Wednesday, May 31, 2017

End-of-Year Collages

If you can't tell, I tend to take a lot of pictures in my classroom! The past few years I started making a very simple keepsake for my students. I discovered that you can upload pics to Walgreen's photo site and make collages with them. You upload the pics, can shuffle them around until you are happy with it and then put a message on the bottom and add a background color. It's actually pretty easy. What I do is write a message on the back of each one after it is printed-this is what I will remember about you being in our class. 

This year is occurred to me that I probably had enough photos to make collages for our graduating 5th graders-I used pics from when they were in my class and on the bottom I wrote "Congratulations-I'm so proud of you" . This is one of my former students who just graduated from 5th Grade (she's a staff kiddo so I know mom doesn't mind if I use her pics. :)

I have also had pics printed for parent volunteers. We say thank-you using signs or spelling it out with ourselves or making a heart shape with our hands and I make a collage for the parents to thank them for their help. I will just write a note on the back-thanks for helping out on the field trip, etc.

Walgreen's is always sending coupon codes, so usually it doesn't cost more than 30 cents per picture, you can pick them up in the store or get them mailed to you. And I think the outcome is just priceless.

Monday, May 29, 2017

End of Year Read Alouds

I teach using themes each week which drive my choices for read-alouds typically. The last week I wanted to choose some meaningful stories to send my little ones off with. I found some that I really liked for inspiration.

Because let's face it, they will face problems. What do you do when that happens? I like this story a lot for the little ones.

No matter what they decide to be, they will be a good one!

Hopefully my students will grow up and see everything they want to see.

One of my favorite authors writes a story that my kiddos who are definitely going places can relate to.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

In Defense of Read-Alouds

Packing up my classroom to move to another school I started with my books. I would take 2-3 office boxes of books home every day. As I packed the one thing I kept finding more and more of is books! They were everywhere! They are a huge focus of our classroom activities.

A few years ago my district decided to adopt yet another reading initiative. They were going to have all students reading by 3rd Grade. To do this we would be required to do guided reading and read-alouds. I was a little confused--doesn't everyone already do this? I attended a day long training to learn how to do a read-aloud and in speaking with other teachers realized they all don't do this. It was hard for me to wrap my head around.

We read a story every, single day. We read picture books, I read them chapter books. We read books to make connections in math, science, social studies, art. We read to learn about empathy and being a good friend. We read to learn about standing up for social justice.

Every week I go on my local library's website and request to put books on hold to go with upcoming themes. I check books out every week. One day this last week of school we had our field day and then painted like Michelangelo and had an assembly. We were getting ready to leave and one of my students says "Miss Trayers, we aren't going to read a book today?". When we were filling out our Kindergarten memories hands-down the most common memory was "Miss Trayers reading to us". They long for those activities as much as we do.

When I prepare a read-aloud, I read through finding any vocabulary I think will be unknown to my students and choose a few words to pre-teach. I often ask them to turn-and-talk about a time something similar happened to them to help them learn to make text-to-self connections. I don't like to interrupt the actual flow of the story with too many questions. I will ask a few questions at the end.

So what are my all-time, favorite read-alouds? Here are a few:

I love being silly and doing different accents so this one is perfect for me. The chickens decide to have a fiesta and try different recipes.

A classic, I know but still a beautiful, meaningful story. How are you going to make the world a more beautiful place.

An example of problem solving. Some boys in Africa are playing soccer and a bully wants their ball-but they are too clever for that.

I LOVE this book! It's a beautiful, thoughtful story about visiting your grandparents.

This is a great story to go along with Earth Day themes. She makes a little refuge for nature in her yard and it grows and grows.

The true story of the friendship between an abandoned baby hippo and an elderly tortoise. This one is a little wordy for the little ones, but they love that it's a true story.

For the love of a tree-this is a great empathy-developing story.

This is a funny story to read aloud because most of the child's dialogue is pretty indecipherable. But the students really like it.

An ingenious way to make new friends when you come to town-has a bit of a surprise ending that the students rarely figure out.

Another good example of problem-solving. Isabel wants a balloon for her own but she's a porcupine.

A worm and a caterpillar forge an unique friendship that extends even beyond metamorphosis.

My all-time favorite book about mindset and not giving up. A penguin with the soul of an eagle wants to fly.

This is a funny story to read-aloud and it has great illustrations!

I could probably list 1,000 books but those are a few of my faves.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Space Real Estate

I use the end of the year as an excuse to do fun units that do not necessarily go along with our regular curriculum. My kiddos had 1,000 questions about space and the planets so we did a unit on on the solar system. We learned about all the different planets and their characteristics.
Then I asked them to use the concept from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity called Language of the Disciplines. We were thinking like real estate agents. They were to sell land on one of the planets. We looked at brochures and I wanted their product to look more like a brochure but this is what we ended up with. They also recorded a commercial hawking their planet to buyers. With this activity I was truly able to see who was able to apply what they learned.

He chose Saturn because you can ride around the rings. 

He chose the moon because you can hide in the craters.

Jupiter because it's the biggest planet.

You can find special things on Saturn.

Neptune-it has rocks.

Makes you want to suit up and take some space travel, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Only One You

When choosing stories to read to my kiddos in this last time we have together-I'm trying to choose inspirational ones. I LOVE this book! Parents are giving advice to their little one about how to be himself. We watched snippets of different graduation speeches where people are giving their life advice and I asked the students to write their own advice-if I was a parent I would tell my child to..... Now for some this just turned into rules like do not steal but some of them really dug deep and came up with some good life advice!

Be happy!

(I believe she was thinking in the context of the fish-like characters in the story).

Be nice.

Don't go and be lazy and say gimme your money. (Maybe a future Republican here. :) .

When your old friends are mean, make better friends.

Be nice to your parents.

Respect teachers.

Be nice to people. Clean your room.

Make friends.

Don't let go of your dreams.

Help each other out.

Travel everywhere and see the world.

Be happy in your own family.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Painting Like Michelangelo

I think art is a very important facet of education. Not only does it teach us another way to see the world and analyzing works is full of depth but it's also fun! Art is something that has become frowned upon in our highly academic setting. There are art standards, but we are not asked to include them in our lesson plans and to teach them we have to be ready to justify them with another activity-for example-we are writing about that painting. We have an art teacher for the students' specials once a week, but they rarely actually make art there. Our classes are often combined for other activities or any time one of our teachers is out.

But if you know me, you know I'm a bit of a rebel. :) I still teach my students about art and famous artists. One of those is Michelangelo. They are amazed to find out he is not just a Ninja Turtle.  Michelangelo had such an incredible mind of that man and I have always been impressed with his commitment to paint the Sistine Chapel (I haven't even been able to muster the energy to paint my bedroom that I bought paint for several years ago). Now I know experts now don't think he actually did lie on his back to paint the ceiling and I do tell the kids that there are differing theories. 

For this activity we tape paper to the underside of the tables. Each student works with an assistant who hands them the brush. I use watercolors because I think it's the easiest to clean up if there are drips. They can paint whatever they'd like-the exercise is just to see how it feels to paint in a different way, from a different perspective. After one partner is done, the other has a turn.