Friday, July 22, 2016

Classroom Makeover 2016

Wow! Have you had the moment of realization yet?

The one where you look  up and the calendar says you only have ONE WEEK of summer vacation left?

Because I'm having it. Right now.

There's so much to do! And only one more week to do it.

Shh, don't tell anyone, but I've already been to my room and started setting it up.

That's why I am writing today. I need your help!

This year means some big changes for my little room. We have a new principal, a large grade level, and I'm team teaching for the first time in 23 years.

With the change of students halfway through the day, I thought that seating was going to have to be more of a fluid event. One where the students can be more selective about their seating choices.

A friend had posted on FB that she was trying a Flexible Seating plan this year. I looked into on the internet, Instagram, and Pinterest and thought I would take the plunge.

Here's a few shots of the whole room. Yes, I know. It's tiny. And yep, those are 24 desks put out. But I put the groups into different configurations. There are two groups of 9, a group of 4, and a group of 2. It's all about options, right?

Here is a table I raised to waist high so that they can stand up and work. Those two buckets will be holding student work to be sent home and then have cushioned seats on top to be used as stools. 

Here's all the room I could spare for a whole group area. I got rid of my oversized chair, my easel, and a large rolling bookshelf. Instead I exchanged it for a thin folding chair from Ikea and placing my chart paper on the wall with some Command Hooks. 

I tried to get rid of my teacher's desk, but the custodian tells me that it is a requirement to have one in every room. Boo. So instead I switched out my super small computer table and made my teacher's desk the space for four computers to be set up. 

Here's my area for small groups. I have my regular teacher desk things in the small student desks behind this table. I can put my laptop on there and have it connected to the SmartBoard. 

As for another seating option, I have these kind of like cubby areas for groups to meet and discuss amazing literature this year. My friend, Jennifer Howard gave me this idea too. The little seat cushions were 4 for $7.
To ensure that everyone gets to choose the different options and to cut back on the squabbling, I usually have my reading groups set up into Monday, Tuesday, etc. They will get to pick their 'Comfy spots' on their day.
Okay, so here's where you come in. What else am I missing? How can I make it look more inviting without breaking the bank? Any ideas?? Help!
Remember, I only have ONE WEEK left.
Thanks for your help.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sharing Sunday - March 20

Ahh, April. The beautiful flowers in bloom, birds singing, shorts weather, and sun is back.

Working in April can be a bit of a push. The kids really (and I do mean REALLY) want to be outside instead of cramming their heads full of Westward Expansion. So close to the ending yet so far away. Plus there's testing to get through this month.

If that is already about to make you crazy then I've got an idea to help you through your struggles.

The last read aloud I like to share with my students is Dan Gutman's The Homework Machine. It's a fun read. The Homework Machine is a unique book because it is written in 'perspective' from varying characters. The tale of four children who band together to keep a secret of a machine that does their homework. It is rife with turmoil as things get out of hand. They end up giving their statements in the Grand Canyon Police Office.
My students always get a kick out of it and want to build their own machines.

Click on the Image below to see the links provided.

Here is a little freebie of a novel study I put together to  help you out.


During our Social Studies lessons in April we always dig into the fun that was the Oregon Trail. Last summer I  put together a packet that you could use to really immerse them into understanding what it was like during that time.

One of my favorite parts of that packet is the Choose Your Own Adventure tale that takes the kids on a journey where they are the main character. Along the way they have to make critical choices that could cause some of their travel companions to lose their life!

I also used a resource my grade level put together as a daily writing exercise that results in each student having a travel journal. I start off giving them some brown construction paper for 'leather' cover and white computer paper to put inside. Each day we do something different to our journal to make them more authentic. We might step on it, throw some water on it, tear it, or even crumple it a bit to make it look like it's gone through the very same trials and tribulations as those on the Oregon Trail.

Click on the Image below to see the links that will take you to that packet.

Head back to the Primary Peach for MORE April fun and freebies.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Harry Potter - Celebrate the End of First Year

I had so much fun with this unit and got as much back from the students as I put into it. It was our final day with the book before I packed it all up for next year. I brought in a ton of fun goodies to share.

I created some Acid Pops from sour ring pops dipped in water and then coated with Pop Rocks.

I made some cauldron cakes from Lil Debbie Snack cakes and Twizzler strings for the handles. I poured out some butterbeer for each. It was cream soda with whipped cream.

As a parting gift I gave each of them a small cauldron filled with sour candies, topped with cotton candy to look like flames, and of course a spider ring on top.

They couldn't believe it when I told them they could take the cauldrons home. I think they got confused because I kept telling them that they couldn't bring the copies of HP01 home because they were donations.

It took longer than the suggested five weeks, but the kids hung in there with me all the way. There were lots of groans and whines when I asked them to bring back the books. Many asked if were going to read Chamber of Secrets next. I told them I always read the first in a series to get them excited to read the rest on their own. Hopefully I've sparked a love of reading in some of them. If not for reading in general at least for J.K. Rowling's classic series.

We watched a few scenes from the movie to compare to the book. I loved sitting there listening to all the gasps when characters first arrived on the screen. The clapping at certain events such as Harry's midair capture of the Remembrall. Loads of laughs and squeals throughout.

It's over now and I'll miss it. We've only got 50 more school days together, and I think I've accomplished my goal of bringing my class closer together.

Thanks for following me on this magical  journey. Let me know if you try something similar in your classroom!

Harry Potter - Final Countdown

So sorry I've kept you waiting for a month for my next installment to this fantastic journey! We've been really trying to finish the book and just reading like crazy. The vocabulary work was all done. The comprehension questions were written up. The sketches were completed. And our writing piece is up on the wall.

We do this Snow Globe writing piece every year to help the students gain more practice with using sensory details and including tons of figurative language. They have to pretend they are stuck in a snow globe and figure out a way to escape. This year I just tweaked it a little and had them think if they were cursed into the globe and how could they use their wands as a means to get out. We studied spells such as these.

I need to get back to school in order to put up one of their writings for you later.

Our House Cup competition is over as well. We've been adding jelly beans to our House Cups. We counted them and then divided them equally among the House members And the winner is....

Our final two Potions lessons were completes. I really loved making the Forgetfulness Potion. It turned out to be a mix of water, veg oil, food coloring, and Alka-Seltzer. Which low and behold makes a kind of lava lamp. The kids were freaking out!

Here's a shot of our group making Mandrake Revitalizing Drought. This one was weird since it included Bat Dung (cocoa puffs).

 The best part of this whole EIGHT week unit came when I got the final exams (we were calling them N.E.W.T.S.- Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests). Every single child, all 20 of them, scored 91% or above. It was incredible. The whole test included simple recall, as well as some tough analytical ones. They had to write complete sentences which has proven hard to get them to do this year. But all of them managed to answer exceptionally well and scored Exceeds Expectations on their finals.

It made me so happy that they all got so much out of this book. If you want your own copy of this test, check it out here.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Harry Potter - Chapter 8 - Potions Class

SOOOO much fun today!

Today Professor Wilfred Waldicott made an appearance as the Potions Teacher.

I followed Amelia's (Where the Wild Things Learn) instructions to a T as I gathered the materials for my four potions lessons. If you are interested there is a freebie from Amelia's blog where you can download the very Potions book that I used! It was kinda fun sticking labels onto ordinary objects to turn them into Potions Ingredients. With names like Powdered Unicorn Horn, Gillyweed, and Flubberworm Mucus how could you NOT feel like you are entering the dungeons of Hogwarts to partake in a class with Professor Snape?


I was able to purchase two large cauldrons for each of four houses and several little bottles to put things like dish soap, borax, and vinegar in for the lessons. The students had to come up and find all the ingredients they'd need to complete each experiment.

The first one was Exploding Filibusters which came with a lovely aroma that permeated the classroom. You can tell as these kids were holding their noses as they mix up the Dandelion Root (dry yeast) with vinegar.

I wasn't sure how well my class would behave with all of this fun going on. But this first experiment went really well. They were listening and working together and talking quietly. So we went into experiment number 2: Snape Slime.

Here's where I made my biggest mistake. I listened to Amelia and bough some table covers at the dollar store. This one was going to be messy. However, I managed to leave them in the car. I wouldn't recommend this!

Snape slime was really gross Awesome! I was afraid to let the kids stick their hands in the cauldrons with borax floating around in there, but the directions said to do just that. In we go. The stuff resembled snot but firmed up after a bit. I had to make the kids put their take home bags of slime away after listening to them slap and pat their bags like overzealous bongo players.

There was a lot of clean up involved with these two - just so you know.

We ran out of time and only got to these two. I'm planning on finishing up the other two closer to the end of our read aloud. It's taken us five weeks to reach chapter 9, so all 17 should be done in 10 weeks, right? I don't know how Amelia go through all this in five weeks. Oof!

On another note our owl research is complete. For the writing I only had them focus on one topic since the area to write on the owl body was small. They could write about what the owls looked like, ate, lived,  or their predators. Also it was a great lesson on narrowing down your topic. Some kids had trouble sticking on the topic. Definitely made it easier to know who to involve in a small group on narrowing topics!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Harry Potter - Chapter 7 : Hogwarts Express

I've been totally waiting for the chapter when Harry gets dumped at King's Cross by his horrible Uncle. But then it is all made better when he in shown through the wall between Platforms 9 and 10 by maternally helpful Molly Weasley.

I still remember sitting in the theaters when the first movie came out. That moment when Harry turns the corner and sees the Hogwarts Express wreathed in steam made my heart leap. I wanted to be part of that world.

Today I brought my class on my adventure. I shared some of the sights and sounds associated with this particular train ride.

I shared this ppt with them.

They got a huge kick out of that! Bonus points for when the principal walks in to observe me. (YAY!)
We nibbled on Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans as well. If you look really closely you can see I hand painted the bowl to say, "I Solemly Swear I am Up to No Good."
 I bought a candy mold and it was super easy to create those chocolate frogs. Also I downloaded the actual packaging online and printed them out in color so we could take the fun a step further.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sharing Sunday January 31, 2016

Thought I'd help you out with a few ideas to fill in your February. If you're school is like mine we have parent conferences this month. Eeek!  So I could use all the help I can get.

My school is also doing something a bit unique in 2016. In hopes of increasing our Social Studies and Science scores for the upcoming GMAS testing, we are dedicating our entire Friday schedules to those subjects. So my grade level got together and designed a  45 min content lesson for both subjects, and a 45 minute technology lesson for social studies, and a 45 minute science experiment. That way we only had to plan for one lesson. Great collabo!

I thought I would share my Economics idea with y'all this month. I am using this as a great way to review material we haven't discussed since the beginning of the year since most of the Fourth Grade standards revolve around those earlier topics. I created an interactive ppt with four slides for the students to manipulate and reveal answers as they go. There is a worksheet involved as well for them to write down their thoughts for each slide.

You can click on this image to be able to click on all of the links:
Here's the worksheet that goes with the Economics Understanding slideshow.

Who can forget Valentine's Day? Here's some more fun for y'all

Just click on the image to see all the links

Head back to the Primary Peach for MORE February fun and freebies.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Harry Potter - Chapter 5 - Diagon Alley

I can't believe how quickly we've raced through the book so far. The first three chapters were for simple enjoyment. I didn't stress any real work, but to gauge how well they'd take to the book. Listening to their chuckles and outright giggles at the monstrosity that is the Dursleys, I knew they were going to enjoy this read aloud.

Once we got into Chapter 4 it was time to add more activities to our lessons. We looked at vocabulary. I stuck with four words at a time for each chapter. I wrote the words on a white board for them before we began. They copied each on a sticky note and put it onto a white lined piece of paper. As we read Chapter 4 I stopped when we came across one of them. I had them write down the sentence the word was in. We discussed what it could mean and then came up with a synonym (sometimes an antonym as well) and decided on part of speech.

There are now comprehension questions for every other chapter. The first two can be found from the text. I ask that they write it in such a way that isn't using information from the story. The evidence from the text goes in a separate box on the sheet. For example: The Dursleys wouldn't give Harry a proper bedroom. Evidence: He had to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs.

We have been doing some activities after our readings. The Wand Stories are done and floating on the wall outside our room under the banner of, "A Flutter of Letters."

Our House Cup Challenge is healthy as well. I need a ton of jelly beans! Hufflepuff is actually commanding a great lead out of all four houses.

The students have been haranguing me outside at recess for hints and spoilers. I am trying to be tight lipped, but they ask very pointed questions since most have seem several of the movies.

We've found the Pandora Harry Potter station and listen to that in the morning during our DBQ time. It's actually quieter now.