Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Theme Resources Round-Up!

Yesterday, I blogged about our current study of Theme. In addition to using fables and poetry, I've also utilized video clips and music videos to help students visualize theme - everywhere. Plus, these videos led us to great conversations about Sally (not a real student...) and John having different interpretations of the same video. They didn't have to agree on one specific theme - instead, they had to back up their thinking with evidence (or proof) from the video, story, or poem. 

Below you will find some of the videos we used. These led to great conversations - and often times had us rushing to the box of tissues. 

P&G "Thank You Mom": Grab your tissues, you'll need them for this one. 

Death Crawl: Prepare to be motivated. Oh, and... you'll need those tissues. 

Christian the Lion: You'll need more tissues. 

Music videos: Using songs like "Brave" by Sara Bareilles and "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson, we discussed the way artists use songs to share a message. We have a growing list of songs that "teach us" something. Other notable songs include: "Happy" and "Compass". 

DirectTV commercials: sure, the idea is to purchase DirectTV... but what can you learn from these clips? 

How do you practice determining the theme of stories, dramas, or poems in your classroom? 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Determine the Theme of Fables

Throughout our literature study of Wonder, we've focused our energy towards determining the theme of a story, drama, or poem. Based on our pretest data, I found that many of my students struggled with theme. They were unable to tell me what the definition of "theme" was and most were unable to pick one for a poem. The teacher side of me was perfectly okay with this, because teaching theme is one of my favorites. We have been able to use an incredible variety of media to practice this skill. 

Today, we used Speakaboos website during our mini lesson. In small groups, students picked one fable to view (their choice). The objective was to identify the theme and provide two details to support their thinking. 

Fables Speakaboos Page
After viewing the fable, students logged their thinking on our Padlet wall. Before jumping into Wonder, we met on the carpet and shared (and viewed!) our interpretations of popular fables. As always, this led to great conversations!

Adding to our Padlet

Check out our Padlet below. How do you use this tool in your classroom? Share below!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Our First Mystery Skype

Click here to visit our Skype profile. 

As of this morning, our class has officially participated in their first MYSTERY SKYPE! My twitter feed is constantly buzzing about classrooms participating in the mystery of skype, so we jumped on the band wagon today and it was fantastic!

Kudos to Ms. Sandgren from Wisconnsin who reached out to me through our Skype profile. She also provided this link to help us get our feet wet with the process. 

After we ended our conversation, we completed a Plus/Delta as a class. The majority of aspects students wanted to change from the process were technologically related. (i.e. webcam, sound, etc.) A few positives that were noted: fun, neat to see students researching US while we were researching THEM, and we could see them (hehe).

Would you like to participate in a Mystery Skype with us? Contact me!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Talkin' Sharks Through Skype!

Well, I learned something today. Did you know more people die each year from coconuts and vending machines than sharks?! Yes, it's true! Amazing what you can learn when you bring a marine biologist from Miami into a classroom in the middle of Missouri.

 Thanks to our Skype with David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) I now find myself looking at vending machines with an evil eye...

A few weeks ago, David's Twitter account popped up on my newsfeed because Donalyn Miller had retweeted his post about Skyping with kindergarteners. I thought to myself, "Oh! Now that looks fun." Plus, we had just started our classification unit and it just seemed like the perfect fit for our class. 

 Have I mentioned how much I value Twitter as a teacher?
Well, if I haven't.. here it is: I truly value Twitter as a teacher. 

However, no time to chat about it now!

To prepare for our Skype, I had the kids jot down questions for David. An overwhelming number of my students were curious about shark bites, Great White Sharks, and whether or not he was a fan of sushi. 

Once things got rolling, the questions started pouring out from my students. He told us about his work and background then let the students ask away! He even dispelled a few rumors...

Great afternoon. Great conversations. Great learning! I'm in awe of the power of connection. I highly recommend getting in touch with David!

Now, can you send some 84 degree temps to Missouri please, David?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Going for GOLD!

I'm a BIG fan of the Olympics - I'm not partial to the Summer or Winter games, I enjoy them all! The best part about the Winter Olympics is being able to share the excitement with my students. 


During the summer games in 2012, I blogged about a yummy gold medal I created for some friends. On Friday, in honor of the Opening Ceremonies, I had my students create yummy medals (read about those here) and I photographed each one with their new Olympic bling. Naturally, most them of them chose to take a bite out of their medal. :)

Under our inspiring headline, "We are Going for Gold in 2014" I stapled their cute little faces on the board as a daily reminder to go for the GOLD each day this year! 

How are you celebrating the Winter Olympics with your students?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Connecting With Students Through Instagram

The majority of my students have an Instagram account. I don't blame them! I love Instagram just as much as the next guy, I'm constantly sharing pictures of my daily happenings and putting my dog in weird clothing or strange scenarios. 

Exhibit A:

OR! Finding adorable pictures of my boyfriend at his parent's house and posting them for other people's enjoyment. 

Exhibit B:

Earlier this year, I wanted to try and connect with my students through Instagram. During our conversations about digital citizenship, I wanted to show my kids Instagram can be more than selfies and regramming weird pictures they find on the internet. I'm always encouraging them to follow noteworthy accounts (ex: National Geographic, NASA, etc.). 

We had to start somewhere, so I started an Instagram account for the 5th grade. I encouraged students to follow the account. When I originally began, we were in our weather unit. I challenged students to post pictures of the clouds and use the hashtag #sotoscience (note to teachers: check your hashtag FIRST, I learned this the hard way). 

Slowly but surely, students were taking pictures of the clouds, uploading the images to IG, and using the hashtag! We had a winner! I even had a parent come to me and say, "You made taking pictures of the clouds COOL, way to go!" I was excited to see students using their phones and tablets for science and connecting outside of school. For those students who don't have an IG account, I was able to pull up the images on my SmartBoard for students to look at during the day. We all benefited from it!

Throughout our next unit, I utilized the video feature and posted 15-second videos of activities we were doing in science to spark interest. Plus, I hoped it may start a conversation at home. Perhaps they forgot after the bus ride home, but seeing it on Instagram may jolt a conversation with a family member. 

Since we've been back to school, we have completed our Animal Classification unit. Through the IG account, I issued a challenge for students to photograph examples of all five classes of vertebrates. I jump started the challenge with Chip as my model. Watch out David Beckham! 

Thanks to my PLN and Twitter, I stumbled upon another fantastic idea for Instagram! Challenge students to create a 15-second book trailer. I posted an example one for Origami Yoda a few weeks ago.  I haven't had many students jump on board, yet. Rome wasn't built in a day!

Click here to my book trailer!

Do you use Instagram to connect with your students? How have you used Instagram in the classroom? Share your ideas with me below! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cauliflower Pizza -- Weight Watchers Recipe

As soon as my boyfriend and I returned from New Orleans in January, I started the Weight Watchers program.  If you've read my blog for sometime, you are fully aware that I love indulging in sweets and good food. After having trouble shedding those pounds, I decided to test out the WW program and see what happened. 

The past two Saturdays, we've created a cauliflower pizza crust from scratch and it's been a tremendous success! I was very hesitant to test out this method, but we were very pleased with the results.

Chef Scottie Rob
It helps when you have someone handsome (as seen above) who is willing to grate a head of cauliflower for your meal. :) Tasty Kitchen has a great step by step guide to making your crust. Find it here

Our first pizza was a Hawaiian pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple. We used this recipe from Recipe Girl as a guide. The crust came out thin and rather tasty. I think the shock was evident on both of our faces when we were realized how good the crust actually was. We came to the conclusion we really couldn't tell the difference. (side note: If you were to hand me a Shakespeare's Pizza, I could tell the difference. Just so we're clear!) In addition to this, one slice was 3 points plus opposed to the pizza we had a few weeks ago where one slice was seven. I was able to eat more pizza and I loved every minute of it. 

Our second attempt at making the pizza crust went much smoother. We used more of the cauliflower head and utilized parchment paper in the cooking process. This batch was much thicker than our previous crust, so it needed to cook much longer before adding all of our toppings. Week two's pizza was a BBQ Chicken Pizza adapted from this recipe. 

Ready to be baked!

The final product, both weeks, was absolutely delicious. The worst part about the whole process was grating the cauliflower (I don't own a food processor). However, as I mentioned earlier, convince a handsome lad to do the hard part for you. wink wink!

BBQ Pizza with a Cauliflower Crust

Have you used cauliflower for a substitute in any recipes? 
We've also made a garlic bread recipe that was delicious. Share with me your other cauliflower experiments! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Today makes snow day number five for us in Mid-Missouri! I'm blogging from the comfort of my couch watching my favorite daytime show, The Chew. 

This month, my book club is reading "Labor Day" by Joyce Maynard. I started out with the audio book and now I'm hoping to finish the e-book before our next meeting. We picked this book because it was hitting theaters soon and we thought it was time to take a trip to the movies! 

I'm also reading "Balancing it All" by Candace Cameron Bure and Dana Wilkerson. Not only am I loving reading about grown up D.J. Tanner, but I'm a big fan of the author, Dana. :)
I highly recommend! 


Linking up with Juice Boxes and Crayolas! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Peek at our Week Video Series

Slowly by surely, I am searching for practical ways to use one iPad (without an internet connection) with 19 students. Let me tell you, this has been rather tricky. 

At the start of our new semester, I introduced a new project to my students where we would use my iPad to record video clips of our week. Each week, two students are in charge of filming and editing our "Peek at our Week" video. At the end of the week, I upload the video to YouTube and share it with families and post it on our class webpage. We are three weeks in and I've gotten a huge response from parents so far. My goal for the videos are to give parents another vision of our classroom - seeing it through the eyes of their child. What is really going on while we are at school all day? Yes, video clips of us dancing have been included in all three videos so far. Fine by me!

This year, I've really been taking advantage of all of the goodies Google has to offer. For example, my classroom has a Google Drive account where we create and keep our documents and create presentations. This has been a HUGE relief for many reasons. Now students aren't saving things in random folders, losing documents, messing with read-only files, etc. etc. Through YouTube (and Google), I started a YouTube channel for my classroom. Not only can I upload our classroom videos to this location, but I can create playlists for different subjects, events, or our favorite 5th grade things. 

Below you will find week one's video. This was our demo video and created by yours truly. I promised the parents more creativity in the future because their children would be in control. Needless to say, each week gets a little more wacky - and creative! 

Do you create movies in your classroom? Right now we are using iMovie and I'm hoping to find a different application with more editing options (text, music, themes, etc.) I would love to hear suggestions on how you incorporate movie making into the classroom, too!

Monday, February 3, 2014


I know this isn't the place for me to make excuses - and it is the one place where I don't have deadlines, requirements, due dates, or rules of any kind. However, one thing had to get shifted to the back burner this year, and sadly my blog has gotten the short end of the stick. Oh well! Life goes on and I shall blog when I can blog. 

That being said, my students and I are completely immersed in a literature study of Wonder and our hearts and minds couldn't be happier. Right now, we are hearing things from Summer's point of view and the students are pretty steamed with Jack Will right now (if you're familiar with the plot). I'm anxious to keep reading and continue eavesdropping on the incredible conversations happening everyday. 

Stay warm, USA! 

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