A Letter to Next Year's Class

19 May 2014
I know this isn't a new idea, but I wanted to share another idea we did in my class at the end of last year.  Last year we wrote letters to next year's class, but I added a little twist.  Even though these letters were written to students in the grade below us, I can't begin to tell you how much these letters meant to me.  Reading them brought a tear to my eye, as I reflected on all the activities we had done together, the fun we had, and the growth we accomplished.

This class was special because last year was the first time our grade sixes would be leaving the school.  Up until last year, we had been a K-8 school.  With a new intermediate school built in our area last year, our school because a K-6 school, and my students would be moving on at the end of the year.  I had had most of my grade 6 students for two years, and I couldn't imagine not seeing them in the hallways next year.  Definitely bitter sweet, but I also knew they would love and excel in their new surroundings.

OK - back to the letter.  For our little twist on the end of the year letters, I had students come up with One Little Word that summed up their year.  They wrote this word on their whiteboards, and many of them decorated their whiteboards, as well.  I took a picture of them holding their whiteboards in front of a blank bulletin board.  (The little happy faces  on the students are just there for privacy reasons).

I have this awesome little photo printer in my classroom - Epson PictureMate Charm Photo Printer.  The school had purchased one for the primary grades for all the photo documentation they have do, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted my own, so I bought one.  I absolutely LOVE it.  You can instantly print pictures from your digital camera by putting the memory card right into the printer, or plugging the camera into the printer.  I use it a lot in the classroom.  I just leave my little digital camera at school so I have it whenever I need it.  When not in school, I tend to take pics on my phone or my SLR camera.

I made a quick anchor chart for my students to reference while writing their letters.  They needed to include their One Little Word in each paragraph they wrote.  They also needed to include at least 3 paragraphs in their letter, written in friendly letter format.  When finished, students published their letters on the computer, adjusting their font size so that their letter only took up half the page.  We photocopied their letters onto fancy paper, and glued their pictures underneath.  I then laminated them and posted them all on a bulletin board for next year's class to read (their classroom was next door to ours).


End of the Year Memory Bags

17 May 2014

So ... rumour has it that many of you are just about done school for the year.  I promise I won't be jealous (well, maybe just a little).  I have 29 days left, but who's counting?  ;)  Actually, 29 days seems quite do-able ... maybe even a little scary considering how many things I still want to do with my class.

These end of the year Memory Bags were something we did in my class last year - I just never got around to blogging about it.  These Memory Bags were a perfect way to finish our year, and got the students really reflecting on all they had done and accomplished over the year.  When the students had finished putting together their bags, and presenting them, we put them all out, with the goodies spread all around, so we could do a gallery walk through our year.

With these memory bags, students decorate the front panel of the paper bag they have been given.  They then include 2 different reflections on each of the side panels, and a larger one on the back panel.  On the inside of the bag, they place 10 objects of importance to them that remind them of their accomplishments over the school year.  For each item they place in their memory bag, there is a card that they fill out explaining why they have included the object.  There are lots of options included in the Memory Bags.  For starters, there are front panels for grades 2 - 6, so it works for a variety of grades.  For each panel, there are numerous options with different questions students can answer.  Perfect for differentiation.  And a great way to end the school year.  You can take a peek at this fun Memory Bag Project by clicking HERE.

Happy Saturday!!!  It's a long weekend here, and I'm planning on enjoying every single moment!


Poetry ... In Reverse

10 May 2014
A few years ago I stumbled across the reverse poem, A Lost Generation, by Jonathan Reed.  I was blown away by it.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to share it with my class, and they were just as blown away as I was.  Over the years, I have continued to use it in my classroom, and every year, the reaction by the students is the same.  Many of them even ask to bring a copy home so they can share it with their parents.  (If you can't see the video below, here is the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42E2fAWM6rA)

This year, I was finally brave enough to let my students have a go at writing their own reverse poetry.  After we watched and read the poem numerous times, I gave each student their own copy, and they went to work with a highlighter, highlighting the phrases that made the poem "work" (I had them work in groups of 2 or 3 for this).  They quickly noticed that every second phrase was generic - the fact that it contained no specific references was what made the poem reversible.

Then, we visited the site Budding Poets:  Reverse Poetry and read through some more examples of Reverse Poetry before I let the students loose to begin writing their own.  I did tell them they were allowed to "borrow" some of the general phrases from the poem if they were stuck.  This really helped the students get their poems started.  I asked them to try to write at least 14 lines, but many wrote more.

We have been piloting the use of 10 tablets in our classroom - Surface 2 tablets, so we wanted to be able to incorporate this technology into our poetry, as well.  We decided that when the groups were finished writing their poems (and after teacher approval) they would use the whiteboards and the video camera on the tablets to make a whiteboard movie or slideshow of their poems.  They used one whiteboard per line, stacked them all up, and then got ready to shoot their movies.  Most groups chose to make a video of their poems, but a few groups took individual pictures of each whiteboard (slide) and then put them together into a slideshow.  Both worked equally well.  We didn't read the poems out loud on the videos - the students thought it would be more powerful if the video was silent.

Here is a completed example of one of the poems my students wrote.  This group was made up of two 6th grade students.  The video you see is one I took on my iPad, standing behind them while they made a video on their tablet.  One student took the video, and one student was reponsible for changing the whiteboards.  On the video they took, you can only see the one stack of whiteboards (not the stack of removed whiteboards) - mine shows the whole process so you can have a better idea of what we did.  When all the groups were finished, we shared the poems with the whole class by projecting them onto the board.  What a great project!!  (Here is the link if you can't view the movie below:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO_B9gS58wg)