Friday, December 6, 2013

Five for Friday - December already?!

It seems like I was just writing my post for November!

It's been a bit since I've been able to make time for a decent blog post. I have had so many half-written in my mind...but I suppose they only count when I actually type them up to share!

So I'm going to link up to Doodle Bug's Five for Friday and try to cover it all in one post!

1. Vacations

This week was a short one, but a doozy. We had Monday off because it was the first day of hunting season. Last week we had school Monday, a snow day on Tuesday, and a teacher planning day on Wednesday. So needless to say when the kids walked in the door Tuesday morning they were not totally in school mode. I fear it'll only get crazier seeing as Christmas break is just 10 school days away! 

2. Language Arts this week

We finished Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes pretty quickly, and have moved on to reading The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I love this book, though I know it's not everyone's favorite. It's about two kids who run away from home to go live inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That's where they discover a mystery to solve. The book provides a lot of opportunities for teachable moments, and has some great vocabulary.

My mentor sentence activities came from Trouble with Trolls. It's always fun to read a Jan Brett book and point out all of the hidden things, and side pictures. Mentor Sentences are still going really well. I've even turned on some colleagues to using them. My favorite part of the week is Thursday when we write our imitation sentences. The sentences my kids are coming up with are awesome. 

We've moved into informational writing now too! So, Jivey basically writes one out of ten of my lesson plans, because I heard about this book from her blog too. Haha. It's called Animals Nobody Loves, and is great because it packs a lot of interesting information about some unique animals into just a couple paragraphs per page. Because we've only just begun this unit of writing, we mostly used it to talk about the differences between narratives and informational writing, and the idea of choosing "expert topics" to write about. It's surprising how many kids want to write their first piece on something that they know almost nothing about. One of our first projects for informational writing is to brainstorm a list of Expert Topics and Sub-topics. 

I have a product in my store that I've just updated with a couple more cool things. It includes a poster about Informational Writing, a graphic organizer to help kids work on formulaic writing, and my brainstorming organizer. Check it out! Just two smackeroos!

3. If I Had a Million Dollars Project Based Learning

My kids started a new project based learning project this week! They really loved the Zoo Design project we did a while back (from Matt over at Digital: Divide and Conquer) and I really love them having a go-to project to work on as one of their math workshop centers!

So today at the beginning of math I played the song "If I had a Million Dollars" by the Barenaked Ladies, and then explained that the kids would be given an imaginary million to spend. There are rules of course. They have to buy a house, a vehicle, and set aside money for college. After that they get to go wild! We spent some time on today and every kid found a house they would be happy with in the city of their choice. They're excited to see how far they can stretch the million. I think the real compliment was when a kid came over from his class (I teach kids from all the different classes during math time) during indoor recess today to ask me a question so he could work on the project some more. 

I put together the materials I made in a small packet, and have the packet available in my Teacherpayteachers store for just $2.00! Click here to go check it out! 

4. Centering Activities

This year I am part of a team of people in my school who are working on instilling both a growth mindset and mindfulness into our students. As part of that I've begun doing "centering" activities with the kids. These can be as simple as turning the lights down low, sitting in a circle, closing our eyes, and listening to soft piano music while thinking. Today I had the kids sit in a circle with me, we shut off the lights, closed our eyes and I rang a Tibetan singing bowl. When the kids couldn't hear the bell anymore they had to clasp their hands together. 

I borrowed one of these from my teaching bud down the
hall. It's a Tibetan Singing Bowl.
I think the kids really enjoy doing the activities, which serve as a great 4-5 minute brain break, though I have found that some of the activities don't mesh well with one of my students with autism. I'm eager to keep experimenting though!

5. Japan

This week we finally started our Japan Unit! We had a fun activity where I placed artifacts from Japan at centers around the room and the kids rotated as they tried to discover the items' uses. They also were asked to determine if the artifact is unique to Japan or if we have something like it. This activity led to a great class discussion afterwards.

I also read "The Way We Do It In Japan" to the kids. It's a great book that meshes narrative and informative writing. It's about a boy whose family has moved from America to Japan. A lot of great comparisons are made throughout the story.

And that was some of my week! What great resources do you know about for teaching Japan? What about Informational writing? Do you take time to get your kids centered? Any great tips to share? I'd love to hear them!


  1. I might need to visit your classroom for some centering activities! I keep my reminding my students that we need to take a moment to be zen as things keep piling up around us ;)

    Love all your ideas! Thanks for sharing :)
    My Shoe String Life

  2. Nick,

    Great post...I love schools that get days off for hunting season--I used to be in one, but not in the chicago suburbs. I'm also surprised at the amount of kids that think they know exactly what to write about but are truly uninformed (then they're not really prepared to put the work in either because it might take a while).

    Glad the Zoo Deisgn worked out for you! If you've took in photos I'd love d to see how you finished projects look compared to some of my students. I also love the idea of always having the students doing some kind of PBL--that is just cool.


  3. I love hearing your centering activities. Those can make sure a difference to a community. I can picture your sweet learners grasping hands at the end... precious!

    XO, Kelly Anne

  4. I loved that book when my third grade teacher read it to us!

  5. Nick! I'm so excited to hear about this book The Way We Do it in Japan. We JUST had some Japanese visitors to our school on Thursday. Every year, graduate students from Soka Univ. come to our school with their professors. They tour our school, spend 15 min. in each room observing us and the kids, and then at the end of the day, a couple of them go to a few classroom and teach a lesson to our students for an hour. My class was lucky enough to experience that this year. A lot of fun!! This book you mentioned is PERFECT to read to my kids now. So appropriate! Thanks for the heads up!

    Teaching Powered by Caffeine

  6. I'm so glad I can help with your lesson plans! Hee hee! I do love that book, and so do my kids. Your Japan unit sounds so fun- I wish we taught it so I could steal some of YOUR ideas! :)

  7. It sounds like you had a busy week! It's nice to see you back on the blogging scene. I wish Japan was part of our units on Ancient Civilization or our focus in WWII. I usually try to do some origami because the class loves it. When I was in high school a group of Japanese educators came to our school district to learn about our school. My dad was the assistant superintendent so they brought us a ton of gifts. I still have the origami paper cranes they made me... on fishing line.. there are about a hundred. It was so cool!
    Enjoy your week!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans


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