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. 



Monday, February 8, 2016

February's What Are You Reading?

Welcome to our February 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!




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

15 Tips for Staying Positive all School Year


Hi there.  It's Angela from The Organized Plan Book.  

Well, dear teacher friends...it is already the end of January.  We have (shockingly) moved through half of the school year...but let's face it, it's super easy for us to get caught up in a winter funk.

But hold on...you can't!  You're a teacher.  You have a responsibility to those kiddos.


That's right, you are the decisive element in your classroom.  You are responsible for keeping it all together.  Don't let the winter blues get ya' down.  Check out my 15 strategies for keeping it positive all year long.

1. Stay away from the faculty lounge.
But you knew this one already, of course...

2. Stay away from negative people (especially those who don't enjoy their jobs).
Negative people will suck you dry.  Not just those within our own industry...but anyone who has a negative attitude can bring the happiest of humans down.  Just plain ol' walk away.  Nobody's got time for complaining

3. Sign up for daily inspirational quotes.
A quick search in your Smartphone's app store will turn up some excellent free apps where you can receive motivational quotes.

4. Take a brain break.
These aren't just for the kids ya' know?  Do some quick yoga stretches, take part in the GoNoodle fun with your students, jog in place.  Just give that brain a rest.

5. Listen to music.
I have music playing about 90% of my school day.  I choose appropriate music based on whatever activity we are doing.

6. Draw.
Find a minute to release the frustration by tapping into your creative side.  Adult coloring books are all the rage right now.

7. Go for a walk.
Similar to the brain break, your body needs time to just unwind.  Go for a walk...even if it is just down the hallway.

8. Create small goals.
Celebrate the small goals that will lead you to a larger one.  "Hey, I made it through Wednesday...only two more days of the week left."

9. Create an inspirational quote wall.
You can make this fun and get the students involved also.  They can add to the wall, and you can choose to change it up as much or as little as you would want.

10. Make your classroom comfortable and bright.
You spend so many hours in the classroom...make it a place you want to be.  Choose soothing colors, don't clutter up the space, bring in plants, perhaps turn off the overhead lights and utilize only the daylight in your room.

11. Keep a daily log of things that make you happy.
You can have the students do this as well.  This is a terrific way to kick off your morning and ease into the day...or as an end of the day reflection to help yourself and the students unwind.

12. Keep a mood board in your classroom.
Near my desk I have a french bulletin board that includes pictures of my family, vibrant colors, inspirational quotes, and other misc. things that make me feel good each time I glance at the board.  Like the Sound of Music, "I just simply remember my favorite things...and then I don't feel so bad."  Yep.

13. Utilize essential oils in the classroom.
I have talked about my love for essential oils in the classroom a number of times.  You can can check out my post on how these oils are impacting my students' performance and how I create mood mists in my classroom by clicking the images below.





15. Search for funny memes.
Just a simple Google search or browse through Pinterest for a witty, little meme can have you feeling lighter.  Am I right?
But if you have another one, now you'll know what to do.
Via Troll.me
And that's it, my friends.  15 simple strategies you can use to help you get through your mid-year rut!  Got some more suggestions?  Leave your comments below!

As always, happy teaching!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Order of Operations Hopscotch!

Hi, it's Kim from Quinnessential Lessons. I want to share with you one of the ways I get my students moving in math class. It's so important to get students up and moving while learning. You can't dispute the research out there. Kids learn better if they are up and moving/doing vs. sitting still and watching.

I try and incorporate movement into my lessons whenever I can. Sometimes I am more successful than others. Order of Operations Hopscotch is a keeper!

I can't remember where I got the idea but once I read about it, I knew I had to try it. I have been doing it ever since.

After teaching the students order of operations, we go outside and create order of operations hopscotch games. I break up the class into groups of 3 or 4. Each group is given sidewalk chalk to create their own hopscotch board. 
The students then take turns playing hopscotch. As they work their way through the game, they must say the steps as they hop - "Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication and Division left to right, Addition and Subtraction left to right."
This is a great way to reinforce the fact that there are 4 steps in the order of operations NOT 6. 

How do you get your students up and moving during lessons? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Three things having a student teacher taught me


Hey friends!

It's Erin from Learning to be Awesome here!  I'm going to share with you some things that I learnt about myself and my teaching after having a student teacher last year!

My student teacher was awesome.  Her enthusiasm and drive were so motivating - especially on those days when I was feeling not the best.  Great news too - she landed her first teaching job after only two interviews!  Read on to hear the three things that having her in my room for two months taught me!


Having a student teacher taught me to be flexible.  
As teachers we are flexible by nature.  It goes with the territory.  But the kind of flexibility I'm talking about is different.  I'm talking about being flexible in how my class looked!  In how it sounded, and how the programme ran.  There is so much you can learn when someone is able to experiment with your space - knowing that there is someone there to catch them if they fall.  
For the first 3 weeks life in my class was very much "Monkey See-Monkey Do" but once I gave the reigns over to her - WOW did I see her flourish.  And the kids were so engaged.  They asked about "Miss S" right up to the last day of school.


Having a student teacher taught me to be reflective.  
Again - it's the nature of the job!  We are constantly reflecting on our programmes and modifying to suit.  I was forced to REALLY examine WHY I do things the way I do when she was in my room. When you have to explain WHY you have silent reading after break time, it makes to contemplate whether changes need to be made.


Having a student teacher taught me to have clarity.  
Once you have to explain things to a student teacher to help them with their teaching, it really helps the students in your class!  They are more clear on the learning because you have had to be clear with your student teacher.  One way to have clarity in your teaching is to develop shared success criteria with your students.  
This really is a universal thing too.  For Example: if you are teaching students to add two fractions together, one sure fire way to be sure your students understand is to get them to develop criteria that they can refer to when checking for understanding.  This criteria could be steps they go through (great in maths and science), or more liberal such as a list of things a poster presentation must include (more suited to social studies and ELA).

Have you had a student teacher before?  What are some of the things they have taught you?



Monday, January 11, 2016

January What Are You Reading?

Welcome to our January 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!