Tuesday, December 11, 2012

#5thchat Penpal Form

Calling all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers!

After our most recent (and rather exciting) #5thchat on Twitter, we have decided that we need to start a global penpal project! We were discussing how to engage our most reluctant writers, and teachers from across the nation and other countries agreed - the best way to engage reluctant writers is to give them a more authentic audience.

When our students write for someone else, the writing becomes more meaningful. When we open our students to global connections, they feel more like this great big world is becoming open to them. We all want this for our students, don't we?

Now, in my classroom, we connect via Edmodo and Kidblog with kids from all over the place. We're about to start Skyping students in other states and countries. I connect via Twitter and Facebook with teachers from ALL OVER! However, when it comes to putting pencil to paper, we don't do that much connecting with other students. One of my Twitter peeps, @MrBillySpicer said it best when he said, "We do so much tech integration, it'd be nice to have some 'old-school' pen pals."

Someone suggested starting off with postcards because it'd be a faster introduction and it would be a little less pressure at the beginning. I loved that idea, so this project was born!

You don't have to be a 5th grade teacher to join up. We're also encouraging 3rd and 4th grade teachers to sign up. Once you sign up, I'll match you with a partner and send the contact information to all the teachers who have signed up to participate.

Now, if you teach firsties or second graders and are gung-ho to start, go ahead and sign up - I'm sure I can find you a penpal somewhere!

Don't hesitate! Sign up below!


PS - a suggestion for if you sign up before the end of 2012, a good topic would be a top 12 countdown of 2012. The kids could list their top 12s from this past year as a way to reflect on the year and let their penpals know more about them.

12 in '12

Found this linky party and wanted to join up! One reason is because I've been home sick for half a day and I'm bored. But mostly because it's a great way to reflect on the year!

Thanks to Miss Kindergarten and A Teeny Tiny Teacher for hosting!

12. Favorite Movie You Watched
Welllll... since I have an eight year old son, I usually see kid movies. Rarely see "grown-up" movies. But, here's my faves this year from both categories:
Kid: Hotel Transylvania (cracked me up!!!)
Grown-Up: Skyfall (usually not my cup of tea, but so glad the hubby suggested it! great date night!)

11. Favorite TV Series
Castle! I just love that show! I'm so happy Beckett and Castle are together, but oh, the drama! Love the time that Josh and I spend watching the show together, predicting who dun it.

10. Favorite Restaurant
Always Kiku. I love Japanese food, especially Habachi-style!

9. Favorite New Thing You Tried
Skype! And I just tried it yesterday (Skyped Josh at work), ha! Can't wait to Skype with other classrooms and experts around the world!

8. Favorite Gift You Got
Since I'm going to Zambia in May to teach English to orphans, my favorite gifts this year have been donations from all my friends and family! They have really answered the call to help. I've needed to raise $3,600, and now I only have $650 to go! So blessed!

7. Favorite Thing You Pinned
I am going to list two here again. I love pinning stuff I find hysterical, and I also love pinning recipes. Here's my favorite of each:

Recipe: Oma's Chicken - THIS IS A MUST MAKE!

Hysterical - probably because a) it's true, and b) Mr. Bean kills me!

6. Your Favorite Blog Post
My favorite blog post I've written was about text-mapping. That's probably because it changed my life when I read about it on someone else's blog. I modified it to fit my needs and shared with my followers. So far, it's one of the most popular things I've written. I'm so glad that others find it useful too!

5. Best Accomplishment
I have been blessed to have been called to be a Deacon in my church (First Presbyterian). I was ordained in November. I am excited to be called to serve others in a new way!

4. Favorite Picture

I have a lot of favorite pictures, but I like this one because it's of my cute little doggie, Jaqq, and he just looks so at peace! I imagine him thinking, "Ahhh, this is the life!"

3. Favorite Memory
This may sound crazy. We were at Ashton's 8 year checkup at the pediatrician, and I was DREADING it! He has never liked the doctor, and I just knew it was going to be the pits. We laughed so hard the whole time! I just thought it was great laughing with my sweet boy at the silliest things (namely, him having to pee in a cup. And him telling the nurse, "I'm ready to bust outta this joint and get a sticker." All hysterical, I tell you). It was a day that reminded me that it's possible to find joy in even the most routine situations.

2. Goal for 2013
Spend more time with the family. I get so caught up in everything that I'm doing. The time I spend just hangin' with my guys (son and hubby) are the sweetest, and I need to build in more time for that.

1. One Little Word
Blessed. I am truly, truly, TRULY blessed. That's something that I need to remember!

So, those are my 12 in '12! Visit Miss Kindergarten's blog to link up!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Help Wanted: PBL

Hello fellow educators!

I want your help. I have heard of PBL (project-based learning) a lot lately, but each time I looked at it, I thought it would be a lot of work and at those particular junctions in my life, I wasn't looking for "more work."

Well, I still don't want more work (who does, really?), but I think I am ready to give it a try.

Here's what I'm looking for.

Kelly, Heather, and I do a WWII foldable lapbook every year in social studies. If you check out this link about Projects vs. PBL, you'll see that this falls under "Projects" in a major way! This equates to disappointment on my end, folks.

We want to revamp this project to make it more PBL than plain ol' project (POP, my new acronym, if you will).

The first step is to start with the end in mind. WELL, DANG! That's the part I'm having trouble with!

I want the kiddos to "own" more of this project, but I do have a couple of thoughts I'd like to integrate.

Normally, along with our 5th grade social studies standards, we do Number the Stars for a read aloud. We also want to incorporate either all or just parts of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas along with it.

Here's my train of thought...
1) In Number the Stars, the girls know something is wrong, but they aren't sure just how bad or how serious everything is until the end of the book
2) In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the theme is quite similar
3) In Germany, the theme is still there. People were mesmerized by Hitler, only learning later in the timeline how horrible he truly was.

I want to do something with these themes. I want the learning about Hitler, the other leaders of the Axis Powers, and their aggression throughout Germany.

I looked at this site, and it also suggests tying the PBL into community service. Not 100% sure how I'll do that (though a few random ideas are floating through my brain...)

As you read this, does something brilliant pop into your brain? Please send your thoughts and ideas!!!!

Here's one website I'm using to research: http://www.pbl-online.org/pathway2.html

Thanks as always,

RAK Winner!

Hi friends!

As my RAK for December (Random Act of Kindness), I put all of my sweet followers into a (proverbial online) hat and drew a winner for an iTunes giftcard. And the winner is....

Amy Lynn Marshall!

Thanks to all my followers. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Sending lots of love everyone's way!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

December Currently and a Holiday Giveaway!

I love Farley's Currently posts! I haven't done one in a bit, so here's my December Currently!

*Updated note: Apparently I cut off part of my own top line. For listening, it should read: "to my sweet boy playing mario as I'm...updating my blogs, getting ready for church"
My excuse? It's a weekend, and my brain is only operating at 50% ;)

Now to the regularly scheduled post...

The RAK stands for Random Acts of Kindness. Farley was telling us that they had to be RANDOM, not something you do often. I do have a sweet little tradition that's an act of kindness, but it's not random because it's something I do every Saturday. So I had to think of something random that I've never done before.

Well, this holiday season makes all of us feel grateful, don't you think? I'm grateful for a job I truly enjoy, for family I love beyond measure, a Savior (because frankly, I don't stand a chance without Him), and for my blog readers! Each comment leaves a smile on my face, and I appreciate that you take the time out of your busy lives to read the drivel posts I write. I'm thankful for all the times you've shared, tweeted, or pinned my work. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So as a thank you, I'm going to give an iTunes giftcard (electronically) to one of my followers. I'm going to select randomly! You don't have to comment, tweet, pin, or share anything (but I'd be thrilled if you did). Just sign up to be a follower to win! Thanks to all of my sweet 117 followers I currently have as I write this!

I will draw on Friday, February 7th! Drawing closes at, let's say, midnight EST.

Thank you all!
Merry Christmas!


A Cross-Curricular Christmas

Hi friends!

I feel like I haven't posted in about 400 years (hyperbole). I've been as stressed out about school stuff as a Georgia fan during the GA-Bama game in the 4th quarter with a minute and a half remaining (simile). As you can tell, curriculum is definitely on my brain and I am watching the Georgia game :)

I know I've been needing to post, but I wanted to have something good (and fun!) to share with all of my readers. I created a little activity that I LOVED the other day, and I knew it was just the thing to share with all of you!

I'm not sure about y'all, but I feel like there's been less time for the "fun" stuff this year as we've converted to Common Core. Don't get me wrong - I'm still teaching my heart out and we're having a good time learning, but good ol' fun? Not so much.

Wellllllll, I've got something fun for all of you! I'd like to introduce you to my cross-curricular Christmas activity!

We're studying the 1920s and 30s right now in my social studies class. So naturally, in reading, we're reading about this time period. I have a great series of books with loads of culturally relevant information from each decade (from the 20s up), and I came across an interesting article about the assembly line and Henry Ford. Wouldn't ya know that's in our social studies standards? Love it!

One of the common misconceptions our students have is that Henry Ford invented the automobile. Incorrectamundo, friends! My kids are always amazed to learn that he did not in fact invent it, and they are intrigued by the concept of an assembly line. It's not really something the kids have ever heard of in their short sweet lifespans.

So, it is interesting. Okie dokie. Not necessarily a super fun topic. UNTIL I remembered a fun treat my son made during an Advent festival at church several years ago.

Here, I present to you our Social Studies - Reading - Writing - Science Christmas snack!

We have an Advent festival every year at our church, and I remembered my son making one of these several years ago. It's just a sugar cone, green icing, and candy to make it look like a Christmas tree. How fun!

I decided I wanted to do this with my students, and then a great idea hit me! We could do our own version of an assembly line! The students would be learning about how each worker on an assembly line had a specialized job, and that this was designed to make production faster.

Well, I thought that if the students actually participated in an assembly line, all of that knowledge would be more likely to stick with them. 

The first thing I did was visit our local Bruster's Ice Cream shop. They are FABULOUS there and always try to do anything to help! The owner sold me enough sugar cones at just a little over the cost to her. That was SO much cheaper than going to purchase them at the store.

Next, I headed out to the store to purchase icing and M&Ms. I ended up buying vanilla icing and these little packets of flavoring for icing. The packets made the icing green AND gave it a mint chocolate flavor. YUMMO!

After I got home from the store, I continued to get even more excited about this project. I just knew the kids would have a blast.

BUT THEN I thought that I could even include a science standard in this classroom event! 

The next day, I get into class and tell the kids we are going to have a blast learning about Henry Ford and his famous invention. I asked the kids to write down what they thought Henry Ford invented.

Note: 100% of the students said... the car! (Told you that was a big misconception!)

We then read the article about Mr. Ford and his amazing invention - the assembly line. The kids were shocked and intrigued at the same time! (I would share the article with you, but I cannot do that because it's copyrighted. Dang! But anything you could find in a textbook or online would work.)

I asked the students to talk with their think-pair-share partners about two questions:
1) Do you think the assembly line REALLY makes production faster?
2) How could the assembly possibly line make production faster?

After a few minutes of discussion, I told the students I wanted them to design an experiment to test the theory that the assembly line makes production faster. I showed them the ingredients for the edible Christmas tree and a finished product that I'd made that morning. I asked them to turn to their think-pair-share partners again and discuss how to design an experiment.

As a class, we set up a question: Does the assembly line make the production of goods faster? (See how we're using knowledge from the reading article, knowledge of social studies vocabulary, and knowledge of procedures from science? Gosh, I love this!)

Next, we made a hypothesis: The kids were pretty evenly divided. Half thought that, based on our "research," the assembly line would indeed make production faster. The others believed that the travel time from person to person would slow down the process, so they weren't convinced it would help. So interesting!

Then we designed the experiment. One group would be the assembly line group, and another group would be the control group. They would build the whole Christmas tree themselves, start to finish, one person by him or herself. 

The first group to finish would be deemed the winners!

Note: we had two assembly lines going just because I needed everyone to be working :)

Here's my assembly line working!

Here are the jobs I created on the assembly line:
1) put a cone on a plate, hand it to the next person
2) remove the wrapper from the cone, pass the plate to the next person
3) put two globs of icing on the cone, pass it to the next person
4) spread the two globs of icing all over the cone, pass it to the next person
5) add 15 M&Ms to the cone, pass to the next person
6) safely transport completed product to the "finished" table

ABOVE: My independent group working. They had to do ALL the steps themselves. The assembly line had to make 8 cones. The independent group had to make 8 cones (all the same amount of product).

What do ya know? In both of my reading classes, the assembly line group won by a LANDSLIDE!

After it was over, students had to clean up. Dude, it was a little messy! As they cleaned, I asked them to analyze the results from their data and draw a conclusion. They all agreed that the assembly line was faster. You just couldn't deny the results here! Then I asked students to communicate their results by doing a write up about what they had learned.

After they wrote, the students were allowed to select a cone and eat! (All kiddos washed hands before this experiment. We had a cleanliness discussion - can't touch hair, nose, face, anything while working.)

What a fun day we had! And to make it even better, it included reading, writing, social studies, and science. You just can't beat it!

We probably could've even added in some math using the time it took, etc. However, all our minds were sufficiently blown at this point. But if you're a math teacher, it's definitely something you could use as well!

So what do you think? Would you be able to try something like this in your classroom? Share your thoughts below with a comment!