Zentangle Trees

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
My students have been BEGGING me to try zentangle again since we made the zentangle pumpkins a few months ago.  So, we took another crack at it!  Since the holidays are fast approaching, we tried out this strategy with trees.  The first thing we did was make a triangle on top, resting upon two trapezoids.  
Zentangle Tree Pattern
Layer #1: Triangle
Layer #2: Trapezoid
Layer #3: Trapezoid
I have been researching different zentangle patterns and compiled different examples of designs to show my students.  You can download this tool here.  It really helped my students to expand their thinking and not just draw simple lines or circles.

Here are a few examples of the beginning stages of patterns and designs that the students chose to use.  It is exciting to see students of all abilities get excited and invested into this project.  Don't get me wrong though, this is definitely a 4-5 day process! Here is the timeline:
Day#1: 1st Draft-Draw the outline of the tree
Day #2: Begin inserting designs into different sections
(1 design per section!)
Day #3: Finish designs in 1st Draft as seen below

 Day #4: Students apply sharpie to Positive Space (Usually the black shaded areas)
 Day #5: Students use water colors to apply color.  If students have watercolor pencils, this can help with shading and adding lightness and darkness which is great for color contrast. BUT, since I only had about 3 watercolor pencils (ugh!!!) simple watercolors work as well.  They can always add shading when dry with chalk or oil pastels.
Here are a few examples of how the zentagle trees turned out.  I LOVE how they look!

Other than creative 
expression, zentangle benefits students by improving:
*eye/hand coordination
*problem solving
Have you tried Zentangle in your class yet? 

Top 5 Inspiring Teacher Quotes!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Sometimes we all need a little inspiration!  I have been digging through quotes to find my favorite and have chosen my top 5 favorite teacher quotes.  Here they are!
#5) I love this quote! First of all, I loved Lily Tomlin in "The Incredible Shrinking Woman" and "9 to 5"and have always thought she was REALLY smart. Sooooo, since I am required to give the students one hour of homework a night (I know that takes some students longer than others) I often think about how grueling homework is for the family when a child loathes completing it OR puts up a fight at home.  Just like this quote is saying, I HOPE to bring some humor and ideas throughout the day that excite a student enough to go home and talk to their family about their day.  AND even excited to do their homework is an added bonus. Not easy though!  

#4) The next quote by Oprah Winfrey is one of my favorites because it reminds me that teachers serve many roles.  They can inspire, model, be a mother/father figure, and a role model for kid that really needs it!  My favorite teachers growing up was Mrs. Smith (4th Grade).  Great things happened for me there! I was voted student council representative AND she let me sit next to my friend Caroline.  She looked at us and said, I KNOW I can trust you girls to sit together, RIGHT? With a smile... It was just a little bit of kindness from her that gave my self confidence a boost.  I try to do that for my students too.  
#3)  I love the next quote by Henry Ford!  It is PERFECT to post in the classroom in the beginning of the school year.  I think it is a great reminder of building classroom community and working together.  I especially love it if our class is having trouble at recess.  I often refer to it when we come inside and remind my students about the importance of working together.  I also love it when the class is working together on class projects etc... and we have a great groove down.  The class can feel the success!
#2) The next quote is great for ENCOURAGING your rather timid students (like I was!)  One thing that scared me as a student was giving speeches.  After taking a few speech classes like Business and Professional Speaking in college, I knew I had participated in a debate~and felt good about never having to do that again! But, I did it and I felt successful... I like telling those types of stories to my students. 
 #1) My favorite teacher quote of ALL time is this next quote....author unknown!!! I ALWAYS try to remind myself that the day will never go PERFECTLY. There are always different strategies, new techniques, and unique ideas to try that may work with some students and not others.  We can all have a MILLION tricks in our teacher bags to pull out at one time or another.  Reaching for perfection should not be the goal~only finding what is right for a particular student at that moment in time!
What are your favorite teacher/teaching quotes?

Close Reading for the Holidays!

Friday, November 21, 2014
I am so excited to share my most recent project, "Holiday Pen Pals Around the World"!  Here is a little sneak peak at this project in action.  This project encompasses informational text, close readings, text-dependent questions, a flag ornament for each country, and summarizing response letters!!! Holidays with a little hint of CCSS. :) There are 12 different fictitious pen pals from different countries.  Your students will learn about all of the interesting and unique ways that each pen pal celebrates during the holidays in their own part of the world.  This took me quite a while to research!  But I thought it was worth it since I thought this would be a fun way for my (and your) students to learn this information! The countries included are Mexico, Egypt, England, China, Sweden, Poland, Tanzania, Russia, Poland, Italy, Netherlands, and the United States.  

 Before I let students go into small groups, I use one of the passages to model how to use annotation symbols in while reading.  The example below was the model that I used with my class.  We all did this one together and then I separated them in small groups and assigned each group to do a different country.  They LOVED it!  If you go to my TPT store, you can download the IRELAND passage as a freebie in my preview sample. 
(To give it a try!)

As a follow up, I had the students write BACK to their Pen Pal on a postcard ornament AND had they were able to decorate their Pen Pals flag.  We had SO much fun decorating this tree for our door!

Here is another example of the Pen Pal Ornaments!
The kiddos also completed some of the follow-up activities aligned to CCSS such as text dependent questions and supporting their answers with evidence from the text.

Finally, some students wanted to respond 
further to their Pen Pals!  
Download the PREVIEW to receive a FREE 
sample of this unit in my TPT store!

Close Reading Thanksgiving Passage Freebie!

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Last year I started experimenting with Close Reading in my 5th grade class! I needed to help students build their ability to read, respond, and retain text.  I wanted to someway capture their reactions and hopefully build their abilities to make inferences. 
 What is Close Reading? Close reading is a strategy that allows students to read, reread, and revisit smaller passages that contain complex vocabulary and information.  Close reading provides students with multiple opportunities to interact with text.  Students have the opportunity to find evidence in the text that they have read to support their thinking and understanding.

After I started experimenting with Close Reading during Language Arts, I thought, why not try close reading to teach the other subjects? As a 5th grade teacher, I feel immense responsibility to teach my students about how our nation began.  This is the year they need to learn the history of America so if they are not walking out of my door knowing who the two Georges were, when will they learn it?   In the past, I have even put social studies on the back burner in order to teach math and language arts.  Let’s face it, there is only so much time in the day!  So, the beauty was, I decided I could use Close Reading to teach social studies concepts. During my language arts block, I have found that teaching tricky topics such as the Columbian Exchange WITH close reading

techniques allows students more autonomy and ownership of knowledge because they have laser focus on content while annotating  (leaving symbols to show reactions) and paraphrasing in order to learn vivid vocabulary, make inferences, determine an author’s purpose, and visualize what they are learning.   Kids are interacting with complex vocabulary, annotating the text to show their reactions, AND responding to text dependent questions. I feel accomplished in the sense that I am providing students with tools for dissecting complex text that they often are faced with on a test.  

The changes that I have seen in my students are all about their ability to discuss and talk about what they are reading! I love having “coffee talks" where the students partner up and discuss their annotation symbols.  They talk about why they thought a word was considered complex and even help each other to determine the meaning.  They talk about what they agree or disagree with and why.  They talk about what surprised them and what they found interesting.  And the best part? The talking is productive, academic, but still FUN! They love it.

Here is a passage I use on the History of Thanksgiving to get you started with your kiddos! 
 Click on the picture below to be taken to this FREE download!

Have you started Close Reading in your classroom?

Adding Dialogue to create Tone in your writing!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Lately, we have been working on adding dialogue to narrative writing.  SO, I thought I would share with you a short activity that I made that the students can put into their interactive writing notebooks as a reference tool for creating dialogue.
The first thing I did was assess the student's knowledge of dialogue by asking them to write a conversation that they had recently with their parent.  This gave me a good glance at their overall knowledge!
Next, we talked about was how writers actually use dialogue as a "strategy" to achieve different goals while they are writing.  After students thought about dialogue as a strategy, they worked together in pairs to think of why writers use dialogue and what they are hoping to achieve. See the picture below for the great ideas my students came up with! 
My goal for the lesson was to show students that using dialogue in writing can help the author to create tone in their writing. Tone was a tricky topic for my students! Thankfully, one of my students made the connection that someone's tone of voice tells you how they are feeling so this really helped their understanding! We discussed how dialogue actually creates tone to your story because it gives you more insight to how a character is acting and feeling.  

To step up the "rigor" I also used the flower below to help the students visualize different speaker tags that could strengthen their dialogue and tone in their stories.  They came up with some amazing words! Using the thesaurus helped alot. Download all of these materials by clicking HERE or on any of the photos!
Do you have any tips for teaching dialogue?

The Art of Handling Off-Topic Question Askers!

Monday, November 3, 2014
Don't get me wrong, questions are a GREAT thing.  Students should be encouraged to ask questions so that they can learn! Let's look at the ON TOPIC question and the OFF TOPIC question.  ON TOPIC questions=awesome, wonderful, music to my ears.  OFF TOPIC questions=nails on a chalkboard!

The other day I was talking to my class about the 13 colonies.  We were having a REALLY interesting conversation (well at least in my opinion!) about the resources that were available to the colonists and we were just beginning to talk about why the middle colonies were referred to as the bread basket colonies. Exciting stuff!!!  Just then a student LEAPS out of their chair and is just on the brink of sharing what looks to be the most interesting piece of information!   

                "HAVE OUR BOOK ORDERS COME YET???????"  

This brings me to a very important topic. 
Off task question askers!  Sometimes students just need to ask whatever it may be at that given moment.

The other day, an idea just came to me! I knew I needed to think about the issue of off topic questions and needed to give students a strategy for getting their question written down (when it pops into their mind) so that I can answer them (at an appropriate time!)

The Question Jar  
      This morning, Monday, after a LONG Halloween weekend, my students walked in EAGER with questions.  I had about 4 come up to me with questions FIRST THING.  :) . I handed them a post-it note and pointed to the jar.  Student A looked at the jar, looked at me, and smiled. "CLE-VER!" she said.  "THANK YOU!" I said :)
So I received 37 total questions today. 

Are we switching jobs today?
Are our book orders here yet?
 Do the people that left early on Friday still get the treat bag?
Are we going to be reading after lunch?
Do you like pickles? 
Can we have a comment jar?

It was actually fun answering their questions before lunch/before going home and I think the excitement of the question jar will probably dwindle.  But it will still be there for off topic question askers for the rest of the year.  And of course, I had to make a comment jar based on the last question.  
Most of the comments had to do with the fact that I needed to change the clock because of Daylight Savings Time (which I need a LADDER for so that wasn't happening until after school!) My favorite, "You might want to change the time on the clock."
"You need to change our class clock 1 hour early.  Sunday was Daylight Savings."

Kidding aside, the comment jar did give one of my students the opportunity to tell me some important information about why they would be absent from school the following day which was PERFECT because it gave me the chance to get their work together.  

Click here for the link to make your OWN question/comment jar!

How do you handle off topic questions and comments?

Zentangle Pumpkins: A Terrific Art Strategy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014
I am trying to incorporate different art techniques into my lessons as much as possible this year because my students will only have a visual arts teacher for 9 weeks this school year.  The rest of the year it is pretty much up to me.  One art form I have been dying to try with the kids is Zentangle!  Have you heard of it? Prior to starting Zentangle with my students,  I did some research on this art form. Zentangle is a combination of drawing intricate lines, fancy doodling, and repetitive patterns  that really encourages creative expression!   Turns out zentangle will benefit the students in SO many ways.  Especially in:
*eye/hand coordination
*problem solving
*cross-cultural understanding 
The fact that this art form would help the kids in all these areas (especially relaxation and focus) I was hooked! Since Halloween is around the corner, I decided to have the students make Fall Pumpkins with Zentangle. First, I had to gather up all the necessary materials. 
Materials Needed:
White Construction Paper
Black Sharpies
Orange Watercolor Paints
Orange Chalk
Orange Watercolor Pencils

Step #1) Rough Drafts
I had the students choose the direction of their paper.  They needed to draw a LONG oval in the middle of the paper and cresent moons on the sides to make their shape of the pumpkin.
Step #2) Add Repetitive Pattern Designs
Next, we talked about different patterns that that they could draw in each section.  I found this website that shows MANY examples of different patterns that the students could use.  Click here to be taken there.  Students got busy drawing their patterns and were loving it. Here is an example of a finished rough draft.
Step #3) Trace with Sharpie
Now it was time for the students to go over the lines with a black sharpie.  They also made sure to completely fill in the shaded areas with black.  
Step #4) Add Watercolor Pencil
Next, it was time to add water color pencil along the main lines of the pumpkin for shading/darkness.  
Step #5) Blend and Add Media for Color
Finally, the students used water and brushes to blend everything together.  Some students added watercolor paints for added color.  Others added orangish chalk to make them even more vibrant when the pumpkins were dry.  Here is how they turned out!  
Step #6) Display!
They are so much fun to have up in the room and added the PERFECT amount of color.
 Have you tried Zentangle (or are you wanting to try Zentangle) with your students?


Friday, October 17, 2014
October brings so many opportunities for FUN!  I LOVE busting out the Halloween stuff for the kids, and the best part? 95% of the time, they are STILL learning! (5% MAY be due to eating candy… ;)) The first thing I like to do with my 5th Graders? Completing a CLOSE READ on Halloween.  To be honest, they are just excited that they are doing something Halloweenish AND this is MOSTLY a history lesson that integrates literacy strategies.  How can you go wrong?? 

I always say to my students, I know MOST of you LOVE Halloween, but do you know the HISTORY behind this special Holiday? 

Their interest is usually piqued at this point! I like to ask the students; Did you know that Halloween derived from an ancient festival, was a time to honor the dead, and was a time for warding off evil spirits? Next, we DELVE into this little passage seen below.  It is short and sweet, GREAT for Close Reading! If you would like to try out close reading with your students, click on the picture below to be taken to this passage!
Halloween Close Read, All About Halloween, Halloween Informational Passage
Below is a freebie for you to use around Halloween time. This is a little ALL ABOUT ME activity that I love to display on my door during the month of October!

All About Me Halloween Activities
The next project I like to do with my students are GRAFFITI style pumpkins.  Pick up this <FREEBIE> in my TPT store complete with a LIST of questions that students can answer about themselves.  I think this makes a GREAT keepsake for the students! (Click on the PHOTO below to be taken to this project!)Graffiti Halloween Pumpkins
Finally, if you are in need of materials for HALLOWEEN OPINION WRITING, you have come to the right place! With this product that can be found HERE, students will write 3-5 paragraph essays (depending on your grade level) related to a Halloween topics.  Topics range from what is your FAVORITE part about Halloween to more rigorous/difficult topics such as should Trick or Treating be allowed

Do you need a fun way to introduce Opinion Writing to your students?  I like to have students cut and paste different Halloween pictures from magazines (or they can even draw them) and then write their individual opinions about what is going on in that picture.
Halloween Activity, Halloween Cut and Paste, Halloween Opinion Wrting

The paragraph scaffolds (seen below) 
guide students through writing each paragraph.  Included below is my teacher model for the first draft (After editing and revising!)
Halloween Opinion Writing, First Drafts Opinion Writing, Halloween Writing Lesson
 Below is a copy of the CCSS aligned criteria chart and rubric that just happens to be Halloweenized with Pumpkins!  
The kids LOVE it!! 
Click on the link below to look at this product in further detail.  Happy Halloween! 
What special things do you do to get ready for Halloween?

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