Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Inferences QR codes

Today my 5th graders worked on an inferencing activity. To bring in technology, I gave them my cell phone and had them scan QR codes to check their inferences. They LOVED this activity and asked if we could do more tomorrow.
 Fun activities = student buy in
Student buy in = excitement in learning
... and isn't that what this is all about?

A, B, C....LMNO, P

I made an interesting discovery while reading the Rainy Day Alphabet with a group yesterday. The students were on a roll identifying what letter came next and using picture clues to help them with word identification.... until they got to L.

I asked, "What comes next?"

Student, "P"

Me, "Are you sure?"

Student, "Yes, P!"

Me: "Let's sing the ABC's to check"

3 students sang in unison: "A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, LMNO, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z"

I asked them again, "What comes after L?"

Student: "P! LMNO, P." (LMNO is said as one letter very quickly)

I said, "I want you to listen now as I sing the ABC's slowly."

I proceeded to sing L, M, N, O, P putting spaces between each. One student's eyes lit up and she said, "I heard it!"

All 3 of the students had the same gap. They knew their letters and sounds but they could not order the letters of the alphabet and had not realized L, M, N, O, P were 5 different letters.

Today the students worked on ordering the alphabet... by time we were done they could correctly order and sing the ABC's. We did get a few funny looks while singing in the hallway!
You can be sure that when I go home tonight my daughter and I will sing the ABC song slowly... with an emphasis on L, M, N, O, P.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Government Conspiracy & Chaos @ the Zoo

My 5th graders came in yesterday genuinely concerned that...

"The government buys out major corporations that have recently found cures for things like cancer and then they keep the drugs and research from being used to treat illness and disease."
"That is ridiculous!"
"Why would they do such a thing that is so harmful to everyone in America?"

I allowed a few minutes for the students to express their concern and gave some them time to discuss and debate. I then asked, "How did you get on this topic of government conspiracy?"
No one knew.

I asked if they read an article or saw a news story that caused concern. No answer.

Then a student piped up and said, "Wait a minute. We are arguing over something that is possibly a non issue? Do we even know if this is really happening?" Again, silence. Student lets out a sigh, "guys this is not a good use of our time." Then, all eyes turned to me.

Book club begins.

The discussion centered around RULES. (the title of the book)
-How do you feel about rules?
-What is a rule you WISH students in our school would follow?
-What would happen to the world if there were not any rules?

That last question struck a cord with a couple of students. One student sat silently for a minute and then said, "Think of it like this: Rules are like animals in a cage. Picture the zoo. There is order in a zoo and every animal has its own habitat and food. When there are no rules it is as if the cages are lifted from the animals. This creates utter chaos among the animals. We are no different as people. Humans without rules or laws... I cannot even imagine the chaos that would follow."

Another student looked up sweetly and said, "Nice use of a simile! Rules ARE like animals in a cage."

Many of these students have been working together since kindergarten or 1st grade. I love how open and honest they are- they are not afraid to share their feelings. They have the ability to poke fun at each others quirks and not take personal offense.

When they were gluing their author study pages into their journals one student used the purple glue stick to write I am cool on his paper. Another student looked at him with a serious expression and in an even tone said, "That paper won't stick to your journal."

The student questioned, "Why not?"

Without missing a beat, he added..."Because lies don't stick."

Instead of being hurt or offended the student with the glue laughed and said, "Good one!"

Government Conspiracy,
Chaos at the zoo,
& Lies don't stick.

...all in a 30 minute session.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Expository Yoga?

Today my students worked hard to do the following tasks:
-identify the main idea and supporting details of an expository text
-identify text features and the author's purpose
-follow step by step directions to achieve Yoga poses in the courtyard.

The kids thought I was joking after we completed the first read and I told them they were now going to try each pose.

Each student became an expert on the pose they were assigned. Introducing:

Downward Dog Dude

Lady Lotus

Fancy Frog

Boat Buddies

Tree Trio

I wonder how they will react tomorrow when they are asked to come up with their own yoga pose and write directions for their peers?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Student Suggestions on Engaging Literature

The first time I met with my 5th grade book club I asked them to fill out a reading interest survey. I learned quite a bit about the thoughts of a 5th grade reader. These kids are all very smart and love to read for pleasure. The conversations around the table as they filled out their surveys were full of excitement.

My first interesting observation was about the book preferences of the 6 students...

The first (a boy) crossed out the word ROMANCE so that it was unrecognizable. 
The second (a girl) circled the word ROMANCE and wrote YES on the line. 
...Now this was typical and not at all surprising... UNTIL....

Another student chimed in saying this...
"The only books I ever pick to read are HORROR and MYSTERY stories."
The surprising part of this was it came from the smallest GIRL in the group. 

The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Ms. Ransom: "I don't think Mr. Steele would approve of me choosing a HORROR story for book club!"

Student 1: "I am pretty sure it would be fine. They bleep out the bad words. Please?"

Student 2: "What? How would they bleep out bad words in a book? Like you are just reading along and then, BEEEEEEEEEP? I highly doubt that would work." 

Student 1: "Ms. Ransom could put sticky notes over the bad words."

Ms. Ransom: "That implies that I must first READ the horror story which in turn would give me nightmares and then I would be too tired to pull your book club."

Student 2: "I think we should stick to ROMANCE stories."

Student 3: (who had been listening silently) "THAT would be a HORROR story to me! Romance gives me nightmares."

Ms. Ransom: " blood, dying, and kissing are out."

Student 1: "Man, that takes out all of the good ones!"

The interest survey continued and one of the questions asked: What is the WORST  book you have ever read? This student's response...
Texas Treasures is the name of our current reading adoption!
When asked why he chose Texas Treasures he said, "The stories aren't engaging. They are totally boring! I would much rather read an interesting book any day!" Then he asked if he was in trouble for writing that on his paper. I had to explain that his thought about the adopted text need not be shared in class. Then I added that his opinions and feeling about the curriculum are valid. I assured him that I would not choose his Texas Treasures book as our book club selection. 

Next question: What do you want Ms. Ransom to know about you? 
Most responses read something like this... 
"I like sports."
"I love to read."
But this one was my favorite...

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except what I write on this paper."
Should I tell him that because I was his teacher in 1st grade...I already know him really well?

I was alarmed when I realized that not only am I expected to plan lessons for book club this year... these kids expect a lot out of our 30 minutes 3 times a week! Take this as an example:

Question: What are you hoping to learn from our book club?
How to parachute out of a plane. 
I'm not positive... but I think Plano ISD may have an issue with a field trip to go skydiving!

I am very excited to work with this group this year! My time with them sure will keep me on my toes. The coolest part is... the sky's the limit with these kiddos!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Integrating Technology & Literacy


As our school makes the leap into the STEM mindset we must not limit STEM activities to the learning commons or the IC block.  In order for students to grow into the jobs that await them upon college graduation, they need to be immersed in technology through each subject area... all day.

We assume that kids today know more about technology than we do. This is not always the case.

My 4th graders were having difficulty distinguishing the nonfiction text features. I handed them a list of the text features they needed to know and a digital camera. After a video rap-review we set off to the library and I had them go on a text feature hunt.

-ALL of the kids needed a tutorial on how to use the camera.
-Half of the students were unsure of how to HOLD the camera.
-ALL of the students needed help figuring out how to look back at their photos and delete accidental snaps.

As they searched through books, they engaged in conversations about labels and diagrams.

They discussed photographs vs. illustrations and caught the giggles when they realized that they were taking photographs of photographs. They learned about the text-features... and inadvertently they learned how to use a digital camera. Simple. Easy. Fun.

Today we put the T in sTem while doing a literacy activity. Imagine what creative and inventive things these students may do with their knowledge of the camera. As they returned to class the conversation went something like this...

"That was fun!"
"My mom won't let me touch her camera."
"I can't wait to finish tomorrow!"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kids be Stressin'

Today's Assignment: Write a paragraph about your first day of school.

Student Sample:

Should a student really be walking in on the first day already wondering how/if they will pass? Talk about pressure!

The silver lining? ...Each of the 5th grade paragraphs had one thing in common.... their teacher made them feel at ease. They each explained in different words that their teacher's smile and morning greeting made all of their nerves subside. Great job teachers! Kids shouldn't walk in on the first day afraid of failure... they should be concerned about how to find their locker and what time they go to lunch.

You never know how much of an impact a simple smile and hello can make. Keep smiling!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5th Graders are big 1st graders

Today was my first official day to pull 5th graders. If I am being honest the big kids used to scare me. Maybe it was the odor as you walked down that hallway after specials? 

Today I realized that 5th grade students are really just 1st graders in bigger bodies! I really enjoyed working with both my 4th and 5th grade groups today. I may even venture to say it was the best part of my day.

Below is a journal response from one of my 5th graders...  


Did I mention that this particular student is a one that struggles with reading?  It is absolutely amazing that through her struggle she can still recognize the JOY in a book. 

I am a happy teacher today.