Welcome to the Test Prep Blog Hop from the ladies at The Lesson Deli! Here is how it works. You will hop through a few blogs, pick up some freebies and maybe learn some test-prep tips, plus enter Rafflecopter drawings for some great prizes… Such as a Starbucks gift card to perk you up during testing season or an Amazon gift card to buy a few books for your classroom (or something for yourself!). The Rafflecopter contest runs from Thursday, August 26 through Sunday, March 1, 2015. Get to hoppin’ and have some fun!
Oh, and if you’ve got a great test-prep tip, comment below!
–The Pensive Sloth
Here’s my close reading FREEBIE to help with test prep… Are you teaching students to analyze persuasive texts, identify examples of persuasive language and the effect that language has on the reader? Want to give students concrete examples of comparison, causality, parallelism, misleading statements, exaggerated statements, and contradictory statements using a high-interest text? Look no further! Here’s a new lesson, “A Baby Boa?,” with embedded test prep. The close reading passage is FREE below. Just click the image to download. You can find the foldable, skill activity, poster, vocabulary activity, and standardized test-prep reading comprehension questions that go with the passage in my TPT store.
Ready to WIN a treat for your classroom? You can order books or spoil yourself with this Amazon gift card! You’re a teacher. You work HARD. You deserve it!
Then go to the next stop in the hop, Simone’s Math Resources Blog, to see some MATH test prep ideas!
I’m trying something new this year to give more structure to the old ‘Turn and Talk.’ Even though I teach upper elementary, we still come to the rug for lessons and read-alouds. I love my easel and I like having my students nearby when we’re trying something new. The problem was that when I asked them to turn and talk about something, some students opted to sit silent because they didn’t know who to turn and talk to, while other students spent a few minutes scooting closer to their BFFs or trying to find someone to turn and talk to. At their assigned seats, they talked with their shoulder partner, but on the rug they were lost. This was wasted time. There had to be a better way!
Enter the ‘Turn and Talk’ or partner wheel! Here’s how it works:
1–Post the wheel in the classroom and turn the inner circle once a week. This will be a student’s ‘turn and talk’ partner when they come to the rug. You can spin more often if you like.
2–Teach students that when it is time to meet on the rug (yes, I still say that to my 5th graders), they need to sit beside their partner.
That’s it. It was very easy to make and only required some poster board, brads, scissors, and markers PLUS something to trace the inner and outer circles. I traced the lid to a bucket for the larger circle and a paper plate for the inner circle. In hindsight, I think I would have laminated before adding numbers so that I could use a dry erase marker and switch things up from time to time.
NOTE–Turn and talk is part of “Structured Conversations,” from the book “Seven Steps to a Language Rich Classroom” by John Seidlitz. It’s a strategy for building language with ELL students, but I’ve found it really benefits ALL students. It’s a must read if you work with English language learners.
My 4th graders are starting a unit on renewable and nonrenewable resources. I wanted to get my kids thinking about where the things around us come from and decided to try this activity as the ENGAGE part of the lesson. I also wanted to know how much they already knew! It turns out nobody has any idea where plastic comes from. Back to the lesson… so, I taped a photo of a school bus to some chart paper and had students sketch a bus in their science notebooks. Then, we worked together to label what materials the bus was made of. Simple enough. Rubber tires, glass windows, leather seat covers (not really, but it worked for the lesson), cotton stuffing in the seats, metal engine, gasoline in the tank, etc. I told them we must label everything! While the gas isn’t actually part of the bus, I prompted that one. I needed a launching pad for a future fossil fuels lesson.
My next question was, “So where do we get glass for the windows? Rubber for the tires? Gas for the tank? Cotton for the stuffing?” and so on. Now this got them thinking. Luckily we read about how glass is made before the holiday break. SAND! But what about the rest of the stuff? This prompted great discussions and questions. We returned to our chart. Beneath each label we listed where that materials came from, and if we didn’t know, we made our best guess and put a question mark beside it. We’ll revisit the chart and make changes after we learn where the materials actually come from. Moving forward, as we explore renewable and nonrenewable resources, we can go back and decide which materials on the bus can be renewed in our lifetime and which can not.
–The Pensive Sloth
Learning new words can be tough and things have changed a lot since I was in 5th grade over 20 years ago. I remember getting a list of words from my teacher and using the dictionary or textbook glossary to copy the definitions verbatim from the book. Sometimes we would write the definition a few times or use the new terms to fill in the blanks. If we were lucky, we got to write a sentence with all 20 words for homework on Tuesday night. Now, those activities still have their place. There are times when using words in sentences and locating definitions is necessary and important, but I’ve learned after several years of teaching that those activities alone aren’t sticky, meaning that they don’t help students get to know and use new words.
My goal when teaching vocabulary is to give my students as many real experiences as I can with new words. Here are my top 4 things to do when teaching vocabulary:
1. Maximum Exposure–If they can see it, use it, touch it, etc. they are more likely to understand it. You and I know that a delta is a landform built up when sediment is dropped off at the mouth of a river, right? But what does that look like? How does the sediment get there? Will I ever get to see a delta if I live in west Texas? Simply showing a satellite photo of a few major deltas in the world can make this term come alive for students. Pull up an image of the Lena Delta from the Nasa Earth Observatory and talk about it. But, don’t just show them one delta. Then pull up an image of a different delta and observe, discuss, and sketch a diagram in science notebooks. Perhaps the Mississippi Delta in Louisiana. That second photo will help the new word stick. Why? Because now they have enough background to really analyze the Mississippi Delta and start asking some questions. They’ve seen one and can now make connections between the two pictures.
2. Variety is the Spice of Life–And also the spice of vocabulary instruction. If you use the same strategies for every word, every time, students get bored. Mix things up. The human brain perks up when something novel is happening. Use actions to represent words like predator (show claws and fangs) and prey (hands together like saying a prayer “Please don’t let me get eaten.”). Take student outside with hand lenses to look at the sediments in the sidewalk when talking about cementation. Hold a debate about whether their are more magnetic things in the room or more non-magnetic things.
3. Real-World Meanings–Sometimes giving an example or describing a word is more helpful than defining it. When learning new words, I like to get students to record what they think will help them remember what the word means, and that isn’t always just the definition. Model different ways to get to know new words and encourage students to write meanings that make sense to them, not just definitions.
4. YouTube–If you’ve read some of my other posts you know that I love using YouTube in the classroom. There are some things that can only be experienced live, and YouTube is the closest to live that we’ve got to observe such things as the tides coming in and out or a glacier moving over time. Give it a try! A 30 second clip can make a word of difference.
Looking to make vocabulary instruction come alive in your science classroom? How about a freebie for teaching properties of light that includes a foldable, cut and paste activity, quiz, AND teaching points for bringing vocabulary alive in the classroom!
Plus, from NOW until January 4th, 2015. my science vocabulary units are on sale for only a dollar!
I’m a big believer in writing in all subjects. When kids formally record their ideas on paper, it helps new concepts stick. Being self contained gives me the freedom to integrate writing into everything! We write in science, math, and even social studies. My 5th graders study American history and learn about the causes leading up to the American Revolution. This makes for the perfect opinion essay prompt! Students discuss in groups which event most upset the colonists and why. We then share them in small groups or hold a class debate, depending on how much time we have.
You can see my Revolutionary Thinking Maps series at The Lesson Deli blog. There’s a post and anchor chart on the events leading up to the American Revolution to help support this content-area writing assignment.
–The Pensive Sloth
I never really liked history in school. All I really remember is my 7th grade teacher giving us a packet of worksheets to fill in as we read a chapter in the book or my high school US history teacher holding classes in the bleachers so that he could practice with his baseball team on the field during the spring season. I’m not kidding. We filled in our worksheets from the bleachers, chasing after them (reluctantly) from time to time when the wind blew them away! When I started teaching American history to my 5th graders, I wanted things to be different. I wanted learning history to be fun…and hopefully memorable.
The week before Christmas is when I whip out one of my favorite history lessons–World War I and the Christmas Truce.
- DAY 1–CAUSES OF THE WAR
- We spend the first day learning about the events leading up to the war. Of course there is the Archduke Ferdinand moment, but that was but one part. There is so much more! We discuss and act out the role of different countries as they seek to control lands in Africa (imperialism). Every country wants to be wealthier, right? Of course they do, and Africa had lots of natural resources! We share our thoughts about why countries become allies and enemies and discuss why countries want to compete with each other to have the best weapons and strongest armies (militarism). Then we discuss immigration and the different cultures that were coming to American soil during the early 20th century, each with their own beliefs and loyalties (nationalism), and how and why America decided to join the war. By the end of the lesson students have a conceptual understanding of what led to the war.
- DAY 2–TRENCH WARFARE
- After reviewing what led to the war, it is time to dig in deep and discuss trench warfare! We discuss the sacrifices the soldiers made and what life was like for them in the trenches. What new weapons made the war so deadly and the chances of survival for those that fought–would they get trench foot? Trench fever? Or killed or injured by the weapons of that time? What was medical care like? The YouTube video above does a great job of explaining trench warfare. Please preview to make sure it is appropriate for your students.
- DAY 3–“CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES” BOOK
- Time to hear from a soldier! I read the book “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon. It’s a fabulous story! A grandfather tells about Christmas night during the war, when enemy soldiers put down their weapons and ventured into no-man’s land to celebrate together. The kids are always in awe at this idea. If you order this book from Amazon.com it comes with a CD that includes the song “Silent Night” in German. The kids LOVE it!
- DAY 4–“BELLEAU WOOD” SONG/POEM BY GARTH BROOKS
- This is where students really have to make connections and pull it all together. I give the kids a printed copy of the song “Belleau Wood” by Garth Brooks. NOTE–The word ‘hell’ is used towards the end. I edited this out, both in the paper copy I give students and the audio version I play. Know your audience. It is used very appropriately in my opinion, but I err on the side of caution with language in 5th grade. Back to the lesson…The song presents one soldier’s account of the Christmas truce. I always get chills when listening. I play the song once and they follow along. We stop and discuss the content of the song as it relates to WWI, then talk about the poetic elements–speaker, change in tone, word choice, etc.
- DAY 5–ASSESSMENT
- I do give an integrated assessment over the whole thing–a few poetry questions on the song, a pencil and paper quiz and essay on the content, some activities with the new vocabulary and so on. Gotta get a few grades and check for mastery!
PS–I’m working on a packet of resources to go with this lesson. It’s not quite finished. Hopefully over the Christmas break I can fit it into my busy napping schedule!
For more Teach History with Me posts, check out these posts on The Civil War and MLK and the Civil Rights Movement
–The Pensive Sloth
Looking for a goofy treat to share with your students this holiday season? How about Reindeer Trail Mix! Now, I started making this stuff years ago when I taught 1st grade and it was a hit. When I moved to the upper grades, I needed a festive snack for our holiday party but wasn’t quite sure if my 5th and 6th graders would go along with the cheesiness of making “Reindeer Food.” I decided to give it a try and…it turned out great! The more I cheesed it up, the better. Here’s the secret recipe:
- “Reindeer Chow”–Coco Puff cereal
- “Snowballs”–Small marshmallows
- “Twigs”–Pretzel sticks
- “Berries”–M & M candies
- “Magic Flying Powder–Colored sugar, like you would sprinkle on cookies
- A Ziplock baggie for each student
I usually lay all of the ingredients out in bowls and post the recipe on an anchor chart. The kids are pretty good about inferring what each ingredient in the recipe represents (twigs = pretzel sticks). Students then go down the line to make their own trail mix, but…With the colored sugar, AKA “Magic Flying Powder,” I tape a fictional label over the manufacturer’s label. That’s where it gets really cheesy! It reads something like this–
“Magic Flying Powder: Super concentrated flying powder for reindeer use only. Use caution when feeding, making sure not to over sprinkle. Using more than 2 shakes may cause such consequences as flight to the moon.”
The kiddos know it is just their teacher being goofy, but they love to break the rules and over sprinkle, then joke about how they used so much that they will probably end up on Jupiter. It’s fun for all! HINT: Buy an extra bottle of the “Magic Flying Powder” and keep it hidden. Almost every year there are a few students who go way overboard and I run out, which makes those last kiddos to make the trail mix sad. If that happens, you can pull out your extra bottle and brighten their day!
LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING???
How would an Amazon gift card help? A teacher blogger friend of mine is hosting a giveaway for a $65 Amazon gift card. Entering is easy. Click the picture below and head on over to NC Teacher Chick’s blog where a Rafflecopter is waiting for your entry. The giveaway runs Tuesday December 16 through Sunday December 20, 2014. Good luck!