Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fluency prep for next week

Next week we are working on fluency during reading time, so in preparation, I made a new center:

(These masters are from a Kagan book)

My awesome coworker shared these with me since I'll be doing reading centers during small group time.

The Kagan activity is called "Quiz-Quiz Trade" where each student has a card.  Each student finds a partner, reads the card (Q on the front, A on the back), listens to the partner's card (tries to answer their question) and then trades cards.  Students don't hold on to their original card the whole time, allowing them to hear the correct answers to a variety of questions.

This fluency center will be stressing phrasing and expression, which means they will be reading in meaningful chunks while paying attention to punctuation cues.

Time to cut out some new cards!

Week 1 Recap

One week done!

I don't think I've ever been more exhausted after just the first week of school.

Here's the recap, by subject:

We set up our notebooks for whole group reading and word study.  We went over what makes a syllables, long and short vowel sounds, silent e and closed syllables.  We'll continue with this next week and have a culminating activity where students break apart their own names by syllables and justify how this helps them break apart multisyllabic words.  We also went over metacognition and made our own reflections about books (what we loved, what we are excited to read, what we didn't like and what challenging books we hope to read later in the year)  based on this pin:

We then went over norms for read alouds.  

We started The Lightning Thief and did a few read alouds to set our class norms.

We set up our notebooks, did mystery bags and talked about what it means to be a good scientist, as evident in this anchor chart:

We will add to it as we continue to have discussions about what we do as scientists.  
We also worked with meal worms and made some technical drawings in our notebooks:

We will start the land forms kit next week!

We went over most of the math practices and did sample problems that support these practices.  One that stumped my students was this:

On a boat, there are 17 hippos and 12 rhinos.  How old is the captain? (NCTM)

Students argued and argued about how to solve this problem.  I let them have a good twenty minutes to debate this in their table teams before filling them in on a little secret...

There simply isn't enough information to solve this problem.  

They weren't very happy with me but I pointed out that they were sure the answer was 29.  I said yes, that's how many animals are on the boat but that's not what was being asked of you.  We have to work on making sense of the problem (SMP #1).

They also had to find as many times in a 12 hour period where the digits on a digital clock would add up to twelve.

Here are their answers:

They actually had a lot of fun with the math problems, which bodes well for the school year.

I didn't ask for their answers right away.  Instead, I wanted their strategies and to talk about how they solved the problem instead of just giving the answer.

We set up our writing notebooks and started using our Being a Writer unit, starting with getting ideas from fairy tales for stories.  We read some alternative fairy tales, including this new book I just purchased from Amazon:

The rest of the time was spent setting class norms, building community and getting to know each other:

I'm excited for week 2 :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Class pom poms

I am fortunate enough to work next to some super creative teachers who love to share ideas. 

One of my coworkers made adorable tissue paper pom poms for her table teams and bulletin board.  

I originally wanted to buy paper lanterns to color code my tables (to match their supply buckets) but couldn't find them all in the same size.

So I asked her for help.

Here is the step by step guide to make your own using tissue paper, yarn and paper clips (to hang from the ceiling).

Step 1:
Lay the tissue paper flat.  Use at least 8 pieces of tissue paper.

Step 2:
Create a fan by folding the tissue paper back and forth.  The folds should be about an inch wide.

Step 3:
Tie a string around the middle of the tissue paper.  Make sure to leave enough to hang the pom from the ceiling (or whatever you're hanging it from).

Step 4:
Carefully begin to fluff up the tissue paper.  Do one sheet at a time so you don't rip the tissue paper.

Step 5:
Fluff up half of the sheets on both sides of the yarn.  Your pom should look like this:

Step 6:
Flip the pom over and fluff the remaining half of the pom.

Step 7: 
Hang, enjoy and admire!

Happy crafting!

Days 3 and 4's almost Friday.  That means I can wear jeans :)

Wednesday (yesterday) was my birthday and I got a new student.  (I got another new one as well today).

I was surprised by this lovely dessert and sign by my grade level:

One of my students brought me these beautiful flowers and Batman balloon :)

And most importantly, my kiddos were mostly on their best behavior so we got a lot of learning accomplished!

They worked on mystery bags in science and we talked about metacognition in reading:

I think they're starting to grasp the concept of thinking while reading :)

We've been doing a lot of read alouds to build class community, so we made this anchor chart together:

We've been adding to it as our discussions continue.  Today I added that another role for students was to listen for interesting vocabulary.

I'm exhausted and it's only week one!

At least I made my class poms to distinguish table teams:

For more on how to make these cute poms, see this post!

-Ms. Vice

Science Mystery Bags

One of the first science activities I love to do with my fifth graders is mystery bags.  Basically, you collect objects from your home or classroom, place them inside brown lunch bags, number the bags and staple them shut:

I go over observations with my students and the five senses we use to explore the world around us.  We go over that we aren't using our sense of taste for this activity (no one wants to lick paper anyway) but all others are fair game.

They create a data table in their notebooks as we go over the expectation for writing evidence.  They make a prediction about what is inside and work as a "lab group" in whisper voices to try to figure out the objects.  They record their thoughts here:

This year, I used a Batman statue, a Princess Peach figurine, a Rubik's cube, an expo marker and a fuzzy cat toy that is shaped like a chicken.  Students are given about five minutes per mystery bag and at the end, we reveal some of the objects.  I don't reveal all of them because we have the discussion that sometimes scientists work really hard on something for years and don't know the correct answer.  That awesome idea came from my colleague across the hall.  I love that my grade level shares awesome ideas.

They will be exploring the remaining bags today and making predictions about what is inside!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day 2 Down

Survived the second day.  We still need to work on being respectful listeners and not taking half a dozen bathroom breaks but it's a definite work in progress.

Yesterday (day 1): 

We read Ms. Nelson is missing and made these anchor charts in a gallery walk:

Today, I turned these into wordles:

Our class norms

Our individual goals

Small group norms

I prefer wordles for the class rules because they take up less space :)

Today we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and discussed how students should treat one another.

Here are the "I'm moving to Australia" cards for when students are having "one of those days".

On to day three!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Survived the first day!

At 2:30 today, I let go a big sigh of relief.

I did it, I survived my first day with students.

I tried to explain my anxiety to others, but was met with "you've done this before".  Yes, I have.  This started year five.  But the kids are different and it doesn't mean it's any less scary.

Last night was riddled with nightmares of every possible worst-case scenario...all of course, occurring on the first day.

I started my day around six am by prepping their "you're just write for this class" pencils:

 Normally Target's dollar spot pencils are decent but this batch didn't hold up to my fifth grader's sturdy hands.  About half broke within the first twenty minutes...good thing they brought their own!

Next, I finished my word wall with scrabble letters:

The words will be color coded by content area.

I also finalized my pencil vase with a button:

I think it looks super cute :)

When my students entered, there was a slip of paper for them to write their feelings on.  Luckily it was early enough in the morning that they didn't question me.

While they were at art, I turned their feelings into this wordle:

Overall, they were excited for fifth grade and I hope that feeling continues!

This group of students might be the most talkative yet so I know I'll have to reinforce the norms of taking turns and using whisper voices.

We went through a lot of procedures, class room tours, etc.  

They had a lot of fun with our "No Way Jose" and "That's a Fact, Jack!" sort:

I love my job, but my oh my am I exhausted! I haven't talked that much in a while and my feet hurt from wearing shoes all day.

Bring on day 2!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Monday afternoon project

'Twas the night before school started and I was thinking of cute projects to do.

I've already picked my next project.

I will go in an hour early and stay an hour late, but I want to work on the whole work-life balance.  For me, that means having down time to watch TLC and have craft time.

This one will probably be my after school project tomorrow:

The original idea has chalk board paint but I think I'll just do silver & black sharpies on a pink and white polka dotted letter.  I will add green polka dot ribbon and find a 3M adhesive hooks.

This will be one of our Tuesday activities.  I'll make sure to leave space for the ten or so new students I'll get throughout the year.

I'm glad I have a craft project to relax with tomorrow night!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ready for the first day

It's that time of year again.

Come 8 am Monday morning, I'll have students.  28 of of them to be exact.

We had our school's open house on Friday and I met about half of my students and their families.  I must say, I think I lucked out again because my students are adorable.

Here is my room for open house:

I added a FAQs chart on the board so that students and families would have something to do while I was talking with their classmates.

Students will receive their welcome letter and a treat on their desks:

We are bursting with excitement about fifth grade!

They'll also get a pencil Tuesday morning that says "you're just write for this class!".  I'm using sticky labels as flags this year to save time :)

Here are the letters for our class competition for AM and PM:

The first class to fifty points wins the competition with a maximum of 4 points per day.

For my word wall, my awesome coworker gave me her old Scrabble tiles,

Which I added magnets to using hot glue and...


My new word wall magnets.  Granted, they are tiny but since I have fifth graders, I assume they know the alphabet. 

I'll be putting these on a metal filing cabinet and students will color-code our word wall (reading, science, math and other).

Outside my room is our bulletin board.  Using a pinterest idea, I added letters to paper plates to frame our bulletin board:

It says "what we're learning" and takes up the whole space above the board.

To make it less awkward, I'll add the standards and learning objectives on one side of the board and an explanation of our activity on the other, that way the whole bulletin board can be student work.

I just have to finish prepping a few centers but I think I'm all ready for Monday :)

Ms. Vice

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Notebooking examples

Today my fabulous grade level and I talked a little bit about notebooks and our expectations for our students.  So I pulled out last year's notebooks to see of the work we did last year and which activities I'd like to do again to challenge students.


For this one, we were working on text structure and how it impacts a story (RL 5.5)

So I had students glue in 1/2 sized sheets of a reader's theater script (I believe from a scholastic workbook).  We looked at the structural elements and dissected the script.  My students did a really great job at realizing there is more to reader's theater and drama than just simply the dialogue.

Next, here's an example of some of our Greek and Latin word work.

We do a few Greek and Latin roots a week, go over the word's meaning, examples and non examples, then decompose multisyllabic words to determine the word's meaning.

We also look at Common Core Exemplars, as with the poem New Colossus

Here we practiced a close read and were trying to determine meaning.  This poem did pose a bit of a challenge for my students because they were unfamiliar with harbors and the layout of New York City, but they did a good job with scaffolded instruction.  

I like to type up the poems for them and have them glue/tape the pages in their notebook.  While this uses more paper, it allows me to spend more time facilitating discussions and they don't have to mindlessly copy the whole poem.  Instead, they can talk about the poem instead of just writing it.

Here we are just starting a unit with a K/W/L chart.
(K: what I think I know about the topic, W: what I want to learn and L: what I learned (for after the unit) )

We also do a LOT of circle maps in fifth grade to help us organize our thinking.

Lastly for reading,

We do a lot of highlighting and recording our thinking both on the passage and in thinking maps below.  I stress metacognition and that good readers are thinking critically while reading.


In math, we glue in our thinking sheets...a lot.

I also provide them with guided notes:

It helps keep everything organized and requires them to show their thinking multiple ways or with different strategies.  This helps them work on their number sense and aligns with the 8 math practices.


For science, much of our material is provided with FOSS kits.  However, I like to go beyond the provided information and do an extension unit on land forms such as volcanoes.

We watch video clips from Discovery Education and do a lot of exploring.  I also provide copies of notes for students, but they must fill in the missing information.

This really helps with my ELL students and students with IEPs.  They can focus on the content and key words without getting lost with copying all the information.  Plus, it leaves more time for discussions and they're still held accountable for paying attention.

Happy notebooking!
Ms. Vice

Classroom updates

First day back was a little rough...

Smacking my face on the open corner of a filing cabinet drawer didn't make the day any easier. 

With the help of a great friend, I have my supply tubs almost done:

I decided to go with the same color bucket and pick up some cheap duct tape to differentiate based on the color of the star sticker.

I also put up part of my math wall with the 8 math practices:

It's colorful and polka dotted :)
They're a wonderful freebie on TpT, available here!

We'll go over each one during the first week while discussing math strategies and giving them challenge problems.