Social Studies Poetry Slam

Earlier this month I wrote about setting my students up for success. We were studying Cortes and Montezuma. The idea was to give students the information so that they could synthesize, analyze, and collaboratively create a writing to be performed in a poetry slam style. Many of the students turned the assignment into a rap – which is fine with me. The idea, after all, was to understand the information. The outcome…Success! Here’s one example – viewpoint: Montezuma

Make It Ourselves!

We have been working on division with and without decimals. To help my students gain experience with the computation, I found a game (Four in a Row) in Georgia Math. They enjoy the game, but you always have those few who get board because it’s too easy. And yes, I had some of those. However, these 3 boys didn’t complain. Instead, they asked if they could make their own.


Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 5.22.42 PM
Credit: J-Jey, Julian, and Adan

The boys chose the numbers and did the division to fill in the boxes with the quotient. This week, the rest of the class was able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It was a hit.

Now, this same group has decided to recreate another game. It was a multiplication board game, also found in Georgia Math. They are pretty excited.

Why was this so important? First of all, we talk about differentiation but aren’t alway great at it. This allowed my more proficient students to be challenged yet work on the same goals as the rest of the class. Secondly, and more importantly, my students took control over their learning and thought of a way to challenge themselves. What a powerful lesson for all.


State Reports – 21st Century Style

Today – more accurately starting last week – I feel like a genius. I know that will all change by Wednesday. Actually, that feeling started to change this afternoon when someone thought Canada was a state.

State Reports in 5th Grade

We all do them, students for decades have done them. Little has changed. Students get an outline of what is expected, they write, roughly, a 10 page paper on a state, and the teacher must read all reports. I HATE it! I don’t want to read 47 state reports – I teach 2 classes of Social Studies this year. They are painful to read. They are formulaic – partly the fault of the teacher (yes, I know that would be me). And they are BORING!

Time for a change!

So this year, I’m challenging my students. Their reports will be on a Google Map that they create. They will still have to research all the same information, but the presentation will be different. For example, the directions state that they are to find the state capital (of their state) and mark it with a yellow star. Then they are to find other major cities and mark them with an orange star. The students are then free to insert photos of those cities to further enhance their map. Their maps will look something like this:

Below are the complete directions. Like I said, I feel like a genius today, but by Wednesday, it’ll be a different story. And in the end, I will compile all their maps into 1 map using Thinklink. In addition, I even allowed students to work with a partner. Yup, different from the norm!

How did the students react?

They LOVED it. They couldn’t wait to get started. I have a few email me questions already. When was the last time that happened with a written report? They were so excited. I just need make sure they stay focused and write the necessary paragraphs.

Minor issue

It has been a while since we’ve used Maps, and many of the students had questions about some of the specifics. Fortunately for us, the Techie Chicks are in our classroom. And they have a tutorial on how to create a custom map!

The future

I’m sure there will be tweaking along the way. The students will feel free to give me input, and even come up with better ideas. I’ll keep everyone posted. I’m really excited about this.

1 Week Later

Here’s an update.

Science Camp

Every year the 5th graders attend Science Camp at a local park, and the teachers each choose a station to teach – over and over and over, 8 times over 2 days. So keeping it fun for you, and the students is important. Okay, really keeping myself entertained was my primary goal. My partner teacher and I taught about solute, solvent, and solutions via bubbles.

Sounds fun right, the kids got to make a bubbles solution and be ‘mad scientists’ experimenting with what made the best bubble solution for them. In the process, the students made ‘bubble wands’ out of pipe cleaners. And in the name of keeping myself entertained, and seeing exactly what I could make kids do, I made them repeat after me – before creating their wands – “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Yeah, nothing to do with science, but totally fun to do. I was impressed that a few students could ‘Name That Movie’.

Then there was some ADHD moment early on when we talked about separating water and salt which led to a tale of Gilligan’s Island. So I went into a whole shpeil about this show just to say that if you boil salt water the result will be salt (as the water evaporates). Yeah, I had a good time. Hope other did as well!

Techie Chicks Chrome Extension

My students think BIG! I have a group of 5th grade girls that created a website. I know you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, so what? Lots of kids create websites.” And you’re right – which is totally rockin’! But do they have a Chrome Extension in the Chrome Webstore? Mine do.

Techie Chicks ExtensionBackground

I do Genius Hour in my class each Friday. In the beginning of the year, a group of girls decided to do a website with tutorials. They named themselves ‘Techie Chicks’, inspired, in part, by this blog ‘NowaTechie’. Each week they decide what they would like to show the world how to do something techie. So far they have focused on a variety of tools. They have also become ‘known’ at my school. It’s not uncommon for teachers (and sometimes the Principal) to call asking for a Techie Chick or two for tech support.

Chrome Extension

One week Sabi asked if there was an easy way for others to get to their website. I said to bookmark it. She was not having that. I told her that we already set up a for the site. You guessed it, still wasn’t good enough for her. Then she asked, “No, can we have an Extension or something?” See, they think big and don’t settle for less than what they’ve imagined. A week or so prior to Sabi’s insistence, I read how Alice Keeler got an extension for her website via fiverr. So that Friday during Genius Hour, we sent off their order.

By Monday they had their own Chrome Extension in the Chrome Store. We were all pretty excited. And now my students are officially WAAAAY cooler than me.

Side Note

Flynntes was great to work with. Advertised the product would take 7 days, had it in 4 days. The ‘Enter Site’ image was all Flynntes. It was a great experience!

Spring Cleaning

The things you find when you start cleaning house. This weekend I had had enough of my desk, in my home office. It was getting out of control! As I was sifting through everything, I ran across an article about something I started in October of 2008. I was ‘Skyping’ in the classroom before it was trendy.

I had to reread the article to remind myself of some of the details. The basics were that another teacher in the district (at another site) and I video chatted – well, our students did. I had gone to a meeting at our county office of education and gotten the idea from something I had seen there. We used Apple products – what our district invested in at the time – and iChat to communicate. We began with a closed network.

We had a great time that year. We began by focusing on speaking and listening skills, as many of our students were second language learners. We ‘met’ most Wednesdays to talk and share. At the end of the year, we met at a local non-profit art gallery. They were kind enough to let us use their backyard space for a picnic and gathering.

I love when spring cleaning results in such a treasure!

After-School Tutoring

The last few days, I’ve had students contacting me, at home online, to help them with their math homework. The first time, the student contacted me via email and we had a series of emails going back and forth. In class the next day, I mentioned how a student contacted me for help and how awesome that was.

The next day, I received a chat invite via Google Hangouts on my personal GMail account. My students know what the email is, but never (until now) use it. It’s used for web tools sites. She choose to contact me on this account as our district has disabled chat on the student domain. Here is a portion of our conversation:

How #awesomesauce is that? Next, I’m secretly (well not so secretly now) hoping that someone will figure out how to do the video chats and we’ll do a study group hangout.

This is what makes my job so awesome!