Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Weatherman, Weather Unit!

We finished our Earth science unit! Yay!

One of the main standards addresses how energy from the sun heats the Earth unevenly causing air movements that result in a change of weather patterns. One component states the students should know how to use weather maps to predict weather and understand that weather forecasts depend on many variables. After reading, discussing, and using GLAD strategies, etc., for the students to grasp the content, I was trying to figure out a fun way to end the unit. While scouring the amazing 5th grade teacher blogs, I found this great Weather Map Unit on TPT by Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6. Check out her post on the Weatherman Unit. She explains it perfectly!

It is such a great culminating activity that reinforces the academic language associated with the unit. My students loved this activity, they were so engaged! I told my student to be creative in how they made their weather report. I told them to add some pizzaz and make it personable rather than dry and stuffy. They did a great job! Their weather report reflected their weather map and the symbols (the weatherman unit has situation cards that help the students with this).

I apologize for the low quality of the cell phone is to thank for that.

Well, I'm beyond tired tonight, so my post is short and sweet.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Great Read Aloud Novels!

I've been reading like crazy the past few weeks and I must say it's been great! I was chosen to participate with a group of teachers within my school district to design the next literacy unit to correlate with the Common Core standards. The first trimester the literacy unit was based on the theme of "change" with a focus on narrative writing. The second trimester will be based on the theme "conflict" with a focus on opinion writing. I wasn't a part of the process for the first literacy unit and I've learned so much being able to participate this time around. It takes a lot time and energy, but definitely worth it!

In order to come up with a rigorous writing prompt based on the common core standards, we needed to choose a main text (a text in which we would use as a shared read, all students would have a copy) and construct the prompt around the theme and the text.

We ended up choosing Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a long read, but a great historical fiction novel about a girl, Isabel and her sister, who were promised freedom upon the death of their owner during the American Revolution (great way to tie in the social studies standards). However, that did not happen and the story follows Isabel on her journey for freedom. She battles internal conflicts (spying for the revolutionaries for freedom) and there is the external conflicts with her new owners and the war raging on.
I noticed many of my students reading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau last year. They just couldn't seem to put the book down, so naturally I had to read it. I must say, I couldn't put the book down fact I read it in one day. It's a science fiction novel about an underground city that is slowly running out of power and supplies. The main character Lina, manages to decode a message written by the original builders of the City of Ember. It is a nonstop suspense novel! This wasn't chosen as our main text but is on our list of read alouds. I like that it has three more books in the series, so the students can continue to read about Lina's journey.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson is another wonderful book. Again, it is historical fiction and takes place during the American Revolution. Unlike her last book, this book focuses on Mattie Cook and her struggle to build a better life and stay alive during the Yellow Fever epidemic. I like how the author, Laurie Halse Anderson, uses primary resources at the beginning of each chapter (she did this with her novel Chains as well). Usually excerpts from a newspaper, letter, diary that reiterates the struggles during that time in history). I also read this book in a day, I couldn't put it down!

One of my favorite read aloud novels is Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  Whenever I read this book to my students they get so involved in the story line. The novel allows for in depth discussions on WWII and the injustices that went on during that time (of course in an appropriate manner for 5th grade students). This book was a read aloud for our first trimester theme of "change." While reading the book, we discussed how/what caused Annemarie and Ellen to change throughout the war. Even though WWII isn't a 5th grade standard, the book allowed for students to gain a better understanding of the world around them.

And for the last book, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. This was our shared read novel for our first literacy unit. It touches upon themes of racism and homelessness and follows the story of a boy, Jeffery Magee (Maniac) and his search for a family to love and care for him. My students really enjoyed this novel and it allowed for many great discussions.

The next novel I will tackle: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. Have any of you read this novel with your students? If so, what did you think?
I love that my new school uses the balanced literacy approach. It allows for me to introduce so many different types of novels and genres to my students. Which in turn allows for a genuine love and interest in reading. We've read 3 novels since the beginning of the school year, which I think is great!
I'd love to hear about your favorite must read novels!

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Finally! Peer Revising/Editing Worked In My Classroom!

I love teaching students the writing process and how to get their thoughts and ideas down on paper. But, it was so difficult for them to understand that a writer writes more than one draft...sometimes many drafts. My students would look over their own paper and correct misspelled words and check for punctuation errors. However, peer editing/revising, that just didn't work at all in my room. I was also wracking my brain on getting them to understand that editing and revising are two different things.
I used to always confer with them during our writing time, but this usually ended up with me editing and revising their paper for them, which ultimately turned their paper into my paper. It also took up a lot of time for me to conference with all 35 of my kids. This year I changed things up a lot and it worked!

My students have been working on writing a memoir from the perspective of  Jeffery (from the novel Maniac Magee) and discussing the many factors that caused him to change and how change has played a positive or negative role in his life. After a few weeks of modeling and teaching the process of writing metacognitively. They were ready to peer edit/revise their papers.
A little background: This year, I had my students edit/revise after they drafted each paragraph (this worked out well and allowed them to limit their focus on one paragraph at a time. Once they had their whole paper written, they were to edit/revise it again from the introduction to the conclusion. Then when that was finished, they were ready to have a peer edit/revise their paper.


I used a few check off sheets for (specifically for a memoir) them to use during their own editing/revising and then a few sheets they would use during their peer edits/revisions. The check off sheets worked well! I had a chart on the wall that they signed their name to when they were ready for a peer edit/revision. I sat down with the first few students to discuss and review what my expectations were during this process.  What was great that those first few students were able to then "teach" and "reiterate" the peer edit expectations to their classmates.

The greatest part of this was my students were so engaged in all aspects of the writing process. I was walking around the room as a facilitator. It was great to see my students grab dictionaries, thesauruses, and their interactive ELA journals for reference.

Once they were done with their peer edits, their papers had been revised 2 to 3 times. I looked over their papers before they could move on to the publishing phase. However, I didn't edit or revise their paper. I really want their writing to be as authentic as possible. This allowed me to take note of what mini lessons I will need to teach in the future. Of course if I noticed anything that really needed to be taken care of I addressed it. There were some instances in which the peer editor didn't do the job they were supposed to. In this case, I advised the student to have one more peer editor look over their paper. I also had discussion with those whose revisions weren't up to par.

All in all, everything went smooth and I believe my kids are learning that writing is a process and a long process at that.  A few of them are now typing out their papers, which was another lesson in itself! They had no idea how to type a Word Document. Luckily, they caught on quickly!


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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Did Someone Say November?!

Gosh, this year is flying right by! I have many things I want to blog about, but never get around to it. I gotta start making some time for that I guess.

Linking up with Farley again for the Currently.

Listening: Our boys (Buster and Hans) must be the most spoiled pooches in the world! They pretty much rule our household, but then again I wouldn't have it any other way. Such unconditional love they give us. Buster is super playful and loves playing tug o war with my husband. Hansy on the other hand is a bit older and prefers to snuggle with us on the couch.

Loving: I am BEYOND excited to be meeting up with some old school friends in a few weeks!! I will be Kentucky bound to visit my friend, Amber, and her cute little family. We've been friends since 4th grade..wowsa... 25 years of friendship! She moved to Kentucky a few years back and lives on a cute little farm.  She will be working a few of the days I am there, so I decided to rent a car and head down to Nashville. At first it was going to be a little solo adventure, but another long time friend of mine, Mike, and his wife decided to make a mini vacation and meet me there. They live in St. Louis and love that they are making a the trek to Nashville.

I've never been to Kentucky or Tennessee and am super excited to explore that beautiful area of the US!

So if any of you live or have been to Kentucky (the Louisville area) or Nashville and have any advice on must see spots, send it my way!

Thinking: So on Friday I was told that the previous mayor and the current mayor of Los Angeles will be visiting my classroom on Monday morning. Can we say STRESSED! I am super excited, honored, and nervous all at the same time. I'm sure all will go well and I normally don't mind having visitors in my room. I've just never had someone like the Mayor visit.

Wanting: Last week I was tricked into thinking cooler weather had arrived. We got a day of rain and cooler temps. I loved it! Then BAM, 80/90 degree weather hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. Sigh... At least the mornings and evenings can be a bit brisk. My fingers are still crossed...

Needing: Winter clothes! Here in CA we don't see much of a winter and I'm not sure if my "winter" clothes will be warm enough when I head to Kentucky/Tennessee. I did buy some rain boots (for a December holiday) last weekend and have a warm jacket. But I don't think that will suffice. And what is with the drab colors out in the stores right now. Goodness, just because fall/winter has arrived doesn't mean we all want to wear brown, black, and gray! A little color would be nice.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend fellow blogging friends!!
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