Brainstorming: Stars

Monday, September 30, 2013

We have been studying space during our science time for a few weeks, and this week we focused on stars.  To get an idea of their prior knowledge, we started with a brainstorming session, and I was super impressed by the ideas they came up with.  Here is our web:
After brainstorming, we talked about several constellations and the names of the big stars in them.  I also showed them some pictures of different stars built to scale.  I can’t remember where my pictures originally came from, but they look very similar to these pictures, which I found here.


Saturday Snapshots September 28

Saturday, September 28, 2013

This week has been absolutely crazy!  It started last weekend with my favorite festival – the Johnny Appleseed Festival.  The festival lasts all weekend and is a fall festival at its finest.  There are crafts, food booths, activities for kids, a “Settlers” demonstration area with cooking, spinning, and candle making demonstrations, and everyone working there has to dress in period appropriate clothes for pioneer times.  I snapped a few shots at the farmer’s market.

Then on Monday and Tuesday, we took the entire fifth grade to camp.  You can read about it here.  The camp is on a small lake in northern Indiana, and we are starting to finally experience fall.  Some of the leaves are changing and the weather is cooling down, so it was a beautiful time to be at camp.  This is what I woke up to Tuesday morning.

When we got back from camp, a box from Scholastic was waiting in my mailbox!  I got all of these books to add to my classroom library (and all of them came from points, so it didn't cost a dime!)

That’s all I’ve got photo-wise to sum up my week.  Now I’m off to catch up on some housework….

Have a great Saturday!

Camp S.O.L.E.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monday and Tuesday, we took the fifth grade on our first study trip of the year to Camp S.O.L.E.  So, what IS Camp SOLE?  It stands for Science Outdoor Learning Experience, and boy is it!  At Camp, we teach the kids different science related information through a series of activity stations.  The kids cycle through Leaf and Tree Identification, Pond Water Study, Star Lab, Orienteering, and Initiative games stations in a two day (yes, that means overnight) camp experience.  The stations cover a ton of information and meet most of our science standards for the year (although we DO continue to teach science).  

Here are the basics of each station:

Leaf and Tree ID – the kids learn about organization systems and hierarchical charts to identify trees native to Indiana.  They also learn how to identify poisonous and edible plants

Pond Water Study – The kids use microscopes to find microscopic life in pond water samples.  They identify the organisms and do drawings of their findings.

Star Lab – This is a portable planetarium that we use to teach the kids the different constellations that are visible during this time of the year.  This was my station, and I had a blast teaching about the constellations and their stories.  We talked about the Native American mythology and the Greek mythology behind the constellations.

Orienteering – The kids learn how to use compasses and then use them to navigate a scavenger hunt.  
Initiative Games – This is the only non-science activity.  In this station, the kids play different team building games to work on their communication and team work skills.  I taught this for several years and it was always fun to see the kids work together to accomplish a task.  The usual leaders pop out of the group immediately, but it’s the quiet leaders that are often discovered during this time.

On the afternoon of the first day, we also have a recreation time, during which, the kids canoe, kayak, and play kickball and volleyball.  Then, during the evening, we have a story teller come in and the kids’ groups all do short skits before it’s time for bed.  

It makes for an exhausting two days, but the kids love it and learn a ton.  It also provides a great topic for their first long writing assignment: a 10 paragraph essay about Camp S.O.L.E.  We started writing today and the kids are amazed at how easy it is to write a long paper when you have a lot of material to write about!

Main Idea and Details Craftivity

Monday, September 16, 2013

With the kids observing the moon for a month between lessons in my Moon unit, I have been filling our science lessons with a variety of activities.  One thing I have noticed is that the kids love anything hands on.  That sent me searching blogs for fun, hands-on activities that I can use in my classroom.  I found this craftivity from Deb at Crafting Connections.  I'm excited to be using it as part of her Classroom Tested Teacher and Student Approved series.

I started my lesson today by reviewing the concept of Main Idea and Details.  This seems like an easy enough concept, but the review was definitely helpful to a few of the kids!

Then, I handed out the pages for the craftivity.  There are six main pages to this mini-book, a cover, and five pages with Main Ideas about the Earth.  The last page the kids picked up was a sheet of details.  The details are all listed on one page and have to be matched to the correct main idea for the book.  I let the kids work on this part with a partner.

Then we worked on assembling the books.  Cutting out the six pages, taping the construction paper together, and then gluing the pages onto the construction paper took a lot longer than I had planned!  The kids wanted everything to be just right, and it took them about half an hour to get things done.  In the future, I think I’d probably split this activity into two parts: do the thinking part on day one, and do the constructing of the book on day two.
The finished projects were really cute and I know the kids did a lot of thinking along the way!

In addition to creating this awesome product, Deb is kind enough to be giving this craftivity away to one of my readers!  You can head to her blog to enter the drawing! 

Saving Fred – A Science Activity

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This week, I’m participating in Fourth Grade Flipper's Tried it Tuesday.  I’ve been reading all of the “Tried Its” for weeks, and am excited to be linking up today for the first time! (Correction....I tried to link up, but was too late....the collections were closed when I tried to link up)

Our first Science topic is “The Sun, Moon, and Stars.”  It’s a fun unit, but during the Moon section, the kids are required to keep a moon journal for a month between lesson one and lesson two.  The experience is great for them and they learn a lot, but that leaves a month’s worth of Science lessons without activities.  In the past, I plug the Stars lessons in during this month, but this year, I put that off a week to try a new activity I found called Saving Fred.

I can’t remember where I originally found this lesson, and I know I’ve seen it on several blogs, so if the original idea is yours please let me know and I’ll give you credit!

Saving Fred is a great activity to get kids thinking about problem solving strategies, team work, and procedural journaling.  The kids are given the scenario that Fred (a gummy worm) has been trapped on top of his upside down boat (a cup) and his life preserver (a gummy ring) is trapped beneath the boat.  Their job is to get Fred through the life preserver using only paper clips to move any of the items.

I modified this long lesson into three short ones.  On day 1, we brainstormed a list of problem solving strategies.  I took a picture of our list, but the dry erase marker on the white board didn’t show up well.  Our list included:
Think about what to do
Ask someone else
Use common sense
Pick the easiest path
Make a pros and cons list
Test your ideas
Make a cause and effect list
Use time wisely
Think ahead
Make a plan
Be organized

On day 2, I gave the kids the scenario and they actually did the activity.  Here are a few photos:

Several of the groups were able to save Fred pretty easily, so I challenged them to try it with only two paper clips instead of four.  One group felt like challenging themselves even more and tried it (successfully) with only one!

After they had all finished, we discussed the strategies they used.  We also discussed how much harder it was with two paper clips than with four!

On day 3, I had the kids do a reflection journal.  They were to write about the procedures they used, what worked and didn’t work, and working with a partner.

If you’d like your students to try Saving Fred, it is available here.  I’d say it’s definitely worth a try!

Monday Made It – September (blog button)

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am excited to be linking up with 4th GradeFrolics for Monday Made It again!  And I’m even more excited about my Made It itself!

Today, I decided that a good after school activity would be creating a button for my blog.  I’ve been meaning to make one, but just never took the time.  So this afternoon I sat down at my computer and turned my header image into a button image.

Then, I googled “Make a blog button for Blogger” and found a few sites for help:

1. This site was helpful in learning how to create the actual button, but it wasn’t very much help in creating the code I would need.
However, it helped me turn this…

….into this

2. This site was really helpful, but the code didn’t work.  It produced a cute button with an empty code box.

3. This AWESOME site has a code generator that turns your information into the HTML code you need to actually create the button.

So that is my Made It this month!  Check it out on the lower left side of the page!

Study Trips

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In our district, we are allowed four study trips each year.  While that may sound like a lot, my grade level was disappointed about the restriction, because we have five trips that we like to take.  My building has only been open five years, and the first few years, we hosted an event that now happens off site, so we USED to be able to have all five experiences, but now, we’re down to four.  However, I’m going to list all five for you in this post.

As fifth grade teachers, we like our kids to have special experiences that the other kids in the school look forward to.  The younger kids hear about our experiences and come to fifth grade excited to participate in the things they had watch “the big kids” doing in previous years.  Our favorite five experiences are:
  • Camp S.O.L.E.
  • JA BizTown
  • The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
  • Marengo Cave
  • We the People  
Camp S.O.L.E.
Camp S.O.L.E. is an event that happens every September.  We take the kids on a two day (yes, that means one night!) camping trip with a science focus.  S.O.L.E. stands for Science Outdoor Learning Experience, and what an experience it is!  The kids go through five different classes at camp including: tree and leaf identification, pond water study, initiative games, Star Lab (which is a portable planetarium), and orienteering.  They also have recreation time during which they have the opportunity to play kickball, basketball, volleyball, and go canoeing or kayaking.  We tie everything together with a huge (12 paragraph) writing project at the conclusion of camp.

JA BizTown
Junior Achievement has a great program in their BizTown curriculum!  We teach lessons on personal finance, writing checks, how to balance a checkbook, and how to get a job for several weeks before this trip.  Then, on the simulation day, we take the kids to the local JA building and they run a city for a day.  It’s a really cool program, and the kids love it!

The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
While we don’t go to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village anymore, it is definitely worth talking about!  The museum and the village are two parts of The Henry Ford (more information is available here).  We always had our kids spend the morning at the Village, where they could explore TONS of houses including: Noah Webster’s house, the Wright Brothers’ workshop, and Thomas Edison’s workshop.  It was an incredible experience, and since we went in October, the whole village was usually decorated for Halloween, which made it even more fun.
After a morning outside, we spent the afternoon in the Henry Ford Museum discovering amazing things among their collection.  They have Rosa Parks’s bus, George Washington’s camp bed, a copy of the 13th amendment, the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, an entire collection of presidential vehicles, and of course, what Americana collection would be complete without the Weinermobile.  They even have Edison’s last breath captured in a test tube.  The kids loved this trip, but when we learned that we had to eliminate one, this was what went.

Marengo Cave
This is probably our most popular trip!  The Wednesday before Spring Break, we take our kids to Marengo Cave in southern Indiana for a day of spelunking.  The kids explore two commercial caves and one wild cave on this (very) long day.  (We leave school at 5am and get back at about 9pm)

The favorite part of this trip is always the Underground Adventure (a.k.a. the wild cave).  During this part of the trip, the kids wear caving helmets and crawl through a wild cave.  That means mud and water and crawling and darkness and bats all tied up into one amazing experience.  I’ve been four times now, and I still love going!

We the People  
While caving is a crowd favorite, We the People is my baby.  We start the WTP curriculum in January and continue through until the hearings in May.  We the People teaches concepts about the American government, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to kids, but the best part of the program is the culminating activity.  The kids participate in mock congressional hearings in May.  They prepare written statements and practice follow up questions before going to the actual hearings.  The judges for the hearings are lawyers, business people, and other leaders from the community, and the kids love showing what they have learned to these important people.

Thanks for sticking around for such a long post!  What kinds of trips do you take with your kids?

More About Journeys Spelling

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Last weekend and this week, I spent a lot of time working on the Spelling component of our Journeys curriculum.  Each week, there are twenty words associated with a specific rule that the kids are supposed to work with and learn.  However, there are no actual lists to copy and give to the kids and there is only one real activity to do with the words.  Earlier this week, I posted about the Spelling Choice Boards that I made to give the kids different choices about the activities they could do to practice the words.  You can read about that here.  

Then, I spent some time working on lists to copy and send home with the kids.  This seems like such a simple task, but in order to get the lists finished with the spelling rules written at the top, I had to go through all six (yes, that’s right, six) Teacher’s Guides to find the list and rule so I could type them.  I decided that there might be some of you out there who could benefit from my work, so I put the lists on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

If you are using Journeys, what do you do for the spelling component?  And (perhaps more importantly) are you completely overwhelmed by all of the components involved with this curriculum?!

Currently September

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Today, I’m linking up with Oh Boy, Fourth Grade for this month’s Currently.  I can’t believe it is already September!  August just flew by!

Listening – I know it’s mundane, but I love the sound of the coffee pot brewing my coffee, and this morning, I’m extra looking forward to my cup!

Loving – I have found that I enjoy the weekends SO much more now that I’m back to work, and this three day weekend is absolutely wonderful!

Thinking – My school district has adopted Journeys as our Reading and Language Arts curriculum this year, and there is SO MUCH involved!  I worked on planning over the summer, but now we have new directions to use all of the parts of this program (and I only looked at the grammar and reading).  This weekend a lot of time was dedicated to reworking my Spelling program to incorporate the Journeys lists into my daily plans.

Wanting – We are new to the interactive science notebooking, and our materials are a bit lacking.  Currently, my students are working on a month long Moon Journal, but in the mean time, I wish I had some fun activities to do with them in class.

Needing – I took some much needed time to work on planning this weekend, but I always feel like I need more time!

<3 b=""> – These are my three goals for September.  So far, I’m doing pretty well (but we’re only a few days in . . .)

Words of Wisdom Wall

Monday, September 2, 2013

I have tons of posters, both purchased and home made, that have inspirational quotes on them.  The posters range from a Garfield poster that says, “Those who can read should,” to quotations from some of the Founding Fathers.  I never know where to put these posters, so usually, I get them out, discuss the quotation with the kids, and then put the posters back in a cabinet somewhere.  

But not this year!  Last week, an idea hit me, so I created a Words of Wisdom wall in my classroom.

You will obviously notice that the wall is pretty empty right now.  That is because I plan on adding to it throughout the year.  I will share the posters with my kids and we’ll discuss them just like I used to.  But now, they will have a home on this wall after they’ve been discussed.  You can already see my first two additions.  The one on the left says, “If you don’t have time to do it right, you must have time to do it over.”  And the one on the left is the Garfield “People who can read, should” poster.

What inspirations do you share with your kids throughout the year?

Classroom Reveal (Finally)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I have been back to school for two and a half weeks now, so I suppose it is time to do a classroom reveal.  First, the “before” picture.

I had to start by arranging things and finding five more desks for my room (I went up from 24 last year to 29 this year).

With everything arranged, it looked like this:

My Classroom Library:

(That is my messy, work-in-progress desk in the background.  With everything in its place, my desk area looks like this:

Next to my desk, I have a bulletin board that I made with cute fabric from my old classroom theme.  (I really need to change it to follow my star theme, but the bookworms on the current fabric are just so cute!)  This is the area where I display things that are important to me.  A picture of my first class, a sign from our last school carnival, funny or meaningful comic strips and quotations, and awards I’ve won or my classes have won.  You can also see a picture of the current swim team that I coach and a few drawings kids have made for me in the past.

My Homework Club board and the thermometer I keep in my classroom (so I can complain when the “real” thermostat says 72, but mine says 80)
This is my Reading and Writing wall.  (The letters for Writing are light blue and show up fine in real life, but apparently, not in photos.)  You can see the CRAFT and VOICES displays that I got from Ladybug’s Teacher Files and the Genre Posters are available in my TpT store here.


Next to the Reading and Writing wall is my welcome station.  The stars on the whiteboard is how students make their lunch choice for the day and how I check attendance at a glance.  (Any stars left on the table are absent – but I do double check to make sure they aren’t just forgetful!) 
After taking the picture, I added this to my welcome board:
These are the displays that I have on bulletin boards and walls in my room: 

And the door out of my room with a Pintrest inspired poster.
That is my classroom this year.  Thanks for sticking around for such a long post!
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