Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Setting the Stage for the Civil War

I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words...especially for visual learners.  We are moving into the Civil War this week - a perfect unit to really distinguish between primary and secondary sources.  What better way to show them what life was like in the 1850's than to show real photographs, paintings and prints from the time period.  I started my unit by showing them this power point that you can down load for free.

It sparked many discussions and certainly made it "real" for the students.

Next, my colleagues had made up a concept sort, which the students were able to arrange and discuss before copying onto a real Venn Diagram to keep in their notebooks. 

Hope these strategies help you engage your kids in social studies....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I do love to teach about abolitionists and the Under Ground railroad.  Our students need to learn about the unforgivable (in my opinion) act of slavery in this country - as well as the people who wanted to stop it.  There are so many good resources out there now for teaching this unit...I'd like to share a few of my favorites...

Of course, I will start out with Children's of the best ways to ENGAGE learners.
John Brown...the hero of Harper's Ferry...These are both books that I have used in my classroom.  One is a graphic novel, the other a story book with great pictures. I found both books at our public library. 

Next is Nat Turner...another interesting Virginian.  He was a slave who simple had enough and caused a rebellion.  His method was violent and led to many deaths...

And of course,  Harriet Tubman....who can forget her? The woman was truly a hero and should receive more recognition than she has gotten...


    More to come on this unit...

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Awards....

Recently I have been nominated for a few awards. This one I was nominated with by Heather at....

She is an awesome blogger with lots of great ideas for the upper grades!  Make sure you check her out! She lives in Virginia...just like me!

 Here are the rules for the Lovely Blog Award:

1. Link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Pass the award onto 15 followers.
3. Follow the person who sent it to you.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

An engaging method for teaching multiplication

Do you know the box method? When I first moved up to fourth grade I, double digit multiplication is hard!  How am I ever going to teach it in a "non-traditional" way that makes sense to my students?

Luckily, I work with an amazing math specialist as well as hardworking team who introduced me to the "box" method.  What is that you ask?  Well, I think the strategy has many different names...but this is the way that we teach it.

Take a double or triple digit number and break it into place value parts.  327 x 15 = ?
300 + 20 + 7
10 + 5

Then put them on this grid...

 X                300                   20                                  7             









Then you add up the columns so that 3000 + 1500= 4500, 200 + 100 = 300 and 70 + 35 = 105
Next add the 4500 + 300 + 105 = 4,905. 

To explain this to my kids, I created a power point.  It is your FREE to download at TeachersPayTeachers by clicking the link right here!  

I hope you enjoy this new product!  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Vocab through visual mapping

The other day I was working with a small group, reading a readers theater about a pioneer family.  I thought, this is perfect!  We just talked about how Virginians migrated to the west through the Cumberland Gap, we saw a PowerPoint with photos of covered wagons, the mountains...they will have a great background already!

So we started reading the text....and I realized there were more like 20 words that were difficult to understand meaning.  I guess when I was there age I had a better background on this time period - mainly thanks to watching "Little House on the Prairie"...but kids today had no idea what most of the words meant.  Keep in mind, they read the entire passage fluently and never stopped to ask what the words meant. Scary, huh???  At the end I asked what had happened, and they were able to give me some details - but a giant chunk was missing.

 I circled the words in the passage that stuck out to me as words that they needed more support on with meaning.  Then I started to draw!

Some of the kids had no idea what a corral was, but as I drew it out they could easily connect it to a fenced in area.  One of the children had thought that the woman was tied to the post because she didn't get the word "haltered".  So we talked about the halter of a horse as the method for which they would have tied the horse up.  Think about the misunderstanding going on there - wouldn't the story be different with a woman who is tied up vs. a horse?  Another word that was confusing was a sod house - "house were made out of dirt...oh like the Pueblos" (good connection!) 

We continued by looking at how stared and started are often confused (a mistake several of them made while reading the story).  We talked about what acre means, a standoff, and territory. 
After this visual map, we reread the readers theater and reflected again.  The children were able to tell me so much more the second time...clearly they had a different picture in their mind after the visual map.

Hope this helps you one day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vocab Game...


This is a great game that can be used to review content words, academic vocabulary or other words that are key to understanding in your classroom.  I don't really have a name for we simply call it the vocab game.

Here's what you do -
      make up index cards with each of your vocabulary words on them.
      then, you either tape them or clothespin them to the back of one student's shirt
      have your student walk around the circle so that everyone but the person wearing it knows the word
      then have the other students give clues until the person guesses the word

It's a lot of fun!  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Engaging Boys....

I am a mother of two very active, very awesome BOYS... Having grown up surrounded by sisters, I was at a loss of how to be a mother to first.  I used to be a little bit prissy girly when I was in my twenties and was expecting a life of tea parties and cute bows.  Guess what?Didn't happen.  Instead I have had a life full of batman, star wars, legos, soccer, football, basketball and really bad tv shows!  And I wouldn't trade it for the world....

My sons have taught me a lot about how to work with the boys in my classroom...especially as they grow older.

Recently I came across an article that I use to reflect and ensure that I am actively reaching my boys in class. (And yes, I also have one for girls - another post!)  So I'd like to share from.....

10 Essential Strategies for Teaching Boys Effectively
by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens

I made a page that you can down load and clip into your plan book that highlights the eight strategies that you can implement in your classroom.  The other two strategies include providing mentors for our boys in schools and having counselors provide social skills training for sensitive boys as well as special education students.
To get your free copy click here .

Hope you enjoy it! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Upper Grades Link Up Party

Just stopping by to let you know about an awesome Linky Party! Lorraine over at Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies is having a Linky Party for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade bloggers! It's a fantastic opportunity for intermediate teachers to link up! It also provides a place where new bloggers and blog-hoppers can go to find great resources for their upper grade classrooms! Be sure and stop by, link up, and visit!

Here's a great example of a time saver that I picked up from a FOSS assessment workshop.  Research has shown that teachers can cut down at least half the time of checking notebooks IF students turn in their notebooks stacked and turned to the page to check.  It is true!  I never realized how much time it takes to actually flip through the pages in search of the assignment!  So now, my students are trained to turn in their notebooks this way!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SMART goals

Do you encourage your students to make and keep goals?  This has been a very important part of our classroom this year...but not without the help of some other wonderful bloggers out there. 

Student Portfolios: a collection of printables for throughout the yearFirst, I started the year with  this resource by Shelly Gray called Student Portfolios .  This resource costs $5.99 but is over 100 pages long.  It includes a story prompt for every month as well as interest inventories, multiple intelligence surveys and my favorite the monthly goal setting sheet.

New Year GoalsThen, in January I found this resource which really clarified for me what a SMART goal should look like in my classroom :  New Year Goals by Ashleigh. This resource costs $3.50 but is really worth it!  She includes posters, concept sorts, fix the goals, and ways to track our progress. 

So how do I make it work?????  First, I have a folder that we call our Goal Setting Folder that we can add the sheets to throughout the year.  We have placed in it general goals for the year, monthly goals, reflection sheets and multiple intelligence surveys.  At the end of each month, we reflect on the old goals and add the new goals. Then I write each child's monthly goal and post in the room for them to see.  If it is something they are working on (like a social goal they don't want others to know about) we can write Private Goal.  The kids accept this and acknowledge that not all things should be for all to see....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Morning Message

I love Morning Messages...they can be student led or teacher led!  I actually use both.  Here is a video from Caltha Crowe with Responsive Classroom to show how she uses it as part of her morning meeting every day.

Teacher part:   In my class, I write a note to the students every day.  I have done it on chart paper (like in the video), on the white board and now, as a power point with the overhead projector.  This is where I can say good morning and share some news of the day as well as include a photograph or picture to spark conversations. 

Student part: Then, I have the student portion.  This is where the students answer a daily question.  In the past, I have racked my brain to come up with a question such as "What is your favorite food?" or "Did you watch American Idol last night - yes or no."  The students love to share their responses on the board for all to see. 


This year I came across a resource that I love - 180 attendance questions or journal prompts.  It is a product that is well worth the $3.50 I paid for it on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It is written by the blogger at "Clutter Free Classroom" - one of my favorite blogs. 
       I have stapled the 180 questions and placed them by the whiteboard.  I have one of my students (as their job) chose a question of the day.  The resource has a spot for checking off the question once you answer it - to keep track of what you have asked.  My kids love it and it takes away some of the pressure for me to think on my feet each day.

Hope you will enjoy it! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What do you wonder? Spring time edition...

Do your kids know how to wonder?  Ah...the joy of wondering without having to have a right or wrong answer...My sons and I have spent many wonderful afternoons laying in the grass and wondering about nature.  You many of our kids don't spend much time outside, much less talking about what they see with an adult.  So I have tried to "fake it" by adding it into my classroom.

I started this winter with some picture images that they could "write" about for morning work.  One of my blogstalkers suggested I turn it into a powerpoint...which I thought was an excellent idea.  Now, I can pop it on the screen and we can chat about it over several days - one slide a day works great.  We look at a picture and make several predictions and give our own opinions about what is going on. 

This picture of the boys is one of my new favorites...after I show many pictures of nature including flowers, bees, bunnies, rain, pollen, etc... I end with this picture and state "Why do you think they are smiling???"  Just imagine what our kids would say - because they won the game, or maybe just because they are good friends and have fun playing together, or maybe one said something silly, or maybe they just got ice cream....the possibilities are endless.  I hope you will grab this powerpoint for Free and then, get outside and WONDER.....

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I know that I shared a few tips a few blogs ago...but there is so much more to do!  Here is a great clip of some kindergarteners asking questions after a share or even saying a comment.  My whole school does Morning Meetings and so by the time they get to us, they are really good at this!

One of the ways I encourage sharing is with a Golden Ticket (great for younger kids).  
At the beginning of a unit, I will create a new Golden ticket that states what we are getting ready to share.

I will write on the ticket "Tomorrow is your turn to share! Bring in something that starts with S...or is green....etc..."

Another idea I do with older kids is to send home a research book (like Eyewitness series or the I Wonder series) with a question and page number.  They have to read the question and find the answer to share the next day.

What is the largest hailstone ever recorded?  p. 22

How does frost and dew form?  p. 24

What is the biggest daily temperature range ever recorded?  p. 37

What causes heat haze? p. 38

Why is the earth tilted? p. 62

Students love this idea!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Who says school needs to be dull and boring?  Not us! During the Activities portion of your morning meeting, you can take about 5 minutes or so to play a game - with a social, academic or plain fun twist.  The above video shows the game "Sparkle" one our favorites in room 33.  We love to use this game to practice spelling words!

There are so many games to play in morning meeting!  My student's brainstormed a whole list of their favorites and we choose one each day.

Here is a freebie showing our list of both activities.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Greetings! More than just hello...

This week I will highlight a different section of Morning Meeting!

Monday:  Greetings
Tuesdays:  Activities
Wednesday: Sharing
Thursday:  Morning Message

Stop by all week to learn more!


There are many different ways to meet and greet your students.  It helps to create that "bond" between students and teachers as well as between classmates.  We love to share different greetings and have created a bulletin board with all of our favorite greetings on a chart. I pick a stick each day and let that child be the one to pick the greeting for the day...of course, marking it down on a class list so as not to repeat.  I have a special bulletin board with photos of my kids as the boarder and a list of Activities and Greetings in the middle.  Come back by tomorrow and grab a freebie of both lists!

Here is a great video showing a selection of greetings to get you started!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Morning Meeting - a great way to start the day!

In an earlier post, I talked a little bit about Morning Meetings and sharing as a way to start the day.  Today, I'd like to share a little bit more.

 First, let me tell you that I have attended several Responsive Classroom Training sessions.  I highly recommend Responsive Classroom 1 and 2 (which are week long training sessions) as well as Response to Misbehavior.  I have learned so much from these valuable workshops!  Responsive Classroom is a research based program that is considered one of the best social skills and relationship building "programs" in the country.  I do not work for the company, but I believe in it whole heartedly!

Second, if you cannot attend one of these workshops - you can learn a lot online through their webpage, blog, facebook and videos on youtube.  These resources are free!!! 

cover of The Morning Meeting Book
Third, if you really want to learn more I recommend purchasing the book Morning Meetings for only $24 on their website.  It is a great place to start!

Now, let me share with you what we do each and every day!

We start our day with a Morning Meeting.  This has four components:  Greetings, Share, Activity and Morning Message.  Since we are more than halfway through the year and my students go to a school where they have been doing Morning Meetings since Kindergarten, my fourth graders have a lot of experience with it.

Greetings:  We sit in a circle near the white board so that we can all see each other's faces.  The students will look at each other and say a greeting.  A greeting can be as simple as "hello" or "good morning" or as complicated as switching the first letter of your name to a Z and saying hello "Zaul" instead of Paul. This is a great way to build community and have a little fun too!

Share Time:  I always share our schedule and learning goals for the day.  Some kids really need to know what to expect for the puts them at ease.  All kids need to know what they are learning and sometimes, what the purpose of the activity will be.  Students share important news, artifacts from home or even something they learned from their homework.  Again, this allows kids to feel they are not invisible in the classroom and it gives them a platform to be noticed.

Activity:  Time for a fun game, song or academic review.  I plan to post later this week with more information about activities...but some of our favorites include - playing bop-it as a class, a game called Pop-Corn and Telephone. 

Morning Message:   In my classroom, we have two from me on the smart board and a question that is student driven on the whiteboard.  The kids have a list of questions to pick from and they write their answers on the whiteboard...hmmm...seeing another post coming up on this as well. 

I hope you will consider adding this component into your day.  It only takes about 15 minutes and it is soooooooo worth it!  If you have any questions, please ask!  I love to talk about this topic....