Saturday, March 31, 2012

Symbiosis & The Beatles... Who knew?!

I have been down for the count today. I have a sinus infection that is making my teeth feel like they're ready to fall out and my neck is so swollen that I cannot turn my head. Oy! In an attempt to focus on something other than my own personal misery. I went on a journey through some of the songs I've written for my class. Music is one of my favorite ways to teach topics which are a little mundane and/or a tricky to remember.
I wrote this one to discuss the different simbiotic relationships in nature; mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. I don't know what it is about 5th graders, but each year I have a group of Beatles-fans so when I wrote this one I knew I'd have a few kids hooked immediately. Forgive the singing, when we're singing it as a class it's not nearly as embarassing for me, but when I'm sitting in room listening to myself sing, hearing my voice echo off of my living room walls, its a bit overwhelming. Enjoy!

Mrs. J


Friday, March 30, 2012

Yes, We Can!

The week's goals are written in "We can..."
statements using student-friendly language.
I teach at a school in Northeast Tennessee and our state was the first to be given one of the "Race to the Top" grants from the federal government. With that, of course, comes the Common Core Standards. Now, we will not be switching over to the common core standards quite yet in the 5th grade, but we are trying to get into the habit of putting our standards in "I can/We can" student-friendly statements. To me this is not much different from posting my Essential Questions on the board from when I worked in a Learning Focused school, but it does take some time to get them all done (especially in a self-contained fifth grade class). I had been writing them on my white board, but I have very limited white board space and I hated giving half of it up for "We can..." statements. I had a bulletin board next to my door that had other information on it that didn't need to be right there so I spent some time over our track break to rearrange/redo my boards and made a goal board.
Vocabulary is highlighted and intentionally
used in instruction
Under each subject I hung a plastic page protector so I can slide the goal sheets in and out (and hopefully preserve the standards statements for next year). Students put "exit ticket" sticky notes on the appropriate spot, put a sticky with a question on it if clarification is needed (similar to the parking lot idea through Responsive Classroom). Have I mentioned how much I love sticky notes??

We've been back a week now and I've been loving it! Before kids would bump up against the board and smudge the goals (or just erase them entirely) and this makes it have a much more prominent feeling in the room and in turn make them have a higher importance.

Until next time!!
Mrs. J

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

This classroom is brought to you by.... Post-its!

Today was a bummer of a day. I teach at a year-round school and our track break begins at 3:01PM tomorrow afternoon. We will then be out of school until Monday, March 26th. It's awesome and I REALLY appreciate the breaks mid-year. This is the time of year however, when the TCAP is lurking in the not too distant future, the thought of sending my students away from me for three weeks is down-right terrifying. There's always a little lapse in achievement when they return (but far less than over a 2.5 month summer break) and I simply do not have time for it!!

I find when I get too stressed out over this I tend have zero patience which is a bad thing when you work with 11 year-old children. I feel bad immediately after I snap and I do try to make amends immediately if I think I was too short with someone. I have to keep chanting to myself, "It'll all work out. It'll all work out. I felt like this last year and it all worked out. Breathe. Breathe." 

Ugh... moving on!

I was wondering the other day if the Post-It company would be willing to sponsor my classroom.  Any one out there with connections??  We use post-its for everything! A new thing that we've been doing this year is using post-its when we are reading to record our thoughts. It all started because I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller over the summer track-break and decided to take a few baby steps towards a more free reading environment. Reading is thinking and we're just making our thoughts more visible.

"LOL-ing while reading and finding
figurative language!
<Rabbit-Trail>: I don't like reading a method book and throwing out everything that I've been doing to dive into a new system without really getting my toes, then feet, then shins, etc. wet first. I've worked under administrators that got distracted by something shiny at a conference and came back with yet another program for us to use on top of the preexisting programs which became overwhelming and watered down the effectiveness of the other thirty-odd programs in place. So, I've picked the parts that I could see fitting into my reading program and will tweak for next year. This is one of the reasons I love being at a lab school. I get to experiment and figure out what works for my class. I'm rarely given a mandate of "you must" or "thou shalt use this <fill in the blank> program". It's nice. 

Well, we of course model this post-it thinking at the beginning of the year for a few weeks during read aloud and/or during our reading groups and then the students take ownership and finally they are introduced to their reading journals (I'll share about those later).
Analyzing character motivation
& making predictions
Student can note:
1. Thoughts
2. Feelings

3. Personal Connections
4. Interesting language (figurative language, etc)

5. Things they liked, hated, laughed at
6. Predictions
7. Pretty much anything else that comes to mind while reading. 

Reading is thinking!!
You can put the mini post-it notes on your school supply list, but I just grab one of those huge packs of them at Sam's club. They're usually $8-9 for 20 pads and I split each pad up. At the regular supply store you'll pay $4-5 for 6 or 7 pads.

Getting your kids to make connections and relate to characters is what reading is all about. I have found that it has helped with test-prep as well because the kiddos have been thinking critically all year making predictions, inferences, etc. It's enough to make a teacher tear up!

Hopefully I survive Seuss Day with three classroom birthdays AND it's the last day before break... here goes nothing!!!

Mrs. J

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