Friday, January 31, 2014

Social Studies Brackets, Word Walls, and Interactive Notebooks....oh my!

Another great couple of weeks in the book!  The hubs, kiddos and I got our third bout of strep throat but we weathered through it and we can finally see the other side.  School wise... knock on wood... everything has been bliss.  The kids have hit a sweet spot, academically, where I can continually ask for more and a greater percentage rise to the challenge.  Here's a breakdown of what I've been doing:

1. Civilization Madness
We finallllllllyyyyyyy finished Mesopotamia and I wanted to finish it up in an engaging way but not too engaging because the kids had just finished their Hammurabi plays.  I had been reading about using a bracket system in social studies.  You take multiple THINGS (people, events, etc.) and you have the "compete" in a March Madness type bracket system.  We had Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, Chaldeans, Phoenicians and Hebrew compete against each other for "best" civilization.  I told the kids they were able to choose what made them the "best".  I launched with this....
...and then the fun began...






The kids loved the whole activity and it was a great way to summarize the whole unit.  If you are interested, click here to grab some of the resources so you can do this on your own!

2. Egypt!!!
Egypt is always fun and I decided to combine the spirit of genius hour with a Common Core research activity. I decided at the end of this unit, the kids would be able to choose any topic they found interesting and research it.  Instead of just a simple research and report, the kiddos need to make a claim and support it through research (i.e. "Mummification was disgusting." or "A woman's life was tough in Ancient Egypt.")  The kids will be able to support this claim with evidence and I'm going to have them present in a variety of ways.  I'm going to allow Go Animate, the Zimmer Twins, Google Presentation and basically whatever they want.  We just started our Egypt unit bit I wanted my early finishers to have a chance to start thinking about the project.  When I moved into my new classroom, I was amazed at the amount of nonfiction was there but I wasn't sure how to use singular books on a single topic.  I figured it out though...


When kids are done with class activities, they are able to peruse the books looking for possible topics.  So far, my early finishers love it.  By the way... isn't my word wall fabulous....


3. Rejuvenation of Interactive Notebooks!!!!
I love my interactive notebooks, but being my first year with new curriculum, I lost my path around November.  I really started to plan and document with the notebook and I see the buy in from the students increasing every day.


 It's so funny, the more I focus on the notebooks, the more invested the students become.  It really shows that what a teachers feels can go a long way.  We did a pretty amazing Constitutional Convention unit where the kids did text mapping while I worked with six kids at a time on the Great Compromise and the 3/5 Compromise.  I looooove when I get to figure out how to work small group teaching into a class of 27!  After we completed our unit, the kids had to pretend they were a member of the Constitutional Convention and were Tweeting at the scene.  I gave them an example......
Then they amazed me......



All in all... an amazing week!

If you are interested in some of the foldables, head on over to Teachers Pay Teachers and check out my newest activity.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Three Day Weekend, A Mini Unit and a Sale!

I just finished a super fun mini unit of the strengths and weaknesses of the Continental and British during the American Revolution.  It includes:
A reading about the strengths and weaknesses of the Continental and British Army
A glossary for difficult words in the readingA foldable for note taking from the readingA graphic organizer to accompany the movie America the Story of Us: Rebels (you will need to access this on YouTube)A processing activity for the left side of the notebookExamples of the processing activity for students to modelA quiz to accompany the reading and the notesLink to a clip for Launch and access to ready made digital flashcards and games on Quizlet

I am currently offering it for 50% off for the next 24 hours.  Head on over to Teachers Pay Teachers to pick it up at this amazing price!



Also go on over a grab a FREE copy of my exit ticket Twitter board for your classroom!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Civilization Madness

There's a whole lot of learning going on in my classroom but I'm really glad that we have a three day weekend because there may be learning but there's not a lot of grading!!! So, what have we done since we got back from our fabulous, snow filled, extended vacation?

  • Hammurabi Plays: So we finally got to perform the Hammurabi plays the kiddos wrote. We didn't get to use the stage in the caf, but my classroom is a music room so we watched them amphitheater style.
He's stealing corn:)
She was a bush!
OMG..... These skits were so funny I thought I was going to pee my pants! Academically they were amazing but I was a little amazed at how hysterical so many of them were. This project will totally remain in my repertoire. If you are interested in the project and the activities that led up to it, click here.

  • We had some fun working with main idea this week. After reading an article on the Articles of Confederation, we worked on main ideas. First I had the kids write four main ideas on stickies. Then they worked as a group, shared their stickies and chose the best four best. This activity was great for modeling well written main ideas to my struggling readers.
  • Lastly, we finished the six civilizations of Mesopotamia and I had read recently about using a March Madness bracket system for comparison, claim and evidence. Today I launched the activity and when they walked in I wanted to evoke the feeling of walking into an arena before the game. So first I played this...
Then I explained the bracket system and showed this.....



Then we set the matches for the first round. They looooooooved it!  When I posted this on Twitter, Dave Burgess, author of the absolutely, positively must read book, Teach Like a Pirate, said this.


On a side note, since I left my old school district, I have been accepting friend requests on Facebook for students over the age of 22.  I got this the other night and got a little teary eyed.

This is why we do it!  We teach because grown men who are married with kids still giggle when they think about your class.  I'm just fortunate enough to get a glimpse of this every now and then: )






Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January Currently

I'm linking up with the amazing Farley....check that girl out!!!

Holy Textual Evidence Batman!!!!!

So, I'm supposed to be ending my non eventful, non productive, very relaxing vacation tomorrow but winter storm Hercules is on its way and I got the call that I won't have school till Monday.  I might actually catch up with my grading after all!
Since I actually have some time, I wanted to introduce you to a great new website that was introduced to me by a member of my team.  The website is Newsela and it is amazing!!!  I am a huge fan of current events in the classroom and this website not only has AMAZING current event stories, but the articles are Common Core aligned!!!

The website has a huge number of articles to offer as you can see by the menu.  Any article that as an anchor and a number next to it, is actually accompanied by a quiz that meets the CCSS.

This article specifically works on the author's point of view and purpose.  As a teacher you can sign up and assign various articles and lexile levels to your students.

Each article, regardless of whether it has a quiz or not, has multiple versions organized by lexile score.


The quizzes that come with specific articles are also organized by reading level.  My brightest kids are so challenged by these questions because it really focuses on the shift in the CCSS.  I'm getting amazing data out of these quizzes!!!
When you sign up as a teacher, you have the ability to link students as they sign up and thus create a class and a gradebook.  One of my ELA teachers is doing this and loving it.  I'm having difficulty finding the time and access to our computers to launch this so I've decided to go the paper route.


The site offers an awesome print version that has been really successful for me.  I give this out at the beginning of the week and I print and distribute two different versions: 7th and 4th grade.  It's perfect for skills based work and really gives me amazing data on the areas of need for my kiddos.

As a perk, the site just started posting articles with a Pro and Con stance which I find perfect to use for collection of textual evidence and argument writing.  Such gooey CCSS goodness!!!

If you use this, come back and tell me what you think and how you are using it in your classroom.