Monday, September 23, 2013

Power Pix

It's time for another Whole Brain Teaching topic. Who's excited?!

Today's edition is Power Pix. Power Pix are kind of like word wall words. They are core concept vocabulary words your students need to master. You attach a definition, a gesture, and an image to the word. You hang the words up somewhere in your room and review them often. I'll show you what we've been doing in our class so far.

I created all of mine in a Word document. I find the words the students need to master. These words come from various sources - our standards, our math curriculum, grade level created curriculum, etc. I teach the five step lesson plan that goes with the core concept words. (You can read my post about five step lesson plans here.) When the students have mastered the concept, the Power Pix goes up on the wall. 

Today I taught Chemical Change. I taught them a chemical change is an unexpected change in temperature, state, or color. I had them orally repeat after me several times, I had them teach their neighbors, and I had them write the definition in their science notebooks. They say the definition with gestures. I used the ASL sign for "change," I look incredulous when I say, "unexpected," and I count off on my fingers the three unexpected things. Adding gestures activates the students' motor cortexes. This part of the brain, when activated, helps to store information into long term memory. Of course we review all of our Power Pix A LOT! 

Most of my Power Pix will come from math, so I've started collecting them on my biggest cupboards.

Here's a close up.

These are our science terms so far. I didn't do a five step lesson with the states of matter. Instead, I read a book about matter and change that introduced the states of matter. As we went through the book, we created gestures and examples for each state. We show with our hands what the molecules look like at each stage, we say the definition with gestures, and we give an example with an example popper. I liked introducing the states of matter during our reading time because it helped build their background knowledge before we started doing the experiments and we integrated curriculum. Score! Although, now as I type this, I may go back and do a Yes/No Way, QT, and some critical thinking with the states of matter. It won't hurt them!

Here are the ELA Power Pix we've done so far. Today I taught visualization in reading and paragraphs in writing. When we're done with those mini-units, I'll add those Power Pix. The five step lesson plans can be expanded over many days as the "explain" portion can take quite some time!

I put the current math words for each unit up on the board until we take the test. That way, I remember to review all of the terms at the end of each lesson. More practice!

These are the two comprehension strategies we've done so far.

And these are our writing Power Pix so far.

I am loving the review. At the end of today, we ended up with 10 minutes to fill. So what did we do? We reviewed Power Pix! I loved it, and the kids get more shots at remembering the material. It's a great sponge activity. "Review the two types of changes we see in matter with your partner, and give two examples of each with an example popper and a because clapper!"

Well, there you have it! Questions? Comments? Leave them below. Thanks so much!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Handprint Flag

Have you seen those handprint American flags? I can't remember where or when I first saw them, but I've been wanting to make one for a while now. I thought it would be a great activity for September 11.

I got some white butcher paper, drew some outlines for the stars and stripes, and then had the students paint and stamp their hands.

It's not perfect, but we did manage to get 13 stripes on there!

We went to the park today, and I took this snapshot.


And of course, the obligatory silly shot. :)

I'm going to hang the flag in the fifth grade hallway.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Super Improvers Team

Last year I tried using the clip chart that is famous on Pinterest. I've seen it in a lot of classrooms in my district. It wasn't for me. I liked certain aspects, but not others. I liked that I could recognize students for their achievements, but it got to be a hassle to ask someone to move their clip up. It disrupted the flow of the lesson. I don't know. I just didn't like it.

This year I'm using the Super Improvers Team from Whole Brain Teaching

To set it up, get 10 different colored sheets of paper. Create different levels. I went with a sports theme since it was in the book, and also the name of the system has "team" in it. Other themes could be related to science terms, colors, be creative! I just used the paper that was available in the office. I used left over name plates for each level. Then you cut paper for each student that matches the color of the first level. The book says to use a half sheet and put the students' names on the paper. I used a quarter sheet and put their student numbers on the paper. This is what it looked like before school started.

This is what it looked like last week. I've added the rest of my WBT cards. You can see some stars on student's cards already. For each academic and behavioral improvement, I put a star on that student's card. When they get 10 stars, they move up to the next level. One of my students has nine stars. When she reaches 10, I'll take down her card, write a quick note home about how she's improving at school on the back of the card, and put up the new color for the next level. I've awarded stars for improvements in keeping shoes on, Rocket Math improvements, tidier desks, whatever!

When I check their notebooks, I write notes to them.

When they make an improvement, I stick a star inside. Then they put the star on their card.

So far, I am loving the SIT. The kids are liking it, too. You can only go up, I control the star distribution, and the kids look for ways to improve.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Classroom Art Piece

Aaakkkk! I knew this would happen! As soon as the school year started I would be so exhausted that it would be 10 years between each post. Okay, maybe not 10 years. It has been 10 days, though...

Today's will be short and sweet. This is an idea I found on Pinterest. The pin came from It's Storey Time. I haven't spent time at her blog, but this post was so fun I had to try it myself.

I made this at the end of last school year. It started as a bare bones tree. I had my students dip their thumb or finger in paint and write their name next to it. Last year's color was pink. This year I chose green. Next year....? Yellow, maybe. I did it on the first day of school. I put the school's name before "Family Tree," but I didn't include it in this picture for confidentiality. 

I feel like this post was really difficult, and I only have one thing in it! :( This year will get easier. I just need to keep telling myself this....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Weekly Schedule

Every year I make a weekly schedule like this on the computer. I then print one out a week to do a rough sketch of my weekly plans. Have a great Sunday every one!

Saturday, August 31, 2013


It's the last day of August! And I am so thankful for a three day weekend. The first full week was exhausting for me and the kiddos. Whew! I know we'll soon find a rhythm, but I'm thankful for a little time to recuperate.

I went into school for just a bit today. I didn't use my time effectively yesterday. <cough, cough> Fridays are half days for the kids. My team had a meeting, and then I felt so tired after the long week. I didn't want to do anything. I did talk with the other gal on my team about classroom management stuff, so technically I was still working, but I didn't get anything planned for next week. So I went in today.

I made up a weekly schedule. Now that we know when our specials are and everything, I was able to think about how I wanted our days to look. I also did some year long mapping, did a projection of how I thought September will look, and did a more detailed plan for next week. Let me show you how I did all of this.

I first made up year long maps. These are rough outlines. I didn't think to take a picture. Sorry! Basically I went month by month for each core subject (math, reading, writing, science) and wrote what I wanted to teach on. Next, I mapped out September. This is where I am using my sticky note planner. I love this thing. When I need to change plans around, I can lift the sticky and move it somewhere else! It's generic and gives me a good idea of pacing.

On the computer I made a weekly schedule. I sent a copy to my principal and my coach so they know when they can come in to observe. I print one off each week, write brief notes for the specifics of the week. This may seem a bit excessive, but I like having a quick guide I can glance at. The sticky notes give me big picture ideas, and this gives more clarity.

I stick that schedule into my yellow lesson plan binder.

I keep a class list, seating chart, and a pencil pouch at the front. If I ever have to be absent for an unexpected reason, the sub can look at this and figure something out. I do need to put together my sub folder soon. I'll do a post on that when I get there. :)

Because the first few days are weird and crazy, I didn't do my schedule like the previous schedule. I actually scripted out my first three days. This picture shows day one. Then for last week, I typed up a different schedule for each day. It was very helpful. I also made notes to myself about what went well and what I need to change next time.

My lesson plan binder also has tabs for my core subjects. This is where I keep my lesson plans that I type up. I don't type out everything, but when I do I stick it in it's appropriate place. 

That's it! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Number of the Day!

I know you've all been holding your breath waiting for this. You can now exhale.

Sorry for not posting sooner, BTW. First week of school exhaustion has kept me away from here. I hope to quickly become acclimated to the new year.

I got this idea when I was teaching in Washington. The gal I team taught with got this idea from someone she used to teach with. So here we go!

Every day, the students walk in and get started on the Number of the Day on their whiteboards. It gets the class working quickly and quietly on a meaningful task while I do attendance, house keeping, etc.

When I taught them how to do NOTD, I wrote each step on a piece of chart paper and explained it as we went through examples. This is how they did NOTD all last year.

This year I have added steps five and six, word and expanded form. (Sorry the pic is so blurry.) I just added this piece today, so I will teach it tomorrow, although we just went through the math lesson yesterday and today. 

All ready for tomorrow!

Thanks for reading. Please ask questions or make comments. How could I improve?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Day of School!

I am exhausted, my feet ache, and my voice is sore. I have been keeping my vitamin C intake up because I don't want to get sick!

Today was the first day of school. Hoorah! I am glad it's over. The day just flew by for the kids, but it was sooooooooo long for me. I hate the first few days really. I don't know the kids or the class dynamics, they don't know the routines, and I have to do a lot of practice with the simple procedures. It's just a pain, but we have to put in the effort now so we can fly through the rest of the year.

This is what I had on the board as the students came in. I played soft, gentle music like I always do in the mornings. Most kids didn't read the directions, but I had something to point to when they had a question. "I don't know where to put my back pack." "Let's read what number four says again."

These were on their desks as they came in. The name tags have the students' names on them. I also put a whiteboard marker on there. Whiteboards and math texts went in their desks. They didn't need anything else today. The questionnaire was something simple to do so I can get to know the students.

Alright. This tired teacher is going to bed. I need to wake up early to prep for tomorrow. I couldn't stay after school today, so I get to wake up before the butt crack of dawn. Good night!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classroom Reveal!!

Okay! It's time. Tomorrow is the first day of school, so this is the best my classroom will look all year. I'm going to start with before photos, and then I will show you pictures from just an hour ago. Enjoy! And please appreciate the hard work it took to pull this thing off. It was so much more difficult cleaning and organizing the room than I ever thought, but well worth it.



This is the easiest decoration to put together, but it always turns out so nice. I've used it every year since my student teaching. The palette says "A Colorful Class" and the jars say "Of 5th Graders." The paint blobs have each students' name on it.

Thanks for looking! Going to do a few more things before I rest up. I'm going to write out name tags and labels for student whiteboard markers. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep tonight. So excited!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Table Group Leaders

Alright, ya'll. (I was born in Mississippi, so it's okay for me to say that.) I'm trying out something new this year. In a previous post, I mentioned Little Lovely Leaders' idea for handling paper distribution. She has baskets on each groups' bookshelf. She puts the paper that the students need for the day in the baskets, and then the table leaders hand them out when the teacher directs them to. I'm so excited to try this out! Here's what my group shelves look like after today:

There were so many textbooks left in my room. Most of them we use, but not every day. So I put the books on the shelves. I didn't want a bunch of stuff cluttering up their desks. (They have enough junk as it is.) There is a plastic shoebox container on the middle shelf with glue, scissors, coloring implements, etc. The caddy has tissues, Germ-X, and the table leader's badge.

This is my unintentionally crappy shot of the Purell dispenser. I was tired and in a rush. Don't judge. I put a rubber band that matches the group color around the pump to limit the distribution. I also put a group color label on there.

I found a whole bunch of Smokey the Bear lanyards. So, with a paint chip, a laminator, and a hole punch, I made group leader badges. I will look out for the leaders to handle this prestigious responsibility. They pass out the papers, get supplies, and clean the bookshelves: a very high honor indeed.

The baskets have my beginning of the year letters already. I still need to fill them with first day activities, but I thought I'd go ahead and put what they'll need at the end of the day on the bottom. Smart, right?

I have scripted out my first three days. Here's how I plan on teaching the papers procedure: (It follows WBT's three-peat idea.)

As you may have noticed, each table group has a color. Tell you neighbor what color your group is. Teach!
Class, class!
Explain to your neighbor how you knew what color group you were at. Teachity-teach!
Oh, class!
Ask your neighbor, “Do you see this basket full of stuff?”
Hands and eyes!
(Speak softly.) This basket will be full of materials you need for the day. I will be looking for great student leaders to be group table leaders. They will be in charge of handing out materials when I ask them. Teach your neighbor what I just taught you. Teeeaaach!
For the next couple of days, I will let various people be table leaders until I find the ones who will get that honor. For now, I will assign one for today. That person will be the table leader just for today. Teach your neighbor about table leaders. Teach, teach, teach!
Oh, my class!
(Assign table leaders.)
Table leaders, when I say papers, please hand out to everyone at your table the big, white pieces of construction paper. When I say papers, everyone says, “Papers, papers, papers!” Students, when you get the paper, place it at the top right hand corner of your desk with your questionnaire. Teach your neighbor what I just said. Teach!
So, class!
When I say, “Papers!” you say, “Papers, papers, papers!” The table leaders will hand out to everyone at your table the big, white pieces of construction paper. Students, when you get the paper, place it at the top right hand corner of your desk with your questionnaire. If everyone can do this by the time I count down to zero, the class will get a point. Papers! (Practice and re-teach as necessary.)”