Monday, December 21, 2015

ITeachTVNetwork Episode-How to Build Your Classroom Library

I LOVE walking into book stores. The feel, smell, and sight of new books and unknown stories makes me HAPPY!

That feeling that I get when I walk into a Barnes and Nobles is the SAME feeling that I want my kiddos to feel when they walk into our classroom library. Here are some quick tips and thoughts to help you spice up your classroom library and make it a magical, calming, and happy place from my show on the ITeachTVNetwork

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Make Social Studies Fun Part 1

Social Studies can be a hard subject to teach. Not many kiddos just LOVE learning about history, and our new TN standards are HARD...good but HARD! :) So, I have been adding as many simulations as possible to our learning curriculum.

A huge shout out goes to the TPT seller The Sweetest Thing for her massive unit on Westward Expansion. This activity came from a part of her unit. If you teach 4th/5th grade SS then you want to own this bundle!

The students had spent a lot of time before this unit discussing the WHY of Westward Expansion. Why did we move west? What were some causes for our expansion? And so on. After they had a good understanding of the "why", we moved on to the "how". There is an amazing History Channel documentary out there that discusses the Transcontinental Railroad beautifully. I highly recommend purchasing this DVD to go with it. It really helped my students with comprehending just how big of a deal this railroad was and how difficult it was to build it.

We had a blast! I brought in a train whistle, wore a conductor hat, bought too many marshmallows, and just had a crazy good time.  

The students were assigned to a railroad and had to brainstorm how to build the railroad quickly. 

Next year, I am going CRAZY on the mountain ranges. I played it too safe this year. :) Watch out next year! 

Overall, the kiddos did a great job. Being able to learn about why the railroad was needed and how it was going to impact Westward Expansion was assisted by creating this simulation in class! 

Check back soon for part 2 where I share how we brought the Gold Rush to our classroom! 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

How We "Do" Book Raffles

I am so excited to finally put together this post! Book raffles have truly inspired readers in my classroom, and I am so thankful for the inspiration from some of my favorite bloggers who encouraged me to add this tradition to my classroom this year. My only regret is not doing it sooner. 

Before you read this post...PLEASE know that you can add book raffles to your classroom NO MATTER WHAT grade you teach. ALL students can benefit from this exciting reading/learning activity. 

One of my biggest goals this year was to help create a community of readers-students who wanted to read without me telling them to, who shared what they were reading with others, who got up in front of the class to give their feedback on their book to their classmates, and who would beg me to buy new books over and over again. 

There have been a lot of ways that I have been working hard to make this goal a reality and book raffles has been one of those ways. 

What do you do with all of your new books that you buy, find, or have donated to your classroom? Do you just place them on the shelf or do you actually show them to your kiddos and talk about their new reading choices? While you may not be able to do a book talk on every book, I encourage you to host frequent book raffles to help introduce your students to the new books being added to the shelves and add excitement to getting to read the new materials. 

What is a book raffle? A book raffle is an activity that should help ignite a passion for reading in the classroom and beyond. The teacher "raffles" off the new books to students by doing book talks on each of the books, letting each student place a vote in the cup of the book they want to read, and then drawing a name and picking a student to read the book first. 

 How do I pick the books?
I try to pick a mixture each time that includes book titles that the students have requested, nonfiction texts on topics that interest my students, my personal favorites from now or my childhood, or popular texts/classics recommended by Scholastic, our librarians, etc. 

Don't worry about the grade/ability level!
This is just a personal opinion, but I don't generally worry about the grade level of the books in my classroom. I don't want to ever discourage a student from reading a book because it is "too hard" or "too easy" for them. I help students learn how to pick "good fit" books and then help them out when needed. 

All students should participate with equal opportunity!
All students in my classroom get the opportunity to participate in the raffle. I don't punish students and prevent them from reading, and all students only get one vote. This is again a personal preference, but I want to encourage reading...not discourage students from books!

Books Raffles are a BIG DEAL!
Book Raffle days are HUGE in my classroom. I may shout, dance, sing, jump on tables, kiss name it! We have drum rolls on desks, chant, and celebrate when students' names are drawn. I want students to buy in to the hype of reading the book!

I am very fortunate to have received some donations to help my classroom so I try to do book raffles every 2-3 weeks. You could do one once a month if that fits your schedule better! 

Number of Books
I have two classes(one in the morning and one group in the afternoon) so I try to do 6-8 books per class. 

Book Talks
I provide a book talk on each book. Some are done by me because I have read the book personally, sometimes students may do the book talk if they have already read the book, I find videos of others doing book talks on our book raffle choices, and sometimes I may just read the book jacket. However I share the book, I make sure that it is EXCITING! 

Winning the Raffle
The student whose name is drawn from the cup gets the honor of reading the book first before it gets put on the classroom book shelf. We always celebrate this! I also encourage the student who gets to read the book first to share his/her thoughts on the book with the class when finished with the book. 

NOW...what are you waiting for!?!? Go try this in your classroom! I promise that you will not regret it! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween Fun

I have a slight confession to make---I DESPISE the holiday Halloween. I don't enjoy being scared, and I really don't like all of the icky costumes that come with the holiday. However, after hearing about how excited my 5th graders were about Halloween this year, I knew that I had to do something at school to bring a little bit of the holiday magic into our classroom.

 For the entire week, I kept making little comments to my students reminding them that I would not be at school on Friday afternoon. It meant that I would miss their Fall Festival/Party, but I promised them I would make them something yummy and leave it behind for the sub to share with them.

Actually, I had NO plans for getting a sub for the afternoon. When I dropped my kiddos off to lunch on Friday, I rushed back to my room, threw up some decorations, projected my video on the smart board, mixed together our Witches' Brew snack, turned on the scary music and turned off the lights, and dressed into costume.

When I picked the students up from lunch, I had turned into the (not so scary looking) substitute, Ms. Krimpke. The students followed me back to the classroom and opened up to the door to a wall of cobwebs, darkness, flickering candles, and scary music. 

The students were laughing and giggling as they found their seats. I played my video message for them letting them know that I loved them all dearly and was sad to be missing the party. I also told them that they needed to be kind and helpful to their sub, Ms. Krimpke as she wasn't used to dealing with small children.

After the short video, we began our directed drawing of our haunted Halloween mansion thanks to Art for Kids Hub. I stayed in character for a while and then we ate our witches' brew and drank our witches' snot for our afternoon snack. 

We had a blast, and I really loved hearing the kiddos say they had fun. It was just enough Halloween magic to spice things up in our classroom! Here is a video of my Periscope that I did right after school was out on Friday. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Encouraging Students to Take Action of Their Learning

It is not always easy teaching ELA and Social Studies in an hour and thirty minutes. In fact, I have had to get REALLY creative in figuring out how to blend it all together. It is also not always easy to make things that aren't interesting..."interesting" but, that doesn't mean it is impossible! In fact, it CAN be done, and one of the keys to making your classroom learning environment successful and engaging is by encouraging students to take control of their own learning experiences. I started by taking a lot of the weight off of my shoulders and encouraging my students to "take action" of their own learning. 

I realized that I needed to make sure that I was bringing high energy, rigorous, and relevant tasks to my students even when the topics were not always exciting for every student. For example--5th grade students in the state of TN are required to know about Brooks' attack on Sumner. In 1856, when tensions between the North and South were higher than ever, state representative Preston Brooks attacked Senator Charles Sumner due to a disagreement that happened during a Congressional session. I literally had NO idea how I was going to teach this to my students. Then, my amazing teammate suggested having the students make videos summarizing the event. His suggestion turned into the following activity.

I did a short mini lesson on the topic of Brooks' Attack, and then I was ready to support my students as they made this learning experience their own. Our reading skill for the week was asking and answering questions, students were continuing to practice how to create strong, meaty sentences, and we were continuing to focus on our conversation and communicational skills. All of these skills, combined with the Social Studies content, helped me put together a "Breaking News" lesson. Here is a quick breakdown of the activity. 

We reviewed the 6 questioning words, watched some examples of news broadcasts, and then the students got to work. The only tool that I supplied for them ahead of time was a graphic organizer to place their information on and help them collect their thoughts. You can find that graphic organizer by clicking here. They had to write their own broadcast scripts, determine the order in which their information needed to be presented(you can't talk about why before you establish the who, what, when, and where), and practice their script several times with their partner so that they were not reading straight from their paper when it came time to tape their broadcast. They had two days to complete this task.

Students were in charge of all the little details as well. While one group was behind the news desk acting as reporters, one student was in charge of filming, and another student was in charge of cueing the music(find neat news-y music here)

That may seem simple...but it was a lot of work for the students, and they can tell you ALL about Brook's Attack, what it represented, why there was tension between the North and the South, and how this specific event added to the aggression between political parties before the Civil War. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

GoNoodle's Back to School Blogger Blitz

Friends!!! I am obsessed with GoNoodle, and I just CAN'T quit talking about how awesome they are!! Want to find out what makes GoNoodle so #awesome? Join me and some fabulous bloggers for a..........

If you have followed my teaching journey then you know that GoNoodle has been so good to me. From visiting GoNoodle headquarters in Nashville to winning the GoNoodle makeover contest, this company has changed my teaching world and positively impacted the lives of my kiddos.

I am kind of a fan girl/Noodle groupie. I don't know if that's a real thing yet, but I just turned it into one! Come join in and be a Noodle groupie, too!

Since I am such a huge fan of all things GoNoodle, I thought that I would share with you my top 5 favorite reasons why I love using GoNoodle in 5th grade!

 I am pretty sure that this picture speaks for itself! EVERY time that GoNoodle turns on in my classroom, I am right there dancing with the kiddos, trying out the yoga moves, singing along with Kidz Bop, or attempting to say Llama as fast as I can while keeping up with the movements as well.

When I moved to 5th grade, I wondered how much I would still be able to use GoNoodle in the classroom. I am SOOO happy to say that it has been a smashing success. They BEG me to let them use GoNoodle when we transition between subject areas, get back from lunch, or need a minute to just take a breather.

 Seriously. I just can't even.

What would we do with out Koo Koo Kangra Roo? My life would be incomplete. We use the jelly fish handshake, sing Get Loose, and celebrate students' birthdays with Birthday Hooray.

I love that GoNoodle is not just focused on one type of brain break. They offer kinesthetic learning breaks, guided dancing, coordination, calming activities, free movement, and exercise activities. 

On an average day, we will start out our morning with a Think About It brain break. We will use Peanut Butter in a Cup from MooseTube to get us pumped up for the day, dance after lunch to Kidz Bop or Koo Koo Kanga Roo and end our day with yoga. 

The students use the gaming activities to review or practice classroom skills with questions that I have created and added to the game. Their favorite is Think On Your Feet. I love that you can upload your own questions into several of the games. It makes the learning exciting and relevant! Need to review vocabulary words or parts of speech? Create a quick set of questions and upload them to one of the many brain breaks! Students will LOVE it! You can also share the questions that you make with others!

Life should be fun. Learning should be fun. Classrooms should be full of FUN! Participating in GoNoodle brain breaks throughout the day is a great opportunity for me to relax and bond with my students in a unique way.

So...are you a GoNoodler? If not, click here and go sign up NOW! It is FREE! You seriously cannot pass that up. Your students can even create accounts at home!

Since you have hung in there with me while I shared my GoNoodle love with you, I have a surprise! Thanks to the Back to School Blogger Blitz, I am giving away one of the BRAND NEW pencil pouches that just went live in their store recently. I have one and keep all of my flair pens in it! Just sign up for the giveaway using the Rafflecopter below and that beautiful new pencil pouch could be yours! :) 

I will be back on the 12th to announce a winner! In the meantime, you can visit the GoNoodle Shop and grab some of their awesome swag with this special discount! Just use BTSwithGoNoodle to get %15 off your purchase. 

***Don't forget to go to GoNoodle's Blog to find the other 100  teacher bloggers who are participating in the Back to School Blitz

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

@2getherwearebetter SEPTEMBER- Classroom Reveal

Happy September! I LOVE my room this year. I just adore it, and I have been not so patiently waiting for this amazing opportunity to share my entire room with you!

Are you ready?

Let's first take a look at what my room looked like in July. It was yellow and blue. This was actually my room 5 years ago when I started my teaching adventure in second grade. I spent two years in this room before moving out to a portable (which was amazing).

When I found out that I was moving back into this room, I wanted to make some major changes. I knew I would have several of my previous second graders in my fifth grade class this year, and I wanted the entire experience to be different for them. New last name, new grade level, same room but NEW feel.

Welcome to the new room! I will let the pictures do the explaining.

This is the view when you first walk in. 

This is the view from the back of my room.

Our reading library----SWOON! :) 

This is our classroom reading library. It is one of our favorite spaces in the room. I love how it is completely student friendly. :) The books on the shelves are chapter books. We are constantly growing our collection. I cannot wait until we outgrow these shelves, and I have to buy more!

I love our #whattheteacherread board! This is where I will update what books I am exploring. The kiddos love seeing what I am reading, and it is a great way to strike up conversation about what they are reading as well!

By the way...are you participating the the Global Read Aloud? If yes..WAY COOL! If you don't know what I am talking about then YOU SHOULD. Check it out!

I wish that this big AC unit was not so gigantic, BUT it works and it is magnetic. That has to count for something! :) 

This area is one of the spaces that is a MAJOR improvement from my first time in this room. Before, the student cubbies(the kiddos call them "bat caves" idea why) were a mess and the back cabinet area was a place for me to store junk. Now, it is organized and free of clutter!
Keeping myself organized as well as keeping counter and table spaces free is one of my major goals this year. We are a month in to school and so far I am keeping my goal!

The kiddos and I have embraced our dream of being "one" #readingtribe this year. This chalk board is a space for us to track our #bookaday as well as share pictures books and other reading resources with each other. Big kids love reading picture books to0 so this is the spot in the room designated to those beautiful literacy pieces.

This is the best picture that I have of the front of my room. The far left bulletin board has nothing on it because I have my big maps of the US and globe pulled down over it 99% of the time. 
The right bulletin board is where I hang the anchor chart at during the middle of the lesson. 

Hands down...THE BEST PART OF THE ROOM! Yes, it deserves cap locks. This wall is our reading graffiti wall. I totally stole the idea from Stacey, my spirit animal, over at Literacy for Big Kids. I will post more about this wall soon. 

This is the view of our room if you head out into the hallway. 

Interior design is NOT my forte. I don't have a knack for decorating, and I have to force myself to stay organized. However, I set some non-negotiables for myself when I went to organize the space above.

*The room needed to feel "mature"
*No bright colors
*No clutter on walls
*Little to no lamination on walls
*Lots of free space

I am obsessed with our room, and I love how the space came together. Thank you for letting me share our room with you!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Donor's Choose

One of my biggest goals this year in 5th grade, as an ELA and Social Studies teacher, is to help ignite a passion for reading in my kiddos. 

I want to give them the world and open the doors to the future with them one book at a time. I have always loved reading and even now, I walk around my house with a book in my face all day, every day. I can't stop.Won't stop. Do my fellow #bookies feel me?

I love it. I live for books. I dream about stories. 

I want my kiddos to love reading, but I know that you can't FORCE a kiddo to love reading. You could have a library stuffed full of books, but if they aren't the right books- I mean the kind of books that your students really want to read- then the library is dead. 

I don't want a dead library. 

I wan't a library full of life. 

My dream is to create and grow a library that is centered around books that my students are interested in will help light a reading fire in their souls. In just 8 days, I have already seen the sparks start. I know that my mission to adding to our library is an on going project, and I want to give my students the world. There is no limit on how many books we can get, and I want to help all of my students find their reading "niche". 

I recently turned to Donor's Choose to help my students in their book journey. I feel like this project is unique because the books that are listed for the project where all hand picked. Students wrote what books they hoped to see added to the library so they are just as excited..probably more exited.. that I am about the getting our project funded.  Just click on the image to check ours out! 

Donor's Choose is a charity that helps public teachers and students who have classroom needs. Teachers can create projects that range from school supplies to books to technology. Their helpful organization has made classroom dreams come true all of the United States. 

Are your students needing a special item for the classroom? Have you participated in Donor's Choose? I highly encourage you to check it out!