Monday, November 30, 2015

Unwrapping Classroom Holiday Ideas: Celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas

All of us here on Focused on Fifth are excited to announce our Unwrapping Classroom Holiday Ideas event. For the next 12 days we will be linking up with some great teacher bloggers to share some of our favorite holiday ideas. We will be blogging about everything from reading to math and from classroom management to gift ideas. You're sure to find something for your classroom to help make December a magical, fun-filled educational month. We hope you'll come back each day as we blog about a new topic. You can follow us on Blog Lovin' to get our new posts in your daily feed.

Happy Holidays from Focused on Fifth!
* The links to each day will go live at 12:00 AM EST on the scheduled day.

Are you a teacher blogger? Do you have a post that you would like to share? For those who would like to link up with us to share even more ideas, please use the daily images found on each of our posts. You will also need to grab the Focused on Fifth blog button and put it at the bottom of your post with a link back to this post. If you would like to put the inlinkz code on your blog as well, please email us at and we will send you what you need.

Sunday, November 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. This month is even better because payday coincides with a HUGE TpT sale. All of our products will be 28% off on Monday, November 30 and Tuesday, December 1 with the code SMILE. 

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Loving Bloomz!

Have you heard of Bloomz? It's an app that has changed my life as a teacher. I started hearing about Bloomz over the summer. It seemed to be all over Facebook. It claimed to be a safe way to stay connect with parents through updates, texts, and e-mails without giving out you cell phone number. Several teachers who had used it the year before had been raving about it. I have to admit I was skeptical. I think my biggest concerns were that the parents would think that they could contact me 24/7 or that I would have that "one parent" who was constantly texting me about one thing or another. Well I am happy to say that none of that has happened. In fact, I am loving the close/immediate contact I have with these parents. I have about 1/3 of my parents that took part in being connected through Bloomz.

The way it works: I downloaded the app and set up a class. I then sent out letters to all my parents asking if they wanted to join. If they were interested I sent them an invite via e-mail. The invite contained an unique code for them to use that would connect them to the class. Once connected they could see all my posts and text me through the app.

My absolute favorite feature to the app is that it will translate the posts into almost any language. This is huge for me. I teach in a school with a high ELL population. Being able to send out a text or update and know that the recipient  will be able to read and understand it is priceless. The other great great thing about Bloomz is that you don't need to have a smartphone to stay connected. Parents can sign up to get e-mail updates of any posts.

Check out the overview below.

I highly recommend this app as a way to stay connected with your parents. The parents that have taken the leap of faith with me on this journey are thrilled with Bloomz.

I have report card conference in a few weeks and I am hoping to get a lot more parents on board.

Have you used Bloomz? I would love to hear about your experience with the it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Expecting "A+ Work" in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Hello! It's Myranda from Keep Calm and Teach 5th Grade! I hope that I'm not alone when I admit that it can be downright painful to get some of my 5th graders to produce QUALITY work! Do you suffer from the same problem? It has taken me some time to find out what works but I have some tips to share with you so that you don't have to struggle as much as I have!

First, why do students turn in low-quality work?
  • Work avoidance. They don't want to do it so they fly through it as fast as they can just to get it over with.
  • Lack of explicit expectations. Does the student truly know what is expected of him or her? How clear have the expectations been made to the student?
  • Reward. What does the student get to to do afterward? Is a more desirable activity on the table?
  • Lack of confidence. The student believes the he or she cannot do it and then manifests that in his or her work.
Why is rushed, sloppy work a big deal?
  • Undermines responsibility in students
  • Doesn't promote college readiness
  • Fails to provide a strong work ethic in children 
So, what can be done about it?
  • Start an A+ work club! 
    • I have a "Frindle Club" in my classroom. Students who produce neat work demonstrating their best effort the 1st time (on a consistent basis) get to decorate their name and put it up on the wall under the club banner. Then, they get to use fancy pens of their choosing on any assignment other than math. They get super excited about this and it encourages other kids to step it up a notch to make it into the club.
  • Give students a tangible reward. 
    • Now, this may go against some people's beliefs regarding intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation but this will give you the results that you want. Do you do interactive notebooks or any yearlong assignment? Offer $20 to the kid who has the best product at the end of the year. Or perhaps an ice cream party for the group with the best work.
  • Provide choice in assignments. 
    • This will alleviate frustration and give kids assignments that they want to do. They won't rush through stuff that they're genuinely interested in as much as they'll tend to rush through mundane work.
  • Build confidence. 
    • This is the most important one, in my opinion! Some students think that their peers have better work the first time around because their peers are smarter than they are. I spend a lot of time driving home that it's not about intelligence. It's about effort! Make sure they know, time and time again, that effort is what makes the difference! Anyone can put in effort. I tell them very honestly that they're choosing not to put in the work but that they're more than capable of doing so!
  • Create anchor charts.
    • Make very detailed, explicit anchor charts showing what you expect their work to look like. Refer back to this anchor chart any time students fail to meet your expectations or need a reminder. Keep examples of past assignments by your students to show them what they're capable of shooting for when you start new projects. Show them the standard!
  • Hand work back to the students.
    • Here's the hardest one. It can be hard to give work back to be redone when you're trying to push through so much content so rapidly. There's so much to do every single day! However, you are doing them a disservice by not requiring them to redo their work. If you allow it to pass, it will continue to happen. Don't accept less than your students are capable of giving you! 
So, what tips do you have for getting A+ work the first time! Share them with us below!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cornucopia of Teacher Tips

The bloggers here on Focused on Fifth are teaming up for a great blog hop. Our "Cornucopia of Teacher Tips" is full of great tips for your classroom. You can start the hop at any of our blogs, just click on one below and Happy Thanksgiving from Focused on Fifth!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Revolutionary Heroes and Heroines: Integrating Art

Hi, this is Brandi from The Research Based Classroom. I'm sure your day is just as packed as mine is. There's so much to teach and so little time to teach. That's why anything that can be integrated just makes sense. I have to admit that integrating has actually been a little more difficult for me this year. Maybe integration in education is a higher level planning skill. Right now I am so focused on what I have to teach, that I'm not spending enough time on how I can teach it. But I was forced into thinking about this a little more this past week. Our district visual arts specialist was coming around to observe an integrated art lesson. As a grade level team we had already come up with some ideas for integrating the arts into our curriculum, but none of those ideas fit into what I'm teaching right now. So I started trying to find something that would. I'm pretty much on the road to rebellion in social studies and I just bought this really great book. I have been really excited about this book and it hit me while I thumbing through it the other day that we could do something with portraits and quotes from the Revolutionary War figures we were learning about.

Click on the book cover to go to Amazon.

Once I had decided on portraits for the art lesson, I went looking for some tutorials on drawing portraits. I was thinking that some face proportion help was what I needed, But then I found this portrait lesson on Deep Space Sparkle. I loved the way her student's Modigliani inspired portraits came out. So I decided to try oil pastel portraits of Revolutionary War heroes and heroines. I created a PowerPoint to help us get started. On the first page I put a handful of Modigliani portraits that we looked at together and started creating a list of characteristics of his work. Then we picked a hero or heroine from the Revolutionary War to draw. Everyone had a picture of the person they chose and we went to work. We drew with black oil pastels on black construction paper. After we finished coloring in everything, we went back and traced over all of the black lines once again to make everything stand out. I absolutely love how these came out.

Right now the pictures are all hanging in the hallway and my students have made name tags for each one. My next stop on this road to rebellion will be adding short biographies telling about the extraordinary things each of these heroes and heroines did during the war and maybe we will even add some quotes among the artwork. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

5 Winter-Themed Science Experiments (Using only Household Materials)

Hi, friends.  It's Angela from The Organized Plan Book.  'Tis the season.

It is only a matter of time before our students start gearing up for their winter breaks.

These festive times bring equally festive personalities.  You all know what I am talking about.  The few days before a break, we teachers are not exactly getting the best writing out of our students.

And, well, can you blame them?  These guys deserve a nice mental break (and so do you, teacher friend)!

Nonetheless, a huge trigger of mine is when teachers just let go of learning altogether.  There is no need for that (insert undesirable student behaviors here).

So, to solve the itch for festive fun this time of year, I pulled together a short list of science experiments you can easily implement in your classroom this season.

My favorite part of this list?  Every experiment can be completed using household materials you already have on hand!

1. The Chemistry of Salt and Ice 
Teach your students about chemical reactions.  This little experiment helps kids understand why salt is placed on icy roads.

Image Source: Kitchen Pantry Scientist

2. Frozen Bubbles Experiment
Help your students learn about weather conditions and their effects on states of matter.  This one is truly fascinating!
Frozen Bubbles ~ Winter science experiment.  Lots of tips and tricks for how to create frozen bubbles.
Image Source: Housing a Forest

3. Dissolving Candy Canes
This fun activity explores chemical reactions by observing which material and/or condition dissolves candy canes the fastest.
How to Do a Candy Cane Experiment with Kids
Image Source: Lemon Lime Adventures

4. Dancing Candy Canes
In this experiment, baking soda and vinegar react with one another causing gas bubbles.  These gas bubbles pull the candy cane bits to the top of the liquid.  When the gas bubbles pop, the candy pieces sink back to the bottom.
Dancing Candy Canes - Day 18 of our Christmas Science Advent Calendar
Image Source: Inspiration Laboratories

5. Growing Ice
This activity is used to show how frozen water expands.  Water molecules attract one another and stick.  When the temperatures are cold enough, the molecules have less flexibility to move, therefore expanding and taking up more space.  Students will be amazed as their mini icebergs grow instantly.
Ice Science: Making Ice Grow by Teach Preschool
Image Source: Teach Preschool

Looking to kick start your experiments?  Click on the image below to download your own scientific method spinner for students to record their answers.

Happy experimenting my friends!

Monday, November 9, 2015

November What Are You Reading?

Welcome to our November edition of "What Are You Reading?" We would love to have you link up to tell us about what you're reading. It can be a read aloud, a great book for students, a picture book, a teacher book, or your favorite book. Choose whatever book you'd like to share with a bunch of fifth grade teachers and link up with us because we would love to hear what you're reading.

 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.
Hope your month is full of great books!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Managing Center/Stations in the Classroom

Hi, Melissa here from Melissa's Teacher Mall. It’s about time to change those things in the classroom that just aren’t working. I am always looking for ways to improve and make things easier. I have used this method for 9 years. Give it a try, it just might work for you!

So let’s take a look at centers!

I want everyone to know what to do. Wasting time to rotate through centers is not an option.

I have 10 centers:
Reading Skills – Cause/Effect, Main Idea, Etc.
Word Work
Figurative Language
Greek and Latin
Common Core – things not covered in our Reading Program
Amazing Words - from our Reading Series
Vocabulary - from our Reading Series
Showdown – task cards with long paragraphs for fluency
Games – board games and task cards

The 11th center is Read a Book, it is during this time that I pull groups for small group instruction. Just look at the chart and pull a group that is scheduled for “Read a Book”.

Here's a peek at how the Rotation Chart works.

 2 Center Groups equal one Reading Group. Group A and B is one Reading Group.

* I use the dots on the "Student Groups" to differentiate the recording sheets or center materials.

* I print the center materials or recording sheets on colored paper to help the students find what they should be working on.

* Use a pocket chart and the free center cards from my TpT store and you are ready to go

If you have a short week, you can rotate thru 4 days or 3 days.

Sometimes I pull out Games and Showdown and move Common Core to the Showdown spot.

Sometimes I have the whole class work on book reports during short weeks.

Sometimes we have fun days and do Games and Showdown every day of the short week.

Don't forget to pick up your free Center Rotation Cards HERE

Thanks and Good Luck