Sunday, February 12, 2017

Learning Snapshots

I wish more of my day was spent teaching students, or preparing to teach students, rather than filling out paperwork.

Nevertheless, this  is the career I signed up for.  Here are some snapshots of our learning lately.

Poetry Mini-Unit

We've been working on different types of literature (RL 5.5).  Students are quite familiar with the components of novels, enjoy reader's theater, but tend to avoid poetry like the plague.  I get it. I don't actively seek out poetry to read during my free time either.

We spent a few days on reader's theater in small groups.  I selected a passage about Mount St. Helens to tie in with our volcano unit (more on that later) and took the assignment as a speaking grade.

They also practiced taking portions of their novels and turning it into reader's theater scripts.

In doing so, students had to analyze what parts would be explicitly stated by the characters, what information would be presented in stage directions, and what parts might be eliminated.

But since poetry is a major deficit for many of my students, we decided as a planning team that this needed to be addressed.  With poetry, we'll discuss summarizing, layout (stanzas, lines), figurative language, and poetic elements.  Coincidentally, February is also poetry month, so we look like we're totally on top of things!

We started with a class guided poem on World of a Blossom, which actually sparked a forty minute conversation on symbolism (I budgeted twenty, tops).  They glue the poem into their notebooks, then practice annotating their thinking.  We worked on identifying types of figurative language before talking about what the flowers might represent.

I modified this lesson from Jefferson County's long range ELA plans, available {here}.  I taught their unit with fidelity a few years ago and really enjoyed their pacing.  Want just the poem? It's page 29 in the PDF.

Some of mine are experimenting with color-coding their notes.  As a teacher, I allow them this flexibility because fifth grade is such a crucial time for them to develop study skills that work for them.  I've had this discussion a few times with fellow teachers, but hold true to my belief that their notebooks are for them. As long as they have the basic requirements, they can annotate however they'd like.  We practice multiple strategies in the first half of the year, but the second semester means I let them choose how they take notes.  It helps get them ready for middle school where they'll take ownership of their learning.

From there, we did some partner and table reads.  I found a book in our school library about states and poems.  I selected some from the New England region to tie in with our geography unit.  As a class, we read about light houses.  As a table, they found alliteration in a poem about Gulls and Buoys.  With partners, they read about the Islands off of Boston Harbor (complete with pirates).

Surprisingly, they're really enjoying it! We spent some time earlier in the year reading The Raven, which they liked.  We'll be trying some colonial poems next, reading about Moana Loa, and ending with New Colossus.  (Timely, right?)

Project Based Learning

With our project-based learning, we ended our unit on catapults and moved into colonial America (which ties in with our social studies plans).  I'm so fortunate to get to work with such an awesome GATE specialist who co-plans and ties her standards in with what we're teaching.  

They're doing a five class period mock simulation of Jamestown and the starving time.  Each group has one leader (John Smith) that has to decide how the money is spent and which building tasks they'll complete during each given class period (season).  When the whole group works together on one task, it often leads to a lot of fighting.  It's interesting to watch which groups are able to divide up the work load to accomplish more during each season.

We also made sure to not select GATE students to be the group leaders.

Here a group is working on building their palisade, to protect Jamestown from wild animals and hostile natives.


We also finished up a mini-unit on volcano formation.

A fellow teacher and Hawaiian native came in to talk about Hawaiian culture.  One of her friends sent us a box of goodies from the Hawaiian Research labs on active volcanoes.  We spent time exploring topographic maps of Mauna Loa and watched several Discovery Ed video clips.

We've explored equivalent fractions, fractions on a number line, adding and subtracting fractions.  Once again, color coding the fractional amounts is a helpful strategy for many students.  We use colored pencils quite often in math these days.

We have reviewed with bingo in small groups:

This game was part of an old {donorschoose} project and is still loved by students years later.  Thank you again to friends, family, and strangers who continue to support my students and their learning.

Up next?

This week brings the 100th day of school, Valentine's day and the class party, and getting ready to go to the neighboring middle school for a tour.


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