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Teach History With Me–World War I and The Christmas Truce for Kids

Teach History With Me Blog Series from The Pensive Sloth for Teaching 5th and 6th Grade HistoryI 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.

World War 1 and the Christmas Truce History Lesson 5th Grade

  • 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.
Christmas in the Trenches 5th Grade Christmas and World War 1 History Lesson

Click the book cover to go the Amazon.com listing.

  • 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!

Garth Brooks Thumbs Up Meme World War 1 and The Christmas Truce Lesson

  • 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.
World War 1 and the Christmas Truce History Lesson 5th Grade

I like to post words on a chart while we are learning new content.  This helps students use the language during discussions and writing. A few of the really new or challenging terms can be taught before the lesson, which is especially helpful for ELL students. I have found that in the upper grades, content or unit specific word charts work better for me than a word wall.  I leave them up all year, but when we move to a new unit in social studies, I place the new chart on top.  Some kids still revisit the old charts when looking for a word.

  • 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!
World War 1 and the Christmas Truce History Lesson 5th Grade

Critical Thinking–Discuss what might cause countries to be allies or enemies. Students can also work in groups to learn about the countries on either side, their flags, and the current relations they have with the United States.

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

Shut Up and Take My Money Teacher Style: Circuit Scribe

Circuit Scribe Shut Up and Take My Money Teacher Style Blog Series About Classroom Gadgets from The Pensive Sloth

There is a hilarious site called Shut Up and Take My Money that peddles unusual gadgets and such.  Not all of which are suitable for work, so if you are reading this at school I suggest clicking on that link when you get home.  Well, here’s the first in a series of a teacher-style version of classroom must-haves!

Somehow I happened upon this YouTube video for a product called Circuit Scribe.

Then promptly checked out their Kickstarter page.  They raised almost $700,000 dollars!!!  But… the product won’t ship until August.  Boohoo!  You can pre-order here.  Basically, it allows you to draw circuits that work.  Imagine the many ways you could use this in your science classroom.  Talk about STEM!

You should know that I’m not patient, so I found something similar on Amazon that I can play with until I get my Circuit Scribe!  I ordered this $10 pen that contains nickel instead of silver and I can not wait to  give it a try.  I should probably go buy some watch batteries and LED lights.  I’ll come back and share the fun when it arrives.

–The Pensive Sloth

***NOTE–I was NOT paid and am not affiliated with any of the above groups.  I’m just a teacher-consumer interested in new tools to make learning fun for my students!***

UPDATE:  While this is a really cool product, I don’t see it being affordable enough for regular classroom use.  After playing with it myself for an evening (I was very impressed), I realized that this could get costly with a group of 5th graders and opted to go with a different circuit activity at school.  It required some major problem-solving on my part, with trial and error as I figured out how to fold the paper just right so the positive and negative sides of the batteries connected to my hand-drawn ‘wires.’  I could see middle and high-school students really thriving with this, but my little elementary guys would need to use a lot of ink for their trial/error sessions, and it’s a little pricey for my tastes because you’d have to replace the pens every year.  Perhaps if you wrote a grant? 

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

My Many Anchor Charts Monday

Here’s a quick photo post about what has been happening in my classroom the last few weeks!

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson's goals for the expedition.  As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ!  As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered.  AND we drew pictures!  I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear.  Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents???

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson’s goals for the expedition. As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ! As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered. AND we drew pictures! I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear. Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents??? Want you kids to LOVE learning about Lewis and Clark, click the picture for a rockin’ rap about Lewis and Clark.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings.  Fun!  We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings. Fun! We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress.  When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside.  I used smiley faces to cover up class averages.  Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR).  It certainly helps with motivation!

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post. Click the picture if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress. When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside. I used smiley faces to cover up class averages. Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR). It certainly helps with motivation!

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis.  Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action?  Check out the post on our Insect Zoo.

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis. Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action? Click this picture to read a post on our Insect Zoo!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson.  Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival.  Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork!  I certainly do...but I have fun drawing!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson. Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival. Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork! I certainly do…but I have fun drawing!

Use MUSIC to Teach Your 5th Graders About the Bill of Rights

I love teaching social studies, especially American history.  I think it is important that children learn about America’s past and what makes this such an exceptional country!  And learning history should be FUN!  Around the middle of the year we begin studying the Constitution and US government.  My kiddos usually get a pretty good grasp on the 3 branches, but the Bill of Rights can be a challenge to teach.  Here’s some fun resources for making the Bill of Rights come alive for your students.

  • The Bill of Your Rights Rap on YouTube–A quick, summarized version of the first 10 amendments set to a catchy tune.

  • Bill of Rights Word Wall/Anchor Chart–I often make what I call focused word walls.  I’ve never been able to get the alphabetical ones to work for me, plus with teaching all subjects I run out of room quickly.  When I make word walls for science and social studies they are topic specific, so as we learned about the Bill of Rights we added our own definitions to the chart.
Our Bill of Rights word wall/anchor chart.  Very helpful to understand the language of the Bill of Rights.

Our Bill of Rights word wall/anchor chart. Very helpful to understand the language of the Bill of Rights.

  • “We Shall Be Free” Song by Garth Brooks–I love Garth Brooks and there are a few of his songs that I use in history class.  One of my favorites is “We Shall Be Free.”  I usually use this as an integrated LA/SS lesson where students make connections between a printed copy of the actual Bill of Rights and the lyrics of the song.  We listen to the song a few times and then kiddos work in small groups to make text to text connections to specific amendments.  You can find the lyrics HERE and a printable copy of the Bill of Rights HERE.
Visit the iTunes to download a copy of "We Shall Be Free" and use it to help teach your students about the Bill of Rights.

Visit the iTunes store to download the song “We Shall Be Free” and use it to help teach your students about the Bill of Rights. Or, just look through your old CD collection like I did!

  • Bill of Rights For Kids Mini-Unit–Here’s a mini-unit I put together to help teach the Bill of Rights in kid-friendly language.  It stars James Madison and includes guided notes and a test!
You can find this resource, The Bill of Rights for Kids, in my TPT store.

You can find this resource, The Bill of Rights for Kids, in my TPT store.

Thanks for stopping by!

–The Pensive Sloth

3 Ways to Use YouTube in Your Intermediate Classroom in 2014 (originally posted 1/1/2014)

3 Ways to Use YouTube In Your Intermediate Classroom in 2014

3 Ways to Use YouTube In Your Intermediate Classroom in 2014

NOTE—The songs are totally cheesy! I know this and so do my students. Just go with it. They’ll love it. Sometimes to remove the “I’m too cool to enjoy this” factor I tell them that I have found THE cheesiest song about the planets (or whatever you are teaching) in the history of mankind. I play the song and they usually agree. But, they also ask to hear it again!

1—Play Funky Songs & Raps in Class
Do you want your students to go home and study, go home and share what they have learned, or at least think about what you’ve done in class that day?  Consider using a song or rap from YouTube related to the concept you are teaching.

Why it works– Many kids have access to YouTube from smartphones, tablets, pcs, home computers, and even streamed through a TV!  All it takes is playing the song a few times in your classroom to get them hooked.  There’s something about music that makes learning memorable.  I usually play the songs while we transition from one subject to the next or as a reward while we pack up at the end of the day.  I then add the link on my class webpage and let the magic happen!  Your students will most likely spend some time online when they go home and may just revisit the video you shared in class.

Some of my favorites–

*StoryBots “We Are the Planets” rap

*”States of Matter” rap (This one was made by real-life teachers!)

*StoryBots “I’m So Hot”  rap about the sun

*StoryBots “It’s My Time to Shine” song about the moon

2—Use a Math Strategy Video to Introduce or Review
The brain loves novelty and variety.  Want to make your lesson a little more engaging and unique?  Find a video clip of what you are teaching that day in math to start your lesson or review.

Why it works—Today’s students are tuned-in to technology and a 2-3 minute clip at some point in your lesson adds a little variety.  Not only do they get to see a strategy twice (once from you and once from the video), they are seeing it from someone else.  Plus, adding the link to your site gives students something to refer to should they need a refresher or if they were absent.  When I introduced fractions recently, this was really helpful!  I’ve even used a REALLY good YouTube video as my whole lesson before…but that’s for another post and is a little harder to do effectively.

Here are a few math videos I’ve used recently–

*Simplifying Fractions

*Equivalent Fractions (This one is cool because it explains WHY multiplying a fraction by 4/4 to get an equivalent fraction still doesn’t change the value of the fraction.)

3—This one is just for fun…Dance Breaks!

Sometimes we just need a little break during the day, especially if you are self-contained like me. Early childhood teachers know this and frequently use music and movement with Dr. Jean and Greg and Steve songs.  Our older students love to move as well and they REALLY love listening to their favorite tunes.  Now, I use dance breaks as a reward quite often, and it works great if you use Whole Brain Teaching’s Scoreboard in your classroom, so consider using a “Just Dance” type video to add some fun and give your kiddos a chance to get their wiggles out!

Why it works–It works because it is fun.  Students need to move.  Teachers need to move.  It’s healthy. It brings oxygen to the brain. It wakes you up.  And much more!  If you use it as a whole class reward, students also have something to look forward to when they finish an activity and have worked hard, followed directions, and paid attention as a class.  I choose videos that show the steps rather than just listening to a song and dancing along for two reasons.  First, using a dance video that shows the steps encourages your somewhat reserved students to participate because they can just follow along and not have to invent their own moves.  Second, if you have students whose dance moves might be a little too…um… ‘inappropriate for school,’ you can tell them to stick with what is on the screen.  Don’t worry if not everyone participates.  I call it the wildfire effect, but each time you do a dance break, a few more kiddos join in!  And those that done still enjoy listening to a popular tune and watching their friends get groovy!

CAUTION– You must preview the videos from home before sharing them with your class.  Let me say that again.  Previewing the videos from home and really listening to the lyrics will keep you out of trouble.  There are dance videos specifically for kids, but my students said “We’re not babies” when I tried to use some of those.  They prefer the more popular songs that they hear on the radio, so you have to watch the WHOLE video and listen to ALL the lyrics at home before you use a song in the classroom.  If not, well…not all music on the radio is classroom appropriate!

A few of my faves–

*The “Pata Pata” is an African dance

*One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”