Welcome Back!

Welcome back to a new school year!  I know many of you are just now getting into “school mode”, but those of us that teach at year round schools have been at it since the beginning of June.

This year I am still teaching 5th grade, but a HUGE change has occurred.  I am now team teaching with an amazing colleague so that I can focus my instruction on my great loves:  social studies and language arts.  Whoohoo for me!  We are five weeks in and so far, I’m loving it.  I already can’t imagine going back to planning lessons for ALL subjects.  No thank you.

Anyway, my first post is just going to share a couple of fun “intro” activities I did with my students this year.  (I’ll share more in my next post.)

The first activity of the 1st day was our “Welcome to 5th grade” Survival Guides.  My previous class made a survival guide for each incoming student.  I placed on guide on each student’s desk and we did a Round Robin read.  I let each student read a guide for 2 minutes (they weren’t that long) and then yelled “Pass!” so they passed the guide to the person on their left.  Another 2 minutes, then “pass”….until everyone had read multiple survival guides.  I then had the groups share their thoughts about 5th grade with their team.  As they discussed, I placed a small piece of chart paper on each teams’ desks.  They had to come up with one prediction statement about their 5th grade year.  Some needed sentence frames so I posted them.  For example, “I predict 5th grade will be _____ because ______.”  Or “After reading these survival guides, I predict 5th grade ________.”

I prefer to do activities like this as opposed to handing out a packet of rules/routines and reading through it.  This way, the students can actually get a feel of how the class will operate and my rules/routines are demonstrated in action.  No need for long lectures.

Click on this link to see the survival guide– End of Year Project

1st day of school and reading the survival guides made for them by my previous class.
1st day of school and reading the survival guides made for them by my previous class.
Reading the "How to survive 5th grade" guide my previous students made
Reading the “How to survive 5th grade” guide my previous students made

Next, the students were to create “Hands and Feet Art”.  This activity is done for two reasons:  it’s an ice breaker for students to work closely with a partner and it the results are always hilarious.  I love being able to post the final products for Parent Information Night.  (I’ll post photos soon.)

Getting to know each other through Hands and Feet Art!
Getting to know each other through Hands and Feet Art!

 

Tracing each other's feet and hands to create their self-portrait.
Tracing each other’s feet and hands to create their self-portrait.

The last activity was the “House of Cards Challenge”.  I have a poster in my classroom that says….”It’s okay to F.A.I.L. First Attempt in Learning”.  I like to give the kids a challenge that I know they will not be able to figure out or succeed in their first try. I use this as a way to let my students know that it is OKAY TO FAIL!! What is most important in any task is our attitude, our plan of attack, and our perseverance.

So the first challenge of the year was to use a deck of cards to build the tallest structure. That was it. No other rules except they had to work with their partner. The results are always entertaining. We did this the first day and again on day 2 and 3. The kids, of course, got better and better. I even assigned a follow up for homework: they had to find a strategy of how to build a house of cards, whether that was online or asking a family member. They loved it! And they got better!

 

Happy beginning of the year everyone— Until next time…

House of Cards Challenge!!
House of Cards Challenge!!
You got it!! House of Card Challenge-- Easy Ice breaker activity
You got it!! House of Card Challenge– Easy Ice breaker activity
Working together- Easy ice breaker activity...building a house of cards
Working together- Easy ice breaker activity…building a house of cards
Advertisements

Class Set Up

Really quickly—- just going to post some pictures of my new classroom.   Once my student work starts going up, I’ll spend more time explaining each part of the classroom.  I LOVE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT!

Students love when they can read at places other than their desks.

Reading Cave under the counter :)
Reading Cave under the counter 🙂
The couch is always a hit.
The couch is always a hit.

The Writing Wall — now complete with pictures of each student to accompany their work this year.

Writing wall with steps for each type of writing: summary
Writing wall with steps for each type of writing: summary
Writing Wall with "Please excuse the bare wall.  Our writing is under construction sign."  Thanks Pinterest.
Writing Wall with “Please excuse the bare wall. Our writing is under construction sign.” Thanks Pinterest.

The blue bags get filled with compliments.  Once each student has at least one compliment, the students are able to collect all the compliments on their way home.  The compliment coordinator keeps track of this.  New this year:  Book Recommendation Wall–we’ll see how this works out.

Raining Compliments!
Raining Compliments!
Book Recommendation Board complete!
Book Recommendation Board complete!

This is how I keep track of where my students are in writing.  As the students progress at different rates, they move their heads to the step they are on in the writing process.  Because we are just beginning summaries on Monday, all faces are in the prewriting stage.  (I used to keep track on paper, but this visual is soooo helpful!) Also pictured is the science challenge of the week.  I believe I bought it at Lakeshore and it’s a purchase I have never regretted.  My science monitor manages this for me.

Science challenge of the week and how I monitor student writing progress throughout the week.
Science challenge of the week and how I monitor student writing progress throughout the week.
Thanks Beth Newingham for theme posters.  Such good lessons for my read alouds all year.
Thanks Beth Newingham for theme posters. Such good lessons for my read alouds all year.
Multiplication Jail, Strain you Brain (weekly math challenge), and Unanswered Questions
Multiplication Jail, Strain you Brain (weekly math challenge), and Unanswered Questions
Birthday Bags up!
Birthday Bags up!

Multiplication Jail, Strain your Brain, and Unanswered Questions will be further discussed in a later post.

Happy School Year People!!!

Birthday Bags Done!

I’m so happy that all 34 birthday bags are finished!

I don’t know about you, but I was never good at keeping track of all my students’ birthdays.  So instead of scrambling to find some lame pencil or sticker on the day of, now I’m prepared for the entire year.  Each bag is filled with candy (that doesn’t melt–learned that the hard way), a pencil, and a homework pass.  Then each student fills out the birthday bag sign with their name and birthday.  I staple it to the bag and viola!  I am now ready for any birthday that comes my way.  🙂

 

My birthday coordinator is in charge of making sure each student receives his/her birthday bag on their special day.  They also make sure we sing a lively round of “Happy Birthday!”  It’s the best system ever because the pressure is off of me.  Yay!

 

 

IMG_6528

What genre is this? Wait..what’s a genre?

The second week of school has come to a close for me, and I have to admit, I am pooped.  The kids have been awesome.  It’s just always an adjustment getting all your routines into place so everything takes A LOT longer than I planned.  Note to self:  Next year, try to plan less in the first two weeks so I don’t feel behind.

Well, I’ve been working all summer trying to figure out what my reading incentive plan is going to be this year.  I’ve tried AR (not a fan).  I’ve done the reading log each night (not a fan).  I’ve had parents sign that their child has read X amount of minutes each day (well…you get the idea).  These things have not achieved or fostered what my goal is —kids to LOVE reading!  I think maybe this is not the end goal for all teachers, especially the ones that don’t really read themselves.  They need the accountability piece; the signed piece of paper or test that “proves” that a student is reading.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching, asking colleagues, researching, and it all comes back to what I’ve always believed–we need to have a plan to promote literacy in our classroom that truly creates a LOVE for BOOKS!  So how do we do this?  Well, what’s worked better than anything else in my 8 years is my class book club.  Every Wednesday Mrs. Cortez Book Club meets before school.  The kids bring a mug from home and I bring the hot chocolate and doughnuts.  We have read before the meeting to an agreed upon page and then come and talk about the book.  It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done.  There’s no test, no book report, no nothing.  It’s just a group of people getting together and sharing opinions about the story.  (I’ll post something about book club specifically later—it starts this week.)

I decided this year that I’m taking bits and pieces from reading “The Book Whisperer”, Beth Newingham (google her), Fountas and Pinnell’s reading notebook, and a little bit of my own two cents.  I am implementing the 40 Book Challenge and I’m so excited!  I’ll post about that later this week as well along with everything I created for it.  In order conquer this challenge, the students HAVE to be able to identify different genres of literature so this was the lesson.   Using “The Book Whisperer” as my guide and Beth Newinghams free downloads (genre title pages), I had the students take notes in their reader’s notebooks.  Then I gave each team scholastic book catalogs and they had to choose 15 book covers to sort.   I gave each teach one blank sheet of paper and let them “sort” it out.  Were all the sorts correct? No, but it made for some good conversation for our intro. lesson.  The kids really got it into it.

This year is off to a good start!

Putting our extra catalogs to good use.
Putting our extra catalogs to good use.

photo 2 photo 3_2 photo 4 photo 5_2 photo 1 photo 2_2

Thank you Beth for allowing us to download these awesome genre pages for free!
Thank you Beth for allowing us to download these awesome genre pages for free!
Teams presented to class and we discussed challenges, rights, and wrongs.
Teams presented to class and we discussed challenges, rights, and wrongs.
Using scholastic book catalogs the extras), each team sorted the titles by genre.
Using scholastic book catalogs the extras), each team sorted the titles by genre.

The Giving Tree

Every year I read one of my favorite stories of all time, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.   I’m sure you all know the story and if you don’t, please do yourself a favor, click on the link and just buy it.   You won’t be sorry.  I even bought myself the phone case for my birthday last year.

My birthday gift to myself
My birthday gift to myself

Anyway, my partner teacher and I wanted to create some sort of assignment with this book.  This is what we came up with and I love it.  After reading the story the students each reflect on their own life and determine who is their giving tree.  I have them write on a post-it (obviously, I have a post-it problem) who their giving tree is and the reasons why.  I also explain that the reason has to be something deeper than…”My mom is my giving tree because she buys me stuff.”–Unacceptable.  The students are trying to make a real and meaningful text to self connection at this point.

After I correct the post-it for conventions, each student is given a red apple.  (Apologize for not have it here for you to download, but it’s on my work computer.  So sorry.)  It’s basically just an image of an apple blown up and we inserted lines over the image.  I copy of red construction paper because I don’t like to spend time coloring in class, but you could just have them color it red if you so choose.

Then, each student is given a green leaf.  On this paper, they are to reflect and decide what they are going to give to the class this year and it CANNOT be any material thing i.e. school supplies.  I post these up the whole year and revisit them so I warn the students to chose something that they are truly planning on sharing with the class.

IMG_6158

IMG_6159

My students came up with some awesome ideas of what they are going to share this year:  teaching origami, how to throw a football, kindness, teach organization, etc.   On back to school night, parents can find their child’s apple and so many are filled with joy to see what the students said about their giving tree.  I LOVE this activity.

Thank you Shel Silverstein!  

Click on the above link for his Giving Tree read aloud.

Spaghetti & Marshmallow Challenge

Okay, so I guess I have time for one more.  Thanks to this post which contains an amazing list of different team building challenges, I did this activity for the second year in a row this week.  The kids, of course, loved it.

This team built the tallest structure that remained standing on its own!
This team built the tallest structure that remained standing on its own!
Good job girls!
Good job girls!
This team tried so many different structures!
This team tried so many different structures!

The teams were challenged to build the tallest structure using the noodles and marshmallows–nothing else.  Click on this link to my pinterest board.  It will take you to the top post where you can print out her list of different challenges to try each week!

The first month of school, I try to complete one challenge a week.  I’m truly trying to teach the kids never to give up and it’s OKAY TO FAIL!!!   See the sign I made (can’t believe I actually made it–so super easy.  I love the paint pen!).

Bought the letters and paint pen at Target, glued it all own and voila!
Bought the letters and paint pen at Target, glued it all own and voila!

The kids were so scared at first glance, but calmed down after I explained.  Next sign needed…. Mistakes are proof you’re trying!

Have a good night!