Stay Merry and Bright the last week of School:)

Who's in the last week countdown?  I am!!  I am teaming up with some awesome upper grade teachers to bring you some tips  to help you keep that last week before Christmas break a MERRY one!!  AND, one lucky person will win a fab Winter Prize Bundle!!
Stay consistent with "sprinkles" of Christmas/Holiday fun mixed in here and there.  This may sound like a no brainer BUT it has kept me merry and my kiddos calm this past week and I know it will help even more next week.  I don't know about you, but the weeks leading up to Christmas break tend to get a little "off track" from our normal routine, structured days that kiddos thrive in get changed or interrupted....testing, Christmas programs, Holiday store, activities, sing-a-longs....just change.  Now, change can be good but at times it can lead to a little unraveling and some not so merry days.

I do most of my math and reading in a workshop format...I have kept that format but added little bits/activities  and sprinkled a little holiday magic here and there in their rotations.  The consistency of keeping our "routines" keeps my kiddos focused and jolly and their teacher a happy camper.  

Some of these "sprinkles" have been:
- making ornaments for parents (not done yet) 
- I've handed out Elf tags 
- We have had daily fun with our kindness elf making cards for a nursing home, letters to firefighters, delivering Christmas pencils to another class just to name a few

In the plans for next week:
Snowflake QTip Angle Snowflakes
Candy Labs from The Science Penguin with Crystal Snowflakes, Cookies and Milk experiments and Elf potions:)
Another tip I have for you is to make sure your have a little pack of "thank you" notes and even a pack of Christmas cards in your bag or desk.  Then you can write notes as you need to and not forget anyone:)

Be sure to visit my other teacher friends and read about their tips and make sure you enter our Winter Prize Bundle giveaway!


Character Traits and Kindness Elves

So this year a kindness elf showed up in my classroom!  I got this fabulous idea and wonderful little tags from Erica at Erica's Ed-Ventures!  If you haven't already, you must pop over there and read all about how she incorporates kindness elves in her classroom!  (Click Here)

I am absolutely thrilled with the response our kindness elf has gotten from my kiddos!  We have cleaned up trash, picked up toys at home, collected clean blankets and towels for an animal shelter,
written letters to the local fire department and are working on cards for a local nursing home.
I am absolutely loving how it's making the kids think of others:)  They are so excited each morning to come in and see what the kindness elf has for them to do!!  

On another note, I wanted to share a little activity we did wasn't planned or in my lesson was one of those last minute ideas.  I don't know about you, but sometimes those are the best;)
Last week we worked on character traits and motivations, and this week we are working on explaining a setting in depth:)  We are also working on working in cooperative groups with our learning (that's a whole other blog post...we have a rules poster they came up with and everything), anywho, I broke the kids up into 5 different groups.  I gave each group a Christmas themed book.  Each group had to read their book and then make a tree map.  

The tree map had to include the main character and 2 character traits for that character along with evidence to support that.  
They also had to include the setting including details about that.  Finally, they had to tell one character motivation and the evidence for that.....THEN each team presented.  They did great with their presentations and I love the traits they came up with as well as the evidence they used to "prove it".   Reading a story, synergy with group work, thinking maps, and presentations....I'd say that's a Win-Win! 


Endangered Animal Adoption

For the past few years I have adopted an animal for my class.  It started about 5 years ago when we were studying sea turtles.  That year I adopted a sea turtle that had a satellite tracker on her (which eventually came off).  We got to follow along with her little journey.  That was fun!

Then 2 years ago we I read the amazing The One and Only Ivan as a read aloud!  Such a wonderful book.  After reading that I decided to look into animal adoption, I thought it would be fun to adopt a silver back gorilla to go along with our book....
and this is where adopting endangered animals from World Wildlife Fund started.

Last year, we really didn't read a book with a tie in to an animal so I decided to let the students choose.  They worked in teams and narrowed it down to 5 animals, then we voted as a class and the winner was the blue-footed booby, which by the way, I already thought was extinct:/
My class last year also went through the catalog and each chose their own endangered animal to research.  They eventually wrote their own little informational text books on their animal (that will have to be another post:) )
There are different levels of adoption and each level comes with different items.  I do the $55 adoption level which includes:
-  the adoption certificate
- and color photo of the animal
- a species spotlight card
- stuffed animal
- gift bag
The students get so excited about this and really feel like they are helping out that animal:)  They also "dig into" finding any and all info on that animal to share with the class as we await the arrival of our adoption package.
The stuffed animals become great reading buddies in the classroom too!

This year, I again let them vote:)
and the winner was the adorable and amazing Okapi!
Such a beautiful creature!
Now, since I have ordered, I get a magazine in the mail automatically.  The magazines are wonderful!  Yes, they are full of stuffed animals, BUT they are also full of wonderful information about the regions these animals live in, details about the different animals, wonderful pictures, and lots of info on the level of endangerment that animal is currently in.
This is a fun and educational way to "give back to the world", if only a little bit!


Pizza Box Fractions

No, I didn't fall off the planet....I have just been HORRIBLE about blogging...that will get better, I promise.  
I have had several people ask for the directions I made for these projects and I thought I linked them in my blog post (HERE) but for some reason, it must not work for all....SOOOO, I uploaded them as a freebie in my shop:)  

You can grab them HERE!
Thanks for popping by!  I hope you have a wonderful week!!


Early Bird Book Club - Monday Made It October

Promised to be back with Monday Made It and share about my Early Bird book club I shared pics of on FB so here goes:)
I LOVE doing literature circles/book clubs with my kiddos but don't usually start those until closer to the end of the year....I wanted to start a little, and I mean little, (5 kiddos) book club before school once a week....hence, Early Birds:)  As I was looking through the sets of book club books I had, I came across this one!  
I had forgotten that I bought a small group set of this!  Perfect!  I LOVED anything about little people that lived under the floors and in the walls when MY  kids were little!
I have had these bags from the Target dollar spot forever and didn't know what to do with them until now;)  I'm using these to keep their materials (pencil, post its, book, bookmark, eraser) in.  Each student in my Early Bird group got a bag. At the end of our meeting time, I collect the bags for the next week.
For our first meeting (we have only had  I dumped a little bag with these items out on the floor and told them it was a clue to what book we were reading.
They had some great guesses...Alice in Wonderland was one of them:)  After a few minutes, I told them there was one more clue somewhere in the room...they looked and looked...they were looking at eye level so I told them to "think little".  That was hilarious!  A few got on their hands and knees and started looking:)
I don't have a pic of this little door before but it was just plain wood.  I got it at Hobby Lobby...I think it was called a fairy door....I painted it and hot glued it to the wall;)  It took them a while but they found it and then went nuts!  
After I showed them the book, we went back to our little pile of clues and talked about all the things they Borrowers would use each of the items for:)  So fun!
Now, of course the door doesn't open during the day....the magic only happens when we are gone or at night.  They were/are so excited about this magical little journey we are taking together and it's spilling into the classroom and catching onto the other students. Even though they aren't all in the club, they are just as excited! 
I don't want to tie homework to our club BUT I did ask them to bring something in for our next meeting.  I asked them to find something around their house that The Borrowers may take and then be ready to explain what they would use that item for.  I can't wait to see what they bring in!
I also found these cute little post its for them to grab and mark spots as we are reading for questions they may have, something they want to talk about, and so on...

I would love to hear any ideas you all may have for fun activities or ideas to go along with this book! PLEASE feel free to share in the comments section below:)
  It amazes me what a little wooden door in a classroom will do to stir up some excitement about reading!!  Magical!!

That's all I have for this made it:)  Link up any time during the month when you can:)  Only rule is you can't link directly to your TPT shop.  And please leave some love on the blogs you visit!!  Thanks all!  Have a fab week!


Math and Thinking Maps

We have been working hard to incorporate Thinking Maps into our daily learning in all subject areas.  We are finding all kinds of ways to use them:)  Today I'm sharing a few ways we have used them in Math.

Brace Maps
One way to use brace maps that I just learned about at a training was taking apart word problems.  I love this because it really helps students find those important parts, what we know and what we need to find out.  Some of my students really caught onto this and liked using them to solve their word problems. 

Flow Maps
I have to confess, this was one of those "last minute/oh my gosh I'm gonna change my lesson plans" ideas:)

Flow maps are so easy to incorporate into our reading block and with good results but I wanted them to try it in math.  We were working on making bar models to solve word problems and were almost ready to quiz on this lesson.  I typed up about 6 new word problems similar to what were had been practicing.  I broke the kids into teams of 3 and gave each team a word problem and told them they had to create a flow map giving the steps to make a bar model to solve that word problem.  

THEN, I took collected the flow maps and word problems.  I then handed out the flow maps only to the teams (mixing them up) and they had to try and solve the word problem based on the flow map only.  Wowzers!!!  Some of them found that this was not so easy based on the information or lack of information in the flow maps.
Finally, I gave back the actual word problem that went with that flow map and they had to create a new bar model based on the word problem only and then compare:)  Some got the same answer because the flow map they had included very clear details/steps....some found that they got the incorrect answer or no answer based on their flow map because it didn't have enough info or some steps were left out.

This was really eye opening to my kiddos!  They really enjoyed it too!  We glued the flow map and bar model on one side of a piece of construction paper and word problem and bar model on the other side and hung them up;)  

Tree Maps
"Taking apart" word problems is always a challenge for kids...looking for those "key words/phrases" is so important so we made Tree Maps in our STEM journals listing several of those key words and phrases based on the operation.

Thanks for popping by.  It has been forever since I've blogged...I'm hoping life will settle down so I can get better about it....and yes, I forgot/ditched Monday Made It last month:(   That will be back a week from tomorrow:)  Would love it if you linked up something!

Have a blessed day!!


Investigation Station

Do you have a "Science spot" in your classroom?  I'm not talking about a place where you put your school science materials....I mean a spot for "sciencey" (not a word) stuff....well, I didn't until a few weeks ago and wow has it been a hit with my students.  I just set up a "station" on the side of one of my tables and call it our Investigation Station. 
Set up is super easy:)  What's in it?
- little magnifying glasses
- plastic tweezers
- trays
- magnifying boxes
That's it!  Then the fun part!  Fill it with all kinds of fun, science stuff!
We have been working on life science so this was a great tie in!  I've added flowers, seeds, seed pods, shells...I even have an old shark's tooth.
The kids have been so excited, they have been bringing in things that they find to add to our collection.

Each week I bring in one or two new things.  This week has been really fun because I just returned from a trip to Illinois and brought back a few leaves that are just starting to change and some holly branches.  No biggie you might say, but some of my little Florida kiddos haven't seen any of these things.  They were super excited!
Right now, this is just what it is called....and investigation station...they don't have to answer questions, fill out a worksheet, identify.....they are just free to explore and have fun and they are truly enjoying that!  I may or may not add an activity based on what's in the station later but for now it's just free, learning fun!

And when your koi pond fills up with tadpoles, you have to bring them in to the science spot!!

Boy did this stir up some excitement!  If you don't have a "science spot" or Investigation Station, you must add one!  It's so fun to listen to the chatter of the students as they explore.
If you are interested in the Investigation Station sign, it's a freebie at my store:)  Just click below!
If you have some ideas for additions to my Investigation Station, leave a comment:)  Would love to hear about it!!

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