Native American Resources and Regions Maps


This past week we learned about the four main American Indian Cultural groupings: the Pacific Northwest region, Southwest Desert region, the Prairie region, and the Eastern Woodland region. My class sits in groups of four so this ended up being an easy jigsaw activity. One person from each group was assigned a region to research. Information focused on climate and resources. Students reported out their findings to the whole class, so we could make sure that everyone’s information was accurate.

Once we had our notes on climates and resources, students were given a blank map to transfer the data to. The requirements: a map title, a completed map key that matched the information on the map itself, and each region had to have three pictures or symbols representing resources. They ended up beautiful!


We have also been analyzing the structure of a five paragraph essay. Next week we will be using our Native American region and resources notes to write a five paragraph essay. I am looking forward to reading their essays.


Helping Our Buddies with Poetry Reading and Physical Health


This past Friday we got together with our second grade buddies and combined two favorite activities… Poetry and running. First, we worked on building reading fluency by reading the poem “On the Go” from Scholastic’s Partner Poems for Building Fluency. I enjoyed listening to big and little buddies read together.


The poem is pretty short, so we used some of our time together to run a mile. My class has been running at least a mile a week to prepare for the fifth grade physical fitness test. Overall, they have been enthusiastic and eager to monitor their times in the hopes of improving. Big buddies enjoyed sharing this activity with their little buddies.

Current Events


My class and I enjoyed our first week of current event projects. I especially enjoyed student illustrations and props that were brought in to support their presentations.

Not only do we enjoy the presentations themselves, but they fit the new Common Core standards for fifth grade nicely. I provide my class with Scholastic News magazines, however, they are encouraged to use other sources too.

Their assignment is to:

* Find a current nonfiction article of interest.

* Identify the title, author (if given), and genre of the article

* Summarize the information in the text (written and oral)

* Write an opinion about the article (written and oral)

* Cite source using correct writing conventions

* Present article in an interesting manner (visuals, props, costumes, music, etc.)

* Speak clearly at an understandable pace

* Audience members are expected to actively listen and the class provides each speaker with two questions and two compliments

A favorite presentation this week was about a Legos article in Scholastic News Grades 5-6.


I love seeing my student’s enthusiasm for these projects.

Fabulous Feet Poetry and Art


After creating our adjective hand art,  I came across this 3D Hand Art project on Pinterest. I loved it, but didn’t want to do another hand art. So we used our feet as our subject.

First, we read and analyzed the poem “Her Daddy’s Hands” by Angela Johnson from Evan-Moor’s Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6

Then we wrote a poem about our feet using an ABCB pattern. To do this we brainstormed phrases independently and shared them. Students were encouraged to change phrases to meet their needs. Students were required to write at least one stanza, but were encouraged to write a three stanza poem.

Here are a few examples of what my students were able to write:

“These are my feet.

My feet are small.

My feet are soft.

They swim and they fall.”

by L.W.

“These are my feet.

They aren’t very new,

They aren’t so very big,

but they make the perfect two.

These are my feet.

They’re no ones but mine.

They’re not different from any other,

but they are so very fine.”

by J.C.

“These are my feet.

My feet are really pretty.

But on really hot days,

they can get pretty sweaty.”

by P.A.

Finally, we completed our 3D foot art. First, we traced our feet. Then we made curved lines from one side of our foot to the other with marker or crayon. Finally, we drew straight lines from the edges of our feet to the edge of the paper. Our objective was to use lines to create an illusion of space. I think this was accomplished. Their projects look like fabric draped over their feet! I love the final product!


Reading Incentives


Some people possess a natural desire to read, and some learn to love to read by watching others enjoy it. Still, there are some people that resist reading and/or struggle with it. It can be quite a challenge to motivate some students to read.

Personally, I have always enjoyed reading. Reading was my way of escaping the real world. I could experience the life of someone else, meet different people, visit places I would never be able to visit otherwise, and even learn new languages.

As a teacher, I use many strategies to get my students to love to read. Every day I build in a “read aloud” period where I read literature to my students so they can hear fluency and expression. We also discuss author’s purpose and craft. Independent reading time is also provided for them. However, just providing time does not mean students will use it productively. So I also use a school wide Accelerated Reader (A.R.) incentive program and a 30 Book Challenge.

For the A.R. incentive student progress is tracked on a chart, and performance is rewarded at different times throughout the year.


I got the idea of a 30 Book Challenge from The Book Whisperer. Students that make the 30 book challenge will be rewarded with a book from Scholastic Reading Club at the end of the year. What an eye opener for them! I have a few students that have already met their point goal, but they have only read 5 books. The class had quite a discussion about both programs.


How do you motivate your students?

Gratitude and Compassion


I work at a Title 1 school, so we qualified for a special grant through Tony La Russo’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). The grant provided us with a classroom visit, as well as, a visit to their facility for a tour. It’s important to me that my students realize that although their family did not pay for the field-trip, it was paid for by someone. In our case, it was paid for through a grant. Since I was unaware of who funded the grant, we offered our thanks to our friend, Jan, from ARF.

I have a few books with engaging stationary borders. I was unable to find a border with domestic animals, so I chose to use hearts since our experience with ARF touched many of our hearts.


I really enjoyed my students’ letters. Some of the wonderful comments made from them were:

“Thank you so much for letting us come to your adoption center it was amazing.”

“We like Tiger, AKA Jujubee, we take him to recess.” Tiger is the stuffed cat we adopted from ARF. Each student gets a day with Tiger, and he or she tracks Tigers adventures in a journal.

“Thank you for teaching me how to be safe with animals. When I grow up I want to work at an animal shelter, and help cats and dogs. I want to be just like you.”

“I learned so much at ARF, like use WAG when you are around animals.”

“Thank you for teaching us to act like a tree when dogs chase you.”

“I learned that compassion is important.”

“I hope I can work at ARF when I grow up.”

Math and Language Boards


There has been a huge push for Math and Language Boards as a way for repeated practice on key standards. Students do benefit from exposure to these skills before they are taught as well as for review. However, many teachers are not provided the materials for these boards. This can be an added stress for teachers that already find themselves short on time.

This summer I found a wonderful resource! Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 has created a spectacular spiral math review program called Calendar Math.I have been using it with my class and have found it to be an effective time saver. I purchased her 5th Grade Starter Kit which has already made questions and editable sheets.


Now, I would love to find a similar program for Language Arts. Do you know of one? What do you use for spiral review?

Traveling Through Writing


I’m super excited to have found my class pen pals across the country. Our pen pal class is in Virginia. From the communication I have had with the teacher, it sounds like we have similar socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. A perfect fit!

This week the class wrote letters introducing themselves to their pen pals. They used their descriptive writing skills to describe what they look like. Their hope is that their pen pal will be able to use their descriptions to draw a picture that resembles them.

They also told their pen pals what they like to do, and they asked them what they like to do. They are looking forward to finding out how life for a fifth grader across the country is similar and different from their own lives!


The Homework Dilemma


H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K.  Tired or assigning, collecting, and correcting the standard workbook sheets? It works fine for the students that put effort into it and/or have the family support to go over it. However, I was noticing an increasing trend of just quickly scribbled answers in order to avoid recess detention. I decided that I needed to make a change.

So, this summer I took a closer look at how I have always assigned homework and revamped it. My objective for assigning homework is for my students to apply what we learned at school that day. I also want them to use their reading, thinking, and writing skills. So this year I am using a homework notebook instead of worksheets.

Once a week I sit down to lesson plan, and I write reflective  homework questions as I write my lesson objectives. Then I print a daily sheet of questions per team.  Every day my students cut and paste their homework questions into their spiral bound notebook. At home they have to read the questions, solve the problems, and explain their thinking. The next morning they discuss their answers with their teammates while I check that their homework was completed. Then we go over the answers whole class and they correct their work if needed. It has been a learning curve for all of us. However, the payoff makes it worth it.

What I like about my new homework procedure:

* Students are more engaged (cutting and gluing) when putting homework materials together.

* Students need to pay attention to the lesson in order to answer their homework questions.

* Students are reading, thinking, and writing.

* There is peer coaching/teaching involved when discussing homework answers.

* Students enjoy discussing their answers with their team and the class.

* Students must still participate in team and class homework discussions even if they are unprepared.

* The number of students coming to school with completed homework assignments has increased.


How do you assign your homework? What are your thoughts on homework?

Building Pyramids Through Team Work


I am lucky enough to work with some amazing kids. They vary in socio-economic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, social development, and academic ability levels. There are twenty-eight mainstreamed students in my class, and two students that visit my classroom through an inclusion program.

In order to keep my classroom running smoothly, I need to incorporate team building and class building activities. Many of my ideas stem from Kagan Classbuilding Cooperative Learning Activities and Kagan Teambuilding Cooperative Learning Structures.

My class is set up in groups of four. Each group is assigned a different color. Within each group, each student is assigned a number: 1, 2, 3, or 4. I use these colors and numbers to help set up learning structures and jobs.

This week’s teambuilding challenge came from Science Gal, and she got the activity from a FOSS training.

Each team needs: 6 plastic cups, 1 rubber band, and four strings (each 24 inches long)

The challenge: Each team moves cups from a “wall of cups” (length of 3 cups, height of 2 cups) to a “pyramid of cups” (3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, 1 on top).

All of my teams were able to accomplish the task. Early finishers were given the task of putting the cups back to their original state. They had a blast!