17 April 2016

Inspiring Leaders with Leadergram! (Leader in Me Bulletin Board)

This is my 4th year teaching at a Leader in Me school.  Yet, this was the first year I've really embraced and explicitly taught Habit 8: Find Your Voice, and Inspire Others to Find Theirs.

While working on growing students' inner voices, I had an epiphany to connect our study of "Leaders of Change" with student artwork and/or photos displayed in an Instagram-style.   POOF!  Leadergram was born!!

 To prep, all I did was gather tagboard (the only cardstock I had on hand in the classroom) and then I cut them into squares.  Since my tagboard was only 9 inches wide, I had to cut 4.5x4.5 squares.
 Next, I posed the question to students:  What do you think "Leaders of Change" look like?  I emphasized there is no one "right" or "wrong" response because our earlier discussions have solidified the idea that anyone can be a leader.
 Some students drew ordinary kids helping out.  The student above connected to the text we're currently reading, The Hope Chest.  This story focuses on the issue of women not having an equal right to vote in America until 1920, so my artistically-talented student drew a Suffragist in action.
 Others took a traditional approach and represented an American hero as a "Leader of Change!"  Two weeks later, the students and I were ready to update our Leadergram board with a new post.  This time they had to illustrate a motivational quote that would inspire them to become a "Leader of Change."
 First, we watched a couple of Kid President videos calling the world into action.  Kid President is hilarious and my class just loves him! Then, we brainstormed a list of quotes that sparked a desire to make a positive change.  I shared how Mahatma Gandhi's quote, "Be the change you wish to see in this world," really resonated with me because it puts the purpose of life in perspective for me.
For our second post, I experimented with lined notebook paper because I find drawings made by children look really endearing on lined paper for whatever reason.  And I figured, lines couldn't hurt if they would need to write inspirational quotes, anyway!.

02 April 2016

Happy April!

Join Farley for her April "CURRENTLY" throwback to the Comic Sans font and simple black & white formatting in this month's layout!  
listening: I'm getting caught up with my DVR and the "Latin Night" episode of Monday's Dancing with the Stars is playing in the background, I'm loving that Manya from Boyz II Men is workin' it this season!
loving: being born in April makes me biased to this month because of all the happy memories it brings along with the happiness of spring!
thinking: Good Riddance, State Testing is OVER!! (and school's not over until May 21st - that means I have time to teach units because they're fun and interesting, not because I have to!  Just this week before our last day of testing, one of the classroom dad's came in and taught us about electric voltages and we tested the power in various-sized batteries using multimeters.. Then, we got the electricity flowing through our bodies with the Van de Graaff generator!  Apparently, long, thin and straight hair works the best, as seen in the image below!

If you're interested in learning more about how the Nacho Party motivated my students to show up and do their best during testing week, check out my previous post!  We had a blast gearing up before Field Day yesterday!


26 March 2016

Motivate Students to do their Best with a NACHO party!

Cure TESTING absences and lack of student effort with a NACHO PARTY!

YESS!! It's a WEEK of computerized testing for my students and I when we get back on Monday.

Not quite as thrilled that it's that time of year?
Well, have no fear...
the NACHO party will surely steer ...
your minds into a place filled with CHEER!
Who doesn't love Mexican food?  What's more, who doesn't perform better when there's some tangible object you're trying to achieve?  These are all reasons why the NACHO party after testing is over is such a TREAT!

Let's get it straight, I definitely stress how important it is for everyone to do their best job and take their time during the test to show what they know after learning so much throughout the year.  However, some years (especially while working in Title 1 schools), my students wouldn't show up to school on testing day.  I can tell you, they don't always rise to the occasion when they're pulled out of the room separately on make-up day and then, they without fault MIRACULOUSLY appear an hour later when the rest of your class took double or triple that amount of time!!  

For 100% attendance and best effort during testing week, my students gain entrance to our class NACHO party!  

What if I miss a day, or mess around instead?  
I remind them, "I guess it's NOTCH-YOUR party!" 
(P.S. I make exceptions for the unexcusable THROWING UP/FEVER sick absences)

Typically, I like to host the NACHO party on the same day as FIELD DAY, as that's the school-wide reward for doing well on a year filled with such a focus on academic learning.  A week or so before the event, I send flyers home to remind families of the food item they will be sending in for the day of the party.
The teachers bring in crock pots & serving spoons to warm the canned nacho cheese & refried beans.  We just zap the cooked taco meat in the microwave.  It smells so good warming up during the morning, we can barely wait until lunch time to begin the festivities!  If you want to host a similar event, download the editable flyer here (you'll need PowerPoint to edit).

This year I'm thrilled to have a family whose parents both work at a Mexican restaurant down the street, so our party is going to be EPIC!  We're even having horchata --- YUM!
UPDATE: This year's nacho party was a blast, they worked so hard on testing all this week & they "tore up" the nacho cheese as one of the girls in my class put it! :)
p.s. Head over to Teaching with Team W as they are hosting a giveaway in honor of reaching 100 followers!  Congrats ladies!! :)

25 March 2016

Making Test Prep FUN!

I use a class review game called SCOOT where task cards are put at each student desk and then after the allotted time (varies based on the concept from 40  - 90 seconds) I say "SCOOT" or after we've played for a while, I can just ring my bell/set my phone timer and they know what to do!  This is perfect for TEST PREP because I can assign multiple problems on a specific concept and see how well they're doing.  It allows me to focus more of my instructional time on concepts they're struggling with and skim through those that are a breeze.  If you teach 4th grade, and are interested in my fractions set pictured above, it is available here!

So what makes SCOOT fun for kids?  Well, first of all, they're getting to move around the room!  Second, if they finish early and have double-checked their problem they get to SILENT READ (something there's not much time for within our daily schedule)!  And, I entice them with some motivational SCOOT prizes for excellent accuracy and/or behavior throughout the review!  Who isn't motivated by food?  Well, I know I certainly can't resist a free sample at the stores, so I keep a bag of snacks stocked with food to pass out to the lucky winners! If that isn't your style, free rewards also work well (sit in the teacher chair, lunch with teacher, 10 minutes of free tech time, etc.)!

If you're interested in trying this out in your room, try this simple ELA Test Prep set out by clicking the image above!  The skills covered are rather basic but are a great way to introduce this format to your class ...
Or, if you need to review 4th grade fractions concepts and are looking for a fully editable set where you can customize the names to include students in your class or are in need of more than 24 cards, try my math task card set below!  Or, if you're not a techie, it includes a matching blank template to print and create additional cards by writing them in!  Hopefully you'll give this way of reviewing skills a try if you haven't already.  SCOOT is a HOOT!

21 March 2016

WAIT (Text-Based Writing PLAN)

Help your students develop a prewriting plan for on-demand writing!  If you're in a similar boat, there are only 4 school days left until end-of-year testing, I knew I had to develop a game plan to better prepare my students for the writing exam this year.

Luckily a game plan using the mnemonic WAIT came to me during writing instruction last week which touches on all of the essential elements students need to focus on to write a substantial essay. Additionally, I can joke with my class--- WAIT a sec?!? What do I need to do before writing?  Make my WAIT prewriting plan of course!

What does WAIT stand for?
W = writing type (ex: informative or opinion essay)
A = about... (have students copy down the writing prompt / aka "what they're writing about")
I = Information I Must Include (if there are 3 articles, then there should be 3 bullets listing a 3 or 4 word title for how the student personally remembers each article)
T = Text Evidence / Examples (key details from the text that help support the topic and/or personal beliefs and examples from real life that help develop your opinion)
Since I teach at a Thinking Maps school, I modified a circle map to be sectioned into fourths to serve as our WAIT plan.  The titles of the passages could go outside the circle as part of the "Frame of Reference."  If you don't already use thinking maps, this is just a simple way to organize ideas!

A couple of months ago, Scholastic NEWS featured a DEBATE article about dogs being allowed into restaurants.  I figured this would make a high-interest OPINION WRITING assignment.  Grab the freebie writing prompt with sample WAIT writing plan and exemplar essay for use in your class!

WAIT!! If you like what you see, pick up my TEXT-BASED WRITING set to help prepare your 4th/5th grade students for on-demand informative and opinion essay writing assignments!