Such a cheap and easy way to incorporate engineering and math into the Exploration Station.

These are Magna Tiles that can be a bit pricey. I was fortunate to have them left in my classroom from the previous teacher. You can definitely go through Donors Choose to get an item like this or save up your Scholastic Reading Club points to try to score them that way.

I also allow students to use their art supplies. We have supplies in the classroom and I allow them to use my paper (usually the ugly colors I don't like from packs I buy :)). They cut, glue, color and end up creating amazing pop-out cards, slinks, etc.

It's pretty amazing what these students can do given the time to practice these skills. Give those kiddos time to PLAY!

Double-Digit Addition Mental Math Strategies

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
As teachers, we are all guilty of teaching math in a procedural way - I know I am! So, how can we teach math in a more exploratory way that builds mental math skills? Last year I changed the way I teach double-digit addition with my second graders and I'll never go back to the standard algorithm. I'm finding that my second graders that I taught last year have stronger mental math strategies than my 5th graders, so to start this year, we're going backwards and that's okay! Why teach multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals when they are still struggling with the WHY of regrouping and place value?!?

Here are a few strategies I use to help build mental math skills that gives students a true understanding of place value and regrouping.

First, I pose a problems for the students on a white board with manipulatives they can use if they choose.

Here is a picture of popsicle sticks that I put into bundles using hair ties - rubber bands always seem to break. Some popsicle sticks are singles as well. For this problem, students take out 28 popsicle sticks and take out 64 more. Then the students will be able to add them together. Eventually students will bundle the new groups of 10 as well instead of counting all the ones.

When students are moving past the stage of manipulatives, they can begin conceptualizing the numbers through jumping or splitting. Here is an example of a student splitting. He understands place value enough to split the numbers and add them together. This builds mental math strategies!

Finally this strategy easily transfers into triple digit addition problems.

Here are just a few tips on how to start building mental math strategies in the classroom!

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