Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas in 5th Grade ELA

Merry Christmas! 
It's that wonderful time of the year again when you have already given your semester exam yet still have a few days to fill with academic activities that won't totally destroy the Christmas spirit. Here is a collection of mostly free activities I have used in my classroom to get me through the final few days before that most anticipated break!

This is a wonderful and fun way to practice fluency and expose your students to the popular holiday poem. Simply print the cards, pass them out, and let your students begin reading aloud as a class. This product even suggests timing them each time to see how fast they can read. What a cute idea!

This product contains an informational text that students can read about the background of the beloved poem. This free sample only includes some of the aligned activities, but it was plenty to use in my classroom.

This packet contains several worksheets and writing assignments based on the actual Christmas poem. Combined with the two activities above, you should have a complete poetry unit!

If you are trying to shy away from being a "Christmas" offender, this is a wonderful academic activity for your kiddos! This is a very thorough guided reading packet with teacher instructions, leveled texts, and answer keys.

 
This product is aligned with the 4th grade standards, but it is pretty challenging. Let's face it, our 5th graders need all the practice locating evidence in the text to support their answers as they can get. I like to give this as a little holiday homework the last week before break. 

Okay, I think I have seen about a million activities like this on Pinterest this season. However, this one is thorough, fun, and FREE! You can't beat that!

This is another fabulous close reading packet that includes the text on three different levels and open-ended questions for three different reads.

Three Reasons:
Rachel Lynette's task cards are amazing.
Kids can always use more practice summarizing.
They're free! Duh!

This bundle includes the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas close reading I mentioned before, four Find Someone Who Christmas-themed games, and a Civil War socials studies analysis. It would definitely cover you for a few days of academic fun!

Okay…I saved the best for last. My students freakin' love these puzzles. I printed them on card stock, and they were a huge hit. I can easily pull them out when there is any down time, and the students even ask to play them during recess. If you click on only one thing on this blog, make sure it is this free product! 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bring Lit On: How to Play Find Someone Who

Bring Lit On: How to Play Find Someone Who: Find Someone Who is a favorite activity in my classroom. I love using it as a quick review, and the students enjoy getting out of their s...

How to Play Find Someone Who

Find Someone Who is a favorite activity in my classroom. I love using it as a quick review, and the students enjoy getting out of their seats. 

Here's how to play:



You may note that I stated, "Here's how to PLAY." That's right…we play this as a competitive game in my classroom. The first student who has his or her worksheet completed and places it in my hand with all of the correct answers wins. So, students are racing (no running) and checking to ensure their answers are correct. If they turn it in with incorrect answers, I return the paper to them so they may have the option to correct any incorrect answers. Sometimes, we don't had e a winner…which is a sure sign that I need to review the skill. It is such a fun game, and all of my students always want to participate.

Do kids sometimes to cheat and purposely put the wrong answer? Yes…of course! This is fair game in my classroom, because you should already be checking your peers' answers after each question. If you think the partner chose the wrong answer, then you need to discuss the disputed answer. 

I have a wonderful Kagan grammar book that has several Find Someone Who activities ready for you to print and use. I love, love, love this book, but it isn't exactly aligned with the Common Core standards, and there simply aren't enough options. 

Since I incorporate this activity in my classroom at least once or twice a week, I started making the worksheets on my own. It's quite simple once you have created a format that works for you. I use PowerPoint and insert text boxes to ensure proper formatting. Here are some FREE examples of Find Someone Who activities I have in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Check them out!




What fun academic activities do you incorporate on a regular basis in your class?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Analyzing Visual Images


I actually love the new Common Core standards my state has adopted, but it has been quite a difficult shift. There are 75 new social studies standards for TNReady, and that can be a bit stressful…even for the most experienced, organized, and confident teacher. It may also tend to be frustrating when you are not sure exactly how to approach the standard. For example, how does one analyze a historical picture or photo? What does that even entail?


You could ask 25 students to analyze the photo above, and you would get 25 different answers. (In my class, you'd probably get a few crazy ones, too!) Children need specific guidelines for pretty much everything they do. And, let's face it…analyzing is a challenging skill for even your brightest pupils.


Luckily, I have a brilliant colleague who came up with a simple acronym that can be used to analyze any visual image. I created this poster, and our lives have been smooth sailing ever since.  (Well, at least when it comes to analyzing visual images in social studies class.)

Students simply fill out the FREE PICTURE Graphic Organizer. This worksheet can be used with any visual image. Once it has been completed, students are able to more effectively use the information in a constructed response essay.

To create your own worksheet, simply download my free PICTURE graphic organizer. Then, you can locate images on websites, like Google image. Once you have the image or images you wish to use, you can take a screen shot of the graphic organizer and reduce it in order to fit the image and graphic organizer on the same page. You can also display the poster and have students respond on their own paper, a white board, or orally. It's so easy to use! 

Here is an example of thirty images I use for analyzing historical images of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. This is a product in my TPT store, but you could easily create it on your own!

If you create your own worksheets, please feel free to share them right here!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Academic Brain Breaks


A good teacher can tell when his or her students are about to mentally check out. I often attempt to plan my lessons with engaging activities that allow for movement to prevent those little eyes from glassing over…but it still happens from time to time. That's why I have several no prep brain breaks to whip out of my bag of tricks at a moment's notice.

PASS AND SHARE
I have several of these squishy balls that my students just love. Daily, we participate in a Pass and Share. The students simply form a giant circle around the desks. I give them a questions or topic about which to respond, and we pass the ball around sharing. The person with the ball is the only one who can talk. Sometimes it will be a one or two word response question, and other times it may take a little longer. This activity allows students to stand up, sending oxygen to their sleepy brains. In addition, it appeals to the social and emotional needs of the students. They are having an opportunity to share personal information about our topic of study and practice active listening skills. If I forget to include Pass and Share in my lesson, my students are sure to let me know. 

SPARKLE
Sparkle is my go-to activity when I have a few extra seconds at the end of class. It is a popular spelling game, and there are many different variations.
First, the students form a giant circle around the desks. The teacher then says a spelling word. The first student begins spelling the word by saying the first letter. The second students says the next letter, and so on until the word is completely spelled. After the word has been spelled, the next students in line says, "Sparkle!" and he or she is out and returns to his or her seat. In addition, if a student misspells the word, he or she is out. You keep going with new words until only one student is standing, the winner. I also have the students pass a ball around to ensure we know whose turn it is.  

WHITE BOARD GAME
There are many valuable uses for white boards in the classroom, but I mainly use my to add a little fun to typically boring activities. If we are reviewing a topic, and I need to add a little spice to the lesson, I simply add my white boards. I have students work in teams of 2 to 4 to answer review questions. They have to write their answer on the white board and be the first team to stand and show me the correct answer. This little bit of movement is a real energy boaster. Plus, the students are always motivated by a little competition.

1 to 10
1 to 10 is a lot like Sparkle except the students are counting to ten. The students stand a circle around the desks. The first student starts with the ball and says either, "one," or, "one, two." The next student continues counting by saying the next number or the next two numbers. This continues with students adding one or two numbers until someone says ten. Whoever says ten is out and must return to his or her seat. You continue playing until only one student remains. I play this while passing around a ball to know whose turn it is. In addition, I make students return to their seats if they hesitate too long, indicating they are attempting to count ahead.

BLURT!
Blurt is a super cool board game that can be used as a whole-class brain break. The game comes with cards that contain definitions. The teacher reads the definition, and the student has to "blurt" out the correct word. In order to play this with an entire class, I divide the class into teams of 2 to 4 students. I allow each team to have their own definition, and I give the team 5 seconds to blurt out the correct word. The team that gets the most words wins. This game can also be played with the vocabulary terms you compile over the course of the school year.

CATEGORIES
This simple game was inspired by the board game Scategories. You divide the class into teams of 2 to 4. Each team has a piece of paper and determines a writer. The teacher gives the class a category (proper nouns related to Halloween, state capitals, parts of a cell) and one minute to write as many terms that fit in the category. At the end of one minute, the teacher reads the lists and the class determines if each answer is acceptable. The team with the most correct terms wins.

GO NOODLE
  If you haven't checked out Go Noodle yet, you are in for a treat. It is a website dedicated entirely to getting our kids up and moving. There are an array of fun dance and exercise videos, and some of them a even academic.

What no prep brain breaks do you use in your class?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Quick & Easy Formative Assessments

Teachers should conduct formative assessments in their classrooms daily. In fact, if you teach in one of the many district with high-stakes evaluations, your administration will look specifically for these types of assessments in your daily lessons. 

Formative assessments are designed to simply monitor students' learning and typically have little to no point value attached to them. The main purposes of these assessments is to help students determine their strengths and weaknesses and to allow teachers to note where students are struggling and adjust their teaching. You should have many formative assessments leading up to the big summative assessment.

Here are few TOTALLY FREE formative assessments you can use in any lesson.

This is an easy assessment that can be given at the end of any lesson. Personally, I love to use it with my project-based learning (PBL) units. I find that students also struggle to articulate connections, and this exit slip provides them with an opportunity to practice that in writing. 

Fist to Five is one of the easiest, quickest, and most common formative assessments. I keep this poster hanging in my classroom to remind students of the process. One drawback is that some students may not feel entirely comfortable holding up one or two fingers. Thus, I often have them close their eyes. 

I have never used entrance slips, but I think they are a brilliant idea. I love how it allows you to identify any major misconceptions students may have before beginning your lesson. In addition, it provides you with a type of pretest with which you can show growth at the end of your lesson.

Not only are these exit slips adorable, but they include excellent sentence stems for your students to write independently write about their experience with the lesson.

My favorite part about these exit slips is that they include a place for the student to write the daily standard. I often struggle to effectively incorporate the daily standard in my lesson.

These are fun worksheets that appeal to the students' interests while allowing them to summarize the information they retained from the lesson.

This wonderful collection of super cute exit slips would work for any lesson in any subject. They provide a variety of options for formative assessments. I particularly love how the students list their questions they still have and then provide their best guess at the answer.  It's such an amazing product; I just can't believe it's free!

Do you have any formative assessment you can share?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Free Halloween Activities

Here is a treat of some wonderful Halloween-themed activities I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. They are totally FREE, and that's no trick!  

Use this Kagan activity to provide your students an opportunity to work cooperatively and move around the room. It's a great brain break!

This activity includes two standards-based games for students to review skills within the context of Halloween. All you need is two dice per group to play this board game.

This is a simply wonderful and rigorous product. It aligns perfectly with Common Core standards and addresses the often overlooked genre of poetry.

This product includes four fun, Halloween-themed writing prompts on cute, lined paper.

This is definitely for the younger grades but still a valuable tool. It includes five story starters, a pre-writing worksheet, an expository writing prompt, and two Halloween-themed, lined writing papers.

This history of Halloween reading comprehension worksheet is a great way to incorporate the holiday in your ELA class. In addition, this product includes a Halloween-themed activity to help your students learn to read and follow directions.

Another one for the lower grades, but it's still really cute. Students practice writing similes and then have an opportunity to illustrate a few.

This isn't at all academic, but I thought it would be a sweet way to give your students a little Halloween treat. You could add a cookie to make them as gifts or allow the students to make them.

Please share any other FREE Halloween activities you use!






Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Activities for Fifth Grade ELA

I love holidays! 
Every October, I get so excited for the approaching holiday season and immediately start searching for activities for my 5th grade ELA classroom. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough standards-based holiday activities out there for the middle grades. Most of these activities would require me to temporarily interrupt the rigor in my classroom, and I just don't have the time to do that.

So, this year my colleague and I create two activities that will allows us to continue to meet the learning needs of the students and the academic demands of our district. For a limited time, you will be able to purchase both in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for a discounted price! Check them out!

 This packet includes everything you need for one 120-minute close reading lesson. Since teachers often need to take off around Halloween to attend the Halloween activities of their own children, it also includes four different substitute teacher lesson plans. The students will participate in a reader's theater activity, reading independently, complete guided practice, and take an assessment about an original  short story. The story is about two wizard sisters, so Halloween isn't actually the topic. Thus, you should not infringe on students' beliefs.

This packet contains a spelling list of synonyms for scary. Students will both practice spelling while expanding their vocabulary with synonyms for this overused word. Once again, this activity does not directly refer to Halloween in an effort to avoid offending students' beliefs. 

Please share any other Halloween products you have found to use in your middle grades classrooms!