Saturday, October 25, 2014

Embracing Differences

My students this year had an amazing opportunity to learn about autism and embrace a new student with support and caring. Their lives have been changed because of it, but sadly, yesterday was his last day at our school.

The autism program was at another school last year and moved to our school this year. This student joined us the first day, first thing in the morning and the class immediately accepted him and were interested in getting to know him. It was new to my students, so they were motivated to understand him and be friends with him. 

Right away a few students took him under their wing and invited him to play basketball with them at recess. They played knock out and this opened up a passageway into his personality. He loves Slamacow productions which are animated minecraft videos. He would take the ball and yell, "Slamacow 6A!" He taped it on the back of his shirt. The students loved this and started taping numbers on their backs because he kept asking, "What's your number?"

He joined our class for math, science and specials (art, music, PE), as well as for recess and lunch. Here was another window into understanding him. It was very powerful for students to see that he was really good at math and, at times, better than them. They were also impressed with his talented drawings. The chance to work with him in these classes built the relationship they had with him. 

When he didn't want to leave the classroom one day, he began to scream and hit himself on the head. The students were worried for him and we had a follow up talk with his one on one teacher about what they saw, why he does that, and what they can do when that happens. It was important for them to know they are safe and that he needs to see how to act. Their job is to do their job and let the adult help him. Many times, the adult would say, "What are your friends doing right now?" He would look around and adjust his behavior. Very powerful.

It was heartbreaking having to tell my class that our new friend was moving and wouldn't be in our class anymore. They all made cards and one parent took the initiative to get a card and a school t-shirt/teddy bear for kids to sign. I ordered a jersey online that had his name on the front and "Slamacow 6A" on the back with a big 6, so it looked like a team jersey. 

Yesterday, we presented the shirts and cards, played his favorite Angry Birds jenga-like game, watched a few Slamacow videos and played an epic knockout game with the entire fifth grade class. It was a stellar last day! He was happy and not sad at all, which I think helped my students to not be as sad as they could have been. One student cried and the rest coped by naming Friday official Slamacow day in his honor. Very sweet! We spent the last few minutes dancing to "Everything is Awesome," from the Lego movie and, well, everything really was awesome!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Math Facts Mastery

Thanks to Laura Candler's Math Facts Program, all my students know their multiplication facts. The goal was for all to know them by our Halloween celebration on the 31st, but they just finished today, October 23rd! What have they done? They have all successfully completed 30 second quizzes for facts 0-12. 

This was accomplished by using the materials that Laura Candler provides in her math facts unit and setting aside 15 minutes every day for kids to study. They also took the 30 second quiz for the fact they were on, every day. Students helped each other and worked together towards this class goal. On the way back from lunch students would ask, "Are we doing facts practice?" It became a real bonding experience for them; a great way to show that Together Everyone Achieves More.

Next steps...mixed multiplication practice. They study on their own mostly and we take the mixed facts minute test every other day. The determined fifth grade goal is 30 in one minute. Some have reached it and completed 30 mixed division problems in a minute as well. 

Students are finding that they are able to work quicker. We are working on a unit that includes multiplying and dividing whole numbers including division with two digit divisors. Students keep commenting that they are glad they know their facts. :-)

It was worth putting the time in every day, for a short period of time, to ensure students are successful for the rest of the year and beyond. Now that 15 minutes will be used for focused word problem work. Every day for fifteen minutes is powerful!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blogging Rubric

Here is the blogging rubric that I created for my students' self directed learning blogs. It is a work in progress. I was inspired by an article I saw on Twitter, "Your Rubric is a Hot Mess: Here's How to Fix It," posted by Jennifer Gonzalez. The single point rubric is just brilliant! We tend to look at the "Meets" column while grading a rubric, so why not just have that on the rubric with space for not meeting and a space for exceeding. Our report cards are standards based anyway, so this is more organic/informative about each child's progress. As much as possible, I used the language on our report cards...common core standards. I recommend the article and feel free to use and tweak this rubric for your needs.

Blogging Rubric


Student: ____________________________                          Month: __________________


Room to Grow
Progress Towards Standard
On Target
Standards for this Performance
Above and Beyond
Evidence of Exceeding Standards
Criteria 1:
Clear and Coherent Writing
The student clearly expresses original ideas and stays on topic. Writing is appropriate for the audience. Each post has at least 5 sentences.
Criteria 2:
The student wrote at least one post a week.
Criteria 3:
Follows the Writing Process
The student’s posts show improvement from planning to final draft due to drafting, revising, and editing.
Criteria 4:
Prod./Distribution of Writing
The student commented on other blogs at least once a week. If applicable, the student cited others in their research and writing.
Criteria 5:
Use of Media
The student enhanced their blog by regularly using video, audio, images or other media


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Plethora of Topics for Self-Directed Learning

Our fifth grade students just had a great overnight camp experience at Camp Bournedale in Plymouth, MA. They participated in a trip to the beach to study coastal ecology, a trip on a lobster boat to catch and release creatures, a three part marine lab that included shark dissection, and an extensive team building course. There were also presenters who were fantastic. A reptile/amphibian guy and a very engaging magician.

Throughout this two day adventure, I watched my students get completely enthralled in all different topics. I felt the need to capture these general topics to remind the students just in case they were enthralled enough to pursue any of them for their self directed learning projects. Below are some pictures and the list I created in my iPhone notes app.

Bio magnification center


Huge horseshoe crab

Shark dissection

Shark jaw

Submarines made from a piece of straw, water and clay. Trying to find neutral buoyancy.

Negative buoyancy

I found a new friend.

Self Directed learning

- Sharks
- Other kinds of sea life (crabs, coral, etc.)
- Parts of the body - sharks, human or other
- Classification of living things 
- Reptiles and amphibians
- Buoyancy/ Submarines
- Magic

Friday, October 17, 2014

Local Resources for Book Talk Clubs and Self-Directed Learning

Session Two with the staff from R.C.T.V. went well. It is really worth investigating your local t.v. station to see what they offer in the way of loaning equipment and training to use the equipment. In the town I teach in, the t.v. studio rocks! They came to the classroom, in two sessions of about an hour, to teach how to use the movie camera and editing software, Final Cut Pro. 

We will use the equipment to film and edit the students' book talks. Students can also use the equipment for their self directed learning projects. What a great opportunity! In addition, at the studio, there is a green screen and a full working kitchen set. I have a student who will film her cooking show in this kitchen for her SDL project. 

Exciting things afoot in Room 16!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Have an Audience!

Our progress with blogging is exciting! Students are thrilled to be getting comments from all over North America,  as well as the Bahamas and New Zealand! Our blog has over 4,000 views after one week of blogging!

Now that students see they have an audience, they are stepping up their game for sure! I am almost done with the blogging rubric. I shared it with my team and am revising based on their feedback. I will share it when done. I shared examples of great kid blogs and will be showing them how to cite sources next week after our overnight field trip. The rubric will also clarify what is expected and includes relevant standards.

Here are a few pictures that show examples of posts and comments, but please visit our site   read the blogs, and leave a comment! You will make their day! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Blogging Begins

On Friday, I gave my fifth grade students the blogging permission form and told them that they will get their passwords when they return the signed form. As of today, there is only one student who has not returned the form. Many are blogging and commenting. They love it!

Of the 20 forms I have received, only six parents did not sign permission for their students faces to be seen. That was surprising to me. I thought more parents would be wary of this. I was pleasantly surprised.

I am creating mini lessons to improve the quality of my students' blogs, as well as a kid friendly blogging rubric.

With Kidblog, I approve all blogposts and comments before the public sees them. I like having that safety net!

Please read my students' blogs and leave encouraging, helpful comments. If you have trouble getting on to the blog, please let me know. I may need to double check my settings. I think it is ready to go though!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Developments with SDL

Students are almost ready to start blogging about the process of self-directed learning. My teammates and I drafted a permission letter to parents explaining Kidblog and online safety guidelines. Students will get their passwords when they pass in the signed permission slip. 

It was exciting, earlier this week, when @joykirr contacted me through Twitter about putting my blog on the Genius Hour live binder. She also put me in contact with @robynthiessen who facilitates the Global Genius Hour Project.  Our self-directed learning blogs will be part of this project. Students around the world will see Room 16's blogs! We will be able to see others' blogs and share praise and feedback. I will explain this to my class tomorrow. They will be excited, I  am sure!

We have been lucky to have access to the computer lab the last two weeks. Not anymore. Time to get creative with laptop/ iPad accessibility.

Learning to draw

Building a Lego City

Ice Age Interests

Researching Goalie Jerry Cheevers

Sewing Project Runway Wannabe

Comprehension Conundrum

Tonight, I went online to search for some decent comprehension questions for James and the Giant Peach. I recently found great free online resources for Cricket in Times Square and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so I was hopeful. Unfortunately, no good resources were to be found for Peach, a Dahl classic. They were too simple, didn't go deep enough for my fifth graders. They may be reading at Level Q, but they can think like fifth graders!

Necessity is the mother of invention, so I cranked out questions for the first four chapters and have shared them below for anyone interested. I want students accessing schema/ making connections, inferring, predicting, and learning about literary elements and author style. I will post more chapter questions as I write them.

James and the Giant Peach

Please answer the following questions in your journal using T.T.Q.A. and support your answers with evidence from the text.

 Chapter 1:

1.      Do you feel bad for James? Why or why not?
2.      Will James jump over the fence? Why or why not?
Chapter 2:

1.      What words does the author use to describe Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge?
2.      Why did James start to cry?

Chapter 3:

1.      Summarize what happened in this chapter.

2.      What do you think will happen next? Why?

Chapter 4:

1.      What does the old man promise James if he drinks the jugful?

2.      “Whoever they meet first, be it bug, insect, animal, or tree, that will be the one who gets the full power of their magic.” This is an example of foreshadowing, the author is hinting at what may happen soon in the story. What do you think will happen with the “green things?”