Monday, September 28, 2015

Using quick writes in the classroom

Hello friends!
I'm Erin from Learning to be Awesome and I'm here today to be your Focused on Fifth blogger of the day!
Today I'm bringing you a quick way to start your writing programme, or a welcome addition to any part of your literacy programme!

Firstly - what is a quick write?
A quick write is a piece of writing that is students complete in about 5 minutes.  Students are encouraged to respond to a prompt or question posed by the teacher.
These prompts can be pictures, a quote, or even just a word.
Quick writes don't need to be planned, edited or published, and are simply there to build fluency in your writing programme.

How do I use quick writes?
Well I use them in a range of different ways.  Check out three below.

First - As an alternative activity for morning work.  Kids love it when you add in a bit of excitement to their day.  There's nothing more exciting than racing a clock to try and beat your personal best!

Second - I also use quick writes as a warm up activity before my targeted writing lesson of the day/week.  This gives students an opportunity to practice skills learnt in previous lessons.  Often I will target my quick writes so that my students can practice specific skills.

Third - Quick writes are a great way to monitor your students thinking.  Check in with their creative thinking using question stems that require them to think inventively.  How about getting students to think critically by posing a difficult question.

My favourite way of using quick writes with my students is by using thinkers keys.  These are a combination of 20 different writing prompts that are directly related to critical and creative thinking skills.  My student's love the A-Z list one. This is a great prompt to use in cooperative groups! Students have to come up with a list relating to a topic starting with each letter of the alphabet.

Want to try thinkers keys in your class?  Grab yourself a freebie below and see how you like them!
 Fall themed Thinkers Keys FREEBIE - On Teachers Pay Teachers
Click here to head to Teachers Pay Teachers and grab the freebie!

So what are you waiting for?  Give quick writes a try this week in your class! 5 minutes isn't too long to take out of your class, but the rewards could be huge!

Have you used quick writes before?  Tell me how you use them in your class!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's My Number?

Hi! I'm Kim for Quinnessential Lessons. I am here to share a game I play with my students that improves their number sense and allows for time to practice reading multi-digit numbers.

Every September I make it a point to start off the year by making sure that my students can read a multi-digit number correctly. You would think by 5th grade that this would not be an issue. But it is. It's not just an issue for 5th graders. Watch the news on any given night and you can hear a news anchor read a number incorrectly. The most common mistake in reading a multi-digit number - saying "and".  How many times have you heard someone say "one hundred and one" for the number 101? It drives me crazy!!! (By the way, 101 is read "one hundred one")

I work hard to get my students to understand that you only say "and" when you come to a decimal point as in one hundred and one tenth (100.1) or one hundred and one hundredth (100.01).

My favorite way to practice this concept is by playing "What's My Number?"

What's My Number? is a fun game that teaches number sense and allows the students to practice reading a multi-digit number.

Here's how it works: Each student gets a game sheet. The teacher rolls a ten sided die and calls out the number. The students must then write the number on one of the nine lines. Once the number is placed it can't be erased/moved. The teacher continues rolling and calling out the numbers. The object of the game is to create the largest number. This is where the strategy/number sense comes in. Most know they should put the 8's and 9's as far left as possible and the 1's and 2's on the right. But what about the 4's and 5's? It is great to see how their strategies change the more we play. When all nine numbers have been called, the students check their number with the other students in their group. Whoever has the largest number stands up. The teacher then asks one of the students standing to read their number. (I usually also write the number on the board.) If the number is larger than the number held by the others who are standing, those students sit down. It someone has I  higher number they remain standing and read their number. Continue until the student with the highest number is discovered. Remember - to win, the student must read the number correctly - no ANDS!

I love this game because it can be easily modified. You can use a six-sided die or only use six lines. This week I changed it up and had the students create a game board in their notebook. It looked like this.

For each round the students just drew nine more dashes. Reading the numbers proved to be challenging to some but after a few rounds I began to see               

Would you like a copy of my "What's My Number?" game board? You can get it for free here.

Do you have any games you use to help your students with number sense and/or place value? I would love to hear about them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Managing Behaviors with Mood Mists

Hey guys, it's Angela from The Organized Plan Book.  I am here to talk about a quick little behavior management strategy I implemented in my classroom this year.  For those of you who follow my blog, you may know that I began implementing essential oils into my classroom last school year.  The initial purpose of the oils was to use them in a room diffuser to combat smells and purify the air.  However, after learning about the ways these powerful oils can impact behaviors..."mood mists" were born!

These mood mists are super easy to create, but pack a pretty powerful punch in terms of motivating my students and managing classroom behaviors.  I use these "magical" little mood mists when my kiddos are needing some motivation or help calming their bodies.

To create these, I first identified which behaviors I needed to take control of the most...the ones where I really need to do a little something special to help engage my kiddos.

  • Focus Potion:  I like to spray this mist when my students are studying for a test or quiz...then I spray this same spray during their exam.  This helps students to make the association between the two events, thus encouraging them to recall the information they need.
  • Smarty Spray:  This is used for when the students are feeling frustrated, especially when we are covering a topic that is challenging.  A few squirts of smarty spray will work wonders for powering up those brains!
  • Energy Booster:  Everyone needs this on a Monday morning, am I right?
  • Relaxing Rain:  Hellooooo Friday afternoons.  I also use this little gem after recess and before/after holiday breaks.
I purchased the little travel bottles from Target for around $1.00 each.  I selected the clear containers, but there were other color options to choose from as well.  The green basket was from a dollar store.

After researching some oils, I chose the ones that were the most universal for affecting moods.  For this batch of sprays I used lavender, lemon, and peppermint.  However, I intend to change out these oils once this batch runs dry, just to keep it fresh and exciting for the students.

Simply add distilled water, and 6-8 drops of your essential oils.  Swirl gently...and voila!  Mood Mists!

If you are interested in learning out more on which oils might be best for your classroom, take a look at the cheat sheet I made below.  

Well, that's a wrap for me!  Hope this little tip helps!  Please feel free to leave comments below if you have any questions.  I'd love to know some strategies you use to keep your student behaviors in check.

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Effective Writing Partners

Hi, this is Brandi from The Research Based Classroom.  It's still early in my school year, so I'm continually looking for ways to help set our classroom routine. Setting up good routines is especially important for writing workshop.  I am using Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for fifth grade and we are almost finished with the second bend of the unit in narrative writing. One of the most important things I want to get set up right now is my writing partnerships. I also want to get my students trained in how to respond to each other during their partner conferences. A good writing partner can really help an author work through their ideas, so training students to be effective partners now will help each author as we move through the year.

I spent a lot of time trying to find students that will work well together before I set up my writing partnerships. I took an on-demand writing assessment from the second day of school and divided my authors into 3 categories: above grade level, at grade level, and below grade level. Then I set my partnerships so that each reluctant writer is paired with another writer who is at grade. I want these partnerships to last for the year, so I really looked for personalities that will work well together. I assigned each writer in the partnership as either partner one or partner two. That way on days when I don't have enough time for both partners to share, I can assign one partner and then have the other partner share the next day

I am also spending time helping students learn how to be effective partners. From listing questions you should ask your partner on the board to demonstrating a partner share with everyone gathered around in a fish bowl, I'm trying to help my students learn to help one another.  This week I created an anchor chart from a mini-lesson that students can keep in their writing folders. Students can use it during a partner share to help them remember how they can be an effective partner. I want my students to give a lot better feedback than just saying, "It's great." Authors needs specific feedback to help them see things they can recreate in another writing piece or advice that helps them refine and revise their ideas. You can download the student version of this anchor chart by clicking on the picture below:

This is just a start in the right direction when it comes to teaching students to be better partners. We will undoubtably talk about this a lot during the year. I hope your young authors are learning how to support one another too.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Welcome to Focused on Fifth

Focused on Fifth? Yes, you read that right. This blog is going to be all about fifth grade and we are so excited to be going live. This blog is written for fifth grade teachers by fifth grade teachers and we will be focusing on everything about fifth grade. From ELA and math to technology and classroom management, we'll be looking at targeted teaching practices for the fifth grade teacher. Take a look at all of the great teacher bloggers who will be collaborating here on Focused on Fifth:

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