Merry and Bright - Planning for After Break

How many of you see Christmas/winter break as a finish line of sorts? (I can make it, I can make it, I can make it...) I will admit that I do, too. Especially since this year my Christmas break will include a trip to the Rose Bowl!!
However, I have found that being ready for the first day back before I walk run out of the door makes all the difference in how well I'm able to truly enjoy the break. When I was commuting over fifty miles a day, the thought of going in over break did not appeal to me. So I made myself be ready for that day before I left town. Turns out, knowing that I didn't have to worry about what I was going to do the first day back really allowed me to relax over break.

The first thing I always do is give students this graphic organizer. {It's a free download.}
It allows students to share all of their break stories and get it all out of their systems. I have it ready on their desks and give them 10-15 minutes to write/draw something in each section. Then I draw names and students are able to share one thing from their organizers. Sometimes I also allow them to share in small groups for a few minutes.

Once that urge to share every little detail has passed, I usually jump right back into the routine. The fact that we come back on a Monday this year helps with that, but sometimes we come back mid-week. Or maybe some of you don't want to dive into subtraction of mixed numbers with unlike denominators right away. Or maybe you need something different to make it until break. In that case, I have found some freebies that may help you keep students engaged until break or ease back into the school routine.




In the meantime, make time for yourself. Whatever makes you feel relaxed. For me, it's a massage. For others (not me), exercise does the trick. This is a season of give, give, give, but remember that you need to take time for you, too.
In the spirit of giving, we have put together a prize bundle to help make your students "bright". These products can be used before or after break.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure to visit these bloggers for their tips to help keep you merry!

A Twist on Collaborative Writing Using Google Docs

Google Docs is an easy way for students to write collaborative stories.
I needed a short activity to do this week since we weren't starting a new Wonders story for the short week. One of my coworkers shared a fun collaborative story idea. I did mine with a Thanksgiving theme, but you could really do it for any theme.

First, I divided the class into pairs. I gave them five words they had to incorporate into a Thanksgiving story. Then they had ten minutes to initially figure out what they wanted to do with those five words.
After ten minutes, each student got his/her Chromebook. Student A in each pair created a Google doc and shared it with his/her partner. Then partner B went in another room.
Each pair was looking at the same document and started to write the story. The only way they could communicate was through the comments or within the document. It was probably the quietest half-hour I've ever heard with students in my room.

The next day, I gave them five minutes to touch base before they went their separate ways. When the pairs finished, Student A was responsible for turning it in on Google Classroom. I can't wait to read their final products!
Google Docs is an easy way for students to write collaborative stories.

Grinding Corn Revisited

When we are in the Southwest region of our Native American unit, I take the kids outside (while the weather is still nice!) and we grind corn to get a feel for what it would have been like. Last year, I didn't do it with my class since it was a new social studies curriculum in my new district, but I missed the activity and wanted to do it this year with my class.
Materials needed:
One rock per student, fist size or larger
One tub per group to hold materials (I use a plastic dish pan - $1.98 each)
Ears of squirrel corn, two or three per group
Cup and/or Ziploc to hold ground corn, one per group

I assemble students into groups of four and give each group a tub with the following materials - one rock per student, two to three ears of corn, a cup and a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag. We go outside and choose a square on the sidewalk for each group. I do not offer any advice or tips. I let them figure out techniques and such on their own. I give them about a half-hour, and they need to get the ground corn into the cup/Ziploc. Then we come inside (after stopping by the restroom to wash up) and discuss things like if we would like this for a daily job, if it was harder/easier than expected, what techniques were successful, etc.

It's a very memorable day and the kids just love it!

Totems Galore!

So I've been the world's worst blogger lately, but on the flip side, I've been the world's most awesome fifth grade teacher! Well, at least I'm trying to be :)

I have this year's batch of stylized totems that I wanted to share.
To create them, I ask the students these questions:
  • Have you ever felt drawn to one animal or another without being able to explain why? This could be animal, including birds and insects.
  • Does a certain kind of animal consistently appear in your life? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical appearance, it could be represented in other ways such as receiving card and letters with the same animal pictured over and over, unexplainable dreams of a particular animal, watching television and seeing the same animal featured time and time again, or, actually having the animal show up.
  • When you go to the zoo, a park, wildlife area, or forest, what are you most interested in seeing?
  • Are there any animals that you find to be extremely frightening or intriguing?
  • Is there a particular animal that you see frequently when you’re out in nature?
  • Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal?
  • Have you ever had a recurring dream about a certain animal, or a dream from childhood that you have never been able to forget?
Then it was time to create! One thing that I've learned was to organize my scraps that the students used by color. This cut down on the number of scraps in a huge, unmanageable pile.

Happy creating!

Classroom Pictures

I'm sure you haven't been missing my blog posts. I'm guessing that you have been as insanely busy as I have been. So I'm just taking a quick second to share some pictures from my room. I don't remember if I shared any pictures of my room from last year, but I had 4 different types of desks and 6 different types of chairs. Just the fact that everything now matches makes my Type A brain much happier!
 View from the door.
 My corner of the world. Sign on the front of my desk was a gift from {The Teacher Crafter}.
 I love the look of my library this year. I attached wall files to hold my thinner books. Above the windows are awesome posters from {The Brown Bag Teacher} and {Digital: Divide and Conquer}.

Back table with a whiteboard waiting for me to figure out reading and math workshop rotations. Also features a non-negotiable poster set from {Joanne Miller}.
I post my {check-in} and {check-out} posters by my door.
 My looonnnggg and fabulous counter! Oh, the storage!!
 And since I had extra shelf space, I made a little display with some prints from IKEA and my DIY poms. The black case hold my Walkkits for {The Walking Classroom}.

So there you go! The bulletin boards will fill up over the course of the year, but this is the starting point for the year. Hope your year is off to a great start!

DIY Tissue Poms {Bright Idea}

Use tissue paper to make these fun poms in your room's colors.
I first made these as tops for my truffula trees way back when, but they became part of my classroom decor very quickly.
You can make them with solid colors or a variety of colors.
 For this example, I think that I was using 11 sheets because I had a few that stuck together. It does make it a little more difficult, but some of you might like the fuller look. I've also used as few as 5 sheets. (Also, it was not until this tutorial that I discovered that I've been spelling "accordion" wrong most of my adult life...) I am folding the length of the tissue, so my finished accordion will be about one inch wide and as long as the width of the full tissue, if that makes sense.

 You are really going to need good scissors for this. It gets to the point where I just start the cut and then rip out the chunks. I make the notches so that when I tie the middle, it stays put.

You can see the solid-color ones I've made and hung on the wall in this picture. Super fun!

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Use tissue paper to make these fun poms in your room's colors.

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