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!


It's SOOO Purple!

Oh, be still my heart! {Classroom Friendly Supplies} has a new color of pencil sharpener!
Doesn't it look lovely sitting with my other classroom sharpeners?! (I MAY have a slight pencil sharpener problem.)
 If you have never used one of these sharpeners, let me give you a quick demo.
Look at how sharp they are! They are the preferred sharpener in my classroom, which explains why I have so many!
{Here is the link} if the purple sharpener (or any of the others) must be yours!

*Disclaimer - CFS sent me the purple sharpener to review, but the opinions are 100% mine.*


Back-to-School Freebie Frenzy

Welcome to everyone hopping through for the freebie frenzy! I'm sure that you've gathered some great goodies so far.

My freebie is something that I used last year for Constitution Day. I don't know about you, but Constitution Day sneaks up on me every year, and then I frantically look for something that I can use in isolation while I'm right in the middle of my Native American social studies unit.

Last year I decided to address Constitution Day in reading instead of social studies. I wrote some close reading passages about the Constitution with second read, third read, and writing response activities. I also included a basic how-to on close reading if you've never tried it with your class before. They would integrate nicely into your reading workshop format. Click on the picture or click {here} to get your copy.
I hope that it will come in handy for your last-minute Constitution Day planning!!
Before you keep hopping, make sure that you've entered our giveaway!


Following Directions

One of the challenges of the first week of school is trying to find a good balance of the required teaching of rules/expectations and easing students into some academic work.

During the back-to-school TpT sale, I bought Rachel Lynette's {Following Directions} task cards. I thought that it looked like a lot of fun, yet the students would have to use some math and literacy skills to complete it.

I originally scheduled one class period for this. I wanted my students to work together at their tables to complete it since I have a wide variety of reading levels as well as a few ELL students. I gave each table one sheet of four directions, and they were to take turns reading them to each other. When they finished the sheet, then I would give them another one. That was the plan, anyway.

Oh. My. Gosh. This product was a lot more (appropriately) challenging for my students than I thought. The directions are complex and usually involve more than one step. There was some serious teamwork and problem-solving going on in the groups. Lots of concentration. Lots of rereading. But the students were not discouraged. Needless to say, I needed to have this activity bleed over into next week, which is a good thing since I have to be out of the classroom for a training on Tuesday morning.
We'll see how much they get done while I'm gone, but I anticipate this will take a few more half-hour chunks of time for them to complete. I may also use this as a reading workshop rotation or morning work over the course of the month since it is something that requires a little more brain power.

Can't wait to see the finished products!


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!

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