Monday, November 28, 2016

Integrating Social Studies Content with Writing Objectives




Last week I wrote about a timeline art project we create while previewing our Social Studies text.  Today I'm going to explain how I integrate content area objectives in social studies with ELA objectives.  

Our Social Studies content area objective is understanding the concept of Natural Resources, as well as learning examples of natural resources from each of the 5 regions of the United States.  To build understanding, we create a concept web together.  

I give a definition at the top.  Then I give a couple examples, and take student examples.  Next I talk about "non-examples" in order to correct misconceptions.  For example, at the start of the year I focus on foods as examples.  Lasagna would be an important non-example to cover, because although it's a food, it does not come directly from nature.  Another non-example might be grass, because although it comes from nature, we don't eat it and it's not otherwise useful to us.  I have these concept maps for Natural Resources, Products, Landmarks, Landforms, and Recreation available in my Northeast Region Unit

At this point we are ready to research Natural Resources in our first region (I start with the Northeast, because that's where we live).  This is where our ELA objective comes in.  I tell students that we have already skimmed the text through the "lens" of finding dates, but this time we will read the same text, all the while looking for foods.  Students list the foods in their notebooks.  I pair students up to read together by splitting the class into 2 (confidential) lists, one of the best readers, and one of the weakest.  If I have a class of 20 students, I'll have the ten best readers read with the ten weakest readers.  Number 1 reads with number 11.  Number 2 reads with number 12, and so on.

As students read, I circulate to help them process what they are reading.  For example, in our text, there is a sentence that reads, "Coffee was imported from overseas."  Guess how many students write "coffee?"  If you guessed "about half," you've done this before.  I explain a bit about context within the paragraph to make decisions about what to record. 

To build excitement about checking our work, we play a "beat the teacher" game.  Using my test to guide my choices, I pick out the most important resources I want students to have on their lists.  Let's say there are apples, trees, corn, maple syrup and cranberries.  Instead of telling them those are the ones to study, I draw 5 tick marks on the board.  Every student stands, and one at a time they read out one natural resource they found.  If it's one of my 5, I erase a tick mark and add it to the list.  If it's not one of my 5 but still correct, I still add it to the chart so they can see what has been guessed already.  The object of the game is to have all 5 tick marks erased before they run out of "contestants."  I love it because as far as competition goes, there's not much pressure, and since it's me against them, I can model being a good sport whether I win or lose.

Next we talk about organizing our list by type.  I refer back to a lesson earlier in the year on sorting animals by type to start.  (Clicking the link will bring you to a post on my other blog).  As students offer categories, I demonstrate how to turn their list of examples two column notes.  Modeling this process now helps with planning a response to reading later in the year as we tackle practice standardized tests. 

Then I introduce the concept of products on another concept map.  Students reread the text with the lens of finding products, as well as using what they know about the natural resources to list their own products.  For example, since we are starting with a familiar region (and they learn a lot about apples in the younger grades) they know apples make apple pie, apple juice, and apple sauce.  They create their own two column notes with the required natural resources I identified in our game. 

At the same time, there is some "backwards design" going on with the list.  Students don't usually write "whale" as a natural resource when the first read the text, but at the end, they usually notice that there are many products that come from whales.  The whaling industry was important to our community once, so we add this to the chart. 

Learning to record our research using these charts is an important start to organizing ideas before writing an informational text.  They draw from the natural resource side for main ideas, and the products side for details to write a paragraph.  As we learn more concepts in social studies, these paragraphs become 5 paragraph essays.  Later in the year, we compare and contrast two regions to synthesize ideas.  Of course there are times in writer's workshop when I let them choose a topic to write about, but by starting out with a common set of knowledge in social studies, all students can learn the process of creating informational texts. 









Facebook
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram


Sunday, November 27, 2016

And the Winner Is...


Yesterday I posted about my $10 gift card giveaway to Teachers Pay Teachers.  My husband made fun of me when I went to get a bowl and started writing out names, so I went on random.org for a random number generator.  I assigned each person a number in the order of his/her comment post.





And the winner is Brain Ninjas!  Congratulations!  Watch your Email for your prize by 9pm tonight.  For everyone else, thank you for participating; enjoy some freebies!








1.  Tissue box hygiene reminders.  I use these in my classroom as a not so subtle reminder to keep it clean!  Just rubber-band them to your tissue box.  It's a better place for a reminder than the sink, where they are already washing their hands.  Keep those flu germs at bay!







2.  Holiday Aid for Low Income Students   This is a great seasonal activity for upper elementary students.  It's designed to help target assistance for your lower income students if you have funds from the PTO to provide them with a little something for the holiday.  Whether your PTO will help you or you and your colleagues chip in, this page will help you get started.







3. Mentor Sentences for Complete Sentences.   Mentor sentences require students to analyze quality, model writing, then explain what makes it so.  It's a great alternative to exposing students to models of incorrect writing.  








4.  Kinesthetic Map Activity.  It's not every day you let your fourth graders crawl around on the floor to learn, but I think you'll like this one as much as they do.  This is a fun whole group activity that gets kids practicing where the continents are in relation to each other, as well as which, countries are on which continent. 








5.  Using one half as a benchmark coloring page.  This coloring page reveals a "mystery picture" as kids determine if each fraction is greater to, less than, or equal to one half.  The writing component allows you to differentiate as well as gives students practice justifying their answer. 



Or, if you're looking for bargains for the Teachers Pay Teachers sale, check out these products: Remember to enter promo code CYBER2016 at checkout for 28% off the regular prices, November 28 and 29 only.  Here are a few items from my own store that are in high demand and have kept my own students engaged in their learning each year during the second trimester:



1.  This Long Division Games Bundle provides students with the repeated practice they need to internalize the long division process.  By turning this practice into games and hands on activities, the kids actually enjoy honing their long division skills!

2.  Like the division bundle, this Equivalent Fractions Activities 3 in One Bundle is hands on, and helps students enjoy their math block. 










3.  If you're looking for a more complete fractions unit, I am launching my finished FRACTIONS UNIT on Monday, just in time for the sale.  This product has been months in the making, and I wanted my readers to have the opportunity to get the maximum savings on it.  Check out my most recent product and save 28%! 







4.  If you really want to plan ahead, Poetry Month is traditionally in April.  This is the time to save big on a complete poetry unit for fourth grade.  It has everything you need for high stakes test prep.  This Fourth Grade Poetry Mini Unit helps students meet the standards while also providing opportunities for creativity and appreciation for a variety of poetic forms. 





  
5.  And finally, if you're looking for my best deal, you can save 28% on my largest bundle, my 5 US Regions Unit Plans Bundle.  Normally priced $25, it will cost just $18.75 for two days only! 

So start filling your wishlist, and come back Monday and Tuesday to save a bundle on some fun, engaging resources for your class. Again, remember to enter promo code CYBER2016 at checkout for 28% off.  Happy shopping!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Just a Straightforward Giveaway



Let me get right to the point.  I have a $10 online gift code for Teachers Pay Teachers to give away, and I want to make it easy for you!

I don't usually do giveaways because I don't really like entering them.  I know there's a small chance of winning.  And I don't like "loops" where I have to "hop" from place to place to be eligible.  My time is valuable, and if you've read this far, you're a teacher, so your time is valuable too.

So here's the deal!  In the comments section, tell me something you would like to get from Teachers Pay Teachers.  And I don't mean you need to put a specific title or link, just whatever you'll need in the weeks or months ahead.  Like "water cycle board game" or "Northeast Region Unit."    

Only comments made here on this post on this blog will count.  I will pick a winner the old fashioned way: pulling a number out of a bowl.  One entry per person, please. 

Also, I need a way to contact you if you win.  You can leave your Email address in your comment, or check back here at Shut The Door and Teach on Sunday night and I'll post the winner's name so you can contact me then, if you prefer.   

This contest will end at 4:00 pm Sunday (at the earliest) and I'll announce the winner by 7:00 pm EST Sunday night.  That way you can use your $10 during the Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Sale on November 28 and 29.  Even if you don't win, you can save up to 28% with promo code CYBER2016. 

So do tell!  What would you type into the search bar over on Teachers Pay Teachers if you win? 







Facebook
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram


Saturday, November 19, 2016

U.S. Regions Timeline project



When I prepare my 5 U.S. Regions units, I start with my students' most familiar region, and that's the Northeast.  I know they are coming to me having studied bits of its history, including regional Native American tribes and Pilgrims.  As a warm up, I start with a comic I drew of colonial American life.  Because fourth graders love coloring too!






Next, since research is new to students, we move on to take a "book walk."  We preview the text by skimming and scanning for dates.  To easily manage this activity, split up the reading in advance.  For example, I have students in groups of 4, so I need 4 dates per group.  As you can see in the photo, if a page has 3 dates, write the page number 3 times.  If it has none, omit it.  Pages 226 and 227 were so full of dates, students couldn't miss them, so they needed no further supports.   


I use the task of selecting sentences as a way to practice teamwork.  Depending on the students, there may be disagreements or tantrums about who gets to write "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."  It's the perfect opportunity to rehearse our strategies for working in groups.  We can vote, use rock paper scissors, draw straws, make a deal (I pick this time, you pick next time), go by birthdays so the youngest chooses this time, and so on.  If the group can't decide fairly, I intervene, and make a note about students who are still learning to work cooperatively as evidence for progress reports.  

Once students have their sentence with a date, they copy and draw a picture.  As the year goes on, students learn to paraphrase for clarity.  For example, the sentence, "It happened in 1620." may be the sentence straight out of the book, but it fails to capture the main idea.  We go back and reread the paragraph to see how we can summarize what the event was, as well as include the year. 

Students trace the text and drawings with a fine tipped Sharpie, because I want them visible from some distance.   

These are later hung on the timeline that hangs along one entire wall of our classroom.  We start with blue for the Northeast, then when we begin the Southeast we have a green border, yellow for the Midwest, orange for the Southwest and Red for the West.  As we near the end of the year, we look for patterns.  What decades have more color?  Following the yellow, we notice when westward expansion was at its peak.  By focusing on the blue, we also notice that most of our earliest recorded history was in the Northeast region. 

I love this project because it's a relaxing routine for the start of each unit, but the result is a visual tool we can refer back to again and again throughout the year.  We further analyze history towards the end of each chapter, once we become more familiar with the region, but that's a post for another day.  You can also see how it all comes together here in my Northeast Region Unit.  How do you use timelines in your classroom? 







Facebook
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram


Friday, November 11, 2016

Your Regions of the U.S. Professional Development


Why do I most enjoy teaching the subjects I liked the least when I was a student?  I think it's because I'm trying to save my students from feeling the boredom I felt!  One of the subjects I liked the least was Social Studies.  But when it comes to teaching, it's one of my favorite subjects!  I guess I just don't feel the same pressure teaching it as I feel with Math, Reading, Writing, and now even Science.  In Massachusetts in fourth grade, there is no standardized Social Studies test.  No Common Core Social Studies Standards.  And our text books are over 30 years old, so the attitude in my district is "Just do the best you can."  So although I have content to cover, I pretty much have creative freedom when it comes to how I teach it!

The downside is that there has been no Professional Development in the realm of Social Studies, either.  And that's when I wondered, "Besides those of us in my district, how many other teachers are troubled by this?  How many other teachers are on their own to find creative new ways to teach Social Studies?"  So that's why I decided to start a mini series of blog posts on how I teach Social Studies, and more specifically, the U. S. regions.  Here are some of the topics I'll be exploring in greater detail:

1.      Although there are different ways to split up the U.S., we teach 5 regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West).  
 
2.      Cover the concepts of Natural Resources, Products, Landforms, Landmarks, historic roots, and forms of recreation for each region.  As the year goes on we introduce related concepts such as bodies of water, economy, climate, conservation (here is a sneak peak of how I cover these concepts my Southeast Region unit).

3.      Integrate research with content information.  Since we have such a short school day, we are always encouraged to have use an ELA standard and content area standard in the development of our units.

4.      Integrate the arts.  Visual art and performance art make learning fun and help information stick with the kids!
 
5.      Use games to review information.  
 
6.      Make real world connections between information researched and what students have observed in your region with projects. 

Am I right?  Have you received PD in any of these topics other than #3?  If you teach the regions, what are your favorite and least favorite topics? 






Facebook
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram 



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How to Talk to Students About the Election Results



Like many others, I woke up this morning having a hard time processing the results of the presidential election. 

Just yesterday, I saw a colleague copying an article for her class and asked her if I could grab a copy.  I scanned the 3 pages:  "Donald Trump.  Hillary Clinton.  Who Will America Choose?" 

Even that made me feel a knot in my stomach.  So yesterday I read them excerpts from "So You Want to Be President." I taught about the electoral process, and I gave them a writing prompt that I tend to save for President's Day:  "If I Were President..."  and we spent time sharing those sentiments.  But in the end, I didn't even copy the booklet my colleague used.  I didn't mention the candidates by name in my classroom. 

So this morning I felt a stress headache from not just trying to come to terms with the future of my country/the world, but also from the pressure of figuring out what to say to my students.  I knew I could not have a Morning Meeting with my class and ignore it.  It WOULD come out at some point, and I needed to steer the conversation in the best direction possible so that they had some common ground and normalcy to refer to. 

So during Share Time, I showed them my sticker.  I told them, "I voted yesterday, and I got this sticker.  And so did my husband.  It was his first vote as an American citizen.  Raise your hand if you voted yesterday too. 

Does anyone have any questions?"
 
Of course the kids started talking all at once.  When alluding to the hot topic but not preaching about it, kids in classes who feel safe will always name the elephant in the room better than adults.  In that regard, the pressure is off me.  I take time to listen to what they already know.

Some said they voted for Trump.  Others said that Donald Trump won.  One quiet voice beside me (let's call him Chris) said no, Hillary won.  I stopped them and reminded them to raise their hands with questions and comments.  Here are some of our discussion points:

Chris said, "We don't talk about politics in school."  I said, "Actually, the nice thing about being in a free country is we are ALLOWED to talk about politics in school.  But also, we can not be FORCED to talk about politics in school."

Another student asked me who I voted for.  And I answered the way I always do.  I said that although we are allowed to share that information, I choose not to.  I explain it's because I don't want to influence them about a single person, because they won't be voting for that person when they turn 18 anyway.  I'd rather teach them to think about what it means to be a great leader and make their own choices. 

Then Chris raised his hand.  "So who won the election?"  And I answered, "Donald Trump won."  And there were cheers and chants and connections made between him and a famous duck with the same given name.  All while he curled up in a ball and fought back tears. 

Then a girl raised her hand and said, "Donald Trump makes fun of girls." 

That was definitely my most challenging moment to endure with my students.  I nodded, and let the comment hang in the air for a moment while I collected my thoughts.  I reminded myself, "Teach ideals.  Not people."  And I took a deep breath.

"Did any of you write yesterday, 'If I were president, I would make fun of people?'"

Of course not.

"What did you write about?"

"Share money with people who are hungry."
"Be a leader."
"Be kind." 

And then I reminded them of something we talk about a lot.

"We all make mistakes.  And every time we make a mistake, I tell you, try to do better.  Hopefully Donald Trump will try to do better, and do some of those great things you wrote about."

The kids looked more convinced than I felt, so I decided it was time to gently steer the conversation away from Trump's character.  I asked, "So who knows who the president is now?"  And they all said, "Donald Trump!"

"No!"

"Huhh?!?!"

"It's Barack Obama!"  I explained that he is the "president elect" so he WILL be president, but not until January.  "Remember in the book we read, there will be a big ceremony, and he will have to promise to do his best to lead our country." 

"Oh yeah!" 

Then one of the kids asked, "So does Donald Trump have to learn to be president now?"

"He sure does.  And he's got 2 months to do it."






Facebook
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram 



Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Top 5 Tips for Open House Night (and a Freebie)


Open House can be stressful for teachers.  I don't know about you, but we have our Open House Night around the 5th week of school, on a Thursday. Think of it this way:  your students are still getting to know your expectations and you're still getting a feel for the group dynamic.  Your stamina is back after the beginning of the year exhaustion, but then suddenly you have to stay late in the middle of the week.  You have heard stories about "those parents" and although you're very used to speaking to a room of children, adults are a different ballgame.  Yup, stressful.

So how do you make your Open House preparation easier, and better your chances of success the evening of?  Here are my top 5 tips to a successful Open House.

1.  Think about materials that parents don't usually get to see.  Along with work on bulletin boards, think about the in-class materials students interact with regularly.  For example, there have been some years that I never send home the math textbook for homework; only the workbook.  Or maybe you hold back journals or writing folders.  If the kids are using it weekly the parents will benefit from getting to see it.  This will not only help conversations such as "What did you do in school today?" flow a little easier, it will also help parents understand later on if you refer to those items on the progress report.

2.  Organize what you want to say, and provide handouts.  I know some people like to go paperless, but I always give presenters a better grade if they provide handouts (even if it's like Whose Line and the points don't matter).  You can see how I organize my own handouts on this product description page for my Open House Packet.  This packet will be part of the Teacher's Pay Teachers 1 day sale this Monday, 8/22.  Just remember to use promo code ONEDAY at checkout!
3.  Have a blank copy of the report card to hand out.  Write "SAMPLE" across it if you like, but it's important for parents to know what is expected of their child at the very beginning.  Finding out about it after it's been assessed can feel frustrating for the person being graded as well as their parents.  

4.  Feed them.  Popcorn, mints, or other "no prep" finger foods are easy for you and is always a nice ice breaker when you "have guests over."  

5.  Have an "official" sign up sheet for parents who want to discuss their child's progress.  There's one in every crowd.  Even thought the principal reminds parents that Open House is different from Conference Night, parents are naturally more interested in THEIR CHILD than they are in YOUR CURRICULUM.  Don't try to fight it; acknowledge it, but have that sheet ready.  Adhering to the idea that Open House is not the same as a conference shows your respect for the time of other parents in the room and protect the privacy of the children.  It also shows parents that not only are you available but you've anticipated their needs if you are ready to make appointments then and there.  And honestly, when I do this, I only have around 2 per year who actually follow through with needing a conference before the first progress report comes out 2 weeks later.

Bonus Tip:

Keep it clean.  Your classroom should be as tidy and clean as you and your students can get it.  Of course, if you're working on a project that's half finished there's no shame leaving that as a "learning artifact."  But if your desk looks like mine (crazy) sort the mad piles of papers into folder and stack them.  Hide stuff in drawers if you must.  Threaten bribe remind students to clean the floor and work areas.  I don't actually make them clean their desks (I want parents to see the real deal if it's something their child needs to improve and I mention it to them later on). 

How do you prepare for Open House?






P.S.  I also want to thank everyone for their continued support (in regards to the last Teachers Pay Teacher Sale).  My gift to you during this latest sale (August 22 only) is a product I revamped over summer vacation:  Back to School Survey for Parents and Students.
This product will help you get to know your new students from their perspectives as well as their parents' perspectives.  I've found both of these surveys helpful over the years!


And if you are looking for more surveys and first week activities, I also have a new bundle of all my old favorites:

This includes the above product, a reading survey, writing survey, Multiple Intelligences inventory, and the original Figure Me Out math activity.  Figure Me Out 6-in-1 Surveys Bundle.  It's a great way to get to know your quieter students, as well as aspects of your students that you may not see in the classroom.  Enjoy!





Facebook
Shut the Door and Teach
Amber Thomas's Classroom Favorites on TPT
Pinterest
Instagram



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...