Thursday, October 29, 2015

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. You can use the links below to see each of our products. Happy Payday!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sight Words Motivation System

Hello, all!  It's Angela from The Organized Plan Book.  I am here to chat with you about sight words.

Do you need motivation to get your kids learning their high-frequency words? You aren't alone.

This year is by far my biggest reading challenge I have had in my teaching career.  I teach a 5th/6th combo for students with special needs.  Of my nine students, four have dyslexia.  Eight are reading and writing significantly below grade level (I am talking some on a first/second grade level). Yikes.

Their difficulty reading causes them to just not be motivated to learn these words.  I will fully admit...I am still working through the process...trying to implement effective strategies for helping my kiddos.

But for now, I wanted to share the motivational strategy that is working well with my students this year.  Regardless of what level your students are working on, I believe this universal strategy would work well in most classrooms.

As I am sure many of you can students LOVE video games.  For sight word practice, I decided to create a prize system that has different levels to beat, much like a video game.  Here's how it works.

Each sight word list is broken down by grade level.  Within that grade, there are five different levels of words.  Students never receive more than 12 words at a time.  They are given their word list on a ring.

The word lists are specifically targeted to each student's ability level, and the children never know what level another student is learning.  This helps keep everyone differentiated and motivated.

The lists are kept in little pockets in the writing center.  Students know they can always grab their list throughout the day.
After taking this picture I realized it was essentially pointless because the students checked out their sight word rings for a writing assignment.  Then, I forgot to take an updated picture after they were all back in their spot.  My least you can drool over the one ring that is left in its pocket! :)

Next, I created my themed prize boards.  Students all begin at the bottom with level one, regardless of which sight word list they are working on.

When a child masters his or her list, that student receives the prize for that level, then proceeds to move up to the next level.  Once the entire class masters all five levels on the board, the entire class gets the grand prize for that motivation board.

For this movie themed board, the students will win a movie afternoon once the whole class masters all five levels on their list.
Three students have already mastered their Level One words, and have received the first prize.  

What are some ways you are motivating your students to learn their sight words?  Please leave a comment below!  I am anxiously looking for more ideas!

Monday, October 19, 2015

3 Math Games to Kick Start Learning

Hey friends!
It's Erin again, from Learning to be Awesome!  I'm excited to be back here again, today with a few great games to start your math programmes!

I'm all about the games, 'bout the games - no worksheets.  Cue the Meghan Trainor back ground music!  Here are my top three that I use all the time and my kids go nuts over them!

Have fun with these games!  Your students are seriously going to L.O.V.E. them!

What other games do you know that get your students having fun in math?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Adding Voice and Choice Through Book Clubs

My line of work's a little different from the others'. I teach pull-out reading and math to gifted fourth and fifth graders, which, I'll admit, is a pretty good gig.

My kids are voracious readers. Those basic skills? Handled. They (mostly) read fluently, visualize, connect (whether I want them to or not), and question the text, all on their own. They hypothesize and infer, all the good stuff.

So, I've got it made, right?


On the flip side, they are independent to the point of obstinate. Some crash through their reading like proverbial bulls in china shops, driven to be done first, even if it's not done well. Some are immovable objects, underachievers that do very well when they feel like it, but otherwise, not so much.

One thing I can promise you, though, is that every single one of them wants to be right, All. The. Time.  Picture Congress. Now make them ten. Put 22 of them in a classroom. Welcome to my world.

Your best students don't want to be told, they want to be guided. Voice and choice is a must when dealing with this group, and book clubs is a perfect place to provide that. In a heterogeneous classroom, your top group or two can do exactly what I do with my motley crew, create and maintain their own groups for book choice and discussion.

Mine is a two-year program, so the fifth graders come with experience in partnerships, which is what I do with my fourthies. They know what makes a partnership work and what makes one fail. I start by giving small groups chart paper to list those qualities:
Next day, we tape them to the board, where we group ideas together, then create some generalizations. Those generalizations become the standards which we'll evaluate during meetings. At this point, they're pretty simple: cooperation, being ready, staying on task, etc.

On the third day, I give the kids new chart paper, each with one of the standards. Their job is to write, on a scale of 1-4, with one being awful and four being awesome, what behaviors match each number. For example, how do I know someone has been very co-operative? Very uncooperative? It's easiest to start with the bookends and then fill in the other two. Focus on things that are measureable.
Once these are done, I type them up into a rubric. They require a little modification, but not much. In fact, I want to edit as little as possible, because this belongs to the kids, not me. It's kind of the point.  This is what they said is important to them, what will help them learn and grow.

Some are, of course, things I'd have put there if I'd done it on my own, but not all of it. I like how this group addressed those that don't want to give others' ideas a fair hearing. I wouldn't have come up with it. Here's the final product. It's a Google Doc, so if you click the pic, you can snag a copy of it as an example.
With a set standard of performance, and rings of questions that are specific to what I'm teaching through the books that were offered for choice, the groups more or less run themselves, and, better yet, I can get a grade for them. Each student gets a rubric to keep in his or her binder and a shorter rating sheet, so that I can get a week's worth of meetings (three, for us) on one piece of paper. Each kids grades him or herself and another member of the group. In our case, it's always the kid sitting to your left, that way we know everyone gets graded and there aren't any shady deals. I take the average of the two for a grade.

That's how book clubs work for my group of headstrong, opinionated, but, also funny and fun children. I hope you find this useful for yours!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October What Are You Reading?

Welcome to our first Focused on Fifth What Are You Reading? link up. We want to share what we're reading and we want to hear what you're reading. Whether it's a new read aloud for fifth grade, a great book for guided reading, a picture book you just found or one you use every year, a book that you recommended to a reluctant reader that he/she loved or a teacher book that you love, we want you to share it with us.  Here's what you do:

  1. Grab our What Are You Reading? graphic and put it at the top of your post.
  2. Write a short blog post about your book telling why you would recommend it.
  3. Grab the Focused on Fifth button on the side and place it at the bottom of your post. Don't forget to add the permalink for this month's What Are You Reading? You must link back here.
  4. And finally, just link up below.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Periscope Tips for Fifth Grade Teachers

   I wrote this blog post to help other 5th grade teachers understand the world of live streaming video and how to use this new social media platform for your own professional development and your classroom!  This week I will focus on how you can connect with other 5th grade teachers on periscope.  On my next blog post, I will show you fun techniques for using periscope in your teaching practice.

    Periscope is a social media app for iPhones and androids.  Through it you can broadcast live videos of yourself and your surroundings to the world!  While you are broadcasting your viewers can chat with you, and you can answer their questions live.

  I like to think of it as a live version of youtube!

      There are several ways fifth grade teachers can use Periscope!  The first and most obvious way is to connect with other fifth grade teachers!

    Have you ever wanted to spy into your coworkers' classrooms to steal or borrow ideas from them? We teachers are always trying to improve our craft.  I know if something will make my life easier, that I am likely to try it out in my classroom. Periscope has allowed me to peek into the best 5th grade classrooms in the world!  While watching, I can be a passive viewer and just snoop in on the teacher, or I can be an active participant and ask that teacher questions!

   Here are my favorite fifth grade teacher periscopers.

1. @thewhimsicalteacher
That's me, and yes I did just give myself a shameless shout out!

I am a 5th grade teacher periscoping at my local Walmart parking lot from my car everyday after school!  Sometimes I periscope on tpt business advice, sometimes I have a topic, and a lot of times, I'm just talking about the daily ups and downs of being a 5th grade teacher!  I focus on using humor and costumes in the classroom to increase student engagement!  I also discuss professional development and behavior management tips.

2. @hopeking

     Hope King is a 5th grade Reading and Science instructor at the world famous Ron Clark Academy.  When Hope scopes, I stop everything to listen because she provides her viewers with cutting edge tips for 5th grade. Most recently, I learned how to transform my 5th grade classroom into a scene from Jurassic Park in order to do a full day integrated cross curricular unit!  How often do you learn something like that in your professional development classes?

3. @miss5th 

      Miss 5th is a fifth grade teacher named Brittney living in Illinois.  She lives up to her name as she has the most organized 5th grade classroom I've ever witnessed!  Every time Miss 5th is on periscope, I run to get a pad of paper. I've incorporated a lot of her creative ideas into my classroom- including her unique take on morning meetings and her invention of Totally Awesome Tuesdays where kids give each other an awesome compliment to start the day off right!

4. @runitrunnels

    Andrea is a fiery redhead from Georgia who has an intense passion for all things social studies!  If you are interested in building your 5th grade social studies or science curriculum, I highly suggest adding Andrea to your list of 5th grade periscopers!!  She is a volcano full of explosive teaching ideas, and she's more than willing to chat with her viewers on how to increase excitement over nearly any topic in 5th grade!  I love that she hasn't done a scope of her classroom reveal yet because it's just not quite "perfect"~!  One peek into her interesting room, and you will be filled with ideas on how to improve your own room!

       5. @mrjfrizzle

    Josh is a first year 5th grade teacher in Nebraska.  It's a real hoot watching his scopes about the trials and tribulations of being a first year teacher.  He is so raw and emotion filled when discussing the challenges and delights of his first year teaching!  He's also a comic book enthusiast who really thinks outside the box on how to have fun with this unique age group.  My favorite part of his classroom is this weird wooden zebra/horse thing he has that the kids have to "feed" as a part of their classroom jobs!  We can all use a little zaniness from Josh in our lives!!

     Thanks for tuning in readers, and I hope you'll give periscope a chance someday and start connecting with these amazing 5th grade teachers!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Guided Reading. Guided Reading? Guided Reading!!!!!!???????

Focused on Fifth: Guided Reading

Hello, this is Brandi from The Research Based Classroom. I have been really excited about getting my guided reading groups up and running this year.  That is until I actually got them up and going.  Most of my guided reading years have been spent in first grade.  Visualize flipping through the books as the students are headed over to the guided reading table and being ready to go. Yep, ready that quick. One of the reasons I've been excited about fifth grade is the opportunity to read great literature and dig deeply into comprehension. I have been anticipating these great discussions for the past 5 months (ever since my principal agreed to this grade change). Then last week all of the sudden it's here and it's not so easy. Here are my top hurdles and how I'm trying to solve them:
  1. How do you read all of these books? It's a bit of a stretch, but I have six students in each group and I am able to have only four groups. There's one group with students at different reading levels, so I tried to find something in the middle. There's no way I could split them into 3 different groups of two students each. But even with only four groups, that's a lot of reading for me. I picked two books that I already know well from multiple readings with my own children. Then I picked only one that I have never read and one that I have read once before but it's been a while. I hope this helps me with being able to read quickly. I am also writing chapter by chapter summaries to help me in the future. I figure I can't start from scratch every year.
  2. How do you make the time spent in groups effective? I have only 15 - 20 minutes for each group meeting. My first meeting had way too many possible conversation points. I am going to narrow down the number of conversational topics for each book. The first thing I am doing is beginning our reading hour with a whole class comprehension mini-lesson. I'm using topics that apply to all of the books we are reading. Right now we are reading realistic fiction and my first lessons have been about theme and character. This not only gives topics for reading responses, but cuts down on the instructional time within our groups. My dream is to have students come to meet with me as a group after already thinking through how our whole class mini-lessons apply to their books.
  3. How do you keep students reading and writing about their books when you aren't meeting with them? With four groups, I should be able to meet with each group every other day. Very quickly at the end of each group meeting, my students are filling out a bookmark that tells their assignments for up until our next meeting. I already learned my lesson about asking them how many pages they wanted to read before we met again and I am now assigning the reading myself. (One group wanted to read 80 pages by the next day and I'm sure they would have accomplished it, however, I need to keep it reasonable for me too.) You can grab a copy of my bookmark below. On the days they don't meet with me, they are meeting as a group to discuss their reading and they are writing reading response letters to each other. These are going in a spiral notebook so I can quickly see that they are completing the assignment. Every other week I will have them write me a letter about the book and I can check them then. I am also assigning a reading response each week in their reading response notebooks that they will bring to our group time. The bookmarks will be turned in each meeting and a new one given out.
  1. Click on the picture to grab this from my google drive.
I've been told, "Brandi, it's too hard." and "Why do you think I don't do small group reading?" But I am not giving up. I am going to make this work well for me and my students. So please, please, please give me your best tips. And for now, I'm off to get some more reading time in.