Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Writing Process

Daily, I'm thankful that I paid attention in college and took great notes. Today I was especially thankful when it came to my writing plans. My students and I are working towards writing personal narratives, but first we had to talk about the process of writing! I know my students have heard the language before but we needed a refresher. 

Here's where my handy Writer's Notebook from college came in handy. Oh, that's redundant. Quick think of a synonym for handy

Click Here to Purchase.
Anyway, I introduced the story "The Tiny Seed" by Eric Carle to my students. I was fairly certain they had either read this book or it had been read to them at some point in their educational careers. Although, I was hopeful it hadn't been used for this purpose. As we read the story, we focused on the development of a tiny seed as it conquers mountains, snow, rain, tiny hands and so on.  Near the end of the story, the tiny seed had blossomed into a beautiful flower.  By the end, we watched as more tiny seeds flew from the beautiful flower to create more flowers around the world. The illustrations were absolutely stunning. Would you expect anything less from Eric Carle?

After the story, we opened up OUR writing notebooks and began sketching the writing process. As suggested by one of my fabulous literacy professors, we compared the process of writing to a developing tiny seed. As you can see in the pictures below, each step relates to our little seedling. Throughout the process, our seed grows and blossoms into a beautiful flower. Then, once we finish our final project we're back to square one with more seed stories. 

Above you see my "sketches" of the writing process. Any artist probably wouldn't let me categorize these as sketches. Oh well. Tomorrow, our entry will be "Seed Stories" for our narratives. Using our heart maps, feet maps (future blog post), memories, and various webs we'll begin picking "seeds" to develop.

Check out the incredible creations two of my students made in their notebooks. I had 22 excellent entries, but I limited myself to only picking two. 

I especially love the ultimate party scene that the gentleman above picked to illustrate celebration. He added that on his own. :)

As we venture into personal narratives territory - I ask for advice! What mini lessons or mentor texts do you use in your classroom? Do share! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thinking Like a Delegate: Constitution Day 2012

Last week, September 17, was Constitution Day! I'm sure that many of you took time throughout the day to observe our nation's constitution and our Founding Fathers.  This year, I wanted to include a little time travel into Constitution Day.   First, I had a replica of the constitution out for the kids to observe. They loved the signatures and the fact that it was barely legible to them. 

I bought this replica at the St. Louis Arch Museum. It was the best $10.00 I've spent in awhile!

Next, I told the students that we would be focusing in on the delegates of the Constitutional Convention.  Five groups in my classroom were assigned a delegate to research. Their goal was to create a Facebook page for their Founding Father. The essential question was, "what would [insert delegate's name here] post on Facebook?" All of my students, in 5th grade, are familiar with Facebook and how it's used. The difficult part of the project was convincing them that the year was 1787 and we were taking Facebook back in time with us. See? Time travel!  I had to remind them that George Washington didn't "Like" the same activities that we do now, such as playing x-box, which means that wouldn't show up on his Facebook wall.

This activity wouldn't have been possible without my extremely talented friend, Ali. You should take the time and check out her incredible online portfolio here. I told her my vision and with the whooosh of her wand, she had emailed me a file perfect for our activity. Thanks to her my kids were able to have an extraordinary paper version of a Facebook page fit with a map of the 13 colonies!!

I gave each group a black and white version for a rough draft. After they double checked the sloppy copy with me, they jumped into their final copies in color. 

Through a few google searches, I found incredible sites for my students to use. Of course the internet wasn't exactly working on ALL 6 computers Monday, so we had to improvise. Despite the internet madness, students were able to get the basic facts from the site.  To help with common questions, I provided each student with a checklist. There were six different tasks on the checklists. First, groups divided up the responsibilities then they got to work.

Here was the checklist:

______ Cover photo should represent a painting from the convention

______ Profile picture and basic information (name, occupation, lives in, and relationship) should come from biography page.

______ Wall posts can be from family members, delegates, or children. Wall posts must relate to the current time period or an event that has happened in the delegate's life.

______ “Likes” and interests should be picked from the biography page.

______ “Friends” can include pictures of family members, spouses, children, or other delegates.

______ “Places I’ve Been Map” should include HOME state. (The map may also include: college location, convention location, etc.)

*Remember, your page should represent the LIFE of the delegate. It’s the year 1787! Good luck!

At the conclusion of the project, I laminated the pages and hung them in the hallway in a fancy red, white, and blue display. I included a little blurb about our activity and another replica constitution. Now, while kids are waiting to use the restroom they can learn a little bit about our Founding Fathers. 
Displaying our Facebook Pages.  

George Washington
John Langdon
Ben Franklin
I really enjoyed talking to my students about writing the wall posts. I encouraged them to teach our readers in the hallway something about the convention through the wall posts. First, I got several blank looks. Then the spark of creativity started to light in several groups. I was very excited by the results. 

As a result of this two day activity, several students were reminded that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are two different documents. When we study the American Revolution later, we will be able to reference this activity. Hopefully, they'll remember the names studied because several of them worked on the Declaration of Independence as well. 

How do YOU celebrate Constitution Day?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Buy it Here!
Has anyone read this one yet? Well, after 20 pages or so... the girl was already gone. Flynn didn't mess around with jumping into the suspense.  The story takes place in our great home state of Missourah - that's how it's pronounced right? Just kidding. It takes place in Missouri and my book club picked it for the month of September. It's excellent so far. 

Now, I've just gobbled up my bowl of chili and my book is calling my name. Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sweets are Good For the Soul: Part Two

Yesterday, I blogged about my past life with Paula Dean and my unconditional love for sweets. My love doesn't stop just at sweets. Nope, I'm a lover of many food related items. One of them being Nutella. Wait, you haven't heard of Nutella? Really? Let me explain. Nutella is a delicious hazelnut spread. Pair it with a banana or a piece of toast and you've got yourself a little snacky-snack.

This weekend I wanted to bring something sweet in addition to my something salty to our tailgate. When I found a Nutella recipe that ALSO included Funfetti - ugh, my heart melted and my brain filled with hazelnuts. I knew that I was destined to make this treat for my tailgaters. Side note: my unconditional food love is also given to Funfetti. 

Nutella Marshmallow Bars from Inside BruCrew Life
  • 1 box Funfetti cake mix
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup marshmallow fluff

Click here to follow BruCrew's step by step directions. Thank goodness there are brilliant chefs on the interent willing to share their recipes with gals like me. Also thankfully, my bf was in my kitchen to help with the marshmallow fluff. Whew!

Let's just say the Nutella Marshmallow Cookies were enjoyed by many at the tailgate. Including my lovely bloggy models, Tyler and Elyse!

Bloggy debut. 

Many Nutella cookies made it to the tailgate, but not many made it home... (hehe, see what I did there?)

Cheering for Mizzou

The gooey texture of the cake mix combined with the Nutella and fluff was absolutely delightful. I chopped them up into little bite size squares and we munched on them all day long. So bloggy friends, what Nutella recipes have you tested lately? Do share!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sweets are Good For the Soul

In a past life, Paula Dean and I were sisters. We both have a knack for making things that are just terrible for you.  Like Paula, you probably won't find many recipes around me that will help you with your diet. Oh well! I enjoy making sweet treats and bringing them to group gatherings. I also enjoy eating them myself.  

For the first day of school (a month ago -sheesh!) I made a batch of red velvet crinkle cookies. By the end of the day, the plate was clean. Which could mean one of two things: 
1. People were so hungry on the first day of school they ate the first thing they found (aka my cookies)
2. People enjoyed the sweet little treats!

Let's hope for conclusion number 2. 
Here's the recipe I followed thanks to the Novice Chef. Hats off to her blog and brilliance. 

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies
  • 6 tablespoons of butter (If Paula followed my blog, she'd be smiling right now)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 box of red velvet cake mix
  • powdered sugar 

Click HERE to follow the chef's directions. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Calling All Travel Agents!

Teaching 5th grade social studies is a whole new world for me. Yes, I hope you're singing Aladdin's "A Whole New World" right now. Last year, I think I mentally blocked out all things social studies so I could completely focus on communication arts and science. Thankfully, I have brilliant coworkers and friends who are willing to share their wisdom with me.

To kickstart our year in social studies, we started off with a little review of geography. After some super-duper-email-long-distance-collaboration my wheels were spinning. Micaela (a fellow former Fellow) suggested a brochure. I decided to run with it!

In the task, students were asked to create a brochure about one of the five regions of the United States. The brochure had to include the region's climate, bodies of water, states, vegetation, and natural resources. The majority of the information was found inside our textbook. In addition to researching a specific region, I asked the kids to pick a spotlight city to research. Let's just say, it was VERY confusing for 75% of my class. Today, I updated my document (at the conclusion of the project) and plan on presenting and explaining it differently next year. Instead, it was suggested by another coworker (collab! collab!) that students identify five cities within that region and find their latitude and longitude.

Overall, the kids seemed to enjoy the creative aspect of the project. They were able to illustrate, search on the internet, and put their own creative twist into it. Today, while presenting I loved listening to my students assume the role as a travel agent. I was also able to easily modify this task for some students. Instead of creating full blown brochure, I had some students create a poster of specific information instead. It worked very well!

Travel Brochure

Next, we're jumping into Native Americans then moving forward toward the Explorers. Just in time for Columbus Day.

Enjoy your Friday, friends!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome to Missouri, Georgia!

This weekend was our (Missouri's) first game as part of the SEC. If you're a follower of college football, you may know that the game didn't quite turn out the way we wanted it to. Oh well, I still love my Tigers - win or lose!

To celebrate the inaugural SEC season and FIRST game of the SEC, my bf and I decided to have a little contest. We are quite the competitive duo, so it only made sense for us to strike up a friendly competition.  Since Georgia was making its way to Missouri for the first time, we decided to have a Peach Salsa Off! The two of us made our very own peach salsas and brought them to the tailgate Saturday morning. Around 2:00, a friend and I took the salsa to different tailgates and had a blind taste test. One salsa was on a black plate and the other was on a gold plate (naturally). Strangers gave us their feedback on the salsa.

Scott on the left. Jordon on the right.
The benefit to this 1st Annual Peach Salsa Off is that now I know how to easily peel and dice a peach. Thanks to google and youtube of course.

Peach Salsa:

2-4 peaches (peeled and diced)
Juice of 1 lime 
1 red pepper diced
1 jalapeno diced
1 can of rotel (I only used the tomatoes, not the juice)
1 clove of minced garlic
1 cup chopped red onions

Combine all of your ingredients and let the salsa sit overnight. The flavors and juices combined for a deliciously sweet and tangy treat. Serve with tortilla chips! 

Now, the competition is over with and I wish I had better news to report (on my end). Sadly, I lost the taste competition 10-7. For awhile, it was stiff competition. Then the victory slipped away from me. My salsa and I would like to thank everyone who helped us on youtube and those many people who complimented my salsa. In the end, I was informed that my salsa was a tad too spicy. Who knew!? I don't even like spicy food! Although, my bf was a gentleman and said he liked mine more. :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dress for the Job You Want

In my short time as a teacher, I've figured out that I have the best job on the planet. What other job can you wear a wig to work and be taken seriously? Well, maybe not seriously... but accepted. It's no secret that I enjoy slapping on a wig and a giant onesie and heading into work. Really, I'm up for just about anything. I conquered my fear of face paint in March now I feel like I can take on the world. 

I started small. Literally.. I dressed as a mouse, who just wanted a glass of milk. 

Things got a little wild and whimsy as myself and two fellow teachers released our inner Seuss!

This year, I decided to dress up as much as possible. Last week, I was Sir Isaac Newton. It just so happens that I have a darling apple tree in my room and you may know that Newton and apple trees are two peas in a pod. I tossed around an apple all morning and had several students ask, "Why are you dressed like George Washington?" After I was asked this several times, I made a mental note that I should probably reuse this $11 wig around President's Day.

As students came into the room, we gathered around the apple tree and I told a little story about Newton and a supposed apple falling from a tree. It led us into a great discussion about gravity.

There was a flaw in my plan though. See, I only teach science for TWO hours the entire day. Have you ever tried to be Isaac Newton and teach Reading? How about Social Studies? Uhh, yeah it doesn't work. I had to take off my wig and become a living human again. 

Just remember that if you do decide to dress up as a historical figure or a superhero (or whoever you want)... go easy on the caffeine. I strongly advise against a latte and a red bull. 

Happy (almost) Friday!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pen Pals: Step One

My blog has managed to open up several opportunities for me in the classroom. This summer, a wonderful teacher from the Chicago suburbs emailed me about collaboration work. I said, "why not!?" Now, we are in the beginning stages of our pen pal exchange. Except, this is no ordinary run of the mill snail mail exchange. Well, we're starting with snail mail but moving towards more technological interfaces. 

Today, my students were given the name of their pen pal. Then, as a class we found their school using Google Earth. All of our school computers have Google Earth downloaded already, so most of my students were familiar with the program. First, we found our school in Missouri then zoooooomed over to Illinois to find out pals. Of course, everyone wanted to show me their house, their Grandma's house, what pool they swam at this summer, and where they want to go on vacation. BUT, that has to wait for Wednesday.
Generic Shot of Google Earth via Google. 
We began scoping out the area of our pen pals neighborhood. Side note: this is a random google image of Google Earth. This is not our pen pal's location!! Anyway, we were checking out the area of our pen pals and the students were firing off several similarities and differences of our schools. One being that THEIR school is surrounded by houses. Which means students are more likely to possibly walk to school? In our community, all students have to ride a bus or be dropped off. Walking isn't an option because of our location. The students were amazed! 

Then, the question was asked, "can we visit our pen pals?" I mean the kids were ready to jump into these friendships head first. They barely had their names written down and they were packing their bags for a road trip.  I pulled up Google maps and got directions to their school. We found that it would take us about 6 hours to get there. The class was super excited - I'm pretty sure they think I'm going to load up a van and drive them all there. I'll break the news to them tomorrow. 

Random Generic Map. 

Next, each student was given a checklist for writing their letter. Mrs. Larson and I decided to start with regular snail mail. We wanted to show a comparison between mail through the postal service and electronic mail (aka e-mail). The kids don't know this part yet. Shhh! It's a secret. I could barely stop the kids from writing their letters. I was reviewing them tonight and most of them told their entire life story. I had to caution a few to only include necessary information.

After we receive our letters, I'm probably going to have to rent a bus and drive my kids to Chicago. Just kidding. Actually, we plan on *hopefully* skyping with one another and/or creating Gaggle.net accounts. I'm looking forward to this experience!!

Have you ever had pen pals? How about electronic pen pals? Do share!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Using Mentor Texts in Writing

Slowly but surely, we are starting to add entries in our brand new writer's notebooks. Writing is my absolute favorite time of the day. My entire building is participating in professional development on Writing Workshop. I'm very excited to have a method to my madness. Eventually, my writing time will be a little more structured. For now, I'm working on making meaningful mini lessons. 

Lucky for me, I work with amazing teachers with incredible ideas. My team teacher suggested some great ideas and was more than willing to let me share them on my bloggy-blog. In other words, I cannot take credit for these wonderful ideas!

One of our entries was about our memories. We started our lesson with the read aloud, "Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge" written by Mem Fox. If you haven't read this precious book, stop what you're doing and go read it ...now! Tears started welling up as I read the pages of this story. It's such a beautiful story. 

To get our brains thinking about memories, we reviewed each definition of a memory from the story. I modeled writing in my notebook each memory. The students were able to follow along with me because I was using a document camera. (It's quickly becoming my new favorite piece of technology). 

I started writing down a warm memory of my own. I began to recall the day that my niece Libby was born this summer. Then, I sent the students on their merry way to begin writing.

Another entry in our notebooks was inspired by, "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown. My teammate and I put our heads together and planned for our kids to make an Important Book about our school. We used the format of Brown's book as a guide.

First, we brainstormed the REALLY important characteristics of our school. The kids were shouting out answers left and right. It's evident that we have many important and special qualities at the UE. 

After our brainstorming session, students were given time to write their own variation of The Important Book. We stressed using the same format as Brown's to make the book consistent for our young readers. Soon, the book will be published and available for little eyes and minds to enjoy.

 Have you jumped into writing workshop this year? What kinds of mini lessons do YOU start the year with? Do share!

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