Friday, November 16, 2012

Bud, Not Buddy projects

One of our writing assignments for the story Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis was this: How is the suitcase a symbol in the story? What does it stand for? What does he keep in it?I cut paper bags to make "suitcases" for the writing/project. The students decorated the outside. On the inside of the suitcase the students had to put pictures,items or drawings that actually represented the things that were most important to Bud.
You can see his rocks and the blue flyers here. We also had fun typing the writing assignment and creating a wordle of Bud's character traits.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Class Dojo

My teaching partner started using Class Dojo with the 4th and fifth graders this year. It is an online behavior management program that teachers can use for free! earn and get dojo points taken away for a variety of reasons. The teacher can choose what they want the class to work on: On task behaviors, persistence, working together and so on. I partnered this program with another one This company had awards or charms in increments of 25. Once one of our students earns 25 dojo points they get a necklace, a dog tag, and a 25 "dojo" charm.

Our Dojo necklaces!

This company gives out lots of free samples of many different charms. The possibilities are endless! Christine

Sunday, October 21, 2012

ELA Notebooking

Interactive notebooking is really interesting. I learned about it from some different blogs: The Middle School Mouth and A Teacher's Treasure. Here is my Pinterest board with links to the various sites: 
The first page of the fiction section  is a reading log

The inside cover of the 4th grade notebook looks like this. You can see the poster that we used as inspiration. Our essential question was: Why do authors write stories?

On another page (this is is the fifth grade notebook) we log in the conflict of the various stories we read. You can see that we make it interactive by placing a picture of the  story on the conflict poster, This stays up all year.

Here is another page in the 5th grade notebook that is also interactive. We log the point of view of each story in our notebooks and on the poster.

I have started to add foldables to our ELA notebooks. Here is one on similes. This is fun but it is also a work on progress. I originally put three tabs in the notebooks: fiction, nonfiction and language. I wasn't sure where I wanted to put similes. It ended up in language. My long term plan is that the students use the notebooks as a resource. We have glued in other pages like these one that lists sample character traits. Whenever they need a trait they could look at this page. Christine

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Essential questions

Why is freedom so important to us? It's a great essential question that fit in really well with Harriet Tubman week. I wrote about Harriet Tubman week  here: 

What I really loved was that the essential question allowed us to tie together books that are completely different: Biographies, historical fiction stories and science fiction. When you study Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth it is really easy to see how their lives connect to our essential question. I decided to read the novel Among The Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix at the same time.
It is a science fiction (dystopian) novel about a society when having a third child is illegal. Luke, the main character, has to spend his life hiding in the attic from the Population Police. This novel really makes kids think about the concept of freedom in a new way. Its also part of a series, so if I can get them hooked on the first story we have 6 more books ahead! Christine

Friday, October 12, 2012

Point of View

The new Common Core standards are quite challenging when it comes to teaching point of view. I haven't had to teach the difference between first and third person point of view to fourth and fifth graders before. After reading a story and determining its point of view together, we have been adding it to this poster in our room.
These are books the 5th graders have read so far
We've also started ELA notebooking and I'm finding that very exciting. I will take some pictures of our notebooks and put together a post about that. One page in our notebook matches the point of view poster above. Christine

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Looking for picture books to use as mentor texts?
Each year this event gets better and better! I only participated in the first 10 for 10 back in 2010.I reread my selections and notice they haven't changed all that much. Next year I think I'll challenge myself to come up with 10 nonfiction picture books for grades 4-5. Christine

Sunday, August 5, 2012

4th Grade Mini Lesson

Life in 4b has been one of my favorite blogs to follow. Miss Bonkers in moving on up to middle school. I can only hope she keeps sharing her wonderful lessons with us. Here is a video of her using one of my favorite mentor texts with the famous Ike Larue. Christine

Monday, June 25, 2012

Number the Stars: Favorite novels for 5th grade

Some of the best teaching I do all year is with some very special novels. When we begin reading Number The Stars by Lois Lowry I like to keep track of what we learn about the main characters in chapters one and two: Ellen, Annemarie and Kirsti. Here is a picture of a poster I use. The kids add information about each character on the stickies.

An important foreshadowing clue comes up at the end of chapter three.

Annemarie admitted to herself snuggling there in the quiet dark, that she was glad to be an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage.
Later on in the novel we will see that Annmarie is called upon to do several courageous things. The first one is when she rips the Star of David necklace off of Ellen's neck. I like to go back then and have the students find the foreshadowing clue.

It then becomes apparent that courage is a theme in the novel. Here are some of the pictures that I have previously posted regarding Number The Stars. Christine
Here is a word sort that could be done after chapter 10
This character report card should be done near the end of the novel
This is a story map that can be created after reading chapter 7
A two word summary created together after reading the novel

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Common Core book picks

The appendix to the Common Core has an interesting  list of books you could use to teach the new standards. I really liked this nonfiction pick: Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions. by Don Wulffson. I used Youtube videos to introduce a few of the the different inventions: the slinky, magic rocks, and Mr. Potato Head. These are posted at the bottom. After reading each individual story I had the students work on this worksheet I created:
They had to record the name of the invention, the inventor, when and where they invented it, what inspired him/her, and a problem the inventor encountered. The last block was a place to record a trait or characteristic we noticed that the inventor had. For example: creative, hardworking, intelligent. Most of the stories in the book Toys! follow this pattern. Later on in the week we worked in groups to prove that inventors have common characteristics.
I used those large stickers to have the groups  record text based evidence of inventors showing that they were smart, persistent, creative or hardworking. The kids really liked this book. The stories are short. You could read 2-3 in a period. They could also be easily summarized.
  • RI.4.1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. (We had to infer common traits of inventors)
  • RI.4.2. Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • RI.4.3. Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text
RI.4.7. Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears. ( Some of the info from the Youtube video on the invention of the slinky conflicted and/or added to the information we learned from the text)
RI.4.10. By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Mr. Potato Head

Richard T. James the Slinky Inventor --

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Common Core Persuasive Writing Lesson

I love the book Should Their Be Zoos? by Tony Stead. I've written about my lessons using this book in previous posts. . Recently I found a writing lesson which is aligned to the common core that I want to share with you. The students write an opinion piece and support their point of view with reasons from the text Should Their Be Zoos,and The Swazi Eleven by Kelly Boland.(A copy of this article is given in the packed from the link below). They also use facts learned from  a video clip from a Phoenix news station about an endangered animal which has thrived at a local zoo. I posted a copy of the video I found on Youtube below. Here is the link to the NYC Dept. of Education website:

Common Core Standards addressed:RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing
inferences from the text.
RI.5.2: Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details;
summarize the text.
RI.5.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies,
science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and
W.5.1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and

Phoenix Zoo

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Synthesizing with The Wednesday Surprise

Each year I use The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting to do a lesson on synthesis. Synthesis is when your thinking changes during reading. This book is a great choice because it is short and sweet and your thinking changes quite drastically from the beginning to the end.
 I have taught this lesson for years with only one copy of the book. This year I ordered a class set and it made a big difference. In the middle we start to think  that the main character, Anna, will be reading to her father as his birthday surprise. Synthesizing through this part was the most difficult. I found we had to reread the page three times for full understanding. Having a class set really helped with this. At the end we find out that the surprise is really that the grandmother cannot read. Anna taught her to read and they surprised the father on his birthday. This was a great place it introduce the word: illiterate.
The next day I decided to review those spots in the text when the author either mislead the reader or left us a clue as to what the story was really about. I went through the text and created this worksheet.

We wrote our notes about what was happening to us as  readers on the opposite side. Christine

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another book pick for the Common Core

I ordered a class set of this wonderful picture book/biography, Irena's Jar of Secrets by Marsha Vaughan to add to my nonfiction collections. It is the story of a young girl who grew up Catholic in Poland. She became a social worker who  bravely rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis. The names and locations of the children where kept in a jar which she hid under a apple tree. Irena Sendler lived to the ripe old age of 98!
This picture book is not for young children due to the topic. It will be a great addition to my lessons surrounding  Number The Stars by Lois Lowry. Now I will have that (historical) fiction/nonfiction (biography)connection.
Here are some of the Common Core standards we will be working on with this book:
  • RI.5.1. Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • RI.5.2. Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • RI.5.3. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Learning about Honey Bees

I've picked out a few class sets to help me teach the new common core standards. The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe  by Loree Griffin Burns is one of them. Many years ago I met a bee keeper and that started my fascination with honey bees. In the last ten years millions of honey bees have been found dead or have vanished without a trace. This book delves into the mystery about what is actually happening to the honey bees and why it is important to us all.
The new common core standards push for an increase in reading informational text in elementary school. I am going to use this book to teach these standards:
  • RI.5.4. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area. (the book has an excellent glossary to help us as well.)
  • RI.5.5. Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts. (Their are at least  two structures present: chronological and problem/solution)
  • RI.5.1. Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • RI.5.2. Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Learning about the Titanic

The 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is tomorrow. Scholastic had the first book of the I Survived..... series on sale for $1.00 a piece! What a great book! Both the 4th and 5th graders thoroughly enjoyed reading it.We started learning about the Titanic with an article in Weekly Reader. The more I use Weekly Reader the more impressed I've become. I'm always looking for nonfiction sources with great text features. This month WR had an awesome map/timeline of the sinking of the Titanic. I also found some great Youtube videos about the Titanic to use in class. After we finished I Survived The Sinking of  The Titanic we had to write a two word summary. Here is a picture of the poster we made together.
Some children chose words that described George, the main character, others chose words  to describe the feelings they had while reading the book. A few children felt an object from the story or a theme was most important. Coming up with only two words to describe a whole book can be challenging!
We also spent some time reading about the Costa Concordia that sank off the coast of Italy in January in an old WR edition.. The article gave us lots of room for comparison to the Titanic. It also had another great map to help us visualize what exactly happened to that ship.
If your students are very interested in the Titanic and you are looking for even more resources, has the book Titanic Sinks! available to read online for free.  Christine

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Infer a character's feelings

I have a class set of Mildred Pitts Walter's Ty's One Man Band. Recently we used it to practice inferring how a character feels. We studied Ty's thoughts, actions and words to figure out his emotions. This objective is very clearly written in the new Common Core standards for fourth graders. This text is rather simple so it is a good choice when working on such a complex skill.

Here is the poster I made for the reading lesson. On the left I put copies of pages from the story where Ty was feeling a certain emotion. (I highlighted the evidence.)
On this page Ty is curious. You can see that he is hiding from the mysterious stranger.
This is the worksheet I used. You can see that the students had to locate the feeling or emotion ( I gave them the page numbers). Later we added the stickies with the information about which emotion he felt and the way it was revealed to us to the poster. Youtube has the story Ty's One Man Band in  a Reading Rainbow episode. We were able to watch it on the Smartboard. See it below. Christine