5th grade

Teach Math With Me: Personal Financial Literacy and Taxes

School starts in about a month.  Resistance is futile!  I have a terrible time saying goodbye to napping and reading by the pool, but I always look forward to the start of the year.  Shopping for school supplies and meeting your kiddos at back to school night–Love it!  It is just around the corner…and so are those new personal financial literacy standards.  Now, if you are like me, the first thing that came to mind is, “How will I fit THAT in?”  Followed by, “And will that be on the STAAR test?”  One of the new standards has 5th graders defining 4 kinds of taxes (income, payroll, sales, and property) and that sounds like a great way to integrate some social studies!  So, here are a few ideas and a freebie!

5th Grade Personal Financial Literacy from The Pensive Sloth--social studies, math, and reading

Anchor chart to help students learn what the Constitution says about taxes in the US and about 4 kinds of taxes (income, payroll, sales, property).  This addresses the NEW math TEKS 5.10A for personal financial literacy…and a little bit of social studies!

5th Grade Personal Financial Literacy from The Pensive Sloth--social studies, math, and reading

Math/Literacy/Social Studies station where students sort scenarios based on the tax being described–includes 16 scenarios to be sorted into 4 tax categories.

5th Grade Personal Financial Literacy from The Pensive Sloth--social studies, math, and reading

Vocabulary snip-it with terms for teaching personal financial literacy

5th Grade Personal Financial Literacy from The Pensive Sloth reading, math, social studies

Let your students be accountants and do taxes for two fictional characters based on their financial profiles! See below for a link to this page.


Enjoy those last few weeks of summer!  Oh, and here’s a link to the free “Be an Accountant” activity!

–The Pensive Sloth

***Activities in this post can be found in my TPT store.***

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? 

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!

#lessondeli giveaway intermediate middle school 4th grade 5th grade 6th grade

Listen Up 4th, 5th, and 6th Grade Teachers–

It’s time to win some super classroom resources for teaching math, science, reading and social studies!  There’s a group of us, #lessondeli, and we’re all hosting giveaways at the same time.  Hop on through our Facebook pages for a chance to win each teacher’s bundle, and when you reach the end there’s a Rafflecopter with a chance to win a bundle of ALL resources combined!  Don’t forget to follow the #lessondeli on Pinterest and Facebook.  We’ve got more in store for back to school…

The fun starts tomorrow, June 3rd, and will run through June 6th.   Details will be announced in the morning at 6AM on my Facebook page so that you can get started hopping.  See you there and good luck!

–The Pensive Sloth

PS–My giveaway bundle includes 3 things, the Bill of Rights Unit, Insect Life Cycle Sort (for complete and incomplete metamorphosis), and Pre-Algebra Puzzle Task Cards.

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:

5th Grade Life Science: Physical and Behavioral Adaptations

We are in full life science mode right now and spent the last few days learning about adaptations.  Students made vocabulary foldables for new words and we sorted adaptations into physical (structural) and behavioral categories using a tree map.

To show what they have learned, students are inventing an animal!  I’m super excited about this ‘Invent an Animal’ project and so are they.  I’ve given them each the description of an imaginary habitat and they have to invent an animal with specific adaptations for surviving in this environment.  I’ll come back and let you know how it all worked out!

Glad you stopped in!

–The Pensive Sloth

@thepensivesloth 5th grade life science adaptations anchor chart

Tree map sorting adaptations into two categories.

@thepensivesloth 5th Grade Animal Adaptations Vocabulary

Our adaptations word wall– I’m trying something new with my word walls so that they are portable and content specific rather than alphabetical. Students made foldables of these words by defining them in their own words and drawing a picture. We will add the foldables to our science notebooks.