Wednesday, November 26, 2014

3rd Annual Native American Museum Post

A social studies research report that really helps the students to learn about Pre-Columbian Native Americans.
It is that time of year again, when the students present their culminating project for the Native American unit that we have been entrenched in for the past few weeks.  I love when these projects come through my doors each year.  The learning they did becomes immediately obvious and it is just such a joy looking them over and learning about the tribes from the students!  I wanted to take some time to tell you about them AND show them off to you :)

This no prep Native American Research project can be assigned to students grades 3-6.

This project was put together by a 5th grade student during the Native American social studies unit.At the beginning of this unit, I pass out the entire report and presentation packet to my students.  They choose a tribe they would like to research (I make sure there are no overlaps, as they turn in a "decision form" to me early on) and I send them on their merry way.   During class, we are learning about the general culture groups.  At home, the kids get to be more specific.   They learn about the basic Pre-Columbian housing, crafts, clothing, geographical area, and customs of the tribe they are researching.  The kids get to actually build the house, make dolls wearing the clothing, write expository paragraphs, create maps, and construct the crafts typical of the tribe during the time before the Europeans arrived in the Americas.  The best part is, though, that the pages they are given tells them exactly how to do the project.  They can literally do it independently at home with very little help from an adult (although, admittedly when I did this in 3rd grade I did have to guide them along a bit more than I do with 5th graders).

Great research done by 5th graders for a Native American reserach report (that was a NO PREP, at home project for them!)
This Pre-Columbian Plank House was created by a 5th grade student.  It has a cut away on the roof to allow people to see the crafts of the tribe inside.
In 6 weeks, the students come to school with a completed trifold with all of their research.  The day the projects are due, it is so neat to hear the oooohhhhs and aaaaahhhs of the kids admiring the hard work of their classmates. This year, I was blown away by every single one of them.  These kids did an AMAZING job!

This is just a small little sample of what the students turned in with the NO PREP Native American research report from Teaching in Room 6
Doing a Native American museum requires the students to do research, make crafts, create clothing, build a home, and generally learn a LOT about the Pre-Columbian Native Americans living in the area.And right about now you are probably thinking of all of the ways that this just won't work.  I am here to tell you that it will.  I have taught in a Title 1, 100% Free and Reduced lunch school for most of the years that I have taught.  I have worked with students who have little to no support at home.  Students who had not a dime to spare on anything extra.  I have done this same project (with various levels of scaffolding) in grades 3, 4, and 5.  And every year, I get nearly 100% of the projects back.

Using a progress form helps students who are working on at home projects stay on task and make sure their work gets done by the deadline.
How, might you ask?  I make sure to send home a progress form at least once a week.  This form is a sort of "check in" for the kids.  It made me aware of where they were on the project, gave them a chance to ask questions, as well as kept the project fresh on their minds.   When I have the students turn in these forms, the "realness" of the project is there and the kids are always thinking about it.  It keeps them on top of things and, because of that, I have a great success rate with this project.  They also have a chance to ask me for any materials they may need.  If I have it (ie: construction paper) I will gladly give it to them.  If I don't (ie: wood and nails or army men or whatever else they think they need to have...but probably don't ;) ) I just tell them I don't have it and offer up an alternative solution if I can.  This system seems to work for me.

What I really love about this project is that, for many of them, it really is the first time they do something so big at home.  The pride and joy they feel when they are sitting in the "Museum" telling others about their tribe is priceless.  They learn so very much and really do walk away with a better feeling of social studies.  It is fun and interesting, and JUST the thing needed to introduce the students into this fabulous world of social studies for the year!

This NO PREP ready-to-go research report will get your students learning about a pre-columbian Native American tribe.  Helps them to research, write, learn, build, and orally present about the tribes.
If you would like to pick up this NO PREP Project (meaning, you can literally copy it and hand it to the students without having to prepare anything else), you can do so here.  It has been recently updated (to fix a few minor typos....whoops!) so if you already own it, be sure to redownload it!

Have you done this Native American Museum?  How did it turn out for you?  Do you do any other big social studies projects throughout the year?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Nonfiction Text: Reading with a Purpose

As adults, when we read nonfiction, we are reading for a purpose.  I pick up an article about the 13 colonies because I need to learn what the major settlements were for my lesson.  Or I find an article about what coarcation of the aorta is so that I am better prepared when I visit the cardiologist for treatment discussions.  I don't just pick up a nonfiction article to read for the fun of it.  I always have a purpose.

It is the same in class.  When the students read nonfiction, there is generally a purpose (notice I said generally...I *know* there are exceptions to this....just go with me for the purposes of the is blog post ;))  So when we started out our exploration of nonfiction text, I started the students with a very simple lesson on reading with a purpose.

First, we discussed some general guidelines for reading nonfiction text.

Then, I gave them a simple article about the circulatory or respiratory systems.  Since that is our science topic at the moment, I wanted them to find out what it would be like if they were taking a ride through the system.  Where would they start?  What would the journey entail?  I also wanted them to read for the various organs that are apart of the system.  So while reading the article, the students had two purposes.   I asked them to write those purposes down at the top of the page.

After they did that, the students went off to reading.  They underlined the journey stops and circled the organs.  This helped them to not only find evidence of the reading purpose, but also keep them differentiated.  

We then took the information, and started to create a Comic Life Comic Strip with it (the kids aren't done, but here is a post of what we did with the American Revolution battles that culiminated in the same end product.) 

So there you have it.  Something simple that I have my students to do get them to read closely while digging into nonfiction text.  How do you get your students to focus in on one aspect of the text to read it very closely?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

End-of-the-Day Routine

Nothing mindblowing today but I just wanted to share with you my end-of-the-day clean-up routine.  I know that sometimes this time of day can be completely chaotic, but I have tried my best to cut down on that and have us end with calm.  Here is what I do.

I start about 25 minutes before the dismissal bell rings.  I begin by announcing that I am "looking for people who are ready to go home."  This is students' cue to sit down, clear off their desk space, and look at me.  Then, we have our 60-second clean up (I wrote in detail about that here), our 15-second box clean and our 15-second furniture straighten.

This is an old picture.  They also have POTW!
Then, I ask the kids to take out their planner and we go over the homework.  I have the assignment written on the board, and used to just have them copy it down, but I have found that if I *also* say it aloud, the kids have a higher rate of writing it in their planner and not missing any homework assignments.   So I orally go over the assignments.

Next, while some students are still writing in their planners, I have the kids who have classroom jobs begin.  Now here is where it gets a *teeny* bit chaotic.  Librarians are straightening up the library, while custodians are sweeping the floors or wiping off the whiteboard.  Distributors and Table Captains are passing out homework, and President and VP are stamping the planners with the signature stamp.  Most are organizing their stuff to go home (putting names on new homework sheets, getting things in backpack, etc...)

When the kids finish getting ready and have a clear desk, they join me on the rug and wait for the majority of the class.  We then begin our read aloud.  We read the story until the bell rings.

What I LOVE about this is that there is a built-in incentive to get ready for the day quickly:  the read aloud.  My students can not wait to hear the story and they want as much time as possible to be able to listen.  So they clean up FAST!  And since we are reading, it is calm, cool, and collected in my room at the end of the day.

What is your end-of-the-day routine?  How do you combat the chaos?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seriously....They HAVE to Write Stories

I know that for most of us, teaching writing is a struggle.  Yet, in this day of performance based testing, it is a MUST.  The kids no longer can just rely on filling in bubbles and hoping for the best. Now they have to actually *write* complete, coherent sentences and paragraphs.  They need to have topic sentences, details, and closing sentences.  They need to be able to write on any topic on demand.

I looked over the released questions for the new nationwide state test (we are taking the SBAC) and saw that the kids will be given pictures to write stories about, graphic organizers to write stories about, and prompts to write stories about.  STORIES.  Not lists of things.  Not what what they see.  Actual stories

Can you say DAUNTING???

Yeah...I am a little overwhelmed by it all too.  I mean, I had gotten so good at teaching the kids how to find evidence in the text, eliminate answers, and basically take a multiple choice test.  But now they are going to have to write their ideas.  So, I need a new plan.

I took a hard look at what I was doing already and decided a little tweak was in order.  I took what we had learned about Plot, Setting, Character, and Conflict, as well as what we were already doing in Paragraph of the Week, and decided to combine it all so that the students could use the ideas to write clear, coherent STORIES.

At first, the kids tried to write lists of things they saw in the pictures.  They wanted to tell me that the man was running.  That he was wearing a shirt.  That other people were there.  But that isn't a story.  So I asked the kids to give the man a name.  Tell me where he was.  Describe what he was doing.  We brainstormed it all.   Then, I had them go write again about the man.

I would love at this point to say that my mini-lessons and discussions on this throughout the week resulted in an awesome fictional narrative....but it didn't.  The kids were still writing lists.

So the next week, we focused on the conflict.  What was the problem?  How could it be solved?  After a week of this, the kids had more and more elements of an actual story in their writing.

We kept at it.  I gave them 4 weeks of pictures to write about, then 4 weeks with a partially filled in plot diagram.  Each week, we did mini-lessons on topic sentences and introducing characters.  We talked about how the problem comes to a head in the climax.  We discussed the resolution and how you can't leave the reader hanging.

And it finally clicked!  I can honestly say that now my kids are writing stories!  Real, honest to goodness stories.  There are beginnings and middles and ends.  It all (for the most part) makes sense.  The stories have characters and setting and conflict.  They are true stories and not lists!  I have never been happier with fiction writing that is taking place in my room.  I am LOVING reading their writing like I never have before.  I am so so so excited by this all.
If you would like the pages that I used to get my students writing fiction in a way that truly makes my heart sing, you can pick up the pack in my TpT store.  It really is one of my most favorite creations to date.

How do you get the kids to write fictional narratives in your room?

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Periodic Table

Our first science unit focuses on The Periodic Table of Elements and we have dived right into it these past two weeks.  I wanted to share with you a few things that we did, just in case you are doing that unit too!

I wrote about what we did last year, and basically, the introduction was the same.  So to spare you having to read it twice, here is the link for those of you who would like to take a gander.

After the same basic intro, I wanted them to actually look at the Periodic Table itself.   We discussed a few of the elements, and I told them about how the table was grouped.  Which lead me into giving them this foldable that I made with four different sections on it.  I found some great information about each grouping from this website and the students took notes as we discussed what was happening., to get them to dive into the actual table and learn a few of the elements, I had them do some Periodic Table Spelling.  Basically, they searched around the table for element symbols that spelled out various words.  For example, Neon (Fe) and Argon (Ar) spell FeAr.  Fear.  Some kids were super creative, spelling their own names or really long words.  Others attempted sentences!  Here is the worksheet I gave them to write down their ideas as they were spelling. 

Then, they had to choose at least one of the words and create a flip up for each of the elements.  Inside the flip, they wrote things that the elements were used for.  Here is a very simple and informative Periodic Table chart that my kids used to help them with the flip ups. 

Finally, the students researched two elements each to create little element squares, based around my Element Project.  The kids had a whole list of requirements that they needed to find and create a display that told about the element.  We then put them together to form this awesome full sized Periodic Table!  I love the way this one came out.  It is so eye-catching and really screams "Science!"  You can pick up the Element Project here.

So there you have it, some easy little things you can do in your room to introduce your students to the Periodic Table.  What is something you have done in the past?