Friday, January 31, 2014

Currently February

How is it that January seemed to go by sooooooooo slowly, yet February is already here?!  It's my birthday month, meaning I won't even mention how old I will be, and that also means things like parent conferences are around the corner as well as state testing.  Here is my link up with Farley for this month.


Our cats are hanging out on the couch with us as we unwind from the week.  They are snoring up a storm and quite LOUDLY.  And yes, I'm a reality TV junkie and even though I tell myself I will stop watching Real World, I always seem to watch it anyway...because it is there to watch.  When nothing else is on, then it keeps me company.  Although, the San Francisco season on right now is quite the trainwreck.  Trainwreck.


I also scored myself the signature color, Over and Over-A-Gwen, from OPI's Gwen Stefani collection the other day via Amazon.  It's the little things that seem to make me excited these days and I can't stop playing with and looking at this gorgeous red bottle.  It also came with studs and Swarovski crystals. Score!!

And we were supposed to get in the 80s here by today and I am sooooooooo happy to have woken up to cloudy and overcast skies, a nice cool 60 degrees, and a cold breeze instead.  The winters here are lousy and most people who live here want to have a true break from heat.  But we have only had true cool temps for about a month.  It's been jumping up into the 70s and 80s the last week and I'm irritated!


See the above.  'Nuff said.


I seem to want fruity (not chocolate) candy like a crazy person lately.  There isn't any in the house, which is a good thing. But that doesn't mean I don't want it!


I already have a sub secured, but the thought of having to put together 3 days in a row of sub plans is stressing me out.  My team is deconstructing on Wednesday (on campus) and then I have my first Gifted conference on Thursday and Friday.  But the sub plans are definitely daunting.  Who wants to do them for me?!

2 Truths and a Fib:

I'm falling back on my typical answers to this one.  It's too late at night for me to think of some new ones.  

YEP - I have visited 12 countries...England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Mexico.  Aaaaaand, I totally can't think of the last one.  Maybe I need to go to bed.

YEP - I grew up in San Diego and the community I lived in was a quick 10-minute drive from the beach.  We were also only about 30 minutes from the mountains and desert.  I definitely miss living in California.  BIG TIME!

NOPE - Not tap and jazz.  But I actually danced hula from the time I was 5 to 19 and I also danced tahitian from about 9 to 19.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Understanding Fact and Opinion {Part 2}

Welcome to part 2 of our fact and opinion exploration!

You can read about part 1 HERE!

We picked up where we left off the day before with a seriously awesome animated video from 1989, called "Red Riding Hood and the Well-Fed Wolf" (Churchill Films), that I found via the lesson I shared yesterday (you can read more in part 1, but you can find it here just in case).  I really wanted my kids to practice identifying fact and opinions outside of text first so they could become comfortable with listening for signal words and paying close attention to items they know to be certain rather than pushing them into a book straight away.

This is where this blog post is going to come in see, the video the Beacon Lesson Plan calls for is not one you can just find on YouTube.  Believe me I tried and tried again this year before I taught this lesson a 2nd time.  I searched online high and low last year and thankfully found the clip needed (you won't even need the entire thing) on the animator's website.  HERE it is!

I've included some screenshots from Joel Fletcher's (the creator's) website for you to get an idea of how seriously neat and hilarious the video is.

If for some reason you don't have access to a computer and projector, you can actually find this at your local library.  I did a search through my local library's system and actually found it via Overdrive.  So, hopefully, you will find a way to show this in your classroom as my students find it quite entertaining...and even more important?  It is challenging!  The facts and opinions aren't so easy to pull out as one might think.

Before watching the video, my students got a T-chart ready in their reading notebooks.  They are very much used to holding partner and group discussions with each other after we watch videos, so they knew the expectation right away.  I stopped the video after every food group character made an appearance, which made it much easier for students to stop and jot down facts and opinions they had identified.  After a couple minutes, I gave partner groups a chance to Rally Robin back and forth to share items they had recorded.

Once the video was finished, we came together to share different facts and opinions.  I recorded them on our class anchor chart as students added them to their own charts.  Before recording each one on the chart, we did a quick check by throwing up thumbs up if they agreed with the fact/opinion being shared or a thumbs down if they disagreed.  We stopped to discuss why or why not.  The more we did this the more comfortable they became and by the end of the discussion, we had an even better list put together than my students last year.

**And wouldn't you know it?!  While I was posting this, I just noticed I placed a fact on the opinion side and my students didn't even notice!  Gah!!! Maybe you can post this and ask your students to find what doesn't belong?  LOL.**

In my defense, we were about to run off to P.E. that day, so I seriously must have just checked the clock and started writing in on the wrong side when I turned back around.  Sigh.  Oh well.  I can totally revisit this with my kids tomorrow to see if they can identify the misnomer.  

To practice it within text, the real part of our reading standard (our district is still using state standards at this time), I downloaded the extension file (you can get it HERE) included in the Beacon Learning lesson in order to have my students read the restaurant review article.  

Attachment is included with the Beacon Lesson Plan

Using two different colored highlighters, we did the first section together while I modeled the highlighting on the board.  My kids then worked on the second part together.  The two colors made it easy for me to walk around and check-in with students in order to see if I needed to intervene at all.  

To step it up a notch, I showed my class a Discovery Education video downloaded from Discovery Streaming all about tornados.  At the end of it, I asked my students to take the opinion, "I think tornadoes are dangerous," and improve it using facts.  They wrote up and discussed short paragraphs by naming at least 2 facts they learned from the video in order to support the opinion.  My kids did well with this exercise, showing me that they are able to recognize how facts and opinions work together as well as how to decipher them.  We extended the practice opportunity by having students pull an opinion from a text we had recently read (during Close Reading) and supporting them using facts quoted from the passage.  

Screenshot from Discovery Education video

Screenshot from Discovery Education video

As the gifted cluster teacher, I try to give students a chance to make a product to show me their learning.  Most times they are given a choice menu, but for this one I was looking for a quick and easy way to wrap up our unit.  My awesome teammate put together a product rubric and description for making fact and opinion placemats and shared it with me.  Here are some of the placemats students made which included facts, opinions, with supporting facts, and matching illustrations from one of our basal reader's Time for Kids articles called "Forests of the World."  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Time to Pass It On! Understanding Fact & Opinion {Part 1}

Now that the first week back from a nice long winter break is behind all of us, my students are getting back into the swing of things.

When I taught 4th grade, this was a HUGE part of reading.  Now, it always seems like my students come to 5th grade and regurgitate the definition they learn in 4th grade of both.

"Fact: something that is true and can be proven," AND
"Opinion: something that is false or what some one thinks."

Sigh. Then, I fight them when they try to disprove all facts just because they don't agree with them. If a fact isn't something they believe, it is automatically wrong.  Oy vey.  

I hate it when these things have spelling errors.  :-)  But it's still funny.

Last year and this year, I pushed myself and my students to really get past those definitions and start seeing fact and opinion for what they are.  We rephrased and rethought out what each one truly means.

Something I realized on my own last year through discussions with my kids was, facts can be disproven too. But when you do disprove it, you have stumbled upon a fact.  It took a couple days for my kids to let this seep in since they had been programmed to think only facts can be proven.  I challenge you to add this to your repertoire, facts can't be changed and opinions can change because it is what people feel, think, and believe.  

I literally stumbled upon this thought process last year as I was right in the middle of teaching opinions to my 5th graders.  Don't you love it when that happens?  But they just couldn't fathom opinions could be proven too...until I told them they CAN be, and it is how we KNOW they are opinions...because people can change them, as many times as they want.  My students gave me a run for my money and really made me prove my teaching.  

When this all came up last year, I went home and scoured online to find a fact and opinion lesson that would allow me to get them to practice this whole idea in a more interactive, tricky, and fun way.  So, I bring you this lesson I found here through Beacon Learning Center and Laura Ayers from Bay District Schools.  Don't get put off by the "Day 5" bit though.  I didn't use all parts of this lesson, but you can definitely take a looksy yourself in case you'd like to.

After picking through, I definitely DUG starting with the whole broccoli thing...even though I had full intentions of bringing broccoli, I didn't.  So, I just started with my cheesy acting chops and told them in my most confident voice, "I'm sure all of you like broccoli, because it is so nutritious."  Check out the looks on their faces when you say this!  Just by asking people who made a sourpuss face at me to raise their hand if they disagreed showed my entire class right away that I was completely and utterly wrong!

Then I told them, "Maybe I should have just asked you guys who likes broccoli.  If all of you had raised your hand, then I would have been certain you all like broccoli."

Through this I created quite a stir, so we put together our new fangled definitions to get away from those regurgitated versions!  I got them to brainstorm words that signal opinions as well.  At first, they threw the typical words at me such as favorite, think, etc.

Once we got comfortable with this new idea and the signal words, I got them out of their seats for Kagan's Four Corners.  I threw up the sentence frame, "I believe ________ ice cream is the best because..." and labeled the four corners vanilla, chocolate, cookies and cream, and mint chip.  Through discussion, they shared their opinion and why they felt so strongly about their flavor.  They were definitely getting warmed up to this idea!  Next up, I asked them "I think _______ is the best video game because..." and labeled the corners Candy Crush, Grand Theft Auto, Black Ops, and Tetris.  Once they discussed their strong feelings, we had a nice laugh at how old I am since none of them had ever played Tetris, only heard about it through some form of ancient communication.  Sigh.  

What else did I love about this Four Corners activity?  They could easily see by looking around the room their opinion wasn't a fact for everyone.  Score!  Oh...and I couldn't believe there were only 3 Candy Crush fans.  

To wrap up our fact and opinion filled morning, I pulled up a quick Time For Kids article and asked them to complete an exit ticket slip.  They had to give one fact they located in the text and form an opinion about that fact.  It seemed to be rough going for them when it came to forming an opinion in this way.

See Part 2 of this post HERE

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our fact and opinion lesson...where we watch a super old 1989 animated video and improve opinions with the use of facts after watching a Discovery Education video on tornadoes!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

{Saturday Sprinkles #2} A Back-To-School Remix

Welcome to this week's edition of Saturday Sprinkles, where I try to show you how we tried to stay awake and engaged all week.  LOL.  I am fairly certain all teachers who returned to school this week will agree, this was a looooooooong week! Monday was not easy for any of us.  In fact, I had 3 students falling asleep sitting up while I was teaching. Basically, I made sure to to get them up and out of their seats as much as possible, more so than usual in fact. That and I could have sworn I took way more pictures of our week than I actually did.  Perhaps, I was too busy keeping them wrangled in.  Whoops!

Once we got past Monday, I promise you, we actually got quite a bit done and by Friday afternoon, I felt like my students walked away feeling fulfilled and better about their learning.  

Join She and I (yes, we are the only ones enjoying this linky party so far) as we share snippets and quick snapshots of how much fun, engagement, and learning we had in our classrooms. Feel free to join up as well so you can reflect and look back on your week.  You'd be surprised at how it makes you realize you DID get a lot accomplished and your students DID enjoy themselves.  So what are you waiting for?  ;-)  The link-up information is down below.

We worked all week on probability in so many different ways, left and right.  Using the nicely made Probability Practice Packet from TeachersPayTeachers in Kalena Baker's store, I stepped it up a few levels in order to meet my students needs...which would be boredom due to being back after a long break and needing to cover higher-level learning with probability.  The pack from TPT is more for 2nd-4th grades.  One thing we did was use our ActivExpressions to send in class data so we could compare and contrast some of our theoretical and experimental probability with the dice experiment.  I can't believe I didn't take pictures, but we also used the vocabulary posters she includes as our own huge human-sized interactive scale across our back classroom wall.  I used a bag of colored tiles, figuring out the theoretical probability of each color in the bag, and then I asked them the following, "What is the likelihood I pick a __________ from the bag."  From there my students walked to either impossible, unlikely, equally likely, highly likely, and certain.  Not only did this give me a chance to see who was still stuck or confused about the vocabulary, but it also got them out of their seats.  Hallelujah!!

We also carried on with our levers experiments, although we didn't get very far due to an assembly at the end of the day.  My students were none to happy about it either because they had just begun to figure things out before we had to quickly start cleaning up for the end of the day.  

After giving my students room to build some background on levers (see my first blog post here), we began to get some of that juicy scientific vocabulary going in our writing and conversations...and boy is the word "fulcrum" hard to say as a 5th grader...and then it was time to start finally playing!  I gave them a quick 2-minute or so demo on how to use the supplies to build a lever.  We located the fulcrum together (the binder clip) and from there the inquiry-based learning ensued.  

In the very very short 5-8 minutes we had before the bell was going to ring, students' lightbulbs were going off!  I was able to visit with 3 groups who figured out to either move the fulcrum and/or load to level out their lever without any guidance or tips from me. Unfortunately, and any teacher will probably attest to this, we had to cut it short just as everyone was starting to feel like mad scientists.  So, it is another to be continued lesson...again.

If you'd like to link up and share your classroom sprinkles from this week or even last, head over to Sprinkle Teaching Magic and include your blog post link.  See you next Saturday for another sprinkling!  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

{Saturday Sprinkles} Of The Science Variety

Well, sadly my winter break is OVER!  Waaaaaaaaaah!  I cannot believe how seemingly fast 2 weeks went by.  But I really needed it and am glad it came when it did.  So, to help me get back into the swing of things, I am linking up with my buddy, my pal, my friendliest friend, She, over at Sprinkle Teaching Magic for this weekly linky party.

While I never really officially blogged about my National Board results, I did mention over on my 13 in 13 blog post here, that I missed it by a teeny tiny 6 points.  Argh!  So, I am retaking my Entry 3 (Science/Math) and 1 or 2 Assessment Center exercises (Science and Fine Arts) this year to make up those 6 points.  

Two weeks before winter break, I introduced our Levers & Pulleys (FOSS) unit to my students through exploration and very little information given by me.  Because I know my students learn best through exploration, I chose to have them jump right into working with levers through exploring with what they already know and understand, which helped them grasp on to the concept more deeply and peeked their curiosity way more than if I had just given them a vocabulary lesson and jumped right into the first experiment of setting up a lever to lift a load.  Do you see how I just threw a National Board explanation format at you?!  It comes at you in your sleep after working on them for 4 entries and assessment exercises for 2 years.  You're welcome.  

Here is a peek into our classroom during this 45 minute chunk of time where I had small groups of students gathered around me to help me open a paint can with their fingers while partner/trios gathered around our computers to explore and attempt a Simple Machines Brainpop game on how to build levers and pulleys to complete tasks (again, remember I did not give them any background information).  

While you can't see their faces, let me just paint the picture (LOL, see how I did that?) for you. They are staring at that paint can for about 5-10 seconds and thinking solo about how they can possibly open it after all trying to do so with just their fingers.  Right after this, we had a seriously insane conversation about what they could use to actually open it.  Many of them mentioned seeing their dads or uncles opening one with a screwdriver before, so I asked them, "Why do you think a screwdriver works instead of your fingers?"  Some of them wanted to try to open it with their pencils because they figured out they needed something similar to a screwdriver, but stronger than their fingers.  Of course, their pencils broke and I asked them to discuss why the pencil broke, etc. Through this, they were heading towards the idea of a fulcrum, but they weren't quite there yet...perfect!  It paved the way in such a beautiful manner for their first experiment.  See below ("I Wonder" in their notebooks) for their next step after what you see in this picture.

They had some fantastic exploration discussion going as they tried to play out ways to move objects and lift loads to win the game.  I definitely recommend giving your students a shot at this free game from Brainpop.  My students absolutely ate it up and wanted to play it again.  It was hard for me to shoot video (via my iPhone) while trying to listen in on their discussions, so I only got this quick 10-second video after I asked this pair of boys why they think their object they chose finally worked to lift the load (for some reason I also couldn't get my YT link from my page to work either, so there's that).

When students were finished with either the paint can or the Simple Machines Brainpop game, they went to their desks and began filling out their "I Wonder" page in their Science Notebooks.  All I asked them to do was write about what the two activities sparked in their minds.  These wonderings will pave the way to their experiments, including their two final inquiry-based experiments in which they design their own exploration and carry-out the building of levers and pulleys to accomplish a task.

There you have it!  This is what Science looks like in my least at the beginning stages of a new unit.  I only took these pictures for my National Boards portfolio entry, so they aren't super detailed.  But I loved She's idea of looking back at what the week was made of and considering how successful it was.  Basically, I think this weekly linky party will be a really perfect way for me to reflect back on those bad weeks (really hoping they are fewer and fewer these last 2 quarters).

Thanks for visiting!  Definitely link up with She and other teachers each week.  This is a way for us hard-working teachers to share those successes we have more often than we realize.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Teachers of Instagram

Seeing as how I am an Instagram addict, I really wanted to link up with Kickin' It In Kindergarten to look back at some of my favorite Instagram pictures from 2013.  She asked linker uppers to pick 3, but I have quite a few that really stand out as mementos of an action-packed year.  Or perhaps I'll pick 3 categories and throw in the pics I loved most from those categories?  See?  I told you I am addicted to Instagram!!

Tubac, Arizona Working Retreats

These 6 shots are all from 2 weekends I spent away from home and work to do some hard core work on my National Boards entries and lessons.  Tubac, Arizona is in southern Arizona and is beautiful!  The Tubac Resort was one of those places that scream serenity.  Can you see how awesome my resort room was...and I had it all to myself!  I woke up one morning to rain on the skylights and was able to sit and read my book in front of the fireplace before I had to work for 8.5 hours straight on Boards.  There are so many pictures I took from these 2 weekends that hold all sorts of interesting moments and memories.

National Boards Journey

I documented my entire 2-year journey, so there are a ton of Instagram shots!  Basically, almost half of them have to do with my view...whether it was out a window, across a table, or staring at a computer.  

Friendliest Friend Moments

I love my friends!  I love that we have crazy and random moments together.  Thankfully, they play along with me and I was able to capture much of it on Instagram.  I noticed towards the end of the year, I wasn't capturing as many that is something I want to make sure doesn't happen.  

Join in on the Instagram linky party with all the other teachers on Instagram and share your favorite 3 pictures (or in my case, 3 categories).  What can I say?...I'm indecisive.