Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State of the Union Bingo

I was excited to find and use this State of the Union Bingo!

It is free from the Constitution Center.  Students just fill out the card with words they think the President will use in his State of the Union Address.  Then as they watch it, they cross out the words they hear! 

They can, of course, watch it on TV.  OR there are multiple sites (and youtube) that have the coverage available online.  We then asked the students to write a reflection and had some great conversations today in class!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Independent Study

This weekend I spent a lot of time writing this packet....

Admittedly, it has been a while since I implemented a true passion-based independent study
(my experiences is with requiring a general topics in independent studies rather than limitless passion-based)
so most of my weekend was spent brushing up on best practice on independent studies before creating this 15 page packet of prompts and graphic organizers to support our students.  

The difficulty with an independent study is that people often misunderstand the level of teacher guidance and assistance that is required in helping the student(s) to make decisions regarding the content and final product of the project.  My experience has been that gifted students will amaze you with their abilities and creativity with an independents study... once they receive the guidance for choosing an appropriate and meaningful topic!  If their topic is meaningful (and their audience for their end product feels authentic to them) they will meet success with this! 

Because of this, I tried to keep the focus on this with requiring teacher check-ins throughout the independent study process with "STOP and conference with your teacher" signs on the necessary pages:

The Packet Includes: 
Page 1: Student Packet Cover Page
Page 2: About this Project
Page 3-6: Selecting A Topic of Study
Page 7-8: Planning Your Study/Asking Questions
Page 9-10: Independent Learning Contract
Page 11-14: Map Out Your Work Calendars
Page 15: Gather Information and Develop Product 

Selecting A Topic of Study:
Here is an example of page 3...
It provides questions and prompts to get them thinking about a topic.  
Then from there, it guides them in Planning Study/Asking Questions: narrowing their focus, identifying big ideas, and asking essential questions.

 After that they complete the Independent Learning Contract
 Here is an example of page 7:

The students write their goal for the study and their tentative final project (thing may change with the project as they move forward with their research), the teacher writes a goal for the student for the study program, and the teacher/parent/and student sign off on the goals.  
Note: I included the parent signature because I think that this is an important step because the parents must be well informed in the project is going to impact the student at home either with the amount of time they are committing to the project or any financial impact the project could pose.

Map Out Your Work: 
Next up comes mapping out their "game plan" for completing the project in the given time period.  
I have set our time period for the independent study to be 4 months.
The students complete four pages similar to above and move forward to 
Gathering Information and Developing Product.

Resources & Audience:
Once I set all my students up with this packet, a key role I will play will be supporting them with resources and facilitating an authentic audience for them to present their material.  The audience may not be just the other students, but may become more relevant to the topic chosen.  

Blogging & Collaboration:
I am also looking into an authentic and 21st century way to have the students share their progress and collaborate without physically meeting as a group (since their independent study will be occurring at different times of the day/week).  I am playing around with the idea of using or (private accounts) to have my students create a digital journal of their work.  Then in true grad-school-style, have the students make weekly meaningful comments on their peers' posts. 

 I would love to hear from anyone who has used blogging with their students or has any tips from their favorite way to do independent study!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fantasy Fiction Fanatics

My gifted and talented 3-5 students are 
smack in the middle of our 

Like many children and adults alike, my third through fifth graders have a high interest in fantasy series. This unit plays into that high interest and allows student to analyze the genre of fantasy as well as use their research to develop their own fantasy world.

So Far...
So far we have finished the research component of the unit (I'll tell you more about it below!) and I can't wait to see what they come up with for the fiction world development component! I already sense the buzz of excitement in the room about their writing.

First we brainstormed and presented information on each person's favorite book... 1. Then we did a webquest of the fantasy fiction genre. 
2. We watched and discussed a on Tolkien.

I prepped these 10 fantasy fiction task cards....

3. Students then completed the fantasy worlds stations...
The stations took approximately two class periods.  I was thrilled how much they enjoyed the task cards and the quality with which they analyzed the sites and completed their activity packets.  

 Luckily the task cards had both QR codes and URLs listed...because we ended up having limited iPad availability the day of the stations, (as you can see above). 

Up Next.... Let's Write!
The research component really helped them to get excited about the unit and to become informed about the genre! Understanding the intricacies of other works has been so important in helping them to understand what to develop in their own.  We haven't started the packet yet of planning characters, plot, languages, maps, fantasy creatures, etc. of their fantasy world....but they have been tossing around a lot 
of great ideas inspired y their literary favorites and our research.  

Final Project?
The project will be individualized by letting students develop portfolios of different products communicating their fantasy words.  Dictionaries of their imaginary language? Map of their fantasy world? Timelines? Character sketches? Plot diagrams? A few chapters? A whole short story? Can't wait to see what they come up with!  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tiny Scan Pro- My New Favorite App!

I am excited to share my FAVORITE app with you. 
It may be a bit pricey… but it is worth every penny of the $4.99. 
I bought it on my iPhone and my school purchased it on my iPad...
and it works equally as well on both devices!

As described on iTunes..
"TinyScan Pro - The little app that scans everything

* Scan documents, photos, receipts, or just about anything
* Lightning fast and gorgeously designed for both iPhone and iPad
* Batch mode combines multiple scans into a single PDF
*Share them by Email, Airprint, Dropbox, Evernote, Edmodo, Google Drive, or Wifi directly to your computer"

It's a pocket scanner! 

 I do use it every time the students have writing assignments.  Since I pass back student essays for them to make corrections, I scan the assignment  BEFORE passing it back. This allows me to maintain a digital file of students' independent writing abilities before they make my recommended changes. It also usually comes in handy since at least one student will lose the copy I gave them with all my editing marks on it.  This way I can quick print it out, send it to them digitally on Edmodo, or email it to their parents.

All Subjects:
Since our school is a BYOD school, I strive to create a digital copy of all work to be able to send to students via Edmodo. Using this app, I can turn any paper into a PDF file. It comes in handy especially when posting answer keys or sending miscellaneous items to parents and students. 

This app is also helpful for streamlining miscellaneous paperwork. I am able to quickly send forward paperwork to colleagues, administrators, consultants, and parents.  I am proud of my efficiency with this new app! Whether it is a student's tutor requesting a copy of writing samples from a student's portfolio, parent's requesting to see a copy of a student's test or essay that he/she keep forgetting to bring home, a consultant needing paperwork completed....I can complete all of those things in seconds without leaving my classroom to head to the office scanner!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Electoral College Review

Let's talk teaching
The Electoral College.

We teach the Presidential Election as part of our US Government Unit,
but many people only teach a mini unit or devote Election Day or President's Day to this topic in the younger grades. This activity works either way - as part of a unit or as a drop-in lesson!

(adapted for use with the app OR the website!)
{website is free and app is $.99}

along with a guided worksheet that challenges the student to apply their knowledge by tasks such as:
1. winning an election with 270 (with various challenges such as only small states and least number of states)
2. looking at and analyzing maps of famous historical elections
3. researching states' past election trends

We then finalize the activity with a discussion reflecting on the process 
and assessing pros and cons of the system.
And looking ahead to next week's test, I was excited to find this free
I still need to cut the review game cards...
But I wrote review questions on the back of the cards and will laminate and cut them tomorrow.

If the students get the question right, they earn the number of electoral college points from that card.
First student to 270 wins.

What do you do for electoral college? 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Appletastic Giveaway!

Have you visited Appletastic
For this awesome giveaway?

20 TpT products, a $50 TpT giftcard, and access to the ultimate video tutorial site.

My followers get extra entries....

Follow me here: 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Currently... 2015

I am linking up with Oh Boy 4th Grade for January 2015 Currently....

Listening:  Listening to songs on you tube to decide our wedding string quartet "playlist". I was never much of a "strings" person (played the saxophone growing up and like piano) ...but songs sound AWESOME on strings! Who knew?  I am searching popular "pop" songs on YouTube to ask our string quartet to play for the wedding ...and am getting excited about our picks!

Watch the video above if you wish.  You're welcome in advance. ;)

Needing: to finish planning two GT units for January. I planned out my lesson plans and units the old fashioned way (on notebook paper) during my vacation on the beach. I have two units in the works to teach in January/February...a language arts fiction writing unit for my grades 3-5 students and a STEM unit for my grades 6-7 students.  Look for more information on them later this month on my blog and TpT Store!

Wanting: our traditional Florida trip with the family was special ... I am wanting to go back!

Thinking: about and planning for all the exciting things coming up in 2015! {Professionally creating new units and lesson plans, working residentially as an academic dean for the summer at a college, weddings and trips in the spring and summer, and lots of special time with family and friends.} 

Loving: the new dress I rented from RtR for New Year's Eve! (We don't even have big plans.  I just love any excuse in to order RtR.)

A Wish: I have been working hard on growing my blog again and reconnecting with an online community of teachers (also through instagram and tpt) ...I hope and wish that this growth only continues in 2015!
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