Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Calling all thought provoking questions

For my blog activity this year (see previous blog about I am wanting to gather as many thought provoking questions as I can for my weekly questions. I teach 5th grade so am needing maybe 4-6 grade level questions. Please comment below with any awesome blog questions you can think of! Nothing too subject focused... more critical thinking opinion and judging type questions. The following below will hopefully give you an idea of the types of questions I am trying to collect.

What I have so far:
1. What will you need to change or continue doing in order to succeed this year?
2. Is it ever okay to lie?
3. Do you think boys or girls have an easier life?
4. What would you do if your best friend was of a different race and your parents no longer wanted you to hang out with him or her?
5. If you could ask anyone one question and they could not lie to you: who would it be and what would you ask?

Questions I'm looking for will be stop-and-think type questions. Ones that are hard to answer yes or no and makes them challenge their thinking and make choices and valuable opinions.

Thank you so much for helping to collaborate an amazing list of questions that will help our students grow!

Fairy Tale Revival - Shrek style!

So, I was in the middle of a lesson the other day when one of my kids had to get a question off of his mind, "Who is that one your wall?" (He was pointing to the 6 year old paper creation of Repunzel my bff and I had created the first year I started teaching. I have it placed on my wall and she has long yarn hanging down for her hair. I had used it for AR. As they made their points their prince would climb the hair to be the first to save the princess... cool huh?? Annnyyyways...) I tell him that it is Repunzel. He asks why it is on my wall and so I tell him the AR story. He turns to me and says, "But, Mrs. Richards, how could you have made that 6 years ago? Tangled just came out this year." Uh... what? These kids don't know fairy tales anymore... the Grimm brothers are rolling in their graves I'm sure! Thus began the discussion of how old the fairy tales were and how movies and tv and books today use pieces from those originals to create the new stuff we see today.

The conversation continued between the children, "So, what about Shrek?" No, he is new but the movie uses characters from all kinds of original fairy tales. "Is there a movie for the originals?" "I bet not because they would be in black and white." "Wait, you aren't that old are you Mrs. Richards??" Uh... no. It ended up being a pretty interesting teachable moment and swore to bring the original Repunzel the next day to read to them. That next day, I also relayed the story of Rumpelstiltskin (who most thought was a bad character created for the newest Shrek movie). They were shocked by the original story but then made connections to why they made his character the way they did and thought it was actually funnier now. Yay for connections!

Our youngest generations are losing those old stories that a lot of this society was built upon. Lack of reading to children, sharing stories, technology-distracted... Whatever the cause may be...

What can you do or what do you do in your classroom to remedy this worsening problem? blogging fun!

Have you tried out Safe and user friendly, you can post and have your students respond! I have just started using this free blogging service in my classroom and the kids are loving it!

Each week we have time to work on the computers so the students log on first to There they will find two posts: one that is a technology project using programs such as wordle, prezi, glogster, etc... and one that is a post for them to respond to.

For my first weekly post I created a poll using easypoll and had the kiddos answer the question on there for graphing later. Then they came back and had to answer what they plan to change or continue in order to be successful this year.

I had a co-worker write a response on there which she said she needed to be more organized and change how she reacts to change.

I read this response to the kiddos and we talked about how people can react to change, if it is negative or positive and how to give advice.

Each student then got on the computer and responded first with 3 complete sentences about their change or what they were continuing (quick language arts grade) and then provide the teacher advice about either reacting to change or organization.

I then could go in and respond to each of their posts and give them feedback and grades.

It was very interactive and the kids can't wait to see the response from the teacher I had write on there. Some of my lowest students are excited they ask me hourly if she has read and responded to theirs yet.

Once a month, I have a small group of students collaborate and create the weekly question based on a topic I provide them: could be about a novel we are reading, or a skill I want them to work on such as 'making friends', or 'How to stop a bully'.

Just thought I would share a fun technology project you might be interested in :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Have you tried

This is a pretty cool website. It allows students to create a FAKE facebook page in order to show character analysis on a story read in class. It is not associated with facebook and is completely made up and controlled by the one user creating it. I think it would make a really fun novel review to show they got the gist of the story.

Here is an example one I made for The Three Little Pigs
Three Little Pigs Fake Facebook Profile -

I'm trying to figure out the most efficient way to give students access considering you need to be signed up to use it. I'm thinking I may have to sign in to my account and then they can have their own wall that they are working on... If you have any suggestions, please comment below!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Book Genre Are You?

Here is a fun quiz that I created to help your students see which book genre fits them best. I'm in the middle of creating a prezi with a lot more to do with reading and this quiz with be a part of it... but hey why not try it now?

I used Quizilla which is pretty cool and user friendly!

Click here to try out the quiz!

Tell me what you think? Did you find an error or know of a way to improve it? Let me know before I include it in my prezi! I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Glogster - Yet another amazing invention since sliced bread

Okay... I ran across a forum where a teacher mentioned Glogster. Glogster? What is that and why haven't I known about this already?? I had to look into it and I must say... so cool!

Now I must be truthful and admit that I haven't created one yet (still working on my prezi presentation which is turning out pretty cool but darn is it a little time-consuming... it will be worth it though! I'll blog it on here once I'm finished) :) But, from the gallery of people-created glogs... o-m-g.

So what is Glogster? Basically, it is an interactive poster. It would be a very interesting and innovative way to have students present book reports and other class assignments. You could create an entire virtual library of awesome looking information. You can have hidden links that go to websites or YouTube videos etc...

Once I get my hands dirty and try it out, I will be sure to let you know what I think. But, with the school year around the corner, I wanted to bring it to your attention if you were looking for one more unique thing to try this year.

They do have an EDU section for teachers. There is a free version of the teacher account but you definitely miss out on some of the awesome features. There is a comparison chart here, if you would like to see what they offer. The paid version is like $99, so maybe try out the free one and if it seems like something you will use then you could always upgrade.

Here are some of the people-created education blogs that really caught my interest with this program.

This author is amazing:jhoertel
This poster shows some of what you can do with glogster click here
Here he has created a poster book report for The Lightning Thief click here

A poster from another teacher about red foxes. click here

Have you tried Glogster?

Monday, August 8, 2011

To Prezi or not to Prezi? Yes, Please!

Okay this Prezi thing is amazing! There are so many amazing possibilities of making an AMAZING presentation. The one I found below just blew me away. The way it moved around and would zoom into tiny details that mattered... woah. I was so intrigued. I want to make one like this sooo bad!

Teachers! Sign up for your FREE Prezi account and see what awesomeness you can create!!
Click here!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Setting the Rules On the First Day of School

Oh, do I remember that first year of teaching when I stood in front of my very first classroom of kiddos staring at me expectantly and I thought in my head, "What the heck do I do now?" lol

One of my weakness that I will admit to was discipline. I had a hard time setting my rules, and consistency. The problem was I wasn't sure what worked and so I kept changing it up on my poor kiddos. They were like my guinea pigs God bless them and they took it in stride. Thank goodness I had a good group of kiddos that probably felt sorry for me and tried to make it as painless as possible lol. (I should THEM a thank you card sometime :)

ANYWAYS... this post is about setting those rules on the first day and continuing through the school year.

There is a great blog going right now for FREE materials that can help you get organized and started in the right direction toward a chaos-free classroom.Click here to take advantage of this amazing resource!

Again, I am no guru so I'm here to only give my two cents and would LOVE some comments on your amazing and creative ways to instill the rules in your classroom! Please! I wanna hear them!! ;)

One fun way is through a foldable. Kids love messing with paper (well most, there is always one who insists he/she can't cut, or fold, or glue, or write, or raise their hand for help until their paper is a mashed up goo of rips...)Here is one free foldable activity Make sure you have a solid idea of what you want your rules, procedures and whatnot to be before standing in front of the kids. Don't wing it... just don't.

Be prepared to model and then model again... and then again. In the midst of their short term memory issues, kids forget procedures when recess is waiting. Be sure to be clear and straightforward about what you want of them, model the correct behavior, and be clear the consequences (and whatever you do... be consistent with them!)

Sometimes, it works to have the kids help you brainstorm which rules they think are important in a classroom and why. Then help them narrow and guide them toward an appropriate list of rules that belong in the classroom. If they help create them then they will be less willing to break them (at least that's how the saying goes right?)

Decide what kind of positive or negative reinforcements you will have in your classroom. There are intrinsic and extrinsic forms of motivation. The easiest (and most expensive) is extrinsic... or better known as bribing.... yeah I said it... deal with it :)
Intrinsic deals with being satisfied with oneself for the sake of doing good. Pride of accomplishment would fall in this category. Unfortunately, this one takes some suave on your part as kids today live very extrinsic lives. I'm to this day striving to find better ways to achieve this goal. If you know the secret, please let me know! Otherwise, I will be doing my best to lead them in the intrinsic direction as much as I can. Definitely reward them for hard work (I've been known for some popcorn parties) but make sure they have really earned it.

Spend the beginning few weeks continually going over the rules and procedures randomly through the day. Use those teachable moments. Take them time in the beginning to lay a strong foundation of expectation. Believe me, I know from experience, you will spend the entire year chasing after them if you don't. (darn first year of teaching!)

So, share below your secrets, tips, techniques, and strategies for setting the foundation of expectations! Can't wait to hear from you!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Top 10 Things I learned During My First 5 years of Teaching

As I head into my 6th year of teaching, I found myself thinking back to the first 5... especially that very first year. I entered my school with rainbows and gumdrops dripping from my ideas and was ready to change the world... only to find myself in survival mode and almost defeat by Christmas. I still remember when my principal escorted me to my very own classroom. My eyes bugged when I walked in and saw my classroom was one of the few that were two rooms opened into one. It was huge! I was so excited! (Still there today and loving every minute of it!) Despite some trials (like a brown recluse spider bite the first weekend of school starting, walking pnuemonia, etc...) I learned some things along the way that I thought I would pass on to those who are just starting out. There are some amazing blogs out there covering this very thing. If you are a first time teachers, this blog would be an amazing resource of advice for you to check out! Click here!

So here goes:

My Top 10 Epiphanies During my First 5 Years of Teaching:

Number 10: Let's start off with an encouraging one... I had a student this past year. He was one of those who was always the "problem kid" and decided he had to be the trouble kid because that was his persona. At the end of the year, he came to me and asked if I would help him create a Power Point. He told me he wasn't good at typing but had something he wanted to share with the class: so I was to type and he would dictate. On this Power Point he thanked his classmates for believing in him, thanked everyone who helped him through and when he got to the slide he meant for me he broke down into tears. When I asked him what was wrong he said, "I'm going to miss you so much Mrs. Richards. You were the first teacher who believed in me and made me feel like I was worth it." I just recently ran into a student who was in my first year of teaching class. He ran up and gave me a hug and couldn't wait to brag about how well he was doing and he was going to invite me to his graduation when he gets there.

When you have your moments: thank you's, graduation invitations, thankful tears, letters of thanks, or whatever a child feels in their heart they want to share with you... you will know... it is all worth it and more.

Number 9: Be consistent!!!! If you fail to be consistent in your rules or procedures, it will take them all of 30 seconds to figure out the loopholes. Either spend good time in the beginning making a solid commitment to the rules or spend the whole year nagging about them.

Number 8: This relates to number 9. Set the expectations in your classroom quickly. Make sure they understand you are not their friend but their teacher. Be confident, they sense fear. lol

Number 7: Your work will follow you home in the form of graded papers, lesson planning, or planning your next course of action for a struggling child. Make sure you set aside time for yourself and your family so you don't burn yourself out.

Number 6: Find a mentor teacher or group of supporting teachers in your school (and hopefully your grade level) that can help you through when you feel lost or overwhelmed. They are a wealth of knowledge and you might just teach them something new and fresh! Create a learning community around yourself!

Number 5: Document!!! Document anything to do with Modifications, Tutoring, Discipline, Parent Contacts. You never know when something could come back and bite you if you don't protect yourself with what you have done in the classroom.

Number 4: Your principals should be there to support you but also to guide you through the learning process. They will give you constructive criticism (take what they say and learn from it). They are there to make you the best teacher you can be.

Number 3: There is a crap load... yes I said it... crap load of paperwork and I'm not talking just grading papers. It's required... just be prepared.

Number 2: Be Flexible! You need a well developed plan to back you up but be prepared to have to modify, change, add, or delete within a moment's notice.

Number 1: Let what you learned in college motivate you but be prepared to throw the imaginary classroom you had built in your head out of the window as soon as you walk into a real world classroom! :)