5th grade

My Favorite Things: Tiny Storage Baggies

Did you know that they make tiny storage bags?  Well, they do and they are perfect for all of those laminated cardstock pieces you spent hours cutting out.

These baggies are about 2 X 3 ish and are perfect for a fraction sort game I made for my kiddos.  I think I paid $4.00 for a pack of 100.   Great for centers and stations in the classroom!

These baggies are about 2 X 3 ish and are perfect for a fraction sort game I made for my kiddos. I think I paid $4.00 for a pack of 100. Great for centers and stations in the classroom!

I discovered these earlier in the year when I was picking up craft supplies for our holiday ornaments and needed something for storing sequins.  It dawned on me that these would be perfect for our science and math sorts and cutups…so I bought a few.  They are the bombdiggity because:

1–They don’t take up much space.  I hate putting cards in baggies that are too big.  They flop around, get bent up, and storing a few sets takes up more space than it should.

2–They are cute.  I’m not much for cute most days, but I do find these tiny little bags to be quite adorable!

3–They are cheap and easy to find.  You can get about 100 of them for less than $5.00 at most craft stores.  I usually shop Hobby Lobby, but Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabrics probably sell them, too.

@thepensivesloth small ziplock baggies for storing classroom games

I placed them next to a pencil so you could see the approximate size. I think these are about 4 X 6. Because the cards don’t have lots of room to ‘swim’ around in the bag, they seem to last longer without getting bent up.

@thepensivesloth mini storage bags for classroom stations and centers

Seriously. You have to try these! My next project is to organize my games into a binder and these will fit perfectly…Perhaps this summer?

These are a MUST HAVE if you use teacher-made materials, centers, or stations in your classroom or if you are a Teachers Pay Teachers junkie like me!

 

–The Pensive Sloth

 

@thepensivesloth Darkling Beetles Mealworms Pupa insect life cycle

UPDATE–We’re Still Infested!

This will be short, but I wanted to send an update about how our mealworms have become Darkling Beetles.  They started emerging from their pupal stage on Monday, March 31, and most were a very light brown.  I think we only have one pupa left, all others have emerged and turned black.  I was under the impression that they ate their exoskeletons.  I guess not because there are TONS of exoskeletons in the cage.  There are still a few dead mealworms that I need to remove, which could be contributing to a strange odor, but with STAAR testing it has been super busy and all of our critters have been locked in a cabinet since Monday afternoon.  They were released from the cabinet today to pose for these pictures!  To read about our full insect zoo, click here.

@thepensivesloth Darkling Beetles Mealworms Pupa insect life cycle

I numbered the photo so that it would be easier to see what is what.

@thepensivesloth insect life cycle mealworms darkling beetles pupa larvae

Here’s a side view. The beetles are fairly active, but clumsy and slow. The kids had a great time watching them emerge on Monday. Very memorable!

I also bought some Flightless Fruit Flies to add to our classroom insect zoo.  Who knew there was such a thing?  And, shouldn’t they be called Flightless Fruit Bugs since they can’t fly?  I haven’t opened the container to see if they really are flightless because they appear to have fully functioning wings and I don’t care to find out yet.  We will open them when our Praying Mantises hatch.  These little Flightless Fruit Flies are thoroughly disgusting, so your students would love them!  You can buy them in a vial at Petsmart or Petco for about $5.99.  I think they last a few weeks which is about how long we have had them.  They come in a small, clear cylinder which is perfect for passing around.  What’s great about them is that you can see the larva growing as the maggots inch around, you can see some pupa that look like little Cumin spice seeds, and the adult flies crawling around near the top.  I’ve heard you can put them in a new container with a piece of rotten fruit and keep the colony going on forever.  Not so sure about that one.  Hopefully the Mantises will finish them off…but what will I do with the larvae?  Anyway…the kids had a great time being grossed out!

Flightless Fruit Flies Classroom Insect Zoo metamorphosis insect life cycles

These are Flightless Fruit Flies. They are perfect for learning about complete and incomplete metamorphosis. The blue stuff at the bottom must be food, the red in the middle is some kind of net for them to crawl around, and the little white things…those are maggots (fruit fly larvae). Gross!

Funny story–I almost killed the flies.  I left them in the car overnight so I wouldn’t forget them the next day.  As is typical for Texas, the temperature went from a warm 70 something to freezing overnight.  When I found them in the car that morning, nothing was moving.  Nada.  I set them in a desk drawer at school and they started moving about.  I guess they didn’t get too cold!  Whew!

 

–The Pensive Sloth

 

PS–If you are looking for an activity to review complete and incomplete metamorphosis, look no further!  Check out this insect life cycle sort.  Perfect for reviewing before the science STAAR test.

Insect Life Cycle Sort for Complete and Incomplete Metamorphosis

Click the picture to see this in my TPT store. Great STAAR review!

 

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!

Thinking Maps and Anchor Charts–The Brace Map

I love Thinking Maps! If you haven’t heard of them, a quick search will help you find lots of information. In a nutshell, Thinking Maps are a set of 8 specific graphic organizers based on 8 cognitive skills. They are meant to help students visually represent content based on relationships. The focus of this post will be on The Brace Map.

Brace Maps are used to analyze the structure of whole/part relationships. The Brace Map is quite popular in my classroom.  Here are two ways we have used it this past year!

At the beginning of the year while setting up reading workshop we always discuss genres.  This is a great opportunity for a Brace Map.  You can see we started with genre and categorized it into fiction and non-fiction.  We then took it one step further and broke each of those into parts.

A Brace Map we created at the beginning of the year when learning about different genres.

A Brace Map we created at the beginning of the year when learning about different genres.

Ok, this next one is a little funny.  I have to say that my anchor charts don’t always turn out like those glorious ones you see on Pinterest with all of the color and professional illustrations.  Someday I fully expect to see them on a FAIL meme.  I was not blessed with artistic talents.  Nope.  But this does not stop me in adding illustrations to my anchor charts!  It is important for students to have illustrations to accompany new vocabulary.   ELL students really need these and the brain loves color and novelty, so illustrations are a must!  I don’t pre-make my anchor charts.  We gather together to record our thinking and I’m usually in a hurry to keep up the momentum, so I quickly sketch!  My students and I get a chuckle sometimes (OK, often) at the drawings, it gives them something to look forward to when we meet on the rug, and it lets them know that it is OK to take risks and laugh at your mistakes.  Oh, and we label things a lot so that it is obvious what was drawn there.  Here it is folks…a Brace Map of human body systems that we created during our health unit.

A hilarious anchor chart on human body systems.  We used a Brace Map to sort the whole into parts.

A hilarious anchor chart on human body systems. We used a Brace Map to sort the whole into parts.

I hope you got a chuckle, and perhaps learned a little about how to use Brace Maps in your classroom!

–The Pensive Sloth

CHAMPS–Behavior Management in the Classroom

CHAMPS anchor chart sets  classroom expectations for students in whole group, small group, and independent settings.

CHAMPS anchor chart sets classroom expectations for students in whole group, small group, and independent settings.

Spring break has been fantastic, but it is winding to a close and school will start up again on Monday.  There is always a transition period for students as they return from a long break and get back in the swing of things at school.  We will certainly take some time Monday morning to review our classroom expectations to set students up for success.  Let me tell you a little about CHAMPS.

CHAMPS expectations are taught at the beginning of the year and reviewed often, such as a quick reminder when starting a small group activity or a review when students forget during a whole group lesson.  The expectations help students to know what to do at all times in the classroom.  We even have CHAMPS expectations for the hallway!  Here is what each letter represents:

C is for Conversation–What voice level should students be using during each setting?

H is for Help–How will students get help if they have questions?  Raising hands, asking partners?

A is for Activity–What is the activity expectation, for example are students taking a test or working in a small group on a science lab?

M is for Movement–Are students allowed to get up, sharpen pencils, etc. or should they stay seated?

P is for Participation–What are the expectations for participation?  Should students be commenting one at a time, collaborating with their group, on their own?

S is for Signal–How will the teacher signal that she needs the group’s attention?  Clapping, counting to 3, having students echo, etc.

The big ones for my kiddos are movement and conversation.  You can see in the chart that I have starred movement and added that it should be purposeful, meaning that we don’t need to get up and sharpen each map pencil one at a time or walk around the room to get to a tissue box that was within reach.  We are still working on this one!

What I love about CHAMPS is that it is easy to set up and communicate with students.  Yes there are still rules, rewards, and consequences, but CHAMPS minimizes the need for extensive systems to manage classroom behavior.  I love it!

NOTE:  There are a few variations on this and you have to find what works for your kiddos!  I believe the CHAMPS idea originally came form Safe and Civil Schools and is part of PBS (positive behavior support).  I’m no expert on this, but a little Gooogling will get you more info.

Feel free to comment below if you have questions or would like to share how your classroom systems are set up!

–The Pensive Sloth

Learning About Alternative Energy and Coal Formation

As part of our Earth science unit we spent some time this last six weeks learning about the different types of alternative energy.  Since this is my first year teaching 5th grade science, it had been a long time since I heard the word geothermal!  Students spent some time defining and drawing each type of energy and we made an anchor chart to show what we were learning.

  • goethermal–energy from heat in Earth’s core
  • biofuel/biomass–energy from once living material
  • hydroelectric–energy from moving water (My students have a little song they sing every time I say this word, I think it is part of a commercial they hear on TV all the time!)
  • solar–energy from the sun
  • wind–energy from moving air (wind)
Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy.  (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass)

Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy. (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass) HINT:  Don’t write in yellow!  Write in black and trace over in yellow!

We also spent some time learning about how coal was formed deep in the Earth.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Now, as we prepare for our STAAR test in April, we will be reviewing vocabulary associated with coal formation and alternative energy.  I’ve put together a quick vocabulary review activity for my kiddos that involves cutting, pasting, and matching the words to the definitions and then symbolizing each term.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.  Click below to download the freebie!

You can download a PDF of this Alternative Energy Worksheet or get the Earth Science Vocabulary Snip-its! pack for $1.00 at my TPT store.   The pack contains 4 pages of vocabulary including sedimentary rocks and fossil fuels, fossils, landforms, and alternative energy. Thanks for stopping by and happy teaching!

Here is the almost finished product!  Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word.   Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

Here is the almost finished product! Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word. Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

When I read a science text i can...Anchor Char

Reading Strategy Lesson…In science class?

While reading a short text on climate zones and the mountain effect, my kiddos struggled with some of the ideas that were being presented.  I decided that it was a perfect time for a reading strategy lesson!

While reading, I modeled and had my kids participate in a few things:

1–Drawing a picture to show the mountain effect, labeling the windward and leeward sides and which side would be dry

2–Substituting the words ‘in the middle’ for the word temperate to help kids understand temperate climates

3–Discussing the connection between river currents (that students were familiar with) and ocean currents

When I read a science text i can...Anchor Chart

When I read a science text I can…Anchor Chart

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”

3 Ways Nancie Atwell’s “The Reading Zone” Has Changed My Classroom (originally posted 12/9/13)

Reading Zone, Reading Workshop, 5th Grade

3 ways The Reading Zone, by Nancie Atwell, has changed my classroom

My principal recommended Nancie Atwell’s book, The Reading Zone, at a meeting early in the year and I finally got around to checking it out.  I’d heard of it before, and that it was great, but the recommendation was just the encouragement I needed!  I have to say that it is one of the few teacher books I have read cover to cover.  As a habitual skimmer, I usually just read the parts that fit my classroom, but all of this stuff was relevant, and Atwell’s honesty is refreshing.  Here are three things I am now doing consistently that have changed my classroom.

FIRST, I am giving my kiddos time to get into ‘the zone.’ This means that we read every day.  For 30 minutes.  Every day.  I don’t skip independent reading to make up teaching time because there is an assembly or field trip. It is too important.  Atwell stresses the importance of voluminous reading, and in the 5 short weeks I have devoted to daily reading, my students have already been lost in books for 750 minutes and they are behaving like readers.  It wasn’t instant reading zone magic.  I started the year with great intentions, but I wasn’t consistent with reading time and my kids weren’t living as readers.  They weren’t prepared with books to read because they weren’t sure they would have time in class to do so.  Despite the ‘Independent Reading’ anchor chart on my wall, they still asked to go to the nurse or library or restroom or chatted or got up for tissues or to switch books or drew pictures…  They don’t do this anymore because they come to class with books they plan to read and THEY hold this time to be as precious as I do.  It took about 2 weeks of consistent independent reading time before this happened, but you can hear a pin drop in my room while we are all reading, and an occasional giggle from someone who is reading something silly.  The routine is set and it takes about one minute for everyone to settle down to read, and then the magic happens.

no squirrel independent reading

NOOO! You mean it is time to stop reading?

SECOND, my students and I are really talking about books.  Atwell does a great job of explaining the conferences she has with students, but I didn’t start out conferencing during reading time.  I started out reading independently with my students.  First, I didn’t want to circulate about the room and disturb anyone until I knew my kiddos were able to dive into a book and ignore my moving about.  The other reason I started reading independently during this time is because I wanted my kids to see what it looked like to be in the zone.  I sat in a chair and read the entire time.  I wanted them to see that I thought reading was important, more important than grading papers or setting up for science.  It was important to spend time lost in a book.  After a few weeks, I started walking around and conferencing with my students.  Atwell does a great job explaining the reading conference.  It’s not fancy, just a quick discussion with each reader.  Some discussions are longer than others, but most are drive-thru chats and I’ve learned so much about what my kids are reading and why.  I have learned who has books of their own at home, that my class really loves series books, and that they talk to each other about what they are reading.  In fact, this is how most of them decide what to read next.

reading workshop, indendent reading

In the book, “The Reading Zone,” Atwell has a page of reading conference starters. I carry a copy on my clipboard as I chat with my kiddos. It is very well organized!

THIRD, we have started weekly book talks.  Basically, a few readers advertise their books to the class.  Students who have a book they think others should read spend a few minutes telling us about it, without giving too much away.  A few kids ask questions about who the author is, if we have the book in our library, and if they can have the book next!  The speaker shows us the cover on the projector so that anyone who wishes can add it to their ‘someday reading lists.’ It is great fun and is a super easy way to encourage readers.

I plan to add reading letter-essays to my classroom like Atwell uses to converse with her readers more formally, but I’m taking things one step at a time.

If you read but ONE book this semester, I suggest this one.  Go forth and inspire your readers!

Dog likes to read

What is that fabulous book?

Anchor Chart Friday (originally posted 12/6/2013)

I’ve been working hard to add more ‘color’ to the charts my kiddos and I make.  My students have really responded to this.  We discuss, all the time, how the brain thinks in pictures and that illustrating and diagram-ing in science, social studies, and EVERYTHING can really help learning ‘stick,’  so it was only a matter of time before I had to start drawing, too!  While my artistic skills leave much to be desired, it has been a bonding experience for my students and I.  They know I am taking a risk every time I try to draw, and we laugh together at the results, someone usually offers a stretched compliment, and it makes for a memorable experience.  Here are a few charts we’ve made recently.

Here is “What we THINK we know about the Earth, Moon, and Sun.” (below)

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5th Grade Food Chain–I always label my pictures so they are easier to understand! (below)

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Before we delved into fractions, we discussed what they were and how they are used. (below)

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