Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Share

Hi, it's Kim from Quinnessential Lessons. I created this activity last year when I felt like all our ELA test prep was taking the fun out of reading/ELA. When testing season was over I wanted to bring the enjoyment back to reading. From that, Book Share was born.
The Wings of Fire series is a huge hit in my class this year.

This is not a book report. The students picked a favorite book that they had already read to share with the class. They created a new cover for the book and wrote a few sentences to encourage other students to read the book. They then gave a 2-3 minute book talk. I left this part very open ended. Students could share a favorite part of the book, they could tell why it was their favorite book, they could compare it to another book, etc. The only thing they could not do was give the ending away. 
I love the cover this student created for Smile.

This year I assigned this activity just before testing started. I thought what better way to spend the afternoons after the morning's testing. Well, as usual, nothing has gone as planned. Our schedule has been crazy. There have been multiple interruptions. As a result only five students have shared books at this point. The good news? Those books are now making their way around the classroom. And not a day has gone by that a student hasn't asked, "Are we doing more book shares today?"
This student did such a great job sharing her book that about half the class is in line to read The Name of This Book is Secret.
It's so wonderful when students appreciate the classics.

How do you keep testing from sucking the fun out of school? How do you get your students excited about books?



Monday, May 9, 2016

What Are You Reading? May Edition

 It's time for our "What Are You Reading?" linky here at Focused on Fifth. You are invited to join us by blogging about a book you are reading for the upper elementary classroom. It can be a book your students love, a professional book, an old favorite, or a new must have. So what are you reading?

To link up with us, please write a short blog post about a book that includes our graphic and link back to this post. Happy Reading from Focused on Fifth!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Look at the Final Product: An Inquiry Based Journalism Unit

Hi, this is Brandi, from The Research Based Classroom. In March I posted about my newest writing endeavor. We were doing an inquiry based journalism unit that integrated our state reports in social studies. You can read that post here. Today I am so excited to show the final products my students created.
A fifth grade statement on the importance of gun control.
You could have a boring day or you could go to these interactive sites!
Arizona is probably best in the spring.

This author pretended it was back in the 1800's, just after the Civil War, so that she could argue for racial equality.
What? You can't view a moose from an airplane? And you can shoot a bear legally, but it's against the law to wake one up for a photograph. These are hard to believe.
I love that this Alaska newspaper was titled "The Last Frontier." The breaking news is from WW2.

I love all of the symbols of California that she used in her masthead.
"Donald Trump, love him or hate him....." Great voice. There were a lot of political editorials written.
This student is obsessed with WW2 and even though his state was North Carolina, he found a way to write an editorial about support for WW2.

This student's middle name is Gehrig and he was so excited to write an obituary for someone that he shared a name with.

What will I do differently next year?

First, I did really great with setting deadlines for rough drafts and revisions on the first five articles everyone did. But when we got to the four student choice articles, I didn't set deadlines and I really wish I had. Many students waited until the last minute and then either tried to throw 4 different articles at me on the last day or just put their articles in the final product without a rough draft or revision. I think the choice articles would have been a lot more thoughtful and complete if I had set dates.
Second, I also didn't spend as much time with the inquiry part on the choice articles and you can tell by the quality of their work. Next year I will continue pulling up mentor texts and letting the students work together to discover what a good article in that particular genre looks like.
Third, I need to enlist the help of others. I don't have enough devices for everyone to work on their research at the same time. So next year I am planning to ask the computer teacher to help them with their research during their computer time. I may need to have them do some more research at home too.
Lastly, I want to tighten up the amount of time we spend on the unit. I didn't know how long we would need and that probably led to me moving a little slower than I needed to.

What did I love?

I love, love, love the inquiry based approach to writing. I loved the opportunity to learn from mentors who write on a daily basis as a career. It was good for my students to see that there are different types of authors. Not all authors write books. I loved that it fostered an awareness of what was happening in the world today and still gave us a chance to talk about topics of historical significance. But mostly I loved that we were able to learn about so many different types of genres and we could use all that we already know about persuasive writing, narrative writing, and informational writing to create really great pieces.

Happy writing from my fifth grade to yours!

Monday, March 7, 2016

What Are You Reading? March Edition

Welcome to our March What Are You Reading? linky party. You are invited to join us by blogging about a book you are reading for the upper elementary classroom. It can be a book your students love, a professional book, an old favorite or a new must have. So what are you reading?

To link up with us, please write a short blog post about a book that includes our graphic and link back to this post. Happy Reading from Focused on Fifth!



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

An Inquiry-based Journalism Unit




Hi, this is Brandi, from The Research Based Classroom. One of the things I really love about teaching fifth grade is the opportunity to really integrate curriculum. I'm not sure if state reports are the norm in fifth grade everywhere, but at my school they sure are. So when I headed to fifth grade for the first time this year, I was already trying to think about how I wanted to do this a little differently. Last year our school book club read Study Driven by Katie Wood Ray and I knew that I wanted to turn my class state reports into more of an inquiry-based journalism unit. 

Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon.
If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. But you don't have to take my word for it....here is another recommendation. (Did that just sound Reading Rainbow-ish?) 

Back to the state report....think inquiry-based, study driven, real world writing models and mentor texts. Sounds like the components to a great writing workshop unit to me.


I started by gathering a collection of newspapers. I had no idea how much they would cost or how hard it would be to find them. I tried the grocery store...no. I tried a gas station....nope, not there either. I tried a truck stop....still no luck. Finally a Seven Eleven had them and they were $1.50 a piece! I had to run back to the car for a credit card, because I thought $7 could buy me 6 more papers. Who knew? 

After I had one paper for every 2 students, I allotted one writing period for them to go through the newspapers and make a list of the different types of writing they found. The came up with a fairly comprehensive list. 

The next day I gave each pair of writers a type of writing and the task of finding examples to determine what they could about how to write the assigned type of article. The students created small posters with the characteristics of each type of writing.






Once we had spent a couple of days discovering what newspaper writing looked and sounded like, we picked states and went over the requirements for their state newspapers. 

You can download my requirements by clicking on the picture.
You are almost caught up with us now. We took a look at several types of travel articles that I found for the state of Rhode Island. One talked about a single destination and the other was the top 10 destinations in the state. We read each of them together and used them to discover how to write a travel article. Then for homework my students went home to look up the possible destinations in their assigned state. Oh, how I wish for more technology at times like this. But when you don't have enough devices, you have to send it home sometimes. As my students came back to school the next day, they started writing their travel articles. About half are writing about a single destination and the others are writing an article about several possible places to visit in their state. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Next up....obituaries. I'm not completely sure how this entire unit is going to look or how the finished products will turn out, but stay tuned and we'll find out together. Watch for my next post here at Focused on Fifth by following us on Blog Lovin'.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Products for Payday Linky

Welcome to Focused on Fifth's Products for Payday linky. Once a month we'd like to show you some of our favorite products and how we use them in our classrooms.  If you would like to link up with us, please use our graphic above and link back to this post. Happy Payday! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Keeping it Simple: Bulletin Boards

Hi! It's Kim from Quinnessential Lessons. I am here to share my new approach to bulletin boards.

I think sometimes teachers are our own worst enemy. We go above and beyond in everything that we do. In return we can easily burn out. Like many of you,  I spend too much time on Pinterest looking for lessons, crafts, and bulletin boards that will inspire and amaze the students, parents and other teachers. The result - I am constantly half way through projects, trying to finish and hang them up before we are into the next season.

When I started teaching I would change my bulletin boards every..single..month! I am surprised I did not lose my mind.

I love having my bulletin boards covered with colorful displays of student work. What I don't love is having to change those bulletin boards or worse, I hate being embarrassed when I still have a halloween display up long after Thanksgiving.

This year I started taking a new approach - Keep it Simple!

I decided I would only change my boards a few times. The first was a typical Open House displays. These could have stayed up all year.


You can read more about this display here.

As the weather turned colder and we started our fraction unit, I looked for a quick and easy bulletin board idea that would take me through the winter.

I used this activity to review equivalent fractions with my students.

These adorable snowmen are from Krista Wallden at Creative Clips. You can get them free here.

In another month I will need to come up with a final spring bulletin board idea. One that will take me through the end of the year. 

How do you Keep It Simple with your bulletin boards? I would love for you to share your ideas.