January 14, 2014

The Project that I Love-2013/2014 Version!

     I have to admit, I LOVE my Native American Mall project!  It is so much fun for the kids and for me.  I am always amazed at what they produce. Here's what this year's kids made for the tribes found in Florida.

These are from my teaching partner's class.

And this is how it looks when I put it together in my hall!

Like I said, I just love this project!  We will be working on Explorers next.  I've cooked up a little Venn Diagram activity that includes a timeline along with it!  I can't wait to get the kids involved in it!  In the meantime, here is the link to the Native American Mall project! 

January 7, 2014

New Year, New Me, New Ideas About Complexity!

            I have to admit, I miss fun crafts from my primary days.  Especially when we return from a break.  I also have to admit, I did the bare minimum for Christmas.  It was really upsetting to me, honestly.  I don’t ever just ignore holidays.  It’s half the fun of school-creating those crafts and hanging them up in your house.  My kids are in middle school and our fridge still reflects this theme.  If they do anything fun, it still goes up there.  So, I’ve been feeling a little bit lonely when it comes to crafts and fun. We did do our Charlie Summary, and, that was fun, but I wanted something to start our year off better, to remind me to remember that students need these memories. 

            I started with Pintrest.  There are some fun things.  I really liked this idea of “Toasting the New Year”, but I just couldn’t come up with the complexity that I needed.  I know that I will eventually come back to this idea and try the complexity bump, but I couldn’t find it this year.  Then I found this-New Year’s Resolutions and Good Fortunes. 

I didn’t think it was primary, because it had the looks of a more intermediate type of activity, and it is actually listed for 2nd-5th.  When I looked at it closer, it was definitely a stretch for 4th grade.  I decided though, that it could be tweaked a little.  My thought was to play off the balloon idea.  Originally, I was going to cut the fortunes and place them in balloons for every kid, but the idea of a.) filling balloons at a store was too pricey, and b.) blowing up those balloons would have made me winded and dizzy, I decided on a different route.  I took balloons and put enough fortunes into them to meet the needs of the table group.  I had 5 balloons, 4 with 4 fortunes and 1 with 3.  Perfect! 

            Here’s how it worked.  Besides the fortune balloons, I copied the balloons on 6 different colors.  I did not copy the white writing page.  I wanted to save the paper and, as it came out, they looked fine with just the writing on them.  Once I had everything copied and blown up, I passed out the balloons to each group.  I made them stop and come up with a plan of how they were going to pop the balloon without sitting on it.  I allowed them to talk about it. This simple act of stopping and thinking saved a lot of hardship.  It made them cooperatively decide who was doing what and come up with a safe plan (no scissors!)  Amazingly, pens and pencils did a great job of bursting those balloons! 

            Once the balloons were broken, the kids each picked a fortune.  

This is when the magic happened!  It wasn’t long before someone said, “I don’t understand what this means.” And out of my mouth came, “These are metaphors for life.  You make them what you want them to be.  It is comparing two things, you have to fill in the connection!”  Holy cow!  We finished figurative language before break.  I could make this connection for them.  They began to roll with it!  They were able to go with it and complete some pretty amazing things.  

This got me thinking-Why, oh why, haven’t I hit the idea that some of these primary “fun” stuff have much deeper meaning.  The complexity is there; we just have to see it!  I’ve got to start taking my own advice (Shades of Meaning) and start calling these things what they are!  It’s given me a different perspective on how to put the complexity back into things and make them count for more!  We finished up the balloons by cutting them out and adding some ribbon I have been hoarding in my closet for making jellyfish for an ocean unit I never got to!  So, not only did I use complexity, I used hoarded supplies! 

            Now, you will notice, I didn’t include the resolution in my work with the balloons.  Last year I stumbled upon the 2013 (updated for 2014) New Year, New Me activity. 

I loved it so much, we are doing it again this year!  Tomorrow we will work on filling out the written parts of the mobile.  Today, we colored!  It was actually nice.  They were able to communicate to one another their holiday fun stuff.  I heard about presents, trips, family events, and an impromptu lesson on who Ben Franklin was!  If there’s one other thing I’ve learned about doing these projects now, it is that sometimes you have to stop and  take time to be together as a class.  That’s what has been missing, that’s what racing to get curriculum covered and worrying about every assessment under the sun has done.  It has robbed us of the opportunity to just breathe and be.  And it’s robbed us of the chance to see fun activities as the complex being that they can be! 

            Now, for a freebie!  Like I said, we were working on figurative language.  We made this great foldable that I saw on Pintrest one time. (Here is the link: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/111604896985892846/_ ) 
It is an all about me project.  But I like that it had figurative language in it, and thought I could adapt the layout to fit figurative language only.  So, as a freebie, I will include all of the insides for the foldbable. 


Figurative language:   Page 1
                                    Page 2
                                    Page 3

Feel free to think about how you might change this and make it more complex for your class!  Then let us know how you might do that in the comment section below!

January 2, 2014

Cleaning and a Candy Summary!

I don’t even know where to begin this New Year, not a clue.  I feel like I’ve been in a blur of cleaning, hosting, cleaning, being really, really sick for a day, and cleaning again. I mean, how many times can you clean, right??!!  There was the pre-hosting cleaning, the post hosting cleaning interrupted by the terrible stomach virus I had, the general cleaning, and, then, the take it all down cleaning!  I haven’t yet mentioned how much I HATE cleaning!  I even did a clean up on my iPhone, where I was quickly reminded I had taken loads of pictures of things going on in my class and haven’t written one blog post about any of it!  I decided today was the day. (Especially since I had some dental work and I’m now in a different kind of blur where I can’t clean!  Should I follow that with a woot-I’m not sure I should!)

We have finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!  Yes, we have!  I don’t know whether to be happy or sad on that one, since I was getting so much out of it.  The good news is... it is now our mentor text.  I can refer to it whenever I need to, and I will!  I have a whole idea of how I’m going to target theme, and it revolves around Charlie and our new reading!  I did decide there needed to be a little fun around Christmas and what is better fun than candy!  So here’s what we did!

I designed this fun activity to revisit summary.  We had been working on it on and off, and we need to start hitting it harder.  I am truly the believer that writing about reading solidifies the learning and thinking that takes place.  I don’t believe that the worksheets provided by readers do a good job of this.  They are about the skill, not about the story. Anyway, I had begun to think about a way that would make writing a summary of a favorite chapter from the book a little more fun and follow the same ideas as the spider summary from earlier in the year.  I really felt the kids needed this step-by-step practice again-and I found it in candy!  Candy-of course!  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is all about the candy!  I decided that the kids would be able to outline the paragraph on pieces of candy and, then, organize them in a way that would let them actually manipulate the pieces as they went.  

First, I let the kids pick their favorite chapter.  My teaching partner, Lisa, did it differently.  She had volunteers identify the chapter they would write about, taking it off of the choice list for others.  It can be done either way!  Once they identified the chapter, they had to REREAD the chapter, no matter how recently they read it!  I set the purpose of reading to be that they had to gather the information they needed first, without writing anything down.  Once they did this, then they used the book to fill in the candy pieces before doing any cutting! 

Once they finished writing and cutting out the pieces, then they wrote their summary on notebook paper.  They stacked their cut out candy in order, helping them to write the summary as they went.  This was really, really key.  Many of my students are still in this very concrete stage with summary writing. 

Upon completion of the summary, they then received the summary paper from me.  They wrote out their summary, glued it onto a large piece of construction paper, and then glued the candy, in order, around the summary.  Completed project with a fun, fun look!  They really enjoyed doing it too!

(This is how they looked hanging in the hall.  The large candy pieces were a cause and effect activity we did.  I made them 20+ years ago!)

The one thing I discovered from this is that they are unaware of how a plot diagram works.  I redesigned this activity to include a plot diagram to guide student thinking the next time I do this.  In fact, even though we won’t be dealing with candy again, I will be printing out the plot diagram and hanging it in my room.  As I’ve said, this book becomes our mentor text, and referring back to this activity will connect it in a deeper, more meaningful way. 

So, in honor of the New Year, I am offering this as a freebie for the rest of today (1/2/14) and tomorrow (1/3/14)! Please remember to leave feedback for this product!   It can be used with any candy book, such as the Chocolate Touch or the upcoming release of The Candy Crush.  How can you think of using this activity in your class?

And, just for the record, during the writing of this post I did end up cleaning-loaded the dishwasher and started it!  Help me now!