It is Sunday. I have been spending my weekend looking at chicken eggs to separate out fertilized eggs from unfertilized eggs. I am still new to this whole farming and chicken thing, but I always love the opportunity to learn something new. Good thing for great literature about chickens. I had no idea there were so many little tricks. 😊
Of course, learning about how to farm is often like learning for my students. I love the expression they get when they figure out a new study trick or learn new information. Learning itself is such an adventure. I think about that each day as I approach the instruction I will deliver.
This year my adventure in sixth grade began. I am very fortunate to have such a great group of sixth graders. I am also so very lucky to have a great team to work with. The teachers in my hall, whether they are the same content or not, and school for that matter, area amazing!
We have read the first four chapters of The Phantom Tollbooth. I have the students read the chapters and then they listen to the audio. Since the story has a lot of play on words, this helps to provide support for comprehension. We worked on static versus dynamic characters as well as vocabulary. For our lesson, I introduced the students to types of character. We discussed protagonist, antagonist, flat, round, dynamic, and static characters. The types of characters chart on the notebook page is one I found online and used. It was a simple chart that helped me provide a chart for students.
I created a chart for the students to use when looking at characters. I will attach it here for a freebie. We did Ally from Fish in a Tree as a class. You can also see the page these were added on in our Reader's Notebook.
The students did some really great writing. I am showcasing a few of those stories here. Up next, will be our spooky stories for our pen pals.
Since finishing you our unit on the 5 Themes of Geography, we started learning about landforms. Our district has a current requirement of thirty landforms. The list is extensive. I am a firm believer in creating opportunities for students to learn at their pace with some choice for activities. I created a post already, that introduced you to the Level Up: Landforms unit.
Here is some of the work students created.
I am working on getting caught up on my blogs, so follow for great activities and freebies for grade 6.
This morning, the weather outside is beautiful. The hummingbirds are in full action. The wind is blowing the wind-chimes to make a simple melody that hums with nature. I love fall! One of my most favorite activities to do on a fall day, like today, is to sit outside and read. Unfortunately, I forgot my book I wanted to read at the school, so today I will write.
Of course, that just means I can tell you the exciting things happening in my classroom right now. In case I did not previously mention it, I have a total of 42 students I work with each day. I love the opportunity to teach reading, writing, and social studies to these 42 sixth graders.
I will break my posts into the three specific areas that way you get a glimpse of each. Occasionally, I will also break out homeroom activities. This past week, I tied the homeroom activities to the read aloud. You can find detail in my reading section.
Before I go into this week’s post, I will explain the title. One reason I chose it is I finished reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This is one of her overall messages and it is a powerful message. The second is because growing up, my father always taught me that if you believed something was possible it could be. I wanted to take the time to write this post in honor of my father, today is his birthday. I am fortunate, that despite his not graduating from high school, I have a man in my life that believed in me and pushed me to believe in myself. Growing up with so many of my family not graduating, I believe this message served as a catalyst to my powerful drive to turn what could have been impossible into the possible.
We have been doing some specific routine and procedures. However, I have taken the time to read Fish in a Tree to the class. In fact, we finished the book this past Friday. This book is such a powerful way to really spark discussions about several topics. If you have not checked it out, I HIGHLY recommend it for any sixth-grade group.
I chose this book for several reasons. The first reason is I like to start the year with a powerful message. This book has the message that if you work hard you can move what you believed was impossible to the possible. A second reason I chose this book is I felt like you can connect a story better to a group when they can relate to a character. We all have that one student who may be depressed or lac self-confidence and to see a character grow in a realistic fiction story can offer a light for those students. Finally, I chose the book because it has a connection to my class wide theme. It has references to Alice in Wonderland discussed throughout the story.
During my homeroom on Wednesday, I asked students to write a response to the story focusing on the quote often associated with Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I gave them ten minutes total. We broke that into two parts. The first part, I had them respond what the quote meant to them. For the second part, I asked them to connect their understanding to the main character of the story. They had to relate to what Ally had learned throughout the text. The students had amazing responses. I forgot to take a few pictures of them, but I will add some later this week. Most importantly I wanted students to understand as a group, we have the ability to treat others with respect instead of to be too quick to judge people.
I always tell them two things related to this. First, perspective is everything. Second, everyone has their own story. In the story, there is one boy named Oliver. He is always talkative, cares deeply about little things, and is often given small cues when he is talking too much. Oliver has a story revealed in the book that helps students understand that while he may have some annoying behaviors from some of the students’ perspectives, there is a story that explains why.
Since we finished the book on Friday, I plan to have them do an escape room I bought on TpT as a review on Monday and Tuesday during Academic Lab. This escape room should be a fun way to review the novel. It has five tasks. Each task has important components of a story: plot, characters, vocabulary, figurative language, and theme. For homework I plan to assign the students to complete a crossword I found at https://wordmint.com/public_puzzles/76203. They can then have a fun way to study before taking the assessment for the novel.
We are starting the novel The Phantom Tollbooth by Morton Juster next week. During this book we will discuss vocabulary and other story elements. I will also be introducing the Notice and Note Signposts for Fiction during this novel. I have some Google documents for students to complete. Watch for freebies starting next week on that book.
For writing, we have been learning about the writing process. The tool I used to create a prompt was taken from Text Structures from Fairy Tales: Truisms That Help Students Write About Abstract Concepts and Live Happily Ever After, Grades 4-12 by Gretchen Bernabei and Judi Reimer. I read the Little Red Riding Hood tale and had them think about distractions for Red Riding Hood.
After we discussed this structure with Red Riding Hood, I asked the students to think about a time they were distracted at school or at home. They completed the text structure with their answers. Then I told them they were going to go beyond that organizer and write a story. I even added another twist. They had to use candy names for the characters and setting.
Students have busy on these stories for two weeks now. Last week we did a peer feedback session. During the feedback session students were challenged to find the text structure of the distraction based on the structure we learned. Then they had to look for problem and solution, word choice, complete sentences, and of course spelling and punctuation. Once feedback was given students went to work making improvements. The next step is to conference with me before publishing. ‘
Here is the assignment as shown to them in Google classroom for publishing.
Yes, I know I have set high expectations for this assignment. However, I would not want it any other way.
I am attaching the rubric for your use. I found a similar rubric out on the web and just modified it slightly for my use. When the stories are published, I plan to have an author party. I will invite the admin team to come here the stories.
In sixth grade we focus on world geography. We recently wrapped up a unit of five themes of geography. After I introduced the five themes, I had students complete an assignment with a partner. The assignment was to research two places and decide which would be the best based on the five themes of geography for survival in a zombie apocalypse. I will attach a freebie lesson here. However, I did use a document as well I bought a few years back from TpT. You can find that specific one on https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Surviving-the-Zombie-Apocalypse-using-the-Five-Themes-of-Geography-1570375. I made the final decision a Google document so students could type their answers. I will attach a few of these student responses.
This past week we started landforms. I am attaching my Level Up unit. It is based on the concept of Layered Curriculum. You can look up information at http://www.help4teachers.com/how.htm.
I have a visual board in my classroom to track which level students are in. I am debating creating a step before oral defense can happen.
I am so glad I made the decision to head back into the classroom. I am enjoying the learning that I see happening. Of course, I am doing things somewhat more differently now that I am integrating more technology with Google Classroom. No matter what each day brings, I bring in my best. I also make sure each day the students know that they can move the impossible to the possible.
Thanks to people like @support_a_teach on Twitter and many others on Facebook the movement to help teachers clear a wish list started. The movement is in full swing. I have had one item cleared from my list - a picture book. I love getting books and giving books. I purchased several books for educators, most as an anonymous gifted because I do what I can without needing recognition.
My list can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/3P19PPLSYF0B5?ref_=wl_share
If you cannot fund mine, please consider another teacher in the #clearthelist movement. Every book, pencil, or other wish list item supports America's kids.
August is always a busy time of year for educators. We scurry on our path to make sure our room and our resources are ready to go for the class full of students we will be fortunate enough to teach. As this August approached, I was starting a new role. This role put me back in the classroom to instruct students. I will miss my role in curriculum and professional development, but I am deeply appreciative to be teaching our young minds once again.
I am a proud teacher of grade six English language arts and geography here in Missouri.
Please note, I started this new blog back in the early summer with the intention to keep it rolling each week. However, I wanted to give 100% to my new role and spent my time with valuable planning and prep. Now, I am on track and plan to post at least one blog, no l entry, no less than every other week.
Everyone loves to share classroom pictures. Since I had not been doing much work since Thanksgiving, I was on a limited budget and could not go as creative as I would have liked. I do feel that my room is simple, and I kept it organized.
As far as theme goes, I choose to use an Alice in Wonderland theme. As I teach sixth graders, I choose to align the décor and concepts to the Tim Burton version and not the Disney version.
Now there are teachers who have opinions that décor should not be the focus. However, I like to immerse my students into my theme. I used to do this with pencil and paper tasks or literature. But I decided to try something new. I am trying to gamify my classroom. I am excited about the fresh style and hope to expand the comfort level of others as I implement it this year. I tell you this so you can understand the images in my photo gallery of my classroom. The large display in the back is where students will add their avatars as they level up.
I have two groups of students I hare with my partner teacher. The two groups are considered the Tweedles. One group is Tweedle Dee and the other Tweedle Dum.
Another special note about décor I that you might notice Snoopy and the gang from time to time. Snoopy became a class mascot many years back and stuck. Since then, no matter what theme I select, Snoopy is a part of it. My nephew, Zack, contributed the Mad Hatter Snoopy that is displayed in my classroom.
In my class, I also have a display of pictures related to my life. I asked the students to create a one-pager about themselves as part of a back to school task. They did great with this. I also had them write me a letter about what they liked about reading, what their favorite types of books are, and how they learn best. One thing they were required to include were their DNA: Dreams, Needs, and Abilities. This helps me get to know what drives them each day. In addition to that, it helps me provide more personalized learning opportunities.
My hallway display is designed to include the five students from each group that are the top players. This is the leader board. The students created avatar names using an adjective that started with the same letter as their first name and their first name. For example; Delightful Daisy. By the way, I have no students named Daisy. 😊
So, this year I am trying to do things as paper free as possible. I have set up Google Classroom for each of my content areas. Google Classroom is new to me as well so I am sure you will get to grow through my trial and errors with the application. This past week I spent implementing a worksheet I purchased off TeachersPayTeachers on the 5 Themes of Geography. The students are learning how to make a copy and submit assignments. We are doing well with this.
I also created a rubric, based on something I had used in the past, for interactive notebooks. While they still do these the old-fashioned way in a notebook, the rubric is submitted, and I grade and record feedback directly in Google Classroom. It is going well.
Another item I put on the Google Classroom each day is a daily agenda. This agenda allows students to reference what was done throughout the day. Additionally, if students are absent, they can access these agendas if they have internet at home to see what they might have missed. I am working to improve the content of these agendas as it continues to roll out. For example, I make sure the learning target for the day is on each content related slide.
Each Wednesday I get to spend it with my homeroom. During this time, I plan to implement team building activities, use it as a time to practice school wide procedures for the PBIS, or as needed for “catch up” work.
Our first Wednesday homeroom together, groups were assigned to save Fred. You all know the fantastic STEM activity with the gummy worm and lifesaver. Well I enhanced it with a little story to set the tone.
Save Fred Story:
I have this friend named Fred. Now he is like most worms and enjoys the cool, moist dirt
on his skin as he crawls forward and backwards though the dirt. He is an invertebrate that
enjoys the moonlight. Fred even enjoys his job as a farmer and recycling nutrients into
the soil. But Fred is a little on the adventurous side.
So, he built a boat and decided to go sailing. He sailed off into the ocean blue without
telling anyone or checking the weather. Worst yet, it is hurricane season. So, when a gust
of wind swept past and capsized the boat, poor Fred was in trouble. You see, earthworms
can survive several days in fresh water, but saltwater is another story. If his boat sinks,
there will be no hope for Fred. So, he needs your help desperately before his boat
completely sinks. Can you help Fred retrieve his life preserver; put it on, and save him?
Your job is to place the life preserver firmly around Fred’s body, but you must obey
1. Fred may not fall into the “sea” (onto the table) more than one time; if he
does, Fred “drowns.”
2. You may not injure him in any way.
3. You may use only the four paper clips to move Fred, move the boat, and move
the life preserver. You may not touch anything except the paper clips.
Reading Journals and Freebie
I am happy to announce that the students in my class had books in their hands the first full week of school. I have a great start to an awesome class library and the students got to check them out to practice reading.
And because we had books in our hands, we also started our reading journals. I have a few more left to score for this week, but the students are doing good at getting to the evidence to support their reading. Additionally, the students have great stamina to continue to read using our “real reading” behaviors.
To start the school year off right, I am including a freebie this week. It is a reading journal. There are 26 diverse ways students can respond to their own reading, all require evidence to support their thinking. There is a choice available for each letter of the alphabet” Apple of my Eye to Zombie Apocalypse. This is typically a product I would have available on TeachersPayTeachers, but for my readers and followers it is absolutely free.
As you venture out to start your year, please follow me and be a part of my journey as well. Great educators become excellent by sharing and learning together. I also will include many freebies for reading and geography both. Share this blog with friends so they can also benefit from collaboration and freebies.
Final note, I am a curriculum geek. If you have an idea but not sure what way to run with it or what books to use, shoot me a message and let’s see what we can produce.
My life journey is that of a mother, wife, grandmother, weenie dog owner, blogger, conference speaker, mini-farmer, writer and a an occasional mistake maker with over 24 years in education. Follow me on Twitter @JEdgarEdConsult