Month: May 2014

Today I Spotted a Digital Native…Texting an Essay

Laptops are in short supply around school.  It’s the end of the year and everyone is in project mode trying to finish end of the year research and such.  Our final read-aloud for the year is “You’ll Like it Here, Everybody Does” by Ruth White and it’s a mish mash of aliens, adventure, and utopian societies.  What fun!

You'll Like It Here Everybody Does Book Cover

Strange start. Stranger story. A school librarian highly recommended this book to me, and I’m trying it as a read aloud. The kids are loving it!

We are about 2 chapters in, so today I asked students to send me a short essay explaining why they do or do not believe in aliens.  They were to use Google docs and share the essay with me.  The problem was that students had to share computers, so a few asked if they could use their own tech.  Of course!  My mind thought tablets, but that wasn’t what one of my digital natives had in mind.  We all got busy and about 10 minutes later I looked over to see him hunched over his phone texting away, and a lightbulb went off.  The conversation went something like this:

ME:  Are you…texting your essay?

STUDENT: Yep. (without looking up or pausing)

ME: Wouldn’t it be easier to wait to type on the computer after you’ve written it out?

STUDENT:  Nope.  I’m much faster with texting than typing.

ME:  Ok.  Good luck!  Let me know if you change your mind.  Maybe look over it later before submitting?

STUDENT:  (text, text, text,…)

And that’s it.  I’m in my early 30s and consider myself pretty tech-savvy, but I didn’t grow up as one of these digital natives.  It would have driven me crazy to text-type my essay!  For this student, it was natural.  He didn’t miss a beat.  By the time he got a computer, he had already typed the essay and just had to do a few format fixes.  The essay was pretty good, too!

@thepensivesloth text my essay meme 5th grade

What have you spotted your digital natives doing lately?

What have YOU spotted your digital natives doing lately?


–The Pensive Sloth



Meet My New Best Friend–Hands On Equations

This post inspired by The Teaching Momster.  To read more about algebraic thinking in the intermediate grades, check out this week’s Math Madness Wednesday by clicking the red badge below.

Math Madness Wednesday algebra prealgebra algebraic thinking for 5th and 6th grade

If you haven’t heard of Hands On Equations by now,  listen up.  Hands On Equations will rock your world!  Seriously! I believe this system or program or curriculum supplement came out in the mid 1980s.  In a nutshell, students learn to solve algebra expressions using game pieces like pawns and number dice.  It’s amazing, and a quick Google search will gather all you could ever want to know about it.

Hands On Equations for 5th and 6th grade algebra

Hello, I’m Hands On Equations and I’m here to make learning algebra fun and easy!

But wait, there’s more.  Because I am new to teaching math this year, I watch a lot of YouTube.  I search something I’m about to teach and watch an expert teacher before I even try it out in my classroom.  I can’t tell you how helpful this has been.  Upon searching for Hands On Equations lessons, I happened to find a teacher who…get this…has recorded all of the lessons!  Oh my!  She is an angel sent from above.  I am writing her a thank you letter as we speak.  The lessons are about 10 minutes long and I have used the first 4.  Why play the clip instead of teaching the lesson myself?  One, students love YouTube.  Two, I get to observe a master teacher.  Three, I can walk around and intervene, and the lesson keeps going.  I carry my mouse with me around the room and pause every so often to have my students work an example independently before she solves it on the video.  After each lesson (video clip), students work on 10 problems.  All of this takes about 35 minutes a day and is supplementing our regular curriculum.

If you are looking to build algebraic thinking skills with your intermediate students, here’s a link to some puzzles.

@ThePensiveSloth prealgebra puzzles for 5th and 6th grade

Use puzzle task cards to engage your students in pre-algebra activities. Great for building logical reasoning and algebraic thinking. WARNING: Will make your students think!

Thanks for stopping in!

–The Pensive Sloth

Project Boards Make for an Easy Status of the Class

The end of the year in my classroom brings lots of big projects!  As my 5th graders get ready to go off to middle school, I want them to be prepared to tackle time management with lengthier, more complex assignments.  Students have spent about an hour a day over the last 2 weeks working on a biome web design activity where they research a biome and build a website designed to teach younger students about their biome.  This project is huge.  Not only are they researching and writing about their learning, they are also adding images, text, and activities to a live website!  It can be difficult to know where students are and if they are making progress towards goals.  So, to help me monitor how my students are progressing, we use a project board.  It’s simple.  Students move their clip to show their progression on a project.  When I notice a student (or group) is falling behind, I can see it and intervene.  Students who are ahead of the game may need a mini-lesson on going deeper, or they may be ready for an extension.  This year I used the stiff foam poster board because it sits easily on the marker tray of my white board and I can move it around if needed.  Check it out, below!

@thepensivesloth class project biomes classroom management research 5th grade

Use a foam board and clothespins to make a project board for lengthy assignments. Project boards help you to get a status of the class and intervene with students who fall behind or need extension activities because they are zooming ahead.

Thanks for stopping by!

–The Pensive Sloth


End of Year Behavior Booster–It’s Sciencetastic!

Every teacher knows that the end of the year can present some classroom management challenges.  Kids are excited about summer, there are loose ends to tie up with library books and paperwork, and for some reason students think that when state testing is over, so is all the learning.  So, I am trying something new this year–Using SCIENCE to encourage excellent behavior!  I love science.  My students love science.  And there are so many great hands-on activities that don’t quite fit into the year.  Why not do those NOW as the year is winding down?

Here’s my plan.  I’m starting with an owl pellet lab.  Owl pellets are great for reviewing life science concepts like food chains, ecosystems, and much more!  So, to encourage great behavior, we have set a goal that our class needs to earn 10 points to earn the owl pellet lab and we will track our points each day.  When we reach 10, we earn the owl pellet lab!  The sooner we reach 10 points, the sooner we get to dig in to those owl pellets.  I’ve even posted a chart in the room to track our points, and since we are working with integers, I’ve tied that in too.

@thepensivesloth Owl Pellet Lab #5thgrade #classroommanagement

End of the Year Motivator–We are using science to encourage excellent behavior as the year winds down. Here is our class chart as we work to earn 10 points for an owl pellet lab activity.

I am also planning to build solar powered ovens for cooking smores and to build and test paper airplanes, but students are going to have to earn it!  My kids are excited and I could see this working for all kinds of things–reader’s theater, math art projects, and much more.  Want to know a secret?  I actually planned to do this stuff anyway, but now I get a little more bang for my buck with a little class motivation.

–The Pensive Sloth

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences in 5th Grade

During my junior year as an undergrad I took a class on brain based learning.  I loved it!  We worked in cooperative groups, found hands-on ways to make concepts stick, and learned how to adapt instruction to meet different learning styles.  But, what really stuck with me was how the professor helped us to learn more about ourselves as learners.  My professor helped me to discover “HOW I am smart.”

Flash forward to ten years into my teaching career, and today my students and I walked down that path of self-discovery as we looked at Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.  I teach advanced learners most of the day, and like most middle-grade kids, they have already decided who is smart.  To them, smart is something you are born with.  Smart means you make perfect grades and know all the right answers.  I wanted to give them a new idea about ‘smart’ and help them see that there are different ways to be smart.  I wanted my students walk away knowing more about themselves, their interests and gifts, so we took a survey on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences.

Students worked independently to check the questions that applied to them, then tallied their results.  Of course, a few of them checked almost all 80 questions (despite my encouragement to focus ONLY on statements that truly described them).  We then took some time to debrief.  I wanted this to be a personal journey and didn’t make kiddos share, but many of them wanted to.  We discussed what the different intelligences meant and what each might look like.  We made an anchor chart…see!

Multiple Intelligences Anchor Chart 5th Grade @thepensivesloth

Anchor chart illustrating Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences for intermediate and middle grade students.

Then we reflected and discussed a few questions:

  • Did your survey results match what you thought about yourself?
  • What do you consider your strongest talents?
  • Was there anything that surprised you?
  • Can people be smart in different ways?
  • What if we were all strong in the same areas?
  • Can you still be smart if you don’t know all the answers in school?  If you don’t make straight As?
  • What subject areas do the different intelligences lend themselves to?

Most of my kids were shocked, and super excited, to learn that body-kinesthetic gifts are considered a way to be smart, too.  Or that being interested in rocks, animals, and the weather  is just as important as knowing the meanings of words or how to solve math problems.  There were some eye-opening moments during our discussion.  When I mentioned inter and intra personal smarts, the more introverted kids sat up a little straighter.  There’s a tendency for those quiet ones to get overlooked by their peers.  But, intrapersonal skills are very valuable!  For me, that is a big strength.  I explained how I talk to myself, and it doesn’t mean I’m crazy!  It’s called procedural self talk, and it is very helpful.  My musically and spatially gifted kids also left with a little more pep in their step!

Why now, at this time in the year, did I do this?  Well, it is career week and I thought it just fit.  Also, my students are going off to middle school in a few weeks and I want them to celebrate who they are and start thinking about their future.   Tomorrow we take a career cluster survey and our path of self-discovery continues!  They are very excited, and so am I.

If you are interested in some of the ‘getting to know me’ and career day activities we are doing in the classroom, check out some links: