Slides for “Chat and Chart” Intro to Ancient Egypt activity

29 Jan

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The UCSB Chemistry Lab

30 Jan

As you may have heard, the field trip last week to the UCSB Chemistry Lab was an astounding success. We had a blast getting to experience some really interesting and exciting experiments, as well as put everything that we had already learned through the year so far to the test. I heard several times from members of the staff and the director of the lab how impressed with the students’ knowledge they were, which is a nice complement to hear for myself, for you the parents, but most importantly for the students themselves. I’ve said it many times, but we do have a remarkable group of minds in room 27, at this trip was a great opportunity for the students to see how all that they had learned in science this year could manifest in such a positive and incredibly interactive way.

I know that this trip will be one of the fondest memories they will take from their fifth grade year. Take a look at these awesome pictures, contributed by the wonderful parents who volunteered to help so that the trip could happen! Thanks again to all our families for your considered support of everyone’s success.

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Enjoy your vacation!

24 Dec

It’s not often that you’ll find me short on words, which is why I think my posts have been so infrequent. Hear me out.

I can’t help but write a lot about all the wonderful things that your children are doing in room 27, and while I often think of needing to update the blogĀ  (and have even set an alarm on my phone to remind me), I often don’t feel as though I have the time to commit to giving you a substantial article. We do, however, talk a lot about setting goals and making positive decisions, so when I get scolded by a ten-year-old for falling behind on my updates, I can’t help but feel like a little bit of a hypocrite.

Even though it’s Christmas Eve and not New Years Eve, my resolution for 2013 is to post more frequently, with perhaps less to say. In the meantime, here’s a gallery of all the pictures I’ve been meaning to put up. They’re of a few art lessons, posters that we made in Language Arts and two great science lessons that that the kids had a blast with. Enjoy the holiday.

It’s been a while…

13 Nov

Okay, so as the year is fully underway and we are getting into the day in and day out routines in class, the days seem to be zipping by. This comes with my embarrassment at not having updated my blog in almost two weeks(!), and the lack of updates.

We’ve been doing a lot of really great things, that’s for sure, and there hasn’t been a lack of interesting things to write about. In science we’ve been studying the varied states of matter, and I see the students looking at the world around them, at least a little bit, in a new and interested way. Never again will they take a lump of sugar or an ice cube for granted, thanks to some beautiful labs we did involving density, mass and why matter changes states. Every science lesson is hands on and very involved, and the students love the opportunity to work with materials they see almost every day to expand their understanding of science and the universe.

You may have heard, but in my language arts group we’ve been reading The Hobbit, a timelessly remarkable story written in 1937 that is perhaps one of the most recognized fantasy books of all time. Despite a few initial groans from the girls about having to read a book wherein bearded dwarves set out on a quest to plunder riches from a dragon, almost all are deeply engrossed by this point. In line with our reading about heroes and epic adventures, the students are writing an essay on a real-life hero of their choice, and also picking an actual event that happened to that person to accompany their essay with a narrative story. Writing both an expository essay and a narrative story about the same individual will give them a very strong sense of the two different forms of composition.

In social studies we’ve been producing some absolutely beautiful Native American “1-pagers”, assignments that involve a lot of student synthesis of information and some remarkable inferences on their part. The assignment is multifaceted; the product includes a set of higher-order questions, a thoughtful poem, and “I believe” statement and ample use of applicable imagery. See some wonderful examples below…

I’ll work on posting more often, as I initially intended. Tomorrow, as always, will be another great day.

“Hangman” division

25 Oct

I greatly prefer to have student conceptualize math concepts, rather than simply learn tricks that’ll give them the right answer without knowing why. One of those things that is like music to my ears is that “ah-ha” when something makes sense or all of a sudden the big picture has been grasped.

One of the trickiest things for students because it can be very hard to conceptualize is division, and often the long division technique means little more to students than a method to get the answer at the end of the problem. The technique they learned today makes the process is a little easier do and a little easier to understand, and really helps those who aren’t completely familiar with their math facts.

Take a look at what we did together. They had fun.

Dia de los Muertos masks

17 Oct

I am very happy to say the arts classes were a huge success. Every student was excited to see who their teacher would be for the activities and all of them came back beaming over the experience they had. With the initial kinks worked out we will be doing it again, the fifth grade as soon as next week (the sixth is going to science camp, so they won’t be part of the rounds this time).

My Dia de los Muertos masks we a hit, and the kids enjoyed learning about the important holiday and culture it represents. The art was a lot of fun, and the level of creativity every one of them showed was astounding. Below are some pictures of what went on in my class.

More to come as the arts classes take place. Tomorrow is the Great California Shake-Up (a statewide, carefully planned earthquake drill). It’s definitely going to be another great, and exciting, day.

Social Studies Experts, and Arts Classes tomorrow!

10 Oct

One thing teachers do well is beg, borrow and steal from one another when we see a good idea. Some of the best development as a teacher comes from concepts or methods we learn from each other, and today’s social studies lesson was no different. The process is called Jigsaw, where the students work in teams to become “experts” on a single dynamic of the lesson content in order to teach and be taught by others. We’re studying the first four significant civilizations in the Americas, so we had 4 groups studying their own respective Ancient Indian culture in order to be able to share with the other groups key information about their own. Once we started, two natives stayed at their desk, while two nomads went elsewhere to teach. We shuffled a few times until everyone had filled in their notes on the other civilization and had ample opportunity to teach others about their own. It was a lot of fun.

Also, our Arts Choice classes begin tomorrow, and I know the kids are looking very forward to the activity they’ve chosen as well as finding out who’s classroom they’ll be working in. The way our system works is each fifth and sixth grade teacher chose a lesson to teach that was appropriate to the season, upcoming holidays or related to the content we’ve been covering in class. The kiddos don’t know who their teacher will be for the class they’ve chosen untilĀ  the day of, so the added appeal of getting to choose what you want to do is only heightened by the novelty of having a teacher you don’t normally have.

I actually developed this unique plan to offset the fact that we are without an art teacher at Roosevelt this year, but still want to provide the students with a quality fine arts curriculum that is economical on our resources and teacher time, and this seemed to make sense. I am teaching a lesson on Dia De Los Muertos, and right now my garage is full of paper-mache skull masks that the students will be painting to look like traditional sugar skulls. It should be a blast. I’ll make sure to put up some photos of all the students’ work tomorrow so you can see some of the things we have done on our inaugural Arts Choice class day!

As always, and perhaps even especially so, tomorrow is going to be another great day.

Fun with Graphs (believe it or not)

3 Oct

If you didn’t know, teachers (even new ones) have a distinct sixth sense when it comes to finding resources for the classroom. It a heightened awareness that in any form, at any time we might come across what others may seem trivial in order utilize it as a lesson aide. Today I was able to integrate some very unique graphs recently published in a Time Magazine article on how the progression and evolution of cellular phone technology has influenced the world. Basically, it was a neat little article that had some neat little graphics, but to the kids it was amazing!

I put these graphs as examples of how diagrams such as these convey information, and that led to a remarkable discussion on how to synthesize large amounts of data to make impressive inferences on the parts of the students. I’ve certainly got a bright bunch, that’s for sure. They enjoyed reading them and answering the questions I shot at them, making observations and conclusions that even I thought was above them.

Just as I’m sure they do with you, these kiddos continue to amaze and astound me with their intellect and wit every single day. If you get a chance, show them the gallery below as a reminder of what we discussed and ask them to explain what these graphs mean, they might teach you a thing or two! ; )

As always, tomorrow will be another great day.

This week, my goodness!

28 Sep

I’m sorry to say an entire week has gone by since my last post. It’s been a busy one, but my intention is to post two to three times a week, not once. The day-to-day crunch has been extra crunchy.

Here’s a recap of what we’ve done so far, with all the juicy details.

In science we talked a lot about the importance of observations in science and that we can’t simply make assumptions based on our own inferences, and I proved this by eating a candle. At least, I ate what the kiddos thought was one, as it looked (and lit) like a candle. It was actually a cored piece of jicama, with a slivered almond as the wick that actually lit and burned for a few seconds because of the fat in the nut. I had them write all that they could about what they were observing Mr. S do, including showing it, holding it, lighting it, and eventually chomping right into it. The idea was to show them how inferences and especially assumptions didn’t work for science experiments, where objectivity is the key.

We also had them try to observe and figure out why a green ice cube would float in one covered beaker and not a matching one right next to it. Ideas included temperature, make-up of the cube itself, something having to do with the beaker, the lid, and the color of the subjects in question. It turned out that one cube was floating in water, while the other was sinking because it was in alcohol.

As a final little “I got you” in science, because after all we become teachers to play little tricks on our students (wink), I played this video, pausing at about 0:11 (without sound, so the word Octopus is never heard) and had them make as many observations as they could. Their little eyes went wide as can be in the seconds that followed, and they showed it a second time so they could anticipate the surprise.

Also in full swing this week were Language Arts groups, and the topic of discussion was what good readers and writers do in order to be as successful as possible. Discussion has been rigorous as are many happy readers in the fifth grade, thankfully, and they look forward to improving their skills as writers as well. The ongoing assignment this week were the beautiful skits the students produced and even got to share in class for their peers. Their work was even greater than my own expectation, and once again Mr. S was impressed with the effort, wit and creativity of his class.

I always like to end the week in math with a game that is on topic with what we’ve been learning, so today was a friendly and lighthearted teamwork competition after the primary instruction. I have focused a lot on teaching citizenship as a means of making sure everyone is involved and getting help from one another, and I see it manifested in the way students interact with one another every day. It’s good to see the great things going well.

As always, Monday will be another great day.

Character Counts Assembly today

21 Sep

Today was a fun day at our beloved Roosevelt. The school day started with our first Character Counts assembly of the year and there were awards given to a few students from each class for their outstanding efforts already in the school year.

If you don’t know, Character Counts is a program that focuses on and helps develop student awareness of integrity based character traits, such as responsibility, respect, citizenship and fairness. This assembly today was to talk about what the pillars of the Character Counts program entails as well as highlight the actions of a young rough rider who generously raised a substantial amount of money for a local charity.

I was able to choose two of my wonderful students to give an award to for this event. One of these students was a remarkable young lady who you may recognize for simply being a kind, caring and positive person to her friends, myself and the classroom as a whole. My other choice was a young man who has made substantial progress in his time at Roosevelt, works hard at everything he does and I feel will have a remarkable year in room 27. It was both a no-brainer in choosing the two wonderful individuals to honor this month, but also a challenge because I truly have a wonderful group of people in my class. They continue to impress me with their enthusiasm, hard work and wit, as well as how it is apparent that every single member of my class truly has a heart of gold.

As a teacher, I truly feel that lucky.

The rest of our day was a lot of fun, filled with our usual laughs and smiles. I used our science lesson as an excuse to show the video below. We’ve been talking about the Scientific Method and how important specifics and articulation in giving directions are. We watched the video, which got a lot of oohs and aahs (watch it and you’ll see why), and I had the students explain the process of this “experiment” step-by-step, making sure to take note of a dropped detail or necessary procedure. It was a nice way to raise the energy level in the room before a lesson after a long, hot lunch recess.
When I asked if this video should go on the blog for the parents to see, I got an astounding “Yes!”

Too much fun.

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