Morning Routine - Read, Write, Draw or Chill

Friday, November 18, 2016
Mornings can be a tricky time - attendance and lunch count need to be taken, homework and forms need to be collected, students might be eating breakfast, and the list goes on. Mornings can get chaotic very quickly. I started this routine last year with my 5th graders and it really helps students start their day off right while allowing me to get everything situated and organized to begin the day smoothly.

My simple rule: Read, Write, Draw or Chill

1. Read - I try to give students the opportunity to read as much as possible. One of my main goals in 5th grade is to teach them the love of reading! If they want to dive back into the book they've been reading, then go for it!

Have you heard of Epic?? My students LOVE this app! I set up an account and added all my students. So many of them enjoy Epic in the morning while I'm getting everything organized!

2. Write - Again, I want to instill the love of writing for 5th graders and students buy into writing more when they can write about things they want to. We're learning about so many different genres and I want students to be able to explore those on their own time.

My students are also really into graphic novels, so they have started making their own!

3. Draw - I love giving my artists a chance to draw and create using their imagination. Several of my students LOVE this option and create sculptures out of paper or build puzzles to solve. One of my students is really into learning Japanese and has started drawing various symbols during his morning time.

4. Chill - Giving students time to just relax before the hustle and bustle of the day is just what some of them really need. They may need time to decompress, maybe try to wake up a little more, or just hang out and relax.

During this time, students are always instructed to stay at their desks. This gives the room more structure and takes away the chance for more chaos. It usually lasts about 15 minutes and works like a charm. Students know their expectations and I am ready to get started after logistical items being taken care of.

How do you run your mornings when students first come into your classroom?

WONDER: Visualizing Strategy

Thursday, October 13, 2016
As students start reading chapter books, using the visualizing strategy becomes more and more important! Students need to be able to see in their minds what the author is trying to portray. I did a quick visualizing lesson with my students using Wonder, which might be my absolute FAVORITE book ever!

The part of the book we focused on is from Via's point of view. In her section, she gives a detailed description of what Auggie looks like. The chapter is titled "August Through the Peephole".

 I started by explaining what visualizing was to the students. By 5th grade, they should know this strategy well, so this portion was quick. I told them as I read to visualize what Auggie looks like in their minds. Next, I told them that I would reread the same pages, but this time they would be drawing that picture on a blank paper.

Students did a really great job with this task. They were able to take what was in their mind and put it down on paper like their picture books do. 

How do you teach visualizing strategies to upper elementary kiddos?

Fractions Mats: FREEBIE

Monday, September 26, 2016
Teaching fractions can be TRICKY! It's difficult for students to conceptualize fractions and find their true value. I created FREE Fraction Mats with fraction strips to guide student understanding of fractions!

I printed out enough fraction mats for each student in my small groups. Then I printed each page of strips onto different colored card stock. Of course, I laminated them and cut them all (a bit of a pain, I won't lie, but so very helpful). Here you can see how students can line up the fraction strips in order to find equivalent fractions.

Students can pull out the strips of fractions they need for various problems. In the beginning of fraction lessons, I often make my students show their work using the mats to build that conceptualization of what a fraction truly means. Once students have built that, students can then show their work in different ways.

  I store the strips in the amazing photo storage container I snagged from Michaels! You can grab them HERE at Amazon too! :)

I have to say these fraction mats have made a world of difference! Grab your FREEBIE now!

Introducing My Classroom Library

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Classroom libraries can be tough to manage! Tons of books, tons of bins and so often I have to go back and reorganize the chaos! I started introducing my classroom library thoroughly at the beginning of the year so students could get a strong handle on what what types of texts were in the library, how to organize the books and how to choose just right books for them.

I start the year by only revealing a small portion of my classroom library.

During my reader's workshop mini lesson, I introduce the bins on the shelf that are uncovered. We discuss the different types of books in each bin and I pull out a couple of high interest texts from each to get students excited.

I then give each pair of students a stack of books - 1-2 books from each bin (I prep this ahead of time). Students have to look at the books with their partner and sort them by deciding which bin they would go into. The students must then come to me and give an explanation as to why they would belong in that bin before putting them away appropriately.

Once students are finished sorting, I give them a few minutes to choose books for their book box. Students then go right into independent reading practice!

Introducing my classroom library generally takes 3-4 days at the start of the school year. I go back occasionally throughout the year to reteach how to use the classroom library and show students when I've added new books - then the students can choose which bin it will go in. I also often get books that can go in more than one bin. (Example: Jackie Robinson biography can go into People and Places or American History.) Students get to decide!

How do you introduce your students to the classroom library?

Structuring Numbers to 5

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
School is out for the year and I have another month before heading back to school, but I am teaching summer school and it definitely brought me back! I taught 5th grade this past school year and LOVED the change from 2nd. This summer, I was placed in a math course for incoming 1-2 graders....big change, but lots of fun!

With the incoming 1st graders, we are working on structuring numbers to 5. I want them to understand how 5 is made in various ways. Here are a few easy, low-prep ways I've used to teach structuring numbers to 5.

Unifix Cubes to Build 5
I give students an amount of cubes 0-5 in one color. I then ask the student how many more they need to build 5. The student finds that many cubes in another color and snaps the cubes together to make 5. For example, I give them 2 and they find 3 to snap together.

Color in the Boxes
I took a regular piece of paper and folded it a few times to make boxes. In each box, I would give students an amount of a shape. They would have to finish that box by drawing in how many more they needed to make 5.

Make 5 Matching
Take Ace-4 out of a deck of cards. Put the cards facing down and have students search for pairs that make 5 (e.g. A and 4, 2 and 3). Whoever has the most pairs, wins.

Interactive Notebook Pages
You can find a great interactive notebook activity HERE using 5 frames. Students will write the equation that matches the 5 frame under the flap.

5 Frames
Print off some 5 frames - easily found on the Internet or through clip art on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can use these to discuss how many are there and how many are missing on each 5 frame. You can also flash the 5 frames to the students and they will have to tell you what they see. Below you will see students using Unifix cubes to fill in the remainder of the 5 frame to make 5.

How do you teaching structuring numbers to 5?


Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Graduation was a hit! My classroom was packed full of parents, smiles, enthusiasm and positivity! I cannot believe how fast this year flew by.

I started off graduation by giving students fun awards that described their personalities. I would give little hints about who would get each award and the students would guess! This part was so much fun! The kids were laughing, as were the parents! I found these AMAZING awards with a ton of variety from Teaching with a Mountain View on TpT. Find the awards HERE.

After the awards, I made sure to get my principal in to say a few words. She read an excerpt from a book and talked with my students about how proud we all are of them.

I also made a slideshow of the students throughout the year. I made it about 12 minutes long and put 3 songs to the background (Good Feeling, Say Hey (I Love You) and Can't Stop the Feeling). So many parents asked for the copy afterward!

To wrap everything up, I let the students and parents mingle by enjoying the ice cream sundae bar and taking pictures to the backdrop shown below. These kiddos will graduate high school in 2023, so that's what I put on the backdrop.

I also put out graduation hats that I had from high school and college if the students wanted to use them.

Graduation was a success! I am so proud of these kiddos and all the growth they have made this year. I am confident they will do some amazing things once they get to middle school next year.

Year 6 of teaching is a wrap!

Getting Started with Genius Hour

Sunday, June 5, 2016
The idea of Genius Hour...amazing. Getting started with Genius Hour...a bit daunting.

Here is a sneak peek at how I got my students engaged in what would be an incredible learning experience with high engagement and a liiiittttllle bit of teacher exhaustion :) (Well worth it!)

Here is the lowdown of the steps we took. You can find the pack in my TpT shop HERE.

I started by showing students possible ideas for Genius Hour. There are A TON of ideas on Pinterest and Google. I also have a blog post you can check out HERE to show you 10 ideas we created in our classroom.

Then I had my students start with our Genius Hour Booklet. It begins by students expressing their interests and brainstorming what could potentially be their project.

Our next step was to narrow down our brainstorming by giving 3 solid ideas on what their project could be. They chose one of those ideas and created their Genius Hour Proposal to make sure it was a realistic classroom project.

Once the proposal was approved, students got to work researching and creating. Each day they would reflect on their learning.

After the project was complete, I had my students present their project to the class. They had to complete an end of project reflection that you can find HERE.

Finally, to wrap up Genius Hour, my students wrote a persuasive piece arguing why Genius Hour was or was not a good idea for the classroom. (Hint: Every child said it was a great idea!)

Dive into Genius Hour! It is an incredible opportunity to explore their interests and almost tricking them into reading, writing, speaking and listening skills! Use this resource HERE in my TpT shop to get you started!

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10 Genius Hour Ideas

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Genius Hour was such a hit in the classroom! Student engagement was at an all-time high! The only problem - getting my students started! I had to get them to wrap their heads around what they COULD do, not had to do - a very tricky concept for some students. Here are a couple ideas to help you and your students get started!

1. Give students the opportunity to create a craft! Two of my students took this route and I already had the materials in my closet (major plus!).

2. Let students cook a meal! I brought my crockpot into the classroom and we all got a taste - it was delicious! I had another student bake a Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup - unfortunately I don't have a picture :( IT. WAS. AMAZING.

3. Another student put together a gum ball machine. It was tricky, but he worked it out!

4. A student went down to the workroom with our amazing para and learned how to use the binding machine. (I don't even know how to use it!) She had a great time and showed us all how to do it after she was finished.

5. Two students worked together to create a character from their favorite video game. They have been carrying it around ever since!

6. A student built a volcano! She spent so much time on it and after she was finished, we went outside to watch it erupt!

7. A girl in my classroom taught herself how to fold origami. All the kids were hooked and wanted her to teach them.

8. A boy in my classroom loves to build things. Here he built a boat that would float if placed in water.

9. Puppies!!! How could I say no??? This kiddo brought in his new puppy and wrote up a whole presentation about how to take care of his puppy.

 10. Another student built a sculpture of a character he enjoys. He spent so much time perfecting the details!

Hope these ideas help you and your students to get started! It was a lot of work, but such an amazing learning opportunity for them! Enjoy!

Check out my TpT shop HERE for the pack to get you going with Genius Hour! The blog post describing it all you can find HERE :)

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