Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Power of Words, Sound and Rhythm

I'm embarrassed to admit that I used to think of poetry as boring or rambling. Or silly rhymes in a sing song pattern.  Never before has poetry been so mainstream and "cool". With the passionate recitation of The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman at President Joe Biden's inauguration, my students have been hooked. (Not to mention poetry as the Super Bowl half-time show?!)

So they were thrilled when poet, Andrew Green of Potato Hill Poetry led a writer's workshop for our class via Zoom. When he shared his writer's notebook, my students gasped. His notebook cover looked similar to their notebooks! He told them he never goes anywhere without it, writing down observations, thoughts, bits of language. A real live author explaining how he collects and gathers his ideas! He showed the inside of his writer's notebook, including writing and sketches. 

Andrew shared his writing process with us, including the number of times he revises to get his wording just right. He taught us how word choice can evoke images and emotion. Next, he asked the kids to think of how they were feeling. They wrote poems using metaphors to compare themselves to different nouns in order to SHOW their feeling.  Then we all had to guess their feeling, after they read their poem to the class. Metaphors are usually difficult to teach, yet using this format, all students were successful! Can you guess the feelings evoked from the student poems below?

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Let's Hear it for the Women!

Although  March is designated as Women's History Month, we obviously learn about women who have made a difference throughout the year.  This was a quick and easy group assignment: Women's History posters.
We are still virtual, so here are the directions I gave my students:
  1. Read a book (or 2 or 3) from our Epic Books Collection
  2. Take notes on why the woman in your book is important in your Reader's Notebook
  3. Share most important facts to your breakout room
  4. Find a photo of your woman & right click to SAVE to your computer
  5. Upload photo to https://www.remove.bg/ then SAVE to your computer
  6. Drag the saved photo (with background removed) to your slide
  7. Write in 1st person about your woman
There are so many wonderful books about women who have made a difference, but here are a few of the ones we have read this year:
I gave the link to the Google Slides in the Zoom chat, then put students into breakout rooms. They each shared which woman they had read about, then created a poster together. Their breakout room number is the slide number they worked on, which kept it simple. One of the coolest features to use in Slides (if students are all working on the same presentation)  is if you click on the waffle icon at the bottom, you can see all your students' slides in real time. You can view who is making progress or highlight work and send them a message. 
Download a copy of this template HERE or by clicking on the images below.
These posters are terrific for any subject! They are a quick and easy way to have students share or summarize facts, plus they make eye-catching digital displays! 

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Tried & True Fraction Freebies

 What are you teaching in math right now? We are exploring fractions but doing this virtually has needed some thinking outside the box! Here are some of my tried & true activities and websites to use.

Students love learning about each other! When teaching in person, I used to put students into groups of 4 or 5. (Specifically groups of 4 or 5 so it would be easy to make equivalent fractions with hundredths, for decimals and percentages) They would have to talk to each other and ask questions to find out what they had in common. Next, they would write their findings as a statement, fraction, decimal and percentage. This year, since we are virtual, breakout rooms was the perfect way to group kids. I popped into each room and took a screenshot of each group to use as their photo.

You can download a copy of People Fractions directions and templates HERE (You will be asked to make a copy)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Helping Students Navigate Tough Times

Over the past 10 months, we know Covid,  politics, and civil unrest have taken a toll on us as adults: mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, children often have a difficult time processing what they are feeling. Since we are home all the time now,  kids are bombarded by images on the news or overhear adults talking. How to help our students navigate an uncertain world?

I was thrilled to discover Skills for Big Feelings , written for educators and mental health professionals as a 12-week guide which seeks to empower children aged 6-12 to cope with their feelings, manage anxiety, and learn to thrive. It includes a coloring workbook for kids, trauma-informed guided relaxation scripts, family handouts, letters, surveys, S.M.A.R.T. objectives, and more. The author, Casey O'Brien Martin of Whole Child Counseling initially developed the activities in this book for use in small and individual counseling settings. However, it is perfect for whole class instruction, and especially during distance learning. 

Skills for Big Feelings complements our health unit; focusing on mental, social, and emotional health. Each week's lesson is on a different topic with action steps, a guided meditation (mindful moment) and an informational parent letter.  My students LOVE these lessons!

There is a hard copy book or e-book option, plus the digital bundle includes everything set up for Google classroom or your LMS.  The 12 weeks include: 
  1. Naming Our Feelings
  2. Triggers
  3. Helpful and Unhelpful Thoughts
  4. Changing Thoughts
  5. Measuring Challenges
  6. Equal Measurements
  7.  My Relaxing Happy Place
  8. My Sunny Breathing Words
  9. Positive Self-Mistakes and Supports
  10. Mindfulness and Gratitude
  11. Closure
I was little skeptical at first, thinking the kids might not take it seriously. Was I wrong! We've incorporated these short lessons into our morning meeting and students eagerly ask what the new strategies are each day.  The biggest testimonial is emails from parents, saying their child has been teaching their whole family what they've been learning. They've even been making them practice the calming techniques together!
Each week is carefully laid out and builds in progression. I cannot wait to for my students to reflect on and gauge their progress in a few more week! Be sure to check out Casey's website; it's filled with so many resources, helpful information and her Facebook group is so helpful! Every teacher needs these tools to help our  students feel empowered to navigate tough times.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Bringing in the Experts

Anyone else tired of hearing your own voice? Or constantly looking at yourself on Zoom or Google Meets? When teaching in person (remember back in the good 'ol days?), I loved taking students on field trips to experience what we were learning about in class. Due to "shelter at home" orders and remote teaching, we still cannot gather in person in my district.
However, one of the benefits of distance learning is that so many organizations have revamped their programs, offering virtual options.  Here's a round-up of some amazing programs (in California, although since they're virtual, maybe teachers in other states can access them).

I've scheduled several programs through California State Parks PORTS Program. They offer FREE interactive virtual field trips for K-12 students to stay connected to our state's natural, cultural, and historical resources. Connecting your students to California State Parks allows them to explore our parks guided by California State Parks interpreters working in parks across the state. Some of the programs that connect to our fourth grade social studies curriculum are:  Immigration Stories Told from Angel Island, California Mission History, Gold Rush History, Mexican Rancho Era.  There are also science programs such as: Understanding Climate Change, Kelp Forests, Sand Dune Habitats and the Rock Cycle. 

 The California Science Center offers free virtual lessons and videos. Connecting with our fourth grade life science standards, students can play a “choose-your-own-adventure”-style game in order to test interactions between an animal’s environment and the structures of its sensory system. They will use the game to develop and revise a model showing how information is received by the senses and processed through the brain.

CA Science Center also offers paid virtual field trips. My class participated in the life science field trip, Busy Body. They navigated toward a deeper understanding of how organisms receive and process information. Students were introduced to creatures that live at the California Science Center, as they used and developed models to explore how the internal and external structures of plants and animals function to help them survive and experience the world around them. And of course, a cow eye dissection was quite memorable!

Huntington Library is collections-based educational and research institution. They have numerous art collections,  library collections, and botanical living collections in their 16 themed gardens. It is a beautiful location! Pre-Covid, my class visited The Huntington and explored plant adaptations, our fourth grade life science standards. My kids were in awe over the grounds!
The Huntington Comes to Class is offering free virtual field trips! All programs engage students in Huntington primary sources, inquiry, and conversation. These virtual field trips are an interactive experience, so students will enjoy drawing, writing, movement, and other activities.They open up once a month for applications. My class is participating in Explorations in American Histories: In this program, students will explore the diverse histories of the United States. Using primary sources materials from The Huntington’s art and library collections, students will engage in close looking, critical thinking, and dialogue. In particular, the program will draw attention to the change makers, activists, and everyday people who helped shape American histories. Students will be encouraged to make connections between the past and their world today. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Virtual Math Games to Engage Student Learning

We made it! 2020. . . the longest year ever! LOL! I'm trying to finish all my grading this weekend so I do not do any school work during winter break.  #goals  

One of my struggles during distance learning has been how to keep students engaged during math. When we used to be in person, students would work in partners or small groups.  Breakout rooms have been the perfect solution! Students meet in partners or triads. I digitized a few of the games that I used to print out and laminate. They are no-prep and ready to use!

My students even asked me to post the games in Schoology (our Learning Management System) so they could play over Winter Break! (So you know these are tried & true teaching tools!) Click on the links below to download three of my students' favorite games:

I hope your kids love them as much as mine do! Happy holidays & enjoy your much-deserved break!

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Peek into Learning

 For all the grumbling about distance learning (and there is a lot of grumbling!), there are also some perks!  I have a love-hate relationship with classroom bulletin boards. They are such a pain to put up, then you have to change them frequently and other than during Open House, no one actually looks at them! Anyone else?

Here's the beauty of distance learning! I was trying to figure out how to display all the great work my students have been doing. In come digital bulletin boards! I post them on our class website, as well as in Schoology (our secure Learning Management System). 

The beauty is that they are easily customizable; you can change the background, adjust the size of student work, write fancy titles or include the standards.
Now, all families have access to our bulletin boards and parents can see not only their child's work but the quality of work (or if their child is missing work!) These bulletin boards have been terrific conversation starters. I tell my kids to show their parents their work on the digital bulletin boards; they have something concrete to look at while they share. 
The bulletin boards are Google slides presentations so although photos may look rather small here, when posted in your LMS, there is a full screen or enlarge icon so the bulletin board fills their screen & they can click through the slides. For longer writing pieces, I screenshot the cover page for the bulletin board then insert a link to the full story/essay.  Working parents have been so appreciative of the chance to see what their child is learning and for the teacher, it's the perfect way to keep track of what you've been teaching during distance learning!

And the best news of all? I want to save you time so I'm giving you these digital bulletin board templates! Click HERE to download the file and directions!  I hope they are helpful! 

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