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September 29, 2012

Writing: Pen Pals

Well, the letters are in the mail.  

This year, through a wall post on Facebook, I met my pen pal class.

They live in Illinois, we live in California.

So far it has been pretty easy.  She contacted me a little over a month ago and I sent her a class list.  She started with the first batch of letters and matched up my class with hers.  It's neat how many of the same names we both have, and how she coordinated those kids to match up.  

My kids were thrilled to get their letters 2 weeks ago.

So many of her students automatically thought that we run into movie stars all the time.  Others thought the beach was next to our town.  I love how kids' brains work.  

We "googled" their town, and watched a short video that showed clips of what her students see on a daily basis.  It even had a picture of their school.  We were able to start a compare/contrast anchor chart how we are alike and different. 

I'm so excited about this opportunity for my class.  It's probably not often that my students get a chance to talk to other 4th graders halfway across the country.  We will be able to check the weather, see the news, and get to learn about their experiences.  

As I said before... the letters are now in the mail.  It took my class 2 full weeks to write a rough draft and then a final one.  I thought it would take them a shorter amount of time, but they were really trying their best.  Of course it's also a crazy time of year with the end of the trimester and all the assessments that go along with it.  Hopefully next time around it won't be like pulling teeth.  

Do you have a pen pal class too?  

Years ago I had a pen pal class - another 2nd grade class that was at the next school over.  At the end of the year we had a field trip to a nearby park to meet each other.  Pen pals don't have to be far away, they can be close - even at your same school.  

Hope you have a wonderful Saturday!  We are celebrating my grandma's birthday today.  Lots of fun times with the cousins.  Enjoy!

September 28, 2012

Science: Ecosystem (Shoebox) Dioramas

Can I be honest and say I'm glad this project is over?  

My students have been studying ecosystems for about 4 weeks now.  We have learned about the different types of ecosystems, predators/prey, consumer/producer, and non-living/living parts of it all.  There is still more to learn with food webs, etc. - but it was time to put this part together.  

3 weeks ago I sent home a note to the families asking/begging/pleading they send in a shoebox so we could create an ecosystem diorama.  

They came in 2 weeks ago.  
2 weeks of navigating around 32 shoeboxes...

Last week we took time and went outside to paint the inside of the boxes.  Each student had to choose what type of ecosystem they wanted to create.  I gave them basic choices and we brainstormed a list.  

Land: Taiga, Chaparral, Forest, Rainforest, etc

Water: Ocean, Freshwater River, Lake, Stream

They had so much fun painting the inside of their boxes.  We had every color of the rainbow out, and they were like little Picassos.  There was much talk over the colors each type of environment would have in them.  Many of them wanted to create either a forest or an ocean ecosystem.  We went through a lot of paint.

This week they have been watching their boxes like sharks for the moment that I would say it was finally time to finish them up.  Today was that day.

To create, I only really gave them the minimum amount of supplies.  Construction paper and index cards to create parts of the ecosystem, and yarn to hang the parts they wanted to move (you can see below the kids just used tape and glue to assemble.)  We had to talk about how index cards are thicker, so the animals and bushes could stand up and become 3D.  I wanted them to showcase their own art work, rather than have them print off clipart to add. 

As they created their environments, they had to focus on the 6 categories that we have learned, making sure they had specific things in their box that would count for each thing.  I didn't grade their art work (as I never grade their art work), I only grade their participation and what they learned.  This little 1/2 sheet of paper really showed me if they got it.  

The categories:
Living vs. Non-living
Predators vs. Prey
Producers vs. Consumers

The half sheets of paper are glued onto the back of their shoeboxes, and their shoeboxes are held up by only 1 pushpin on the wall. (Some students tried to turn it in before doing the paperwork aspect - they will have to finish first thing on Monday morning.)  I'm only going to keep them up for about a week until the next project is ready.  Enough time for them to see everyone else's art work, and to get some compliments on their own.  

I did this same type of project last year.  Last year it was basically the same set up, though I had them do the writing for the different categories on the outside sides of the box.  With this group, it needed to be only one sheet of paper they were working with.  

I'm updating this post so I can share it over 
at Clutter Free Classroom's Linky Party.
What a week!  
We also had a Math Fact Party that the kids loved.  Just have to say that balloons and streamers always mean so much to the kiddos - even without goody bags and treats of any kind.

Hope you had a good day and week as well!

September 27, 2012

Math: Multiplication Fact Party

Today we had a Multiplication Fact Party for our math lesson.  We just started Chapter 5 in our math text, and this chapter is completely about math facts - all 7 lessons...  It makes sure they remember their facts before we dive into double digit multiplication.

  It's easy to do the entire chapter in a day because there is no way to spend an entire day doing each lesson when there is so many other things to learn (though I'm taking 2 - tomorrow will be all about having a variable in a math fact equation).  I took the homework pages (x2, x5, x10, etc) and made a packet of facts for them to work on in class.  Then today when the kids would normally be doing guided practice, etc... they worked on their packet of facts individually and then with a partner.  

Of course no party would be complete without balloons and streamers, so I decorated the whiteboard with ones that I wrote math facts on.  As students finished the packet of facts, they then moved onto play the math fact games that are in the classroom.

The kids asked me if we could have another Math Fact Party another day - I think it is a definite!

Hope you had a good day!      

September 26, 2012

Science: It's a Lion King kind of day...

I love when I can relate a Disney movie to help the kids 
understand a concept...

The Science chapter on Ecosystems we have been working on is 
straight out of the Lion King.  

We related predator and prey, competing for food and living space, and discussed how animals sometimes have to move on to another space or else they will die.  We were able to discuss animal adaptations, and how they rely on each other.  There was more stuff that we discussed as we went through our chapter but you probably get the gist.

Now, we aren't watching the movie (though I wish we had time to), 
but the kids totally understood the point.

I really love my Disney movies...

Hope you had a good day! 

September 25, 2012

An Autumn Treat

Last year I found this little picture floating around on Pinterest.

It comes from the website Gracious Rain.  I thought it would be the perfect little treat to bring into the classroom on the first day of Autumn.  

Now it has become a tradition - even with the beginning of Autumn falling on a weekend - I still had to buy the supplies to make them for my class.

I promise I did have everything ready to make them yesterday, but with my monster migraine, and the normal crazy Mondayness (I know, not a word) of it all - well it didn't happen.  

So I surprised my kiddos this morning with them for a recess treat.

For my class of 32 I bought:

*2 boxes of Pop'ems Glazed Donut Holes 

*a handful of pretzel sticks - one per kid

*chocolate frosting (with a spoon to help dip the donut in)

*chocolate sprinkles

*a container of paper cupcake wrappers to hold them until I gave them out

It's easy steps and it goes fast to assemble:

Step one: Put a tad of chocolate frosting on one end of the donut hole.

Step 2: Dab the chocolate frosting end side into the chocolate sprinkles.  Tap a couple of times so the chocolate side isn't sticky anymore.  

Step 3: Stick a pretzel stick into the sprinkle side

Step 4: Place inside a paper cupcake wrapper, and start all over again.  

It was easy, cheap, and the kids loved it.  If you make extras, make sure you share with your teammates and the office staff - they appreciate it too!

Happy Autumn!

September 24, 2012

Believe in Yourself

Just a little reminder to believe in yourself when you are feel like you are sinking, when you just want to give up, or when you are so overwhelmed.

Today was a hard morning, so many "issues" that made me want to leave and not look back. It was bad and I had an admin in the classroom as a witness.

After school I was told that my lesson was great, so many positives. I was focusing so much on the negative (students being students with unpredictable behaviors) that I couldn't see that what I accomplished today was something to be proud if.

Every day we teachers do so much to bolster the children's self esteem. Remember to give yourself a pat on the back as well. You did a great job today.

You did a great job helping to mold a child into the person they will someday be.

You did a great job teaching someone the importance of believing in themselves.

You taught them something today they will remember in future years and finally get why it's important.

You shared what great character means.

You taught someone today that they are unique and special... That they are smart... That they matter.

You showed them that can believe in their dreams and someday they can accomplish them.

You did a great job today!

September 22, 2012

My 100th Post!

I know I should be writing something to celebrate my 100th post.

It should be like the 100th day of school in a primary classroom - 100 being the star and a party going on... I can't believe that it's already number 100.

Maybe I shouldn't be writing at this moment in time 
but I really want someone to talk to...

My husband took my older boys to their first ever Cub Scout family camp out.  We decided our 2 1/2 year old was just too young for this outing.  So I'm home with my toddler and my puppy, missing my big boys so much.  They left yesterday afternoon as soon as I walked in from school, and they won't be back until tomorrow after lunch.  This is basically the first time (not counting when I was stuck in the hospital having my youngest son) that I've been away from them for 2 nights in a row.  

My toddler doesn't speak much... it's really quiet around here.

Yesterday afternoon, after saying goodbye to my big boys, we drove out to see my parents and sister.  Us girls went shopping (Dad watched my "only" child), and I didn't have to cook.  I love shopping, and I love hanging out with my mom and sister.  Of course I tend to gravitate to the kid toys and clothing... bought a couple of Christmas presents that are now tucked away in the garage - hoping that I will remember them when it's time.  

Then I drove my sleepy boy home, turned on a chick flick, stayed up way too late finishing a book, and started another one.  

I'm now on my 3rd Kindle book and avoiding my school bag.  It's hard to do since my "baby" keeps dragging the bag to me wherever I am.  I think he maybe just relates me being home to doing school work?  We've played play dough, did puzzles, read books, watched Little Bear/Max and Ruby/Blue's Clues (told you I wanted to read my book), and now he is playing with his Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.    

My big accomplishments for today?    

I changed from one pair of comfy pants to another pair of comfy pants, and I went grocery shopping because somehow all the fruit and veggies disappeared out of the refrigerator.  Maybe I should think about doing something productive around here... or not...  

I think I really miss my babies.  

This is by far my most favorite book at the moment.  If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond  I have read it a bunch in the last 24 hours to my toddler, even when he was sleeping last night I was still rereading it to him...  Of course I get all teary-eyed because I still am wanting to be at the matching clothes, nap in a fort, fly you with my feet stage... Anyhow, if you've read it you know what I'm talking about... even if you haven't read it you probably know what I mean.  Why do they have to grow up so fast?

I'm sure over the years, that I will get used to being away from them - them having their own experiences that I know nothing about... maybe even someday I will be glad to have a couple of quiet moments to myself... Not trying to be a downer to your day, just missing my loud, silly, crazy boys and my supportive, wonderful, good-looking husband.  

Hope you are having a good day! 


September 20, 2012


We started MATH rotations and I LOVE it!  

I didn't know how it would really work out, but when another pull out schedule was thrown our way I decided that I really need time to work in small groups.  So it's now been 3 days and I love it!

Here's the basic schedule:

10:10 We come in from recess - books are already on their desks, whiteboards are out, and timed math fact practice is done.

We start our lesson full class - Think Central is up on the projection screen with our math textbook showing, and the now!Board is running.  We go over the concept, vocabulary together, and do guided practice with the kids showing comprehension using whiteboards.  I only have 25 minutes to go through that part together before a student has to leave for his ELL pull out class.  I have to keep moving forward.  So far we've been able to pull that off with having a ton of examples to go through together.  He knows the material before he leaves.  

10:40 comes and we switch to MATH rotations.  I'm sure you have heard about it from other bloggers out there.  Elizabeth at Fun in Room 4B, Tara from 4th Grade Frolics, and Clutter Free Classroom have mentioned it as well - only I had to make it work for me.  Time wise I don't have time to do 4 rotations and it was important for me to do the beginning concept full class.  
So here's what's working...

I have 6 team in my classroom - I will always have 6 teams in the classroom...

So it forms a nice and even 3 groups

Teams 1 and 2 group together, 
Teams 4 and 6 group together,
and Teams 3 and 5 group together - 
it's all how I have them sitting in the classroom that they are near each other.

We have been doing 10 minute station rotations.

11:00 - 11:10

M is for Math Facts
One group heads over to the carpet (I've been switching who goes first) and works on the activity of the day for math facts.  Today we reviewed our addition facts since for some they keep forgetting the addition since they have been doing multiplication for so long.  This is an independent station - no talking - no moving around - we made up an anchor chart to remember the rules.

A is for At Your Desks
This is my class work group.  This is going over the class work independently (or with my help if needed).  This only takes them a couple of minutes to complete - it's the front side of the homework sheet - so afterward I've been pulling them up to the carpet to work on our IXL/Think Central skills using the now!Board - just more review with using their whiteboards.  They love to get our Smart Score as a class up!  I love technology in the classroom.

T is for Teacher Time
Well, at this point in time I am going over the classwork with the students, but eventually I would love to be able to have math conferences during this time - as some of the lessons are so easy that they really won't need me standing over their shoulders.  

H is for Hands-On Review
This group is in the other corner of the room.  Today they did something independently, but yesterday they worked with a partner.  We brainstormed what this group should look and sound like as well.  I want to have this station be a spiral review of sorts.  We don't have a lot of manipulatives to use, but so much is easy to do with just using a whiteboard.  

I know it's only been 2 days, but I feel like I know so much better who is really struggling with Math in my class.  It's so neat to be able to watch the 10 kids who are right there working on their problems and seeing their papers at the same time - who is having a hard time with simple addition/subtraction... seeing up close and personal the kids that word problems are difficult for - the math text is only going to get harder!  Since their desks are close to each other it's not like I'm having to do a big lap of the classroom.  The other groups have been doing a great job staying focused and they are engaged - and since I'm standing up when they are all sitting down on the ground, well it's easy to see who needs some redirection.

When we come back together after all 3 rotations, I just have to assign the homework problems.  

Something I just found today - Think Central has web activities and songs for each lesson!  There is a little animated creature that starts grooving as the song sings about the vocabulary words that the kids encountered.  I think that will be a built in bribe.  If they are ALL making the right choices during station time, then we will listen to the song - if not, then it's not a big deal.    

Yay for MATH!

September 19, 2012

Autumn Activities mentioned by YOU

  1. Once again - YOU are so smart!  Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me.  
    I wanted to pass your ideas onto others as well in case they could add them into their lesson plans in the coming months.

    These wonderful comments were made on the giveaway post when I asked the question - 
    "What is your favorite Autumn activity to do in the classroom?"    

    Please check out the links for the blogs listed below.  

    Thanks again everyone!

    I like to make leaf collages on contact paper!

    The Gypsy Teacher
  2. I have a stained glass leaf art with crayon and oil that I do every year.

    Yearn to Learn Blog
  3. I give each student a pumpkin and have them do a descriptive writing about the pumpkin.
  4. Carve a pumpkin in class. Surprising how many have never done that!
  5. With my students, we estimate the amount of seeds in a pumpkin, and then count them. We also discuss the life cycle of a pumpkin.
  6. I like using a big pumpkin for math studies. 
  7. My favorite fall activity is our Pumpkin Investigations that we do around Halloween. We do math and science investigations, like circumference of a pumpkin, seed estimating, sink and float, etc. It's so much fun for the kids!
    Learning Is Something to Treasure
  8. Looks like fall = pumpkin time! haha We do "Pumpkin Biographies" in October! They are so much fun!!

    Lessons with Laughter
  9. We made "Pumpkin Pie in a Cup" last year and wrote a how-to about it. The kids loved it!

    Third Grade in the First State
  10. My favorite fall activity is taking my 4th graders on a hike in the woods on our school property. There is also a creek and pond on the property and the kids love finding crayfish (that is our first fall science kit) and other wildlife!!
    Fourth Grade Flipper
  11. Fall is my favorite time of year!!!! Our favorite activity is carving pumpkins and writing a how to story about it!!!
  12. My favorite autumn activity happens during Thanksgiving! We make "I am thankful for..." placemats and then I laminate them so that the students can use them as real placemats during our "Family Feast" (known as a holiday party...any excuse to have snacks with the kiddos)
  13. I love canoe haikus! Our grade level visits a nearby lake for a "watershed day" and do things like test water quality, role play, so on. When we return, students write a haiku about nature and decorate a construction paper canoe with Native American symbols. So fun to read! And I love the beautiful fall colors we observe on our trip!

    Young Daze in 5th Grade

Hope you have a great day!

September 18, 2012

Thesaurus Lesson

Don't you love good picture books?  

Today I read this book to my class using the document camera.  What a wonderful invention the document camera is... being able to stick anything under it and everyone can see the pictures - no whining, no complaining... It was a picture perfect moment in my class...

Anyhow, this week we are supposed to focus on using a Thesaurus.  Last week was using a Dictionary (that was like pulling teeth), so I expected the same type of results.  It went so much better than I could have ever dreamed.  

I read the read aloud, and afterward we discussed that sometimes we get stuck using the same words over and over... BORING!  We need to spice up our writing or else no one (mainly me) will want to read it.  We brainstormed a list of boring (overused) words on the board, and then I modeled looking up one word from the list.  

The word was "small".  

There are a lot of synonyms for "small".  

So I grabbed out index cards and on the top line I wrote "small".

Then underneath I wrote all the other words.    

I don't have a class set of Thesaurus' in my classroom, and I didn't think to email the librarian until after I had already headed to 2 different dollar stores this past weekend to pick up 17 of the student kind.  Partners shared (like they are supposed to), and they chose words that they thought were boring - some were off our list, others they were interested in.  Each took turns reading the synonyms for their partner to write down.  It was easier having them read it to their partners then trying to hold the book open and copy at the same time - though of course some needed to see the words themselves.  Sight word building you know...

We now have a huge stack of synonyms that I get to take and create a game out of.  It will be a synonym match up after I cut the boring word off the top.  I love how the students can create their own games - and they didn't even know they were doing it to begin with.

Hope you had a great day!