Friday Art Feature: Name Spheres and 3D Pencil Crayons

27 September 2013
It's my first "Friday Art Feature" of the year!  :)

I LOVE teaching art, and I LOVE displaying my students' artwork in the classroom - it adds such a personal touch.  This year I'm trying something new with our art display.  I changed bulletin boards for our art, and I now have a HUGE bulletin board for our display.   For our first finished art, I displayed all 28 pieces.  When it came time to post our second pieces, I took all but 3 down (the top row) and displayed all new pieces under that.  When it comes time to complete and post our third piece, I will leave the first row up (our name spheres), the second row up (our 3D pencil crayons), and post our third piece on the third row and below, and so on.  This way, a sample of all our art will be on display.  I will take it all down at the end of our first term, and start over again for second term.  

For our first art projects of the year, I always like to do some sort of name art.  For this project, I gave each student a piece of 8.5 x 11 white paper, with a circle already drawn on it.  They had to write their names in block or bubble letters, filling the circle as completely as they could.  Each letter had to touch the top and bottom of the circle, as well as the letters beside it.  Once students had written their names, they got to color the letters any way they wished (most went for the rainbow theme).  Students then cut out their names and glued them to a piece of black construction paper (9 x 12).

We are just finishing up our second art projects of the year right now (about half of my students had them completed by the end of the week).  For this one, we looked at lines, shading, and color to create the illusion of 3D pencil crayons.  Students started with a focal point and then had to draw an even number of lines coming out of the focal point (with even spaces between the lines).  They then drew a larger circle around the focal point, and curved lines just a little further down.
They then had to shade between the lines (we used pencil crayons for the shading).  Heavy pressure on the outside of each "cone" (making the shadow for the 3D effect), medium pressure moving in from there, and the lightest pressure down the middle of each cone.  Students had to use a different color for each cone (pencil crayon), with the same color repeated in the middle of each cone (representing the wood part of the pencil crayon.  Most of the students opted to outline their cones with a fine tip black sharpie when they were done.

You can take a peek at my full lesson for this Pencil Crayon Op-Art here.  The lesson includes a full PDF as well as PowerPoint lesson with pictures and detailed step-by-step instructions for students, as well as a rubric for assessment and student reflection sheet.
That's about it for today!  Happy Friday!!!  Have a wonderful weekend.  :)


Engaging Mathematics

26 September 2013
The most important thing to me as a teacher is engaging my students in the classroom.  Engaged students learn more.  Period.  And I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it in math.  I mean, my Interactive Math Journals are completely hands-on, we use Cootie Catchers in our stations, we play hopscotch to learn our order of operations, we made posters to study our math concepts, we get up an moving during every math class, we even made Angry Birds to study volume and surface area ... I thought I was doing it all.

And then this week, while at a workshop analyzing our testing data, I was looking at the results from the student engagement surveys (the students complete these surveys for reading, writing, and math right before they do their yearly standardized testing.)  I was saddened.  Two of my students said they don't enjoy math, and another two said they only sometimes enjoy math.  That equated about one quarter of my students.  And not surprisingly, these four students also did not meet the provincial standard on the test.  Heartbroken.  I went home and decided something had to change.

I have always done reading engagement and interest surveys at the beginning of the year, but I hadn't thought about doing them in math.  So, last night I made a math engagement survey and we completed them today in class.  This weekend I will go through the surveys and analyze the students' honest answers.  I'm hoping, if I can pinpoint those students who are not engaged in math class right from the beginning, I can begin to work with them more closely.  These aren't necessarily the students who struggle in math (I already know and work closely with those students).  These are the students who might fall between the cracks ... and with a little extra work from me to find out what motivates them, include their interests a little more in math class, and develop their leadership skills in math, well, I'm hoping that just might win them over.

Just click on the picture below or HERE to grab a copy for yourself and your students ... it could be that little difference you were looking for and didn't even know it.

Happy Thursday!


A Peek At Last Week

21 September 2013
Okay ... I just may be getting the hang of this year.  ;)  It's been a busy start, and I'm exhausted ... but it's a good exhausted.  I have 28 students in my grade 5/6 class this year.  And they're chatty.  But, they are such a GREAT group - motivated, leaders, and full of personality.  I am so excited to see what this year brings, and of course, I'm excited to share it all with you.  :)

It's been quite the start to the year.  We amalgamated with another school this year, so over half the students in each of our classes are new to our school.  So, the first week was spent learning and reviewing a lot of routines and ways to make the year successful.  Then, just as I was excited to really dive into the second week, we were hit with some extreme weather which caused a lot of flooding and washouts in my community.  Buses were cancelled for 3 days (some routes were 4 days).  I only had about one third of my students from Tuesday - Friday ... so much for a regular week.  Which brings us to week 3.  YAY for a regular week.  I feel like we accomplished SO MUCH this week - but I know it's just relatively speaking comparing it to the last two weeks.

Which brings me to our first big writing assignment.  We wrote paragraphs on "Looking for the Heroes".  With so many of our students affected by the flooding and washouts, we decided to write about the good that came from the whole situation.  Students wrote about the heroes that emerged after the storm (whether it was a family member or friend, or city or community workers).  The paragraphs were so touching and thoughtful - especially from those students who wrote about a family member.  I can't wait for their parents to read them.  They are all hung on our writing bulletin board (which will be cumulative throughout the year - new assignments will be hung over previous ones - really allowing ALL of us to see that growth over the year).  We also started our Writing Goals Clip Chart with the students' personal writing goals.  We all started at the top goal - writing an effective introduction, but during individual writing conferences with the students, their goals will change based on the needs in their writing.

Our first read aloud of the year is The One and Only Ivan.  We are IN LOVE with it.  It's a fictional story based on the true story of Ivan the gorilla, who spent much of his life on display in a shopping mall.  We've been studying the reading strategy of visualization while reading the novel (we completed Visualization posters from my Reading Comprehension Strategy Posters resource), and working on building better answers with our reading responses.

We even "adopted" our own silverback gorilla through the World Wildlife Fund store (we ordered from the Canadian site, but the American site has a similar option).  With a small donation (I think it was around $50) we received a plush gorilla, an information booklet, and a certificate of adoption in the name of our classroom.  We love our mini Ivan.

We've also gotten a great start to our CRAFT (CAFE) board for the year.  I have a blog post in the works that explains a little more about the process, but here's a peek at how it works for us.  I've been adding a new strategy every two or three days based on needs I see in the class.  We have focused a little more on the "R - Reading Responses" because I really wanted to start building better answers right away.  In a nutshell, we have a short minilesson when we add a new strategy, post the new strategy on our board, and then students complete a short, reflective note in their CRAFT journals.  We then use our strategy as a focus for everything else we complete during reading activities (independent reading, pair/share activities, our read aloud, reader responses, etc.)  Again, I'll go into more detail in my CRAFT blog post (but if you search CRAFT or CAFE in my sidebar, you'll find some information on our start-up from last year).

Whew ... sufficed to say, Language Arts wasn't our only subject for the last three weeks, but I think that's enough for now.  ;)  

I've been having a lot of fun uploading one pic per school day on my facebook page.  I'm doing "Project 188" - a spin off of Project 365 where people take one picture per day for every day of the year.  Click HERE to make sure you're following me on facebook.  :)

Hope you're having a GREAT weekend!  My oldest daughter is away at a soccer tournament, so it's just me and the little two for the weekend.  We're heading out for a dinner and movie date soon.  :)


We're Off to a GREAT Start!

03 September 2013
We had a GREAT first day back.  I'm exhausted ... but it's a good exhausted.  This year I have 28 students in my grade 5/6 class - 7 students in grade 5, and 21 students in grade 6.  Because half of my students are new to my school this year (we amalgamated with another school), we spent a lot of today getting to each other and building new relationships.

We started out with a team-building activity I found on Science Gal's blog.  She has a wonderful set of instructions to follow.  Students had to work together to build a pyramid with their solo cups, using strings and an elastic band.  They LOVED it!

When we were finished, each group (I have 5 groups in the class) worked together to build a list of 4 key points they learned about how to successfully work in groups.  They then had to narrow down their points to their top 2, and together, we built an anchor chart entitled, "The Secret to Success This Year".  (I'm sorry - I forgot to grab a pic of it).  My absolute favourite point (and the first one they gave me) was "We will learn from our mistakes."  Couldn't ask for more than that!

Later in the day, we worked on our "Math About Me" pennants.  Although each students completed his or her own pennant, we worked together through the activity, discussing what each question meant and how to solve it.  As students finished, I hung the pennants on our math bulletin board.  LOVE how it turned out.  I've uploaded this little template to google docs if you would like to share it with your class.  Click HERE to download your own copy.  

We started our first read aloud of the year - The One and Only Ivan.  I read it with my own girls this summer, and they LOVED it.  And I'm pretty sure the class is hooked already.  :)  I've got a little surprise coming to my class this week, and I can't wait until it gets here (no - it's not a real gorilla - lol).  

We finished the day by writing our "I Am ..." poems.  I have these templates available as a freebie on my TPT site.  Click HERE to see them.  As students completed, I gave them a sheet of construction paper, had them fold it in half, and then asked them to draw the top half of their heads on the top half on the sheet.  The sheet would be glued on the bottom half.  They also need to draw in their fingers as if they are holding up the paper.  About half of the class finished before the end of the day, and I can't wait until they are all done tomorrow so I can hang them outside the classroom as our first big display.  :)
I have a feeling it's going to be a fabulous year.  And as exhausted as I am, I am still excited to sit down and finish planning for tomorrow.  Happy Tuesday!!!


Twas the Night Before ....

02 September 2013
This will be short and sweet ... I still have a bunch of things to do before tomorrow morning.  But, I do have the cookies baked, 3 little lunches made, 3 little outfits laid out, and three little sweethearts sound asleep (at least, I hope so).  Mommy jobs are all done; some teacher jobs still to go.

I've got my room all set up, though.  Just wanted to give you a quick picture tour.

First up - my classroom reading wall / library.  Hands down - my favourite spot in my classroom.  I have my books organized by genre / author in cubbies instead of baskets.  I prefer the cubbies because students can easily see the titles of all the books.  

This is the view from my classroom door:

My desk area (still have a bit of tidying and organizing to do here).  The table behind my desk has my document camera and laptop.  

And my view from my desk:

I made a new bulletin board to cover some of my older blackboards - pretty proud of it.  :)  I covered a 4 x 8 sheet of styrofoam insulation in this fabulous chevron fabric, and then hung it from binder rings on 3M hooks.  This is my writing bulletin board I use to display all our writing from the year - the little silver pencils have the students' names written on them.

I also made a few changes on this wall.  I used my washi tape to section off areas on the blackboard - this blackboard is for our learning goals, end of class reflections and exit slips, our calendar, and homework board.  The large bulletin board beside it will be dedicated to math.  :)

Okay - that's all I have time for tonight.  Gotta finish up some little jobs before tomorrow.  To all of you heading back for your first day tomorrow - I hope it's WONDERFUL!!!  And to those of you who are already back, thank-you for breaking the year in for the rest of us.  :)

Happy Monday night!