Monday, December 30, 2013

So Thankful

I know that most people wrote their thankful post in November.  I finally had time to be reflective last week, and I decided that gratitude should not be seasonal.

I am thankful that I am employed in a district that still believes I can make choices in curriculum and teaching strategies that are appropriate for my students.

I am thankful that my job provides my family's needs and so many of our wants.

I am thankful that blogging and freelance curriculum writing provided some brand new books for my classroom this year.

I am thankful (and often amazed) that people read my writing and use it in their classroom.  (There is nothing better than starting a morning with a thank you from another teacher.)

So Happy New Year.  May you have a wonderful 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quote of the Week for December 29, 2013

"If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both." - Horace Mann

Friday, December 27, 2013

Interview a Fairy Tale Character

This activity started as an improv game I learned at Summer Theater Workshop.  When I introduced it to Drama Club this fall, I decided to add a writing component.

The idea behind this activity is to bring a fairy tale character to modern times and conduct a TV interview.  This activity fits in well when studying fractured fairy tales.

 To download a Google Doc version of the interview transcript blank, click here.  My students love this activity and perform their scripts at the end of the day after our clean up routines. 

Here are some other Drama Club posts you may have missed:

Drama Club: No Divas Allowed

What Are You Doing: A Drama Game

Tongue Twisters: A Drama Game

Rumors: A Drama Game

You can purchase all ten forms I use for creative writing assignments and bulletin boards here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and here in my Teachers Notebook store.  I have included at least two suggestions for each form that are not here on my blog.

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Last Present by Wendy Mass

I read 13 Gifts by Wendy Mass first not realizing that this was a series.  I loved the characters and the town of Willow Falls so much that I had to track down the rest.  The last book in the series was released September 24, 2013.

Willow Falls is a magical town.  The characters find themselves caught up with an unusual old woman and have to right historical wrongs. 

I definitely recommend reading this series in order.  I could follow the first three books, but the last book wraps up the story lines of the other three.

 For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rumors: A Drama Game

Do you remember playing "Telephone"?  All the participants are seated in a circle.  The first person whispers a message to the next person and each person whispers to the next in turn.  The last person tells the message out loud to the group and everyone giggles when the message is messed up.

Imagine a competitive game of "Telephone".  This time the players are divided up into two teams.  Each team is given a message and that message is whispered down the line.  The last person says the message out loud and the team that got the message to the end most accurately wins.

I tried this with Drama Club, but it could easily be an end of the day activity to practice speaking and listening.

Click here to download a list of five messages related to popular middle grade fiction. Students can create their own messages based on any topic you choose.

Here are other blog posts about Drama Club with activities you can include in the regular classroom.

Tongue Twisters -- A Drama Game 

What are you doing? -- A Drama Game

Drama Club -- No Divas Aloud

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quote of the Week for December 22, 2013

"In education it isn't how much you have committed to memory or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't. It's knowing where to go to find out what you need to know and it's knowing how to use the information you get." --William Feather

Friday, December 20, 2013

Trapezoid Art Project

My students are struggling with identifying and classifying quadrilaterals.  I am developing stations and lessons that give them more hands-on experience with them.  I want them to learn the vocabulary by using it in different activities.  Here is a lesson I taught about a month ago.

I cut twelve 3-inch squares for each student and gave each a 9X12 background.  As you can tell from the pictures, I chose fall colors for this activity, but you could easily choose a different color scheme for a different time of year.

I had them start with one square and we divided it into two trapezoids. Then I showed them how to cut two more squares into congruent shapes so they could complete one row of the completed project.

Next we arranged the trapezoids so that they would form that first row.  We talked about where the 90-degree angles needed to be arranged so the top and bottom of the row would continue to be parallel.  This was the most difficult part for some students.

The resulting shapes are rectangles, parallelograms and Isosceles trapezoids.  Once the students could complete a row, I let them glue it to the background paper and get three more squares.  They needed to show me the second completed row before I would let them glue it and then I could tell they were ready to work on their own.

All but one of my students successfully completed this activity.  They also had a chance to use their geometry vocabulary in a hands-on activity.

This activity is a part of my Classifying Quadrilaterals unit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Freebie Fridays
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Midnight Tunnel by Angie Frazier

I love mysteries and this new series by Angie Frazier looks promising.  Suzanna Snow idolizes her Uncle Bruce Snow who is a famous Boston detective.  She keeps a notebook with observations and hopes to be a detective herself someday.  When a young guest is missing from the hotel Suzanna's parents run, Bruce Snow is called in to investigate.  How can Suzanna's observations be taken seriously?

I can't wait to read the second book in the series.  Click here for a free printable form for students to track their changes in thinking while they read.

For an explanation of my rating scale, click here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tongue Twisters -- A Drama Game

The first activity I usually do with my Drama Club students is call and response Tongue Twisters.  I tell them that actors must enunciate and project and practicing these short sayings does both.  I won't even let them work on accents until I can understand what they are saying in their normal voices from across the room.

I created an original set of Tongue Twisters that are available for free in my freelance curriculum stores:
Click here to download it from my TpT store.
Click here to download it from my TN store.

To help students practice their accuracy, fluency, and expression, model reading one of the tongue twisters, slowly at first to practice accuracy.  Next, have students read in unison after you.  Then distribute the sheets to have students practice in duos and triads.  Students could "perform" their chosen tongue twister or lead the class with call and response.

If you missed the previous Drama Club posts, here they are:

Drama Club: No Divas Allowed

What Are You Doing? A Drama Game

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quote of the Week for December 15, 2013

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope and confidence." -- Helen Keller

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings

Guinea Dog is the classic tale of a boy who wants a dog and will do anything to convince his parents to get him one.  His mom ignores his request and gets him a guinea pig instead.  The classic tale gets turned upside down at this point.  As you can tell from the cover art, this is no ordinary guinea pig.  I can't wait to share this book with my students who love animals and humor.

July 2014 update: since my original review, Patrick Jennings has added to the series.  Click here for a free printable story plan where students can analyze a story for elements or write their own story.

 For an explanation of my rating system, click here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What Are You Doing? A Drama Game

Last Monday, I wrote about Drama Club, why I started it and the skills that I am working on with this group.  Today I want to share a popular drama game called "What are you doing?"

One student starts the game by pantomiming an activity.  Another student approaches the first student and says, "What are you doing?"  The first student says a different activity and the second activity must then pantomime that action.

For example:

First student pretends to row a boat.

The second student walks up and says, "What are you doing?"

The first student says, "Painting a fence."

The second student pretends to paint a fence while thinking about a different action for the next student to act out.

Although adults and older teens can manage to take turns without a moderator, I have found that third through sixth graders need me to call on them so the actor is not mobbed.

This activity practices concentration, cooperation, and staying in character when you are not speaking.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coded Messages Holiday Version

I've been experimenting with including coded messages with function tables.  My students have an additional motivation to solve the math problem.  I have an easy tool to check their work.
This is a free holiday version of my original product.  All of the messages are non-religious winter song titles.
Click here to get Coded Messages: Holiday Version in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Click here to get Coded Messages: Holiday Version in my Teachers Notebook Store.

The original set was for a math problem-solving site called Math Spies.   I have a paid product called Coded Messages in my Teacher Notebook and Teachers Pay Teachers Stores.

Update November 1, 2014 -- here are four more Coded Messages products:

Beginning Function Tables @ TPT or @ TN
Function Tables with Two-Step Problems @ TPT or @ TN

Coded Messages: Order of Operations @ TPT or @ TN
Coded Messages: Guess My Rule @ TPT or @ TN

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Freebie Fridays

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

I teach in a diverse neighborhood and I adored this book about sixth grader Lucy Wu who must share her room with her visiting great aunt.  Lucy wants to play basketball and her parents want her to go to Chinese school instead.  The way that Wendy Wan-Long Shang handles the conflicts between generations and cultures is satisfying without being cliché.

Here is a free printable graphic organizer for students to record an event from multiple points of view.

I recommend this book for 9-12 year olds.
For an explanation of my rating scale, click here


Monday, December 2, 2013

Drama Club: No Divas Allowed


This fall I started an afterschool drama club.  I had the idea for awhile, but what prompted me to set aside time to do it was the audition process at one of the local high schools.  Plenty of students wanted to be in the musical, but they weren't considered good enough to be in the ensemble, so the director went with a musical with just a few parts.

This brought back memories of my own high school experience.  I tried out with others and the director chose a production with only for parts.  At the time, I got the message that acting wasn't for everybody.  I wasn't good enough.

Now as an adult I wondered, where are students supposed to learn these skills?  There aren't many drama programs in the public schools before high school.  Do they just magically show up ready to act, or are these skills taught?  I wanted to create a place where students could try out these skills without the pressure of competition.  (Thus, no divas allowed.)

Fortunately, I my stepdaughter has had the opportunities at our church to learn to act.  I have tried to be one of the helpful stage moms who helps with painting, costumes, and props.  Over the last nine years, I have learned a set of skills I can teach elementary students that can spark their interest in drama.  As you can see from the list below, they also help them in other areas.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to share some of the activities we have done and how I incorporate some of them into my regular classroom.







Face the audience
Stay in character even when you aren’t speaking!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December Currently with Oh Boy 4th Grade

Yay! It's time for Currently December.  I will try not to think about all I have to do for a little bit and indulge in this monthly blog party.

I am indulging in a quiet Sunday afternoon watching the Hallmark Movie Channel.  Right now "The Lost Valentine" is on where Betty White plays a widow of a man missing in action for several decades.

I'm not ready to end my long weekend, so I'm hoping that the snow in the forecast will turn into a snow day or even just a delayed start.

I need to learn to say "no." I am feeling way overbooked this month. 

My favorite tradition is Christmas Eve at our house.  My stepdaughter always spends Christmas Day at her mom's, so Christmas Eve is our family celebration. 

I'm heading over to Farley's blog to link up and find some other bloggers.  Hope you join me.

Quote of the Week for December 1, 2013

"The human heart can only carry so much need, and over time it has to release those things it was not created to pursue." Gary Barkalow  It's Your Call: What Are You Doing Here?
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