Sunday, December 22, 2013

State Projects ::: Research Paper, Power Point, & State Float

This research project is a huge task for the students, but they always do such an amazing job! Last year, I had my students work on the project towards the end of the year. This year, I had my students work on it in the first trimester. In hindsight, that may have been too early for such a big project. Especially the research report aspect of the project. So next year, I will hold off until the 2nd or 3rd trimester.

The project consists of a research paper, a state float, and a Power Point presentation.

I tell my students about the project a few weeks before we get started. I created a Power Point that shows examples of projects from last years students. This visual really helped them understand what was expected. I also showed some of the Power Point presentations that my students created last year.

Now last year, my 5th graders were also my previous 3rd graders. So they were familiar with creating a Power Point. I worked with them on creating a Power Point in 3rd grade for the plant/animal adaptation unit. So the Power Point aspect of the project was a piece of cake for them. However, this year was a different story. Most of my students haven't had the experience of creating a Power Point. I pulled back groups of students and modeled/taught them how to create slides, add transitions, etc. Luckily the kids today are so technologically savvy they catch on quick!

I asked me students to think about three states they would be interested in researching. A few days later they chose their states. I don't allow the students to research the same states. I tell them, there are 5o states and 29 of us!

I give my students a month and a half to complete the project and created a calendar that gave walked them through on what they should be working on each day and tentative due dates for certain parts of the project.

We first tackle the research paper. Most of their papers ended up being 10-12 pages! Of course, I am modeling each step of the way.  During our writing time, I pull back groups and teach mini lessons on what the following should include and how to correctly set them up:  a cover page includes, table of contents, bibliography, etc. We discuss the different means of obtaining research, how to paraphrase, etc. Students are given a packet (in English and Spanish) that explains in detail the components to the research paper and state floats. Students are also given the rubric for all three parts of the project.

Once, they are almost finished with their state research paper, they start gathering materials and creating their state float. This year I had quite a few students put wheels on it so the float actually moved!


The state research project and state float are mostly completed at home. The Power Point presentation is created in class, but those students who have access to computers at home worked on it there too.

Since the students already researched their states, creating the Power Point wasn't too difficult (once I showed them the in's and out's of creating one).

One everything is finished, I invite the parents to our classroom to watch their children present their projects using their Power Point presentation. They also discuss their state float and their research papers are on show throughout the room for others to view.

I must say, it was A LOT of work and when I first rolled out the project, they looked at me like I was crazy! But, to see the joy of accomplishment in their faces once they were done was awesome! I keep telling them, that I am trying to prepare them for middle school, high school, and ultimately college. These are definitely skills they will need!

Head on over to Fifth in the Middle's Social Studies Linky for more nifty projects!

I found a great 50 State Video/Song on Youtube that my kids LOVE!

***Now I just need to figure out how to make a little smiley face symbol for their faces instead of a black dot!***

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Winter Celebration Party Ideas

I'm sure this isn't the first you've seen any of these ideas, as they are all over the Internet and Pinterest. Of course this post won't do you any good until next year, but I'm sure you all know how crazy the last week of school can be!

This year I thought I'd make some holiday favors for my kids. Everything was super easy, definitely manageable, and pretty inexpensive. The best part was that my students got a kick out of the everything!

Melted Snowman:
You'll need the following:
  • Full sized water bottles (if you get the small water bottles the labels will be way to big)
  • Melted Snowman labels (free) from this site . I'm not sure who was the original creator of these labels. I've seen the same label on many different sites.
  • I used packaging tape to tape them onto the water bottle.
Snowman Soup
You'll need the following:
  • Hot coco pouches
  • Candy canes
  • Hershey's Kisses
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Ziploc baggies
  • Snowman Soup Poem (I thought I saved the link to the labels I used, but I can't seem to find it at the moment. When I do, I will post it. ) There are tons of labels out there, with slightly different poems. Here are two I liked, but was unable to use because I was running out of color ink. That's what happens when I create this stuff the night before! Love these red labels found at the Paper and Pigtails blog and this label is super cute over at Simply Kiersti's blog
Just throw all the ingredients together and viola you have Snowman Soup!

White Chocolate Festive Pretzels
You'll need:
  • 1 bag of white chocolate baking morsels (chips)
  • 1 bag of pretzels
  • festive sprinkles
So, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE white chocolate covered pretzels. I decided to make my own this time and they were so much better than the store bought ones! My husband has even asked me to make them again. I also loved how quick and easy it was to make them.

Just melt the white chocolate chips (I melted one cup at a time in the microwave for one minute). After mixing it, you are ready to dip the pretzels into the white chocolate and make them pretty with the sprinkles.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Explorer Trading Cards and Timeline!


Gosh what would I do without all you fabulous teacher bloggers out there! I've learned so much from all of you and have become a better teacher due to all the sharing of ideas that goes on!

I got this idea from Jordon over at Life is Better Messy Anyway.  She even has the lesson plan available (for free) via download. If you haven't checked out her blog you should do so, she has so many wonderful ideas!

I was in need of another explorer activity and this was perfect! I followed her lesson plan and tweaked a few things to tailor it to my students.

My students chose the name of an explorer from a paper bag (I made it look old and raggity). From there we discussed the features of a trading card and what it was. I brought in a few basketball cards as an example. Then, they cracked open their social studies books and got online to gather information on their explorer. Once they had all their information, they were ready to draw out their explorer (I think they did such an amazing job!) and wrote important information on the back of the card.

Since I didn't have a nice big photo of a ship, I had to draw one. I think it turned out pretty anchor needs some help...but my kids think it's perfect! Gotta love them!

I have run out of wall space inside my classroom, but I do have some wall space on the outside of my room in the hallway. So it became our Explorer Trading Card Timeline! It adds a bit of pizzaz to our otherwise dreary hallway. My students also love to have their work being showcased for other to see as well.

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Stocking Stuffers with Thoughtful Notes

I wanted to have my students create something festive for the holiday. My one criteria was it had to be quick and easy! Time was running out...story of my life! I grabbed this idea from Thank God It's First Grade.  She has everything you need (the template for the stocking and the note cards) on her page and it's free! Isn't she amazing! The students make their own stockings and they stuff each other's stockings with warm, thoughtful, friendly notes. I LOVED the idea and was keeping my fingers crossed my students would as well.

Even the big kids like activities like this! I seriously have the sweetest group of students ever!

I went ahead and photocopied the stocking on red and white card stock. I didn't have envelopes handy in the classroom, so I had the kids make envelopes out of green construction paper. They wrote their names on the front and some even decorated their envelope. Next year, I will definitely give them more time so they can decorate. I plan on rolling this out the beginning of December, not two weeks before we head off to winter break. This way they will have a few weeks to write each other notes.

On Friday, during our holiday celebration, they will get their stockings and read all the wonderful notes their classmates wrote to them.

Of course next year, I will have a much prettier display! It was crunch time! I tore down some posters and slapped these babies up.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter Landscape Art!

This was such a fun and simple art project! I was in a pickle...last Friday I was told that I needed to have my students submit winter artwork this Thursday to decorate the auditorium (our winter performance is next week). We were asked to create artwork that didn't have to do with Christmas, but had a winter feel to it. Since my mind wasn't in a creative art mode, I scoured the web and found this great project via Laura over at Painted Paper.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 12x8 white paper
  • Assortment of tempera paint
  • Scrap paper (brown, white, and black)
  • Glue
  • 14x9 black or white paper (used for the "frame")
You'll need a couple days to work on the project. The first day was solely devoted to painting the background and allowing it to dry.

I used dark purple, dark blue, and white paint. In order to make different shades of blue and purple my students added white paint to create different tints.

I love how every work of art is unique! Some students chose to create harsh colors and lines, whereas, others blended the lines, using softer colors.

They learned what "tint" meant and how they can create many different shades just by adding white paint.

Tear art! Using white construction paper, students tore a horizontal piece for the blanket of snow on the ground. Then they tore out trees/branches with brown or black construction paper. After that, they added snow to the tree branches.

I even had some creative kiddos create snowmen on their winter landscape scene. Love it! I decided to frame their artwork with a larger piece of black or white construction paper (I was going to only use black, but ran out, so I let my students choose). I like how the "frame" finishes it up nicely.


A lot of times art is thrown on the back burner, due to all the other academic areas that must get covered within the year. As I roamed around my room and saw how involved and how much my students enjoyed creating their masterpieces, it made me reflect on how I definitely have to try harder to incorporate time for them to be creative into the year.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Very Late Currently December :)

Wowsa! Two posts in one day! I think that may be against the blogger rules, but I'm a rule breaker at times...gotta live on the edge once in a while!

Linking up with Farley for December's Currently! Oh and my normally photograph enriched currently posts, will be lacking this month.

Listening:  Why haven't I discovered Pandora sooner?!? While I was in Kentucky for Thanksgiving Break, my friend introduced me to Pandora. I love it! I love that I can type in an artist and they come up with a similar playlist. I do realize I've said "love" one to many times in this short paragraph! Oh well...

Loving: Winter Break is just around the corner! We get three weeks off for Winter Break! Wowsa! At my previous school we had two weeks off and I liked that better. Three weeks is great, but that means only one week for Spring Break versus two weeks of Spring Break. Since, I'm addicted to traveling, one week just isn't long enough for a long distance vacation. I shall make it work by golly!

Thinking: About how I really need to sit down and finish the opinion literacy unit before Winter Break. For some reason, I always seem to find other things that just HAVE to get know the dishes, the lawn, walking my pooches...

Wanting: What can I say life is fabulous!

Needing: To get back into my gym/workout regime. Whenever we go on break  I tend to get a bit lax on my workouts, especially if I end up traveling. I've even gone to the extent of packing work out clothes with the intention of working out. Key word: intention! Hahaha..

Favorite Tradition:  Cutting down our own Christmas tree! There will never ever be a fake tree in our home! Ever since I was a wee child, my family would head off to the Christmas tree farm and cut down our own tree. My husband and I continue to do so. I love searching for the perfect tree with my hot coco in hand.

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The Age of Exploration:::Explorer Simulation Project

Hello all!! It's been awhile since my last post...seems to be a trend of mine. :)

We are finishing up our "Age of Exploration" unit and I wanted to share a fun activity that my students love! All they talk about is when they can get into their explorer groups. I love making learning fun for them!

Last year I came across this great book by scholastic: Easy Simulation: Explorers, By Tim Bailey.
This simulation is a teacher directed, student driven activity that provides life-like problem solving experiences through role playing and reenacting. It allows the kids to "relive" and "experience" a critical period in history by becoming one of the brave explorers in search of the "new world" during the 15th century.

I must say that last year, it was a learning experience and the simulation was a bit confusing (you will definitely have to read ahead and prep a few things ahead of time). This year the simulation went so much smoother. One nice thing is how fast the students catch on.

I started off with allowing the kids to get into groups of 5-6 explorers. Once they were in their groups, they were to discuss a name for their ship and construct a flag for their ship. I allowed them to go online in order to get ideas.

Discussing a design for their ship flag.

Working as a team!

Once they had their flags completed, they made their Explorer Journal (this is to be used throughout the week long simulation). This year I used the materials I had on hand...yellow and brown construction paper and yellow yarn.  The simulation book comes with blackline masters for the journal pages. I had the kids decorate their journal and then weave yarn through it.

Once this is done, you are ready for action! Their are 5 episodes (It is supposed to take a week to get through. I finished in 7 days, you know how it is :)

I also like how the book incorporates some primary documents (Christopher Columbus journal entries). Of course his entries can be confusing because the language was different during that time. Allowed for another great discussion.

The students really get into the storyline and have some great discussions and possible solutions to any problems that may arise during their adventure to the new world.

Discussing what their next step will be.


Time for a spin!

Scholastic has a few more simulation books. I have the Revolutionary War one and didn't get the opportunity to use it last year. I am planning on doing it this year so stay tuned for how that went!  Check out Fifth in the Middle for more awesome ideas!

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