Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Texas History Tuesday: Frontier Texas... For real this time!

Now that state testing is over, in a couple of days anyway, it is time to jump right back into what makes Texas History so fun! The frontier unit can be so much fun and I am excited to dive right in now that we have a little more time. 

In order to get my students loaded up with background knowledge we start with a PowerPoint on the Texas Frontier. This PowerPoint has lots of information on how cattle came to be big business as well as how life changed for Native Americans during this era. 

Next it is time for mini-project number one. This project involves students designing their own cattle brand. Students will design their own brand and explain the symbolism behind it. It is a great way for students to connect with their learning to make it more permanent.  

Along the way, I like to assess my students' knowledge and have this quick and easy FREEBIE Cause and Effect Quiz

Then, we get started on the more major project of the unit. This project allows students to research a famous cattleman or woman and create a traced poster detailing the information. These posters are a lot of fun to make, and create an amazing display with lots of information. 

Finally, in order to make sure that my students are understanding the content and holding onto the information we complete these Cattle and Railroads Task Cards with Self-Checking QR Codes. I love these, because it allows the students to check their own thinking as they go. 

We will spend a couple of weeks on this unit, and I can't wait to share their poster projects in particular. They always turn out awesome!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Last Day of Test Prep

So, tomorrow is the math STAAR test. Which means that Wednesday is the reading STAAR test. Which means that today is our last hoorah. One of my kids referred to it as the, "Last stand at the Alamo." First, I was impressed by their reference to Texas history, but then I was a little disappointed because I realized that they were thinking imminent death. THAT is NOT what I want my students thinking going into testing...

Today was all about building confidence and having fun. It went a little like this...

We started our day by reading Testing Ms. Malarkey. This is a great story that kind of takes the emphasis off of the test. It is all about everything you have learned throughout the year and how the test is only go to show part of it. Not everyone is crazy about its message, but I am all for it.

After we are finished reading we fill out a little mini-poster from Elementary Lesson Plans on things that we are going to remember while testing. This may include a few strategies, confidence builders, or just something that a kiddo wants to remember. 


From there we played a lively round of Stinky Feet with a reading passage. This has become pretty much a daily ritual in our class for the last few weeks, and my students look forward to it, so why stop now. 

Next, we went outside to get some energy out. We played a vocab relay with this Math Vocabulary Relay which is a freebie you can pick up in my store.  

Once we returned back inside, we played a round of reading vocabulary STAAR which is a version of BINGO. 

Each student gets a blank card. I post the word list for students to use to complete their card. 

Then I read out a definition. For example, I may read out, "The genre that is not real, but could be." Students would then look for realistic fiction on their boards and cover it up. We play a few rounds, and of course have prizes. They love it!

Finally, we ended the day with Positive Praise. Everyone writes their name on a piece of paper and leaves it on their desk. Then, we basically follow SCOOT guidelines to travel to each desk for about fifteen seconds. At each desk you write something positive about that person. When you have had time to visit each of the desks you return to your own to read your positive praise. It is just a feel good kind of way to end the day. We of course will hang up our Positive Praise Posters to encourage us over the next couple of days. 

For all of those testing this week, or in the coming weeks. May the force be with you!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Techy Time: Mad Lips

One of my students' very favorite apps to use is MadLips. Everyone always thinks I am talking about MadLibs where you fill in the blank, but this isn't even similar. This app allows students to record their voices while they video heir lips then add them to a picture to create a report.
Sounds a little on the weird side right? I promise you, they will have you laughing and learning the whole time.

There are both free and paid versions of the app, so that you can try it out before you buy it. I stuck to the free version for a while, but like a few of the options like longer videos, and different backgrounds that the paid version offers. For $2.99 is was well worth it for me.

To create a MadLips you open up the app.

Choose a picture from those provided or from a Bing search.

Record yourself talking while the app videos your lips through the forward facing camera.

Size the lips to fit your picture.

Watch your video!
It really is simple, and students love it. The first time we did it I thought I was really going to have to walk students through it, but they caught on faster than I did. What's new, I know. We played around with the app a few times, but have also done several reports using it. This works extraordinarily well with students who are too shy to speak in front of their peers. Instead, they get to play the video, but still give their classmates the same great content.

We have done reports on:
Famous Texans
Important leaders in the community
And there are many more to come

Give it a try, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Attitude Check, With a Little Review

Are you tired of test prep yet? Surprisingly I am not, which is shocking because we are really in the trenches now. I have been trying to keep it really light and fun this year. This approach has helped my students to not stress quite as much, and I am trying to relinquish a bit of control.

I mean, don't get me wrong. We are still prepping, just not with the Doomsday Prepper attitude that I may have had about this time last year. I swear, it really has made a difference. I attribute a lot of this to the guidance of our amazing principal who has set such a positive tone.

Today I am popping in to tell you a little bit about some of the review that has been ongoing this week in our classroom. With all of this review students are bound to finish up at different times, so we have a few projects going on that will keep them reviewing.

One thing that is always really tough for our kiddos is estimating units of measurement. We have a measurement station set up in the back of our room that students can go to when they finish up an assignment. In the station we have a triple beam balance, rulers, math charts, a yard stick, a spring scale, and sand to measure volume along with object to measure. Students have been going a few at a time to explore the station. I am hoping that this hands on experience will stick with them.

Our next ongoing project is a name reflection. I don't know why transformations are so difficult for our students, but they are. For this project, students create a reflection of their name over a line of symmetry.

They start by folding a paper in half making a defined crease. Then, using a black crayon they write their name entirely above the line. They need to go over their name several times in order to get a good build-up of crayon.

Then you refold the paper with the crayon on the inside. Using a marker, pencil, or other object apply pressure over the paper. I like to use a marker and run it back and forth multiple times.

Once you have done this, you reopen the paper. The crayon should have transferred to the other side as a reflection. I then allow students to decorate their reflection as way they would like, but it has to remain a reflection.

Finally, this last little bit isn't so much ongoing other than that we play Stinky Feet almost daily between reading and math. One of my teammates was having a difficult time with the poster that I use, so she improvised and I love it! Instead of the poster that I use, shown in this post, she uses popsicle sticks in a bucket. Ingenius! She doesn't have to worry about stickies losing their stick, or kids walking off with them, or kids trying to read the point total through the sticky. Genius I tell you! I have amazing coworkers, what can I say?

We are getting down to the wire, but you wouldn't know it by all the smiles in the classroom. I knew this time of year didn't have to be so bad!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Texas History Tuesday: Railroad comes to Texas

Okay, real talk time. As I said a few weeks ago, Texas History really goes on the back burner this time of year. This is the usual routine for this time of year, but this year especially. I don't know where the time went, or where it goes each day while I am in the middle of it as a matter of fact, but either way I was hit head-on with a pretty bad realization today.

Progress reports are due next week and I have exactly zero items that I can take a grade on in social studies. Panic may have ensued for a while moment. How did I let this happen? Surely there is something that we have done that I could take a grade on. Nope, nada, not without a whole lot of stretching.

Sooo... I bring you another week of slightly panicked Texas History Tuesday.

We are still working on the Texas Frontier. We have done several read alouds, and lots of discussion on life during this time period. It is time for some knowledge checks though!

An important part of the Texas Frontier was the railroad coming to Texas. I mean, has there ever really been a more significant change in transportation? Cattle trails were on their way out, and populations were beginning to rise.

United Streaming has a great video that gives students the imagery they need for this era called, "Transportation, the History of the Railroad." While watching this video, I have students complete an FQR. An FQR is a simple assignment in which they list 3 facts, 2 questions, and 1 response that they have after the video. I have found that FQRs are a great way to help students process information, and they let me know really quickly who is getting it and who is completely off base. You can grab a generic FQR freebie here. Sometimes I will give them the template, others I just have them write it in their interactive notebooks.

After watching the video and discussing how the railroad changed the way of life in Texas we get busy on our Impacts of the Railroad fold-up.

Honestly, that is about all we have time for at this point. At least it is something I guess. Until after STAAR...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Math Test Prep

We are in full on test prep mode this week with the STAAR reading and math tests next week. We are doing our best to cover all of the content that we need to review without boring anyone to tears, myself included. I am always Googling and trying to dream up another game that can be played while doing review, but sometimes it is the "Oldies, but goodies," that get the job done right. 

Every day we do a problem of the day. We use these Daily Multi-Step Problems each day to get the math juices flowing. They come in monthly or a whole year, so that there can be consistency. 


Our school uses the UPS Check method for working through a problem. Students draw four quadrants then ask themselves:
What does this problem want me to UNDERSTAND?
What is my PLAN?
How will I CHECK my work?

This strategy really helps me to see what my students are thinking and quickly diagnose if a misconception is in understanding or computation. I have seen it work wonders this year. 

After our benchmarks I created a couple of sets of stations based on my students' lowest performing SEs. There is one set with a winter sports theme and another with a candy theme. I am using both this week to review from our learning throughout the year.  

We use these stations independently, in partners, and in small groups with me. 

In small groups I have students show their work on dry erase boards. 

I also encourage them to write on the task cards so that I can see how they are comprehending the problems as well. 

Thinking hard!

I will be back throughout the week with more ways that we are practicing our math skills and encouraging confidence this week!